You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Paul Theroux’ tag.

I’ve been listening to Paul Theroux’s Ghost Train to the Eastern Star, which is his most recent book where he revists the same route that he traveled in The Great Railway Bazaar.  I’m only on chapter two, but the first chapter is a lot of him waxing philosophical in the brilliant way that only he can,about with it is like to revisit a place, and how it can only be sad and disappointing because inevitably it will have changed in some way that you’ll disagree with.   As much as I’m loving this book, I’m also forced to remember that reading (or listening to) Paul Theroux always makes me yearn for great life experiences that I just haven’t had, and feel remiss for not having them.  I also feel remiss knowing that I probably have had some great life experiences, but could never record them with the amazing words that he does.

I can draw all kind of parallels between him writing these books and me reading them.  I was reading The Great Railway Bazaar when I first moved to Providence to start library school.  Now I’ve started its sequel the same day that I got my official letter telling me that I passed comps and am an actual librarian.  For me it’s been nearly two years since I experienced his first trip– not thirty-three, but it’s been significant time in which a lot of things have changed.

Paul Theroux is the only author who I’ve ever underlined.  I’ve never been an underliner because I get so sucked into the story that I don’t want to interrupt myself hunting for a pen.  With him, it’s like every line is so true and brilliantly crafted that I want to memorize it, and since I can’t, I underline it.  That’s the frustration with listening to this on audiobook.

The bonus is, he’s riding around Asia on a train while I’m driving around South County in my car– it’s very appropriate.  Thinking about what I’m doing in my every day as travel, or adventure is very healthy for me, and makes me appreciate rather than go through my commute with blinders on.

As much as Paul Theroux is making me want to zip through Turkey en route to India (I mean, I always want to do that, except I’d like to linger in Turkey a bit more), it’s also making me think a lot about my upcoming trip back to Fargo.

A lot of the things that he’s saying about returning to a place are really hitting home for me.  When I went back to Oxford one year after living there to find that things hadn’t changed too much but just enough that I could feel how different it was– that was a bit strange to me.  I’ve moved around a lot over the course of my life, but I haven’t revisited the places that I left very frequently.

I’m out-of-my-mind excited to see my friends, and finally run the Fargo 1/2 marathon, but I know the whole trip is going to have an extreme feeling of surreality.  Lauerman’s is no more, so I won’t get to have my pickled eggs and schooner of Honey Weiss; there’s going to be someone else living in the apartment I occupied for 5 years; my old library is completely gone and a shiny new one is standing in its place; there’s probably going to be sandbags everywhere.

It’s not my town anymore, and that’s fine, because I left voluntarily, but it’s still weird.  I figured out before I left that I’ve actually lived in Fargo/Moorhead longer than I’ve lived anywhere.  I was born in Southern MN, Springfield while my parents were living in Wabasso.  We stayed there a year, then moved to Hallock for two years, then moved to Warren for a year, then back to Hallock.  That time we stayed in Hallock until I was 12, and we moved to Cavalier on my 13th birthday.  I lived in Cavalier until I was 18– then off to Fargo for ages 18-28.  I spent ten years in that town, a pretty much spent all of it planning various schemes to leave that didn’t quite pan out.

I was comfortable there, though, I was content.  I left in my own time, and it was the right time for me.

I’m excited to re-navigate streets that are a perfect grid, and eat Mexican food that actually tastes like real Mexican food, but mostly I’m excited to just hang out and actually appreciate the city without having to work all the time, or feel resentful because I’m still there.

A while ago I was having a conversation with Wise Lawyer Friend about life, work, and passions. Apparently, she has a co-worker who recently discovered bird watching. This person had never previously been the outdoor sort, but now she vaults out of bed in the morning eager to get an eyeful of what’s chirping.

I don’t really understand the appeal of bird watching, but this woman has never been happier. At the time we were having this conversation, we were driving back from a play starring Theatre MILF Friend that was about an hour away from where we live, and at least 90 minutes away from Theatre MILF’s town.

