Day 1.5 – Darwin to Nashville

Saturday 22nd. June 2013

ANA NH950 Manila to Tokyo

I’m looking out the window at a big red dot on a plane wing. There’s no doubt the Japanese have got it sorted when it comes to minimalism – or maybe they just got there first. Imagine trying to design a simple logo or minimalist national symbol nowadays. Triangle, circle, square anyone? Sorry, they’re all taken. There’s something supremely satisfying about knowing you grabbed the red sun before anyone else. Apart from everything it symbolises, it just looks like the biz. The “it” factor is ever present.

My nephew Adam - he's Japanese

My nephew Adam – he’s Japanese

Predictably I run through a few standard images…I’m a kamikaze pilot, I’m a squadron leader approaching Darwin, I’m Barnsey with headband, hunched over a bottle of vodka screaming my guts out “dah dah dah dah just stole my girl away”. Then I’m an uber-cool Japanese film director shooting a commercial for All Nippon Airways…or are we all part of an airborne art installation and god almighty just stuck a giant red dot on the wing to indicate this plane is sold?

My thoughts drift into hostess inspection mode – an imperative for any member of the unfairer sex. A porcelain countenance club is in full swing- whitewash with red highlights. It’s a unique blend of sixties hipster and euro geisha undertones quite pleasing to the eye. There’s a smiling competition going on with every tiny customer request. I compare skill levels and they’re all on top of it, or all over it, or across it, or wherever we are supposed to be in this constantly improving and incessantly mobile millenium. I wonder if the apparent sincerity is practised. Who cares? I succumb to the charm.

Meals approach, so i do a quick recon on the food directory. I choose the shrimp combo, pointing hopefully at item #4. Here it comes, the perfect smile, polite nod of head followed by a sideways movement and the utterance “not available sir”. Before i can object or even choose another option, item #2 is thrust at me. The grip is tarantula like, the eye contact searing and the message is clear. You will not choose. You will eat this meal I have already chosen for you. I succumb to the charm.

The food is much better, you’ll be relieved to know, so the better side of my nature concedes defeat. I’m not sure if it’s the left side or the right side or inside or outside – but it’s defeated. The noodles look lonely. In characteristic clumsiness I ambitiously apply plenty of Wasabi. Fortunately the napkins are triple thickness so I manage to catch 90% of the resulting blast. A blast, I might add, that could potentially have put a hole in my hand. For a nanosecond I wonder about the other 10%.

I firmly believe in the law of karma. The gentleman next to me has been sporadically snorting backwards with the gusto and verve of Freddie Mercury singing “Barcelona” – but unfortunately the undiluted ambience of an industrial jackhammer. These aquatically harsh and unforgiving sounds create visual landscapes in my fertile mind that lend little to the joy of eating. Not to mention the germs. A handkerchief is clearly not in fashion. He would rather consume than expel the effluvium. I practise yogic mind transfer techniques to avoid a collision with reality.

We arrive. I’m in Tokyo briefly, but somehow the expected feeling of hipness evades me. A quick in and out (no checked baggage) and I’m sitting in a United Airlines Boeing 777-200 eagerly awaiting execution by food.