I flew to New York on the day spring arrived and all along 90th Street a lovely blue flower called Pushkinia blossomed which is named for the poet who, according to Russians, cannot be translated into English, but Tchaikovsky made a gorgeous opera of "Eugene Onegin," which is some consolation, and then there is the flower.
I flew on Northwest Airlines, which now, like Pushkin, will vanish into the earth, devoured by Delta, and this makes me a little sad. Not sad enough to write an opera but enough to write a column. The company used to be called Northwest Orient and was founded in Minneapolis in 1926 to carry mail to Chicago. I used to live in a house in St. Paul once owned by Croil Hunter, a president of Northwest Orient, who, when Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt was stranded at the airport by a blizzard, put her up in the guest room of his house.
The company grew after the war and launched the Minneapolis-New York route in 1945 and two years later started flying to Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai and Manila. Back in my youth, Dad sometimes took us to the airport to watch planes take off and land, such as the Boeing Stratocruiser, a double-decker equipped with passenger lounges. There still were farms out by the airport then, and in the majestic Northwest Orient radio jingle I grew up hearing, a Chinese gong went whanngngngngn after the word "Orient" and you imagined lifting up from cornfields and flying away to the West until you got to the East.
Our family did not fly, we drove, and Spokane was as far west as we went, where Uncle Lawrence and Aunt Bessie lived, and so Northwest Orient was not a carrier to me, it was a romantic concept. We middle children are filled with restless longing, trapped as we are between the Sacred First-Born Miracle Child and the Darling Infants. I grew up with middleness, a B-minus student in the middle of the country, and I longed to get out of the Midwest and fly away to the edge of the world, and I knew that Northwest Orient would take me there.