Flight

Flying was not new to Gretchen Mckenna, but it was always wonderful. Adjusting herself, she wheeled to the right, feeling the leap in her stomach as the small craft dipped and caught the next thermal. Her feet resting on a poll behind her, at the bottom of the wingspan, and she felt the inevitable itch that she always seemed to get on her calf at some point during flight. She forced her mind away from it and concentrated on watching the fields below her for a convenient place to land. She didn’t want to flatten a whole row of beautiful corn plants if she could help it.

The sky was a magnificent blue above her, and it seemed impossible that below, on the ground, there was anything wrong with the world. She wondered perversely whether it would be possible to simply exist without any human companionship; maybe then she’d never, ever, need to be exposed to the meanness, the smallness, the pettiness, the stupidity and callousness of those around her. She knew that a fifteen-year old girl shouldn’t be as negative and as done with life as she felt she was already, and she was guilty about that.

If she’d been at all suicidal, she could have snapped herself out of her harness and fallen to her death any time during this and all her other flights. But she had a deep will to live and find something better, something worth living for. She was determined to find it. The family she was born into was all wrong for her; they were bigots, they spurned any kind of education and laughed at her pleasure in reading, they encouraged her to be a “normal” girl and go out to parties where she would get plied with alcohol and lewd offers. There weren’t parents or siblings like she had in most of the books she checked out of the small, rural library that she spent her time in.

A draft carried a scent of damp earth from below and Gretchen realized her mind had wandered and she was getting closer to the ground in her circling. She found an empty expanse of weedy field to land in. She wasn’t looking forward to the long trudge home, lugging the surprisingly heavy craft behind her, but she dreaded even more arriving home and hearing her family berate her for being gone all day, again.

One day, she thought, I’ll fly away for real.

A Pause, An Apology

As some of you may have noticed, I’ve not been here quite as regularly during the past few days – and that includes not reading and commenting on all your wonderful blogs as often as I’d like.

The reason is pretty much the usual one when it comes to me: I’m stressed and getting ready to pack up my essentials and move back to New York for a semester. In addition to the logistics of wrapping up my summer vacation and getting ready to go back into study-mode, I’ve also been going through on emotional roller-coaster. One of the ways I contend with it is to remind myself that everything I experience, however painful and difficult, can always be used later as material. It might be a cold way of dealing with things, but it works.

On Tuesday night, my mother and I fly to Canada to visit my aunts for a week. From there, we go to New York for a couple days vacation before I go back to university, where I get to move into my shiny, new (well, newly painted, at least) single dorm room. Once it’s all set up, I might actually take pictures and post them here. Then again, I might be too lazy. In two weeks, I’ll be part of the team of students welcoming the freshpeople into the college by helping them move their things into their rooms.

So the next two weeks are going to be hectic, full of flights, family and friends. I’m going to do my utmost to continue updating regularly and reading your blogs, but if I miss a couple days, I’m extending my apology preemptively, and hope you’ll forgive me.

To Berlin!

Yes, it’s true, I’m going abroad tonight! Again! I know, I know, this is getting insane… But to be fair, this time I’m using my mileage on Swiss-Air to fund a flight! And I’ll remind you all again that flying to Europe from Israel is much less hassle that from North America, or indeed, Australia/New Zealand. It’s about three and a half hours to Frankfurt, where we switch planes and fly to Berlin.

Yes, this is the third trip abroad that Sir B. F. and I are undergoing together! The first two were to London, England, a place we both love beyond measure. London is fantastic city, absolutely amazing in everything from culture to architecture. But we’ve “done” London twice, and we decided we need a change.

Sir B. F. has a family member who’s relatively wealthy and he has an apartment in Berlin which we can stay in – there’s no way we could have succeeded in funding this trip if we’d had to stay in hotels. Even the cheapest of hotels cost about 100 Euro a night. But no, we get our own cozy little apartment in Charlottenburg, and we have the Schloss Charlottenburg, which is a palace with extensive gardens, right in our own neighborhood! It’s definitely a perfect location for us  – it’s quiet, so we can rest peacefully at night, but close enough to transportation so that we can get right into the centers of Berlin.

While I’m gone, I will try to keep up with everyone’s blogs as often as I can – and yes, I’m still visiting your blogs, but I’m just commenting less. I want to keep my circle of friends here, and I know that in the bloggy-world, the first sign of waning friendship is less commenting – so I truly do apologize, and I’ll do better in future!

I’m also going to try to write a bit (or a lot) while I’m there. I’m bringing my trust netbook, and we have internet in our apartment – plus, there’s neighbourhood-wide wifi connections in some areas of Berlin! Now that’s a service that I think every city should adopt. But back to the point of this paragraph – writing! I’ve already started my travel journal, which I intend to write in as extensively as possible, and if I have time then I’ll also try to continue with my own project which has slowed down a little, although things are getting clearer and closer to an ending, at which point I’ll finally be able to start working on a second draft! Woo!

