I’m in Houston International Airport, one of my least favorites, waiting for my delayed flight to Las Vegas, probably my least favorite city in the entire world. I left Buenos Aires filled with sweet sadness. There is so much that I’ll miss. Here in Houston, having arrived far too early in the morning and getting a costly bottle of wine confiscated before it could take on its proper role of wedding gift, the talking heads on television and Texan accents are beginning to grate on me.
All of the talking heads speak in the same practiced rhythm while theatric music and computerized sound effects compete to overpower their screams and yells. Mostly they are pretending that the Democratic primary race is still up for grabs. They have to – no one watches a soccer game when you already know who’s going to win. Every 15 minutes we are told to stay tuned to our TV’s this night to watch young girls who will do anything – even get naked! – to impersonate Marilyn Monroe.
Only once, for about 15 seconds, did CNN mention the earthquake in China that has so far claimed the lives of over 15,000 Chinese, a number which is sure to keep climbing. For those 15 seconds, the Chinese family sitting next to me stopped their staccato speaking completely and stared vacantly into the TV. Meanwhile, everyone else stopped watching the TV once the moving mouths finished spinning the Obama-Clinton showdown. 15,000 people dead. Tens of thousands more still stuck under rubble. Except for the Chinese family, everyone else at the airport gate fell into animated conversation, telling stories and laughing with the giddiness of having waited too long to get where they are going.
I remember when I first heard about the September 11th attacks in 2001. It wasn’t until at least 10 days later when we finally reached Rishikesh after a ten day trek through the Indian Himalaya. Everywhere I walked – the hotel, the internet cafe, the restaurants with their amazing banana cakes – every single resident of Rishikesh grabbed my arm warmly and said, ‘sir, I am so sorry, you have my deepest condolences, I am so sorry for your country.’ It wasn’t hospitality training – they were really speaking from their hearts. On 9/11 less than 3,000 people lost their lives. Less than one fifth the amount in China, so far.
The airport gate still roared with laughter, the Texans apparently well on their way their way to the mental state that Las Vegas requires of all its guests.