I returned yesterday from a business trip to Boston; the business part of it went very well, though I didn't get to see much of Boston—aside from some office space (albeit lovely office space) and what I could see from a moving car (it looks like a gorgeous city, and I hope to visit again soon).
On my flight from San Francisco to Boston, I got upgraded to the first-class cabin—I love first-class flying. It's so civilized. And when I'm in the first-class cabin, I don't have that self-conscious feeling that the people in the first-class cabin are looking down at me: "Look at that poor slob, sitting in economy. Why do they let people like that even fly?"
I never think that way when I'm in first-class--but I do sit up just a little bit straighter.
The passenger next to me on this flight was a charming older woman with a heavy Boston accent and a lot of coral jewelry. She drank four G&Ts and ate a great number of M&Ms ("I only eat candy in airplanes," she said) in the first couple of hours of the flight. We chatted sporadically about her daughter's marriage (failed for complicated reasons), San Francisco real estate (expensive, but living in the City is probably worth it), and our mutual enjoyment of the TV show True Blood. Then she watched the in-flight film, Iron Man 2, which she deemed "garbage but OK for a plane."
I felt we were kindred spirits—not that I usually chit-chat on planes. In fact, I avoid talking to strangers. (Most strangers are, I'm sorry to say, not people I want to meet.)
But I do feel that being on a plane is an excuse to relax my life rules.
I love to travel, and I used to love flying. Being at an airport was exciting. But airport security has gotten so degrading and stupid, and air travel in general has gotten so crowded and humiliating, that airports now put me in a terrible mood. So I have two airplane rewards:
Reward 1: No matter what time it is, if I'm on an airplane, it's cocktail hour.
Now, of course, if I have work to do, I'll just sip a glass of wine. Or if it's morning, I'll see about a mimosa (curse United, which now serves champagne only on international flights). But if I'm on a plane, I get a grownup beverage. That's that.
Reward 2: I get to read books and magazines that will not make me a better person in any way.
Trashy pulp novels. Tabloid magazines. Celebrity biographies. I have so little time to read these days, that I feel guilty if what I'm reading isn't serious literature, somehow educational, or somehow good for my professional development. On planes, I read to escape (unless there's a good movie to escape with).
So here's what I read on my last three flights:
"Lips Unsealed," the new memoir by Belinda Carlisle: The Go-Go's lead singer had a serious drug problem, which this book documents in shocking detail; however, the book is also full of fun celebrity gossip (especially from the 1980s music scene) and lots of interesting stuff about the development of a major pop star. I recommend it as an excellent example of the genre.
"The Night Watch," a novel by Sarah Waters: OK, this might actually qualify as serious literature. But I love Waters so much that she must be bad for me. This was an amazing novel set in London during the Second World War, told backwards chronologically. It took my breath away.
"Eating the Dinosaur," a collection of essays by Chuck Klosterman: This qualifies as a guilty pleasure because I know what I'm going to get from Klosterman (he's preaching to the choir, with me)—these very funny essays raise mind-boggling questions about the nature of self, the nature of reality, and how technology and the media warp both (and perceptions of both). Did I mention they were funny?