Awaking before the sun lit the sky I knew I was in for a long day.
A day better suited for the likes of John Candy in my mother's favorite 'Planes Trains and Automobiles' fraught with the aforementioned, several time zones and what I can only imagine to be a cacophony of calories only sourced from places like airports and train depots.
Tightly swaddled in my freshly purchased fur lined leggings and delicately mixing it with every pattern and color scheme known to man, I was ready. I was ready to hit the road for what was bound to be yet another adventure, another chapter in my already schizophrenic memoir.
Or was I?
With personal tragedy comes lots of introspection and already possessing and over-sized cranium that works harder than the North Pole in Winter introspection, speculation and preponderance have pretty much over taken my life.
Some big decisions have been made and some big changes lay in wait, leaving me a month in South East Asia with a couple pair of leggings, some beat to shit Converse, my camera and the time and space to figure out who I am without the person who made me.
I've contemplated teaching English in Costa Rica, priced out a ticket to take me 'round the world in a whole lot more than 80 days and considered moving to a number of domestic locations, most romantically New Orleans.
And this is where I landed, 1,000 pound bag on my back and my homeless chic attire in full bloom. Passport in hand and nothing but uncertainty as far as the eye can see.
An easy check in at ANA Airlines, a nickname from a dear friend, seems to be to be a good sign and free Halloween candy at the counter solidifies my suspicion.
And with a fun sized Milky Way in my breast pocket, I'm off. Off on the sort of flight bursting at the seems with people who so clearly look nothing like me, or me like them and who say things like 'thank you for your cooperation' when my inquiry into the procurement of hot tea is met with a disappointing no - as tea is saved for a later point in my 20 hour flight. I can only imagine this is more of a cultural 'lost in translation' than actual gratitude for me not throwing a full blown air fit.
One of my most favorite things about international flights is not the actual silverware or mandatory blanket and pillow but the extensive supply of current American movie titles I never got a chance to see but had accumulated on my mental 'gotta see at some point' list.
After watching a teen tearjerker about kids with cancer and not so much as a heavy mist in my big brown eyes I begin to flip through the options and seeing 'Taken 2' available in Japanese, Portuguese and English I burst into tears.
That is the funny thing about grief. That is the funny thing about loving someone despite the fact no longer at home reading, or working, or writing a report due on Monday, but gone. Gone completely. Gone in a way that can't be altered or adjusted or negotiated in any way. The kind of gone you just simply have to deal with it. And that is the kind of gone that elicits waterworks at the mere glimpse of a bad action sequel because your dad was, and will always be your own personal action hero.
10 minutes into the newly released film 'Dead Poets Society' and I can already tell Liam Neeson may have been the more prudent choice for an emotional woman like myself...
As I look out at the Japanese landscape during our decent I can't help but think back to my only other experience in Asia. Last year, en route to Vietnam I had a layover in China. Not one to get excited over much past the occasional 'Nsync concert in my teenage years I had a 'holy shit I am in China moment' and have a clear visual of calling my dad from the airport to share this rare wonderment. Wheels down in Tokyo evokes a similar sentiment and I cannot help but think the man that shared my experience via Face Time nearly a year ago will now only share experiences, like this one, in a small metal vessel tucked securely into my carry on and set for trips around the world. Life is so bitter sweet.
Bitter when you realize the love of your life is gone. Sweet when you discover a woman in her 60s seated across the aisle from you is dressed like a member of the lollipop guild sans any dash of irony, and ones faith in humanity is restored.
I wanted to be offended when I deboarded and the kind air hostesses switched immediately from their native tongue to thickly accented English. A 5'7" white girl with a Michael Jackson sweatshirt on is bound to stand out, at least a little, after all, I am in the Far East.
An extended layover in the Narita airport, offset by ramen and Instagram and the final 6 hour leg of my flight begins, through most of which I sleep. That is until those tiny paper immigration cards that seem awfully antiquated to somehow protect homeland security are handed out and I am able to look around the plane a bit.
A man in line boarding mentioned all the 'Westerners' but I saw no chaps and spurs , heard no John Wayne impersonations,so I thought little of it. Now, as I sit here with the haze of awkward travel slumber hanging heavy over me I see Westerners really means while people and, as is the case here, old white people.
I knew Thailand had become a popular destination for those recently retired and ready to turn it up on a pre-booked tour and for the kids sporting shiny new North Face backpacks who chose a location 'safe' enough to have daddy bankroll their senior spring break abroad, but man - there are a lot of white people on this plane. Sam Jackson should make a sequel ...
Once safely on the ground in Bangkok I am not only met with the thick humidity that pulls at my pant legs as I traipse through the nighttime air, but also with my travel mate for the week, a woman part family, part friend, too complicated to explain but too amazing not to love.
She has taken advantage of my voyage and tagged along for the first week to get a taste of the Orient, and the hostel life. We will she if she survives either...
Happy Birthday, Dad.