A Constant Stream of Black Tea

Part 1

Not to toot my own baritone, but I’m pretty well prepared for this trip. Consider exhibits A-F:

A) slip on shoes. A must for moving about the cabin and then getting back to your seat, taking your shoes off, and tucking in, like a young willow ptarmigan, to a rom com.

B) a book. In this case the The Unknown Teachings of Lao Tzu. Like the Tao Te Ching but with wonderful bits of irony. Makes fun of people who meditate. I meditate.

C) proper travel adapter. Cuz you gotta charge that phone.

D) Charles Schwab debit card. Get reimbursed for ATM fees all over the world.

E) layers. You don’t need a big parka for Scandinavia in November. You just need lots of layers.

F) An aisle seat. Because I like to get up to pee a lot, and also to hang out in the back of the plane, drink water, stretch my legs. And I don’t want to have to bug someone every time I do that.

There are other critical elements. An extra debit card, a credit card, a travel notice pre-set on my debit card, lodging for the first four nights already arranged. What a departure from my younger days, when I used to just show up at a given destination with zero plan at all. Lao Tzu said, “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” I know what he means by that. A good traveler takes delays in stride, uses them to his advantage. Say the plane is somehow delayed in Amsterdam. A good traveler uses the opportunity to sample some Dutch cuisine. The General would probably use it to roam the airport looking for women to talk to. The General is an insanely good traveler. I’ve never seen someone so patient, so eternally non-plussed.

Speaking of The General, I met him on the 9:40am ferry this morning. Ahhhh, the 9:40am ferry. Is there any better ferry? The traffic of the commuters is gone. The day is awake and bright. And it’s still early enough that you have the whole day in front of you. I think it might be my favorite ferry to take into Seattle.

We ply the waters of Puget Sound and the ferry is preternaturally quiet. People are lying down in the booths. There’s a slight din coming from two booths of travelers to my left. The odd outburst of laughter. This morning I got up at 7:30am and had two cups of black tea and some toast. Then, right before I left, I had some more toast, this time with butter and honey. One of my favorite foods. Black tea, toast with butter and honey. I finished packing, which mostly consisted of organizing all my shit from this weekend, surfboards, wetsuits, a tent that was still damp from the dew of La Push. Last night I went to Rite Aid to check out their noise-cancelling headphones, but they cost 50 bucks and supposedly aren’t that good. I’m going to make one last ditch effort at Bartell’s in Seattle, and then get on the light rail. Maybe a cheeky tea from Uwajimaya?

Not enough time.

The waters of Puget Sound are smooth and grey. A girl talks loudly on her cellphone and I look over and realize she was in my class in high school. I know her name but never really talked to her. The General is strangely quiet. He hasn’t said anything all ferry ride. I know he’s excited for the flight, though, and even for Norway, even though he calls the country “ass-backwards.” He means it in an endearing way, though. Norway is basically Sweden.

Last night I also revisited Book 5 of My Struggle a bit. Every time a place was mentioned I looked it up on my phone to see if I could find it. I’m going to be walking around the city a lot. Lots of cafes. Lots of writing. Lots of sitting by the water. Maybe a foray into nature. Lots of grocery stores. Lots of eating out at cheap places. And hopefully lots of meeting people. But how do you meet people? Especially when you don’t stay in hostels. I don’t really know. But I just have this feeling I will.

It’s like the other day when I was at Westport. If I feel pretty good about myself, at peace, then I tend to meet people. This guy named Rob came up to me and started talking to me. I think he thought I was some hot shot surfer.

“Rob,” I wanted to say, “I’m not good.”

But when I told him I’d surfed in New Zealand and Costa Rica and France and that I’d just gotten back from a surf trip to Mexico, he assumed I was a ripper. I didn’t really set him straight. I just enjoyed the conversation and his inquisitiveness. When he found out I like to write he said, “Ahhh, so the real passion comes out.” He urged me to continue writing. Sometimes it’s nice to have these moments of reinforcement.

We’re getting into Seattle now. The city is upon us. That ferry ride flew by. Now it’s time to get off and walk.

