Monday, March 26, 2007

on flying: with Charlotte Gainsbourg

melancholy / aviation / chocolate
perfume / cigarettes
frequent flyer /stow away
dislocation / sleeping / jets

It's my favourite song in the album, by far. It captures so accurately the intoxicating panic that engulfs me each time I board an airplane.

I didn't use to be this way. I used to love airports and flying. Maybe growing up in a country that sees itself as an island, despite the geographical evidence to the contraty, makes one enthusiastic about aviation. Airplanes keep you connected to "the world" (read: New York. Los Angeles. London. Paris.) Or was it the little kiddie gifts they gave me on the flight to New York when I was five. I even liked the food.

we wish you all a very happy pleasant flight /
this is a journey to the center of the night /
and the inflight entertainment's out of sight /
here on AF 607105

It usually starts when I find my seat, gets worst in the first hundreds meters above ground, and slowly subsides some minutes after the seat-belt lights are switched off. It's a take-off panic; some people get it during turbulences or thunderstorms, but I don't mind these. I know they're unlikely to take the airplane down. It's the takeoff and landing that are most dangerous, my air-pilot neighbour used to say, but the landing is done usually by the computer, anyway. Which I personally find reassuring.

My neighbour died by free falling, from a cliff, something I think he must have found ironic.

invent / a new persona /
drunk here on the edge of space /
all the things i carry with me /
and all the things i left behind /
and all the things that wait to meet me /
hover in the air tonight

What I fear exactly, I'm not sure: engine failure, bombs and missiles, air collision? My nightmares take on different shapes. But more and more I feel that it is the simple strangess of being so high, so fast, so disconnected from the earth that unhinges me.

Perhaps it is the knowledge that all this may soon pass. In a few years, when oil prices go through the roof and cheap flights become a thing of the past, we will look back with strange envy and disgust on the time when we used to burn petroleum so wastefully to hop across the planet. Ah the sweet scent of aviation fuel: the crudest form of fuel, the most polluting, and tax-free. Of all our carbon-suicide indulgences, it must be the worst, and the one that has no substitute.

if i can only keep on moving /
and never stop and think of me /
and freefall through the years and decades /
terminal velocity

Her thin and quiet voice makes the air above my desk pulse and fluctuate. I look up to the little stretch of sky topping the inner courtyard, the bright blue above the fading green grey bricks. An airplane is flying through the metal railing, emerging, disappearing, in and out, like the song's heartbeats. We will shortly be landing at Heathrow airport.

the cabin / is burning /
i smile and feel complete /
here amongst / total strangers /
27 000 feet

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