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Adventurers’ Tales Often Intriguing
Oh dear! Rambling Rose has done it again. I really do intend to finish our Italian trip with Vicki after making a vicarious journey to Hanoi - a place that I've never had the slightest inclination to visit.
I don't want to become like the character in “The Ram's Tale” whom the wonderful Hal Holbrook portrays in Mark Twain Tonight. The old codger kept bending over and pointing at his rear: "Yes sireebob, that ram was a-runnin' down the pasture, goin' 40 miles an hour when he seen me and … that reminds me … " The audience never did hear the end of the story.
My mind is a will-of-the-wist, floating along wherever a current of air chances to send it. By the way, have you ever seen a will-of-the-wist? They're large balls of light that occasionally appear in springtime when the soil and weather conditions are just right. Daddy encountered one while walking across an unplanted field one evening at dusk as he was going to a fishing hole. He said that it bounced along behind him as if pursuing him. Spooked, he ran back to his car.
I understand the mindset of elders who digress. You see, they have accumulated a lifetime of thoughts and reminiscences that seethe beneath the surface, bubble up and crowd out others. Their group of kindred spirits dwindles as their cronies die off. Perhaps they feel a subconscious urge to tell their tales before they, too, pass off the stage. Then, too, there's an undisciplined mindset that sometimes comes with age: One has abided by the conventions all of one's life, always doing the proper thing, and now one says, "The Hell with it! From now on I'm saying and doing as I please."
Speaking of tales … some of my readers suggest that I turn my columns into a book. Very flattering that is, but I have no illusions about making the New York Times Best Seller List. My readers can be counted in dozens, not thousands or millions; nor will publishers vie for the honor of printing my immortal prose. Would you be willing to buy such a book for what it would cost to publish it? Do let me or The Banner know.
We really are on our way to Hanoi, albeit by a circuitous route!
The older one becomes, the more often one says, "How times have changed since I was young." A few weeks ago, I mentioned overhearing my parents tsk-tsking about Lowell Thomas's book about India's Black Pagoda, which he implied wasn't a proper sight for women.
I found it on the Internet. Partially in ruins now, it had once been a gorgeous temple. My parents would have been scandalized had they seen its carvings of men and women engaging in the erotic pursuits portrayed in the Kama Sutra, an Indian book about love. Had they seen the explicit stuff that's on the Internet today, they would have fainted!
Their favorite adventurer was Richard Halliburton, an iconoclast who wrote tales of derring-do that were published by Bobbs Merrill of Indianapolis. I read one of his books, and the writing is wonderful. They would have been dumbfounded had they learned that he was bisexual! Shortly after graduating from Princeton, a friend and he with no equipment or climbing experience talked a couple of Swiss guides into climbing the Matterhorn with them.
His feats included registering as a ship, paying the toll and swimming through the Panama Canal. He spent time in the clink for taking pictures of the guns at Gibraltar. He hid himself in the gardens of the Taj Mahal and took a moonlit dip in the pool.
He wrote, “When my time comes to die, I'll be able to die happy, for I will have done and seen and heard and experienced all the joy, pain and thrills - any emotion that any human ever had - and I'll be especially happy if I am spared a stupid, common death in bed.”
He got his wish at age 39. In 1939 he set off from Hong Kong in a custom-built junk, en route to the San Francisco Exposition, even though he knew that the ship wasn't built well. It sank during a typhoon.
By Halliburton's standards, my life has been ho-hum and common. All things considered, however, I'd just as well die in bed - and I certainly have enough smarts not to set sail across the Pacific in an unseaworthy boat, although - considering the vulnerabilities and fragility of the human critter - I suppose that's what we all do from the moment of our birth.
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