Oh, the games we play. Mostly variations of ‘Where is Waldo’, the role of Waldo played either by some parking garage. Or the Travelodge. Or, here, by the sea. For geographical reasons, many airports are located at the sea, but they try to pretend that they are not. Getting from the airport to the sea is akin to getting from the Earth to Xanadu or to Atlantis or to the Disc World or to some other fantasy land.
When arriving in Palermo, the first thing I tried is to walk out of the airport and towards the sea, ignoring the convenient shuttle bus to the city centre. But I didn’t get very far. The feeder road is short and ends at a busy motorway. On the other side of the motorway: the sea, protected by death, death, death. And barbed wire. People park at the point where the feeder road meets the motorway, to pick up their relatives. Why the hell not. Garbage is everywhere. The Sun is merciless. I give up, for now.
Four days later. Upon departure I’m more or less acclimatised. Or the temperatures have dropped. Or I don’t care anymore. My objective is the backend of the airport. From the terminal, via the car rental chaos, further and further I push. On the way some tall pyramid structures with several floors and piles of, well, dirt on each floor. Whatever, Palermo. And after only ten minutes of exploration I reach not the sea, but the end of the world. And empty space, empty not literally, but empty of purpose, parking lots without parked cars, some buildings without walls, a street lamp, and a broken sign that says ‘Q ICK’. A long row of brandnew bollards is parked here, still wrapped in plastic.
Qick, the land of nobody, is right at the sea, but separated from the sea by a four foot fence plus barbed wire at the top. Beyond that the sea is unprotected and inviting, although probably disastrously polluted. A long bridge stretches far out into the Mediterranean. The area is CCTV free and unsupervised. In the dark, perhaps with a helpful companion, it would be quite easy to get across. Interesting, as well.
These are the places we are looking for. Undetermined, undervalued, underused. Empty spaces, frequented by nobody, ignored by everybody. In many ways this is wilderness, spots that do not properly exist, if existence is defined in a certain way and doesn’t include, you know, concrete, plastic and atoms. A space that nobody is paying attention to, is it really a space? This is an area the airport hiker can fill with meaning. Here, the airport hiker can create his own wonderland. Here he can feel completely at home.
A huge fire truck appears on a dirt road on the other side of a fence, beyond my neverland. Apparently there is life beyond the end of the world.