Up, Up and Away

On Memorial Day I can’t post anything without voicing my respect and appreciation for all the men and women who serve and have served to protect our country. It’s a task that becomes more important, and more difficult, with each passing day. Thank you.

I must be an even better speaker/presenter than I thought because I’ve persuaded myself to make a trip to Italy.

To grasp the significance of that statement, you have to understand how much I hate to fly and how uncomfortable I am in unfamiliar surroundings. My travel policy has two conditions: 1)if I can get there with no more than two full days of driving, I will drive; 2)if I have to fly to get there, I probably won’t go. Living in the upper Midwest, as I do, much of the country is accessible under such a policy. I have driven all the way to Boston and to Austin, rather than fly. And I enjoyed the trips.

But on occasion I do have to break that policy. I went to Italy thirty years ago. I have flown to a few remote points in the US (San Francisco, Orlando, et al.) when I simply had no choice. In April my younger daughter got married. Her fiancé/husband comes from LA. Since his family is much larger than ours, the wedding was set for a Sunday in LA. They asked me, as an ordained minister, to officiate. (I officiated at her first wedding—the marriage ended after two years—so I wasn’t sure she would want me there for the second one.) Classes were still in session at my college, so car/train/bus was out of the question. I knew I had to clench my teeth and my sphincter and get on a plane.

What I was dreading as much as the flight was the TSA screening. The only thing more demeaning, IMHO, is a digital exam by a urologist. (I’ve experienced both.) When my wife, grandson, and I printed out our boarding passes, though, they were marked “TSA pre√.” That meant we were “pre-screened” and didn’t have to go through the body scanner or take off our shoes or belts. The flight out there wasn’t any more horrific than any plane flight. The wedding—at a hotel on the water—went off without a hitch. My beautiful daughter was gorgeous in her dress, and I gained a new appreciation for how much her husband, now my son-in-law, really adores her (and, yes, I’ve told him that).

Then there was the flight back. It started out well. I was pre-screened, though my wife and twelve-year-old grandson weren’t. At first I thought I would be a mensch and go through the process with them, but at the last moment I switched to the pre-screened line. My wife said she bore me no ill will. Once on the plane we sat on the tarmac at LAX for 2½ hours while they repaired a hydraulic problem. At least they didn’t fix it by sacrificing two goats, as Nepal’s state airline once did (http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/09/05/us-nepal-airline-odd-idUSEIC47086020070905). The delay caused us to miss our connection in Chicago. By the time we pulled into our driveway it was after 2 AM.

My next flight will be to Italy, and that brings me back to my skills as a speaker. In February I did a series of presentations on Florentine art in the Renaissance to a retirees’ continuing education group at a nearby college. I’ve studied the topic off and on for years in connection with my own teaching, but never to the extent that I did for these presentations. By the end of the course I had this gnawing thought, “I want to see this stuff. No, I need to see this stuff.” My previous trip to Italy focused on Rome, Naples, Herculaneum, etc., because my field is ancient Rome. I didn’t have the money or the time to get to Florence, and, thirty years ago, I wouldn’t have known what I was looking at.

One afternoon I told my wife that I wanted to talk with her about something. We all know what a sense of foreboding those words induce. When I told her I wanted us to go to Florence in 2015, she looked like I had given her an electrical shock. She quite literally jumped and her shaking hands went to her mouth. To help pay for the trip, I am teaching a summer course this year and next.

This will be my last flight outside the US and, I hope, my last flight. Instead of singing “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” with Peter, Paul and Mary, I’ll be singing “I’m driving in my car” with Bruce Springsteen.

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One Response

  1. Flying can certainly be a pain but it’s worth the agony for Renaissance (or other) art. Why not go via Amsterdam and see the Dutch and Belgian museums coming or going? You could take the train from A-dam to Italy. Sheila

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