Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Day 12, Bormio, and I am not a nice person

It feels like we have been on vacation for a long time, which I suppose really is true as Day 12 winds to a close. There have been many adventures along the way. Some highlights:

- crossing over the Alpes from Bourg d'Oisans to Bolzano: an epic drive (5 hours, HAH);

- the charming town of Bolzano on a Friday night, the streets packed with people, illuminated so that it looked like a movie set: completely unreal;

- the Ice Man exhibit in Bolzano and being able to view the mummy a second time, longer, without the crowds;

- riding bikes around Bolzano with Joe;

- going to Venice on Monday by train with Joe and Pete, stumbling around in a daze and wondering whether Italians can possibly say No to any decorative element (as for churches, so for clothes);

- coming over the Stelvio Pass yesterday to Bormio, a charming town in a high Alpine valley.

That said, I am also not feeling like a nice person. Struggling with the long days of bike-widowhood (what did I think would happen?), and with being in close quarters with a group for an extended period. Everything is fine, but I am expending considerable energy on *not* screaming, snapping, speaking my whole mind, crying, gnashing my giant teeth.

Everything is fine and still I wonder when I get the vacation with my husband, where I don't have to share him with a sport that takes him away for 5 - 10 hours at a time.

That said, I am going to go read a book and watch the clouds get snagged on the huge peaks towering all around this village.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Grenoble, Day 1

Aaaah, vacation day one: woke up at 7:30, went off strolling in search of breakfast, was quickly reminded that in France Sunday is Sunday, nowhere for a coffee in the blocks surrounding our hotel, returned to hotel for breakfast in a room filled with cigarette smoke, French tourists and, inexplicably, priests.

Later on, took in the views from The Bastille, which we reached via the Peripherique. Realized that our hotel in smack in the middle of the old part of town, charming, delightful.

Quite cold here, although we were spared the rain that chilled us yesterday. Spent the entire day really doing nothing: strolling, looking at things, laughing at each other, eating - exactly what vacation is supposed to be about.

And it's only Day 1!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Observations while flying

Friday September 12, 2008
US Airways, San Francisco to Philadelphia

If you bought everything in the SkyMall catalog, would your life be better? Virtually every product in it offers some genius solution to life’s everyday little problems, every page featuring at least one absolutely revolutionary item with the potential to change your reality… SERIOUSLY!

Flight attendants who call me “hon” when they ask to take away my trash. Making me wonder about these very American endearments and how much I love the hons, sweeties, dears, darlins. I am trying to remember if French offers as many random endearments to strangers. I’ll be listening for this over the next week.

Write to Eric Monkhouse about listening to his grooves while flying – super cool! Except that I really need better headphones! And a longer lived battery in my laptop.

Why is it that the moment we were checked in, that we had our coffee, that I’d paid the $8.99 to TMobile for a day wireless pass, that the god damn headache that’s been plaguing me for three days just vanished?? The Imitrex at 4:30 this morning did little to dull or mask the pain. The several Vicodin I took yesterday and the day before just barely got me through the day, always still that dull throb just above and behind my left eye. As soon as I was on vacation, free, I was giddy and no more headache. Is it all me? Is it just my own creation, the physical form that my stress takes, the way it takes my entire head in its grip and squeezes?

The man next to me from San Francisco to Philadelphia has terrible halitosis. I am spending most of the flight with my nostrils inclined to the right.

For Joe, vacation starts the moment we’re on the plane, because that’s the point at which we no longer have control, the point at which only someone else can fuck it up for us. For me, it’s the moment the bags are checked and I’m cruising the airport with only my carry-on – ready for adventure!

And how fucking awesome is it to be wireless at the airport, checking in with friends on Facebook in a public space. LOVE IT. Those people who want to leave technology behind on vacation, more power to you. For me, the real delight is in being able to use it for what I want to use it for – bullshit chatting with friends, looking things up, connecting the dots, writing down what I think – such a welcome break from the more usual work-related slog… Such a treat to have a chance to think at all, to be a passenger.

We’re only a few hours into a really long travel day, but I am reminded as I sit here in my tiny airplane seat of how much I love traveling, how much I love going to new places, how much I love leaving the trappings of my “normal” life behind!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

One more day til vacation!

I'll be writing a lot while on vacation in France and Italy, starting tomorrow, so stay tuned...

The lead-up to this vacation has been brutal. Seems like it's always brutal to get out of the office for some rest, but this time has been worse than ever. Going on Day #2 with this migraine - not a good way to start, but I'm optimistic. If I go back to my earlier thinking about migraines, this one really is about being caught between two things/thoughts/modes: working like hell so that I can totally let it go for three entire weeks. Of course there are other factors, but it's my fervent wish that by tomorrow morning, when I've finally started to let go of work, that the headache's grip will do the same.

Super smarty: I'm having our IT person change my password on Monday, to effectively lock me out of work email. This worked so well last time - looking forward to finding out my new password on October 3.

This last day will be about making a list and checking it twice, ensuring that everyone is clear on what they're doing while I'm gone, that everyone else knows who's doing what... My last hurrah for the month of September!

There have definitely been points in the past two weeks where I've thought about how, in my original plan, September 11 was going to be my really-real last day, the day on which I ended this phase and moved on. I still enjoy the drama of the imagery (blowing up the edifice of my former life), but I'm keeping the planes aloft and buildings standing for a while longer...

I'll be posting info about my trip later for anyone who wants to follow me around. Can't wait to be in France on Saturday, and so looking forward to that first cup of coffee in a cafe on Sunday morning. Will I have a croissant or a pain au chocolat?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Literary gluttony

For whatever reason, I remembered the other night that it's possible to buy, in one fell swoop, the complete collection of Penguin Classic paperbacks. Which of course led me to Amazon, where the set of more than 1,000 classics of literature is available for just under $8,000.

The first review of the set is written by Kathryn Gursky, who was profiled in the NY Times in 2005 after her husband bought her this collection to replace the personal library she lost in a house fire:
Now THAT, my friends, is a birthday present!

I know it's silly, but it seems like it would be so cool to have all your books be so matchy-matchy, same height spines lined up across however many shelves it would take to store them all. Not to mention how wonderful to actually own a library -- books which you haven't read yet, that are just waiting for you to take them down and discover them. Aaaaaah.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Palin: now I know...

Ok, this settles it, from Matier & Ross in the SF Chronicle about how Sarah Palin supports the practice of "hunters" shooting wolves from airplanes, to protect caribou:

Wolves aren't the only item on Palin's list. She's also taken on the federal government over polar bears, suing the Interior Department on Alaska's behalf in reaction to the feds' decision to list the animals as threatened.

She believes the listing will cripple oil and gas development in sensitive areas - and, in any case, says the enviro argument that global warming threatens to wipe out the polar bears' habitat is a crock.