I am sitting six, maybe seven stories in the air, the evening sun behind me thwarted by a roof, my view nevertheless open to the sky, looking south across the gently burbling Ohio. The century homes of Newport wend a helix on the rolling hills, demarcated by their lights in the emerging twilight. The city's water tower crests the tallest hill like a paper hat, its aircraft beacon throbbing red, waning away. A chuffing barge shoulders its way upriver; its horn hooting in the nearby distance.

Below me, where the eyes would naturally fall anyway, the home team is foiling the visitors-- no cakewalk, this, but even in a game predicated upon unexpected miracles, the outcome has been determined. Joe Nuxhall will sing, "And this one, belongs to the Reds", my belly is happily full of Skyline coneys, and it's my birthday.

If there is a condition more conducive to the relaxation and general well-being of a Midwestern boy, I can't imagine what it is.

And it's my birthday.

My birthday, and here I am in Cincinnati again, for reasons external to me, that I cannot begin to fathom nor hope to resist. The tempest blows this leaf here, again and again, to show me... what? What is the lesson that I do not see?

It is my forty-second birthday. The number forty-two, already made mystical to me by Douglas Adams, has been depicted repeatedly on the trip, as have other elements of my life. There is surely a meaning here, a connection-- a lesson.

A benign one, I hope, because otherwise I'm hosed.

Today is Thursday, July 13, 2006. Let's go back to the start of the trip.
  The first thing you should grok, Gentle Reader, is that this has been one helluva month. Crises at work, crises at home, crises with family, crises alone. Anybody viewing any one aspect of that would offer a "Sheesh" of pity. Together-- well, you know.

Working a half-day on Monday enabled me to escape Hogtown on Tuesday morning still in possession of a dozen or so working brain cells that, in a pinch, I could rub together to start a fire, or maybe use as stake in a poker game.

That fact, of course, didn't stop me from iterating every possible permutation of "Did I leave the stove on?" before throwing caution to the wind and heading out. After caution came back and smacked me in the face I realized that being upwind was prerequisite to caution-throwing and, chastised, headed for Tampa.

The photo shoot went swimmingly; it was hot and muggy, which was surprising for Florida in mid-July, but the model was a real trooper and we finished just about on schedule. I navigated to Orlando through a fairly significant rainstorm (something stronger than a toad-strangler, but just a tad shy of a gully-whomper) and staged in a Ramada within spitting distance of the airport.

I went to buy some reading material for the trip, and looked for my usual favorite authors. Finally, I thought, I would have time to enjoy the one Michael Crichton book I've never read: Airframe.

I told you I wasn't thinking clearly.

For those of you who don't know, it's the story about the investingation of an airliner crash. It'll probably be a fantastic read-- at some point after I've finished with actual flying for a while and have camped myself poolside back home. I read the intro and put it away. I would just have to find something else in the airport.