Part 5 of the Tennessee Chronicles
Friday, January 15
Up at 4:30 a.m., in the lobby at 5:30, in the car at 5:45, at Nashville International Airport at 6, board at 7, take off at 7:30. Breakfast at the Noshville Delicatessen. We sit on silver stools at a red Formica counter, a sign on the tiled wall of the kitchen reading “Today, everyone will smile, up-sale and excel!!!” We inhale the coffee.
The plane takes a slow bow and squats on the runway. As we taxi, the sun burns over the control tower, the tarmac wet from a hard frost. With a roar we sail above the glittering homes, the sinuous river, the rows of trees like box hedges surround a homestead.
As we head toward Philadelphia, the mountains turn white, the ridges like the spines of prehistoric elephants, ancient gray and wrinkled. The hills give way to potholes of ice in patchwork fields. As always when returning to Philadelphia I notice how gray it looks, the sky a scowl, the roads and buildings a smear of ash. It’s like flying back in time, or recalling a troubling dream. Below, the tanks of the oil refineries resemble handcuffs.
The flaps rise to expose hoses and nozzles and we land with a clunk and a shutter. The lights come on and the air conditioning goes off. I drag the carryon from the overhead and transfer the modern world to my pockets—cell phone, Blackberry, car keys. Down the aisle, through the jet way, down to ground transportation for the van ride to off-site parking and the two-hour drive home. More time, more coffee, more miles. Later we’ll receive an email from Karen, thanking us for making the trip one of her more enjoyable ones and listing her favorite lines from the trip. “Anything that’s breaded and served with cocktail sauce has to be good” makes it to number four.
For now, I think about the good people of Adamsville who welcomed us with a graciousness I haven’t seen in years. And the pleasure of sharing the vagaries of travel with the Fab Five. They are a decent lot.