“What are you passionate about?” Wise Lawyer Friend, “Clearly Theatre MILF is passionate about this since she would put in so much time and effort, arrange babysitters, memorize lines etc.– so what’s yours?”

I listed off a bunch of things I would consider myself passionate about, after reminding Wise Lawyer that the word “passion” is a bit too reminiscent of Oprah for my taste, among them books and learning, travel, good music, new experiences, solid friendships…

“I don’t know if I would ever want to be passionate about just one thing like the bird watcher,” I said, “I’m happy for her, of course, but I have a very big fear of being one-dimensional, and I’m far too eager to try new things.” Then I remembered the line that I wrote in my introduction to my masters thesis that I liked the best. We were meant to be talking about our favorite writers and how they influenced us, and why we write. I said that writing is important to me because it’s the one thing I’ve never quit. I’ve quit most other things that I’ve attempted– for a variety of reasons, or put things on hiatus– but writing is the thing that I’ve been doing since I learned how.

I also mentioned to Wise Lawyer Friend that I didn’t understand the appeal of bird watching, “My husband went once, I’m sure he’d be willing to take you sometime.”

“Yeah, sure.” I said automatically, knowing that it was something that would never happen, but we would make an amorphous promise and never follow through. “Actually, no, I really don’t care about trying out bird watching, I just want to understand the appeal– like James Patterson, or romantic comedies. If it was something I really wanted to do– I would have done it already.”

That’s my new philosophy. Sure, there are moments when I look at a beautiful garden or hear people telling stories of amazing quilts, or triathlons, or whatever when I get a pang and think maybe I should do something like that. But then it turns out that I really don’t care, or I’m not very good at it, or the work involved is just more than I’m willing to do. Inevitably I feel a bit guilty and lazy, but then I get over it.

Now, I’m going to leave these things to the people who really care, and know that I could do it, but it’s okay to just not want to.

I’ve done the things that are important to me, and I’m still doing them. I write nearly every day; I read every day; I keep on getting advanced degrees and even while working on that, I learn as much other random stuff as I can (I totally schooled a park ranger last week on my knowledge of self-supporting marble domes); I have many good, reliable friends; I have up-coming travel plans; and I’m constantly on watch for something new (should I really want to take it on). By my own standards, I’m a success, and even if the day-to-day is a bit of a drudgery at times, it’s all fitting into the big picture quite nicely.

I haven’t worn a watch in years. I have had a number of them over the years but they always break or I lose them, or I realize that they are ugly, uncomfortable etc.

Quite a few years ago, I was on a cruise and first really discovered Duty Free. I’d bought duty free booze en route to Canada many times, but always bypassed the perfumes and jewelry because even without tax, it was still expensive, and why would I need a giant bottle of Joop!? On this cruise ship, however, all of the duty free shops were located along the Grand Promenade and I had to walk past them to get my free coffee and free fro-yo. Also, on this cruise, we had at least two full “at sea” days, meaning that you are stuck on the ship with nothing to do but eat and watch The Thomas Crown Affair in six languages (English, Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Japanese). Oh sure, the more savvy cruisers had made spa appointments, got up early and grabbed chaise lounges on the sun deck, went to the gym, casino, and didn’t mind paying $22 to play Bingo for an hour. I was not a savvy cruiser, I slept in, got room service, and then had a whole day to fill and no options other than wandering, reading, and eating– I quickly became bored.

So I wandered the length of the ship over, and over. Finally on the last at sea day, the duty free stores had a sidewalk sale, and I found the perfect watch. Small, but not too small, feminine without being girly, it didn’t pinch my arm, and it didn’t weigh me down– only problem was that it was too big around my wrist. I managed to convince the guy in the store to adjust it for free, even though he said he wasn’t supposed to. Then I bought a ton of duty-free scotch.

