Monday, August 19, 2013


I am always wowed when I get one of Barney's occasional emails. Each reads more like a letter than a Twitter sound bite. And each seems to be packed with faraway places like Zagreb or Zurich or Paris or Berlin or Singapore or Ho Chi Minh City or Sydney or some other venue in which Barney will give his professorial lectures on economics. Later there will be time for him to sit in restaurants or cafes to converse with people in these faraway places ... and perhaps a little time to sketch buildings and scenery, which he likes to do.

Barney and I were in the army together, both of us German linguists stationed in Berlin in the early 1960's. I always liked him because his University of Chicago education did not seem to come with an attitude on top: When I asked him for some bit of information, he would impart what he knew in a way that left wisdom and ignorance out of the equation ... it was just information after all. Anyhow, we became friends and our connection, however frayed by time, remains as comfortable as an old shoe.

There is something to be said for travel. I too have been to a few other countries, though not so many as Barney. My interests were always inclined towards the people and habits of the land. Museums and other other cultural edifices did not interest me so much as things like how people thought or where, for God's sake, were the fire hydrants in Moscow? To see and say I'd seen the leaning tower of Pisa or the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty didn't really bang my chimes whereas climbing each did. I was no culture vulture ... though I suppose, if I visited a birthplace of a truly great culture today -- someplace like Baghdad -- I might make an exception and absorb some of the 'important' facts.

Travel widens the eye, I suppose. It is good to know someone sees what I see with a largely different eye. My view is not The View ... it's good to know, useful and perhaps humbling in sensible ways.

Travel is a mostly a rich man's sport, a luxury item, assuming anyone is not forced by circumstances to flee or hide. I feel lucky to have traveled a little, but I wonder this morning if travel, like wealth, doesn't reach a point of diminishing returns. I don't know, but I wonder.

A wider eye. Is there anything that cannot provide it, assuming there is a willingness to investigate a little? Probably not, but it's nice to have a little surprise, a little nudge towards widening the eye ... some new land, new language, new sights and sounds and smells. Old stuff is ... well, it's old and harder to investigate. Ignorance is not bliss, but is wisdom much better?

I'm not sure what I am thinking about this morning. Travel -- its wonders and informative quality and luxury quotient. Travel that requires a passport and the travels of the mind, which do not.

Oh well ... I was thinking about travel, but what, exactly, I was thinking, I am not sure.

I think I'll think about something else. Is there a travel brochure where I'm headed?

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