Part 2

Seatac International Airport. The S gates. A hot English breakfast tea with half and half and, an unexpected addition, raw acacia honey. Things are looking good. The flight doesn’t look that full, though it’s always hard to tell. I’m sitting at a different gate because most people feel the need to sit at their actual plane’s gate, which means it gets super crowded, when two gates down it’s completely empty. Philistines! I will never understand people. What tranquility prevails at gate S4, where I’m currently seated, and what chaos everywhere else.

I got my tea from Peet’s, which is kind of like a crappy version of Starbucks, which in itself is already pretty crappy. But it was cheap for an airport and the woman working there seemed kind. There’s a dude who looks Mexican walking around barking something in Japanese. The flight to Tokyo is just about to leave. It looked crowded. The enzymes from the acacia honey have just kicked in, instantly elevating my immune system to that of a snow leopard. Outside it’s sunny and it’s supposed to be sunny when I get to Bergen, too. I don’t know what I’m going to do the whole flight. I should probably buy some kind of novel. And I definitely should’ve gotten some decent headphones. But whatever, I’m pretty good at killing time. I’ll go to the bathroom multiple times, drink as much black tea as my organism allows provided they have black tea, and probably watch a couple terrible movies. Apparently Delta Basic Economy does include meals on longhaul international flights. This is definitely longhaul. And if you count The Netherlands as a country, it’s definitely international.

OK, nevermind, the flight looks crowded as all hell. Is it crowded? It’s so hard to tell with these large planes. We’re flying on an Airbus A330-300, 2-4-2, configuration. I’m flying in Delta One, where I’ll have a lie-flat bed, gourmet cuisine, and someone doting on me at all times. Oh, but I kid. I’m flying Basic Economy. I’m in the trenches. They might make me spend half the flight in the bathroom. They might make me go down below in a dog crate. The General is flying Delta One though of course. Hopefully I don’t have to walk by him when I board. I know he’ll try to trip me.

Speaking of The General, it’s about time to board, which means it’s time for one more bathroom break and then communing with the cognitive gods. Wait, am I going to Europe?

I’m going to Europe!

Part 3

Jackpot. Delta flight 142, you are kind to me. Ladies and gentleman we have reached our cruising altitude of 600,000 feet. Shortly we will be passing the moons of Jupiter and then making a brief pit stop on Neptune for snacks and stretching. Until then if we can do anything to make your flight more comfortable, don’t hesitate to let us know.

I’m on movie number two, which is About Time starring that English guy you’d recognize and also Rachel McAdams. I must say: I’m in love with Rachel McAdams. Like, actually in love. Which is a shame because, as far as I know, she doesn’t know who I am. I think she might also be betrothed, which is a real hiccup in our budding romance. Rachel McAdams is one of those people I’d marry without ever talking to. I assume we all have one or two these.

Things are peachy at the back of the plane. We just had dinner. I’m listening to meditation music and The General has come back to pay me a visit. Dinner was “chicken or pasta,” and I’m very glad I chose pasta. The pasta was delicious. I love airplane food. I have no idea why. But I love it. We also had a small salad, cheese and crackers, a bread roll with butter, and the coup de grace, a chocolate chip brownie. Then there were the multiple cups of black tea, one of which tasted suspiciously like coffee. My seat mate sounds like he might be Dutch. He’s currently sleeping. I’m loath to look at the flight map, but I imagine we’re somewhere over Baffin Island right now. Possibly Elsemere. It’s dark outside. It’s 1:40am in Amsterdam right now. The inflight wifi is working which means I can text friends on WhatsApp till my heart’s content. Though my heart is already pretty content. I’m going to Europe. I’m going to Norway. And right now, at this moment, I have the whole damn armrest to myself.

I am a sheikh.

I’m impressed by the guy sleeping next to me. How do you just pass out in the middle of the afternoon. I probably won’t be able to sleep on this flight because in Seattle it’s the middle of the day. I’m not bad at sleeping on flights, I just have to be tired. And I’m not tired in the least right now.

