Last week in Atlanta was a going home of sorts. I spent three days with many of the people I had shared a way of life with for over 33 years, my years as a pilot for Northwest Airlines. It was a bittersweet gathering given that this band of brothers (my age group is invariably male; the women airline pilots didn’t get into the cockpit until later) is aging, many of our compatriots already on their “Flight West,” and the airline we were linked to is no longer an independent carrier.

On the other hand, the stories we tell and retell, some of them even true, have gotten better over the years as memory recasts us as heroes in our own legends. It was good to get together. This was only my fourth reunion in the nearly 14 years since my retirement, but it seems more important to make the effort as I get farther from that way of life, and even the existence of Northwest Airlines fades into a distant memory.

One of the events of the Atlanta meeting was a tour of the Delta Airlines museum. I was pleased to see that the history of Northwest figures prominently in the home of its successor airline.

One of the nights was designated a music night. I and several of my friends played for over two hours. I haven’t been spending as much time playing my guitar lately as I used to, so the fingers of my left hand were mincemeat by the end of the evening. It was definitely home-made music; none of us had played together in years. But we got compliments all around, no doubt helped along by the fruit of grain and grape. And for sure Mike, Ty, Art and I had a great time, helped a lot by the five or six instruments in Max’s hands.

Friday night was our final dinner together for this year, and we all promised friends we’d be in touch, and that we’d get Chuck or Bob or Frank to commit to come next year. Some of us continued the evening a little later in the top floor lounge of the Westin, watched the lights of Atlanta change as our seats rotated around the central core of the bar.

And then it was time head back to Telluride or Seattle or Fishtail or Fort Myers, or wherever in the world a retired wanderer has made his home. See you next year in Lexington…

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