Saturday, April 30, 2011


I have become considerably more social in recent years, but retain certain personality traits that probably do not help me in that regard. I don't like being told what to do or what to think, and while this likely does not set me apart from many, the ways in which this antipathy manifests itself may. While watching football with my father, I grew more and more upset at the gall with which the commentators told me what I thought and how I felt about the action on the field. Of course, they have come in for my criticism in the past, so there should be no surprise there.

As I said, I also don't like being told what to do, and there frequently are demands made of social networking site users. Someone will find themselves bored and just order the reader to supply them with diversions. Someone else will find some news article interesting and likewise demand thoughts or an answer to a derivative question they pose. I just don't respond well to that, especially when this is something going out to hundreds. Someone else can provide a tip on a place to eat- I'm not so hard up for validation that I've got to be the one.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Thought

Something has happened that made me consider the opposing forces of construction and destruction. One might look at them as good and evil. This thing that happened wasn't big. Rather, it was as small and mundane as could be. All that happened was that while trying to put my taxes together at the eleventh hour, I just tore my bedroom apart in search of various documents. I had not so long before finally put my belongings into some kind of order, wresting them from the chaos that had accompanied my third move in as many months. This final move having been in late November, I can figure that it took some four and a half months to achieve. It took a few minutes to scatter it all to hither and yon.

Could there be a better picture of construction and destruction- of good and evil? I wonder if we all aren't merely looking for our way to make our mark. If all of human effort is simply in service of trying to impact the surrounding universe, it's not so hard to understand why people do what they do. Looking for a motive for evil in money, love and other areas sometimes comes up empty. I think that the bad guys as much as the good guys may simply be trying to make a difference.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Trip Eschewed

I recall at least one trip to Las Vegas when I was a boy. At the time there was an earnest effort to make the city family-friendly, which I cannot say sounds like a good idea any more than it did then. One cannot really soften a city built on gambling and vices even more severe merely by putting in a couple of modest theme parks with roller coasters, or at least so goes my thinking. It was a reasonably enjoyable trip. I recall being shooed away from nickel slot machines and also being made to evacuate a poolside cabana which I could not understand having to pay for when it was so open and inviting. I had been watching cartoons in its tv.

I have not been back since about that time. As much as I appreciate the value of some things heavily touted by Vegas fans, I don't consider the place to really be for me. I tend to be rather risk averse, and derive little pleasure from anything more than trivial stakes in gambling. Something like a quarter or a dollar on a sporting event is really all I would have any desire for. You tend to have to be something more of a high roller than that in Las Vegas casinos.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Rant From Across The Pond

I can't say I've ever had much affinity for royalty. I guess such antipathy is in my heritage, or at least it's supposed to be. We the people went to war more than once to rid ourselves once and for all of the meddlesome influence of the hated British. Subsequently we became close allies, but continued to take potshots at such targets as remained appropriate. We laugh at wigs in court and are disdainful of a generally stuffy attitude. We used to be, at least.

There is an unfortunate turning of the tide in progress. Each of our most revered superheroes is now being played in film by a subject of the British Commonwealth. The various accents of our erstwhile enemy continue to leave our women smitten. It's a stealthy cultural invasion far more malicious than the one which brought us the Beatles and so many more great rock bands. I fear that with all of this I'm the only one left to bemoan what's happening.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Time On My Hands

The last time I wore a wristwatch was years ago. I used to wear one dutifully for fear of having to inquire from a stranger (or even a friend) what time it was. I never had one of the best watches even within a modest price range, but always had something serviceable. It seems to me that I had one that served as a calculator at one time (and at another time I carried a pocket watch). What was gross and fun at the same time was the smell left on the wrist when the watch, pressed against the skin for hours with no respite, was finally removed. It's one of those indelible smells bound to provoke memories.

For a while after I started carrying a cell phone, I continued to wear a watch. As long as I had that watch, I wore it. It was grandfathered into a dying habit, however. At long last, it broke, and I saw no reason to replace it. Everything it did could be done by the cell phone. The phone kept time and did any other extra things better than the watch ever had. It made no smells and didn't hurt my fingertips when I had to adjust something. How I hated those little tiny buttons on the side of the watch!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pay Your Way

There are many things I don't like, and at least as many sorts of people. It's all too easy to run afoul of one or another of my bugaboos, and I hardly expect that people work first and foremost on staying good with me as opposed to the many other worthy objectives that can lead to prosperity and happiness in this world. I can hardly argue that my good will can take you very far towards that at all unless my happiness and your happiness and you don't regard money as being integral to prosperity. I feel as I feel about people anyway.

