Friday, July 22, 2011

Two Layovers: Hong Kong International and Paris Charles de Gaulle

(Hong Kong International Airport)
I never really liked confrontation. As a boy growing up, I used humor to avoid fights and my wits to keep others moving. I just never liked the thought of using my fists on someone. I was born into rage, but others, when they were angry, just seemed so innocent.
(Bidan with a tasty cup of noodles)
Looking back at my choices, I see such funny patterns. I loved sports, but only truly relished winning if I was coming from behind. Beating an opponent into submission had no joy. I played second base because it seemed less judgmental than shortstop, quarterback because I got to share the ball, even as point guard I still recall passing more than taking the open shot.
(Kinu with a warm belly)
It didn’t last. It was a mold that I broke later in life. I suppose, over time, the need to hurt others was just too powerful to avoid. Filled with such wild rage, such blind aggression, I grew to be a young man that lashed out for years. But then, almost as if a whimper, my anger went away.
(Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport)
One of my great teachers in life, a man named Blackwelder, once told me of a job interview answer that he used to great effect. It was one of those classic, turn a weakness into a strength kind of situations, he said when pressed to admit a professional flaw, “Well, I have always been a little too diplomatic.” What genius. What sheer genius. But I hope to never live this way.
(Paris Le Monde Newspapers)
The night before we left for Europe I was thinking about confrontation. We left at 3 a.m., and I awoke the girls and set them in clothes laying beside them on the floor. Gobbled some warm milk from the microwave, had a moment of prayer, turned off all the lights, and took the elevator down. Children especially love traveling at night, as if there is some peril at their heels, some unwritten secret power they have entered. Imagination that keeps them pure, keeps their souls light, and their determination fixed.
(Xian reloads with some French bread and cheese)
The flight to Hong Kong was easy, and we took our place on the second floor landing to slurp hot noodles in the children’s airplane area. My girls in their new haircuts I like to mess up and tease. We giggle. They are such good travelers by now.
(The only Parisian cafes we will be visiting on this trip)
The flight to Paris was arduous. Topsy-turvy turbulence and nowhere to stretch our legs, plus a brain splitting sinus headache, I just held onto Kinu and tried to sleep. I watched movies I don’t remember and ate hot sheets of food I can’t recall and held each daughter whispering words that will never come to me again. Over 14 hours, I just wanted to land. Excruciating migraine pain. The kind where you just hang on for dear life and pray.
(As long as I have my girls, I will always be fine)
I know that I am not the kind of man that airports, street names, or parks will ever be named after. I am not some Marco Polo or Alexander the Great, Charlemagne or Charles de Gaulle, but I have learned to confront my own life in my own way. I have learned to take chances and lead, learned to step around others or push them aside, to defeat them if needed lest I be taken down. I understand my own anger now, and how to lay that beast to bed.
Yet confrontation? You know, there is something important about what I am doing, taking my daughters to these places. Something also hidden in me that I am trying to impart to them. Not an ugly savage, not some primitive monster that cannot be reared, rather a fearlessness. A spirit of adventure. We take on life in our own way, by our own means, from whatever roots and lowly lot to which we were born. I am trying to show them this. Trying with everything I have. Trying to show them that life must be fought head on with love.

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