I am on vacation, but unlike other times when I am away, I'm feeling a need to write. Not so much that I need to tell you anything, but so I don't forget the things that have already happened. I'm on a reunion vacation sort of. About 25 years ago, my friends Cindy, Ann Marie, and I started working for the Fresh Air Fund. And while I see Cindy every year, for some reason this year, probably because it is a milestone year, feels different. And being in a cabin in the middle of nowhere instead of say, the Flamingo Hilton in Las Vegas, helps a little too.
I flew into New Jersey, and I hadn't been to New Jersey in 4 years. I almost forgot what it was like. Take that back, I did forget. As you fly into the Newark-Liberty Airport, you can see the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty in the distance. Looking out the window, I thought, there it is....crowded, busy, dirty...not so sure I want to go there.
Having just left the beautiful new Indianapolis Airport, I was surprised when I got off the plane, and it wasn't the same. Not that it wasn't the same as the Indianapolis Airport, but it wasn't what I had remembered either. I had remembered the EWR being similar to the new Indy airport, lots of windows, white floors, wide aisles. I must have been in a different terminal. I walked down the blue carpeted hallway where we pretty much had to walk single file. The other part of the hallway was taken over by security with cameras and scanners and people in sock feet. Downstairs to baggage claim, and then it all came back. I had been here before. It had changed a little, I think there are less Continental baggage carousels now, but that hint of urine smell in the air means it is definitely the Newark Airport.
My plane was wicked early (since I'm doing a flashback to my twenties, why not throw in a Boston word) and I called my friend Susan who was picking me up from the airport. They were still about 20 minutes or so away, but we worked out a meeting place at curbside, and I looked around a little. I looked at the airport seating and wondered when the last time it had been wiped off with a lysol wipe or anything like it, and decided standing was a better option. Maybe still wondering how I did this so much in my youth.
I remembered the episode where I was stuck at the New Jersey airport and a little terrified. Even then, I was the Lucky Girl, because somehow with $100 cash in my pocket and a call to my brother, I got out of a scary situation and back to Indianapolis. People's Express was the cheap airline of the 80's with a hub in Newark. I had heard they were going out of business and canceling flights left and right, but I still headed to the airport alone trying to get home. I was told my flight was canceled and that there were no other flights until the next day. The thought of having to spend the night at this airport was not good. I had no credit card, ATMs did not exist, it was me, all my bags from a summer at camp, and my $100, and that was it. My brother worked some sort of magic and got me on a flight through Dulles to Indy. I can imagine the conversation with the airline people that he had, but I am sure that the airline people wanted to get me out of Newark too. Terminal D was infamous. Poof, I am on my way out, and other people who were stuck were in disbelief.
I stepped outside to the curb. And then it hit me. That smell of exhaust in the air. Horns were honking, a taxi stand in front of me, people talking and yelling and schlepping bags everywhere. Ah, yes, I remember. I looked to the left and recognized the area where I used to catch the bus to the city from this airport. Oh yeah, I do remember. Yankee Stadium, Lincoln Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Poet's walk in Central Park, the subway, Canal Jeans, Little Italy at Christmastime. All of that is worth a little crowd and some dirt. Maybe I do want to go back.
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