One type I don't care for at all is the silent type. You'd think that given how much I talk and how loudly I do it that I would be grateful for someone who just plain punts in a conversation and lets me go to town. I don't like that. I hear myself talk all day and night every day- out loud I mean, and with people around or not. I know what I'm thinking, so there's no value in just saying it to someone's face. I want to hear what they have to say as well- that's the great virtue in having friends and not cats or plants.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Monsters Of The Page

There are some awfully insidious and malicious forces out there. We stay on guard to look after ourselves and those we care about, but ultimately there's only so much that we can do personally. Because we want full peace of mind, we turn to others, be they some kind of professional or even a machine. The whole point is that we can sit back and relax, only can we? The reality is that vigilance is all the more necessary is such a case. The thing that worries me at nights comes when I cam writing, and is none other than the typo that forms a different word than the one intended.

The spell checker remains too stupid to work out what would be an obvious mistake to any human, and that would assuage my fears of a robot uprising if there weren't the more immediate annoyance of having to proof read my work personally. I don't think I'm actually that good at it, and perhaps no one is given that multiple sets of eyes are employed by the properly wary. For all I know this very post is riddled with words which aren't what I meant.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Eye Wonder Why

There are a lot of things you see in movies and just accept that they happen. It's called suspension of disbelief, and permits you to go along with song and dance numbers as well as aliens, among other things. It's only fair that you meet the filmmaker halfway so that they can tell their story and you can have a good time. Sometimes though, I just can't get there, and it's not really the things you would think are tough to swallow in the course of a story.

There's something that you see people do in movies all the time, and I really don't know what for. Some cherished loved one will die (or "pass away"), and the protagonist will be overcome with emotion, adding depth to them. As we connect more to this suddenly vulnerable person, we see them pass their open palm over the face of the now-corpse, leaving the previously open eyes closed. We just accept that this is the thing you do, along with calling the authorities and arranging a funeral. Well, I just can't take this eye thing unless I'm furnished an explanation.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Useless Feature

I have an inveterate jerk roaming the streets out there to thank for my inspiration today (but let me come back to him). If I understand correctly, the car horn was not invented as the abusive cudgel we know it to be today. At the dawn of the automobile age, it was a benevolent invention meant to send out a happy 'Hello' to other motorists encountered on the road. It seems probable that there were so few that any meeting was a celebrated occasion, akin to two Englishmen crossing paths someplace far from home.

Today the horn is at best a jarring but well-intentioned spur to get going at a light. At worst, it is everything else a driver does in response to the vicious, despicable other drivers populating the roads. Now, as to that jerk: Looking out my bedroom window produces a view of the adjacent building and beyond that, the next side street. Off in the distance is the next major cross street. Somewhere out there is a man who saw fit to lean on his horn for an uninterrupted period of some minutes.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Unhelpful Kind

I don't like complainers. I don't know who does like them. I find them repellent. Who wants to hear it? Everybody has problems, and they either deal with them or don't, but privately. Telling the world about it when no one can help or would is like venting radioactive vapor into the air. Who wants to be around such a person whose outlook is so negative that it's all you hear from them? "Not I" said the cow. The reason I say all this is that when I make this complaint that's burning inside me you'll know I appreciate that it's not a pleasant thing to do.

As I believe I've said before, when I feel mistreated by some business or another, I walk away positively fuming. It requires considerable effort to douse the flames of rage, find some perspective and go on with my day in serenity. Just such an incident took place recently. As you are undoubtedly aware, the filing deadline for federal income tax recently came and went. It is the only time I really need stamps, and so I went to the grocery store in search of some in addition to envelopes and some food. Usually such places carry stamps.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easy... For Some

Each person has their strengths and weaknesses. I figure that for most people, each are understandable. I suppose that by definition most people aren't bad at things that people shouldn't be bad at, and that could be applied to strengths as well. Once again though, I fall outside the norm if I am seeing myself objectively (which would be remarkable). There's something particular that I don't consider myself to be any good at, and people might react as they would to a grown man who can't drive a car.

