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September 18, 2017


could Pascal have been not entirely right about just sitting quietly in one's room?

I don't know about Pascal. But when I am just sitting quietly in my room, I'm usually creating my own imaginary places. Just sitting, without thinking about anything at all, may work for advanced yogis or someone. But I find it beyond my capabilities.

Line breaks in the poem quotation aren't right. Will try to fix when I get time.

Anyhow, I love that one bit: "The choice is never wide and never free." I quoted that to someone at a gathering a few years ago and she was outraged at the very thought. Oh well, kindred spirits are thin on the ground.


Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?

To address the actual question ("Where would you go if you had a year to travel, and sufficient money to make it comfortable for your needs/preferences?"):
I think I'd do a round-the-world grand tour. I'm not sure a single year would be long enough, of course. But that's the kind of thing I'd love to do.

Sure, I could probably spend weeks in NYC, just going to museums and Broadway shows. Ditto DC and the National Museums. But I can do those things anyway (eventually), and in smaller doses.

Well, here's something that may not be the most exciting thought. I've never been all that surprised by any place I've visited. Everywhere has been pretty much the way I had expected it to be before I got there.

If I had to come up with an exception, it might be Banff, meaning the town itself. It was a bit fancier than I had expected.

I want to go to the Azores.

wj -- the world grand tour sounds great too. What slows me down in imagining something like that is how tiring I find it just to get from one place to another as I get older. Of course, postulating "enough" money, I suppose I could have a staff to schlep my luggage, worry about reservations, etc. etc.

But the city thing -- it's rather perverse, I know, coming from someone who lives in and loves the country. But I think that's part of the draw. I don't think I would actually be happy living indefinitely in NYC (I'm less sure about London). But I've spent only a few days in either of those places in my life, and (in part because I was lucky with the weather?) I *loved* them and would really enjoy the chance to have a more leisurely experience of both of them.

Plus, although I've been overseas (China, Ireland, UK, Belgium, the Netherlands), the vast majority of my travel when I was younger was backpacking up and down mountains. Maybe I'm just trying to redress the imbalance.

I want to go to the Azores.

Reminds me of how evocative of exotic travel the name "Tenerife" is.

But that's the Canary Islands.

I don't suppose it's true that if you've seen one set of remote islands you've seen them all....

Still chewing on what wj made me think about -- I have had the good fortune to live like a local person almost every time I've been overseas. I made almost a dozen trips to Ireland over the years, always staying with someone who lived there. My month in Brussels was in a short-term apartment rental (that was a work trip). My month in China was with my son.

I have found those experiences much more fun than having to stay in hotels, eat restaurant food, etc. There was a time when I would have loved an excuse to eat restaurant food all the time, but I'm so picky about what I eat these days that it's not such an attractive option anymore.

(Of course, I keep forgetting about my own "as much money as you need" parameter. :)

a year?

i wouldn't want to leave my current life for that long. pets, career, etc.. all the stuff that fills up my weekends. i like that stuff. i don't want it to go untended.

Well, I got the time, but are we talking a year of hotel expenses, food, transpo? 1/2 to 1 mill?

Buy property round Garberville or Trinidad Co. Move. Couchlock in a prettier, cooler scene, with close acres, woods, and creeks for dogs.

I have kind of mixed feeling about input from locals.

When traveling in Australia, I mostly got squired around by locals that I knew. Saw some stuff that I wouldn't have found otherwise. And it did minimize the effort to arrange things.

In the other hand, in the UK, I just rented a car (driving on the left actually wasn't bad . . . except for the roundabouts!) and wandered. I think I could go for that again.

And then in France last year, we actually did one of Viking's river cruises. Which had some real nice features as well.

Maybe I'm just a natural utility** traveler?

** Like a "utility infielder." Which, for the Europeans (who likely aren't that familiar with baseball), is a guy who can play multiple positions but doesn't specialize in (i.e. isn't good enough to be an expert in) one.

"And then in France last year, we actually did one of Viking's river cruises. Which had some real nice features as well."

The Viking river cruises have really gone downhill since Ragnar Lothbrok's day. The 'activities' aren't nearly as exciting, I hear.

But if I were planning a Grand Tour, I'd have a few weeks in London, Paris, Heidelberg, Rome, Vienna, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Reykjavik, Christchurch, Cairns, Kyoto, Santa Fe, and Hilo. Some for more time (Rome, Paris) some for less (Reykyavic, Santa Fe), and probably add a few along the way, like Nara and Iga City.

I would spend days, no more in lots of places, travel by private jet to add comfort to the travel part. I would spend every other month on a cruise.

I would like to cruise fjords. I loved the Alaska cruise because you could watch pretty awesome scenery e dry day, even while underway

The Viking river cruises have really gone downhill since Ragnar Lothbrok's day. The 'activities' aren't nearly as exciting, I hear.

But the accommodations are far superior. Not to mention the travel arrangements getting to and from the river in question.

Most travelers today are women Boston Globe.

Never felt comfortable traveling. Always felt like a guest or tourist, and in some popular places, something like an imperialist. I think to travel well, as it has been historically in the Grand Tour stuff or safaris, you have to carry privilege with you, a little bit unconsciously and innocently. Course, you can think that the privilege you carry is because you are a white American, or young Japanese, but I think it is becoming gendered now.

Suzy Hansen

LRB review of new book about ten years in Istanbul. There's another nearby.

I'd like to revisit Montréal. Since you mention Quebec and all. There are a fair number of places I wouldn't mind spending one day in, provided I could be invisible. I'd like to spend a month in Paris. Europe by train. A week in Moskva or Peterburg. Invisible again in Beijing for a fortnight. A month racketing around Africa. Cruises might be fun.

Iceland and New Zealand for the beauty.

I dot have any desire to visit cities except London. I mean intheory if someon ereally offred me a free thrip id go just about anywere out of curiosity but my dream trips dont involve cities.

i've sometimes thought i'd like to do a tour of the UK and visit all of the places Robyn Hitchcock mentions in his songs. i know most of them are probably bland urban locales, but he makes them all sound quaint. plus, i'm a fan.

Grimsby. East Grinstead. Frognal. Guildford. Ludgate. Fenchurch. Clerkenwell. Twickenham.

I fall in love with certain places I visit and fantasize moving there. Most recently, that happened with Vietnam.

I know that I wouldn't be happy there, because the language is difficult to learn, and people would be suspicious of me. But the huge romance I had with Hanoi, so hauntingly beautiful and true to itself, so unexpectedly welcoming, it's indescribable. Seeing metalworkers making everyday objects on the streets was so inspiring. The nice people who took us on motorcycles through the countryside. They told me about their experience as children in South Vietnam circa 1970. They talked about their kids; about the "two child" policy; about being Catholic; about having two girls.

My favorite food is in Vietnam! It's unlikely that I'll return under circumstances that I would like to. I miss it so much, even though I was barely there for two weeks.

Places I haven't been that I'd like to go to:

Israel, Egypt, Jordan (Petra), Turkey, Vienna, Antarctica, Scandanavia, Bali, Bora Bora, Iran.

Places I've been that I'd go back to:

Cambodia (Ankgor Wat), Vietnam, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Galapagos Islands, Cocos Island (but during high hammerhead season this time), St. Petersburg.

It would be a whirlwind but doable!

Just another note: This song, which was played whenever I boarded a flight in Vietnam from one city to another, didn't help my feelings of Vietnam longing.

I recommend you get out of Hanoi (which is great) and try Hue and Dalat. less big city vibe, people are incredibly kind and Hue food is famous. Hoi An is a touristy place, but lovely and relaxing.

One whole summer: starting at Mount Hood, work slowly northward up the Cascades, and thence into British Columbia, crossing from the east to west side of the mountains and back again at every (little road) opportunity.
See Yoho and Wells Gray, do a little paddling in the latter.
End up on the AlCan and so to Skagway; put the car on the ferry. Then Anchorage, and then Denali, and back to Anchorage. Sell the car and fly home. Rest for a long time.

