Take Off

Just got to the airport. What’s your ETA? — Mom

I receive this text while sitting in a classroom in downtown Philadelphia. My train to NYC doesn’t leave for another hour and a half and it’s an additional hour to JFK on the air train after that.

Um… Our flight’s at 8.30pm, right? — Me (holding my breathe)

Daryl Strawberry just walked by! — Mom

What? Mom, our flight’s at 8.30pm right?? — Me (heart racing)

::photoofdarylstrawberry:: — Mom

Mom, please, please tell me our flight is at 8.30pm tonight. — Me (blood draining from my face)

Yes, 8.30. I’m here early : D You know who Daryl Strawberry is, right? — Mom

Slowly the blood returns to my face. My mom may be in vacation mode already but I have one last critique to endure before I say goodbye to higher education and hello to the pacific northwest.

This last semester has been like a warm bath. The seven classes I convinced a bunch of deans to let me take for one credit each have given me the opportunity to steep myself in seven brand new artistic topics and provided the happy byproduct of giving me seven classes worth of break from my usual thoughts. That’s the beauty of learning things, it makes you more interesting to yourself.

It doesn’t take long after I get to the airport- 4 hours later with plenty of time to spare before our 10pm flight- that I begin to relax in earnest. I’ve passed all of my classes for the last three years and I am now a Master of Fine Art! Classes aside, it’s been a rough couple of months. I exhale slowly as I look around the quiet, airy, blissfully transitory airport. I’ve always liked transition spaces and this one marks the beginning of two full weeks on the other side of the country to recalibrate my system.

The itinerary is as follows:

3 days in Oregon, 4 in Washington, 3 in Montana, and 3 on a train across the country. We’re stopping in 5 cities, 4 national parks, visiting 3 friends, and staying with 2 others.

“Mom, do you mind if I blog about our trip?” I ask her on the plane.

“Not at all! Can’t wait to read it!” She says.

It’s been almost a year since I started writing publicly. Privately, I’m up to seven novels, a handful of poetry and short stories, a couple of plays, and a whole lot of letters, often written on napkins, intended for an audience of anywhere from 0–1 person. This blog, on the other hand, is 45 posts deep as of today. I, like most people, just want to keep growing. My hope continues to be that having an audience will positively shape the way my brain processes and responds to information, particularly while I travel.

There’s a fine line in artistic work between professional endeavors and playful pursuits and it’s not always clear at any given moment where the line is drawn. So it is with this blog and so it is with this trip. The journey I’m about to embark on wth my mom is most definitely a trip of play, socializing, and mother daughtering but it is also a trip to a professional urban planning conference in Seattle and a concentrated look at where we are in our lives, where we wish to be, and how to move between the two.

My mom is one of my favorite people to travel with and to talk about life with. We laugh easily, plan lightly, leave plenty of space for unexpected adventures, and always take the scenic route. We roll- drama free- with whatever comes our way, and when faced with forking travel paths we both opt for the more adventurous route.

When we touchdown in Portland we immediately set out on our first adventure: finding a hotel for the night. Five hotel lobbies, one run in with a cop, and a fair bit of backtracking later, we drift off to sleep in a hotel room overlooking the place we rented a car from an hour and a half before. Plan lightly, leave space for adventures, always take the scenic route : )

Here we go.