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Friday 28 March 2014

Nin Andrews: What You Have To Listen To


On board Virgin Atlantic A340 (G-VELO), economy cabin interior: photo by A Sutanto, 10 May 2012

Certain people I hate.
Number one on my list:
anyone who talks to me on an airplane.
Take my last trip.
I'm just settling in, taking a blanket
from the overhead bin
when this platinum blond, maybe 40,
sits down next to me,
whips out her lipstick and compact
arranges her face,
smiles at it and asks,
-- Are you from Pittsburgh?
-- No.
-- Me either.
What a shit hole, Pittsburgh,
know what I mean?
It's really the pits. Like its name.
I'm from Lynchburg.
Have you been to Lynchburg?
-- Nope.  Did they lynch people there?
-- Of course not.  It's a gorgeous town.
It's the Chapstick capital of the world.
Do you use Chapstick?
-- No.
-- I thought everyone used Chapstick.
I never leave home without it.
Even Jerry Falwell used Chapstick.
Did you listen to Jerry Falwell?
He would slide some on his lips
right in the middle of a sermon.
I think he licked his lips when he was inspired,
like, by the Holy Spirit.
Did you know Jerry Falwell?
-- No.
-- Oh, he was divine.  I mean, for real.
He resided in Lynchburg,
and he was on the radio and the TV.
He was on Donahue loads of times.
And he was the President's preacher.
George Bush, I mean.
Everyone I knew loved Falwell.
We listened to him on the radio on Sundays
if we didn't go to church.
What radio station do you listen to?
-- I don't.
-- Oh well, just so long as you don't listen to NPR.
They say it's news but it's not.
Jerry Falwell said they just make stuff up
and then say it on the air. Like global warming.
He said NPR tells folks cold is hot, and hot is cold.
You feel how cold it is this winter?
-- And how hot it was last summer?
-- I am talking cold here.
But maybe you don't notice it like I do.
You must be from the north. I can hear it
in your accent. Just like my ex.
He was from Maine.
He stayed out in a blizzard one time,
and I kid you not,
he got frostbite on his extremities.
All of them. I mean, really.
Said he never felt a thing.
That's a Mainer for you.
Icicles everywhere.
Not a heart inside them.
And they call this global warming.
Did you ever get frostbit?
-- No.
-- Well, you never met my husband.
I was with him until I was saved.
I don't even talk to him anymore
but sometimes he calls
and just starts talking and talking,
and I think, why do I have to listen to this?
Know what I mean?
-- Yes, I think I do.

 Nin Andrews: What You Have To Listen To, from Nin Andrews, 26 March 2014

untitled [img316w): photo by john keys (rolleimppl), 8 November 2013

EVA Air Business Class Bulkhead. The business class bulkhead with drawing of Hello Kitty on EVA Airways' Hello Kitty Jet "Sanrio Family Hand-in-Hand", a Boeing 777-300ER.
Photo taken onboard BR15 from Los Angeles to Taiwan Taoyuan:  photo by Luke lai, 8 February 2014

Standing by for the takeoff clearance on Lisbon's runway 21. Unusually dense fog for Lisbon is present making this an LVTO (Low Visibility Take Off) since the reported touchdown zone RVR (runway visual range) is 200m. A319 CS-TTP bound to Oslo: photo by Mathieu Neuforge, 1 December 2011

OpenSpace claustrophobia (London): photo by fabioliguori, 26 November 2013


TC said...

Those who have loitered here awhile will know Nin's sharp, funny, no-foolin' way with words by now.

She's been our morning wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee person since way back before Ohio drifted off from the mainland and became a continent of its own, even while Rev. Falwell was busy lipping that rhapsodic Virginia Chapstick.

Nin Andrews: Learning to Write the MFA poem

Barry Taylor said...

Ah, the great imperial I engrossing all available oxygen and airspace. So familiar, and so well caught here. And all those 'unique' me me me opinions and quirks of character ('sorry, that's me, that's just how I am'), slavishly parroted, straight from the myth-bank and the cliche-lab. And I like it framed by that too-late-to-disembark, seat-belts-on sense of no escape. The horror, the horror. Thank you Nin.

Maureen said...

Wonderful poem! I was born and live in Northern Virginia, which really is a separate state.

TC said...

Thanks, Barry, on Nin's behalf and my own.

The No-Exit aspect of the situation, the horror of being trapped in some obscure hell of air-conditioned logo-iteration... the further one gets from the memory of these things, the more amazed as to how anyone puts up with this hideous form of travel.

Once upon a time airplanes and the whole idea of flight excited me, back when I was about six years old.

Later on, though, the actual experience of flying...

