Note: Happy Sunday. I’m posting a day early because I have to be out of town tomorrow to attend a funeral. I’ll be back on track next Monday, MLK Day.
One of the forerunners of SNL was a show called That Was The Week That Was (TWTWTW), a satirical review of current political events that aired for a couple of seasons. I’m not setting out to expound on TV history, but the title of that long ago show has been playing in my head on a continuous loop since our return from Curacao which I wrote about in a recent blog; it’s been quite a week.
I’m writing this on January 3rd, during that limbo period when you can’t believe how quickly your life slips back into default mode as you sort through the week’s mail and restock the larder at Trader Joe’s, while your dreams are still dominated by fantastic adventures set in Curacao-like locales. When I wake in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I’m momentarily uncertain about whether I can find my way there, unaccepting of the fact that I am once again sleeping in my own bed.
But what a week it was, one that many holiday travelers will not forget any time soon. The inertia that I wrote about earlier – the desire to stay put – seemed more and more the wiser course as we made frantic calls to the airlines for rebookings that gave us a shot at reaching our destination. Amidst the barrage of justified criticisms of the treatment passengers received from their airlines, I have to beam thanks to the American Airlines customer service representative who found a path to our goal that actually worked. True that it entailed an arrival in Miami at 1:30AM and a few fitful hours of sleep on the unwelcoming floor of an airport lounge, but it ultimately got us to Curacao two hours earlier than our original itinerary.
Not so for our daughter Elana and her family. They were traveling from Baltimore where it was cold but free of snow. They sent encouraging photos of the family seated and ready for takeoff, which proved misleading. The water system on the plane had frozen and all the passengers were asked to return to the terminal. By the time the plane left four hours late, the connecting flight was long gone and the efforts to rebook yielded only a reservation for four days later. However, Elana earned a She Persisted t-shirt with her continuous search for ways to solve this potential vacation disaster by scoring a flight that brought them to us only two days late.
So, The Week That Was which began so problematically finally morphed into the totally engaging experience we had hoped for during those months of exhaustive and exhausting planning. We are addicted travelers and these Covid years have resulted in the longest travel drought of our almost 60 years of marriage. Is it a reflection of a lack of inner resources to require the external stimulation of new places? If so, we’re guilty as charged, but there’s nothing to compare to the sensory rush brought on by the unfamiliar, though pleasing, new signals flooding all your systems.
If you’re a traveler, I’m sure you’ve experienced the total disruption of your sense of time when you’re away. A week in a new place feels, in the best way, like a month of “normal” time, probably because that condensed dose of new sensations is equivalent to what you would be taking in during your sedentary life over the course of months.
Since we’ve been back, we have been in what I call the elevator speech post travel period. How in the world do you convey the richness of what you’ve just experienced to people who, though genuinely interested in your adventures, need a quick and dirty version, something short of Finnegan’s Wake, if possible. Do we go with the history of Jews and slaves on the island, the variety and quality of its many beaches, the varied and mostly positive eating experiences, the pleasures of the rental house, the dynamics of the family interactions in our shared space, the extraordinary variety of bird song that greeted us each morning, the pleasant and helpful natives of the island, the odd events we signed up for that don’t fit easily into a coherent narrative – the ostrich farm, the famous Curacao liqueur distillery, the deep-sea aquarium.
The list goes on and on. Different elevator speeches for different audiences and different moods, none of them really capturing the incredibly layered and complex experience we lived. Sadly, over time the elevator speeches crowd out the experience itself and come to represent it in your mind, just as the photograph takes the place of the moment it captures and fixes like the darkroom chemicals of pre-digital days.
So, there it is – the week that was, but almost wasn’t. Our passports are a few months short of their expiration dates, and I’ll be sending them off later this week for renewal. Who knows what travel is left for us, whether the inertia will win out next time around, but we’re hopeful, buoyed by the fact that our aging bodies actually held up pretty well under the stress of all the walking and carrying and driving. Dalia has dreams of Paris, London, Japan, Australia. I’m not sure how many, if any, are within our reach but, passports in hand, we can dream.
I want to pay tribute to Shirley Newsome, who died on Christmas Day. She was a woman who had a tremendous impact on the Hyde Park and North Kenwood/Oakland communities. She was the long-time head of the North Kenwood Oakland Community Conservation Council. This cumbersomely titled organization oversaw the redevelopment of a declining community and its relationship to the University of Chicago whose presence had a powerful impact on that community’s future.
When we were planning to open a University-sponsored charter school in her community, we appeared before her council to receive its blessing. Shirley examined our plans with an appropriately critical eye, and once she decided that our work would benefit the community’s families, her support was unswerving. She was a woman of unimpeachable integrity who worked hard for no personal gain to improve the lives of her neighbors.
I’ll quote the words of Toni Preckwinkle who, during the years when she was the alderman representing Mrs. Newsome’s district, partnered with her on many redevelopment efforts. “There’s no one in the community now with her stature: her experience in trying to work with elected officials in getting things done, the respect and affection she had for the community and community members had for her. It’s a tremendous loss.”