Thursday, February 23, 2012

Train to New York

On the train north from Charleston, SC to New York.  We’ve passed the trailer villages and the back sides of strip malls in North Charleston and Goose Creek and are heading through freshly forested swamp lands toward the Pee Dee.

I’m very tired.  Got to bed about two o’clock last night and set the alarm for 5:30 this morning, barely giving me time to finish all I needed to do before leaving at 8:00 AM. It was closer to 8:30 when I finally left the house, for the second time, after turning around and going back home to turn off the hot-water heater.  I had a water-heater leak disaster just a week before departure, which put me back two or three days in the trip preparation process.  It was one of those old “photo-finishes,” which become more difficult as I get older.

So this is my last “big trip” as I’ve been telling friends, and I do think it’s time to put the Wanderlust behind me.   I’ve seen almost everything in the world I’ve wanted to see.  And the stress of ripping myself away from the sedentary pursuits of everyday life feels much more unpleasant than in the past.  I was probably mildly addicted to intermittent stress, but I’m sure not feeling a high from this latest round.  I hope I’ve paid my dues in grief for this trip and can truly enjoy it.
One of the stressors and detractors of the past two or three weeks is that I have also been trying to close on a house in West Ashley, which will give me more room than I have in the condo.  It’s a cute little house where I’ll have more space for friends, like the women’s group or the UU book group.  The living room and the dining room are connected, so there’s an open space for company.  The house has a screened-in back porch, great for the plants and for sitting outside when the weather’s O.K.  But negotiating the purchase has been time consuming and frustrating.  Although I have an excellent credit rating, I’m also heavily leveraged for my income. But I have a lot of liquid assets and a good deal of equity in the four properties I own.  So we’ll see how that all shakes out.  My daughter, Briana will be the limited power-of-attorney for the transaction.
This trip should be fun!  I’m hoping to reprise some of the sense of adventure I experienced traveling around Europe on my own in years past, while also saying good-bye to some of the places I loved then and will not see again. 
In New York, I’ll spend a couple days with Arlene and then fly to London, where I intend to spend three days at the British Museum. This is a bucket-list item; I've never visited it before.  From there, I’ll take the train to Berlin and spend nearly a week with my daughter, Maria, and her family, then go by train to Switzerland for a couple of days, and then on to Italy to visit Guido’s family.  After that, I’m signed up for an organ tour (through NPR), which begins in Marseilles, with scheduled stops to see and hear pipe organs throughout the south of France (le Midi).
Following the organ tour, I go back to Heathrow Airport to catch a plane to Kiev and will hook up with a Grand Circle Travel tour of Ukraine, western Russia (especially waterways) and the Baltics (Estonia and Finland).  That trip will last for three weeks or so. Then I’ll fly back to the U.S. from Finland via Heathrow.
Later…I tentatively constructed an itinerary for the Eurail portion of the trip. It looks like I’ll have to make reservations (and maybe even pay supplements) for more than half the legs of this centipede-like journey.  Ten trains in all.  It’s a good thing I love to ride the rails!
Right now, the scenery outside the window seems like a foreign country.  The back-sides of buildings with their trash bins, the weeds thigh-high, Virginia creeper crawling up downspouts toward the eaves.  A mound of metal trash rises roof-high in a fenced yard.  Two boys stand beside a trestle painting still another layer on the graffiti-festooned cement.  A small graveyard sits in the midst of a cultivated field, at the edge of which tilts an off-kilter, rusted tobacco barn.

Fan-tracery ceiling, Unitarian Church, Charleston

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