Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

April 9, 2008: Tropical Noises

In Houston, upstairs at Pappaduex, a New Orleans style place in the E terminal.  Jim and I have FIVE hours to kill before our flight to Merida, Mexico.  I'm drinking Pinot Noir, believing that my vacation has truly started while Jim is frantically tying up the loose ends of his real estate business utilizing the last of some iffy internet and cell phone coverage. This is the first time since he's been in real estate that we'll be in a locale where there will likely be NO cell phone or internet.  He's in a panic over it. I can't wait.

A large man next to me orders raw oysters.  They come on a huge plate.  The oysters are embedded in loads of ice, but the plate is leaking like a sieve.  He tells the young bar-boy as water cascades from the bar onto his leather shoes.

"I think this plate is leaking."

"It's just sweating." The bar-boy explains and waves off the concern.

The large man and I exchange glances and then we both laugh out loud. Instead of insisting bar-boy do something (bar-boy is quite busy), the man stands, adjusts his stool and positions himself behind it, out of the splash zone.  The water is making pleasant tinkling and splashy noises as it splatters to the floor. It runs and puddles here and there. From behind the stool, the man leans over, stretching to reach his oyster and slurps them all down one by one. He acknowledges, and even encourages me to watch his process, and we both continue to giggle as bar-boy breezes past, oblivious.  Jim is oblivious too, yakking on the phone. Poor thing. 

Once the oyster task is accomplished, the large man puts some cash into the water on his plate, laughs out loud again, shaking his head and leaves. After a few moments the older and much more pleasant bartender comes by and grabs the plate revealing a huge, gaping hole in the bottom.  The bartender sticks his finger through the hole and wiggles it at me.  Then he looks through the hole and looks to the right and the left.  He shrugs.  I shrug back.

The bar is very crowded, but the stool next to me remains empty.  It's wet and there is a large puddle around it.  I warn many people who approach.  They look around at the mess and quickly find another spot.  The bartenders show no concern.

Across the bar from me is a gay couple in their 60's.  They are on a "leisure trip" I hear them telling the babes around them. The men and the babes are chatting it up. The babes really are babes.  One is headed to Merida and talks glowingly of the city.  She is what I would call "scantily clad" in a halter-top and killer heels. She is traveling alone.  I am fascinated by her--and so are the other gay guys. At some point, a moment of distraction I suppose, the jauntier of the gay guys raises his visor to rub his head. I am stunned as his hair come off with his visor. He rubs his bald head a bit and them replaces the visor.  His hair gives him a very youthful look.  It's grey but wild and spiked.  I would have never guessed that it was part of the visor. I laugh out loud.

"Another Pinot?" Bar-boy points to my almost empty glass.

"You bet."

The bar has quite a tropical theme going on.  On top of the tinkling and splashing oyster plate, there are also random bird chirps and squawks.  But at some point in the five hour binge there is another strange noise.  Many of us do that muppet-looking-at-the-sky-for-God move in response to the sound. From across the bar a woman makes serious eye contact with me and mouths "What was that?" I mouth back, "I have no idea."  We raise our glasses to each other and life goes on.

And then Heather is here! We are fully distracted by her.  The hugs.  The laughs. The catching up. Her layover is just 45 minutes, which means we are so much closer to our flight to Merida! Suddenly SQUAWK!  SQUAWK! The bird noise is deafening!  Who turned up the volume? That woman across the bar is making serious eye contact with me again--but wait--not exactly with me.  I turn, and right beside me, just behind Heather is a man with a huge green bird on his shoulder.  That dude was here with his bird the whole time.  I thought it had been a recording. SQUAWK! The bird says again.

The glass is full again.  Heather and I toast the bird and tropical vacations.  Jim finally hangs up the phone.  And it begins.