SHOTDesert sentinelBy Marilyn V. Chamberlain...

MY BEST

May 30, 1999

MY BEST SHOT

Desert sentinel

By Marilyn V. Chamberlain, Baltimore

Lots of red rocks, hoodoos and all sorts of strange formations show nature's power and create a fascinating Southwestern view. This picture was taken outside Sedona, Ariz., and, as the sky indicates, it was the prelude to a swift-moving spring snowstorm.

A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE

Fond farewell to Luxembourg

By Richard Basch

Special to the Sun

The first time I flew Icelandic Airlines, I hauled a duffel bag full of hope and a young wife from New York to Belgium via Luxembourg. The 1970s plane was a DC-8 and the flight was straight out of the Marrakesh Express, filled with day-trippers, the pungent fragrance of pot, knapsacks and hair defiantly and proudly free of shampoos and conditioners. It wasn't the Concorde for my generation. We traveled to Europe on the cheap.

My wife and I were on our way to live in Brussels, she to play the violin in the Royal Belgian Opera Orchestra and I to make movies throughout Europe. We were Hemingway and Hadley, Scott and Zelda, brimming with artistic talent.

Icelandic, the airline, mirrored our spirits. It made no pretenses. The gilded who had no time for a weeklong ocean voyage booked passage on Pan Am, TWA and BOAC, proud global airlines. There were no Virgins on the North Atlantic, no upstarts. Just Icelandic Airlines, a Third-Worldish carrier with just one class -- steerage.

I liked an airline that didn't belong to the country club. So, it was a tremendous jolt in January to discover that the last flight of Icelandair from Luxembourg was imminent. Icelandair, the current incarnation of Icelandic Airlines, had joined the International Air Transport Association of all the major airlines and had spread its reach into Europe, ceasing to be a "Third World airline." I felt a pang of loss and so I decided to make a pilgrimage to salute the last voyage of a beloved passage.

Luxembourg is a Teutonic Pixieland, a kind of attic to Belgium, France and Germany. I suppose that's one of the reasons it was such a good point of departure for so many long-ago adventures. When I got to the airport, I was almost pleased to find that the flight was three hours late, as it would let me reminisce with some of the other travelers. I was surprised that nobody seemed to mind. I mounted the stairs to the 757 and entered the business-class cabin for the four-hour flight to Iceland. Nothing at all was wrong. Everyone was kind, the service and the food were superior. All in all, Icelandair has no need to apologize about anything. It's just that it lacks the flavor of the old days.

Where was the brass band, the banner ("Goodbye, Hippies") the plaque ("I flew on Icelandair's last flight from Luxembourg")? Nothing. All that energy, all those sweet hopes and prayerful paradigms were not noticed. Like a sign for departing flights in an international airport, the letters and numbers whirled around and something else was in place where a host of prayers once had found a home for a generation.

Richard Basch lives in Washington.

READERS RESPOND...

What is your favorite spot in New York City? And why?

Brooklyn Bridge Walkway

Christopher Kilgore,

Timonium

"High above busy East River boat traffic, cars whizzing beneath your feet, you're amid a throng of walkers and bicyclists crossing the bridge between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Here is the best view in New York. A person feels a part of the vast Manhattan skyline, and a bit larger than life."

Strawberry Fields

Mike Strzelecki,

Baltimore

"Amid the chaos of Gotham, along Central Park's west side, is the peaceful sanctuary of Strawberry Fields, the secluded park paying tribute to John Lennon. Here you can read a book, catch a snooze, watch the interesting mix of humanity pass and feel the peace that Lennon forever sought."

Times Square

Stephen R. Rourke,

Baltimore

"For me, it's Times Square and the historic Broadway theaters, with their irreplaceable European-style architecture and their stages on which so much of this country's culture was born."

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