Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I'm sitting between a tax consultant and the window. Moving pictures and I glide, jet propelled, tens of
thousands of feet above the ground. Moments and dreams resonating together. Enraptured by the pockets of light, wondering what's going on in the towns and cities below. I find myself longing to be embraced by lovers and friends, curious to know if they are thinking about me as I think about them.

Pampy's Live Oaks Bar, Louis Armstrong Airport, the city of New Orleans, somewhere outside of these windows.

What was supposed to be a one hour lay over, quickly turned into three. I've suffered through
longer, far more excruciating layovers. I once spent six and a half hours at the Jacksonville airport waiting for a flight to Toronto to open up. I was flying standby and luck wasn't with me. This time there was a late start and a technical problem. I feel better waiting the extra time, knowing that the problem is being taken care of, plus there's always cold beer to help pass the time.

Two overweight men with pasty limbs and sun burned faces, a cowboy with a handle bar mustache, and a middle aged woman with a perm and bad dye job are sitting on stools along one of the side wall. They're dropping quarters into a slot and pushing the magic button hoping for the three hundred dollar pay-off.

A guy with a Johnny Unitas crew cut, wearing khaki's and a University of Alabama polo, sits down at the bar next to me and orders a Jack and Coke. After his drink arrives he gets on his cell phone and starts talking athletic prowess and per diems. I turn my attention to the TV on the wall to my right. The world news is on. A man riding a tricycle car jacked a couple then crashed the car into a telephone pole three blocks later. When apprehended, he told the cops he did it because he was trying to stop his sister from marrying the man who raped their mother.

One of the sun burned men curses the machine that keeps taking his money. The lady with the perm just won fifty bucks. I turn my attention back to the TV. I'm six beers in and my attention span is shot. The man on the screen doesn't interest me, neither does the story he's telling. The motion of the news ticker catches my eye. A couple rob a bank dressed as Teddy Bears . . . You'll be lonesome when I'm gone . . . Fed Gov't gives state of DE to the homeless, residents forced to leave . . . 40,000 people died last year in fiery auto crashes . . . What your stool can tell you . . . New study released . . . Genetically enhanced 200 lbs guinea pig discovered on Indiana farm . . . Man who shot 7 in FL church had brain tumor and syphilis.

Mr. Crimson Tide finishes his drink and leaves the bartender a seventy-five cent tip. The look on her face was priceless. When she caught me smiling at her in understanding, she laughed and refilled my glass.

“Keep this service up and there's going to be a whole dollar in your future,” I said with a smirk when she put a full glass of beer in front of me.

“How generous of you,” she responded, moving down the bar to help a couple that just sat down.

I take a long drink and can feel myself slipping into a drunken state. I light a cigarette and look back at the TV which is playing a mosquito repellent commercial. An older woman, late seventies, sits down next to me and began speaking slow gumbo in my ear. The skin around her eyes is creased with hundreds of tiny lines and most of her hair has fallen out. She is trying to conceal it with a high bouffant comb over. I can't tell if she is speaking nonsense to me or if I am just that drunk. I smile and try to follow along. The only thing I understand is when she motions for a cigarette. I slide the pack and lighter over to her. She didn't speak to me again until she had finished half the cigarette and a gin and tonic. The old gal began to speak slower and more deliberate to me as I finish off my beer and nod to the bartender for another.

She tells me her name is Marianne and she is on her way to Houston for her sister's funeral. I express my condolences, perhaps too sympathetically, because she provides me with the highlights of all her life's tragedies. Each one rolling off her tongue slowly. Two of her sons dead, husband dead, sister dead. She and her baby boy, now 41, are all that's left. Before she finishes her second drink, her son comes and collects her. “They're going to be boarding our flight soon, ma.” He says to her.

Folks come in, shake off the smell of recirculated air. I keep to myself, swallow down more beer and watch a frumpy woman, sitting at a table to my right, wiggle her French manicured toes. She looks like she's been down a rough road but the diamond on her right hand says it must not have been all bad. I notice that I'm not the only one watching her. There's a man at a table near her who bares a strange resemblance to Stephen King. A far less successful brother perhaps. He pretends to be reading the book on his lap, keeps the front cover low, unseen, maybe it's one of Stephen's. The woman with the wiggling toes looks over at him and he mouths something lewd. She turns away unimpressed. I turn my attention away from them and listen to the prerecorded airport messages and calls for boarding flights.

I don't know how long the bartender has been standing in front of me but the look on her face tells me it has been awhile. Her name tag reads Penelope. She offers me a cigarette and probably because of the uneasy look on my face, asks if I'm ready to pay my tab. I hand her some money, take a few drags off the cigarette before mashing it out, and head toward my gate.

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