letter30000

Here We Go: Reflections From 30,000 Feet

Here we go
Here we go
Here we go

Words of who I guess to be a 7-year-old boy in the middle seat on takeoff. I’m next to him on the window. At first I’m glad to be sitting next to a child for the extra space. His father is on the aisle with his wife and two other kids behind us. At first I assume the father is older than me considering he has a wife and three young kids. I catch my reflection on the blank screen in front of me and realize I am probably older than him. The young boy keeps saying it….

Here we go
Here we go
Here we go

At first I think it’s cute. He’s excited to fly. I used to be excited to fly. Sit down in one place. End up in another. I guess that wasn’t what first excited me about flying. I was older and more practical was when that idea took hold. I guess being up 30,000 feat and flying was what was really exciting. Who cares if you even go anywhere but up! (Shortsighted childish thought I know!). But what the boy was saying was cute, and he kept saying it…

Here we go
Here we go
Here we go

Having a sister with young children has given me a new understanding and appreciation for traveling with kids. IF and WHEN they freak out there isn’t much you can do about it and being trapped and strapped in on a plane can make anybody want to scream and cry. I prefer to silently sob. But this kid was about 7 and he wasn’t upset. He just kept saying HERE WE GO over and over again. It started to get annoying. I could see the father’s frustration and helplessness. I made small talk with the father. His son spilled a Sprite into my laptop keyboard. Who needs the “S” key anyway? We hadn’t even taken off yet and a kid has damaged my laptop. Why do I always end up in situations like this? People I have just met don’t even believe the stories I tell. I wish I had the creativity to make them up and they really didn’t happen to me. We start to taxi.

Here we go
Here we go
Here we go

The constant refrain was like some kind of fast forward realization of a bad habit. At first I ignore it. Laugh it off. Start freaking out about it. Go back to ignoring it. Pass it off on its just the way it is. Other peoples’ problem. Then it’s funny again. But it’s not and when will the flight attendant come around with cocktails? Then it won’t be a problem. Then it will be funny. At least for me. What a jerk I am but it is what it is. What if the plane skids off the runway right into the drink? Flying out of my hometown airport JFK and I’m not even sure what body of water I’m about to drown in! That tidbit won’t be known much less mentioned when they dredge us out of the water, but I should have known. Always was embarrassed that Americans can’t find themselves on a map and now look at me. As a cocky teen I was quoted in a yearbook saying “If you know where you are going you don’t have to look”. Real profound shit and I’m sure some inside joke even I can’t remember about stumbling around somebody’s parents house looking for a beer or the bathroom.

Here we go
Here we go
Here we go

We take off. As a frequent flyer I am brought back to my first flights and I am excited. Shit….Here we go!!! Soon the skyline gives way to clouds and we are dancing over them. Floating. Like the Jonathan Richman/”Modern Lovers” song. My seatmate is still saying HERE WE GO. We pass over midtown and the Upper East Side of Manhattan before we float away. I think of different New York City memories that seem like so long ago. Rachel on 65th street. First time I realized I was a grown-up going back to her place. Waking up there realizing I still had some growing up to do. On top of the Empire State Building with a friend from out of town. Looking to my left and the Twin Towers that I used for navigation when I came out of a subway no longer there. Love of my life on 94th. I wonder if she is home and safe. Trivia tonight? Passing thoughts as we surge into the clouds. The young boy leaning over me for a view out the window. HERE WE GO… HERE WE GO. Where is the boy going? His father apologizing to me with his eyes. He later explains to me that his son is autistic. I tell him it’s okay and think about the boy.

Here we go
Here we go
Here we go

I now want to start saying HERE WE GO with him but stop myself. A couple years before I had a schedule that always got me stuck going to work behind the same school bus. They put the kids who soothed themselves through body rocking in the back so they wouldn’t disturb the others. The children  would rock and wave at me from the back emergency door. I started just waving back at stop lights. They came to recognize me and the back and forth became more enthusiastic. Resulting in me poking my head out of my sunroof and waving much to their excitement. One day at a stoplight with my head out the sunroof a very angry woman came up to the car and startled the shit out of me. She was the bus driver. She began yelling at me for mocking the children and creating a frenzy on the bus. I always wanted a be entertainer I suppose. Just never had an audience. I felt misunderstood. Going forward, I started showing up five minutes late to work. I’m not sure my boss bought that story, but I’m sure he never got that excuse before.

Here we go
Here we go
Here we go

So here we go. We will land. The kid will say HERE WE GO until we do. I am completely okay with it now. It’s the soundtrack to my flight. Some drum circle chick I got stuck talking to at restaurant bar once referred to the playing they did as repetitive and how great that was. I never put the two words together before and still don’t. I knew I would get off the plane eventually and go to the next step. Baggage, rent a car, get lost, hotel, check in, unpack and then do my job. I would then reverse the steps and go home. Put this trip away and, besides some photos, struggle to hold onto the memories.

I’ll sit at home. Enjoy the moment. Talk with my girlfriend. Our conversations will revolve about where we are and where we are going.

Marriage, kids.

All things I want also.

Here we go
Here we go
Here we go

We land. The boy is saying HERE WE GO even as we say goodbye and file off the plane. The dad gives me a smile as he shuttles the family forth. What was his world before his son was born? How does he deal with waking up everyday knowing his son’s condition could possibly not improve? Could that be me one day? Would I be up to it? I resolve these questions with “I would have no choice” and “we rise to occasions.” I do my best to sell it to myself. I make a point to write these sentiments down later. I find my way to the hotel. The day is done. I have a few emails to respond to and send and maybe I would have forgotten all about my seatmate but, as I went to reply, my keyboard letters got stuck on “S” and the memory of the trip came back. Now, when I’m on a plane about to take off I remember… I tell myself that it doesn’t really matter where we go… as long as we are filled with excitement along the way…

Here we go
Here we go
Here we go

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Nick Kraus is a partner of The Stephen Talkhouse, a live music venue in Amagansett, New York, as well as a founder of the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit dedicated to helping honor and empower wounded service members.

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Photo Courtesy of protowizard/Shutterstock.com