Best Worst Year: Episode 55 (Or, Tarmac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Airports)

I can boil down your experience at the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport down to two words: free parking. Spending most of my traveling life flying out of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton “International” Airport (as in “International” House of Pancakes), I’m used to small airports–two gates, THE TSA agent, the puddle jumping, “intimately” seated, Freebird playing turboprops–I get it. I’ve spent the last decade in countless airports but I don’t think I’ve ever been to an airport (in the lower 48) small enough to have free parking.

It’s five after six in the morning and according to our tickets, we should be well on our way to O’Hare airport–the direct antithesis to Honest Abe Cap. We’re not. Plane crew: nowhere to be found. Thankfully we have a War and Peace-sized layover in Chicago so I’m not particularly worried. Travel is waiting, usually waiting due to circumstances beyond your control. Waiting and patience–the Loggins and Messina of travel. Want to practice universal mindfulness? Stand in the Delta Airlines customer service line at JFK while you watch baggage handlers randomly select checked luggage to set on fire beside the jetway.

The advantage to a career insomniac is that a three-thirty wake up call means nothing. You’re already up–or worse, you haven’t been to sleep. I was the former, but after forty-five minutes near Gate 2, I was fully immersed in the gauzy ennui of delay. Somewhere in the half-nod, I remembered that the last time I flew out of Springfield was about ten months ago, flying back to Scranton and thinking about boysenberry syrup.

The question isn’t whether or not if I want to be the “what a difference a year makes guy”–too late, I’m already that guy. Been that guy. Almost over being that guy. Not quite. Not yet. Change, not unlike Extreme Home Makeover, but change nonetheless. Yet it’s not a change as much as it is remembering. Someone recently told me that whatever personal transformation I’ve undergone over the last year isn’t as much a change as it was an uncovering. The dormant volcano of my spine smoulders now. Steam rises. Volcanic activity right beneath the surface…Maybe she was hitting on me, but regardless, the more I think about it, the more I realize that she was right.

(Sidebar, I totally Kevin Arnold the moment by being my typically clueless me. That’s not wholly accurate. I’m slightly clueless–with just a hint of duh to be nearly charming. I have just started getting used to the idea of being not only single but available–not in the Afghan Whigs “Gentleman” way–or not just–but emotionally available. Not single and lonely or single and ready to OkCupid. Single. Singular. Present. I’m getting tired of being guarded all the time. The default setting has been to be noticed for what I do, not who I am–it’s a fine line and one which could come painfully close to being/sounding egocentric. I am no longer compelled to allow identity to be violently yoked to my business card. That said, being at a place that values me for me makes it a lot easier to be identified with who I represent. I’m a managing editor. I represent Quiddity, but I have an identity beyond my desk or masthead. I forgot what that looked like for a long time but now that I’m in a place where my contribution is validated, the expectation is that I will continue to be me. Moreover, having that foundation has let me get on with the business of being me–in all ways. My heart is in it–in everything. It pounds out of my chest and radiates to fill the space around me. I am standing outside of my shadow. My profile isn’t slight or leaning against late and lonely hours, darkening doorways and last calls for the sake of being the last to know–or to forget who I am. I have rediscovered my laugh and it sounds like a baritone sax covering the Two Tone catalog. Does that make sense? Does this sound like my Dr. Phil moment? It’s amazing what a little faith can do to restore the confidence. End of tangent.)

Remembering is an active choice–especially when it comes to the best parts of you. Sometimes it takes rearranging the furniture a little to see those parts of you which made you the best you (or in this case the best/worst you). It’s funny to think that this has been here all along–or worse–what I thought I could see of me, I couldn’t. I trust my eyes again. I blink and the world focuses, soft and slowly with a little more warmth to colors–even in the cinder and ash grey of highway winters in the Midwest.

It’s almost six-thirty in the morning and the flight crew for our forty minute flight to the Second City is finally here–the American Airlines crew stole their hotel shuttle. Waiting and patience. I’m discovering more doors these days which open with a push rather than a pull.

Jim Warner is the Managing Editor of Quiddity International Literary Journal and Public Radio Program at Benedictine University and the author of two poetry collections Too Bad It’s Poetry and Social Studies (Paper Kite Press). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals including The North American Review, The Hawaii Pacific Review, PANK Magazine, Five Quarterly, and The Minnesota Review. He loves the Afghan Whigs. Follow him on twitter @whoismisterjim.

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