I am a fitful presence on Twitter when I travel. Sometimes I say a lot. Sometimes I don’t say very much.
When I’m quiet, I have a sinking sense that I’m failing in some way, since some sort of constant infostream is what is expected from a modern member of the 21st century media.
But technology has not solved the problem of my monkey mind, which is to say, I know that my first impressions of a place can be unfair. I know I’m very often caught up in my own head and story — I’m tired, fighting a cold, upset about this or that — and anything I have to say is suspect until I have a chance to reflect, reconsider. Although I’m not planning a run for any elected office, I dislike contradicting myself, later on, I’d rather wait until I’ve got 140 characters I’m really sure of.
For example, having just returned from California, I find my notes of first impression are all about hating it. It is not because I actually hate California — a state too big to hate in its entirety, for one thing, and for another, I do actually like it a lot, for a time, I considered living there.
But it so happens that I have twice been traveling in California when I have received horrible news from home. I have walked up University Street in Berkeley on a beautiful fall day, sobbing. (And receiving only a few curious glances.) I spent my first night ever in Los Angeles crumpled on a bathroom floor in my hotel room. Both times it made no sense to try to fly home earlier, so both times I spent a full day doing what I’d originally planned: a writing conference in Berkeley, dinner with my cousin; in Los Angeles a day of research, numbly taking in Rodeo Drive, Santa Monica, Venice. Perfectly lovely days of anguish, until I could catch the red eye home.
To be sure, I have made several trips to California where nothing bad has happened at all. Nothing terrible happened on this trip, although for a moment it seemed like it would. But my memories have shaded the landscape with an undertone of dread. The quality of the light, the orientation of sun over the Pacific, makes me uneasy, in the way that many of us are uneasy on blue sky days in early September. My world could easily rock and I am not seismically retrofitted.