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Frequent Flier

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Jan. 29th, 2016 | 02:58 pm

TPA-JFK-CDG-DXB

“We ask all passengers to please remain seated and keep your seatbelts fastened. Crew remain seated.”

Bumpy takeoffs and bursts of turbulence used to scare me—now I think of the Boeing 777-300ER hitting a pothole or taking perenially-under-construction I-81 from Harrisburg to Scranton. This time we rise into white mist, break through to an oyster shell sky beneath another layer of clouds. Ten thousand more feet and the eye-shattering blue above is another universe, one where the fluffy cloudfloor is surely solid, and even at an age where I buy my own tickets I still imagine stepping on them.

The last leg is half-full. I check the seating chart on my app and turn to the row of three behind me, two broad-shouldered North Africans and a tiny Arabic lady. “You can probably move if you want more room. I’m sitting here until I find out if someone else got this seat in the last ten minutes.”

The Africans don’t speak English, so the Arabic lady translates in French, then tells me, “They want to stay by the window—it’s their first time going to Dubai, they want to see the city when we land.” She shifts to a four-across and stretches out, the men stay middle and window in their row. Seven hours later I turn off the video screen and scooch across my three seats, the Africans murmuring "Magnifique, formidable," behind me as I, too, peer at the cluster of bright jewels fed by highways from nowhere, rows of stars across the night-black desert.


DXB-KUL-RGN-NYU
BOM-KOL-PAT
DXB-CMB


In Myanmar the 'boarding pass' is a sticker on my jacket, and we sit on rows of plastic chairs in an empty room before walking across the runway, young ground crew holding umbrellas over us against the sun. A Korean or Chinese lady asks to take a picture with me, perhaps because I am two heads taller or a redhead or white or she is just happy to be on a trip and I am next to her in line, all of which have happened before.

I have been a rock star in rural India, watching earnest Indian-native/American-educated grad students measure the impact of accessible water on female schooling. No sunglasses or headscarves cover me enough in Sri Lanka, my generic-lightskinned-POC husband getting elbows and smiles--he looks like a local who landed a white chick. I smother embarassment and pride--I'm finally popular--and ask the next question, Do you own this rickshaw or are you working for someone else?


DXB-AMS-MSP-AZO

"You're the freelance writer!" The stewardess recognizes me and that, too, has happened before. This déjà vu that is a memory, this jetway, boarding this Delta-operated flight and smiling at this blonde mom of three from Cincinnati who burned with desire to see the world once they all left home. She is newly promoted and I congratulate her on the red purser's coat, but she looks prouder still of the photo on her phone, her youngest in his mortarboard and gown.


DXB-BKK-SNG

I travel enough to own very expensive noise-canceling headphones, the cost reflecting how much they reduce my need to stifle the baby in 7D who cannot help his inability to swallow or yawn on cue. I travel enough to recognize when the man on the aisle is going to take 75% of the armrest (greedy but tolerable), and when he is headed for 110%, his stranger-elbow about to touch mine, the most horrible feeling in my world, and I carefully but purposefully set my magazine vertically between the armrest and my hip. To the barricades! L’etat, c’est moi!

This past year I have made no important trips, no missions for reproductive health or sex-worker rights. I have made only words, patted myself on the back for publication. I upgrade into the realm of Bose-wearers, our ears covered, noise-cancel switches flipped, all of us convinced we are indeed first class, the beneficiaries of our own labor and benevolence, certain that luck has little to do with it.


CPT-CDG(or AMS)-DTW

I know the Clarins spa with free mini-facials is closed on Wednesdays and I avoid connecting through Paris-Charles de Gaulle then. I know how much it costs to get a chipkaart for the train from Schipol into town and whether my connection is long enough to pop by the Rijksmuseum for an hour of humility in the face of great Art.

It is a gift, it has a price. An easy life makes obligation. To find out how much a rickshaw costs and assess the chances of my guide getting one this year. To learn how long it takes to walk to the well and chart that map in words. To later investigate whether the North Africans enjoy their job or have their passports held. To know what happens in Brussels or Johannesburg or Doha and how it matters to anyone who has never been there. To tell the story and tell it true, to risk deportation, false arrest, the gun, the bomb, the knife. Or to remember the me who wished to walk on clouds and wield the gun, the me of tenth grade, and write her for the other nice white middle class girls who, yes, still need to know they matter.

