30 October 2005

the journey home

Didn't sleep well. What with packing and all. Was awake and up when the wake-up call came at 4 AM. Left tip for the chambermaids. Was an uneventful ride to the airport. When I entered hotel lobby at 4:30 am, Fraser was already there and said that the taxi was outside. I got my passport from the night manager at Front Desk and we went. Gave Dejan 1100 din for fare + tip and Fraser gave more tip (+ 10€ to me for his portion of the fare).

Am still sneezing with itchy, stuffed nose. Don’t think it’s just from Jelena’s Marlboro cigs, but from the air itself—cold front that blew in yesterday. It’s not just me sneezing.

inside Aerodrom BeogradBoeing 737. The big suitcase is still heavy, slightly, at 24.4 kg but they didn’t care—their computer was down. Counter attendant had to get a neighbour to print check-in tags and boarding passes.

dawn over Beograd
again I’m leaving unexpected
this time more than last
what exactly I don’t know
ajvar in the jar is not complete
needs fresh garlic hot peppers more reduction
grandmother furniture commanding presence
more than a hug and kisses
in the end “safe travel” is hello
a new beginning a promise
today was a new tomorrow
now I’m flying northwest
and far further west into
my wild western Maritimes
NATO bombed bridges on the Danube
at Novi Sad still block the river
to all but the shallowest boats
attraction always speaks its own language
across logic and other constructed reasons
in the heart of today there is life
all of eastern Europe under a haze
Džo Fenster at 10 400 metres writing
with no small wonderment at change
too high to watch highway traffic
alp mountaintops island above cloud
rest of Austria underneath unseen
huts on ridges between mountains
no snow yet on near peaks
but far away gleams whitish light
off fresh snowfall or glaciers

Fraser Sutherland, our Russian writer lookalike, is mouth-open asleep in an aisle seat same row. That I were so slack-jawed, resting soundly. Scattered wind turbines visible far below. I gave it some effort and did drift . . . At 8:05 landing gear drops and we’re on final descent through cloud cover toward green below and orange-brown topped trees. We have ground fog.

Airbus A380 at FrankfurtThe super-Airbus, that flew and landed on its first commercial airport test flight yesterday @ Frankfurt, is still here. I took three digital pics from our shuttle bus as we passed behind and underneath its tail: Airbus A380.

“My” Air Can flight scheduled to leave on time. Saw that Fraser’s scheduled 11:10 Air Can to Toro has an estimated rescheduled 11:55 departure.

Foolishly, or generously, I found and bought a bottle of that incredible Ardbeg Islay single malt in a Frankfurt airport duty free store: 34€.

view from Gate B46-FrankfurtA380 is on the move—runway and taxiing manoeuvres—right now. Visible through this gate’s windows.

9:28 our 9:05 boarding is about begin: by age, “class,” and then, row. This time I’m in 14, in the front half or third. As suspected for a plane this big, an Airbus A330, seat F is in the middle middle. To my feeling, a seat where even sleep will be a challenge, and where I’ll need to keep my wings tucked close to my side for reduced contact in flight. Am only three rows behind ego class— whatever form of first and business class is in front of the partition. Estimated fast flight time of 7 h 20 m (7 h 45 m gate2gate) @ 37,000 ft. Montreal high: 16 C. I have six full view flat screen in my sight from this seat: feels close to having compound eyes.

I hate the middle cram; the fact there’s no music on this flight, just, so far, another american dream movie, The Longest Yard. Cons beating their guards in a televised football game and the cons on the field finding their lost. . . Sound in right channel only. No overhead lights. The screens are all too bright—wash out detail.

-57 C @ 37,000 ft. ETA 11:27. Still 3 h 53 min flight time. Gnd speed: 528 mph. I believe that I my total is only about 200 max—:more likely $180. I wasn’t really buying stuff.

3:44 Serbian time we’re south of Happy Valley-Goose Bay (43km away). Still have 1 h 45 m, 841 miles to go, -70 F, -56 C. It’s 9:44 in Mtl. Land at 11:40 local. [crazy mix of measuring systems and languages on A330 screens]

The man on my right is from Romania. Doesn’t seem to know but the fewest of words close to English or French and I’ve no Romanian.

11:03 abt ready to begin descent, to be @ gate @ 11:40 abt a ½ hour ahead of schedule. I wonder how Fraser fared?

Maybe it’s the season, woodsmoke and all, or maybe it’s too much bombing in the northern hemisphere, or something else, but there’s a haze here—not as much as in Serbia but it’s definitely here! The grass less green than in Frankfurt. The hardwoods have less green and/or less leaves.

Few questions at customs. Only what nature of business, “Book publishing,”and what commercial goods, “Laptop computer and book samples.”

2 hrs later: Allison & Will on this flight. Jerk buddy that I recognize from the Frankfurt flight is sitting in the seat before mine shoved the overhead closed that I’d just opened to put my laptop in. What an ass! Think it’s Billingsley across the aisle. The Ardbeg case is too tall for the bag to fit in a different overhead bin so it’s stowed under the seat in front. 1 h 20 min flight time. I have an outside wall that I can lean into.

“Clear skies. 14 C. Calm winds. It’s a nice day in Fredericton.”
—live message from the flight deck.

My ears have plugged from the propeller pressure. I sort of hear the right propeller but can no longer hear conversation. Left ear is emitting random squeals.


A change of footwear, helmet and gloves, the right pantleg clip, filled water bottle and I’m away for the seventh leg of today’s trip: taxi-plane-bus-plane-plane-taxi-bicycle. I feel slow, almost slogging through dusk. See the sunset reflecting on Nashwaak River waters but I’m biking under sodium arc lights overtop the trail before I get back to the Saint John River and peddle across the ex-trainbridge into downtown. My predawn Beograd to sunset Fredericton marathon is complete.

I have sausage rolls hot from the oven, olives, beer, sljivovica and a need for sleep. It is after midnight in Beograd. This is Broken Džo signing off.

T: grey
loc: Lufthansa flt 3409; Luftansa/Air Can 875, Gate 46 Trudeau Airport, Fredbed
temp: various: 6 C in Beograd; -71 outside 38,000 ft over Labrador, 15 C in Montréal
sound: security clearance, in flight nothing, The Longest Yard . . .

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