Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Long, Long Day

How many lives can one live in a day? Yesterday started at 6 am with a ride through the snow-dusted streets of Salzburg to the airport. Such elegance in every nook-and-cranny in this city soaked through with history, culture and aesthetics. But lest I be accused of too much romanticism and put too much weight on beauty’s shoulders when it comes to human affairs, I sometimes need to remind myself of the brutality and sheer evil that also walked these streets a mere 75 years ago. I stay with my notions that beauty, art and elegance matter in the kind of culture I admire, but underneath it all is a savagery that can emerge at the drop of a political leader. A truth I’d rather not face, but must.

A short plane ride to Vienna, landing briefly in the world where Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Mahler and more created such remarkable music that continues to pull the strings of our heart. Also the home of Freud and the waltz and the sachertorte dessert. And the place where I heard my name called out at the gate and found out I had been upgraded to first class for the 9-hour plane trip ahead!! Score!!

And so with a chef in a chef’s hat serving lunch, a wide reclining seat and a coffee with ice cream and whipped cream, I settled back to enter three worlds on my larger screen personal console. Two classic films that held up bigtime: From Here to Eternity (Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, Burt Lancaster, Ernest Borgnine) and The Apartment (Jack Lemmon, Shirley McClaine, Fred MacMurray)— two human-sized dramas with human-sized conflicts and resolutions. Then Cloud Atlas, a sprawling mythic drama ping-ponging between the distant past, recent past, present and future and achieving absolutely nothing (except the part with the Seniors escaping from the home). I had brought this book with me hoping to be swept up and threw it down in disappointment. So I hoped the movie would get me back to it and now I can safely say, “Anyone want my copy?” Ugh.

Since the flight covered the waking hours of the day, the reclining bed was not of much use. Though not complaining here! Landed in Toronto with six hours until my next flight and ended up getting whisked away from the airport by a friend and having a bonus catch-up dinner nearby. Good use of the time. Back to the airport with time to spare, but they were experimenting with a new connection policy that wasn’t working and I became part of the growing angry and anxious mob waiting at customs and wondering if they’d make their flight. At this point, it was 2 a.m. Salzburg-time and the sleep-need starting to kick in. So I took out my Ukelele and starting strumming it standing on line, softly singing the U.S. Customs Blues:

They’re makin’ us wait here and ain’t no one tellin’ us news
They’re makin’ us wait here and ain’t no one tellin’ us news
So I’m standin’ in line singin’ the U.S. Custom blues.

I’m been travelin’ 18 hours, so you know I been payin’ my dues
I’m been travelin’ 18 hours, so you know I been payin’ my dues
Next we got to line up at Security and take off our belts and our shoes.

Etc. Finally got on the plane with two empty seats—score!—and ready to lie down. Then at the last minute, in comes the big-shouldered man and his son to sit next to me. But I slept anyway and awoke in Orlando, Florida, astonished to think that the person driving through Salzburg in the early morning and the one peeling off his jacket in the late evening and getting into the cab driven by the Jamaican cab driver to the airport hotel experienced both on the same calendar day.

Next morning, out on the strip mall in humid warm weather, breakfast at The Waffle House, sitting at the counter in a place thrown together with spit and duct tape next to some folks from the Harley Motorcycle gang and watching 12 blue-shirted plastic-gloved overweight workers slinging hash and shouting out orders. "It ain't Europe here. Welcome home, son."

Now back to the airport for the rental car and off to the beach to meet my family. As I wrote in Facebook: “From the Spring snows of Salzburg to the Summer sands of New Smyrna Beach in one long, long day. It’s a weird and wonderful world.”

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