It is a very self-important task. Snobbish and arrogant to believe it matters what I write, or that I write the truth, in the best words I can make. But there would be no going on without belief. I grasp my passport, recorder and notebook and latch on, a scribe-remora on the lives of others, hoping for symbiosis, settling for parasitism, riding with the current, borne unceasingly into the world.




_________________________________________________
I may have already broken my resolution to spend at least 50% of the year at home.



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Comments {26}

blahblahblah, whatever

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from: kathrynrose
date: Jan. 29th, 2016 09:29 pm (UTC)
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This is very you. :)

I love you. :)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 30th, 2016 02:36 pm (UTC)
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I love you too :) I think I made it less pretentious and set up the end better? Thanks for the notes!

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drwex

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from: drwex
date: Feb. 2nd, 2016 06:19 pm (UTC)
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As someone who only knows you from your writings here, I agree with kathrynrose - this "sounds" like you. I like the pacing and cadence.

If I have a concern it's with the content. Vignettes (snippets) are always hard but for many of these I'm left wondering at what's their significance. Why were these chosen over others? Some I understand - relating the unique experience of your whiteness and how it relates to people responding to your partner - but that just makes the other (imo weaker) vignettes more obvious. Is is possible/reasonable to recast them so they each touch on some level of emotional or personal resonance?

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Didn't want to be

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from: anyonesghost
date: Jan. 30th, 2016 03:54 pm (UTC)
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You're a brave soul, if you've taken I-81 between Harrisburg and Scranton. I'm not entirely sure what holds that stretch of road together, but I'm pretty sure it's not PennDOT.

(And, speaking as someone who picked up some Bose headphones last year ... I relate to this more than a little bit.)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 30th, 2016 08:21 pm (UTC)
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My family used to drive from Florida to Canada every summer! soooooo much Pennsylvania... Fuckers have a sign on the state line that says "We're STILL 55!"

I was so leery of spending so much on headphones...and it's been so worth it!

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millysdaughter

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from: millysdaughter
date: Feb. 1st, 2016 07:28 pm (UTC)
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**shudders**
55 does not cover much ground - we prefer to fly low

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kick_galvanic, zagzagael, skull_theatre

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from: bleodswean
date: Jan. 30th, 2016 05:43 pm (UTC)
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Absolutely! So many life choices fall squarely into this interpretation.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jan. 30th, 2016 08:21 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for stopping by!

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Ellison

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from: ellison
date: Jan. 31st, 2016 01:30 am (UTC)
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I enjoyed reading this a lot! I especially love (and absolutely relate to) this line: "the fluffy cloudfloor is surely solid, and even at an age where I buy my own tickets I still imagine stepping on them."

:D

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 31st, 2016 10:02 am (UTC)
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Isn't it funny how it feels like that should still be true? Thanks!

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dee_aar2

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from: dee_aar2
date: Jan. 31st, 2016 01:53 am (UTC)
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Dear Frequent flier ... It so matters what you write and I am glad you feel it matters because without that ... you might just decide not to any more and that would be catastrophic.

So go on and continue to be snobbish and arrogant and yes of course break that resolution ... Love reading what you pen.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 31st, 2016 10:04 am (UTC)
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Your faith in me is humbling. Thanks for continuing to read, and hope we cross paths next time I'm in your neck of the woods!

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her brain is crowded and tastes like sex!

(no subject)

from: thistle_verse
date: Jan. 31st, 2016 02:46 am (UTC)
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Ahhh, I love reading about international travel. You always pick out the most interesting, and often poignant, details to share and I just adore it!

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 31st, 2016 10:04 am (UTC)
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Thank you! I'm working on a proposal for a travel book, so I really appreciate the positive reinforcement!

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misfitmanor

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from: misfitmanor
date: Jan. 31st, 2016 06:25 am (UTC)
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I remember seeing on FB that you were engaged, but have noted lately that your fiancé has become your husband... seeing your excitement about going home to him. You pulled that off fairly quickly! Congrats!

Your life is full. Posts like this remind of us of that. With some exceptions, most of us here can only gape in awe.

