Yesterday was perhaps the most memorable time I’ve spent in airports since I first moved to Hawaii back in 2001. Back in October of 2001 it was shocking to be in SFO because of the machine gun armed soldiers in the airports and the brand new intensive security…yesterday was different.
Portland and Seattle airports had been closed down on Sunday due to 100 year snowstorms that dropped more than 3 feet on parts of Portland, a city that never sees much more than a dusting of snow in recent memory.
I find it strangely symbolic that I am coming back to Portland after my seven years in Hawaii because I was here on September 11th, 2001 and that was the event that drove me to leave the mainland. I had seen people so filled with rage and hate, mostly white people, and then those damn american flags started popping up everywhere, and everyone calling for revenge, and in bleeding heart Portland, I watched as angry motorists tore up signs I put up that said “Enough have died, drop bread not bombs” and I got the hell out of North America without leaving the United States. Hawaii was a good sanctuary. It gave me a lot…more than just the degree in Anthropology. I return to Portland as much more than I was when I left. And yes, the symbolism of a magical blanket of crunchy white snow isn’t lost on me.
I’m big on symbolism, hence my choice to stay at the hotel next to the hostel I first stayed at in Waikiki. One last note on The Queen Kapiolani Hotel…I think I got eaten by bedbugs while I was there. I’m glad I stayed there for the symbolic reasons, but I would never stay there again, or recommend it to anyone.
And now, here I am in Portland. But back to the crazy airports….yesterday arriving at Honolulu, I found that when Agent 74 dropped me off there were people lined up in the biggest lines I had seen since post 911. I had checked in online and it was impossible to find out what gate I was supposed to go to since my flight wasn’t listed on the boards, every other flight out of Honolulu was canceled or delayed. Flights to Seattle were canceled and there were people lying on the ground in every possible place. I went through the almost invisible checkpoint to the far left and avoided the long lines at the center security checkpoint. Once inside though, I was faced with figuring out where my flight was, since it still wasn’t listed. A passing Hawaiian Airlines employee told me Portland flights were not canceled, but didn’t know more than that. My flight number was 26 and there was a flight 1026 to Portland at a far gate so I decided to head there. It turns out that my flight was delayed until 11 pm (it was almost 2pm) but that the day befores flight (1026) was scheduled to go out at 2 pm. I requested to get on that flight and was put on standby, along with everyone else who was scheduled to be on my flight. There were many grumpy people that had spent the previous day in limbo and were still solidly in it. I was friendly to the desk agent and told him that I knew it wasn’t his fault and that he was doing all that he could. Maybe the suit helped…I was one of about ten people that got on standby.
The flight was delayed, the pilots didn’t know if we would be able to land in Portland or have to divert to San Francisco and everyone on the flight was nervous. As we took off the entire plane erupted in applause. I sat next to a very nice couple from Portland, Darcy and Rob. He’s a contractor and she is an herbalist originally from Hawaii. We had wide ranging conversations about books, religion, politics, and philosophy. We landed around 11 pm and once again the plane erupted in applause. We weren’t applauding the food or entertainment, we were all just happy to have made it safely.
In Portland, it was cold and there is snow everywhere. My buddies Stephan and Dave picked me up in an old blue pickup complete with a cute dog in it and we drove to their fine home. Now it’s morning, it’s light, the snow is covering everything, and suddenly it is starting to feel a whole lot like Christmas.
I’ll be here until the 28th when I begin the Amtrak portion of my adventures….of course, the weather might alter my plans…we will see.