Below me the flat plain of ice drops away into jagged hills

Duri Price

I’m looking out the plane window at an icefield, presumably Greenland or someplace in far NE Canada.

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A woman asks me to close my window so that the other people on the flight can enjoy the in-flight movie, a Mel Gibson thing. I tell her that on any day of the week I could rent this movie, but will likely never see this land again with my own eyes. If I have to listen to the movie, they can share my sight.

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The ‘10’ in DC-10 apparently refers to the cubic footage that each person has been allocated for the flight. Or perhaps it’s the number of inches from hip to the seat in front of you. The seats have been removed from an old Gremlin, and are just wide enough that if I don’t breath deeply I won’t elbow the nice portly man to my right in the head.

As we sat down in the seats and listened to the clank-clank-clank of the chains being drawn across ourlaps and passed through the iron hoops along the length of the plane, I begain to have concerns for my comfort on the flight. A small child scampers across the backs of a line of seats as the fat woman from three rows back comes trundling up to yell at her. Another child is sharing his/her/its opinion of every knob and control he/she/it can get at on or near the seat.

The woman in front of me, who is about 5’3, has decided that she wants to lower her seat until her head is in my lap. As I scrunch up sideways to avoid hyperextending my legs I end up hitting the back of her seat. This is not suprising; in anything other than a fetal position her seat pins me in place like a medieval torture device. But each time bump her seat she stops and glares back at me, apparently convinced that I’m trying to feel her up through the fabric.

My fellow travelers giggle or guffaw to the antics of Mel while children climb into the cockpit and toss the pilot bodily into the aisle. The woman in front of me takes offense at my attempt at breath and decides to demonstrate her seat leverage by pulling the hydrulic lever that actually raises her seat up and brings it down on my knees. I retaliate (purely in self defense) by bellowing a Klingon war cry and slamming the back of her seat so hard her dentures fly out and embed themselves in the bulkhead several rows forward….

So as I was asking earlier; how often to any of us truely head off for Stange Lands (aside from Texas or North Carolina) without need, without a true plan, without a absolutely defined endpoint?

Ok, so you’re saying the reason we don’t do this is because all the other monkeys who did this never came back. They were eaten by dingos somewhere in the Outback or in Queens, and the last anyone ever heard of them was an impassioned plea for some kibble. But that isn’t really the answer.

I have a couch. I’m  proud of that couch. Something about buying furniture, real furniture made to be furniture in the first place, defines a point in our lives that says comfort. I have a motorcycle. It’s a studly motorcycle that is useful for many things related to motorcycling, is reliable, is fuel effecient, and costs more to repair than the space shuttle.

Where was I going with this?

Something about … oh, right. Anyway, I have a ‘life.’ Friends, places that I haunt, waitstaff that knows me by name and buys about every 5th item or meal for me, stomping grounds for dancing or flirting or drinking or doing nothing. I have the work scene fairly well dailed in, I have the means to make money if I need to, in small amounts or large.

And yeah, I’m pretty happy with all that.

I’ve been dirt poor. I mean -poor-, the kind of poor that gives me the creeps to think about nowadays, that meant that food was tuna and bread, rent was a close call each and every month, and every single thing that broke was another thing gone for the forseeable future with no chance of replacing or repairing it. Like watching parts of your life dying around you.

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It’s taken me ten years to make this trip. Some times I didn’t have the money, in all truth. But few times have I not had the means to scrounge enough for a round trip ticket and a little bit of cash at the end. Other times I had what anounted to heaping, stinking gobs of money. Ok, so in reality this wasn’t as much as you’d think. THAT money went to the couch, the bike, etc. But those items are assets that represent money, and can be liquidated.

When I didn’t have much money I wasn’t willing to throw all to the winds and spend what I had leaping across an ocean into the relative unknown. Which probably wasn’t entirely dim on my part, since having $200 in Europe and no work might be a bit risky. When I did have the money I also tended to have the job, and sometimes the girlfriend, and the couch, the bike, the lease.

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When I was poor I was afriad to make a leap because I was afriad I’d lose what I had left, afriad that what came next was worse, just afraid. When I was ‘rich’ I was holding on to how I got there. Couldn’t let the job go, couldn’t place myself voluntarily into a position where I would have no suport. Even when I joined NOAA it was calculated to allow me to survive if nothing else without further fancy footwork.

My credit is a wreck. Being poor in Eugene, despite my best and worst efforts, pretty much put paid to that for the foreseeable future. When I brought myself back from that wreckage it was a difficult and frustrating experience. But eventually I had a good apartment, I had my bike, my couch….

I can almost see what I’m afraid of when I’m poor.

And with poverty and fear as a alternative, I can also see what I fear when I’m ‘rich.’

How many of you, if you found yourselves selling your backpack in Chicago O’Hare for $20 to get something to eat until you could get home, could not count on someone giving you a place to stay for a little while, could not expect that one way or another you could get back on your feet as long as you remebered your own strength and forgot your pride?

What are we all so afriad of?

Is it the couch?

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I can fall back on the computer industry, sure. Anyone on this list want to be a messman or a deckhand on a boat? Waitress? Bouncer, constuction worker, cook, retail git, student? We can all do one or more of those, no question.

I keep thinking that if I was going to be poor again, maybe it there are better ways to do it than sitting in my apartment, watching my life die.

© Duri Price, All Rights Reserved