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June 24, 1999
a year ago

Getting Home

Getting up was hard to do. Very hard after the night and day before. With all the walking and dancing I had done, my feet, which had hurt the night before, were now swollen, and my legs were just grumpy about having to get up at all. My knee wouldn't quite straighten anymore, and was really unhappy with my hauling my luggage around.

I got up, packed everything I could into the two bags and then pulled out a third bag that I had brought with me and I stuffed that full of things as well, mostly the more breakable things. My head is pretty fuzzy today, too. Too little sleep for too long and that stupid will thing keeping me going, keeping me up and keeping me headed in the right direction, always aware of the time, of when my plane was leaving, when I had to get where.

I thought about driving all down St. Charles street, as it was supposed to be one of the grand historical avenues of the Old City, Uptown. Through the Garden District and out through the areas of the city that were being marked for historical preservation. I started doing it, even, but realized, fairly quickly on, that this wasn't a place to drive to get a feeling for anything. Just a bunch of mansions with gates, trees, and lots of huge lawns. I wasn't going to get much of anything moving at the speed of a car through all that, and, besides which, I was already off-schedule from what I needed to do to get back to the airport on time. But I did see some, and I did circle out from the hotel some to see what there was to see, and the city itself is about the size of Seattle, and has some of the same boundaries and some of the same port feeling, with more rundown waterway areas, dirtier on the whole as it didn't have Seattle's constant rain or the cold of winter to clean things out. It felt like a city that accumilated things.

The crooked, narrow streets were very reminiscent of European streets, but cars could still get through. Cobblestones along some, whitewashed fences along others. The veranda style building on either side, with all the balconies in the French District for when Marti Gras roared through.

A city sprawled in the summer humidity.

The traffic, at least, moved more quickly back towards the airport, and I was glad that I had the control over when I had to leave and when I could get back by the time I got through all that. I really, really enjoyed having the extra half hour of sleep that I could have without having to get up even earlier for the van that would have had other stops to make before getting me to the airport. Enough so that it nearly made the rental car entirely useful in my sight. Nearly.

I got there in plenty of time as my first flight was running half an hour late. My layover in St. Loise was for an hour and a half, so I wasn't particularly worried about it, and it turned out not to be a problem at all because one of the bolts on one of the wheels had sheared off the plane I was getting on for my connecting flight. They were delayed by a good forty-five minutes with a tire change before we managed to get off the ground. So I would have made that too. The plant to Tulsa from St. Loise was just plain cancelled. OK was having hurricane warnings, so they just weren't flying in or out of that city at all, and folks were being diverted to various hotels in the area until that storm died down.

With all that waiting, I got in another Connie Willis book The Doomsday Book, which is actually spelled correctly throughout the book itself, the stupid, stupid editor must have decided that no one in America would buy the book if the title was spelled correctly as The Domesday Book. The book itself is haunting. Totally. Kathy, like me, picked it up one day and just couldn't put it down. I was trying to read it while walking onto the plane, walking through the terminals, not really caring about wheither or not I walked into anything or anyone. She's done a fantastic job with the concept of time travel, and given it meaningful boundaries, possibilities and impossibilities, and given it breath and life. She actually has several of these stories about a time travel department at Oxford, and their all internally consistant and, if this is any example, likely thoroughly rivetting. It's about a historian that gets sent back to medieval times.

SPOILER WARNING skip to here if you don't want any spoilers at all.

What struck me the hardest was the duality, the tension between the moment the historian starts to discover that she's been accidentally sent back to the Years of the Black Plague and the growing desparation and tension back in Oxford as they start to have an epidemic of a killer influenza that's mutated to deadly capability. How the humanity of the experience is shared by both parties and the responce of people to a death that cannot be simply turned away, that is given not on merit or deserving, but simple and pure chance.

Another thing that really struck a deep chord with my current situtation was the whole motif of someone lost and alone trying to get home. That there were people that would help along wthe way, that faith is often rewarded though not always in obvious ways. That to try invites the opportunity for something wonderful to happen. Which all went with my getting home. I didn't have nearly the problems they were having, but there was some peace in knowing that getting home would happen, one way or another. And there would always be something that could be done until it just couldn't anymore. It's so much more complex and beautiful than that in the book.

END SPOILERS

As with Lincoln's Dreams Connie Willis puts a face on history, giving reality, emotions and mistakes, human mistakes and greivance, fear and courage on characters that are fully developed, fully capable and just as fallable. Connie does this beautiful job of making characters that rivet the attention, though some of that is through the simple fact that she takes real accounts, real writings, real journals from those times and gives them the context of what is all around them.

Made me wonder if, someday, some one or another of these electronic journals might be read in the same way. Though they are so easy to make up and there aren't the kinds of insanities that happened in the times she covered. I really hope I don't have to eat those words someday.

Got back a bit later than originally planned but not a whole lot. Got to my car in the parking lot and gave the shuttle driver my last dollar for a tip as he hauled all my bags from the shuttle to my trunk side. I was very pleased by that as I was *tired*. I opened the trunk, dumped everything into it and drove home feeling lightheaded and still so tired I couldn't believe it.

And even when I got home, I had to finish the book. Fezzik was in the yard, John wasn't to be found, so I just dumped my bags in the kitchen and sat and read for a bit then poured myself some Gatorade that Kathy had left and drank that and it felt tremendous after the dehydration of the last few days. Drank it on ice on the back porch, in the shade while I read and read and read and even when John came home, I just finished reading the book and it felt good. He reheated pizza for dinner, bless him, and then I was still wound up from all the energy I'd put into Getting Home, and I made myself hot chocolate, sat down to write with my Schaffer and then suddenly realized everything I was writing made no sense whatsoever...

So I went to bed. It was hot enough that it was hard for me to sleep, and I woke myself up a few times, first coughing fit from the dryness, then I woke myself up by snoring, which didn't wake John up at all. Then around 6 a.m. John was up and Fezzik was barking at hot air balloons, but I went back to sleep nearly reassured by the normal sounds.

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