to Travels with Samantha
These were sent by friends of mine on a mailing list while I was
actually on the road or by folks who saw chapters posted on rec.travel
in the months before I added the photographs and converted the
chapters to HTML.
i have actually read almost every line, and then faithfully deleted
them, but part of your adventures are hashcoded in my own memory.
the symposium wd seem to be a good dialog to read now-- i am wondering
what the point to this intense loneliness is, and aristophanes fable is
as accurate an explanation as sociobiological stories that point out
that the level of suffering among individuals is not finetuned. so long
as a person suffers enough to force the right types of herd behavior, no
master accountant turns the volume down if it appears excessive for
achieving the desired behavior. lament, lament.
one thing i have wondered: have you considered picking someone up to
travel with? if i were going it alone, i wonder how far i would go before
linking to almost anyone adrift... of course,in order to linkup,
and travel together, the biggest question is not how to connect, but how
to disengage. maybe no one wd take me up when i made it clear that i
wd have to reserve the right to disengage, even keeeping the right to make
a french exit, since explanations can require all the resources that one
is trying to rescue by parting.
but, have you thought about asking some of these waitresses, come, ride
with me for a while?
Paul Whitmore (email@example.com) [commenting in real time on Chapter VII]
In answer to your query of "why aren't more people writing back to
me", in my case it's not because your travelogue is uninteresting or
dull, but quite the opposite. I feel that a well-written and
observant account of travels, which I consider your notes to be,
deserves an equally well-thoughout commentary or response.
So far as Travels With Samantha (TWS) go, you might indeed turn this
into something more formal, particularly if you flesh out your reports
with additional background on the places you have visited. (Not to
say that what you already have -- e.g. the Alaska Highway -- is
deficient.) That attribute - the at times almost scholarly account of
things past - is one of the most appealing things about Bruce
Chatwin's In Patagonia and The Songlines. You might be amused by
Bill Bryson's The Lost Continent, a somewhat snide account of
Bryson's rediscovery of small-town America, an automobile odyssey
prompted by the death of Bryson's father. This is a funny book, but
is lacking in that the book has only one voice, Bryson's whether
insightful or carping. TWS is rather more interesting in that you
actually talk to people :) Bryson's journey is hermetic - he at best
passes through without interaction.
Well, enough bitching about Boston. Now I'll bitch about SE Asian
Chinese. I know that many Vancouverites are very unhappy, to put it
mildly, about the colonization of Vancouver by expatriate Hong Kongers.
I suspect that some of this is due to xenophobia, jealousy or whatever
happens when the affluent move into a relatively less affluent area.
(Much like the Somervillian resentment of "Barney" students. Remember
those incidents ?) On the other hand, I find many HKers crass, rude and
grasping. This embarasses me to some extent, in much the same way that
I cringe when I encounter the Ugly American, even though I am not from
HK and don't understand a quack of Cantonese. (It's also annoying that
people think all Chinese sounds like "Hoy ding wak foo !") In other words,
the new immigrants are not entirely blameless. The equation of material
possessions with one's virtue or worth is all too common with HKers;
you can see dozens of imported German sedans and sleek Rolls
Royces that barely fit the streets and are entirely impractical for the
island of HK. This attitude showed up on rec.photo even, where some
person was smugly bragging about his F4s and how it made him superior to
mere 8008s owners, I recall.
Michael Chuang (chuang@froto.BIH.Harvard.Edu)
Thanks for sending the [Berlin/Prague diary]. I had a tougher time
becoming absorbed into it, just because it dived right away into
issues like the residues of Communism and Naziism that remain complex
and painful even from afar (let alone for people who both suffered and
took part). I thought at first that you were overmatched by the
immensity of the experience. Who wouldn't be? But as in your
American voyage, your writing captures a fine blend of history,
observation, and personal experience. Bon voyage!
Dennis Ritchie (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Humble semi-retraction: my friends from Australia have just come
back to Boston after a trip up through Vermont to Quebec/Ontario,
across to Chicago, and back by way of Pennsylvania etc. They remark
enviously on the number of towns they passed through holding
Shakespeare in the Park (or whatever) for the summer; apparently
even closely adjacent towns run separate productions. What with
that and the year-round festivals at Stratford and Niagara on the Lake,
they feel Australia is insufficiently into culture . . .
Caroline Webb (email@example.com)
Kris and I have been reading your wonderful travel accounts with great
pleasure out here in California! Please keep me on your mailing list
I've been reading and reading and reading to get up to speed with
Oracle's C coding standards, database software, security systems,
etc. I thought I had heard all the stories about why C and UNIX are
lousy, but reading the Oracle C coding standards revealed a hidden
supply of even more inconsistencies, bugs, and just plain brain
damage. The things Oracle has had to do to get around lousy
implementations alone boggle the mind! The good thing is that there
are plenty of people are here with whom to flame about C. I may to
keep quiet about UNIX, though.
