From China to Peru
A Memoir of Travel
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of South Carolina Press
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This book is personal memoir as well as an account of travel. Each chapter opens with a bit of autobiography, segueing into the travel piece that follows. What I say of myself isn’t freestanding but ties one chapter to another, and the essays on travel have more than the unity of what comes next. ...
1. Wadi-Bashing in Arabia Deserta
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Straight out of graduate school and glad to have it behind me, I did what Horace Greeley told us to. I went west. But the flowers in California, though the biggest I’d seen and gorgeous to look at, didn’t smell. My teaching job at UCLA had strings attached. ...
2. Inca Dinka Doo
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A stint in the navy hadn’t satisfied my wanderlust, much less made me eager to join the world of nine to five. I wanted the life of a wayfaring stranger. “See America First,” said my patriotic elders, and when I got discharged I looped a ditty bag over my wrist and took off. ...
3. Little Red Schoolhouse in Italy
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When I was a graduate student at Harvard, you couldn’t buy a condom in the state of Massachusetts. Standing up for my rights, I went from door to door calling for repeal of the law. I targeted Charleston, a section of Boston largely blue-collar, Irish, and Catholic. ...
4. France’s Two Cities
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It never ceased to amaze me that I got paid for teaching poetry, like sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch. Of course no job is harder, but that is another story and will keep. My principal poet was Shakespeare, whose grace notes promote the sense of air about the plays. ...
5. The Scotsman’s Return from Abroad
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Margot Fonteyn was dancing at Covent Garden the year I lived in London. When they weren’t doing ballet they were doing opera, and I cut my teeth on Verdi, the “Anvil Chorus” in Il Trovatore. It made my heart leap when I was young. Also that year I discovered Mozart. ...
6. Over the Sea to Skye
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I had an epiphany half a lifetime ago, hitchhiking in the Mojave Desert. Coming south from Bakersfield, California, I caught a ride to Barstow, too far or not far enough. Viewers of the Weather Channel will recognize Barstow, where the temperature in summer goes off the charts. ...
7. Peter at the Crossroads
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The cold war hadn’t thawed when I went to Russia in the sixties, part of a team that negotiated the cultural exchange. Before I left on the trip, they handed me a file of documents stamped “For Your Eyes Only.” It sounds more glamorous than it was, and what the government called hush-hush you could find in the public library. ...
8. Proserpine’s Island
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I discovered early that we are all loners. Pop worked in downtown Manhattan and was gone right after breakfast, not to return until dark. We didn’t play catch together, and he never took me out to the ballgame. When Mom bent down to kiss me goodnight, I smelled her scent, “Lily of the Valley,” a lily, coolish and white. ...
9. Paree Bis
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A café in London’s Soho introduced me to snails. With a show of confidence, I called for escargots. Secret in their little houses, they lay in a pie plate with bubbles let into the bottom. The idea was to winkle them out. The French have no problem with this, but on my first go the shell squirted loose from its clamp ...
10. China Boy
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My family took me to the Catskills for my tenth birthday, the day after Memorial Day, when we decked the graves of our war dead. A black-and-white photo evokes that far-off time. The lake in the background is edged with pine trees, coming down to the water. ...
11. Flying Horses on the Silk Road
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London after the war was like a beautiful woman, sadly mauled by the years. Mile upon mile of redbrick tenements, a legacy of the previous age, turned the edges of the city to a wasteland. Craters around St. Paul’s, still waiting to be filled, told of German bombing. ...
12. Antarctic Convergence
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I joined the navy the day I turned seventeen—seventeen plus a day, the recruiting office being closed on the Sunday. The words of a popular song evoked the girl I left behind. “I threw a kiss in the ocean, I threw a kiss in the sea.” The bosun’s mate, hollering obscenities when he woke us in the morning, didn’t sound like Peggy Lee, though, ...
Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2012