Flying Over I-40 N. Apple-Pie-In-A-Jar and Ordinary Moments of Kindness.

It worked.

For four consecutive nights, two baby blue Advil PM pills worked their magic.  7 1/2 to 8 1/2 hours of deep, dreamy sleep. Wake fresh, and refreshed.

And then, it didn’t.

Last night.

6:00 p.m.

Early dinner at Hotel restaurant. Delicious pan seared halibut, its light, ivory flesh falling away from the buttery crusted filet with the touch of my fork. Creamy Mac & Cheese as a side. Two cocktails to chase it down. And, a deconstructed “apple-pie-in-a-jar” for a night cap. Spoon to jar to mouth, a pendulum, without pause, a sugar addict’s fix. God, I love dessert.  Delectable in the moment. Regrettable the moment I set the spoon down, scraping the last of the thick sugary cream from the jar. And I thought of grabbing this jar in a vice grip with two hands, lifting it to my face and licking it clean with my tongue. Oh, yes I did.

I sat, restless, waiting for the check – – and tucked my thumb down the front of my pants to let some air in.

8:45 p.m.

Cued up Michael Barbaro’s Podcast The Daily.

And it was lights out.

12:30 a.m.

Overheated. Turning, and turning, and turning. I jerk the covers off. 

[Read more…]

A Journey Around My Room

In Lin Yutang’s view, you must possess the capacity to open yourself to seeing what’s in front of and around you all the time, not just when you are on a special trip. He gives us a sizable translation from a Chinese philosopher who expands on this, explaining that seeing the beauty and grace in the most majestic mountains means nothing if you can’t see beauty and grace in “a little patch of water, a village, a bridge, a tree, a hedge, or a dog….”

A travel book that takes this philosophy as far as it can go and then further is that remarkable little book: A Journey Around My Room. This is book was written in 1790 by a young French officer named Xavier de Maistre. […]

With nothing else to do, he wrote a guidebook to his room, visiting over the course of those weeks various bits of furniture, paintings, his bookshelf, letters he’d kept, and his own memory of a charming and slightly rakish life … De Maistre makes a case for traveling around his room as the truest kind of travel … “The pleasure you find in traveling around your room is safe from the restless jealousy of men; it is independent of the fickleness of fortune. After all, is there any person so unhappy, so abandoned, that he doesn’t have a little den into which he can withdraw and hide away from everyone? Nothing more elaborate is needed for the journey.”

Like all good travel writers, de Maistre begins his book by giving us the lay of the land and the route he intends to take:

My room is situated on the forty-fifth degree of latitude, according to the measurement of Father Beccaria; it stretches from east to west; it forms a long rectangle, thirty-six paces in circumference, if you hug the wall. My journey will, however, measure much more than this, as I will be crossing it frequently lengthwise, or else diagonally, without any rule or method. I will even follow a zigzag path, and I will trace out every possible geometrical trajectory if need be. I don’t like people who have their itineraries and ideas so clearly sorted out that they say, “Today I’ll make three visits, I’ll write four letters, and I’ll finish that book I started.” My soul is so open to every kind of idea, taste and sentiment; it so avidly receives everything that presents itself!…And why would it turn down the pleasures that are scattered along life’s difficult path? …

But when he wants to be awakened to what is going on in the world far from his window, and learn more about the human condition, there is another destination in his room that he can visit—his bookshelf, which is filled mostly with novels and a few books of poetry. These take him out of his room while allowing him to stay in it, and expand his experiences a thousandfold. He writes, “As if my own troubles weren’t enough, I also voluntarily share those of a thousand imaginary characters, and I feel them as vividly as my own.” …

After reading A Journey Around My Room, I vowed that I would take a trip to my room every few months, and these have been some of the happiest days I’ve spent. It’s an incredible luxury to be home and not sick, to wake up with no agenda other than to wander around the apartment all day. I can lie on the sofa and look at the light as it plays across a glass table. Or see the way it catches on a cracked ceramic vase. I can play with the shells I’ve brought back from the beach. I can admire our hearty little African violet. And I can visit my books, flipping through this one and then that to light on a passage.

