Of course I was pleased about the contract – it was a big one and we’d been working towards it for over a year – but, given what had been in my mind just seconds before the e-mail arrived, only one thing really registered. A hotel room for three nights meant I could be Alison for most of three evenings. So my response to Alan was brief. “Great” I replied. Signed it and hit Send.
I have an older, large, carry-by-handle suitcase that I keep it at home, always packed with razor, toothbrush, three clean shirts, changes of underpants and socks, deodorant, shoe-polishing kit, all that sort of stuff. So when a trip does come up at short notice, I’m ready. All I have to do is get it down from the attic. It’s a family joke – Dad’s big old clunky suitcase. Maggie never bothers with it — she knows I repack it myself after a trip. And even if she did open it there would be nothing to notice. The large separate compartment that’s part of the lid is obviously not empty but stays zippered shut, fastened with a little padlock. Supposedly it has a blanket in it, for emergencies. Maggie never has need to look in there.
Ottawa to Albany is a pleasant drive in summer. We took Alan’s Chrysler and at the Thousand Islands crossing we went through U.S. Customs. Some hidden trepidation on my part in case they would want to search my luggage, but we were waved through. So we drove down the Interstate and we talked. The conversation turned to Albany and its history, which goes back before the American War of Independence. “Cornbury”, Alan said suddenly. “Now there was a strange fellow. Ever heard of him?” Well I guess so, seeing like I was a paid-up, albeit far-flung, member of Vancouver’s Cornbury Society. But nonchalance was definitely called for, so I paused for an appropriate few seconds, as though I was thinking, then answered in the best matter-of-fact manner I could muster. “Yes, wasn’t he Lord Cornbury, a British Governor of New York, who used to attend functions dressed as a woman?” “Right,” said Alan, and to my relief he turned the conversation to a discussion of Albany’s buildings.
We stopped for a relaxed lunch near Syracuse and covered a lot of subjects, as we always did, inevitably getting into current politics, the financial melt-down, how the U.S. banks had got the whole world into such a dreadful mess, and the whole question of neo-con economics. We talked a bit about the Chicago School, then Alan asked me, out of the blue, if I’d heard of a right-wing American economist called Deirdre McCloskey. Yikes ! Twice in the same day !. “Yes” I said with renewed nonchalance. “Used to be Donald McCloskey, but underwent a change in gender and became Deidre. Wrote a book about it, I believe.” Then I immediately moved the discussion to safer ground, talking about David Frum, a right-wing Canadian who for a while had been a speech-writer for George W. Bush.