What’s in your backpack

After spending four months in Dubrovnik basically sitting tight I have now restored my fading carbon footprint to its former glory. During the last week in Croatia there were two sorties to Budva in Montenegro and Mostar in Bosnia, and then a long trip to Estonia which concluded with a straight 19 hour drive from Vienna to Tallinn, broken only for filling up the tank twice.

Compared to our winter in Dubrovnik where it was difficult to tell one week apart from another, those two days I spent in Tallinn were positively hectic. And this week I am already on the other side of Atlantic — for 2010 American Comparative Literature Association conference, held in New Orleans. After the conference it will be Atlanta for another week, where I hope to put in some serious library hours at Emory once more.

Speaking of books — over the four months in Dubrovnik I managed to stay off from buying books (well, apart from one local find in the last week), but yesterday while having my layover in Helsinki I finally caved in and ordered a £160 worth of books from amazon, which should be waiting for me once I get back to Estonia in about two weeks. And then in JFK I bought another book — when walking into Hudson News bookstore at the airport I discovered Elif Batuman’s The Possessed (that I had fully intended to buy during my trip anyway). For those who read this and think Elif-what? — her remarkable little book that consists of a bunch of essays on Russian literature and strange people who read, study and teach it has recently gathered much press (see reviews in Bookforum, TLS, Chronicle, LA Times and elsewhere), topped Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina in amazon.com Russian bestsellers’ list and then made it to Top 100. Which, if you ask me, is nothing short of astounding. Also, in the Hudson News store it had been placed, with some apparent perplexion, to the “Classics” shelf, alongside with Euripides, Cervantes and Walt Whitman. Anyway, I immediately dug into it on my way to Miami and can gladly report that it is every bit as good as I expected it to be.

Anyhow, after this brief literary spending binge I promptly decided to go frugal and recover some of the damage. Thereby I can inform my dear readers that if you decide to spend a night in the Miami International Airport — and, like me, find $146 plus tax that the Airport Hotel tries to charge from jet-lagged and sleep-deprived people a robbery (if not, due to my plane arriving at 11pm, in the broad daylight) — the best place to sleep is the third level of Concourse J. I am also glad to report that should you get peckish then you only need to walk down to Dunkin’ Donuts on the 2nd level which is open throughout the night (as is Subway at Concourse D, but that wouldn’t be half as classy). Where ever you decide to crash you will be lulled to sleep by regular Spanish service announcements that alternate with announcements of the local time every 15 minutes. On the photo are evident the consequences of failing to do proper research as to the best sleeping conditions that the MIA has to offer and thereby ending up spending the whole night in rather subpar habitat, probably waking up grumpy and all that.

Oh, one more thing. The Finnair flight I took to New York featured George Clooney’s “Up in the Air” in their onboard entertainment and while I normally much prefer watching movies in a theatre rather than on an airplane, this particular one must be an exception. I have always made it a point to travel light — I suppose both literally as well as in a sense that “Up in the Air” talks about. And once the end credits rolled it suddenly occurred to me that since last September my own backpack is much heavier, heavier than it has been in a long time… perhaps ever.


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