I decided that this watch would take me through the good times and the bad. This was the watch for me, and would be henceforth referred to as “my watch” the only watch I would ever need again in my life. Whatever else went wrong, I had the watch thing sorted.

Of course the watch wasn’t waterproof, and about two months later I took it off to go skinny-dipping in the Adriatic Sea, and it fell between the slats on the dock.

I got another watch, but it wasn’t the same. It never fit right, and looking at pictures of myself wearing it elicit a what was I thinking feeling. Since surrendering that watch, I just use my phone if I need to know what time it is. This is imperfect in that I look very rude, and if I have a message of any kind, I have to clear it out before I can see what time it is– but it works.

Except when it doesn’t. My phone simply could not get a signal in Montreal. I lost my signal somewhere around Vermont, and then my phone battery started going dead from the monumental task of “searching for signal.” I shut my phone off, and immediately felt reckless and unsafe. What if there was some kind of emergency? What if my mother called and my father had had a heart attack? What if something else bad happened?

Really though, in my family, if something bad did happen, my parents would probably forget to tell me– like they forgot to tell me that my cousin had run away and I had to hear it when I went in to work at TV station, “Andria, this ______, are you related to her?”

“She’s my cousin, what did she do now?”

“She’s been missing for three days– didn’t you know?”

I started feeling a bit free without the burden of cellular technology weighing on my mind.

The first night in town, Wise Lawyer Friend and I just wandered around our new neighborhood. She had visited Montreal annually for Model U.N. when she was an undergrad, but it had been about four years; so she knew the lay of the land, but it had changed slightly. We had a disappointing Mexican dinner (can I never find good Mexican food on the East Coast?), drank a Brazilian beer in some kind of beer garden that may have had something to do with the Euro Cup (?), and returned to our hotel to plan our day while watching Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel, which I realize I can do any old time, but it’s more fun in a hotel room.

The following day was a great mish-mash of adventuring made more of an adventure because neither of us ever knew what time it was. We were going purely on instinct and it was really cool.

“I feel hungry, are you hungry?”

“Yeah, a little. What time is it.”

Then we would look around briefly to see if there was a clock anywhere.

“There are no clocks in this town– like Vegas. Let’s go to Little Italy and have lunch there.”

After a while, we got used to never knowing what time it was, and stopped looking for clocks. It was very freeing having no timetable, no set time when you eat whether you’re hungry or not, just kind of remembering what it feels like to actually be hungry, and then seek out food.

We studied the sun like ancient people and approximated, but mostly didn’t care (except that we wanted to make it to the Archeology Museum before closing).

Perfect vacation.

Back in March, my Jewish Friend approached me with the information that the annual ALA conference is in Anaheim this year. “We should go.” she said, “my rich uncle would probably fly us out for free and we can stay at his mansion in Beverly Hills.”

Saying the word free makes almost anything appealing to me, and crashing at a mansion and basking in the sun sounds like a perfect way to spend part of my summer. So I took the time off work. Then we found out that rich uncle was going to be out of town that week and was unwilling to fly us out to stay at his house when he isn’t going to be there.

So we re-grouped. We started brainstorming places where we could stay for free or cheap.

Chicago, NYC, and Montreal were all mentioned.

Jewish Friend lacks valid passport, so Montreal is eliminated.

Chicago is decided upon, and I find a cheap plane ticket online– things are looking promising.

I get into a car accident, missing an extra shift at work, and incurring at least $500 in car repairs.

Jewish Friend’s father is hit by a truck while crossing the street, so Jewish Friend heads back home.

I start planning daytrips that I can do by myself: New Haven, Cape Cod, beach etc.

I find out that my hours at work are being cut– in half. I start reconsidering whether or not taking a vacation at all is wise, maybe I should just try to grab any extra shifts that come my way, or perhaps I should do a “staycation.” I decide to do a combo staycation/vacation and eliminate my daytrip to Cape Cod, then pick up an extra shift at work to make myself feel better.

