Since I’m currently sitting in the Newark airport, it seems fitting that I talk about flying. Every touring musician has their favorite road stories and some of mine are about the people I see on flights and in airports.
(A pigeon just strutted by, pecking at stray crumbs. Inside the airport. I love Newark.)
On my flight a few days ago, I sat next to a pleasant guy with a warm Kentucky drawl. He didn’t blink when I said something about my wife. (Yes, we’re legally married. How civilized of Canada. Eh?) We chatted about our jobs and our trips. I was headed to Florida gigs and he was going to Las Vegas to gamble. He stumbled when it came time to refer to my partner. He grinned and said “Partner, er, wife, friend, um …” I can’t blame the guy. We don’t know what to call each other either. It was kind of him to try to find the right word. So much for that stereotype about Southerners being bigoted jerks.
(There’s that pigeon again. Guess he came back for dessert.)
A few years ago, I sat next to a Danny DeVito look alike. He sported a bright print shirt unbuttoned a few inches down, revealing several gold chains across a chest matted with thick black hair. After a brief introduction, he launched into a monologue about his life as a professional bridge player and his beautiful statuesque blonde girlfriend. Nothing I did could dissuade the chatter about his exciting job and his gorgeous babe. I rummaged through my bag, pulled out my book and opened it in my lap. I stared at my book. I frowned and pointedly looked away. I did everything short of shouting, “Dude, I don’t care!” Fortunately, it was a short trip. At the gate, an impeccably dressed leggy blonde rushed forward, wrapped her arms around him and murmured something into his neck.
Professional bridge players must make a lot more money than I thought.
(Okay, I’ve gotta interject some more – right next to me is a little girl and her dad. She is dressed completely in bright pink. Her sparkly top has a picture of a Disney princess, her little pink carry-on features Snow White, and on top of her father’s luggage is a pink pillow with another Disney princess. Completing the ensemble are matching pink pants and a petite pink flowered hat. What, no tiara? She just opened her suitcase and it’s filled with cartoon DVDs and junk food. Her clean princess clothing must be in Dad’s suitcase.)
Another time I flew from Salt Lake City to Boise. Sitting next to me was a young woman in a prim flowered dress. With a friendly smile she said hello. I said hi back and busied myself with a book. She said she was heading home after visiting relatives and asked why I was going to Boise. I just wanted to relax and read, but my mama raised me to be polite, so I gave a short answer – “I’m a musician and I’m performing there” – then went back to my book.
“That’s nice,” she said pleasantly, “Where?”
I thought, okay, babe, you want to talk with me, so I’ll be honest and maybe you’ll leave me alone.
“At the gay pride rally downtown,” I responded.
Beat one … two … “Oh how interesting” she warmly replied.
In the end, we had an enjoyable conversation about LGBT pride. Her questions were respectful, and a far cry from the rude, “Which one is the man?” kind of inquiries we sometimes get. I told her about Stonewall and about some of my own experiences.
As the plane was touching down, she said she could understand the struggles of my people because she was Mormon and her people have faced discrimination too. I opened my mouth to argue but heck, she got it right on some level. I pictured her at the next church potluck, telling them about the really nice lesbian she met on a plane.