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Tuesday 24 February 2004

O'Hare airport, 4:10 P.M. and I'm sort of on my way. Diane picked me up at home at 2:30, and I was completely ready, all I had to do was hug Pliny and go — some kind of record, and I wonder of course what I've forgotten, my packing was altogether too smooth. Checked suitcase (since I'm carrying a knapsack, sleeping bag and tent which will cut the hotel costs for me if I use them 4 times), which weighs exactly 51 lb., since to my surprise, the British Airways website said that on their inter-European flights, as for example from London to Rome, the weight allowance is 51 lbs.; carryon (40‑some pounds); computer in its case.

Unevent­ful arrival at airport at just about the right time for my 5:25 flight, i.e. 3:30, gave Diane a big hug at the sidewalk, and off I went.

Well, nothing is ever quite what it seems, and the first surprise of the trip within the first few minutes. My 51‑lb. suitcase could have been 70‑lb. — that 51‑lb. regulation was for passengers actually departing Europe for another European destination — but my carryon is supposed to be no more than 13 lbs., which I never saw on any website, and is apparently a new FAA regulation. I couldn't pay my way out of it, but the counter agent, thank goodness very pleasant and comfortable-feeling, also thank goodness there were almost no other passengers in line, asked me to "redistribute" to the check-in suitcase. Well I did a bit of that then it dawned on us both that the one absolutely essential item, my camera bag, weighed 9 lbs. and basically I'd have to check everything else in; so now, despite good planning (or so I thought) I have not one, but two checked bags, and all kinds of things in them that I'd rather not lose.

The security checks on the other hand were simple, apparently efficient, and as pleasant as they can make such things. I didn't have to take off my shoes or turn on my computer or cameras, I wasn't wanded, I wasn't taken aside to be body-searched, and I got thru the lines fairly fast.

So here I am, Gate M‑11, a bourbon-and‑soda under my belt; started to ask for a scotch-and‑soda then remembered that scotch is British and bourbon is American, so why not, for my last moments over here for 3 months. Young Mexican bartendress at the little cart at the gate poured me what I would consider a very stiff drink, one of those plastic cups, ⅔ bourbon, not much water, and some ice; far more than I would ever drink in a bar or at home, but why argue, I just hope I don't have a headache tomorrow morning. I also hope my bags don't get lost, of course.

Writing this temporarily on my portable, since in the Rush to Redistribute, my diary, which could have fit in its assigned pocket of my camera bag, wound up in one of the checked bags. For the record, 20 minutes use of the thing depleted the battery by 12 %, so apparently I can count on about 2½ hours on battery before recharging.

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