written Tuesday 2 December 2003
|Back in the USSA|
I. "Anything seem weird?"
The first thing everyone asks when you return to your home country is "Does anything seem weird, coming back?" My last trip, in August, I had a very definite answer: "Yes, the smell of chlorine everywhere." And now that I've been back in the US for a week, I have to say that it is still there. It's not as strong this time. Maybe it was just cold November rather than hot August.
But this trip, the talk in the US is about Babies. Pregnancy. Growing up. Parenting. All that stuff. You see it everywhere, baby strollers blocking the aisles, fat women in the maternity shops that litter every mall, odd smells permeating even respectable restaurants. Baby changing tables in the restrooms--Mens' as well as Womens'. And all the bookstore display. Oh my God, the bookstores.
While I downed coffee at Borders, minding my own business, my gaze fell upon one huge magazine display and my jaw fell. BabyTalk magazine--doubtless needing a, er, very junior editor. Working Mother magazine, Mothering magazine. Parents mag, ParentWise mag, Parenting mag. Child mag, Early Years mag, ParentsBaby mag? Jesus--a mag named PrimaBaby. And in sad omens for the future, witness Pregnancy magazine. Fit Pregnancy mag, and Healthy Pregnancy mag. And then something called the Pregnancy Buyer's Guide.--I'm not going anywhere near that. And then, what prompted me to notice and record this for overabundant posterity was the bafflingly titled, and I am not making this up: ePregnancy magazine. E-Pregnancy? Is this just a very 1999 marketing title, or did the Americans invent yet another use for the Internet while I was away? I'm confused.
I'll grant this, at least: ePregnancy was the only mag cover to admit that males had anything to do with those nine months, not to mention with the 22 years of support to come. These mags bore a torrent of soon-to-be-composted wisdom titled: Infant Brain Boosters, Month-by-Month Pregnancy Planner (you know, of course, that women couldn't have babies before PDAs and Franklin Planners), Five Postpartum Pick-me-ups, What Your Toddler's Really Thinking (probably even less than their parents), and the incomparable brain-fart: "Good Mothers Don't Have Sex, Right?"
I suppose we should all be happy about this national spasm of optimism. But it does seem odd that since 9-11, Americans seem more intent than usual to inflict expensive, drooling little terrors on themselves. And yes, to me the juxtaposition seems a bit weird, so I guess there's my answer.
Uh, can we come back down to earth, please?
II. Ah, the Trip. You want to know about the Trip. Fine.
Walk to the train station, ride train to Schiphol, wait in line over an hour. When I get to the desk, this snippy young vrouw tells me that I was late, and that there is no seat for me. I offer that (1) "I was in line 2 hours before the flight" (2) "That young man in a uniform matching yours spent the last hour escorting to the head of the line all the pretty Dutch women in the airport" ("both of them", I felt compelled to add), (3) "I purchased my ticket 4 months in advance--shall we go to the plane and ask all the sitting passengers how many purchased their tickets as early as I?", and (4) "I already have a seat assignment, right there on your own reservation document."
I made myself as blunt as the Dutch, and so I flew...
...back to the land of profligate carbon dioxide production, of Atmosphere be Damned, of "Just Say No to Kyoto." I did the math: this rental car used more fuel in 10 days than I've burned in my Netherlands car in 6 months.
And the hotel room there in Illinois had a peculiar view, but the high-speed wireless internet access was nice.
You don't want to hear about work. So I'll mention that I continued my cruise around the part of Illinois where I will move when I'm done with the Netherlands (or vice versa). I discovered a very nice hidden area just west of the offices, a place quaintly but ominously named Sleepy Hollow. I found it nice, very nice...
...though I didn't lose my head over it.
A week of work. Then a drive down to Indianapolis, newly purchased CD by All-American Sheryl Crow blaring, to visit Meggo and Michael and their crass menagerie and K.
It was getting dark by the time we ventured to The Land Under the Power Lines, for a nice run with Willow, their lightning-fast puppy.
Willow is possibly the world's least photographable dog. Photogenic, but not photographable--she rarely slows down enough for even the fastest shutter speed. This is about as well as I could do. For the rest of the afternoon, I have only blurs to show. Sorry.
And then, suddenly, the pup would not run at all. This is Meg freaking out, begging motion of any kind from the Dog Suddenly Turned Statue. Neighbor boy runs to the rescue.
Sunday: the Indianapolis Opera! The Elixir of Love Donizetti's wonderful and ironic tale, and today set in the Wild American West. Michael had a nice part in it, and if Meg e-mails me a photo (HINT HINT) I will post it. It was fun and silly and well-done. A nice dinner afterwards, too.
Monday, a drive out to rural Indiana, to take Willow to see some dog friends. Which went well enough, until the boys got other ideas...
At left: Boys will be boys. Pestering the little girl, embarrassing her terribly.
At right: ...at least until she leaps to defend her honor! Cody has already had his fill of this indelicacy.
All that running wears a pup out. But at least it allowed for one in-focus shot.
Then a drive back to O'Hare, goodbye to Chevrolet Battlestar Galactica, and a flight to see the extended family. I am kicking myself for not taking the camera to the afternoon at the new outdoor Nasher Statue Gallery--it is a truly amazing outdoor space, not to be missed. Opinions vary on the statues themselves, though a few are undeniably, absolutely first rate. Too much turkey, nice times spent with the parents and sister and niece and nephew and sister's beau.
Flight back to O'Hare, in a KLM check-in line for two hours that I would characterize as Hell. Overnight across the big water. We arrived early, but the crack NS management cancelled enough trains that it was 8:30 am before I rolled the suitcase and the laptop (on which I write this) over Bussum's tile sidewalks (clackclackclackclack) to the overstuffed mailbox and up three flights of stairs and to sleep, sleep, glorious sleep...
...from which I woke with the flu. Thanks, Rachel. Two days, now, and none of it Pretty. Beyond that you don't want to hear about it--trust me.
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