“Nothing, above all, is comparable to the new life that a reflective person experiences when he observes a new country. Though I am still always myself, I believe I have been changed to the very marrow of my bones.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
As a child my most exotic travel was a family vacation to Niagara Falls with my parents, two brothers, and three sisters. We lived atop Doty Hill just a few hundred feet south of New York's border near Fasset, Pennsylvania and about two miles off PA Route 14. From our house we drove northeast to the "mouth of the hollow" where we immediately crossed the New York state line and drove north to Elmira past the Eldridge Amusement Park with its amazingly scary roller coaster and wonderful bumper cars. We then turned onto NY Route 17 past Big Flats and the Harris Hill "gliding capital of the world", intrigued ourselves with thoughts as to why a town would be likely to call itself "Painted Post" and then made our first stop at the Corning Glass Works in Corning, NY. In the Glass Museum, I stared in at the original casting for the Hale Telescope at Mt. Palomar in California while trying to figure out the differences in the behavior of the people collected within the political boundaries of New York from the people who lived in Pennsylvania. Gradually I arrived at the opinion that each of these different people sets can be distinguished by its oddities like foods, dress, theologies, museum objects, and terrain features.
From Corning we drove northeast through Bath and then along the west side of Canandaigua Lake to the town of Canandaigua and its Roseland Amusement Park. I remember a huge statue of a fat woman that blasted peals of laughter through loudspeakers and thrilling swings which swooped out over the water of the lake. I believe that we spent the night in a very crowded motel room somewhere in Tonawanda north of Buffalo so that we would have as much of the next day as possible to visit the wonders of Niagara Falls and cross the dimensional curtain of another country by driving across the Rainbow Bridge into Canada where they eat processed cheese and buy their milk in plastic bags.
On February 20, 1962; I volunteered for the draft, adopted the alias of US52560820, and as promised in the enlistment brochures, I set forth to see the world. After being sworn in at Wilkes-Barre, PA; I traveled by bus to Philadelphia and then by train south to Fort Gordon outside of Augusta, GA. After completing 8 weeks of basic training at Ft. Gordon, I took a Greyhound bus from Williamsport, PA south to Harrisburg and across the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Pittsburg, then on west to Columbus, OH; Indianapolis, IN; St. Louis, MO; Tulsa, OK, Oklahoma City and finally to Fort Sill outside of Lawton, OK. After eight more weeks of the Artillery Radio Maintenance Course, I flew from Lawton to Dallas' Love Field in a fuel leaking DC3 before taking a jet on to Philadelphia for leave with my family in Williamsport, PA. My family then drove me to Fort Dix, NJ and a ride across the Atlantic to Bremerhaven, Germany on the USS Simon B. Buckner troopship.
From Bremerhaven I traveled south by train through Bremen, Hannover, Frankfurt, Wuerzburg, Nuremburg, and Regensburg to Straubing where I spent three weeks before returning to Regensburg for the remainder of my tour of duty. Within a month of my arrival, I got to experience the military response to the Cuban Missile Crisis meaning that we slept in our clothes with our weapons beside us as we pondered our futures as the first line of defense against a hugely superior tank force a few miles away on the Czechoslovakian border.
The first settlements in Regensburg date to the Stone Age. The Celtic name Radasbona was the oldest name given to a settlement near the present city. Around AD 90 the Romans built a small "cohort-fort" in what would now be the suburbs. In 1096, on the way to the First Crusade, Peter the Hermit led a mob of Crusaders who attempted to force the mass conversion of the Jews of Regensburg and killed all those who resisted. In 1135–1146 a bridge across the Danube, the Steinerne Brücke, was built. The knights of the 2nd and 3rd crusade used it to cross the Danube on their way to the Holy Land. This stone bridge opened major international trade routes between Northern Europe and Venice, and this started Regensburg's golden age as a city of wealthy trading families. Regensburg became the cultural center of southern Germany and was celebrated for its gold work and fabrics. From 1663 to 1806, the city was the permanent seat of the Reichstag of the Holy Roman Empire. and was one of the central towns of the Empire, attracting visitors in large numbers. The Dom (Cathedral) is a very interesting example of pure German Gothic and counts as the main work of Gothic architecture in Bavaria. It was founded in 1275 and completed in 1634, with the exception of the towers, which were finished in 1869. My favorite spot here was the Walhalla, a costly reproduction of the Parthenon, erected as a Teutonic temple of fame on a hill rising from the Danube at Donaustauf, 15 km to the east. The interior, which is as rich as coloured marble, gilding, and sculptures can make it, contains the busts of more than a hundred German worthies.
In the spring of 1963 I took a 15 day leave and traveled south by tour bus through Munich and Innsbruck, Austria to Verona and Venice in Italy. After a tour of Venice we passed through Bologna to Florence for another overnight stay and a tour of the city's museums. From Florence we drove south to Rome then Naples and Pompeii before going out to Sorrento and the Isle of Capri. Our tour up the west coast of Italy provided stops at Civitavecchia, Livorno, Genoa, and Milan before returning us to Germany across the Swiss Alps via Lucerne and Zurich. In November I watched the people of Regensburg mourning our assassinated President with a candlelight parade and in February 1964 I returned to Williamsport at the end of my two year active duty commitment.
From the fall of 1964 through the fall of 1969 my formal education years restrained my travel to laundry runs home from Mansfield State College in Mansfield, PA (64-65); Pennsylvania State University in State College, PA (65-68); and Villanova Law School (68-69) outside of Philadelphia. With my heart set on joining the Foreign Service I learned about international politics coupled with an area study of Russian language, history, geography, economics, and literature. Electives aroused my interest in geography, physics, statistics, mathematics, music, art, anthropology, and philosophy while encouraging experiences expanded my interests in foreign cuisines, pinochle, poker, and the conversation of smart and funny people.
