Delta International had it down. When we flew through the time zone that made midnight, they passed out goblets of champagne which all us tired passengers quaffed like cups of Gatorade at a marathon feeding station.
I have to admit I was dreading the ensuing festival — especially if the aircraft was chock full of party animal Germans. Reality was different, and pleasantly so. Because I was flying on New Year’s Eve the gigantic jet was perhaps 20% full, and everyone seemed intent on just relaxing and getting to Munich healthy and rested. Even the babies slept. I stretched out on three seats, used all three pillows, and got in a good six hour snooze that’ll sync me up a day sooner than normal to the new time zone.
Besides flying when everyone else wants to be on the ground, I also saved money by enduring a ten hour layover at the huge Atlanta airport. What a cool place (I can’t believe I’m saying that about an airport, but I am). At least in the concourse where my gate was, I found an amazing array of above average food service, cleanliness — and even art.
Yep, the Atlanta Airport is like some sort of modern art museum. I first noticed the artwork when I saw a 150-foot long “poster” by artist John Salvest with bold lettering stating “Let each man pass his days in that endeavor wherein his gift is greatest – Propertius.” Upon closer examination, I discovered the monster poster was made 14,000 business cards, with the lettering created out of darker cards. This thing was really cool. If you’re ever there, E Concourse. You’ll wonder how in the world the guy got so many cards.
Moving along on my art tour, another thing lept out at me. Up a ways from the Salvest installation you run across a collection of collage photos by artist Vicki Ragan. I noticed an image of a guy rappelling (photo above), or at least being lowered by a rope over a globe that appeared to be the planet. Upon closer examination, I had the mystical experience of seeing my travel destination was part of the man’s anatomy. Due to how this is positioned, I see this as a very mixed message that I don’t understand — but isn’t that the point of modern art? Check it out below and you’ll see what I mean.
The other weird art I found was a series of fascinating diorama displays featuring all manner of endangered species products intercepted by US Customs. Included were things like leopard skulls, piranha teeth, elephant tusks and other stuff that reminded me of an Indiana Jones movie set. What I found “weird” was while the illegal collectibles were ostensibly there to educate the public, they were as much that as a source of enjoyment and even amusement for the thousands of viewers they so readily attracted. For even though the objects were illegal and from rare animals, they were all still beautiful and compelling — thus showing their value and the very reason they were in people’s luggage in the first place.
So, there you have it. For the ultimate avant garde outing, use some miles for a cheap 2-way for the Atlanta airport. Fly in, do a 6 hour layover with lunch and an art tour, then fly back home. Or better, fly to Europe and show off your new found cultural acumen by mentioning your experience of John Salvest and Vicki Ragan.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.