Sunday, April 29, 2007

The train ride down

So, I am traveling again. Lately I find myself worried about traveling in a way I don't remember feeling before. Last year, going to see Hyde, I thought for the first time of being in a metal and plastic box hurtling impossibly through the air at near supersonic speeds, thousands of feet above the ground as many of my "afraid of flying" friends report. But that was a plane, far away with money I had no business spending. This time is by train, relatively close, with other people's money. Even other people's spending money. Yet, I woke up 4 or 5 times last night, certain I would forget something. Even got up to write myself a note to remember to pack my bathing suit because the pool at the hotel is the one thing I'm really looking forward to.

And I have over-packed. Of that I am certain. I have probably 4 and a half full outfits for a three day trip, but that can be partially overlooked by the fact that the weather has changed abruptly. It was in the high 30's last week. It's in the low 80's today, but I still need a raincoat for chilly nights and sweaters because we have been warned that the classrooms are cold, and if they have warned us, they must be frigid. Plus I am going to be met there tomorrow by two other women from my office and we might want to go out...etc., etc. If I were traveling alone I might not have brought so many clothes. There is the worrying thought that I have three pairs of shoes--flats to travel, pumps for the conference, and tennis shoes to pursue my new quest to workout everyday. These last stuffed in moments before I left after I saw them in the car on my way home. I also have slippers for the hallways and flip-flops for the pool.

In addition, I am vastly over-prepared for the possibility of boredom. It is a 4.5 hour train ride after all, and there is tonight to get through alone. I have a staggering array of electronics and accoutrement's. There is the laptop, in case the hotel has wifi, to ostensibly write free from distraction of husband and pets, and as a portable DVD player. There is mp3 player, Blackberry and phone and all assorted chargers thereof. There is a movie and a L'Arc concert (because I haven't watched one in a long time) and some exercise discs in case the pool AND the gym are crowded or unpleasant. There is Moby Dick, only a third of a way through after all this time. There are notebooks for writing with the unfinished poem for my father stuffed inside. All in all, I am overprepared and will probably look at only a fraction of these things. Oh, and the Games Magazine that was waiting for me when I got home from work.

As I watch the countryside roll by (well, the urban/rural charm of RI, CT and NJ) I remember traveling with my parents as a child. We would go to St. Louis from KC every few months or so--a four hour drive. We would drive out of KC and I would see the signs on the highway, "St. Louis 1/2 mile." I wondered why it took so long to drive a 1/2 mile never realizing it meant the exit for another highway was only 1/2 mile away. I also felt then that cities all looked pretty much the same and wondered if God simply rearranged the buildings to confuse me. My parents thought this pretty funny when I told them. (Later in this trip traveling by car through NJ I am struck yet again by how homogenized the world is--there a strip mall with Target and Marshall's and even Allegro printing which I thought local to Boston.)

When I was a little older and I knew that I was not so important for God to rearrange buildings just for me I would see the lights of all the towns and houses along the way and think of those families, sitting down to dinner, kids doing homework, watching TV, living normal lives that had nothing to do with me and didn't know me and never would. I also had a dream of "normalcy" whatever that might be, because my own home life was chaotic. Now I know that "every unhappy family is unhappy in it's own way." There is no such thing as normal, there is just more common and less common.

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