And so I leave you now to tackle the rest of my day and half the night, as I wait impatiently for my exciting vacation to begin.

Arrived

Los Angeles is one of the most special cities in the world. Even when the weather forecast announces that it’s going to be overcast with possible showers, you can still feel the presence of a bright yellow sun behind the clouds, and within hours the sky clears and that bright orb makes its appearance just in time for a last walk in the sunlight before dusk falls.

Beautiful as it still is and will always be to me, there are things that have changed. Nothing that’s unique to LA, but rather things that have changed across the United States. Melrose, the hip-happening street of fashion, food and fun, has now more FOR LEASE signs that it ever has before. Shutters are drawn across the empty store fronts, and the glass looks dusty, as if it’s been waiting for a new tenant for longer than it’s used to.

When we ate lunch today, a dark-haired, scruffy, tall homeless man walked over to the table behind us and took the tip that was left there for the waitress. We saw it, as did a woman inside the restaurant, and none of us did anything. It seemed to happen so fast. We all were sure he was going to take some item of food, but then he was gone and so was the waitress’ tip. What do you even do in a situation like this?

I’ve been taking photos. Too many, and probably mostly bad ones, but I’m finally going to try to catch some of the essence of this bizarre half-city-half-suburb in more than words.

I’m jet-lagged and exhausted and our trip took more than twenty-four hours. I think now is the time to sleep.

Passover and Flying

Last night was Passover. While every single one of my friends and acquaintances here in Israel was at a Seder [that’s the Passover dinner] and either enjoying or loathing their families, I was at home, alone with my mother, watching Julie & Julia. Which is an excellent film, by the way. Oh no, don’t feel sorry for me! My mom and I were relieved to spend a quiet night together, and we didn’t want to be at a Seder! Some people were jealous of us for having no familial obligations here.

But tonight we’re flying to Los Angeles, and we’re going to have extensive familial obligations there. I don’t consider my brother or my aunts as obligations, of course, nor do I consider my mother’s close friends who are almost like family as such. No, the obligations come in on Saturday night, when we’ll be attending a late and unconventionally dated Seder [the reason for it is that it had to fit all the young’uns’ spring-breaks].

Hmm. I still sound bitter. But these obligations are ones I take on with joy. I love my extensive, slightly nutty, family. I love the gossip and the laughs and the way I’m finally treated as an adult and privy to such knowledge as who’s cheating, who’s getting divorced or who’s off the wagon. Not that I wish these things upon anyone in my family, but when a large group of sixty to eighty people join together for a dinner, gossip is bound to happen.

As you may be able to tell, I’m quite frazzled. I need to pack my carry-on bag, shower, and be ready in half an hour with a thermos of coffee to take to the park so that Sir. B. F. and I can spend an hour alone before he drives us to the airport.

I’m going to try, as hard as I possibly can, to keep writing every day, and keep track of all my friends here. Wish me luck!

Freakout

Tears swell up.

Bile churns.

Head aches.

Heart burns.

*

Muscles tense.

Thoughts amass.

Hands shake.

Words turn crass.

*

Flying away.

Later today.

Not to stay.

But that’s okay.

*

Freakout.

Walkabout.

Lipsapout.

I’llsortitout.

Travel Fever

There are two kinds of travel fever, as far as I am concerned.

The first is the one that can be a curse, but is ultimately a good feeling. It’s that itch, that undefinable wiggle in your heart that tells you to go, to get out, to move, to travel, to be somewhere else. It’s that feeling that begins to mount inside your chest two or three months before the blessed event of the vacation or trip – that stomach-leaping, heart-racing, whoop-of-excitement sort of fever that grips you joyfully in moments when you don’t expect it. It’s that feeling of anticipation that’s almost unbearable because it’s so wonderful and intense.

Then there’s the second kind of travel fever. This is the kind that is only a curse, and comes with some similar symptoms. This time, though, the stomach leaps with fear and nerves, the heart races with anxiety and worry and the sound caught in the throat is more of a moan, a stifled sigh, a cry of dismay and exhaustion and an instinct that says that home is the best and travel is unneeded, a hassle and a trial. It’s the kind of travel fever that puts the entire household into a bad mood, that makes the various packers snap at each other and rush around trying to recover lost objects while inevitably finding them in the entirely wrong place and blaming everyone else for it. It’s the feeling that grips your very guts as you push yourself through the various tasks and chores of lugging, checking in, being polite to security and trudging around dismal shops in the airport.

I am in the grips of this second travel fever. My mother and I fly to New York tonight in order to complete that dreaded chore – vacating my dorm room and putting all my things in storage to await my return, hopefully, in the fall. We will be flying back on Friday, and this is most assuredly not a pleasure jaunt but more of a necessary and emotionally painful inconvenience. Hopefully, all will go well and we’ll suffer no travel delays due to various weather conditions!

