My Minnesota trip didn’t quite go as planned–which I end up saying about all of my trips, I guess.  Makes life interesting.  I left Saturday night and connected in Charlotte…where the air conditioning was out in all of Concourse C.  And there must have been something wrong with a bathroom somewhere down there, because let me tell you, it STUNK.  Imagine, if you will, a sweltering hot, crowded airport, reeking of human excrement, with yours truly camped out reading the below-described One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  Good times, y’all.  I eventually reached MN, and after a lengthy cab ride with a cabbie who was chewing his gum like an overzealous cow chewing cud, I made it to my hotel.  It was 1:00am Eastern Time, and I had work early the next morning, so I was eager to get to sleep.  A very apologetic clerk with some kind of European accent (Belgian?) told me that I was getting the very last room in the hotel, but it wasn’t a real room.  “Er, what does that mean?”  “It’s a room with a pull-out couch.”  The poor guy was all but cringing, clearly expecting me to blow a gasket.  He explained that the Gay Pride parade was the next day, and every hotel for miles was booked solid.  I had reservations, of course, but since I arrived after midnight I don’t think that really meant much.

I traipsed off to my not-real room, which was a weird little meeting room between two other suites.  The pull-out couch had springs coming through the mattress, so I didn’t have the most restful night of my life, but I got a free breakfast and a free night’s stay out of it, so I can’t really complain.  They moved me to a “real” room with a bed and everything the next day as soon as some people checked out.  The actual meeting went well; I was manning an exhibitor booth with some coworkers at the American Society of Echocardiography’s Scientific Sessions.

In the evenings I mainly wandered around Minneapolis.  It’s a beautiful, clean (for the most part) city with some really stunning old churches on practically every corner.  I walked over the Stone Arch Bridge past the locks and the Falls of Saint Anthony, and I saw the Gold Medal Flour Mill that exploded in 1878.  I also people-watched a lot, because let’s face it, 2000+ cardiologists in their suits colliding with a comparable number of homosexual folks in rainbow gear is just an interesting study in humanity.  One night I walked down to a park and took paparazzi photos of birds and found a mulberry tree.  I climbed up and stuffed myself with berries, enjoying the breeze up in the branches.

My trip home was also unexpectedly eventful.  Once again, Charlotte was the problem, or rather Charlotte’s weather.  As we neared the city, the pilot came on the intercom, audibly frustrated, and said that we were being sent almost all the way down to Atlanta to come around a storm system.  By the time we finally landed, it was iffy whether I would make my connecting flight.  Then the jetway broke–it would move from side to side but wouldn’t extend to the plane.  By the time they got that fixed and we all stumbled off of the plane, my flight was long gone.  Fortunately they were able to rebook me, but by then I was out of reading material (gasp) and facing a long wait.  I perused the airport book stores and had an entirely unprecedented experience: I couldn’t find a single thing worth reading.  Airport bookstores SUCK.  On my second try I found a Pratchett novel, so I ran with it and counted myself lucky.  Flying home with Pratchett is a decent way to spend an evening.




Books: I recently read A Tangled Web by L.M. Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables books.  The book tells the story of two clans on PEI, the Darks and the Penhallows, and I savored every quirk and idiosyncrasy of these two families.  Highly enjoyable, delicious Montgomery.  If you love the Anne books, please check this one out.

I read One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, and I kind of wish I hadn’t.  I usually enjoy the classics, if only in terms of admiration of the technical skill required, but I really can’t find anything nice to say about this book.  As a castigation of the American mental institution (which, so far as I can tell, is the main reason why this book is considered a classic), it’s only marginally effective in my opinion: the narrator is unreliable, and the reader isn’t quite sure if the abuses being described are real or not.  As a criticism of American society that sustains mental institutions, it’s a little better, but not good enough to warrant putting up with the rest of the sordid, steaming pile.

I read Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut in one sitting on the flight home from Minnesota, and I don’t recommend doing that.  Still, Cuckoo’s Nest made Slaughterhouse seem cheerful by comparison, so I kind of enjoyed the break.  I was prepared to have mixed feelings about Vonnegut, and I think that turned out to be an accurate assessment.  I’ve read a lot of war novels and a lot of military history, but the firebombing of Dresden isn’t an event I know much about.  I disagree with most of Vonnegut’s philosophy of fatalism, but I was intrigued by how he portrayed it.  I was particularly interested in the idea of how the Tralfamadorians approach death and time.  They see time as a whole, so when someone dies, they acknowledge that things aren’t great in that particular moment…but there’s no point in mourning, when that person is perfectly all right in all of the past moments of his or her life.  Vonnegut’s existential, post-modernist approach makes sense with his topic: as he rightly says, there’s nothing intelligent to say about a massacre.  Overall, I was intrigued, and I’d like to explore more of Vonnegut’s works.