On this day that feels like summer I am tackling the spring cleaning of my desk.
Desk, in fact, is the word that I use for a computer table, bookshelf, china cabinet and the floor surrounding them. Desk, at this moment of my life, means a corner of the living room.
My real desk--and my real office--are in the shadow of a war zone, a construction project of noise and dirt that will hang in the air for months. Had I not turned to travel writing 15 years ago, I would surely be signing up now.
But before the next departure I shall tackle the teetering stacks of notes and menus, of matchbooks and marginalia, that have made my corner treacherous.
Read and toss, as my sister says--my sister, whose efficiency sometimes forces her to riffle through trash cans in search of bills and Valentines that she threw out unopened.
Among the Best
A best buy: Strands of African trade beads that I found at Garland's Indian Art and jewelry shop at Indian Gardens in Arizona's Oak Creek Canyon. A savvy woman named Ms. Maiden showed a great selection of beads, both ancient and modern.
The long strands of earth-tone clay beads were $6 each. Sure, you could beat that price if you were in the right part of Africa at the right time, but I wasn't.
A best breakfast: The fresh fare at the Woodstock Inn, in North Woodstock, N.H., is worth writing home about, which is what two of my pals did. They stayed in a cozy third-floor room of this blatantly pretty bed and breakfast, and raved about the waffles topped with raisins, pecans, honey, vanilla ice cream and strawberries.
This homey haven should not be confused with the Rockefeller-owned Woodstock Inn in neighboring Vermont. But of course it sometimes is.
A Waste of Time
A worst hour: Though it seemed longer, my biggest waste of time so far this year was a ride on the rubber-wheeled Mark Twain train in Hannibal, Mo. The whiny guide, dressed in engineer's overalls, complained about his hangover while reading foolish commentary in a singsong voice.
I was embarrassed for Mr. Twain, there in his hometown, and had to agree with the reaction of an elderly man we passed. He shifted his cane to a wrist so his hands were free to give the forefinger-brushing-forefinger sign, meaning "shame on you."
I remember cringing at that sign from my grandmother, the same woman who read to me with gusto of the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher.
A primitive wonder: Having been met one dawn by the shouts of natives poling longboats on the muddy Agats River of New Guinea, I was awed by the collection in the Michael C. Rockefeller wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The spacious gallery houses a war canoe almost 50 feet long, and a soul canoe, filled with carved figures, that stretches for 20 feet. It is a stirring tribute to a gentle man who died too young.
Exercise on the Road
Favorite steps: The flower-lined climb from Government Hill in St. Thomas to Lille Tarne Gade (Danish for Little Tower Street) is called 99 Steps, though I've been too breathless to count. This narrow step-street dates to the 1700s, when the Virgin Islnds were owned by Denmark.
Bunker Hill in Boston claims 294 steps. I can't imagine how those figures came to be scribbled on the same page of my notebook . . . and I have a good imagination.
New York matchbook memories: The glow of candlelight on a platter of Chinese dumplings at Chin Chin on East 49th, where appetizers can make a meal; a light supper at The Ginger Man across the street from Lincoln Center--just minutes before curtain time.
And I've saved a scrap about a restaurant I've yet to try: Fiasco at 358 W. 23rd St. They boast of "exquisite food, unbelievable prices." I wonder what they mean by "unbelievable?"
And Other Fond Memories
Charming courtyards: Whether in city or country I like to celebrate spring by dining in a shady, cobbled courtyard or at a sidewalk cafe.
In tiny Port Haliguen near Quiberon, on the rugged coast of Brittany, is a favorite creperie called Le Vieux Porte. The garden walls are thick with plate-size roses, both yellow and red.
The crepes, which are native to Brittany, are just as large and filled with vegetables, seafood, cheese or chicken. For dessert there are sweet crepes filled with berries or chocolate.
In London I treasure the courtyard behind the Red Lion Inn at the head of Charles Street in Mayfair. In warm weather it's a jolly place for a pub snack and a cool lager.
On this day that feels like summer, my desk is still cluttered. But it's too lovely to stay indoors. I'll empty one waste basket and keep on walking.