Monday, January 5, 2009

More vacation!

Decided to write this post on Sunday in LA and schedule it for "publication" tomorrow so I don't have to worry about it when I get back to Madison.

The past week has been wonderful. After Jed's marathon driving feat from LA to El Paso, and meeting Nate at the El Paso airport, we headed the car toward Big Bend on the 29th (was that Sunday? or Monday?--it's been the sort of vacation where you lose track of the days). We didn't stay in the national park, but rather at Lajitas, a beautiful but now financially troubled fancy resort just outside the state park, which I think is even larger than the national park. In November, a flood wiped out the resort's golf course (which had been its main attraction, I think), but Nate found a bunch of articles on the internet that suggested the financial problems had begun a few years ago. No need to go into details--for us, the place was just fine. More than just fine--luxurious. I had a really good massage at the spa; we drove into the national park, including the Chisos Mountains, and saw quite spectacular scenery; we ate well and slept on terrific beds; Jed and Nate bought me a painted walking stick that helped me negotiate short walks (from the parking lot to the dining room, say), which were a challenge at 4,000 feet.

We celebrated New Year's eve with room service and TV--and then Nate asked if I would like him to fly back to Madison with me and drive me to Chicago for my appointment on Thursday. I was overjoyed, because I had been spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to deal with the trip if it was really snowy. Instantly, I stopped obsessing about it. I really can't express how grateful I am to both Jed and Nate for helping me through these difficult times--or explain the many, many ways they've helped me do what I need to do without losing or compromising my dignity. (What little I have left!)

On January 1 we left Lajitas and drove to Marfa, Texas, an odd little piece of Williamsburg (Brooklyn) that's about three hours by car from anywhere. In the 1970s, Donald Judd, a minimalist artist, bought about half the town and an old Army base and went about creating his art work and, not coincidentally, an artists' colony, in the middle of west Texas. Jed had been here five or so years ago, and he knew that the tours of the Chinati Foundation, which houses Judd's art, involved a lot of walking. But the Foundation was pretty accommodating of my needs. On the morning tour, which includes walks through huge buildings where Judd's big--and each subtly different--machined aluminum boxes are lined up, I was accompanied by Yolanda, one of the office staff, who carried a folding chair that I could sit on whenever I needed to rest. The buildings have huge windows, and the sun, which is pretty intense even in early January, reflects off the boxes, creating interesting effects of shadows, translucence, and so forth. Just sitting and looking at the boxes is almost meditative. Lovely.

In the afternoon, Nate and Jed figured out how to borrow a wheelchair from the two-room Marfa medical clinic, and we essentially got a private tour of the artworks, the highlight of which are fluorescent light installations by Dan Flavin. I had seen one of his installations a few years ago at the LA County Museum, but it was a lot of fun to be wheeled down the long halls into the tunnel-like recesses full of light.

In Marfa, we stayed at the historic hotel, a really gorgeous building with a downstairs lounge warmed by a fireplace, where I could hang out. Our room was quite nice, but up 24 steps, which I chose to climb once a day. (The elevator stopped operating decades ago. Jed offered to carry me up the steps, but I assured him that, even at 4,000 feet, I could climb them myself. I think he was amazed that I did, but they were not much of a problem. Once a day.)

And then, yesterday, Jed and Nate shared the 14 hour drive back to LA. My sister Paula is coming late this afternoon and staying for dinner, and tomorrow, Jed returns to law school and Nate and I return to Madison. I haven't checked the weather; I just assume it will be cold, very, and snowy, likewise.

We head to Chicago on Wednesday, and I have my appointment to sign the consent form for the Phase 2 study on Thursday morning, so presumably next week I will have something substantive to say about the medical aspect of this journey. See you then!

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