Cincinnati Kid

Its a long way from the cold wee dorf of Witten to the grand city of Cincinnati. I left at four in the morning. It was raining lightly.

The drive to Frankfurt flughaven was uneventful except for a momentary panic when I ran out of petrol just after Cologne. When you drive a tiny old Renault Twingo you come to expect catastrophe. Fortunately, it happened yards from a petrol station and I was able to push the vehicle the remaining distance. I had a few euros left so I filled up with petrol and performed my usual trick of lodging the car in a free car park a few kilometers from the airport. More doom approached when I thought that the bus wasn’t going to make the airport on time but it did with a few minutes to spare. I saved about forty euros and lost about ten years life span. European Airports are part of the general global conundrum. In my next life I am going for architect and have made a life plan to construct airports with some means of getting on the plane. It seems simple. Planes leave, planes arrive. You get on and you get off. How humanity reached the stage where that process bears a similarity to a blindfold game of simultaneous chess remains a mystery.

The interrogation at the Delta gates was a wonder. Armed with the memory of past bad experiences I had come with a selection of identification papers including pictures and phone numbers, addresses, telephone bills and a bunch of plastic from credit through medical to christmas cards. The guy let me in without so much as a white spot lamp and a good cop/bad cop routine. The previous encounters had ended with me saying ‘look, its a passport, its my passport, that awful picture is me and it entitles the bearer to pass the port’.

The flight was uneventful. The word ‘uneventful’ can conjure a number of images. In this case it means that failure to sleep meant I had to watch three edited films and a set of bland sitcoms for nine and a half hours. This was ameliorated by the usual proficient steward service and the first intimations that Americans are good people and their air hostesses are kind of cute. They are all older women in these long flights. it makes you speculate if there is a pecking order in this once glamorous activity or that it has been recognised for what is: Bus conductresses in the air. I listened to their soft drawl and began to think of Georgia.

If you have never been to the states before prepare yourself for the shocking revelation that you can detract an extra hour from your life on arrival. Filling out a green card and a customs paper can occupy only a fraction of that lost time. The rest is spent staring idly at the back of another emigrant’s neck while contemplating the chances of getting through the gate. Its the Great Escape in reverse. Will you be able to break in? Steve McQueen’s tennis ball is your only hope to relieve the boredom but there are no walls to bounce it off.

Digits and retinal pattern faithfully recorded you enter the airport foyer. We are only on orange alert apparently. Perhaps orange alert describes the profusion of flickering television screens which are clearing trying to make something convulse in your brain. They are supported by light effects from Starbucks and other shopping mall things.

Cincinnati airport was thankfully smaller than the metropolis at Atlanta. I was able to pick up a couple of tee shirts for ten dollars a go. Already I was profiting from the veteran travellers trick. You only need one pair of y’s and socks.

Travel light, buy all that shit when you arrive. I like the colour of the tee shirt and its bold proclamation that I was now the Cincinnati kid.

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