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Catch A Flight.

Updated: Jun 23

Currently rounding up preparations to fly out to StokerCon in San Diego in a few days.

I haven't always been that much of a flier. I can still remember my first flight at seven years of age, with Mama and my brothers on a flight to Barbados. A change of scene, seeing family, seeing our heritage, etc. Certain things I won't forget in a hurry. Watership Down as the inflight film on a big screen at the front of the cabin. Earphones that looked like rubber stethoscopes. Synthetic-tasting inflight meals. And my repeated vomiting, which splattered my mother and pissed off the steward holding the bag in front of me. I still remember those exasperated words: "Get it in the bag, son, get it in the bag."

No, I didn't cope well with air travel back then.

But times change and things evolve. Another family holiday to Barbados when I was eleven - I didn't do as badly that time. A short trip to Paris some twenty-odd years ago. I still have reservations about the Channel Tunnel (however unfounded they may be), so flying remains the preference there.

What had really brought home the idea of travelling to me was in the wake of a break-up with an ex-girlfriend (who, like a lot of people, travelled every now and then) was the fact that I hadn't really seen anywhere different. By this time - around 2003 - I was already a member of Kelley Armstrong's online discussion forum (which was very much a thing back then, but is long gone now), and had grown to know a number of people online. For the most part, the board demographic was either in the U.K., the U.S., or Canada.

Having formed bonds with a number of people, one of which is 'Nella', who lives in Toronto, I'd flown out there to meet some people, 'chaperoned' by a then-friend since I'd not flown in how many years and may have had a degree of anxiety about flying. To his credit, he'd taken the window seat so I could get up, stretch my legs and wander when needed, and had only called me a 'punk-ass nigga' for repeated (albeit, silent) farting on the flight when we were actually downtown in Toronto. The trip itself was good and while the projectile vomiting thus far is now a thing of the past, I still take motion sickness tablets before I fly - simply being on the safe side.

Trips to Toronto are now a regular thing and while the number of attendees at a 'Meet' with Kelley Armstrong also in attendance are also a thing of the past, a handful of us are still close and meet up in the summer to go to FanExpo, catch up, get some food and drink. All the good stuff.

What's also notable about Kelley Armstrong's forum is that this is where, on asking about zombie vegetarians (as a half-joke, since I couldn't remember the name of a particular '...of The Dead' book I was looking for), Nella had recommended Brian Keene's "The Rising" - which is, to date, my favourite zombie story in any medium. Yes, beyond the likes of Resident Evil, 28 Days Later, The Walking Dead, Night Of The Living Dead, et al. And, having similarly immersed myself in Brian Keene's forum and inhaled much of his work and met some good people, what stood out to me was the hustler ethic of being an indie author. These experiences had set the stage where I had found my feet as an indie author and pushed myself to develop my craft - and still do.

As a result of these online interactions and connecting with a range of people, I'm more likely to travel now. Some of it is author related, with the idea that the more people I get to meet, the more people see who I am and are aware of who I am and are more likely to be curious about who I am and what I do. All part and parcel of Game 101. Some of the travel is just spending time with friends. Plus, the experiences from travelling internationally are enriching.

Everything from watching the sunrise on the beach in Dominican Republic, humming Nirvana's "Come As You Are" to meeting John Carpenter at FanExpo and shaking his hand (at which he warned me my handshake was strong). From early evening heading back to the airport in Rio watching the sun set behind Cristo Redentor to getting some of the best Chinese food I ever tasted on Smith Street/Food Street in Singapore, sat at an outdoor table. Catching a connecting flight home from Minneapolis and hearing Ray Charles' "Georgia On My Mind" play as people from all over the world made their way through the airport.

Even the flying itself is a great experience, although I still approach it with a degree of anxiety, no matter how small. More often than not, I'll get the tube to Heathrow, and then feel what's usually a cool breeze/cold wind on me as I get into the terminal. It always fascinates me to check out the departure board and see all the destinations in the world you could go to. Once I check in my luggage, it's through passport control and then lounge for a while, maybe get some food in me, do some reading, etc., before it's time to head to the gate. Mama laughs when I tell her than when it comes to the moving walkway, I always walk - because I can't wait to get to the gate. Once there, I'll read, relax, pop my travel sickness tablets.

When it's time to board, I take my seat quickly, mindful that other passengers are boarding. Once airborne, I'll ask what time the first meal is served. Even though I eat less now than I used to, at around 3 - 4 meals a day, I still have a good appetite. The reason I ask when food is served is to make sure that I eat the inflight meal before I start wading into the sandwiches I've brought onboard. Why? Because the inflight meals are never big enough.

When I've eaten, I can then look at passing the time until my flight gets in. I'm one of those people who can sleep on the flight, so I'll grab a couple of hours siesta. This not only helps pass the time, but also helps minimise any jetlag. I'll read. I'll watch an inflight film or two. Listen to the captain's announcement. Cruising altitude, expected arrival time, local weather. I'll get up and walk the aisle - one of the reasons that I prefer an aisle seat. My carry-on is usually small enough to go under the seat in front of me. This is also important because when the flight lands and the seatbelt sign goes off, I want to be out of my seat and as far up the aisle to the exit as possible - to exit the plane as quick as possible. No luggage in overhead bins for me, if I can help it. I'm aware that other people may not have that sense of urgency, but I do. My aim is to get through passport control, collect my luggage from the baggage carousel and get out of the airport as quick as possible. From there, it's then a cab ride to the destination.

More often than not, I travel alone but at least I know people at the destination. StokerCon will be no different. I'll get to meet the usual suspects; the likes of Colleen Anderson, Sephera Giron and such, as well as the likes of Brian Asman, who I've known since the A Story A Week challenge back in 2017 but will be meeting for the first time this week.

But, when all's said and done, I'm grateful for the chance to head home, catch my flight back out and land in the capital some hours later. Bringing whatever experience, memories, gifts and souvenirs with me. It's still pretty cool - a far cry from those early flights. Thankfully.



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