39,000 FEET ABOVE FORT DODGE, IOWA – December 2000 – It’s midnight, and I’m high above the Great Plains on a flight to see my family in Michigan. I can see the ground covered in snow from here… a white blanket broken up by squiggling rivers. I can see cities and towns below me… beautiful, lonely patchworks of sodium light on a white canvas, in the dark. The glow of the laptop reflects off the walls of our Boeing 767, while the TV monitor built into my seat flashes maps of our location, headwind, groundspeed, and estimated arrival time. An MP3 of a DJ Shadow song loops over noise-cancelling headphones while I write this in the dark, high above snowy Iowa. Another week of hard travelling. Another itinerary changed many times over, and more endless hauling my 90 lbs of computer/luggage from vehicle to vehicle, taxi to bus, jet to concourse, subway to Metroliner. Elevators, escalators, terminals, platforms, taxi stands. LA to Atlanta to Paris to Hamburg to New York to Cincinnati to New York to LA, a “normal” itinerary for me. How many taxi trunks have I put my luggage into and taken out of in the last month? I can’t count anymore. I am tired.
My body is utterly confused by the constant, unending jumps between timezones, the seeming shifting forward and backward in time. Memories of the past few weeks flash in and out: Grand Rapids at night from the 29th floor; the bar at the Tribeca Grand Hotel; the Air France business lounge at Charles De Gaulle; a Dublin shop; the Crown Room in Atlanta Hartsfield; a bed-and-breakfast in Surrey; a Best Western at JFK; the Embassy Suites in Covington, Kentucky; BMW headquarters in New Jersey; the Cliffs of Moher on Ireland’s western coast; carrying my luggage to Penn Station; a smoke-filled club in Germany; a meeting in White Plains; a rented movie with my children in Cincinnati; Russians arguing on the Tube from Victoria Station to Heathrow; and halting conversations with Hamburg taxi drivers (was ist der schnellst weg zu das flughaben, bitte?) I need a break. My brain has generated an overflow error.
Most people would think that this lifestyle would be exciting. But despite my love of travel, I feel very much like a rag in a dog’s mouth. On the way to Grand Rapids, I had a layover in Minneapolis. As soon as I got out of the plane and onto the jetway, the rush of 10-degree air hit my lungs and all I could think of was, ahhh, cold air, snow and real trees, I MISS this! And it made me remember that past life in wintry Michigan when I came home at 6pm, played with my dog, fed my kids, shoveled my driveway, and wrote music. That alternate, parallel universe that I’ve been thrust from, now completely alien.
The Economist and the Financial Times shout reports of earnings warnings, ousted chairmen and an impending global recession. Alan Greenspan tries to soften the blow of the US economy’s “soft landing.” And magazines scream about “another dot-com failure.” What do the next few months hold in store for me, a weary dot-com road warrior struggling to provide “shareholder value”?
A cloud bank obscures Nebraska, now below me, and I close Microsoft Word, recline the seat, set RealJukebox to “loop”, close my eyes and try not to think about it.