In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Noble Impermanence of Waystations
  • Miriam Rowntree (bio)

In the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA), adjacent to Gate 14, a screen announces that boarding to Equestria is on time. The description below this announcement includes transport “through a portal to a parallel dimension” and a “harmonious sparkly” atmosphere. An attractive destination. Esquestria’s capital, Canterlot, offers castles, dragons, and, of course, ponies. As the heart of the My Little Pony universe, Canterlot boasts a fantastical utopia. Gate ∞, as it is called (because its erstwhile home, Gate 13, is an unlucky number), imaginatively whisks weary travelers away to other fantastical destinations. Using a commonplace ticket machine or kiosk, travelers answer a series of whimsical questions and receive a ticket to a utopian destination that the machine has personally matched to the traveler for their mythical utopia. Doesn’t everyone want to go to lands of unicorns, ponies, or other such magic?

The installation titled “Interimaginary Departures” draws upon 120 destinations drawn from various media, literature, and games, including Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Wizard of Oz.1 Even the carpet is inspired by the rabbits of Watership Down. Artist Janet Zweig describes her art [End Page 570] installation as designed to “create generative situations in public settings” and Gate ∞ does invite possibility as it is situated in a portal askew to the portals of the real in the terminal. Gate ∞ boldly crosses a border wall at 7 degrees (fig. 1, p. 572), heightening the boundaries between the real and the unreal. The chairs, a trashcan, and a book are caught between worlds, a wall slicing through them. Although Zweig cites China Mieville’s The City and the City (2009) as inspiration for her art installation, for me, the juxtaposition of the “interimaginary” and the real calls to mind Olga Tokarczuk’s book Flights (2007).2 While Zweig’s kiosk personally recommends Equestria (fig. 2, p. 573), ABIA is itself merely a waystation on my own trip between Texas and Rome.

Tom McAllister’s review of Flights in the Washington Post describes the book as “beautifully fragmented,” not unlike Zweig’s “Interimaginary Departures” which relies on structural fragmentation of a space to exemplify the interposition of the imaginary and the real.3 This book captivated me from the first strange narrative when I tried to read it several years ago. However, I found it difficult to finish the first time as the stories in each section (there are no chapters) moved rapidly from one place, person, idea, and time to the next. McAllister says that “the disconnectedness is part of the point; they are fragments of people’s lives, a patchwork of personal experience, secondhand observation and imagination. Each story appears, draws our attention and then fades as the narrator finds her way to a new hotel, a new airport.” Perhaps the disconnectedness is the point, but I have found that Tokarczuk also infuses the sections with a sense that “there exists in the world’s coordinate system a perfect point where time and space reach an agreement” (4). Like Zweig’s “Interimaginary Departures,” that agreement is found in movement and the waystations toward that right time and place.

Destination: Rome

I settle into my seat next to my two daughters. Our flight will land in Rome at 8:00 am tomorrow. I have prepared them for what this means for our bodies. Jet lag is no joke. We shuffle our things around, air pods in the seat pocket in front of us, our bags tucked into the overhead bins. I take out my book and open it to the first page as my girls turn on the tv screens nestled in the seat in front of them. “Here I am” it says in bold letters at the top of the first page of Tokarczuk’s book. The narrator announces their presence (here) with the imperative of existence (I am). I take out my pen as is my habit, but it falls to the side as I read the first [End Page 571]


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Figure 1.

A view from the Interimaginary Departures exhibit at Gate 13, or Gate Infinity, in Austin-Bergstrom International...

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