One August/Sept/October : take my beer-friend, and start in Nurnberg, revisit the downtown and the Mausloch and the castle and the Durer Haus and the museums. Out to Zirndorf to see if Das Gute Zirndorfer is still as excellent as I remember it. Then over to Piesport, and then down the Rhein to Stein-am-Rhein and the Rheinfall. Thence Munchen for the first few days of Oktoberfest, then to Andechs, to Rosenheim for M.C. Wieninger. Sail on the Chiemsee, and eat at the restaurant on Fraueninsel. Cruise ship down the Danube to the Black Sea, and thence home. Buy new liver.

Late spring :
Fly into Philly; drive up the valley of the Delaware to the Water Gap.
Then up to Stockbridge, and back eastward to Boston, to marinate in history and in Fallout 4 resonance. Next, work slowly northward up the coast to the tip of Maine. Eat all the lobster. Find LePage's grave and piss on it.

Thanks, lj. Dalat is where I took the motorcycle ride that I described, and I was in Hue too. All of it was more than I can begin tor describe. It's Dalat that I would retire to if I had willing companions. Loved everything about it, but also the cities, to be honest. Polluted, yes. But the motorcycles, and the attitude? Yeah. And the guy in Hanoi with the scissors selling meat? And the banh mi in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City, of course.)

Someone, please, transport me back there with people who are appreciating it along with me! Probably won't happen for me again, but I want it to.

I probably should give Montreal another chance. 40+ years ought to be long enough to hold a (no doubt excessive) grudge.

But it does say something about the power of a first impression. My girlfriend at the time was going to do her junior year at a college near Boston. So, end of August, we drove off across the continent. It took a while, even not dawdling.

There were some nice bits. One night near Salt Lake City, we stopped at a B&B. Got settled in, slept well, got up and pulled together, had breakfast, paid, and headed out. Altogether a great stay. We saw a half dozen members of the family . . . the oldest of whom was maybe 12. (No idea if the parents were home. Or even still alive.)

But then, there was this. We had an extremely long day -- among other things, there was some kind of event in Toronto, which made the freeway a parking lot for several hours. But eventually, late, we pull in to a motel in Montreal. The parking lot was 90% empty, so I figured we were set. Ha!

We walk in to register. The clerk looks at me (blue eyes, blond hair), looks at my girlfriend (Asian ancestors), and says: "We're full." In the US, where I knew the rules, I'd have hit the roof, but this was Canada. So we got back in the car and drove down to Vermont.

Over 40 years later, I still start fuming when I think about it. And, obviously, I formed an indelible impression of Montreal. Which, I suppose, I should be willing to reconsider.

Course, you can think that the privilege you carry is because you are a white American, or young Japanese, but I think it is becoming gendered now.

One of those great observations that conceals as much as it reveals. bob macmanus, does that mean women are travelling with privilege? Or does it mean that women don't have privilege but men do?

Here in Japan, if you go to Fukuoka, the place is full of Chinese and Korea women, usually travelling in pairs or trios. Welcomed with open-ish arms because tourism dollars are like manna from heaven, it means you don't have to change anything and the money comes to you. The same phenomenon in Asia, where you will bump into Japanese women travelling. The naivete of Japanese always makes me worried, and more so with Japanese women, especially my students, who will go somewhere and seemingly trust the gods to keep them safe. Fortunately, they don't go to really dangerous places and any place that is pushing tourism tends to be pretty hard on tourism related crimes.

Still privilege in gendered? Can you go into more detail? thx

I should add, just to be clear, that I'm not suggesting that privilege is a binary value, either you have it or you don't. thx

Wow, I would do this COMPLETELY differently from the rest of you.

Mr. Dr. Science & I (no way I'd do this without him!) would do a combined birdwatching/archaeology tour of the world. Cities are ok for resting up, but not as fundamentally diverse as nature and deep human history.

What exact places/seasons we'd hit, I don't know. Mexico, Peru (and Peruvian Amazon), Hawaii, Turkey (Göbekli Tepe! Troy! so many more) then over to the Danube Delta, New Guinea, Galapagos, South Africa, Great Rift Valley, various parts of China and India... There are too many choices!

Still privilege in gendered? Can you go into more detail? thx

Perhaps privilege, as I said above, needs a bit of innocence, of obliviousness to really work. The Brit in 1920s India (glanced thru Forster's Passage after I read the 1st article) felt herself to be basically good with good intentions while benefiting from Empire. She should have been safe. That clash of innocence with the realities of hierarchies and power is much of what Passage and Forster's work is about.
Partly, the incident in the cave has a mystical dimension also I think.

I felt something like this in Santa Cruz. The native guy I was living with would get up and go to work in an trailer factory while I would enjoy the scenery. As a tourist, I felt somewhat parasitical and destructive of his life and world. I doubt the factory is there anymore.

The Suzy Nelson above is interesting.

Fortunately, they don't go to really dangerous places

Are you aware of the acid attack on four women in Marseille? I, although not traveling abroad, wouldn't imagine myself safe abroad, or not sure I should be, or enjoying staying in carved out safe enclaves like resorts in Cancun in Mexico.

So why do women feel relatively safe abroad?

But I wanted to say something more weird.

1) When I view the Grand Canyon in person, I get my own experience.

2) When I view it with another, I get my own and hers, compared and contrasted, added and subtracted.

3) When I read 2-3 accounts of the Grand Canyon, having been there myself, I get some of their experiences, histories and circumstances but again mediated through my own.

4) If I have never gone, there is less mediation and I think more necessary empathy, more need to submit myself to their perspectives.

5) When I read Haraway on dogs, I was always thinking of my own relations to dogs. When I read Suzy Nelson on Turkey, I had to be open because I knew little about Turkey, or what little I had was only some of many of only relative value to each others. If I visited Tokyo, I would always be comparing my memories of Tokyo with say yours, and inevitably overvaluing my own.

6) In order to be more open to other's experiences, and valuing them more highly, I have tried to limit and devalue my own. I realize this is the opposite of most people's attitudes, who think empathy is gained with shared experience rather than recognition of maximal difference. See:Said, Spivak, Homi Babha. The way to valuing others is devaluing oneself.

As the greatest character actor Harry Zen Stanton of all time said:"There is no self, and I use that in my work." Also, he hints, a lot of pot.

Anybody interested in an article about the nudist swinger's resort in Mexico and the Minnesota couple who couldn't play until the very last day? Kinda both risque and clinical, but funny.

Doesn't matter; ignore me; just thinking.

Thanks bob mcmanus. Overseas, Japan, and by extension, Japanese, are blessed by a presumption of innocence. Korea and China are the only places where that cracks, and it baffles them. (Of course, it is aided by their cultural twitches, one of which is to accept an apology that is nowhere near sincere and consider the matter resolved.)

The acid attack was on American women. The US brand is toxic now.

About going to dangerous places, Japanese tend to go for at most 10 days, sometimes even shorter. This means that the further away a place is, the less likely Japanese are going to get to it. Getting to Paris, sure, Marseilles? not as likely.

When Japanese go to a place, their experience is mediated by every other Japanese that has been there, every TV show that has shown the place, every observation about it. I may be mindreading, but I get the impression that no Japanese wants to be the first to go someplace. Sure, they would like to be treated well, but they don't have the cringe about being treated as a tourist the way many of us do.

I think there is a way to be open to other people's experiences without necessarily devaluing yours, but if the person insists that their experience is the 'real' one and yours (or anyone else's) is less than that, you've got a problem. Likewise for the reversal, if you insist your experience is 'authentic' and someone else's isn't, you don't really get it.

Minnesota nice in a Mexican nudist swinger's resort? What's not to like?

Clothing Optional

I felt something like this in Santa Cruz. The native guy I was living with would get up and go to work in an trailer factory while I would enjoy the scenery. As a tourist, I felt somewhat parasitical and destructive of his life and world.

