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Oakland, CA

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Portland--one last story. Posted on 10/18/2001.

I left Portland on Sunday. I did little other than head to the airport (via the Max, Portland's light rail system), check in, wander around a bit, and wait at the security checkpoint. Waiting at security checkpoints is becoming the crowd-bonding ritual at airports now--conversations spring up among those in line, unused to spending half an hour moving incrementally to the metal detector. The woman ahead of me in line had been in town for the the Sweet Adelines convention, the Sweet Adelines being (as it was explained to me) a kind of female version of barbershop quartet--woman in large groups singing four-part harmonies. The rooted in an American folk tradition, it attracts members from all over the world, many of whom were leaving Portland that day.

While I was marvelling at the notion of this large, pervasive subculture that I'd never before heard about, a smartly-dressed woman walked hurriedly down the clearing in between the two security checkpoint lines, heading to the front. Every 20 feet or so, she'd say, "Sweet Adelines! We're going to sing, 'The Song I Sang Today'! Pass it on!" When she got to the front, she turned around, shouted "Sweet Adelines! Give me a B-flat!", and a hum went up throughout the lines. She then planted herself pretty much right in front of me, and began conducting the singing. Those who weren't singing were dumbstruck by the performance--those who were were clearly overjoyed to participate in this spirit-lifting activity.

When the song ended, the crowd cheered loudly, applauding these woman for their efforts. I found myself particularly touched, and a little choked up, admiring their talents, and their desire to take the edge off this otherwise agitated time.

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