Sutphin Blvd-Archer Ave-Jamaica station is the collision site of suitcase-wielding global travelers and hyperlocal homeless folks who are begging for unused metro cards, spare change and delivering threats to anyone who touches them. The travelers, who are mostly white, try to ignore the vagrants, who are mostly black, although it’s clear that not only does everyone see and flinch for a moment in fear, but they take a final note on their way out of New York; the former treat this area like a purgatory through which to pass before reaching a promised land; the latter treat the area as an fishing hole to try to lure those sympathetic tourists one last time.
The station architecture must be the identical twin of the Port Authority, separated at birth: similarly it houses the visual repository of every suburban mothers’ worst dreams, Time Square circa 1980. Jockeying through the crowd and defunct escalator, one gasps for air outside the station entrance, where one sees Europa Bar, a gentleman’s club which may or may not be open for business, but still has a 2.5-star rating on Google maps. Options.
Norwegian air is considered an economy airline but I made amends with my overweight luggage costs by considering the costs simply part of my flight fee, which, although would not have been the cheapest, it would have still been cheaper than some airlines and with the luggage costs would have been part of other airlines’ fees also. The flight was on a 787 Boeing Dreamliner. Gorgeous plane; this was the first time I've ridden one. They didn't overlook any opportunity to remind the passengers of the features of the plane, which include blue LED lighting to be more relaxing, improved air circulation to reduce jet lag, and nine toilets, asymmetrically distributed through the cabin. The nearest to me was adjacent to the mast of the central seating row, on the starboard side. The most expedient way to get to the bathroom was to pass in front of the central row, between a wall and three passengers' feet. A British couple seated there had been complaining about another couple who sat in my row–who appeared to be a mid-50s gym-junky and his busty, exotic wife 15 years his junior. The gym-junkies kept accessing their luggage, which was stowed above the Brits. I had overheard the gym-junky apologizing at one point, and earlier I had suggested the husband go to the bathroom across the aisle when I saw him waiting to pass someone in my aisle who was waiting for the bathroom. About an hour into the flight I went to the bathroom, also passing in front of them. On my return, I found the woman slouching down, almost lying in her seat, with her toe against the wall, in what I would learn as an attempt to inhibit my passage. When I excused myself to pass, her husband said, "I'm sorry but you're not supposed to pass through here," and extended his foot also. Without pausing I simply stepped over both to of them and then asked of him, "Oh really?"
Being over international waters, and neither of them wearing a Norwegian airlines uniform, I wondered about their expectations in dictating my behavior, or expressing their disfavor in having people passing in front of them. I wonder if their tickets were more expensive and advertised greater leg room.
The notion that there is some set of international etiquette as best understood by the British is a lingering sentiment from the Age of the British empire. The sense that one is entitled firstly to free space in a (pseudo) public forum and second that one has the right to try to enforce it is a disposition that has a specific point in the matrices of self-value and self-righteousness. Another, different point, is feeling that one doesn't want to impede, doesn't belong, or prefers to accommodate. The element of assertion and attraction to confrontation is unique. Of course, the disposition to face opposition, look it in the face and step over it, is unique also.
I’ve been anticipating this trip for over a year and what I recall of the positive excitement has evaporated. Now I’m just tired and stressed, trying to recall how to get back to creativity. Is creativity the way to positivity or the other way around?
The mental image of this trip has shifted from being solo to Vanesa accompanying me to being single but her being in Spain to a few couple trips while in residence. Mental images–creating them, befriending them, carrying them, spending time with them takes energy; recreating one, or aborting one is exhausting. Most recently, I've been looking at this trip as a chance to escape the daily horror that is the United States since Trump has taken office. The last week was particularly intense. It began with my patron-saint, George Soros, receiving a bomb in the mail. On Wednesday, CNN, located two blocks from my office received a bomb. The whole week was tense. When the finally caught the guy and some repose was in order, a psychopath attacked and killed 11 people worshipping in a Pittsburgh synagogue, in the neighborhood of a coworker. So my escape to Graz is a much-needed pause from the calamity that is the United States.
In the last months, my preparations have shifted from familiarizing myself with basic A1.1 German to reading about colonial era waste management. Most of the literature is academic and dry, with the exception of Daniel DeFoe’s Journal of a Plague Year. What’s remarkable about DeFoe is that his book is both about the utopian idea of a city and the description of calamity. In addition to being a proponent of the narrative form, DeFoe’s work is distinct from the canon of European plague literature that is ripe with existential and religious skepticism.
