Thursday, October 16, 2008

On the road (and in the air) again

I’m writing this entry in the Au Bon Pain in Concourse C of EWR, where I have a long layover between ALB and PHX, with the intention of posting it once I get Internet access. I’m heading to Phoenix for a meeting of the Persistent Digital Archives and Library System (PeDALS) project partners, but I’m taking a few days’ vacation before the meeting and heading up to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and perhaps Canyon de Chelly or the Petrified Forest.

I always approach vacations with a mixture of anticipation and guilt. I look forward to novel experiences and the opportunity to recharge, but at the same time I stress about the preparations and tell myself that I really don’t deserve time off; if I were a good person, I would quit shirking and get back to the work at hand. I suspect that these sentiments are in some respects a legacy of my decade in graduate school, when I had neither the time nor the money to go on vacation. Delusions of indispensability are probably at play as well.

Fortunately, once I’m on the road, I usually relax and get into the experience. At this moment, I’m feeling an almost Zen-like calm. It’s kind of surprising, really. I woke up with a nasty migraine this morning, and managed to break both a floor lamp and my vacuum cleaner before leaving my house today. I was also a bit short with my colleague, Michael, who really is indispensable and who needed to call me and clarify something before I left; he’s definitely getting an apologetic e-mail later tonight and something nice from Arizona when I get back!

I didn’t get the chance to eat before I left, and was famished when the plane touched down. So I stopped at the Au Bon Pain and got a lovely mozzarella and tomato salad, a fresh and staggeringly good piece of bread, and a heady cup of dark roast coffee. One of my friends has made it a habit to say “thank you for being sacred” to each morsel of food that she eats. It’s a good practice, I think: food of the sort I just ate really is, in a humble and humdrum way, a blessing, and we should take the time to appreciate the goodness in our lives.

I still have miles to go before I sleep: I’m going to be at ERJ for another 2.5 hours, and my plane won’t land in Phoenix until about 9:00 CST (midnight EDT). I will then have to drive about 2.5 hours before I reach my hotel. I’m pretty good at sleeping on planes, so I should be fine.

Tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, I’ll post my first pictures of the Grand Canyon.

POSTSCRIPT: My flight was supposed to leave EWR at 6:00 PM EDT, but we sat on the ground awaiting permission to take off until 7:40 PM. No one was happy about this state of affairs, and and it was particularly hard on my seatmates -- a sweet but very tired 16 month-old girl and her extremely capable mother. We got to Phoenix about an hour after we were supposed to arrive, and getting my rental car took a lot longer than anticipated. I finally got to Williams, where I'll be staying for the next couple of days, at around 1:30 AM CST (AZ doesn't observe Daylight Savings Time), only to find that the registration desk of the motel at which I made reservations closes at 11:00 PM. So I'm paying for two hotel rooms tonight -- the one I reserved and one I'm actually occupying.

At least the motel I'm staying at has free wifi. My body is telling me that it's 5:00 AM, and I'm sitting here blogging and eating a garden salad I bought at EWR so that I could eating dinner on the plane; however, there was no way I was going to attempt to eat a massive salad while sitting inches away from a wriggling and increasingly unhappy toddler.

I don't know why, but I'm still in a relatively good mood.

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