I flew

I took a plane from Newark to St. Louis on an Embraer EMB-145, operated by EXPRESSJET AIRLINES INC. doing business as United Express. 

What I saw: the lights of a small, midwestern American city from way up high. The streets were made three-dimensional by the interplay of streetlights and mist, spread like a great glowing tentacled beast, clutching the contours of the earth.

What I wore: Chinese-made Australian boots (coated in an authentic coating of fine horse-show dust), James jeans with stretch that I like to wear on planes, new navy embroidered peasant blouse (made in India), no makeup, scowl.
Geo Washington Bridge
What I did beforehand: used Google maps to drive to Newark Liberty International Airport and for once did not get lost in New Jersey.

Who went with me: 37 strangers and crew.

All anyone does anymore in airports is look at their phones

How I got tickets: online, from United Airlines.

Why: family obligations 

Where I sat: 3D

Things that were sad: after I had packed, but before I left, I was sitting in the kitchen thinking about what I might have forgotten, and I was suddenly struck with an inexplicable feeling of sadness.
Things that were funny: my car’s navigation system announced the GWB as the “Geo Washington bridge,” rhyming “geo” with “Rio.”

Things that were not funny: the bro-guys drinking beer in the Earl of Sandwich in the A Terminal of Newark Liberty Airport comparing notes on why they’re voting for Trump.

What it is: about a two-hour flight

I take this photo almost every time I fly

Who should see it: people who like turbulence, folks for whom a palm-sized bag of “Asian Snack Mix” is adequate for dinner, anyone who can sleep sitting up.

What I heard on the way home: Google Maps pronounces “Ladue” as “LAWD-way.”

Barcelona #3: Dinner

Some days require an adjustment of expectations. Today I woke at 10 am, which sounds more decadent than it was (I couldn’t sleep until 2 am).  My Traveling Companion was hard to wake. I tried three or four times and gave up. I pretty much headed out of the hotel (having been quite frightened away from the trays of food set up for late breakfast in the bar) and just wandered down the street to get a café con leche. On my return, I still could not wake the Traveling Companion, so I settled in for a quiet day of Twitter.  Finally, he woke, and we walked La Rambla to Old Town and back. Afterward, I negotiated some front desk help with a dinner reservation by giggling and pointing.
Dinner is served from 8:30 pm onward. Many places serve food until 2 am. Lunch is 1 pm to 4 pm or something. Breakfast is a mystery.
The Barcelona I have seen has none of the hysteria I found so common to Italy. Cars obey traffic lights. Pedestrians quietly glare at a taxi or truck that disobeys the signals. Crosswalks have lights which people mostly follow. There are bike lanes that are used by bikes and scooters and lots of parking in the middle of the street.  The scooters park on the sidewalks, in great silent congregations; this is easy to understand since they are naturally herd animals of the plains.
I see a lot of working people during the day, in suits, though mostly men. No drama in their discourse
, just talking. Yesterday at lunch there was a group of three businessmen quietly working on a triangular-management-nonsense chart while they ate. They ordered dessert, too. One got a piece of fruit (was it apple? pear?) and it was served rolling around loose on a plate with a sharp knife and a fork. The manproceeded to eat it as if carving a tiny goose.
I am frequently spoken to in Spanish or Catalan or French. They have a query that runs through the languages. I often reply with a “hi!” and we proceed in a version of English.
Dinner has been under 50 euros
the first two nights, despite ordering quite a lot of food. They charge your credit card for the amount on the ticket, and if something has occurred inspiring you to make a tip, you do it in cash.  Wait staff leave you alone for long periods unless you attempt to engage them a lot, and sometimes will ignore us so ferociously we start to wonder about it.
Last night we found a crêperie on the way to trying to find another restaurant. It was so small and inviting we stopped and went in. We had a cheese and meat plate and then galettes, which are traditional buckwheat crepes. The whole meal was pretty much fantastic. I had two glasses of cold French cider brut which was served to me in a tea cup. More delicious than anything I have had in a long time. They played French indie pop and rock on the stereo and had an amateurish mural of a dragon and an apple tree on the wall. I loved it.
Tonight’s dinner was at an establishment recommended by a Fodor’s guide. I tend to be a minimalist as far as travel books go, preferring the firm opinions of one book over a stack of conflicting ideas. Nevertheless, a friend went to Spain last summer and put a pile of books in the mail to me, and I have been the better for it.  First, I found a hotel which is both strange and pleasant and perfectly located yet near nothing and yet still near enough. Second, I can throw one of the glossy colorful books at my Traveling Companion and he can pretend to learn something just like I do.  Anyway, I needed the help of the front desk to even make the reservation (Tonight? Tomorrow? I don’t care! What time? As early as possible. Ok, yes 8:30 pm.). It was close by, which was fine. It was well-lit, which was awkward. We were the second table to be seated (also awkward). Our menu was in English. The specials were in Catalan and Spanish. The food was local specialties, prepared with superlative skill. The wait for the check at the end of the meal will be even more memorable than the meal. Tomorrow, we’re thinking Japanese. 

The Wolf That Would Not Die

My family frequently traveled with another, the C____s. This family had two children, a boy and a girl, close in age to my older brother and me.  In the winter we would drive to Colorado to go skiing together. In summer we went on at least one float trip.  Missouri has a number of creeks and rivers that are pretty easily navigated by families in aluminum canoes, fully laden with food and camping gear. I was too young to remember much about where we went and how we did it, but I do remember there was the Current River, and that we floated the Huzzah (pronounced “who-zaw”) and the Courtois(pronounced “coh-duh-way”).
We learned to save our worn out sneakers for river shoes. Typically, I would get the kind of terrible blistering sunburn on my back that we are now warned cause skin cancer. There were supposed to be several kinds of poisonous snakes to watch out for, but I only remember seeing one huge water moccasin, draped on a branch over the water.  I was taught to steer for the “v” in the rapids.
One of my mother’s terribly embarrassing habits was collecting and recycling bottles and steel and aluminum cans.  This was the late 1960s and early 1970s, when these efforts required washing, removing labels, flattening cans and collecting the sorted recyclables in the garage. Trips to the recycling center were humiliating to me; no one else I knew collected and dropped off trash like this. Pulling cans out of the river was another thing, though. You could see that the cans were pollution! Sometimes we saw people floating the same rivers in inner-tubes, six-packs of beer balanced on their stomachs.  If they floated ahead of us, we were probably collecting their cans.
My older brother tells an excellent float trip story about setting off bottle rockets after everyone was snug in their sleeping bags in their tents.  As for me, I do recall waking up one morning and having the water at the door of the tent because it had risen in the night, but I was too young to be responsible for pitching tents.  My main specific memory is of sitting around the campfire and after all the new stories and the funny stories and the standard stories had been told (including “The Giant Purple Ape”), begging Mr. C____ to tell the story of “The Wolf that Would Not Die.”
The story of “The Wolf that Would Not Die” was supposed to be so frightening that people had died both telling it and hearing about it.  We begged for it specifically.  Mr. C____  insisted for years that he had been sworn to secrecy.  Finally, we got Mr. C____ to tell the beginning, but just the beginning, where the leader of a fierce pack of wolves has his head chopped off, but is carried by members of his troop as they sought revenge.  We were never able to convince Mr. C____ to tell the end, though, and while I did not know it then, I am pretty sure now that there was no story and he was winging it.