Thursday, August 21, 2008

No more glamour in the skies

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
SOMEWHERE IN THE WESTERN SKIES — I’m not sure just when glamour finally vanished in thin air.
For almost a decade, it seemed like my feet barely hit the ground. This was mostly due to wealthy amigos in Santa Fe and Florida who thought nothing of booking a flight to Los Angeles for lunch, or firing up the Learjet for a week at their digs in Aspen or to meet the family yacht off the coast of South America.
It feels like I’ve spent years in airports, because I have — literally, a couple of years as an executive with the Palm Beach County Arts Council, running the Art at the Airport Program at Palm Beach International Airport, decorating the place with original art and greeting musicians flying in for South Florida concerts, or sometimes, just to perform at the airport and fly right back out.
And back in New Mexico, it seems like I’ve spent a lot of time aloft, in hot air balloons, small aircraft and perched on high vistas that seem almost like soaring in a little Cessna: living atop Picacho Mountain, hiking in the Organs, visiting Acoma Pueblo’s ancient Sky City.
I’ve spent a lot of time picking up loved ones at airports near places I’d rather live than leave.
Somehow, I didn’t realize that it has been a very long time since I’ve flown on a commercial airline myself. Before 9-11, in fact, back when the newspaper sent me with a delegation of Las Crucens to visit our Sister City in Nienburg, Germany.
Lately, I’d been wondering if my first and last flights would be to Deutschland, where I made my inaugural airborne trip as a 17-year-old exchange student, on an old Flying Tiger prop plane, that lasted more than 26 hours. (Yes, Virginia, we had jets back then, but the nonprofit group had lots of kids to transport and a small budget).
But even that flight had something that, I realized last week, has forever vanished in the no-longer-so-friendly skies of commercial air travel.
Back in the day, everybody and everything involved with aviation had an extreme glam factor. We teens dressed up in suits and nylons and heels for our interminable journey, like everybody else fortunate enough to travel by air in that era. We even dressed up to meet people at the airport, as they flew in on jets with designer paint jobs after hours of being pampered by stewardess in chic designer uniforms. And they were all stewardesses then: slim, chic, model-pretty young women, beautifully made up, meticulously groomed and accessorized, graceful in their high heels, even after a cross-country siege, serving cocktails and gourmet meals (with china, silver and crystal) and first class extras like elaborate sundaes and treats.
Ah, those golden days of yesteryear, I thought, as I headed off to the Pacific Northwest to see grandson Alexander the Great and his parents Shannon and Ryan (read about my Coeur d’Alene adventures in next Sunday’s travel feature).
Having listened to the complaints of all the passengers I’ve met at the airport in recent years, I wasn’t surprised by the delays, cancellations and security checks.
But I found myself still nostalgic for the glam factor, as we were herded into our crowded airborne corrals by beleaguered men and women in casual shorts, rumpled shirts and sturdy boots and sneakers, virtually indistinguishable from their frazzled, equally non-glam passengers.
As we weary cattle were watered and tossed bales of peanuts and stale snack bars on a connecting Las Vegas flight, I spotted a beautifully groomed blast from the past. One of our flight attendants was clearly a veteran of more glamorous times. She was probably in her late 50s or early 60s, with a chic, gleaming gray bob that seemed more appropriately dubbed platinum. Her snowy white blouse and beige trousers were crisp and tailored, especially in comparison with her unkempt crewmates’ outfits. She wore subtle, artful makeup, a string of pearls and discreetly lovely earrings.
For a moment, I almost expected that we would be blessed with warm, fragrant, thick terry towels to refresh ourselves as we landed.
We weren’t, of course. But I was impressed at how much just a touch of glam and consideration can ease the grimy, overscheduled, crowded, economically-stressed new millennium world of air travel.
We should all try a little harder, I thought, and some of us at least have our memories. If we must fly, we can vie for the steerage seats, lean back and think of those days of glamour in the skies, dreaming until we land.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

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