Monday, February 23, 2009

It's Lovely Up Here

It seems hardly possible that only 24 hours ago I was sitting in the terminal at JFK waiting to board. It feels oh so much longer. I have never been able to sleep well on a plane. Comfort (unless traveling in first or business) is impossible, especially if there is a language barrier between yourself and most of the people on board the plane. I am exhausted, to say the least (as I check the time stamp, it says February 23, 2009 @ 11:22PM, however I'm actually fourteen hours ahead of my own blog).

I settled into my window seat for the beginning of my odyssey that will culminate in Baguio City. I normally enjoy the window seat, but only if I'm traveling with people and therefore am less inclined to feel awkward about having to get up to walk around or use the facilities. Adding to this, my seat partners were an elderly special assistance couple over whom I had to climb in order to get to my seat. They were lovely. We only briefly exchanged words once in a while, but it was mostly an unspoken camaraderie. It was an entirely different perspective being on board an Asian-based aircraft where I was, as my half Vietnamese friend Anh put it, the minority.

Settling into the flight, I was eager with anticipation and excitement. No matter the circumstances, I have always loved flying. Everything about the experience has been nothing short of pleasant for me. There is an anticipation in slowly moving toward the runway that overwhelms me. The anticipation builds as the plane accelerates and within seconds there is that brief moment when you are first airborne. You realize you are starting to move higher and higher than anything else in existence.

The last time I flew was four years ago on a trip with my parents to the Changi airport in Singapore. That trip took us across the Atlantic to Frankfurt, then onto our final destination. This trip last night marked the first time I have flown around the North Pole to go anywhere.

After settling in, we were served what the airline deemed a "heavy snack" and then asked to close our window shades. I decided to check out the inflight entertainment. There wasn't much to consider, so I watched the recent Ghost Town which was rather pleasant (and correct me if I'm wrong SarahB, did they film it in your neighborhood?) especially because of the hilarious antics of Ricky Gervais. The film is about an irritable dentist who accidentally dies during a routine colonoscopy and wakes up to find he can see and hear dead people. They want him to help them wrap up unfinished business so they can move on. He is not so cooperative. Greg Kinnear plays a recently deceased man who wants him to help his widow, the lovely Tea Leoni move on with her life, but not marry a total scuzzball like himself (a hilariously heroic Bill Campbell). Among the sightings were the always-dependable Dana Ivey, Alan Ruck, Aaron Tveit, Brad Oscar as a put-upon doorman, Brian d'Arcy James as an excitable dead Irishman, Claire Lautier as an exceedlingly chatty patient (with an unexpectedly profound place in the story), and in a blink and you'll miss it, Broadway couple Lisa Datz and Jimmy Ludwig in a bar scene. (Ludwig, who I had the privilege of meeting after Spamalot through a mutual friend, was one of two standbys in Spamalot, covering for the Historian, Not Dead Fred, Patsy, Prince Herbert, Sir Bedevere, Sir Lancelot and Sir Robin). Another blink and you'll miss was Julia Murney as a Sneezy Lady (sneezing has a clever place in the script). It would be somewhat formulaic if it weren't for the freshness brought to the proceedings by Mr. Gervais, one of the funniest men in the world. Definitely worth checking out.

I failed to sleep after this. Getting an hour here, a few minutes there. Never finding comfort and trying to put myself to sleep in spite of the surroundings. Frustrated I gave up and decided to peek out of my window shade. And that, ladies and gentleman, offered one of the most breathtaking natural sights of the trip. We were near the North Pole at this point. I couldn't see anything below at all. There was some cloud cover and, let's face it, there would be no unnatural light sources in these parts. The sky was filled with the crystalline blaze of stars, yet there was also this eerie translucent glow. After a moment, I realized I was seeing the aurora borealis for the first time. There is something humbling about seeing something pure in our natural world.

After gaping for a few minutes, I tried to sleep again. When that failed, I hopped over to the classics channel on the inflight and watched the brilliant film adaptation of Julius Caesar for the first time. The film starred Marlon Brando as Marc Anthony, James Mason as Brutus and as a standout among giants, John Gielgud as Cassius. All three are just phenomenal. Brando wasn't quite thirty when he took on this role, but it's a powerhouse of a turn, especially when he delivers the stirring "Lend me thine ear" speech after Caesar's death. It's a rather superlative adaptation, produced by John Houseman and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. MGM pulled out the casting stops for this one with appearances by many of their best stock players. Louis Calhern is unexpectedly strong as the ill-fated title character. Edmond O'Brien was Casca. For the brief female cameos, they brought in Greer Garson, looking like a goddess as Calpurnia and Deborah Kerr as Portia. The film was a big success in 1953, with Oscar nominations for Best Picture (lost to From Here to Eternity), Best Actor - Marlon Brando (lost to William Holden in Stalag 17), Best Cinematography - Black & White (lost to From Here to Eternity), Best Score (losing to Lili), but winning for its Art Direction and Set Decoration. Truth be told, I didn't expect this film to be as effective as it was. Let me correct that: I didn't expect it to hold up as well in 2009. I am so glad to be pleasantly surprised.

I await my plane to the Philippines, relaxing (napping) in the airport lounge and taking advantage of all it has to offer (Thank you, Starbucks - and free wifi). I leave in six hours, so I will fill that time with some reading (napping). I will keep you posted on the next leg of this journey. By this time tomorrow I shall be in Baguio City with my family and baby nephew.

1 comment:

Esther said...

I haven't seen Ghost Town yet but I love Rickey Gervais. And I really love the original version of "The Office."