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Monday December 30, 2002, 04:50

There is no way that I am going to let 2002 slip away from me having written a grand total of zero words for my readers in the month of December. That is embarrassing, and mean, because I know that people come to this site to read about what I have to say about the world, and if I don't write, then they do not know what is happening in the world that centers around me, and that would be bad. Mostly because if I do not perpetuate the myth that I am, in fact, the center of this particular very important world, then nobody else will, and since I really need some amount of validation here, I might as well keep on pushing forth with this charade.

Which is to say, to anyone who might not realize it at this point, that I1 am no longer in Bilbao, Spain. Having completed the Spain part of my trip over a month ago, I had continued along to Russia, Finland, Thailand, Hong Kong (which, I suppose, is technically China at this point, but if the ISO people want to continue to give it its own code, I might as well refer to it in the same grouping as all of the other countries that I am listing here), Japan and Saipan (which is, technically, part of the United States, or rather, part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, which has this sort of weird relationship with the United States which isn't a protectorate and isn't a territory, but is something else, something similar, except that cock fights are legal there and it just happens to be a tropical island where everyone goes diving), before returning to the Unites States of America and, with a short detour through the west coast of the country, New York City, my birth place, my home town, hurrah hurrah.

All this means that there are many tales to tell, and many photos to show, and if you all want to come over at some point and watch a slide show, I'm sure something could be arranged, but not quite yet as there is still a big mess of clothing and boxes and video tapes and compact discs strewn about the apartment as we attempt to simultaneously unpack and arrange and prepare for a party, which was probably not the brightest of all possible plans, but it happens to be the one with which I am stuck right now, so I'll just stick with it and see how far I get.

While the traveling around the world (and when I say around the world, I literally mean that my flights took me around the entire globe, over a six week period) can be the source of a great many tales, like being stopped by the police in Moscow to deciding, rather sheepishly, that an ocean, recently choppy from a passing typhoon, might not be the best place for a beginning snorkeler to be exploring, and an equally great number of photographs, there is something to be said for returning at the end of a trip to settle down in familiar surroundings, to find breakfast at any time of day and to know that the people who are being rude to you as you cross the street are being rude in exactly the way that you have come to expect.

Approximately eight months ago, I decided that it was in my best interest to leave this city to travel to another. Approximately three years ago, I decided that it was in my best interest to leave this city to try working in another. Three years ago I moved to Boston for a job that I ended up disliking in a city that paled in comparison to the one that I had left, so I returned. Eight months ago, already knowing that I was developing roots in a city that I was proud to call my home, circumstance dictated that I should put things on hold to travel across an ocean to settle in another city in another country, at least until my tourist visa, or money, ran out. The former left before the latter, and I, having procured both a job and an additional perspective on the world, once again find myself back in what I consider to be my home, staying up late, laughing in the face of convention, and switching tenses at will.

This, my friends, is what I like to call "freedom," and it is why we live in this country in the first place (and by we, I mean, well, the people that live in this country. The rest of you can just play along at home, replacing "we" with "you" and making the appropriate disparaging comments as you feel necessary, because if there is one thing that I have learned in my travels around the world, it's that as many complaints as one might hear domestically about the troubles with this country, the rest of the world will offer up an earful about exactly what it thinks about it.

In an unrelated, and poorly situated segue, we were walking through the underground passage, the subway to cross the street, past little stores with little old ladys selling toothpaste and knick knacks, with the hordes of other people passing this way and that, when we passed a clump of police. Imagine a cold day in winter. Now imagine the streets dirty and the sky grey, and then realize that it has been like this for months. You are now imagining Moscow, only you now need to place in the middle of this mess a group of large police officers in camouflage and fur hats. You have to imagine three sets of eyes trained on you as you walk past, and then imagine a hand shooting out and grabbing your arm. Now imagine forking over your passport (which you must carry on your person at all times) and know that you were stopped because you don't look Russian, and know that this could happen again at any point during your stay. Though there were no additional incidents with the police, and though I managed to get through the entire Russia portion of the trip without having to tip any officials, it was still a relief to finally leave that country.

Which is, again, the long way around saying that I am glad to be back in what was, and has remained, my home.

1. And by "I" in this case I of course am referring to "we," which would refer to the two of us, Karen and I, who spent six weeks traveling around the world together. Surprisingly, I am not completely sick of her at this point, as would probably be the expected behavior. Lucky? Or perhaps something else. I couldn't possibly hazard a guess, but I will blame it on the final week of our trip which involved mostly swimming in the tropics, which probably soothed over any problems which were brewing.

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