Monday, October 29, 2012

The Height of Flight - TWA Eero Saarinen


Upon approaching onto this sacred grounds in the JFK airport from the AirTran terminal, my heart started to pound to an undeniable drum beat.  Though the real-feel temperature was abnormally cold for this time of early October, my anticipation and anxiety more than makes up the balance of my bodily temperature.  Typically, most of my domestic flights have been serviced by jetBlue for the past 7 years.  JetBlue and TWA have been neighboring terminals ever since jetBlue has made JFK its NY headquarters early in its existence during the turn of the century.  And every time I have flown with jetBlue, it was customary/sequential the AirTran would pass by the TWA Terminal prior to arriving to jetBlue's terminal.  And typically, when I get to this far at the jetBlue terminal, I can only gaze and admire these seductive curves from afar.  While walking through jetBlue's skywalk terminal connecting from the AirTran to the ticketing counters, I would rarely take my eyes off the panoramic view of the this wonder, sometimes getting bumped from the back because I was walking too slow.  

This time around, it felt far and different knowing this may be one of the few time I will ever approach this sacred grounds any closer than I have ever done before.  It was absolutely surreal.  So many things were racing through my mind - the building, the structure, the people, the history, the architects, the curves, the anticipation, the nerves, the anxiety, the joy.

And then, as soon as I approach the glazed doors, I took a deep breath before slowly open the doors and took a step into the building.  My eyes suddenly stops blinking and I felt my body wept inside.  I couldn't take another step for a few minutes because my naked eyes were introduced to some of the most beautifully stunning lights rays that have ever beamed into their iris. These light rays were made to be seen.  All my heart and head constantly flashes the thoughts of sadness and amazement at the same time.  I kept shaking my head and wondering why can't flying ever be like this ever again? How can we ever return to the golden days of flight?  What is the future of flying?

There are limitless of words that could describe this magnificent manifestation.  But when it comes down to it, for me, it was more about the stories only these seductive curved walls can tell.  During this special occasion of the OHNY event, there were dozens of folks who all worked through out this building at one time or another.  They all came together for an unannounced and uncoordinated TWA reunion that can only happen because they all felt they these wings and walls of concrete had casted a part of their hearts decades ago.  Folks of all rankings from pilots, to ground crews, to ticketing agents, to duty free shop workers.  Folks of all ages from midlife air controller to ageless flight attendants.

Stories of the likes of John.  I conversed with John when we were standing at the entrance of the duty free shop where John held his first job back in 1967.  The duty free shops was adjacent to TWA's flight terminal one, which he said was added a few years after the building was open and served as the primary international terminal.  As he was staring at his old post behind the counter, his memories revert back to the old days when smoking was such a high form social convention.  On the front counter of the duty free shop, the iconic Lucky Strike Brand still gracing the front counter in all of its glory.  And high in the shelf illuminates the early days of iconic Marlboro brand with the image of cool cowboy staring out into the open.  All this was a perfect backdrop for the iconic red neon light that lights up "duty free."  Although I wasn't there, as soon as I enter the shop area, I instantly felt I was traveling back in time to the 60s.

The stories of the like of Tom.  I met Tom when we reached the the upper levels of the TWA lounge. It was when we reached the entrance to the Ambassador's Lounge that we begin to conversed.  We started the conversation with the same admiration of how the beauty of these walls physically registered in our right side of the brain.  Then Tom begun to air out the stories buried beneath these layers of plasters and stucco.  He told of the stories of secret lives and affairs prevalent among men of wealth that passed in and out of these walls.  He told stories of the beautiful women who were as glamorous as can be.  He told the stories of numerous presidents and high profile people from all over the world. At those times, Tom had described the scenes to be like those of the red carpet events drawing the crowds of the elites and noble men and women.  The most intriguing story was about a scene when the Pope visited the Ambassador Lounge.  The Pope was on an official trip to NY 1964 World Fair.  He had sat specifically at the octagon lounge near the lounge's entrance.  This was incredible.  To think I had also taken a seat in the TWA Ambassador Lounge where the Pope also had once sat.

The stories of John and Tom are rare in kind.  Make no mistake about it, these stories can only be told in context because it was these curvaceous wings that gave it a magnificent place for extraordinary people to come together and share these incredible stories and experience these unforgettable memories.  Thinking back in history, these are the type of buildings that evokes the experiences like those of John, Tom, and the rest of those folks who were lucky enough to lived in the high era of the TWA terminals.  Let's hope that soon, these wings will reopen its arms to welcome new era of its existence while preserving its stories and memories for those who will return to re-tell them.