Flying

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New York

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

So many things were old hat: the quick note of my parking row, the toiletries in Ziplocs, the train to concourse C, the weight of my book-laden purse. After all, this was my third trip in so many weeks; I am no stranger to Southwest Airlines and Denver International Airport.

But as I boarded the plane, I felt an alien sort of energy: the destination was unfamiliar.

And waking up this morning in a very plush Hilton, the unfamiliarity was confirmed. I am in New York City. Word.

Prior to today, I have only been to New York once – five years ago. Another life ago. I spent a week crashing on my sweet friend Heidi’s pull-out couch in Brooklyn, and hoofed myself all over the city with absolutely no idea what I was doing.

One night, I was on the subway around 1am when the train just… stopped. Everyone off, they said. Trouble on the tracks.

So I took the stairs up to the open air of the dark night streets, and looked around for some sign of what to do next. Street signs did me no good; I had no context for where I was, and the hint of red wine lingering around my edges wasn’t exactly helping. I figured that I would get on the bus that I saw some of my fellow/former trainmates boarding, and just see what might happen.

Inexplicably, and hours later, I made it back to Brooklyn that night, elated at my sheer moxie (when really, it was all due to a merciful stranger who nothing short of spelled out directions for me). I had had a CLOSE CALL in New York, New York, and lived to tell the tale.

Yes, I acknowledge my naiveté. But I also acknowledge the possibility of my very large face on a very tiny milk carton. Touché.

In addition, I acknowledge the fact that I just used é twice.

This week, I am in New York for a work event – something rather outlandish and fun in and of itself. But I’m extending my visit through the weekend to a) rendezvous with the one and only Valerie Morby, b) test out the services of airbnb, and c) attend “Newsies” on Broadway. If there was any weekend to be jealous of my life, this is it.

Back in August, I started the book Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, but wound up shelving it when life got crazy. On a flight to Austin just a few days ago (I told you – flights in abundance these days), I started reading again, and I finished it last night en route to New York.

In the last 15 pages, I underlined this: “One of the beauties of New York is that you can be from anywhere and within moments of landing it is yours.”

I’m wide open to that possibility.

False alarm

Friday, May 4th, 2012

I am spending the weekend in Boston with my dear friend Christina. Boston is one of my favorite cities, and Christina is one of my favorite friends, so in other words, everything is wonderful.

Before I boarded my flight on Thursday, I got an email from Christina saying, “Hope your flight leaves on time and that you’re not sitting next to another trademark weirdo” – bizarre plane-interactions seeming to be par for the course for me.

When I found myself seated next to a nondescript, completely silent gentleman, I was overjoyed. The 4-hour flight was without incident and without conversation – which equates to a hearty “hallelujah” from this introvert. We descended quietly into Boston, and I stared out the window at the clear night sky.

But as we taxied to the gate, something happened. Something surprising. Something shocking.

In the dark and silent plane, the man next to me suddenly yelled at the top of his lungs, “IT’S SNOWING!”

My head was suddenly on a swivel. Where do I look? Outside! At the man! Around at the other passengers! Back outside! Every person on the plane had turned to look at my row-mate, who was staring blankly ahead, ignoring all attention and acting as if nothing had happened.

It was not snowing.

He wasn’t even sitting by the window.

Eventually, I took a cue from the man and stared straight ahead, too.

The time I said “EXPLODE” to homeland security

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

So there I was at the Denver airport, heaving my bulging black suitcase onto the conveyor belt for the x-ray machine.  Mind you, this was just my carry-on – my REAL bag (a behemoth red Samsonite) had already been found 6 lbs. overweight at the ticket counter, leading me to put on my boots and jacket, stuff my curling iron and jewelry into my purse, and relegate various items of detritus to my smaller suitcase.

As the carry-on inched toward the x-ray machine, the TSA agent observed the swollen vessel, and made a comment that he didn’t know that it would make it through the machine.

“I know!” I laughed.  “It’s about to explode!”

And right then and there, all of the air was sucked out of Denver International Airport.

