- Your recent excursion to California was enjoyable to watch from afar. When you have the opportunity to travel, what do you enjoy most from the experience? What about this trip will stay with you?
I cannot say that I love to travel, and as I get older, I am less likely to accept its indignities in silence. Air travel is uncomfortable, inconvenient, cramped, awkward, and overly public. (No, I can't afford to do it in the way that would render some of that less apparent. First class is something I've only experienced twice, and a person could definitely get spoiled!) I'm a little worn out on driving all the time, but being a passenger is hard on me because I kind of like being in control. Maybe I should only travel on foot?
What I enjoy most about travel is the being there, not the traveling-to or the wandering-about, I suppose. Being away, whether that means the same sort of away that I usually experience (I'm very accustomed to trips to my hometown, as you know) or something completely different, like this past week in California. Being in Minnesota is seriously calming, on a scale that I cannot even express in words. It's not just a matter of being away from work and the typical routine, because when I'm back home it's often pretty hectic and overbooked, with people and plans pulling me in too many directions for my own comfort. But the overall experience, the place itself, is soothing. The river. The bluffs (a term which makes no sense to people not from there). The way the town is laid out on a grid, for heaven's sake, with nice square corners. Trees everywhere, and city parks every few blocks. The best bakery on the planet. The lakes, which I grew up thinking were sludgy and awful, but that I miss something fierce now.
Being in southern California was something like that: the experience was...encompassing. It was, to the depths of me, grossly, god-awful hot--until it was somewhere beyond "chilly," at night. I was sweating all day and then covering up with multiple blankets to sleep. That's not quite ideal weather, but it felt pretty good after a May snowstorm here.
I found southern California to be, honestly, sort of unattractive. It is billed as one of the most beautiful places on Earth, but I thought it was sort of scraggly, dry and rough-looking. Not just the outlying, sort of desert areas between L.A. and the Inland Empire, but the whole kit and caboodle. Maybe it's the color scheme of the west, tan and brown, to which I'm just not accustomed. Maybe it's that I didn't see water at all until the last day of the trip, and then only from a pretty vast distance and at a good clip. Maybe it's the fact that you can't go anywhere or do anything without driving--so much traffic! so many cars!--that even pretty places are obscured by streets, parking, and infrastructure.
I liked being there, finally. Especially after this trip was so long in the planning and so very highly anticipated. Several dear friends, a nemesis, and 49% of my heart live in that state, after all, so it was a shock and an unmitigated pleasure for me to finally be there, too.
I am in awe of the Pacific. (There is irony here, but all of that will have to wait until the story of Day Six comes out in its entirety. Wait for it!)
What about the trip will stay with me? Oh, I don't think I'll likely forget much of it, truly. While it's true that details tend to be filed off our memories by the sands of time, there is a great deal about this vacation that will make it stand out in my mind, good and striking in other ways. (I don't want to give too much away from the stories of days four through six! Trust me on this.)
- Summer-type weather is here, and your excellent taste in beer is respected around these parts. What are your personal seasonal recommendations for hot weather refreshment?
You might be surprised to discover that I've almost completely stopped drinking alcohol. I don't keep it at home at all, and only rarely have one while out with friends. I think it's contributed to my improved overall health, and I know that the expense was a drain I didn't need.
That being said, I tried something recently that I can recommend: New Belgium Snapshot. It's delicious.
- Yup, beach weather has also arrived, and nothing says beach better than reading a book... or so I have heard. What do you tend to read during the height of swimsuit season?
This might sound a little crazy, but one book that I always like to read at this time of year is called Snowed In. It's a novel by Christina Bartolomeo about a young woman who's recently moved to Portland, Maine, just at the start of winter, during her second year of marriage. I've read it several times. I don't know what it is about it that appeals so much at this time of year--maybe it would just be too bleak during the winter?--but I think I've always read it during the summer.
Other recent hits, all re-reads, include Jen Sacks' Nice; The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano; Anthony Bourdain's Bone in the Throat; and Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler.
- While you relish the chance to move back to the Mississippi River Valley, there must be some redeeming qualities of the place you currently call home base. What do you like about where you are now?
Some of my very best friends live here, of course. I've been here for many years; I would hate to think that after all this time, I would have no roots.
It is, in some ways and in some places, quite beautiful. There are sights to see, in order to quiet one's wandering spirit. Now that the rowdy students have left, it would behoove me to make my way over to the university, to take some photographs in some of those spaces.
In the words of a job interviewer, I'm "only an hour away from anything worth doing!" That doesn't make up for everything that's lacking, of course, but it's something to be near enough a major metropolitan airport or three different states with only a couple hours' drive (and the important one only a couple hours past that).
There's a "river," I guess. I should mention that.
I'm not unhappy here. That seems an important point to make right now. At the moment when I needed to decide whether to stay or to go, my choice was to stay on and make my life here, at least while I still had a chance to do it. That's where the title quote (which is by Stephen King, from The Stand) comes in.