Thoughtful US Reactions
to Travels with Samantha
I have just finished reading your book. As I am extremely
overwhelmed by the gargantuan amount of wisdom and the
myriad penetrating observations on your North American
journey, I will just make a few observations of mine own.
1. I grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs of New Jersey,
which you observed as having an inferiority complex
relative to their neighboring city that has an inferiority
complex of its own. Some idiots broke the window in my
car in 1982 near the Penn campus and stole my briefcase.
My loss was about $100 compared to your $30,000. I was
pissed. You must have been near death with apoplexy.
2. I live in Fort Collins, CO where I work for HP, as you
could probably tell from my e-mail address. I have lived
in Colorado for 11 years. In Fort Collins, I have never
been geographically farther from the problems of the
real world. That fact seemed extremely bizarre to me
when I moved here.
Nevertheless, since I live in a relatively small town
compared to the Boston/NY/Philly/Wash. D.C. megalopolis,
I have observed that people who live in smaller places
are almost exactly like people who live in big places,
except they don't worry so much about getting mugged. I
thought when I moved here that smaller-town folks would
be ignorant of many of the ways of the sophisticated
urban world. This notion was absurd. Big city people are
not caustic and invincible, as small-town people think they
are, and small-town people are not quaint hicks, as big-
city people think they are.
There are actually some differences. Mid-Westerners'
priorities are different. California
is the ultimate triumph of style over substance and the
Northeast runs a close second. Of course the East Coast
style is to chase the same empty things but to coat it
with the veneer of Puritanism or Quakerism rather than
Hollywood glitz. So what are the priorities of people
in Fort Collins? Our children, our schools, our houses,
the howling wind, and to a certain extent, our work. Showing
off your material possessions or worse yet, gathering
material possessions that you can't afford, is *very* bad
form out here. And it's nice to not have to worry about it.
3. I thoroughly enjoyed your account of your time in Colorado.
Your history of Aspen penetrated to the essence of the place.
Aspen is owned by mostly useless people who don't do jack
for the community except pay lots of taxes and pump up the
prices to staggering levels. Imagine our resentment here
on the Front Range in the late '80's when our property
values dropped for five years straight and the couple of
square miles in Aspen, just a couple of hundred miles away,
were skyrocketing. The only nice thing that I can say about
Aspen is that is a real town, unlike Vail, which is
Disneyland in the Rockies.
4. You hit the nail on the head for Boulder. Consider this -
Boulder and Fort Collins are about the same size (if anything
Fort Collins is a bit bigger) and they are both university
towns with universities of about the same size. But as
mentioned above, Fort Collins' priorities are children,
school, house, and community. Boulder's priorities are
tofu, Birkenstocks, monks banging on drums, and earth mothers.
Boulder considers itself to be the academic and intellectual
center of the universe. Fort Collins considers Boulder to
be a place where the clock stopped in mid-1969. As far as
I am personally concerned, Boulder is filled with hypocrites
who've been doing drugs for too long to have any contact
with reality (who said Midwesterners were narrow-minded ?:-).
The girl you called in Boulder, the "world-class caustic
nympho bitch," is probably one of the nicer girls in
5. The women out here are better looking than on the coasts.
This is a blatant statement, but when I go to the Boston
area, not only do I hate the women's clothes and hairstyles,
I can't even figure out how they work. The women here are
solid - big butts, strong arms, erect posture, straight
hair, and good values. Well, maybe not all of them . . .
6. I enjoyed your account of your conversations with the
your Boston friends. Everybody thinks their opinion is
the only one that counts and everybody on the coasts is
a victim. Tell your half-Japanese girlfriend featured
in the minority travel article to quit her whining and
get a life.
7. In Fort Collins engineers are cool and lawyers are scum.
It took several years for me to get my Philadelphia-bred
head wrapped around that.
8. My wife and my dad are both WASP graduates of the University
of Pennsylvania. Neither of them ever observed that the
place was JAP-dominated, but as I am a Drexel alum, I agreed
with your observations about Penn.
