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Up in the Air

on traveling and the oft-forgotten miracle of flying. oh, and jack gilbert.

En route to Hong Kong, October 2011.


Today, Aldrin has revealed his distaste for traveling. After the initial displays of aghast and disappointment, I thought about why I loved to. If I had my way—and if I could afford to spend all of my savings—I would go to dozens of different countries and cities. Exploration and discovery are part of the exciting adventure that is travel.

One thing that I particularly like is the part where we fly.

At a certain point this year, I’d become tired of the airport. The airports in Manila, specifically, with the additional taxes and fees that are obviously put to good use, the long queues, the tray-less security x-rays (seriously, where am I supposed to put my shoes, which you still ask us to take off?), and the general unpleasantness of it all.

Truthfully, I don’t really blame Aldrin for not wanting to travel, based on the sorry state of our airport terminals, but I’ve come to realize that there’s really a lot more miracles than problems, when it comes down to it.

At the 2:00 mark, Louis CK reminds us of the miracle of flying.

For a few hours, you sit in a chair in the sky and wait for it to bring you to new, exciting territories ready for exploration and discovery. You begin at one point on the earth, and end up in another, while sitting down. I don’t see how it gets much better than that.

Plus, you get to enjoy the view. (My favorite seat is the window seat.)




As I don’t have a dragon to take me flying, I supposed I’ll have to settle for klunky airplanes.

And just because I feel like it, a poem by Jack Gilbert, dedicated to the person who loved flying so much, he flew too close to the sun:

Failing and Flying
Jack Gilbert

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.