Flying over Europe at dawn. Cities spread out like banked fires, skeins of embers faintly aglow. A seam of sodium orange appears in the inky horizon ahead of us, and suddenly the seam bursts open in a great blaze. Slowly and quickly, the light pushes the hemisphere of night away. The beads of fire that stray across the terrain fade. The sun turns the frost on the window to topaz dust. Then, the earth below becomes obscured by a landscape of clouds. A tiny jet crosses our path miles below on its perpendicular way.
No one can sleep on this airplane, meaning – not I. I doze, as the guy next to me punctuates my reverie with heinous flatulence. He watches Asterix on his personal device. Announcements in German inform us of something.
Munich Airport is dazzling. Glamorous merchandise piled everywhere, but unobtrusive signage requires concentration. I pass through passport control and find my way to the gate for my Palermo connection. It’s a smallish plane. Many babies wail. They are pissed. The respirator of the sick man in the row behind puffs relentlessly. Good for him.
My bag is lost! My bag is lost! It did not descend to the carousel with its putative companions. Lufthansa lost a bag? The mind reels. Inquiries reveal it to be sequestered in a special customs room. Ah. That makes sense. Though my passport was stamped in Munich, my luggage didn’t get the treatment until Palermo. I’m squared away and pad off to find the Bread Loaf people. Yes, I attend a writers conference. And they are happy to see me.
Together with another couple I am driven to Erice. The countryside is breathtaking. Great limestone bluffs and towers and promontories on the left, the utter blue Mediterranean on the right, while we drive through red-tiled suburbs into sere countryside on a four-lane motorway. The driver points in Italian and says, “Segesta.” Distant, up against green hills, is the temple at Segesta, built in 500 BCE by Greeks. It is considered the most intact and perfect in the world. It passes from view. I am happy.
I succumb to the total spacedness of lagging jets. Nodding and smiling, I head to my room for napping purposes. It’ll work, this room, though it has an unsettling sewage-y aroma and doesn’t offer a vista. Fuck it. Naptime.
Later, there’s a reconnoitering walk through Erice and the welcome dinner. I’m not feeling terribly conversational. Oh, well. This’ll be fun.
The sewage-y aroma has gone. I close my eyes.