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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Trip: Introduction

On our family's trip to America, I didn't miss home one bit. I didn't miss Willy and Fudgie too much, though I worried about them, and the same goes for the Gamecube. I didn't even miss my computer, actually. The one thing I missed was my screensaver.

Normally I wouldn't have a screensaver. It's not like I need one, especially since I turn my monitor off every time I walk away from it. But practicality has nothing to do with this. Only a little bit before we left, I got a screensaver called Electric Sheep. It's sort of an ever-changing medley of abstract animations, only prettier than that sounds. Most people see something pretty, they say "That's nice." and move on. But I can sit and watch Electric Sheep for hours. I don't know why- I just like looking at pretty things. The little artistic moments are what I live for.

The last time I'd seen Electric Sheep was the day before we left Israel. I was sitting and staring at my screen, and the rest of the family was running around frantically preparing. "What's to prepare?", I said. "Clothes!", my parents yelled at me. I packed clothes, a bunch of Game Boy games -------
Super Mario Bros., Metroid: Zero Mission, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
(with Final Fantasy Tactics Advance still in my Game Boy), and what little American money I had. Then I took a large portion of our DVD collection to watch in the car. And I had all I needed.

After saying goodbye to my friends on the Adventure Gamers forum and locking my computer, all I had left to do was set up the Gamecube for the neighbors. I was hoping (in vain, as it would turn out) that it would be used for more than Mario Party, and I figured whoever wanted to play Beyond Good & Evil or Pikmin should at least have good-quality stereo sound (which our TV, with its poor-quality mono speaker, couldn't provide). So I set up the speakers from my computer by the TV. Now, I didn't want anyone to adjust the volume on the speakers because the left speaker has a tendency to stop working when you do. So I had to make sure it was on just the right level, in the interest of being a good host. And that was all the excuse I needed to once again wander around in Metroid Prime for a few hours. (I was ready for the trip already.) It was good to be back in Tallon IV.

Though I went to bed early, the rest of my family was still running around and yelling outside my door. I fell asleep as soon as they all shut up. I woke up again at around one or so, too nervous to get back to sleep. So I went downstairs and paced around, thinking about the trip. I wasn't too eager to see my extended family at the bar mitzvah- people I hadn't seen in around ten years and probably wouldn't see again in just about as long. My cousins themselves? It's not like we ever had anything to talk about. Come to think of it, I wasn't even anxious to see my siblings: Miriam had started the trip two weeks early by flying to Florida, and the house had been more peaceful without her. And Benjy had lived in Boston for so long it was hard to believe we'd ever been related.

But I was excited to be seeing my grandparents' house again. I really missed that house.

And then I just paced around some more, imagining a trip taken with some sort of strange computer worn on the head. (By this point I really should have been back in bed.) And I composed myself a little folk song to go with that concept. -------
Moving forward on a random route, I'm thinkin',
This is what life's all about-
Just one man in the wild, on his own.
Moving onwards in any direction,
With a wireless internet connection--
A little man and his home.
I didn't like it even as I made it up, but it had a catchy tune which I couldn't get out of my head. Finally I went back to sleep.

My alarm woke me up early that morning. I turned it off, put on some clothes, and sat on the floor waiting for my brain to boot up. Then I sat downstairs 'til it was okay to play piano. Well, I had to wait a little longer actually. See, my mother was davening, and she said it was okay with her if I played. So I did. But then my father walked in, and got furious at my inconsideration. It was such a ridiculous argument, but that's what my father does under pressure- he demonstrates that he is in control of the situation. For instance, once my mother finished she asked how they'd follow the news from Israel while we were away. He said: "We won't turn on the radio or talk politics- we're going on vacation! We're going to have fun! Even you!"

I figured by that point it would be okay to play piano. I had just come up with a new musical theme (nothing special, but sort of pretty) in the time it took him to walk Fudgie, and I wanted to develop it a little. But my father still wouldn't let me play, even though I was literally ready to walk out the door. "We're taking suitcases now. Help take the suitcases." I took a suitcase, and he still wouldn't let me play. I guess he wanted to control for himself the pace we took in leaving, and my leisurely attitude didn't fit with that. Or maybe it was just the volume (above pianissimo) he objected to. I waited for the taxi.

The cab driver talked a lot as we drove, which was interesting to me. It must be a boring job to drive from place to place, I thought. People only see you as "the cab driver". But inside the car, he's no less a person than his passengers. No, it's not a particularly profound thought, but you take what you can get when you're nervous and tired! So he talked about politics, and of course my parents talked about politics. When we got to the airport, the lady doing security ("Has anyone given you anything since you packed your bags?) was similarly outgoing, making lots of smalltalk with my parents as she checked our passports.

I hadn't been in Ben-Gurion airport since it was redesigned- and I was blown away! The ceiling in the hall you enter from is fairly transparent, so that the room seems twice as big as it really is. So I remembered that the last time I was there, it had seemed much smaller. Then there's this gorgeous waiting area, with a waterfall in the center of the room and stores circling around it. What amazing architecture!

The flight was not bad, or at least as close to "not bad" as a flight of that length can be. My father had bought me a new Mad magazine when we were in the airport (just to be nice), apparently not realizing how far the quality had fallen since the good ol' days when he was subscribed. It was trash from cover to cover- phony humor calculated by marketers to as large a target audience as possible. Oh well. I watched a movie, and played for hours in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. And that still left lots of hours of waiting.

The longer you wait, the less meaning the passage of time seems to have. After a while, sitting in that plane in that cramped seat seemed like my whole existence. It was a long flight. Someday, I reminded myself roughly twenty times in all, there would be nearly instantaneous transportation, and we could make trips like this all the time! And then I'd look at the walls of the plane sadly. And wait.

Somehow, I reached the end of the flight (Strange.), and we walked into JFK airport. And the whole building was gray in 90-degree angles! "What terrible architecture!", I said. So my mother responded that it just looked like a bureaucracy. And so it did. I would have payed more notice to the strange (to me, at least) accents people were using if they were using them for anything other than rehearsed business talk. And I would have noticed how they looked, if they weren't standing quite so straight in their places as if they were pillars the building was standing on.

Oy vey!, I thought. I've entered the accursed land of practicality!



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