Prunes and Prism

RULES FOR YOUNG LADIES: Some arch advice on snagging a husband. Exercising the mouth into a pretty shape through repetition of certain words seems to have been an indoor sport for young nineteenth-century girls; in Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens' overly bred girl repeats, "papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism." (

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Accidental Tourist

Dearest readers, if you and I have ever had a conversation about my father, you know that traveling isn't his hobby so much as flying. To travel you have to leave the hotel, and Daddy has hunkered down everywhere from Seattle to Sao Paulo to watch CNN and eat the same room-service hamburger.

It's like business travel, but he isn't doing any business, and it isn't so much that he's some kind of nervous nelly who ventures out only on package tours; it's more that he'll go to someplace like Hamburg, spend the night in an airport Marriott, and fly home.

Once he flew to London, took a lap around Heathrow, and then got back on the same plane. The flight crew for the journey back was the same too, and were bemused if not suspicious to find him right back in coach an hour later, waiting for another bag of peanuts. He has been to Delhi* three times in the last year and, to my knowledge, left the hotel on only one of those trips -- and then only for half an hour, after which he hotfooted it back to gratefully towel off and fill his suitcase with individually wrapped soaps. (Traveler's advisory: India's hot, and it smells. You can thank him later.)

I have a hall closet filled with American Airlines toiletries kits, each of which contains a sleeping mask, cooling leg balm (?), and tiny little tubes of some kind of gel called Dry Shower, which smells like my Uncle Max -- heady and aftershavey, but not at all unpleasant. When I get back from a trip, Daddy listens to my packaged anecdotes and then asks what he really wants to know: What did you eat on the plane?

I guess flying can be meditative, if you'll let it; nothing and nobody requires you, and so you're suspended but still moving forward.

So, for Father's Day, what did I give the man who once spent one (1) night in Tokyo, just long enough to eschew raw fish and take some sweet pictures of a family who literally lived next to the airport? An engraved compass. Maybe this is funny only to me. He said it was beautiful but he didn't know how to use a compass, and I said he could always barter it for food. Say, those extra-nice mixed nuts they give you in first class.

(Happy Father's Day.)

*He has worked out some kind of complicated algebra in which he earns so many frequent-flyer miles during these trips, he gets a substantial return on his investment, which he can funnel back into more plane tickets to cities he'll never see.


Anonymous EndureForte said...

My brother once received a necklace laden with piranha teeth from one of your father's visits to the "Amazon". I must now accept that he acquired it from a gift shop in the airport rather than the in tradition of the Great White Hunter. I rather enjoyed the image of him going mono y mono with the devil-fish!

12:21 AM  
Anonymous EndureForte said...

...I meant to say "mano y mano" but you already knew that (it's still late and still funny).

3:31 AM  
Blogger frostine99 said...

Oh, Lordy, I have to jump to Daddy's defense here -- the Amazon is the one place where he did leave the hotel, and the one he loved best. One of my favorite pictures of him is one in which he's behind the wheel of a boat in a Hemingway-esque cargo vest. The similarities to Hemingway end there, though -- that piranha-teeth necklace probably did come from the airport.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

You should send him this link since he likes airline food so much.

He sounds just like me when I was doing the Air Courier Thing, but at least I was carrying a box with me to deliver.

My Sister onetime flew from Allentown to Philadelphia the LONG way around the planet so she could get miles to keep her Elite Status.

12:43 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home