A Patriot Day Persepctive
photo of me was taken in August of 2001 right before 911. I was
vacationing in Spain. The flight was fine, thank you.
had hiked about a mile through the foothills of the Sierra Morena
sat under the shade of 100-year old oak trees and finished off
three bottles of Chardonnay. That’s when I realized that
it was time to put an end to a popular misconception — a
myth if you will.
is this: Air travel broadens your perspective.
the Spanish sun beat down on my spacious forehead, it occurred
to me that
air travel actually does the opposite. It limits your perspective.
Promoters of air travel assume that the passive act of standing
in line for hours, sleeping through a high risk flight, and checking
into an establishment with the seal of western culture, are somehow
meaningful experiences. Your point of destination is promised
to be chuck full of life fulfillment. But meaningful experiences
are much less dependent on the venue than they are on the performance.
Believe me, you don’t need a $250 a night room and a jetliner
belching out a tank of fuel to broaden your brain.
Think on this:
The pollution from a single 747 take-off is similar to setting
a gas station on fire and soaring on the thermals above the
smoke. This isn’t some harebrained analogy concocted by
a tree-hugger like Nathan Callahan. It comes from Dr. Cladio Parazolli,
a physicist for Boeing – the mother of air travel manufacturers.
Schmadio, you say. What’s a little gas station fire among friends?
That hacking cough a human statistic suffers because of the Freon,
Methyl Bromide, Dichloromethane, Carbon Tetrachloride, Benzene,
Trichloroethylene, Toluene, Tetrachloroethene, Ethylbenzene, Styrene,
Formaldehyde, Acetaldehyde, Acrolein; Acetone, Propinaldehyde,
Crotonaldehyde, Isobutylaldehyde, Methyl Ethyl Ketone, Vinyl Acetate,
Heptane (my favorite), Phenol, Phenanthrene, sulfuric acid, and
the always reliable carbon monoxide — all byproducts of
airline fuel — is a small consideration compared with flying
to an exotic destination far from home.
in the air above the smoke for now. Air travel, though it may
be limiting from the perspective of human survival, oxygenates
the air of sophisticated.
this for example: Repeat after me: “I got a flat tire.”
got a flat tire in Istanbul.”
See the difference?
inflation of space that air travel provides — the distance
between you and the place you call home.
exotic locale carries social gravitas. If you get herpes in
an adventure. If you get herpes in Bakersfield, it’s a joke — in
spite of the fact that folks from Bakersfield are way more exotic
than the Chinese. Have you ever listened Buck Owens?
not to say that travel in general is bad for you, only that it’s
become an enormously overrated activity. It may have broadened
the mind when we lived in rural communities and plowed fields.
But that’s when in the course of a day we saw our family
and maybe a couple of neighbors, tops. We all went to the same
church, shopped at the same store, and rose with the sun. Meeting
people from a strange land was a unique experience. Today, things
hometown is Irvine, California. Some people think it’s not exactly
the most diverse place in the world. In fact, most people think
it’s the kind of place you would desperately want to escape
by igniting a service station full of fuel. Not so. Five miles
to my west — in Santa Ana — 70% of the population
considers Spanish their native tongue. Another 5 miles away — in
Westminster — lives the largest Vietnamese population outside
of Vietnam. Two miles to the west — in Newport Beach — Saudi
princes cruise the bay. Three miles to the North — on the
Loma Ridge — mountain lions and other wildlife eke out a
meager existence. I can observe red-tailed hawks, Mormons, Buddists,
Humvees and baseball fields from my front porch. My immediate
neighbors are African, Russian, Vietnamese, Armenian, Persian,
Pakistani and Chinese. If I need exotic experiences, I walk around
It was while
walking in my neighborhood in the weeks following 911 that I noticed
something comforting and pleasant, peaceful and calm. It was the
absence of burning gas stations flying overhead. There was no
of my neighbors noticed this too. She’s a hot-shot executive
with AOL. Before 911, she traveled to New York at least once
a month on business.
On that day nearly two years ago, as we looked up at the empty
Orange County sky together, she was grounded.
of my travel is unnecessary,” she confessed.
do you fly then?”
as usual. Flight gives the appearance of working . . and there’s
always the hookers," she said.
as usual, our federal government decided it was worth spending
billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out the airlines and keep
up appearances. Now, the skies are starting to fill again.
one of my Chinese neighbors said she was flying to Hawaii. “It's
a great way to escape,” she said. I asked her who was chasing
her. She didn't get it. So I employed the revolutionary rope a
dope. I told her about Patriot
Day. You know, that's what our President has nicknamed September
respect and honor their land," I said. “And every American
knows that flying disconnects you from your land. As a matter
of national interest,” I said looking off into an imaginary
airline-free future, “President Bush has declared that air
travel is unpatriotic.”
a wonderful world at your feet. Talk to people. Broaden your horizons.
Stay home.’ Those are the words of our President," I
I don't know
if she bought it, but you should.
the way, that photograph of me wasn’t taken in Spain.
It was taken in Irvine. I hiked about a mile through the foothills
sat under the shade of 100-year old oak trees and helped them finished off
three bottles of Chardonnay. It beats torching a gas station,
Callahan, September 10, 2003