Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pensees From Hell


Atlanta International Airport

GATE D08 3 JUL 10 1108 AM

The Popeye's helped. Some greasy chicken, some ice tea. Something to remind me of a brighter world just outside beyond the glass. The worst part about this is that this will not be a work of fiction. This is real.

Looking up from the keyboard and out to the tarmac, I see in the glass the grim bearded face of the seriously fucked. My kid and I have entered the world of the modern Lost Dutchman – the Stand By on Buddy Pass.

It seemed like a good idea three months ago. My neighbor works for Delta, she can get us a spot on the cheap with her buddy pass. The prices on Buddy Pass were incredibly cheap, just like me, and I jumped on it. It actually worked well for my wife. She saved $500 on her trip to Panama. Me? Not so good.

I had promised my kid and my Minnesota folks we would be there on the 30th of August for a week of fishing and berry picking and hanging out and seeing the fireworks on Sunday the Fourth. That was the plan. I didn’t realize at the time my neighbor’s Buddy Pass Priority was 99, which might be slightly better than Osama Bin Laden. If the 9/11 Terrorists had flown Stand By we would be living in a different world today.

As I write I hear the announcer boarding the plane to Minneapolis. There a five seats available. We are number 35 on the priority list. Its going to be like this for the indefinite future. My Minnesota folks do not think highly of me at this moment. Neither does my kid. Neither do I. We just keep hitting the terminals they send us to, until something hits.

GATE D12 12:34PM
My kid and I have been stuck in limbo between the Atlanta Hub, which I’m told is the world’s biggest airport, and the Minneapolis Airport which is big enough. I’m writing this live from Concourse D, Gate 12. This turns out to be a nice gate to be in exile on. There’s a Starbucks, and they have these little booths where you can sit and type stuff. You can stare out the window. Out there. I used to live in Atlanta, long, long ago. There was a world out there. A world beyond the The Glass. I remember standing on a sidewalk in the sun. I could walk over here, if I wanted to. I could walk over there. I could cross the street. Sit under a tree. I used to live in that world beyond the glass. I remember there were trees and green grass once, long ago. Domestic animals. My pet cat Ronnie. My wife. Home cooked food. My garden. I wonder how my garden is turning out this year. I remember sunshine, clouds and rain. I remember work and having a job. So long ago. Somewhere out there on the other side of The Glass.

GATE D18 1:43PM
I’ve been thinking about iambic pentameter which has intrigued me since my attempt at sonnet writing a few weeks ago with “Tink”. I have misunderstood Iambic Pentameter. Perhaps you have also. I had been thinking it was 10 syllables to a line of alternating stressed sounds. The mystery was Shakespeare, the Sonnet God, whose lines often fell short or over ran the ten syllable border. Then I realized, the word “Pentameter” is deceptive. Its not ten syllables. Its four stressed beats, two measures to a line. For instance:


That’s four beats.

You’re CHEAP you’re CHEAP with STINK-ee FEET

Hear the beat?

The way to do it is to imagine three little girls jumping rope. Two of the girls are turning the rope and the third is jumping. The genius of little girls is that they jump rope in iambic pentameter without knowing it’s what they’re doing. They do it perfectly, because that’s the beat that brings the rope around.

JOHN and MAR-ee SITting in a TREE
K-i-S-s-I -n-G

GATE E11 3:35PM
Or imagine one little girl playing hopscotch on a sidewalk hopping her way through the little chalked squares:


You’re DUMB You’re DUMB you’re STAND by SCUM

Oh God. . . .

Get me the fuck out of this place . . . please God . . .

GATE A22 5:25PM

Holy God damn dang!!

This time we made it from the blue list to the green list. The blue list is the list of the hopeful in limbo. The green list is the list of the chosen people. As the hours get later most people have gotten their planes and the competition is thinning out. Our chances go up incrementally. We were right on the wire. We were on the blue, position number five out of a list five “blues”. The available seats were four seats. But that means if someone doesn’t show up at the last minute we move over the goal line and we win! Yay for our team.

I was at the check counter hanging over it breathlessly, as the guy went through the names, calling them out on the PA. People came through. They all came through. My son and I did not. We were the last. The last and only.

“Sorry guys.”

Suddenly a cabin attendant poked her head through the corridor entrance. “We have two seats empty!”

Everybody knew me and my kid were waiting. We were getting a little famous. By now.

The check guy jerked his thumb like a cop waving me through. “You guys – grab your bags – go!” People were heading for the desk, wanna bes, legitimates. We happy two, the last of the Blues ran down the corridor and made it so close – we actually touched it! We touched the plane ! The Ferryman's boat over the river Styx - when another attendant blocked the door, with a kind of shit eating grin. “Sorry, boys. They were in the restrooms. Its full up.”

“We can travel in the rest rooms! We don’t care!”


So we picked up our bags and trudged back up.

GATE A18 5:50PM
Now imagine this. Suppose one of the little jump rope girls is called home to her mother, say, to eat lunch, and their nice old neighbor Mr. Shakespeare comes out to turn the rope and call the chants till she gets back. He picks up the end of the rope (“Art thou ready?” The little girl at the other end nods yes) and The Great Man begins turning and calling the chant:

“That TIME (hop) of YEAR (hop) thou MAYST (hop) in ME (hop) be HOLD (hop!)
When YEL -low (hop) LEAVES (hop) or FEW (hop) or NONE (hop) do HANG (hop!)

(that’s four measures, and altered stresses if I’m getting the hang of this right. I think I am. Ashley and Lisabet knows scanning better than I do at this point, but I'm getting there.)

