Saturday, September 3, 2011

Notes From A Cornfield

The plane headed for the middle of a cornfield. Coming from New York City, I’d never seen corn before, except in a grocery store. But in its natural habitat, it looked like something right out of a Stephen King novel. It was late August, the corn was really "as high as an elephant's eye," and the plane landed on its “runway” (which to any sane person should have more aptly been called a “dirt path.”)

What was I doing moving to Bloomington, Indiana? I thought I was going there to spend the next few years studying at one of the premiere music schools in the country. I thought I was going to rub elbows with the greatest musicians in the world. I thought this was going to be my first-class ticket to fame and fortune.
But the reality of my situation was starting to sink in. I was landing in a corn field. And corn was the only thing I could see for miles around. Where was civilization? Where was the “culture” I came to be a part of?

I should have known something was wrong when the baggage handler who put our luggage in the nose of the plane on the tarmac at Indianapolis Airport took off his baseball cap and put on a pilot’s cap. I should have known something was wrong when I saw him smoking in the cockpit. And I definitely should have known something was wrong when the pilot, just before take-off, got up from his seat, looked around at us passengers (eight people on a 20-seat plane), and then pointed to a fat guy sitting in the back and said: “You. Move to the middle. And sit on the other side of the aisle.”

Somehow, these clues didn’t set off the red flags they should have… So there I was, landing in a cornfield.
My fellow travelers quickly deplaned and hopped into pickup trucks randomly parked at the side of the runway. The pilot, having unloaded the baggage, put his flight cap back on, lit another cigarette, shut the plane’s hatch, and then took off, heading, I suppose, back to Indianapolis.

I was alone with the corn. It was just me, wearing a three-piece, gray flannel suit that was going to serve as my “recital clothes” for the next three years… I didn’t want the suit to get smooshed by stuffing it in my large hiker’s backpack, so I--ignorantly--opted to wear it. In a box next to me was my 10-speed bicycle, disassembled and packed for transit. So, standing there in the blazing, mid-afternoon, late August Indiana sun, I put my bike back together, heaved the backpack on my shoulders, and started pedaling through the cornfield, heading towards fame and fortune, to music not of Bach but of the crickets, and wishing that I could get my mind off of Stephen King.