Sunday, September 25, 2005

We're hopping the continent again. This time all the way from west to east in one giant leap, and losing three hours of our life in the process.

Two alarms set for 5.30am sound in our heads like pneumatic drills. And there, outside our bedroom door, little Danielle awaits with a smile on her face that would put the Cheshire cat to shame.

She is waving a ten dollar bill. "Look what the tooth fairy brought," she says, eyes wide with wonder and excitement. "And it's real!"

I check to see that the ink is, indeed, dry and declare that it is no forgery. Steve double-checks by holding it up to the light. "There," he stabs at it with his finger. "You see? A thin strip of thicker bill woven through it from top to bottom that reads TenTenTenTenTen.... That makes it genuine."

And he tells us the story of an autopsy he performed once on a well-decayed body. When he was going through the remains of the clothes he found lots of little TwentyTwentyTwenty strips in one of the pockets. The rest of the twenty dollar bills had disintegrated. But the identifying strips had remained intact. Steve has an autopsy story for every occasion. And they are always fascinating.

Danielle snatches the ten dollar bill back, in case it disintegrates in her father's hands, and she still can't keep the smile from her face. "The tooth fairy must have thought it was two teeth," she says, "and left me five dollars for each."

I tell her not to spend it all in the one shop, and she and her dad, and La Patronne et moi pile into Trenda's Honda with all our bags, and head off through the dawn to the airport.

The sky is a dimpled copper as we drop down from the hills to the sea, and the airport which is right adjacent to the downtown area of San Diego. Thousands of private yachts bob on a gentle swell, and somewhere beyond the masts of taller boats, we see the conning tower of a Soviet submarine purchased for exhibit by some wealthy local.

Hugs and kisses and thanks and fond farewells, and La Patronne leads me off to the quick and easy e-ticket check-in which is neither quick nor easy. But when, eventually, we pass United Airlines' intelligence test - which even Miss 167 has trouble with (that's La Patronne, for those who are interested in her IQ) - we head off for my usual strip search at security.

I'm beginning to worry that I might start enjoying being patted down by strange men. If only they would let the women do me. I am wearing a skirt, after all! But I hesitate to suggest it in case they decide I am being flippant, and subject me to a rectal examination by way of revenge.

At least I can console myself with the thought that there is only one more flight after this one - and that's the one that will take me home.

A bumpy flight arrives half-an-hour early in a dull, cool Washington DC. We have just missed a hot and sticky spell of weather. We are met by Barbara Busch (note the spelling, which separates her from the dynasty which currently occupies the White House, but puts her firmly with the family which makes the famous beer). Barbara is a lovely lady whom we met in France when she was visiting her friends Charles and Marilyn, with whom I stayed in Denver.

At the luggage carousel I somehow manage to insinuate myself in front of a man waiting at the point where the conveyer belt spews out the bags. He humphs and grumphs and pushes past me to grab his cases. He is not pleased. Barbara nudges me. "Do you know who that was?" she asks.

I have no idea.

She nods her head towards the retreating figure. "It's John Ashcroft," she says. "The former Attorney General." I glance over my shoulder and realise she is right. "You pushed in right in front of him," she says.

It is a thought that pleases me. Had I known it was him, I might have endeavoured to stand on his foot as well. All that fills my head is a recollection of a dreadful video I saw once of Ashcroft singing the most appalling song, which he had written himself, during a speech somewhere.

The man next to me at the carousel says, "First time I ever stood so close to someone so evil." I hope he's not talking about me.

We leave Ashcroft remonstrating with an airline official as he attempts to find someone to carry his bags, and we head off to the car park and then the freeway into DC.

Barbara lives in a charming little house on Chesapeake Street, not far from Connecticut Avenue, which leads right into downtown DC. This is a beautiful area of old houses set amongst tall, mature trees. Cane furniture sits out on covered verandas behind white picket fences. Red brick and clapboard siding. Houses that are a hundred years old. What a contrast with California, the home of the teardown, where a house is considered to be without value unless it has just been built.

This is like Europe, or perhaps it's more English than European. It feels more settled, at ease with itself, and rooted in the past. We feel right at home, and Barbara takes us out to a Greek restaurant on Connecticut Avenue where we gorge ourselves on the dishes of an ancient civilization, before returning for a whisky nightcap and a collapse into bed.

Tomorrow I speak at the Writer's Center, then head off on the long trip north along the eastern seaboard.

Just over a week to go!

Barbara with La Patronne

Barbara's House in DC

1 comment:

ARGIL said...

Qu'est-ce que vous allez nous rapporter comme cadeau ?