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Sunday, March 13, 2011

My Flight to Japan and Korea: The Beginning

(The majority of the following was mostly written while on this flight before I had even known about the catastrophe in Japan. So this first part is light and flippant in tone.)

It began as much happenings of memorable stamp often do, -quite normally at first and everything was fine. It was only the night before when I found out at what time precisely I would be flying out the next day. I tend to be able to survive off of so little information.

The flight was to be from Birmingham to Chicago, from Chicago onto Tokyo and from Tokyo to Seoul. The first leg, everything went as normal. I arrived at the Chicago airport; a place that was suddenly familiar from my recent New Year's escapade. However, with the departure from Chicago headed to Tokyo, the plane was forever stalling.

A group that rivalled the size of a village sat in a Boeing 747, packed, elbows oblongly rubbing against each other in the seats, leg cramps already starting, and yet instead of clouds and the burst of sunlight a traveler receives when one mounts above the clouds, all that could be seen out the oval windows was Chicago cement and Chicago suitcase cars under that bleak Chicago sky. Apparently, we were waiting on a group of 26 stragglers to take their dallying parade and amble on board.

They fooled me, immensely. Because they were awkwardly late, I thought I had claimed as reclining plunder one, of their aisle seats, because no one was coming. But no, I had to squeeze myself back into the sardine-crammed middle and await my 12 hour sentence of probably no sleep and no easy visit to the can. (and I mean that last word almost literally.)

It turns out that the majority of these late folks and rebels of the clock, are all traveling to the East to kick butt in Taekwondo. They all had these shirts on detailing the fact that they were into trying to break things with their appendages, though this glaringly American group of people hardly looked the part. They obviously were NOT masters, nor even in the training for the special art of How-to-board-an-airplane-on-time. They entered smiling and joking as though they were having the time of their lives making everyone else possibly miss their connecting flights. I mean if you're gonna be late on a plane, at least look dour and nervous. And if you're gonna be one large Taekwondo team that's late on a plane, at least make it look like you had to fight and Karate kick your way to the gate. Have scratches and ripped clothes, several black eyes, busted lips and so forth. Someone could even have their arm twisted, contorted as though there was a last battle stand-off to get on that plane headed to Tokyo and appease all the other passengers.

But I guess in reality, they probably had their excuse for being late, some dodo head in their group left a pair of nunchuks in their carry-on bag, or some careless, thoughtless Bruce Lee left a few ninja stars in his britches, and they all had to stay behind and be strip-searched by security. And a security that doesn't play around with toothpaste, you know isn't going to let a class A ninja star or nunchuk through without calling the FBI, CIA, Bomb Squad, the A-Team, Sean Hannity and Fox News as well.

But regardless of their being late, that wasn't really the problem that made us real late. Our real tardiness was do to to some "simple malfunction that had to be checked on ONLY for legal reasons and had nothing whatsoever to do with our safety." Or that's at least what the guy on the intercom said. -I think that was a translation for "there is something really screwed up with this piece of crap engine, and we the crew, will wet our britches if we have to fly over the Pacific in it."

What's interesting about culture seeing how the same message was relayed in both English and Japanese, the guy probably spoke the first prettied up version for all the Americans, who if given the truth would start to whine and complain and theaten to hurl lawsuits all over the cabin at the first sign of danger, where the "real" version was said in Japanese knowing that they'd be calm and solid, maybe a few frowns here and there. So before that delightful rush down the runway and leap into the air, we had to turn this huge hulking dragon around and get some obscure check-up back at the terminal.

While the disgruntled passengers huffed about the plane, I paced about and began to notice more closely these Taekwondo practitioners. They certainly didn't look like martial artists, not in build, demeanor, nor expression. They more closely resembled a group of people that were going to an ice cream convention, or were part of a Disney World Fan Club. Some of them were very young, others were a bit old. I think they all wore their Taekwondo shirts, bags, swish pants, regalia, etc. to let everyone else know that they, believe it or not, were experts in the art of breaking boards with their knuckles. Because no one would think come to this conclusion by a first glance, or several glances for that matter, without they proudly announcing on their articles of clothing

When they first boarded the plane late, I thought that any potential hijackers would be shaking in their knife-concealing boots, thinking, "Goodness! Of all the planes I had to hijack, I had to pick the one with 30 black belts!" After examining them though, I began to suspect that maybe the Taekwondo Tournament phrases stitched all over their clothing was really, just after-all an exotic bland of ice cream.

But far outweighing this motley bunch of fighting cranes and squatting tigers, the most imposing figure on board was an older Japanese man who had nothing to do with them. It was really only because he was wearing one of those Michael Jackson surgeon masks that Asian people like to wear, to let you know that they are uncomfortable breathing in the same air that you just breathed out. Talk about menacing! The guy stood in the back like a statuesque villian in a Mortal Kombat game. Though he only came up to my nipple, he could probably whip the entire troop of Taekwondo poster-child wannabees with the bag of pretzels he was just given by the stewardess.

But perhaps, I am being an ignorant American. It is only because he was Asian and wearing one of these ridiculous masks did he look like the dazzling ninja of the watercloset, blocking the way, demanding a fight to death with katana blades for any who wish to use the toilet.

But as we took off and flew through the sapphire strastosphere, and after we finally arched over the Pacific while half-entranced and half-bored with the all the flight movies, something was churning and curdling far below, something down, down into the depths, in the discontent heart of the earth, in the ravaging bowels of the ocean. Someplace far under the area we were flying over, thousands and thousands of feet below the darkening sky and inside the quickening sea something was brewing, and we were flying high and had no clue.


Blogger Damien... said...

We are so grateful for your well being! Break a leg.

11:45 AM  

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