Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

I’m about to promote some cookies.

We (my boyfriend and I) didn’t go to New Orleans this weekend, but a bunch of our friends went because one of these friends won the Tennessee Williams prize for fiction. Amy Hempel was the judge.  We would have liked to go but a) money and b) I had a paper and a presentation and a short story to write and another short story to revise and 40 papers to grade in two weeks. Plus, I’m writing a novel.  The paper is on The King and I, though, and I’m kind of excited about it.

So we stayed back and took care of people’s dogs.  I wrote stories and novel sections and watched the King and I and reread Orientalism and took notes. We took four dogs to the dog park.  As part of the pet-care-thank you, someone brought us back a box of these:

They are so, so good.  We devoured all six in two days.  Eating one of these cookies is like eating a slice of pecan pie. Really good pecan pie.  Do they sell these in North-Florida?  If so, I need to know where.


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Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in a foreign, unpossessed places.

Futures not achieved are only branches of the past: dead branches.

“Journeys to relive your past?” was the Khan’s question at this point, a question that could also have been formulated: “Journeys to recover your future?”

And Marco Polo’s answer was, “Elsewhere is a negative mirror.  The traveler recognizes the little that is his, discovering the much he has never had, and will never have.”

This passage is from the introduction of the second chapter of Italo Calvino’s INVISIBLE CITIES.  I just picked up this book yesterday and have been reading bits out loud to myself.  It’s an unexpected treat.  I’ve heard that this book was just a bunch of descriptions of cities.  But clearly it’s much more than that.  It does read like poems more than a novel, maybe more like meditations.

I liked the thoughts behind this section, which I interpret to say that in each place we end up, we see lives that have come about from different paths, paths that aren’t ours but maybe could have been if we could go back in time and change some of our choices.  I feel that way here, in this small town where I live–that my neighbors have a sort of foreignness about them, or at least, an unfamiliarity about how they approach their routines.  I will never be able to be these people–even those whose lives more closely resemble my own, those who have made similar choices–because my past (choices) won’t allow me to be these people.  Sometimes I meet someone I almost was, like at a church picnic, when I meet a stay at home mother with toddlers, and I’m struck with the very thoughts Calvino outlines here, through this conversation with Kublai Khan and Marco Polo.

I’m fond of this idea of acknowledging and accepting differences because I think it leads to appreciation for all sorts of people.  I also think it leads, ultimately, to a connection with all sorts of people.  We acknowledge differences, they cancel each other out, and we’re left with the things we have in common.

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In my Spanish class, we did an exercise to help us remember how to use adjectives (aligning gender and number), and so we’d get a list of nouns and would have to describe them.  Pretty simple.  One of the words was “lago” or lake, and everyone, it seemed, wrote “húmedo,” or wet, and the profesor cracked up.  He said it was never appropriate to write that the lake was wet, because the lake is made of water.  Not even in poetry would we use this description.

In church, Sunday, the worship team (I wasn’t singing this week) led a song “I want to be where you are.”  The lyrics popped into my head this morning (because these songs get in your head like what).  The chorus goes: “I called, you answered/you came to my rescue and I/I wanna be where you are.”   It’s a pretty song, but to sing “I want to be where you are” to God is like calling a lake wet.  We can’t be where God is not.  Not in my experience, at least.

I just read the story of Jesus calling Matthew (perhaps this is why the song popped into my head, though that story is about Jesus calling and Matthew answering and the song is the other way around), and I’m amused that after deciding to follow Jesus, the next place Matthew goes is home, to throw a party for a bunch of ‘sinners.’  Jesus calls Matthew, and the next thing you know, he’s partying with him.  Maybe this verifies that there is no place where God is not.

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When I was young–let’s say four–I went for a walk around the neighborhood alone.  I walked around the block and across the street and saw some other kids playing outside, so I went into their backyard.  They had a swingset, something bright and plastic.  Lemonade made an appearance.  That’s all I remember, but I can recognize the house when I drive past it on Bretton.  It was one of those bigger houses, one of those that made me most curious to know what was inside.  I don’t remember going inside, but I vaguely remember a mother.

My mother flipped when I got home.  I was grounded for a week.  Not spanked, because when you have a toddler with wanderlust, spanking only delivers the message so far.   Being grounded is the only appropriate punishment for a toddler with wanderlust.

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What news!

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It may or may not interest you to know that the Thai translation of the title “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” is ตู้พิศวง or, “The Wonderful Cabinet.”

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Words Along the Way

As I left my friend’s house in Kolkata, his grandmother hugged me and told me to “Have a nice journey.”  She was full of interesting word choices (she alerted me to the leaky faucet by stating “The faucet is not well!” and she called the muggy weather “sultry”) but I especially liked that one.    Though I knew she was referring to the rest of my trip to India (I had about 11 days left at that point), the fact that she called it a ‘journey’ made the traveling seem important;  it reminded me to keep my eyes open.  If it weren’t so sentimental-seeming, I’d adopt the phrase to use each time a friend leaves my home.  Of course, I couldn’t pull it off the way Rahul’s grandmother did…

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