““The explorer who will not come back or send back his ships to tell his tale is not an explorer, only an adventurer.” 54”
— How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell
I’ll rest when I’m dead.
I’ll eat life (even now when the decay begins)
In large chunks
I’ll chew every bitter bite
The salty, sour inedibleness of it all
The hues and glanular moment
Because underneath the cruel rations of existence
There is always a sunrise in the desert
At every airport I see shadows of myself in travels past–like fragments of my former self assaulting me at every corner. That very young girl looking at the magical birds out of the huge windows before they became mechanical creatures. The adolescent alone in the great halls, looking inside herself, staring blankly ahead at the impending freedom. The woman weary of travel and seriously overpacked. The mother desperately trying to soothe a young kid.
They are all me.
A few remarks on my social media experiments:
I think differently. My look on life doesn’t have a long arc when my brain is jacked up on social media. My interaction with events concentrates on the punch line, the instant meme–a momentary reward from an audience in whom you may or may not have an investment. Even when looking for insight (like in this entry) it must be well and tightly packaged or it gets lost.
Gone are the long discoveries, traveling for days in a region of the world until a grand idea comes into focus. The mind churning slowly on all the stimuli–not jumping to conclusions, absorbing, still.
I probably reveal a preference for the second way of approaching life. I’m trying not to let that cloud my judgment until I find a solid argument either way–which, ironically, may take more time and an open mind.
And there might be my answer.
The honorable place of the travelogue has hopefully not been lost in the current onslaught of social media tidbits–or so I hope as I start this summer wanna be more-than-diary, less-than-serious compilation of our adventures.
Maybe a quick posit (proof pending) of my approach to travel–one of my most cherished activities–is in order. I’m always dismayed by the current reduction of travels to a couple of planes. Most of our present civilized, middle-of-the-road society sees leaving your comfort space as either a form of entertainment or a form of education. I’m not shying away from those aims: my travels have fulfilled both. But over and over I’m surprised by the amount of discomfort, boredom, lack of planning and surprises I’m willing to endure whenever I leave my home. And I’m often asked why; most of the time with a mixture of pity and disbelief. So I have began to ask myself why also.
Why do I travel once the entertainment and the education is gone.
So I’m setting up myself this summer to figure out what else is there, at least for me that has dragged me out of the door for most of my life even when I knew it was going to hurt.
A travelogue start
We leave New Jersey. One of Lou’s students is giving us a ride to JFK. With terminal 4, the NYC airport is starting to look a bit more European–sleek and modern and steel and white and a lost pink Minnie Mouse ears balloon stuck on the impossible high ceiling.
XL airways flight 1723 is delayed two hours, all the way to 2 AM. Red eye flight indeed. The twins allow all of the energy of their five year old selves to ooze all over the waiting area, defying the sour mood of all around them, like a bad elevator music, industrial carpeting and unintelligible speaker announcement version of New Year’s Eve, with overpriced orange juice in place of champaign.
By the time we get in The Jet we are already defeated. After an hour of sweltering and waiting on the aircraft we finally lift off and just as quickly descend into that sleep not-sleep.
Hour three of the flight burst open on the realization that something is wrong with the book I chose to accompany my non-sleep. The characters and situations seem oddly familiar. And it dawns on me that this one of the dozens of books i read while pregnant with the twins.
The white noise of the airplane syncs with my brain’s white noise, in which fragmented images, unraveling and reforming like bubbles of oil in water, gently accompany my non existing slumber.
The bucket lay opened in the stretch of concrete that passed for a patio in then back of the very suburban apartment. A primary-colors slide-cube-fort occupied most it, leaving the red haired boy hunting for room to crawl on. His mother watched from inside, alternating between the book (library owned) and quick glances to the patio.
The bucket had ended up hastely in the red wagon that shuffled boys and groceries from store to house–a last minute decision, maybe a chance to buy some needed study time. And just as hastely it had been presented as a last minute surprise to the boy. His grey overall shorts hugged his soft, silky baby fat and the heat of late spring was quickly curling his long locks into tight spirals that went from straw to auburn when little beads of sweat gathered at the roots.
The boy smiled at the opened bucket. The huge cylinders of color offered new choices–olive and fuschia and gold and melon. He wrapped a small hand around them and tried to lick them. “No, no!” Mama quickly stopped him. “On the ground!”
Mama showed him the magic of the color spilled on the gray canvas, quickly sketching a frog, with big eye lashes and a heart for lips. The boy would learn later that mama’s frog was the boa constrictor of her life and that, like Saint-Exupery, she had never learned to quickly draw anything else.
For now, the frog was magical and mama stepped back in, letting the boy savor the color all by himself.
The color left the sticks so easily. The boy discovered shades and textures and places to leave their dusty marks. The sticks rolled on the ground under his bare knees and got stuck inside the overalls and in the corners of the small yellow slide. Some of them broke in half, letting the boy double the color greatness of the gift. Soon, some shattered, and dust of mahogany and gold fell in chaotic configurations on and around the boy.
