Beautiful late evening sunlight.
February 10th, 2013, 7pm in Wellington, New Zealand
I'm in Wellington, New Zealand, a point on a map, but my soul — as William Gibson likes to say — is lagged. Somewhere over the Pacific. Lost. I was in Tokyo yesterday and San Francisco just a few days before that.
I remember the first time I flew from the East Coast of the US to Japan. I was 19 years old. It felt so — so! — utterly, mind-numbingly long. Pacing up and down the isles. Checking my watch. Brushing and rebrushing my teeth. Lifting the window shade at the back of the fuselage to an endless ocean. The thought of ever doing that again made me cringe.
And yet we acclimate. There is a certain tribe of (privileged) people for whom there is no home, there is no grounding. For whom 14 hour flights are routine and a combination of eye masks and in-seat entertainment and Ambien and stretching means these flights — 10 or 12 or 16 hours, once unthinkable — are suddenly palatable. Not pleasurable (pleasure in flight is reserved for the business class, the first class, the private jets), but reasonably functional and with a decent enough payoff to warrant the stale air and the food and the jetlag.
"... and only by paying the closest attention to the minutiae of this world could one begin to make out the lineaments of some other." — Pico Iyer, Tropical Classical
You land lost. You sip a flat white at the airport. You hijack a shaky connection and answer emails. You make it to your hotel room at twilight. You throw your stuff on your bed and your body is confused and your mind spent. And then the sun hits that magic angle for a few brief seconds — ten, fifteen — and your translucent blinds light up golden. Suddenly feeling disgusting and miserable is outweighed by the sumptuous texture of being in an unknown place, in an unknown room, below an unknown sky, glowing with a kind of nostalgia, nose closer to the minutiae than you'd ever be at home, a little lost on the other side of the world.