Tuesday, October 27, 2009

the seats in american airlines flights these days are slightly more narrow than the length of my upper leg, which means that i'm slightly cramped for an entire flight and when i finally stand up i'm a little dizzy or drunken-looking on my feet. we are cramped in there like sardines, and this would be ok on a flight say from peoria to moline, but st. louis to newark new jersey, you'd think they'd let us spread out a little more. some guy who's overweight really feels his girth moving into the next guy's territory, and there isn't much anyone can do about it, except maybe put their wallet in the overhead bin where it won't hurt the entire flight. on the bart i'd seen high water in the illinois farmlands; beans turning red and ready to harvest, but getting thoroughly drenched by relentless rains. landing in newark, i take the bus into manhattan and the subway all the way out to queens, watching every person and listening to the languages. in the morning, i'm on the same buses but back over to new jersey where i have a presentation. jersey is actually stunning in its color, its beauty, the reds and oranges of the hardwoods and the old houses. but in the afternoon it starts raining, and i'm drenched by the time i get back to times square.

times square has a large demonstration for global climate day, and i'm given a sign which i hold in my soggy hands as i watch people walk through the square, again speaking various languages; i seem to hear a lot of russian. the rain comes and goes; the televisions of times square flash over and over, the news, which i imagine is supposed to impress me. actually ads flash, in huge sizes, lit up; the news runs across in ticker tape as if i wanted to know about some grisly crime in missouri, over and over no less. it's almost like the suspension one feels in an airport, but here, i'm outside, on the street, with lots of noise, and the sounds of climate-day speakers on their bullhorns. one of the televisions also broadcasts worldwide climate-day demonstrations from such places as mongolia, new zealand, south africa. my cell phone apparently is ringing, me not hearing it; my sister eventually finds me and we walk off into lower downtown manhattan, an area called chelsea where there is a market and an elevated train bed that has been turned into a kind of open grassland walkway. one can walk through the grasses up there, look off into jersey, look down into the city, and slip under and through some high-rise hotels and apartment complexes.

the city in itself is a rich patchwork of different kinds of people, speaking different languages, living busy lives and looking a little stressed out. some are familiar to me; the small-townish patriarch wearing jets pajamas, and getting ready to go to the football game with his sons; the rabbi, head down, hustling through the airport; the two croatian dudes on the subway, shirts unbuttoned about halfway down. actually i have to guess about these people, but my conclusion, much of the time, is that i'd never see this in carbondale. the rains come more and more heavily, and people give up on getting taxis as there is too much competition. wherever you are, you're kind of stuck, in this kind of downpour. water washes over our shoes and comes pouring down the street although the sewers do seem to manage to get it out of the manhattan canyon as soon as they can. we have a fine dinner at a restaurant, down there in the meatpacking district, but ultimately we're rained out, like the yankees, and go home and take off soggy socks and sleep deeply in my sister's apartment in queens. having walked a lot, and had plenty of fresh air, east coast version, i'm now sound asleep, and dreaming of cell phones that never work, or respond to my various touches.

in the morning it's sunny and bright, the trees again their various shades of green, orange, brown, red; we walk and take the bus to laguardia where she rents a car for a gig, back in jersey again. in jersey i am beginning to be familiar with some of the roads, the sights, the tunnel as now it's maybe my fourth time in it. her gig is out in bergen county, and it's very suburban, woodsy, and pretty, and stays that way all afternoon. on the way to the airport again, though, i see the lowlands where the north jersey swamp buries its legendary secrets; we can see the meadowlands and the airport in the distance, city more or less on all sides, as we're squeezed between newark, manhattan, and various other urban centers. traffic flies by, license plates from up and down the coast, especially on i-95. later i read about jersey and its political situation, but at this time, being driven into the airport, the sun is setting on the wetlands; it looks like nature, and the atlantic, are mixing in a kind of man-made swampy situation, and lots of people are living with it just fine.

back in the sardine can on my way home, i try to squirm over to where i can rest and read, but i can't really have both; in fact, i can't have either. in st. louis it's pouring again, an unusually wet, late fall; one can't seem to get away from the ongoing rains and the ensuing sogginess, squishy shoes, sodden footsteps. back in carbondale it's still raining, or again, and it seems like it will never stop. it's peak of the season, yes, colors are flying, in their glory, but everything is wet, and one can hardly step out of a car without a squish, and the rains soaking up into one's toes. a cell phone was lost in my absence; things are busy, and we're back at work and school in hours. i go out for a walk again, to slow things down. the familiar is now reassuring again, the same old houses, the same various blocks where people know me, but the constant threat of rain: what's happening- is the earth taking a huge shower, trying to wash itself off for the next round? one can only guess. for the next round, i'm staying here; i'm tired, and the family needs me.

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