Changing the Sky & Reading Tea Leaves

I have tried meditation, yoga, and herbal teas to treat anxiety. When a vaccinated friend dropped in the other day, the tension vanished.

We chatted about our year of fear and then turned to the future and read each other’s tea leaves. She foretells a long journey (I wish!). I foretell that she will come into money and take me on a journey.

“It’s the travel I miss,” she said.

Me. too. We can guard our health with the vacccine, masks, etc., but we cannot travel away from the pandemic. And the most important way to stay calm, I have discovered, is not only avoiding the crowd but avoiding the news.

There has been much drama lately about whether or not rare blood clots in women are caused by one of the vaccines. I am very sorry for those women, but the scientific data isn’t in yet, so I am not jumping to conclusions. My advice? Get vaccinated. You will feel safer. Make an appointment for another vaccine if you’re afraid of the brand on pause. I don’t know anyone who has had any problems, except for a few normal side effects. And how I wish I hadn’t read the news!

Speaking of shots, our vacation is shot because of the pandemic. I read an article in The Washington Post about the possibility of international travel this summer. The writer interviewed people in their sixties and seventies who had postponed international trips last year and hoped to travel this summer. They have canceled their trips again. It is common sense, but I do feel sorry for them. Time is ticking by…

I have not given up entirely on travel. Every day I receive emails about cheap flights and cheap stays in luxury hotels. I fantasize about going, but what I would do when I got there? Stay in the hotel?

I am trying to change my way of thinking about the slow pace of life in 2021. I think of my mother and grandmother, who lived in the same place all their lives and seldom traveled. Their lives were in the moment, defined by routine and small pleasures. I moved away and occasionally traveled, but as Horace says, When you travel you only change your sky.

This is how I imagine the 1950’s, only with internet.

Breaking My Camera at the British Museum & Other Musings

A blue plaque in London

Once a year I take a selfie to chronicle my aging self. I do it because ten years from now I’ll look at it and think, I look so young!

We have drawers full of snapshots we have not put in albums. Travel has fueled the quantity of pictures. In London a few years ago, I took a lot of random pictures of blue plaques commemorating writers’ houses, bike lanes (my husband’s request), and a sculpture of a blue cockerel temporarily installed at Trafalgar Square.

In fact, I got a little camera-happy. Truth to tell, I broke my camera at the British Museum. I dropped it while snapping pix of ancient artifacts. I should have bought the postcards. Well… I did.

Tourism is so much fun. One lovely morning I found myself contentedly standing in front of Buckingham Palace, too late for the changing of guard, but perhaps better without. Then a group of people asked me to take their picture on an iPhone.

“I don’t know how to use this.”

Really, I didn’t. This would not end well.

I pushed a button. The wrong one, actually. “Sorry, you’ll have to get somebody else!”

Who took this pic of Mom and me?

After that I refused to take ANYONE’S picture. And, indeed, I come from a family of camera-shy women. My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother declined to have their pictures taken, and, indeed, rarely deigned to use the camera. Someone else always took the pictures. Odd how these things get passed on, isn’t it?

But what a different era now! We document our lives in pictures on phones and the mysterious Cloud. We have selfies, selfie-sticks, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tumblr, Youtube, Booktube, and so much more.

I try to imagine my grandmother taking a selfie. Preposterous!

But there is a historical relationship between the present OCD phone addicts and the videoheads of yore. A few days ago, when Oprah announced that her new Oprah Book Club pick is Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead quartet, I realized Oprah may have been the first Booktuber! (Only it was TV.) Many a Booktuber could learn from her concise, enthusiastic style. Certainly achieving that is much, much more difficult than it looks.

Ah, if only we could travel again, without an iPhone preferably. I was thinking of India–under the influence of reading Rumer Godden.

Happy Weekend Reading!

The Travel-Pajamas Backlash and Other Travel Tips

Are you fretting over the difficulties of international travel? Longing for advice from a cosmopolitan traveler?  Take it from a tourist:  it’s absurdly easy.   Half of it is showing up; the rest is a willingness to look ridiculous.

HOW TO BE SUPER-COOL IN AUTOMATED AIRPORTS.  Where have all the people gone? In the last few years, everything has become automated. Now you check your own luggage and scan your own passport. But don’t panic.  If you have difficulty with tech, they wave you through a special line where you interact with humans.  (That, in my opinion, is super-cool.)  You soon learn by osmosis to do the tech stuff.  You’re proud of your unpaid airport-processing skills, but wonder what happened to the workers.

TOO MUCH CANNOT BE SAID ABOUT WHAT TO WEAR ON PLANES.  That’s because you love travel fashion “do’s” and “don’t’s.” You pore over the charming articles in magazines, but  you probably won’t wear the darling $500 pajama-style outfits recommended (possibly facetiously) by Vogue  or the $450 leggings in Travel and Leisure which look exactly like all other leggings—one only hopes they have superpowers.   

FASHION “DON’T’S” CAUSE PANIC ATTACKS.   How do the fashion experts know  the “don’ts” in your wardrobe?  Actually, you just learned they are “don’t’s.”   But do not heed the columnist who insists that jeans are worn only by the ugly American. Relax. People of all different nationalities wear jeans on planes.  All casual clothes are appropriate for airports, in case you find yourself jogging across a terminal late for a flight because you were frisked during a random security check.   Note:  it will be the last gate.

HOW TO PLAN YOUR ITINERARY.  What you do depends on who you are.  You do not have to follow an itinerary in a guidebook.  My advice: Make a list of 20 things you want see.  If you check off all the items (which is unlikely), make another list.  There are so many must-sees I hope never to see.  I will never ride the Eye in London, a giant ferris wheel from which you can see the whole city (or something). It would make me sick.  Nor do I feel the urge to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower.  If you love dizzying heights, you’ll want to do all these things and possibly some rappelling.  

And that’s why our itineraries are so different.

Reading on the Plane: Where to Park Your Books

The demise of the Elizabeth Bowen during travel.

On a recent plane trip, I could not keep track of my books. I had stuffed two paperbacks into a carry-on bag:  Elizabeth Bowen’s Friends and Relations and a mystery.  One of the other would keep me occupied on the trip, I thought.

The bag was a tight fit under the seat.  I had to crouch in the aisle to drag it out.  With much flexing of knees, I managed this triumphantly.  The Elizabeth Bowen, however, was not in a zippered compartment marked BOOKS. It was with meds, toiletries, and a cardigan sweater.  

Once the book was out of the bag, it was out for the rest of the trip. Usually there is an empty seat next to me, and I fling the book down when I don’t want to read.  This time the plane was full.  And during the multiple meals and snacks that keep us from going crazy on planes, the old paperback became more and more brittle. I tried holding it on my knees under the tray. It emerged bent.  During a later snack, I stuffed it into the pocket on the back of the chair.  A corner of the cover tore off.

Turned out this book was no longer meant for reading.  The type was dim against the tan, crackling pages. I alternately had to hold it close to my face or at arm’s length. That’s the beauty of bifocals:  you are both near-sighted and short-sighted at the same time. 

I finally read my mystery, which was perfect for the plane.  I can’t recommend Patricia Moyes’s The Curious Affair of the Third Dog too strongly.  I  am so thankful I didn’t bring Proust, which I had originally considered the ultimate vacation reading.  (Not on this plane.)

The Bowen fell apart completely the next day in a cafe.

Anyone have good travel tips for plane reading (and for keeping books in one piece)?    I’m thinking about buying a tablet case, which would give the books some extra protection.  And it would fit in my bag.

I returned home with some new sturdy paperbacks.  They were unharmed by travel.

Would a tablet case do the trick?

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