I love to fly over cities at night. Young American cities, with their planned layout and straight, symmetrical roads, look like giant, lit-up circuit boards or glowing machinery. I flew over Chicago once — beautiful! It perfectly outlines the black wedge of Lake Michigan in shining gridlines.
London looks entirely different. All the main roads are ancient — wandering threads of light that draw together periodically in circular roundabouts. You can’t see it in the photo (which is a daytime satellite picture), but it looks like nothing so much as glial cells. Not very poetic, maybe, but it really does look organic, like a tangle of nerves, with the little dark synapses of parks in between.
Because traffic into Heathrow is so heavy, we always have to take a lap or two around the city before it’s our turn to land. I love that. Last time, it was clear and we were low and I got that Eyeball of God feeling. I could see the cars and buildings and even the little men playing soccer in a field quite distinctly. I spotted the radio mast up at Crystal Palace, and it was like I could flick it over with a finger if I wanted.
Usually, on the final approach, we come roaring up the fat black ribbon of the Thames. It’s crossed by a dozen bridges, draped in lights. Oh, yes. Very cool. I think it’s the Bath Road the we parallel as the plane touches down. If I’m lucky, I’ll spot the Tudor McDonald’s at which I once personally ate a Big Mac. Tudor McDonald’s. No kidding. They do that shit to impress tourists.
It was foggy last night when I landed, so I didn’t see much but a soft, pulsing areas of glow. Funny, this is the only time I’ve known London really foggy. Of course, the famous pea soup London fogs were coal smoke, and this is just…well, fog. They canceled some flights yesterday, and today have shut the airport entirely to domestic flights. Merry Christmas, I guess.
But I was lucky. I landed okay. So I don’t care.