So, I don't usually make strictly personal posts. Usually about politics, culture, music, not about me per se/per son. So savor this rare sortie. Not much analysis, just third-rate poetry.
The flight over. Bad omens.
No more free wine or beer, to say nothing of cognac,etc. on American Airlines. At least it didn't cost an arm and a leg--just an arm.
The potbellied 50-something man in front is reading Anne Coulter.
I will never again say, "At least he's reading."
The stewards and stewardesses do not even try to hide their contempt for the passengers, for their jobs, for their lives. Keepin it real. Keepin it real comme ca: somewhat charming (the charm of refusing to fake), mainly depressing. It's a country's export of services that people don't like to render--not like that--and people don't like to receive--not like that. But there's no alternative--not like this.
I land in
I'm aware that time register is erratic in this post. Shifts between present and past. I'm too lazy to correct them. Correcting is for fascists and neurotics (as is rationalizing).
A few minutes on the train and a small, patchily goateed man in a NASCAR cap and sunglasses boards behind people at whom he’s grumbling: “Fuck, get on the fuckin’ train!” He moves toward me and my two suitcases: “Can you move this shit so we can fucking sit down?!” I am stunned, trying my best to ignore him while I move my bags, slightly. I notice that he is shorter than I. Luckily, I'm distracted. An African-American woman approaches an African-American man on the train a few feet away from me. They don’t seem to know one another, but she immediately starts talking about how she was attacked recently by some “punk” in her neighborhood. “What kind of world are we living in?” is her refrain. The man appears to get off the train early to escape her anecdote. Are you still reading? Are you off the train?
An hour later I get to my friend’s place. I’m loving the ethnic restaurants I pass (Vietnamese, Chinese bbq, Thai, Ethiopian. Average cost of main courses:$6). The two-story, brownstone walkups, and small houses, both with big porches, on some of which are sitting old men with beers and/or pulp fiction. The dogs and their walkers. The homemade yard signs admonishing fecalphobic dogwalkers. The trash. The SUV’s, possibly 75% of the vehicles on the street.
That night I find myself munching a great burger and fries--stereotypically for you foreign readers, bien sur--for 8$ (it's not a fast food joint, but a tavern) and drinking a bottle of Czechvar beer for $3.50. They're playing Devo, Beck, and a few I can't recognize. I really miss having bars in Paris where I hear music I like. It's so rare that I will make a show of it when it happens. It has happened once. How does one compute all these things that aggravate and enamor?
Next day, after going to Siam Noodle and Rice and having a delicious Pad See Eew for 5.50$, I head down to Powell’s books. Great academic and fiction books, remainders in fact, dead cheap. Dead Cheap? Max Horkheimer’s essays, new (Continuum Press), for 5$. On the way back, people are descending from the el tracks, down the stairs. It’s two-way: left-side coming down, right side going up. But wait. There’s a lone man walking down on the right side, coming right for…me. “I’m going down, muthafuckah, before you’re going up.” What to do? Go all the way back down? No! I freeze. I do the cliché American macho shoulder bump with him and he goes on. I love American masculinity. Really. I long ago walked into Dostoyevski's Notes From the Underground--is there no exit?
The next morning I’m on another American Airlines flight from
The Mississipi River snakes into the distance. It's a brown, thick snake. It's not poisonous though. It won't spew venom. Don't worry it's harmless, white people. Not much traffic on it today.
Back to the geometry of the fields and country roads. Oh, look, ma, it's a city. A little city, so well planned. So gridded to serve the shopping centers, the economy, which of course means it serves the people. From above, all the houses look the same. Sadly, they look the same down on the ground. I know, I can't be there while I'm above, but I'd bet all my highschool year books that they are. (It's a safe bet: I'm going to burn them anyway). More quadrants, sines and cosines, alternate interior and exterior angles, congruities, similarities, terms and rules that are learned and forgotten. Now the perfect square plots are getting some variation, thanks to little plots of brush and timber which look strangely similar to the tops of brocolli heads. It's like someone put broccoli (I don't know how to spell it, so I'm going to try and do it two ways, and hope I get one right) heads on the fields. They're slightly darker than the green fields around them; they're healthy heads of broc.
We land, and the kid takes off his MP3 player. The fidgeting is renewed. "Finally," he spudders when the plane touches down. He jumps up before the "fasten seatbelts" sign is dimmed, before, in fact, the plane has stopped taxiing. I will never forget the kid or his dad. God Bless America. People say the Founders had great foresight. That's why they created the Constitution, such a durable and adaptable document through the years. I'm sure they saw the kid and his dad when they debated and drew up that time-honored prescription for the good life.
I get out in the K.C. airport. I'm struck by the obesity. The khakhi shorts and golf shirts. The midrifts on girls and young women--comme il faut. Strange, violent even, extremes of sculptured bodies clearly belonging to fitness nuts and, on the other end, Supersize-it obesity everywhere. There's also a semiotics of sports that can't be avoided. The bodies and the clothing. If you're obese, you're still going to perform your cultural legitimacy with a ball cap or t-shirt. Testosterone is visible like the fog when you breathe on a cold day. Encore: SUV's. Shopping. Pollution. My favorite ad, ever, is the native American shedding a tear as he looks down on the polluted river. I think it's still downloadable at the Prelinger archives. It never left me and now has new company in a tech-stimuli-deprived teenager.
Moral of the post: I feel happy to live in
The end of this section of "PLanes and Automobiles" part I is:
I don't hate the States, I don't hate it. I don't. I don't.
(My East Coast liberal Elite friends with imaginary knowledge of the Midwest would change that for me: "You don't hate the States. You hate the Midwest." Thanks for reminding me that I don't hate the entire country. I don't. I don't. Not even the East Coast prep school liberals. Honest. I don't.)
This post is finally over, finally, at least one paragraph too late. This is the way it ends.