Sunday, April 11, 2010

Flying There (And Home Again)

This is Part One of my stories from traveling.  There are, I have found while journaling and blogging, too many experiences and categories to talk about in one or two posts.  Don't worry, I'm not going to bore you with every detail of my journey.  Rather, I'm just sharing the most beautiful, humorous, and memorable of what I experienced.

Growing up, I was blessed with many flights, many trips to exciting and fun places (road trips as well sometimes) such as Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, to Long Boat Key in Florida, to Paris, to Mexico, on cruises ... to Wisconsin too, and Michigan.  I miss traveling.  Many of my flights and journeys were given to me by a very generous family, that of my best friend growing up.  Her dad had custody of her only on Sundays and some of our school breaks, so when he took her on vacation, he let her bring a friend (ME!) so she would have the most possible fun.

When I showed interest, which was very early on, like 9 years old or something, my parents began to take us to air shows in the summertime.  There is a large, televised, famous one held on Lake Michigan in Chicago every year.  But there are also local ones that were really fun and had great planes and shows.  I remember watching, just fascinated, just passionate in my heart, as the parade went overhead:  Navy aircraft, helicopters, experimental / home-made things, and (my favorite) the aerobatic and wing-walking parts of the show!  When I met the great aerobatic pilot Sean D. Tucker, at one show and he signed my program, well, I swooned.  It was better than when Debbie Gibson gave me a high-five once at a concert!

So I have always loved to fly.  I love aircraft.  I thought I would become a pilot, and took flying lessons, even got to fly on my own (!) a little bit doing touch-n-go's ... but I didn't pursue it.  There were a few reasons, not really complicated, no drama.  But that's for another post.  Although I was pretty terrified to travel and take this two-week trip, I was not afraid of the flights.  I absolutely adore the flying.

It's been 7 years, and a world of personal hell, since I last flew.  Needless to say I missed it.  And I had not been in the airports since 2003, which was before a lot of the current "security measures" were in effect.  It was, of course, the post-nine-eleven world, as they say.  But still, it wasn't like this, now.  The airlines have changed dramatically, everything about them.  The airports have changed.  How you do everything before and after boarding is different.  I guess it would suffice to say that basically everything is just different.  And this saddened me.  

I wasn't impatient.  I wasn't mad or irritated, didn't feel wronged in some way, by all the security stuff (often arbitrary and disorganized so far as I could tell) or the time it all took.  I felt a bit stupid and older than my age and well, tourist-y, because I did not know how to check in with the self-service machines and things like that.  But whatever.  Dad and I figured it all out.  And we got to fly First-Class, because of an awesome thing Dad worked out for us.  I've never done that before!  Nope, I can't claim to be rich or even rich enough to have flown First-Class ever before, not even on someone else's dime.  And it was good.  But it wasn't what made the flight.  It's all about the flying for me.  Always and forever.

The ride TO our destination was okay.  The crew for the Black-Eyed Peas was in First Class with us, so that was interesting, a bit of a brush with fame or whatever.  And yes, it was a wonderful thing to be served free meals and drinks, in a spacious seat, with a less-used bathroom nearby.  It's the little things!  That first trip was bumpy, and the view was often clouded by, well, clouds.  But I was happy to be flying again, and excited to get to where we were going.  Although scared about traveling, I had sort of just surrendered at that point.  I was packed, I was on my way, and that was that.

It was the flight home that took my breath away.  I wished I had a map of our route to look at as we flew, because everything I could see "down there" was so gorgeous.  And there was never a cloud in my way if you can imagine!  I sat by the window, forehead absolutely pressed to the thick pane.  Maybe I looked ridiculous, maybe like a little child, staring out at the world that way, as though I'd never seen it from an aircraft.  But that matters not a bit to me.  

Between Los Angeles and here (Chicago), I felt like I saw everything God ever created, a sampling of every landscape.  And they were all polished and shined for this display.  As we skimmed over the western states, I saw reds and browns, layered on the mountains with their wide, flat tops.  And down their sides, shimmering sparkles of golden minerals and rocks, like flecks of the brightest stars.  I saw snow-capped mountains, clusters of towns, cities, rolling green hills, and the endless-ly amazing clusters of baseball diamonds and swimming pools, looking like tiny play worlds from up there in the sky.  Like toys.  And dolls.  Like a little train set of the entire country.

I guess all of this ceases to amaze many travelers after awhile, if it ever was amazing to them.  For me, it is beautiful, a miracle of its own sort.  On the ground, the airplanes are lumbering, heavy, metallic beasts of a vehicle.  If you look at them, you can see every ding and dent, every nut and bolt, all that greasy, cracked stuff, like the garish paint.  And they are FILTHY.  I mean, really, I always want to get out the good old bucket and hose and just WASH them like a car...

But in the sky, they are different.  They shine.  They glide.  They fit right in, you might say.  Not too big, not ugly, just right.  That is how they appear to me, whether I am inside of them or outside, whether I am the pilot or the passenger.  And they carry me, in their great bellies, along with cargo and food and drinks and pets.  And it's amazing.

Our pilot brought our aircraft gently around each leg of our landing pattern as we arrived over O'Hare International Airport.  And as darkness fell, he guided that gigantic metallic hulk to the ground just so, so that each tire just barely kissed the runway.  Now, this is a thing of beauty in itself, in my eyes:  a perfect landing takes great skill and a bit of luck, experience too.  And we rolled on our way back to the airport, back to the gate, back home.  And it was good.


Barbara said...

I enjoyed reading this! Glad you had such a nice trip. It was cool to hear your description of the western landscape from up above, have you ever been to Utah or Arizona? You would love some of the areas there with the rock formations, etc.

I have always adored air shows. There was a huge one near me for most of my life (USMC at El Toro, CA) but about 8 years they shut the entire base down. I will never forget crying as I watched the Blue Angels perform in my area one last son didn't understand why I was sad (he was just a kid).

I flew from CA to Wisconsin three times last year and felt like a seasoned traveler after that - lol - but like you, it had been a long time (2000) and everything was so different!

Tatyanna (and Dorian too) said...

I've only been to Arizona for any amount of time, only been to airports and such in the other states nearby. LOVE LOVE LOVE it there though! Hiking around in Sedona, that area, was beeee-you-teeful!

Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful post,Tan. Loved hearing about your love of flying. Despite my fear o flying, I get why a person would love it. Now if I could just relax....Also, FIRST CLASS...HELLO! Wasn't that heavenly? So glad to hear about your trip....will be looking forward to more details as you write them. Love you! Lee