A couple of years ago I was flying from Richmond, Virginia to Los Angeles on one of the many trips home I make each year during holiday and summer breaks from James Madison University. A friend had kindly offered to drive me to the airport and as we were leaving her house near Charlottesville where I left my car, she leaned over and picked a small, beautiful, vividly-colored blood-red flower from her front garden and gave it to me, good intentions for a safe trip and a token of friendship. I received it gladly and gratefully and put it behind my ear.
I don’t know Richmond that well. It is the capitol of the state and from what I hear, is home to old southern money and people who aspire to get their share of it. It is conservative and culturally somewhat homogenous within economic and racial strata. It’s a nice airport, newer, easy to get in and out of and not very crowded. Sometimes they have better fares.
I walked into the airport and headed right for the gate. I know the drill and had my boarding pass and driver’s license out and ready for TSA. It was an early morning flight and not many people were there at all. I walked up to the TSA agent and handed him the stuff he needed. He looked at me and looked at the boarding pass and the ID. He looked at me again focusing on the flower, and wagging his head as he handed my papers back to me said, “California… land of fruits and nuts.”