I have two stories to tell from my travels these last 24 hours. No pictures because while I do have a sketch to show for one, I dropped my camera and can't upload pictures right now.
First, I had the privilege of attending a Braves / Marlins baseball game in Atlanta last night. It's the first time I've been to a big stadium (I've been to Durham Bulls games, but that's a small stadium). I did a sketch during the fourth inning. I was struck by an amazing contrast. On the one hand you have the state-of-the-art video wrapping the entire structure, synchronized over dozens of huge monitors up several stories, enabling the display of an enormous fluttering virtual American flag during the national anthem, and showing stats and scores throughout the game. You also have the stadium itself, with tier upon tier of cantilevered banks of seats, sophisticated lighting that made it as bright as day, and a sound system that could probably be heard a mile away. On the other hand you have the gem in the center of this amazing twentyfirst century setting - a dirt diamond in a field of grass where men run in circles and hit a leather ball with a stick. Don't get me wrong - I love the subtlety and craft that is the American game of Baseball - but the game could have been played in regulation style in the stone age, because there is nothing modern about the materials of the game itself. So the contrast with the stadium was epic, to me.
Somewhere in the bottom of the eighth, with the game pretty much a foregone conclusion (Braves winning by a handsome lead after two home runs with two RBIs each), I looked up to notice that the huge column of light rising from the immense bowl of stadium had attracted a circling swarm of high flying night birds, with shapes unfamiliar to me, eating the swarms of insects drawn to all those stray photons. This is in downtown Atlanta, with miles of concrete, stone, asphalt and brick on all sides - where did the insects and birds come from?
Second, on my way through security in the Atlanta aiport today I was behind a woman in her forties with intriguing boots. They took a deal of unlacing and I made a joke about it (I'm the sort to lighten moments in line with strangers...). This led to a conversation because they were boots for motorcycling. She was recently returned from motorcycling through the Alps, and was on her way to Salt Lake City to rent a Honda motorcyle and drive to Seattle in ten days, via Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, etc. I looked at her carefully, because it takes some muscle to handle a motorcycle, and she probably weighed under 100 pounds. She went on to say that she also danced ballroom, and had her ballroom costume/shoes and her watercolor materials packed, and not much else, because she planned to do ALL of it on this trip. I asked where the ballroom would be done, "Surely not Jackson Hole," and she grinned and told me that was precisely where she would be dancing. We fell to discussing her art materials (very simple - pens, watercolor pad, and just one color of liquid watercolor, a blue).
At this point we were putting our bags on the conveyor and concentrated on the task before us. She went through the scanner before me wearing a thin cotton shirt and a light vest of some space-age material (she had said her clothing was minimal and all chosen for the ability to wash, wring, and dry in minutes). The TSA agent on the other side felt the need to pat her down, and poked her in the sternum as part of checking the vest. This apparently hurt, and the woman poked the TSA agent back, in exactly the same manner, telling her that it hurt and that she was getting her fingers caught on the front of her bra. The TSA agent remained professional, but I winced, because a law enforcement officer is a law enforcement officer, and they can't be handled that way. She made the woman come back through the scanner and place her vest on the conveyor. For a moment it looked like the woman was going to resist, but then she came back through and did as she was told. When she passed back through I could hear the TSA agent taking her and her bags aside and quietly lecturing her on what she had done (laid hands on an officer without permission or warning) and that this was not acceptable. When I had reassembled my own clothes, shoes, and bags I looked back and saw the woman seated in the TSA security area, still getting a lecture...
I had noticed well prior to our turn that TSA was in a physical mode today. I have passed through these check points dozens of times in the last year, and have only seen one or two pat-downs. Today, on the other hand, they were touching nearly everybody. They squeezed the fat braids of two traditionally dressed Indian ladies ahead of us, wanded and patted down a young African American man next, then the woman I had been talking to, and then I even got patted on the chest and shoulders (first time I can recall that), possibly they thought I was with the woman who was making trouble. It was interesting, a bit disturbing, and I understood both sides (as I often do) which did nothing to make me more comfortable.
I just looked up ballroom in Jackson Hole and there is a place called the Snow King Center Ballroom... Do they dance there? Was she for real?