Saturday, November 16, 2013


When David draws open the drapes in our room at the Hampton Inn all he can see is flat land, empty, vast land.  Fortunately the sun is shining this morning. It should be a nicer day.

The breakfast spread is actually not bad: cereals, waffles, eggs, oatmeal, pastries, fruits, juices, coffee.  I can only drink coffee when I first get up; later I have some cereal.  Two big men speak loudly around us and we are not happy.  It's too early to be so loud.  I look at them but David tells me not to say anything.  Ok, ok, I'm just looking.  Then I go back up to the room. 

David finds a warm nook in the swimming pool area where we sit and read, the sun warming us up, the smell of chlorine tempting me.  I wish I had brought a bathing suit, I tell David and toy with the idea of jumping in the water with my underwear.  After all, there is no one around.  

After checkout, we drive to Western Illinois University and find the Student Union, go to the cafeteria.  This is the worst cafeteria I've seen. David agrees.  A few concessions: Burger King, Sbarro, Einstein's Bagels, and a few tables for too many people.  I can't believe it.  It's impossible to finish my penne with tomato sauce: too watery, no flavor.  

There are still a couple of hours before the program but the wind is too strong and cold to go for a stroll. We find an area upstairs with sofas and plant ourselves to read and wait.  Finally the time comes for the show.  There is a cool breeze in the Sandburg Theater but the organizer promises it will warm up.  Slowly students filter in, take a seat.  I am being taped for posterity (or something like that).  

My power point presentation seems to have disappeared when I start.  I panic but soon I find the photos and continue with the talk.  Students are lethargic.  Some look down, no doubt on their cell phones.  When I'm finished the questions are few.  I ask them questions but they stare, no reaction.  

Let's go.  The drive is long and it's already four thirty, I tell David.  

The drive back doesn't seem as long as the drive there.  Book-on-tape helps make the time go faster.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Macomb, Illinois, spreads out flat, very flat.  Western Illinois University lives there and that's where we went - David and I - this week.  It started to snow lightly as we left Chicago; it continued snowing harder as we made our way West, the wind blew, seeing was difficult.  Eventually night fell on the dark roads of the Midwest, the signs half hidden behind snow.  We couldn't read where we were or where we were going.  We couldn't read Exit numbers or miles left to Macomb.  The cell phone came in handy to guide us through the dark and unknown.  

We arrived at our hotel five hours later, way later than we were supposed to arrive.  The wind was fierce when I opened the car door in front of the sliding doors.  It knocked me around a bit but I managed to enter and check us in.  Whew!  I was NOT in a good mood.  I need a stiff drink, I told David.  

Where do you go in a small town?  Buffalo Wild Wings, of course.  There must've been at least ten television sets of varying sizes hanging from the walls blaring sports shows: football, basketball, hockey, and the occasional news program (Fox of course).  The young waiter (a student no doubt) came promptly to take our order, before I was ready, when I was still recovering from the blast of cold air and maneuvering out of my hat, scarf, gloves, coat.  

Give me a minute please, I answered, trying to be polite in this small town where everyone smiles at you and says hello.  I ordered a cocktail and a cheeseburger, David a beer and pulled pork sandwich.  Curiously, the noise level was not as high and annoying as one would think. We drank, we ate, we watched football and I-don't-know-what-else.  Then, we fought our way back to the car in the still strong wind.  

What am I doing here?  Why do I do these things?  The eternal questions plagued me.