I think that feeling may be at least partly idiosyncratic. I think of my boss. When she travels (on business) she inevitably uses AirBnB. So far, so similar to being a tourist staying with someone. But at home, she also occasionally hosts AirBnB. Not that she particularly needs the money (the company is doing well) so much as she just likes meeting new people.

I wonder if that parasitic feeling may not necessarily mirror how it feels to the host. He might feel happy, not just for the money but for the insight into how someone from elsewhere sees the world -- and no travel required.

...but for the insight into how someone from elsewhere sees the world -- and no travel required.

I have a habit of befriending people with foreign accents, or at least I did when I was younger and went out drinking more often. I'm still friends with some of them, many years later.

I went on my dream trip about twenty years ago. I went to the Arctic Circle in Yukin Territory. I went there by myself.
Up thread there's a comment about how travelling alone means the experiences is yours but travelling with someone else both adds and subtracts I loved travelling alone and I did not get lonely. However that wax before I got married. Now if I went on a trip alone I would wonder why I hd exiled myself from my family and I am sure that no matter where I was I would be very lonely.

Still few things are worse than going on a trip with someone who is a drag to be around. That's what broke up my first marriage. I started travelling alone and then traveled right out of the marriage.

I grew up travelling allover the Ricky Mountains and the Great Basin and th deserts of the southwest. Those places are full of memories for me. But I will never go back. Montana was on fire this summer, Staircase Escalentie is under attack by Repubicans who want to strip mine it Glacier is losig its galciers I dont want to see the laces I love in a degraded state. NO kid wil levery have the kind of wonderful childhood I had becaues those lovely wild places are gone

I once visited the German shipyard where they build the ships for Viking River Cruises. Ironically, the guys building them seem to have a rather low opinion of those who travel in them. Hearing that cruises with that company can be only booked in-US and are catering exclusively to specific US habits abroad, I can see the point. Sounds like some USians compensate for the lack of hereditary nobility at home by behaving like spoilt aristocrats when traveling. Oh, plus some reminiscences to the Old South since the servants tend to be highly pigmented and are often treated as in the days of old by the paying customers (at least that's what I got told).

My tax dollars are vacationing here, but I hope they forgot their shots and vaccinations, so they get a taste of the local sewage:


The Murderer-in-Chief didn't mention Yemen at the UN. Unlike Khrushchev, he didn't even have the basic human decency to remove his shoe and bang it on the podium.

We are represented around the world by murderers, Obama included, despite his efforts to save American lives stateside. Republicans like to kill here too, which makes them so special.

The world will not forget.

ISIS is borrowing our drone technology. That should be fun. We're such an example.

Iceland and New Zealand for the beauty.

I feel much the same, and about other wild, beautiful landscapes I long for (Alaska, Antartica). I too am not really that much interested in cities anymore apart from their art and their food.

I was lucky enough to travel a lot when a child, with my parents, but that is also rather limiting. We went to Indonesia in the 60s, and travelled all over Java, which was fascinating and beautiful, even after terrible recent political upheavals. These had been worst in Bali, which at that time had only one "European" hotel - a one-story bungalow in Denpasar. Everywhere else there was completely undeveloped from a touristic point of view, and astoundingly beautiful, especially Ubud which, when we went back in the 70s, had I think exactly one foreign resident. Kuta Beach was an empty, wild place, where we had a picnic. Hard to believe, when I went back in the 90s and saw the hard-drinking, mainly Aussie, concrete jungle hellhole it had become.

I went to Vietnam for a week or ten days in the 90s too, just after the US had opened its first diplomatic mission there since the war. I was only in Hanoi, staying with friends, but travelled alone to Ha Long Bay, which was very strange and beautiful, and also in the very early stages of touristification.

When travelling in Europe these days, I am mainly (as I mention above) interested in the art and the food (Madrid was fantastic for both). Places with breathtaking scenery are a bonus (e.g. Sicily, where we went three years running). Other than that, I'd be very interested to go to various countries in South America, and to Australia and, as mentioned, New Zealand.

I also cherish a longing, which I think I have referred to before, to do more US roadtrips, particularly round the South. But these would necessitate a travelling companion with similar tastes and inclinations: musical, conversational, food-related and otherwise, and this does not appear to be forthcoming, so these fantasies may remain just that. I have to admit, too, that these days I prefer a certain amount of luxury (good beds etc), so that also becomes a limiting factor.

Anything Northern ;-)
Apart from a general disposition to Scandinavia North of Denmark (and a handful of historical places in Denmark), I have some specific locations for closer inspection in mind (e.g. Lake Kilpisjärvi near the point where Norway Findland and Sweden meet).
Iceland needs a more thorough examination than my last 2-day pass-through. That includes both the landscape and the bookshops. But I still have to do much work on my Icelandic first and acquire enough money to afford the trip.
Greenland would be less extensive a trip but nonetheless be on the list as well as a second visit to Spitzbergen/Svalbard. Circling the Barents Sea in good weather would be nice too.
Hurtigruten has now become in all but name a mere cruising experience. I would not mind to get a ticket for one of the occasional nostalgic tours that employ one of the old ships. The one tour I did long ago was on one of the first of the newer ships that still retained a "freighter with accomodation for passengers" atmosphere (just a more modern freighter).
The Faroe Islands (again known to me from a short trip only) would have to be combined with Shetlands and Orkneys next time, maybe throwing the Hebrides in too.
In other parts of the world I would likely go for cities in order to visit museums and the like. But please lower the local temperature to about +20°C first (less is acceptable but above 25°C you can forget it).
Canada would be nice for a second time, now that I speak English (last time, about 4 decades ago, I did not).
Lots of things in Russia I would be interested in, but I am far too risk-averse and like my creature comnforts too much to go to those places, so the Tretjakov Gallery and Kamtschatka will remain mere dreams.

wonkie skrev :

NO kid wil levery have the kind of wonderful childhood I had becaues those lovely wild places are gone

The vast North Woods north of Sioux Lookout Ontario which were my favorite destination when I was a young man have been razed for pulpwood.

McManus wrote: "When I view the Grand Canyon in person, I get my own experience."

I don't think the authentic "own" experience of the Grand Canyon is available to any of us, and neither did Walker Percy (I will concede that McManus is such an original personality that maybe "own" for him is completely original as well):


"The thing is no longer the thing as it confronted the Spaniard; it is rather that which has already been formulated — by picture postcard, geography book, tourist folders, and the words Grand Canyon…. If it looks just like the postcard, [the tourist] is pleased; he might even say, “Why it is every bit as beautiful as a picture postcard!” He feels he has not been cheated. But if it does not conform, if the colors are somber, he will not be able to see it directly; he will only be conscious of the disparity between what it is and what it is supposed to be. He will say later that he was unlucky in not being there at the right time. The highest point, the term of the sightseer’s satisfaction, is not the sovereign discovery of the thing before him; it is rather the measuring up of the thing to the criterion of the preformed symbolic complex."

There are strategies that can be employed to get at the thing-in-itelf on ITS terms, like maybe slipping and falling from the edge and grabbing aholt of some well-rooted vegetation on the way down and dangling there for an interim.

You may approach the first Spaniard's experience, or better yet, neolithic man's first experience, perhaps on a hunt, of meandering through the Southwestern desert scrub and coming upon the sheer Canyon walls in that way, but more likely your authentic experience of hanging and scrabbling there in the absolute still desert heat, save the sound of soil and small rocks falling as you kick around for purchase, will be mediated by thoughts of your rescued image broadcast on the news and the brief celebrity that might result.

I mean, even Neil Armstrong's first step for mankind was mediated and scripted. I'd have preferred "Holy Fuck!" instead of the canned words.

Now, of course Richard Branson and Elon Musk are just now hiring advertising firms to mediate my first trip into space. Can I opt for Tang instead of the craft cocktail, just to preserve something unmediated.

Branson said the other day thousands will go soon.

