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I woke up suddenly. My head jerked upright from its place against the window of the airplane. The woman sitting beside me noticed and immediately pointed to small package of peanuts tucked into the pocket of the seat in front of me. “I saved these for you,” she said in a Dutch accent. “And this,” as she handed me a napkin.

“Thank you,” I said. This all made me feel bad since I had been trying to avoid talking to her from the beginning of the flight.

“Where are you from?” she asked me.

“America.”

“Ah, are you going home?”

“No, I’m going to Munich.”

We were landing in Amsterdam. And she was the one going home. Not me.

A week later I was back where I had left from, and the time that had passed between the two points of time, the leaving and the returning, didn’t seem to matter much in the bigger picture. But it really did. Everything was different.

Because the world is bigger, I wrote.

The world is a very big place. From Asia to Europe it takes 12 or 14 or 16 hours of flying, depending on where you find yourself going to and coming from.

There is this beautiful fountain in the middle of Salzburg, Austria. There are horse heads in it that spit water into the sky, and the water falls down into the fountain, splashing the carved webbed feet of the strange water creatures that are almost horses, but really something else entirely, something that only exists in that pond. In that place. A tiny fountain world. I left a coin there, tossed it in, wishing something I can’t remember now, just wishing something.

Fountains make wishing seem easy, but you don’t really need them. They don’t really help. You have to go there, wherever it is you’re going. You have to go there on your own. But maybe a fountain is what you are looking for. A fountain that holds the worlds’ only water horses. A fountain that my 20 euro cent coin is living in.

I am looking for some other fountain, some other place. Maybe I am looking for a building, a beautiful building that I want to go on looking at. Or maybe I am looking for a park, a park where a tree grows that’s been growing there longer than I’ve been alive. Or maybe I’m looking for a person. A water horse, golden sunset, great green park of a person. Or perhaps they are many people. A park full. Yes, that’s it: a city and a park and people. What a small world I am looking for. Maybe I’ve already flown over it. Maybe I’ve already sat next to it.

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The jet engines roared and I was pushed further back into the uncomfortable aisle seat of the plane.

We’re going into the sky, people! Wake up! The sky! We’re freaking flying!

The flight was to be almost four hours long, headed East, gaining three hours as we flew. It was dark, midnight, and the flight attendants asked for the window shades to stay down, as the sun would soon be coming up. For that reason, I couldn’t watch, even from my aisle seat, as we left the ground. Instead, I closed my eyes and felt my body tipping. We were flying. There was no longer such a thing as “level” or “up” or “down”. If you’ve flown before, if you’ve looked out the window as the plane tilts, you know what this means. Flying. It’s very different from anything else.

Electronics turned off, forced into the 1800s by the man over the speaker, you lose track of time. You almost forget it exists. You want to, anyway, because the seat is uncomfortable and you don’t want to know that that nap you just took that seemed like it lasted for hours was really only fifteen minutes, and you are really not very much closer to your final destination, as they say.

No such thing as time, or space. And surrounded by strangers. The man in your row who couldn’t stop talking before take-off sits by the window, leaning against the side of the plane, dozing. The man who wore a cowboy hat on the plane  — is he a real cowboy? — who sits in the middle and is made of only arms and legs and keeps knocking his foot into your foot as he adjusts his sleeping position, attempting to make himself comfortable, and failing, and making you uncomfortable, too. All the rest of them, the boy with too-large muscles, the latino couple across the aisle who made polite chit-chat with the weird older guy who boarded the plane late with too much luggage, the group of three young brothers who are spread throughout the back of the plane, passing around bags of food and making the other passengers laugh with, “Marcus! Marcus! Can we eat yet?” Somehow you’re all not really strangers, at least while in the sky.

Long hours, what seems like hours, anyway, pass, and the voices over the speaker tell you many different things, things you’ll forget afterward, but remember again when you board another plane, even if it’s a month later, or four years: “The captain has turned off the seatbelt light. The captain has turned on the seatbelt light. We’ll shortly begin serving free drinks and expensive bags of pretzels. Please make sure your tray tables are stowed and your seats are in the upright position. You may now use your cell phone, if it is within reach. We thank you for flying with us today, and hope to see you again soon.”

