Seattle 2013: Day One

Monday, November the 25th.

[14:53 central]
It has felt like morning all day.  I am all packed.  B is out getting sandies and little bottles of gin.

The guy gave us a card saying we were in spot 315.  We were the only two people on Shuttle 28.  “Shuttle 28.  Are we clear?” “10-40, Shuttle 28.  You’re clear.”  Alaska Airlines.  We did the self-service check-in, paid $20 to check a bag weighing 44.4 pounds.  Then we breezed through Security Checkpoint A.  That was some Checkpoint, that Checkpoint A.

When I raise my hands for the panorama x-ray machine my hands hit the top of the compartment.  I was kind of worried when I stepped in—not because of that—because the TSA guy kept generically saying, “Take everything out of your pockets—and I mean everything.”  And I was thinking, “I nailed this.  My pockets were already empty even before he announced that.”  But then at the last moment I realized I had a once-folded Post-It note in my front right pants pocket.  It was my final checklist, that I didn’t want to leave out at home because then it would be obvious we were out of town.  So I was planning to put it in the first trash can I saw, which obviously I forgot to do.

But the x-ray guy waved me through anyway and then another TSA agent right on the other side of the machine issued said, “You’re clear.”  So now I’m writing all of this and B is getting a coffee.  There’s a trio of Wash U kids right near us and I was listening to them disinterestedly.  One of the gals asked the guy if he would do her psych experiment.  I went through that—having to get enough “participants” for my study for whatever class that was—Psych Stats with Dodd?—that’s a guess.

Ah.  One of the gals and the guy are bro and sis.  I find that endearing.  The other gal is fooling with her laptop and it’s not really cooperating.  Her experiment is some EKG thing?  I find it kind of uncanny that all five people sitting here a second ago, with no one else that close by, were all Wash U people….

The EKG gal just came right over and sat by me to hand the guy her laptop so he could do the experiment.  I was worried she’d look over at what I was writing and see the letters EKG and totally make me.  But if she did, she didn’t let on.  Now B is back.  The only thing I have left out is about how an older guy that came and sat down by us said that his son graduated from Wash U last year!  Did they know him?  He was on the baseball team, etc etc.  They conversed briefly and then abruptly the conversation ended.  Awkward!

Is he still over there?  I’m not sure.  I feel it would be rude to look considering I’m over here just flailing away.  But now B is drinking her coffee and getting all coffee paranoid and I think she’s going to try to see what I’m writing. 

But my real fear is that the EKG gal is going to try to get me to participate in her study.  I’m either going to walk away for awhile or just stop writing.  B just looked over—she is definitely trying to read this.  Which is why I love my Pilot G-2 ultra fines (.38 tip).  They write like a chicken-scratch fart-in-the-wind.  One minute I have a thought and then: BAM!  It’s down on paper—and not so easy to read, except by me of course.  Except I’ve had what has now become a recurring problem with my .38s, where it’s like the tip splays and there’s a little piece of metal sticking out—this piece of metal is like a sliver, very sharp—I could cut the page with it.  The ink won’t flow except in sort of a bloody, spotty stain fashion—so the ink cartridge is obviously done as a writing instrument.  I can keep the chassis but if I don’t have another cartridge I’m done.

I went online and Pilot says they guarantee their products 100 percent.  So this afternoon I sent my most recent busted cartridge off to their Customer Service department in Jacksonville, Florida.  All I put in the envelope beside the cartridge was an index card on which I said pretty much what I just said about the guarantee.  I’m real interested to see if they really will honor their policy and if so will they send me just the one-for-one “straight up” cartridge replacement, or will I get a two-pack, which is how the refills are offered online (I never see .38 refills in the store).

The coffee B got is a “tall americano,”  in which she put a little bit of half-and-half.  I let her use my Starbucks card.  That card had $48.41 on it when we started this trip and now it has—we’ll see if she can tell me: she hands me the receipt and the card.  I’m down to $45.89.  She tipped them $1 out of her petty cash.  She’s reading now.  She offers to let me keep the receipt.  I clear my throat.

[17:59 or so]
I went for a quick stroll down the concourse during which I drank one of my four small bottles of Beefeater, holding it in my right hand/fist—trying to conceal it because what else do people have to do while they wait to board besides either screwing around on their mobile device or people-watching the people who are walking down the concourse?

