My smartphone is not very smart.
Of course, it is only as smart as the information I tell it. And that makes it not very smart, at all.
I woke up this morning to the usual chimes my telephone emits when it has something it thinks is very important. With the insistence of a four-year old child. "Daddy. Daddy. Listen to me."
When I looked at the screen, my first reaction was momentary mild concern. "Your Emirates flight from Madrid to Dubai is now boarding." I say "momentary" because it did not take me long to put my life back into context.
In a parallel world, I would have spent the past three weeks in Madrid upping my game on Spanish art at the Prado, the Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection. My head would have been filled with the works of the masters whose works my artist friend Ed Gilliam visited in his youth.
Right now, my body would be nestling into a seat on a flight that would have been on my bucket list -- if I had had any such thing as a bucket list. I suspect I had been looking forward to the Emirates flight as much as I had been anticipating the art course.
But the resurgence of the virus in Europe had put paid to the whole trip. Had I managed to maneuver my way around the border restrictions for flights from Mexico, none of the collections I wanted to view would have open. And there would have been no Emirates flight. It too was canceled in the world I actually inhabit.
Instead, I have been enjoying myself in Mexico doing what anyone does who lives here all year.
To sate my art thirst, I have been studying the textbook from my college art appreciation course I took when I was a freshman. Even though it was the only course I ever took in college that started at 6:30 in the morning, it was my favorite. I can still hear Mr. Huntington's voice planting seeds of interest as I thumb through the book.
Several readers have suggested a good substitute for my trip would be looking at the three collections online. They are correct that the internet has given all of us access to great works of art without having to brave the vagaries of modern travel.
But the internet can only offer substitutes, not good substitutes. The images online are no better than the posters one can buy in museum gift shops or the plates in art books. I suspect that is even true of the new three-volume set of detailed prints of the entire Sistine Chapel -- at a cost of $22,000 (US).
It is impossible to fully appreciate a piece of art like Velazquez's Las Meninas without being in its presence to see the detail of its construction. I had been looking forward to seeing it in person after seeing Picasso's reconstruction of it at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona -- a work that helps the viewer understand Picasso's use of abstract imagery.
Ed and I would often discuss art during our breakfasts and dinners. He first visited the museums of Europe as a college-aged backpacker. Of course, we talked about the art. It is why he went to Europe. But most of his stories related to the people he met on his journeys.
I am longing to travel again. Like Ed, I have some very specific things I want to see and do. However, it is the people I meet along the way that make the trips worth the travel. Because I am an optimistic person, I have booked trips to Japan next September and to Italy next October.
That does not mean that I cannot enjoy travel and people before then. Northern visitors are arriving here in the villages almost daily. There is nothing keeping me from doing what Ed did in Europe in the 1960s. Meet people. Listen to the tales they have to tell.
So, beware. I am on the prowl for new adventures and new stories.
You just may turn out to be the next essay on Mexpatriate.