It's just logistical stuff. I'm not the only one who is tested by the splitting of the bill at a restaurant, but how many people are pushed to the breaking point by finding friends to go on an outing and arranging transportation? That's all that I can handle and then some. I find myself thinking that anyone else could find a taker for baseball tickets in a second, or that it's a task of no serious difficulty for someone of reasonable ability to determine the best way to get a set number of people from several locations to a single destination in the fewest cars possible.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Love Deeply And Fast

Something that I was taught at some time or another in service of becoming a filmmaker was that as a screenwriter, you must be able to get enthusiastic about any subject at the drop of a hat. I then said to myself that I could do that, but it was kind of a hypothetical thing. I imagined I could do it if it came to it, but at that time it hadn't. Things I was passionate about I set myself to with gusto, and things that I was indifferent to received at best a portion of my effort.

Today is another story. My attention is like a spotlight trained on the perimeter of some military installation. It's always moving, always searching, and constantly falling on something of great interest. Very much at the drop of a hat I invest myself wholeheartedly in something. Often it's a song. Those around me may be alerted by my uttering of the phrase, "Here we go". It signals the imminence of unrestrained, reckless enthusiasm for something, and woe betide he who is caught in its path unawares.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cleaned Out

In life things are always in transition. There never is that status quo, because things are always moving and changing, so when something comes into being we ought not to be surprised, nor should we when something else fades away, no matter how big it is or seems to be. I'm presently thinking of soap operas. This is something I like the idea of much more so than I like the thing itself. I admire the formidable task of generating five hours of scripted programming a week. I have an affection for them and all their trappings, silly though they can be.

Regrettably, soap operas are heading out. I have recently read of two long-running series being cancelled, and on the same day. That's got to be something of a death knell coming as it does on the heels of several others getting axed in recent months, some of them being older than television itself. It's a real sea change, no doubt about it. Within a few years, there will be none left at all, no matter what they say about those shows that remain the strongest.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Heels And (Open) Faces

There are some pretty widely-held opinions that I just don't share. I don't mean to say universally so, but that is sometimes the case. I never have been a really big fan of 'The Godfather Part Two', but did really like 'Superman 4'. Those are not popular opinions, and I have more where they come from. Some are in the category of food, and one of those inspired me to write today. It does not quite go as far as catharsis (as my attack on the term 'from downtown' in basketball did), but I do want to express my opinion.

It's about sliced bread. I love bread, and that variety is no exception. It's one of the few things in life where no matter how much you spend, no matter how high-end what you buy is, there's always that unpleasant part. I'm talking about the end pieces of the loaf, and for me they're not unpleasant at all. It does amuse me that there's no getting around the existence of what some call the 'heel'. They can leave those pieces out of the bag, but then you're just going from having two lesser pieces of bread to having two fewer pieces of bread.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Hit Parade

With the last traces of interest in my trip to Florida dutifully flogged to death over a period of time longer than the trip itself, I feel I may devote myself to other matters, and you may rest assured that I have a matter in mind that will surely drive from your mind any nostalgia for Sarasota. Interestingly, I gather that the word nostalgia originally referred to the lingering pain from an old wound. Does that apply? In any case, my mind has set upon something that must have resulted in a wound of some kind.

There I was with a few friends at a fairly new and very fashionable bar near our apartment building. It's not some quiet pub where old men play darts and sip a pint. It's loud and full of class in the least sophisticated sense of the word. There's a dress code, but fulfilling it somehow doesn't really improve the clientele. A look around produces the sight of immature people enacting what they imagine a fancy club experience to be. Naturally I can't get enough.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Unflappable The Hero

There are some pretty amazing people out there. They do wonderful, impressive things that I couldn't learn to do if I dedicated my life to it. I speak not merely of heroes rescuing the fallen from burning buildings or laying their lives on the line for us in battlefields. I speak also of those engaged in more mundane (but certainly essential) pursuits. Consider the night shift airport desk clerk. His is an experience of mind-numbing boredom when it is not one of nightmarish and bizarre crisis. I have seen him in action now, and it is quite a thing.

