Where Have I Been?

And just as suddenly as I appeared on this blog, I disappeared. Not without cause, mind you. I have recently transplanted myself from Almaty, Kazakhstan, to Kampala, Uganda. A natural enough move, I suppose. If you follow me on Instagram (which you should), you will know that I spent the long summer traveling the East Coast of the United States, making stops in Cape Cod, New York, and Washington, DC. My writing routine was completely destroyed in the process. For one, no reason to go to Friuli’s in the morning to avoid going to work for an hour. For another, no time left alone, and I work best when I don’t have to worry about someone reading over my shoulder, witnessing my text at its most raw.

Not that the summer was a waste. I have made a goal to get into shape, and did so by running every morning. At the start of June I would run about three-quarters of a lap and then walk the remaining quarter, four times to total a mile in about fifteen minutes. By gradually adding city blocks to my run in Brooklyn, though, by late July I was running two and a quarter miles without stopping, in about eighteen minutes.

I also took up bike riding. I bought a huge coaster bike that looks a bit like Pee-Wee Herman’s bike, and rode it around Cape Cod and Brooklyn. Once my terror of being squashed by a car subsided, I found it to be very enjoyable. I had hoped to continue riding in Kampala, but this town is very hilly, and my new bike is very flashy. It makes me too self-conscious.

Running, too. I run early in the morning because I don’t want anybody seeing me. (This is a bit of a recurring theme, isn’t it?) In Kampala, which basically sits on the equator, the sun rises every morning around 6:30, which means that my morning run would line up with the earliest commuters, which doesn’t work for me. I could run earlier, and I did a couple of times, but with few streetlights the streets were blindingly dark, and the potholes and broken sidewalks and other assorted obstacles took on a particular menace. I figured it was only a matter of time before I broke an ankle. So I got a treadmill and now have a rather boring run in the empty room, staring at a blank wall. At least I can put on music.

Literarily the summer wasn’t a complete waste, either. I managed to read Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels and Haruki Murakami’s After Dark, and dip my toes in Eilzabeth Willis’s Alive. I tore up my draft for Allegiance and started anew, with a much clearer sense of direction. Erica Alvarez is on her way home from a long and depressing day at work, her beauty now somewhat demoted. And in a most remarkable bit of good fortune, I discovered the cities of Alamance County: Leigh and Carroll, and the smaller towns of Dillard and Pine Grove, as well as the fields of Kaukonen County. I spent many a long morning winding down the avenues and boulevards of Leigh, and admiring the mansions of the Gardens, the graceful charm of Leigh Square, dazzled by the skyscrapers that march from Quayside to the Waterfront, and cringing at the blight of City of Carroll. I intend to go back more often, and hope to bring you along with me next time.

Most pressingly, I found a draft of my semi-ancient play The Book of Lost Travelers. I’ve retyped it, correcting some of the more egregious errors, and hope to get it properly bound and published in the coming weeks. (Look for it here!)

Since arriving in Kampala, though, even that has been disrupted. Between setting up a new house and new routines, finding out where to buy groceries, and purchasing a new car, I haven’t had a minute to myself. Since Friday I’ve been frantically opening boxes, trying to get all of this cardboard out of the house as quickly as possible. The work is often interrupted by the various contractors and supervisors and inspectors who are working to make sure the house is up to code. And it’s hard to resist taking a walk around my new yard and looking at the incredible flowers that are growing cheerfully without my help. A far cry from Almaty, where a few miserable herbs struggled under grow lamps in the dining room.

So anyway, that’s where I’ve been. Things are settling down–I expect the last of the cardboard to go in the next two days, and the car is purchased and awaiting registration, and I hope that in the next few days I’ll be able to establish a new and inviolable writing routine, one that provides an adequate substitute to my mornings at Friuli’s.

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