The Most Complex Trip Imaginable

“Theseus and the Minotaur in the Labyrinth”
Edward Burne Jones, 1861

The Most Complex Trip Imaginable

We are just back from two weeks away, the first week in Boulder and Denver Colorado, the second mostly in Riverside, California. In the envisaging stage, each week appeared daunting and the ensemble looked beyond our combined strength or coping skills. Yet the net effect has given us a sense of a cup that … as the psalm says … runneth over!

At first however, the cup looked merely perforated. We were greeted in Denver by a howling rainstorm that darkened the skies and made guesswork out of driving. What was that big white splash next to the little white splash? Has anybody seen the yellow line?   It was obvious that our choice of hotel had been a mistake, as to location and interior amenities. The “Send” function failed to work on our laptop, though many of our engagements urgently required email confirmation. Breakfast at a trendy eatery in holistic-health-conscious Denver served gooey-sweet yogurt along with 12 lonely granola bits and everything dusted with white sugar. One famed restaurant, which had hosted kings and presidents, brought a dinner plate that had no earthly connection with the one we had ordered and repaid our hunger by bringing me a yellow rose. I would have headed the column for that week, “They Can’t Cook in Colorado,” had not other concerns diverted me. At the paper I presented, the brimstone smell of anti-Jewish animus wafted up from the coldly staring audience. Finally, on leaving day, we had to beat it to the airport racing about two feet ahead of an unseasonably early blizzard.

That was the down side. Was there a sunny side? Well, the young woman on duty at the first hotel went to considerable lengths to get us booked into the hotel where we needed to be, near the Denver University campus. The Rockies look so good, you could eat ‘em. Our Colorado stay was bookended by the warmest welcomes from former colleagues on Jerry’s side and friends – now moved to Colorado – on my side. All of Jerry’s talks were listened to with a silence so intense that you could almost hear it crack. As for my talk, though I woke in tears the next morning – still seeing the faces of stone when I mentioned a vision I experienced that included a procession of Jewish angels – I fielded the one question I got with a confidence seasoned by many combats. I don’t talk for the hell of it. I really want to give some guidance on the difficult fronts we all face. It’s good to know that I will do that no matter how I am received.

In California, we were still pursued by technical glitches reflective of Murphy’s Law: “If it can go wrong, it will.” In other respects though, there was more sense that the current of happenings was flowing in our direction. At a School of Theology, Jerry gave a talk so unpretentiously delivered, tightly reasoned and relevant to the present state of things theological that the extraordinary response he got from the first sentence on was almost predictable though deeply gratifying.

The talk was one of several commitments undertaken by Jerry before the death of my father-in-law on September 16th. Now all those commitments had to be honored despite our present reason for being there: the graveside service for L B Martin. For that event, family flew in from Dallas, Florida and Memphis and formed the circle alongside a number of people who had known him locally. The service, which Jerry gently led, was honest, unrehearsed and moving. It faced the reality of a good man who had run his race to the finish line. The mourners were not there to mourn but to provide the sendoff and say their own goodbyes.

Meanwhile, running alongside all these demanding days, I was spending the mornings at a local hospital. Here is the story. Lately I’d been asking for wheelchairs at airports, so that — walking handicap or no — I could get to the plane by the time they were boarding. On a recent airport occasion, the dispatcher who called for wheelchair support asked Jerry what was wrong with his wife.

“Neuropathy,” Jerry told her.

“Oh, my husband has neuropathy. He was greatly helped by a new treatment offered only at Loma Linda.” That’s a highly-regarded research hospital within easy driving distance of Riverside, California, where we were staying. Then she was gone, to look after other customers.

To my mind, the idea of trying to squeeze medical appointments into a week already loaded up to the bursting point was … let us say … contra-indicated? But Jerry can be very stubborn. So we had an appointment every weekday morning that we were in Riverside, the first for evaluation, the next three for treatment. More will be required, as well as an at-home program affecting exercise and diet, but I never had a more thorough diagnosis of my body’s actions and reactions, inside and out. The initial effects look promising.

So fifty seconds with an airline dispatcher?

What are the odds?

About Abigail

Abigail Rosenthal is Professor Emerita of Philosophy, Brooklyn College of CUNY. She is the author of A Good Look at Evil, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, soon to appear in a revised second edition. Its thesis is that good people try to live out their stories while evil people aim to mess up good people’s stories. Her next book, Confessions of a Young Philosopher, forthcoming, provides multiple illustrations from her own life. She writes a weekly column for her blog, “Dear Abbie: The Non-Advice Column” (www.dearabbie-nonadvice.com) where she explains why women's lives are highly interesting. She’s the editor of the posthumously published Consolations of Philosophy: Hobbes’s Secret; Spinoza’s Way by her father, Henry M. Rosenthal. Her next book project will be Conversations with My Father. Some of her articles can be accessed at https://brooklyn-cuny.academia.edu/AbigailMartin . She is married to Jerry L. Martin, also a philosopher. They live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
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