I ask Wise Lawyer Friend if she maybe wants to go to Montreal for the weekend. Since she is a pragmatic person and hyper-scheduled, I never really expected her to say yes, but thankfully her brain was a little broken after taking an intense one-week summer class, and she needed a getaway too.

I get my car back from mechanic beautifully fixed, cleaned, with topped-off windshield wiper fluid. Mechanic informs me that I do not need to pay my deductible as he has “worked it out for me.” I want to buy my mechanic a fruit basket, but instead take business cards and promise to send him any business I can– and I will. I love my mechanic, and if you need any bodywork done in the Providence area, ask me for his number.

Wise Lawyer Friend decides to blow off work and come on my New Haven daytrip as does Male Canadian Friend. I feel a cold coming on, but pack tissues and try to ignore it. We have a lovely day ending with a lovely meal.

A little later that night I start throwing up unexpectedly leading me to believe that I have food poisoning. I spend the night in a sleepless cold sweat punctuated by trips to the bathroom.  My cold has also gone full-blown so my head, already spacey from lack of nourishment, is also full of mucus that needs to be expelled.  It was a very wet night.

The following day, I pack for Montreal, try to eat bland food, and buy some Sudafed.  Jewish Friend’s father is doing better, he’s out of ICU but a long way from being good, and she is back in town. She buys me egg drop soup as well as giving me a cold care-package.

Wise lawyer friend and I drive to Montreal without incident, and have a lovely weekend (more details later) proving that optimism and determination are the keys to success!

I’m in the throes of a vacation craving more intense than I’ve felt in years. I think I’m alienating friends by being so singularly focused, but I realized a while ago that I have not left the lower 48 (except going to Canada briefly), in 7 years. This is not ok with me.

How does a girl who professes to love travel more than most things, let it slip this far? I’m not completely sure, but I intend to stop it.

In all honesty, I though that moving to the East Coast would calm things a bit– it’s not that same as traveling to a completely foreign land, but creating a new life in a completely different part of the country never previously visited, must be close. As much as I want to explore my new home, I really have to admit that driving to Cape Cod is unlikely to satisfy me.

This begs the question: why have I not chosen a career that allows me to travel, or even requires me to travel? Answer: because I do not know what career that is.

For all of my searching as an undeclared sophomore, I still have no idea what people do for a living. I grew up in a small town where things were clear-cut: doctor, policeman, teacher etc. The small-townness of it all, allowed to stereotypes of the 50s to prevail, and people had jobs that were readily understood by anyone else unlike, say, “I’m a shoozit, which means I do x, y, and sometimes z, but usually my assistant handles that.”

I spent the first two years of college reading books, taking test and surveys, all in an effort to understand what the hell I should major in because I thought that would determine what job I would do. All the tests said either lawyer, or writer. All of them. In my mind, two choices could not be further apart, though both appeal to me. Although, after I finished my first masters, when I realized that I could not be a full-time writer, I also realized that I love the idea of going to law school, but would rather never practice law– thanks meyers-briggs.

So, now I’m going to be a librarian, which is a career choice that has felt the more comfortable of any I’ve ever made, and one that I could have made even given my rather limited wordview on careers (it may be just that I overthought things)– except all I can think about now is travel and how librarianship stifles that. Even though I would be basically unemployed as a writer because I lack discipline, and the ability to write anything that doesn’t sound smartassed– I could legitimize traveling because it would lead to the next big novel, character, article, vignette, script etc.

Librarians, mostly need to be on-site to manage the goings on at the library.

This is why, as I told a friend a couple weeks ago, I plan to be a librarian turned professor turned writer turned editor turner writer/lecturer who is in high demand but can be picky. I don’t think it’s unreasonable.

So, I needed librarianship to make writing fun for me again, I need travel to make librarianship fun again, we’ll see what happens after I achieve travel because I’m seriously running out of passions– maybe thats when I discover the whole new talent that I previously never knew I had.