Part One: Oy vey! Getting There
Unbelievable ~ I have a passport! Welcome World! My photo is truly hideous. It is much more suitable as the mug shot of a child-molester. Fiddle-dee-dee, details. This was only an insignificantly unfortunate element of an utterly fantastic adventure never to be forgotten this past April when Dean treated me to my very first trip abroad.
City That Never Sleeps
Of course, flying from Sky Harbor to New York with beautiful you know who at my elbow rendered the five hours a brilliant passage of time. However, it was absolutely thrilling to descend into JFK mid-afternoon and view Manhattan glittering below us. I had no idea it was so beautiful! The architechture, classic form and shades of grey jutting up over brilliant green (I wasn't expecting to see so many trees!) surrounded by water gleaming in the sun combined for a show-stopping sight, and a tear or two. Yes. I am a cry-baby, and no, this is not a picture we took. Pretend it is.
You know how you can have a flurry of thoughts in a fraction of a second? It's amazing how the tiny portal view customarily afforded from a stuffy, unglamorous airliner can be the means of a full-body sensory rush. I felt overwhelmed to see the New York skyline not only for the historicity (all the way back to New Amsterdam and later the Battle of Brooklyn), but for what must have been a similar view (generally speaking) for the fated American Airlines flight 11 as it approached the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. My tears were tears of joy for the miracle of flight as always - never will tire of how common place we casually accept stepping into a vehicle that flies through the air and spews us out into a completely different time zone - appreciation for the spectacularly beautiful sight of the iconic city sprawling as a textured jewel below us, and tears of sorrow for what was suffered on American soil.
Language is what hit me next as we wended our way to our gate at JFK. Russian, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, French and Hebrew swirled around us from beautiful and interesting faces in trendy American fashions or traditional ethnic garb. I could hardly contain myself; there is something magical about the concept of language. What arrives to my ear as meaningless sounds is to someone else an effortless communication complete with fully defined mental imagery and a verbal response waiting to be exchanged. For a wanna-be Cultural Anthropologist, this was akin to being spoon-fed gourmet cookies
or how other women feel about pedicures and spas, I don't know - it was wonderful!
The Big Plane
Boarding the 747 took my breath away. I had no idea it would be HUGE. Logistics for this flying freighter are crazy and well worth the reading if you are interested. The passenger capacity is nuts! I lost count of flight attendants at around 12 or 13. I saw two different galleys and was aware of a at least a third one at the rear of the plane. We sat in the vast middle seating area with an isle way far away on either side and more rows of seats until a window and the edge of the massive plane. All around us Hebrew and English punctuated the air as passengers settled into their places. Our safety instructions were voiced in both languages as well.
The Big Flight
Dean had warned me about trans-Atlantic travel. Speaking of language, I thought I understood the words that came out of his mouth. I was mistaken. When he said with emphasis, "It's a long flight," - this is what he really meant:
Oh my gosh. I am not a very comfortable person in an elevator for 30 seconds or rubbing shoulders with crowds at amusement parks for 30 minutes. This was ridiculous. After maybe four hours of the nearly 12 hour flight to Tel Aviv (don't forget the five and a half hours already from Phoenix to New York) my skin was beginning to crawl. My compressed rear end felt like it belonged to someone else if that's even possible, my eye balls felt dry and raw and the inability to move around became an exquisite torture. There was actually nothing specific in its own right about the seat, the armrest, or how my legs and neck were positioned that offended; it was the massively compounded effect of being confined for hour after hour in a never changing scenario that screamed little white jacket. I believe the fact that we couldn't see where we were going kind of played with my psyche, too, especially since most of the flight was at night. It pretty thoroughly freaked me out to know we were over the greatest ocean of the world the whole time. I couldn't help but imagine the teeny tiny splash we would make...
Dean advocated Ambien. He said it helps relieve jet lag. I was offended at first. Why would I want to sit next to someone party-pooper drugged oblivious when he could be talking to moi? Again - it's a language thing. I did not understand key couplet words:
a) long flight
b) jet lag
He offered me the little pill. I swear he winked. I considered his character. He is honest, brave, trustworthy, clean, courteous, thrifty - you get it. I decided to half way trust him. I took half a pill and I did eat. Sort of like Adam and Eve reversed.
He was out like a light as promised, I was not. Dangit! Cat-napping is notoriously mis-named. Cats, when so inclined, appear totally if not blissfully dreaming of kitty delights during brief yet satisfying periods of deep feline repose. My goal of unconsciousness having eluded me, the intermittent falling shallowly asleep and waking up with a violent start got old really quick. I repented from snickering at a fellow traveler we observed shortly after take off. We had watched her go through a well-oiled routine of flight preparations. First, she applied lip balm with exactness. Next she inventoried her carry on things and then tucked them fastidiously away. Then she vigorously rubbed lotion deeply into her hands and wrists (which reminded me of a fly washing its hands), tugging her long sleeves up out of the way. She wore a black turtle neck tee shirt. Weird, I thought at the time. Next she dramatically popped her jaw a couple of times, inserted ear plugs into each ear, put on a plush black-out eye mask, settled her head into her personal donut pillow and tucked herself into her airline blankie. Miserably uncomfortable, exhausted, cold and my hands and lips aching from feeling dry - I eyed her with regret and respect.
The comfy Deanster, on the other hand, had no reason to feel anything.
It was a freaking LONG flight.