Saturday, October 25, 2008

he is, after all, an OCCASIONAL travel companion

Today, Ed set out to hike the Smokey Mountains (in North Carolina) with his buddy John.

Over the years, he and I have struggled to figure out ways of structuring trips and getaways that would please and delight both of us. It's been tough, given that the very first words we ever spoke to each other were around the theme that we have nothing in common.

You want to suggest compromise? Well sure, Ed and I are familiar with compromise: he bends, I bend, neither of us likes it, we sigh with resignation and toddle on. For some things in life there is no perfect middle ground.

I have thought for a while that I should quit trying to like danger and clean water and bad weather and no roof over my head. And so today, off Ed went, to pursue adventure with someone loves discomfort as much as he does.

As we shopped last night for pouches of food that they would eat in the days (weeks?) ahead, I felt both nostalgia and relief. Suckers, I envy you. For the first three days anyway. Not after.

There is another element in the story and it has to do with the fact that Ed and his buddy have both recently retired. Their time is unconstrained. It has been a valuable experience for me to watch what happens to people who retire early and whose time becomes infinitely intractable. (At the same time as I remain at home, with a stack of midterms to grade. No, not jealous. Really. I love teaching. But I also love infinitely intractable schedules. So, more like envious.)

This morning, before Ed’s Great Adventure, he and I went to the Westside Community Farmers Market. There are only a couple of Saturdays left for the outdoor market. How sad. The tail end of anything is difficult. In spite of the fact that the shades of autumn today were so very beautiful.

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After, I drove Ed to the airport. In Milwaukee (you got it: cheaper airfares!). Originally, we had wanted to stop at the Milwaukee Art Museum prior to departure, but predictably, things got out of control and we barely made it in time for him to check in before the gates closed.

Except that the gates did not close, because the flight was canceled. Here I am, zipping back to Madison and Ed is borrowing someone’s cell phone to call me with the suggestion that maybe we should spend a sweet afternoon at the Museum after all (prior to his now very late departure).

I turn around, pick him up and zip to the downtown waterfront, to the magnificent Santiago Calatrava structure (first one of his to be completed in the US, granting him the “Best Design” award of 2001).

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We saw it with the wingspan open and then, on the way back, because it was so windy today, we saw it closed.

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And inside, all was immensely sleek gorgeous. What, you doubt me?

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At the close of the afternoon, I grabbed a latte and a cookie, dropped my OTC off for his bold and daring trek and headed home. I’ve learned how to find the pretty way back to Madison. I know when to get off the highway and veer toward the hill from which you can catch a glimpse of the city ahead.

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Closer, I could see the windsurfers do their thing.

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I was happy that they got in a good day of flipping and gliding. It’s getting colder by the hour. I bet it’s warmer in North Carolina. Sigh... Hi, Ed...