It feels strange to know that I’ll be laying-over in Brussels in a few days. Belgium, who knew, is now the restive center of the New Old World. That city of my mother-in-law’s birth will be the first-leg of a Diamond Jubilee, my 75th birthday celebratory visit to a couple of former empires, Italy and Austria-Hungary.
My wife asked me today if I was excited. I answered, “Delighted.” Which is odd, because I have no recollection of using that subtly self-illuminating word before as a response during my first three-quarters of a century here on Earth.
Once upon a time an ugly American heading abroad would not have his arm-hairs bristle, or be made to see formations of Pig-Penish clouds gathering around him. As always, these are new times, and yet . . .
Travelling in the northern hemisphere in December and January is not for the faint-of-heart under the best of circumstances, but these days it is not something as easily predictable as the weather that causes a thinking person to ponder the possibilities of a chance forever lost of finally answering the riddle of the self, or lo, the meaning of life.
History, if one has read any at all, teaches that managing to be in the right place at the right time is an impossibly difficult endeavor, even for the most diffident of homebodies. For starters, Troy was sacked.
So, despite all the trepidations of venturing forth as a representative of the New America: the overriding sense of embarrassment, the full expectation of a reciprocal intolerance, the crying shame of having to bear witness to profound civil failures and echoes of the zippy codas of age-old marching songs, on my honor, I will do my best . . .
. . . when I return (fingers-crossed) to restore the Spirit of ’76.