As I was saying yesterday, it was a frightful thing reaching the comped hotel from the airport. I had been fortunate enough to be a lone traveler and claim the single seat remaining on the first bus over the group which preferred to wait and go over together. Others opted for taxis out of impatience, and their mistake became clear soon enough. I and my fellow passengers aboard the free shuttle chatted politely with the driver and made ready mentally to sleep at the earliest opportunity. I, having opted for the second flight out in the morning, was to have just five and a half hours to sleep before waking for a shower and the hotel's breakfast.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


The time I spent in Jacksonville to cap off my recent trip over to Florida was over all too soon. After mere hours, I was off to the airport for a flight to Las Vegas and a second one bringing me full-circle to Burbank. My anxieties were seemingly at an end when I successfully passed through security once more with my status as a reputable flier and my laptop both intact. I anticipated no trouble, but then who can say they do in such times? Trouble came nonetheless.

When the plane showed up at the gate, I was relieved, as I often become concerned when the plane fails to do so well before the planned departure. I had just a few moments to be glad, for word came swiftly from disembarking passengers that the plane had been struck by lightning. The airline itself never explicitly confirmed this to all of us, saying only that the plane was being taken out of service for the remainder of the day due to some unspecified troubles. I think they were more forthcoming on a one-to-one basis. In any case, we were to wait for another plane.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Big City

I was pretty intimidated by LA when I first came. That's understandable, I'm sure. I was also rather awed by Chicago when I went there for school, Columbus on spring break (!) and shortly before that had similar reactions to Seattle and Portland. Somehow I can make sense of all of those and don't have any sense that I am an easily impressed rube as a result of my response to those various cities. How could I be? I'm from Phoenix, which is no jerkwater (numbers-wise, if not socially). How is it then, that I was so struck by the least nationally prominent population center yet, Jacksonville?

As with Seattle, my time was measurable in hours, so it was only the big picture that I was getting. We drove in on the highway from the south of Florida, and I was a little surprised by how 'big city' the place feels from such vantage point. We were there because my aunt lives and works there, and her home is in a taller, larger building than any I can remember living in in any of the aforementioned places. It was also surrounded by taller and larger buildings.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


When you go back home, or in my case to something more akin to a second home, there are certain things one you must do or get no matter what the circumstances under which the trip is made. In the case of this wedding excursion to Sarasota, we just had to get a certain treat which is not easily acquired elsewhere (although making it is probably not impossible). I speak of that particular delicacy, boiled peanuts. It is a beloved food up around Gainesville and parts adjacent, but does not appear to be fully as embraced even down where we found ourselves on this occasion.

We saw just one place advertising it, although a roadside stand on the highway from Tampa to Sarasota might have had it for sale had we passed it during operating hours. No, we had no choice but to take our chances at a gas station which we had passed on our way to one of the keys. It is needless to speculate on the clerk's country of origin, but I feel I'm on solid ground in guessing that boiled peanuts are not something with which he is intimately familiar except that he must know his place of employment sells them. I don't imagine he personally was charged with the preparation of the peanuts or the upkeep of the crock pot.

Monday, April 11, 2011

"On The Day Of My Daughter's Wedding"

So there we were, thrown terribly off-kilter by the sudden loss of our hotel rooms (so sudden a loss that the only retaliation I could manage was theft of pens). What could we do but carry on? After all, we had a wedding to attend. With some small difficulty, we located the place, which was the chapel in what I gather is a Catholic school. I remarked to someone (and then to myself numerous times after they showed no interest) that it was a lovely campus replete with green space. Actually, the real feat would be to have any place in Florid stripped of flora.

It seems to me that the wedding started a little late, but not so much so as to cause alarm. We entered at last, received hymnals and programs, and took our seats. Dad occupied himself by critiquing the chapel's construction and I by worrying over the task assigned to me by the father of my cousin the groom. There could be nothing simpler than bringing out a chair and then retrieving it, but I saw in my mind's eye a thousand ways for me to slip up and memorably ruin the event. Luckily they did not come to pass.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


This trip of ours was nominally a vacation, but we had a mission to accomplish: attend the wedding. We had to get proper clothes, we had to find our way to the site of the wedding, and all manner of other tasks. Suffice it to say that there was a lot on our plates for that day. We were not looking for more to do. That's what the preceding days were for. The following day was for leaving town. It was a very simple plan, and yet something had to get in the way.

