Nothing drives home the size of our country more than an airline flight across/above it. I suppose driving across it might drive home that point more, but I can't see having time to do that anytime soon. Just flying across it took me the better part of a day yesterday.
It was an easy flying day, all things considered. I got to the airport early, got my luggage checked in with no trouble, got through security with very little hassle, and got great airline seats in the exit row for both legs of the trip. I didn't have to switch planes in St. Louis, but I could get off the plane to use the bathroom and stretch my legs.
From the air, I found myself thinking about the political language of immigration and the idea that we don't have enough room. We have plenty of room. From the air it's clear that huge swaths of the country aren't populated at all.
I have seen some of the great rivers of the country: the Missouri, the Mississippi, and finally, the Columbia and the Willamette. I saw the St. Louis arch, which isn't as impressive from above as it was when I drove by it decades ago. I don't think I saw Mt. Hood or Mt. St. Helen's--one flight attendant told me I might see them if the weather was clear on our approach to Portland.
It was strange to think about those driving days, when we'd go to youth gatherings in rickety cars and not think twice about it. Strange to think about how much thought I've given this trip, in comparison.
I waited a bit at the airport for the Blue Star shuttle, but it did finally come. I had a pleasant ride to the hotel with other AWP folks. We had a great conversation about writing students and museums and writing conventions and med students.
When I had thought about the trip, I thought I might go to the Convention Center once I got checked into the hotel, but I was much more tired than I thought, and the drizzle had turned to rain. So, I went to the evening reception at the hotel, a happy hour with vegetables, including roasted broccoli. I had a local porter, which tasted like every other porter I've had. Don't get me wrong: it was cold and dark and delicious. I just can't usually tell much difference between one porter and another.
I got the computer talking to the wi-fi, which took more strategizing than it should, but it was easy, once I figured out the right sign-in method. I crashed fairly early (but late for Eastern time).
Today, it's on to the AWP! I plan to navigate the light rail system to get to the Convention Center or at least to get back from the Convention Center tonight.. I'm not sure it's as walkable as I thought--this part of Portland is much more a tangle of major highways than I expected. But this morning, I may try walking across the Burnside Bridge--if there's no way to cut north to the Convention Center, I'll come back to the light rail station.
I plan to get some coffee throughout the day. I want to make it to the keynote speech by Colson Whitehead--I am going to need some help to make it to 10 p.m., when his keynote address is scheduled to end.
Yesterday I found myself wishing I had done more research, both about the current attractions of the city and about the history. I found myself wishing I had brought the journals of Lewis and Clark with me. I didn't, but I can still channel the spirit of the Corps of Discovery!