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Involuntary Travel Journal: May 2018

I don't carry a writer's notebook to record ideas and snippets of writing like some authors that I have heard of, my reasoning being that if the idea is good enough it will stick around.  The best ideas harass you when you're trying to think of other things, demand attention while you are trying to sleep, they interrupt all your best shower songs, they prompt your wife to ask you, "Are you even listening to me right now?"  And I have plenty of those kinds rattling around in my skull just begging to be written, and so I don't bother writing them down, because if I'm going to be writing them, I'm going to be writing them, get it?  

Plus, I get a lot of stupid-ass ideas.  I sit here and I think, hey what if my mustache became sentient, and maybe my kids are robots, and I bet the reason giraffe's necks are so long is that maybe they were just regular spotted horses, and then one time back in the formation times, they said something insulting to the wrong proto-ape, and caught a wicked uppercut that would forever change their physiology throughout the ages.  I don't need a record of that shit sitting around in some notebook for my kids to find after I die and just straight up ruin their memories of me.

But I used to travel a lot with my job, and I spent a lot of time in airports and cabs and, since I had a semi-supervisory role, there were a lot of things for me to remember and so I used to carry a notebook with me, just to jot down reminders to myself and to record some of the strange experiences that come with extended travel in these United States.  Also, travel can be pretty lonely; you are cast adrift without all your stuff and you are surrounded by frazzled strangers, all of whom are in a ridiculous hurry and are angry and tired and are not in the mood for a friendly chat.  So I got into the habit of keeping a travel journal/to do list/doodle gallery while I waited for airplanes and for awful overpriced food to arrive and whatnot, as a way to stave off the isolation of air travel.

I recently took a very impromptu emergency flight on some worrisome family business, and I found myself writing little snippets down again, much like I used to, as a way to distract myself and to help forget how tired and stressed I felt.  I thought there was some fun stuff there when I read it later, and so I figured what the hell, why not post it, since it is the only mildly interesting thing I have written in ages.

So here is my involuntary travel journal from the past weekend:     

--Sitting here on the floor of the Detroit airport on two hours sleep wearing my second cleanest sweatpants catching an emergency flight to Spokane, filled with worry and fear, it occurs to me that Donald fucking Trump is still the president of the United States, and for the first time in a year and a half, I don't care, not even a little.

--By some miracle I got an aisle seat, and on this reportedly completely full flight, there is nobody sitting in the middle. The dude in the window seat high-fived me when he saw the empty, and is wearing a t-shirt that says "It isn't drinking alone if your dog is with you."  He buys me a bloody mary, something that I have only ever ordered in an airport or in an airplane.  He tells me his name is Phil, and we toast to small blessings.  Small blessings my friend.  Cheers.

--Before I have stepped on any plane since 2001, I have laid a hand on the outside surface right by the door, and I have said a silent thanks.  Thank you plane I say, for not crashing this flight.  And every single time it has worked; I have not died in a fireball in some cornfield in Iowa, we have never crashed in the mountains where I would be forced to eat my fellow passengers, we have never crash landed on a mysterious island filled with clues and intriguing plot points that will ultimately not pay off and will wrap up in a whimper.  It works, is my point, my little plane thanking ritual, literally 100 percent of the time.  This time I didn't do it; my head was too filled with exhaustion and frustration and worry, and I just forgot.  I didn't thank the plane for not crashing this time.  And honestly, just now as we are about to take off, I wish I did.

--I brought Terry Pratchett's last book, the Shepherd's Crown with me.  I haven't read it yet, and I know that I'm being dumb, but I like that there is one still out there that I can look forward to, so it has been sitting on my shelf for over a year, maybe two.  I don't want it to be over, understand?  This is the last one, and once I read it, there will never be another Discworld book for me to read for the first time.  So I was fine with that; I could sit on it indefinitely right?  But then, on the anniversary of his death, I saw a tweet from his daughter that said she had seen that many people had the same thought that I did, to not read the last one, and she told us to not do that, that that isn't what he would have wanted.  He wrote the damn thing to be read, in other words. And there are many ways for us to hold on to the Discworld and Terry Pratchett's legacy of insight, humor and thoughtful commentary on the absurdity of this life, but books are meant to be read, so read the damn thing already.  And while I was throwing shit in a backpack for this godawful trip, I picked it up, and I put it in the bag, and now I'm on this plane, and I'm thinking of mortality, and the things we leave behind, and if I wrote a book that was released after I died, you can goddamn well know that I would want you to read it.  Shelves are there to hold books between readings, not to store them untouchable, like museum artifacts.  So I brought The Shepherd's Crown with me.  I still don't know if I'll read it, but I brought it along, and that is something at least.

