Back at the Secret City

I got in this morning. My flight took off at 3:52 am and landed at
5:11 am, which entailed showing up at the airport at midnight and
hustling around after that to get my bags on the baggage pallets. The
good news is that I only had to wait about a hundred hours (105
actually) for a benighted seat.

 Flying at such an hour takes all the things you love about aviation,
like the endless waits, the sorry excuses for nourishment, and the
camaraderie of the airport lounge, and just sets the floodlight on
them. Even better, the girl I was sitting next to had only been on a
plane once before, two weeks prior, and was scared of getting sick.
Thankfully, this remained a mere bugaboo.

 But the absolute best part was the 1000-meter walk across the tarmac
from the aircraft to the terminal. I think the last time I flew in
here it was daytime and we took a shuttle bus back from the plane.
Does the bus not operate at night? I would have been more excited
about the stroll, actually, with the blue taxiway lights and the
bright stars overhead, if I hadn’t been dead tired and carrying my
heavy bags.

 Later in the morning, I got my bike back from where I’d parked it, and
I went for a ride this afternoon, which was great. It was good
weather, with big thick striated clouds that cast clear shadows all
over the landscape, and the wind from the north, and after my nap I
felt pretty alive. I was however a little distracted and didn’t focus
as I should have and I didn’t break 18 mph. It’s my first ride in
February, and I was hoping for something a little stronger to start
out the month with.

Fifty-nine hours of waiting so far!

I’ve been here at secret village no. 3 waiting for a flight back to
the secret city for nearly three full days, and Thursday, Friday, and
Saturday nights. I went to sleep last night before the overnight
flight schedule was fully updated, so I set the alarm for four a.m. to
see whether an early morning flight had been added (I’d have to be
there for standby roll-call at 6:30 to stay on the list anyway). Good
news! There was a flight, with a couple of standby seats.

 Sadly, by the time I got a couple bowls of cereal to go and brushed my
teeth and walked back to the airport lounge, there was only one seat.
The others had been reassigned to some other, higher priority. Some
other guy who’d been waiting a little longer than me got that one, and
now I am first on the list.

 I gots to get a reservation out of here. This waking up at all hours
and waiting for seats that never open up is getting old. At least when
I called the office this morning to share the bad news they said that
they missed me, too.

 While I wait, here’s a Hanne Hukkelberg
video you can watch. I just discovered this one and it has all those
good Hanne tics you remember from her two albums:


‘Another lost day away from you’

This post’s title popped up as a suggestion in the ‘Subject’ box after I typed the word ‘another.’ Repetition seems to be a popular motif for me; I had four different subject lines starting with ‘another’ to choose from.

Today (Saturday) looks like an auspicious day for travel. Yesterday as you are aware I managed to have a pleasant day off, sleeping until noon and watching the tennis match. After dinner I returned to the airport tent for the evening roll-call, and I left at midnight on foot, frustrated that the overnight flight schedule hadn’t been posted in the three hours I’d been waiting. When I got back this morning, I was kicking myself to see that I’d missed two scheduled flights back to my secret city, one at 2 am, the other at 5 am, and that the 2 am flight had had open seats. I felt better after I saw one of my fellow travelers still sleeping in the same chair and heard the same six names (including mine) called from the roll-call roster that had been called last night.

This morning, in contrast, the full schedule was available, and there are four flights on tap back to the secret city, one which allegedly has open seats. Maybe I’ll sleep there tonight.

Last night’s entertainment, apprehended in the airport lounge while waiting in vain for the flight schedule to be posted, was necessarily watching television films. Last night brought a double feature, A Lot Like Love and Mrs. Harris.

A Lot Like Love is an awful film that seems to turn up again and again on television, like a bad penny or an infomercial. Its first scene takes place in an passenger aircraft, and despite the years of experience that Hollywood has earned in building authentic-looking passenger-aircraft sets, this one managed to seem completely fake and cheesy-looking, like a sitcom set that had been pressed into emergency service when the original, finely detailed set burned down in an accidental fire set by a dropped cigarette.

The action then shifts to an airport, which looked nothing like LaGuardia (and nothing like any real airport in the US), further alienating this careful viewer. By the time the two main characters end up on a no. 7 train elevated platform (that’s how I know it’s meant to be LaGuardia), even the subway looks fake, as if they used the F train platform at Ditmas Ave in Brooklyn instead. The by-the-numbers set design flattens out the fluky aspects of the two leads’ relationship, which is what the movie is allegedly about: a man and a woman who realize after six years of acquaintanceship that they are meant for each other. I watched the female lead (green-eyed Amanda Peet) move between multiple fully decorated and furnished apartments and wondered why she needed this particular man (Ashton Kutcher) when it was obvious from her décor that her life was so together.

That film was followed by the sleeper Mrs. Harris, a made-for-TV movie from 2005, with the fantastic Ben Kingsley and Annette Bening doing their thespian best in great costumes in front of gorgeous sets. It’s the story of the doomed Jean Harris–Herman Tarnower romance. The Tarnower bedroom set is fantastic, a softly-lit love den in gold and Chinese red, sporting two incongruous twin beds with matching mustard coverlets beneath a boldly patterned double headboard. In general the movie uses costumes and sets to advance the drama and make it seem more cinematic and exciting.

Today’s somewhat blurry photograph is of the secret-village cat; I took it this morning during my second encounter with Tabby. I had seen the animal chasing around the night before last, and thought that it was an ordinary aloof stray. Then this morning I found it in the entryway to Tent 2, mewling and looking all adorable. Seeing this little feline just makes me miss Ella, Sedre and Farkas—my cats at home—even more deeply.

Moving on again, now at secret village no. 3

This one has smaller tents but still nice sunsets, plus an unexpected
lightning storm today. I spent the night at the airport pretty much,
yo-yoing back and forth between my tent and the lounge (a five-minute
walk), hoping to find a spare seat on a flight back to my original
Secret City.
Finally after having lain down at eleven, then gotten up at 1:21 am.,
back to bed at 3:30 am, and back up at 5:09 am, at nine the madness
ceased; they put the flight schedule out for today and thankfully (!?)
there were no flights out, so I could go back to bed and sleep to
noon. I had it all made up nice, with a blanket over the mattress and
my sleeping bag nicely laid out on top. It was perfect for the
lightning storm; nothing better than lying lazily in bed at 11:45,
thinking about going to lunch, and listening to thunderclaps outside.