Sunday, October 7, 2018

A Day in the Clouds

We said goodbye to Athens under a sliver of (ungodly) early morning moon.

The only compensation once we got to the airport was having a final wedge of spanikopita with my morning cereal because if not here, where?

Before officially leaving Greece, I got interrogated by an airport employee at the Aegean Airlines line, an encounter that began innocently enough. Where had I been? Athens, Dubrovnik and the U.S. before that. Who was I traveling with? I pointed to Mr. Wright in the ticket line, answering his own set of questions.

What's your relationship with him? Um, boyfriend? For how long? Sharing the date of our first date, that's when things got seriously personal.

Has he proposed, he wants to know. What the...? No (and what business is it of yours?).

What do you do? I'm a writer. What do you write? Restaurant reviews, art pieces, feature stories. He says this is interesting,  then tells me to have a good trip. Leaning in as he hands back my passport and boarding pass, this man I've never laid eyes on before assures me that he will propose and points at his own wedding ring.

Since when do airport employees forecast the relationship future of travelers? All I can think is, it's way too early for this kind of stranger interaction.

The flight from Athens to Geneva allowed me to finish my second book of this trip, Anais Nin's "Delta of Venus" (because where better to read '40s erotica than Greece?) and leave it at the airport for another reader to discover (Inscribed with my name, Richmond, Virginia and the date I finished it, natch) and enjoy.

Members of the international reading community unite.

Coming into Geneva provided a gorgeous view of Lake Geneva, a blue-green beauty so still that the trees ringing it were reflected all around the shore and a white boat cutting through the water left a picture-perfect V-shaped trail behind it.

The 8-hour flight from Geneva to Dulles afforded me the opportunity to read Jerzy Kosinski's 1977 semi-autobiographical "Blind Date." Imagine my surprise when I was only on page 10 before discovering that it was set in Switzerland, the country I'd just set foot in for the first time.

I ask you, what are the chances?

Mind you, because I was reading a 1978 paperback copy that's been on my bookshelf for goodness knows how long, the pages were yellowed and brittle and by page 8, the front cover came off, although it took all the way until page 50 for the back cover to disassociate itself from the book.

But what could I expect from a 40-year old paperback, after all?

The book was full of references that could only have come out of the '70s - a woman in a Foxy Lady t-shirt and  a man described as stylish "in a well-cut suit with a wide tie." You couldn't very well live through that era and not recall how wide the ties were.

Although I really had no memory of the book or author, it was clear from the pages of accolades about him and his other books (he also wrote "The Painted Bird" and "Being There," another important film I've never seen) that Kosinski - a Russian/Polish Jew whose family had survived the Holocaust before he immigrated to the U.S. in 1957 - had been a very big deal back then

One of the most surprising anecdotes involved an invitation for the author to visit his friend in Los Angeles, but his luggage was mistakenly sent to New York City, so his trip got delayed by a day. Praise be to the inefficiency of airlines because he was headed to Sharon Tate's house and that night was the one when Charles Manson's "family" showed up and slaughtered everyone there.

With an 8-hour flight, finishing the book between meals was a snap and I still had time on my hands. Determined to get my body back on local time, I refused to take a nap and at one point, I was the only person in the front cabin awake.

I might have started to flag a little on the quickie flight from Dulles to Richmond, but the angle of the sun made the reflection on the clouds so brilliant inside the tiny plane that shutting my eyes was more a matter of self-preservation than anything.

And, just like that, we were back in my adopted home town and I could escape the overly cold air-conditioned air of three planes and three airports. Greece was lovely for many reasons, not the least of which was the temperate climate.

The Moroccan taxi driver ("Nine years here and we can't find a reason to leave!" he crowed) taking me home to J-Ward was none too happy to get off I-64 and find streets closed due to the Second Street Festival. Worse still were the hordes of people trying to cross streets everywhere but at the corners and the inevitable Broad Street accidents slowing down traffic at every turn.

Listening to him go from pleasant and chatty to cursing and furious at the delays would not have been my first choice for re-entering the 'hood, but I've learned that not everyone has the equilibrium I do.

Back in my apartment, the plants were well watered, the windows still open and  ten days of Washington Posts neatly stacked on my desk for perusal once life settles down. The only unfortunate event greeting me was that I had no internet or phone service and goodness only knows how long it had been out.

I can leave the country without a second thought, but I do not want to return and feel cut off from the world, which is exactly what happened. How's a girl supposed to earn a living, much less make plans and respond to correspondence if she's got no internet connection? I was way too tired to deal with such a dilemma after traveling for 16 hours.

The phone I can live without, but even after 12 hours of sleep last night, I'm at a loss without being connected to the virtual world. How desperate am I? I took my iPod with me en route to the pipeline so I could avail myself of the internet (to summon help) while on Brown's Island, that's how desperate. So desperate I'm at Lift Coffee Shop, a few blocks from home, eating lunch and answering emails, invoicing my editor and writing this post.

And, if I'm honest, missing the carefree time I was having with Mr. Right before reality settled back in. Ah, but the memories...

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