--He grew bored of the video game he had brought and his phone was useless without a signal.  His book made him feel sad, and the Wi-Fi was annoyingly spotty at best.  And so he retreated, as all weary travelers will eventually, into the pages of the SkyMall.  He will, he knows, never purchase a single of these items, no matter how clever and well engineered they seem in the photographs.  He does not need a letter opener in any circumstance, and yet he feels a sharp pang of desire for the one shaped like Frodo's trusty blade, Sting.  If he were to order the zombie lawn ornament, he feels confident that the neighborhood in which he lives would claim it as their own in but a single day, yet he wishes he were the type of man to order such impracticalities with confidence, but he is not.  He would love a drone or a Bluetooth shower speaker, a massage chair or a self-reeling garden hose, but he is resigned to being a man for which the magic and mysteries of the SkyMall remain an untouchable dream that he can only access in between take off and landing.

--I couldn't read the Shepherds Crown, not with my fragile hold on emotional stability.  I got a copy of Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology at the news stand.  I looked through all ten copies that they had because I know that he occasionally ninja-signs copies of his book that he sees in airport book sellers, but no dice. Dammit Neil, where were you when I needed a ray of sunshine?  Not in this Salt Lake City Hudson's, apparently.

--My hands feel hot, the product of some abrasive airport soap perhaps, or they are inundated with general travel filth, every door handle, every armrest, every handrail or tray table leaving a microscopic strata of foreign nastiness, a sticky fingered toddler leaving a snail trail of boogers and half chewed Swedish Fish on the seatback in front of me that I accidentally bump with my forehead when I stand up, and now I'm covered in it, sealed in like Kilgore Trout's feet in Breakfast of Champions.  Maybe it is the altitude, my blood being too thick for air travel, maybe I'm just too tired, and my hands are tired too and the heat I can feel radiating off of them like a childhood fever is just that and nothing more.  Still I'm going to wash them in the airplane bathroom, just scrub up like a surgeon and use my feet to exit.  Because, holy shit, there's no way I'm touching that handle.

--If I were to ever write a book titled Garbage Travel, "Getting up at 3:50 AM to catch a flight from Spokane to Salt Lake City" would be chapter one. Got an aisle this leg though. Small blessings I suppose.

--Okay, spoke too soon.  Seatback in front of me has a video screen showing  Black Panther.  Flight's too short for the whole thing but hell ya, totally legit.

--Middle seat on the long leg of the trip home, because I am exhausted and filled with regret and disappointment, and there is no reason that Mother AirTravel would be merciful.  I sit between two dudes, both perfectly polite and pleasant and slightly too big for their seats and I squeeze my knees and elbows in and I sit here like a hot dog in a pack, not squished exactly, but not exactly comfortable, either.

--Super powers are not always a gift.  If I had a superpower, I would be called the Exacerbator, with a superhuman ability to take an awful, stressful situation and make it much, much worse. 
That is not a hero's name.
That is not a hero's power.
It occurs to me that I am not the hero of any of these stories, not at all, and there is a word for that.

I usually like to travel, my family and my family and I take a big Griswolds in the Family Truckster style road trip in the summer, we stop at roadside attractions and we buy the souvenirs.  I nod to other weary fathers in respect and commiseration at highway rest stops while we both try to wrangle our kids back into minivans.  I like seeing the country in which I live, the people standing behind registers and in aprons, filling coffee, buying jerky.  I listen to an audio book while the family sleeps at night, the road unreeling in front of the van, hypnotic and beautiful, black and yellow and white, the cruise control set to five over the limit, me lost, wandering  somewhere in the darkness and in my own thoughts.  

I like to travel on purpose, though; travel on accident, involuntary travel is different, and it paints the destination with a sheen of dissatisfaction.  I am still filled with disappointment, and I am ashamed to report that things I had thought were healed are not, and that I am still the same fucking moron that I have always been, and I have to wonder if this terrible broken monster that I thought long dead will always be there, waiting, like some Lovecraftian horror, dead, yet still dreaming, waiting to be summoned to consume and destroy everything once more.

And of course I am being overly dramatic, of course the sun has risen once more and light has washed over me, through me, and I will soon be able to enjoy the blessings of my absurdly beautiful life, and this terrible sense of my own fallibility will fade.  I will soon enough be able to begin to lie to myself, to believe that I am in charge of my own decisions. Soon, I will be able to stop thinking of inevitability, of the unrelenting, heartless, ticking clock.

Anyway, so it goes.  Anyway, what will be, will be.  Anyway, this too, will pass.  And I know this to be true, but this is where I am right now.  

This is where I am right now.

Still Writing, 

Wow, that was bleak, aside from the SkyMall bit, which was a lie; there was no SkyMall on my flight.  I checked.  I'm fine, by the way.  We're all fine, at least for today.  You can find me on Twitter @RDPullins, and I have a Facebook, but I never open it except to post these things.  Email me at dissent.within at if you wanna, but I know you don't, since you never do.  Comment here.  If it doesn't show up immediately, its because I have to approve it or something. Let me know if you have a hard time posting a comment and I'll get back in the settings and try and make it a bit more seamless.  Cheers all.  Call your mom; she misses you.  Peace.             


  1. I remember these kind of writings... your travel thoughts ... and I remember liking them , still do.... I also remember the first time you came to Michigan and we were driving in from St. Louis and I remember being right in the middle of saying something and you stopped me so you could write something down ... . so yeah , those thoughts can also be annoying sometimes ��


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