Arthur Gleckler (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hey Philip! After a week of John's mom being camped out in the living
room with my modem, and another week of the OCF remote login being
defunct, I finally became frustrated and anxious enough to trundle
over to the university and wrestle with the 200 lb. computer here to
find out how the hell your trip to Alaska is going. Sorry about the
delay! Your trip sounds blissful so far -- right down to the romantic
daliance in King Salmon (ah, can Jewish couples ever get their acts
together?). I am inspired by your flourishing descriptions of the
Upper One; can't wait to arrive myself. On the other hand, the
environment can be quite harsh at times, brutally so. I've had
friends who were flying in small planes when the engine froze, and who
fell thousands of feet into spear-like trees below (which saved them,
actually); also friends who were bitten/swiped by bears, or who fell
victim to hypothermia. In a way, these cautionary tales make me
respect the wild, throbbing, harsh beauty of the country more.
Marion Kelly (native Alaska; no Internet address right now)
Those of us who live and work in what you so blithely describe as
middle-of-nowhere (as in "Kansas City, St. Louis, middle of nowhere"
from the end of your latest Samantha episode) are highly insulted. :-)
Middle of nowhere, indeed.... grumble, grumble, grumble....
Elke paints a very rosy picture of East Germany, but you know the
prejudices and re-education that went on there were pretty horrendous.
I traveled there during the bad old days, and the police state
mentality that they all lived in was not to be believed. Did I tell
you about my exodus from East Germany during my trip there in the
70's? It would make your hair stand on end. I'll be glad to discuss
all this with you should you pass through _my_ middle of nowhere.
Naomi Lewin (lewinnj@WKUVX1.BITNET)
Some quick title ideas: "Faces On The Road", "Main Street, Malls, and
Me: An American Joyride", "Dispatches From The Minivan Front",
"Travels With Samantha", "Dirty Sex In My Minivan" (not artistic but
will grab readers), "Boston To Alaska: Faces and Places", "The Single
White Male Computer-hacker Photographer's Guide To Travel Across The
Americas", "How To Meet Girls In Tourist Locales", "Summer of '93: An
American Odyssey", "Last Night In Philadelphia", ...
Jon K. Hirschtick (70451.3170@CompuServe.COM)
your last missile [Chapter XVI] was the best. it seemed to be the most
searching, and the honesty of your own experience comes through. it's
the first one i am keeping, but you should set up an ftp site with the
others, so i cd point people toward the alaskan writings.
i spent the summer of 76 outside telluride, a mile before placerville,
at that time, just a general store/gas station with a population on the
sign of 112. i learned a lot about small time desperation. this was
before people looked forward to salvation by fiber.
the first time i met you at a party at Neil's, when john klein got you
to argue over the pronunciation of samoyed, i remember saying that i
thought it wd be fun to write for the Weekly World News. and your answer
was just, "so why don't you do that?"
it is just as clear in reading the way you spent the summer travelling,
that you are at least trying to determine what you want to do. There
isn't much to talk about, when you must act at some point.
probably i am not the only person who responds to your claim, that there
isnt much to look forward to from a hurried reply by email from an
overworked east coast friend. net-exchanges seem so un-nourishing, and
yet, this is one among the millions. it is haunting me how far away
from Living life can get.
Paul Whitmore (email@example.com)
I went to a party last night at which there was someone who had worked in
Munich this past summer. She said she witnessed 5 racial attacks there
by Germans, including one by a German guy who punched an Indian woman
on a metro---the car was full, but no one intervened.
Another time another German harangued two Indians, angry that they were
coming to Germany to take his job, using up his resources and so on. Turns
out they were Indian-Brits in Germany on vacation!
This is apropos of your story in the Utah diary about meeting the
German "ambassadors" at Delicate Arch. [Chapter XV]
Robert Ashcroft (firstname.lastname@example.org)
OK, I'm adding this to my list of (bike-)books, another preview of
coming atttractions. Will what follows be aggreeable by you?
