Everybody has their favorite place in the world. Or at least their top 5 or 10 favorite places. Amongst my top favorite places in the world is the New Belgium Hub Bar and Grill at the Denver International Airport. I often fly through Denver on my way to and from Kansas, and this is my favorite place to park as I wait for my next flight. Today I'm flying up to Bismarck, ND for my Grandmother's 104th birthday. This has become an annual tradition as my family gathers to celebrate what must surely be Grandma's last birthday. Each year we say to ourselves, "...better get to ND this year to see Grandma one last time. She won't last much longer." It has been this way for better part of a decade.
Grandma is pretty sick of this whole living thing. She is ready to go and has been for many years. To heck with it! You'd have to imagine that living in a 104 year-old body is no fun, but she sure does have a good attitude about it. Her eyes and hearing are not so good but her mind is sharp, and wouldn't you know it she is still one of the most spontaneous people I know. We can show up unannounced at her room at the rest home, invite her out for pie and coffee, and heck she'll put her teeth in and join us! She clearly doesn't catch much of the conversation at the noisy diner, but she eats most of her pie, drinks her coffee, and enjoys being with the gang.
At some point on this visit I'll get to enjoy another one of my favorite places, the kitchen of my Aunt Fran and Uncle Don. My father was in the Air Force when I was growing up, so we moved around quite a bit and I never had one place that was always my childhood home. The home of Aunt Fran and Uncle Don is the closest thing I've had to this and that is why their kitchen is such a cool place. We will all gather there for good hearty North Dakota food and good hearty North Dakota conversation. The guests will often include my parents, sister and her husband, aunts and uncles and cousins, Grandma, and even a childhood friend named Michael McMerty. I have not changed Michael's name to protect his innocence. I knew Michael growing up and there is not much innocence to protect!
Many other kitchens also make my top 5 list. My parents have a lovely kitchen in Lafayette, IN. Another aunt and uncle live in Longmont, CO and as much as I love their kitchen I actually prefer their back patio as it affords a view of the mountains to the west. I can view these same mountains now sitting in this little restaurant at DIA. I'm tucked into a specific corner that affords the best view of the mountains directly in front of me, a panoramic view of the airplanes as they taxi by on my left, and easy viewing of any attractive ladies to my right here in the same restaurant.
|Shady Guy at Denver International Airport|
It is rare that I get an opportunity to enjoy so many visual delights at one time. And wouldn't you know a lovely lady is seated directly in front of me now. Her back is to me so I can admire her without violating the social mandate of minimal eye contact. We all must obey this rule, particularly if one of us is an attractive lady and the other is a scruffy forty-something guy with shifting eyes sitting in the corner of an airport restaurant. But never mind for I have all that I love at once for my viewing pleasure: airplanes, mountains, and a beautiful lady.
|Lovely Lady Admiring the View While I Admire the Lovely Lady|
I don't recall whether I first admired ladies or airplanes as a child. It was not mountains for sure. My first home was in Oklahoma and there weren't any mountains around. I probably admired ladies first, but at a very young age my father introduced me to airplanes and it was love at first sight. They've always fascinated me and I've been an airplane nut as long as I can remember. And now going by is a Boeing 777, or as we say in the industry, a Boeing tripple-seven. It is a ship that represents elegance and utility, speed and efficiency, form and function. With just a little bit of pride I can say that I've helped design parts on the cargo version of that plane.
As a young military family, we only lived in Oklahoma for about two years and then moved to Fort Collins, Colorado where I developed a love for mountains. For some reason a panaromaic view of the Rocky Mountains is one of the best things I know for lowering my blood pressure and renewing my spirit. They seem to be so impenatrable and unmoveable. While humans come and go with their trivial bothers and worries, the mountains stand sliently watching over it all, reminding us that we will only alter the landscape so much. We will clear trees and build roads, but we will never reshape the horizon to the west of Denver.
And now the lady in front of me takes leave to catch her plane. Or perhaps she can sense my attention and decides to leave as soon as she has finished her lunch. Either way she manages to avoid direct eye contact. It is not just her but everybody who does this. It is so hard to make ourselves vulnerable by the risk of a small hello. Better to avoid it and maintain our modern American sense of awkward social interaction. Or lack thereof. We are all traveling to places where we will meet people with whom social interaction is a joy, or at least not uncomfortable, but in the mean time we must endure these hours of social avoidance along the way.
If not for the hassle of standing in line, fighting the crowds, and the uncomfortable proximity to total strangers, flying would be pure joy for me. I really could do without all of the bother, but once the engines of the plane come to life, and we rush down the runway and into the sky, I am once again a kid looking out the window as the ground falls away. It is the same when I am the pilot of a small propellor airplane. Lots of work to get to the point where I'm about to fly, but once I push the throttle forward I am as alive as ever. I am on my way to visit the sky once again and it never gets old.
And now it is time for me to go. I must leave the view of the mountains and the planes and the ladies. I pack up my belongs, pay my tab with a generous tip, and I'm on my way. The kitchen of Aunt Fran and Uncle Don await at my destination, as well as the non-awkward people I am eager to see, Including 104 year-old Grandma. I leave this little favorite spot and continue onto another.