Does that mean the Grand Canyon will be less crowded?

I'd rather they kidnap me and blast me off without telling me anything. That would be real.

I visited the Black Canyon in Southwestern Colorado this summer and couldn't take my eyes off possible new paths to the river below on the opposite canyon walls. Most would require technical climbing, which I don't do because ... cowardice, so I settled for the drive down and a hike along the Gunnison River.

The thought of stepping foot somewhere no human has before appeals to me, but here's the thing, it's easily available. I day hike in the foothills of the Rockies, but I don't stay on the trails. I like to bushwhack, especially up steep inclines in some of the back draws and small canyons away from the view of the Front Range (not as good at it as I was 40 years ago).

I guarantee you my feet have stepped on virgin soil, where no footprints before me were ever laid down.

This I tell myself.

I also cross fence lines into posted private property when I know I can't be seen.

It's my little way of exercising my personal libertarian bent to thumb my nose at them gummint surveyors and constabulary who go to such lengths on my ticket to protect private property, not that I mind the protection if it's my property, being an American with the many forever-warring, conflicting, competing roles, each only important when I assume the role, each self-interested fractional self a single self within the whole self, .... buyer/seller, taxpayer/Federal pension recipient, consumer/purveyor, driver/pedestrian, each side with its grievances, you know the drill.

I would never hunt on private property, but I neither would I hunt on public property.

I would consider it an authentic experience to catch some buckshot in the butt on one of my private property forays.

But, I prefer the British practice of public right-of-ways across private property.

I long to visit completely undiscovered beaches, except by locals, in the South Pacific, and have done so in the past.

But then I, or someone, would let the cat out of the bag and the places would be ruined and "developed".

Better for the spirit not to go at all.

More on travel later.

good one, Count.

I got curious about the Spaniard. From Wikipedia:

The first Europeans reached the Grand Canyon in September 1540.[1] It was a group of about 13 Spanish soldiers led by García López de Cárdenas, dispatched from the army of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado on its quest to find the fabulous Seven Cities of Gold.[2][5][6] The group was led by Hopi guides and, assuming they took the most likely route, must have reached the canyon at the South Rim, probably between today's Desert View and Moran Point. According to Castañeda, he and his company came to a point "from whose brink it looked as if the opposite side must be more than three or four leagues by air line.”[7]

The report indicates that they greatly misjudged the proportions of the gorge. On the one hand, they estimated that the canyon was about three to four leagues wide (13–16 km, 8–10 mi), which is quite accurate.[5] At the same time, however, they believed that the river, which they could see from above, was only 2 m (6 ft) wide (in reality it is about a hundred times wider).[5] Being in dire need of water, and wanting to cross the giant obstacle, the soldiers started searching for a way down to the canyon floor that would be passable for them along with their horses. After three full days, they still had not been successful, and it is speculated that the Hopi, who probably knew a way down to the canyon floor, were reluctant to lead them there.[5]

As a last resort, Cárdenas finally commanded the three lightest and most agile men of his group to climb down by themselves (their names are given as Pablo de Melgosa, Juan Galeras, and an unknown, third soldier).[5] After several hours, the men returned, reporting that they had only made one third of the distance down to the river, and that "what seemed easy from above was not so".[5] Furthermore, they claimed that some of the boulders which they had seen from the rim, and estimated to be about as tall as a man, were in fact bigger than the Great Tower of Seville (which then was the tallest building in the world, measuring 82 metres, or 270 feet).[8] Cárdenas finally had to give up and returned to the main army. His report of an impassable barrier forestalled further visitation to the area for two hundred years.

It's interesting how their visual perception was so off when looking down into the canyon.

I forgot to post this for the count, NYT's Issacson on Walker Percy's Theory of Hurricanes


I have a suspicion that Percy's hurricanes are, like Percy, rather genteel, once a decade events that can be treated like a comet and I wonder if he would revise his theory when faced with 4 or 5 of these every year.

Perhaps my favorite traveler in literature is Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, also one of Walker Percy's favorites for the frying of bigger existential fish.

The little known feature, not much addressed in the movies, is that Crusoe's shipwreck on the island is the SECOND cruise he takes in the book, the first taking up a goodly part of the volume, it too ending in shipwreck from which he is rescued, before he embarks on the second to the island of Despair and all that ensues.

Now, that's traveling. I once thought Shackleton's exploits looked interesting too but as I age, I hate winter more and more, and then I read a couple of books about the ordeal and the thought of sticking my bare
hind end over the gunwales in freezing seas and howling winds to relieve myself disabused me of that fantasy.

I'm not interested in huge ocean cruises. I'm sorry I missed the era when you could book room on a freighter for exotic ports of call, or work your way across.

You can do now, but it's rare and like a simple bowl of grits in an upscale restaurant, it's been monetized to the point of stupid expensive, like every effing thing now.

I took a ferry once from Indonesia to Bali in the middle of the night. Pretty heavy seas but the solar system wheeled overhead like I've never seen since.

If I have to see a footprint other than mine when I'm somewhere where I pretend/imagine I'm truly alone, let it be Friday's.

Percy has fun with that too.

It's interesting how their visual perception was so off when looking down into the canyon.

Lots to catch up on in this thread but this triggered a funny little memory for me. I grew up in a town on the edge of Lake Erie, then went to college in New England and stayed for thirteen years. After that I had a Milwaukee interlude before moving back east in 1985 for the duration. (Probably.)

When my housemates and I were preparing for the Milwaukee move, I flew out there with one of them, a New England boy born and bred. We had made a couple of cross-country round trips over the years, so it wasn't like he had never been out of Massachusetts, but he had never happened to spend any time near the Great Lakes.

When we flew over Lake Michigan he looked out the airplane window and said, with the condescension of someone who'd grown up near an ocean: "Oh, hey, that's a pretty big lake. What is it, about ten miles across?"

My traveling style, (and I haven't done much in the past dozen years or so, but now that I have the time, am family-free, and have the modest means, I plan to do much more as the, ummm, emeritus years approach) is more along the lines of JanieM's and Joel Hanes' .... try to immerse and when I come to a fork in the road, take both, or the one that looks like it might get me lost.

My son, now 28, traveled to Amsterdam with his Mom and me when he was maybe 13. She was on a work trip so the two us has most weekdays to seek, and then she would join us on the weekends and evenings for more.

Several years ago, he and I were talking about that trip and he said this" "Don't tell Mom this, but you are more fun to travel with she is, Dad."

(Not that she's not fun to travel with .. we went thru much of Asia together in the early days)

How so? I asked. Well, his Mom has an itinerary and she likes to hit the bullet points. Not that I don't, but I'm easily set off course, kind of like I blog, off topic. So, in Amsterdam for example, and I love exploring cities on foot, he followed (I'd turn my head and say "This way" and off we'd go) my ad hoc style ducking down narrow alleys and byways and across canals into questionable-looking neighborhoods and he saw, and ate, stuff, as did I, that he wouldn't have seen or eaten otherwise, especially at that age.

The human spectacle in much of its gory, slightly unnerving glory.

I mean it was tame compared to say Mindanao or northern Thailand, but fun for him.

Now he's a great traveler, just back from Jeju Island off South Korea and a week in Japan.

I don't use a GPS gadget when I drive. As a result on this summer's adventure, I got lost a few times.

Or, for example, in Tennessee, I saw a sign for Hidey Hooty Holler and pulled a quick left up a winding road full of shotgun love shacks.
When I resumed my route, the very next turnoff was called Gutcheck Road. Who wouldn't want to see what's at the end of that?

Not much as it turned out.

Note about New Zealand. My ex-wife and I hiked and camped on both North and South Islands years ago and, there is not a single square foot of ground to lie down flat on. Thus, the huts, but we learned the hard way.

Thanks so much for that, lj.

