Sunday, April 03, 2011
"Reading departure signs in some big airport reminds me of the places I've been." - Jimmy Buffett, "Changes In Latitude, Changes In Attitude" My niece flew in from Colorado last Thursday. I had the day off, thanks to the memory of Cesar Chavez, so it was easy enough for me to head on down to Oakland's airport to pick her up. And as happy as this event was, since it's always a giddy good time to spend some time with the girl I may or may not have dropped on her head on Halloween many moons ago, it was still tinged with regret. I could go to the airport, but I really couldn't hang out there. I couldn't even meet her at the gate. Instead, we had to rely on cell phones and the big board of comings and goings next to the baggage claim. The anticipation was roughly the same, but I missed the opportunity to see her coming out of the jetway, shot into our world fresh from the Rocky Mountains. I also missed the chance to stare out the windows at all the planes that were taking off and landing. Vacations just beginning, or ending with a flurry of tired kids and souvenirs. Nervous boyfriends waiting to see if the girl he left back at school still looks at him that way when she comes to visit. Lives beginning, taking new direction. It made me sad once again that in our surge for freedom in countries across the sea that we all had ours curtailed. One of the best dates my wife and I ever had took place at that airport. We drove down and parked in the lot, and went inside the terminal to have a thoroughly forgettable meal in the tower lounge. But when we came out, we looked at those big lighted boards, and imagined the trips that we might take, the places we might see. On the way home, we stopped at one of those carnivals that opens up wherever there's enough space for a Tilt-A-Whirl, and we took our chances on a ride called "The Ring Of Fire." It was the last time my wife went upside down for amusement. Afterwards, she was unwell. But it was still a magical night. That was before the towers fell and the TSA sprang up. Now the airport is an ordeal somewhere on the level of the DMV. It's no longer a place of whimsy. It's still a portal, but some of the magic has gone.