flotsam, jetsam

If only someone would invent an application that would all me to direct my thoughts to my blog, I’d be so much more prolific.

Been traveling for work and working some pleasure into it.

Excerpts from emails sent along the way:

“I sit on a full-sized bed in a budget motel, my dry heels catching on the polyblend bedspread. The non-smoking part of my booking apparently evaporated in the ether. This room doesn’t smell, but the first one had cigarette butts stuck in the air-conditioning unit. This situation surfaced immediately after slinging my bags down; I’d gone straight to trying to dissipate the room’s mugginess. The impression of Baltimore, gleaned only from the airport and nearby aforementioned budget hotel, is hot, crowded and only minimally hospitable.”

“I am looking forward to getting into the ‘cool’ part of Baltimore in a couple hours. Cool in vibe, if not temperature! My friends own an uberhip bookstore  (Atomic Books) – and I should mention that these friends occurred through Cafe Utne, Utne Reader’s longtime online discussion forums, which I joined all the way back in 1996. We’ve been communicating via this group for 13 years – 13 years!!! – and while I’ve met other Cafe members in person, I’ve never actually met Benn and Rachel (have spoken to Rachel on the phone a bit when ordering books from Atomic, and they even stocked Kevin’s police log book for a while), so this is a momentous day! (Hopefully we’ll all like each other in person, as I’m staying at their place tonight.)

“You know what I always miss first, leaving Humboldt? Being able to take good food for granted. Dudes, the continental breakfast is all but inedible. Yes, I threw away the muffin when the first bite tasted like paper. Everything is artificial and high fructose corn syrup and god-awful coffee. Not that I was expecting some local fruit atop a bowl of steaming quinoa flavored with organic vanilla soymilk and pecans, but somewhere better than garbage would’ve been nice. Especially since all I ate yesterday was a jalapeño bagel (I’d sell half my soul for one right now) and two mini-Clif bars I’d snagged from Nick’s emergency food supplies (knowing he had more – I’m not evil!).

“I’d counted on being able to fill up this morning; I’m traveling right before payday and still catching up from the combination of not having much income and then having three weeks between old job paycheck and new job paycheck – and the next payday isn’t till Tuesday, so my spending money is minimal…. Fruits and veggies would be nice, but Rachel, Benn and I are heading out to Rocket to Venus for dinner and drinks, so I must save my money for that!

“I’d finished my first book, World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler, already and couldn’t see spending another 2.5 hours on a plane just listening to the iPod, so, after much deliberation and worry about spending more money than I’d expected – before even getting to my destination!!! – I went with Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles. World Made by Hand told the story of a small upstate New York town ‘in the not too distant future,’ another novel where society has collapsed and people must make due from the land and all that (think Jean Hegland’s Into the Forest meets Kent Haruf’s Plainsong). No lack of dystopian novels out there, to be sure, but I found myself quite engaged with the characters of this one, plus appreciated the way hope and human goodness were honored alongside mankind’s penchant for evil and greed.

“Dear American Airlines had me cracking up from the get-go, enough that I had to smother my chortles, lest my fellow travelers think me a loon. The whole book is this guy writing a pissed off letter to American Airlines (obviously) because they’ve canceled the flight he needs to get to his estranged daughter’s wedding, leaving him stuck in O’Hare. So he’s going off on them, but also explaining why it’s so important for him to make it and then the ‘letter’ turns into this whole mediation on his life, which continues to be funny and also painful and anyway, it’s GREAT. The kind of book that makes me wish I were a writer.

This is the hotel I’m staying at in D.C. (Hotwire is AMAZING for deals! This was for a price barely more than the BWI budget pitstop.) Please note, once again, the rooftop pool (and bar!). I look forward to that, although my anticipation is somewhat marred by the fact that I’m expected to present tomorrow…. That the project I’ve been hired for is extremely unpopular locally (so far), even more so than I’d expected, is compounding my anxiety. I absolutely believe I made the right choice, but once again I find myself living an ‘interesting’ life – is that really an old Chinese curse? And what options, as a journalist, do I really have? Go back to waitressing? Back to college? (I am thinking on that last one, but let’s see how the recession-depression-California crisis plays out.)

“Just arrived back at the hotel. Yesterday, drank margaritas on the rooftop while a DJ mashed up tunes in the corner and overweight, pasty young men ordered buckets of champagne for better-looking, even younger women wearing five-inch heels and bikinis. The men would leap into the water, displacing a sizable amount of it onto their girlfriends (I use the term loosely), who would squeal before tossing back their bubbly, bump-and-grinding their way into the pool.

“Washington is full of stately buildings and traffic circles, but not much in the way of bars. We started off at The Big Hunt, a dive that seemed agreeably seedy, but left after two rounds. The guys had asked about a nearby restaurant, only to have the waitress rebuff them with, ‘Well, really, you have to be better dressed to go anywhere.’ The lack of carbonation in both the soda and the tonic sealed the deal. We returned our black, white and eggplant room.

“And what of work? …Somehow, I pulled it off, answering everyone’s questions and contributing ideas…. Overall, a success. I hope to manifest the same feeling back home.

“Omg I just got chat up by a 22 year old French boy!

“Just back from a sublime Italian dinner at Posto, apparently a favorite among the Obama staff. No sightings, but the tortelli with oyster mushrooms and fresh basil was to die for.

“Stuck in L.A.! Connection from St. Paul (because to get to Arcata, you want to hit St. Paul and L.A. first), was late – whole Northwest portion of trip has been my single worst flying experience ever. The plane from St. Paul was filthy – as in, dirty diapers wedged between seats covered in cracker crumbs filthy – and the staff at the gate and on the plane was indifferent at best. The flight delay caused a missed connection at LAX, where the customer service (Delta) was borderline incompetent and certainly without any concern.

“Adding insult to injury, the meal vouchers that came with the hotel voucher – we were stuck overnight – didn’t even cover the cost of the most basic entree. This would’ve been annoying, but since I’d used all my ‘fun’ money on the going-out portions of the trip, I was traveling (again) without funds to eat. Seriously – my bank accounts had zero dollars. I didn’t have money for breakfast. I didn’t have money for lunch. I most certainly did not have money for dinner and breakfast before the next day’s 10:45 a.m. flight. The only option was a salad – hey, at least I won’t be gaining any weight on this trip! Never flying Northwest again.

“Providing the silver lining: three other people who’d been Arcata-bound. Two Trinidad residents and one Miami visitor. We bonded over the terrible service and ended up having dinner together. Confession: I had a Maker’s rocks that I couldn’t afford, hoping I could get a deposit into Wells Fargo before the charge went through. Bad form, I know, but the occasion called for a drink.

“Other lovely moment, despite how much I would’ve rather been home: doing laps a lá the old Chanel commercial, 6:30 a.m. in the hotel pool, just me, the sparkling blue water, palm trees crisp against the smoggy El Lay sky.

“Stepping off the plane at ACV into the fog… returning home to heaven.”

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