the dot to give me a shot of morphine — that’s how physical — and I
look down at the glacier and the ice-ridged peaks that go on forever
behind it and say, Remember this remember this remember this the
next time you think it’s over because some man, or some hope, or
some life takes away instead of gives. Remember this and get on an
airplane, a small one if possible, because it always works.
once upon a tIme, I decided to take Ethan around the
world. It was probably an ill-advised decision. Let’s just say that
when I saw the e-mail to his third-most-important other girlfriend two weeks before we left, the one that said, Pam is dangling
this round-the-world trip like the proverbial carrot at the end of the
fishing pole, I wished I had my $14,700 back.
We went to Paris, Bangkok, Bhutan, Perth, Alice Springs, and
Sydney, and I suspect that, in reality, it was a pretty wretched trip,
the betrayals revealed, the breakup imminent. There was
likely some screaming and crying, no doubt tensions
But here is what I remember: the little boy pouring
himself a shower from a bucket in the labyrinthine canals
of Bangkok; the sign in a café window in Geraldton that
said, lost: kangaroo. beloved pet and dog’s best friend,
and a number to call should the kangaroo be discovered;
the middle-aged Italians singing “Happy Birthday” to me
on the airport bus at Uluru; Ethan’s smile, backlit by the
sun coming through hundreds of white prayer flags on
top of the Dochu La in Bhutan.
Also this pleasure: flying over the part of the globe I had
not flown over before. I had flown west to Asia, east to Europe and Africa, but everything east of Germany, everything
west of India, was in my imagination a big blank space.
The Thai Air 747 from Frankfurt to Bangkok traveled
mostly at night, but there was a nearly full moon, and
snow in the mountains. According to the computerized
route map, we would fly over Moldavia, Ukraine, Russia,
Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. I
stayed up all night while Ethan slept, knowing that though
life is long, and every time I get ten bucks ahead I go
somewhere, this was still the best view I would ever get of
many of these countries.
Afghanistan was mostly snow-covered treeless mountain ranges dotted with occasional flashes of red, possibly
infrared light. I am thirty-nine-thousand feet above a war,
I thought, the closest I have been in my lifetime.
These days Rick wonders (aloud) if I will ever grow up
enough to realize that everything I’m searching for on the
other side of the world I could find just as well at my own kitchen table.
Listen to Pam Houston read part of this piece aloud at
Transmission and Distribution
I’m tired of turning away from all this stuff
that keeps everything up & running —
all the prosaic pipes and conduit in the air that r. crumb
swore, once and for all, he had to draw,
if he was going to get the world right —
all the manic sprouts of wire ducting overhead,
lines crisscrossing a road from which someone’s
nike sneakers hang, the squat cylinders of transformers
humming substation canisters, ceramic insulators stacked like frisbees,
the lattice steel transmission towers of linden,
the flywheels of Weehawken, the benighted,
misunderstood industrial parks of new jersey,
all transit and hub and bad air.
I’m tired of the unfunny jokes flickering in television light.
I’m tired of the lyric disconnect between cattail and tamarisk,
a lone blackbird sitting there on a post,
and the screaming turbines of elizabeth,
the kilovoltage crackling in the air,
as you float beneath transmission lines on the delaware,
the line splaying forth like capillaries to the very last wire
leading down some inlet to a point by a river’s mouth
and the ocean, where someone is frying a flounder
on a stove, which may yet fuel a moment
of incandescence like the phosphorescent green
our footprints made tonight in the sand.