B: “The plane is here, they’re getting off.”

I chased the gin with water from a water bottle I was holding in my left hand.  Then I went to the bathroom.  At first I tried to go in the men’s room near our gate but it was kind of crowded so I did a u-ee and went back to another one farther away from our gate that I had seen on my stroll and had briefly considered stopping at but didn’t.  After that I filled my water bottle.  The plane wasn’t quite there when I got back.  I looked down the gangway but all I saw were airport/airline personnel.

The incoming flight was due at 17:53.  We are supposed to leave at 18:30.  The area around the gate is pretty full—full enough so that I can’t say, “This flight might not be full.”

The Wash U folks were in the midst of talking about what they’d be doing during the summer—internships, I guess.  I heard the phrase “Wells Fargo” and then one of the gals was talking about how she had Capital One, and their website was confusing.

B is standing up.  I guess the incomers disembarked.  Then someone was talking about going abroad—or knew someone who was abroad in El Salvador.

“Is she coming back (for Thanksgiving)?”

“No,  She’s with a group.  They’re having it there.  Like, they’re killing their own turkey—plucking the feathers from it themselves—.”

Some kids now are on the chairs right at the back of me—flailing and wailing.  Here’s where I pray I’m not seated anywhere near them.  Maybe this is why B got up—did she see them coming, and didn’t mention it to me because she thought I was so deep into whatever it was I was writing?”

It’s 18:04.


We are seated in Row 15, I’m on a window.  It’s three seats to a row—the other denizen was here when we got here.  Alaska Airlines does a pre-board group, I guess that you can pay for on a one-off basis.  Then they do all their clubs.  Then they did service-men and -women.  Then they Row 6 for whatever reason.  We weren’t sure what their boarding process was because we’ve never flown with them before and it didn’t say anything about the boarding process on the ticket.

So after Row 6 they open it up to “travelers who do no need to put anything in an overhead bin: who either have nothing to carry on or whose carry-on will fit under the seat in front of them.”  (The lady with us in our half-row has a cough but there is no sign or sound of the kids from the seating area.)  We had checked our big bag and whatever we were still carrying could fit beneath the seats in front of us.  So in that group we boarded.

That was a nice, unexpected perk—an approach to boarding neither B nor I had ever encountered before.  But as we’re getting seated some lady who was camped out right near the gate but who had a roller carry-on walks right by us, looks up to the luggage compartment over us and says, “Oh, look.  There’s the carry-on items that the people who boarded before us could supposedly fit under their seats.”  Oh, that irked me.  Was she not paying attention there at the gate during the first fifteen minutes of boarding when it was all of the pre-boarding groups: families, the airplane club members, the service-men and -women.  Whatever.

The crew on this plane was trying to back us up on time but it was gonna be tough.  Close quarters on these planes bring out in me the same sort of derision I feel most mornings driving into work.  There’s got to be a good place to put this negativity but in this cramped, capacity plane I do best just to keep it to myself, or let a little bit of it spill, if I must, onto this page.

“Flight attendants, prepare for cross-check.”

We’ve got a cross-check, here people—let’s do it!

At [18:37] we back away.  Not bad.  It’s dark out, plenty dark.  Boeing 737.  A guy outside with red wands, one each hand.  A voice over us—not a recording—delivers the emergency instructions while a flight attendant mimics the specified actions.  B is reading, not paying attention.  I look up intermittently.  I’m afraid I’ll have to go to the bathroom on this three-hour, fifty-nine minute flight to Seattle.

There’s a little tag on the interior plane body right next to my seat.  It says: “Seats in this row do not recline.”

I guess because there is an exit row behind us.  The lights go out in the cabin, but mine stays on—it must have been left in the on position.  We’re rolling along the runway.  We’re told that if we accidentally hit the call button all we have to do is just hit it again and that will cancel the call.  I had never heard that.  A truck goes by us in the opposite direction.  We pass Terminal 2, the Southwest Airlines terminal.  All of the Luvbirds are queued up at their respective gates, blinking.

I see a sign outside that says, “Please follow noise abatement procedures.”

