Go

What’s the most memorable event of your life? A good memory, that is, something that has made life worthwhile.

Recounting one after you die, before you can pass on to the next world, is the premise of the Japanese film After Life. I’ve never seen it, but I saw a mention of it in Taitetsu Unno’s Shin Buddhism. I’ve been meaning to take my spiritual side more seriously for some time – go back to services at a local UU church, maybe go to a Buddhist temple or at least get more disciplined about following the teachings. That’s been accelerated a bit since the New Crisis began; funny how great challenges and change can do that.

Do people under 40 know this song? Do they know who this man is?

Unno was prompting his readers to consider whether they could come up with such a memory. I could, easily. Many. And they all involved travel. Even before that moment, I had decided that I should make travel an important part of my IMD-induced new life (or at least a new phase of the same old one). Given how easily travel memories flashed through my head and brought a smile just sanctified that idea.

The first image was silly, not laden with deep meaning, but so what. It came from my first trip to Europe. I stand by the wall at the youth hostel in Sete, France, watching some kids kick around a soccer ball on the hilly street below. The ball rolls away and heads toward an elderly woman walking up the hill. Unfazed, she boots the ball back up toward the boys. I crack up.

Sete, famous for its hilltop hostel and nearby nude beaches. We went for the hostel - no, really.

Again, a small memory. Maybe it’s larger importance comes from the fact that it was part of my first long trip away from home, away from my family. I could recount dozens of moments from that trip and the longer backpacking excursion I took five years later – they’re almost like movies I can replay in my head. One – or really a series of memorable moments – from that second trip was also set in Sete (so to speak). At the same hostel, my traveling mate Wax and I met a trio of folks with whom we shared several wonderful days. There was Malcolm, the Brit whose tent flooded, but his suit (his suit? Who backpacks with a suit? A proper Brit, I reckon) hung above the waters and remained dry. There was also Bernd, the crazy German hippie who learned how to speak English by listening to Frank Zappa records (a man after my own heart). And finally there was Susan from Sweden, seemingly shy but sharp-witted and somehow tolerant of the four men she found herself hanging with. One of the best moments: a feast we shared in town, during which I had monkfish and mussels for the first time.

The cruises, which I‘ve mentioned before, are other key stops on the travel down Memory Lane. The best came in 1972, when a pack of about 10 of us hung out constantly, ranging in ages from about 10 to 17. Somehow it worked. The best of the bunch were the Lannings, four sisters from Staten Island. My sister and I remained friendly with them for several years, lost touch, then reestablished it in the late ‘90s. We still see them occasionally today.

One of the best memories on the cruise: getting to tag along with two of the sisters in Curacao as the English officers from a freighter docked nearby gave them a short tour of their ship. To the crew, I was a pestering afterthought, but I felt so much more mature than my 12 years as the “older women” included me on their escapade.

Other highlights? Seeing the Red Sox play a doubleheader against the Washington Senators in DC. A trip to the Cape with my friends Marney and Nicole, one of my first there. They took me to a beach near Orleans – but not Nauset – and a spot where you could see the sun setting behind you as the moon rose in front. Or vice versa. OK, so maybe some memorable memories can get hazy with age. But I know the evening inspired one of my first poems, back at a time when I thought I had poetry in me; a time now better left forgotten.

Ah, Cape Cod in the fall...

More good memories came later in Orleans, particularly at Nauset Beach. Like on the fall night a certain someone and I took our blanket to the then-lonely stretch of sand and…well, did what people in love do under such romantic circumstances, the sounds of the waves so close, the smell of the sea engulfing us. This was long ago, before I knew the Fex. I hope my “date” from  that night has the same fond memories I do, even if later moments together weren‘t always so rhapsodic.

After the flood of travel memories, a few things struck me: Most of the memories are not about travel per se, but people and situations in places out of the routine. It’s that combination of factors – especially the people – that seems to heighten their staying power. And I pondered that while we Americans say we’re “on vacation” for many of our travels, the Brits say they’re “on holiday.” Holy day – the escape from the ordinary and exploration of the new does have a bit of a spiritual element, at least for me.

Budapest - the last happy trip.

Then I thought about the travel experiences with the Fex. There were many, all good, I would say (well, perhaps Alaska excepted, but that still had its moments. And even the night in a Wisconsin campground was not all pain and frustration. Just mostly). I don’t know how those memories will stand up, over time. I hope they remain as vivid as all the earlier ones. Though it will take a lot to overshadow that French granny in Sete wailing on a soccer ball.

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~ by mburgan on June 6, 2010.

3 Responses to “Go”

  1. Nice post. I agree – travel, or going to places/meeting people out of the routine is what makes life interesting. I yearn for that. I also need to get back to spirituality. It’s always good to re-examine what’s important to you….sometimes you forget, or just don’t make the time and those things just slip away….

  2. Yeah, it’s easy for things to slip away when you get caught up in the stuff of life and too wrapped up in your own head. It’s one of my problems, I know–and something I hope to address as enter singlehood again.

  3. Hey, I just posted a new poem. I think it is something that you would enjoy. I thought of you tonight, and thought I would let you know.

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