Two mornings ago, while I was packing for my flight to California, I thought I'd check my Witches' Almanac on a lark and see what it had to say about traveling. Its advice: don't. Mercury in retrograde, screwing up the works.

I'll say. That morning, a couple of zillion-pound boulders fell into the center lane of I90 West, shutting down the freeway for several days. The only way to then get to the airport was by commuter flight from Yakima. I caught a ride from my brother-in-law who was going that way, but unfortunately his laptop was left behind and we had to go back for it, forcing me to miss my flight. I caught the next flight, made the connection to San Francisco, but realized somewhere over Oregon that I had not dodged the flu that had smacked both of my kids. I held on for dear life through the airport and the shuttle to the hotel, checked in, threw down my suitcase, and immediately became close personal friends with the toilet.

I probably should have stayed home. Mercury would have it that way.

Now I appear to be over the flu, but have missed the first day of a week-long class. I did make it for half an hour yesterday before I slunk back out of there and threw up on a tree. Things are not working out so well down here.

I should probably mention that I am staying in one of the finest hotels I have ever been in. Feather mattress liner, room service, doormen in navy blue uniforms who hold the door. Naturally I am totally out of my element. I looked in vain for a vending machine or a coffee carafe. There is no coffee maker in the room--how gauche. Instead I must pony up twelve bucks for breakfast at my door if I insist on a caffeine fix before my shower. Man, I just want a coffee.

Now, to be fair, I have been miserably sick from the second I got here. Now that I'm feeling better, maybe I'll appreciate the "lagoon" or the SoFit exercise facility with the polished full-length windows that look out on the lobby, the better to show off one's flexing pecs. There's got to be a grocery store around here somewhere, although all I can see for miles is anonymous industrial buildings with well-tended landscaping.

Anyway, I'm not here for a vacation. I'm here to learn how to write a procedure manual, and no one expects that to be fun, not even in California.

Still, this is a strange trip. Usually I love to be somewhere new and different, but this time, I just want to be home, with my people, writing procedures for KITTCOM and eating top ramen noodles. Sometimes you have to go out of your way to remember the glory of simple pleasures.

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