People love to romanticize travel.
They’re all like: “Not all who wander are lost,” and “People who don’t travel are lame,” and “I want to have memories, not things!” But mostly I hear about those people going on all-inclusive cruise to the Bahamas with 13 of their closest girlfriends with one shore excursion to the Paradise Island Casino.
I’m not very good at that kind of travel. Cruise ships make me want to throw myself overboard and I’m always nervous when traveling with a big group of friends that they’ll all simultaneously realize that I’m just too weird and ditch me in some out-of-the-way Caribbean fish market to go buy overpriced sunglasses and Swarovsky crystal knick-knacks at the duty free shopping mall. Which might be okay; I have a back-up plan,after all. Mostly it involves settling down on the outskirts of the village with some younger lover and make my living telling fortunes and distilling bootleg spirits. But that’s another story for another time.
The fact of the matter is, I am the metaphorical human equivalent of inertia, which, as you know, states: bodies at rest will stay at rest and bodies in motion will stay in motion and so on, unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. (Which is also an unsettling analogy of my life.) I have traveled in my day. I can get by in a lot of languages. I’ve taken trains, planes, automobiles, horseback and hitchhiked on the backs of motorcycles and pickup trucks. I’ve been taken in by strangers in foreign countries when I was delirious with fever or failed to meet my connection. But frankly, I can think of nothing more dreadful than to disrupt a particularly fascinating project or the blooming of a particular flower to go toodle off for a weekend to some dusty shit-hole, patchouli-stink-filled music festival whose bands can not be audibly differentiated from each other or wander along with a crowd at some outdoor art festival on trampled muddy grass to look at bad tie-dye wall hangings and sentimental giclee prints. Just having to think about traffic and parking and relentless sun and porta-johns gives me butt-puckering perturbation.
Anyway, I did travel this weekend.
I was invited by a friend to meet in Indianapolis for some sort of horsey thing. I made the travel arrangements with my usual anxieties: I hate making plans to meet people in distant places; I hate buying airplane tickets; I hate packing; I hate getting up on the day I’m leaving and wondering if I’ve packed everything, if I actually bought the tickets, if the person I’m going to meet is actually going to be there, if I’ve got the right day or time, if I’m going to miss the plane.
First of all, I’m always sure that I got the absolute worst deal on the plane tickets. If I don’t think I’ve gotten the worst deal, there’s no shortage of people who will tell me where I should have bought them for so much cheaper. (If you are those people, I advise you to Zip It.) (Really–I don’t want to hear about your cheap tickets. Zip. It.)
Second of all: Packing? Nope. Maybe it started when we would go to Louisville when we were kids and we just never had the right clothes or shoes because we were from the country and considered northerners, and our cousins were city people and considered themselves southerners. And anyway, Louisville has its own, completely insular style that anyone who didn’t grow up there will never quite understand. Or get quite right. And when I lived in France, for some reason, I thought I’d just buy clothes there; I forgot that I was poor. Anyway, I extrapolate that and now I assume anything I put in a suitcase will be wrong. And–because I’m usually traveling from Florida, I can’t remember what the weather is really like–I’m going to Chicago in January! I’ll pack coats and sweaters and long, heavy underwear…and it turns out to be 60 degrees. I’m going to Ireland in May! (Did you have any idea that it would be 40 degrees in Ireland in late May?) I’m going to California in August! (Only I’m about to suffocate and burn in L.A. in the morning and freeze my ass off in San Francisco by night.) Or: I didn’t know it was THAT formal a wedding. Or: I had no idea that a “formal” wedding in California really wasn’t so formal. Whatever: I always end up having to make a side trip to a Target or a Goodwill or something and buy socks and thermal underwear and big-woolly-ass sweaters. Or a formal dress.
Also I have totally missed flights by either getting the wrong day entirely or by having written down “5 p.m. instead of 5 a.m., or forgetting that Indianapolis doesn’t “do” daylight savings time, or whatever. I have rolled into the departures area and I’m like, oh, shit, but that was before anyone had cell phones, so you couldn’t call and ask whoever dropped you off at the airport to come back and get you. Basically, I’ve slept in a lot of airports.
And finally, there is always the distinct possibility that you will never actually meet up with the person you were supposed to meet up with. I once sat at the Tivoli Fountain in Rome all day to meet a friend who was going to see the pope and he never did show up because he said he was at one of the other forty gazillion other fountains in Rome for like, 25 minutes before he decided he would go see the pope without me. Or people in the city I’m visiting are all like, “Oh, you’re here this weekend?? We thought you were here last weekend! But now, we have to…um…go buy…corn…in…Canada this weekend! I’m so sorry!!”
And that’s all sort of what happened this weekend–the ticket-buyer’s remorse, mistaken departure time, the flaky friend on the other end of the equation. The only thing I can say is that I’ve resigned myself to going to Target or Goodwill for clothes so I stick a toothbrush and an TSA-approved tube of toothpaste in my purse and call it packed. BUT NOW, I keep my truck near the airport in Cincinnati. When I climbed in, I found: a bag of clean underwear, socks and sweaters. Jeans. Riding boots. Fleece-lined snow boots. Several pairs of gloves. Expensive moisturizer. Lip balm. A gun. It was like a little spy cache from The Bourne Identity.
Flaky friends? Canceled plans? No problem.
Full tank of gas, a bag of M&M’s and a hearty hi-ho fuck you! and I drove west into the late season snow storm.
After 23 years in the tropics, it was as if no time at all had elapsed since I was a weird Midwestern country girl. I felt totally at home watching the screensaver-like snowflakes whirl against the windshield and skid across the pavement. The road west was very familiar, even in the dark, but I drove slowly anyway, listening to familiar old radio stations and singing loudly to pop tunes, eating mixed nuts and M&M’s and beef jerky instead of proper meals, and savoring that heart-rending little twinge as that enormous sky pulled its twilight purple cloak up over the flat expanses of combed fields and black skeletal trees. I had a heavy Midwestern breakfast with friends and college town quality pizza and heavy beer for dinner.
I slept on heavily on a couch like a college student.
And then I got up early and drove back to Indiana to meet another as-yet unmet Facebook friend.
She looks much shorter on Facebook. Possibly only in relation to her magnificent 18-hand horse. And I got a driving lesson. Hats pulled down over our ears and red-ended noses and that delightful, metallic clip-clop of dinner-plate-sized shoes on rural roads.
We doodled at her dining room table and smoked on the back porch.
It was like coming home.
And then the next morning I drove back to the farm and back to work. I guess. Though, in my heart, I’m still just sort of driving around.
American Heritage Carriage Company: https://www.facebook.com/AmericanHeritageCarriage/?fref=ts