Percy had interesting views on the singularity of war as experienced by combat veterans -- the World War I example is one he fell back on a lot, the soldier who is blown out of his foxhole and awakens, bloodied, later, and the first thing he sees is his own hand (still attached in this case) and it is the first time he's really looked at the appendage in his life.

The hand is hauntingly strange and miraculous at once. He has to return to the battlefield at Verdun years later to repeat the experience of seeing, really seeing his hand and the feeling of being authentically alive, an experience not available to him in his quotidian life since the War.

Ah, yes, the humming, swarming noxious particles. I shall flee them in about an hour for my watering hole down the street.

Maybe there will be an intervening meteor strike in Wyoming so my liver doesn't join Joel Hanes' on the scrapheap of ennui.

I can see that I'm going to have to reread Percy again this winter.

re Walker Percy.

I wonder about the existential lift of spirit and escapism from the everyday the inhabitants of Pompey experienced as the lava flowed in thru their doors and windows.

Percy also was of a mind to note that the killing grounds of World War I, tens of thousands slaughtered in a matter of hours in some battles, marked a catastrophic ratcheting breakdown in the human experience from which mankind's existential and spiritual recovery was impossible, that in fact a new sort of human was born.

I bought it back when I read him the first time but not so much today.

Those religious wars back in the day, including the U.S. Civil War, about which Percy's best friend Shelby Foote waxed elegy-wise, seem just as mindlessly savage but perhaps not as levered by technology.

At least in the old days, as my grandfather would lament, you had to pretty much look an individual human being in the eye as you murdered him.

This should go over well in Yemen and, in a few days, Puerto Rico:


Probably a WHO hoax, though, right, ignoramuses?

Just scientists looking to snarf up grant money, right, know-it-alls?

snips from my journey...

Getting bitten by a monkey at the Nairobi game part and taken to a maternity hospital for treatment...living in fear of rabies for months.

Sharing a cab with a guy in Addis, dressed in rags, an open wound on his skull.

Seeing some poor naked lad shitting by the side of the road somewhere in Ethiopia. Salassie was nearing his end.

Watching an hearing the hyena howls in Harrare, thinking of Rimbaud.

Taking a train from Asmara to Khartoum, sitting on the roof of the slowly swaying train car and taking in the night scenery.

Wild drunken, and obviously overly suggestive, dance with a beautiful gal in a Kartoum night club. Was pulled off the floor by a bunch of guys....thought I was going to be stabbed.

Taking the train from Aswan to Alexandria, and stopping off to see the sites along the way. Thebes....utterly magnificent.

Sleeping under an overturned rowboat on Mykonos. I think the colonels took over shortly thereafter.

The overnight bus trip across Yugoslavia.

Washing dishes in Bonn, and getting to know....Turks.

Of course Paris, London, side trip to Wales.


What would I do now? Haven't a clue.

Just spent a week in Iceland. Would go back again in a heartbeat (as long as we weren't leaving the cats for a year, we missed them the whole time we were there despite getting some quality time with the cats of Reykjavik on our walks). Would love seeing all the seasons and spending decent time in the different regions.

Took way too many photos while there. The place is utterly outrageous.

Extend that trip out to hit the rest of the viking world and I'd be a happy camper: Ireland, The Orkneys, Shetland, The UK Danelaw, The Faroes, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland.

Have to skip Russian and Istanbul, though. Too much political unrest. Miklagard must wait.

Percy also was of a mind to note that the killing grounds of World War I, tens of thousands slaughtered in a matter of hours in some battles, marked a catastrophic ratcheting breakdown in the human experience from which mankind's existential and spiritual recovery was impossible, that in fact a new sort of human was born.

Could be. If I were to pick up a Percy, where should I start, Count?

God knows, I'm not the count, but if you are more a non-fiction person that an fiction one, I'd try The Message in the Bottle: How Queer Man Is, How Queer Language Is, and What One Has to Do with the Other. A brilliant meditation about language and why communication is so damn strange.

Why, at the beginning, he said gravely.

I would first read simultaneously "The Message In the Bottle", his collected essays from the early 1950s originally published in little philosophical and linguistic journals and his first novel "The Moviegoer", which won the National Book Award in 1962, if I recall correctly, and proceed from there, through the later essay collections and the five subsequent novels.

Maybe read a good biography (there are a couple a three) of him too because his life was a certain formative precursor (his Southern upbringing, his early medical training, like Chekhov's cut short, his time spent in a sanitorium to recover from tuberculosis, his conversion to Catholicism, his rooting among linquistic matters pertaining to his daughter's congenital deafness) to the themes that troubled him and that he turned over and over, palpating them like a good diagnostic physician feels a patient's shoulder in greeting and as preliminary to searching out what ails the latter (I stole that image from Percy), in his mind and his work right up until his death.

There are interviews/articles too to look for online, like lj's offering here. The Paris Review effort is good.

But I'm partial to the interview in which he interviewed himself, published in a later collection of essays, in which you'll also find a good mint julep recipe.

Read it all. And then read it again because, especially in the novels, he's trying to get at something and what that is ain't exactly clear, but purposefully so, as Percy sidled up to his subject matter and considered himself not qualified for proclamation.

Russell and lj might have suggestions too.

Good luck. If anything, his writing is engrossing.

He really observed.

More stuff. That idea that WW1 created homo novus (Hartmut will correct my Latin, I'm sure) is one that I have slowly been dissuaded from because every experience of war or societal violence seems to create PTSD and opens the door to behaviors that we struggle to repress. The Wild West seems, at least to me, to be the direct result of the US Civil War, The French Revolution saw the Noyades de Nantes, the more I read about Korea's relationship with Japan, it seems to be haunted by the Hideyoshi's invasion. Nous already pointed to 2 books I love, Shay's Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character and his sequel, Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming.

About travel experiences, my dad travelled to Antarctica in 1961 and stayed there for 6 months, mapping the magnetic pole and determining the thickness of the ice cap. It would be a dream to do that, I can tell that his experience there affected him deeply. However, it seems like the place he visited isn't there any more...


The Count skrev :
Defoe's Robinson Crusoe

ob. book : A Journal Of The Plague Year

Re: impressions of the Grand Canyon

ob. book :
Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West Wallace Stegner

I was fortunate enough to be able to travel fairly extensively while I was working (in the USA, Australia, and Hong Kong), though not as adventurously as some of you here, so I'll refrain from embarrassing myself with over-decorous yarns.

Speaking of which, one time my wife and I actually won in some local HK drawing a trip for two to the newly opened Holiday Inn (!) in Mae Hon San, which is in Thailand right up by the border with Myanmar. We'd both been to Thailand before - not just Bangkok, but Chiangmai and a few places in between - but Mae Hon San was more remote than anywhere we'd been in the country, and we enjoyed the temples, elephants, and other local color.

Next time I was in the Senior Common Room at the University of Hong Kong I made the mistake of mentioning this to a friend (who happens to be a geographer). He said "Oh, yes, Mae Hon San is pretty civilized now. When I first went there you were underdressed if you went out in the street without an AK-47."

Sigh. The SCR of HKU was the kind of place where you were in the minority if you'd never taken the Trans-Siberian Express. NOT the kind of place to boast of your mundane holidays.

I evidently came back by much too straight a road from my trip. I think Gandalf might have shown me round a bit.
-- "Many Partings," The Return of the King

I want to do almost everyone else's year as well as my own! bobbyp on Thebes, several people on Iceland, it's a long list. Maybe in my next lifetime(s)...

My preferences about travel have changed a lot with age, dietary needs, money constraints, etc. But one thing that hasn't changed is that I have always preferred, as the Count put it, to "try to immerse" in a place, rather than do the twenty cities in twenty-one days approach.

wj wrote: Sure, I could probably spend weeks in NYC, just going to museums and Broadway shows. Ditto DC and the National Museums. But I can do those things anyway (eventually), and in smaller doses.

