Tuesday, March 1, 2011

New York, New York

"We'll cut your hair and send you anywhere," seemed to be the mantra of the Flight Attendant Training Center or Charm Farm as we called it. And cut my hair they did. I cried and called home. It seemed to be a violation of my personal self and I didn't even know at that time that I'd be dropped by jet plane in New York City, like relief aid to the needy. That's me near top of the stairs.I adjusted, as did most of the newly graduated stews, while we filtered through ads for Manhattan apartments. Most ended up in high rise buildings in the upper east side with 5 other roommates. I had 2 roommates and lived in a 36th Street brownstone. There usually weren't 3 of us there at the same time, so the 1 bedroom worked...sort of. At rush hour the cars backed up along the front of our building as they inched their way toward the Midtown Tunnel leaving a plume of exhaust behind. New York, New York....so nice they named it twice. That's what my t-shirt read that I wore back home to Ohio on an occasional visit or layover. My hair grew back longer a year later along with the list of new cities and states I flew to. Las Vegas layovers were exotic and about as far away from Ohio as you could get, with its casinos and wedding chapels along The Strip. I flew on double decker 747's to LA, carrying celebrities, musicians, businessmen and women, tourists and folks who just wanted to get somewhere. That's Bryant Gumbel and his co-host with my friend Marcie and I in this photo after a NY-LA red-eye flight . I lugged back Coors beer strapped to my suitcase even though I didn't drink beer, because you couldn't get it east of the Rockies. Dining on real Mexican food in Phoenix under the desert sky made me feel multi-cultural. There were no laptops, iPods or video games onboard the aircraft then. The passengers had books, stereophonic music through airline headsets, conversation with eye contact, and us to amuse them. We were respected. That was many take off and landings ago. Over the years, I've been to the Oscars, hung out backstage with the Grateful Dead, and calmed Carly Simon's fear of flying nerves. I've transported young men and women home from war, played cards with unaccompanied children, and tended medical emergencies. I've given water to deportees who tried to flee their country and failed. I've stepped over high school ski teams as they slept exhausted on the airplane floor. I've held the trembling hands of the elderly and the sure, delicate hands of the young. Mine eyes have seen. We learned that fear is a 4-letter word and if we want it to happen we have to make it happen. Airline deregulation, economic booms and busts shaped the way people traveled with each twist and turn in altitude and attitude. Five years into flying, I transferred to Boston, married and started a family while flying in between. And so the circle turns. My family is grown, I am single and the skies have opened up again. An opportunity to transfer to New York became available and I thought, now is the time....but was it? It is comfortable staying with the familiar, but I took the plunge remembering that 4-letter word, fear. So I am coming full circle and have transferred to fly out of New York's JFK as of today. For now, I'm still living in the Boston area and commuting to New York by plane. My first month will take me to Tokyo and the months ahead will be Budapest, Rome, Milan, Brussels, Madrid, Barcelona, Zurich, Rio, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and of course, Paris, plus many more destinations around the world. It is a long way from the beginning...many take off and landings away. New York, New York, so nice I'm going there twice.

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