To get away, I took a trip "out west" with my sister and my niece to surprise her son and big brother (respectively), in Grand Teton National Park. My nephew, Ray, was with the boy scouts, and went on this big camping field trip.
I hadn't yet dealt with some of the issues that complicated my life at that point, but was dealing with them, whether they be personal, academic or professional. However, to get peace of mind, this trip was a perfect opportunity to do so.
Traveling to "the west" was a family tradition that began with my parents, particularly my father. For many summer vacations, we would visit the mountains of the west, starting with the Black Hills of South Dakota, as well as the Rockies of Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and New Mexico and Arizona. This love of the mountains has always lured we Illinoisans, from the flat land to the diverse and wonderful land of "the west".
The Great Plains was always, for us flat landers, more flat land. That was then. I was six, or seven, or ten years old. In the thirty years that elapsed, I learned to appreciate the biological, ecological, historical, cultural and geological aspects of the Great Plains, though we blew through them at eighty miles an hour, as my sister drove the Ford Explorer to "make good time".
Regardless, our objective was Grand Teton National Park, up a place called "Death Canyon" to the campground where the boy would be. We arrived there, and the trail head parking lot had the vehicle from Illinois, complete with The Boy Scout logo on it, and indeed, the boy in question's tell-tale fanny pack with Darth Vader on it, Harry Potter, and also Frodo. We were in the right place.
We hiked up the trail, some 10 km up and back. I was fat. Fat boy James. 125 kg of bigness. My back was killing me. I messed up and left the sister and niece behind. There were no mobile phones, and the signal was impossible. I got up to the campground. It was abandoned. I was too late. The troop had decamped and had gone to another site.
Unknown to me, other members, the scout leader in question who had the keys to the van, descended (I didn't know him from Adam, and talked with him at the scenic overlook). My sister gave me holy hell when I finally descended!
But, my back was killing me. I was a chub fuck! After the chiding, and the scolding and the cursing and arguing back and forth, the yelling too, and the threats of leaving me there and "F. U.", I got back into the car, and we did rendezvous with nephew Ray. Then we were to drive back to firstly the Black Hills, where my sister and her husband have land, and then back home.
Well, my back was shot, even though the exercise had done my body some good. But, I couldn't sit in one place and begged to be allowed to fly back home, to Chicago.
We booked the tickets from Rapid City and I was to fly to Chicago. The route was circuitous, as this story is. I was to fly to Denver, and then wait for a while and then on to Chicago.
But, it was not meant to be, cherie!
Which leads me to my main point: I got stuck in the airport in Denver. Why? It was raining, and raining, and it was a situation of record rainfall for that place and that time. So, the flight to Chicago took me southwest from Rapid City about 500 miles, and further away from my destination. They allowed us to land, but they didn't allow us to fly to Chicago!
So, I was stuck there in the Denver Airport. I tried to escape. I wanted to rent a car. My credit cards were so maxed out that I couldn't do it! So, there I was, stuck in the airport. I was not alone; thousands of stranded travelers were with me.
I was there for an indefinite period of time. It turned out to be thirty-six hours!
Okay, try to bunk on the floor, or, if you were lucky, a bench in an airport. The announcements are loud, and they come often. People go back and forth, and talk. You end up drifting off finally, in an eerily and uneasy, sleep.
It was in such a state, after about thirty hours that I drifted in and out of sleep.
I found a bench (I appropriated one when some poor bastard went to the bathroom and took his shit with him and didn't return for ten or fifteen minutes), and staked it out. I crashed out. Sleep was inevitable and also possible!
I woke after something like five and a half hours of fit full sleep. When I did wake, the slug-like form that I had noticed before I slept was on the phone, a mobile phone. That was rather less common in 2004. I awoke, and listened to the conversation, as she sat up. She was talking to her manager, and talking about someone she met, and after her phone conversation, I introduced myself to her.
We talked for a few minutes, and it was nice. She had to leave because the planes were leaving. Sasha Butterfly had her guitar with her, and she made an impression on me.
I wrote a poem about this experience. I never published it before. However, I just found it in my old hard drive from my computer from that time.
I publish it here now:
James Paul Zaworski
Dozing drearily in the Denver airport I woke,
To hear an angel as she spoke,
A kindred spirit perhaps,
Young but wise…
Yet a powerful spirit in disguise.
Meeting Sasha Butterfly made my day--
A lovely real person, kind in every way.
My parting wish to Sasha was this (but I’m sure she knew):
That is, to know herself and follow her bliss.
We shook hands and introduced ourselves
and then she left in haste, to catch her flight
and I smiled quietly, thinking she will be alright.
So, my story of this event is complete.