On the Dulles Airport tarmac waiting to leave for Knoxville for my sister Melissa's graduation. Very little sleep last night. Too excited. On a puddle-jumper that smells like puke, in front of a woman changing a baby's diaper. The bathroom has Handi-Wipes in the sink to let you know that the lack of running water in the sink is a deliberate act by United Airlines. We deserve what we tolerate.
Knoxville's 500 miles from me and about the closest I'll fly. Any shorter and I'll drive. It's faster. A guy fatter than me boards the plane wearing a shirt reading "My Balls Itch" with his wife rolling behind him on a wheelchair. She gets out of the wheelchair and walks to her seat. No one told me I could be rolled to the plane. I need to get a frequent flyer card.
We haven't moved 100 feet before Mr. My Balls Itch starts complaining about Washington DC politics and the Presidential campaign. Why are all the politically astute Americans living in Knoxville working at the tire store? We'll never find Osama if we don't stop the tire store brain drain.
Melissa picks me up. She's an airport employee and hands me funny workers compensation and safety info. The primary advice the airport authority gives to staff is to pretend they're somewhere else.
The Hilton concierge is missing a lotta teeth, but he knows where the pawn shop is so he's still better than average. I give Melissa the jewelry I made her and we go to lunch at Tomato Head and shop for her graduation outfit. Melissa apologizes for taking me girl shopping but I have years of purse-holding and chair-sitting experience.
I open my hotel door and there's a newspaper on the floor: USA Today, the Nation's McNewspaper. The headline is "43,000 troops deployed are unfit." The news reminds me that work goes on whether I work or not.
The complimentary breakfast is fried chicken biscuits served by a lady wearing a wooden cross on a necklace. I love Virginia. It's just southern enough.
My brother Tighe shows up and Melissa takes us shopping. Tighe gets pizza while Melissa confirms her hair appointment next door. The pizza guy recognized me from a show in Bristol TN three years ago.
Melissa, Tighe and I go to our Mom Gloria's house. She makes salads from flora from her backyard garden and raspberry dressing from her garden raspberries. I'm almost crying it's so good. DC produce is almost inedible.
I've felt so excited to get here that I haven't had a full night's sleep in four days. I take a nap until it's time for me and the sibs to go visit the musical part of the family. We jam and eat and then I remember that I have free setups in the hotel hospitality room. We close that and the bar downstairs.
I bought a GPS two weeks ago when I was driving my son around West Point. Who builds rotary intersections in the woods? I have the GPS with me en route to graduation. Thank Jesus. Two days ago when Melissa pointed at the convention center and parking lot I stored them. When dad retreived me this morning I knew how to get to the parking lot and how to walk to the Convention Center. Worth every penny.
Dean of education gives us fire evacuation instructions and to not smoke and not storm the stage with cameras. The Dean has us give round of applause to the students, the Dean of Student Services and The Beatles. He's a horrible speaker. I'm sure he's a better dean than I would be. He reads the English postwar "Few earthly things more beautiful than a university" poem.
We eat at a Mexican restsurant and go to my mother's house. My father and mother shake hands. I haven't seen them under one roof since he moved out in 1991. I'm the oldest member of my generation that Melissa has authorized to go club-hopping, so I go back to the hotel for my restorative nap. I take one for the team and stay sober. It's bad enough that I'm the creepy old guy in the club. Now I'm the creepy old sober guy in the club.
I pass another ex-smoker test. The place is full of smoke. By the time we leave for pizza my own smell disgusts me.
Pics here: http://www.basilwhite.com/images/20080508MelissaGraduation