I am an airport buff.
There, I said it.
As a young man I confused this love of all things this side of the tarmac with a love of flying. As I grew older I came to realize that this simply is not the case. My mom once asked me what I would do for a living if I weren’t a teacher. “You know, Mom,” I said in complete sincerity, “I think it would be cool being a pilot.” “Sweetheart,” she said in her flawless Manhattan accent, “You have to have three drinks before boarding the plane as a PASSENGER! I don’t think that would be right for you.” She’s right. Mom’s always are.
“You two are like a couple of old ladies,” she’d tell us. I think she was just jealous.
Having narrowed it down to an affinity for all things related to flying without loving the actual flying part I set out to trace my affection for airports. I have a vivid memory of being five years-old and accompanying my older sister to Newark Airport to pick up my dad who was returning from a business trip. I’m pretty sure in those days we just left the car running at the curb and walked all the way back to his gate to wait for him. I’m not even joking. Staring out the enormous pate glass windows and seeing the behemoths of winged transport slowly taxiing to their gates I came to see this whole mysterious world of air travel as a glamorous affair. At that moment I was hooked. The airport would forever be for me a place of fascination. A few years ago I even read a book – some 500 pages in length – about the history of airport terminal design. It was called Naked Airport and it detailed everything you always wanted to know about baggage claims and moving sidewalks but were afraid to ask.
DAY 39/Will the Real Molly Brown Please Stand Up?
I bring all of this up by way of describing our journey this morning out to Denver International Airport. The locals call it DIA but the FAA calls it DEN and it was here that we would collect a very important person. Karla’s sainted mother, Wilma, was en route to Denver where she would join us for the remainder of our Grill’n & Chill’n tour. This was a happy occasion for us. I love my mother-in-law like my own mom. We enjoy each other’s company both at home in Dallas and on the road. We like cocktails and old movies. Karla even made a joke about our friendship once. After my most recent spinal fusion surgery; Wilma, who’d just had surgery for breast cancer but was still a bit better off than me physically, would come to my house to pick me up every day. She’d take me to daily mass and then we’d go to Whataburger or Denny’s for breakfast. “You two are like a couple of old ladies,” she’d tell us. I think she was just jealous. The kids also love their “Granny”, and why not? Having her with us for the final two weeks means our fun will be multiplied and our kids will have a calming presence in the back seat with them.
We pulled up to the terminal and Karla didn’t even have to ask.
“Just park in the garage,” she said. “I know you’ll want to go in and greet her in the terminal.”
It was a happy reunion. Smiles and hugs all around. Then it was off to a mini-event of sorts. You see, even though we had just seen Kat (Quest) Wood, ’05, the night before, she had invited us to her house for the day. Karla would be able to use the wifi to get some work done and the kids could go swimming. Wilma and I, on the other hand, were bound for downtown Denver and some sightseeing. My son Benedict changed his mind last minute and decided to join us.
Our first stop was a church. Where else? Wilma’s a very holy woman and I like to pretend to be pious when I’m not sinning too much. Ben will be pope one day. The church I chose, based on things I’ve heard from friends in the area, is called Holy Ghost parish and it sits in the heart of the main business district. What a beautiful tribute this church is to the People of God! No holy door here so I couldn’t get another indulgence but what I could do was go to confession anyway. Ben (now that he’s of the age and received the sacraments) always try to cut in front of me for confession. This time I prevailed and went first. The three of us prayed before the exposed Blessed Sacrament. I prayed for many things – peace in my family, a job in administration, someone to read my blog and offer me millions of dollars for the screen rights. I also prayed for each of you so I hope you felt it. Those kneelers were cold!
After snagging the now-obligatory fisheye shot of the church facade, we headed to the home of one of Denver’s most famous residents, the “unsinkable” Molly Brown! Keep in mind that Benedict and I have been here before but he was only two months-old.
We stepped onto the enclosed back porch of this stately Victorian mansion with our tour group and I immediately discovered that I was in the midst of another bizarre “happening”. Let me explain…
Ben began to tell our tour guide, a young woman in Birkenstocks and a braided ponytail, about the Titanic, sharing his vast knowledge of the same because, who wouldn’t want to know all about that? “When we went to Nova Scotia we even saw Titanic graves!” he said with sheer glee. OK, son, maybe want to turn down the excitement factor when talking about mass graves from a maritime disaster. But I could see his point. “Oh,” said our guide who had just informed us that she wrote her thesis on Molly Brown, “there are Titanic graves in Nova Scotia?” As I was assuring her of the truth of Benedict’s claims I looked over her shoulder. On the wall behind her was a timeline of the Titanic’s sinking. I was drawn to a line that read: “1:14AM… White Star Lines’ Halifax office dispatches ships to retrieve bodies.” I could tell this woman either wasn’t too swift or possibly…
She had an agenda!
You see, that thesis she wrote? It was on Feminist Studies. I would normally have tuned out at this point and started humming old Sousa marches in my head to pass the time. But something told me “Tim, stick with it. This could get good.” What I got instead of “good” was “unmitigated crap” but it was good in other ways. It’s kind of like how one might describe a head on train collision as “good”. No? Oh well. She followed up her lack of knowledge on Titanic with this statement. “Well if Trump wins I’ll get to see for myself when I move there!” Ha ha. Right? I mean everyone spews their political beliefs at complete strangers, right? I should have said “and if Hillary wins I’ll come back to Denver and vomit on you.”
Once in the parlor we were treated to gems like “No one EVER called her Molly. It was strictly Margaret Brown. It’s only because of that dumb Debbie Reynolds movie that we call her Molly. Considering the only reason any of us in the room know this place exists is because of that dumb movie, this might not have been her wisest choice of verbiage. We learned that Brown, from her living room, championed women’s rights, single-handedly pushed through the 22nd amendment, ended child labor, and routinely corrected her husband’s grammar.
“What a broad!” I shouted to stares from the guide and muffled laughter from Wilma and Ben.
As we left that room I noticed an object on her piano. Turning to the guide I asked how such a bright and powerful woman could have been so stupid as to have a phrenology head in her home. The guide was stumped as she did not know what a phrenology head is. Where are they finding tour guides these days?
After our tour we headed back to Kat’s house where we rested up a bit more, took some pictures, and once again took to the road. Denver, you’ve been real. Our vehicle a bit heavier in a good way, we were off once again. Tonight the plan is to cross the Rockies and land in a town called Rifle, CO. I wanted to stay in Handgun but their hotels were booked.