Ride the sky home.
There’s a song in my head and it won’t go away. It comes at the top of the slide,
a sloping seven mile glide, ever downward and south toward home. Bound for DFW from the west coast, the captain’s voice my own, says “we’re eighty nautical miles from touchdown in Fort Worth; be on the deck at half past.” and on it drones with the same spiel as ever, but the music gets louder each mile, drowning it out.
It’s a tedious trip west to east to south, like the ride from The Stockyards to Tanglewood, or God forbid, the Far Southwest side on Bryant Irvin where any time of day, never mind rush hour, it seems like forever: there’s just no hypotenuse. East to west, or north to south but not north to southwest in Cowtown, not without a lot of pain and aggravation. But come down easy, that’s how you get home. There are no shortcuts.
The mayor once said with a hang dog tired face it’s so bad you could change a tire in a Cowtown traffic jam and not lose your spot, and he wasn’t even talking about trying the mythical hypotenuse between the North Side and the southwest Mecca of Hulen and Tanglewood. Really, it’s not so far away but just hard to get to yet home is definitely worth the trip.
When I cross the Red River I feel like I’m in the neighborhood and the red dirt pancake of the Panhandle starts the song of home in my head. It’s those comfy notes your hands just know, a cozy riff you can get lost in like a half-awake morning in the Paris Coffee Shop, more aware of what it’s not—and it’s not a modern chain shoveling breakfast—than the bald light, melodious clink of silverware and bracing aroma of strong coffee that it is. Newspapers and linoleum and waitresses who call you “hon” and the comfort of an old tune not redone, not over done; rather, the original from way back when. That’s the music that when you play it, you transcend fingers and frets and keys and notes, simply cruising along with the melody.
A hundred plus people follow me down in the back, some coming home and humming the same tune. Picture my wife’s Paschal mafia: they graduate and scatter to the four winds—but they return sooner or later. So there are the inexorable five year milestone reunions at Joe T’s or the Stockyards Station or anywhere Fort Worth that’ll hold the returning classes; hugs, backslaps, “so good to see you!” but because so many seem to move back eventually, and we see them weekly anyway at Thom Thumb on Bellaire, what’s the big deal?
But that’s everyone humming along—no one needs sheet music; like the song in my head, they probably don’t even know they’re doing it. That’s the song of home you get to sing aloud now and again with others who know it.
We slip between big-shouldered thunderheads marching out of the west toward Fort Worth, casting a bruised blue shadow across a red sky sprawling east like a dome you can see best atop Reata, the bustling crisscross of Sundance Square below. Storm’s coming with one inch raindrops plopping an inch apart, but nothing’s perfect and who knows? Maybe it’ll hold off till we get there, and we need the rain nonetheless.
Things look bigger the lower you go and now the swaths of green and brown and lakes of blue define themselves like individual musical notes on a scale but now you don’t need them: there’s DFW and you’re cleared to land. More hands and feet on the controls, working less with science than art, riding the familiar tune whose beat is like that of your heart. Close your eyes and see the flow of red tail lights snaking down the main artery to Fort Worth.
Slower, down to earth but still, the music will carry you home. The steel and glass on Main and Commerce rise straight backed and tall, waiting. Patience, slowly, mile by mile, the music will carry you home.