I’m no nostalgia freak, but I do spend a good deal of my time in airports bemoaning the loss of the innocence that Gil Elvgren captured with such pure justice in this painting. He probably did it 50 years ago, but what you see there in the bright day’s breeze on the airfield is something you could have observed just a couple of years ago. It was freedom, beauty, respect, and intrepid courage. Elvgren may not have given it a conscious thought, but it’s all right there in the painting.
I can describe what could once be found at just about any local airport, but it’s a great shame that only a fraction of the people I describe this to will have the slightest inkling about what I’m saying a few years from now.
I’m talking about a time when you could drive up to a terminal and park your car without having a smiling chimp ask you to pop your trunk so he could crawl inside for a wee look around. When you would walk into a terminal and see relaxed aviators, ground crew and passengers who, in spite of any tribulations in their day, still exhibited the qualities of human intelligence and respect for their fellow airport denizens.
I mean a time when, unless your carry-on popped open accidently, or unless the breeze blew your dress up, your personal items were likely to remain so. Even in the case of the above blonde dish, at least there would be some thoughtworthy joy obtained by all within view. Now any thrill to be had is to be delivered at the latex-gloved hands of some GS-5 meticulously rifling through your things as per some directions outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations. Just fucking lovely.
The Elvgrenesque light is gone from the airfield. It was real, but what it’s been replaced with is nearly unbearable. I literally avert my eyes from it when I travel. I don’t have a melodramatic bone in my body, but I have to shut down because of the intensity with which I suffer in places like the dismal little “Gate 71” area satellite terminal for United Express puddle jumpers at LAX where the stench of the gray carpeting is the foundation for connection purgatory. It’s where passengers are taken on buses across the tarmac and herded into obnoxiously appointed rooms wherein they must endure the constant gate announcements screamed into the most hideous of PA systems.
Each announcement screamed, I say, with the urgency of some teevee show paramedic attending a coded patient. Screamed, with the regard that a delouser at Ellis Island might have employed against the wide-eyed huddled masses (except these masses are more glassy-eyed than wide-eyed and not so much huddled masses as shuffling masses.)
Screamed by squatty, Cheeto-fed, twenty-something, brick-brained gate agents stuffed into the most unfetching polyester get ups. They couldn’t manage their own car payment schedule, much less a scheduling curve ball due to delayed equipment or overall ground congestion.
These little sub-human gate slobs are brought to us courtesy their oblivious, numb-cunted parents who have conveniently produced them to populate the surreal circus wrought by a combination of post 9-11 phobia and stato-masochism. Just one more thing. Just one more bridge across the River Styx, that conveys us from the open, airy intelligence that it takes to appreciate a playful Elvgren beauty, right into a dank gray nightmare.
“We are dead and this is HELL.” — Nadine, The Stand