5:00 pm – Oh my god. I am on a propeller plane.
Spoiled as I am living within an hour of three major airports, from where I can fly direct just about anywhere, I haven’t been on many. But this trip to Cleveland has finally broken my lucky streak. I take a puddle jumper to Philly for my connecting flight. It throbs alarmingly, drops precipitously several times. I fight back tears of terror.
The flight attendant feels sorry for me and makes conversation. She tells me that, statistically, I should be more terrified of the New Jersey Turnpike. Which only adds to my fears instead of alleviates them. Because, yeah, I often think it’s miraculous anyone survives the Turnpike and its menacingly hurtling tractor trailers.
7:00 pm – Waiting in Philly. I am like the bacteria that cluster around thermal vents at the bottom of the sea. Except the heat I seek is juice for my cell phone. As long as I can keep my iPhone climbing to 100% power, all will be well. It’s my #1 objective in picking an airport waiting room seat.
Side note: I am not sure why airports are chock-full of hotties, but they always are. If you like lanky white boys, as I do, the man-watching is always yummy at airports. Suits, cargo shorts, caps, good haircuts, five o’clock shadow, pretty blue eyes. The parade is entertaining.
9:19- boarding flight to Cleveland. Observation: only extremely white people fly to Cleveland. I’ve spotted at least 3 gingers. One particularly cute one.
It’s after midnight when I get to my hotel room. But I’ve botched the timing on my meals and I’m starving. A hunger headache is setting in and is going to keep me up if I don’t do something. I’ve got a 5:00 am wake-up to get to my school visit on time so I can’t afford that.
Nothing is delivering so I head out into the cool, dark air. I am never out at midnight like I used to be when I was younger. It’s heady and laden. It reminds me of my near-homeless, broke 20s and of a freedom I rarely feel anymore, walking through this deserted parking lot alone.
There’s a tractor trailer parked nearby, no doubt a trucker sleeping. I try to remember the name of that serial killing trucker. Not useful, Maria. No one’s going to murder you.
I spot what seems a stray dog wandering through the parking lot. I instantly love this dog. As I tend to do, I make up a whole story about him, his life, his struggles, the old woman who died and left him homeless. I try to imagine what it will take to adopt him and ship him home to New Jersey. I decide I’ll name him Jackson. All this happens in 20 seconds, mind you. But imagine telling the story at dinner parties! Oh, Jackson? I found him in a parking lot in Ohio during a book tour. No kidding, seriously.
Jackson stops in the little patch of lawn at the hotel parking lot’s edge and unceremoniously starts to take a dump. Our romance sours quickly. Then he runs to a nearby tree and starts trying to run up it, batshit-crazy style, over and over again, undeterred by the fact that nothing seems to be up there. It suddenly occurs to me that I am more likely to be mauled by this crazy mutt than to be killed by a sleeping trucker.
I race across the five-lane highway – two lanes each way, one in the middle for turns – and find my way to the has station convenience store. The only for-sure gluten-free foodstuffs I find are potato chips and water. I also buy a Sprite, thus breaking the low-carb anti-SIBO diet I’ve been on for weeks in less than six hours of traveling. That and my Whole Foods beef jerky will have to be dinner.
Cleveland radio is terrible. Really, really bad, all country music and Jesus 101.5. It’s like a bad movie cliche of what bad radio sounds like. How do people here watch the Grammys and know any of the artists nominated? It’s so weird what you wind up missing when you’re far from home.
It’s a very white town. Caucasians are even doing kitchen work, not exactly what you see in my neck of the woods.
School visit is amazing. Lovely, warm people. Attentive, beautiful kids who ask great questions and buy boatloads of books, then come up to me earnestly asking me to sign them.
Also exceedingly white. It’s not even like I notice people of other races so much back home but I so totally notice that there aren’t any here. Where are they?
Cleveland to Charlotte – I am seated next to a woman with the crazy leg twitch, one of those deliberate, OCD-type motions that shakes my seat. I spend an hour and a half fighting back the urge to slap her leg.
Waiting in Charlotte I finish the book that was supposed to last this whole trip. I buy Gone Girl for the flight. It’s perfect reading, wicked and smart, exactly what I need.
Charlotte to LA- extra seat between me and my seatmate, who sleeps most of the way. The travel gods smile.
I scribble in my notebook joyfully and tune out my loud airplane neighbors with Madcon and Milky Chance and Lana Del Rey. The extra seat makes it easier. I just angle myself away from them and turn up the music. Amy Elliot Dunne is missing and still falling in love in flashbacks. I’ve seen the movie so I know how much darker this gets. I can’t wait. It’s the first book in forever (if not ever) not ruined by watching the movie.
I write these entries on my phone’s notes to be copied on the blog later. I briefly consider buying the in-flight WiFi to give myself the kick of posting from 34,000 feet. I decide there are better uses for my $10.
I am such a damn grown-up sometimes. I begrudge myself every responsible decision.