The George Bush Intercontinental airport is like one of those artist's conceptions of the city of the future where you realize after looking at it for a minute that there's no black people in the picture. Endless flourescent-lit corridors of taupe and grey; the depressing realities of neutral toned high-traffic carpet; proof that Texans shouldn't be allowed to design anything, Texans with money even less so. There are seats by a window in Concourse C where you can sit and gaze at the spectral outlines of Houston's ugly 80s-future skyscrapers muted behind smog, towering over so many trees.
Portland is a living testament to everything the hippies got right, a modern Hobbit shire cupped in tree-lined hills and covered in psyched-out murals. The giant metal Buddha head in the yard down from Krystal's place is like no big deal. Chicago suffers eternally under the Second City banner, always trying to keep up with NYC, but Portland is more comfortable with its place in the world. Its past is on sale in junk shops crowded with homemade folk art instead of being razed and replaced with cinder block condos, and the gotta-have-it trend surfing that Chicagoans use to try to impress our New York friends pales in comparison to backyard parties under flickering 16mm film reels and breakfasts that are even better than the nights before. I could probably live there for three months before the modest pace of life drove me insane. I'm a Chicagoan: the blind chasing of a glammed-out dream is all I live for.
At the food court in Minneapolis/St. Paul International I ate a veggie burger next to one of the flyover state guys that Phillip Seymour Hoffman characters are meant to satirize. He looked like he was built out of potatoes and was still wearing his high school class ring, on his cell phone keeping some loved one posted on his progress from mid-Ohio to a wedding in Fort Collins. As some 19 year-old kid dressed in c.1998 Korn doom-rapper gear walked by the Phillip Seymour Hoffman character stopped mid-sentence, dropped his voice, and let the Middle American on the other end of the line in on the world outside of central Ohio. "This guy that just walked by," he excitedly stage whispered, "has got a nose ring." I watched him watching the Korn kid order a Whopper from the African immigrants who staff the food court's Burger King, and the first thing I wanted to do was to call Jessica and excitedly stage whisper, "This guy can't believe he just saw a nose ring." Instead I went back to my veggie burger and my Source and did what most urban dwellers my age do, which is pretend as hard as I can that my fashion choices and negligible political awareness make me a better person than guys like that.