Monthly Archives: February 2013

In an Airport

I’m sitting in a lonely airport.

I just gave up my seat on an overbooked flight for a generous voucher and was re-booked on a flight four hours later than my original departure time. These situations rarely work out but this time I am mostly just shifting my layover times to different airports and moving my arrival time back about two hours.  I’ll be happy  for the voucher the next time I have to book a flight.

But now, here I sit with countless time to write… yet there’s really nothing to write about.

I am in a regional airport. Unlike the large hubs which are always filled with activity, regional airports are only loud and boisterous when there are flights coming and going and there often may be several hours between these times. Right now this airport is in between flights and so it’s deathly quiet other than the occasional announcement over the intercom’s, the faint sound of a television spewing propaganda on a cable news channel and the humming sound of the vending machines that are across the aisle from me. I am one of about a dozen passengers who have made their way past the security checkpoints and now are forced to kill time reading or sitting at the lone bar here or typing words into a blog.  Periodically someone else walks by, another passenger preparing to wait it out, or the cleaning personnel pushing a trash barrel.

I put my time in at the bar, ordering a sandwich and a couple of vastly overpriced  Corona’s for lunch. I sat by myself, my eyes darting from the TV behind the bar to the blogs I was perusing on my iPad. Neither was terribly interesting and so I mostly just sat and thought about what I could write.  A few other people sat in this little restaurant and read newspapers or stared at the screens on their phones.  I wondered what they might be thinking about; writing or missing their families or the work they had to do whenever they arrived at their destination.

The man behind the bar wore a net on his head, I assume because they were selling food here as well. It looked kind of silly and I wondered how he felt about having to wear it. He appeared to be about my age and was very friendly, running from the bar to the cash register and talking with the few customer that were stopping in. Regardless of his silly hair net, he was very jovial and upbeat and confident. He checked everybody’s ID that ordered a drink at the bar and would make the comment each time “can I see your ID so that nobody gets into trouble.”

After about an hour, I left the bar, walked to the restroom, emptied out some of the beer, then walked the couple of minutes to my gate. On the way I passed a young guy sleeping in one of the massage seats, his two bags sitting in front of him. I assumed he had probably not spent the $1.00 to get the seat to vibrate for a few minutes but only sat there because it was the most comfortable seat in the house.

When I arrived at the gate, there was nobody there and so I sat in the corner and fiddled with my iPad.  I snacked on a small box of Conversation Hearts that my wife had stealthily hid inside my backpack before I left. I had discovered these while loading all my electronics, my shoes and my jacket into the gray plastic tubs at the security gates. I smiled at her thoughtfulness and because I was reminded on my recent post on the subject of Conversation Hearts. As I sat, the minimal amount of alcohol from the Corona’s seeped into my blood and I felt sleepy but I didn’t want to fall asleep. Instead I wanted to try to write.

Now I sit at a little stainless steel desk with an outlet that I can plug my laptop into.  It’s the only desk in a row of six of these desks that doesn’t have a phone in it. I wondered who could possibly be using these phones anymore with the prominence of cell phones in the world today. But I’m happy to have the desk even though it’s too small for my height and I feel hunched over as I type.

I sat for a while trying to think of something to write. I thought about writing about my recent FP’d experience, but I just wasn’t inspired to write that post. As exciting as that was, I’m ready to move onto the next post. I tried to come up with something funny to write about, but there was nothing there. I considered writing about how I miss my family when I am on the road, about how difficult it is to leave, but that once I am gone and busy it becomes easier. But in reality, it’s not really easier. I remembered something another salesperson said to me several years ago; he said “there will never be a time when you’re on the road that you wouldn’t rather be home”. He was right and so I passed on writing about that as well.

So I sat in my little stainless steel cubicle and stared at the stark silver in front of me. I could faintly see my reflection in the shiny metal and my back ached from hunching over.

Then I just started writing.

Because sometimes writing about nothing can be the most interesting thing of all.

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A Conversation Heart Conversation

A one act play in conversation hearts:  read left to right like a book.

HEARTS

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

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Old Barn Coat

barn coat

I’d seen the catalog images hundreds of times. The classic LL Bean Barn Coat. Worn by handsome, rugged guys with peppered hair, stubbled faces and crow’s feet that deepened the harder they would smile at the camera. The backdrops of their imaginary lives, idyllic rural landscapes painted in autumn colors or with fences lining fields of grazing horses. The assumption was rural New England or Bean’s hometown state of Maine but it could have been anywhere, left purely up to the imagination of the reader, the buyer, the consumer.

Granted, they were models, likely from the famed Ford agency in Manhattan, but I wanted to be those guys, to wear that coat and be rugged and handsome and capable. To work hard and play hard, to be one with the outdoors, to drive a pick-up truck on dirt roads and do jobs worthy of wearing an LL Bean Barn Coat, a coat that combined classic fashion with heavy-duty, rural durability.

I bought myself an LL Bean Barn Coat somewhere in the mid 1990′s. I don’t remember the exact year but it was close to twenty years ago. My choice, the traditional Khaki color with the hunter green collar, a coat made from heavy canvas, with a removable, insulated flannel liner and deep front pockets that would keep my hands warm on cold Fall Michigan days. I was young, mid-20′s, newly married and kid free. I had a new career under my belt and endless possibilities on life’s horizon… and now I had an LL Bean Barn Coat.