HP Workstation Systems Division
i have found the first few chapters of your book, having taken too
much time from work to read them, a wonderful surprise. looking as
i was for the "best of something," instead, i found a warm, intimate,
energetic personal adventure.
such an adventure: loss, discovery, bleak doldrums, the
triumph of human spirit.
what has struck me most are the people. how you meet them and what
they say. the spirit to reach out to so many compels the reader to
invest in this work.
your loss of George is very moving - i found it very personal. as
a child my family had 4 dogs. their deaths are milestones in my life.
one, our oldest, collapsed with cancer while my parents were away.
having no credit cards or money or means of reaching my folks, i had a
hard time securing treatment, then a harder time putting him to sleep.
let me, though, not finish on this note. instead, let me tell you that
your work here is very good and that i look forward to finishing your
book in the next few days.
you have given a gift to the net.
Michael Ryan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I was pleased to read your east-coast centricism melt in the
face of the basic goodness of people. However, did you ever
consider that it's easier to be nice to someone you've only
just met, while be contemptuous of someone you've known for a
I have always heard that Australians spend the year after their
high school graduation traveling the globe. I would hope that
being exposed to other cultures--and prejudices--would help you
examine your own culture and prejudices.
One of the great shocks to most Americans who travel, is that
most people would not leave their native land to live here. I
suppose that we Americans assume that we are the land of milk
and honey, but pooh-pooh our violent streak, which is what many
foreigners fear most about America.
Doug Schwartz (email@example.com)
Projects handed in, finals over, professors kept at bay
for yet another quarter, I finally had time for the pleasure of
finishing your book.
Your last chapter especially was very interesting. In seventy years
it will no doubt find its place in the "Generation X Anthology."
I've often thought that one of the most distinguishing aspects of
modern life is the ease (rapidity, cheapness, availability) of
communication. And yet, as you drew farther from your life at MIT
email messages became less important. (Do you think that would have
happened if America Online had been working for the whole journey?)
Somehow it strikes me as remarkable that by travelling in space you
can escape the Network.
Of all the travel books I've read, the only commonality is a
search for emptiness.
Zachary Mason (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I have just finished the first chapter of Travels with Samantha and
was very touched. I have had a similar experience with my own dog,
Spike, and have often thought of writing down everything I could
remember of our lives together before the memories are completely
faded. It's been a few years and I still have trouble bringing him to
mind without getting all teary eyed. Spike too was more than a pet
and my best friend never to be replaced. He also was put to rest
because of cancer, but I had to do it on my birthday when I couldn't
stand his condition any more. Maybe George and Spike will meet
somewhere in the hereafter.
I will finish your book, and then try to do some writing of my own,
you have inspired me.
Rich Casella (email@example.com)
As a Mormon, and someone who was married in the Salt Lake Temple, I
was very impressed with your impressions of Salt Lake and Temple
Square. I've always wanted to know an honest non-LDS perspective to
my church's buildings and beliefs, and you provided it. Also your
comment on how early Mormons were faced with blatant disregard to
their constitutional rights is very interesting.
I kept a copy of your picture of Temple Square--one of the nicest
pictures I've found on the Net of that place. Also your pictures
of Delicate Arch are great.
Bruce Walton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I wanted to comment on a remark that Charles in Girdwood made:
"The most important obligation a person has is to exceed his parents'
level of knowledge."
which, IMHO, would better be stated:
"The most important obligation a person has is to ensure that his
children's level of knowledge exceeds his own"
Well, you've managed to make me spend an entire afternoon reading
your story rather than doing the work I'm supposed to be doing. I
started out reading a little bit, going back to work for a while,
then reading a bit more. As the afternoon wore on, the periods of
reading got longer and the periods of work got shorter, until I spent
the last 1 1/2 hours reading the last half of the book.
You've described a journey I've always wanted to take. The thought of
spending a few months on the road, visiting with the people I meet along the
way has always fascinated me. Perhaps this will inspire me to actually go
out and do it.
This is far and away the most enjoyable thing I've found on the web so far.
