Cocktails in the Interzone

Tomorrow was (Let that be an indication to you how oddly this folded-under jetlag is hitting me.) Yesterday was one of the stranger days of my life, serving up equal portions of vaguely foreboding, Children of Men-esque unease and überswank jetsettery decadence.

The day began with a security delay at CDG terminal 2A (i.e. mine) that saw everybody in the terminal – passengers, cargo handlers, flight attendants, and all – herded into the area between concourses by unsmiling Police Nationale, as the EOD folks were called out to detonate a suspiciously unclaimed suitcase. After an hour or so of standing around, me getting increasingly pessimistic about my tightly-coupled Paris-NYC-Seoul itinerary, there was a dull crump, a wafting smell of cordite, a weird frisson of glee/terror rippling through the huddled and cranky crowd…and then the announcement that the detonation had sparked a fire, the terminal was closed, and there would be no further flights out.

You can’t even imagine the mass groan that greeted this announcement. “Animal lowing” doesn’t even begin to capture it – I’ve never before heard such a weird melange of profound (if liminal and barely-acknowledged) existential relief, and indignant irritation.

As it turned out, this was not in fact to be the case – operations resumed with surprising quickness – but the hours of delay felt unsettlingly like a preview of the unhappy decades to come. It was a Long Emergency moment, for sure, or maybe a scene from The Last of England: thousands of travellers of every conceivable age, nationality, ethnicity, and mother tongue, caught in between places. All waiting on a Ballardian onramp in the hot sun, surrounded by grim and heavily-armed police, amid carts overflowing with their possessions. Between this and the continental-scale megastorms that so drastically remodeled my Barcelona-JFK itinerary last month, like I say, my last couple of trips have felt in some ways like a sneak preview of the years ahead.

But there’s generally a flipside, isn’t there? If the day began as a minor montage of dystopias, it also contained moments that felt as if they’d been cut-and-pasted from different sources entirely – say, wallpaper* at the height of its glory, circa ’99 or so.

Air Canada has done possibly the only thing capable of redeeming their aging fleet of formerly Korean 767s, replacing unexceptional business-class seats with comfortable lie-flat pods, and dubbing the whole thing “Super Affaires.” As transatlantic service goes, there are rough spots, which is to say that neither the staff’s attitude nor attention to detail were quite up to Lufthansa standards. But I sure slept well. (Air Canada’s new-lounge-smell space at YYZ is a happy place, too. If it’s not quite John Pawson’s transcendent Cathay Pacific lounge at HKIA, it’s still by far one of the nicer such spaces I’ve been in lately.)

But the real mindfuckr of the day was this: Ben Cerveny and I left Timo Arnall at CDG Terminal 2B just before the security hold hit, Timo bound for Heathrow, Ben for LAX and me for Montreal. The day intervened, with its full cargo of hassles, delays and minor terrors, but a dozen hours and thousands of air miles later, I met Timo for drinks on East Houston Street in my very own New York City.

We hung with good ol’ Mike Sharon, Alexis Rondeau, Molly Steenson, and her friends Jenn and Akemi for a bit, and then Molly and I piled Timo into a cab for the Hudson – lordy, do I ever loathe that place. And so the day that began for me under a fog of cordite and fearsweat, amid a jittery mass of however-temporarily displaced persons, ended in a scrum of the would-be beautiful people, serenely playing plutocrat games in the hideous temple of Starck.

There’s a message hiding somewhere in all of that, but mired in my own endocrine Interzone as I am at the moment, I’m damned if I can figure out just what it is.

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