Jasmine’s Alarm

Jasmine lay on her back with her head turned to one side, looking at the big red numbers of the electronic alarm clock. 6:57AM. She turned her head the other way, her eyes falling on the back of Jordan’s head. He lay beside her, on his stomach, just barely snoring as he slept. One of his arms was tucked close to his side while the other was flung out casually, resting on Jasmine’s stomach above the thin blankets that covered them both. Three more minutes, Jasmine knew, and the alarm would ring.

She shifted her eyes back to the clock and then to the bare ceiling above, slightly stained from that leak that Jordan had discovered last year but had done nothing about. She pondered the stain for a moment, thinking again how much Jordan needed her when it came to stupid things like taking care of his rented flat, before another image came to her mind and made the stain blur as her eyes lost focus. The image was of a large, rectangular room. In one corner, next to one small window, was her bed. Two more beds and two desks separated it from her desk, by the corner next to the door. She then thought of her roommates – one whom she liked a great deal and another whom she pitied for her lack of style and seeming lack of the capacity to relax. She thought next of the pile of books under her bed, books she’d barely glanced through at all this year.

The next image that came to her mind was that of Jordan again, but this time a fuzzy Jordan in the screen of her computer, speaking to her through a web-cam image, as he’d been doing for the last month. She hated the way he looked in that camera image – like a pale ghost, disfigured by the insecure Net connection. Just then, Jordan turned her head towards her in his sleep and she saw his real face and the lovely, normal color of his skin.

She tore her gaze away from his face, soft with sleep, and looked back at the clock. 6:59AM. She thought of the airport, the bustle and hassle, the packing she still had to do and the bother it would be to lug all her things down the stairs. All at once, she made a decision. With a deft flick of her finger, she turned the knob on top of the clock from “ON” to “OFF.”

When Jordan woke her with a panicked tone of voice four hours later, she pretended to panic too. “But the alarm-” she said. “What happened to the alarm?” It was no good panicking, though. She’d already missed the flight. Jordan confessed to her that night that he was secretly glad that the alarm hadn’t gone off. Jasmine smiled and kissed him, leading him by the hand into a dimly lit pub where music was blaring and a young crowd was milling about. All feigned upset and distress were gone from her face and she drew him close to her, holding a beer in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. This was the life, she thought. This was the life.

To the Land of Great Bands

As my Victoria story doesn’t seem to be doing very well, I’m taking a one day [hopefully] break from it to give this announcement: I’m flying again. This time it’s with Mr. B. F. We’re going to London together for the second time; we leave tomorrow, July 14th and arrive back in Israel on the 24th. This will be a vacation of the proper sort – lounging in cafes drinking cappuccinos, taking walking tours and going shopping at the myriad thrift stores. Basically, rest and relaxation only with lots of walking around in between the two.

England is definitely one of my favorite places in the world. Not only has it brought the world bands like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Queen, it is also beautiful and can boast one of the greatest cities in the world: London. And London itself is probably my second favorite city in the world – second only to Los Angeles, which smells like home to me in many ways.

Now London has its fair share of problems, I’m sure. There’s the issues of constant traffic, the congestion charges, the occasional breaking down of one tube line or another – but for a tourist it’s a fantasy-land. Full of history, full of FREE museums, full of marketplaces, full of large and small and medium sized streets that are simply fabulous to discover – it is incredible.

As always, I hope to be able to write regularly, and might actually have more of a chance to this time as I’ll have more free “down” time, but cannot promise.

Chicago-Bound

It’s time to get going again. I’m packed, mostly, and my carry-on bag is as of yet non-existent. Those things don’t worry me though. By now, I’m a pro at closing up suitcases and backpacks and getting out of the house and into a waiting taxi at 3AM as I’ll be doing tonight. The thought of boarding a plane and beginning the journey to the United States is what worries me at the moment. Not so much the fear of being struck by lightning [though I must say that plane that disappeared has made me fearful] as much as the fear of tedium and inactivity.

I’ve gone on and on about flights before now, and so I’m not going to tackle this issue now. What I am going to substitute it with, though, is the matter of long layovers. Long layovers that aren’t long enough to warrant leaving the airport, but are plenty long enough to make the travel-time seem just about endless. This is the kind I will have on this flight – a four hour layover in Zurich. The Zurich airport is an odd one – pristine and clean-cut, long [a.k.a endless] hallways leading to the gates and bathrooms that seem to be tucked away from the normal person’s eyesight as if by spite.

However, I’m comforting myself with the fact that my mother and I are both word-lovers, and so we’ll spend our time by doing crossword puzzles and playing the brilliant card game called “Quiddler.” If any of you love words, I recommend you buy Quiddler right now. It’s brilliant.

Hopefully I’ll be writing fairly regularly, and maybe even with interesting stories or tidbits from my trip!