I grew up with rockets breaching the sky and disappearing into the blackness, the end of the Apollo missions a repeating punctuation of my formative years. On TV, at 6am, I watched International Rescue Thunderbird rockets emerge from splitting swimming pools. I often imitated the guttural roar of a rocket taking off, a feat of throaty dexterity which makes me gag as an adult.
I was never going to be an engineer – I was entranced by the notion of model airplanes, but never all that good at putting them together. I think the packaging, the way the component parts came attached together on a single plastic mainframe entranced me as much as the notion of building. One had to disengage each piece, snapping it off, in order to begin glueing it together. I was never very good at following instructions, or working out the right way things had to fit together, a laziness of mind typical of a daydreamer. I liked models, especially if they looked like the real thing, but once completed, they lost their lustre for me as a plaything. They just sat there, permanently hangered, permanent reminders of flight that did not fly. Walking around holding them aloft just didn’t cut it. At least when I created roads in the dirt, facsimilie trucks could drive along them in satisfying to-scale approximations of real trucks on real roads. This demanding literalism extended to model aircraft. They at least went into the sky.
But somehow they depressed me. Dad and son seemed over-tethered to their planes, whose wheels were too big. The poor machines could not get out of sight and seemed to be in restricted airspace as much as to validate the esoteric but grounded mechanical work of the grimy workshop. They were not soaring on journeys into the phosphene atmosphere, or out of this suburb and across the city, across the state, across the oceans!
I preferred paper planes, miraculous, laughably simple, disproportionately satisfying. They were hand-scaled and went as far as the air decided. A few folds of the right paper seemed to produce something more intimately connected to the mysteries of air, wind and sky. The invisible forces were their remote control, their random yet predictable flights triumphs of scientific relevance.
When I was three, I was so in love with the idea of real flight, the impressive world of fuselages, stairs up to entrances, real planes, which had those roaring engines and that intoxicating airplane fuel smell, made of the supersonic 70s, not a propeller world.
The plane towed out by its little tug, then transformed into a speeding train before making itself a diagonal line into the clouds.
I still want to sit by the window when I take a flight. I wish there was someone who could share my wonder at being above the clouds, being halfway up the eyeball of the sky, able to make out the quilt of the human controlled earth and the beautiful clouds, always similar, never the same.