Sunday, July 01, 2012

Travels to Innsbruck--Part One


I teach an Introduction to Literature class at Central Methodist University that focuses on Travel/Journey. We start with the epic poem, The Odyssey, read Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and some other texts, and end with Octavia Butler’s haunting novel Beloved.  One of the things we emphasize in this class is that it’s not about the destination, but rather about the journey itself.

I’m finally starting to believe that I may actually be full of crap. The journey sometimes sucks.

FRIDAY JUNE 29, 2012
Columbia, MO – Columbia, MO (leg 1)
The first leg of my trip to Innsbruck involved being taken to the location from where I would pick up a shuttle to St. Louis – Lambert International Airport.  I asked my friend Sharon to take me to the location, which is only a few miles away, mostly because I’m cheap. I’ll admit it. I know when I’m acting that way. This was by far the best leg of the journey. I got to spend a few minutes with my friend and she is a delight. I also expressed to her my unusually high level of anxiety for this particular trip. It was unusual because two years ago when I went to teach in Innsbruck, I was in a particularly precarious situation in that days after I returned I would move to Columbia, MO, attend a faculty orientation and start a new job & a new life. This time I am coming home to a good, stable job, lovely friends and a great life. Perhaps I am prescient.

Columbia, MO – STL (leg 2)
This leg started out quite nicely. There was a white guy with Dred locks playing the guitar softly and it was lovely. I finished up some Words with Friends games and then decided I would try to take a nap. Yet there was one woman on the shuttle who talked nonstop. She was talking to a person, but he rarely interjected, so it seemed more like a monologue than anything else. The things she was saying were not clear even with her explicating them in detail. I did manage to nap a little on this portion of my trip, but that’s woman’s voice was irritating me to no end. There were also a lot of loud phone talkers on this particular shuttle as well.  I enjoy my phone as much as the next person, but I do think there are times when it’s appropriate and when it’s not. Also, it depends on how many people there are who are doing the same thing. For example, it seemed very natural for me to partake in a long cell phone conversation on the train from Ronkonkoma to Penn Station because everyone else was.  There were eight people in this shuttle, so it made it extremely awkward and weird.

STL  - DTW (leg 3)
Upon arriving at the airport, there was already a scene in progress. A woman had collapsed near the Delta baggage drop area. It was unclear exactly what was wrong. The other passengers in the line were surmising that it could have been heat stroke or dehydration because of the 90-odd degree temperature already at noon. Two kind military personnel along with one of the baggage drop customer service agents were tending to this woman, which was nice, but this caused our wait in line to drop off our checked baggage to be even longer. Finally, when I did get up to another customer service representative, I put my bag up and it weighed 55 lbs. The limit, mind you, is 50 lbs. If I were going to try and send the bag as is, it would have cost me an extra $100 (notice the theme of my frugality here). So I removed some items and put them into my checked bag. She would allow a bag that was 52 lbs without charging the fee, but that was all she could do. After 2 attempts at removing things, I finally decided I needed to wear my sweatshirt and then my luggage was checked directly to Munich.

In STL, I didn’t have a lot of time to sit down. I think I was only sitting for about 30 minutes before I had to board the plane. Of the many benefits of my SkyMiles Delta Gold Card is that I am automatically put in Boarding Group 1, in addition to checking my first bag for free, which gives me more time to settle in to my seat. Once I got to the front, however, I was told that my regulation-size roller bag needed to be checked and I would be able to pick it up on the jetway in Detroit. This is one of the things that is a perk about flying, but also a disadvantage. Airlines charge people an excruciating amount of money to check bags, so most people now travel short trips with only carry-ons and even those end up being checked. The only good thing about this is that the airline can NOT charge to stow the carry-ons.  Thank goodness for small favors.

The plane ride to DTW was fairly pleasant. The woman sitting next to me was reading The Hunger Games, while I was reading a copy of Marie Claire that I hadn’t gotten to read when I was at home. I didn’t sleep this leg and finished the whole magazine. I even offered it to my seatmate since all I was going to do was leave it in the seat pocket for the next passenger—paying it forward, if you will.

Our trip to the Detroit Metro area was lengthened because the plane was diverted away from some of the thunderstorms that were taking place in the area. This made us about 15 minutes late for our arrival.

More on legs 4, 5 & 6 in my next blog.

To be continued…

Friday, June 15, 2012

Reality; or When Dreams Die; or When “Eventually” Turns Into “Never”

[I'm not 100% happy about this blog. It still doesn't say what I want it to say the way I want to say it, but you can be the judge of that.]

It’s always quite disheartening when I realize that something I thought would always happen actually won’t.  (And no, I’m not talking about getting married and having babies—those dreams are still very much alive).  I’m talking about small seemingly irrelevant things that one may not consider even to be important or realistic, but are still things that have been anticipated. Sometimes these dreams become what we consider to be “eventualities.” The moment when one realizes that eventually never comes is to what I’m referring.

