Places

I. My sister is driving across the country right now. She quit her job at Gawker and left Los Angeles to move back to New York, so she and a friend are taking her car back. I helped her, a little jealously, map out a route that takes her through a few states I haven’t been to. Yesterday she spent the night in Oklahoma, a place that keeps eluding me, or I keep eluding, or something. She said the town they stayed in was a little depressing, but she likes that kind of picturesquely bleak American place. She joked about being kidnapped by a family of chainsaw enthusiasts when they were driving through the Texas panhandle. They’re in Little Rock tonight, another place I’ve never been. She said they were going to try to find some live music and that she was “very curious about this Little Rock.” I’m curious too. I picture her sitting under christmas lights, by the river, some welcoming wind blowing in from the east. 

II. Yesterday my friend and I went to the Barnes & Noble in Union Square and bought two Greece guidebooks. We’ve decided to go there for about ten days this summer. Some friends are renting a house on Santorini so we’re going to stop there and see them for a few days and then go look at a whole lot of old stuff. The pictures in the books are incredible, all that blue ocean punctured by craggy juts of rock, thin white wine on cafe tables, olives and mountains and whispering ruins. It seems mostly unreal, the way, I guess, all places are before you visit them. The thing I’m most excited for, I think, is being on boats, coursing past islands and feeling incredibly far away from myself. I went to the Virgin Islands with my family when I was a teenager and the ferry from St. Thomas to St. John was maybe the best part, when I strongest felt that aching rush of travel, the proud and worried sense that you are somewhere else entirely. 

III. I’m reading last week’s New Yorker issue that’s all about far-flung places. There’s an article about the Darién Gap, that strange jungle between Panama and Colombia that the Pan-American Highway just can’t get through. They haven’t given up exactly, but for now it’s the big disconnect, natives and rebels and zoologists all roaming around in the break, a weird and troubled green seam between continents. Just after that piece there’s a thing about Mars, about the rover missions and all the money and stress that goes into sending these elaborate robots all the way out there to explore. It talks about how cold it is there, about the failed atmosphere, about its gravitational tricks. I like thinking about places like these, Mars and the Gap. Made special by secrets and distance. There are still difficult places! Ones no one has quite figured their way through. But, it’s nice that they try. All that determined maneuvering and head-scratching and planning. As if they know — because, I suspect, they do know — that they’ll find a way someday.