Monday, June 09, 2003

I entered the mouth of Penn Station, the escalator going down, with an old vacationing couple, the woman had red espadrilles. Halfway down, on the stairs to the left, a homeless black man clung to the partition between us. He was howling something repetitively in a gasping, croaking voice. At first it seemed inarticulate, then not, then so. As we floated by I strained to understand it.

"Moon river!" he howled. "Moon river!"

That faint, singing hum, like a hint of tinnitus; the hot salty smell from the galley, woven with the scent of extraordinarily synthetic things; the anechoic, blood-drained cabin; but outside the roar of pure atmosphere, uh sounded together with oh, phasing gently into a melodious murmur like river rapids.

A little turbulence and the engine dances under the wing – the plane seems elastic, alive, made of cartilage and sinew.

Little stars of frost form on the window and here's what it says on the wing: no step, no step, no step, no step.

On the screen the red arrow has us well over the Bay of Maine, south of Bangor, east of Portland, west of the moon.

We get infantilized when we fly: put your seatbelt on, watch the safety video, put your bag under the seat, no, all the way in front of the seat in front of you. Maybe we like this? It's a ritual of regression, the chance to be helpless once again.