I hope I can find a few more stories like this. You certainly have
my vote for BoWWW. Now, if I could only remember how to vote...
Steve Sandke (email@example.com)
I finally finished _Travels With Samantha_ pant pant pant. If I flunk
out of grad school, it is YOUR fault! ;-)
I liked it a great deal. I usually demand that stories have plots,
but in this case there were enough interesting reflections that I
wasn't put out by it. You are obviously a man of great observational
powers, with the reasoning skills to be able to use the observations
well and the writing skills to be able to disseminate them well. This
is rare. I found the ebook precious. Thanks.
Kaitlin Duck Sherwood (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I found *Travels with Samantha* to be absolutely addictive; it was all
I could do to restrict myself to reading "only" 2 or 3 chapters per
day (too bad I have to work for a living--and access to Internet). I
found the pictures to be a fine bonus (I "stole" one of Mount
Rainier), but found my deepest appreciation was for the ability you
have to portray your own emotional reactions to relationships--with
people, animals, and your physical environment. My own list of
memorable moments leans heavily toward fleeting conversations with
"strangers:" in an airport (Syracuse, NY), trains (between Albuquerque
and Los Angeles), airplanes (numerous), a restaurant in Switzerland, a
living room in Enna, Italy (Sicily), and an alumni meeting for a
school I didn't go to. My limitation of speaking only English has
probably prevented others. Now that I think about it, most of these
encounters have been when I was traveling alone...
Carol LaDelfe (email@example.com)
Heh. I've been using UNIX since 1974 and I resemble that remark
I'm focussed in my interests. I'm a member of GOSA, the Geyser
Observation and Study Association. I found that you seem to have
investigated roughly five times as many attractive women as geysers
while you were in Yellowstone. To each his own. If you hadn't seen
Echinus at midnight, though, I would have been sure you were purely
a poseur. Not one word about Grand, about Castle, the Lion Group,
the difficulty of catching Beehive, the maniacally explosive madness
that is Fan & Mortar, the isolated ocean of Artemisia...did
you see nothing of any of these?
How can you say you saw America? If you saw as little of the rest
of America as you have written about the geysers of Yellowstone, you
saw nothing. Echinus at midnight is a fugitive glimpse, no more.
If you go to the Artists Paint Pots, and continue to the right around
the hill, you will come to an acid sulphate area, where sulfur
crystals litter the ground. A perpetually spouting spring there has
a blood-red interior, like none other in the park. If you instead
continue to the left around the hill, you will come to Geyser Creek,
where a field of geysers and hot springs erupts continually, unseen
by any but the knowledgeable visitor. Neither of these places is more
than a mile from the road. The first I found by accident - not even
the Park Geologist knew it had become so active in the years since
it had last been visited. I was lost at the time.
You should be more lost.
Mike O'Brien (firstname.lastname@example.org)
i just finished reading your book (instead of studying for my operating
systems final, typical) and have to say that it is great. i'm a computer
science student here and have spent the last few months wondering if this
was the right thing for me because it seems that so few people get to
spend part of their life making trips like this. just reading about your
trip made me realize that work didn't have to be my only life, even if i
was going into such a demanding profession (and one that seems to swallow
people up and let them burn out a few years later). this realization is
really important to me right now.
alex wetmore (email@example.com.CC.CMU.EDU)
>Next time something you buy falls apart, consider this: among our friends
>from the MIT Class of `82, only a handful are actually designing
>products. The rewards of an engineering career in America are apparently
>insufficient to retain the talents of the best-trained engineers. Lawyers
>keep litigating, doctors keep medicating, MBA's keep managing, but our
>engineer friends have mostly thrown up their hands and said "Why bother?"
I just got back from my 10 yr reunion from Engineering School (at the
University of Virginia) and I was dismayed to see how few of my comrades
were still in Engineering. Most were now marketers or MBA's. I'm still
holding down the fort at NASA.
Tobin C. Anthony (firstname.lastname@example.org)
[Tobin's .sig: "If cars evolved at the same rate as computers have,
they'd cost a quarter, run for a year on a half-gallon of gas, and
explode once a day"]