A verbatim record of a diary I wrote while visiting friends (Paul & Rice) in Austin, Texas during the Easter holidays of my second year at University in 1994. Re-blogged on the anniversary of each entry. 2017 Commentary, where necessary for context, added as footnotes in italics.
Friday 1st April 1994, 16:14 (CST)
TERMINAL 3, O’HARE AIRPORT, CHICAGO, IL
Flying into Chicago was equally as impressive as flying over Dallas. Marginally cloudier, it was still easy to pick out O’Hare as we flew PAST it! Why? Because we had to approach from the east. This meant flying over Chicago itself, five miles out over Lake Michigan, and turning around, thus presenting a near-perfect view of downtown Chicago. Remember ‘FlightSim’? Taking off from Meigs airport on the lake shore? Past that tall , black building with its two antennae*? I’ve just re-lived it — for real (except we didn’t take off from Meigs**) — but I did see it!
My flight is at 6:10 and there’s an aeroplane to Paris at my gate (K11) right now. I’m still in Terminal 3 so no need to take the monorail today.
I’ve made the customary ‘phone call to ensure Dad gets to bed early — it’s 20 to midnight there, right now.
I met a bloke on the last flight from Cleveland, Ohio who was thinking about holidaying in England. Naturally, I did my bit for the North West Tourist Board but I still had to tell him: “Manchester — it’s 200 miles north of London”. GRRRR!!
He went to University in Columbus (Ohio, again) and we swapped student stories. He asked me how well-travelled I was and I think I surprised him with the ensuing list — especially Moscow!!
Looking around this place, it’s scary. As I’ve mentioned, this airport is unbelievably large but so is its volume of traffic. For example, when we landed, we crossed (at an altitude of lower than 50 feet) another runway from which a plane, in the distance, was in the process of taking off!! I’m surrounded by stationary ‘planes, there are more taxi-ing behind them and yet more swarming around, incoming and outgoing. It really is like a bee-hive, with continuous, seemingly ad hoc arrival and departure. I’d just rather not try and think about how difficult it is to co-ordinate a place like this! And then there’s Heathrow, which although (or is it because) it is smaller, it is the busiest airport in the world. Now, there’s a comforting thought, and that’s not even accounting for the IRA!! God, I’m glad I’m flying into Manchester!
By the way, ‘Cowboys from Hell’ was sold out and just in case you think we deluded ourselves in assuming it was Pantera, Rice saw their drummer in Town Lake Foods — ordering nachos!!
[I think I’ll check in now, as Paris has gone and the board now says “Flight 54 Manchester” — Yes!!!]
ABOARD FLIGHT 54, STATIONARY
Sunset in Chicago. We take off in 10 minutes. It’s going to be a long flight (believe it or not). I may sleep. I’ll try to watch the film (which looks crap) but I am planning a finale to this, an all-consuming Palinesque summary of the US, warts and all, but to also attempt to quantify the expectations one should have if you are planning to visit. I know I’m waffling a bit but I feel I should depart from Chicago first, before I depart on my journey into the life of a Texan traveller.
The sun has gone down now; only a red hue exists over Chicago — and the vapour trails of another plane as presumably, others are going home too. The seat-belt sign is on, the (video) emergency performance is about to begin and we’re asked not to use electrical instruments until we are in flight.
Did I mention I got another window seat? 3 out of 4!
I’m also praying that no-one comes and sits next to me. That vacant seat here would be very useful if I fancy a sleep. We’ve had the “prepare for departure” notice; I think I’m sleeping on a padded surface again! Yes!!
There goes the door — it’s official — we’re moving!
Time to conclude *this* entry. A handful of boiled sweets and a peep out of the window are on the agenda now.
See you later!
* The John Hancock Center.
** Meigs Airfield was a single-strip airfield on a man-made peninsula in Lake Michigan, just south of Chicago. It closed in 2003 and the land is now used as parkland.