By now you are probably aware that I really like major transit hubs – airports and train stations in particular. They seem to me to be portals of adventure, worm holes leading to the next reality. While O’Hare in Chicago has its fair share of weather-related troubles – we were delayed 90 minutes due to lightening on the day in question – it is also an interesting and (for me at least) exhilarating place, one I never mind visiting.
One of my favorite spots is the underground passageway between Terminal C and B:
This place plays eerie music and showcases a set of lights that go on and off across the ceiling in a gorgeous varying rainbow pattern (this must sound nuts unless you’ve been there). I just love it. The moving sidewalk adds to the mystical sense of it all.
On this particular day in question, I was transiting from my inbound flight from Portland Maine to my outbound flight to Tokyo. I had a couple hours to kill, so in typical Mortensen fashion I spent it walking the dogs off to try and prepare for the next long haul. The first stop was a little corner I had discovered about a year ago, a memorial of sorts to the man the airport is actually named after, Navy pilot “Butch” O’Hare, one of the original “Top Guns”:
To get a major airport named after you, the story probably doesn’t end well for your corporeal form. But before we cut to the chase, here’s a replica of the Grumman F4F Wildcat, the workhorse of the Pacific Theater in World War II, that helped him and his colleagues design and execute the “Thach Weave,” a bold defensive tactic that could defeat the faster and more maneuverable Mitsubishi A6M Zero, its Japanese nemesis:
Butch earned the Navy’s first Medal in April of 1942 when he “single-handedly attacked a formation of 9 heavy bombers approaching his aircraft carrier. Even though he had a limited amount of ammunition, he managed to shoot down or damage several enemy bombers.” A year and a half later, his plane was shot down during an encounter with Japanese torpedo bombers. A destroyer was named after him in 1945 and then in 1949 the Chicago airport was renamed in his honor.
This seemed oddly juxtaposed against my upcoming departure to Japan, so to cheer myself up first I fortified myself with a little snack at a sushi bar (where the chef taught me the correct pronunciation of several key phrases) and then I headed over to my departure gate. Once there, I saw a table had been set up in honor of Tanabata:
Hmmm. Turns out Tanabata, meaning “Evening of the Seventh” and known as the “Star Festival,” honors the annual meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively). Old Chinese and Japanese legends tell us these lovers were separated by the Milky Way (puts most long-distance relationships to shame) and they are allowed to meet only once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month. Today, people write wishes (or poems) and hang them on a bamboo “Wish Tree.” Sometimes the tree is set afloat or burned, but here at gate C-10, it was on display for all to see, and obliging ANA staff even took pictures of passengers in commemoration of the day:
I was pleased to know all our thoughts were not hung in vain:
I was modestly hoping for a safe flight, myself, and I watched out the window as last minute preparations were made for our departure:
Thankfully, my wish came true and some hours later I tumbled out in Tokyo. Stayed tuned for more adventures.