It’s Spring Break! My working vacation is now officially “vacation.” I’m back at the airport paying attention to other important things that have nothing to do with music or education—like the fresh artichokes next to the panini sandwiches, the Nicole Kidman/ Julia Roberts/ Paul Newman Energy drinks, the jewelry store called Christ (?), the always-interesting parade of people and the lifelong preference the eye has for the young women walking by. The mind freed from planning classes, the body freed from teaching them, time to step down from the soapbox and just observe what is before me. I open a book and step into another’s world, Bill Bryson's “Neither Here Nor There” about—guess what? —travel in Europe! A delightful humorous read, making me feel a little ashamed of my ponderous diatribes. Enough of trying to save the world—let's just walk through it thoroughly enjoying its madness, eccentricities, frustrations and delights. I can do that! Well, for at least a day or so.
My San Francisco training in political correctness has me nervous making generalizations about whole groups of people (see Tears and Temperament) while Mr. Bryson sallies forth boldly without a hint of apology into all the stereotypes: “The Germans are flummoxed by humor, the Swiss have no concept of fun, the Spanish think there is nothing ridiculous about eating dinner at midnight and the Italians should never, ever have been let in on the invention of the motorcar.” You get the idea. Like the old joke about heaven and hell. The first is where the British are the policemen, the Germans the auto-mechanics, the French the cooks, the Italians the lovers. In hell, the British are the cooks, the Germans the lovers, the French the auto-mechanics and the Italians the policemen. Or something like that.
Writing this in Frankfort Airport after sleeping on their humanistic three-seats-in-a-row-without-metal arms (U.S. airports take note!). In Salzburg, wireless was free, here you have to pay. Can we just agree on this, please? I vote for free! With no Euros left in my wallet, I’m off to see if my Starbucks card works. I’ll report back later.
The answer was “no,” but already anticipating a frapuccino, I opted for credit card. Though the Starbucks card was a gift from a student and I feel a small twinge of hypocrisy giving business to yet another neo-colonial enterprise, I do have a fondness for frapuccinos in airports. And to my credit, I refused the suggestion one night in Salzburg that we all get ice cream at McDonald’s, even though it was the only choice open at the moment. I hope Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Che Guevara noticed my courage standing up for my moral values.
So I’m on my way to Orlando, Florida, to re-Americanize myself eating at McDonald’s in Disneyland. (Just kidding!) I do land in Orlando and hope to make my way to New Smyrna beach to the old house on Magnolia Street where my wife’s mother was born and grew up. It’s a family re-union of sorts, almost cancelled from a turn-for-the-worse in the health of my father-in-law who is in an elder care center. Communication has been hard long-distance and I still don’t know for sure if everyone really made it to Florida or stayed in Michigan. Guess I’ll find out some 11 hours from now.
Meanwhile, my trusty travel agent has a possible alternative ticket to Detroit just in case. Friends, there are certain people in your life you want to have lined-up—a good dentist, tax accountant and travel agent, for starters. My travel agent was sent from heaven to help me negotiate these ridiculously complicated routes I must travel and she has never let me down. She works from Utah and I will probably never meet her, but in a phone conversation once, I found out she used to be a music teacher! Plane boarding now, window seat at the back of the bus, where sado-masochist plane designers insure that the person’s seat in front of me will touch my nose as she leans back. But at least I’ll have a view.
An acquaintance of mind who I’ve seen jogging around the neighborhood these past twenty years or so told me he was following his father’s advice—“Keep moving.” I suppose this travel is my own version, minus the sweat and pained facial expression.
And off I go.