late august, 2005

Some guy named Crispin Sayo took my boarding pass and I walked down that weird telescoping temporary corridor that leads to the plane.

“If you follow every dream, you might get lost.”

Taxiing down the runway about to take off, I have my headphones on getting my first listen to Neil Young’s new Prairie Wind CD.

Can’t believe we’re finally sitting on the plane about to leave for California. The summer has actually flown by and now we’ll watch the summer set it’s sun where it always tucks itself to sleep: out west.

“I feel like I’m falling. Falling of the face of the Earth.”

We’re racing the sun. High above the big fluffy cotton-ball clouds we’re speeding toward California 3 hours faster than the sun.

It’s taken awhile to get here (stayed at aaron/tara’s, early cab ride…)

Flying really is a fuckin amazing thing. Just looking out amid and above the clouds it doesn’t seem real. Once you get up to cruising altitude the blanket of clouds off in the distance looks like pillowy, snowy plains.

The spaces in the cloud cover offer a glimpse of the miniature world of tiny mountains speckled with little trees. The minute buildings and shiny specs of cars look glued onto this little scaled-down world. Such meticulous detail, it all looks so real. Or fake.

Now we’re back above a huge stretch of white cotton ocean of clouds. The craters and snow drifts in the distance are so deceiving I wouldn’t be surprised to see sled dogs and snow mobiles go mushing by.

There aint no birds up here.

The new Neil Young album is perfect companion for a morning up in the sky. Prairie Wind sounds like the completion of a trilogy that started with Harvest and Harvest Moon. Not sure if it’s being marketed that way or if all the crap rock critics will anoint it as such. But it has a familiar rocking chair on a porch kinda feel to it.

I’m use to the short flights to Florida. This BWI-to-LAX thing is getting long. An hour or so into the flight they came around to give us complimentary sodas and sell us a fuckin snack. Sell? Goddamn fruit & cheese thing for 5 bucks. Shit, those snacks were small and crappy and worth complaining about back when they were still free. Five bucks? No thanks.

I had 2 blood mary’s instead. Nothing like drinking liquor before 9am. Then I went ahead and set my watch to west coast time so I was technically drinking liquor at 6am. Yikes. Bad news for the peeps traveling with me.

Soon after, they started the in-flight movie, which is always some second-rate romantic comedy starring the latest young hunk du-jour. This time it was something with Ashton Kutcher.

I didn’t plug into it. I stuck with my old friend Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. Part of the way through, somewhere between the 5 Believers and the Sad-Eyed Lady of the Low Lands, I almost fell asleep. Maybe I did. If so, it was short lived. I’m in the middle seat with nowhere to lean. My neck kept hurting.

Outside, the flat and geometric properties of unknown mid-west plains states were starting to give way to mountains and desert.

And then, there it was: the Rockies. Wow.

I can remember when I drove out west in ’92, we could see the Rockies looming in the distance almost a full day before we’d reach them. From up here we could see the impressive topography as the almost-fake looking mountain range sprawled southward in a thick winding line like a huge river of rock and earth, dry and bulging toward the sky.

After that it was all bizarre stretches of red earth, mountain ranges, deserts, and a few scattered rivers and small communities. It was like a big 3-D mat that a kid might sprawl out on the floor so he can play “dinosaurs and dirt bikes on Mars” or something.

We were keeping an eye out for the Grand Canyon, hoping to catch a glimpse. Eventually the captain announced that we were passing it, but it was on the other side from where we were sitting. Asshole. Several peeps got up to stand in the aisle and look. The guy in the aisle seat of our row didn’t budge.

Okay, I’m ready to be done with this flight. We probably have about 20-30 minutes left. Is it me or are the seats really narrow and close to each other? I’m a pretty averaged-size guy and I feel like John Candy crammed into a baby seat.

I just looked out the window. Maybe I did fall asleep and the pilot really flew to Mars. I’m not sure where we are, but there’s some crazy landscape out there.

I cant believe we’ll be in California within an hour. Lunch at Venice Beach. That won’t suck. Then it’s the short drive down to Newport Beach to Joe’s house.

Seriously, where the hell are we? As far as the eye can see it’s just desert and mountainsand lines of dried cracked earth winding through where rivers must have once flowed. It’s like we’re trapped in a song from U2’s Joshua Tree album. or flying over one.

There’s another little community of tiny houses and some roads. Just this little patch of civilization in the middle of this vast otherworldly desert of nothingness. What the fuck to do these people do? Where do they plug in their goddamn fridge?

After the movie they showed some in-flight TV programs. I didn’t plug in, but I caught glimpses of Matt Lauer interviewing Madonna. He looks like a grape. She still looks good. I don’t know what they were talking about but I could tell that he was a nerd and she was cool. Then there was an episode of the American version of The Office and some feature on college football.

Then I look up to see Glen Frey, Don Henley, and a bunch of other old Eagles who tolerate each other while traveling the world collecting insane amounts of money. Memo to the Eagles: write a fuckin new song!!


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