A guy approaches me on Bourbon Street. He bets me twenty bucks he can tell me where I got my shoes. I know he’ll never guess the Queenstown outlet store. He says, “Now don’t be mad. I didn’t say I’d tell you where you bought those shoes. I bet you I could tell you where you got those shoes. You got those shoes on Bourbon Street, in New Orleans, in Louisiana.” I give the man his twenty, and swinging from a lamppost, I order another Hurricane.
In western Montana’s Glacier National Park, my wife and daughter and I drive up Going-to-the-Sun Road towards Canada. We go most of the way. At a certain point our flatlander DNA kicks in, and we have to turn around and go back. The increasing altitude and sheer drop-offs are not working for two-thirds of us, the driver and the navigator. Peg and I blame it on having just visited the vertigo-inducing http://www.montanavortex.com/ , which is either a rare and fascinating quantum anomaly or a clever roadside carny trick. Either way, that rented mid-range we’re driving makes a U-ey and comes back down to earth before ever really nearing the border, much less the sun. Also, there are women at the ski resort skiing in bikinis, so for a couple days now, I’ve been kind of dizzy anyway.
In Key West we enjoy one of the meals of our lifetime. We’re with close friends, and new friends, and my sister and brother-in-law, at Blue Heaven http://www.blueheavenkw.com/. We eat and we drink and we taste off everybody’s plates, and we have one of those above-the-call-of-duty servers, nothing but sweet tolerance and snappy comebacks. We’d had cocktails before dinner in their courtyard where Hemingway used to referee boxing matches; where there’s a rooster graveyard and local chickens are allowed to roam free, perhaps as penance for the establishment’s historical cock fighting years. We dine upstairs, in what used to be a whorehouse.
When someone we love dearly dies, Peggy and I go to the Mississippi River, and we visit Elvis Presley in Memphis. We worship the birth of Rock-n-Roll at Sun Studios, party on Beale Street to an array of music from back-alley Saturday Night jams to Sunday morning gospel, and eat us a fried peanut butter and jelly damned sandwich so good it’d curl your upper lip.
We get engaged Disneyland-adjacent, see Ireland with the best of travel companions, and visit the World Trade Center both before and after.
“Travel brings power and love back into your life,” wrote the 13th century Persian poet Runi.
St. Augustine said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
And while all this is true, there’s nothing like coming back home across that Bay Bridge.