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Girly Gamertags Are Just Gamertags.
Holy Shit Our plane just landed back in Cleveland a little while ago. Businessmen and tourists have the luxury of West to East jet-lag that allows them the magical feeling of being in the future when they get home. We were not afforded such pleasures. The last five days were so solidly packed with awesome that the artificial systems of time imposed upon the rest of the world no longer hold meaning to us. Our money is gone, our feet are blistered, our backs are crooked, our suitcases bursting with swag, and I can't be certain but I'm pretty sure we killed a man. At this point I don't know. It wouldn't surprise me. I have this general, haunting feeling that we've done horrible things that were drowned from our memories in an ocean of euphoric, unnatural joy. That's why I have to write this now. While I still have notes. Thursday - September 3rd - Plane juggling - Seattle - Fark People - The Madness Begins We sat in Cleveland Hopkins Airport watching a little boy race imaginary enemies with his own, empty stroller in front of terminal, waiting for the employees of American Airlines to clock in and start their work day. The boy's parents exchanged exhausted looks of encouragement that gave away the Dramamine and NyQuil in their carry-on luggage. A woman wearing a light Hawaiian shirt stood outside smoking a cigarette next to a sign saying she shouldn't. She would check her watch every few moments between unnecessarily long drags of nicotine and look back at the counter as though someone watching her passive-aggressive frustration would say to themselves "gee, that woman looks like she's in a hurry. We'd better get our asses out there. He seemed like he approved of whatever it read. Curious, I followed his example. The bag with our clothes was I didn't know if that was good or bad. I carefully unpacked a hoodie and put it on just in case. Good for me, I guess. Grandma was happily munching on some Werther's hard candy we picked up from Giant Eagle the night before. She handed me one and I immediately recognized how goddamn cliche we were. I almost choked on it. I walked to the smoker's area outside by the drop-off curb, annoyingly excited to be there. The TSA employees didn't return my disgustingly cheerful "good morning! I paced a little, smoking what was to be my last cigarette until Seattle and almost tripped over a girl wearing a Sbarro uniform hanging her head over a coffee looking sullen. Back inside, the United and Delta desks became active and lively. Our American Airlines desk at the end remained empty, and Hawaiian Shirt Lady looked as though she was going to pace even faster and more angrily lest they get off their fucking ass and get over there. Anything particular you don't want to miss in the city? PAX didn't start until Friday, so anything else was just groovy. Ever the overly-prepared dickhead, I produced a printout of the PAX schedule from a folder in my camera bag. But, being the overly prepared dickhead that I am, I gave her a big stack of papers from a different folder; the complete list and summaries from Penny Arcade of each panel with their time and theater. She leafed through it. Will we get to talk to him? That's why I printed them. People we hadn't realized were waiting near us appeared from nowhere, getting in line. There was no hurry. But standing there in line, every scenario I didn't want to imagine popped into my head. What if the zipper on the luggage breaks? What if the e-ticket number doesn't work and it doesn't show us? What if the shampoo bottle leaks through the grocery bag I wrapped it with and gets on our clothes? What if some Quebec Separatist with the same name as me found his way on a no-fly list? What if we took the wrong credit card? What if we fucking crash into Lake Erie? How long does that shit take exactly? He gave us our boarding passes and we made the long walk through security. Grandma has always tried to rush through getting her shoes off and putting her jacket in the plastic bins. She does it too quickly out of fear of appearing inattentive to the impatience of those behind us in line. Because of this, she almost trips herself getting it done. Wearing pajamas and a t-shirt with my hoodie and slippers in the bin, I strolled through that goddamn arch of doom practically daring it to beep. When Grandma walked through, it lit up like a police dog in a bodega. After two knee replacements and a recent heart bypass surgery where they stitched her up with piano wire and a staple gun, she tends to know the drill at airports. I waited for her public interrogation to end sitting on a bench eying my camera bag. Probably not a good idea to whip that out right now, I thought. We grabbed apple fritters and coffee and waited at the gate. Grandma noticed a youngish couple sitting by themselves playing two matching DS-Lites. I noticed them too. We didn't say anything to each other. Grandma and I didn't need to. Unfortunately, perhaps, we assumed others would be as privy to the subtleties of our nonverbal communications. It goes something like this: When we saw somebody we suspected of being on their way to PAX, we we both too much of a pussy to just ask. We both developed some kind of knowing stare that retrospectively probably came off as just creepy and weird. We would wait for eye contact, look down at the DS quickly, back up at their eyes, and wait- interrogatively, as if this motion was enough to ask in a single telepathic syllable: I suppose we expected such people to return a smile. From which we would return a nod. And they would return a nod. Then maybe a long distance fist-bump of acceptance and we would go our merry way. This did not happen. They sheepishly avoided eye-contact and whispered awkwardly and we slunked down into our seats and gazed upwards as though we were just admiring the ceiling the whole time. In clear weather at 30, feet, you can see the lights of Windsor and Detroit from the skies above Cleveland. Today was such a day. We followed the sunrise West to Chicago and landed at O'Hare International; the perfect rows of Illinois suburbs all pointing to the skyline in the distance. American Eagle is American Airlines regional service, so it was a relatively tiny plane that shook and creaked when the landing gear moved beneath us. Like magic, the sun rose for the second time that morning. We were exactly an hour away from Chicago by air, so it made sense, but it was weird seeing it happen. Seeing the orange sunlight bounce off the freshly waxed floors in the terminals casting strange shadows onto everything reminded me of the scene in Blade Runner when Deckard first meets Rachael in Tyrell's office. It also reminded me just how goddamn geeky my brain is sometimes. Without anything cool too look at, Grandma started reading her book: Robin Cook's Foreign Body. I started Reading mine: Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. I had read it before, but it was a good read for travel. I have no idea why Grandma chose her particular paperback. They got off the plane and disappeared into a parking garage. They were replaced, however, by two more DS people. They sat close, so I skipped the nonverbal banter and just came right out with it. Grandma bought us some McDonald's breakfast and we wolfed down a couple McMuffins, which were neither Scottish nor muffins, and boarded the plane to Seattle. They fed us Coca Cola and ice and we watched the earth spin below us in various checkered shades of brown. The Badlands appeared and just as quickly faded back into boring ranches. If there was a screaming baby on that plane, I wouldn't have known it. Our focus was on the hazy horizon, looking for the first signs of Montana mountains. Black rivers sat quietly between impressive hills and peaks, reflecting the sky back at us. Brown hills turned into green hills and we were in Idaho for a moment or two. Western Washington reminded me of New Mexico or Colorado with circular irrigation patterns and empty space. Just before the green returned, the clouds took over. We would see nothing until the airport. Our first look at the Pacific Northwest was a line of conifers in every direction around the tarmac.
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