Monday, April 17, 2006

End of an Era?

Leaving Spain turned out to be something I wasn't really interested in doing. I only went home because I didn't want to be alone on my 40th birthday, which happens next week.

"Should have stayed longer," I thought, and it wasn't just because I hated waking up at 4 a.m. to get to the airport for the 7:25 flight.

After the beige, sunny desert landscape of Kuwait, everything in Barcelona seemed incredibly colorful. Green was made greener by the absence of greenery in my previous three months. The bountiful richness of the corner shops, with their piles of fruits, was made richer by the lack of these things in my Gulf winter. The importation of good company after my deliberate isolation in Kuwait made the city all the more enjoyable.

Normally, I would have caught the subway to Barcelona Sants and transferred to the airport train there. But the airport train had quit running directly in November, so I hoofed it up to the airport bus stop on Plaza Catalunya. I'd thought I'd avoided overpacking, as I'd been aware of new airline luggage limitations, but suddenly my two bags seemed ridiculously heavy as I walked through the empty alleys of the old city.

That's the problem with getting an apartment in the old city. The only practical way out is by foot. Not a big deal for the visiting pal with his compact weekend-sized suitcase, but for me with my three months worth of multi-season wear and office documents (not to mention sample copies of Spider-Man printed in Arabic), it was less-than-ideal.

Flew easily from Barcelona to Heathrow, then had to collect my bags, go through Passport Control, and catch the National Express to Gatwick for my Continental flight to Newark. Arrival at 8:40 means I should easily make the 12:30 flight, right?

Er… no. My Barcelona-Heathrow flight arrived late. The bags took forever to come up. Had the motorway been clogged, I would never have made it.

I was a public menace as I raced along with my cart through Gatwick, dodging the other carts and meandering-people as they moved in fits and starts after gazing at departure screens. I didn't hit anyone with my cart, but only due to luck.

"The check-in for flight CO29 closes in five minutes," said the Continental agent, cheerfully. I'd made it, though barely.

Seven hours later, I emerged into Newark Airport. The industrial landscape that lines US 1/9 and the New Jersey Turnpike doesn't look so bad from the train instead of from Yancey's car when he'd dropped me off at Newark in early January.

Home. Home again. What now?

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