The plane touches down, and you feel it, but you can’t watch the ground as it quickly grows larger. Someone opens a window shade rebelliously, and the plane is filled with light. Only then does everyone remember that’s morning, that time has passed, that we have just crossed our country in the air. Phones are immediately turned on, time is checked, people jump up to claim their bags and then stand, waiting. Gravity has returned, time has returned, and once again we are a group of strangers, ready to head to our final destination.

But flying is different. And although travelers part ways, although the man with the cowboy hat takes his cowboy hat and goes about his business, there will always be those strange hours when hours did not exist, when one day became another and we were in the sky and didn’t notice, and didn’t know. When time did not exist, and the only way to know what time it was was to look out the window  and wonder what state, exactly, was that tiny car driving in? And where was that person going? And did they see the other tiny car on the other street, not far from them? And would they ever meet that person they passed by, so closely? Would they ever know how close they came? Would we?

I’m sitting in my Las Vegas hotel room on a really comfy chair. Seriously, it is so comfortable!

But enough about my current exciting life events – let’s talk about yesterday!

It was mostly an airport day – which is totally ok with me.

After stuffing full what I thought was a giant carry-on bag, I met up with my friend Nicole, who had an actual giant carry-on bag, and we were off to the airport. We got through security without a snag (yay!) , which was an exciting event for me because I’ve always had a snag while going through security. (Last time it was: “your shirt is too sparkly”. I kid you not.) And then, we waited. and waited. and waited. Yes, ok, in our excitement, we went a little overboard with the whole get-there-early thing. But it was nice to have some time to sit and think about the great journey that was about to happen for us. We snagged seats in front of a giant window overlooking the tarmac and watched the planes and the people. I saw all these big guys rushing around – driving weirdly shaped machines, and I wondered what it must be like to always be helping people go someplace else. Also, I wondered how cool it must be to help guide in all of those airplanes – or maybe it was only impressive the first time they did it.

So I sat there, and thought about airport workers, and snapped this great photo of my little pile of belongings:

After about two hours, we finally got on our plane and began our four hour ride to Phoenix. While Nicole was asleep almost instantly, and stayed that way, I spent most of the journey staring out of the window I was sitting next to, and occasionally staring (in a kind of hateful way) at the backs of the heads that were not staring out of their windows. What’s the point of taking a plane somewhere if you don’t look out the window? What do you think you’re traveling on, a bus? Seriously people, we are flying through the air – don’t you get that?

These are the things I think after every airplane ride I take. I’ve been on quite a few now, and after every one I feel just greatly impressed about the whole thing. And I mean the whole airplane-traveling experience: driving to the airport, going through security, people watching, waiting to board, finding your seats, jamming your luggage wherever it is meant to go, ignoring (or watching) the flight attendants as they go through their little spiel, taking off, flying, landing. That basically included the whole airplane-traveling experience, right? The airports themselves are fascinating to me: people of all sorts from all over jumbled together, all trying to get somewhere else. I love it. I could live in an airport. Oh – and also, pilots. I have a strange fascination with pilots. I could go on and on about them, so I’ll just leave it at: “They are the coolest human beings on this planet” and tell you about the rest of my journey that ended at this comfortable armchair!

Once we got to PHX, we had an hour layover there, which wasn’t so bad. Then we got on our last flight for the day – to Las Vegas! I think Vegas flights always contain the most interesting people…

What then occured was what must have been the shortest flight in human history.

“41 minutes from runway to runway.” – The Pilot

He claimed it was 41 minutes, but it felt like 15. And soon, we found ourselves in the heart of Las Vegas – confused about the time, a little sleepy, a lot excited, and hungry! I ordered pizza (on my phone – online! I think I had a senior moment: “Wait, I can order pizza – on this app – without talking to anyone?!”), and we wandered around a bit (read: across the street from our hotel, but it was a 6-lane street…) to find drinks.

I’d like to say our first day of adventuring went out with a bang – but really we just scarfed our food and then each fell into a deep, coma-like sleep.

And that brings us back to now, with me, in this chair (did I mention it was comfortable??), and this beautiful view:

 

So, now I’ve got to go wake up Nicole (why is she always sleeping in this story?!) and head on out – to California! See you there!

 

 

(Oh, and if you’re reading this and you’re from the LA area, or you’ve been there — Where should I go? What should I see? Tell me everything!)