Saturday, June 27, 2009

Letter from Greece, Part 2 of 10

Day One: Departure, New York City

The outbound flight is overnight, just over eight hours—we will arrive at about nine o’clock in the morning. I take one Ambien before the dinner service. I’ve loaded my iPod with Woody Allen movies, and I stuff Vestal McIntyre’s new novel down into the seat pocket in front of me, plus three New Yorkers that I’ve let pile up. Kip gathers the small pillows and the blue and yellow blanket sealed in a plastic bag, and fixes himself against the window, soon asleep. The in-flight television has nine channels, each with a series of Greek television shows, or cheap copies of popular game shows, all of them seem to feature graying male singers, in tuxedos with slick-looking hair—Frank Sinatra meets Zorba the Greek crossed with Barry Manilow. The women in the TV audience are going wild. I can’t tell if the performances are from this year, or from thirty years ago. Old guys like this could never be pop stars in America.

Sleep never comes.

But I’m used to that.

I read, I watch the movies on the iPod, I stare into the blank screen. Hours pass. I drink a tiny, airplane food-sized bottle of red wine, remarkably good—I consider waking Kip so he can taste it. The man sitting in front of me has bad circulation, or restless leg syndrome, or unassailable boredom, and he takes to standing in the aisle for long periods of time, checking his pockets obsessively. For something he brought? For something he forgot? On the screen at the front of the cabin there’s a map of the world, shifting from far away to closer distances, following our tiny tin tube as it crosses the Atlantic, over the northern border of Spain, over the heel of Italy, and eventually to Athens.

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