"United Airlines would like to welcome you to Cincinnati" crackled the creaky old PA system in the creaky old aircraft, and my heart sank. I looked around and was engulfed by the plainness I had tried to keep at bay by playing Frank Zappa in my mind's jukebox for the last couple hours. Say what you will about Frank Zappa, but he definitely ain't plain folk. The people around me were descendants of the farm. I'd say children of the corn if that didn't imply something different thanks to Hollywood. I found a ticket stub from where I saw the Stooges last April stuck in the notebook where I write down these random thoughts. Iggy Pop was telling me to stay strong.
Then I remembered that Cincinnati's airport was actually in Kentucky. That made it temporarily better for some reason.
Tight connection to make the last pond skipper to Columbus, Ohio, and I had to do an OJ Simpson to make it to the gate on time. When I say that I don't mean I slit someone's throat. Those of you a little older will remember the commercial OJ used to be famous for before he killed a couple people. If you're the guy I ran over in front of the Burger King, I'm really sorry. I'm sure you'll agree with me sir that half-hour layovers when you have to get from one side of the airport to the other should be illegal.
Got settled in for the last half-hour flight and was informed what to do in the unlikely event of a water landing. Nice to know the airline was prepared in case some giant windstorm unprecedented in the earth's history were to blow the plane 150 miles off course and force it to land in Lake Erie. Either that or it was just another random moment of corporate impersonality. I think you know which. I was definitely on the other side of the river now, most assuredly in buckeyeland and on my way to Columbus, Ohio. If you ever want to annoy someone from Columbus, make sure to always attach the "Ohio" after their city name. They totally have a complex about that. It's a metro area of over a million people that has done absolutely nothing to distinguish itself from anywhere else. I heard a story not too long ago about a girl who was killed by an errant hockey puck in Columbus, Ohio, and I could almost hear the Chamber of Commerce shouting..."SEE? THINGS DO HAPPEN HERE!!!! REAL THINGS!!!!" U2 once played a concert at the football stadium in Columbus, Ohio, and the fact a local TV news crew met them at the airport to make their arrival the lead story on that nights newscast actually underscored the problem the TV crew was trying to help out with.
I couldn't help but to notice there was a card in the seatback pocket in front of me that said "Final assembly of this aircraft was completed in Brazil" I wondered why they had to tell me this. I'm sure they wouldn't have told me this unless they had to.
It occurred to me that I've done more than my share of flying now, and I've never actually seen anyone use the barf bag. Has anyone?
I watched the stewardess get ready for landing and saw that she got shoulder belts AND a lap belt, while us paying customers only got the later. I find this unacceptable. If I'm going to die in a fiery aircraft inferno, I want the stewardess just as dead. I watched her almost in a trance like state as she made her way to the front of the craft, and the words "Welcome to Columbus, Ohio" snapped me back to reality. Looking at the barf bag wouldn't help me anymore. The door opened, the hazy, hot, humid atmosphere of the Midwest in summertime came in, and a ton or two of accumulated lifetime family baggage came crashing back down upon my shoulders. I spent the week with that baggage pressing down on me. It was hard to move with that weight on my shoulders. It was hard to breathe, and it had nothing to do with how incredibly fucking hot it was. The baggage swirled around me, and I couldn't sleep, not even in the daytime. My last day in Ohioland I was awake from noon eastern until 4PM Pacific the next day. Thirty-one straight hours without even the crutch of crystal meth.
In short, it was hot, the family baggage pulled me to earth with incredible force the whole time I was there, and I set a personal record for consecutive hours without sleep. At the airport on my way back someone cut in line in front of me and I knew I must be headed back to California.
I'm glad I went.