Travels With Travis



LaGuardia Airport, Flushing, NY 11371

Neighborhood: Outer Boroughs, Queens

Travis Barker–he of the Eminem-a-like hip hop wigger lifestyle replete with marital discord (in his iteration it includes a catfight between the old ball and chain and pre-prison Paris Hilton)–yes, that Travis Barker, was briefly my boon companion aboard a rather small US Air carrier for some four hours when the traffic radar in Atlanta went out, was rerouted to Salt Lake, where the entire system (should Mormons really be running things?) blew.

It was on that doomed flight, 3034 out of La Guardia to the indie hotspot Indianapolis, that we became instant friends (“Could you move so that my…uh”–pointing to chubby gofer with the band–“could, uh, sit with me?”) During the course of our intimate time together, I learned things about Mr. Barker. He travels with a bag of mini-treats (Hershey bars, Mounds, and I believe, a Mr. Goodbar); he drinks bottled water; he is strangely soft-spoken and polite. (“Oh, you want your assigned seat…uh, that’s cool”). He is also slightly claustrophobic.

In fact, when he checked out for a few hours with his iPod plugged in, I had the opportunity to study his sleeping form, and I could see why the girls are all in favor of this talented lad. Peering through the elongated armhole of his gaping jersey with the words “KillerKillerKiller” running across it, I spied a bolt of tattooed lightning traveling up his pale torso and yes, it would make anyone like him. Also, he explained later that the jersey, part of his fashion line, was printed without pause so that it might be “a little ambiguous so that it doesn’t, like, send a message.” Clearly a former English major (four-syllable words are our exclusive domain).

In fact, I came away (well, he actually left first–the band de-boarded after four hours to book a charter while the rest of us mopes waited until the flight was cancelled over three hours after that) with a very positive feeling for Mr. Barker, which makes me wonder why used Travis as a “case study” to illustrate Neal Pollack’s new high-concept book Alternadad, which chastises young dads for wanting to be cool friends of their offspring. Mr. Travis, from what I read in the bloids, could never be accused of that.

Which brings me to my second, connected topic:

Manchildren in the Promised Land

I was Indianapolis-bound not to hear cutting edge ska-goth music, but to attend a conference on the French Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. My paper entailed a comparison between Levinas and ultra-hip Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben. Dr. Agamben made news recently when he was forced to give up an invitation to lecture in America because he refused to give his biometrics to the Bush government; he also recently referred to living in America as living in a concentration camp so I guess he really didn’t want to come anyway.

My paper was a dispassionate and scholarly examination of the sort of individual who might emerge from the ideas of both these philosophes, and what sort of community these individuals would construct. All this is far too difficult and specialized a matter to go into here, but I can easily communicate a portion of the argument through the discussion of a few popular movies. One might ask the question: what kind of male individual is most necessary to the coming community? A thoughtful and kind father, or a goofy druggy brother? Well, no contest, it’s the brother. Preferably, a Wilson brother. For instance, in The Family Stone there is a perfectly good kind thoughtful father, but it is the goofy druggy (and drinkie) brother, played by Luke, who finally beds Sarah Jessica Parker after getting her high, so that his good boring brother can marry Claire Danes–and isn’t that really what we all want? On the other hand, in You, Me and Dupree the uptight couple needs the goofy druggy input of Owen to set things right. I could go on but I think I’ve proved my point.

Which gets me back to that dear manchild, Mr. Barker…

Travels with Travis: Coda

After Travis left the plane I plundered his candy stash–it was a matter of survival (I had eaten two pounds of pretzels and needed a balance). As I hunted around his seat, my hand hit something hard and smooth. His iPod! I extricated it from the candy wrappers under which it was buried. Black. Mysterious. I turned it in my hand with excitement and desire. But when I looked up my other travel companion, some dude at the window seat with a Blackberry habit that was not under control, I saw him looking at me with interest. I suppose he thought I might keep it. Well, now I couldn’t. So I handed it to a flight attendant who flew down the staircase to the tarmac and released it to its rightful owner who mouthed a polite “thank you” as I knew he would. I believe he said “thank you so, uh, so much, man” which is just what I would have expected, knowing him as I do. And he gave her a pair of signed sticks. Those sticks should be mine, man.

I realize that in the last issue of The New Yorker some woman did a piece about sitting next to some famous guy on an airplane. But she didn’t name names. Who’s the real reporter?

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