Sunday, May 20, 2007
This first week has flown by.
Albemarle County, Virginia, has me in its warm embrace of rolling hills and sweet springtime smells. The scale of the country is larger. It is restful, a feng shui of terraforms... I miss many people, but never underestimate the power of the land. Ordinarily I would not like to quote Dave Matthews in the first paragraph of a blog, but he is a local boy, and this is the second paragraph. He said: "Let us sleep outside tonight / lay down in our mother's arms."
I'm sure I will say a lot of things in this blog that are critical of America, so hopefully no one in Estonia will mind one flattering comparison to start out: if you were a giant you would want to sleep in these here Virginny hollows. They are contour-molded and posture-pedic. Estonia has lovely dome hills and lakes at their foot but they are not form-fitted.
Right now the cherry blossoms and azaleas are finished but the laurel is blooming and the birdsong, sitting here on the porch in a slightly rural subdivision outside Charlottesville, is simply deafening. Took a run in the ravine behind Morgan's grandparents' house yesterday, two foxes and two deer wthin ten minutes. OK, not a biodiversity benchmark, I know, but at least it takes your mind off the fact that the honeybee civilization is silently collapsing and other terrible things.
We started the week highly sleep-deprived. For me, no sleep results in a highly frayed state of hyperconscious neurosis. I sat with an old friend and bandsmate at a great Asian tapas place in downtown Charlottesville on Tuesday. It is as chill a place as they come, but I felt myself wanting to explain everything, account for everything in my mind. What I needed was to just work those things out in dreams instead.
No matter how we handle it, it seems it will never be easy to get from Tallinn to Virginia. I wonder if it will ever change. I'm sure that if we went business class and flew all the way to our final destination, Charlottesville, which I guess is a commuter airport used by executives, we would be just as tired. Next time, I think will have to get a babysitter upon arrival and dictate 48 hours of rest and no socializing for myself.
The trip itself: This time there were plenty of empty peaceful hours -- 14 hours aboard the ferry from Stockholm ship in a nice cabin, as roomy as they come. Then a taxi to the Arlanda airport (we actually haggled and won!) and a nice clean functional Swedish two-star on the edge of the countryside. The flight itself -- nondescript, vague comfort courtesy of Continental Airlines. And a nice reception at clean, efficient, seemingly brand-new Newark Airport, on Mother's Day. No hard questions for my wife from customs officers. I would say as a nation we are saps that way, in the best possible way. The most annoying and unpleasant part of the whole trip was the pre-screening we received at Continental's check-in, by Hope Mutesi, a woman whose accent and manner was almost exactly like that SNL Puerto Rican stage hand character from the 1980s. We're not complaining -- she was highly effective and, I imagine, impossible to lie to. We've noticed this in the past -- tough questions from Icelandic customs on transit, etc. It is almost like Homeland Security has set up an advance guard at the wide end of the funnel.
We rented a car. The credit card was originally recognized as a debit card, causing a sinking feeling. The gentleman at Hertz hadn't heard of Estonia and it didn't seem likely that he would accept explanations of cyberattacks, and us a bit wide-eyed and strung out as it was. Kinda out there, eh. Luckily the card went through the second time. And so we pushed on in a brand new Ford Focus through to Smith Mountain Lake (my late grandparents' home and kind of a stand-in homestead for my family), the last two hours in the dark.
(Apparently, my wife says, I drifted into another lane at some point and cut off another driver, who had to slam on the brakes and flicked me off. I was not aware of any of this. I think she might have misperceived, but if so, this is scary, and should necessitate a rethink on long haul driving for me.)
We saw Kai and her five-month daughter Kiira and they looked good. Kiira is so cute, perched on a sling much of the time, she seems to be happy in her security yet inquisitive about the world. I am glad we went there first and saw Kai. Not getting the car would have been unimaginable. But it was important for other reasons to go there first.
It took two days or so to shake the feeling of worn bearings and strung-out nerves, so familiar from longer cross-country trips.
On day 3 or so, an incident happened. Morgan was trying to sit between the paws of one of my father's dogs as he does with Teele in Estonia, and she turned on him, biting him in the eye area and scratching his cheek. I did not see it. It all happened so quickly that Morgan has probably not been left with much psychic trauma. He is not scared of dogs, in any case - luckily. (He is more scared of ladybugs, though that is a different story.) His eyelid had a shallow laceration and there was a cut under his eye; the eye was OK. Of course there was scary swelling and discoloration. I was reassured that there was very little blood (for an injury near the eye) but we ended up going to Martha Jefferson, Charlottesville's old downtown hospital, to the ER. We waited for two hours, while an endless number of befuddled people with apparently nothing wrong with them were called, confirming for my wife the sheer futility of the American health care system. Naturally this is unfair conclusion -- probably any of these people could have been potentially having a stroke and it is just the vague slurry and blurry symptoms that are dangerous -- but it is a classic example. In Estonia in a city ten times the size of Charlottesville, it would have taken far less time. Before we finally left the ER, placing our trust in an OTC antibiotic ointment instead, an acquaintance from internal medicine (Aaron's wife Becky) came down and had a look, we appreciated that -- precisely seeing a friendly face rather than just an MD.
It has healed almost completely now. But a bunch of things bothered me about the incident,knowing we would be at my sister's a few days later, who has a number of tetchy male dogs, and it got me musing about 1) why have a dog at all 2) do dogs and kids really ever mix 3) similar attitudes to dogs and guns in America.
Posted by Kristopher at 6:22 AM