The silence coddled the word like an overindulgent mother.

Explode.

EXPLODE.

I literally clapped my hand over my mouth, realizing what I had done – and then I sprung into action.

“Haha, I mean explode with my stuff.  My STUFF – nothing dangerous, nothing sharp.  I mean, except for high heels!  Haha!”

No one else was laughing.

“Ma’am, we’re going to need to take a look in your bag.”

I was led to a sterile table where a blue-gloved person (man? woman? man?) asked, “If I open this bag, will anything harm me?”

“No!  No, not at all,” I rushed.  “All that’s in there is shoes.  Oh, and a bunch of computer things.  And I guess some snacks.”

Snacks is right.

The agent slowly, hesitantly, cautiously unzipped the suitcase, and beheld the contents.  “Ma’am, why do you have so many LÄRABARs?”

Full disclosure: there were hundreds.

“Well, those are for my co-workers in Nashville.”

“Okay…?”

And then, without further prompting, it all came tumbling out.  “I resigned with the company – just last week, actually.  I’ve been working for an email marketing company that’s based in Nashville – but I’m switching jobs.  To LÄRABAR, actually.  They’re based in Denver – I live in Denver.  I just wanted to bring my Nashville friends some bars – as a little farewell, I guess.”

There it was.  And there it is.

The suddenly indifferent agent waved me through security and all the way to Nashville, where I’ve given the bars to my friends at Emma – an understated thank you for the three years of support, camaraderie, and friendship they have given me.

Come January, I’ll join the marketing team for LÄRABAR, a brand that I have been evangelizing on my own for years.  I am leaving an incredible company for another incredible company, which is not lost on me: this basically makes me the luckiest girl in the world.  This is one of those moments where I can look back and see how the complicated, jagged-edged pieces have fit together perfectly, creating a gigantic flashing arrow, pointing me toward this next step.

So my suitcase may be emptier – but as much as my heart is tempted to feel the same (after all, I am giving up what has been a very good thing), it’s actually full to overflowing.  I will spend the next week with some of my favorite people in Nashville, and then gently close the door on what has been a beautiful season in my life.

The goodbye is bittersweet, but the future feels warm and bright.  In fact, my heart is exploding with sprinkles.

Just don’t tell TSA.

The progression of last night’s in-flight conversation

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

“Can I put the arm rest up?”

“Sure.”

[spilling over into my seat]  “I’m still a big girl.  But I’ve lost over 200 lbs.”

“Wow – that’s incredible!  Congratulations – what an accomplishment.”

“No more seat-belt expander for me.”

[high-five with a 70-year old woman, initiated by yours truly]

“I’m Pat, by the way, and this is my husband Bobby.”

“Hi, Pat and Bobby.  I’m Annie.”

- – - – - – - -

“Are you from Nashville?”

“No, but I work for a company that’s based there.  I’m heading back for work, and a friend’s wedding on New Years’ Eve.”

“The company that you work for – do they rate well in customer service?”

“We do, in fact.  It’s one of the things that we’re known for.”

“Well, I tell you what.  You need to move to Mesa, Arizona, and teach those nincompoops a thing or two about customer service.  I have never met such dolts in my life as I did in Mesa, Arizona.  Or as many Ethiopians as I did in the Denver airport.”

- – - – - – - -

“How did you two meet?”

“We were in high school.  I had a girl friend who wasn’t allowed to car-date unless it was with another couple.  So she begged me to go on a double-date with her and her boyfriend, and Bobby here.  I couldn’t stand him.”

“What?  How could you not stand Bobby?”

“I don’t know, I just couldn’t.”

“Okay, go on.”

“My girl friend liked the guy she was going with, but her family told her that she couldn’t marry him, because he wasn’t a Christian.  So she wrote him a Dear John letter.  But, you know what?  She died of typhoid fever.”

[gasp]  “That’s terrible.”

[somber]  “Yes.”  [gung-ho]  “But after that, Bobby called me up to ask for a date with just me.  And I said yes.  And we’ve been together ever since.”

