27 September 2006

As Munich beckons...

My last night in Memphis was one spent with family, a heap of pork, and a crisp early Fall night on the Downtown streets. In a quick, almost whirlwind experience, Memphis was behind me, and I never had a chance to properly say goodbye. Now I sit in a rocking chair in the Charlotte, NC airport overlooking a vibrant atrium of trees, fast food, and travelers on their way to destinations near and far.

The plan was to check-in at the Memphis airport around 7:30 this morning with ample time to spar for my 9:25 boarding. Around six o’clock I woke up and packed some last minute items before loading the luggage into the car in the presence of a very friendly neighborhood cat. At seven o’clock we were ready to go, but not without breakfast and other last minute necessities of course. So pretending to have forgotten the original plan, we left the house at 7:30 and made it to the airport a little after eight. At the check-in counter we discovered both of my bags were over the weight limit and had to transfer some items into one bag from the other so as to avoid a fine on both. With forty minutes to spare I said my final good byes to my family as I entered and snaked forward through the security check-point line. With one last wave good bye I rounded the corner and found my way to the gate.

To my surprise, sitting at my gate was an urban planning consulting team that had spent the last week in Memphis for a public neighborhood redevelopment process. With urban planning as my academic concentration, I had been attending a few of the meetings to provide my input. A fresh-out-of-college consultant whom I had befriended at the meetings ended up sitting next to me on the plane.

As the flat West Tennessee landscape gave way to rolling hills and eventually the Smokies of East Tennessee beneath us, we discussed city design, world travel, and the lingering pull of home. Over the mountains he pointed out to me Maryville, Townsend, and Gatlinburg, places I had been in or near only a few weeks before on a camping trip with friends. At the time I would have said I probably will never see them again, but there I was looking down on them from above. Travel proved to me once again that unexpected twists and turns manage to find a way in life on their own; imagine what could happen if one was to go looking for them.

Landing in Charlotte my new friend wished me well as he rushed to meet his finance for lunch, and I was left to contemplate my journey that had begun two hours ago, and wait for the next segment. Before grabbing lunch I skimmed various magazines and newspapers reading on topics from new condominium developments along a soon-to-open light rail line in Charlotte to the endangered state of national parks and protected environments around the world. Now, I sit here on the overlook with a pianist down below playing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Directly in front of me rises large windows offering a view of the tarmac with planes taxiing back and forth. So is this to be my last view of America from the ground? Perhaps, and with the piano melody fading out and other travelers unknowingly allowing me brief glimpses into their lives, I think it will suffice.

5 comments:

Austin said...

Mom and I were cleaning out your room to convert it into an in-home Starbucks when I realized something: you forgot to pack your lifejacket.

Anonymous said...

What date does school start for you?

Anonymous said...

that was me.
-B

Nick O. said...

Austin: I decided it wasn't necessary for me to bring along. Good to hear about the Starbucks though, I'm sure they'll bring in some money to mom and dad.

B: The academic semester begins October 16, but a two week orientation and intensive language course begins Monday.

mco said...

I am sitting here drinking my Starbucks and thought I would check in - Would love to hear in your next comment a description of the room with a balcony (and view). What is your view when you peer outside your windows?