Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Favorite Places

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.


  1. Welcome to the blogosphere. My guess is that you recognized planes as "attractive" before ladies, but I could be wrong!

  2. I wish I had a favorite kitchen - but heaps of moving has made it so none have made an impact.

  3. Hello Cat Man Klusman!
    KlusmanPea Cat says "meow!"

  4. Great first blog! Now I can be a fan of your videos and your blog entries. Safe travels and happy birthday to your grandma from a kindred awkward social spirit in New York. :)

  5. Hmm, the shady guy at the Denver airport is kind of cute. Wonder if he does online dating...

  6. Been a fan of your cats and videos for a while now. I really enjoyed your post - you have a knack for the personal essay. Looking forward to more of your writing!

  7. OKLAHOMA represent

    and stuff.

  8. Great blog, Paul. You have a great way of expressng yourself. I'd love to hear more about flying, and those non-awkward conversations in North Dakota. Please do fill us in when you return.

  9. My wi-fi always conks out in that terminal but beer is usually a good thing. Not sure what it means that your inaugural blog has a Muslim mail order bride ad linked. Intriguing…

  10. Sensible women avoid eye contact with shady guys at airports. The rest of us don't.

  11. I cannot believe you live in Kansas. What a small world.

    Your post reminds me of a conversation I had with my mother the other day. I'm from Brazil, and in Brazil the birthday song is a bit different than in English, less repetitive, and it includes a line about wishing the birthday person many more years of life. One time, while singing to one of her elderly aunts, her aunt interrupted everyone warning them not to sing that line.

    Anyway, have fun eating pie with your grandma.

  12. i see a podcast in your future.... "live" from 1k1? :)

  13. Congratulations on your inaugural blogpost and welcome to the blogosphere. Enjoy your videos very much and, I must say, you have a unique voice in your writing.

    I am jealous that you, as a fellow 40-something, still have a grandma to enjoy pie with. I started life with more than my share of grandmas, but lost them all before graduating college.

    Safe flight ...

  14. Enjoyed it Paul!!! Looking forward to more!

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. (Sorry, typo.)

    And you're living in dead flat Wichita, Kansas.

  17. Love your cat videos, love your "other stuff" videos, and now a blog to love. When will it stop? 8-) Keep being spontaneous and organic for those of us who are socially awkward even in anonymous situations (like leaving comments under an assumed name)!

  18. Enjoyed reading your thoughts and look forward to your next entry (I hope it's more about your grandmother). Kudos!

  19. I enjoy your videos, and I am enjoying your blog. Any man who loves cats, plays guitar, and has a sense of humor is a worthy gentleman in my books.

  20. despite the fact that i (a) have flight anxiety and (b) never fly cargo, i find it oddly reassuring that you help to design plane parts.

    i'll remind myself of that the next time i pop an ativan before taking to the skies.

  21. Really nice blog!!!!
    I love flying and I adore airplanes and airports, the first time I ever saw an airport and flew was when I was 8 years old, I was flying from Mexico City to Frankfurt to meet my grandparents, my Dad is german and my Mom is mexican, I flew alone, I mean I had to have a babysitter, but I remember being super excited and just in love with all the fuss around me and the amazing airplanes.
    I guess it's no surprise that my boyfriend is a pilot...

  22. I find myself wishing that I was the lovely lady you were looking at.


  23. We went through the exact same situation with my Grandma! You could have written my story - every year was the last - except I flew to Florida. Thank you for the laugh out loud for real. Every time I find out more about you I am so surprised you are single! I know I am not alone in thinking that will be one lucky lady. Thank you for keeping the interwebs alive with laughs, sanity and cats!


  24. Hi Paul-
    I hope you see this, I couldn't find another way to contact you.

    Thru @drbrianmay (astrophysicist and guitarist for the band Queen) on Twitter I found out about someone who shared that she was worried about her cat who was just diagnosed with diabetes this week. I'd read somewhere on YouTube that you said that Zooey is diabetic; in one of your more recent videos she looked like she was doing well, so based on that and my nurse's experience I replied that I thought diabetes was manageable in cats. I think she's still worried though; she replied that they took him to the vet on Monday and almost lost him, which I think would be devastating since she also said she'd had him since he was 5 weeks old (wow, that's really young; I wonder if he was abandoned, that's usually too young for adoption).

    I don't know what you've had to go through with Zooey, whether she gets insulin and has to have blood sugar tests and eats a special diet (that would be fun with 2 other cats in the house :) ), but I thought maybe it would be nice for this person to hear from someone who's also dealing with feline diabetes, if only in 140 characters. Her Twitter handle is @kayzevans, at https://twitter.com/KayzEvans; you can probably see my messages there too, I'm @kimadagem. (I don't tend to do much on Twitter except follow a bunch of people; I'm still trying to figure out how to use it.)

    I apologize for this weird message out of the blue; I don't think I've ever even commented on one of your videos, although I've seen them all and thought they were fantastic. Besides being a real "cat person" (currently catless for reasons too long to explain here) I used to have a friend who was married to an engineer; he was a EE which I think is not what you are but he was great, and knowing him helped me understand your point of view, which makes the videos that much more enjoyable. I think they are taking you longer to do now with the editing but I'll be happy to watch anything you offer. I have your channel on an RSS feed so I know whenever anything new shows up.

    Well, thank you for listening, have a great weekend, and a great holiday.

    Meg aka Kimadagem on Twitter (and Squidoo too)

  25. I have only just discovered your cat videos and blog by accident....one of those "how the hell did I get here" moments on Youtube (I have many of them but this is the most memorable so far). Hence I have posted comments on most of your blogs because I feel compelled to make contact with someone who's views on life are so similar to mine own. Keep checking out the women (if you haven't been snapped up by one by now), keep loving the bliss that flying gives you, and please please please keep posting these blogs.......it's a small oasis in a world of chaos.