7 September 2009--
I've had the jitters for days...feeling particularly disorganized and out-of-control. Wasn't even sure how I was getting to the airport for
a while there, but in the end Bobby comes through again (and is generously rewarded with a bottle of Laphroaig 15-year-old). At Bradley,
I calm my nerves with a pint of Harpoon IPA, and review the next weeks' itinerary. Parts of it are very different from what I was considering
a few months ago...how did I arrive at this?
Piece by piece, as usual. The first days will be in the East Neuk of Fife, inexplicably ignored these past eleven years. The week in Shetland was negotiated with Ron, who is again joining me for two weeks, after a year off. That stretch will be surrounded by familiar favorites --Craigellachie and Fortrose before, Plockton and Edinburgh after. A couple of days in Isle of Whithorn on the way to England...and that's where the schedule mutated most during the planning.
The well-worn cliché posits that it's the journey that matters most, not the destination. But without an end to aim for, there can be no journey. Often enough, I pick a point on the map, real or figurative, for whatever reason presents itself. There may be some important site I want to see, or just some point of curiosity, or some reason for going that is entirely arbitrary or irrational...a friend's name on the map, even. No matter--hit the road, and see what happens along the way. In this case, I'd been thinking about Lincoln and its landmark cathedral, with the familiar territory of Northumbria and Yorkshire on the way. But a pair of concerts farther south in England, a couple of days apart in mid-October, captured my attention, raising the appealing prospect of filling the time and space between here and there with visits to places I haven't seen before, and might not otherwise. Lincoln can wait.
As always, there have been decisions about just how much to plan, and how much to wing on the fly. Every traveler has a ratio of structure and improvisation with which he is comfortable--it is in fact something I've always had trouble getting right. I like flexibility, but I don't do well with too much uncertainty. The right balance must be struck.
Once in the air, the journey underway in earnest, most of my worries fade away. The fretting over preparation is past; I'll deal with whatever I need to as it comes. I change at JFK, which gave me some pause in the planning. The last time I changed there, I missed my connection and spent the night on the terminal floor, a bad start to a bad trip. I have a five-hour layover this time. It turns out I need a good part of that. Confused as to where I should be, I leave the terminal when I don't need to, and so must pass through security again. Back inside, I spend a good deal of time walking around trying to figure out which gate I'm supposed to be at. My boarding pass says 27, so I go there. The flight's not on the board yet. I grab a bite and have another pint. Now it's up--gate 7, some distance away.
We board at twilight and rise into the night.