Chronicles of Dis/Infection [LateJune2011 • • • Flight, Grace, Running]

Blisteracious heat today, end of June 2011, summer has officially arrived in town, again. April this year was like summer too, a faveur de by-us-emitted OCO [which I believe is what the molecule approx looks like]. 

On the lack of techno-human grace

This weekend the starkly cerulean skyscape of Lucerne was the playing ground of two [or more] aeroplane formations. I think at least one of them was a fighter-jet formation but I can’t be sure, which is to say, they certainly would be able to drop “payloads” but they might not be very fit for aerial combat [they would most decidedly shot down by the F/A-18 Hornet and even more so, in as far as that even makes sense, by the F-22]. At any rate, they’ve been bothering us Lozaerner [at least me] for the past fortnight in their practice sessions as part of the run-up to the city’s annual Lucerne festival[1]: an unfortunate combination of overblown fair, very bad music[2] indeed and just trop de monde a la remue-menage[3].

So anyway, instead of practicing their slow, tepid loopings and corkscrews somewhere far out over unpopulated, mid-land tracts of agriculture some genius in the AirForce or perhaps a low-wattage bulb of our very own municipality struck upon the idea of having the formations fly practice session a few hundred meters, if that, above the city’s sympathetically humming roof tiles and juddering ventilation ducts and terrified pets and head-clutching migraine patients and anxious aerophobia sufferers and miffed, slit-eyed Jane&Joe Average. Yes, as it happened all of Greater Lucerne was raked for the past few days with high-volume jet-engine noise in a way that was for any citizen with a single brain-cell to save for thinking, not so much irritating as down-right obscure. Because…

A) One got to see most/all of the airborne tricks beforehand meaning diminished excitement/surprise for the actual airshow

B) There was the risk of having a jet go down in densely populated territory

C) They[4] must have managed to rile a minority of the city’s citizenry against them, possibly even to the point of lodging a formal complaint


1-person suicide machine

D) Given the speed of jet-engine aircraft and the diminutive size of Luzern, they kept having to loop back and criss-cross at a ridiculous frequency so that the general impression conveyed was that of being in the presence of aeronautical equivalents of manhood-insecure sports cars drivers [e.g. BMW, Triango Revelation, Dodge, a.d. Tramontana, Lamborghini, the unforgivable Ariel Atom 500 V8, Bugatti, the BAC MONO (what on earth?), Chevrolet, the Hunaudieres, etc.] You assuredly get the petrochemically-laced drift.

E) Many of the pets must have been going bonkers. You can be an inconsiderate prick about this and say it doesn’t matter. But if you’re a pet-owner or an actual animal/pet or, for that matter, somebody who cares about other people and beings because you’d like other people also to sooner or later reciprocally give a damn about your well-being and non-suffering, in that case you’d beg to differ.

F) I had the unwelcome suspicion that somewhere someone responsible was sitting behind his desk or was up on the roof for cig-break with a massive grin on his [her?] face, self-satisfied that this aerial grand-standing was impressing the living sheyt out of the good people of Lucerne. [5] 

...beclouded beginnings...

At any rate on this Saturday past I did one of my variegated runs. On this particular occasion I was running home from a family get-together at my uncle&aunt’s up in Seeburg, which beautifully overlooks Lake Lucerne’s northern basin and the single, majestic peak rising from it, Mount Pilatus. Unfortunately this meant that the first three or four-hundred meters were all steeply downhill. Nevertheless I was excited by the change of scenery [along a dirt-road skirting a forest with said view] plus the superb speeds to which one can accelerate downhill if one makes one’s strides shallow, short and high-frequency. Contrary to my neurotic self I even ignored[6] the palpable possibility of an ankle sprain on the uneven terrain. The thing about LU-town is that you can either run amongst beaucoup, beaucoup de monde [along flat stretches] or go for incline/decline-hell granting a modicum of solitude, that solitariness which, to me, is one of the focal attractions of running. So on 25/06/11 in the later afternoon I opted for the former and soon found myself chugging upwards from Würzenbach towards St. Anna[7] where I first touched down on this planet of ours. You need to go hard on the hill, is an inevitable rule of running.

