Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Airport Chapel: A Lesson Learned in Denver

[Words: 2,172]

Last call, passenger James Magellon, passenger James Magellon, your flight to Washington / Dulles is now boarding at Terminal B-45; last call, passenger James Magellon to Terminal B-45.”
That must have been what came through the PA speakers at Denver Airport at 11:55-ish pm. Of course, it’s hard to hear that when you’re too busy using your MacBook’s GarageBand to play music with an increased sound level through the left headphone to compensate for your hearing deficiency in your left ear and are finally experiencing your favorite bands without one ear aching from all the sound and the other lying dormant in its wretched deafness, culminating in you being too blown away by hearing Dream Theater’s song “Take the Time” with an ACTUALLY balanced volume on both sides to realize that you not only wrote your flight’s boarding time as 11:59 and that not only is that flight actually boarding on schedule at 11:29 and that not only does that flight DEPART at the time written in sloppy blue ink on your left hand, BUT you decided that you should go do your waiting for boarding, not at, say, THE TERMINAL, but the dining area of the concourse because Facebook just got so damned interesting that you can just go ahead and go TO the terminal HALF AN HOUR AFTER IT ALREADY STARTED BOARDING!! But hey, the Wi-Fi is free and the chat was interesting.
Those last two qualities are not diminished by the aggravating notion of being stuck in Denver overnight, but you do sort of forget the satisfaction of 21st century technological innovations when you find yourself on your way to a United Airlines desk to work out some sort of contingency scheme. Damn. You’re now in one of those smack-over-the-head moods where the recognition of your own stupidity makes your existence an awkwardness akin to an atheist in a fucking airport chapel… which is where you then find yourself going to next.
Lucky for you, the stern-faced, well-mannered guy behind the desk with a name tag that says “Carlos” quickly works out that contingency for you: a morning flight to Newark followed by a bus route to Bethlehem, still on time for the concert you’re going to that evening in Bethlehem. After Sir Carlos of United is knighted (you knighted a guy from United…?) in your imagination for the heroic rescue of the idiot who slacked on his traveling strategy, the aforementioned clerk in shining armor suggests the chapel upstairs as a good place to get some sleep. The thought briefly crosses your self-loathing cerebrum that you should be sleeping in a cushy chair somewhere a couple hundred miles out, a few thousand feet up and on its way to Dulles. Wishes, horses, you get the idea. So, after the soothing voice of a good friend assures you over the phone that you’re not the intellectually deficient things you think you are, you take the chance to carry out a moment that would make a great title for an elaborate narrative about the time you missed your flight in Denver.
So… you look into the small, chair-filled, bible-laden room where apparently an omnipresent being prefers to hang out. You peek into another, pitch-black room, greeted by the scent of incense and apparently expected to take your shoes off before you kneel down eastward, because an omniscient being just doesn’t get good signal if you’re facing another way, I guess.
Unfortunately, the whimsical tale of the atheist in the chapel does not come to be. You walk away, with some kind of fool’s wanderlust stoking this now glowing ember of a thought that it’s not so much a missed flight as a…. uh… MISADVENTURE! You love that word! And hey, what Californian doesn’t love a quick stop by New York City?
The rhetoric is answered anyway: the Californian who is sulking in another dining area somewhere else in the airport, drowning your sorrows in Burger King food. Well, maybe not drowning, since that idiom only works when liquids are involved. How about this: you stuff your sorrows so full of salty fats that they simply burst in the frenzy of cheap culinary delight. The combination of your unexpected situation, the large airport hall area devoid of people except a soporific night staff and one idiot with a cheeseburger, and your butt vociferously lodging complaints to your brain about its soreness with sitting add up to one idea: internet entertainment! Sure, you had originally had hopes to make use of the original three hours you had between arrival to and departure from Denver with a juicy session of writing work. You have a story to tell and you’ve got some friends interested in your first installment! (or, at the very least, you’ve got some friends who are damn keen on saying how much they look forward to it… oh, sod it; that does them a disservice to their honesty.)
As you later write the article about your quirky and uneventful escapade of silent dullness, you step into a very meta layer of the narrative to explain to the article’s readers how much you care about that story: you realize that you want to do some writing. This world and its people occupy your thoughts everyday. Not all the time, but characters grow and develop as class lectures lumber onward in the background. Battle sequences play out as Nightwish and DragonForce entertain you (albeit mostly through one fucking ear) as you tidy away your house’s dishes. Entire relationships between characters unfold in the span of a bike ride to school. Tragic moments of unmitigated emotional force whisk you into awe just before you go to bed and find yourself re-discovering this strange world of yours in your subconscious.
TL;DR: you really like this story, its growth in complexity and depth weave its way into your daily life, and you want… ha, need to share it. Its written form is a promise that has waited a very long time to be fulfilled and tonight, in the bizarre realm of Colorado, in a palace of airline traffic, on a balcony of plastic chairs, a piece of that promise would indeed be fulfilled.
But fuck it, FND Films’ YouTube sketches make you giggle, and since the internet in the airport runs as slow as a Californian in Denver’s winter chill, you can keep finding out how Geddy Lee sounds in your left ear while the video loads! Eh, at some point, you’ll start to have your fill. Akin to the feeling of a gorged belly bidding the esophagus to hold up, your brain eventually will start to simmer down from distractions and shift its priories over to creative output, usually in the form of some epiphany that you… you CAN type words into a computer without checking Facebook with the reflexes of a crack addict reaching for the white lines.
