The Trip Back to Nashville

Again traveling on my own, I boarded the plane from Budapest to London, and it was a fairly uneventful few hours. This trip was my first time going to Europe, and I’d never been to London, so once I touched down in the London airport, I was amazed by what I saw.

Given London’s international economic importance, it shouldn’t have been that surprising, but I really didn’t expect to see such a massive assortment of high-end retail stores. Nor did I expect for said retail stores to already be fully-decked out for Christmastime, since it was only November 9. I had to remind myself, though, that even in America, where Thanksgiving exists, most retailers are incredibly eager to jump from Halloween costumes to Christmas ornaments.

IMG_7338When I purchased all of my flights, the website I booked through repeatedly warned that I had less than 2 hours’ connection time between legs of my journey. As I said in a previous entry, the recommended connection times are way too liberal and resulted, more often than not, in me sitting around in an airport twiddling my thumbs. The flipside of that, however, is the last time I flew home to Dallas, arriving at the Nashville airport with only 20 minutes until my flight was supposed to depart. I’m sure the security people were impressed by how quickly I tossed my stuff through the machines, yelling like a madman.

In London I had about 1 hour, 50 minutes until my flight to Chicago was supposed to depart, and on the terminal-announcing board I was informed that my flight did not yet have a terminal. So I decided to walk in large circles, acting like I was interested in expensive perfume, looking at high-end electronics and fancy bottles of liquor, all while being occasionally asked if I needed help by the various employees decked out in friendly Santa hats.

The chosen book for my European journey was Kraken by China Mieville. Though I’m still not finished, it’s been a wonderful read full of the kinds of imaginative insanity that I’ve come to expect from Mieville. He’s British, and the novel is set in London, and there are quite a few mentions of people knowing what part of London each other are from just based on their accents. I heard a lot of accents in that airport. Most of them were lovely, but there’s no way I could place the parts of London they were from.

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of accents in other languages. When I was learning Japanese they would tell us that saying it one way is very Tokyo whereas saying it another way is very Kyoto. There were extremely subtle differences, but to a native speaker it would be easy to pick out. If I spoke a language fluently and was speaking over the phone to a native, they would probably immediately know I was American despite how well I spoke their tongue. Accents are odd like that, a brand you can’t easily erase.

My wait-time in the airport finally over, the board spat up my terminal number and I headed that way, going through a large series of hallways before arriving at what felt like the end of the airport. It was a high-security terminal, one in which three different attendants checked my passport before I was permitted to serve the last 30 minutes of my sentence.

They were speaking one-on-one with foreigners, filling out all kinds of papers for them, and I guess that’s the norm for international flights into America these days. Contrasted with the incredible lax attitude of the EU airports I’d been in, it was pretty jarring, but then again EU countries never had a 9/11.

The plane was big. I was seated alone at my window seat, perfectly happy with the Universe for gracing me with an empty seat for a neighbor, but then, through a weird series of events that I didn’t quite understand but which involved 1) a baby 2) the quick changing of seats 3) a Russian rock band and 4) the jolliest flight attendant ever, this French guy ended up sitting next to me.

He was a happy guy that seemed to quite enjoy reading a very dry pediatric medical textbook. We made occasional conversation in which I didn’t try to guess where he was from (the resulting sting of my asking the Mexican guy if he was French on the way to Paris was still fresh in my mind). He told me France, and then I told him I’d just been to Paris for the first time. “France is totally different than Paris,” he said humorlessly. I got the feeling he didn’t particularly like The City of Love, like an American hating that their whole country boiled down to the Statue of Liberty to some foreigners.

IMG_7254A majority of our plane was occupied by the members and crew of some Russian rock band. They were on their way to New York via Chicago, and they were energetic and loud. As the flight wore on, the fact that they were always standing got rather annoying, as did the fact that the guy in front of my French neighbor (who I learned was the drummer) would not stop moving forward and backward in his chair, causing my French neighbor to harumph like a Frenchman and look at me like WHO DOES THIS GUY THINK HE IS?

The saddest flight attendant in the world was hurrying down the aisle and happened to trip over the drummer’s outstretched foot. She fell to her knees, causing audible gasps to escape from those of us who saw it, and from then on she was visibly upset every time she had to walk past that guy.

There was a baby in the middle of the plane. Everyone looked at it like it was a bomb that could detonate at any moment, the source of a potentially grating sound that would drive us all mad. Hurtling through the air in the same cylinder of metal as us, the baby’s screech would be inescapable. We’d probably lose any sense of humanity, resort back to our basest behavior and eat one another in a feeble attempt to stop the sound that was forcing blood to shoot, in a sickening projectile arc, from our ears and eyes.

But no, the baby didn’t make a peep. It was incredible.

I feel silly saying this, but I’m continually amazed by airplanes. I’m aware they’ve been around for quite some time now – and have even been available for the common man to utilize in his everyday travel – but they’re still pretty incredible. I step on to this big metal contraption and then we fly through the air in the most unnatural form of travel we humans can yet muster, and then, in but a mere few hours, I arrive in my intended destination. How absurd is that? People used to have to take boats. You know how long that took? People died traveling from Europe to America. And here I am hanging out with a Russian rock band thousands of feet above the Atlantic.

The airplane food wasn’t bad, and pretty early in the trip the flight attendants announced that they were out of beer and wine. We all looked at the Russian band and scowled. Even after the announcement, one of the Russian guys asked one of the attendants if he could have some wine. I thought he was kidding, chuckled a little, and then, realizing he wasn’t, turned my chuckle into a sound of disbelief.