We had some valid but minor complaints about our hotel. The tvs were substandard, and the pools were the same. That was it. We had no interest in leaving, and yet a scheduling glitch compelled us to do just that, and a mere couple of hours before the wedding. Now this was a crisis of the caliber usually witnessed in wedding movies. I was grateful that the news reached us after my suit had been picked out, because I'd had enough anxiety already. I was just counting on it being relieved, but there was no such luck.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Death Task

I have been on camera and I have performed before crowds. I say that not to brag but to provide some perspective. You see, during those things, I may have had nerves, but I was never scared or inclined to run away. They say that public speaking is many peoples' greatest fear, but for me it is very different. I would sooner speak for hours than do some things that others don't even think twice about. One of those feared acts had to be done before the wedding for which I was in Sarasota. I had to get a suit.

I'm not by nature a suit-wearing type. I wear t-shirts and jeans- badly ripped jeans through the back pocket of which my wallet could easily fall and get lost. I don't even like trying on, picking out and buying those things. I start off in the store on edge, and my anxiety builds and builds until I just have to run away. I have to escape or else I fear being crushed. That's picking out a regular pair of pants. Just imagine what it becomes when we're talking about a proper suit.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Clam Bake!

The first time that the whole of the wedding party gathered together in one place was not until the third night that we had been in town (if one counts the one during which my father and I arrived as the first). The second night some of us had dinner at that Spanish restaurant. Oh, but that third night! A staple of my very early childhood was trips to my mother's family in Connecticut, and the typical form of social engagement there and then was the clam bake. As we were to see many of those relatives for the first time in years, it seems appropriate that even in Florida the event would be a clam bake. My first question and last question was on the possible attendance of Elvis Presley. I got a maybe, but was disappointed.

Obviously a clam bake entails the eating of clams in various forms, and in each they were delicious. Lubricating conversations were two tasty beers, one being a tangerine ale (which I repeatedly avowed was good for you) and the other being Yuengling (which was too much fun to say given that we were in Sarasota, evidently the winter home of the Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey circus). We had it all: clam cakes, chowder both New England and Manhattan and all the little neck clams one could eat. I regard them as the pistachios of the sea. The mechanics of eating them are effectively the same.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Reach The Beach

As I figure it, I haven't been back to Florida before this trip in seven or eight years at least. It's hard to figure it exactly, but I was still working at summer camp in Arizona, which fixes it to that minimum. There are many things about the place that I have missed, my beloved relatives aside. One that was addressed to reasonable satisfaction was the beach. I do live near enough to the beach in LA, but it's just not the same. I'm no beach snob (the pleasure and lethality of being in the sun balance out about the same for me as they do with cigarettes), but Florida's shores are plainly superior.

Unfortunately, we could not go to Crescent Beach, the one of my childhood, but Siesta Key's beach is not too shabby and not that different. It's a little crowded, but downright deserted compared to a busy day at Santa Monica. The makeup of beach-goers is a little different from that as well. The keys around Sarasota have a median age someplace around sixty or seventy, I would guess. Regrettably, society has disabused them of their formerly dependable quality of modesty. Luckily, there were enough young people to carry on.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Shower Power

I just can't do without a shower. That is to say that I can't in the ordinary course of a normal day. I can certainly cope under certain circumstances, such as camping (after all, I went unclean on camping trips around once a month most of my childhood and adolescence as a result of Boy Scouts). Otherwise though, I must have a shower before I put in my contacts, and I must have those before I leave the house. At home I can count on the shower happening as I would like. Anywhere else there are no assurances, even at the finest of hotels.

It's not that it is a worse shower. It's just different in a myriad of ways. It's probably a better shower, but it's not mine. This one to which I am now referring is quite spacious- too spacious. I could get lost. It has no bathtub, and while I doubt I would use one, I am accustomed to one being there. This shower has its own controls for temperature and water flow, the latter of which is not substantial. I guess that's fine, and we must conserve, but it's off-putting.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Free WiFi: Why?

