Whale mural with Ferris wheel

The sleep I lost getting ready for last weekend’s trip to Los Angeles along with the aftermath of jet-lag has caught up with me at last. Even though I got nine hours of sleep after a full day of teaching on Tuesday, the principle of “too little, too late” seems to apply as I woke up this morning with a sore, raspy throat: for me, the first sign of an oncoming cold.

Most folks can and do work through colds, but in my case, full-blown colds almost always lead to laryngitis, and as a teacher, laryngitis is the one sickness I can’t afford to have. After spending too many winters fighting colds that developed into laryngitis then bronchitis, I’ve learned to lie low–very low–at the first sign of a cold, quarantining myself in my apartment away from germ-laden college students and imbibing as much hot soup, tea, and Vitamin C as I can swallow.

Boardwalking

Missing one day of face-to-face classes at the beginning of a cold, I’ve learned, is better than fighting the full-blown consequences for months thereafter. In the case of my online classes, calling in sick isn’t a problem; I can and do use sick days to catch up with online teaching tasks, one benefit of a job that allows you to teach in your pajamas. My face-to-face classes are a bit more problematic: at the college level, there are no substitute teachers, so if I’m home sick, class doesn’t happen. That being said, both email and Blackboard make it possible for me to communicate with my face-to-face students while I’m sick, and right now, typing feels much better than talking. Although it troubles me to cancel classes so early in the term, I’ve taught–and dealt with my laryngitis-prone body–long enough to know that we can make up next week the material we didn’t cover today…but only if I take the time and care to get well between now and then.

Beach

And so today I feel like I’m submerged in my own life aquatic, soaking in plenty of fluids while I swim in warm oceans of blankets. Lying low–very low–at the first sign of a cold is a bit like diving, my body protected by a bathyspheric bubble from whatever illness is floating about. Whatever bug is out there, I tell myself, isn’t going to get in here…and I’ll wash out the initial inklings of an existing invasion through an intentional overdose of chicken soup, fruit juice, and Emergen-C. Only then, I tell myself, will I be ready to respire among the sleep-deprived, immunity-compromised, and germ-laden college students I normally share a diving bell with.

Click here for more photos from cloud-shrouded Santa Monica. Although embarrassed locals insisted it “never rains in LA,” I myself like the moody look of cloud-covered beaches.

Seagull

It was mostly rainy in Santa Monica this weekend, so I returned to New England with many memories but not so many photos from a whirlwind weekend revolving around the wedding of friends. At the Friday night rehearsal dinner, Saturday wedding and reception, and Sunday morning brunch, J took hundreds of pictures, illustrating once again his skill at taking non-invasive candid shots that capture the at-ease personality of his subjects. I have no doubt his pictures will be as good and even better than those by the professional photographer who chronicled the wedding and reception.

As for me, I enjoyed making new friends and keeping my camera off during the festivities, my shyness about taking pictures of people giving me ample excuse to enjoy myself rather than hiding behind a camera. In the case of bold seagulls, though, I made an exception, figuring a one-legged bird that literally posed upon approach didn’t see my camera as an invasion of privacy. In Santa Monica, it seems even the seagulls are accustomed to paparazzi.

Clear skies

On Monday morning’s crack-of-dawn taxi ride to the airport, our driver asked if we’d seen any celebrities: apparently, a common topic of conversation in Santa Monica. “No,” J answered, “not a one,” even though several celebrities were in attendance at the wedding: family and friends of the happy couple. To J, a longtime friend of the groom’s parents, the folks in question aren’t celebrities; they’re family. So J and I kept our lips zipped while our cabbie described the time he saw Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Lopez waiting for separate rides outside the same upscale hotel. When it comes to friends who happen to be famous, it doesn’t seem fair to talk and tell.

When you see the softer side of any celebrity–the groom’s famous sister tearing up as she described how happy she is that he’s finally landed with a woman who makes him happy, or a famous friend echoing the same sentiment–you realize the thinness of celebrity skin. On Friday night, I hadn’t met any of J’s LA friends; by the time the rehearsal dinner was over, they all felt like family, the congratulatory speeches and funny stories they shared demonstrating how loved and loving the happy couple truly is. I’ve been to a few non-Hollywood weddings that felt like big performances with expensive flowers, fancy finery, and gourmet meals all screaming “look at us, and be impressed.” This weekend’s wedding felt entirely different. When you are a celebrity, you don’t have to flaunt that status; when you are a friend or relative of a famous person, you know and love their unseen private side, who they really are. Equipped with that knowledge, you have no need or desire to brag.

Sweet Dreams

After Monday morning’s crack-of-dawn taxi ride to the airport, J and I arrived in Boston in time for Monday night’s rush hour; after spending most of Monday night grading papers, yesterday morning I left Newton at the crack-of-dawn in order to teach my 8:00am Expository Writing class here in Keene. Only when I came home from teaching a full day of classes yesterday afternoon did I feel like I’d finally landed, this weekend in Santa Monica coming so close on the heels of the start of classes and my weekend trip to Ohio.

The groom’s famous sister and her equally famous husband jet-set between LA and New York, having apartments on both coasts; as for me, I belong to the Subaru-set, zipping between my workaday apartment here in Keene and my weekend home at J’s place in Newton. Is being an actor, professional athlete, supermodel, or other celebrity more exciting than teaching a handful of face-to-face classes in a quiet New England town or a couple more classes in the anonymous ether of the Internet? Or do they each offer their own challenges and satisfactions?

Perched on the pier

At the wedding reception, after having met and briefly chatted with the groom’s sister on Friday night, we had a longer conversation about her in-progress English degree, something she’s interrupted every time she’s landed a movie or television role. Some might envy the lives and lifestyles of the rich and famous, but as for me, I’m grateful for the peaceful obscurity of life in a quiet New England town and the knowledge that I can take (and teach) college classes without weathering the ogling stares of passing classmates and cab drivers. After learning that I teach online, the groom’s sister peppered me with questions: could online classes give her the schedule flexibility and personal privacy she needs? I suggested they might and offered to answer any questions she might have, proof that even professors have their own hungry public if not an attendant paparazzi. Celebrity skinned or otherwise, we’re all human souls underneath.

Yummy

The third picture above shows the box of goodies, assembled by this company, the bride and groom provided for out-of-town guests. When ours arrived at our hotel, the desk clerk admired the packaging, and I have to say the contents were equally tasty.