I have no idea where I am over the United States at this moment, but judging by that huge expanse of white down to my left, I’m guessing that we’re over the Great Salt Flats of Utah. I can see the highway that cuts through it. I’ve driven through that plain, about five or six years ago; it’s one of the loneliest and most desolate places I’ve ever been, save, possibly, for the Badlands in South Dakota. It was a strange experience, as I recall, driving through that area; so few cars, and so few signs of life. The Badlands, for their dryness and desolation, were somehow more full of life than the Flats. I remember spending the night outdoors on top of a mountain in the Badlands, and waking to a magnificent sunrise, which I have not seen the likes of since, and watchind deer play in the distance while my friends and I broke camp and packed everything back up into the truck.
Right now, it’s Saturday morning. I arrived in California on Wednesday night after being in Oregon for just a short week, and so I got to spend an extra day with Jennifer. Now I’m on a flight to Chicago, which I will leave twenty minutes later to catch a plane for Boston. So here I reach another first for me: my first cross-country business trip. I’ve always wanted to see Boston, and I’ve always wanted a job which would let me go there. So here I am. Granted, though, I’ll only be in Boston for four days, and I’ll be booked solid all four days, so I probably won’t get to see much of that city, but I’m hoping that I’ll get to see at least some of it. I had hoped, when I learned that I would be switching planes in Chicago, that I would get a chance to see some of that city as well; but I’ll only be in O’Hare Airport for about twenty minutes, probably desperately searching for the gate that my flight to Boston will be leaving from, so I imagine that all I’ll see of Chicago will be a bunch of people rushing from one gate to another all of them frustrated and impatient, as I’m sure I will be myself.
At the moment, though, things are relatively calm. We’ve been in the air for just over an hour, and probably have another two hours or so to go before arriving in Chicago. The Great Salt Flats — if that’s what they were — are apparently far behind us. When I look out the window now, I have no clue where we are; there is a lot of snow on the mountaintops below, and passing over the clouds reminds me of the way the Tule fog settles into hollows and valleys in central California at this time of year, with the trees and houses sometimes rising above the fog like islands rising from an ocean of mist.
I’m sure this journal entry will be long. I’m certain I’ll add more to it later in this flight, or perhaps on the flight from Chicago to Boston. We shall see.
II: So That Was Chicago
Some vague impressions from Chicago O’Hare Airport, which is all that I saw of that city (and not even very much of that). First, to get from Concourse C to B, you have to pass through what I had had described to me as the "Psychedelic Tunnel": an underground tunnel connecting the two concourses, with multi-colored neon tubes glaring overhead as you walk or take the walkway through the tunnel (I chose a combination, walking on the moving walkway, as I was worried about getting to the next gate on time), music reminiscent of chimes playing overhead — all in all, I was reminded of the concourse leading up to the main ride of Disneyland’s Space Mountain.
After the tunnel, an escalator leading back above-ground. At the top of the escalator, I was kind of surprised to see a little outlet from something called the Field Museum Store; I expect to see gift shops and fast food outlets at airports, of course (and was pleasantly surprised to discover last week that Portland’s airport has a branch of Powell’s Books, which I might even have time to explore before flying back to Sacramento this week), but not a Museum Company Store, or a Field Museum Store, or anything like that. But what surprised me even more was the full-scale replica of the dinosaur skeleton. Naturally, I was rushing through the airport, on the phone with our answering machine in California, so I didn’t get a chance to look closely at the skeleton or identify what kind it was (when I was young, I was, like just about every young boy in America, a dinosaur addict and I still remember many of the species that I built models or drew pictures of when I was ten or twelve years old). I glanced at it quickly, then spotted my gate and pretty much sprinted there to make sure I got there on time.
The last leg of this trip is on board a Boeing 767. Much more comfortable than the 727’s I’m used to on Southwest or the first part of this trip. In fact, this flight is only about half full, so there is no one in the seat next to me, which gives me a welcome chance to actually stretch out a bit and type normally on this computer without scrunching into myself to avoid bruising the arms of the person sitting next to me.
And here’s dinner!
Jennifer’s last experience flying United was apparently not a positive one, but I must admit that this, my first experience flying United, has been pretty positive. The flight has been on-time (early, in fact); this part of the trip is quite comfortable (for coach class, at least), probably because this flight was, oddly enough, undersold; and the food has actually been quite decent. The chicken fettuccini with was great, and the chocolate macaroon that I got for dessert was delicious. Perhaps that chocolate macaroon was what colored Jennifer’s experience; for all of her wonderful qualities and for all of the amazing things she does for me, she is unable to appreciate coconut.
On an entirely different note, I confess that I had no idea that Lake Michigan was so large. As we flew into Chicago, we could see the western shore of the lake, and we couldn’t see the far shore. The kid who was sitting next to me asked if that was the Atlantic Ocean; I told him that it was not, that it was Lake Michigan, but that I, too, was surprised by its size. We also flew over the Mississippi River, and I admit that I was kind of surprised by that as well; but with the River, I was surprised at how narrow it was. Perhaps it was just that one stretch of the river, but I’d always thought that it would be much, much wider.
We’ll be landing in Boston soon, so it’s time to turn off all electronic devices, including this laptop. I may write more from the hotel, or I may wait until tomorrow. Either way, have a good day.