The Monk’s Record Player:
Thomas Merton, Bob Dylan, and the Perilous Summer of 1966
In the window seat of an airplane above the vast American West I am alone, seeking familiarity outside my window. Mountains with snowy shoulders stretch below, their size giving the illusion of closeness. The white horizon they break into zigs and zags eases upwards into blue sky, and dilutes the sharpness of the most distant peaks. Just as the landscape is wrapping me into itself, blocky cartoon letters painted on the wingtip of my plane snap me back behind the three-paned glass and molded grey plastic of my window. “HOWDY,” it says in a yellow found mainly on toy dump trucks. I don’t reply.
There are few places I feel more alone than in the window seat of a crowded airplane. There, in a lumpy seat, stuck between a mass of disgruntled strangers and the vast unfamiliar landscape far below, I fold in on myself. As someone who builds energy in alone time, this is enjoyable. For those strangers next to me, I’m sure I come across, unfortunately, as less than amicable.