In the heart of Air World

A four hour layover at Heathrow would knock the enthusiam out of a televangelist. Being of Anglo/Celtic descent, I feel a genetic bond to the doughy middle-aged faces on British Airways, that slightly deranged, broken nosed, shaved head-butting boyo look that indicated past excesses on the rugby pitch or time spent terrorizing the continent as a soccer hooligan.

The pod seating thing that BA businessclass has going is totally creepy, with privacy screens erected to keep the bad dentistry of the bloke in 10D out of one’s own bleary face. The airlines have to fire Recaro, the Italian bucket seat designer, and do away with the modular pod thing that is absolutely useless to anyone over 6 feet tall. I’d prefer to lie on the rug and curl into the fetal position. Dude to my left looked like Gordon Gekko, right down to the blue shirt with the white collar and cuffs and the pound of vaseline in his hair. He spent the first half of the flight trying to barter for a pair of duty-free Bang & Olufsen ear buds for his iPod with the purser arguing that the price was the price and the 777 was not the Dirt Market.

Heathrow — grey, tubular, about three degrees too warm on a classic English morning where the sky looks like a stewed sweatshirt — is one of the singularly depressing travel experiences. Aside from the multicultural paegant of Asians, Africans, Sub-continentals, and other colonial descendants packing their villages into the overhead compartments, aside from the peevishly quaint terminology (Border Control, the Luddington Suite), the atrocious pub/breakfasts in the concourses, there is the oasis of the British Airways Lounge, a sort of hipster purgatory with genuine Oliver Twist porridge, unlimited espresso, and gangs of gesticulating Russian businessmen who bellow and drink white wine at 9 am.

Settling in is a ritual. Plug in the notebook, boot up, read a book while that happens, look at the Blackberry, charge that, set the clocks on the PC and phone, get a coffee, get some food, take off the blazer, reassure self that wallet, passport and ticket are in place, find wireless, curse wireless pain-in-the-ass effect, look out at the grey landscape of tarmac, English suburbs, highways, wait for PC to finish booting … read email. Wish you hadn’t. Write an aimless blog post. Wish you hadn’t. Think about taking a shower but wonder how weird that will be but how great it will feel.

Three more hours till I board for Bangalore — nine hours then onwards to the Hotel Ista where I intend to eat a dosa for breakfast.

Tokyo arrival

{insert usual travel rant here]

Made it to Tokyo. Lots of street security (G8 meeting is happening to the north). Hotel gym is demented. Has one of those butt-shaker strap machines like the Jetson’s used. No weights. No erg.  Brought my jump rope. Just punished myself for 14 hours of limbo and feel good about it.

Two, not one, but two crying babies adjacent to me. So no sleep, or what sleep occurred was nightmarish.

Other than that — this time yesterday I was sitting in my mom’s backyard eating ribs, now I am in Japan thinking noodles.

Cellphone does not work. So this will be a Skypish trip when I can get connected.

Tokyo in the morning …

I am in a semi-state of packedness — the killer these days is shoes. Now that I am the workout monster I feel compelled to fly with my trail running/gym shoes and have to ram a pair of loafers into my duffel bag (I never check a bag, I refuse to use a wheeled sarcophagus). And I am old and wise enough to anticipate forgetting something.

The big thing is the laptop sleeve and insuring it’s four little pouches contain:

  • Laptop
  • iPod and headphones
  • sleeping pills
  • ear plugs
  • contact lens case and wetting solution

That’s all I need for inflight amenities. The other big need is books. Inflight reading this time will be Landing Page Optimization by Tim Ash (a good book and relatively up to date) and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Mirakami (at the suggestion of my son Eliot, and a book underway long before Tokyo came into focus).

I downloaded a Maria Callas rendition of Tosca from the early 50s, I think it is a very classic performance from Rome on BMI. Anyway, waiting for iTunes to download it, then will synch it onto the iPod.

My drill is to settle in, shoes off, noise-cancelling headphones plugged into the music, read and eat for a couple hours, then get up, stretch, perform my ablutions, pop out the contact, stick in the earplugs (with the headphones over it, unplugged but on and cancelling the engine noise), take the pill, blanket, pillow, seatbelt loose as possible around the outside of the blanket ….

Then 12 hours of restless limbo — never sleeping because I am exactly two inches longer than the allotted space, but not motivated enough to clear out my inbox and arrange my desktop icons into some clever shape ….

I’m taking the little point-and-shoot Canon, so no big honking Nikon shots, I just can’t abide hauling that such a long distance only to spend most of the time in my backpack in a conference room. So, some blogging from Tokyo, hopefully more fruitful than my last expedition there in September 2006.

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