Environmental science, traveling, and the sociology of the unraveling American dream.


If you're looking for more about me, I'm pretty much hanging out over at my livejournal these days. I use this account for commenting on other people's blogs.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Something I wasn't sure I'd address

It's only 7 am and people have already posted about, well, today's date. I've been debating with myself over whether I wanted to post something-- and over whether I'm qualified to post something. Let me be honest, I don't buy the "today we are all New Yorkers" bullshit. Do we grieve? Yes. Is it traumatic, tragic, something we never believed would happen here? Yes. But that still doesn't mean we saw our childhood home ripped to shreds, inalterably changed, something I watched happen to some of my friends on that day three years ago. We can understand that, but we haven't gone through it, and it isn't the same.

At the same time, however, what we have been through for those of us not in NYC and DC still is horrifying, and what has come after has kept those wounds open for everyone. I was down in the NYC area last week, during the RNC, and although I didn't have to go into Manhattan, I was still in areas that had been very hard-hit by the attacks. In one small town I saw a memorial to the WTC victims, from both attacks. Not a fancy one. Not a large one. I'm sure no architects argued over who would get to draw the blueprints. But it was there, and it was there because people needed it to be, because they needed to know that they would remember. A piece of one of the girders: the first time I had seen something from one of the attacks in real life. I saw the Pentagon for the first time a few days later, from the air while flying through Washington DC. It was hard for my memory not to superimpose the black and smoking clouds coming out of it.

After seeing the girder and the memorial, after getting very close to freaking out over something that had never been quite real to me, I got back into my car and turned on the radio. And I heard that Bush, that the Republicans, were using the attacks to their advantage, turning the deaths of thousands of innocent people into political hay. And I cannot express how upset this made me. How wrong that was, is, and ever will be. For both parties, for anyone-- but Bush is the one whose use of the attacks for political means is by far the worst.

I am not going to do anything connected with the attacks today. No radio DJs, no TV, no addictive checking of After posting this, I'm probably going to go try not to think about it-- if I can. Somehow, I think that it's not that I won't remember.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Swamp water and the tyranny of flight

This is getting posted from something I wrote yesterday, as I had no net access. (Urgh. I had legit, non-lj need of it, too.) Trip was-- well, survived. Turns out that if you sprain an ankle it is possible to drive an automatic with your left foot. Surprisingly easy, in fact-- although I drive a standard normally and an automatic is already weird for me, so I wouldn't try that one at home.
I'm writing this sitting in an airport in Washington, DC, waiting for my connecting flight. Flying into Washington is strange: everyone is wearing suits. I'm wearing a Joe Boxer pyjama top tee and sneakers, and feeling very underdressed. I also have a latte that I had them put a mint flavoring shot into, which means that I'm drinking something of the color and consistency of swamp water. I look strange here. I figured I had to get out the laptop to look like I'm a diligent and conforming member of society.

Flying into DC was strange. It's not something I've ever done before. The only other time I was in Washington was during the Oklahoma City bombings, and it was terrible. So this was a strange experience. This particular airport, as I'm sure has been reported elsewhere, has some restrictions on some things (I'm being vague here on purpose), and I was wondering why. And then I looked down from the plane and saw the Pentagon. Right there. Right there. And the restrictions made sense.

I travel a lot, which I initially wondered about when I started this job. Was the travel going to start cutting into my writing? I love my job, and writing (because it's something I'll do anyway) comes as a secondary priority in many (or most) ways, so it's not as if I'd ever quit my job to write. (I like to eat, for one thing.) But I did still wonder.

As it happens, traveling is one of the best things that's happened to my writing. Being different places is wonderful and inspiring and interesting -- that's the easy one to point out. But I've also found that being on airplanes makes me incredibly productive. It's the ultimate isolation chamber. I'm totally alone, people glare if I try to step over them to get away from the laptop, there's usually not much to look at once you get up above the clouds (and before that you're not allowed on the laptop anyway), and the nice stewardesses bring me Cokes and pretzels while I work. Right now I'm just writing crits and posts and playing around with short stories, but when I was working on the novel I was getting a solid fifteen or twenty pages to two flight legs. Flying may just be my ace in the hole on NaNoWriMo this November.

I have to wonder, though: why do people think of traveling as glamorous? It's not. It's dirty and sweaty and nasty and gross, and stressful, and horribly confusing. I love it, mind you, but still -- glamour is the last thing I'm looking at here, sitting in DC with my swamp water latte.