For many years it was my regular coat. I wore it to work and I wore it on dates with my wife. I wore it to restaurants and the grocery store and on trips back East to visit my family. I wore it to apple orchards and pumpkin patches and while shoveling snow in the winter. I probably wore it to the hospital when my daughter was born in 1997. I wore it while working around my house, while chopping wood and raking leaves and repairing fences and painting barns and mowing grass.

Over the years my LL Bean Barn Coat became less and less my everyday coat and more and more something I wore when I knew I was going to get dirty. It had become permanently stained with dirt, splattered with red barn paint and faded from long days in the sun, the rain, the snow and trips through the washing machine. Plus, like most people, my attitudes about fashion fluctuated from year to year and some years I was much more fitted dress shirts than flannel button downs, and much more black leather jacket than khaki LL Bean Barn Coat. But my trusted coat is still with me, it still hangs proudly in my mud-room and close to twenty years after purchasing it, I still wear it regularly when I am doing jobs that are worthy of wearing an LL Bean Barn Coat.

I’m a much different person now than I was in my mid-20′s and I like to think that, just like my LL Bean Barn Coat, with its dirty, stained and faded patina, I have aged gracefully, not only on the outside, but the inside as well. I’m not sure I ever became one of those guys in the LL Bean catalog or if my life has developed into the storybook that those images in the catalog portrayed. Sure I have the crow’s feet and a few gray hairs and the rural life and the dirt road and the pickup truck. In reality though, if I can claim to be anything like the guys in those pictures, I know where credit is deserved; the woman I married, the family she and I have built and fostered and my general attitude about life and how I have chosen to live it.

Because a fulfilling life has much less to do with the coat you wear and much more to do with where you choose to hang it.

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Finding your inner kid: where did all the snow go?

Peeking out from the snow in Houghton, Michigan

Peeking out from the snow in Houghton, Michigan

Some of you reading this are probably in the midst of what is being reported as one of the worst blizzards to hit the East Coast since the infamous Blizzard of ’78. If you are, you are probably NOT wondering where all the snow went!

Ahhhh, the Blizzard of ’78…..

In the summer of 1977 my family moved from Michigan to St. James, New York, a little town on the North Shore of Long Island.  I was going into 5th grade, my older brothers into 8th and 9th grades. Long Island is typically not a very wintry place. Winter’s were cold, but seemed to be more rainy than snowy and in the many years we lived there it was rare to have a white Christmas. I’m sure there is some geographic explanation to this based on the island being surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the southern shore and the Long Island Sound on the northern shore, but I don’t really know why.

But our first winter there we were treated to the Blizzard of ’78. It really was an epic snowstorm, worthy of the praise it still gets today. Although official tallies of the amounts of snow were mostly in the two to three feet range, it was the drifting that was so amazing. We awoke to drifts of snow, three or four feet deep in parts of our driveway and drifts up against the house that were probably four to five feet high. It was much, much worse in many places.

I remember coming out the first morning of the storm to see just the top half of our cars sticking out of the snow. I remember my dad and brothers and I digging out the driveway and creating a maze of pathways with crisp white walls of packed snow that we could walk through to get around our property.  Of course, I remember school being closed for several days. There was so much snow we were able to dig tunnels and make forts that we, as kids, could actually climb inside. For a kid in 5th grade it was an absolute winter dream come true.

Granted, that was an unusual snowstorm, but in general it doesn’t seem to snow as much as it did when I was a kid. Or does it? I’ve heard others make that same comment and sometimes I wonder if that is really true, or if like a lot of things I remember from childhood, it just seemed like more snow because I was smaller. We’ve seen our share of blizzards in the twenty years or so that my family has now lived back in Michigan. And it snows here… A LOT.  But it’s been quite some time since we’ve had a snowstorm rip through and drop two feet of snow on us. It has happened occasionally but not that often. It’s weird, but I wonder how my kids will remember the Michigan winters and if they’ll ever get to experience a winter storm that they’ll talk about for the rest of their lives.

I was up in Houghton Michigan this week.  Houghton, Michigan is a little town, built on the mining industry that sits within the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  It’s a land mass that juts far out into icy cold Lake Superior and with the water on both sides, the lake effect snow machine is always on there in the winter months. Houghton on average records in the neighborhood of about two hundred inches of snowfall every year, although talking to people in the area, the last few years have been mild for them as well. But this year, at least within the last couple of weeks, they have been getting hit with a lot of snow and the town appeared like what I remember my little world looking like during the Blizzard of ’78.

I thought a lot about my kids during the few days I was in that area. Not only because I was away from home, but because the constant snowfall, the foot high covering of snow on the rooftops of the houses in the local neighborhoods and the thirty foot piles of snow that the plows had stacked up, brought back a little twinge of that childhood bliss that comes out when the snow is deep, the wind is blowing and you’re bundled up in your winter jacket and boots and gloves and a hat. Like many of us in the adult world, I’ve realized that each year of my life, the “inner kid” in me gets harder and harder to find. He’s still there but it seems to take a lot more coaxing to get him to come out from behind the curtain of work stress and technology and raising teenagers and doing laundry and dishes and all the other grown-up things I have to do.

A massive blizzard isn’t going to change that but just as a snowflake falls from the sky, lands on the ground, melts to water, and evaporates back into the air, so do our lives cycle through many different stages and finding ways to set aside those responsibilities and keep that “inner kid” alive, no matter what stage you are in, is so important. There’s no question, it can be as challenging as shoveling a driveway covered in three to four feet of snow.

But it’s doable.

Last night the same storm that is now pounding the Northeast, a Clipper I heard it called on one weather report, dropped three to four inches of snow in our area.

Not much in the big picture, but probably just enough snow to go sledding.

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