4.45 am, EST: Keith’s brother Brian knocks on our door. He’s come to drive us to the airport. I’m not wearing any pants (I had just pulled my jeans out of the dryer) so I hide in the kitchen while I finish dressing.
5.10 am: Check in, security, etc.
5.23 am: Mm, coffee.
5.39 am: I like airports. I like how here time has both no meaning and all the meaning in the world, simultaneously.
5.50 am: There is a group of three girls at the gate who are dressed identically, from velour tracksuits to flipflops. I’ve never understood these sorts of friendships.
6.05 am: Boarding.
6.10 – 7.21 am: Sleeping, for the first time since I got up twenty-four hours ago. Wake up only because of Mm, coffee. Keith is passed out next to me, his knees pressed up against the tray table in front of him. He practically had to fold himself into the seat. I am so glad to be short.
7.39 am: A few years ago Cathay Pacific lost two pieces of our luggage when Keith and I came back from Asia. The funny thing was that we had had one day of travel with three connections (Phuket to Shanghai, via Bangkok and Hong Kong) and our bags came through perfectly. But when we were on a direct flight to Newark… Cathay accidentally sent our bags to Dubai. In most cases I generally just carry on; for this trip we not only have a connector but we also had to check our bags. I happen to really like the clothes I’ve packed, not to mention my Shu Uemura eyelash curler. Fingers crossed.
7.45 am: The televisions on this plane are all wiggly and tinged orange, so everyone looks like Martians filmed underwater. Right now it’s a tall, lanky Martian Bourdain falling off of an ATV in the desert… underwater.
7.48 – 8.25 am: Read Vogue while the little boy across the aisle sings “Candy candy gumballs and candy” to an unrecognizable tune, which doesn’t bother me at all, strangely, making me wonder if I’m getting soft in my old age. Regardless… For all of its hype, The Sex and the City movie better be good. Not that it matters.
8.30 am: Descent into Charlotte. My feet are so swollen.
8.35 am: Landing, just as I was beginning to fall asleep again.
8.36 am: Taxiing, disembarking, etc.
8.40 – 8.50 am: There are more colorfully-dressed people in Charlotte than I am accustomed to seeing. A lot of turquoises, pinks, greens, oranges… Keith and I are both dressed in shades of gray and black.
9.53 am: We, apparently, are going to be stuck on the runway for twenty minutes or so. Don’t worry, the pilot says. “This being a jet aircraft and all, I gather we can try to make up for some of that lost time en route.”
10.02 am: A passenger is trying to flirt with a flight attendant. He is old enough to be her father. She’s not having it.
10.17 am – 12.12 pm: Asleep. Strange dreams.
12.51 pm: Keith and I switch seats; now I have the window directly to my left. I have no idea where we are flying over, but between the wispy cotton candy clouds are patches of dirt-colored ground dotted with green shrubbery so dark they appear black.
1.00 – 1.52 pm: Sleeping. I didn’t go to bed last night. There didn’t seem to be a point, since I would have had to wake up at 2.45 or 3.00 to be ready. I will be paying for this later.
2.00 pm: The ground has become entirely dirt-colored, sand and steppes as far as I can see. In some areas, the ochre is interrupted by meandering roads snaking through the soil, but in others the roads bisect the ground as neatly as a crossword puzzle. We are flying over some towns whose roofs shine silver-white in the sun. From here I can see the perfect shadows of clouds projected onto the earth. I still don’t know where we are but it looks harsh. We are too far up to discern cars, so it all seems very unreal, like a display at the museum.
2.07 pm: Clouds are funny. Why are they white? Why do they float? Why are some cartoonily puffy and others eerily misty? From here, they look solid, lie something I could reach out and stroke, like a bunny.
2.18 pm: The dirt is now snow-covered. I don’t know how I missed it.
2.24 pm: Sixty-four miles out of LAX. We’re descending and are flying through the clouds in such a way that it is like being suspended in a bowl of milk.
2.30 pm: Flying over a series of planned communities, the ones where every single house is the same as the next, and the next, and the next. These sorts of developments always seem to be so sad and stifling to me. They are the architectural version of controlling parents.
2.35 pm: Freeways, freeways and more freeways. I haven’t been to LA in four or five years, and the sheer amount of highways intersecting the city always amazes me.
12.37 pm, PST: We’re here.