It's been said that "restaurants are the theater of our time." If that's so, if restaurants can be experienced and treated as theater, can be reviewed as theater, then I postulate that plane trips can be treated and reviewed the same way.
Take a window seat and watch the show go by outside. It's a theatrical experience - you've got a seat, the view is framed by the window, and if your mind is open to it, the country passes by you in a long, cinematic pan. It's always different - different routes provide different content, light and shadows vary with time of day, and seasons change the colors. Even on the same route, different seats - certainly different sides of the plane - offer different perspectives. It's also been said that you never enter the same river twice. To the attentive mind, you never experience the same flight twice.
Take today. This morning I flew from Atlanta to Portland, Oregon. Leaving Hartsfield Airport, I saw great views of the Atlanta skyline, with its bustling downtown and midtown skyscrapers and the second high-rise district of Buckhead, with a calm green oasis (my neighborhood) in between. As the plane banked to the northwest, I was afforded views of the suburban "Perimeter Cities" of Ashford-Dunwoody and Cumberland-Galleria. And as the plane continued out of Atlanta, I saw the Chattahoochee River and then the parched and dry banks of Lake Allatoona on the Etowah River.
As we gained altitude, man's footprint faded from view and the underlying geologic structure became more apparent. In the low-angle light of the early morning, the rough and rolling terrain of the lower Blue Ridge looked almost like brains, and the Blue Ridge mountains soon rose above this unusual landscape. The sharp, distinct boundary between the crystalline rocks of the North Georgia Mountains and the sedimentary rocks of the Valley and Ridge Province was apparent as we crossed over the Cartersville Fault and passed into Tennessee.
The long linear ridges and valleys of the appropriately named Valley and Ridge Province soon gave way to the Appalachian Province soon after we crossed the Tennessee River. Our plane passed over Nashville and proceeded over Kentucky, then Illinois and finally we crossed the mighty Mississippi and entered Missouri just below St. Louis, which was sprawled out on my side of the plane.
Somewhere in northern Missouri, the ground became covered with snow and the sky became covered with clouds. There was nothing to be seen out my window as we passed over Iowa and across Nebraska and the southwest corner of South Dakota. Not that I imagined that there was much to see, and I didn't much mind the curtain closing on the theater below.
But as we approached Sundance and the Wyoming border, the clouds suddenly parted and revealed the presence of rugged, western-style mountains, covered in snow and glistening in the sun. As we crossed the state of Wyoming, the clouds and underlying landscape played a game of peek-a-boo, hiding the mountains behind clouds and then peeling back to reveal the land, including Yellowstone Park at the Wyoming/Montana border.
The game of peek-a-boo continued across the panhandle of Idaho and western Oregon, until the Columbia River came into view west of Pendleton. As if ashamed to hide the beauty of the river, the clouds all but disappeared, but as the Cascades rose up around the Columbia, only to be incised by the river, the clouds rolled back in and pretty much hid the rest of the view until we landed in Portland on a typical grey January day.
I've made this flight at least four times in the past four months, and have taken a window seat every time. The view has never been the same twice, and the narrative told by the landscape is to me as good "theater" as any restaurant I know.