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Leaving on a Jet Plane




All my bags are packed. I'm ready to go.
I'm standing here outside your door,
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye.


Where's my landlord? I have to give him the key. The taxi is here. I leave the key on the table in the entry hall. He'll figure it out.

It's best he doesn't show up. The apartment is still a bit of a mess and the taxi is here. There's a 300-pound first-generation Silicon Graphics workstation in the backyard. I got it from a "friend". I still use its optical mouse pad as a cheese-cutting board. I used the CPU as a nightstand but it's far too heavy to dispose of by conventional means. It's constructed from thick sheets of layered plate metal. It's as if the designers over built these units, expecting them to be occasionally tossed out of windows. The computer is on wheels but I could only manage to roll it into the backyard. The night before I considered rolling it down the hill, down Keele street, and walking away casually. There's no time to call my friend Stuart and make use of his large muscles. The taxi is here. I know the snow that's now falling will cover the computer. My landlord will not discover it until Toronto thaws in May and he breaks ground to plant his cukes.

He's Greek. What will he make of this?

I have no time to haul the fourteen green garbage bags on the porch to the road side. Fourteen bags of accumulated junk. The week previous I managed to get twelve bags to the roadside and sent a van load of stuff back to Windsor for storage in my mom's garage.

If only the Library at Alexandria had been my mom's garage.

What's in those fourteen garbage bags? Commodore 64 software. Maybe a Commodore 64. DOS software. Lots of shovelware. Lots of clothes. Clothes that went out of fashion long before I abandoned the idea of ever being a 30" waist again. Clothes that are still in fashion and a 38" waist. I abandoned the idea I'd ever want to let myself balloon like that again. If I can hold at this 32 waist" I'll be happy. Just keep a pair of 33" waist jeans for post-Christmas.

You hit a point in your mid-thirties when if your waist size stays a couple inches less than your age, you've attained some incredible level of fitness in unfit North America. I'm thankful I discovered the joys of running with a portable CD player. It's like dancing only you move in one direction. Here's the secret to walking and running. It's all controlled falling: lift a leg, move it forward, unbalance yourself, fall forward, and place that same leg down again before you actually fall. See. Falling. But the runway models make it look so good.


But the dawn is breaking, it's early morn
The taxi's waiting, he's blowin' his horn


The cabbie pops the trunk. I put three suitcases in the truck. That holds the bare minimum I'll need to survive two weeks in an unfurnished one-bedroom apartment until the moving truck catches up with my cross-continent jaunt. I'll buy a TV state side. Consumer electronics are cheaper there.

I hop in the cab.

"YYZ, please, but can we stop at Rogers Cable? I have to return this cable box I was paying $12 a month for three years to rent but never used. I've gotten most of the candle wax off of it."

The cabbie is from Ethiopia. We talk about Ethiopian food and Eritrea and Haile Selassie. Trying to remember grade 12 ancient history, I mention something about how Ethiopians perfected the war chariot and invaded Egypt long ago. Their bloodline founded the Pharaohs. That's why Ethiopians look so regal. It's a thirty minute cab ride to Pearson Airport and I know just enough about Ethiopia to talk for thirty minutes.

I over tip him. It's Canadian money. I'm moving to Seattle. It will have little value to me there. I remember something about Haile Selassie and a Rastafarian connection but the cab driver leaves me in a cloud of propane gas that reminds me of barbequing.


I'm leavin' on a jet plane
I don't know when I'll be back again


I have three hours to go before my flight. Usually I get places early and read. When you're single and alone, sometimes the actual place you get to early is incidental. You just want to get out of the house, read in public, but not look like a loiterer. I'm too well educated, too well dressed, and too moderately paid to be a loiterer. But I'm not here to read in an airport. I want to pad myself with extra time to get through US customs at the airport. I've never emigrated before. I have an official looking document issued by my lawyer, care of the INS. I have a warning from my lawyer "At customs, you'll be given an I94. Don't lose it."

I don't know what an I94 is. But I certainly won't lose it. Not like that $700 check from my auto insurance company.

I present my passport and my official looking INS document. I try to sound like I'm informed, like I've done this before.

"I'm moving to Kirkland, Washington to take a job with a software company."

"Can I see your I94?"


"What's an I94?"

The customs officer hands me a card with I94 printed on it. "Please stand over there and fill this out."

I fill it out in lavender ink. America is not the most gay friendly nation so I hope this won't count against me.

I get in line again and present my papers, including my I94.

"You've filled this out incorrectly. The date goes in the row above. Please stand over there fill out a new one."

Again I fill it out in lavender ink. I get back in line. I present my papers and the I94 with the date entered correctly. The INS agent stamps my I94 and writes on it I have to be out of the country after three years. I pass on through.

No one has seen me off. I want it that way.


Already I'm so lonesome I could cry


Now if I can just get that damn John Denver/Peter, Paul and Mary hit out of my mind.






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Copyright 2002 Karl Mamer

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