Toad in the Hole

May 15, 2004

Carrion Baggage and Personable Longings

Joe and I spent most of the past two weeks in Arkansas, visiting relatives and handling some family-connected business and playing tourist. I'll be writing about that over the next few days.

We flew. That is, we got onto a great big jet airliner and got flown, got thrown, got stuffed shoved and blown, sitting over the wing most of the time and straining to see the landscape from Oakland to Houston and Houston to Little Rock. This time, at least, we didn't get frisked.

We did pretty much the same trip in February, when we took Joe's mother back to bury her in her hometown, Alma. That time we did get frisked coming and going, allegedly/supposedly because we'd bought the tickets so close to flight time, though the airline took the necessary data and gave us the "bereavement" discount fare. You'd think that any reason that's strong enough to get accepted for a discount -- something that costs the airline actual money -- would suffice to establish one's bona fides wrt blowing things up or whatever we were being frisked about, but hey. At that point we were already stressed enough not to care much: Yeah yeah, get it over with, g'bye, haveaniceday.

We flew over the Sierra, already losing its snowmantle; over the deserts all ripply and brown and white and red and yellow; over farmland with those center-pivot irrigation patterns, circles and three-quarter circles and half-circles inside squares, assorted arrangements of greens and tans and browns. After seeing the quilt pattern books at the Ozark Folk Center, I know deep in my flinty old heart that there are quilts somewhere on this continent with patterns like that. If there are Drunkard's Path quilts and Wild Geese Flying quilts and Log Cabin quilts and Courthouse Square quilts, there must be Fly-Over-the-Farms quilts. Or maybe it has to be Airliner-Over-Agribiz; these places seem pretty large in scale.

There are a number of deeply disturbing details to airline flying, and none of them involved merely "defying" gravity. There's the cattle-chute treatment, of course, and the weird foodstuffs (we flew Continental, which still serves meals -- and parts of those were even edible) and the Forbidded Words and Accessories. I lost my mini-Leatherman keychain tool to a security snoop, who was muttering something about a corkscrew seen on Xray as he got more and more flustered. (I was behaving myself, I promise; not even scowling. I have a policy of being nice to flunkies and frontline workers, having been one often enough myself.) After we got there, I realized that he'd taken an accidental decoy, that I'd forgotten my Swiss Army knife in the bottom of my satchel, and that does have a corkscrew. As it's the model with the hand lens on it, pricey and hard to find, it would have been a greater loss. It came back in our checked bag, where it's legal so far.

Airline magazines leave me feeling like a visitor from the wrong planet, and that Skymall catalog -- what the hell is that stuff FOR?? An electrically heated WHAT? Automatic WHICH?? One does have to respect the human imagination, rather the way one has to respect a really silly dog breed.

Houston has lots of water around it. This makes the air bumpy. It also has grackles and cattle egrets and I do believe I had a flock of white ibis under us -- they flew in tight diamond formation, wings pointed. The airport's too damned big: lots of suspense in the trek from Big Terminal to Shuttle Terminal. Aerobic, OK, but much of it's by buslet or trainlet and not under one's control.

Little Rock has a nice, small, civilized airport by the river, with more grackles and waterfowl to greet us. We touched down with relief. I love actual flying, but there are too many chances for people to screw things up in airports and airlines.

Then we rented a little shitpot Suzuki Somethingorother and drove around the city and the mountains for the next ten days.

Posted at May 15, 2004 11:37 PM


Welcome home!

Posted by: Chris Clarke at May 16, 2004 04:02 PM