I have discovered that my iPod (that's right. Pod. Not phone. Not pad. You know about me and the dearth of "devices") no longer will allow me to get online. It offers me wireless accounts, it shows me bars, but it will not actually connect to anything. So much for that brilliant travel plan. Now I have to just swipe my friends' computers when I want to see if anyone is felling any important feelings on Facebook in my virtual absence.
Just now as I was logging in, Blogger presented me with a security screen that said, "It looks like you're logging in from an unusual location." I can't lie to you, Blogger. I am in Amherst, MA which is not unusual if, for instance, you are my friend who lives here and whose computer I have commandeered, but if you are me, it is unusual. Amherst is green and leafy and full of tidy, pleasing white houses with porches. It's hot, but not unbearably so. It is, as anticipated, summer. I find this very exciting, despite the numerous (and possibly extra poisonous?) mosquito bites. Last night the grownups drank gin and played Taboo (which is what I would do every night if I could). My friend tried to persuade us that "throw in the boot" is a British expression meaning "to die." It isn't. She was tired. So don't try to make yourself fit in in some pub by saying things like, "I want to spend everything I've got before I throw in the boot. After all, you can't take it with you." They'll probably say "Throw what in the boot?" And then you'll have this baffling exchange about the various meanings of "boot." It's better not to even go down that road.
Later today, we are going to Lake Wyola. Cara, who is seven, was incredulous that I have never been there. She seems to regard it as something of a personal failing that an adult who has the free will to go wherever I want whenever I want has not had the simple common sense to go there repeatedly. "You've never been to Lake Wyola? But it's the best place in the world!" So, in short, I'm going to the best place in the world this afternoon. I'm sorry not to be able to take you along. If it makes you feel any better, Ben, who is nine, thinks coming to Western Mass for one's vacation shows a remarkable lack of imagination if not, indeed, intelligence.
Before I came here (by train, ostensibly, but also by bus, due to some track work outside of Springfield. For your future reference, trains are more comfortable than buses.) I was in NY for one night. I flew into Newark and then waited for a shuttle bus into Manhattan. A shuttle bus that later proved to be run by a team of mostly mute, very rude people one of whom--hilariously, in my opinion--later solicited tips by muttering "tip, tip, tip" not quite under his breath. Here's a tip: don't be a total asshole and then expect me to hand you supplementary cash.
While waiting for the bus, I was approached by a tall, startlingly handsome (oh, the cheekbones!) young Asian man who wanted to verify that it was a bus into the city. His English was shaky. Since the bus personnel was clearly not going to be of any use, I adopted him. We sat next to each other on the bus and he informed me that he had never been out of China before, but, after one night in the city, he would be in Sarasota Springs for four months working with other international students.
We got off the bus at Port Authority and I planned to just hop in a taxi and head uptown, but then I looked around. There was, um, a lot going on. If I had just arrived from China, had never traveled in my life, had been on a plane for twelve hours, and then in customs in New Jersey for three, I would not want to be abandoned with a large suitcase in Times Square. After a couple of false starts, we made it down into the subway and I managed to sort out our Metrocards and we both succeeded in getting our suitcases through the turnstyle, which felt like something of a triumph. We rewarded each other for each accomplishment with radiant smiles.
I saw him to the top of the stairs at the downtown A, C, E, reviewed his itinerary with him once more, and shook his hand. He took mine in both of his and shook it warmly, while thanking me very much. I told him to have a great time and made my way to the 1. He stood at the top of the stairs and waved very solemnly for a long while as I walked away. It was a little bit heartbreaking, but I am confident he is now safely in Sarasota Springs with a bunch of new friends. After four months, I'm sure his English will be able to vanquish any number of non-communicative bus drivers.
I did eventually make it to W 86th and later, as though to reward me for my good Samaritanism, my cousin and I had milkshakes.