Order of the Good Write

That Magic Feeling When the Words Flow. A Blog by Debi Rotmil

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Being Civilized in Civilization


I was sitting on a plane from New York JFK to Los Angeles a few weeks ago.  We were at the gate, and passengers were still boarding. There was a slight stand still in the line while people waited for those ahead of them to stow away their bags. A woman who was in waiting mode, said to the flight attendant, “Ahh, it will be good to be back in civilization again!”. The flight attendant said, “Why, do you not like New York?” The lady said,  “I’m a recovering New Yorker. It’s crazy here. Just too much chaos.” The flight attendant concurred, “Well, I guess I know what you mean. I almost got run over by a truck on 5th avenue the other day.”

Funny that chaos and potential street accidents were brought up about New York. My dog and I were almost run down crossing (with a pedestrian sign giving the okay) on 3rd street in LA a few months ago.  And I have a list of of incidents like this since moving to the land of La La.

What makes a city “civilized”?  When someone says they want to go back to “civilization”, you figure this person just spent a solitary holiday on a beach resort or floating on a cruise to Bermuda.

When I think of New York City, I think of it as the epitome of civilization. LA – the same but with better weather.

Civilization and being civilized human beings are two different things.  We human beings make civilization civilized. Civilization was created in the minds and hearts of ancient humanity to create infrastructure and laws. Being civilized is living up to the standard within those lines.

Civilization should also contain individuals who contribute kindness, consideration and aid to others.  Humanity.

As Nora Ephron wrote above, when you leave New York, things change. The city is now harsh. You are an outsider who has to pay your way in.  When you are a resident of New York, you don’t mind the crowds because that’s what you signed up for. You have the best restaurants on your speed dial. You know when to brace yourself on the 6 train when the hard turn after 42nd street pitches the subway into a hard jolt. You know what time taxis go on their break (5:00pm), and where they come into the city (east 59th street).

And you know – New York isn’t an easy place. Look deeper into Los Angeles, and you’ll find it just as difficult, except the sun always shines, drivers don’t use their turn signals, don’t stop at stop signs and don’t understand the right of way.

When I was sitting in that Jet Blue seat getting ready to head back to Los Angeles, I felt as thought I was leaving civilization to return to another one. But this time, unlike the “Recovering New Yorker”, I was willing to fall off the wagon and stay.






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Writing Inspiration: Airports

zurik airport

Photo by Erez Attias via Unsplash

Perhaps this is the talk of someone who doesn’t travel more than three times a year, but I love airports. I also love to fly. Once I pass the nerve-racking process of security, I put my shoes on,  grab my bags to head to my gate and the flutter of freedom and adventure settles in.

Although airports tend to be hermetically sealed environments that are almost indistinguishable from city to city, there is something beautiful about them, despite their dysfunction (I’m looking at you LAX. One decent sit down restaurant at the Jet Blue/Virgin terminal? Come on.)

They are large microcosms unto themselves. They house people in transit – a subset of humans waiting for the next motion – they are a temporary city onto themselves.

The smell of the jet fuel. The hissing sound of plane engines, the hustle of luggage carts and maintenance men, running along a stretched out runway that blinks dreamy lights outlining the various runways. Taxing planes coming in from other cities, carry people with things to do, lives to live, places to see.

Nothing new in hashing out the hubbub of airports. But there’s something lovely about waking up in the middle of the night and taking to the spotless roadways to catch a flight. When you enter an airport drive, it’s as if you’ve entered a secret society of people awake and bustling to get their flights in what seems like the still of the night. Voyagers getting a fresh start to the day, as the sky lightens and the sun is flashing its rays on the horizon. They stand in line at McDonalds. They grab their coffee at Dunkin Donuts. They buy water, aspirin, munchies – and await the announcement of boarding.

What is on their minds? What lives are rushing through those shiny floors and up those escalators? What memories do you have of travel and airports and missed connections and those found?

What travels are on your horizon, and how will you transcribe those into words?

Write it down.