SJR coming to you from the Newark Airport United Club, my home away from home in Terminal C. I seem to spend half my airport life in Terminal A, where the short hops go from, and I expected this flight to Cleveland to leave from there, too. Terminal C in my mind has always been for international adventure — the flight I take to Rome (for the Assisi program you’re all going to come study with me in this year) leaves from here, as well as flights to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul (which is for Mongolia as well), Tokyo. And such non-short-hop US destinations as Portland and San Francisco. Love me some Terminal C.
But lo, Cleveland takes off from here, too. This is a good thing, because this is where the Club is — no such comforts in down-market Terminal A — and I need a nice place to sit and drink a nice cup of tea, because I’m 2 1/2 hours early. Which is about an hour longer than the flight. (Remember, I went to Oberlin, I know this trip.) I heard a horror-story report on the news last night about hour-plus waits at security even for TSA Pre-check passengers, and I figured it’s Friday so lots of people would be traveling. So I cleverly left very early. Here’s the thing, though: TSA workers denied it, but the news story smelled to me like an unauthorized work slowdown to protest understaffing. (Apparently TSA has stopped paying overtime, which means fewer workers per security station.) I guess they got their point across, because I breezed through that Pre-check line like grass through a goose and now here I sit.
And by now you’re asking, “That’s all very well, but why are you going to Cleveland?” For this: Sisters in Crime Northeast Chapter’s Death March Conference. I’m giving the keynote, on “Categorization and Its Discontents.” Hope to see some of you there! The rest of you, as the poem has it:
I’ll report from beautiful Ohio.
Just got back from a trip behind the Magnolia Curtain. Thought you might enjoy some photos while you finish baking that plum pudding. Which I had in Mississippi, and it was delicious. Along with the catfish tacos and the breakfast kibbee and grits.
Me on the Mighty Mississipp.
Cotton is King, even off-season.
Went to research the Delta Chinese community for a new Lydia Chin/Bill Smith book.
Cotton snowperson in Cleveland, MS.
Baptism mural in Helena, Arkansas. Lunching in Helena knocked one more off the list of states I’ve never been in. Down to 4!
The Archangel Michael, though his sword looks like a tie, from a Charles Eames church in Helena.
All is not sweetness and light in Helena, however.
My little cabin away from home, in Clarksdale, MS.
My cabin on left, with the back porch of the Big House on right and the plantation owner, Eric Stone.
Rufous-sided towhee in Eric’s shrubs.
Terra cotta in Helena. The spirit of Prosperity. A touch ironic.
For your holiday gift-giving pleasure. You don’t have to deal with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday (though it’s true I’m a Very Small Business), Cyber Monday, or Happy, Sleepy, Doc, or Bashful, either. Just order your Travel Calendar, your Flowers Calendar, or your Five Snouts of Mongolia, Plus Calendar (and where else are you gonna get THAT?) for a year of photos like these.
From 2016 Five Snouts of Mongolia, Plus
From 2016 Flowers
From 2016 Travel
Chinggis Khan would roll over in his grave if he heard me say that, except chances are he was never put in the ground. In his day people of importance often received “sky burials” — their bodies were taken to a high mountain and left for the birds to devour. It was an honor.
Chinggis is everywhere in Mongolia. The best vodka is named for him, and the best beer. Whatever it is, if it’s best, it’s called Chinggis. Outside Ulaan Baatar they’ve built a giant, by which I mean giant, statue of Chinggis on his horse, ready for battle. Stainless steel, with actually quite a good museum in the underground base. (Click on any of these to see more on Flickr.) You can go on up in it, like in the Statue of Liberty. How big is this thing? Back in the day they used to cut the horse’s manes short so they’d bristle. The bristles in the mane of Chinggis’s horse here are people.
The man himself.
Royal hand with scepter and distant gers.
He’s got his eye on you.
There is one problem, however. The place where you emerge from the statue into the light is perhaps not as well thought out as it might have been. Here’s me, emerging.
Sweep of brown oak leaves
Rustling along red walkway
Past black café chairs.
Apple muffin crumbs.
Small brown birds hop hopefully.
Steam rises from tea.
Sun bounces off glass.
Brick-paved plaza’s split in two —
Light here, shadow there.
*because I only just located them, that’s why
…for a sweet New Year. It’s about to be Yom Kippur, so I’m signing off for the next 24 hours, but I wouldn’t want you to miss me. So here’s something to contemplate: me on a camel in the Gobi Desert. See you on the other side.
(If you missed Part I, it’s yesterday’s post.)
Well, I’m packed. If I don’t have it it’s not coming. Since I’m not leaving for Mongolia until Monday this may seem extraordinarily early, and for me, believe me, it is. Though my mother always packed days before she was ready to go, in case something she’d been planning to take was found to need washing or mending. Me, I usually pack the night before, or, in the case of an afternoon departure, the morning of. But tomorrow morning I’m going to the Rancho for the weekend, and I’m leaving Monday morning for the airport. So effectively this is the day before, and since I’ll be at a book club gig tonight (folks who read GHOST HERO and were kind enough to invite me to the discussion) this is about as late as I can push it.
Also unusually for me, I’m checking a suitcase and taking a backpack plus a small bag. I never check, always manage with a backpack and a 19″. Guilty with an explanation: I’m taking some kid’s picture books as a gift for the guide’s little girl, and they were just one toke over the line for the suitcase. Also, I intend to leave my travelin’ clothes behind in Ulaan Bataar so, three weeks later when we get back there and I need to rush to make my plane for the loooong trip home, I’ll have something clean to wear. Now I have a bag to leave them in.
I also defrosted the freezer this morning. Because it just COULDN’T WAIT until I got back, could it?
Packing for Mongolia, for which I leave on Monday. Travel anxiety has begun to set in. Am I taking too much, am I not taking enough, am I taking all the wrong things, I don’t have enough clothes for hot/cold/rainy/dry situations, do I have enough shampoo/vitamins/dramamine…
And of course what it’s really all about is, I’m going to the OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD FOR PETE’S SAKE! And it’s not even really about that, either. We’ve talked about this before on this blog and some of you were good enough to share your own travel anxieties. It’s about, I’m stepping so far outside my comfort zone I can’t even see it from here. The packing madness, the one more shirt, the summer socks and winter socks, the extra moisturizer just in case — it’s all about taking my comfort zone with me.
I don’t do this any more when I go to Europe, though I used to, or when I travel in the US. I’m famous for how lightly I pack. Objectively, what I’m packing for Mongolia is pretty light, too, for, um, Mongolia. But even going to Boston, I get this same exiled feeling, which is at the heart of the matter. What do you MEAN I can’t stay here? Right smack 100% in the middle of my comfort zone? Where I know how things happen, how they work. I have to LEAVE? Whose idea was this?
More on this later — excuse me now, I have to go make another list.
(I’ll finish the quote in the title in my Sunday night post before I leave.)