Much traveling in the last nine days: a reading with Mark at Allegheny College in Western Pennsylvania; another reading with Mark at Georgia State in Atlanta. Both of these events turned out to be happy and satisfying--sweet hosts (thanks, Christopher and Kerry; thanks, Jim and Chelsea), sweet, attentive students. Now I’m here by my lonesome for a conference in Fort Lauderdale. It’s only beginning to dawn on me that after just one more trip, I won’t have to get on a plane till mid-July.
The hotel here has one of those 12-story high atriums at its center, a junior version of Manhattan’s Marriott Marquis. All the rooms are accessed by open walkways fronting the atrium, so that every noise from the lobby is pushed up and amplified to otherworldly effect. Plate against plate; a child’s wail; artificial waterfall—there’s a huge artificial rock from which water gushes day and night. I think my room must be across from the glassed-in elevator; the rubbing of the car up and down makes a sound like a plane about to land—or a low, faroff thunder.
The weird thing about the atrium is its glass roof. I usually associate these structures with inhospitable climates. But we’re in South Florida, less than a mile west of the beach, within walking distance of the Intercoastal. (I believe it's officially known as Lake Mabel here (!) but no one calls it that.) I can’t help but wonder whether the palms and plants in the lobby would be happier without that roof. The idea of warm rain falling down that 12-story opening, pelting those open walkways!
Last night I took a walk to the Publix behind the hotel. The air had that incredible softness of nowhere else. Also, strange scents: heated pool, laundry detergent, foliage, sewage treatment facility? A couple of cars passed me, bass beat rattling their chassis. I get the feeling this is the part of town where they put up cruise ship passengers, the transitory zone between airport and open water. Thus, it doesn’t feel as if everyday life transpires here, hence the sense of anesthesia and vague menace. But beauty too: royal palms against the night, fronds clattering; highrises gleaming: sodium vapor. And no wonder I must be trying to ground myself in space and time by writing where I am.