The T. Mark Tribute
Making up a meal

Travel Writing

My travel tends to cluster -- heavy in April/May, heavy again mid-September to early-November.  The rhythm works for me.  After I've been home five or six weeks, I start itching to get on a plane to anywhere.  I want to check out a new hotel, find a new museum and a new little french bistro.  I want to talk with some people I haven't met before, find out what ideas we have in common and where we're different.  I want to hang out with good friends that I only see when I'm traveling, and sit up late sipping whisky and talking about how our lives are revolving.  I want to learn new things.

But when I finish a travel stretch like I've had the past two months, when I've been sleeping in hotels more nights than in my own bed,  and am feeling overstuffed with restaurant food and too many receptions, and can barely keep straight which audience I'm giving which presentation to, the prospect of coming in to the library day after day for several weeks and settling into something approaching a routine feels like bliss.  I want to get up at the same time every morning and have an hour and a half to write, dig into the planning and projects at the library, make a simple supper in the evening, read for an hour before bed, curl up next to Lynn to go to sleep, play with Josephine on the weekends.

Still, my head is overfilled with the images and sounds and sights from the places I've just recently been.  Whenever I'm about to leave home, I imagine that I'll be able to do regular posts from the road, documenting what I'm seeing & feeling, who I'm talking to and what I'm finding out.  It never happens.  I generally manage to write every day, but that's just the thirty or forty-five minutes of morning journal writing, scattershot notes & clumsy sentences that help me keep track of where my brain is.  Definitely not something that I'd want to post to the world.  I console myself by thinking that when I get back home, I'll write some longer posts about the more significant events.

But then I get back and while the pace is more relaxed, life still moves along on its merry way carrying me headlong into the new and leaving those places I've been, increasingly dimly behind.  How would I pick the one or two significant moments that are most worth writing about?  I could easily write a short essay about Geoffrey Bilder's brilliant presentation at UKSG on data-mining and its potential impact on scientific publishing.   I could wax poetic about the Caribou Cafe in Philadelphia and why I managed to get there three times in five days.  I could go on and on about how proud I was to see so many of the people that I work with at MLA, giving papers and presenting posters and running meetings -- about the number of times someone would say to me, "You've got quite a crew down there in Alabama!" and I'd just grin.

I could write about the interludes when we did have a few days at home between trips -- the way that Josie clung to my neck when I picked her up at school on that Tuesday afternoon after MLA, or the marvelous dinner cruise that we had in perfect weather with Rollo, BtheA, and Vikki.  There was a phone call from Heather Joseph to talk about the direction that SPARC is taking, an interview with the reporter from some magazine about how librarians can help consumers sort through health information, the scholar's week program with the med students, a weekend when we actually had time to do a little yardwork.

But then I'd want to think back about the road and mention debating Andrew Booth in North Carolina, or listening to Henry's wonderful Doe lecture, or just driving through the streets of Milwaukee with my Mom when I went up there for the WHSLA meeting.

I could go on like this for thousands and thousands of words, just pulling out images.  The crunch of gravel in the parking lot outside our window at Nailcote Hall, the giddiness of the post-banquet survival game in Wisconsin, the flush on a young colleague's face as we sipped wine and talked about her professional future, the Google guy finishing his presentation by quoting a poem by Kay Ryan,  the laughter when Rick put up his title slide at the space debate, LMF & Siemers at lunch with the new Grinnell librarian, the director of the National Library of Medicine pulling me aside at a reception in Philadelphia to pay for his membership in the Thicket Society.

What is one to do with all of this?  Every day changes you a little bit.  Every encounter teaches you something.  Every moment is mysterious.  I want to capture it in words so that it doesn't slip away.  There is never enough time.

On to the new...

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