The Return of the Writer and The Unexpected Journey

Hello everyone. I'm back. I apologize for being away. The good ship Derek hit a rough patch recently, but never fear. He's still afloat.

Yes, I have been reading/watching a great deal of Tolkien, as my title reflects. By the way, there are only 374 days left until The Hobbit comes out in theaters. I am not lying: I would come back to America just to watch that film on opening night. But don't worry. I'll be coming back because I miss you all too.

A lot of interesting things have happened to me this year, and I'd like to chronicle them, if for no other reason than the excuse to write. But so much time has passed. Where do I begin, how do I sort out all that has happened? I think its only fair that I start at the beginning.

It seems like a decade ago. Drew, a friend of mine since time out of mind, and I sat waiting in the Indianapolis airport. There's a feeling that I get when I sense change in the air. It balls up just below and around my heart, nestled there like a blanket on a cold winter evening when the windows are fogged up and steam rises off of hot drinks shared in good company. I would say that its indescribable, but isn't it my job to describe things? The feeling is that of high school graduations, of going away parties. Its the feeling of one last college get together before those years of bliss are finally up. Its how you feel when the road beckons and you must say goodbye.

Drew and I were on separate flights out to New York, so we parted ways each to our own terminals. I settled down in the empty waiting area and propped my feet up using my backpack. At the time, I believe I had just started reading IT. I pulled it out and thumbed through a few pages, but I didn't read much. I was feeling too restless.

Six hours or so later, I had landed in JFK and was making my way from the domestic to the international terminal. I had plenty of time, but I was nervous. Switching terminals involved rechecking bags. Drew and I were on the same flight going to China, but Drew was coming in two hours behind me. I've done a good deal of traveling. To that point, Drew had done none. The first time you go through one, a big international airport can feel a bit overwhelming. Add to that a short time schedule (It can sometimes take hours to get your bags checked if you're standing in a long and understaffed line)? It can be a bit much for your first trip.

I sat down in the waiting area for the China Eastern flight to Shanghai and I waited, watching. The hours ticked by and no sign of Drew.

This was when our troubles began.

Drew's flight had been delayed. Fortunately, so had the China Eastern flight to Shanghai. When Drew came sprinting into the waiting area, bags floundering behind him, I was relieved. This was the flight we needed to board most. If he hadn't shown up, I'm not sure what I would have done. There was a big storm coming into New York, and if we didn't get out, we could have been stuck there eating cheap airport food and sleeping on the cold airport floors for days. The good news was that he was here. The bad news was that they hadn't given him his boarding pass for the Wuhan flight. There was only a two hour layover in Shanghai, and we lost an hour and a half from the JFK to Shanghai flight delay. It was going to be close.

We didn't make it.

We landed in Shanghai and raced to get on our next flight. The check-in line for the flight had long since closed by the time we got to it and the men manning it refused to print Drew a boarding pass. We argued with them . We gestured angrily for effect. The check-in men were not impressed. They told us that we could pick up our bags at baggage claim number sixteen.

We waited for a while, watching bags come down the conveyer belt and get drug off by various travel weary Chinese. My bags came and I loaded them on a cart. Slowly, the crowd died away leaving Drew and I to watch the near empty conveyer continue spinning.

“Where are my bags?” Drew asked. Because this is a family friendly blog, this comment has undergone some editing. It was originally a bit longer.

We watched and waited. No bags came. Drew stood there, tired, mandolin case in hand and backpack over his shoulder. My bags sat next to me on a pushcart. It was over twelve hours until the next flight to Wuhan.

If you've ever missed a flight, you know that there is often a complimentary hotel room given out if you have to wait until the next day to catch another. It was here that I made a bit of a dumb.

“Should we ask them for a room?” Drew asked me.

I debated internally for a while. If you know me, you know I don't have that much of a problem with sleeping on floors.

“Nah. Who knows how far away the thing is. It could be an hour into Shanghai. I don't really want to be away from the airport. If we had bad luck coming back we could miss another flight.”

In my defense, Drew never argued this point with me until much later. A lot of things make sense when you haven't slept in a day or two.

We wandered around the airport looking for somewhere to get some food. There were none considering it was after ten o'clock local time. Next, we tried to find a good place to lay down and sleep. That also proved impossible. For some bizarre reason a group of Chinese men had brought a jackhammer into the airport and were in the process of digging up the floor on the eastern side of the building. Since the airport was one giant room, their work followed us where ever we went. Eventually we gave up and went outside. Drew wanted to have a smoke and I was tired of listening to the jackhammer.

We sat for a while. Drew talking, me listening. Drew talks a lot, and more often than not I tend to be quiet. It makes for a good relationship. As we sat our eyes wandered the skyline of Shanghai. I don't remember who saw it first.

“Oh crap.”

If someone said oh crap, then it was probably me who saw it first.

There, across from us, sitting directly opposite from our terminal, was a big shiny building labled in clear white English letters: Airport Hotel. There was a lovely sky bridge that passed between the two buildings, connecting them. You wouldn't even have to go down to the street to get over there.

We went down to the help desk for China Eastern, hoping to get some help, but the people manning the desk were gone. We even went over to the hotel, hoping to bluff our way into a few hours of sleep, but it was not to be. They wanted a piece of paper. No amount of charm, wit, persuasiveness, or anger will convince a Chinese person to do something in the face of an all-powerful, omnipresent directive of a piece of paper.

So we slept in the airport. Well, Drew slept. I just sort of laid there for a few hours and then wandered around. When I was in high school, I could sleep at any hour of the day, and do so on any surface. That ability is now gone. In fact, I'm starting to turn into a bit of an insomniac. I blame China.


Its December here. Believe it or not, its still fairly warm outside. Cold weather, real cold weather, only arrived just this week, and was gone again just as quickly. Life as it ever has, goes on. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

I've not gotten much reading done since I've been here, and in the last few weeks, I've been trying to make up for it. Recently, I polished off A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, and Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. I'm currently reading both the Silmarillion (for the humpteenth time) and The Kings of Eternity by Eric Brown. Next up, either Foundation by Issac Asimov or something by Stephen King.

On the writing front, things go.... okay. I have gotten some writing done. But it hasn't been as much as I would like. That's part of the reason for the return of the blog. I'm having trouble on the fiction front, and writing non-fiction always seems to help smooth out the kinks. I have been having a good time at it though.

I've also been doing a lot of looking to the future lately, and I've decided that I've had my fill of China. I'll be coming home this summer to stay for a while. How long, or where I will go in America? Who knows. The thought of getting a job is a bit depressing, but I guess I've always had good luck in that department. Hopefully I can get something that doesn't involve flipping hamburgers. I think I'd rather go back to construction.

I hope life is treating you well. Until next time.


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