And this: I have kind of mixed feeling about input from locals.

wj seems to be my foil on this topic. My enjoyment of living in New York for several months wouldn't be because of museums and etc., although I would take advantage of those, it would be because I want to get a taste of how it feels to just live there. Obviously it's too late for me to be "from" there, or "from" anywhere but northeastern Ohio, but New York and London are *great* cities, and for me just to have the chance to walk around in them every day, grocery shop, do some writing, have-laptop-will-crunch-data, etc., would be great fun. (Maybe! Maybe I would tire of everything being so crowded after a couple of weeks. Then it would be the Count's fork in the road...)

And my appreciation of having been able to stay with local people has been similar: not to get their input (though I certainly have done that), but to just be living there as a local person would live there, to the extent that that's possible for a temporary sojourner.

Random other thoughts:

The food in China was wonderful. I have missed it ever since. As I've said, I was lucky: my son was my translator and guide, and since he had lived in his town for a couple of years by the time I got there, and had lots of Chinese colleagues and friends, I was very much enfolded in a local social context.

wj's tale of Quebec was disheartening, although if northern Vermont seemed any different in terms of prejudice forty years ago, I would guess it was just random luck. I had a nice few days in a historically bilingual part of Quebec, but in lots of areas people are (reportedly, and via my slim experience) stubborn about language. I've learned a lot of Quebec history and lore by reading Louise Penny's mysteries. One of them, in fact, centers around the minority status of "Anglos" in Quebec City. It was quite an eye-opener for me.

Knowlton, where I made this recent trip, is a bit of a resort area, being on a big lake. There are at least half a dozen nice restaurants within a mile radius of where I stayed. But I was vaguely frustrated by the food, even though it was good and not horribly expensive. When I was driving home I realized why: when I'm in Cambridge, I eat Asian 99% of the time. There was no Asian in sight in Knowlton. Well, Quebec is its own place, why should it have Asian food? Then again, it's a small world these days. I can get (admittedly not great) Chinese food in several places here in the boonies in central Maine, and actually pretty decent Thai and sushi. So who knows.

I'll definitely spend more time in Quebec, in any case, having broken the ice.

liberal japonicus, "homo novus" is correct Latin. The only problem is that the term is already taken and well-defined. For a Roman who spoke Latin it meant 'parvenu', 'upstart'. Or as a technical term it meant the first one of a family to reach the consulate. The term as used by conservatives was extremely peiorative. Think of Obama as viewed by a traditional Southern Republican.
Ironically, the best-known stalwarts of Roman conservatism, Cato the Elder and Cicero, were both homines novi (Roman knights from provincial towns, i.e. not even born in the city and not proper nobility).

Hartmut, knew I could count on you.

I was looking for a discussion of Will Percy, who took in Walker Percy and his two brothers after their mother had died in a car accident (which Walker Percy believed was a suicide). This was 2 years after Walker Percy's father had committed suicide.

This is what I was looking for

Near the end of John M. Barry's extraordinary history there is a kind of epiphany that is as dark as the gelatinous, stinking muck the Mississippi left behind after one of the most devastating floods in American history. For weeks, Will Percy of Greenville, Miss., the son of the Delta plantation owner and Southern entrepreneur-aristocrat LeRoy Percy and the future adoptive father of the writer Walker Percy, had floundered, frustrated by circumstances and his own incompetence as head of the Washington County Red Cross and chairman of a special flood relief committee. Black work gangs and their refugee families resented being held as virtual prisoners in dreadfully squalid ''concentration camps'' set up along miles of the Greenville levee. Water, food and medical supplies were inadequate. Percy's subordinates held him in contempt, and his equals, including his own father, undercut his authority and ignored his decisions.

I think this is not true, or at least not complete.
Senator Percy's son Will, a World War I hero and a noted poet, took charge of the Red Cross relief efforts for the blacks stuck on the levee. His first impulse was to evacuate them on steamers.

The planters protested. They persuaded Le Roy Percy to instruct his son to leave those blacks on the levee. Cotton was the principal, indeed almost the only crop grown in the Delta. Cotton was labor intensive--it was planted, cultivated, and picked by hand. The planters grew rich because of it. The workers got $1 a day for their sunrise to sunset labor.

The planters knew that if the blacks got out of the Delta, they would never return. They had nothing to come back to and anyplace was better than the Delta. Keep them here, the planters declared. Le Roy Percy backed them. Will Percy, after some feeble protests about putting their own economic welfare ahead of people's lives, gave in.

In 1942, those same planters, or their sons, paid the local police to patrol the Illionois Central railroad depots to prevent the blacks from getting on the train to go to Chicago, where they could get work at, for them, big wages, in the war industries. In 1944 the first cotton picking machine came to the Delta. By 1945, the planters were buying one-way tickets to Chicago for the blacks.

On the levee the blacks filled and stacked sandbags, for which Percy set a pay scale of 75 cents per day. Those who were put to unloading and distributing Red Cross food parcels, which were starting to come to Greenville by barge to feed 180,000 people and thousands of animals.

Percy ordered all Greenville blacks to the levee. The camp stretched seven miles. Percy ordered that all the Red Cross work be done for free. There were too few tents, not enough food, no eating utensils or mess hall. Black men were not allowed to leave--those who tried were driven back at gunpoint by the National Guard.

The food they received was inferior to what the whites got. Canned peaches came in, but were not distributed to blacks for fear it would "spoil them. Whites kept the good Red Cross food for themselves. Giving it to the blacks, one white man explained, "would simply teach them a lot of expensive habits."

Don't know what precisely is the truth, but Will Percy had been part of the Commission for Relief in Belgium which led to him being appointed to do this relief effort.

The Greenville flood was a turning point where African-Americans no longer supported the Republican party because Hoover, who was president, and also the head of the Commission for Relief.

Googling for all that turns up this

I resist reading accounts about someone's sexuality, but in a way, that's a mistake because it becomes like erasing people's sexuality and makes it look like everyone was straight. Similar to this.


anyway, more stuff to think about.

I just re-read JanieM's opening post, and immediately these lines of T S Eliot's, from the wonderful Little Gidding, came to mind:

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

And then I re-read the whole of Little Gidding, for the first time in maybe 10 years, and this is a wonderful description of the English countryside in May, with the May-blossom weighing the hedges and hawthorn trees down (as in this picture)

If you came this way,

Taking the route you would be likely to take

From the place you would be likely to come from,

If you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges

White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness.

I remember my A-Level English teacher (prob equivalent to your first year of college) saying, when we were reading Eliot, that one didn't have to understand it completely, one just could start by giving oneself over to it completely, and I found that (and find it) very helpful.

I had terrible trouble with the formatting, by the way, so many apologies. For anyone who doesn't know it, this is Eliot's Little Gidding, one of the Four Quartets:


"It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end."
-- Ursula K. LeGuin

Well, Quebec is its own place, why should it have Asian food? Then again, it's a small world these days. I can get (admittedly not great) Chinese food in several places here in the boonies in central Maine, and actually pretty decent Thai and sushi. So who knows.

I think that our experience of just how small a world it is may be at the heart of the disconnect we feel when talking with (or about) the anti-globalization folks. Some few of them actually have issues with an economic basis. But mostly they seem to be people whose vision barely leaves their own county. And think of (chain) pizza as foreign/ethnic food. "Insular" is the description that leaps to mind.

But people have been moving around for a while now. I recall, decades ago, my parents returning from a trip to the UK with a report that they had found the best Chinese restaurant they'd ever seen. It was a roadside place at the very northern tip of Scotland. Totally out in the boonies. But some Chinese family had washed up (pardon the phrase) there and set up shop.

I do wonder if the kids spoke Cantonese with a Scots accent....

Funny about that Scotland story. Until I went to China itself, I would have said that Edinburgh was the place where I'd had both the best and the worst Chinese food I'd ever eaten. And I was only in Edinburgh for five days!

wj's story reminds me of this short film


worst Mexican food i've ever had was in Tokyo.

but i had decent Indian food in Hiroshima - because, according to the waiter, Indian restaurants are sold as turn-key enterprises. there are development companies that will provide you with everything you need, from ingredients to decor to waitstaff. get a space, they'll build it out for you and sell you the stuff to serve and the people to serve it. it's the same stuff everywhere.

