Now Comes the Obnoxious Part
Welcome to my random musings about the world, on a weekly-to-occasional basis.
Where we are: We’re in Venice! I am in a museum, soaking up art and history and the mystique of La Serenissima. Lee is drinking coffee.
Now Comes the Obnoxious Part
I haven’t posted on social media much, if at all, since the pandemic began. As things went from bad to worse in much of the world, including the US, we were living our best lives in South Korea, and it occurred to me that no one who was living in lockdown and/or fear wanted to see my pictures of latte art or kimchi or an entire neighborhood of skin care stores.
In the year since my last Instagram post, we’ve been to lots of beautiful and interesting spots. I’ve taken lots of pictures, but I’ve mostly kept them to myself. I’ve heard and read about ‘travel shaming,’ and I have no desire to open myself up to that kind of criticism.
Writing these essays has seemed very slightly more acceptable, because the longer format and ongoing narrative at least allow me to explain why and how we have continued to move around the world, even while the travel industry has been mostly shut down. At least, that’s how I justified it to myself.
But Lee and I are vaccinated now, borders are starting to reopen (at least in wealthy countries), and we’re planning my European fantasy summer. For me, at least, the last eighteen months have been a pointed reminder that life is short—I want to get on with doing all the things and seeing all the places.
So we’re back to making plans. Venice! Florence! Vienna! Paris! I’m the proverbial kid in the candy store, greedy for everything. Lee is booking hotel rooms and flights; I’m buying train tickets and museum passes.
But but but. What other lessons have I learned from this pandemic?
Should I go back to my old habits of showing off the Insta-friendly parts of my life? Should I go back to over-sharing?
I’m not sure. I have Facebook friends in the US, for whom life is more-or-less normal. But I also have Facebook friends in Bali, in Ethiopia, in India, in Vietnam. Am I comfortable showing off the opportunities that are available to me because of my vaccinated status, even if I don’t mention it directly? Vaccination is, after all, yet another manifestation of my extraordinary privilege.
Which begs the question: should I have been showing off my privilege to begin with?
It seems—to my mind, anyway—that what Covid really did was wake us up to much that was already wrong in the world. Inequalities and injustices that came to light during the pandemic weren’t new: we just hadn’t been paying attention.
So what now? I’m not sure whether I even want to go back to my old social media ways. It was never about anything real, after all—it was always just the pretty bits.
Whenever we talk about social media, Lee’s favorite question (with credit to our friend Erik) is “Did social media ever make you like anyone more?” In the moments when I’m being honest, the answer is rarely yes.
For now, I’m trying to be fully present in the pleasures that have reopened to us, since we are lucky enough to be vaccinated.
From my writer’s notebook:
I have no articles to share today. Instead, I have a pastiche of images and sensations, things I’ve tried to capture on my phone’s camera or jot down on the back of a receipt or just memorize, as I wander around. If this ancient lagoon city doesn’t inspire my imagination, I might as well quit.
The buzz of cicadas, so loud Lee and I can barely have a conversation, but underpinning that, the soft coo of pigeons.
The fragrance of jasmine flowers tumbling over brick walls and winding through wrought iron fences.
The barely-illuminated paintings in every corner of every church, every civic building.
The mind-bending three-dimensional patterns of the marble floors in St. Mark’s Basilica, as well as the glittering mosaics of the domes. From hell to heaven, floor to ceiling, and everything in between.
The feel of damp, softening plaster on my fingertips.
The unevenness of the paving stones, worn down by a thousand years of footsteps.
The silence of the twisting labyrinth of back lanes, where I am lost as soon as I step away from the tourist zones.
The slight, but near-constant rocking I’ve begun to feel, after a week of vaporetto rides.
The near-uselessness of Google maps. I trek back and forth across the campos, hiding from the blazing sun in a sliver of shade along the edge, not sure whether to follow this alley or that. Both appeal; any cool(-ish), shady detour has the potential for a welcome moment of serendipity.
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