Culture postsTuesday December 23, 2008
Escape from Sea-Tac
You know that scene in "The Empire Strikes Back" when Han Solo and his Millennium Falcon crew run away from x-wing fighters and land inside a hollow meteor, which they soon realize, as it rumbles, is not a hollow meteor after all but some kind of space creature, and so they zip out to safety just as the thing snaps at them and nearly devours them? That's how Patricia and I felt Sunday getting out of Seattle. Just with a lot more downtime.
Merely getting to the airport was an adventure, and involved a friend's 1961 Land Rover, several steep hills that were supposedly "closed" but weren't blocked off and which we went down anyway, a broken windshield wiper and a broken cable. But we made it...
Except you heard about Sea-Tac that day, right? Waited in line an hour, checked luggage, through security, drink at that sad little African-themed bar that has nothing at all to do with Seattle, then to Gate A14. Which showed no signs of our flight. Departure board said A11 and we went there. Voila. Except another flight, to New York, was loading. Just as it was leaving we were told, "Go back to A14." But there was another flight there that wouldn't take off for another hour. Meanwhile it kept snowing. Meanwhile all Alaska and Horizon flights were cancelled. Meanwhile our flight, which was "on time" and scheduled to leave at 4:10, disappeared completely from the Departure board because, I suppose, the flight was "on time" and it was now past 4:10.
Finally we got the news: "Go back to A11." Where we were told that our plane, which had landed two hours earlier, would finally deplane at Gate A2, but we couldn't go there because that gate had no computer to check us in. Eventually it showed up, at A11, and, as snow swirled in the darkness outside, we boarded. About two and a half hours late.
Then we waited. And waited. For the de-icer. There were three planes ahead of us and two de-icers. (For the entire airport?) One broke. The second ran out of fluid. When they got the fluid, its pump broke. Meanwhile it kept snowing. Meanwhile the plane kept getting hotter. Meanwhile our pilot informed us that if this process took longer than 90 minutes, federal regulations stipulated that this flight crew couldn't continue and would be forced to take a sleep break. Meaning the flight would be cancelled? That question was left unanswered. Meanwhile, according to the Seattle Times Web site, which I checked via my iPhone, all hotels in the area were booked.
And still it snowed.
About 45 minutes later, our plane was finally de-iced. Then we sat in the darkness for half an hour. No word, no nothing. Finally, without a word, our plane began to move. People applauded. At approximately 10 p.m., or six hours late, we were airborne.
The awful thing about the entire process, like everything these days, is the lack of accountability. Yes, the snow, and, yes, Seattle is unprepared for the snow, but why the constant stutter-steps with the gates? Why was our flight unable to find a gate? Why did they run out of de-icing fluid? Etc. But who to call? Sea-Tac? Port of Seattle? Our tickets were purchased online and the entire horrible process felt that way. Like there wasn't a person at the other end.
The punchline? Airborne now, the pilot came on and announced: "We will be arriving in Minneapolis at approximately 2:50 a.m. Current temperature there is...eight degrees below zero."
Merry Christmas, everyone.
My French teacher, Nathalie, spent a week in Sayulita, Mexico last month and took this picture of the Mexican version of Shepard Fairey's famous series of Obama posters. Cambio. Change.
The people there told her about the spontaneous celebrations that erupted the night Obama got elected. As here in Seattle. As all over the world.
I'm sure there are similar posters from different countries and in different languages. If you know of any, or, better, if you have images of any, please send them my way.
I was reading something yesterday and the author used the word “humbug” as a noun and my mind immediately tried to translate it into modern terminology. “Fraud” would be accurate but my first impulse was “bullshit.”
That actually works better as a translation for the word as an exclamation. Which made me imagine Scrooge saying it throughout “A Christmas Carol.”
“Merry Christmas, Uncle!” said Scrooge's nephew, as he strode into the office.
“Christmas,” muttered Scrooge. “Bullshit!”
Makes him seem less quaint, and crazier.
Eastwood and CIA: Offline
I cut through the Sunday New York Times these days — basically: Week in Review, Arts & Leisure, Sports during baseball season, maybe the Magazine if the cover looks good (“The Year in Ideas”: No) — and in the cutting through this morning there was an interesting pro/con about the Internet.
In a mock-fearful but ultimately laid-back article on Clint Eastwood and “Gran Torino,” the writer, Bruce Headlam, whose first sentence is great, mentions that the menu at Eastwood’s Mission Ranch restaurant has plenty of meat, adding:
Despite what you might have read on Wikipedia, Mr. Eastwood is not a vegan, and he looked slightly aghast when told exactly what a vegan is. “I never look at the Internet for just that reason,” he said.
Meanwhile, in an Op-Ed in the Week in Review section, Art Brown, a 25-year veteran of the CIA, lists what’s wrong with our spy agency. His first point? Its distrust of outsiders breeds a brand of insularity at odd with its mission of keeping Americans safe:
Despite their reputation as plugged-in experts on other countries, many C.I.A. officers do not even have Internet access at their desks. Worse yet, they don’t think they need it.
I empathize with both arguments. The Internet is the new form of communication with a lot of crap on it. Doesn’t mean you can’t communicate on it well, or accurately, but it does mean that if you want to stay up-to-speed with what’s going on in the world you need to at least be aware of the kinds of things you’ll find there. The danger in not doing so is apparent in Brown’s Op-Ed and even in Headlam’s profile. Eastwood’s attitude is: I do what I do, and I do it for me. In his movies, he shows his age. With the exception of beating up punks, he acts his age. He’s got a great quote on not playing your age:
“You know when you’re young and you see a play in high school, and the guys all have gray in their hair and they’re trying to be old men and they have no idea what that’s like? It’s just that stupid the other way around.”
There’s a quiet power in movies like “Million Dollar Baby” and “Mystic River” but, Headlam notes, also an anachronistic quality at odds with their contemporary settings. This is part of what happens when you let modern culture and all of its idiocies pass you by. In Eastwood’s case, the trade-off might be worth it. The CIA, not so much.
Some of the most coveted real estate for any illustrator — probably the most coveted — is the New Yorker cover, and this week, for I believe the second time, the owner is Marcellus Hall, with whom I ran cross country at Washburn High School in Minneapolis in the early 1980s. He lives in Brooklyn now. You can view his Web site here. You can view his MySpace page, and listen to his music, here.
Amazingly talented even back then. Somewhere I have an old Marc drawing titled “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” and delineating what we considered our predicament: a skinny, geeky dude sitting by himself, while a bulbous, dopey football player is surrounded by admiring girls.
The New Yorker cover is titled, in typically dry New Yorker fashion, “Green Christmas.”