Sometime at the beginning of January in 1992, I arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and headed to the campus of Southern Methodist University, some twenty miles east, after ‘surviving’ my first ever flight. If you have read my previous blogs, you know that I was filled with apprehension before boarding an American Airlines jet from Syracuse, New York. Truth-be-told, at that age I was apprehensive about just about everything in my life.
My First Flight
After taking my seat on the plane, a feeling wholly unanticipated swept over me the second I buckled my seatbelt and watched the now-familiar safety demonstration. I was not only anxiety-free, but existentially calm. A curiosity about the exhilaration of flight itself took hold. What would it be like to take off? Does flying feel fast? Do clouds look cool up close? Are we going above the clouds?! Simply put: wonderment.
From that first flight and during each one since, air travel has provided me with a complete escape from responsibility. There is exactly nothing I can do that will control a plane if the unthinkable were to happen. My sole job on a flight is to sit and fly!
Sure, physical comfort has taken years of tinkering to attain. But my philosophy of flight is simple and, I would argue, completely logical: If the plane careens down, there is exactly NOTHING I can do about it. When turbulence occurs, I become even more calm. As I imagine it, once a free-fall commences, I will sit back, experience whatever life flashbacks are hidden in the recesses of my mind, and plummet. Period. End of story. One might read this perspective as fatalistic, but that is not my belief. To my way of thinking, flying is absolute freedom.
Finding A Home
So…I exaggerated in a previous blog post when claiming no plan for housing before boarding my flight to grad school. I had indeed booked a room at a nearby inn, but I had also put a single room on a five-day hold in the graduate dorm that neighbored the Meadows School of the Arts. It was extremely expensive, so my hotel room was meant to give me time to find an ‘affordable’ apartment near campus.
The manager, familiar with SMU (accurately nicknamed Southern Millionaire’s University), laughed at me without a hint of subtlety. In between chuckles, he informed me that there were ZERO cheap apartments within walking distance of the university. His self-assuredness proved accurate after I skimmed numerous classified sections in local newspapers, the 1992 equivalent of apartments.com. The bottom line: I was forced to move into the reserved dorm room, used student loan money to pay for it, and didn’t even bother to search for alternative housing.
Texas Is Another Country.
Especially North Dallas in the early 1990’s. This was the same neighborhood that housed H. Ross Perot when he made his famed run for the presidency. The women were blonde even if they weren’t. Masculinity was based on some mixture of pride without substance or pride with undetectable substance. (In other words, it appeared to me that ‘real men’ in Texas were discouraged from displaying true emotions.)
Ten miles in any direction from Dallas transported one to the Old West…or so it seemed (Cowboy hats, chewing tobacco, and the like.) The names were truly unusual to a young man from New York: There was Suzie May, Billy Bob, Janey Sue, Bobby Joe, Annie Lou, and Ruth Anne…Just kidding…I invented those names, with the exception of Ruth Anne, who was very real and quite the oboist!
The Meadows School for the Arts
The music school served as an embassy of sorts. American soil in a foreign land. Classical musicians always evolve into a family—in my estimation a side-effect of working together in high-intensity performing ensembles. The Meadows School also gave me my first taste of a community that had a United Nations ‘feel’ to it. In addition to loads of students from other states, there were Russian violinists, Ukrainian flutists, Bulgarian pianists, Latin American singers, and a contingent of Latvians (all chain-smokers.) One was a distinctive-looking, long-maned Latvian bassoonist named Dzintars Jurgalitis (sp??!!). A multi-generational American trombonist from Maryland, with the ironically Swedish name Nils, once drew a caricature of Dzintars as half horse and half man, with huge calfs, playing a bassoon. We laughed for weeks!
As in the preceding years, my friends were almost exclusively musicians. They were primarily members of the top orchestra and the Meadows Wind Ensemble. The latter ensemble, under the tutelage of the outrageously energetic Dr. Jack Delaney provided me with other musical travels and my first overseas trip. More detailed Texas experiences will be revealed in future writings—Y’alls, barbecue, rich Southerners, and more. For the time being, this post concludes with the first hint of anything remotely resembling wisdom. I hope you don’t find my thoughts cliché:
1. Fear can potentially free you, given the right mindset.
2. Travel is never exactly what you anticipate.
In My Unexpected Life: Travel, Food, and More, I will share stories, thoughts, and simple ideas to entertain and maybe even inspire others to engage with new food, travel, and more…no matter how big or small those experiences may be.
Even if my writings do not produce the desired result—please enjoy the blog!