Monday, January 6, 2014

Bolzano, En Route 15.12.2013: Plethoras of Plots, Travel and Skin-Slipping

Off this morning to Italy. We're in the waiting room of the Little Rock airport. I realized as I showered this morning that I've come to like long overseas flights. What I don't like is the jet lag afterwards, and the grunginess of being in clothes, unshaven and unwashed, for 24 hours.

What I like about the flight itself: the chance to disappear into the interstitial space of nonentity. One nestles back into the too-tiny seat and faces no one, is studied by no one. With a book, a journal, an occasional snack and beverage, one can vegetate. Dream. Let the old self of the pre-journey slough itself off and the new of the travels being to emerge.

The soft whoosh of air inside and out, the dim cabin lights, the not-being-called-on and having nothing expected of one: they're soothing. It's cocoon-like, I'd even say womb-like, except that one's talking about a metal tube vaulting through the sky and nothing so warm and maternal as a womb.

Maybe all this is carrion comfort to assuage myself as I'm preparing to let myself be encased for a day in that metal tube with its girth-torturing tiny chairs. But it's how I've come to face an overseas flight: a necessary evil, which it behooves one to learn to enjoy, since it's the only affordable way for those of us who can't pay ship's passage to reach Europe from America these days.

Later (now in New York, awaiting boarding for our flight to Milan): slipping one's old skin and putting on new--not a bad metaphor for travel, and the cocoon image fits it.

Passing time on the plane reading yet another in George Martin's Game of Thrones series, perhaps not the worst way to amuse and divert myself, though I must admit I'm growing weary of the plethora of characters, each involved in some unsavory game, each resulting in a complex web of plots that may or may not connect at some center point. Meanwhile, a kind of clash of plots, rather than a single story told from various perspectives.

And I'm not persuaded it's successful, though I've now plodded through four previous whopping novels, and am halfway through the fifth. Can I chuck it from the plane, I wonder, if it displeases me as much as The Old Curiosity Shop did Daniel O'Connell, who threw the book out the train window when its ending caused him to burst into tears?

The photo: waiting at the Bolzano train station for our train to Florence on the morning of 18 December.

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