Everyone has their flying anecdotes I suppose. When young, a person feels curiously immune to danger. In the 1960s, while living in England, I made a lot of those cut-price short-hop puddle-jump flights across the channel. The runways at the small airports on the French side of the water were pretty primitive, but on the English side, "in Kent and Christendom" as Sir T. Wyatt once had it, there was not even a small airport, merely a brief, bumpy patch of flattened turf. The planes were WW-II-era DC-3s. They bucked and rolled a lot. Of course no one thought much of that, many of the passengers had been through a war, after all.

In later years, back over here, bigger planes. On an SF/Seattle flight, c. 1970, the plane's landing gear failed to fully retract upon take-off, and was locked in an inconvenient halfway-up, halfway-down position. The pilot communicated this to us, delicately enough, somewhere over the North Pacific. We were to turn back. Did this mean someone in the sky had decided it would be preferable to have a crash in San Francisco, rather than Seattle?

A state of silent, white-knuckled, sweaty-palms anxiety settled over the economy-class cabin.

The passenger next me, unspeaking, unremarkable-seeming in business suit with briefcase, pulled out a yellow legal-size note pad, and began to write upon it.

And write. And write.

Couldn't help peeking over his shoulder.

The writing was in lines.

Had to have been poetry.

In any event, the plane limped down out of the sky, was escorted along the runway (cleared of all other traffic, at that point) by a roaring squad of firetrucks, the problematic gear contacted the asphalt, a St. John's Eve shower of sparks lit up the visible world, and...

TC said...

Thanks Maureen (once again on Nin's behalf and my own), hadn't seen that till now.

Coincidentally, we happen to have a surprising number of Virginians among the "regulars" here, so parsing out the geographical discriminations is probably not a bad idea.

Nin Andrews said...

Thanks Tom! And thanks Barry and Maureen! I really appreciate your comments.
Yes, Northern Va is totally different. It's not a part of the real Va. experience--it's more like suburban D.C.. And it is now an ever-expanding traffic jam. What used to be 2 to 3 hours can take up to 5 hours . . .

Hazen said...

Nice, very nice, Nin. You should get an upgrade for putting up with that. A tale well told. Writing is catharsis. Mistah Jerry, he dead now, but he built himself a plush big-league kingdom at Liberty U., over which his son Junior now reigns. The Liberty “educational” message continues to distort the minds of a steady stream of naïve, gullible young students, who then go out and spread this disinformation further, causing more damage. God save us from the monotheists. Their insidious influence stretches even into Northern Virginia, and from there it’s just a skip across the Potomac and into the brainpans of politicians yanking on the levers of power. It's one of those palm-to-the-forehead moments.

Nin Andrews said...

Thank you, Hazen! I didn't know there was a junior Falwell. How terrifying! To reproduce that creepiness . . . ugh.

TC said...

There's nothing like a bit of local knowledge to put a fine point on things. Thank you, Hazen.

(I can almost hear the Creationists banging on the door, screaming that they'll never ask to borrow your chapstick.)

"Liberty University teaches young Earth creationism as an explanation for the appearance of life on earth. The university works with young Earth creationist organizations including Answers in Genesis. In biology classes students are taught both creationism and evolution and that creationism offers a better explanation of biological diversity than evolution. In October, 2006 the university published an advertisement in The Chronicle of Higher Education in an attempt to recruit staff to its biology department. The advertisement stated that the university was 'seeking faculty who can demonstrate a personal faith commitment to its evangelical Christian purpose' and specified that 'compatibility with a young-earth creationist philosophy [is] required.'

"In the same month, prominent biologist Richard Dawkins was quoted saying the following about Liberty University: 'If it's really true that the museum at Liberty University has dinosaur fossils which are labeled as being 3,000 years old, then that is an educational disgrace. It is debauching the whole idea of a university, and I would strongly encourage any members of Liberty University who may be here, to leave and go to a proper university.'"

Richard Dawkins proved himself brave enough to stand behind his ideas... even in Lynchburg.

His talk and Q & A session at the other school in that town, Randolph-Macon Women's College, predictably drew the Liberty U. God-pimps out in force. Very interesting stuff really; an alien anthropologist on a first field study of this planet might learn something.

Richard Dawkins in Lynchburg


if it's a yes or no question,
I nod or shake my head.
Often makes people shut up

Nora said...

That's fantastic.

Mose23 said...

Brilliant closing line.

Lord Charlie said...

I know the feeling Nin describes. For a while I would identify myself as "medieval historian" to discourage loquacious neighbors on flights to anywhere. (That was Auden's suggestion.) I have also tried "philatelist" (more trouble than it's worth) and "I work for the Ottawa Tourism Association." The single worst thing you can say is "poet and editor" -- unless it's not true. God help you if it is.