So, here’s me breaking the perspective from second to first, which is a backwards direction in baseball. Though I often suck at sporting metaphors, I get a strange kink out of getting to third base. But, I don’t care for baseball. I care for the lost time. Facebook is my personal F-Bomb. “Fuck” doesn’t bother me a bit, but seriously, it’s like, wake up in the morning, click one thing (guess what thing) and BOOM. Bomb effect. The shrapnel scatters itself throughout the day in smoking chunks of videos, blogs, and music that bleed my day dry and bloat themselves into Burger King-sized beasts that are quite pleased that a playlist has played me right out of time. (Oh, shit, and here he falls apart. Man, he had me going, you know, sensory details, funny quips, that bit about the chapel... I thought this was going to be some fun story about an atheist spending the night in an airport chapel and then he goes whining on about how he has like a writing disability or some shit, and he didn’t even sleep, he just belched out run-on sentences and parentheticals in a messy heap hoping we’d make sense of it.) Right, let me get to the point, if for no other reason than you can use it to stab me in the face and demand your spent minutes back. After all, I have no such luxury. Yeah, I know, nobody can get their wasted time back, but let me complain about myself for a while, and then we’ll get to your issues. Yes, I am an internet addict. No, I’m not a chunky junkie with a vlog, three Tumblrs, and a Skyrim account, but I do enjoy electronic distractions a little too often. Look, we all need them and, to an extent, we’re all slightly addicted to them. The difference between you and I? Well, in the above passages, nothing; that was an elaborate narrative trick, but it did all happen to me. (Well, wonders never cease, M. Knight Shamylan!)
In all seriousness now: I do love my story, at least as much as I described above. I’ve taken time enough to create practically an encyclopedia’s worth of background information, but I have a very hard time putting the work into actually writing the damn thing. I’ve got that Blank First Page syndrome so bad that I need a vaccine just to open a Word document. I go to my distractions so reflexively that blinking looks like a delayed reaction in comparison. What does that say? I’m not really a writer? That I’m just another lazy college-age blob too entertained by instant gratification to tear myself away from a fucking video? That I like the image of being thought of as an author but would rather wallow in the viscous pleasures of another soak in my distractions before looking back on the hours and lamenting the lost time with a song on my stupid iPod?
Perhaps there’s another layer to it. Consider the sweet, fruity pressure of a Starburst candy as your teeth, though stung with a light pressure of Wednesday’s dental fillings, squash the gummy cubes into gunky rushes of succulent, bud-lavishing… uh, taste. I was going to find some convoluted way to connect that idea to this idea of perfection, but if I can’t find it in my writing, then this, a written piece, suffers dreadfully from a distinct lack in perfection. Maybe I worry that I just won’t write my stuff well enough to keep people’s interest or investment in the story. Maybe that fear of not succeeding takes the wheel and drives me past the speed limit into the stagnant but colorful parking lot of distraction, where nobody can fail. Then again, that goes into a whole other realm and I do want to switch gears from the personal woes towards the general audience morality, so let me do that: we all like distraction and we like our productive hobbies; the tricky part is doing the work involved to make a far more gratifying result possible. To hold a completed novel in my hands and see the author’s name be the name of a passenger who missed his 11:59 flight will be magnificently more gratifying than all the missed-flight time wasters’ cheap enjoyments.
Furthermore, it is also extremely gratifying to take a run-on sentence of classic James Johannes Magellon style, violently gouge out its many excess adjectives and ridiculously commonplace adverbs, bleed the superfluous, unnecessary, unneeded, redundant, ongoing, excessive, redundant wordings out, and then wield my writing skills to mold that sentence into a far cleaner, more palatable one. Much to the dismay of the addle-brained child that uses my time and interests to indulge his distraction fix, such attention to my written work probably means… dare I utter such a nightmarish thought… AVOIDING YouTube and honestly reconsidering just how often I need to click the F-Bomb’s trigger. Maybe this article is the real chapel and the words are my confession? No, that’s stupid. Whatever my original intentions, the chapel doesn’t have central premise in this tale, but the confession stands all the same: missed flights, missed chances, and an unexpected stop in New York City. Rival that, Huck Finn!
 No, by the way, this is not the part where I look into the sunrise as it shades the Colorado skies as I type these very words and vow before the throne of Odin to channel my life’s efforts into school and writing. Promises to write never lead to the actual writing. This is the part where I tidy up my Starburst wrappers, rub my insomnia-weary eyes, finish this passage, wait for my Newark flight to board in an hour (oh, I’m at waiting AT the terminal this time!), get off my now VERY sitting-sore rump, and tell that proverbial child of distraction to shut up, leave me alone, and stop making me miss flights.
No… better, yet, I think I’ll just leave him here in Denver.
As a massive army of King Arthur’s soldiers once said: “GET ON WITH IT!!!!”

1 comment:

smober said...

Truly, you are a master of writing. You paint so vividly with words, it's hard to tear away from reading. Even just describing sitting in an airport terminal eating a Starburst is captivating. I don't think you need to worry about whether or not you can hold the attention of an audience.

Just write. Yes, we all love an audience, but write for the most important person to write for- yourself. Write what you want to read, and others will want to read it too.