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.