I suppose this as good as any a way to begin.
I'm on a plane again. To Japan. Again. People are beginning to board; I was one of the first, after much confusion, and so I can see them as they enter and find their seats. Mostly Asian, though not necessarily Japanese. The man next to me is headed to China, to a city that sounds to my ears like “Talien.” From Tokyo he flies to Beijing, then to Dalien. Sixteen hours total, so I guess I won't be complaining about my own flight.
No one looks their best in an airport. Some combination of light and grim exhaustion, I think. Not many youths on this plane, mostly oddly-dressed middle-aged ladies and businessman who constantly apologize to each other. There's a cute girl two rows ahead of me whom I noticed earlier in the airport. She's wearing a baggy hoodie; the combination of hip-hop fashion and Japanese girls has always appealed to me. Another young Japanese guy I noticed in the airport was wearing a bulky Adidas hoodie, white with small green Adidas logos tiling it. He walked down the aisle later with his hood up and is head down, looking oddly stiff. I noticed there was a tear rolling down his nose after a moment.
Our plane has two aisles, which I enjoy. I rarely ride in planes with two aisles, and they remind me of visits to England when I was a kid. The trip to England was bad enough; the return trip was interminable, and the last two hours were excruciating.
They're ready to depart now, so my laptop has to go. More later.
I'm off. It's 3:31 p.m. Johnny is setting up the bar right now. Traffic is getting bad, if it's not already. I stared hard at Minneapolis's skyline from the plane window thinking thoughts like this, trying to frame some kind of goodbye. There are never really any definitive goodbyes and hellos in my life. The lines are blurred. It's one, then it's the other, and somehow the transition was never really noticeable. I couldn't really comprehend that I was leaving Minneapolis, couldn't conceive of any other posible place I could be, and when I'm in Tokyo Minneapolis will be a myth, too. Something you scare misbehaving foreigners with: “If you're bad you'll have to go back to Minneapolis...”
We flew over Edina on the way northwest to the Pacific. I suddenly realized I recognized my neighborhood. Seeing cars on the highway near my house reminded me of the hellish traffic I've slogged through in the past week while luggung possessions to Edina. Subways were never as appealing as when I was stuck in gridlock two blocks away from my house on Como Avenue. I feel sorry for everyone who will have to deal with the aftermath of the 35W collapse until the end of 2008. Lakes were choked with algae so they were a cloudy metallic green. Boats carved Lake Minnetonka into spirals. That was goodbye enough, I guess.
I have escaped. I refused to believe, even this morning, that I was going to Tokyo. I've had this sense that the city would refuse to let go of its own. Even on the plane, I thought, Minneapolis would reach up its hand and snatch me out of the cabin seconds after lift off. I would land in the dust, bruised and winded for my hubris. But no, I'm out. In the clear lakes below me I can see white clouds reflected, and blue skies beyond; the choppy lakes sparkle like TV static. I'm on a plane to Tokyo, which is going to sparkle even brighter and crazier. The hand of the Orient lifts me now, snatching me from Minneapolis and whisking me to strange new lands.