Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Environmental death metal band

I’m listening to U2 – Achtung Baby right now, but I’m not entirely sure why. I guess it seemed like good music to have in the player while this beautiful, sunny day poured through the open windows and I stood in front of the stove, only wearing a pair of levis and too lazy to put on a shirt, making grilled cheese sandwiches. U2, and this album specifically, remind me heavily of my ex-girlfriend Tanya. I was very anti-U2 during the relationship, and even more when we split. But two years later, after I moved to Seattle, I gave the album a try and discovered that it was like a time capsule of memories about her. Even though I never listened to the songs with her, the words made me look back and re-examine a lot of our time together and find a lot of missing pieces and hidden messages. Maybe I’m insane, but it reminded me so much of her. It also reminds me of the summer of 1992, the year before we dated. That’s partially because that’s when all of the singles and videos were getting spit from the Island Records marketing machine to saturate the airwaves. But it’s also because my friend Meg kept setting her process name to “Achtung Baby” and because the sounds just seem to work for that period of time. If I ever made a Hollywood movie out of Summer Rain, the song “Acrobat” would be on the soundtrack. And no Puff Daddy remixes.

Last night, I saw this environmental death metal band called R.I.P. on the public access channel. It was pretty cool – they were sort of a thrashier version of something like Rotting Christ, but not as well-honed yet, and they all wore corpsepaint or other King Diamond-like makeup, with costumes and stage props and everything. The show was sort of like an infomercial, where they talked to the band, then showed live footage and these videos. They sang about the destruction of the Earth (I believe their album was called “Save Mother Earth or Die With It”) and mixed live footage with video of polluted factories, clear-cutting, Cheronobyl, polluted waters, etc. It was all very rough and not totally professional, but it was very entertaining and unique. At the end of the stage show, the lead singer took out a prop knife and slit the throats of all of the members, and then himself, and they all fell over and were bleeding all over the place. I’d like to find out more, but searching for R.I.P. on the web would generate a billion hits.

I’ve been sort of sick for the last few days. It’s not horrible, just the start of a cold and I’ve been doing every remedy possible to get it to subside before Thursday. I’m eating vitamin A, ecinacea, zinc, goldenseal and other vitamins by the pound, and drinking gallons of water. I’m not getting worse, but it’s still there. I stayed home on Friday to sleep and take it easy, and that helped. I didn’t do much yesterday, and today looks like it will be more of the same.

My new way to eat up my time and keep my brain busy until Marie arrives this Thursday has been Halberstam’s most excellent book on the 50s. I read this book when I took Murray Sperber’s class on youth culture in the 50s and 60s in the spring of 95 (by far the best class I took in college) and now I’m crawling through it again. It’s 800 pages, and I figure if I mentally race myself into trying to finish it by the time she’s here, I will relieve some of the nervousness and get totally involved in the Korean War, the birth of fast food, Harley Earl’s giant-finned cars, and everything else. But don’t let Newt Gingrich fool you – the fifties were terrible. They were full of labor disputed, inequality, brainwashing, racism, conformity, and governmental atrocity. That’s why the Republicans want them back.

I guess I haven’t written in here for a bit, and I forgot to mention my flying trip on Thursday. This guy at work is a private pilot and is trying to get his hours up, so he invited me and another guy for a short day-trip in a small Cessna. I’ve been up with him once before, in a big loop around Seattle where I got to look around and see everything. This time, we went to Friday Harbor, which is in the San Juan Islands.

The trip started at Boeing Field, which is a huge airport, but it’s mostly for big cargo jets (UPS, Fedex, etc), corporate learjets, Boeing test planes, and private planes. You can’t catch a United flight to Chicago from here, just like you can’t land your Piper Cub at SeaTac (well, I guess you could, but it would cost a lot.) Me and Chris stood on the tarmac while Jon checked out the plane. I saw a Virgin airways jet take off about 100 yards away from me, which was an awesome sight – I thought it was going to rip all of the bones right of my body as it left. It’s cool to see all of the planes there – some rental businesses have rows and rows of identaical Cessnas tied down like soldiers in formation, and the next lot over, you’d see all of a TV station’s news choppers. On the other side, a big DC-10 getting loaded up would sit there, and a Boeing test 747 would be across the way, maybe getting worked on to try out some new electrical fix or something. It’s a very odd and disparate situation.

