I was leaving for a five-day trip and it was going to be a busy one. Sneakers packed for early morning walks, heels packed for evenings, and comfy flats for everything in between. If my ass was going to be touching a surface for more than a second it was going to be on a toilet seat. And even that would be rushed. We’re talking a busy trip.
So naturally I packed four books.
“Seriously? Seriously?” my husband said when he saw me packing my favorite under-the-seat carry-on, a Michelle Obama tote. “There is no way you’re going to get as much as forty pages read the entire vacation.”
“Oh, ye of little faith,” I said. And by that, I meant: No kidding. Of course I’m not going to read four books. I’m not stupid. But I’m not so old and jaded to think that there’s just a glimmer of a possibility that I might find myself with some time on my hands, my phone out of battery, no one to talk to, but four novels at the ready. I also believe in the tooth fairy and that Roofer Steve will come back and clean up the mess he left on my garage roof three months ago.
It could happen.
Of all the traveling I’ve done, I still have unrealistic expectations of exactly how the trip — any trip — is going to be. Take our last one, for instance. We would be flying into Jacksonville airport, going to Amelia Island to a hotel, where we’d go to a cocktail party, a dinner, and spend one night in the hotel. The next morning my husband would perform his best known parlor trick – speaking on energy industry crisis communications. By the time I was done drying my hair, he’d be “chop-chop!ing” me to check out of the hotel and move to the next one. Then we would meet up with friends and do a half day each of shopping, waterfront walks, museums and tours, broken up by long happy hours, dinners and more drinks until the wee hours. (Our hotel was next door to an outdoor bar with live music and outdoor games involving bean bags and balls, so we didn’t expect to be going to bed until one of us lost her voice or pulled a muscle.)
So, yeah, I packed four books.
Because even though I knew the agenda like the back of my hand and I was truly looking forward to the get-togethers and cocktails and long conversations and buzzed cornhole, in a small corner of my introverted bookworm’s brain, I held out hope that somewhere I’d find myself sitting on an Adirondack chair, a nice breeze blowing, a gin and tonic in one hand and Under the Volcano in the other, and not a thing to do but just stay there for a long while.
This has never happened to me. Ever. Even the vacations where that’s the plan, where I have actually scheduled time to sit on the rooftop balcony of our AirBnB, drink wine and read, it doesn’t happen. Once I actually put on our trip itinerary: Diane reads until it’s time to dress for dinner. It got X’d out and replaced with Explore the nghbrhood and find out what’s beyond that blue gate.
While I’ve never been on that book-beverage-Adirondack-chair vacation, if it ever lands in my lap, I’m going to be prepared.
I’ll need wi-fi so I can update my Goodreads as I finish Under the Volcano and start Indignation. And I’ll need my laptop to log my finished books on my own list, one I started the summer I graduated from high school, starting with Gone With the Wind, and including yesterday’s entry: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. I’ll need multiple bookmarks and a pencil so I can mark passages and make notes, as I tend to do when I read. And I’ll need my writing ideas notebook, because lately my best ideas come to me when I’m reading other people’s writing. (Not in a plagiarizy way, just ideas.)
So I’ll lug all that with me and be lucky to get a couple of paragraphs read in bed before I conk out without as much as brushing my teeth.
There are still just too many things to see on my vacations. There are too many museums to absorb, too much art to gaze upon, too many other cities and towns to get to know. And too many stores to wander around.
Which reminds me, on this last trip, the one for which I packed four books? On a shopping excursion I discovered my new favorite bookstore, The Book Loft, an amazing little nook of a store with — and I didn’t even know this was possible — all the good books and none of the books I don’t much care for. It was freakishly like a bookstore made just for me and my particular reading tastes.
I bought Less, which had been on my to-read list since it won the Pulitzer. (I have another list, all the Pulitzer prize for fiction winners, with the ones I’ve read in green and the ones I haven’t read yet in alarm-code red. Time’s a wastin’!) I had planned to check last year’s winner out of the library, but I wanted to leave some of my money with this delightful little store.
As I was packing up to go home my husband saw me trying to cram now five books in my carry-on tote. Michelle’s face was stretching out and she was beginning to look like Fred Flintstone.
“Why don’t you put at least a couple of those books in your checked bag?” he said. “You won’t need all seven books with you on the plane.”
“Seven? There are only five books here.”
“But you haven’t been to the airport bookstore yet.”
He knows me all too well.
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