The flight from Honolulu to JFK was nine and a half hours long. I am very susceptible to motion sickness (have been my whole life), but after years of bus riding I thought maybe I could handle a plane ride, which is far less jolty than a typical bus ride, so I didn’t take any motion sickness medication, ‘though I kept some on my person just in case.
An hour in, the plane hit some turbulence and although I didn’t have any queasiness, I wimped out and just took the pills. Better safe than spewing. There were no incidents. The medication makes me really dopey, though, which is why I’m trying not to need it.
I had an aisle seat (by request) and immediately told the hipster sitting next to me that he should feel free to get up as often as he wanted, and I would never consider it an inconvenience. I feel for the window seat people, being all blocked in with nowhere to go.
I was all kinds of prepared with stuff to keep me entertained, but my heart wasn’t into it. Once all the blessed distractions were through (snack service, beverage service, meal service, another beverage service, each right after the other), I mostly slept the unrestful sleep of the doped-up flier, which for me means about an hour at a time with thirty-minute wakeful breaks during which I stretched, strolled to the restroom, and imagined what everyone in Honolulu was up to.
I read a little and did the crossword puzzle in the in-flight magazine. There’s a guy who constructs a Hawaii-themed crossword puzzle for the one major Hawaii-based carrier. He’s been doing it for years and his puzzles aren’t very good. This one was especially lazy. His theme answers were pretty great but the fill was awful. I swear he had two forms of the same word in this grid, a huge no-no in the crossword universe.
I’m midway through ten books, but the two that get my focus lately are Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop (yes; I’m still reading it) and Roxanne Elden’s Adequate Yearly Progress. The latter is written by a former high-school teacher about high-school teachers. I read a review in the Washington Post (by the Post’s education writer) and was sucked in by the excerpt. This writer knows teachers, and really nails the heartbreaking absurdity of the job. I’ve highlighted passages where she describes stuff that just about any teacher will recognize immediately as true. It’s a lot of passages so far.
I was so dopey that it was hard to focus on the Fitzgerald book, but the Elden novel has short chapters and is a bit easier to read, so I mostly stuck to that.
We landed without incident at JFK, which I found to be pleasant, quiet, fascinating, and not at all what I expected. I was eager to get the rest of the way to Boston and catch a few Zs.
- What actor or actress would you like to see in a film genre he or she has never attempted?
Did anyone know Kristen Bell could sing before she was in Frozen? I didn’t. What an amazing surprise. It makes me wonder who else out there can sing but hasn’t done it in a movie yet. I think of the moment Ewan McGregor hit his first notes in Moulin Rouge (a movie I didn’t care much for) and how shocked I was. I want a moment like that, but of course I can’t think of an actor to name since how do I know who can sing among actors who haven’t sung yet? So I need to shift gears with this answer and say I would love (love!) to see Jack Black in a straight spy movie. I think it would be so great to see him as James Bond, actually. I think he’d be terrific. People are speaking about Bond as if the ink is already dry on Idris Elba as the next Bond, but somebody please consider Jack Black. I like the idea of Emily Blunt as Bond as well, and lately I’m hearing some public momentum for Henry Golding (from Crazy Rich Asians and A Simple Favor) as a possible Bond. He would look great in the part but I think he’d be kind of dull.
- When did you recently see something beautiful in an unexpected place?
I was wandering around in Boston a few blocks south of Fenway Park, and saw the building the Boston Symphony performs in. Yeah, it has its own buildings and its own performance space. When I become a billionaire from writing for a non-profit someday, I’m going to build something similar for the Honolulu Symphony because wow. Behind an administrative building I saw this mural featuring the likeness of Seiji Ozawa. It’s kind of cartoonish, but you know. It’s Seiji Ozawa. How many orchestra conductors in other cities could be put up on a wall like this where some shmoe from Honolulu might see it and recognize him or her? I’m sure I have a better answer but I can’t think of one right now.
- In what way is someone you really admire flawed?
The easy way to answer this question for just about anyone, I think, is to talk about parents. We admire our parents but they’re among the people we know best, so of course we’re aware of their flaws. I think I’ll stick to shallow waters and talk about Tony Kornheiser for a moment. His daily podcast is my favorite regular media consumption. He and his cohosts make me laugh regularly the way nobody else does. He’s smart and witty and capable, like good newswriters always are, of zeroing in on the real story within the story. However, he has a way of constructing a narrative (or, more often, a sub-narrative) that’s not exactly accurate, and he never budges from it despite evidence to the contrary, and he’ll go to them like favorite guitar licks in an improv band. It’s maddening, and it’s judgmental in a way I find disappointing.
- In what situation did you recently find yourself utterly out of your element?
I’m planning to go into detail about this later, as I get my thoughts about my recent trip down into words. The short version: in our breakout groups, our instructors gave us an assignment and I didn’t understand what it was. Write ____, they said, and I didn’t know what ____ was! It was kind of magical and frightening and terrific all at once. We had two and a half hours to write it, so I went to my room, took a half hour nap, then hit Google to see what the heck I was supposed to do. Everyone around me seemed to get right to work as soon as the assignment was given. It was humbling!
- What implement do you use in a manner unintended by its designer?
My version of making my bed each morning is to put my pillows, flat sheet, and blanket in a couple of Rubbermaid tubs, then laying a shower curtain liner over the fitted sheet in case any critters want to play on my bed while I’m out of the house. I’ve had a recurring problem with rats and I cannot stand the thought that they might be doing things on my sheets when I’m out. So yeah. Shower curtain liner is my new bed spread.