18 July 2011

Blue Ice and Yellow Eyes

My friend Gene once told me that he did all his best reading in the bathroom. He joked that he wanted to build bookshelves right into the bathroom wall, because the back of the toilet was no place for books. I love Gene.

I can't say I've done all my best reading in the bathroom, but sixteen years ago, on the back of a low profile powder-puff-blue toilet, I picked up a magazine that changed my life. In the history of the universe, I bet nobody else has ever said that about an auto club publication. Westways, a free magazine for members of Southern California AAA, had a feature story about taking a road trip through New Zealand. The way to see New Zealand, the author explained, was to rent a campervan and drive. The pictures in that article showed a landscape that was green, misty, lush, and ragged-- pastoral, yet exotic and otherworldly. I decided it was the most beautiful place on Earth, which might have been presumptuous since I'd never actually been anywhere yet.

On some level, most people want to travel. To visit Paris, maybe. Or to see the pyramids in Egypt. It's often a hypothetical desire, one that's waylaid by cost, responsibilities to employers and offspring, phobias, or simply inertia. That Westways article sparked more than a hypothetical desire to see famous buildings or paintings: it made me want to stand in other places, and for at least a brief time, to be part of those landscapes.

Steve promised me that we'd go to New Zealand together, eventually, but it's ridiculously inconvenient. Our travel dollars and miles were always better spent elsewhere-- in places like Argentina and Iceland that were hurting economically and therefore very cheap to visit.

And then, New Zealand fell into our laps. Everything came together to make this trip convenient, inexpensive, and possible. I left the itinerary to Steve, but I had four requests:

1. I want to see penguins in the wild.
2. I want to sail around Milford Sound.
3. I want to put on some crampons and clomp along a glacier.
4. I want to suspend my ardent francooenophilia (coined that one myself) just long enough to taste some Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with the winemakers.

Steve did his thing: he rolled his eyes, grumbled for ten seconds or so, and then smiled hugely at me and found a way to make it all work within the constraints of a seventeen day winter road trip.

Well, mostly. He's non-committal about the crampons.

Location:SE Salmon Ave,Redmond,United States


Penghinlady said...

But certainly not about the penguins, it is ardently to be hoped.

Two thoughts come to mind: I also do my best reading and puzzle-solving in the terlet, so I have a bookcase in mine. Always have. Handy place for my morning coffee cup, and a nice selection of mags and puzzle books. AND... I had a similar experience about 40 years ago when I read a Gourmet article about Dubrovnik. I haven't made it there yet, but will next June. It'll be the third of the three places I always knew I HAD to go - two down, one to go.

Steve-n-Melissa said...

Dubrovnik! Can't wait to hear about that. I know Antarctica was on the list; what's the third place?

Jack Aiello said...

So the adventure begins. Unlike Margaret, I have so many places I want to visit, it gets canceled out by what you so astutely coined as inertia, or better yet, plain ol' indecision.

Sorry for my French, but fuck that. I'm making it my intent to visit new destinations. Italy, I will always love you, but it's time to move on. And thanks for inspiring me to finally get off that powder blue pot.

Can't wait to read more.