And so it begins. I step inside the Haines ferry terminal to ready myself for this irreversible journey. I tried to do everything I could think of before I left. Some things were left unfinished. But once I step onto the ferry the preparation phase is over. Did I turn off the propane gas to the stove? Yes. Is there enough cat food? Maybe. Did I turn off the DSL connection to the phone line? No, I’ll have to write to Tyler. Did I bring my razor blades? Oops. I sit in the terminal. A few Haines folk are there. The ferry is on time.
But then I overhear someone talking loudly. I don’t see anyone. Then finally he comes into view. Like a beached whale beneath blankets on the ground, some dude about 50 years old with long black, most likely dyed, hair. He’s heftier than I, that’s saying something. and he is filling up the rather quiet space with not only his loud voice but the sound of his dumb phone on speaker. The 20 minute conversation, mostly coming through the tinny device, is about cellphone service comparisons. I look at the guy’s blank pasty face. What kind of life must he lead? I leave to go stand outside in the pleasant near freezing weather. I peer into the dark of the Lutak Inlet as the lights of the Malaspina coast into the dock.
I find my stateroom, and attempt to sleep through the four and a half hour cruise the night to Auke in Juneau. I split a taxi with another Haines resident. And then spent the hours from 3AM to 5AM talking with various Haines residents in the quiet airport lobby. Some have to get on earlier than I. My own trip starts around 7:30. It’s not too bad. None of my three planes will involved crammed seating arrangements. I leave aboard Alaska Airlines on the milk run to Seattle with an obligatory Ketchikan stop. A couple of Hainiacs are also aboard. They will be the last of my fellow townies that I see until I return.
Then there’s the usual boredom of Sea-Tac Airport. Five hours of tedium. Some girl was singing songs ‘live’ with a mike in the food court. I gave up on her when she did some warbly acoustic version ‘Imagine’. Somehow though it fit perfectly with ennui of the airport. And then there was the Sup Pop shop selling T-Shirts and who knows what else. Elsewhere there was a display of Pearl Jam concert posters. Grunge has become Disneyland. I did have a great conversation back in Juneau with a guy who reminisced about the days when flying was enjoyable. Now it’s like riding in a jammed plastic bus. And the British Airways flight to London with a transfer to Paris was to be ten hours plus of fairly joyless transportation. These details can be passed over without much comment.
Except I must mention the Heathrow Airport. I can’t stand the place. Give me JFK, Charles De Gaulle, LAX, even Sea-Tac. Being crammed into Heathrow is the Bataan Death March of airport experiences. Endless people. Flight gates announced at some point later in the day. Truly lost people. Endless frilly adverts. It almost came as a joy to be stuffed into the back bruising seat next to the loo on the jet to Paris. If only to know that I was free of the dull grinding throb of Heathrow.
So I stepped up to my first official international border crossing, France, entering the EU, the Schengen Group for the first time. France, who had recently experienced serious terrorism of November 13th. I was ready. I had had my own issues with U.S. Customs coming back from Canada a few months earlier. I had acted somewhat nervously when being grilled about food in Canada. They confiscated my rice and gave my car a serious once over. So what would the French do now? Stamp the passport. Period. That’s it. No paranoia. No questions. I just entered the country. I do truly detest what has happened to America security-wise since September 11th 2001. In this regard we have lost our way. Maybe it could be argued that the French were being too lax. I know Americans that would say so. But paranoia breeds more reasons for paranoia. Enough of this line of thought.
I strolled through the airport. I already had my train ticket in hand. Bought it online. And took the RER B train to the St. Michel stop. Along the way the rush hour crowds of Paris reminded me of the wild variety of humanity as we all pressed against each other. But I knew these things. I was ready. I jumped off the train. Walked through the evening streets of the 6me Arrondissement and found Frederick, the manager of Hotel St André Des Arts, waiting for me. We renewed old acquaintances and had discussions about what modern technology was doing to humanity. After traversing the marvelously uneven medieval stairway I settled my tired bones into my little hotel room.
But I couldn’t wait to get out at least for a few moments before finding much needed sleep. I found my favorite street side crêperie. Had the jambon, ouef and fromage galette. I strolled through the night time streets with crowds of Parisians, enjoying the moment with a hot crepe. I was back in Paris.
Much more to come…