When mama came out again, her boy was covered in streaks of brilliant hues, stripes across the nose and left cheek and small splotches of golden dust in the right side of the face. His grey overalls had hand prints of green and lime and browns and a holiday of rainbows lay around his knees and bare feet. Even his hair was tinted. And through the wide grin, mama could see the buddah, giggling at the offering of color and late spring joy this world sometime has to offer.
Something twitched in the web of bare white branches.
Lisa upped the volume on her headphones hoping that the throbbing percussion of the latest Vampire Weekend would shut down the rapidly encroaching sense of doom.
“One two three four five six seven eight and one two–”
Sometimes sheer counting had made the aches disappear. Not this time. Why had she stopped for a long run?
The trail head had looked inviting enough. Lovely wintry crisp weather, small gravel on the path covered with the squishy quilt of rotting leaves. On one side the river slowly ate away the frozen edges of the last snow storm. The canal on the other side was not so lucky and, even in the warming temperatures, hung on stubbornly to a layer of greenish ice, now in total disarray displaying through its encrusted translucency the remnants of the many freezes and thaws of the winter season.
She hadn’t hesitated. She had jumped into the idyllic path, gone over the quaint red bridge and began to pound the soft ground.
A few miles in she had began to notice the solitude–the disturbing echoes of nothingness. Bare bones nature–chaotic and random and rarely encountered in her native New York City overpowered her natural sense of indestructibility. She ran with music in most trails. Not here. Strange thoughts began to creep in. What if someone lurked in the path. Did you forget about wild animals. She hadn’t told anyone she was running.
For a moment she stopped, paralyzed. In the distance she could hear a rumbling getting louder and louder. Panic set in. It sounded like a mountain sized vacuum approaching. No. It was a train in the distance. Her hearing became painfully acute. She turned around and ran back.
As her speed increased, she saw other women from long long ago also running this very same path. They were finding their way to a village, carrying food, some were fleeing for their lives. May were very afraid. They ran fast and it hurt them. She was running for them, she was running with them. The women who had to run alone because they needed to escape, to go somewhere, who hadn’t had cars, or cities or desk jobs. Who had to live and run. In the open, in the rain, in the dark. She heard everything. The crack of the wind against a frozen edge, the echoes of the men running after them, a couple of deer running from them. She realized she was (they were) both prey and predator.
Then the mind went blank.
By the time she saw the car at the trail head, the sun had began to color the trees in its evening honey tones. She touched the car. She clicked it open. She took some pictures. She drank some water. She posted to some media. She got in the car. She drove away.
Less than five minutes later, she completely forgot that for a moment she had actually been alive.
(Raw snippet from a larger work)
The subway rolled in. Anna moved into one of the trains, noticing once again the slight stoop of her shoulders. It still bothered her. In the dim, unflattering fluorescent light, she brushed off once again the gnawing of dissatisfaction. It had gotten better in the latter years or she had gotten better at pushing the feeling to the periphery of her consciousness.
Her life so far had been a step too late. Fairly recently, she had finally realized that she had been one of the golden children, the chosen ones–intelligent, ambitious, driven. She had actually been the people she admired but had not known it at the time. So her promise had not panned out and she had slipped into an uneasy mediocrity as time went on. By the time she had noticed, it had been too late–an entire life lived in the pluperfect.
In some ways, it didn’t matter. Anna had gotten very good at lying, and the past that she could have had but didn’t, she simply had invented. And she was good at invention. Her golden child sense of entitlement left her with no scruples in doing this. The way she figured, it was her birthright. The only reason her life had not gone the chosen way was a misstep, a simple miscalculation–on the whole dismisable.
(A small raw snippet from a much larger work. This is part of my #WordStreak commitment–300 words daily at least. I will publish some material–although it may not be what I actually wrote that day–just to keep me on my toes)
“Well, I’ll tell you the story but I don’t know if it is true or false I have rearranged the dusty corners of this infernal mind of mine so many times.”
A pub in Bournemouth—not even a pub, it might have been a diner, greasy fries and chips and coke. I didn’t drink then—refused to. My body was still sacred—I wanted my body to be sacred, not knowing that I was my body.”
“But I also wanted the boys. Oh, how I wanted the boys. There was a German one, thin in the face with long, delicate fingers and sweet freckles, who had caught my eye. I didn’t speak German so hormones were talking. And I was so small and awkward and young and eager.”
“Two of the boys at our table smoked. Hell, everyone but me smoked at that time. I began to clown around putting the straw from the coke suggestively to my lips.”
“In. Breathe. Out. Puff. Giggle. Sometimes the clear cheap plastic stuck briefly on my lower lip–progressively drier from wanting to kiss. Then I saw the lighter.”
“The tip of the clear straw touched the flame. The plastic melted rapidly into one single teardrop that hang there precariously until the molecular structure began to weaken and stretch, polymers still clinging to each other as a blob of melted plastic fell on my left hand in the valley between the knuckles of the middle and index fingers forming a perfect dome of translucent pain and quickly burning through my skin—forever a testament to my teen lust.