Friends and readers,
This weekend we were both turning a corner slowly. The Admiral is now convalescing. He is not full well but by halting degrees coming back to himself. I traveled by myself to a conference (Sharp) for the very first time, only for a day or so but it was the full act that mattered (like his doing a 2 block walk), an anxiety-ridden leap for me.
For the Admiral this week’s moment of intense release and relief came on Wednesday afternoon when the feeding tube in his abdomen, in the last days a grating pain he’d keep his hand over, was drawn out. Thursday he came with me to Trader Joe’s (a feat) and he bought himself packages of yummy prepared dishes: quiches, (mildly spiced) samuchas. He is really is like a person who’s had his stomach stapled, and it’s hard for him to tell how little he can eat at a time. He is still having these periods of exhaustion and will sometimes fall asleep in his chair in the front room in the morning and find he must get into bed and take a nap in the later afternoon. But he’s reading more, wrote a lovely letter to my aunt.
We still walk only 2 blocks at a time (with the sizzling burning heat, at around 7 am and again around 9 pm), but he’s begun to drive again. Convalescence is taking it easy. I knew he loved cheesecake but could not predict he’d eat Campbell’s Tomato soup.
For me I succeeded in getting myself into a train to Philadelphia Saturday morning, from the 30th Street station by cab to a hotel, and thence on foot to the Sharp conference at the University of Pennsylvania; stayed overnight and the next afternoon, at noon, returned home, taking the route in reverse. I enjoyed what I experienced of the conference very much: two sessions of panels in the later afternoon, book exhibit, a buffet banquet (Philadelphia mummers sang at it in the second hour) and some good talk with old friends and new acquaintances. Again I found the Sharp people friendly. Sunday noon after the last plenary address, there was to be a 2 hour lunch-business meeting (people getting prizes &c) and thus I would barely have time before my train left at 4:35 to hear but one more talk at a panel after that, and it would be a close thing to manage that. So I couldn’t resist going home; I phoned the Admiral from the station (indeed I phoned him 4 times over the two days — what a blessing is a cell phone) and he told me I could maybe skip waiting 3 hours by exchanging my ticket for an earlier train and when I went to the ticket office I discovered I could and the next train was leaving in 5 minutes! When I saw him at 4:30 at King Street Station (Metro at Alexandria) I said: “I was not so far away after all.”
I also succeeded in doing pretty well the thing I came to do. I am chuffed to be able to say the session at which I gave a paper (Mapping Trollope: Geographies of Power) was well-attended and my paper appeared to go over very well (even though I didn’t get to read the last third but had to tell, paraphrase, and part read what was in it as I didn’t realize 15 not 20 minute papers were wanted). People thanked me for the packet of maps — I gave out old-fashioned good xeroxes of maps from Trollope’s novels instead of doing a power-point presentation which almost everyone accompanied their papers with. (I was told all the panels were unusually crowded, that the brutal heat kept people at the conference instead of going off tourist-like.)
To help maintain calm I read two Trollope novels intensely on the train both ways (he absorbs my mind); I felt fluttered in the cab and know I looked nervous, slightly bewildered. I had a google map the Admiral had printed out for me to get from the hotel to the university and asked someone directions. She and I made quick friends; her name Nellie, and before you know it she was telling me of her job troubles (she sends hundreds of applications on line and gets no interview) and I of how I helped Yvette find a job locally. I find I worry about these interstices where one is in transition and dependent on others. I didn’t have to reason with myself and control my fear that I won’t get off the train in time at the Alexandria stop since the Admiral bought me a ticket that had me getting off at Washington DC (where the train stays on the station for as long as half an hour at a time). I did ask myself why I’m so anxious over this passage; I feel no anxiety about getting off at a stop in time when I’m in the subway. The difference is I’ve been in the subway thousands and thousands of times; and in the subway all the doors open; I don’t travel the train often and the Amtrac practice is only a few doors open and there is no way to tell which one will be open until the conductor tells you the last few moments and then you have to get to which one is open and get out before the train starts up again. I saw someone else also worrying as the train neared New Carollton when she realized not all the doors would open so I’m not alone in this feeling.
I don’t know that I’m up to going to the Belgium conference on Trollope alone (and that would take me away for three or four days probably too) but I feel I could try this sort of distance this way again in order to give a paper I want to do again. I again experienced how it is important to go, see, be seen, get to talk about one’s work. I feel energized to try two proposals for the JASNA & Burney AGM in 2014 (in the hope one will be accepted). Then Yvette will come again and we’ll go by plane.
My one (funny I suppose) failure was I couldn’t put either TV on in my room. I had two TVS, both had these remotes and no matter what buttons I pressed the things would not turn on. I would have watched TV late at night if I had managed that. I lost my conference book (with its schedule and map) but there were plenty of them at the registration desk so I was given another. I lost one of my 3 sleep masks but I can buy another at Bed and Bath. I got to see even less of Philadelphia than I have on the occasions I traveled there for MLA with the Admiral in cold winter (in a different area of town)– three semi-commercial blocks to and from the hotel, the commercial blocks to and from the railway station, just that part of the park-like university where the conference was held. (One man at the conference told me Baltimore is very like it’s presented in TV: violent, abrasive, and everyone lives within small circumscribed areas, worlds of four blocks. I told him it’s not like that in NYC at all: people in Manhattan at any rate identify with and travel about the whole island.) As usual I ate hardly anything at all but I made up for it when I got home.