Somewhere over the mid-Pacific I swapped my camo hunting cap (found dangling on a tree in Pennsylvania while hiking the A.T.) for a beanie, arranged my flimsy, handkerchief-sized blankie and folded myself into an approximation of sleep.
I always book a window seat when I can to avoid contact with fellow passengers, and refrain from bathroom trips if possible, a challenge that passes the time while building self-control and Olympic-standard bladder endurance. I managed 12 hours on this trip, I’m proud to say. Just limit your free drinks to a single gin and tonic and try not to look at the ocean.
The lights came on an eternity later. Dawn, clear skies, waves, roads and — way too suddenly — tarmac. Los Angeles Airport: excluding war zones, possibly the worst place in the world. And my QANTAS dream ride was over; the unpleasantness that is flying United kicks in right there in the chaotic check-in.
Self-check-in immediately self-destructed. My return flights were confusing the computers, so the harried attendant swiftly erased them, which was disconcerting. “You’re all set, sir.” Oh, er, okay… Then my flight to Chicago a few hours later was cancelled without warning, announcement, apology or explanation.
Dread jolting me from a queasy doze, I joined a stagnant trickle of 150 or so disgruntled passengers, the anti-United discontent building with each minute, and reached a counter an hour later to be informed by a pathologically detached humanoid that my only option was a US Airways flight to Philadelphia at 10:15 that night.
“You mean I’ll have to sit here in this airport for another 10 hours?”
“Sure looks that way,” the face of United muttered at her screen. I surrendered, borrowed a phone — would you believe it, from a Korean? — and called Kate with the news.
“See you at 8:20 in the morning, babe. I mean, hopefully.” The original plan was 9:20 that night.
Flying: hell with complimentary peanuts.
Well, I made it, obviously, and fried as I was, dormant excitement finally emerged on the last leg as we glided over the snowy farmland of Upstate New York — the other obvious benefit of the window seat. Home, sweet home.
Three beautiful things were waiting for me at Albany: a thrilled Kate, and my two duffel bags, which had miraculously survived the reroutes and confusion and were arguably in better shape than I was. And here I am, sitting on the carpet with a 16-year-old cat…
..in a quiet house, Kate and her girls having departed for their respective schools.
My tasks today are:
- Finish this long-overdue post
- Start work on transforming the rubble of my personal effects (most of them are yet to arrive) into a comfortable and usable workspace for writing, doing photos, and drinking beer with Kate once the kids are in bed at night
- Attempt my first cup of Black Death with our new Mr Coffee machine, and…
- Make my first expedition on foot to town and Panera, our favourite local bakery/cafe, where I hope to meet Kate after her school is out.
Did I mention cold? It’s routinely minus 10 or 11 Celsius here in the daytime — not very long ago I was revelling in daily temps in the mid-30s. The first casualty has been the photography. Kate and I attempted a walk round the block on a sunny morning recently that I had to curtail as my fingers hurt too much. With the Raynaud’s thing, the simple action of removing or replacing a lens cap is a challenge. Changing settings is torture.
Photo-strolls lately see me darting outdoors dressed like an Eskimo, firing off a few shots and quickly retreating to the gas fire, slapping life back into my throbbing digits.I checked the weather app after this routine last night and it was MINUS 17C.
Can life really thrive in such conditions? I’ll let you know.
Exciting times! Most of the jetlag and disrupted sleep are hopefully behind me — this morning I made it to 5:00am before waking, the record so far — and the daily walks to town and caffeine are planned to give me a break from the laptop, a little exercise, and a jolt of cold air to override the urge to nap that is the insomniac’s curse, especially in heated rooms.
But I’m here for the long haul. 2014 will be a big year, with a mountain of legal stuff to dig through, lots of uncertainty and not much money or any prospects of making any. The savings once earmarked for a dream-walk through Europe (Geneva to the bottom of Portugal) — original reason for enduring two years in Korea — are now my survival fund for the year.
And it was hard leaving balmy Brisbane, my family and friends after a far-too-short three weeks. But for the last year our plan has been to live together here.
And now we are.
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote