Calgary to Dallas to Santiago
There is something unspeakably beautiful about the patterns agriculture makes across the prairie. The caramel checker board, some squares dusted with snow, some betraying the whorls of better harvest days. And these statements of human dominion over the land falter and break up as they approach the line of the Rocky Mountains to the east. They are like cake ice shattered into chaos in the foothills, useless against the slow force of wave after wave of igneous peaks that ride off the edge of the horizon.
The woman next to me has the window and I realize I'm leering past her to see out. She asks what I do and I tell her that I am I bowling ball salesman.
“Well, not just bowling balls. I sell all sorts of bowling supplies to lanes all across North America. Those shoes you rent when you go bowling, those are mine. And what do you do,” I ask to be polite and balance the conversation.
“I'm a U.S. Air Marshal,” she says. I don't believe her for a minute. She's not packing, at least not that I can see. And she's wearing what I would think is too much make up and perfume for a marshal. Deep purple highlights sweep up from her eyes to her brow like hummingbird wings.
“Is it rewarding work?” she asks. “I mean, do you like it?”
I have found over the years that there are all kinds of ways to conduct small talk on planes, buses and other confined spaces. I could say I'm a poet but that usually makes people squirm and be quiet. It's like saying “I'm a proctologist.” Where do you go after that? Most people are so intimidated by the very idea of poetry that they immediately shrivel at the thought of it the way a Saudi inmate might shrivel at a dripping tap or the sound of a tazer. I'm quite certain that poetry has been used to torture people in high schools across North America. Why else would it inspire such fear?
I could also say that I teach English at a small university on Vancouver Island but then they might want to talk about it and, well, as much as I love my job, it's not always so interesting for me to talk about it. “I better be careful with my grammar then, eh? Nudge nudge.” “That's right. Don't dangle any modifiers in front of me or I'm liable to bite.” Har. Har.
So instead, I make things up and see where they take me.
Except when we get to Dallas and step off the plane, I follow the herd of passengers while she veers off and passes through a door that says “Security Only”. I've never found the friendly skies so It's quite unbelievable.
Santiago from San Cristibal