Friday, June 25, 2010

Writing in the Air

About once a year, we travel to visit Mark's family in Suffern, New York. Because of frequent flier games, Mark and I went out on separate flights. This flight out, I learned a few things.

1) I'm not as assertive as I like to think I am. During the first leg of my flight, I was squished into a seat that was not quite big enough for me, let alone the more portly guy sitting next to me. I'm pretty sure he had to have the arm-rest up for him to fit into the chair. He fell asleep with his hands clasped over his lap... and then his hands relaxed as he dosed. The result was that I spent about three minutes with a stranger's bare forearm touching my bare forearm.

It was like a Charles M Schultz cartoon strip. What do I do? There's a guy's forearm resting on my forearm. Do I pretend it's not there, or do I lift it or what? What if he sleeps for the entire flight? How do I fix this anyway, "Excuse me; we've hardly met and I'm a married man?" I tried shifting around, but my shoulder is sort of wedged behind his shoulders (which are rolled forward). I'm trapped; I can't even move my arm to get a book or pull out my carry-on so I can write something.

Finally I sort of gently poked him and said, "Excuse me, sir." Whew.

2) During the second leg of my flight, I got into an animated discussion with a theatre professor and LA theatre critique. Once he learned that I write short stories, he asked the inevitable question: what's your favorite fantasy or science fiction book? After several inarticulate efforts on my part to recall what fiction I've read outside of the Wordos critique groups, I realized that I need a short written list of favorite authors and novels, because when ever anyone asks me this, my mind goes iconic on me and all I can see is a picture of all the books on my bookshelves, but it's not in focus enough for me to pick out a title. And then I'm struck by a sense of inadequacy as I notice that all the stories I like are from 1985. My other problem is that I've been reading a lot of non-fiction lately.

I hemmed and hawed my way with Tolkien, and then he asked me what I thought about "Wicked" (the book). I opined that "Wicked" was like "PETA meets 'Animal Farm.'" It was his favorite book. Ooops.

3) I always say I'm going to write on the airplane, and I never seem to get as much done as I think I will. For one thing, my manuscripts are always in the wrong piece of luggage. For another, if there's turbulence, I can't write. Finally, those tray-tables are always smaller than I remember, and it's really hard to balance the Palmtop keyboard and a drink on them without worrying that the plane is going to pull negative G's and caffeinated soft-drink is going to get all over my electronics.

Hmmm. I'm pretty sure that a too-small tray-table is a metaphor.
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