Friday, January 18, 2008

Houston, Texas

"Winds of Change"
George Bush Intercontinental Airport

It's very difficult to capture in bronze a country-club blazer slung jauntily over the shoulder and into the "Winds of Change". As I learned from this piece, located in Terminal C. Photographs were immediately taken on my phone and sent to a number of friends and family whom I thought would particularly appreciate this particular execution.

Quick lunch at Hanlon's Barbecue. (Q: what should one expect from a BBQ joint situated next to a Starbucks kiosk in Terminal C of George Bush Intercontinental Airport? If you can't figure out the A:, you will probably be happier if I don't tell you.) I skim news about the Sundance Film Festival (it's opening day) as I walk to gate E20 and my connection to New Orleans.

Sitting on the plane, I begin reading Lawrence Block's The Sins of the Fathers, the first of his crime novels about Matthew Scudder, a non-P.I. who "does favors" for people in exchange for "gifts." I love the opening which, in describing the man seeking Scudder's assistance, makes us aware of the fact that we know nothing about Scudder; the first sentence tells us that the man was "about my height", and that he was searching the narrator's face for "secret messages". Us, too! It's not revolutionary, but it's good.

The plane was late getting in, and our escape is further delayed by "paperwork". A stewardess updates us at one point that there remained one document to fill out because there'd been a medical emergency "before any of us boarded", as if we might otherwise suspect one of the crew of poisoning the complimentary orange juice.

We back away from the gate, and the safety video comes on. It shows adult customer hands strapping a mask on the face of a child customer while reminding you to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting "other customers." We're stopped and I look out the window; it seems we've backed onto the lawn. The grass waves frenetically beneath the invisible jets.

The captain says that the weather in New Orleans is about what it is here in Houston. I hadn't been outside since New York, but I can see that it's starting to rain.


In the way that one will, I wonder at the regularity of the landscape; the lines that graph what seems like chaos on the ground become evident so soon after take-off. Even the forests are uniform, squared off at the edges like a tins of brownies. But there's a break in the grid: we pass over a little oasis of wild trees atop elegant low hills that roll like the Appalachian Mountains I'd crossed in the morning.

Then I realize that it's a golf course. But a beautiful one.

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