Friday, October 20, 2006

Look Again, Try Harder


For my mother, there was nothing better than an airport. She loved everything about travel, even the hard parts, the dismal waits and bad overpriced airport food, the occasional mishap (once in Australia, a security person opened her overpacked suitcase to set all of her clothes and curlers and everything springing out and setting everyone to retrieve it like in a comedy routine), her fellow travelers. She'd even like to accompany other people to the airport just to see the planes take off. I like to imagine I can go anywhere, she'd say. She'd strike up conversations with interesting-looking sorts, coming back with travel gossip -- that man has been around the world! Or-- she's going to New Zealand! I'm one of those people who will only speak when spoken to and never with any grace as this setting taps a deeply misanthropic vein for me. My last hideous airport encounter was with three boys, probably in their twenties, but having participated in a level of clean living unknown to me, looked all of ten. We're all about love, the boldest one said. I would have thought it was a pick-up line, but he had the gleam of the convert in his eye, and I knew what I would encounter was going to be far worse than the two dorks who had whistled at me earlier and started singing the classic, "It's getting hot in here/ so take off all your clothes." What's not working in your life, the other boy said. How long do you have? I said. The love cult would not be deterred. Is it a man? Do you want someone to see how incredible you are? I gave him my, Are you fucking kidding me look and then thought, tell me your theory, you disturbed, mentally-challenged ten year old. He started in on how to get love, you have to understand the universe, tap into the center. I've heard a fair amount of stupid shit in my day and apparently that wasn't ending soon. I hope we get to sit together. We could talk all about it during the flight, the quiet one said. I prayed like I have never prayed before -- we did not have seats remotely near one another. There is a God! And He loves me.

While I have never felt particularly at home in the world, my mother became most herself while out in the fray. I can still see her marching through the airport with a digerdoo (an Australian instrument played byAborigine tribes) on her back wrapped in a brown paper bag, looking like a bad-ass at all of her 5'1. Of course, when she got sick for the final time, I went home on a plane and returned the next week, a few days after her funeral. There was a meteor shower that night and the pilot kept urging us to look out the window to see it. I made a half-hearted attempt, but sunk further into my seat, even more demoralized by the fact that I could see nothing. I could hear my mother telling me to look again, try harder, but I didn't have it in me. The night before my mother died, my best friend and I slept in the maternity ward waiting room of the hospital (my sister and father were in chairs in her room). Babies cried all night long. A nurse said, When you hear a scream, it means there's a new life. I suppose that's as good of an introduction to this world as any.


Michelle's Spell of the Day

"Nothing to me is as erotic as a hotel room and therefore so penatrated with life and death." Paul Theroux, Hotel Honolulu

Cocktail Hour

Drinking movie suggestion: One Trick Pony - - In this campy 70s classic, Paul Simon stars as an unsuccessful musician. Hey, I guess if you can't live that misery in real life, why not do a movie about it? The irony -- the best thing about the movie is the soundtrack by Paul Simon!

Benedictions and Maledictions

Happy Birthday to my mother.

19 comments:

Clutch Cargo said...

I'v only flown to Vegas and Atlantic City. So for me flying has come to symbolize having a good time.

JLCGULL said...

I fly all the time, everywhere. It's the only way to go.

Goldfinger said...

My last flight was a hair-raising experience. I probably shall not be having another.

George Kennedy said...

If it's an airplane movie, I'm in it.

Tattoo said...

De plane, boss.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery said...

"Night Flight" was one of my favorite books.

Memory gap said...

The book "Fear of Flying" created quite a sensation when it first came out. I've forgotten what all the ruckus was about. I'll have to google that one.

Steve Canyon said...

I took one of my college girlfriends to Detroit Metro Airport for a stewardess interview. I opened a wrong door and we found ourselves walking across a major runway. Qualudes! Those were the days. She wasn't allowed to interview for the position.

Current History said...

Among the real heroes of 9-11 were those who went down with the plane in Pennsylvania.

Neil Young said...

Let's roll.

Wichita-Lineman said...

I have loved airports for a while. It really is a two sided coin. They can be an incredibly happy place, or very sad. I seen a little boy break down while saying goodbye to his cousins last time I flew. His whole life as an only child flashed before my eyes in an instant, at least that’s what the images told me. I felt bad for him. I have always liked watching people embraces at airports. People always seem more likely to show public affection at the airport. Maybe that’s the magic of it all.

Stay at home said...

Paul Theroux is a great travel writer. I really enjoyed "The Pillars of Hercules," about his circling the Mediterranean Sea.

r's musings said...

I find airports fascinating...I like the window seat, too! Your mother was quite the interesting character, Michelle. I love reading your posts about her. Thanks for sharing!

Looking and trying said...

Today's "Quote of the Day": Pay her in hundreds or fifties. Do not hand her a stack of twenties or any smaller bills.--Lipstick Explosion

paul said...

Cajun Queen i'm lookin i'm trying Foxy Detroit Lady rocker thats tiny little ghost frend 2Cute
R2 C2! Go TIGERS!!! Shazammmmmm!

Tim said...

Your mother was a lot like mine in that she loved to travel-never on a plane though- and could strike up conversations with anyone. I don't know why but it would embarrass me when we would be in a strange place and she'd start talking to someone at the next table of a restaurant where we were eating. I wish I had inherited more of that easy, outgoing nature from her.

John Ricci said...

Dear Michelle, another most charming essay and view, bravo! Top shelf champagne all around. The Cardinals just beat the Mets and we can hope the Tigers will be able to bite the little birds leaving only feathers. Your mother must have been quite something, as you are. Saturday we separate the men from the boys and make Detroit proud. To the Tigers and Michellespells, always.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I've never liked airports, or traveling for that matter. I've never liked hospitals either, but I suppose there's good that comes from both.

Sheila said...

I have only been in an airplane twice.... I am hoping to be in them more because I would really love to travel... to Ireland, to Australia.... to Vegas! hehe black jack here I come!