Seeing Things, Saying Things

Musings About Writing, Photography and Teaching

Finding Nostalgia In the Clouds

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Back in my high school days we used to watch NFL games on TV on Sunday afternoons at my grandmother’s home in suburban St. Louis.

One of the commercial sponsors of the broadcasts was American Airlines. One commercial in particular sticks in my mind many years later.

It was an era when airlines heavily promoted their in-cabin meal service. The commercial I remember featured a song sang to the tune of the classic Moonlight Bay.

As a female voice extolled the virtues of American’s in-flight service, there were scenes of people enjoying what appeared to be sumptuous dining, probably in the first class cabin, as the plane flew above the clouds.

I’ve long forgotten the lyrics of the song in the commercial except for the tagline at the end, “Make yourself at home the American way.”

The commercial appealed to me at the time because I wanted to be able to fly. I had done it once, liked it and wanted to do it again.

But I lacked the money to pay the fare and where would I go? I was in school and had no reason to travel.

So I hung onto that commercial, which offered a glimpse of what it must be like to fly long distance.

My grandmother’s home was located beneath the departure path of southbound and westbound flights departing from nearby Lambert Field.

Hearing those jets roar overhead during the games just added an exclamation point to my desires. Were those lucky souls aboard those flights about to have the same pleasurable experience that the airline commercials portrayed?

My Uncle Harold, who flew periodically on business as part of his job with the Chrysler Corporation, told me that airline food was nothing special. Maybe so, but I craved a lifestyle that included air travel.

Since those years, I’ve flown multiple times, including on long-distance flights with meal service.

My uncle was right about the food not being particularly special, but for years I thought it was great to be dining more than 30,000 feet in the air.

I’ve never had a job that required regular air travel and in the past 15 years I haven’t done any business-related travel. Between 2005 and 2014 I never flew at all. That was fine. I did enough flying to get it out of my system.

Then my Dad moved to Arizona and now I fly there twice a year to visit him.

It is a long distance from Ohio to Arizona, four hours from Cleveland and nearly that long from Columbus.

There was a time when a flight that long was expected to have meal service appropriate to the time of day. But those days are gone.

Now you are fortunate to get a small bag of peanuts or pretzels. Want to eat? The airline might sell you a meal. Air travel can be a hassle in ways that it wasn’t years ago.

I made the photograph that accompanies this post in April 2016 while flying from Columbus to Phoenix.

There was something about this view that brought back memories of those long-ago Sunday afternoons watching commercials for American Airlines at my grandmother’s home.

Interestingly, I made this photo while flying on American Airlines. From way back in the coach cabin I was able to see through the curtain separating coach and first class.

I noticed a flight attendant holding what appeared to be a bottle of wine. On this flight those willing and/or able to afford to pay first class fares received dinner.

Was it as sumptuous as those meals shown in that American commercial of years ago? I don’t know. I’ve never flown in first class.

As we sailed along over New Mexico I gazed out the window and was reminded of another reason why I wanted to fly way back when.

There is something about being above the clouds that is peaceful. From high in the sky the world appears to be a simple and orderly place.

It’s not and I know that now in ways that I didn’t appreciate or understand as a teen. Yet it still appears to be what it’s always been from up above.

I still like that about flying.


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