We love a couple with a fun back story, and our neighbors Kim Green and Hal Humphreys have just that.
It helps that each of them is intriguing in their own right. Kim is a journalist – she’s a frequent public radio contributor – and avid gardener whose green thumb keeps the yard of the couple’s charming Halcyon Avenue home, located just a few blocks down from our store, looking cheerful and welcoming; Hal’s a wordsmith, too, though he spends most of his time working as a private investigator. (Hilarious side note: his cell phone ring is the theme to “Magnum P.I.”)
Over the last two years, we’ve grown to respect Hal and Kim as a kind, steady presence in our neighborhood. They’re real 12South cheerleaders who delight in introducing people new to the area to the activities, amenities and personalities that make it such a great place to be. They’ve been good friends to the store, too, coming out to our supper + song nights and other parties, and are wonderful about sending friends our way. We’re so happy that they’ve made us a part of their routine.
Both Hal and Kim are pilots, and, as we recently discovered, it was their mutual adoration for a certain airplane that brought them together.
A few weeks ago, we stopped by Casa Green/Humphreys for breakfast and to get the full story. Over coffee and warm, homemade rolls, Hal and Kim took turns telling their very special love story, often completing the other’s sentences in the effortless way that only two people who truly understand each other can.
HAL: In 1998, I was learning to fly from a friend of mine named Volker Dempel. One morning, I was walking across the ramp at Nashville International with him and I saw a young lady, also walking across the ramp, but going the other direction. This is something you rarely see out there. I thought, Wow – she’s cute.
HAL: We walked on down to the plane and did our thing. Volker kept going on about Kim doing this and Kim doing that. And I was, like, “Who’s this Kim woman?” He said, “The girl you saw on the ramp today: I’m trying to sell her the Cessna 172” – the airplane that both Kim and I learned to fly in. I thought, I need to meet this woman. So, the next time I went to the airport it was with the specific objective of meeting the woman who purchased the airplane in which I learned to fly.
KIM: I had just started instructing and was in the middle of a lesson. I was watching my student do the preflight inspection when Hal sidled up to me and introduced himself.
KIM: “Parasite Drag: that’s a great name for a band.” Which it is.
HAL: I really hope there’s a band out there somewhere called Parasite Drag.
KIM: I loved being an instructor, but the community was a little more conservative than I was. I felt like I had to act a certain way. After I met Hal, though, I thought, I can relax around this guy. He’s gonna be fun.
HAL: We got on well. At the time, I was doing work for Cracker Barrel and would fly to different little towns to look at properties for them. I’d hire Kim to fly with me in case the weather got bad. I’m not instrument-rated and she is.
KIM: Instrument rating lets you fly in clouds and bad weather. I was his safety net. But it was probably more fun to have somebody else there, too.
HAL: She taught me how to use the instruments; I taught her how to –
KIM: Have fun.
HAL: We’d give ourselves little challenges – things like drop down and fly five feet above the river and try to follow the bank as closely as possible as far as we could. We had some serious fun doing that. I was married at the time, so this wasn’t really courting.
KIM: It sounds bizarre, but that made it more comfortable. He was just Hal. He was married so it was always above board. We got to be comfortable with each other without that question mark that pops up between men and women friends sometimes.
KIM: …the question mark became an exclamation point. Laughs.
HAL: I had just filed for divorce. Kim and I hadn’t spoken in a while, but she called and said, “I’ve got a flight down to Gulf Shores on Friday and have to fly the plane back by myself. Would you like to come down in the back seat and then fly back together?” I was like, “Cool, I’m in. But hey – since it’s the weekend, let’s go to New Orleans for a day, fly over to Dog Island for a night, and come home Monday.”
KIM: Hal is one of is the first people who made me aware of great food. Wherever we go, even a crappy little town, he’s great at finding the best, most fun place to eat. In New Orleans, of course, that’s not hard to do. That trip is when I started falling in love with food.
HAL: Among other things. Laughing. Anyway, we had this rather, um, romantic dinner that Saturday night.
KIM: He put on a linen shirt and these glasses that I’d never seen before; I put on a little blue dress. We’d never dressed for each other before. All of a sudden, he was transformed in my eyes. Hal became Hal.
HAL: We had a bit of wine with dinner. And the waiter sang “Summer Wind” to us and…
KIM: …the next thing I know, we’re walking hand-in-hand through the city and he’s chewing on my hand like a lobster.
