Posts Tagged ‘University of Chicago’

Layla’s Retirement

on September 1, 2009 in Misc 1 Comment »

When Layla grows old she’ll retire with her lover/husband to a boat on the Nile.


I made this decision because that’s what I want to do when I’m an old fart and finally have enough money to quit working.  At the rate my retirement funds are growing that’ll happen when I’m ninety-two.

The source of this inspiration came from a story in the New York Times I read a few weeks ago and haven’t been able to get out of my head.  It profiled two archeologists, now in their sixties, who for six months of the year live on a dahabiya or houseboat on the Nile while excavating the tombs of the sons of Ramses II in the Valley of the Kings; the other six months of the year they spend in Cairo, London, and Connecticut.

Damn, that sounds so good!

Of course Layla is a hell of a lot closer to achieving this dream than I’ll ever be.  After all, she has a bachelor’s in history and a master’s in early Christian literature with an emphasis on archeology.  I figure that when she’s in her fifties she’ll pursue a degree in Egyptology at her alma mater, the University of Chicago, which just happens to be the leading North American institution in that field.  (I really had no idea when I created Layla’s background that the U of C would remain relevant for her future plans.)  Then of course there are her connections to the antiquity departments of various institutions.  Finally, she has a powerful connection to a remarkable discovery in Egypt, as detailed in The Compass Master.  So Layla’s retirement is set.

As for me…

Some years ago I spent about ten days in Egypt, half of that time in Cairo and the other half by floating up the Nile with other tourists.  I’m also struggling to get down the basics of the Arabic language.  Logically, none of this amounts to a hill of beans when it comes to my dream retirement.

But maybe there’s hope for me.

Right now I’m reading The Road to Ubar by Nicholas Clapp.  He’s a documentary filmmaker who researched the legendary and vanished city of Ubar on the Arabic Penninsula, then organized a successful expedition to find it.  That makes him a member of the crowded ranks of amateur archeologists who’ve made great discoveries.  Hence for me The Road is one of those books that drive home the fact that amateur archeologists can also go into wild place and have a rip-roaring time locating lost antiquities.

I just might have a grand old age after all.

The Plan

on July 7, 2009 in Misc Comments Off on The Plan

I’ve decided that the best way for me to start my plan is by asking two questions.  The first one is:  If I am to become like Layla  Daltry, am I using a realistic model?

As characters go Layla is pretty believable.  Certainly she’s no cartoon-like Lara Croft or Indiana Jones or James Bond.  It even seems that she’s evolved to become something more than fiction:  a creature woven from the bone shards of my own long buried desires and set-aside ambitions, a flesh-and-blood woman emerging from the better than average angels of my nature and my too infrequent adventures, a glamorous avatar who in her youth did almost everything right hence unlike me did not have to settle for a fallback life.

The second question is:  How do I compare to Layla Daltry right now?

The answer hurts.

Layla picks locks and gets into places she doesn’t belong, scampers across rooftops, climbs up and down buildings, and finds hidden and lost rare ancient manuscripts and other antiquities in exotic places — for a price.  I don’t.

Layla lives in a penthouse in Dublin, Ireland, worthy of Architectural Digest.  I live in Denver, Colorado and my place is nice but should not be photographed for any earthly reason.

Layla can get around in a couple modern languages and is fluent in Latin and ancient Greek.  My French has deteriorated into near non-existence and I’m struggling to teach myself basic Arabic.

Layla is a graduate of the University of Chicago and holds a master’s in the literature of early and medieval Christian history with an emphasis on archeology.  I only have a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Colorado that I pretty much never used.

She also once had a lover who was in the British SAS and taught her special forces skills that help her lead a danger-edged life.  Me?  I wish.

Now for the most glaring differences between us . . .

Layla Daltry is still relatively young — about thirty — while I’m well into middle age.  Damn.

She’s beautiful and I’m not.  Double damn.

Worse still, I’ve become aware of how over the years a part of me began to shrink into the confines of my resume, my job description, the petty demands of my daily life.

I mean, I’ve certainly done some exciting and even outrageous things.  Like Layla I’ve flung caution to the winds and gone on a few risky jaunts to different parts of the world (Pakistan, Bosnia, etc.).  But for some years now and without really being aware of what I was doing, I downsized myself and my life so that now even my perception of myself has diminished into a melancholy blur.

Layla would never, ever do that.  And now I must stop doing it.