NEW YORK CITY: Blizzard Queens

She said something profound right then, after tutting dismissively at me, “You just live, Ben! Don’t listen to anybody, and if they ask what’s wrong, say that you fell in a damn ditch and you hurt your knee. OH! And always talk to the bartender; he has all the right answers and you don’t have to take him home.”

“Queen!” I muttered, but I don’t think she understood.

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From Manchester to Home

After an eternity, we boarded, and my seat was DECADENT. It was economy plus and I was more pretentious than I have been in absolute ages. Instead of just being the front few rows, we had a little section of the plane to ourselves that all the rest of the economy people had to walk past as we sat comfortably in our seats sipping complementary water bottles. It was a glorious feeling.

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DOHA: Asia At Last

Land returned to view and I was delighted by my first sight of Saudi Arabia. The sands were red and lovely. I smiled to myself, getting over my depression, I was flying over regions of the world that nobody in my generation would have dared to dream about years and years ago. So many of them still believe that the Middle East is a dangerous place — and it can be — but so can small towns in America. There is danger everywhere, but it need not ruin our ability to explore or lessen the chance to broaden our horizons. The world is absolutely wonderful and I’m so in love with it. I’m so glad that I got over any cultural fear I had and let myself discover this beloved region.

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LUXOR: The Mystery of Chicago House

Nobody bothered me as I stood there. All the touts knew me and knew I had my people. They were nothing but friends and strangers now. I was no longer a source of revenue. I was just a man. I was just Ben standing beside the Nile. I really don’t know how long I was there, but as I did, my life began to pass by in my memories. I was back at Egyptian Treasures with my dad and Donald, talking about Cairo and dreaming of treasure. I was on an ancient computer in elementary school furiously printing pages from the Theban Mapping Project. I was in Barnes and Noble buying discounted books. I was in the Louvre staring at hieroglyphs. I was screaming at textbooks. I was dreaming of the future. I was back on a rooftop in Giza with Lady M. I was wandering through temples with Abdul. I was breaking the Ramadan fast at the Khan el-Khalili. I was dreaming of digging. I was in raptures at the thought of the basements of the Egyptian Museum. I was drinking Stella again with Hassan. I was back by the Nile. And I was an Egyptian through and through.

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