I got an email from my friend Tom the other day. Tom lives in Richmond, Virginia and he and I have been buddies for 40+ years. He emailed to ask advice about NY hotels because he's going there in late September to see The Marriage of Figaro at the Met. (This is, incidentally, the kind of guy friend every woman values---one who loves opera)
Anyway, we had the hotel conversation, he got a hotel, and in the course of the discussion I mentioned that I will be in NYC twice this fall, and also SF, and at Thanksgiving I head to Paris briefly.
His reply: S.F, Paris, NYCX2....God, Lois, how do you do it?
It exhausts me to think of your constant coming and going!
Why is this noteworthy? Because I did not even mention to Tom that also, this fall, I will be in Idaho, Providence, Albany, Rochester, Washington DC, Baltimore, Connecticut, Philadelphia, and New Hampshire.
Also, Germany, to visit my granddaughter, who turns 16 in late October.
And it is a good question, how I do it. One answer is that I am a pretty good quick-change artist. I can be working on a book, hop on a plane and go to another city and make a speech, then fly home and immediately resume working on the book. Or even, sometimes, work en route. So it's like the actor who plays the detective in scene 1, makes an exit, turns his jacket wrongside out, pastes on the mustache, enters from the other side, uses a different accent, and is the villain in scene 2.
And I try to block out chunks of time---like summer, for one---during which I don't travel; and also to take restful vacations (the trip to SF, four days next month, is to stay with wonderful friends. Paris-Germany is also entirely pleasure). But it is, to be sure, a peripetetic existence and a schedule that is often exhausting. And if anything goes wrong: e.g., cancelled flight, missed connections, attack of flu, family crisis...then everything implodes.
That doesn't happen very often. Once, I remember, bad weather closed the airport in Boston and I couldn't get to Kansas to accept the William Allen White Award. But they had everyone there at a luncheon and had me make my speech over a speaker phone which was then amplified for the audience. Very weird, from my end---probably theirs, as well.
Another time I had to cancel---someone else made the phone call for me---and the people at the other end were outraged becuase it was quite last-minute. I shake my head, still, in bewilderment as I recall it. The reaosn I cancelled was because one of my children had been killed in an accident. (Thinking about it, I hope they looked back at their own behavior and are still embarrassed)
But most often everything goes smoothly. I go, I come, I go, I come. My brain for the most part retains what I am currently working on. I do not remember, after leaving a city, the names of the people who were always so good to me, driving, hosting, helping...they are my new best friends while I'm there, and the memory of them is gone when I board the next plane. I'm sorry about that part of it. And usually when/if I encounter them again someplace and they remind me, it comes back, and I am glad of it.
My late friend Carol Otis Hurst, who travelled incessantly for many years, for her work...told a funny story. She was someplace, had done her performance, was in the midst of a crowd, and she saw a woman waving to her from the edge of the throng... The woman didn't even look familiar, but from the way she waved and called, with a great friendly grin of recognition, arol knew that she had probably met her in some other city at some other time. So she waved back and called, "Good to see you!" The woman replied, still calling over the crowd: "I left the bastard!" Carol didn't have a clue. But she gave her a big thumbs-up sign.
What the heck.