When it is time to sleep with the bedroom windows open I
wake when a delayed plane descending through the night city
(and my unconscious) crescendos into earshot—this is an old-
fashioned ode to the hum of the city. From more faraway
than just hearing the buses are running again—an alien from anywhere
touches down on the vast suburban plain of Pearson airport.
The sound of a jet these days takes me about as far as the airport.
To LaGuardia, Orly, or Schiphol. To the terminals where faraway
starts: this century, in twenty-four hours a jet can take you anywhere
on earth (just don’t try it on a holiday weekend). An old
friend (a guy who could learn a language simply by overhearing, I
swear, two guys in a bar arguing) tells of boarding a bus in Mexico City,
riding twelve hours and never reaching the outskirts of Mexico City.
Drunk on lost love, deeply under-slept, he’d wake up in the same faraway
land, ask his neighbour in Spanish, “Where am I? ”
Awake, the ennui of “are we” or “aren’t we” began to descend, but it never got old
in the dreaming/remembering never-ending trip to the airport,
and the neighbour’s response each time might have meant anywhere,
but he always said “Mexico City” as if it was the outskirts of anywhere.
“¿Dónde estamos? ” “Where am I? ”
That one can travel between any two points on earth in a day is an old
adage now—but pack light! Don’t waste time at the airport
standing around a baggage carousel—throw it all in your carry-on. Get away!
But don’t count on a good cup of coffee when you arrive faraway,
unless you’re on the west coast of North America or almost anywhere
in western Europe. And remember: French fries are available in every city.
(Imagine the guy who discovered it was not just a rock, the old
genius who first boiled a potato, centuries before air travel and airports,
we need to honour that man, I
reckon. And the guy who deep-fried it in oil, him too, I
declare.) And while French fries are prevalent, available anywhere,
one can never count on a decent slice of pizza. Especially at airports:
control expectations. There are six joints on earth (one in N.Y.C.)
where great pizza is available. The best is in a faraway
land known as Vancouver, not far from the old
Commodore Ballroom, a city, a memory that makes me feel old.
Get to the airport—if you leave now you can be far, far away
in a day, I dare say—near great pizza, perhaps—near fries, anywhere.