Working on the laptop at an outdoor table, killing time until I fly to LA tonight. North Carolina is golden with extended autumn and incredibly beautiful. I am not incredibly beautiful. A week on planes and my skin looks like infected papyrus. My first meeting tomorrow is at 11am, and it goes like that til I fly up to the Bay Area for my last tour stop. I’m holding up, but I’m ready to not be on planes for a couple of days.
Three students in pyjamas just walked past. Nothing here looks more than ten years old. Weird pre-fabricated oasis of a town that looks like it was air-dropped into the forests of the Research Triangle. It’s bright and clean and open and I feel remarkably at home here. So it’s time to go up and onwards and west.
Boston airport is really nice. This is the sort of thing you say to yourself when you travel a lot. This is the sort of thing that starts mattering to you. I will probably be taking critical photos of airport carpets by Saturday.
I have tour brain now. I know I do. I am mostly autonomic lizard functions and when someone asks me to make a decision I just stare at them like they’re an alien demanding that I explain all of human history. And it’s only Thursday. I think. I have to keep checking. Time is meaningless to me now. I go where I’m told and eat when I can.
There’s a guy on the airport bar tv called Booger. Why is he called Booger? Why do these people just make names up? They do it to confuse me.
I can see the river glittering from here. It’s not my river, but nonetheless it calms me. River hermit on the road.
As ever, I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to. But I did get to spend time with friends old and new, and was surprised to see others. As ever, New York has been good to me. And now it’s off to new towns. I board for Boston in an hour, where my phone tells me I can expect more rain. No jokes about me being an evil weather god again, please.
Why does this always happen?
Haven’t slept properly since I got here. I snap awake at 4am for reasons I don’t fully understand. I’ve been twisting around in this bed for five hours. I will give up shortly, get up and look at the weather. I got to practise talking to other people yesterday. This is important for me, because I can go for weeks without getting to have an extended vocalised conversation with somebody. And afterwards I get a sore throat, because I’m not accustomed to that much speech. Yes, this is what Full Hermit means.
It’s not a bed for sleeping in. It sinks down under you, like it wants to devour you. Don’t sleep, Just drift, it says. I only want to eat your bones.
Because even when you’re a solitary mammal who lives silently by the delta or drifts through cities where you have no real ties, there’s five minutes in every day that is worth staying alive for.
“How do you take care of yourself when you’re on the road?”, Willow said. I raised the improbably deep glass of whisky I’d just been poured and probably waggled my eyebrows like a cheap stage comedian. But, honestly, it works. The necessary anaesthetic to sustain.
I saw old friends yesterday – one I’d never met IRL before. And I visited favourite haunts. The things I love about New York are the things that seem like they’ll never go away. The cafe has an iron facade and looks like it was nailed into the island by people who decided, yes, this lives here forever now.
My internal compass switched back on this morning, after a sleepless flight and, honestly, not really being physically ready for this trip after a five month work marathon. Crabapple was leading me around like a giant confused child last night, ensconcing me in the Brandy Library so I couldn’t hurt myself. But today I know where I am, and the Lower East Side and SoHo are crisp and leaf-strewn and lovely. Late breakfast at my favourite SoHo stop, and lots of coffee, and I’ve found my feet and I know where I am. I always seem to wash up in NYC in late autumn. The city is healing me, the way it always does. The streets unfold before and take me where I need to be. I may yet make it through this tour.
Autumn’s been good. Short, mostly mild with a few stabs of serious crispness to remind us what real seasons were once like. Colourful. Big sweeps of wind to lift the leaves like birds and make them swarm and swirl and speckle the air. It has at least another week or two to go, according to the weather forecast, but I won’t be here for it.
Being a smoker drives you outside. So I saw the first snow in New York and the first snow in Berlin in consecutive years, just by dint of having to stand outside for half a cigarette, and I sit outside every morning and watch the sky inch around its seasonal clock. I’ve barely been anywhere this year, and find myself oddly sad that I won’t quite see autumn finish out and tick over into winter.
I’ve become a historical structure.
Even the rains are soft, this autumn. I stopped wearing a hat this year, and the rains I’ve been caught in have been little more than mist and spray.
Please, 2016. You’ve been weirdly kind to me with the weather. Please don’t add me to your body count. I’ve been good, I’ve been careful and quiet, and I’m really, really not done yet.
I finally got to wipe some long, old jobs off my whiteboard. I’m on a plane to the US in a few days. Rigged for winter, and going dark – but I still need a place to think on to, getting my own ideas and phenomena out in front of me so I can see them properly.
Winter’s good for me. I mean, by March I’ll be complaining about not being able to shake the cold and damp out of my bones.
Travel is notionally also good for me, but I’m like 90 hours from leaving the house and I don’t wanna. I’ve bought all the flights, hotels and insurance, I’m half packed and all the gear is charged and sorted, and the idea of eight flights in two weeks is just… it’s been too long since I did a serious geographic run and I am not up for it. It’s cold and I want to hibernate like the large and ancient mammal I am.
Also, how the hell do you pack for a trip that takes in a rainy NYC and a snowy Boston and Los Angeles and the Bay Area?
Ready for winter. Ready to go. Here’s my list of stops – NYC, Brookline, Decatur, Chapel Hill, LA, Menlo Park.
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On the top of the magazine stack on my office shelf – ELEMENTUM 1. You can download a preview from this page here. The print is, frankly, a little small and thin for my ageing eyes, and I have to put bright light on some of the pages to bring out the text – the photography is allowed to take advantage of the large page size, but the writing isn’t. But it’s a gorgeous object about nature and myth, and the writing is resonant, crossing themes from conservation and straight nature writing to music, poetry and a lovely little pen-portrait of a Cornish village. Worth the eye-strain.