I graduated from Penn State in the spring of 1968 with an ego vastly deflated by failure to be accepted by the Foreign Service of the State Department. My only significant job offer came from CIA Operations where I was warned that my "current identity" would eventually be ended so that I could go undercover. I had arrived at the conclusion that some of the protocols for identity termination would be too difficult for me to impose on my parents and siblings. Scholarship help was available from Villanova Law School as was a position as Resident Counselor (RA) in the undergraduate dorm. I stumbled around in college senior despair after not being welcomed into the beckoning arms and the exciting rewards for good marks and disciplined study habits, then decided that all that I was really good at was study, and accepted the offer from Villanova.
It was not a good year of study and success that I had wanted. My law professor explained that "we are here to teach you the law, justice is across the street in the seminary”. I was in a trade school without any caring for the trade or its practitioners. This was my first experience of a "Catholic University" and to some extent I was a "Stranger in a Strange Land" of Catholic undergrads and law school peers. My dorm residents regarded me as a representative of the repressive controlling "in loco parentis" rather than the helpful older brother who just wanted to keep the dorm reasonably quiet for those who needed to study a lot. My fellow law students were kind of "frat boy" business major types (forgive the generalizations) who were often blessed with sharp minds unhindered by a moral compass. I studied very hard but kind of memorized text spaghetti for testing circumstances that were more rewarding of those who could cut through the verbiage to a sword target that I was not able to see as well with my less developed competitiveness. My grades were mediocre where I had been accustomed to the confidence raising of superior grades.
I next sought shelter from the rain by accepting a position as a COBOL Programmer with the Prudential Insurance Company of America working first at the corporate home office in Newark, NJ for 9 months and then joining the Central Atlantic Home Office which was temporarily located at two buildings in Fort Washington, PA until its permanent building could be completed in Dresher, PA just outside of Willow Grove. I began dating a girl from Jamaica Plains near Boston during my stay in Newark, but the long drive between Philadelphia and Boston soon began to cool the ardor of the relationship. Business meetings, seminars and training took me on plane flights to other Prudential home offices in Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Boston. A long relationship with a woman whose parents lived in Ocean City, NJ and Boca Raton, FL introduced me to many of the great restaurants of Philadelphia, the Atlantic Shore resorts from Atlantic City south to Cape May, the Florida coast from Ft. Lauderdale through Miami to Key West and West Palm Beach, and my first RV adventure for which I flew to Las Vegas for a week and then drove back to Philadelphia in a Class B Coachman camping at Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Capitol Reef parks in the beautiful canyon lands of Utah.
In April of 1975 I violated my emotional commitment of many years by beginning a morally compromising relationship with a woman in my office. I was emotionally stunned by my failure of will and unable to confess the feelings that I had for the new person to my long time friend. Instead, in the following summer, I took a 13 week sabbatical from Prudential to escape my emotional dilemma by attending a 16 mm film production workshop at the Berkeley Film Institute in California. My great hope during this time was to allow the intensity of my affair to cool while I kept a tight focus on the linearity of film making. With any luck I hoped to return to Prudential in the fall, confess my path straying to my patient friend and get on with my life. My days whirled with new friends, great instructors, and film location explorations of San Francisco, the Berkeley Hills, and Muir Woods. I visited the fading Haight-Ashbury, Golden Gate Park, walked the Golden Gate Bridge, and played in the old fortifications at the other end of the bridge. I could not, however, extract myself from either of my competing allegiances, and imagined myself splitting into my "classical" and "romantic" components as they had been described in a book called "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert Pirsig. It was as close as I had ever wanted to be to surrendering to insanity. I needed to escape further and longer from the source of my distress so a year after my return I announced my decision to resign my position at Prudential as of the following spring. I argued myself into thinking that physical experience is the only true reality. I didn’t want to be told about this, nor did I wish to read about this at second hand. I didn’t want to look at pictures or study it on a small computer screen. I didn’t want to be lectured about it. I wanted to be traveling in the middle of it, and for it to be washing over me.
I don't think I've ever known another man or woman who has been able to understand the punishment imposed on a consciousnesness by this sort of extended trial. It sometimes seems that all of humanity views sex as a physical capacity which functions independently of one's mind, choice or code of values. They think that your body creates a desire and makes a choice for you. Love is blind, they say; sex is impervious to reason and mocks the power of all philosophers. For me it seemed that sexual choice is really the result and the sum of our fundamental convictions. I had a friend at Prudential who, upon first meeting someone, would immediately ask who he/she slept with because she was of the opinion that his entire philosophy of life and his valuation of himself would be revealed by the answer. No matter what corruption a man has learned about selflessness, sex is the most profoundly selfish of all acts and when it is offered in the spirit of selfless charity by either party the result tiptoes very close to severe self-erosion if not moral disaster. I feel that a fully developed man is most attracted to a woman who reflects his deepest vision of himself. Splitting that reflection into two different instantiations over too long of a time risks serious damage to the perceptor. I had committed what was, for me, the unforgivable act of betrayal but I had done it because of the cleanest and most serious feeling of my life. I was trying to delay thinking about what I was doing while I observed the wonder of what I felt. My sin was allowing my betrayed friend to suffer too long while I confirmed my initial observation and married my new love.
Clicking the "Eye" icon on the Journal Index in the right column accordian panel provides access to the individual journals for my travels.
Images of Greece 1989