Landing This Thing

We’ve reached our cruising altitude of 35,000 feet some 1900 miles east of Las Vegas. It’s Sunday night, 10 minutes before 6 EDT. I’m fresh from the lavatory, having rid myself of a Sam Adams I downed to lubricate a Vicodin and a half, which seems to be doing its job. That is, despite three years of recurring plane crash dreams, I didn’t launch out of my seat (14C, which would actually be an unlucky 13C were airlines and architects not cognizant of superstition) upon takeoff. Instead, I repeated my takeoff mantra, more of a prayer really — one of the few times a year (Easter, Christmas, flying) I call on the Big G.

It begins with reminding myself that shark attacks and lightening strikes are more likely than plane crashes, and ends with making promises like, ‘If I make it back to New York safely I will never utter a judgemental word about people on the street again.’ For the record, I think I’m doing pretty well with the promises.

The back of seat 12C is exactly one and a half book lengths (David Sedaris’ “I Talk Pretty One Day”) from my nose. My laptop is resting on my gut. Continental’s begun screening “Kate & Leopold” and just handed me — I swear to God — a meatloaf sandwhich. I’m listening to a “gootraindoves” mix, waiting for the Vicodin to knock me out… No such luck.

I’m flying to Las Vegas for the National Association of Broadcasters convention. I never ever ever thought I’d be the badge-wearing, convention-attending type, but here I go. I consider it an experiment, an opportunity, and — at least originally — a respite from the breakneck pace of the MTV/NYC/BWD, LLP troika. As my departure approached, however, I began more and more to resent leaving for a business trip on a Sunday night.

Free time, my time, is infrequent enough and jam-packed with holidays, weddings, out of town visitors, and lame minutia like laundry, dishes, and defrosting the fridge. So as our northbound Acela Express bore down on Newark International Airport, I began to rebel. In forty years of employment, The Company “gives” me 80 weeks of vacation. Just 5% of the next 30 years will be mine. So what am I doing giving 6 hours away for free? I called Viacom travel to change the departure to tomorrow morning, but, of course, was left listening to canned hold music and a looped “Your call is important to us. Blah blah blah…” as the train barrelled towards Newark. Finally, moments from the station, I said screw it. I’ll get the hours back.

(Ed. note: the meatloaf sandwich was actually quite delicious.)

Jennifer and my 36 hours in Washington, D.C. were really quite magical. We hopped a Metroliner Friday night and left the driving to Amtrak. Two beers later, we were in D.C., the Capital Building glowing white in the purple dusk. Saturday morning I ran from our hotel to the Vietnam Memorial, around the Lincoln Monument, along the Patomac, past the Jefferson Monument, the National Monument, across Constitution Avenue to the White House, and back. The air was crisp, the sky was blue, and the cherry blossoms were exploding pink and white everywhere. We walked back down to the Mall, where mom, dad, Chris and I had some 25 years ago almost to the day. Family legend, and my distant memory, has it that Chris sailed a wooden boat on the reflecting pool that he made during the Cherry Blossom Festival. We looked for the giant triceritops statue we used to play on to no avail.

But the reason for our visit to D.C. was to marry off my friend Heather. She is perhaps my oldest girl (comma) friend. We went to T-E Jr. High, Conestoga High School, and Syracuse University together. We ran for student council executive office together in eighth grade, she as president, me as vice president. We won. My single-parent household was the anomlous one; hers was ideally nuclear and located in the part of town my mom and I referred to as “Beverly Hills East.” Her parents divorced two years ago, and my mother moved a few blocks away from their recently-sold house. So it was especially moving to see her there in white, bursting with joy. She winked at me from the alter and I felt so happy for her, for us that our friendship had survived and grown, and so envious of her courage in the face of the uncertainty of it all. I had the honor of singing Heather and Joe’s first dance, a Nick Drake song called “Time Has Told Me.” I’m told there were more than a few moist eyes. It may not have been Madison Square Garden, but if I can be the soundtrack for my friends’ most important everyday moments, well then that’s pretty cool with me. And afterwards, like frosting on an already delicious night, I met a handful of people who own my records — one woman even uses “Crash Site” in her spinning class! We danced, drank, talked with parents from whom we used to hide out, and caught up with old friends — some parents now themselves.

And so, for now, thousands of feet in the air, some place in between, I’m feeling no pain. Everthing is just fine. And I’ll land this thing yet.

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