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Out of the Woods [Revised]

Maine woods

Part of the old lady’s 32 acres in East Vassalboro, Maine

Flying is a silly way to travel. “Just takes a day to get there,” oh sure. I had to leave my 99-year-old dead aunt’s house in Maine in the wee hours of the morning to catch a 6:00 a.m. flight, so no sleep at all for 24 hours. The next two days back home in Taos, I was pretty much a wreck. And then there’s the psychic dislocation of the sudden environmental and cultural changes from the above to over a mile higher in el Norte in just nine hours! This must do things to us that we never understand.

If I’d had time, I would have driven. Could have done it in three or four days, tops, seen the country, had adventures. The oddest thing to me about flying was how much the same it was since the last time I flew 12 years ago. The same damn airplanes, too: same smells, same dirt, same pre-flight spiels. And did you know most commercial aircraft are over 30 years old? Now there’s some confidence-inspiring info. You might hesitate to drive a 35-year-old car across the country, but hop on a 35-year-old flying flammable sardine can? Hell, yes!

The best thing about the long second leg of the flight from Baltimore to Albuquerque was the young Hispanic mother who spent most of it standing in the aisle with her little boy, walking him up and down, keeping him calm and quiet. Every ten minutes she picked him up and kissed him on the neck. I looked at her and wondered if my mother had ever done anything like that to me in public. I wondered if that boy had any idea of what was going on, if he would ever remember how his mother picked him up, kissed him softly, tickling and consoling, all the way to New Mexico on an over-the-hill 737 that somehow made another trip without falling out of the sky.

Anyway, I needed to go. I needed to see it all and be there, meet my aunt’s trustee, have my nervous breakdowns, and find an auctioneer who loves his Willie Nelson. I needed another test to see if I could do it. I needed to go to the ocean. I needed to be back East again and feel no overriding pull. I needed the Grange pot-luck supper. I needed to be lonely and on my own. I needed to find the gun.

Holding her skinny sobbing body in the airport was like the ringing of a bell. Next week we drive—thank God—to Iowa. When we get back, we’re looking for a house!

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  • Michael Walsh May 7, 2013, 2:10 PM

    Your answer is so close yet so far. Down East. The way life ought to be.

    • JHF May 7, 2013, 4:00 PM

      It’s awfully damn nice! I could see myself there quite easily. My great-uncle Herbert had a farm in New Hampshire. Lots of old Yankee in my blood. I met some great people in Maine this trip. I once had an epic sailing voyage on Moosehead Lake, too. Been to Acadia. No stranger to Maine, wouldn’t take too much to get me up there again.

  • Fw May 7, 2013, 2:13 PM

    Hi John,
    Glad to hear your back in the spirit world. I hate flying..!! In fact, I haven’t flown since I was in the military in the 60′s, I hate it that much. I would rather take the train if possible, but will drive if need be. Will probably do that next year and retrace my 2002 trip from Northern California, Northern Arizona, New Mexico into Colorado. No flying..!!

    Have a wonderful drive to Iowa…the Great Mid West..!!

    Fw

    • JHF May 7, 2013, 4:44 PM

      I like flying well enough—my father was a pilot and all—it’s just the whole experience of commercial air travel. I’d probably like it better in first class, nyuck-nyuck. But I still don’t like the crazy hours, the waiting, most airports, the security stuff, and frankly, covering ground without experiencing it. I love to check out local culture, the lay of the land.

      It’s just too fast, you know? Boring! That’s why I always have a great time driving to Iowa, so thank you!

  • Carmel Glover May 7, 2013, 6:10 PM

    I actually like flying (provided I have a window seat). On a trip from Brisbane to Sydney you get spectacular views of the coastline. Much less dangerous than driving too (which I only like if I have time to spare, to make numerous stops). Commercial airliners hardly ever crash in Australia. In fact a number of years ago it used to be said that the secret to eternal life was to keep flying around in a Qantas jet, as nobody had ever died on a flight, not even from a heart attack. (Hmm … a google search just confirmed that this remains true—at least regarding crashes. There were crashes in pre-jet times—the last in 1951. There have been a number of ‘close calls’ in recent times though.)

    We don’t usually experience the long delays here either—there are advantages in living in a country with relatively few people.

    However, flying used to be nicer in the ‘olden days’, before all the airport security, and when the seats were bigger.

  • JHF May 7, 2013, 8:35 PM

    I’ve gotten more claustrophobic in recent years. Don’t like being physically hemmed in. I’d take a window seat if the middle were going to be vacant, but my first choice is the aisle seat for ease of in and out.

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