The plane checked out, and we had to pull it to the taxiway, which is sort of funny. The plane weighs about the same as my Rabbit, and even with 40 gallons of fuel and 3 adults, it probably weighs less than the average bone-dry and empty sedan. The interior of the plane is about the same size as the Rabbit, but it has much better seats which make it a bit roomier. For the flight up, I took the back seat and gave Chris shotgun, and we agreed to switch on the way home. I had my camcorder with me, and wanted to get some good shots of the Seattle approach.

We all piled in, and Jon went through the last of the checklists before firing up the engine. I learned on my last trip that I’d never be able to fly a plane – there’s so much to remember and do. There’s the checklists, and the gauges, and the air traffic control stuff – I’d forget something and crash into a schoolyard full of kids or something. But Jon seems to be pretty good at it, and talked to the tower and got us all ready to go. While we waited, I saw a biplane land – it was red and looked exactly like the Red Baron’s plane, with open cockpits and everything.

Then it was our turn. We hurtled down the runway into the air very fast – it’s nothing like being in a 737 where they have to shuttle down thousands of feet of runway before they slowly rise. The Cessna bobbed right into the air, and reminded you of the tradeoff of such a small plane – it really shimmeys all over the place on takeoff. Maybe it was because I was in the back and had more of a fishtail effect, though. I had the camcorder out (you can use electronic devices during takeoff in this plane) and got the whole thing on tape, the skidmarked concrete falling away from us, and the surrounding Seattle turning into a model train diorama. I only wished I could’ve captured the headset audio onto tape – we all wore headsets with microphones so we could hear each other talk over the prop noise, and this also piped in the air traffic controllers and other planes. I haven’t watched my tape yet, but I imagine it’s just got prop noise in the background.

It’s weird and cool to see Seattle at 3000 feet. Our northbound course took is right through downtown and over Elliott bay, and I got a good view of my apartment on the way up. It’s the kind of height that’s damn high, but low enough that you can really see everything below you. I followed the landmarks on the way up – the UW, I-5, Northgate Mall, Fred Meyer in Lynnwood. Pretty soon, I ran out of familiar sights, and we were on our way to Everett. The plane cruised at about 100mph, so it only took a few minutes to get up there. We heard a lot of air traffic chatter, telling people to move to different headings and altitudes, because a group of 4 Navy jets were doing a ceremonial flyby somewhere in the area. I didn’t see them, though.

Pretty soon, we were over the islands and heading west. I had a map and followed along, but didn’t know any of the features on the ground, since I’d never been up there. It was beautiful though – some mist, but it only added to the incredible views of the Cascades and Mt. Baker – it made them more mysterious. I looked below – Chris said he thought he saw a whale, but all I could see were the ferries and the occasional boat. I didn’t film much of this, because I knew it would just look small and unmajestic on tape. But I did enjoy the show.

Before I knew it, we were making our approach in to Friday Harbor. Jon had to circle the plane around in some weird manuvers, and I got the whole thing on tape. There were many boats and ferries below, and we circled in to the airport. The touchdown happened fast, and we taxiied into the transient parking area. This airport was not much more than a single strip and some parking – there was no tower and no other dramatics. We pushed the plane into a spot, and hiked toward town.

The town was one of those very laid-back, touristy places – it reminded me a lot of Seaside, in Oregon, but much smaller and with less traffic. There wasn’t a lot there, but everything had to do with tourists – gift shops, restaurants, bed and breakfast places. And everything was CLEAN, like a Disney attraction. But it was cool, and I hope at some point Marie and I can catch a boat there and spend a weekend in a nice hotel or something. It looks like a good way to forget what’s going on, and it’s only like 100 miles away. We ate at the slowest fish and chips place in the world, but the food was okay and it was nice to just sit by the window and watch the beople go by. After eating, we took the grand tour of the city (i.e. walked around the block) and then headed back to the plane.

I had shotgun for the way back, and got the whole takeoff on film, which was cool. I also got to see some weird islands on the way back, with lots of very eclectic houses sitting on giant plots of land. This one house was built on maybe 25 acres of nothing, and sat on a giant artificial bluff that overlooked a huge manmade kidney-shaped lake. There were lots of light-aqua swimming pools shimmering in the sunlight, too. It made me wish I could’ve bought 50 acres there back in the seventies, so I could now sell half of it and use the money to build a mansion.

The ride back was also pretty quick, and I got more shots of Seattle on the way in. Landing was a little hairier, or at least there was a lot more chatter on the radio. The airport gets busy in the afternoon, and there are wake advisories after those big FedEx 757’s start hurtling in for the afternoon pickup. But we got back, touched down, and I made it back in time to go to work for a little bit. Overall, a very cool trip.

I guess I’ve been babbling for a while – it’s time to either get some cleaning done or leave the house for a bit…