June 04, 2010
The rule is this and always this: while walking though an airport on my way to boarding a plane, I must listen to the Dandy Warhols. The song doesn’t matter, the album is immaterial, and this isn’t something I do for luck, or to seal a bargain with fate that in return for my remembrance and recognition of this ritual the wings of the plane will stay sealed to the fuselage and not suddenly fall off over the darkness of the Pacific at mid-flight, midnight… it’s just the way it goes.
There’s a certain sound that the Warhols have perfected, a textured richness that rides the line between drone and groove. Played loud, it overrides everything else, washes through the world and puts you in a singular, solo universe – your own personal movie soundtrack. I like this; I like feeling like there’s a greater narrative of motion that is centred around me for an average of three minutes and thirty seconds.
So I listened to the Dandy Warhols while I moved through the crowds of Melbourne Airport at seven in the morning, pushing my trolley in front of me. It was weighed down with the variety of black bags I had with me – the giant black backpack for clothes, with the attached smaller black backpack for TNB-authored books. The regular black backpack full of various Australian chocolates and toiletries. The black bag for my laptop – all with bright red tape around the handles, a traveling trick for easily profiling my bags on luggage carousels.
The upside to running late is that everyone has already checked in. Who knew?
Melbourne had been cold and misty for the last few days, the winter price you pay for living in a Cascadian climate. I sat in the international departures lounge and watched the last vestiges of fog trickle away from the morning sun through eyes that felt rimmed with sandpaper, and wondered again why I had waited until eleven the previous night to start packing for a month-long trip.
Boarding was early, which I’ve decided was an auspicious omen. Less auspicious were the two foreign guys I say next to, who hadn’t showered for a while. Fortunately, the answer to both of my problems was to wrap my jacket around myself and go to sleep.
Heh, I thought as drifted off. Eat it, Europeans. I’m going to sleep, and I can’t smell you there.
Plane sleep is my second-least favourite kind of sleep, beaten only by fever-sleep. It’s fitful and uncomfortable, and you generally get woken only by the long soreness running through the vertebrae in your neck where your head has slumped into your chest, or by your own snoring, which means that, like spending the night at Rosie O’Donnell’s house, you wake up embarrassed.
I woke up to the sound of the captain informing us the descent was beginning. While every take-off is unique, every landing is exactly the same. We touched down with a bump and when the plane came to a complete stop, one of the foreign guys offered the other his hand, and they palm-slid and fist-bumped in a way so smooth and practiced that I figured this was their own tiny ritual, a measure of respect and accomplishment for each landing they made. Seeing this, their smell was forgiven.
And then… Auckland Airport, Zara Potts, and Jordan Ancel – and TPAC’s 2010 journey was underway.
In six hours we board a plane to LA. From there, we go to Vegas. We go to Colorado. We go to Chicago, Cleveland, New York. We go to Nashville, Memphis, Baton Rouge. We go to Dallas, Roswell, Los Angeles again. I go to San Francisco, while Zara terrorises the Angelenos.
Brad Listi, Lenore Zion, Duke Haney. Rich Ferguson, Reno Romero, Lisa Rae Cunningham. Gina Frangello, Matthew Gavin Frank, Greg Boose, Claire Bidwell Smith. Nick Belardes, Oksana Marafioti. Don Mitchell. Greg Olear. Stephanie St. John Olear. Kristen Elde, Will Entrekin, Shya Scanlon. Megan diLullo, Erika Rae, Uche Ogbuji. Andrew Nonadetti, Alison Aucoin, Ronlyn Domngue. Becky Palapala, Slade Ham, Richard Cox – all the writers we have pledged to meet and spend time with, and every other TNB writer we will meet along the way and whose name doesn’t spring immediately to my jetlagged mind, we can promise this.
We will abuse your hospitality beyond all limits of abuse you thought existed. I look forward to personally destroying your faith in the generous and unassuming nature of Australians, and, furthermore, every single resident of Oceania.