By the time we landed in America, they’d played the Customs video a dozen times. The movies on the return flight were really not good, either. We had Madagascar 3 first, followed by A Better Life, a sappy film about a Mexican guy in LA trying to give his son A Better Life. He doesn’t, really, and then they cry and I ended up watching everything but the last 10 minutes. It’s got to be a pretty awful movie to keep me from even caring about the last 10 minutes.

In my checked baggage was a bottle of absinthe from Prague. I read every guideline for bringing alcohol back into the US and was ready to combat whatever BS the customs officers threw my way (in my imagination the customs officers just really wanted some absinthe and would do whatever they had to to steal it from me). The bottle couldn’t contain any hallucinogenic paraphernalia, nor could “Absinthe” be the brand name. It had to contain 10mg or less of Thujon, the allegedly-hallucinogenic chemical that gave absinthe its enviable reputation.

I had all of this stored away in my brain, ready to fight. On the declaration sheet for customs, I even put “liquor” instead of “absinthe”. Not technically a lie, I figured I’d just try to side-step any potential fight, prepared though I IMG_7454may be.

So then I get up there to the sleepy customs officer, and what does he do? I don’t think he even glanced at my sheet. He stamped it and sent me on my way. I grabbed my checked baggage, then got in line for another attendant. Ah, I thought, this guy is the one who will check it more closely.

Stamped, I got sent on my way again without another glance. I could have brought a Budapestian pig into the States. I could have stocked up on an assortment of volatile weapons from Prague. No one really cared what I had, I guess, because I had an American passport and, wait a minute, isn’t that a whole band of Russians behind you? They‘ve got some stuff on them, you go ahead, we’ve got to tear their suitcases apart.

Waiting in line to go through the scanners, I overheard the conversation of the two Army people in front of me. It sounded to me like they were on the first episode of a new show and were trying their best to have a normal conversation while casually tossing in all kinds of vital information – exposition to let the audience know the context of the flight they’re about to take.

By the time I got on the plane, I was so tired that I didn’t even say anything to the guy next to me. He just sat there watching Dodgeball on his iPad before falling asleep in a really unflatteringly position. In my fatigued state, I felt like everyone else was similarly tired. The flight attendants rarely came by and no one seemed to so much as glance at one another.

I landed in Nashville, snatched my bag, and climbed into Brit’s car, arriving back at the house just after midnight.

And there it is, the end of my trip.

I kind of sort of quit my deceptively-comfortable office job to be able to take this trip, and now it’s been almost a month since I returned. A month of unemployment. Do I regret quitting? No, not really. Having a flow of money sure is nice, but not when every day feels like it’s sapping your soul just a little bit. I recognize that working in an office job might be unavoidable for someone wishing to exist in middle-class America, but things just seemed to line up and the Universe insisted I take the opportunity and see some of the world I’d heard so much about.

IMG_7570It was a good trip. A billion things could have gone wrong but very few actually did. I’ll admit that my style of traveling (looking up a lot of cool stuff and then just setting out and meandering) works a lot better in English-speaking cities than it does in foreign lands, but it still makes for a fun time. As my former Creative Writing professor put it, traveling overseas doesn’t take magic sky wizards and doesn’t necessarily cost a million dollars.

In fact, my whole Europe adventure only set me back a few grand, a huge majority of that being my flights. If I’d stayed in just one city or had friends to stay with for free, my trip would have been even cheaper still.

Since returning, I’ve applied to 5 grad school Screenwriting programs. I won’t know if they love or hate me until about March, and while I’m doing my best to stay reasonable about the incredibly slim chances of my getting admitted, the prospects of it happening are intoxicating. I settled on this filmmaking goal of mine comparatively late to others my age, and with me being in a place like Nashville, with a respectfully tiny budding film scene, it’s not super easy to meet like-minded people. Being back in school – a place I rather like – with classmates who would happily engage me in my Die Hard rants sounds like a grand thing indeed. But we’ll see.

I got a job as a barista at a mall across town but then had to quit it before my first day when I was told that none of them were permitted to take time off for Christmas. Preferring going home for Christmas to a job serving coffee to strangers on Christmas, it was a pretty easy decision. I’ve been writing a lot, will have some more videos up soon, and watched the entirety of Friday Night Lights, which is a superb show.

The next entry probably won’t feature me talking about Europe, but it sure will be a ball of fun. See you soon, blogoverse.


~ by Jonathan Forisha on December 5, 2012.

4 Responses to “The Trip Back to Nashville”

  1. I lived most of my life in Europe and Canada and now, oddly enough, I just moved to Nashville! It’s always a little difficult to adjust or in your case, to adjust back. Personally, one thing I miss incredibly about Europe is being able to rely on public transit and your own 2 legs wherever you go. I don’t quite like how greater nashville area is completely car-dependent.

    • True, not having a car in Nashville is a death sentence. Having grown up in the southern US, public transportation always kind of stresses me out. The freedom of a car is nice, even though traffic and gas prices aren’t.

      Welcome to Nashville! How do you like it?

      • Thank you! I’m still getting to know Nashville and starting to enjoy its quirkiness and the weather (it’s way warmer than anywhere I lived before). I’m about to start applying for jobs, I hope it won’t be too much of a nightmare 😉

        PS. Gas prices seem like a dream after living in the Pacific Northwest!

      • The Northwest definitely does have worse gas prices. The weather is always wacky in Nashville, particularly the fact that the sun sets at 4 pm in the winter. If you happen to work a full-time day job, it feels like you live in eternal darkness.

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