Strictly process, strictly progress.
Special props goes to the inconsiderate woman in front of me with her seat kicked so far back I should be feeding her grapes from above like a Greek lover. The only baby on the entire plane and it’s hers, looking over the seat at me with the cherubic glow of just having survived a coughing fit tinting its nose the most adorable shade of sick I’ve seen since, oh, two hours ago. I’d been typing this screed with one hand while I held my tablet with the other because I can’t drop my drink tray, but Mommy 36F got up to go to the bathroom, so I have a moment to cast this digital note-in-a-bottle into the sea. Not since chattel slavery has travel been so unbearable. Fuck Louis CK. I’m never flying again unless it’s first class. I don’t even want the stewardess attention. You don’t even need to close that little curtain between me and the plebian mass. I just need to not be touching old people elbows and being coughed on for four hours straight on top of my already well-documented fear of flying to begin with. I am so scrunched into this window seat that I will have to be excavated out of this iron maiden passing for a chair.
(Aside: Big-ups to United Airlines for pimping the special features game. Wifi on a plane is nice, but at $9.00 for the privilege, you’re giving me debilitating 2003-era internet cafe PTSD.)
I held off as long as I could but somewhere in the teeming rabble that is Chicago’s O’Hare airport I succumbed to my addiction. My attempt at rehabilitation was commendable while it lasted, but in the end, The Dark Liege be calling me. I bought the new Stephen King novel, “Revival”, at a terminal bookstore, its (literally) shining metallic blue dust jacket mocking me across the terminal.
It whispered in a Grace Jones-in-“Boomerang” tone, “When are we going to fuck? No one can turn down these pages.” Turns out, we fucked in Chicago, at near cover cost no less. I’m used to laying out for this particular drug, but buying a brand new King hardcover in an airport terminal after holding a free copy in my hands at work this week covers me in shame glaze. I feel like I blew a Republican senator in a men’s room, when I could have given in at a local indie bookstore and at least turned my Columbus dollar over in my own white community.
The thought that I could be contributing this diuretic energy and typed bile to my NaNoWriMo word count is not lost on me. But for all my bluster as a word warrior, there are conditions under which even I cannot create. If I were writing a novel I did not care about, I might make an earnest attempt to write while bent up like a carnival pretzel. But when the hate is strong like this – when I can taste it – all I’d end up with is useless verbiage. Suddenly, my story – which takes place in an inner-city black neighborhood (which is not redundant. God you’re racist) – would have a scene in which the characters are mickeyed at the club, then, upon waking, find themselves on a plane to Seattle, incepted with a sudden urge to yell threats in the cabin so that they might uncover which one of their fellow passengers is the undercover Air Marshal and be tazed into unconscious for the duration of the flight. Funny, maybe even tempting, but not viable content. So my disgust at the portion of the human race partaking in the soulless miracle of modern aviation gets it s soapbox or I’ll be no good to my art later.
(Aside: Regarding public sexual assault: old men are the worst. Exhibit A: While participating in the flight attendant reception line on our way onto the plane, this wizened white guy in front of me says to the welcoming staffer, “Hello! Can I give you a hug?” then proceeds to take his hug. She was a good sport, but what in R. Kelly’s name was that? I mean, I know, but I’m saying: decry the Hollaback video all you want, but let’s not dismiss its core reality entirely out of hand. I imagine old men do this sort of thing a lot. It’s the graduated form of “Sweetie” and telling bawdy jokes because their penis no longer works, and they do it because we let them get away with it. I’m convinced that no less than 237% of old men play dumb about behavior like this because everyone knows they’re more or less physically harmless. But they aren’t emotionally harmless, and I’m really hoping we’ve changed as a society enough in a couple of generations that the septuagenarians who think this kind of thing is harmless fun have died off. Not in westbound Thursday night plane crashes, but in front of their families at Thanksgiving dinner or something And then we’d all know why.)
Not meaning to sound ungrateful, but at times like this I am reminded of the man who spent forty or fifty years building an organ theater in the basement of his house, at which he has scheduled performances and people travel in to see him and experience his extravagantly adorned concert hall of a man cave. (This is the part where most writers pop over to an internet window, google “man organ concerts in basement”, read an article to confirm they have their man, then pop back to this page to insert their “verified” goods. I am not being bravely honest by not calling him out by name here. Again, I refuse to spring nine clams for internet that’s probably shitty because it’s trying not to crash the plane by sending the auto pilot my Candy Crush scores.) As I do with everything, I think of the poet equivalent, or the potential for such. I imagine how compelling and clever a poet would have to be to create a viable professional model wherein the world came to see them feature in one place instead of having them go around the country barking at sick children and old men with really wooly sweater sleeves eating up the armrest all day. I don’t mean a show with many poets, Poetry already has must-see institutions like that, shows worth traveling out of state to see. I mean a poet. That’s something worth putting one’s brain around…especially a brain that would end everyone on this flight for as little as a second can of soda and this self-satisfied soccer mom to be out of my fucking lap.