“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
–Mark Twain, “Mark Twain: The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It”
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
–St. Augustine of Hippo
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”
–James A. Michener
Despite my posting my travel pictures here over the years, let me state that I am not the consummate traveler.
I recently discovered that, despite now being into late middle age, I am still capable of
rash quick decisions.
Growing up, I had several memorable summer jobs.
From the time I was 12, I used to go back to my aunt and uncle’s farm in Huntington West Virginia most summers. My uncle was a contractor who built sewer and water plants, and he liked to say to those who asked what he did, “It may be !@#$ to some, but to me it’s my bread and butter“.
At one time he was the largest contractor in West Virginia, with jobs from Indiana to Camp Lejeune, NC.
I think my uncle was a character, and he seemed to work at it to keep that title.
That farm for a 12 year old boy was a magical place, with a jeep to drive, horses to ride, and .22 rifles to shoot. It was in the family for 200 years in what was the western part of Virginia and the house, modernized in the late 30s, was originally 2 adjacent two-story cabins. Some of the Wilsons from Lancaster County along the Rappahannock River decided go west and settle there.
When I later went to school in Virginia, I thought nothing of driving the 700 miles round trip on US Rt 60 over the Shenandoahs just to share a weekend with my aunt and uncle.
They were that special to me.
Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins left the earth for the long voyage to the moon. I can still remember the world-wide anticipation that built for months to this moment. From the moment they left, their progress was on all the news programs.
In my mind anyway, it started 12 years earlier when the Soviets launched Sputnik. With that launch, the implication of ICBMs hitting us was clear. The nation was in an absolute panic. If you were in elementary school, you would regularly perform the “duck and cover” drill, going under your desk. Even at a relatively young age, I thought that was silly. But I remember growing up in Los Angeles hearing the Civil Defense sirens with practice runs.
When I was in Germany all those years ago, I was interested in talking to Germans about the war. I met a middle-aged couple on the train who admitted that until Stalingrad, they thought Hitler was great. And, knowing the condition Germany was in after the first World War, I could understand them if not agree with them. Even in the late 30s after Krystallnacht, those Germans who could not see the evil coming chose to ignore it.
With a long time friend of mine, a computer programmer of the first rate, we have had this discussion several times over the years. He started programming in the late 70s as did I.
We’ve seen industries come and go – both in hardware and software. Billions of dollars made…and then with the next technological wave, gone. It’s really been an amazing thing to witness.
Funny thing, the first thing that came to my mind while reading this was a wonderful book by Erik Larson *, entitled In The Garden of Beasts. In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt had a difficult time finding someone in the State Department who wanted to be ambassador in newly-elected Chancellor Hitler’s Berlin (imagine that!) so he picked a University of Chicago Professor, William E. Dodd.
The book to me was fascinating in that it profiled the Dodd family against life in Berlin, as it was changing with the Nazis seizing control. Control not only of the government but public life and thought.
I think I will have to read it again as it has been a few years.