............O/ O ______________________ ______________ ______________ ______
Tales o'type wo/man travels by bike discovers self other cultures writes
| David Fenimore _Bicycling Across America a Journal on the Open
| Road_; Pinedrop Press'89 pbk $10________________ 0962162701
|Philip Greenspun _Looking For Ms. Jewish Forrest Ranger_; (working
| title); Yet Unpublished'93______________________ 0000000000
| Utterly bored with his day-to-day menial existence
| in the TechBelt aound Boston, Mass, surrounded by
| hardware and software up to here and yet unable to
| pinpoint the exact cause of his dissatisfaction
| with how things are going Philip Greenspun embarks
| on a journey of reacquaintance with nature across
| America, by any means possible, be they cushy if
| no other option. Sure, Walden and all that, but
| there's really no reason not to avail oneself of
| Room Servide where such available, is there? 30
| days and 5000 Frequent-Flyer miles later he reali-
| zes that the real meaning of it all was, let's
| face it, dating different Jewish brunettes, dif-
| ferent from those that he's left at home. Why?
| Because only on such dates could both of them
| bloom, er, kvetch together how hard it is for
| them to meet and date other Jews. That, plus a
| realization, that sprung upon him ut of the blue
| while standing on a wooden platform overlooking
| the famous bear salmon-feeding grounds at Katmai
| In Alaska, that many a nature's creature lead
| "completely worthless lives: they sleep, they eat,
| they fuck then they sleep again... what's the
| point of it all?" What, indeed (except that he
| didn't use the F word). Find all about it in the
| book; satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.
| Brunettes take note: still unattached (blondes,
| redheads, younamethemheads too)..
Brian Hall _Stealing from a Deep Place: travels in south-
eastern Europe_; (Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania)
Heinemann Minerva London'88 271pp 24cm ($19)____ 0749390239
Ian Feldman (email@example.com)
I read your Alaska trip postings, partially because I too was in Alaska
this summer; in fact, we were about two days ahead of you throughout
most of your itinerary. Interesting how two people can have very
different perceptions of the same place, depending on their respective
interests and biases (and luck). For example, we took the backpacker's
bus (twenty or so people, including several off-duty park rangers) into
Denali and spent four days in the backcountry; on the second day,
we had what the Eielson Visitor's Center ranger later described to us
as the clearest weather in 40 days. We just happened to be camped
directly under Mount McKinley, and the view that greeted us as we
crawled out of the tent made up for all the mosquitoes falling into
the stew the previous evening. We saw a great deal of wildlife up close
and personal, and it was wonderful. I seem to remember you had bad
weather and worse company on the tourist bus, and didn't like the place
But it seems you are more interested in the other travelers, and I
am more interested in the locals and the locales, and neither view
is more valid than the other, of course. And you filter everything
through your own biases as a Jewish intellectual city-bred yuppie man,
whereas I filter everything through my completely different biases as
a Jewish intellectual city-bred yuppie woman...
Ilana Stern (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Many of these people were much happier than my friends. They
derived satisfaction from things that have made people happy
for thousands of years, e.g., children, money, religion.
The typical Harvard/MIT lifestyle looked very high-risk by
comparison ....Thinking about all these friends growing older,
unmarried and childless, I shuddered the way I would
watching a family stake their whole fortune on double-zero
at a Vegas roulette table.
I think you base too much of your impressions here on graduate
students. Graduate students are some of the unhappiest people on
earth. When those same individuals get tenure at some nice
university, they tend to be quite content. Most of them even marry
and have children. Being academics, they often have more time to
spend with their families than other professionals. MIT may not be
representative. My professors at Bryn Mawr were often quite content.
Why be a professional at all? First because professions offer
interesting work. Intellectual stimulation is a pleasure, and to go
without it during your prime hours would be a sacrifice. Second
because some semblance of financial security does make life more
pleasant. People often will say that an individual didn't need that
new car or that vacation, and it's true. On the other hand, who would
say they didn't need to send their child to that doctor or that it
wasn't better not to be homeless even though their house was just
destroyed by some natural disaster? It's convenient that striving for
material success and striving for career advancement are often one in
Karen S. Zukor (email@example.com)
In defense of liberals: I think that Clinton's greatest achievement so
far is more philisophical than practical. Neither Reagan nor Bush had
any respect for truth or for intelectual process. To them, the truth
was whatever was politically convenient. Witness accepting voodoo
economics, star wars, supply side economics (what ever its virtues,
it wasn't going to increase tax revenues), changing the definitions of
the Commerce department economic measures to improve the appearence of
the economy, phoney budget projections, lauding and then satanizing
Saddam Hussain, etc. Truth is of course, difficult to ascertain, but
I believe that we should have faith in the idea that it exists and
that we can attempt to uncover it (I am not a cultural relativist)
Then we can argue about the best course of action. I believe Clinton
shares these ideas. He may be a pragmatist, and even sometimes a
liar, but there is a respect there that was totally missing in Reagan
Joel Fajans (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bummer about Rebecca. Double bummer about the robbery in Philadelphia.
The backpack I used to travel throughout Europe, and a year later, around
the world, was stolen in Philadelphia. Ironically it had survived
numerous third world capitals- Kathmandu,Cairo, Bangkok, etc. Similar
to your story, they broke the window on my friend's new Explorer to get to it.
Is there anybody that isn't burglarized in Philly?
Mark Gittes (gittes@ucsu.Colorado.EDU)