Monday, June 26, 2006

The Longest Day

The day really is quite long when one stuffs so many hours into it. My Delta Airlines flight from Austin to New York City took off at 7:25AM and landed at JFK at noon. I was rather rudely shocked toward the end of the flight when the flight attendant got on the speaker and asked us to pray for all of the soldiers "doing such important work on our behalf" and then proceeded to play "God Bless America" on the airplane sound system! After quenching my sense of having been insulted, I reflected that what was really going on was a proselytism of the American nationalist religion. Note that I do not call it a religious nationalism, which is the more common term, but a nationalist religion, appearing in this instance in a mostly secular form but frequently appearing in a syncretism with Christianity. Nationalist religion turns the nation state into a deity and takes as its central tenets the authority of the state to set the moral agenda and the sacred nature of national institutions. My orthodox Christian sensibilities were quite offended by this as I was quite sure my rights were somehow being violated; certainly they would have been had the government been responsible for this public enforcement of religious expression. Of course, this sensibility itself is a conflation of religious indignation with nationalist rights. Perhaps it would be framed better to say that the prophet within me wanted to denounce this prophet of Baal as utterly ineffectual and to cry out with Amos:

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan
who are on Mount Samaria,
who oppress the poor, who crush the needy,
who say to their spouses, "Bring something to drink!"
The Sovereign God has sworn in holiness:
The time is surely coming upon you,
when they shall take you away with hooks,
even the last of you with fishhooks.
Through breaches in the wall you shall leave,
each one straight ahead;
and you shall be flung out into Harmon,
says YHWH.
-Amos 4: 1-3

After checking my Europe bag in at the British Airways counter, I took my Colombia bag with me into Manhattan where I joined my uncles, Doug and Alex, for brunch. We went to a restaurant called Imagine. I was quite surprised when they led us through the restaurant out the back into an alley with outdoor seating. My surprise was less about the alley and more about the fact that I realized that this was a filming site for a production made by a couple of Ithaca College Park School of Communications students about getting a date with Drew Barrymore that I had seem with some friends a year ago at IC. This was the restaurant where the date actually occurred! The shrimp quesadilla could have had more shrimp but the margarita and the dessert were both stellar. During our comings and goings from their apartment, we stopped and watched the gay pride parade that started at noon and lasted for about five hours. People lined fifth avenue, 8th, and Christopher St. to watch the festivities. Many of the segments were quite funny and everyone was in good humor about it. It was good to see that at least the whole world has not gone insane.

My flight to London ended up being delayed for an hour and then it took us an hour to taxi from the gate to the runway. Thankfully, this time I was flying British Airways which has superb service and is actually quite comfortable given that I was flying coach. The attendants were very friendly and helpful, although I finally had to tell one of them to stop refilling my wine glass! Now that is a wonderful problem to have! I sat next to a couple heading back to London from holiday in New York. Unfortunately, they ran out of the regular vegetarian meals but they had an alternative in a spinach sandwich that was actually very good. The Indian family sitting behind us was unfortunately not as conciliatory about the situation and made a bit of a fuss about the fact that there were not enough vegetarian meals on board. I slept quite well and woke feeling relatively refreshed, at least as refreshed as possible when sleeping in such small quarters on an airplane.

We arrived in London a bit late due to our late departure and so I got some morning exercise tearing through Heathrow terminal 4 to the opposite end in order to catch my flight to Geneva. I arrived just in time and had a very pleasant flight but unfortunately my checked bag did not, as I discovered upon landing. I met my cousin John at the airport who helped me file the claim with the baggage agency who promised that it would be delivered to the house later that evening. We drove out from the airport discussing the family and arrived at L'Echapee in St. Cergue about three quarters of an hour later. The house is a good ways up one of the Swiss Alps and overlooks Lake Geneva right toward Mont Blanc. Until 1941 it was the residence of the French Philisophe Henri Bergson. It is truly a stunning location with beautiful yards full of wildflowers, (and snails as I discovered in my explorations later in the afternoon). John and Margaret were hosting friends from Brooklyn and currently have a Korean buddhist living on the third floor as he prepares to finish a degree in hotel administration. Margaret served what she described as a modest lunch that started with white wine and sushi, continued with a first course of salmon, and then moved on to the main course of Hungarian style rabbit with sour cherries, various green vegetables, potatoes, salad and bread with a choice of white or red wine. Of course, no Swiss meal is complete without the cheese plate being passed around, and it had to be passed several times as we were entirely taken with the Gruyere and the soft cheese with black truffles in the center. Just as I thought I would burst my belt, John came out from the kitchen with strawberries and whipped cream, a huge bowl of fresh fruit, and coffee. So much for a modest lunch.

We talked together until about 5PM when Margaret and John's friends left and then I took a power nap before John and I took a hike up the mountain to pick up some fresh Gruyere cheese at the local cheesemakers' house. While the cheese was being prepared, we went around the house to contemplate the view of Lake Geneva and the dozen pink pigs in the pen who happily grunted at us. We returned to the house and delivered the cheese only to discover that Margaret had prepared yet another stunning meal, this time consisting of salad, grilled vegetables and meat, more bread and cheese and wine and fresh fruit, and tea to finish off the evening. Margaret kept insisting that it was a modest meal but it was better than I eat except when home with Mom and Dad or when visiting Doug and Alex in New York and we go to some of the finest restaurants. The truth is that it is Margaret who is modest while her food is delectable and superb. Finally, it is time for bed and a much needed rest after such extended travel with very little sleep. I am sure that I will rise refreshed as the bed is very soft and the fresh Swiss air invigorates mind and spirit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ok, Larry--no fair. Can your cousin John and Margaret please adopt me?!! :) What a delightful setting and stimulating company--if it was only half as wonderful as you described it, I'd still be envious.