Monday, April 2, 2001

Well, today I left for COMDEX. Had to drive to Baltimore-Washington Airport and leave my truck in the parking garage, an expensive mistake.

My plane taxi’ed out to the runway just as evening was giving the watch over to night. It took us a little while to reach the runway, then….

I hope I never tire of the thrill of take-off. Feeling the surge of raw power beneath you, and knowing that you are about to defy the technology of a thousand generations, who said that it is impossible for man to fly. Your back presses into the cushion of your seat, and your ears pop, and you can feel yourself tipping back, and back, and back…and you’re airborne. Actually in the air, with nothing beneath you.

I looked down, and the magic of flight overpowered me. Streets and houses blurred into spiderwebs of light, soaked with rain and glistening. Soon they became like butterflies, spread out and pinned down so that we could appreciate the intricate patterns of neon and flourescent lighting.

Chicago from the air (click for a larger, detailed view)

Then the clouds shouldered their way into my view, partially blocking the ground from my sight. But I happened to glance up. Oh, how with that one glance, my disappointment was shattered like thin glass. I looked up, and I saw space.

We’ve all looked up at the stars on a warm summer night and, with our mouths hanging open, amazed ourselves with the thought that that’s space. I was not feeling that sort of awe.

I sensed, deep within my soul, the nearness of it. Space — our last frontier — was right there. I recognized the cliche even as I thought that I could almost reach out and touch space. It was close. So immediate.

The plane ride was successful, with no major mishap. Though as I was reading the time from my new pocketwatch (for, perhaps, the twentieth time that evening), my fingers slipped and the watch fell underneath my seat. We had just landed and the “Fasten Seat Belts” sign was still on, so I had to fidget in silence for a few minutes before being allowed to throw off my seat belt and hurl myself under the seat. Fortunately, I retrieved the watch without problem.

An underground tunnel at O’Hare

The same, from further down the tunnel

I exited O’Hare airport (leaving through a tunnel bedecked in pulsating waves of neon and shifting electronic notes), grabbed a taxi, and soon found myself in the Essex Inn of Chicago, a much larger place than one might expect from its name. I noted a lobby placard proclaiming shuttle service to COMDEX, and went to my room.

My room

The beds

The lovely artwork

The room was perfectly serviceable; somewhat battered, but clean and well-stocked. After taking a shower — which, as expected, calmed my nerves — I called home, then watched a bit of TV. The only notable thing I caught was the last few minutes of an episode of The Big O, which is certainly arresting, if quite odd. Then I turned the lights off, forced myself to follow my routine for sleep, and dropped off into the land of slumber.

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