Sunday, June 9, 2013

Literary Inspirations

I was born with happy feet. According to my parents, I started running immediately after learning to stand on my own two feet.  When I was two, I either fell or jumped from the balcony of their apartment, depending on who you ask. Everybody agrees that my baby sitter from Czechoslovakia caught me and that when she did, I was laughing with joy.

My first literary inspiration was Dougal Haston, the renowned Scottish climber who wrote numerous odes to "RISK" and living a live that embraced real challenges.  I believe that most people avoid risk and with good reason, wanting to live a long life. But for the rest of us, we seek out risk or perhaps "adventure" for our entire lives. In his movie about racing called LeMans, Steve McQueen stated that the the time between races was "just waiting." Adventure seekers knew exactly what he meant.

Douglas Haston was my first real hero that wasn't a relative. My father and my Uncle Jack were my first heroes.  How un-American of me! My hero should have been Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. But, they weren't. I discovered his autobiography "In High Places" on a rainy day in my local library.  When my mother told me her family (Grand Parents) immigrated From Glasgow Scotland, I was an instant Scot!  Reading Haston's books led me to read about Don Whillans, Joe Brown and the other great climbers from the UK in the 1950's and 1960's.  "Climbing" San Bruno mountain, wandering around the Marin Headlands were how I satisfied my cravings.  What sealed the deal was going to Yosemite for a week in 1972, my Junior year of High School.

Which then leads us to Hemingway.  My first encounter with Ernie was reading in high school, the great story called The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.  I took from my first reading of this story, courage, what it means to have it, what it means to lose it and what it means to regain it. My second reading of the story led me to consider shrews and cuckolded men and convinced me I would never find myself under that kind of imprisonment.  I followed this with The Big Two Hearted River, The Boxer and the Killers.  Every high school boy should read these stories, preferably while on a camping trip.

Much later in life, after becoming a father and doing some more worldly traveling, I came across In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin. A more erudite and creative travel writer I have never met. He of course would cringe if someone called him a "Travel Writer" That said, he was an inspiration for millions of people to travel to Africa, Asia and of course Patagonia. One of the first famous casualties to AIDS, Chatwin remains on the best seller list for travel books to this day and deservedly so.

There are other books that influenced me which I haven't discussed here. These would include The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey, Solo Faces by James Salter and pretty much anything by Thomas McGuane and Jim Harrison. So, when I'm not wearing these............................................

............I pick up a book and do some armchair traveling. You should too.

Tennyson-"To strive, to seek and not to yield."