January 8th, 2007

eliphas, napping

All the leaves are brown...

My plane left at half past seven this time, so I had to leave home at six, and had got all of three hours sleep. Knowing how little early mornings and I get along, you'd think that travel this time was worse than in October, but, in fact is wasn't. My bags were a lot less heavy (I have no idea why -- I'm still waiting to discover what five-kilo-item I forgot), and I didn't have a cough. I didn't even have a toothache.

I had a coffee at the airport which I drank much to fast and then felt an urgent need to offer a prayer to the porcelain bowl, but as there are no bathrooms on the upper floor outside the security checkpoint, I got over it. Changing planes in Frankfurt was, again, insane, as some interaction between US security, Schengen treaty and terminal layout stretched the lines well into the shopping area and made everyone late for boarding, so the plane was about an hour late.

It was a 747 again, a type of plane that I'm beginning to dislike. I had exchanged my middle seat for one at the window -- last row, which meant that I had some elbow room on my left, but the wall was too far away to lean against. And, of course, the person before me had their backrest as far back as it would go during the whole flight, so I couldn't sit straight but had to stow away my knees somewhere to the side for eleven hours, and couldn't read the magazines I had brought because there wasn't enough space for them, and had to lift my food bowls under my chin because had I put it on the folding table before me, with my elbows at my sides, my lower arms would have been too long to reach it.

At least we made good time: To make up for the late departure, the plane took a route very far to the North, into the polar night. For hours we were skirting the edge of dawn, a red stripe at the southern horizon. The sun rose in the South when we were over western Canada.

I had been nervous like hell about immigration -- I always am, for some reason my brain shuts down when it comes to bureaucracy and I never have the foggiest if my paperwork is in anything resembling order. It was, and I got through immigration, picked my bags off the baggage carousel without even coming to a full stop, walked through line-less customs to a line-less rental car counter and was driving over traffic-jam-less Bay Bridge barely an hour after I'd left the plane.

I am in the same hotel, and the room looks the same, down to the pattern on the sofa -- only, it's a perfect mirror image of the one I had in autumn. Which is a very strange feeling. Imagine coming back into a place you once lived and everything's on the wrong side of the room? I stumbled over a lot of things in the first twelve hours.

After checking in, I got me some books and groceries, had a cup of tea, read a little and fell asleep at 8 pm local time, after being awake for 24 hours. Which is not too bad. (Yepp, I'm backdating this.)

Returning to California felt like a relief. Like I had left all my troubles at home, where they can't reach me. Neurotic cats, broken-down cars, arguments with insurance companies, necessary dentist visits, a whole boatload of anxiety, all is suddenly an ocean away. I have pangs of conscience about being that relieved, because nothing has gone away, of course, in the best case I've put it on hold until April, in the worst I just dumped it on Ceridwen, Snow and Tiassa. And there being e-mail and transatlantic phone calls, my troubles will find me quickly enough.

Maybe, hopefully, it was only the relief that the first week of the year, filled with to many things to do and not enough time to do them (and who got the bright idea of putting the 6th of January on a Saturday?) was over, that the dread I had felt about leaving with so many things undone and undecided had evaporated once the leaving was done. Still I worry. When I'm back I'm going to take a good hard look at my life and find out what is so wrong with it that I'm glad to be away.

Or it's just my love of travel, and the open road, and hills in the sun under a cold blue sky, and seemingly-inexhaustible bookstores, and chocolate chip cookies, and internet access which is not paid for by the minute, and my teeth not hurting. Maybe everything is kind of alright with the world.

One can hope.