- – - – - – - -

“How have you made marriage last for 49 years?”

“It’s give-and-take.  Always give-and-take.  I love him so much, I hope I die before he does, because I could never live without him.”

- – - – - – - -

“Bobby has had a kidney transplant, two knee replacements, and open-heart surgery.”  [fumbling for his meds]  “I hope we make it to 50 years before he dies.  Want a sugar-free yogurt-covered pretzel?”

“Sure.”

- – - – - – - -

“Have you met Mr. Right?”

“No, I haven’t.  Not yet.  I hope I do someday.”

“Oh, you will.  A girl like you can’t last much longer without being snatched up.  Blows my mind that it hasn’t happened already, actually.  Men are idiots.”

“Thanks, Bobby.”  Smile.  For real.  Big smile.

- – - – - – - -

“Girl, I’ll tell you what.  I can already tell that you have common sense – which is more than I can say for most people in this world.”

“Well, thanks, Bobby!”

“You do.  You’ve got it.  Common sense.  And pretty eyes.

I need to use the restroom.”

- – - – - – - -

I’ll be honest: at first, I felt tempted to open up my laptop and cut off conversation with them.  But I’m so glad that I didn’t.  Pat and Bobby reminded me that life is precious and fleeting, like a vapor, and that the only thing worth passing on is love.  I don’t know how to reconcile the notion that “life is meaningful” with “yeah, but everyone dies” – but this couple, towards the end of their relatively quiet, non-glamorous years, somehow made me believe that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

I think I should switch them.

Everyone dies.

Yeah, but life is meaningful.

Extremely, intensely, marvelously meaningful.

Yet another Southwest thriller

Monday, December 20th, 2010

On Saturday, I flew back to Colorado.  I’ll be with my family through Christmas, and then fly back to Nashville for another week – because apparently, I enjoy being a geographical ping-pong ball.

I flew Southwest (like I always do), fell asleep the minute I boarded (like I always do), and slept for the first 60 minutes of the flight (like I always do).  When I woke up in my aisle seat, I noticed the middle aged couple sitting to my right.

They were well-dressed, albeit in a gaudy sort of way – he in fancy cowboy boots, she in a leopard-print shirt and a lot of gold jewelry.  Her hair was meticulously highlighted, which I noticed because she tossed it a lot.  They were loud and spirited and obnoxiously physically affectionate, drinking airline cocktails from plastic cups as they canoodled.  It didn’t take long before I couldn’t take it any more, so I pulled out my laptop, put on my headphones, and started watching a movie with scenes that I secretly hoped would make them uncomfortable: “Alive.”

When all else fails, subject your neighbors to true stories of flesh-eating survival.

Suddenly, the woman made a grand sweeping motion with her hand, and her open bottle of Finlandia cartwheeled off the seat tray and into her lap.

What happened next was immediate.

Her feet remained firmly planted on the floor, and her shoulders pressed to the back of her seat, but her hips?  It was as if some invisible cosmic god reached down, grabbed her by the belt loops, and yanked: the woman’s pelvis thrust straight into the air.

“I am soaking!  It’s everywhere!  It’s all over my seat!” she shrieked.  And then some choice expletives.

And because compassion for the crazy can be a challenge, I stared straight ahead, willing the corners of my mouth to stay still, stifling laughter.

From the corner of my eye, I watched the man use the little Southwest napkins to clean up the vodka from her seat.  This was easy because her pelvis remained skyward – one of the more gauche things I’ve ever witnessed.

But just when I thought things could not get more awkward, the man began to use the napkins to dab up the front of her jeans.

And as soon as I thought up the phrase “crotch blotter,” I knew I had to write this one down.

56 pounds

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

At the Denver airport last night, I heaved my suitcase onto the scale at the ticket counter, and cast a furtive glance at the damage: 56 pounds.

For the first time ever, I was going to incite an overweight charge.

But wait!  Could this be my lucky day?  The ticket man hasn’t seen the number yet.  He’s asking for my ID.  He’s handing me my boarding pass.  He turns his back for one moment, and…

I made a run for it.*

I was around the corner before he turned back around to discover my beast of burden.

