Travel is always an adventure in stories and moments.
It begins with a long drive to a faraway airport, at which I am obliged to give up a corkscrew that I had, for some unknown reason, left in my carryon bag. Adieu, beloved booze tool! Adieu!
Waiting at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport became an adventure in strange relationship comedy and a moment to bond with strangers. I made Waiting Space Friends with S., a chatty, odd man, and his spouse J.. They bickered and bustled and chattered as he tried to work off his anxieties about flying. I learned about his father and family, and I got the distinct impression that J. is as much S.’s keeper as his spouse — he was a handful, that guy! When S. was off smoking, I chatted with another gentleman who told stories of his boyhood and of his musical relations, and we bonded over interrupted travel and long waits as we watched the three delayed flights ahead of us finally load their impatient, weary passengers.
I will never see these people again, but for all of us it was oddly important to have talked together, to have shared the experience of waiting.
My room at the Fabulous Resort Destination at which my conference took place looked out over a little courtyard, where oranges topped the trees within Spanish-style walls, with palms waving overhead. It was like a different world entirely from the cold Midwestern expanse I’d left behind, and the whole place felt old and gracious and slightly sepia-toned (I didn’t really have to do much to my photographs to get the effect this time). I could imagine sitting for tea in the dining room, whose windows looked out directly on the ever-moving ocean.
I felt pathetically underdressed for the place most of the time, but was never made the feel unwelcome there. Well, except by this bird, who wasn’t impressed by my human intrusion on its sacred ocean space.
I met lively and interesting people, and we talked about lively and interesting things, but most curious of the things I heard was the final keynote address of the conference — a bibliographer shared with us his abiding love of the very physical being of books, and I was forcibly reminded of how strange all of this electronic communication really is.
As I waited in a little cafe in Atlanta once more, filling the long hours between one flight and the next, I watched an old man boogie in his seat to the marvelous Chaka Khan, and I thought that might be the best part of the whole trip.