Monday, January 08, 2007

Return of the PA Specialist

As quickly as it began, my leave ended. There were the tearful goodbyes, the pledges to keep in touch, and expressions of hope for the future -- when my tenure in the Army will be over and I'll return to New York state.

Time at home is always followed by a surreal plane trip back to Kentucky. I fly out of Syracuse and make the connection to Louisville at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, where I usually find time to stop at the Fox Sports Bar for a drink and a couple smokes.

This time, I found myself sitting next to a guy around my age who introduced himself as Bill. He was dressed in standard gear for a twenty-something -- a baseball cap covered unkempt hair, and his baggy jeans fell over a pair of well-worn sneakers. He told me he was heading to Washington, D.C. for "meetings." The way he spoke reminded me of Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which didn't exactly seem to befit someone heading to "meetings" in the capital.

But since I was feeling talkative due to two large glasses of Sam Adams, I asked him what he did.

Turns out, Bill works as an independent humanitarian aid consultant. He said he was working out of Ecuador, building homes and schools for street children.

I could hardly believe it.

"So, sort of Peace Corps-type work?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. "But I work pretty much on my own."

He told me of the high-power connections he'd made during the year he lived in D.C., and how when he needed money for some kind of humanitarian project, all he had to do was make a phone call. He talked about meeting ambassadors and high-level dignitaries at house parties, and how a guy he worked with had once met the Dalai Lama.

I lit another cigarette. I wasn't sure what to make of his story, because it sounded fantastic to the point of seeming fictitious. But despite the surfer/pothead drawl to his speech, his story held together and I couldn't help but think he was telling the truth.

He told me he had no immediate intentions of settling down, and that he liked the element of world travel and the freedom his job afforded.

Eventually, I had to head to the C Concourse to catch my flight to Louisville. I wished Bill good luck and left the bar, shaking my head at the thought of how for some people, life just shakes out being remarkable.

Now I'm back at work on Fort Knox. I suppose a good New Year's resolution would be to make as much of a mark here as I can -- before the Next Phase starts in August.