On the Inauspiciousness of Signs


You know you’re in for a long day when the first thing that greets you on a Monday morning is the sight of your car’s flat tire.

Then you know you’re in for a long week when you realize that the full set of repair tools have vanished mysteriously from your car’s trunk.

It’s definitely looking like a long day and a long week.

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

On Intimations of Mortality


(THIRD-CLASS Carriage) Oil on canvas painting by Honoré Daumier.

(THIRD-CLASS Carriage) Oil on canvas painting by Honoré Daumier.

The long days are taking their toll.

Only two things can sever me from the world. The first is the life-long melancholy that occasionally manifests as outright winters of the soul. The second is the more recent exhaustion that typically culminates as wholesale abductions of my body-mind.

Right now, I’m here and not here. Right here, I’m now and not now. Fatigue keeps me from finishing my thoughts. So I gestate the same stillborn ideas again and again, with a tedious and frustrating sense of déjà vu.

In moments like these, I think: this is what  being old must feel like, and I shudder. To endure the disintegration of one’s body is one thing; to witness the dissolution of one’s mind is another.

(Yes, the exhaustion is the insidious gap through which the melancholy often slips.)

The long days are definitely taking their toll.

Still: better to have long days than none.

On the Utility of Compulsions


My weapon of choice.

My weapon of choice.

I used to travel a lotand not with the throw-caution-to-the-wind or let-the-winds-blow-me-where-they-will approach that’s wildly romanticized these days as the only, genuinely authentic way to see the world and be in the world.

No, when I traveled, I had agendas, and lists, and plans, and timetables (and yes, insurance).

(Which doesn’t mean that I traveled luxuriously. Far from it. I’d travel for weeks at a time with a JanSport backpackthe kind that college students use—and saved money by enduring day-long layovers in obscure and dingy airports and living off granola bars and coffee sachets. The heaviest and most valuable things I carried were a digital SLR with three different lenses and an ultra-portable laptop for writing and archiving all my photos. And I walked. A LOT.)

Anyway, my point is: I hyper-plan when I travel, and this has translated into Excel files of various sorts, my favorite of which is a checklist of things to pack. The checklist has two major categories: one for travels to temperate countries and the other one for trips to tropical climes. Each category is further divided into two lists: things to put in checked in baggage and things to pack in carry-on luggage.

Each category also has a wardrobe table that plots out what to wear for an entire week in order to optimize color combinations with a limited set of clothes. The last table is a daily meal plan that includes calorie counters for the most common food groups.

As pathologically obsessive as the above sounds, it’s made life on the road enormously simple and provides a welcome anchor in the turbulent and often disorienting waters of extended travel. Freed of the humdrum logistical questions of what to wear and what to eat, I’m then able to focus all my energies on the things that lure me away from home time and again, which are:

Seeing the world. Losing myself in it. Finding myself in it.

And making it my home.

On the Joys of Itineraries


Next up: packing!

Next up: packing!

Today, I started preparing the itinerary for a long-planned family trip abroad.

Most people I know (my family members included) do not relish the task of preparing itineraries. At the very most, they’ll have rough and sketchy outlines: hurried splotches marking cities and sites; broad strokes tracing paths between haphazard dots.

On the other hand, I positively relish making itineraries. It indulges a deeply felt needed for creating structure out of geographic chaos; for conjuring agendas out of pure possibility; for arbitrating choices made by contending preferences; and for making the most out of the limits of time and money.

When I make an itinerary, it factors everything in: arrivals and departures; travel times and meals; costs and options; allowances and fall-backs. I also try to find a balance between sightseeing and shopping; city surfing and nature hopping; people watching and culture vulturing. In the process, I read descriptions and reviews; consult maps and timetables; and devour histories and catalogs.

In short, I treat creating itineraries as a science and an art, and I regard every completed itinerary as a victory over entropy.

In a strangely contradictory and obsessive-compulsive way, itinerary planning is a Zen thing for me.

Executing the itinerary, however, is another matter entirely.

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.