This only works if I remain totally unplugged. The rules for such a day are simple—no electronics at all (except for music).

~ Will Schwalbe, from “A Journey Around My Room. Traveling.” In Books for a Living.


Notes:

Let’s Go

…“Let’s go” is on the minds of many people in these last days of summer, especially the getting-out-of-here, going-away, going-home mood of Labor Day weekend. And it is much simpler by car…The long improvisational trip by car is quintessentially American, just as the road book is a peculiarly American form. […]

Yet it is perhaps truer today to say that the road trip has kept alive the romance of travel. Consider the misery of air travel, in what constitutes an average journey by plane. Much has been written about the stress, intimidation, limited space, germ-laden air and the intrusion of other people—the oaf in the seat in front of you who lowers his chair back into your lap, the child behind kicking your spine, the agony of the middle seat. Then there is the sludge that passes for in-flight meals, or the option to pay $7 for a “meal box” of chips, pretzels, cookies, candy, three crackers and a rectangle of industrial cheese that resembles a yellow piece of Lego but isn’t as tasty, and it’s five hours to LAX. After Sept. 11, 2001, casually showing up at the airport—often at the last minute, in my case—and easy boarding became distant memories, and since then air travel has degenerated further, so that the simplest flight is a secular version of hell. […]

This is why—for reasons of dignity and personal freedom—more and more Americans are rethinking the air journey and seeking the pleasures of the open road. […]

Not much on Earth can beat the American road trip in travel for a sense of freedom—no pat-down, no passport, no airport muddle, just revving an engine and leaving at will. Though the driverless cars that await us might have their uses in dense city traffic or on tedious L.A. freeways, they will certainly diminish the exuberance of a driver gripping the wheel, flooring it and rejoicing, “Eat my dust.”[…]

The American road trip rekindled my interest in travel and, most of all, reminded me how lucky we are in our country’s spaciousness and modernity. […]

So over the course of 2012-14, in four seasons, I drove tens of thousands of miles, meandering through the back roads of the deep South, listening to the blues on the radio, visiting churches and gun shows and family farms, and writing down people’s stories—of hardship and striving, raising families, struggling in adversity and remembering the past. […]

Nowhere else in the world (though Canada is a contender) is it possible to drive 3,000 miles—the distance from Boston to Los Angeles—and be certain that you will encounter no roadblocks or obstructions; that you will always find a place to stay and somewhere to eat. […]

Though I’ve been driving in the U.S. since I got my license 60 years ago, there is an immense amount of landscape I have yet to see. Driving through the deep South was a wish fulfilled, and so was my trip along the entire 1,900 miles of the Mexican border.

But I still have plans. My Road Trip Wish List includes: driving from Cape Cod to Seattle with many detours. Heading north from Cape Cod and keeping on, past the villages of my ancestors, until I run out of road around Lac Albanel in northern Quebec. Or heading south, as I mean to do soon, crossing La Frontera and taking an extended road trip in Mexico. […]

What made the experience a continuing pleasure was that, in my car, I never knew the finality of a flight, or the ordeal of being wrangled and ordered about at an airport, the stomach-turning gulp of liftoff or the jolt of a train, but only the hum of tires, of telephone poles or trees whipping past, the easy escape, the gradual release of the long road unrolling like a river through America. It is in many respects a Zen experience, scattered with road candy, unavailable to motorists in any other country on Earth.

~ Paul Theroux, excerpts from The Romance of the American Road Trip (WSJ, September 1, 2017). No other travel experience, especially today, can beat the sense of freedom it brings


Photo: Guy Le Querrec (via Mennyfox55)

Flying Over I-40 N. With Manners. With None.

Friday morning, 7:30 a.m.
DFW to Laguardia
American Flight 1140
Aisle Seat 12D.
All events real (not enacted) and on same flight.

The Good:

  • One row back and across to my left.
    • Three children ages 5-12 quietly eating pancakes with plastic forks and knives. Napkins draped on laps.
  • One row back and across to my right.
    • Single Mother breast feeds infant while occupying another toddler with crayons and coloring book. 3 hour flight, both children occupied and quiet.
  • To my right.
    • 6’3″ seat mate, draws unlucky middle seat, respects shared armrest for entire flight.

