Deirdre is attending a conference on addiction and families in Rockville, MD, so I found myself traveling alone to Cortland tonight to see Duncan play club rugby against arch-rival Ithaca College tomorrow. After years of watching him play baseball and soccer, on the sidelines and as a coach, I'm thrilled to be watching him compete again. I haven't seen him on the field since  Hastings High School lost a heartbreaker baseball sectional championship game two springs ago.

As I was driving up, enjoying the freedom to turn Van Morrison up full blast on Route 17, it occurred to me that a process 27 years in the making (for it has been that long since I first wrote for "vidotex")  came to fruition as I packed this afternoon.

I was leaving directly from the gym, so I first threw a change of clothes for tomorrow into my racquetball bag, which already has a shaving kit with all the requisite toiletries.  Then I packed my backpack. MacBook. Computer cord. Digital videocamera. Charger. Extra battery. Extra cassette. Canon PowerShot. Extra battery. Extra memory card (in case I shoot video on it). iPod Shuffle for the gym. First gen iPod for the car ride and motel. Charger for latter. A few CDs I haven't heard in a while. Extension cord (why are many motel rooms wired like a 19th century house?) Cell phone charger. 

As I was leaving, I asked myself  the question I always do: "What essential item have I forgotten?" I was satisfied that the answer was that I'd forgotten nothing essential to my physical comfort or mental well-being.

Soon after I passed Livingston Manor tonight — which is, incidentally, one of of favorite places in the world — I realized that I had not packed a book or a magazine or notepad into my backpack. It's not that I'm not reading books or magazines (I'm  in the middle of many, as my night table will attest). But I'm quite sure this is the first time I've travelled anywhere overnight without physical pages to read or write upon. What's more, I don't regret it. I must have known in my gut that once I hit the motel room, I'd be catching with with email and would then want to focus on rebuilding The Elephant on Main Street, as I've been doing all week. And that I'd do the same in the morning before the game at 1 p.m. And when was the last time I wrote on paper, anyway, except in the pocket notebook I carry?

Still, when I think about traveling without any pages to buffer me from the great silence, it is as if I've shed a layer of my identity. If I ever give up that notebook (I tried a Palm notebook for a while. Phooey!), my oldest and dearest friends won't know me.

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