Along the runway are red lights in a row, blue lights in a row.  We stop behind a row of green lights that are inset in the runway concrete.  The plane has come to a stop but it is thrumming.  Now we are moving and it’s for real: gunning, gunning hard, roaring, lifting, totally up.  As we rise the curvature of the earth becomes less relevant—the horizon opens up and lights further away become visible, uneclipsed.  It strikes me as dark out there on the ground, darker than I thought—like we aren’t flying over a metro area.  Have we gone that far northwest in such a short time?  I have a pang for my compass, unpacked again.

The engine right outside my window seems to have a floodlight shining on it.  Otherwise, I can’t see a g-d thing.

A few side notes:

(1)  I’m tempted to fork over the $7 for an in-flight Alaskan Amber.  But they only take credit/debit.

(2)  I can’t imagine paying for in-flight wi-fi.

(3)  The Alaskan Airlines logo—the guy on the tail of their planes—I’ve always thought it looked like Johnny Cash.

 Drink service has come and gone.  They offered a meal, too: homestyle chicken for $7.  The potays in the promo looked pretty good but we came heavy with sandies.  And I’m not hungry anyway.

I am now three little Beefeaters in—the one in the airport concourse and then the two I just swigged with the cran juice I ordered.  B says she’s drunk on her one Smirnoff.  She’s got her headphones on now.  I’ve had mine in for awhile, sometimes pausing the muse-ay in lieu of announcements over the intercom—or to interact politely with the cabin staff.

It’s DJ Koze, Amygdala.  A bit of a dance party, to the extent I can actually move.  I had to take my cord sport coat off a few minutes ago—not just because I was a tad toasty but because it was getting pinched downward along my back by the seat, resulting in the sensation that someone was yanking downward on it, causing undue strain on my neck.

I was feeling like that contortionist, what’s his name?  Not Liberace—I always think of Liberace when I’m trying to think of this guy, don’t ask me why.  Not Mesmer.  It’s the guy who dies when someone punched him in the stomach, and his appendix burst.  He thought that when he flexed his abs he could withstand any punch.  Or maybe I’m making all of this up.  The Fabulous _____________.  Hell, I can’t think of it.  Houdini!  Christ.

I did see some lights on the ground a while back.  It might have been Columbia, MO.  This was awhile ago.  The gin is working on me a bit here.  I see a few lights now but they’re faint.

I’ve never been to Seattle.  It’s where B is from (though she was born in Germany).  This vay-kay doesn’t feel like a vay-kay yet.  It hasn’t sunk in.  Maybe it won’t until we’re in the hotel.  Until then, everything just feels like work.  Every minute of this flight is like some protracted exercise or ridiculous yoga pose.   I wanted to put my “tray table” down but then my legs were pressing up against it, tilting it.  So for the moment I have my cord coat balled up and sitting in my lap, with my notebook on top of that, to get it a little closer to me, so I don’t have to crane my neck so much.

I did not eat that little snack pack they gave us, but I will.  It’s a King Nuts product.  I’ve had their work before, and I approve.  Or as Chuckie from SoA would say, “I accept that.”

The lights came back on in the cabin when drink service started—probably forty-five minutes ago.  They brought some sort of e-reader by on a cart before that.  I didn’t pay much attention.  ALK, hustling.  Can’t blame them.  Our fellow Row 15 D-E-F denizen is now knitting.  I’m into it.  Her hands are going—moving in perfect rhythm to the beat from DJ Koze.  OK, I might be exaggerating that.  Seriously though: DJ Koze’s Amygdala and Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories are my two nominees for Album of the Year.  With both I’ve gotten a bit obsessed, whereupon once I started listening to each album I listened to just that one album exclusively for a period of a week.

Right now is the fifth or sixth day of my Koze binge.  He’s German I believe.  It’s an eclectic house album bringing in vocals from different artists on different tracks: Caribou, Ada, Matthew Dear.  (This is the same concept as Daft Punk bringing in talent on some of their tracks—but I can’t name any of the vocalists they brought in.)  Koze utilizes a variety of horns/tooting objects and a few samples/non-song audio snippets.  Beats.  Some soul-style, some jazz-style.  Electronic, electronica.  Minimal in spots.  A bit of steel drum.  As one sample says, “We need to eat, we need to drink, and we need…music.”  Most of the language is English but German is a close second.

