Article posted on Huffington Post by Emmy winner Mark DeCarlo on March 28, 2013
Five years ago, I was sitting at Gate C8 at Louis Armstrong International airport after a grueling Halloween weekend in New Orleans, unaware that a single sentence I’d soon utter would change the rest of my life.
If you’ve never been to NOLA, go in the spring – for Jazzfest, or during the Voodoo Experience, which happens during Halloween. Mardi Gras is too crazy, summer is too sticky and winter is too… not Jazzfest. Most importantly, Halloween on Bourbon Street is an adventure everyone should experience at least once before retiring their Sailin’ Shoes.
On this trip 5 years ago, I’d spent the weekend trolling the French Quarter, shooting material for my Travel Channel series, “A Taste of America with Mark DeCarlo” and posing for ‘artsy,’ bourbon-fueled photos with my musical pals Big Bad Voodoo Daddy after their sold out show at the House of Blues.
On Bourbon Street, Halloween is NOT about kids trick or treating… I’m not sure what it IS about, actually. But I KNOW it ain’t kids. You just gotta be there.
And I was, until the sun came up. With no special someone waiting for me back at the hotel – or anywhere, for that matter – I stumbled in, showered, then left for MSY.
As I waited at the Delta gate for my flight back to LAX, I looked through my sunglasses – yes, I’m THAT guy when I’m hung over. Through my polarized haze I spied a gorgeous woman in a navy blue skirt and black boots standing alone in line.
I never talk to people when I fly – I don’t have the social skills to chat for a few minutes, then gracefully retreat into my own world for the rest of the flight. So, to avoid that uncomfortable, ‘uh, I don’t want to talk to you anymore’ moment, I just avoid it all together. But this groggy morning, for the first and only time, I was instructed otherwise. In my head, I actually heard the voice of my dearly departed Aunt Cookie say these words – like she was sitting next to me – “Go TALK to her!” Cookie could be an emphatic speaker when she wanted to make a point. And nothing beats speaking from beyond the grave. Point TAKEN, Aunty.
I pried my body off the seat and ambled over to this woman, “Have they said anything about boarding yet?” That’s the game-changing sentence. No slick line, no smarmy aside – just an informational request that would require an answer.
She chatted, reluctantly at first. Later, I arranged for her to change seats with the clueless guy seated next to me on the plane. The result is what I call our first date – a four-hour dinner and a movie at 33,000 feet. And plenty of chatter. As I found out nearly a full 40 seconds into our relatively turbulence-free feeling out, she was Cuban. An Italian and a Cuban in an exit row…write your own punchline ________________________________________.
Turns out, we had much in common. She worked in travel too – as the clever & resourceful mastermind behind TravelingDiva.com. She thought I was less obnoxious in person than I was on TV. I explained the camera adds ten levels of pompous. She smiled. That was the only break I needed.
Five years and one month later, we stood side by side on the tarmac at Camarillo Airport, a small GA Airport north of Los Angeles with the largest collection of vintage aircraft in America, while our friend and web-ordained Preacher pronounced us Man and Wife. We’d come full circle, all that was left was our Honeymoon.