When we as a family used to travel a lot either by plane or by car, the options for occupying oneself in the hotels and airport terminals were limited. A pile of books was the chief means. Sometimes I would have some music on a cassette tape. The hotels usually trumpeted the availability of HBO, which tended to be a disappointment. If all else failed, the other members of the family could be engaged in conversation. It never would have occurred to me that the family computer be brought along for amusement or productivity.

For one thing, it was obviously far too heavy and fragile to even contemplate such a thing. Secondly, the internet was hardly even a thing at that time. How things change. Most places you go now offer Wifi. I have said that if they have it on Greyhound buses and at Denny's, then they must have it anywhere they ever will. It's a very handy thing, and I found it indispensable on this trip. Numerous times did we consult it for logistical matters that would have been brought to the man at the front desk, and heavily did I lean on it for amusement instead of the tv.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Car Watch

Something we did our first full day in Sarasota, my father and I, was to do some driving around town. It was marked substantially by awe at how little there was left in that area of town, and this got us into some discussion of partisan economic policies, but we were not entirely in the doldrums. In addition to locating the area where he and his family had often vacationed during the 60s, we came upon a modest car museum. The reality is that whenever you spot a building with cars on the roof, you have to stop.

We wandered in seeing no one in particular appearing to be in charge. It was a bit musty and dark apart from light entering through windows. The cars to be seen were to my eyes an uneven bag, but Dad had some appreciation for or awareness of about everything there. Most important to him were restored models of his own project car, but also of great interest were a variety of classic American, British, German and Italian cars of various vintage. The thing I can't stop thinking about was this diminutive yellow and green monstrosity which looked to me something like the car which would have brought Oakland A's relievers out to the mound in the '70s.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Is There More?

I eat out somewhat less than the average person, who I understand dines at restaurants something like three times a week. Some weeks I approach or exceed that, but mainly do not. When I do eat out, I like to make sure that I will not be disappointed, so I stick to things I know and places I trust. When I travel, it's hard to do that considering my aversion to national chains. Well, the first place we wound up eating at while over in Sarasota was this Spanish place.

I could have named just a few things that are remotely Spanish. I know about tapas and Paella. The menu had empanadas and ropas viejas, at least the latter of which I knew to be Cuban but which apparently did come from Spain. Having had it, I thought I would do something else. The paella apparently took a while to cook, so I looked to a chicken and pasta dish that seemed sure to satisfy. I nibbled on bread and drank iced tea while waiting and chatting with long-unseen relatives and new friends.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Show Tell

I made reference yesterday to the hotel in which my family was staying during a trip to Sarasota, Florida. As I said, though it was a highly rated one, it had two flaws in evidence immediately. The television in each room was a standard definition set, and not one of very recent vintage either. I was not really dismayed by this, as I reasoned that people weren't coming to a hotel near the beach so that they could sit inside and watch television. Perhaps they'd rather be at the pool, or should I say pools- the two pools each too small to comfortably contain two persons.

Those are my only real quibbles, and given the sun's status as my most mortal enemy, I can't hold either one against the place. It really was a pretty nice place, although when my father's professional gaze was cast upon it, it wilted under his expert criticisms of its construction. He has an unceasing analytical mind, and so he can't help but see what no one else would even when trying to relax and have a good time. The minor architectural flaws of the place aside, I liked it there all right.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Terminal Restlessness

I can't imagine that the thought expressed is a terribly original one, but I can hardly help harboring unoriginal feelings. This one is obviously attributable to the manner in which I  recently spent my day- flying. I had sworn that I would not do that under the present set of security procedures employed in domestic airports, but when a wedding located on the opposite coast comes about, there is just no alternative. So it is that I found myself in a Sarasota hotel, contemplating the never-ending joys and indignities of the day.

In my mind, the flight was a hundred years away until it was the next morning. I did half my packing the night before and the remainder in the morning shortly before I left. Fear of having forgotten something was the source of at least as much anxiety as any invasive security measures. Along those lines, I found myself spending nearly twenty dollars on tiny versions of toiletries I already had so that there would be no possibility of losing them to a sticky-fingered security guard. This might be the first flight in years which did not claim a single personal item.