I triumphantly called my mom from the security line, jubilant at my own stealth.  Ha-HAA, I outsmarted The Man!  Take THAT.

*moments like this make me wish I had my own personal cameraman to document my life.

- – - – - – - -

So here I am, sitting across from my little nymph Greta in a coffee shop, working away.  Seattle still has a way of wrapping me like a hug, and making me feel more at home than anywhere else.

Piles of style

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

I’ve been bouncing in and out of Denver this summer – it seems like I haven’t been home for more than 3-4 days at a time before I’m packing up and heading out to the next destination.  Admittedly, I am the world’s worst packer, and always wind up packing way too much or way too little or way too… wrong.  In Portland last week, I unzipped my suitcase to find one pair of jeans, my running shoes, and a cardboard box of food.  That was basically it – hence the circumstances of having to wear my black racerback tank with a rainbow graphic eagle on the front.  To work.

But at least I had my baby carrots!

Last night at 11pm, I started packing for tonight’s trip to Seattle.  I walked into my bedroom and stared at my suitcase, and suddenly felt my brains sucking out of my ears until my skull was completely devoid of any logic.

“What am I going to wear?” I despaired.  “I HAVE NO CLOTHES.”

Hopeless Annie was about to win.  She was about to slide open a dresser drawer and just dump whatever contents therein into her Samsonite, and call it a night.  She was going to show up in Seattle and realize, “I have no shoes.”  She was going to be content looking like a vagrant in front of some of her dearest friends.

All was nearly lost.

But then.

Hopeless Annie was bound and gagged, and had a pillowcase thrown over her head.  By whom, you ask?  Assertive Annie.  Assertive Annie came out of nowhere, took the reins (as she is wont to do), and formulated a plan.

I do so love a plan.

I spent the next hour – yes, 60 entire minutes – trying on clothes.  Outfit after outfit, drawn from my closet – and when something “worked,” it was put in a pile on the bed.  I concocted combinations of clothing for each day in Seattle, from the shoes to the belts to the earrings.  I even made sure I had the right underwear for each pair of pants (bikini or thong? bikini or thong?).  And in my “extra” pile, I put a few pieces of insurance – the t-shirt that never goes wrong, the flip-flops I can wear if all else fails, etc.

I am ready for this trip.

I am prepared.

I think.

If this plan works – if I am able to successfully marry style and practicality from the articles that show up with me in Seattle tonight – then mark my words, I will post pictures.  Because when it comes to clothing, I generally have about as much panache as Pat Robertson has tact.

This could be a turning point.

Oh, for the LUV

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

I’ll just cut to the chase: Southwest Airlines lost my luggage this weekend.

[insert me telling you how this sent me for a minor emotional tailspin, and how I was sick as a dog, and almost broke down and gave up, but soldiered on – for the children, really, and for America]

Flying from Nashville to Austin on Friday night, I was exhausted.  I was getting sick – and I had no Kleenex.  So on the plane, to my horror and shame, I had no choice but to use my sleeve to wipe my insanely runny nose.  Multiple times.

Southwest offered to reimburse me for $50 worth of necessities until they found my bags – which, when you are in town for a wedding, and all you have is the mucus-crusted cardigan on your back, won’t get you very far.  But I appreciated the gesture, and went to Target to max out on the necessary toiletries, medications, and two pairs of underwear.

Why two pairs?  Because I wasn’t sure what kind of a dress I would wind up wearing, and any woman can tell you that different dresses call for different undergarments.  Just… I just needed both pairs, okay?  Always be prepared.

I found a dress and shoes at TJ Maxx, took a hot shower, my meds kicked in, and a great time was had by all at Joey and Sam’s fabulous wedding.  All’s well that ends well, right?

Not so fast, sparky.

