Every morning I sat on the terrace and waited for him. Night would fade to gray dawn, the sun’s first rays struck the kilometer-high spire of Burj Khalifa,and then the sculler would appear. No other craft plied Dubai Creek at that hour, no working dhows or party cruises. River belonged to sculler and sculler to his boat, and I would sit with my coffee and envy him.
I was in Hamburg for a language course, and all week the syntactical floodwaters of German grammar had been rising. By Thursday night I was drowning in homework and would need Friday morning, before my afternoon class, to stay afloat.
Then the friend I was staying with, a German lawyer, suggested I join him in court the next morning. I could attend a session with him, see the German system, meet a German judge. An appealing prospect that alas would leave no time for homework.
East, west, and south, hardwood forests upholster hills named for their compass points, while to the north shines Cayuga, one of the Finger Lakes’ eleven glacial furrows. This is Ithaca, where, as it was when I grew up here forty years ago, the nearest Interstate is still thirty miles away. The aesthetic of those miles is rolling, agricultural, and often hardscrabble, with pro-fracking and “for sale” signs equally likely to appear on roadside barns. To drive to Ithaca is a commitment to the scenic route, metaphorically and visually, because there is neither a fast lane nor an unattractive one.
Because I had a roomy exit-row seat on a full plane to Berlin, I sent a photo of my gloriously unbent legs to my wife. A petty triumph, the frequent-flyer’s tame version of sexting. My seatmate was a small, physically non-intrusive man, but troublingly prone to coughs and sneezes.