February 22nd, 2012

Eight Years On

Yesterday I wrote a short entry about my inability to sleep before flights. As it turned out, I was able to sleep for once -- though I'm feeling behind now as a consequence -- and will probably be better off for it.

Since I will be returning to the conference in Louisville that has been a favorite of mine, both for the way it is run and for the the time I get to spend in that city I've grown to love, I thought I would revisit my entries from the first time I went there, back in February, 2004.

That was the month when I started posting to Live Journal every day and when my readership started to increase after months of being restricted to just a few people. Now that I find myself in a similar position as a result of abandoning my blog, I find it interesting to revisit the sort of material I was posting before worrying about what not to post started to dominate my thoughts.

I'd forgotten that I had posted an entry about how I can almost never sleep before flights eight years ago. Reading it today made me smile at how much I still think and write the same, despite all that has transpired in the intervening eight years:
I leave tomorrow morning for the 20th Century Literature conference in Louisville. But instead of sleeping, I'm up writing an entry about the fact that I never seem able to sleep before a flight. I wait and wait and wait, then finally start packing at the last possible minute.

Even when I was headed to Europe shortly after 9/11, facing a 20+ hour trip from Tucson to Phoenix to Frankfurt to Venice to Klagenfurt (Austria), I still couldn't rest until it was almost to late to get meaningful rest.

That time, I regretted my pre-trip excitement. I vividly recall driving in circles north of Venice, baffled by the Italian system -- or lack of a system -- for numbering local roads, coming to a traffic-filled bridge for a second time, like some mountaineer suddenly realizing that he has walked ten hours in the snow only to come back to the place he started from.

I didn't calm down until I stuck Yo La Tengo's I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One into my rental Fiat's tape player. The surreality of listening to "my" music, music I once listened to with Kim while driving up Highway One in Sonoma County, made me a bridge home.

Still, when I think about the insanity of flying all that way and then driving four hours in a rental car, when I'd never even driven in Europe before, I can't believe that I had the courage. I was so frazzled from the post-9/11 mood, further darkened by the anthrax that was turning up in new locations every hour. At least I had the presence or absence of mine to take pictures while driving in Slovenia

Driving in Slovenia

Did I mention that I landed in Venice on our wedding anniversary, which is also Skylar's birthday?

As the plane descended into the Venice airport, I looked out the window to my left and saw how long, skinny, and densely packed the old city was -- so much bigger than the central portions of German towns I'd visited as an exchange student -- how the hazy glare made everything shake and shimmer, I thought, "It's the Manhattan of its era."

Somewhere in my closet is a box full of items I collected to document my trip to Europe. I had grand plans for a piece about my experience. But I can barely lift the lid off the box. It's like there's toxic waste inside.

Those were strange times. Now I can barely fathom driving from Louisville to Lexington. Everything feels harder. Everything feels dangerous. Everything in me has aged.

I still haven't opened that box of items I collected to document my 2001 trip to Europe, though the idea of doing so has occurred to me more frequently now that I have a venue where I can publish pieces without worrying too much about whether they are commercial or political enough, where I am one of the people who have defined the editorial mission, instead of responding to it. I mean Souciant, of course, which has been taking up so much of the time I might have been spending keeping this blog viable over the past year.

I'd love for those of you who are still interested in connecting with me to go check Souciant out, if you haven't already, because it's near and dear to my heart. So is this journal, painful as it became for me at the end of 2010. I still don't know whether it makes sense to continue writing here. But I am kind of hoping that the fact that it no longer does make sense, from the standpoint of Live Journal's standing, will make it easier for me to get back to the lower-pressure productivity that I was building up towards back in February, 2004. I won't make any promises, since that seems to be part of the problem. I'll just post here -- or not -- as the mood strikes.