Night On A Plane

Night on a plane. It’s an unusual state of being. Isolated in this rounded chamber, the outside world invisible, inaccessible. Isolated in your seat, a stranger among strangers. I sit behind a wall of opera music piped through my armrest; lots of old recordings that would be filled with white flecks and scratches were they film … the kind of sound that has a tinny, metallic aftertaste. People are up and down to bathrooms and flight attendant land, where one more bloody mary awaits. The darkness of a plane isn’t like other darknesses. It’s not merely the glow of the emergency indicators and the no smoking signs, or the green and red lavatory indicators. It’s not just the pools of isolated overhead lights dotting the rows, marking who cannot sleep. No the dimness of the plane’s dark is different on its own account. It is a continuous medium that seamlessly integrates with the ever-present hum and endless sigh of the airplane. The sound and dark have a liquid volume, a texture which you feel on your skin. Night on a plane is its own little world. It’s unusual, different. I kind of like it. Sure the seats are cramped and there are those who never understand the volume of their own voice who disturb the ethereal sameness of the atmosphere, but I find there is something so comfortable despite the discomforts, just sitting there alone with a crowd, enveloped by the dark and quiet that is neither and both. Puccini, coffee, and an orange glow aboard a tiny, cramped island of semi-artificial night, alone among the stars and clouds … ahhhhhh, that’s writing atmosphere. That’s night on a plane.

Turkey … this is the first thing I’m writing about my trip to Turkey. In the morning, I’ll be in the Munich airport looking for coffee and apfel strudel. Munich, like this cramped little world, is an old friend. I’ve been there many times over the years, so much so that I often joke I’ve had more meals at my favorite restaurant in Germany than at my favorite restaurant in North Carolina. I love Munich. Knowing I’m to be there in the morning, even though I can’t leave the airport, brings to the top of my mind the many memories I’ve made there. I can still close my eyes and in a moment, smell the smells and taste the tastes of Bavaria. I don’t know how or when I’ll ever have the money for pleasure travel, but when I do, to Munich we will go. I carry Germany in my genes, and in the DNA of my persona. Though the layover will be short, I can’t wait to hear the sound of Deutsche all around me.

Morning in Munich, afternoon in Ankara. Because of course, this trip isn’t about Munich, it’s about somewhere more exotic, somewhere exciting, even scary. Tomorrow, I’ll be in Turkey for the first time in my life. I land in Ankara, which is a dramatic thing to think of. I’ll be in Ankara. I’m a traveling man. I love seeing the world and what’s in it. Turkey has always been high on my list. East meets west. The ancient meets the modern. To think that this time next week I’ll be a different person than I am now, I’ll be someone who has been to Istanbul … it’s heady anticipation.


Istanbul. I can see it in my imagination. I know places you visit are rarely precisely what you expect, but I find they often are so much more than you can imagine. Paris is a painting come to life. Venice bleeds into your soul by commanding your senses. The Taj Mahal scoffs at your expectations and knocks the breath from you. And Munich .. ahh Munich. So though I have high expectations for the tourist in me, I won’t be surprised if they are surpassed. This world, this life God has blessed us with, is like that. The world is surpassing in scope. I’ll have a task upon me this week in the land of the Turks, one which is less romantic. I’ll be observing and discussing the politics of Turkey, where she is going in this world, and why we are here reporting on it. I’ll be meeting with officials and discussing world issues. But part of me will remain off task, taken by the moment and the notion of this incredible Earth and my opportunity to experience a new part of it.

Night on a plane. It affects what you think, what you write. Night on a plane means something: Another journey has begun.

Caleb Howe