Atlanta Airport, early afternoon
Georgia is a good place to start the story, because I am not here very frequently- and I’ll only be passing through here in this story once by airline, and again by rented motor vehicle. I’m making the connection from Kansas City’s airport to Atlanta’s; which isn’t really “Hot-Lanta” today, nothing like it was the last time I was here. The last time I was in Atlanta, the air had a thickness to it that made it something extra to the heat and humidity. I almost choked on it, wondering what kind of secret gills the locals must have to be constantly inhaling that or air conditioning. The last time I was in Atlanta, I thought I had perhaps not touched down to Atlanta’s romantic terrain from a Boeing 747, though perhaps beamed down to some other place on some other planet that was only mostly inhabitable; as though the air were only just barely breathable without some sort of mask from NASA or Gene Roddenberry.
For all I know, to tell you the truth as I always do, it could be smoldering outside at this very moment; even worse than I remember. There could be alligators swimming in the muggy air out there for all I know, though I won’t have the slightest idea until I get a glimpse of the weather outside the air-conditioned airport by walking through the tunnel and stepping onto the plane; it’s usually somewhere right around then that I’ll notice with occasional surprise at how cold or pleasant it feels to get one last deep huff of nature before being crammed into another tunnel of air conditioning and human beings.
I have just enough time to get food before that moment arrives; and of course there are peaches and Coca-Cola all over the parts of the airport that look identical to a shopping mall; except obvious and deliberate overdoing of the merchandise related to this particular locale. Should I get some postcards for the kids? Would anybody happen to have a bumper sticker for The Volvo? Does anyone in this airport sell anything to eat that isn’t absolutely terrible and unhealthy for the love of God?
Not really as it turns out, though I can’t complain. I found a place with barbecue sauce that is home made with fresh Georgia peaches mixed in to sweeten the otherwise spicy, smoky flavor. I ate it over a plate of sweet potato fries with a classic Coke, and found it magically satisfying. It is strange being here, though not in any bad way. It really feels wonderful to be on my way to Florida, where I’ll see my sister and her girlfriend in Panama City, in a condo, by the beach… of the Gulf of Mexico. Fun as this airport is, I’m certain the best is yet to come. I don’t even mind that I won’t see this place on my way back through when I’m driving from Florida to Illinois with my sister’s girlfriend’s mother and sister accompanying me in a rental car. These are all people I love and seldom see, who I will at long last get to see again, and of all places- The Beach!
While I am down there, I am also scheduled at Elliot Studios to do some work for MTV 2. They’ve been expressing some interest in what I do with my music and label that is measurable in dollars and cents, and while I’m extremely grateful for what little they’ve given thus far, I am also extraordinarily hopeful for further and deeper involvement with them and other companies with musical interests. My talent is under investigation, and just as I was wishing they would be more thorough in understanding it, they asked me to write a blog about the entire experience [this thing I’m writing/you’re reading right now] so they could see what that would be like. They like the way I sound on records, and they even like the way I look on camera- arguably much more than I do, though I’ve got to give them credit for being the first major company to ask me to write about something in a purely unfiltered way; such that the reader might live vicariously through me and have an imagined experience superior to the one I am presently having and writing about.
Time to throw away the red and white cardboard and grease-stained wax paper with the smeared napkin, grab my boarding pass, and get to the gate, if only to wait and reed a book about Lou Reed my big sister gave me for Christmas. It’s called “Transformer,” and it’s been a fascinating look into the various identifiable identities of Lou Reed through the years, and about as much as I’m a fan of Lou Reed and/or The Velvet Underground, my sister Sarah was his neighbor in New York until his recent death. She’d see him about town every so often, and was so hilarious in recalling the terribleness of the staged Edgar Alan Poe musical Lou had done in his later years, I didn’t mind that it must have sucked. Sarah transformed her experience of suffering through that musical, which I have never seen, into a fond memory for me, of her, recalling the entire thing as a one-woman show on the opposite side of a coffee table in Brooklyn. Perhaps Lou Reed, great artist such as he was, envisioned ingeniously that people discussing or otherwise recreating the work would be better (in this case) than the work itself. Maybe that’s why he had to possibly ruin Poe as much or more than his own song, “Perfect Day.”
I can’t daydream away to Brooklyn any longer, my mind returns to Georgia, and with Georgia on my mind, I step onto the tunnel to move slowly with the other cattle through the loading chute. There is, of course, a slight slip in the connection between the chute and the plane. Just as I huff the morsel of clean air, the clouds broke a beam of sunlight onto the right side of my face. I smiled, and then aimed the smile at the stewardess who was grinning ear to ear with everything but her eyes. She’s good at her job and can’t stand it today for some reason. Lucky me, because she’s not going to give me any grief about my guitar case.
This never used to be a problem. I don’t care how big or small the little boxes were, the ones by the counter at the airport gate which you’re supposed to use as a visual or physical aid in making sure that you are not trying to bring too much on to the plane. Back when you could still smoke inside Lambert International Airport in Saint Louis, Missouri- which was not that long ago, you could also walk onto any flight that allowed two bags- AND you could have the guitar as an extra, third, no-bull item. Nowadays, you have stewardesses and airline name tags trying to confiscate and tag your ax, only to throw it to the cargo loaders, who will throw it even harder into the cargo bay of your plane- and then it’s Lucky Me if I ever see my lovely little six string again. Some Airplane Nazi stopped me as I stepped onto a plane to Austin, took and tagged my friend-made Flying V electric guitar, and made further a nervous wreck out of me until I saw her again in Texas, most unmistakably. None of that today though. I don’t have the stewardess who is a Nazi this flight. I also don’t have the stewardess who is suspiciously accommodating; you know the one- she’s got a Kentucky dialect, she offers to put the guitar in the secret, employee’s-only coat closet, and winks at you as she gives you extra nuts. She was somewhere between Los Angeles and Chicago, though today- for better or as good, I’ve got the stewardess who is doing a bang up job at everything but convincingly masking her not so secret wish that this plane would just crash already as she gazed at her purple Chuck Taylor’s through her black eyeliner, hearing Dinosaur Jr. or The Smiths in her head one last time. She’s not going to give me any grief- she’s processing way to much of her own. She needs to get on a flight with that gal from Kentucky, who makes apathy seem much more enjoyable than depressing.
I’m going to go halfway back this giant vessel and load my guitar and book bag into the overhead compartment. My book is still under my arm, my place marked with my boarding pass. I am so excited to read in my favorite place to read. A good book is good anywhere you read it, though on aircraft- all of my peripheral thoughts evaporate, and there is nothing else in the world besides myself and the text. In a similar oddity, honest as it is, if I ever find myself having trouble writing- I just need to imagine I am in a motel room, sitting at the particle board desk, underneath the faded and dated “artwork” that is as ugly as it’s frame or worse, nearby the starchy bed and the glow of a muted television. The blinds are shut, the old air conditioner is blasting, the door is locked, somebody is getting laid one minute and screamed at the next on the other side of the wall. Somehow, these conditions with very slight alterations if any, seem to make me write until the pen is out of ink, or I’m so tired that I could just about sleep on that disgusting bed. I don’t even get tired on airplanes- I just binge read to my heart’s content.
I’m going to have to turn off my almost-dead pocket supercomputer and resume this tale when it lands in Panama City, Florida. In the mean time, I’m going to catch up to Lou Reed, Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, and countless other name-drops at The Factory in New York, roughly a decade before I was born. By the time this story ends in Illinois, I will have been through Alabama and Tennessee, too… though for now, it’s time to turn off all electronic devices, and turn on my slimy computer with a halfway decent book.