The Bad:

  • At gate waiting to board.
    • Man (~30) pulls roller board over my shoe, oblivious to infraction, and then stands directly in front of me waiting for his Zone to be called.
  • Boarding Plane.
    • Man in aisle jams his oversized roller board into the overhead. It won’t fit, no chance, no how. He keeps jamming. Long line builds behind him. “Sir, you’ll need to check that bag, please.
  • One row up, in middle seat.
    • A Pilot (in uniform) is catching this flight home for the weekend. He presses the recline button on his seat, leans back heavily, slamming his seat into the knees of the tall, young lady. She grimaces, rubs her knee, adjusts her skirt and simmers in silence.

[Read more…]

Flying Over I-95 S. So With Hopper.

Best day of the week?  Friday. Friday afternoon. Doesn’t matter how backed up traffic is on I-95 North, Home is no more than 45 minutes away.  Nothing, I mean, Nothing will jam up this vibe. Nothing will impede the start of the Great Unwinding. The seat is reclined a wee bit. The A/C beats back the 86° F mid-August heat. Home, home in minutes.

Best day of the week?  Friday. Friday afternoon. Except when you’re on I-95, heading the wrong way, heading South to LaGuardia Airport.

A working weekend. A long week, getting longer, and blurring into the week after.

Baggage check. A line snaking through the ropes waiting to pass Security. The listless, iron backed chairs in the waiting area. The rush to board. The hopeless prayer for an empty seat next to you to stretch out.  “Drink Sir?” Weary flight attendants forcing smiles with their offers of pretzels and tasteless shortbread cookies – and then, they hawk their gourmet sandwiches tightly shrink wrapped in plastic. “No thanks to that.” A three and a half hour flight that feels like five.  The interminable wait for your luggage to slide onto the conveyer in baggage claim. The 35 minute ride to the hotel, hoping the cabbie will let you sit in silence. The wait for Room Service. The unpacking of the suitcase. A glance in the shower. That would be nice. Too tired, the shower is reduced to a splash of cold water from the sink. Room service arrives. You sit on edge of the bed in front of the TV, a fork in one hand, the remote in the other, clicking by all News (real, fake or otherwise). A Kit-Kat calls out to you from the mini-bar. And then the M&Ms. Laying flat on your back, you float with your eyes closed, savoring the sugar high as the smooth milk chocolate coats your tongue. And then, only then, you let go, Salzberg’s letting go, it’s an inside job, and you let exhaustion sweep you away to your alarm for the Uber pick-up at 6:15 a.m. on Saturday morning.
[Read more…]

Morning Commute (Pretty sure I could be either driver; < 24 Sec)

VOLUME UP!

VOLUME UP!

Good times never seemed so good!


Some Country. Some Day. Happy Birthday!

bale-hay

Excerpts from Bob Greene’s: If You Think the U.S. Is Divided and Ugly, Hit the RoadThe beauty of our country as seen from a car window on the 12½-hour drive from New York to Chicago.

…The night before…a former long-haul truck driver who’d told me he hankered to see the Great Lakes again—and asked what were the chances he’d be willing to drive straight from Manhattan to Illinois. He said sure; we worked out a price.

By 8 a.m. we were on the road. You know how divided this country is reputed to be? How ugly things allegedly are? Here’s a suggestion: Cross the United States by road this summer. Take a good look out your window. The country itself is pretty swell—beautiful and vibrant and full of small surprises. We, who live here, may do everything we can to screw things up, but our mutual home brims with moments of random loveliness.

On a busy street corner in Newark, N.J., a mother protectively clutched her daughter’s hand as they waited to cross. In eastern Pennsylvania, the soaring, craggy rock formations by the highway sent a silent message: We were here before you were born and we’ll be here after you are gone. Driving over the Delaware River, with the splendor of the famed Delaware Water Gap below, we caught the first magnificent sight of the Pocono Mountains—and those trees, all those breathtaking miles of ancient trees. Who could ever count them? An impossible task.

