Business travel is a high-class form of homelessness. At least it is from a certain perspective only available to somebody who’s never actually been homeless. Maybe it’d be less tacky to simply state that for the past 8 days, I’ve been living like a drifter with maid service. I checked out of my downtown hotel on Sunday, hopped on BART, spent two days with friends in Berkeley, hopped on an Amtrak train, and woke up this morning in Sacramento after a really swell talk to MacNEXUS.
(My minimum goal during these speaking gigs is to not do anything to inspire either a panicky rush to the exits or an angered rush towards the podium. I’m happy to say that I far exceeded these simple goals last night. The group was warm, cheery, well-groomed, well-mannered and above all, highly-indulgent. These are all qualities treasured by a humble wandering minstrel such as I.)
All of these beds and scene changes have had the effect of stretching out the perceived duration of this trip. It’s starting to feel like the Andy Ihnatko Pan-Californian Goodwill tour. Normally, Macworld Expo is bookended by a single day before and a couple of days afterward: I’m done, home, and dusted in a week. This year, I’ll be home on Thursday…Day 9.
It was totally worth it, of course. I’m reminded of just how many good friends I have in the San Francisco area, and how rare it is that I’m here long enough to actually see most of them.
Still: nine days is a long time to be away from home, even if you’re a bachelor whose only dependent is a life-sized soft-sculpture of a Dalmatian. As I packed up my hotel room on Sunday, I reflected on the fact that most people don’t long for a full day of work. But that was my mindset as I combed the room like a CSI investigator, looking for splatters of cables and chargers. During a heavy conference like Macworld, I can only write for an hour or two in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening. It leaves me feeling antsy. I pine for the luxury of a deep, day-long creative soak and going to bed at 4 AM believing that Great Things Have Been Accomplished.
(Accent on the word “believing.”)
Which is why I decided to call an audible on Sunday and extended my stay in Berkeley. My friends had invited me to stay the whole week. I had declined and opted for an overnight. It’s no reflection on them; even I don’t enjoy my own company for more than a few days at a time. But I discovered that my pals’ new house is (a) gorgeous and (b) large enough that I could easily sneak back in there today and live there for many weeks unnoticed if I were so inclined. So instead of retreating back to San Francisco after my overnight, I spent alllll day Monday and much of Tuesday writing and working, nestled in the sort of tranquil California valley landscape that will make you want to adjust your wire-rimmed spectacles, peer out over the horizon, and call out “Uh-oh…chop-pers!” Assuming that you, like me, grew up watching “M*A*S*H.”
After a couple of days in this peaceful environment all pressure gauges are now reading zero and all caution and warning indicators have been reset to the Off position. That’s no mean feat after a big show; normally it takes me a little while before the buzzing leaves my ears and I feel fit to rejoin humanity.
The only cost of this last-minute change of plans can be seen hanging in the bathroom right now: a set of freshly-laundered socks and underthings.
Yeah. See, I was supposed to go back to my San Francisco hotel on Monday, where I’d checked my suitcase and its remaining clean clothes. My original plan was to rent a car at SFO, drive to Sacramento for the gig, and then spend today touring. That was before I discovered that Amtrak could take me from a station just a few miles away from the Berkeley crash pad to within walking distance of my hotel…for a fraction of the rental cost. I’m looking forward to my jaunt back to San Francisco…Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor service takes you through marshes and meadows, for the most part, and the terrain is mostly just as pretty as the New England coastline that wheels past your window on Northeast Regional trains.
It was a great trip. Personally, professionally, creatively…pick a category. But I’m booked on the redeye tonight and I can’t wait to get home. My dog might be a lifeless toy, but Buster is still my dog and I’ll be very glad to see him. If I know Buster, he’ll adhere to his obedience training and won’t jump up and lick my face. He’s suchagoooddogggggg!!!!!!! I fully intend to tell him so as soon as I walk through the door.