Friday, January 18, 2008

New Train of Thought

Flying in this country has reached the point where it makes traveling by Greyhound look good. I could stand taking off my shoes and using those silly little bottles for shampoo and conditioner if I knew that my flight would be on schedule, that I'd sit in a clean plane, and that the flight attendants would have a little more cordiality than what you might receive from a prison guard at Guantanamo. But since these things have all disappeared as completely as the term "stewardess, " I travel on any U.S. airlines as seldom as possible and have decided that, for my next trip to San Francisco, I'm taking the train.
I know the sole trace of bygone days will be found only in the name of the route, The Coast Starlight, but that is almost enough. I'm sure that the dining car serves Nescafe and that any food will have been rapidly thawed in a microwave before serving. The lounge will have all of the elegance of a MacDonald's with a liquor license, and I'll probably be sitting beside small , insomniac children who are not housebroken.
And yet I'm going to travel through three states at a pace that will be leisurely enough that I can savor the different landscapes. Nobody will tell me to take off my shoes. And there will be a liquor license in that ugly lounge.
Call me crazy but I'm looking forward to this--and if it turns out to be dreadful, at least it will be a good story.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Letting Go

I never feel as though I'm truly leaving to live in another place until I begin to give things away. It's become a ritual over the years, one that's painful and challenging and absolutely essential. Although I admire people who are able to sell their possessions, I'm too attached to the objects that make my life pleasant to be able to watch strangers rifle through my treasures at a sidewalk sale.
Months before I buy my airline ticket, I have decided what books go to which friend, and who will get my favorite chair. It's a lot like making a will and then being your own estate executor, or (less morbidly) hosting a potlatch, and once I've decided who gets what, the whole process is a lot of fun.
This time I have a cat and he has made this undertaking a bit more difficult--giving him away is somewhat more complicated than presenting someone with a lamp that they've admired in the past. He's a cat with issues, having been removed from his home five years ago to wait in a pet store cage for someone to take him and become his willing slave, which I did and which I am. He's handsome and imperious and an attention-sponge, not unlike, come to think of it, every relationship I've ever been in with males of my own species. I adore him, of course.
He does not, however, travel well. The mere sight of his very expensive, deluxe cat carrier is enough to turn him into the Invisible Feline for hours, and the pitiful cries that he can produce during a brief bus ride are heartrendingly obnoxious. The thought of spending sixteen hours with him in a confined space with other passengers who are trying to sleep their way to Bangkok is enough to curdle my blood and makes me wonder if the people sitting next to me will kill me or the cat first. Then of course there are all of the viruses and parasites waiting for fresh feline blood once we arrive at our destination, which is the reason why I will be going alone.
My sister has offered to give the monster his next home, thereby proving that blood is indeed thicker than the most expensive bottled water and that I am blessed in being part of her family. It's the ideal solution and the cat and I are both lucky devils. The night that she made her magnanimous offer is the first one in which I had an untroubled sleep for a long time--until around 4 a.m. when I woke up with the realization that my sister lives in Alaska so the cat and I still have the opportunity to win hearts and minds on a mournful airlines flight--but not, thank God, for sixteen hours.