In the back of the plane there is an unlimited supply of Cheese-Its, cookies, Kit Kat bars, and water. The Cheese-Its are the only thing I can eat because they don’t have sugar. On my diet I’m not allowed to have sugar unless it’s offered to me, like when my mother asked if I wanted a cookie yesterday. This might sound like a weird system but actually it works perfectly. When I go into a grocery store I’m not allowed to buy anything with refined sugar in it. But if I’m in a social situation and someone says, “Should we get dessert?” I’m allowed to scream, “Hell yes!” We all have to find our own system when it comes to dieting. This is the one that works for me. I imagine it’s like this in all aspects of life. It’s called getting older.

If I could travel back in time right now to fix a wrong, or live a situation differently, what would I do? Well, I would probably relive all of my breakups (wouldn’t that be fun), and try to handle them in a more mature, healthy way. I’d avoid saying certain things that you can’t unsay. But mostly I’d just enjoy the shit out of certain moments. Isn’t it ironic that being able to travel back in time might just make you better at living in the present?

This is about the end of blogging for today. There’s not a whole lot to report. I’m sitting on a plane. I have to sit on it for about another six and a half hours. And then I get to get off the plane and go through Schengen Area customs, and then get on another flight to Norway.

This guy is hogging the shit out of this armrest.

Part 4???

Hey Jude plays in my headphones because I’ve just finished watching the movie Yesterday. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. But of course I almost cried. Of course I fell in love with the main actress, and the main actor for that matter. I thought I was done writing for the night but sometimes you just have to take out your phone, open up the notepad, and let those fingers flutter. The flight has gone by fast so far. They’ve been feeding us as if we were geese getting fattened up for fois gras. The flight attendants have been wonderful. A constant stream of black tea as well. I’ve watched three movies so far. We have less than three hours to go in this flight. Are longhaul flights actually really easy? I’d say I’ve just jinxed it but I know that would be a lie. Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Amsterdam. Bergen, Bergen, Bergen. A room in a flat on Danmarksplass, near where Karl Ove used to live. And tomorrow I check in and walk straight to the cafe he used to frequent, Cafe Opera. I’m trying to follow, almost literally, in his footsteps.

The General just came back to say hi.

“Mate, have you seen these Jason Bourne movies?”

“General, those are like 10 years old.”

“Fuck off. Seriously?”

“Yeah man. Those came out awhile ago.”

“Fuck me,” he says, and trails off. “How you holding up back here?”

“I’m good. How’s Business Class.”

“”S’alright. Can’t sleep. Been watching these Bourne movies. Makes me want to get a bunch of passports and just fuck off.”

I open my mouth to say something but he’s spotted something at the back of the plane and a minute later I hear a cackle from the flight attendant and one of The General’s trademark chortles.

“What are you doing back here in coach?” I hear the flight attendant say.

I can’t make out what The General replies but she laughs again.

So, I did end up booking a place for Friday night. It’s a hotel called Zander K. What a name. It’s right by the train station. Breakfast included. Looks chic. If there was wifi on this flight I might book my train to Oslo. I’m thinking of going to Sweden now, since I’ve never really been there. I went there once in 2012 but only spent one night in Stockholm. I also spent a few nights in Åland, which is basically Swedish, but it’s actually part of Finland. But everyone there speaks Swedish. I met a girl named Emma there who spoke flawless Finnish, Swedish, English, and I think German, and of course fell hopelessly in love. I remedied the situation by doing calisthenics in the hotel room.

My back is a little sore from sitting so long. In a little bit they should be along to serve us breakfast. If there is breakfast. I almost hope there isn’t, but actually definitely hope there is because it will be a nice distraction to make the time go by faster. I’ve switched to classical music. Right before leaving on this trip I sat down to play one last Chopin Nocturne. Chopin coming into my life over the past two years has been a blessing. I’m definitely one of those old cranks who thinks the best music was written a couple hundred years ago.

Right then, we’re just passing Iceland. When I post this it means I’m in the Amsterdam airport waiting for my flight to Bergen. When I post this it probably means I’m tired as shit because it’ll be bedtime in Seattle. When I post this it means I’ll be on European soil. Or at least European tile. Or possibly carpet.