Thursday, July 15, 2010

Everything I need to know I learned in airports.

Everything I need to know I learned in airports. I can’t back that up. I can back it up a little.

You can blog about things. You can do things, and then blog about the things you do. It can make doing things better, or having done them better, or maybe both the doing and the having done. It can make you feel less lonely. I learned this now, in the airport.

I am in Las Vegas. I am in the airport in Las Vegas. Unlike all the other airports, it is not like all the other airports. All the other airports are the same, but this one is different.

You can imagine airports in different ways. You can experience them through different metaphorical lenses, but this is not necessarily a superficial like clip-on-over-your-normal-glasses kind of lens. This is experiential. You feel it weird (your metaphor), especially if you’re sleep-deprived.

I woke up at one in the morning. It’s a bad time to wake up. It’s too early. And then I drove hard northeast across the whole state map, and checked my bag and flew in the air to Las Vegas.

Seeing, unless you have a weird kind of eyes that let you see heat or bones or something, is necessarily superficial.

I flew out of the muggy river-valley morning dawn. For the first half of the flight you’re pushing up, against, exerting and asserting, and for the second half you’re gliding in. We crossed a mountain range—flew right over it. It was imposing and grand and imperious and small and inconsequential. This mountain range--you can see it on maps and from space--from the sky, which you can easily pay to fly in, is irrelevant and redundant and decorative and “awesome.” You push up for awhile over and against the atmosphere, and you glide down and on the other side of the journey there is a dry orange craggy desert. It has layers and colors and depths and shadows.

Your destination pulls you into itself. You start out 99.9% elsewhere and not at all where you’re going, and the next thing you know it has subsumed you and you’re nowhere else but there. For example, at this moment I’m entirely in Las Vegas.

I’m not even going to tell you about the metaphor.

You glide down, like everywhere—this is after banking a tilty right over and within an arm’s reach of those vividly granulated and striated sedimentary peaks—and the flatness spreads out before you. The flatness could be any airport’s town. You glide down like you do anywhere, but not just over and through but into. Already you’re in Vegas. All the dumb tall buildings lie a long arm’s reach below you and apparently you’re going to land on The Strip, and they get bigger and dumber and more opulent and thematic and you touch down craning your head to lock eyes with the fake sphinx. There are palm trees.

One of the ways it’s different: You can’t play Airport Pretty Girls Game. I learned this game from myself on a cold northern airport night. Once I had to spend the night in the Oslo airport. The game is addictive. You look at a pretty girl; you splash around in her glistening blue Scandinavian eyeballs until she looks back, and then you raise your eyebrows very briefly in a sort of vulnerable/quizzical expression before abruptly breaking contact and looking down at your journal like you weren’t falling in love.

Well you can’t play that here because everyone has a fake tan.

Maybe it’s a real tan.