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October 24, 2004

World peace and pizza pie

You’d think that with all the traveling I do, I’d have come to terms with flying. Well, I haven’t. I hate it. I don’t like being batted around in the air like a kite. I don’t like the tiny spaces the airline allots each passenger. I don’t like hurling through the air at hundreds of mph in a metal tube. I can’t stand it. The skin on the back of my neck gets damp, my stomach curdles, I spend the time vaguely nauseated and uncomfortable. I’m not really afraid, I tell myself, and indeed, I’m not sitting there thinking, “I’m going to die” but I’m not exactly enjoying myself either. I’m happy for distractions when I fly, be they quality reading material, slightly out of date Steve Martin movies, drugs, or the person in the next seat.

The weather was very windy in Tucson and the plane was very small. The man who folded himself in to window seat was tall, well over six feet, and dressed in flipflops, linen pants, a dark blue blazer with gold buttons, and a Rasta colored knit cap. He was reading USA Today and looking out the window. As the plane took off, I folded my hands into Namaste, closed my eyes, and tried to keep breathing.

About ten minutes into our ascent, my neighbor jostled me with his elbow. I opened my eyes and looked at him, probably wearing my usual white-as-a-sheet take off face. He pointed out the window. I leaned forward to look. There was a rainbow to the right. I’ve never seen a rainbow from the air before – it was bright and clear. “Thank you!” I said, and I meant it. I went back to my in-air meditative cocoon. You know I didn’t get to stay there, right?

“Do you have any questions?” he asked.

“Um, no. Do I have a questioning look on my face? Do YOU have any questions?”

“It’s just that I have this book I keep with me and if you have questions, you can read the answers in it," he said.

“Is there anything in there on travel?” I asked as he handed me his copy of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet.

My neighbor, let’s call him Bill (because it’s too easy to give him some good hippie name like Sanskrit or Wheat Grass), travels with three books everywhere he goes. The Prophet, the Bible, and a third book which he showed me when I asked. It was a cheap paper bound number with an Egyptian eye and an Ankh on the cover. I opened it up to see a picture of a handsome, graying, African man in shiny purple robes with red, green, and yellow trim. “Wow, what a great looking guy,” I said, because he was.

The ice was broken. We started talking. Bill is a gardener/organic farmer. He’s been living at a place called The Tree of Life in Patagonia, Arizona. When he first mentioned Patagonia, I thought he meant South America, which led to an amusing misunderstanding. Once we cleared that up, I learned that The Tree of Life is founded by a guy name Gabriel Cousens who apparently is in Israel right now where he thinks he can fix the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. . “Gabriel says there’s a teaching that says it only takes 8000 people to create world peace and he thinks he’s one of them. Either that, or he’s there to get more money,” said Bill.

Gabriel espouses some combination of Essene, Jewish, and Aryuvedic teachings along with the observation of a raw food diet. “We got in trouble for growing watermelon; it’s too high in sugar. It’s a really hard diet to follow,” Bill told me. “Sometimes, when we know Gabriel is going to be gone for a while, we go in to town for pizza and beer.”

We talked about Hawaii, where Bill was thinking about starting a new farm, and northern California, where Bill’s wife is, and Seattle, where I live. We talked about how we both hate to fly and how Bill, who was on his way to Cabo San Lucas on a redeye, was planning to get thoroughly doped up on pot brownies before getting on that flight. We talked about surviving the coming chaos, which I just assumed was the November election, and about how much we both hated to fly. Pretty soon we were descending in to LA over massive sprawling suburbs, freeways, and shopping malls. Bill told me how he had to leave Arizona because his astrologer said it was too hot for him there.

When we landed I pulled my Rasta colored bag out of the overhead and set it on the seat next to Bill. “Nice bag,” he said. I laughed.

“I’ll bet there are 8000 people in LAX right now,” I said. “Maybe you could get some recruits.”

I was in LAX for about an hour. I looked for Bill in the line at the McDonald’s but I didn’t see him.


Here's the site for the Tree of Life, in case you think I made it up. Also, I've posted some pictures of Tucson on my site.

Posted by pam at October 24, 2004 07:38 PM | TrackBack
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Oh, God... I was afraid the punchline was going to be that he's voting for W. Great story Pam!

Posted by: jay on October 25, 2004 10:16 AM

So, to add to your fear of flying, my partner Mike was just on a flight to NYC where the feature film as The Day After Tomorrow!! Nothing like watching a movie with plane crashes and city that your going to visit is destroyed!!!! Now that's Travel at it best!!!

Posted by: jamie on October 25, 2004 01:07 PM
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