Baby's First Business Trip (TM) took me across the country to sunny LA. Jewy academics from all over had braved East Coast storms and hauled babies to make it, and some -- including one of my bosses -- were thwarted over and over. I had to walk a couple of fierce, snowy blocks in Brooklyn to the A train to get to the airport; that was the worst of my trouble.
The first morning of the conference, I went to a panel where a fellow argued for the rehabilitation of an author who is minor, unlikeable, and dead. Academia in a nutshell, and it was not a nutshell I wanted to be in. It was over 70 degrees outside among the swaying palm trees, and if anything boring was happening out there I could always walk away from it.
The second speaker was more engaging, but still, I listened to my gut and spent the next several hours either by the pool or on the hotel patio. And I was productive! I had an energetic poolside conversation with the second speaker, whose book-in-progress about irony and the Holocaust could, I felt, benefit from a final chapter about film.
I also ran into and caught up with an old friend from summer camp, now a PhD candidate and an impressive scholar in her own right. She was the first of my run-ins with the past, the roster of which included an old professor from Swarthmore and an old neighbor from Brooklyn.
Everyone seemed familiar, even the folks I didn't know directly. When I was introduced to a young woman named Miriam, it took us only five minutes to determine that we have a good friend in common: her brother's housemate. The world is even smaller when you travel within the confines of a six-pointed star.
I saw my little brother, my cousin, and my May-As-Well-Be Sister-in-Law, a CA native who whisked me away in her silver BMW for an al fresco lunch in Santa Monica. At night, I slept in a pristine king-sized bed big enough to fit me and the population of Trinidad, with room for the seven dwarfs. Though I contemplated finding an actor or two to fill the emptiness, I refrained, because I am a modest East Coast girl at heart.
The flight back was easy but what followed was not. My uncle, who was diagnosed with stage four cancer just after my father died, has been moved to a hospice. He's declining rapidly. So, after what will be a rushed Russian Christmas tomorrow morning in Westchester, I'm getting on another plane, this time with Mr. Ben, and going down to North Carolina for the weekend. My family will circle another deathbed. Then we will greet 2010, for which I am scared to have any hopes, except that enough will finally be enough.