In large cities life can seem crowded and claustrophobic. In rural Pennsylvania the overwhelming sensation was of how much open space America still has to offer: the room, if we choose, to spread out, to free ourselves from barking over each other’s shoulders. What must life here have been like before the telephone, before television, before the internet, when people didn’t have thousands of angry and disembodied voices—the voices of strangers—barraging them every day, stirring them up? When the voices they heard belonged, in the main, to their neighbors?… [Read more…]

Flying Over I-95 N. All Oversized. (Part III of III)

airplane-seat-fly

6:31 am.

I’m walking, my oversized shoes slap on the industrial carpet. Mr. Dandy is somewhere behind me.  My crumpled and oversized J. Crew Chino’s uncomfortably sag off my a**.  And, I’m dragging this bitch of a carry-on with its shrieking left wheel ricocheting its echo up and down the jetway.

I catch a faint mix of Purell hand sanitizer and sweat. The Purell is me, no doubt – the other half, just can’t be me. I crane my neck down to confirm, and it’s confirmed.  As I lift my head back up, I catch another shot, must be from the winter coat two bodies ahead.

I’m undeterred by all of this, beaming with good fortune – a complimentary upgrade to first class.

She’s behind me, but I don’t see her.

I stuff my bag into the overhead bin, and step out of the aisle to let the traffic pass.  She points to the window: “I’m sorry, but that’s my seat.”

In the tight quarters of the aisle, we are separated by inches. She’s in her mid to late 20’s.   She’s wearing jeans, and a baggy red sweater.  She’s an inch or two shorter, but I’m dwarfed by her, by a minimum of 1.3x my body weight.  She settles in her seat. [Read more…]

Flying Over I-95 N. With Mr. Dandy. (Part II of III)

airport-planes-aerial

I’m sitting, at the gate. 6 am.

Slumped in the seat, I unstrap the day-to-moment: alarm, bleary-eyed 4 am shower, the pack-up, the last once-over of the room, the tip for the cleaning lady, the hotel checkout including erasure of the $18.95 wifi overcharge, tip for the bellman, cab, boarding pass, security and of course, the slow march down the corridor with the bag. The bloody bag, wheels now up, exhausted from the trek, is resting peacefully.

Sigh. It’s ok.

I twist in the ear buds, find Today’s Chill playlist and turn inward, deep into the Head.

30 minutes till boarding.

There’s a stir in the waiting area. Ladies chattering.

Hair gelled and swept back. Fitted black sport coat. White starched shirt. Skinny black tie. Slim fit, boot cut, stone-washed jeans. European style boots, fine polish. Accessorized with a smart brown leather case, Louis Vuitton-like with a fancy French handle like Porte-Documents Jour. As he passes by check-in, there’s a whiff of Tom Ford oud wood eau de perfume which fills the waiting area with its rose wood, cardamom, and tonka bean alchemy. Ladies swoon, now fully under the spell.

He takes the empty seat next to me, and sets the Porte-Documents Jour neatly on his lap.

I slide my bag under the seat, out of sight. Jesus. Mr. Dandy had to sit here? [Read more…]

Flying Over I-95 N. With Wheels Up (Part I of III)

runway-plane-airport

Shoes are slapping on the high gloss waxed floors.  It’s 5 am. I’m walking down wide corridors, the same corridors where an hour earlier the cleaner worked his canvas in his blue starched shirt with its corporate logo on the right pocket, his dark navy pants, his work boots pumpin’ the gas-brake pedals of the industrial floor waxer. MLK, if a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Michelangelo was here. He was.

Airports. The only thing clean, are its floors, and to a high sheen.

I’m dragging my beat-up carry-on to the gate, its left wheel handicapped from birth, and wailing the same suffering pitch for six or seven years as if stabbed with a knife at each turn of the wheel. You think nothing of spending hundreds for the latest gadget upgrade, but when it comes to luggage…

And the whispering starts.

Mother with toddler. Honey, tuck in here next to me. Cover your ears until that poor old man passes. I know, it hurts.

Retired Couple. Oh, Sam, look at him. He can’t afford new luggage. Should we ask him if he needs a few dollars to buy some WD-40? [Read more…]

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