I arrive in Tokyo numb-of-mind and lethargic of body — a common result of an 11 hour flight, 17 time zone changes, and an utter inability to sleep on planes. In lieu of rest, I stroll the aisle, hang around the galley drinking apple juice, and execute numerous farcically unrealistic tai chi exercises — the motivation for which, I assume, comes from breathing stale 767 air for 8,000 km. All the while, I gaze enviously at the rows of sleeping passengers, each blithely unaware of the medieval torture devices into which they are buckled. I make my usual stab or two at aerosleep, which yields nothing but a stiff neck, a painful back, and a nasty cowlick.
It’s not just the physical discomforts that prevent my sleep, but the total absence of inner peace, harmony, and calm. I’ve long harboured a suspicion that airline travel is technically impossible, and I’m not too keen on being 35,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean when the world figures this out. Curiously, I can trace the origins of my flying perturbation to that day when, as an Electrical Engineering major, Boeing offered me a job. I could barely orient a pair of AA batteries properly, and they want to entrust me with designing aircraft?
Like a child who pulls the covers over his head to hide from a monster in the room, I’ve developed my own rather ridiculous fear-coping mechanism. I’m sometimes calmed by the sound of droning machinery — a situation that should work in my favour, given that a 767’s jet engines produce a rather potent sensory-engulfing blanket of drone. But I can never quite decouple my mind from the fact these are airplane engines — propelling a giant chunk of metal that isn’t technically supposed to be airborne at all. So I’ve taken to putting on noise cancelling headphones and playing Éliane Radigue’s Trilogies de la Mort — a 2 hour and 49 minute masterpiece of continuously droning oscillators from an ancient ARP 2500 synthesizer. I find it enticingly therapeutic — even though one play gets me through only 25% of the flight.
My time in Tokyo is always tainted somewhat by a modicum of trepidation — the return trip consistently looms just beneath the surface of my thoughts. In some ways, travelling back to Vancouver is a better experience, and in some ways it’s worse. On the upside are the tailwinds, which shave a couple hours off the return flight, meaning a single play of Trilogies de la Mort gets me 33% of the way home. The biggest downside to the Tokyo-to-Vancouver flight is it results in a 41 hour day. And since sitting in a roaring tube of physical impossibility is, as previously established, not conducive to sleep, I’m forced to stay awake for 33 straight hours.
This year, my 41 hour day was on December 25th. Christmas Day. I’m rather certain this would make me the envy of several million children around the world, but my mind was consumed with fact-checking Bernoulli’s Principal for errors and oversights, rather than with thoughts of holly and mistletoe.
Through the miracle of human madness and its desire to partition time, I arrived back in Vancouver 8 hours before I left Tokyo. I breezed through customs, jumped a train, strolled home along eerily empty city streets, and dumped the contents of my suitcase into the laundry. 30 minutes later, my top-load washing machine chose that particular load to disprove the Property of Matter — the science of which erroneously maintains that liquids take the shape of the object containing them — and instead dumped an ocean of water into my condo, destroying the bulk of its flooring, several kitchen cabinets and a couple of walls.
And thus began a fresh new odyssey, which (six weeks later) continues to spawn new and thoroughly unwanted odysseys — in fact, there have been two additional condo-destroying floods since the one on Christmas day. And while the end is nowhere in sight, I suspect this latest visit from the entire Murphy family might just provide a topic for an upcoming article.
There are those who still believe in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s pronouncement that “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” Clearly, Emerson’s era preceded the invention of the airplane and Kenmore appliances.
©2020 grEGORy simpson
ABOUT THE PHOTOS: Since my life now involves staying home and entertaining tradesmen for 10-12 hours/day, I haven’t had too many opportunities to go out and take new photos. Which means I get to populate this article with a few more shots from December’s Tokyo trip — some of which were even taken in the daylight! All photos are courtesy of the Leica M10 Monochrom, using an assortment of lenses that I simply don’t have the time nor inclination to list. Obviously, the first photo is a metaphor for this article; the second is a curiosity; the third is simply amusing; the fourth one even I don’t understand; and the fifth represents the sort of unbridled joy I will experience once the latest journey finally ends… assuming it ever does end.
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