While I always find name droppers mildly annoying, I realized the other day, while talking with an English friend (drop #1) I met on my last year’s cruise from Rome to Istanbul (drop #2) about the possibility of his joining me and my friend Gary on our August Venice to Athens cruise (drop #3) that I am one of them. Actually, I’m far more of a place-dropper than a name-dropper, but the annoyance factor is potentially the same.
My defense is that I do it not so much to impress others as to convince myself that neither I nor my life are quiet as dull and uninteresting as I have told myself all my life. I have never liked myself very much and have always thought of myself as the epitome of “vanilla”…nothing outstanding or of any particular interest to anyone, including myself.
But when I can step away from myself and look at my life as though it were not my own, view it from the perspective of the little boy who still lives somewhere inside me, I find an odd form of validation and reassurance that I’m not as dull as I think I am.
There have been moments of true euphoria in my life…moments so marvelous to recall that they send me into a state of wonder: Soaring alone through the clouds as a young naval aviation cadet; rediscovering, after nearly 60 years, a battered quay in Cannes, France I so strongly associate with the happiest week of my Navy service; sitting on a beautiful April day in front of a cafe in Piazza San Marco in Venice, having a beer while an orchestra plays songs from old movies; sitting on a broken column in the courtyard of a villa in Pompeii, listening for the whispers of people dead 2,000 years. Me! I did these things!
I have friends who routinely travel from Saskatchewan to Kenya, from England to Japan, from Florida to Thailand. I read books of peripatetic adventurers who constantly move from one amazing adventure to the next, and see movies in which the wealthy go casually and effortlessly from exotic hotel in Dubai to equally exotic castle in Spain, or cross the ocean on a small sailboat. And I realize that no one human being can do all these things simultaneously. One cannot live in a snow-covered chalet on the side of a Swiss mountain and attend an opening of the Paris Opera at the same time. But the implication from all forms of media is that they do.
I’ve been to London once, Paris, Cannes, Athens, and Istanbul twice, Rome three times; Venice, Nice, Florence, Sorrento, Capri, Budapest, Vienna, Amsterdam, and a dozen or more places most people never get to see. Granted, I did not spend all that much time in any one place, but I was there! And with the upcoming trip, I’ll be back in Venice and Athens with half a dozen or more new places. Liza Minelli, in her album, Liza with a Z, sings “Ring Them Bells,” in which there is the line, “Be sure you see Dubrovnik, dear, before you come home.” Well, I’ll be seeing Dubrovnik.
This next trip will quite probably be my last European adventure. I’ve seen most of what I’ve wanted to see there and, at 80 (odd how there are so many things I can say and yet cannot comprehend), my body, upon which I have depended for so long and which has served me so well, is simply getting to the point where, like any machine or living organism, it can’t do everything it once could.
But like a squirrel storing up nuts for the winter, I have accumulated and will continue to accumulate enough positive memories to sustain me through the long winter and whatever lies beyond.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).