As it stands, my travel life is winding down, at least for the time being. Now that the long hours of work are paying off, I will see fewer airports and not have to jog as much between various terminals run for connection or wino away the hours in some lost airport bar as the ebb and flow of vacationers, business/wo/men, and refugees/migrants/immigrants passing to and fro between one hub and another, one starlight city as seen from far above.
The nation looks like radiating lights from high up. So many networks and patterns of light. The tendrils of highways are seen from a lower altitude with their life blood, the red and white glowing platelets, and from higher still the suburbs, exurbia, and various compounds: family, corporate, cult, and all of the above. Air travel is not comfortable (outside of First Class) but we fly with the wings of desire as angels and man sprinting up in spaceships as close to leaving earth as we majority will ever physically get before departing to eternity. Then we push up our tray tables, “oops, sorry,” set our seats upright, for whatever reason we have to, “oh, if you don’t mind I have to get something under my seat,” and set down in another city, another time zone, perhaps weather and climate unlike that of our home, just a few hours and perhaps two connections away.
To the airport terminal, a great deal has changed. They are today, for the most part, injected with some manner of comfort, certainly they have become shopping centers in many places, transit zones where one can buy expensive bobbles for the kids back home or listlessly browse a number of shops before being told the crap you bought counts as additional baggage and cannot be stuffed into your carry-on. Some airports now boast fine eateries, while others revel in a number of fast food establishment where the stank of fake cheese mixes with the fumes of burning jet fuel. The hubs are vast connectors, each State of the Union attempting to boost their standing by creating as many international airports as they can, even if this appellation and distinction is provided by serving a few flights to Mexico and/or Canada. The people gather and vanish, the flight crews come off a plane exhausted, an army of lackeys drive trolleys and clean toilets and wipe down planes and ferry about luggage.
In my travel I have enjoyed quite a few airports and spent some time in others that I cannot say I enjoy but I find a familiar perch and sit there to await my flight. I can people watch, or Internet, or booze face, or something. Those of Washington D.C. are average, Chicago is mercilessly complex, Philly leaves a bit to desire. There is a cheese steak here and there and lots of shops. Of course Charlotte is a fun stop over, if for nothing else the apparent miles of those moving walkways that make walking feel like jogging (covered in a previous post). There are many more Hubs about the country that are of interest, but I have just passed through briefly. Denver is full of Public Art. I hate Public Art. Houston is not as interesting as it should be, however, that could be due to my flying American Airlines (formerly US Air). Atlanta is the pits, really one of the worst food selections I have seen in an airport, but then… Atlanta is the pits, too. Miami is a good transfer, but I always had a rushed connection and didn’t pay too much attention as I was on my may to somewhere more interesting such as Central America, Key West, or home.
There are extension airports, some are better than others. Lauderdale was rather disappointing considering I believe it too is “international.” Des Moines is what you would expect, but Sioux City is not. Perhaps the smallest airport I have ever been to and the ground crew and the folks who check you in to your flight appear to be the same people. The bonus points was the gift shop and snack bar staffed by an elderly lady. It seemed more one of those establishments they tacked on to a museum than a commercial endeavor – I half expected to see a donation jar on the counter. Not that I didn’t enjoy chatting with folks there and bought several of the airport teeshirts since the call sign is SUX and some local make the Fly SUX airport logo a thing.
There are depressing regional airports. Albany. Depressing Canadian airports. Edmonton, Alberta. And those airports that are new, landscaped, but seem to be run like some Soviet endeavor. I am talking to you Seattle, Eugene, and Albuquerque. Newark is a horrible place. The airport makes LaGuardia seem clean and orderly and the staff are some of the rudest I have come across in many a professional environment. To further my fear and loathing of this detestable facility, it is horribly expensive to get there and back via a taxi and an unhealthy long slog by public means of transportation. I have forsworn to never use that airport again, unless in some emergency my regular flight is diverted due to some events outside my control, and even then I would protest.
As it happens, my time traveling has been for the most part fun – except for my persistent fear of flying that comes and goes – as it has been exhausting and challenging, considering that I was doing this as part of a job and not for pleasure. In the coming months, I will scale back my travel, spend a little more time at home, and think twice before I remove the weather report from my phone for some distant city I had the pleasure to drop in on, if not for a few days. Another few rounds of air travel, and I will move on to a more regional sphere and look to other vistas of my own discovery.