I'm glad you are making time to be home with each other... I know there are things to do all over the world, and I know you're older and have been together a while... but I do still hope for you both that you can keep that resolution. You gotta still do you, though, and he loves that about you, so it works.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jan. 31st, 2016 10:06 am (UTC)
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Thanks! I never thought I'd marry a second time, but boy is he ever the right man :) I'm a lucky girl. And thanks - yeah, I am so grateful to live such an action-packed life right now, but I am having a hard time making writing the focus, and making married life the focus. So it's something to think about, how I'm spending my time.

Also - your pic here - so adorable and lovey!

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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors

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from: halfshellvenus
date: Jan. 31st, 2016 08:17 am (UTC)
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It wasn't until the second part that I realized these were airport codes-- what a neat way to show where you've come from, where you're headed, and the route you're taking to get there.

I loved the contrast of the newness of the adventure to the North Africans with your having traveled so often that you have special headphones and have met the same stewardess more than once.

I always so enjoy reading about your travels, and how much of them are about the people you meet rather than just whatever the trip's goal was.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jan. 31st, 2016 10:07 am (UTC)
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Thanks! I put up the airport codes on my FB sometimes and my friends joke about having to guess where I am :)

Working on a proposal about a travel book, with the focus on how to meet people and have adventures that aren't rock-climbing. So thanks for the positive reinforcement!

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Teo Says

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from: eternal_ot
date: Jan. 31st, 2016 09:59 am (UTC)
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A writer is nothing but a keen observer...and travelling enriches the experience. What a wonderful way to convey this notion...loved the format you used. Enjoyed reading this as always :)

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jan. 31st, 2016 10:08 am (UTC)
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Thanks very much! I'm very lucky I travel for work as much as I do, and that I'm getting to travel for fun, too :)

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dmousey

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from: dmousey
date: Jan. 31st, 2016 04:15 pm (UTC)
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How did the Pennsylvania Turnpike get in here? (Laughing) Your words take me places I have never seen (except the I-81 in Pa.) and most likely won't. We're living vicariously through your eyes, and I appreciate your vision. Thanks for inking! Peace~~~D

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Jan. 31st, 2016 06:15 pm (UTC)
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So many family car trips... I'll be happy if I never drive through PA in the winter again! But it's sure gorgeous in the summer :)

Thanks for reading!

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Raised by Wolves

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from: sinnamongirl
date: Jan. 31st, 2016 08:16 pm (UTC)
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I really loved this glimpse into the traveling life. I've not traveled much myself (though enough to also hate the stranger-elbow) and am a tad envious - but happy for you, because it sounds like a great life!

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prog_schlock

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from: prog_schlock
date: Feb. 1st, 2016 10:09 am (UTC)
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My father was a pilot for his entire career and I had flashbacks to traveling the country with him (non-rev) as a child reading all of those airport codes! I love that you've become such an expert at navigating the airways of the world. Honestly, it sounds like a dream to me. I don't know that there's anyplace I feel more comfortable than on a plane.

I have one airport story that I have to share. I was traveling in the Marshall Islands a few years back and we got on a twin prop plan to travel to the small atoll of Namdrik. When we approached, I didn't see anything that resembled an airport. We landed on the beach! The airport was four stout logs supporting a thatched roof. Pigs and chickens were wandering around. To transport our equipment to the village from the airport (landing strip?), a bulldozer was brought around and we loaded it all into the shovel.

After landing on sand, turbulence doesn't bother me anymore. :D

I love having a chance to share this song with you. In his time, Billy Murray was one of the biggest pop singers in America and now he's barely remembered. Ada Jones wasn't quite as popular, but she was still a big name in the day:

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Tricia L. Edge

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from: edgemagick
date: May. 24th, 2016 02:46 am (UTC)
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I came upon your website by chance a few days ago, and have been soaking up entries in bursts ever since. I could've commented on any or all of them, but this is speaking to me so loudly, I couldn't let it go.
From early childhood on, I always wanted to be a journalist. Travel to war-torn villages in Asia and Africa, des endroits dangereux, and write riveting essays for the New York Times or Washington Post. (Hey, if you're going to dream, dream big!) This redhead with skin so pale it's nearly translucent, she would be touring ruins in Egypt and conversing in French with the locals in Morrocco. Quel dommage, it wasn't to be. I'm enjoying your words so much, though, I am content to live vicariously through them. Thank you for sharing them.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: May. 26th, 2016 07:37 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, I really appreciate it! And you're welcome :) And it's never too late--but it sounds like you're doing something else amazing that you love?

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