Many of you have written asking various forms of the title question (“Where have I been?”) in varying degrees of irritation /bemusement / relief when you did not receive any Blogodonia posts after late September. Well, I was all over the place, to wit, viz,  after leaving Europe in late September, I went back to Florida via stops in New Jersey with Paul; Philly with Miho; Sy, Norma, Tim, Krista, and Heather (and kids) in Chapel Hill;  and Alabama with Leslie. Then, between October to May I was in England (twice) on press trips, and in between  I was changing my abode in Florida frequently. Such fun is living out of a suitcase, re-usable green bags, and the back of my niece’s old Honda, that I’ve started a new game. It’s called “Where’s Jill?” or in the vernacular, “Where the bloody hell is she now?”

Today’s “Where’s Jill?” quiz offers three hints: 1) It’s a major international airport. 2) It’s called the mile-high city. 3) I am en route from TPA (Tampa, Florida) to LAX (Los Angeles, California). I have nostalgic feelings about this airport from the early 1980s, when I discovered the “chapel” on the second floor and spent a peaceful afternoon between flights, sleeping on a red-cushioned pew, in total solitude. Those were of course the pre-Home Security days, when you could be free of human company and surveillance in an airport as long as you were seeking out the  presence of The Divine.

Today, though, I’ve found a new area of the airport to enjoy. It’s unusual  in that it is not crowded on a Saturday afternoon, and there are plenty of seats, although sadly not the kind one can lie down across. Still, even with ample seating downstairs, I noticed the green grass above me: the upper realms of the hangar-like terminal were unoccupied, so I took the escalator up to a huge, open area of which one tiny room off to one side is apparently an employee break room.  Now I have to myself a space roughly the size of a huge penthouse, with at least 20 seats all available to me, and a view of the concourse and the gate below, and NO ONE else is here!

I came up here hoping to nap, but I’ve turned into one of those sad people you see at airports, surrounded by computer equipment and hunched over a couple of small screens while holding a phone. I am using my phone, my Kindle, and my netbook, and the best way to access them all while remaining within reach of the electrical outlet is for me to sit on the dusty, dirty carpet. So I am.

I am en route to Melbourne, Australia, on a journey that will last about 4 days — I left Florida on Saturday and will arrive Melbourne I hope Tuesday night, and even including the loss of 24 hours due to the International Dateline, it’s still a big trip. I am spending Saturday night with my Scottish friend Vicky, who lives in LA, and whom I haven’t seen in about 2 years, which will be great fun, but the rest of the journey between hemispheres is not going to be nearly as  pleasant as it will be to drink G&Ts with her and chat and enjoy her Scottish accent and British sense of humor.

The purpose of my trip is complicated (no kidding) but in short, I am Tying Up Loose Ends, at least logistically, and thus untangling a bit of Nicole’s and my knotty domestic lives, even as we see how the threads will run together in future (to prolong a metaphor past its useful life).

Consequently, I am going to be touching and sorting the 99% of my worldly possessions that are in storage in Melbourne, and thus in transit I am traveling (or travelling, for  British readers) lightly, carrying only electronic items and their impressively long and thick cords, drugs (Valium and antidepressants), and tampons (there’s a reason there’s a brand called ‘Always’). Having so few items with me, I feel it important to keep everything charged up at all times, so I’m now alternating the alternating current source to my three best friends: Kindle, red HP, and Tracfone.

I bought the Kindle last January before my first long flight this year to England, and have subsequently used it only on long flights, so I don’t know it very well. I have only one book on it, David Foster Wallace’s INFINITE JEST, and in my fifth month of purchase I’m still only 8% of the way through it (note: this is not quite as feeble an effort as it sounds: the book in standard print is nearly 2000 pages).

Having a few hours to kill here in the mystery airport, I decided to see if I could access my email on my Kindle, and I found that yes, with only about 2 solid minutes of clicking, tapping, and smearing my finger across the tiny touch-screen, I could in fact get gmail up, albeit in a font best suited to small insects. Still I could read a message from Nic, having a wonderful time in Hobart, and I could write back — oh, wait, I could hit Reply and get a blank space to write back — but no, I couldn’t write. There was no keyboard , no matter how many times I tapped the touchscreen, mimicked the motion of typing letters on it, swore, or fiddled with the mysterioussettings or pressed promising-looking icons. I even turned the screen horizontal, hoping a keyboard would fall into place, but none appeared.

So I switched to my netbook to write back to Nic, but left my Kindle on to charge. It was at 92% when I put it down — plugged into the wall socket — and a minute later when I checked the storage again, it said 91%.  At that rate I’d be flat within an hour and a half, so I’ve stopped checking it and hope it will charge itself.

Meanwhile, the owners of a baby that has been crying through my entire trip have ascended the escalators into this area which I was starting to think of as my private study. Incredibly, this child and its misery have been my companions since we were seated in the waiting area at Tampa. Now, at least 1000 miles distant (clue #4!) and 7 hours later, I am still within hearing range of this baby, whose sobs are not just sad or angry like most babies’, but a kind of choking, wracking cry that makes me want to put it out of its misery.

It’s times like these — and they come often — that I am once again proud and glad not to have had children. I feel sorry for these parents, but I also wonder what they were thinking; they already have two other perfectly good children, trundling around them like moons, never straying far from the center of diaper bags, carry-on strollers, and parental authority and snacks — did they (the parents) really think a third one was a good idea? And if they did, couldn’t they keep it to themselves and not allow its wailing disjointed cries in the public world of airports, where there are stressed and under-resourced travel writers trying to calm and corral their own important charges?

I am going, as I said, to Melbourne, to sort out my life’s possessions. I will have 13 days and 14 nights there, to organize the storage, giving-away, sale, tossing-out, and shipping of a decade’s worth of personal items. I have completed only 1 of the 5 flights I will need to get there, and already I’m on the verge of infanticide. I’d better go get something to eat. Where the bloody hell am I?