HAL: That made her mad. I told her I was sorry, that I’d had too much to drink. And, she said, “You know, there’s a good chance that if you get drunk and bash a guy’s head in with a baseball bat, you probably had wanted to bash his head in when you were sober, too.” Fair enough.
KIM: We had a big talk that night. If we were going to do this, we wanted to do it right. I didn’t want to be rebound girl.
HAL: We never made it to Dog Island the next day. We got stopped by thunderstorms.
KIM: The weather broke the tension; it took our full attention. We had to get back into team flying mode. The storms were right on top of Dog Island, so we flew to Apalachicola. The whole place was overwhelmed. We were stuck.
HAL: We borrowed a courtesy car from the airport, drove into town, and ended up at a crappy Days Inn.
KIM: We had more time to think about what had happened the day before. I went for a walk on this horrible highway by this horrible motel…
HAL: …and I sat in the hotel room by myself, thinking, I just f’d up one of the best friendships I’ve ever had by making a pass.
KIM: I ended up going to the convenience store and buying two bottles of Andre champagne and bringing them back to the hotel room. We didn’t get it on that night, but had fun just hanging. Apalachicola is not a crummy place, but where we had to stay was. In my mind, this was just another example of us going to a not-fun place and figuring out how to have fun together.
KIM: We played at Melrose Pub. We drank a lot. We flirted our asses off.
HAL: When we got to her house later on, Kim’s dad had called. She called him back and immediately started crying. I’m like, “What?! What?!” She goes, “Papa Tango was destroyed in the storm.” Papa Tango was her plane. Its name came from the last two letters of its alphanumeric registration code: 734PT. When you talk to Air Traffic Control, you use those numbers and letters to ID your plane.
KIM: That plane was more than just metal, to both of us. I learned to fly at a pretty low time in my life. I had a crappy job and was kind of depressed. But when I started flying, I entered into a dream life. I was an instructor: how fun is that? Then I met Hal and had all these adventures. So Papa Tango was a symbol of freedom to me. Plus, I felt like that plane had a conscience. I felt safe in it. We had a relationship. I would hug my plane, talk to it.
HAL: That plane was special. Everybody knew Papa Tango.
KIM: I was flying outside St. Louis one time and I radioed in and they went, “Oh! It’s Papa Tango!” I used to send the Nashville controllers a Christmas card and cookies, signed 734 Papa Tango. They took good care of me.
HAL: So that night, we were both pretty upset. And it was really late, and – just out of chivalry, I’m sure – I said, “Do you want me to stay over?” She said yes. And I said, “Well, I’m not wearing clothes to bed.” And she said she was fine with that.
KIM: Yeah, that does seem sleazy in retrospect.
HAL: It is. But it worked. Laughes.
KIM: The next morning, Hal came to the airport with me and just completely had my back. Again, on a potentially tense day, we had a big task to tackle, together. I was in mourning: I cried over the plane and embraced it, and Hal ran interference and made sure nobody bothered me while I said my farewells. He strong-armed the insurance man, too.
HAL: I told him, “Get out there and write some checks.” He did. We got another plane, but it was never the same. September 11 happened; insurance rates went out the roof.
KIM: Aviation changed. People panicked. Fuel went up. The economy wasn’t stable, so I had fewer students. My old airplane made money kind of effortlessly…
HAL: …but this one was costing money.
KIM: A lot of money. I wound up having to sell it for a loss. It was just unlucky timing. Neither of us fly much anymore.
HAL: Talking about this makes me think we need to borrow a plane and get current again…
KIM: Yeah, it wouldn’t be too hard.
HAL: But buying another plane isn’t really in the cards.
KIM: Not until one of us writes the next Harry Potter.
Kim and Hal were shot at T-Top Airport in Eagleville, Tennessee, with a Cessna 172, tail number N734CC (read: Charlie Charlie). Many thanks to Ken Franks for allowing us to shoot there.
You never forget your first:
About our photographer: Joseph Anthony Baker – Tony, to those who know him well – is a commercial photographer and good friends of Hal Humphreys and Kim Green. He was mercilessly guilted into this session by the couple, who, over the years, have fed him and his wife Iris some of the best food and libations they’ve ever experienced, straight from Hal’s own recipes. To see more of his work, visit www.JosephAnthonyBaker.com.