Technically my preparation has included buying more filming equipment, as I'm imagining two forms of production: studio interviews and ambulatory footage. It seems a shame to travel across the world and not walk around a city. But certainly, I've overpacked, or perhaps I should have brought a bigger crew.
The last time I was in London Gatwick was following the inside advice of Bob Limbocker who told me it would be cheaper to get to Barcelona by first laying over in London and then taking a cheaper regional airline. That was my introduction to Ryanair and easyjet. I had not recalled any details from that leg of that journey but visiting it now, I recall the place.
London Gatwick doesn't seem to have a distinctly planned shape but rather extensions that mutated off of various passageways as a necessity arose. Labyrinthian would describe it if there were only one possible exit or entrance, instead all passages seem to egress.
The area for special needs–blind, aged, or immobile–is especially humane and impressive. Immediately upon seeing it I noticed how many people were in the airport who were coming from or going to the area, or who were relying on the signage and symbols that emanated from it. It was awe-inspiring and beautiful to see some types of persons that my city doesn't accommodate traveling internationally.
I will say only this of JFK airport: TSA is a terrorist disorganization. Pure chaos. Pure stress, served with an appetizer of boredom. Ocasio-Cortez talks about ICE needing to be abolished, but I vote for abolishing TSA first. Since 2002, this theater has been diligently seeking out the rudest, least friendly, least intelligent members of American society and given them a position of encumbrance. The systematic security passage and friendliness of London Gatwick makes JFK look like FEMA in an emergency situation. In the 17 years since 9/11, the English have created rolling, hand-powered conveyor belts that carry empty trays below a doubled-wide table that allows six people to undress or unpack their bags while a person waits behind them. Whichever person finishes first, can pass his tray behind the tray of the anterior person via a second rolling table, through the x-ray screening. I would estimate that are 20 of such stations, which are fed by a complex web of stanchion paths, which are administered by a team of five individuals, one who sends travelers down a pathway of 1 of 5 pathways, which terminate at a junction of four possible paths which are administered by another individual.
Vueling didn't charge me extra for my overweight luggage. Nor did they weigh my carry-on bag. The flight itself was about 10% occupied, although my row was fully occupied by two medium-sized, rotund Austrians. Of the 11 rows in front of me, four people were seated. But the two men who sat next to me were very courteous and well mannered, as one expects from Austrians.
Arriving to Vienna I picked up my luggage and noticed the City Express train selling tickets throughout the airport. Many airports offer this sort of privately operated transportation services targeted at tourists. They remind me of the children who beg for money from tourists in many city centers of poorer countries. Local travelers and those familiar with the city prefer to take the local transport; in Vienna that's OBB. I bought my ticket to Graz at the same time, for 39 euros.
We passed a cemetery with high, rock walls. I wondered if they are walling people in or out. A group of military men were getting into their cars, parked outside the cemetery gates.
There is a lot of graffiti along the train line corridors.
I got off at Rennweg and rolled my suitcase to my airbnb on Landstraßer Hauptstraße. My host sent me the combination for the key outside the door and I entered into the darkening passageway, not thinking to look for a light switch. The instructions were for apartment 10 on the first floor, but I forgot that the ground floor is zero in Europe, until a neighbor pointed me up to the first floor. The apartment is palatial but sparse. Every door hinge cried for oil. The toilet, a typical German style, ventilated to the hallway entrance to the apartment. I presume if one forgets his keys he could wiggle through this window. There are three bedrooms in the apartment, each with a number over the door. There are three hundred reviews for this place, and I presume that all three rooms appear like mine: two single beds with red sheets, and lumpy pillow, a gray comforter, folded to fit, a green recliner with matching footrest, table and two chairs. Curtains.
I dropped my things, showered and walked out to see the neighborhood. I learned that there was an U Bahn station only three blocks from the apartment, while my OBB station was almost 15 minutes walking. I found a T Mobile store, which was closed prior to termination of business hours, at which point I learned today was a holiday, All Saints Day.
The streets were quiet. No business was playing music. Only restaurants and bars were open. People whispered on the sidewalk. No honking. It was tranquil. A horse and carriage passed down the street; above it were Christmas lights hanging, waiting to turned on. My hunger hadn't caught up to the new schedule, so I decided to go to bed at 8 pm.