... just like like Irish pubs and Chinese restaurants.

"it's the same stuff everywhere."

We are human beings adrift, yearning and seeking authenticity, the real deal, and the market and its advance men sees us as marks and dupes, keeping slightly ahead of us, like a movie filmmaker with a camera on a backwards-moving dolly, and prepackaging a turn key puppetry presentation, a fake news costume party of canned sensory set design out of a box to soothe and satisfy what we believe is a legitimate human individual whim, our free will, but if you look closely, the little Latin umbrella in your margarita purchased at the food truck in the barrio south of Mexico City was made in Shanghai, and now your reaction is factored into an algorithm by guys in suits in Kansas City, so your "experience" can be replicated for EVERYONE EVERYWHERE.

The best Chinese meal I've ever had was down a series of narrow, winding alleys in Hong Kong prepared by an elderly woman with a wok on a hot plate set on a chair and run off a small generator for power.

The best ceviche, the seafood of uncertain origin but fresh, I've ever tasted was in a nipa shack in southern Mindanao, in complete darkness, save one candle, because a typhoon had cut the power to the single light bulb dangling by its cord from the ceiling.

The only way it could have been more authentic is if I had contracted hepatitis, but I like to think the copious amounts of warm San Miguel beer that were passed around sanitized and protected my gut.

Speaking of guts, I suppose the most "interesting" appetizer I've ever tasted was prepared unpurged goat intestine in northern Luzon.

The most deliciously satisfying meal I've ever tasted was our only remaining can of tuna fish, after two weeks of rice and lentils, consumed at the end of our last day and after trekking 22 miles in a single day out of the Himalayas, which happened to be Thanksgiving Day, and reciting and haranguing and describing, out of sheer hunger because I hadn't eaten in two days because of dysentery, to my then girlfriend, later wife, dish by dish the wonderful Thanksgiving meals my mother had fed us over the years.

No wonder I'm divorced.

I've always thought the most authentic meal to attend would perhaps be in the Solomon Islands 100 years ago ... Jack London was almost the guest of honor at one of those ... where you show up, well, you are forcibly captured, kidnapped, and marinated, and YOU are the main course.

Yeah, if you look at those fish in the tanks at the suburban Chinese restaurant, you'll recognize them. They are the same exact fish you saw across town last week, and the minute you leave the restaurant, a set crew appears out of nowhere and moves the fish to a tank in the next Chinese restaurant you visit.

Of course, that's not true. Had some great Chinese food in New York City this summer.

Maybe I should make this a post, but I have one I've been working on, so I'll put this in a comment.

This radio story from This American Life

was taken from this NHK video

about a phonebooth installed to allow Japanese people who lost loved ones in the tsunami to 'talk' to them. have some tissues...

lj, I caught part of that radio story in the car the other day. Heartbreaking.

Went to the NHK video...lost it.

I've got both family and work stuff going on around me so I'll watch the rest later.

But the visuals of where the phone booth is located, coupled with knowledge of what the phone booth is, are unraveling. (I really don't have the right word.)

For all of those considering London, a plea from one of your resident Brits: there is so much, much more to the UK than London.

Yes, there are loads of museums there, so if you want to visit the V&A, the British Museum, Tower of London etc then I'm sure that'll entertain you for a week or two. Take in a few shows if there are different ones running there from NYC. Find a comedy club or two, knock yourself out.

But seriously. Take an overpriced train west, and stroll the Georgian sandstone streets of Bath for a day or two.

Explore the colleges and winding cobbled lanes of Oxford, and have a pint in Tolkien's favourite pub.

Drive carefully down to the south coast of Cornwall and take a ferry to the Scilly Isles, enjoy clotted cream and picturesque fishing villages.

Head out for a night to the Northern Quarter, Gay Village and Curry Mile of Manchester.

Take a gentle roadtrip through the rolling hills of the Peak District and the windswept North York Moors to the Brontes' home at Whitby atop crumbling sea-cliffs.

Go to York and visit the ruined Abbey Gardens, the National Rail Museum and the winding, overhanging, cobbled Shambles. Walk the stone walls of city.

Head to Edinburgh in August for the world's biggest comedy festival held beneath the granite cliffs of the Castle and Arthur's Seat. And once you're there, head into the wild heather Highlands and take winding roads to the Isle of Skye.

But don't stop in London.

The best Chinese meal I've ever had was down a series of narrow, winding alleys in Hong Kong prepared by an elderly woman with a wok on a hot plate set on a chair and run off a small generator for power.

I have nothing like your travel stories, Count, but my first meal in China was from a place sort of like this...not an alley but a little "room" created from the space between two stores. A guy cooked a wrap on a flat, round...grill? (I don't know what to call it.) Then he wrapped stuff in it, and my son and I walked around Beijing streets for a while eating our wraps, which were great.

Then I collapsed into our tiny hotel room and slept for 19 hours out of the next 24 (hoping to ward off the sore throat that got off the plane with me), until my son poked me and said, "If you don't get up, we're not going to see anything in this city."

I woke up, he took me around for several days, then we went to his city for a month.

It's great programming like that, you know, government that works, that drives republicans to defund and ruin NPR.

This article about strawberry production in the United States seems on-topic.


I eat Driscoll's berries, but there is something oddly, how to describe, invasion of the body snatchers sociopathic brainwashy about the way the corporate scientists and spokespeople talk about their "product".

If corporations are those people, get me out of here.

Head to Edinburgh in August for the world's biggest comedy festival

Just remember, if you simply go up the east coast to Edinburgh, you are missing a lot. Better to go up the west coast, go well north of Edinburgh (maybe all the way to the top), and then come back down the east side.

Also, the Lake District in England is, to my mind, a must see.

I would put the Tate Modern at the top of my list of London museums. Whenever in London, I have a tradition: spend the morning at the Tate, stroll along the Thames to the Tower Bridge, then go across to the Tower of London area. That never gets old for me ... then again, according to my more adventurous wife, I'm a creature of habit; a charge that she'll level at me again in a few weeks when we are in NYC for my birthday and I'll insist on John's Pizza, the Comedy Cellar, MoMA and a Frick/Central Park day.

Similar to the anecdote re: Chinese food in Scotland, Indian food in London never lets me down. Various historic pubs are great places to spend an evening, but it's rare that I'd recommend one for the food alone. I've never hesitated to pop into an Indian restaurant in London and I've never been disappointed (perhaps I've been lucky).

I prefer Cambridge to Oxford, but that's probably because I've had *much* better weather in former.

Bath is lovely and everyone should go at least once. A repeat visit mostly reminded me that I prefer the Irish countryside to the British, but I admit to a bias born of family heritage.

Everything that sanbikinoraion and wj say is true, but remember this: despite food in the UK having improved beyond all recognition in the last 20 years, and it being possible in London and some other big cities to eat as well as anywhere in Europe (but not the world!), in most of the UK if you just wander into the nearest place to eat you will probably be eating somewhere between mediocrely and appallingly.

I'm still steeling myself to listen to and watch lj's pieces....

"family heritage"

Foghorn Leghorn or Lady Cluck?


"Uncle" Horn is claims some distant relation and always shows up at family gatherings drunk and looking for investors some harebrained scheme. Other than a weakness for drink he shows no Irish characteristics.

Lady Kluck is a member of the imperial oppressor class.

Explore the colleges and winding cobbled lanes of Oxford, and have a pint in Tolkien's favourite pub...

If you're feeling flush, then book a table on the roof terrace of the Ashmolean, a kind of miniature British Museum, recently renovated, with a superb collection.
I'd also recommend the Pitt Rivers museum, a mildly eccentric and thoroughly delightful anthropological collection retaining its Victorian organisation.

to the Brontes' home at Whitby atop crumbling sea-cliffs...
Surely they lived in Howarth - a Yorkshire Pennine village ? (Though Anne did die in the coastal town of Scarborough, while visiting to treat her TB.)

the Lake District in England is, to my mind, a must see...