Da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM. Kids jumped ropes in his day. Who says this isn’t how he actually composed sonnets? It’s a sweet thought to imagine The Bard there with paper and a dip pen handy calling out the chants for his kids.)

GATE C19 6:45 PM
The pile of Blue People is getting shorter. There was a time in my life where I believed everything has a meaning, everything happens for a purpose. I’ve outgrown that idea, but I miss it like an old friend. Its very empowering to believe such things. It gives you patience. I envy people who haven’t lost their spiritual innocence. If you believe that you’re in Stand By Hell to learn some profound lesson, although that is a form of spiritual vanity, it gives you endurance. It goes back to Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search For Meaning”. Frankl was a psychiatrist and a Jew unfortunate enough to be caught in the holocaust and sent to a death camp. As a psychiatrist, he observed the dying prisoners around him as a kind of hellish lab environment and found that the ones who perished quickly were the ones who saw the event as pure malevolent chaos. The ones who survived were the ones who found meaning in their situation and tried to live for the sake of others.

Am I thinking of Nazi death camps now?

I wonder why you never see books like this for sale in Airports.

GATE C25 7:55PM
Okay, let's talk about meter some more.

“Art thou ready, maidens in thy spring?”

“Yes, Mr. Shakespeare!”

In ME (hop) thou SEEest (hop) the GLOWing (hop) of such FIRE (hop!)
That ON (hop) the ASHES (hop) of his YOUTH (hop) doth LIE (hop)

Thou KNOWest (hop) such SWINE (hop) as THOU, they must exPIRE (hop)
STAND-by (hop) SCUM (hop) thou KNOWest (hop) art DOOMed (hop) to DIE (hop)

GATE A15 8:45PM
I miss the typing booths at C25. Also here they have Seattle’s Best”, which is okay, but I’m used to Starbucks when I write. J K Rowling wrote most of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” at a series of Starbucks. True fact.

One of the people with real tickets for Minneapolis has a carry on bag with an embroidery of a loon. I love loon’s. You hear their wailing call on placid lakes at night as the sun starts to set. Up in Ely the sun doesn’t set all the way even at ten at night. True fact.

Now, a loon floating on, say Eagle Lake #3 outside of Ely, will look up and see the same stars as I see. Overhead the loon and I will see the starry bands of the milky way galaxy, the same stars the Ojibwa Indians used to look up at when they lived in those forests during the easy summer months. The loon and Ojibwa Indians did not know what stars were, although different tribes probably had similar traditional legends as to where they came from. Like Huckleberry Finn and Jim floating down the Mississippi river at night and speculating that “the moon most probably laid them”. Indians would have interesting ideas about god but the loon would not. It would not occur to the loon to worry about where it came from, and if you could speak Loon would probably tell you it came from an egg.

GATE C5 9:45PM
A loon does not have the mental equipment to comprehend God. Why do we suppose that we do? It is like Einstein’s cat trying to understand relativity. At the same time the loon and the cat have no interest that we know of in trying to understand God. Does that automatically make us divine beings? Only because we ask?

GATE D11 10:35PM
When crawfish on the lake bottom of Eagle Lake #3 look up at the surface do they have any idea there is a world beyond the mud and rocks of the lake floor? Or fish? Fish have curiosity. Especially predatory fish like sharks. They have intelligence, but have not been given the tools to understand the world beyond their own. So when a shark is hooked and hauled into a boat by poachers and has its fins brutally chopped off to be sold for soup and then thrown alive into the water, what must it think? Is it being punished for some sin? Is it in Shark Hell?

GATE D8 11:25 PM
So when we speculate on the existence of life in the Universe, what are we speculating on? Microbial life? Surely microbial life exists, because we see such an abundance in such a variety of biosphere's on earth. But what we're really talking about when we say intelligent life is technological life. A porpoise is intelligent, but lives underwater where metalurgy and technology are not possible. So the elements that go into technicalogical life are quite complex. Even the physical environment has to capable of allowing controlled fire.

Therefore what are flying saucers?

What if flying saucers were not space ships?
What if they were time machines?
The reported physical appearance of aliens look like Star Trek aliens, that is, they look like descendents of arboreal primates. They look like us with funny heads. They don't look like they came from an alien biosphere, the way a shrimp or an angler fish does. This is much more consistent with time travelers.

GATE D11 11:50PM

WE’RE ON!!!!!


  1. Garce - that truly sounds like hell. Glad you got out!

  2. This is hilarious. It rivals a letter I received from a world traveller stuck in Hong Kong. His contempt for all and sundry was complete. The comment I remember best was a scathingly sarcastic description of an item for sale in an airport shop - a pen with a clock embedded in it. "Why?" He posed the question and then answered it. "So I can see how long it takes me to write my signature?"

    This story is a keeper, Daddy Dumb.

  3. Garce dear,

    Leave it to you to turn a travel nightmare into a meditation on God, intelligence and iambic pentameter.

    How can you regret even this awful trip if it inspired you to write THIS wonderful post?

    Life is indeed mysterious.

    And by the way, I don't know SH*T about formal poetic forms (though I know that Ash is now an expert).


  4. Hi Garce,

    Great post.

    I did think of commenting yesterday to say that your original example for iambic pentatmeter was slightly flawed as it was dactylic tetrameter.

    DUMB dad-dy DUMB Dad-dy (etc) is a falling triple (dactylic). One stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. And, with their only being four beats in the line, it was tetrameter rather than petameter.

    My favourite example of iambic pentameter from Shakespeare is:

    Shall I comPARE thee TO a SUMmers DAY. It's possible to place

    And, I could have prattled on, being picky etc. But I didn't really want to spoil such a great post by whining about one small flaw.

    AS I said before: great post.



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