WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?!? They mysteriously appear in the middle of the “At a Rave with Nicolas Sarkozy” video (0:42 through 0:48 here) and we have no idea who they are but want to take them out for a beer. Get in touch if you know them, fellow Berlin expat weirdos.
When you almost die, everything looks like the afterlife for a few hours.
The tranquil scene in this photograph is Ben Gurion Airport Central Garden, which sits awkwardly between two otherwise-graceless parking garages and ramp knots leading away from Terminal 3. (See the tour bus?) It was my first experience of outdoor Israel, and according to academic journal Landscape Architecture this was a lucky coincidence as, they claim, the garden is a topological microcosm which “well expresses the landscape of Israel without political references.” Interesting, in retrospect, that I totally missed the symbolism of the slanted terrain and the subtle graded vegetation. Interesting that I just wanted to be around trees. Despite the roar of wide-body jets and the unnerving presence of well-armed security troops, it gave my arrival a soft space in which to throw down my freshly-screened backpack and let it bake in the blinding sun while I collapsed into a pile of inert limbs on a bench in front of an olive tree and felt tingly and buzzed at the slightest stimulus, enraptured in the biophilic stillness. I gulped in air, I drank in the blue of the sky. 120 minutes earlier, at Mach 0.8 somewhere over Poland or Hungary or the Czech Republic, the 737 I flew in on came about 500 yards away from hitting another plane head-on.
I’ve learned since the incident that aviation close calls are relatively common, as near-disasters go. And at the time, true to its nature, the danger felt routine and remote. We were in the cruise phase of flight, clear air, level attitude, constant velocity, the steady deep rush of orderly wind. I was reading the dumb in flight magazine when the pilot began making announcements about the weather in Tel Aviv. Bored, I idly happened to glance out of the window and calmly witnessed near-death.
Any pilot will verify that determining distance of another aircraft visually with any accuracy is impossible so I should probably shy away from saying things like “500 yards,” but I know this: the other plane was traveling September 11th fast, it was some sort of large commercial aircraft, it was close enough to hear the deep rumble of its engines, and our flight paths were so nearly intersecting that the other plane’s contrail, which looks like one solid thin line to us on the ground, was two thick, wide plumes. And it was turning away from us, hard.
This also-ran disaster was horrifying in its calmness, its non-violence. Death, were it to come that way, would be quick, first utterly silent and then instantaneously deafening and obliterating, and entirely without warning. Like a switch. But death did not come; we didn’t even alter our course other than a slight altitude change.
Not many people noticed, but a few made muffled sounds of surprise as we flew directly under the plane’s contrail. The captain on the PA fell silent for a few seconds, then started into his spiel again in a muted monotone, clearly horrified but not wanting to display any panic to the passengers. He finished quickly, and I never learned another thing about the incident — whether or not it was actually a near miss or just looked like one, for example. The disconcerting fact was that the emotional temperature in the plane, in that sealed pencil-thin sliver of civilization eight miles above the Earth, alone and tenuous in a void of fierce gusts and UV-rays and coldness, was unchanged. Even if we almost hit another plane, the fact that we didn’t, that we continued to exist in our calm, slightly-cramped comfort, was all that mattered. We were allowed to be oblivious to the danger inches from our faces as we leaned against the face oil smudged windows to nap, more worried about getting a coffee or getting jumped in the queue for the bathroom than about taking another breath. We were at every moment seconds away from an environment that would instantly and simultaneously asphyxiate us, rupture our eardrums, freeze us to death, and burst the blood vessels in our eyes, but no one thought about this glaring truth. That other plane could have missed us by millimeters and no one would care. The incredible fact of our survival at 35,000 feet going nearly the speed of sound into a high-altitude headwind was a mundane miracle, even to me, someone who’d seen the other plane with my own eyes.
I went back to reading my in-flight magazine and eventually dozed off. But, as I often do on planes, I dreamt of plane crashes, and woke with a start several times. I looked around me and felt the confines of the space, its smallness, its insufficiency to support the lives of the 100-200 humans on board for more than a day or two at most. This high-velocity outpost of civilization screaming through the stratosphere was tenuous and fragile, protected not by any armor or support but by motion, made stable by speed alone. I felt convinced that we all almost died the entire flight, and when we arrived in Tel Aviv every scent and color came through with vivid, life-affirming clarity. The universe I live in today narrowing avoided crossing streams with one in which I died in a plane crash over Poland, came within a few tenths of a degree on a pilot’s navigational instrument, a few seconds of reaction time. Even if this event were a routine near-miss, it would still be true that life should not exist up there, the odds are astronomically against it, but we survive the journey. We have routinized the miraculous.
So when we landed at Ben Gurion I wasn’t thinking of Hamas rockets that could take us out or the IAF fighter jets patrolling the skies over the besieged, beleaguered residents of the occupied territories. On approach I could see down the calm coast for miles as we landed, probably all the way to the port and the beaches just west of Gaza City where a truce was, for the moment, preventing bombs from raining down death on innocents and militants alike, and as we taxied to the gate after landing I took passing notice of a distinctly military-looking installation in the middle of the airfield — perhaps radar, perhaps Iron Dome-related, certainly not standard issue runway equipment. But none of this touched me. My consciousness was fixed on how blue the sky was, and how the dry semi-desert sand surrounded the airfield, and how warm the air felt on my face. All I could think about was the fact that we were alive.
Anyone want to see my morning workout routine? It involves an abandoned airport, a backward-flying papier mache dragon, an accidental collision with some guy carrying an accordion, and an invisible cameo from Nicolas Sarkozy. Shot on three duct-taped-together smartphones by Mouca. More info here: http://www.brooklynvegan.com/archives/2014/09/emperor_x_relea.html
RECORD RELEASE SHOW TOMORROW!
SAT.20.SEPT, DONAUSTRASSE 115
DOORS 8:32 PM
W/ MUTE SWIMMER
AND FREE APPLE COBBLER (NOT A BAND, THE ACTUAL DESSERT)
The second victim of the random script was Tyler Bussey of Portland, Oregon, so along with his vinyl copy of The Orlando Sentinel he’ll be getting a test pressing and this unintentionally-diagonal attempt at rendering block capitals in a grid with a pen and a neon orange highlighter.
As I mentioned yesterday, we didn’t press very many and we’re probably going to run out at some point soonish so if you want to be sure you’ll get a copy, grab it now! emperorx.bandcamp.com/album/vinyl-edition-the-orlando-sentinel-lp
The random script hit Julie Dill, so along with her vinyl copy of The Orlando Sentinel she’ll be getting a test pressing and this tortured attempt at drawing block letters in a straight line with a pen and a neon orange highlighter.
We didn’t press very many and we’re probably going to run out at some point soonish so if you want to be sure you’ll get a copy, grab it now! emperorx.bandcamp.com/album/vinyl-edition-the-orlando-sentinel-lp
TOMORROW — EASTERN END OF TEMPELHOF RUNWAY 09R (that’s the southermost runway, near the intersection of Leinestrasse and Oderstrasse) 19:00 UHR — the first four volunteers get two free Sternies.
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- “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
- “Backpacking is the art of knowing what not to take.”— Sheridan Anderson | Baron Von Mabel’s Backpacking, 1980 (via kesendirian)