Southwest decided to itemize my Target receipt, saying that they weren’t sure that all of these things were truly “necessary” to my survival without my luggage.  Things that made the cut, no questions asked?  Cosmetics.  Medicine.  Eyedrops.  Tampons.  Thanks, guys, for deeming tampons “necessary.”  You are too kind.

The complication?  The underwear.

Apparently, because the luggage was returned within 24 hours, only one of the pairs was considered “necessary.”  And so there at the Southwest counter, I was asked to indicate which pair I wore that day – bikini or thong.  Multiple times, I was asked out loud, “Which pair did you need today?  The bikini or the thong?”

You will never know.

But Southwest does.

Contrast

Friday, March 19th, 2010

If I were to write a (very late) blog today, this is what it would say:

3 months of silence.
Followed by 1 week of crazy.
Beat.  Sapped.  Tired.
But happy.
Ate so much.
Ran so fast.
Didn’t really sleep.
Got something I was hoping for.
Love my friends gobs.
And gobs and gobs.
Like, hug-you-in-the-sunny-parking-lot gobs.
Gorgeous in Nashville today.
Flying to Austin tonight.
Val’s picking me up.
Hooray, Val!
Joey and Sam are getting married tomorrow.

But it’s snowing back in Colorado.
And Mom’s in the hospital.

I can’t really focus.  Social whiplash and emotional incongruity.  Reasons to cry while the sun shines down.  And I think that’s just like life.

It’s all going to be okay.  Right?  It’s all going to be okay.

If you cannot read this, you must be using Internet Explorer

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

But if you are using Internet Explorer and you CAN read this, then please disregard – the problem must be fixed?  In any case, down with IE.

Let me tell you about a couple of great things that have happened.  Warning: this post has no unifying thread aside from my two hands, my ten fingers, and my blathering brain churning it all out.

First of all, I had a perfect, flawless, divine flight experience on Monday.  I thought that because it was Labor Day, travel would be a nightmare.  But here are the amazing things about the day:
-    When my parents drove me from Colorado Springs to the airport in Denver, we took E-470, a tollway – but all of the tollbooths were closed.  Free!
-    I made it through security in 10 minutes – probably because I had no frozen meat in my purse.
-    DIA has free Wi-Fi, and I got one of the stools at the table where you can plug in your laptop.
-    I met the aforementioned songwriters.
-    I was reading Stephen King’s “On Writing,” which the songwriters noticed, and thought I was really cool for.
-    The flight left on time.
-    I had a free drink ticket, so I ordered a plastic cup of Chardonnay.
-    The flight arrived early.
-    My suitcase was the first one out at baggage claim.

Come on.  All of those things NEVER happen all in the same day.

When I got home and discovered my driver’s license missing, I thought that my perfect day had been torpedoed.  But the next morning, the airline called and told me that they had found it at security, and they were mailing it to me.  Southwest Airlines, FTW!

Tangent:
my co-worker Danny recently told me
that one of his friends thought that
FTW stood for “for the wind.”
I laughed so hard, I snorted.
I’ve tried to tell my non-internetty friends,
and they don’t find it funny.
If you find it funny,
please validate me and tell me so.
If you don’t find it funny, well.
You’re probably using Internet Explorer.

Last night I went to the gym, and Tuesday nights at the gym are the best, because on Tuesday nights from 9-10pm, they play reruns of “The Office” on TBS.  I spent an episode and a half on the elliptical machine, all alone, but allowing myself to LAUGH OUT LOUD whenever I wanted – which meant that I was laughing for 45 minutes straight.

Another tangent:
for the longest time,
my friend Joey thought that
LOL stood for “lots of love.”
This made me laugh, too.

I have had my buddy Del Barber’s songs running on repeat in my head for a couple of days now – and this is the furthest* thing from a problem.  A few weeks ago, he and Dreadlock Dave stopped in Nashville to crash on the floor of the JAM House, and we had a regular hootenanny (hurray!) in the living room – Del and Neal and I taking turns playing songs.

It was so Nashville.

And finally, speaking of music, my EP is almost finished.  October.  Get ready.

*A free EP to the first person who knows the difference between “furthest” and “farthest.”