Thursday, March 17, 2011

Playlist of the Week: MSPC13

Walk left.  Stand right.

Scroll down and hit play.  You know you want to.  It's Nina Simone.  You'll like it.  Go on.  I'll be here when you get back.

Here we go...  Greetings from MSP.  C13.  Minnesota sunset crafting an outline over shuttle trains flying by, airplanes sitting at gates like elephants waiting for their cue at the circus, herds of rollerboards tumbling down the plain that is the concourse.  722 PM.  Two hours, thirteen minutes before I depart for OKC.  I've become one of those guys who speaks of destinations in airport codes.  Some like OKC are easy to decipher--others like MCI and BDN become my little easily discovered-via-Google secrets.

Before I got this job, I lived in Oklahoma.  Two and a half years later, I realize that I live in America.  This country--even this world--is a much smaller but no less brilliant and fascinating place to me now.  My previous travel weariness was largely due to the psychological burden of "feeling" the "distance" on a map between states.  But now everything is segments and connections and layovers and good airports vs. bad ones, good wireless vs. poor, good restaurants vs. Chili's-Too.  And suddenly states and cities no longer mean the same in your head--especially when your average stay in any one place is about thirty-six hours.

No, America is now quite singular to me.  And I'm out in it and I'm finding more and more to be--if not always fond of--at least fascinated by.  All I have out here is God, my work, my music, my suitcase, my laptop, my phone, and my expense account.  And while we're always led to believe this is all part of a shallow, exhausting, ultimately bankrupt existence, I couldn't disagree more.  Out here I am sharper, more focused, more thoughtful, more independent, more friendly to strangers, more joyful at the sight of little moments.  Little moments of love between families, lovers, and friends have over time become greater than the sum of their parts.  Conversely, I've looked in the eyes of solitary strangers who carry a pain in their eyes I sometimes empathize with--and other times can't conceive of.  Little moments that define all of us at various ends of that confoundedly indecipherable spectrum.

Young soldiers with that look of dread--and others with that easy look of relief.  Men and women on cell phones laughing or crying uncontrollably.  The woman changing out the trash cans or the man mopping the bathroom whose life I know nothing of--I see how some of them look at the travelers sitting at the gate so longingly--wondering what it would be like to get on that plane and exit this life.  And yet others smile so effortlessly with that knowing look that says that this shift is just the time spent between the next party or gathering.

The airport--the road--is humanity at its best and worst and most tangible and shamelessly artificial.  It is iPads and newsstands and endless coffee shops and moving walkways and never ever stopping combined with hurrying up to wait.  It is all that I am and all that I am not.  America and even the world are simply one big series of arrivals and departures where there is only one place you will truly call "home".  And that is anywhere you, my beloved friends and family, can meet me for a drink, a conversation, or a laugh--hopefully all three.  Being out here totally alone with absolutely everyone is a gift--because out here I know what all of you and all that I call "mine" mean to me.

Sun is down.  Neutral Milk Hotel just finished.  Goodnight.  The best night.