Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Twain on the Plane

This is one of those blog titles that seemed really brilliant at the time, somewhere in the Las Vegas airspace (note to Speegles: I waved.) It was inspired by reading a copy of Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi that I've had since I was around eleven. I think this is the first time I've read it all the way through, and I'd forgotten how genuinely funny he was. This is hardly news, but it really has been a long time since I've read him -- too long, obviously -- and now I'm eager to read his autobiography. Based on what I've read, Life on the Mississippi sounds like a warm-up for the main event.

No doubt the perceived cleverness of this post's title was enhanced by the fact that I had been awake for something on the order of twelve hours when I thought it up, with another seven or so ahead before I could fulfill the sweet promise of head-on-my-own-pillow. Somewhere between hours one and nineteen, I'd gone from a freezing sleety sideways rain of the Niagara Falls/Buffalo airport, to the flashing, throbbing, chirping sounds of slot machines in the Las Vegas concourses, to the green rain-soaked hills of the Oakland/San Francisco area. My brain and body are still adjusting to the three-hour time shift, and the thirty-degree temperature shift, and as I'm unpacking my actual luggage, I'll leave you with a little mental luggage unpacking as well, in lieu of a real, well-formed blog post. Here goes:
  • In answer to your first question, no, I did not suffer any of the snowpocalypse that buried the midwest and socked in the east coast. By design or accident, the Buffalo area was only graced with "unseasonably cold" temperatures for this time of year, which meant the thermometer stayed sub-freezing for the duration, but did not get Crazy Cold. We saw some snow, but it was mild, and my kids -- native Californians all -- ate it up. Literally, in some cases. You can always tell the ones not brought up in cold weather: they're the kids running around with bare heads and pulling off their mittens to form snowballs. We have sledding-disaster stories in abundance.
  • I thought that my home area was pretty special for having an operable drive-in movie theater, but from the air over Phoenix, I spotted a lovely four-screen example, with each screen positioned at the corner of a clear square of ground, and the snack stand squat in the middle. I was humbled, and impressed.
  • I was also humbled by the usual range of stuff available in the SkyMall catalog. I had plans to liberate one from the seatback pocket in front of me and do an analysis of the products, breaking them down into categories like "hair restoration gadgets" (several), "weight-loss devices" (also several), and "urine-related technologies" (disturbingly many.) In the end, I think this was too scatological, even for me, and let the idea lie.
  • Speaking of in-flight entertainment, if you travel with small children, I cannot recommend a portable DVD player highly enough. I'm not sure my youngest (age three) made a single peep the entire time we were in the air. It's worth it.
  • Also, I'm pleased that my older ones actually looked forward to playing pencil-and-paper games on the plane, especially hangman. When All Electronic Devices had to be stowed, that pad of paper and pen kept us all entertained.
Looking forward to catching up with you folks in the waning of the year, and limbering up the fingers for a type-filled 2011.

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