Pour It On

I've given up trying to sleep on airplanes. A cat nap here and there? Sure, and they come easily if you drink the way I do. But the whole theatre of pillows and blankets and eye shades, forget it. I'm watching movies, old movies, classic movies. And I'm drinking wine, plonk, marginal clarets from sad bottles with screw tops.

Veteran stewardesses spot my breed quickly. We always sit in aisle seats, not so we can get to the loo quickly but so we are in pole position for the drinks cart when it rolls by. "Why be big, when you can be giant?" I always say as I'm being handed a bottle. You have to pick just the right moment to hit her with this line and there will be two bottles on your tray, not one. And that's after a pre-prandial champagne.

Some airlines are stingy with the tipple but have excellent in-flight entertainment programs. Others let the drink flow but their entertainment is wanting. And then there's the select few companies who have thrown caution and profits to the wind. After dinner has been served and people are settling in for the night, my festivities begin. On a recent flight from Toronto to Paris, I watched Hannah and Her Sisters, Rio Bravo, The Bounty, and Manhattan. We left late from Toronto but the pilot damned the torpedoes and we landed at Charles de Gaulle almost on time. I poured myself off the plane and into one of the chaise-longues they have in the terminals. After a three-hour snooze, I ventured onward to Paris for lunch before returning to the airport for an early evening flight, this one to Dakar. Is this efficient traveling? Absolutely not.

Truth be told, on both the Paris and Dakar flights, I watched The Bounty. This is a lovely picture that stars Tony Hopkins and Mel Gibson in a retelling of how Captain Bligh made a hash of his cruise to the tropics. When you get tired of the overheated acting and the familiar story, you switch your attention to the exotic locale. This is a film that embraces authenticity and when you want to be authentic about Tahiti in 1787, you have lithe young Tahitians stripped to the waist. I was not the only one fascinated by this attention to period detail. The granny seated across the aisle from me was equally engrossed, although judging by her scowl, she was far less delighted with the content of the screen or my glass. But an old woman's killjoy insomnia is no match for a rascal's delight in being pleasantly tight at 35,000 feet while ogling gorgeous tall ships at full sail and choice babes in native undress. I chuckled and gave her a wink. She turned away and fidgeted with her prayer beads.

Soon Mel Gibson and his fellow mutineers arrived at their dead-end on Pitcairn Island and burned the evidence of their misdeed. As the ship went up in flames, I began to drift off. I awoke buzzed but strangely refreshed. The plane was banking, lining up for final approach. I had slept, just enough. I was ready for Dakar, the heat, the smog, the chaos of the roundabouts, the restless night. I was properly dislocated. And that's where the magic of travel begins.



Stirling Noh is a Canadian author of existential fiction and composer of electro acoustic music he calls Electric Primitive.

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