Recently I made plans to visit my cousin Vinnie, a policeman in North Carolina. We’ve always most certainly been quite a colorful combination of characters since we were kids. An old girlfriend of his once said, decades ago, that he and I speak another language entirely.
Last Saturday morning Steve drove me to La Guardia Airport in Flushing so I could get onto the 10:40 a.m. US Airways non stop flight to Raleigh. If all had gone according to the way it was planned out my time in the airport would have been relatively short and even somewhat enjoyable. The flight should have only taken about an hour and thirty five minutes.
Upon arriving at my terminal though, I got some very bad news. The woman behind the counter at my gate insisted that my flight would have to be delayed for at least six hours due to technical difficulties beyond anyone’s control. Everyone knows how restless and frustrated I get when I’m subjected to this kind of ordeal. Of course, thanks to my life’s being the nut house that it is, neither my primitive cell phone nor my digital camera is working either so I can’t even take advantage of them to pass the time.
After my having calmed down a bit, and come up with the presence of mind to accept my sorry lot, I pulled my trusty copy of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” out of my bag and began yet another pointless attempt at reading it. Bloomsday is coming up in the middle of this month, I reasoned, so the very least I could possibly do, having always been such a total bookworm, is to take advantage of the occasion to try my hand yet again at plowing through a day in the life of Leopold Bloom, Joyce’s protagonist. My mind inevitably wandered as I dwelled on the fact that Joyce and Virginia Woolf were both born in 1882 and died in 1941, and that both Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” and Joyce’s “Ulysses” are set on a single day in the middle of June. “Ulysses” is set in 1904, on the day during which Joyce and Nora Barnacle first met. “Mrs. Dalloway” is set in 1923.
Eventually I needed a change of pace so I walked slowly to the nearest concession stand and got a small cup of cappuccino. Having always been quite a compulsive clock watcher I alternated incessantly between sipping my drink and keeping track of the time. Outside the windows I could see Citi Field and Flushing Meadow Park. Being at La Guardia always reminds me of when I was a kid in Jackson Heights, when being so close to Flushing Meadow and Shea Stadium was a perfectly normal reality of my life.
By the time I finished my drink an entire whopping hour and a half had passed since first I showed up. My mind continues wandering inevitably. I have a flashback to the autumn of 1981 when I went to North Tonawanda to visit relatives, including Vinnie, for Thanksgiving. Jazz singer and musician Cab “Hi De Ho” Calloway was on the plane. One of the nice things about international airports is that one never knows who will show up. Even though I didn’t get a chance to see anyone famous this time around, I was surrounded, as always under those circumstances, by quite an eclectically garbed assortment of characters from all over the world.
Of course, I kept on trying to remind myself, this would have been quite an exceptionally interesting self-contained world of its own with everything going for it, if only I could have come here under nicer circumstances. The fact that I was stranded, though, was really starting to get me crazy. I couldn’t even take some nice pictures or call somebody. At least if I could have done something like that I could have felt a bit more comfortable. Unfortunately when I’m nervous and frustrated I become quite visibly tense and conspicuous. I can imagine what other people there must have thought of me. I know it would have been quite an interesting surprise for Vinnie if I could have made the trip. By the time my six hours was up, though, I was so annoyed I left the airport and came back to Long Beach.