I think we all have moments like this whether we choose to categorize it or even contextualize it as such. Lately, I’ve had a few of these moments—none of them are devastating or life-changing[1], but just disappointing.  Some of these are connected to aging, while others are about our particular circumstances or the circumstances of those around us.

To paraphrase Langston Hughes, this is not about a dream being deferred.  Deferred suggests that it has been put off until a time more suitable. I’m referring to a dream which doesn’t simply wrinkle, change shape or even explode, but it disappears with only faint traces left when it once stood.

Here is an incredibly benign example from the recent past for context.  I always imagined that I would have a pet. I’ve known about my allergies to pet dander for many years now, but I thought that with medication and exposure I would be able to overcome them. When I was younger, we had a cat and with regular allergy shots, I would do medium to fair around her. I have also witnessed plenty of friends and relatives with varying degrees of allergies managee to bring dogs, cats, etc., into their lives, so I figured that eventually I would be able to do this as well. Recently, after spending a few hours at some friends’ houses with pets, I’ve found myself in such miserable shape (coughing, sneezing, and overall crappy asthmatic responses) that I finally had to reach the conclusion that it would not be; I could not be a pet owner. I kept trying to convince myself that there would be a way, though I practiced the following phrase with reckless abandon: “I’m not willing to sacrifice my health for a pet.” I thought I had convinced myself of this reality, but it took longer than expected.

It’s amazing how long we live with denial of the inevitability of certain things. We cling desperately to any hope that something is actually possible and that we can change the circumstances before us to suit our needs, when, in fact, any real attempt is, as the Borg would say, futile.

Realizing that there is no “eventually” in certain circumstances is difficult. I have often been accused of being a pessimistic person, but what I’m talking about has more to do with understanding the realities of a situation rather than being a “Debbie Downer” for no solid reason. It’s not even about “knowing when to quit” because many of these things are not things one can actually change. They either happen or don’t. This isn’t about lack of initiative, willpower or foresight. It concerns reaching reasonable conclusions about expectations which will not be met—some of which were unreasonable in the first place.

It was unreasonable to assume that somehow, something like my animal allergies would be alleviated by sheer will, determination, and pills.  I knew better.  I know better, but I was unwilling to foreclose on that particular dream, just as I was on many others. I’m not sure what has inspired the change, but perhaps I am more willing to foreclose on dreams that I know aren’t worth the risk—financially, socially, culturally, health-wise, etc. I must have developed a new barometer for calculating risk in my life.  Perhaps I am just looking for fewer scorch marks where dreams went unfulfilled.

This isn’t to say that I have called a moratorium on small dreams. Sometimes I think they are the best ones because they are low-risk.  Some of them are not nearly as low-risk as I thought they were because then even small dreams dying wouldn’t take such a toll.

[1] This is not to undermine when large dreams are unfulfilled, but I think that gets discussed much more. I am more interested in the smaller, sillier, fairly inconsequential dreams that we have.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Well, it's been almost 4.5 years since my last blog post. I won't even attempt to fill you in on all that's happened in that time, but here are a few things you should probably know: I'm an Assistant Professor of English at a lovely liberal arts university in central Missouri, after finally finishing my Ph.D. in English in August of 2011; I'm currently on a winning trivia team called That Team Over There; I work out semi-regularly (for me, at least) and I'm still single.

I tell my students that if they want to write, they should just do it and only recently did I realize that I'm not following my own advice. I did make a commitment to write a full page in my journal every day and so I'm also going to start writing more blog posts. I think the tenor of my blog will be similar, but I do think that the name change (Desipoem's Diatribes to Desipoem's Desiderata) does suggest that there will be less ranting and more exploring. I do hope to stick to that particular tenet, with regard to my blog.

I'm also writing more in anticipation of my upcoming trip to Innsbruck, Austria. I will be teaching at the University of New Orleans' 37th International Summer School in Innsbruck for the 2nd time. Back in 2010, I made my first journey to Europe. I taught two classes and in addition to seeing the sights in Innsbruck, I also visited Hall in Tyrol, Salzburg, Vienna and Venice, Italy. For some reason, I only posted a few of these pictures to Facebook. I think I was more interested in the experience itself rather than reflecting on said experience. Now I'm dedicated to the reflection part. This year I have trips to Paris, France & Prague, Czech Republic planned. I'm very excited about seeing both of these places, since I've been to neither of them previously.

Before I go to Europe, I will be doing some additional traveling--Columbus, Ohio (to my parents' place), Brampton/Toronto, ON (to my aunt & uncle's house), and then to New Orleans (reuniting with some friends). I'll try to post about those as well.

I'm not necessarily setting any goals regarding my blog, but let's just say the next blog post will be much sooner than 4.5 years from now. :)