upon leaving LAX, i was treated to a sunset that spanned the length of my window and was picture perfect in covering the spectrum of light. a sunset only a ton of pollution could create, as a friend noted. but it was beautiful nonetheless, and i reveled in it for as long as the plane held course, going south down the coastline. (it took me quite some time to figure out what direction we were going in, even though, i knew where the sun was setting. the west coast always gets me so disoriented.)
i made futile attempts to take pictures, knowing full well they wouldn’t begin to capture the majesty of the view that was before me and that i wouldn’t even have an opportunity to put them on flickr for who knows how many days or weeks or months. as we began our turn to the east and the sky started to blacken, leaving only the specks of light that made the various towns and cities of these there united states, i was reminded of those websites showing all the light grids and specks from above the earth and where all the empty spaces are in less developed parts of the world and such.
i wondered where we were flying, with all the empty black space and such little light. conversely, i wondered where the little clusters were. were they small towns? cities? of what size? what magnitude? it was hard to get any sort of perspective. or i would see a noticeably bigger cluster off in the distance. was that a town of 50,000? or 100,000? it was so hard to judge. i was never good at that kind of estimation. it would have killed me if i had become a reporter.
i ended up watching hairspray on the in-flight movie and i liked it pretty well. who doesn’t like a good musical with a good uplifting ‘love yourself for who you are’ and ‘let’s be racially integrated’ theme?? i do. and then, we got closer to chicago. and i knew i was looking forward to seeing the city at night, as i always do. frankly, L.A. had left me cold — literally and figuratively. it wasn’t that warm or sunny, and the architecture ….
well, it wasn’t architecture. wood, brick? had these people ever heard of it? it was all a stucco suburb. it all looked faded and worn down and so …. blah. again, i wasn’t there but for a brief moment. i hardly had any time to look around and was driven around sort of in a hodgepodge fashion while trying to catch up with the friend who came to pick me up from the airport. so, i still need to give it a better college try if i were to try and really see if i could live out there. but all i could think was, ‘i’d be homesick in a hot minute. where are all the buildings?’ it didn’t even look rich or fancy or anything. maybe if we had been in the hills with the richie rich houses or something. needless to say, i was beyond underwhelmed.
anyway, it made me all the more looking forward to seeing my beautiful city in the night time sky. and i wasn’t disappointed. i happened to look down and if i weren’t ALREADY leaning toward the self-centered idea that the pilot had shown us such a beautiful sunset, i would have sworn he leaned in perfectly to show off the beautiful skyline. the crisp fall night air made the lights twinkle and shine, and there seemed like there were extra colors in the skyline. it looked just like a jewel necklace. i nearly cried. i thought to myself, “i could die right now and be happy.” and then i thought, “but please don’t let the plane crash.”
we turned i saw the skyline and navy pier from out over the lake and then we banked out into the sheer pure black of lake michigan in a nighttime winter. i especially beseeched god to take me home safe at this point. we landed safely, i gathered my bags, contemplated taking a taxi to schubas (would i make it for any of the frisbie show?), and did the right thing and headed for the blue line.
i got there only to find a ton of people waiting (it’s been 15-20 minutes since a train, grumble grumble), no train and disgruntledness in the air. when the train finally came, i got on my car to find not the faint smell of piss, but the smell of 10 people all urinating on a hot june afternoon. i thought it was in a corner, but it managed to permeate the whole car. i moved to the next one. then, in its true glory, the blue line proceeded to herk and jerk its way from o’hare in the slowest and grittiest and lamest of fashions to irving park where i got off to find a cab. i waited in a very dry, cold, brisk wind. man, was i home. i was definitely home.
when i described the two very conflicting experiences to my friend, O, and how strange it was to be nearly gloriously weeping over the sight of my dear city, an then 20 minutes later, rolling my eyes at its familiar nuisances, he said, “you’re alive.” and i said, “yes, O, i’m alive.”
and so it is and so it is.