I’ve enjoyed the rare pleasure, today (and weirdly, I’m only being half sardonic in saying this) of spending my entire working day in my beloved Denver International Airport. I arrived at 7:30am this morning for a flight to Newark, connecting to West Palm Beach, but that fell through. The East coast as a whole is a disaster today, for reasons unknown, resulting in our flight being pushed back by air traffic control. This went on long enough that the aircraft, which had been sitting at the gate since about 6am in sub-zero temperatures, began to have certain issues. Specifically, the poop pipes serving the cabin restrooms froze, putting the plane out of service.
The upshot of all this was a semi-panicked series of calls back to the home office, because I’m supposed to speaking at a conference tomorrow in the aforementioned West Palm. After much stress and considerable acrobatics on the part of the home team, another flight was found, plans were rearranged, and the day was saved. But the result of all of this is that I’m now flying into Ft. Lauderdale, arriving late, renting a car and driving an hour plus back up to whatever godawful resort is hosting this thing, there to weave my magic spell about the willing heads of 20 or 30 attendees tomorrow, only to turn around and haul ass back as quick as my little legs will carry me. All that so that I can hop on another plane Sunday for a bizarre hybrid trip that will see me doing a C-suite presentation in Nashville Monday, before braving a hardcore, 6-hour, Shark Tank-style sales pitch to a noted beauty retailer in San Francisco on Tuesday.
And you don’t care. Nor should you. Bravo. Please don’t. These are the quotidian travails of the traveling businessman. It’s my choice and I’m well paid to do it. If we close these deals I get paid even better. No bleating here; this is what I do. When it sucks, as it does today, it’s a suckage I’ve chosen of my own free will. So be it. Which is why, in the end, this isn’t really a terrible day. I’ve caught up on some email and, in my odd way, actually found a bit of relaxation.
See, you’ve got to understand about me and this airport. Me and her, we’ve got a certain thing going on. Have for a long time.
Denver International Airport, in all her ambiguity and mystery, opened for business in 1995, immediately rising to prominence as one of the physically largest airports on earth. Strange, architecturally odd, miles and miles from the city she was designed to serve, she was instantly the subject of perplexity and fascination. The old city airport, Stapleton, was just fine – a grungy little metro terminal parked, as airports tend to be, in the middle of the city’s only extensive African American neighborhood. The new airport was, in its way, ahead of its time. It was a weird testament to everything the city wasn’t yet, but intended to become, filtered through a kind of hallucinatory fever dream. I mean, it was just so fucking big. Decorated internally with strange and sometimes disturbing murals, floored with huge slabs of natural stone in which faux-fossils made of brass were embedded. And all of it connected, underground, by a vast system of subterranean tunnels and tracks, the extent of which has always been rumored but never really understood. But most of all, it was absolutely nowhere. The city has grown toward it in the years since, but at its inception it seemed to be in Wyoming. There was nothing there – a howling waste on every side, one ultramodern freeway connecting it to the city, everything else dirt roads and sagging, creepy farmhouses, rudely awakened from decades of slumber. None of it made any sense. I need hardly mention that the conspiracy theorists love it. Still do, which delights me to no end.
But for me? I was 22 years old when DIA sprung into being, and its opening coincided with the advent of my travels, which have never ended. DIA, in all its strangeness, became my gateway, literally, to the entire world. I never flew out of Stapleton alone. I’ve rarely flown out of DIA with anyone else. The fluid rhythms of my movements over the earth all originated here, resonating with the occult frequencies that this place is alleged to harbor. And my God, say what you want, but in the early days? She was magnificent. Huge! Complicated! New and shiny, elegant, constantly overwhelming one’s every sense of perspective. I loved her at once, and set out to learn her every secret. I never have, but I know a few. Even today, tired, I retired to a little-known overlook in a certain concourse, a place usually haunted only by airport workers, where you can look down the hundreds and hundreds of yards of perfectly straight hallway, populated by the little birds that have lived in here for (by now) generations. Remarkable, that kind of man-made view. What you see, when you look at it, are not the perfect and well-aligned proportions. Those are everywhere, and the mind quickly catalogs them as unimportant background. Instead, the eye goes quickly to any tiny deviation: four seats out of four hundred pushed awkwardly out of true. And it goes to the people, of course: an endless stream of endlessly varied people, going God knows where, for God knows what reason. Half of them are like me, but the other half? I don’t know what the other half does.
But it’s like any romance. 24 years now, me and her. She’s very comfortable. I can roll in here at four in the morning and navigate her with my eyes half closed. I can sleep anywhere in here. It’s been remarked that airports are the last truly lawless places. You want a drink at seven in the morning? Be my guest! Tired? Sleep on the floor! It’s not just the duty free shops – much is suspended here. Much is permitted.
But time affects us all. She’s not new anymore, though I still see her that way. She shows her age. Her great hall, the main terminal, is gutted as I write this. The whole second floor torn out, stripped to bare concrete. It hurts me to see, though I know she’ll rise anew. It’s just that we’ve aged together. They’ve come to feel that she needs a facelift, and I suppose they’re right. The slabs of stone floor are chipped, the little brass fossils are often gone. There are ragged metal edges on things. Everything was white when they built her, and it’s sort of cream now. I have to admit all this. All the same things have happened to me.
But they’ll fix those things. That’s the difference. They don’t get fixed for you and I. She’ll be here for a long time to come, and they won’t really let her fade. Who they are, of course, is subject to some debate. It’s rumored that in the event of an apocalypse, the global elite will gather here. It’s said that beneath this place there are miles of tunnels, halls to dwarf the ones above ground – a new Jerusalem for the illuminati. Which is cool. Simple math dictates that I’ll probably be here when it happens.
I usually am.