Bon Voy-agee

The Alaska Blogs #2

Our vessel, the Zaandam, at port in Sitka.

Transitions stir memories, thoughts about many of the factors that led to the changes unfolding. The IMD is no different. So many memories of the times, good and bad, with the FEX. In the moments of anger, of course, it’s more of the latter. Now, as our ship sails (no, really, the Zaandam, not a metaphorical ship; the vessel taking us to Alaska), memories flood in of our past trips. And those are good memories, coupled with thoughts of even earlier trips as a kid and teen and young adult, of the excitement I always felt setting off on other cruises (mentioned at the Crisis here) or the backpacking trips to Europe, or drives to Montreal or the Cape or wherever. It really didn’t matter. Travel was good. Is good. I can’t think of a bad trip (of the physical kind anyway…), not on any excursion of more than a day or two (there were some not-so-good ones on the shorter jaunts, for myriad reasons, but even those had their moments of humor or adventure). My thoughts on travel can be largely summed up by something I read recently, I don’t remember where: The world is a book, and those who don’t travel read only a page.

I see now that this was just one of the “issues”  that played a part, though I think only a small one, in the IMD. She was done traveling, I was informed. It didn’t fill any needs. I feel like I’ve barely started, with so many chapters of that book still awaiting me. Now I admit, part of the excitement is in the planning and the anticipation, but the thing itself is usually pretty darn good too. Followed by the sharing of experiences with people who weren’t there and reliving the highs and lows with those who were.

While I’ve had good trips alone, I’ve always had my best times with others. You and your traveling partner can exchange comments about the moronic people and strange situations you encounter, push each other to do things you might not do alone, come up with dumb running jokes that mean nothing to those around you. And then, when you’re back home, you have those shared memories to roll out at the right moment to recreate the awe you felt in the midst of some natural wonder or to bring out more laughs when you talk about the natural wonder that was nothing more than a great big hole in the ground (you had to have been there).

And she was there for the big hole, the FEX. The same day we stood on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. A year or so after we drove through Sonoma County, and a bit before what had been our last cruise, to Canada. You see, no matter what she says about future travel, in the past, our shared past, we did see and enjoy many sites together. We, I thought, always traveled well together.

On the car trips, she drove, I navigated. “Michael is my co-pilot,” she always said with a smile, and I reveled it in. I was the meticulous trip planner, looking for the vegan restaurants and mapping out routes. OK, I could get obsessive at times with the planning, like the time in Montreal I forced us to walk all over creation to find a restaurant for which I had a discount.  A restaurant that no longer existed. But for the most part, our division of duties worked.

Slightly goofy Sitka photo

If I was the detail guy, she was the one seeking to be a bit more spontaneous, to remind me to relax and go with the flow. An essential person to have on any trip. She was also the packer, and the one who helped me find lost items (usually nearer at hand than my panicked state allowed me to realize), and who suggested the sometimes-goofy photos that should be part of any trip.

Memories. Just barely skimming the surface here (and keeping it PG, since traveling also seemed to bring out a more amorous side in both of us, but no need to recount any of that now). Memories that have lost so much emotional heft in light of the IMD. Will I even want to look at those pictures of Prague, the cruises, the Midwest explorations launched from our Chicago base? Well, I guess I can always delete the digital ones, burn the physical ones, if I feel the need. But I don’t – yet. What I’m really concerned about are the memories to come on this trip. This TFW trip that has me – still  – wondering what the hell I am doing here under these circumstances. I see all the happy loving couples and know no matter how civil we will be to each other (and that we will be, whatever happens, as long as I keep my mouth shut. It’s not always easy…), we will not be that. Happy, truly. Loving, deeply. A couple, really. Not on this cruise. Not any more.

This is the last trip. I’m not sure if it’s better knowing that beforehand or not. No, it’s not. The level of superficiality in some of our interactions is maddening. I think having the memory of Prague and Budapest as the last trip together would have been much more satisfying. No matter how well this trip turns out – and it will turn out well enough, I reckon – there will be little satisfying about experiencing it, no matter how brilliant the beauty of Alaska, or how many laughs we can stoke in each other. Oh, yes, there have been laughs, real, gut-shaking laughs. (The kind of laughs you can only share with someone you know well. The kind that reflect shared intelligence and a sense of the absurd and values of all kinds. The kind of laughs two people in love often share. The kind we still share, making me scratch my head and once again say, TFW.) And there will be more.

But there have also been too many awkward moments, at least in my head, as talk of the IMD, or just individual facets of it, crash down on the happiness and the release of tension and the sense of wonder that should be a part of any trip. And the memories being generated, no matter what good ones there are, will be darkened, always, by the greater reality. This is our last trip together. It comes with our knowing we will soon be divorced. Any good I feel is constantly overshadowed by all that I don’t want to happen but can’t stop.

In an hour or so, we will go to dinner and meet our tablelmates. Couples, I imagine, that have waited for so long to share this trip together. Who want to be with each other for this trip and most likely beyond. We will say, I guess, that we are married. We are a happy loving couple. I will fight back the urge to scream, “It’s a lie!” I will try to enjoy the meal. “Bon appetite,” the waiter might say. I will smile.

Bon appetite.

And, as Bugs would say, “Bon voy-agee.”

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~ by mburgan on May 30, 2010.

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