After the hair-needle turn, on the second leg of the ascent, I became aware of the disagreeable roar: the fighter jets. In full formation. It was six or seven of them, I can’t remember [sort of the way Borges couldn’t remember the number of birds, except that in my case I did not take that as an absurd, ingenious proof of the existence of god]. They were banking slowly north, above the basin, moving in an easterly direction towards the Rigi. I wanted at least one of them to crash down into the choppy waters, not a pilot’s death, just an embarrassing emergency landing that would reveal the folly of their airy caprice. No such luck. With droves of people standing on their balconies they passed directly overhead moving towards loaded Adligenswil then came back around again within 30 seconds. I hadn’t even finished the second half of my ascent but I didn’t let their superior propulsion technology discourage my legs.

Four of them did an Indian file looping at a very low velocity, a snail going round in the sky, it was as if they were saying: “Well, you can do a looping at whatever speed you choose, it doesn’t matter”. One sees an airplane hanging in the sky and the sense that human beings should have remained groundlubbers [if you will] is overpowering. That same feeling that befalls one, I assume, while studying air-traffic pollution stats.

No matter, what struck me with the power of a Pambansang Kamao liver punch was the utter lack of techno-human grace. Their [pilots in planes’] motion as against sky was sluggish, lumbering and in every aspect unspectacular. Nor did they spell out any higher artistic intentions as, for example, Carlos Wieder[8] in the skies of Chile. No, they just plodded through their slow-motion choreography, so wide-spaced that there was no visible thrill/risk/danger/chance of collision in mid-air and whatever minimalist, foreseeable drama that would have entailed. Uninjurious failure, not death, crossed my mind.

The sight of the down-tempo red&white jet-fighters, a sight that tore out my heart and tossed it in a spiritual gutter, was overlaid by a memory of a swarm of real air-dwellers: behind the Museggmauer, just last year [2010], a convergence of swallows hunting insects in surpassing synchronicity. How effortlessly they changed speed, direction, altitude and did so when in close proximity as one super-organism. The swallows have natural grace[9], one is astounded how very much the air is their medium of expression. I watched them for a good half an hour with flights of envy. Here and now, the lumbering airplanes were the polar, graceless opposite.

I gained the hilltop, relaxed a few strides and re-accelerated. The jets approximated some kind of inane “V”, two crafts almost touched but didn’t, moving upwards and disappearing behind a big tree’s canopy. I then remembered something else too, namely a video D. White has posted of swarms of starlings[10] over Rome, hundreds of them, thousands, conjuring vast, dotted, metamorphing glyphs upon the sky. You could try to describe it but in this case I might be better advised to do a Wittgenstein. They combine the magic of individuality and the multitude, the Roman starlings, doing their name justice.

By the time I was loping past my birth-place the aerial buffoonery had thank heavens died away behind me and I could pick my heart back out of the debris and my pace up.

[1] It is too bad David Wallace is not around to write a hysterical article on this, the type which would have one doubling over in stitches and wishing the thing would run on forever and beyond.
[2] Think Radio Pilatus and the like
[3] “too many people, in bedlam”, as far as I know
[4] The authorities, the military folks, the champions of airshows and the pilots themselves too to a certain degree, regardless of blind obedience to orders
[5] The obvious perversion that the roar of jets with us [here in the West?] is a source of diversion while just about anywhere else on the planet this sound terrifies people and sends them madly scrambling for their lives and safety of limbs.
[6] I was, I think, distracted by the blubbering fact that three pieces of delectable cake were being savagely jounced while trying to dissolve in my stomach. This inevitably gives rise to certain unpleasantness as concerns evacuation. The term “lahar” seems not inapposite. As in: A mudslide is the most rapid (up to 80 km/h, or 50 mph) and fluid type of downhill mass wasting. It is a rapid movement of a large mass of mud formed from loose soil and water. Similar terms are mudflow, mud stream, debris flow (e.g. in high mountains), jökulhlaup, and lahar (from volcanoes, see also pyroclastic flow).
[7] This being a further aesthetic and almost exaggeratedly meaningful coincidence of my runs in my home town, that I pass by my place of birth as well as the common cemetery on just about every other run, saying an abstract “Hi there” to the newcomers and those that have gone before. But this is deserving of its own post.
[9] keep clicking till you see the birdies

About tmabona

writer, reader [bolano, DW, bellow, deLillo], runner, badmintoneer
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