My flight arrived at O’Hare at 5 a.m. today, at which point I had a three hour layover. I wandered over to my departure gate, hunted for wireless network to no avail, and curled up to wait. The people seemed different somehow. They all look… tired isn’t quite the right word, but it’s close. Unenergetic, lifeless. It’s like they’re marching through the routine they’ve created for themselves, and if you ask them they’ll say they’re happy, but there’s no spark, no excitement. Maybe they like it that way… maybe they fear that if they had that spark it would send them up in blazes like a cigarette butt in a dry forest. Maybe they don’t know there’s more to life than this.
Being in the Midwest is like watching a fantastic color movie in black and white. Literally. One of the things I noticed in the Chicago airport was that there were black people and white people, and that was about it. I never saw Hispanics, Filipinos, Asians, or any of the cultures that I rub elbows with on a daily basis in San Francisco.
When I got to St. Louis, I decided to do a survey of the airport. During the time I was there I saw one young Indian couple, one Asian probably Chinese couple, and that was it. Everybody else was very clearly black or white. There’s no real diversity that I’ve been able to spot.
Announcement at O’Hare: “There will be a Catholic mass at 6 a.m. at the chapel in terminal foo. Everyone is welcome.”
Shortly after I arrived I picked up my rental car, which turned out to be a shiny black Mustang convertible. I could do worse. As I left the rental lot, the woman checking the paperwork asked me how I got that color (flaming fuchsia streaks and ends) in my hair. “I dyed it.”
“I love that! Where do you get that dye? Do they sell it at Wal Mart?”
So I arrived at my mother’s house, a small suburban cookie cutter place on a quiet tree-lined street. It’s actually a good neighborhood to have been a kid in, since there are two big parks within easy walking distance, a creek at the end of the street, and not much in the way of real danger. The houses were built in the late 50s, and a fair number of people have been here ever since, including the neighbors on either side of her.
Shortly after I arrived, the phone rang. From hearing one side of the conversation, I could easily tell what was being said on the other end. One of the neighbors, a professional drape-peeker-outer, noticed the car in the driveway (peek peek) and immediately called to see who it was. Nosy neighbor? No, that’s far too mild a description.
So she came over for a few minutes just to sit a spell.
“I see we have new neighbors moving into Evelyn’s house.” Evelyn has been gone for 20 years, but it’s still Evelyn’s House.
“Oh? What do they look like?”
“I only seed ‘em from a distance, but they looked like nice people. They’ve been cleanin’ up a storm over there.”
“Black or white?”
“Oh, they’re white.”
I had to bite my tongue and remind myself that this is a different generation, and that the values that were ingrained in them as children can never completely go away.
The weather here sucks. The first thing that hit me when I got off the plane was a giant wave of humidity. Today’s forecast is a high of 92, with steambath humidity. Two and a half days, that’s all I have to last.
Tonight is happy hour to kick off the reunion. Not just any bar, a sports bar. Not just any sports bar, a franchised-chain-of-sports-bars sports bar.