I have been writing at a pretty thick pace.  I probably can’t keep it up—and that’s fine.  In some of my other travelogues, I spit heavy to start out and then I get distracted/lazy.  For Jamaica/Farm/Pere Marquette, my densest, most-detailed, most carefully wrought writing has been about “getting there”.  This is because I don’t have much to do but write when I’m on a plane or in a car, but when I get to the destination I’m out doing this or that and not sitting down to concentrate on describing what is happening or what is going through my mind.  I hate to flame out in this way but the only trip I’ve ever kept up a constant writing pace for was Europe 2002, some of my best work ever.

The service cart comes by—I smell and I want that coffee but it’ll send me right to the loo and that I can’t have. Go, Koze, go!

Matthew Dear is on a couple of these songs.  “Why do my plans always change? / And why does this make me laugh?”  I listened to one of his solo albums—or previewed it, anyhow, on iTunes.  I’d call him an acquired taste, Tom Waits-ish.  At some point I’ll give Mr. Dear another once-over.  Koze throws him in with all kinds of other noise and verbs and sounds and it meshes well.  Some of these songs come on and it’s like running into an old friend in an unexpected place.  “I remember you….”  There are 15 songs on the album and only two are under four minutes.  That’s what I call value.

Multiple people are coughing/hacking on this plane.  Theory: the rise of flu shots has somehow made us more susceptible to common colds.  Can I prove this?  No.  But I had a dickens of a cold about a month ago that lasted for about a dang month—bad at first but then very much hanging around, and around.  Two other people at work had the same thing: respiratory infection I suppose.  Now, I haven’t had a flu shot anytime in the last ten year.  But—B is fighting something and she had a flu shot last year.  And all of these people on here coughing and hacking (B just coughed!), I bet the lot of ’em had flu shots last year!  This flu shot business in not a zero sum game, people: you take from the viruses and you give to the bacteria.  Who are we to play God?  And this the cost.

Aside: the last two albums I’ve downloaded on iTunes are German electronica.

Aside: The cabin crew has drawn the sheer, mosquito-net type curtain between “us” and those flagrantly rich bastards in first class.  This curtain is the flimsiest, most inconsequential thing I’ve ever seen proposed as a “divider” of airplane sections.  I might call it a dead man’s mosquito net.  I guess that eighteen-inch wide section of grommeted pantyhose really keeps the riff-raff from trying to sneak into the VIP section.

Aside: A guy in the row in front of me is playing Uno on his tablet and has been doing so for the last hour.

Just when I think I’m through 15 songs another one comes forth—don’t stop, Koze!  This song is somewhat industrial/electro.  Very Munich/Kunstpark Ost.  The knitter is taking a break.  B is blowing her nose.  Travel: it just makes you sick.

In flight WiFi—”GoGo fuck yourself!”—send photo to Roy.

A voice somewhere in my head says, “Oh, yeah.  GoGo InFlight Internet.  The stock has been crazy.”

“Hey, no stock talk in here,” I say.  “That’s your other life.  You’ll just ruin this thinking of stocks you never bought or sold way too soon.  Go away for awhile, whoever brought up that thoughts of stocks.”

“You want me to go away?” says the voice.  Let’s call him J2.  “You think it’s that easy?”

“I’ve got work to do,” I say,  “beat it.”

“Fine, fine.  But you’ll regret it,” says J2.  “I’ll haunt you, flash ticker symbols in your decrepit, disjointed, jumbled dreams.  GoGo Fuckyourself!”

A third voice comes along and says, “What’s going on here, guys?  A little bit of therapy?”

In unison me and J2 say, “Oh, fuck you too!”


The cabin is dark.  I need to remember to position my little drink bottles right side up in my ziploc slider bag next time.  If they are lying on their side or upside down they will leak because of the cabin being pressurized.  Also, make a note to bring a stir stick for B for her vodka/cran.  She prefers to pour the liquor in as opposed to using her drink merely as a chaser.

I’m on to Pantha du Prince, the other German album.  It’s minimalist.  The only vocals to speak of are macro in nature: chorals or chants.  There is a bells motif.  There is an incredible painting on the album cover.

I’ve been seeing plenty of cities of late, lit up and laid out.  As I crane by head and put it right up close to the window…I see the stars.  It’s the Big Dipper, hanging out along the horizon, plain as day.  Three stars make the handle, four the ladle.

[23:56 central, 1:56 11/26 in Seattle]

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