Yes. the North Lakes are the less touristed, if you truly wish to wander lonely as a cloud.
(Fun fact, Wordsworth's Daffodils can be sung to the tune of Nena's 99 Luftballons...)

in most of the UK if you just wander into the nearest place to eat you will probably be eating somewhere between mediocrely and appallingly

I suppose it depends on what you are after. IMHO, fast food in Britain (whether pasties or pub grub in general) is vastly superior to what you would get in the US. Actual restaurant fare may be worse, but if I'm just grabbing a quick bite to eat....

wj: hmm. Well I suppose the stuff you mention falls on the mediocre side of the continuum I mention, which if one is travelling and in a hurry, is acceptable. It's probably true that it is (slightly) healthier than a lot of fat-soaked US fast food. I guess I was really talking about restaurants - if you're staying in a hotel or B+B in say the Lake District, your chances of finding decent food (not gourmet offerings, just decent fresh ingredients properly cooked) without doing any research are pretty minimal. Almost all pub grub, for example, is frozen or boil-in-the-bag, and all supplied from the same huge factories.

Well, it may well be that pub grub has gone down hill in the decades since I was rattling around Britain.

It occurs to me that it was in the mid-1970s. Interesting how, when we have only been somewhere a time or two, it is always frozen in time in our minds.

I think I'd rather take my chances on finding a tolerable restaurant quickly in the UK than in the USA. Though that probably depends on what part of the country one's in.

The really striking thing about the USA is how hard it is in much of the country to buy good food to prepare at home.

your chances of finding decent food (not gourmet offerings, just decent fresh ingredients properly cooked) without doing any research are pretty minimal...

That is, perhaps, true GFTNC - but tripadvisor etc and mobile phones make that remarkably easy these days. And make it easier for the better establishments to find their customers.

In any event, if we're considering the thread's fantasy budget, there are some truly outstanding places to eat around the Lakes.

No argument there are some great places to eat near the Lakes, and indeed elsewhere, but you have to research where they are, you can't just assume that you'll happen upon them. Personally, I have close to zero trust in TripAdvisor, I think most people on there are in love with the chance to play food critic, without any of the necessary knowledge or skills; in other words, the wisdom of crowds is not always wise. I trust Jay Rayner, Giles Coren and, most of all, Marina O'loughlin. Also personal recommendations of course, and to some extent The Good Food Guide. You may consider all this too precious and over the top. But then, I did grow up in Hong Kong, a place so obsessed with food that it's not that unusual to travel from restaurant to restaurant for each course!

A brief bucket list...

A round of golf (or two!) at Pebble Beach with McKinney.

A tour of just a couple dingy motels in Ohio with Marty.

Some place in one of the Carolinas to see Bellmore's chicken coop and check out his light bulbs and illegal toilet.

A week anywhere with the Count

Visit Russell in New England during early fall for some chowder, talk, and touring.

Machu Picchu and some of the upper Amazon.

Two weeks in Spain.

Two weeks in Costa Rica on the beach, but I get bored rapidly just sitting around on a beach.

A month at a villa in a small coastal village in Italy.

Backpack through India. Probably meet a bunch of Aussies doing the same thing.

Many Irish pubs.

Too many places, too little time.

"A tour of just a couple dingy motels in Ohio with Marty."

Somewhere near a few local karaoke bars, a live band blues bar or two and an Indians game, only if the Count can come too.

A few drinks with JanieM, at a jazz bar with russell maybe, we could swap stories more interesting than Halt and Catch Fire.

A evening in the Lake country with GftNC, maybe complete with a small venue Dylan concert.

A trip to Jersey for a real headbangers concert with hsh, and maybe a quiet afternoon meeting the kids.The full spectrum.

Even though it's been mostly in NA, I have spent the better part of three decades on the road. Now it is only the people at the destination that get my walking shoes engaged.

That pretty much completes my list,

I'm in.

I wanna sneak on to Bellmore's property too and see what's up. You guys make some noise in the other direction while I come in the back way so the AR-15 isn't pointed in my direction.

A trip to Jersey for a real headbangers concert with hsh, and maybe a quiet afternoon meeting the kids.The full spectrum.

I'm not so sure the afternoon with the kids would be any quieter than the headbanger concert, but you're always welcome here, Marty.

I need to add, On my way out of Ohio I would love to spend a night in Slarts barn. Fresh hay, a barn cat or two and maybe a view out of the loft to an open night sky, an owl to listen to, crickets, frogs, Maybe a distant train just before dawn. Fresh eggs, scratch biscuits, milk with the cream sitting on the top.

Ok, I just imagine(and avidly hope) that Slart got to have all that.

"I wanna sneak on to Bellmore's property too and see what's up. You guys make some noise in the other direction while I come in the back way so the AR-15 isn't pointed in my direction."

If you guys can draw him away, with enough of a distraction, I'll change all his lightbulbs.

Thanks, Marty. Maybe one of these days we'll manage it.

As for Slarti -- when did he fade out of here? And are you suggesting that he's an Ohioan? I didn't know that, or maybe I just didn't remember it.

If Slarti doesn't come through and you're ever passing through central Maine, I can offer a barn and some semi-barn cats; a view out of the loft over the rolling land; maybe an owl calling, or a fox or coyote; crickets and frogs but only one or the other at a time since they mostly sing in different seasons; maybe a train whistle.

It's not really a farm, though, so we'd have to buy the eggs and milk and make the biscuits ourselves. The owner, with whom I'm usually on good terms, might let us pick some blueberries if it's the right season.

As for the smell of hay, it was long ago replaced with the smell of sweat and basketball leather.

(P.S. We mentioned this a while back, and I finally remembered that you can embed a picture in a comment, but it has to have been uploaded somewhere. Unlike eight or so years ago when I tried it, sites like Flickr now have embed buttons that make it a piece of cake. Clicking on the photo should lead to my Flickr photostream, which I've been neglecting since my photo group disbanded after four years of sharing stuff, but which include a lot of lovely Maine scenery, plus some Cambridge and some northeastern Ohio -- fall color, covered bridges, ice storms.....)

That's pretty awesome Janie. I love a basketball court. I think he is in Indiana these days, not a far piece from Ohio. Fading away from us.

I can't take any credit for the projects around here -- it's my ex (yes, we both still live on the same property) who is the energetic person of many projects. I did contribute years of being the crabby lady on the corner who kept track of the kids who played in the barn and who, like kids everywhere, could never remember the rules very well, like: bring separate shoes, change them downstairs especially in mud season, put the balls away when you're done, don't break the lower "little kids" basket because it's so tempting to try to dunk on it, call before you come, etc.

The rule that you would have thought was most obvious -- don't have fire in the barn -- was never broken by a kid as far as I know, but by an asshole adult guy (who was brought in by one of the regulars who used the basketball court for many years) who I once saw light a cigarette, blow the match out, and throw it down into one of the (at that time) neglected parts of the lower level, where there was at that time still a lot of rotting old hay. IDIOT!!!!! What is the matter with people?!?

(Okay, it's a travel thread. This is a central Maine barn basketball episode. ;-)

Slart disappeared on election day.

I miss him.

I picture him hog-splitting.

I suspect the hogs have other priorities.

Slart's discussion of rutting goat smell had me both repelled (apparently can be noticed a mile a way) and curious (ok, how bad is it really...).

I love Marty's list, and especially his amazingly evocative description of Slarti's barn and what you can see/hear/eat in the vicinity. Truly a fine fantasy.

(I'm also delighted by Snarki's idea of changing Brett's lightbulbs).

JanieM, I'd love to be able to embed pictures, and not just links to them. I'll see if I can work it out, and if not, I'll ask for help.

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