Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fear of Flying

I flew back home to Utah today. It is easy to forget sometimes in the whirl of Manhattan life that I ever lived in such a place. Oh but I did, and happily too. It is probably the smiling simplicity of that suburban upbringing that lured me to my current 1950s home life away from the bright lights, big city. It is as friendly and mindless here as I remembered; a comforting slice of Americana in a post Invasion of the Body Snatchers world. Such a marked contrast from the gritty wonder of New York City.

I got to La Guardia at 5:15am for my 6:30am flight. As I had expected, I sailed through checking my bag and airport security to arrive at my gate twenty minutes after I parked the car. In the interim, I got to spend a seemingly endless period of time behind a complete douche bag. He was all slick hair and too much carry-on luggage, a Gordon Gekko direct from a Central Casting wet dream. When the first security lady told him to throw away his bottle of sparkling water he insisted haughtily that he would finish it before he got through the line. This was the first moment I hated him.

I ended up behind him at the metal detector which he set off three times. Of course he hadn’t even bothered to remove his wallet from his pocket because he was too busy chugging his water and patting himself on the back for being so awesome. As the second security lady sent him over to be wanded and searched, I wryly announced to her that it was probably his flashy $15,000 watch he had refused to remove that set off the alarm. But by then, I was just content to put on my shoes and hope that a hand search of his bag revealed a mountain of cocaine he could ski down right into a Federal prison somewhere.

Once on the plane, I settled into 10F with a fifty-something gay in the Gil Chesterton mold in 10D and no one sitting in the seat between us. I threw myself on the mercy of the open space, donned my sleeping mask and ear plugs and sacked out for the entire four hour flight to Dallas. Behind me, two teen sisters held a talking contest through the entire flight that ended in a tie when as the plane taxied into the gate they both called their father on separate phones to announce that they had arrived. As someone who talks for a living, I cherish now the moments where I don’t have to say anything. I wish everyone felt the same.

Our flight was late arriving in Dallas and I was convinced that even if I made my connection to Salt Lake City, I was certain my checked bag would not. Normally I don’t check a bag but ski pants and sweaters are bulky and it is impossible on a long winter weekend trip like this to travel with my usual lightness. Once again, I sacked out in my seat (this time on the aisle) and awoke two hours later as we touched down in a fog drenched valley in the heart of the Utah desert.

“This is the place.” And Utah is. For most of America it is a mysterious place filled with people who look like Donny and Marie, and that is largely true. To me, it is a swirl of childhood memories. Familiar local fast food places like Taco Time and Arctic Circle blend with the chaotic suburban sprawl of name-brand America. After a few years in New York, it is easy to forget there are still places where you can get a fast food burger for 89 cents and gas for less than three bucks. Although, I went to see Cloverfield this afternoon, and even with the old tyme ticket price of $5, I still felt like I overpaid.

I always come to visit this time of year to attend the Sundance Film Festival and spend some time with family. My Dad is an alpine legend who can practically ski uphill. He forgets quickly that I ski once a year and I don't have his physical dexterity or sense of balance. A single easy run under our belts, Dad insists on leaping immediately to a sheer cliff. Two years ago, I fell, sliding down the hill on my back head first, refusing to stop so I could try to catch the cell phone that had fallen out of my pocket and was sliding just ahead of me, just out of the reach of my outstretched hand.

My Dad and his wife used to live up in Park City, right in the heart of the Sundance action. But just before Sundance last year, my Dad sold his house and they moved to another McMansion down in the less glamorous Utah Valley. Not knowing what to expect food-wise when I got there, I decided to drop by the store first on my way in. I picked up a few essentials at the local supermarket. I went to a nearby Smith's, the store of my childhood and was horrified by how carefully it was structured to make people fat. I walked almost immediately into the beer and candy section and sorted through aisle after aisle of sugary snacks and gooey baked goods to find a handful of items that could pass as healthy.

Tomorrow I will venture off into the heart of the Festival and see more of my "people." The Hollywood types will be in full force, skipping over snow banks in their Eddie Bauer winter togs with the tags still hanging off them. I observed last year to Dennis Hensley's delight that Sundance is the place for C list celebrities to be treated like A list celebrities. I will hang out in the Queer Lounge and hob nob with the near famous in this 19th century mining town turned Hollywood back lot. The whole time I will cast an askance glance at their latte demands and silly attitudes, but I will be torn. In my heart I will always exist with one foot in each of these two distinct worlds. So a weekend visit to Utah this time of year is the perfect way for me to satisfy both sides of my personality at the same time, as for ten shorts days each year they occupy the same spectacular space.


nyc said...

I thought you would not be writing this week with your vacation and all. So, I was glad to see an entry in one of my favorite pleasures (not guilty at all)! I love your writing, and I listen to the show regularly. Good luck on the slopes!


Anonymous said...

I grew up in Salt Lake City too (and I'm not Mormon, thank you very much). Every Sunday, my parents would take us kids to Arctic Circle for Lime Rickeys. It was a slice of heaven for us. But really...thank God we moved to California; I would have hated it as a teenager.