December 28, 2011

Gate 1: No Smoking Beyond This Point

My Dad snapped this photograph of me as I boarded an airplane at O'Hare International Airport. I was on may way to Venice, Italy, where I'd live for the next year. This was back in the day, before 9/11, when family and friends could accompany airline passengers right up to the departure gate.

I flew from Chicago to Kennedy Airport in New York City. Mr. Irene, who then was just a close friend—not yet a romantic interest—took the train from Connecticut and sat with me during the two-hour layover before the overseas flight departed. Mr. Irene packed a charming picnic basket with bread, Lithuanian sausages, cheese, and wine; we nibbled on the goodies in the travelers' lounge. And then I was gone.

My first stop in Italy was Rome. A family friend—a Vatican priest—met me at the airport, and he gave me a remarkable, three-day tour of the city. I visited spots usually not accessible to tourists.

The only downside about my trip to Rome was the lodging the prelate arranged. I stayed in a convent. A nun knocked on my door at 6:30 the first morning I was there, asking whether she could clean the room. My Italian speaking skills still weren't very good then, and I just yelled, "No, no, no!"

I left Rome and took a second-class train to Venice. From there, I really was on my own.

O'Hare International Airport, October 16, 1983. I still knock around in that London Fog raincoat (and its zip-in lining).