It’s quiet here in this subdivision where my parents live, about 20 minutes from Atlanta in a rapidly developing town called Lawrenceville. Even though I’ve removed myself from New York, I’ve been attached most of the time to my laptop, working on various client projects, browsing websites, and chatting with friends. The family highlights of this trip have been a movie outing to watch Live Free or Die Hard (my grandma fell asleep during the movie) and a trip to the Korean shopping center for cold buckwheat noodles and some sweet pastries. Time moves slow here, and yet, my time here is almost up, and I will be back in New York tomorrow afternoon.
I wouldn’t call this trip a retreat, but it’s close. I did get a few hours here and there to spend at the nearby Starbucks, where everything, including the bathroom, was impeccably clean and the baristas actually said goodbye to every customer that walked out. I got to finish Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach – a clever and compact book about a newlywed couple on their first honeymoon night (Melanie called it “silly” and “self-indulgent”) – and I really enjoyed reading some of the essays in The Best American Travel Writing 2000, which I picked up sometime last year at Strand’s for a dollar. Travel writing intrigues me – not so much for the obvious reason of being paid to go to cool places and report on them but for the challenge of going beyond the observations and facts and weaving together a distinct and personal experience that leaves a lasting impression on the reader – it’s not so easy.
For exercise, I tried to go for a little jog in the neighborhood but this “neighborhood” turned out to be little more than a few cul-de-sacs that only had one outlet to a big road unfit for pedestrians. I rounded every single dead end and am sure it was still less than a mile. To call the place of your home a part of a subdivision gives it an industrial ring – a place that sounds more fit for Transformers than for human families. But running around in dead silence (it was very humid out) save the occasional squirting of sprinklers, I felt a lot like the last person on earth. I’ve stayed indoors since.
My dad’s getting his fishing rods ready for our family outing to Buford Dam, where he’s had much luck catching trout each week (more than a dozen). We had a Korean fish soup dish the other night with the trout my dad caught only a few days ago. Delicious, farmed freshwater trout – and all it cost him was the price of a fishing license ($14 annually), bait, and the gas to drive there and back. My sister, staying at my parents’ for the summer, is painting in the corner – a small plate of broken lychee skin. We’re all silently going about our business, and when my grandma, bored and lonely, comes out to socialize, we throw her menacing looks and force her back to the Christian radio and Bible. My mom is probably watching downloaded Korean dramas on the computer, a recent trick she learned that made me jokingly (but with some seriousness) call her an addict.
I’m trying to feel relaxed, but I’m a bit impatient and it’s hard to let the anxiousness subside. There are a million things zipping through my mind – the mounting work, the bills, the accounts receivables, the books I can’t finish, the stories I’ve given up on, the move, my diet, all sorts of envy and insecurities, and other annoying pulses of stress. I could probably use some hard liquor. I’ll ask my dad. I’ll need to let the quiet extend beyond my ears.