Postscript to Resurrection
If I am reading the body language correctly, my wife would prefer that I confide with my TennesseeSoul Mate about continuing thoughts regarding the three young people of San Miguel with whom I visited in March 1973. To be as honest as possible to those three (who were in fact kind hosts to two complete strangers), and about my reactions to them, I want to clearly establish that my original notes about it all are confounding and woefully incomplete. Therefore, the reality of their lives and my reflections about them then – at a transitional and highly uncertain time of my life – are more complex than my knotted essay within this travel journal chapter entitled “Resurrecting Small” might suggest.
The students (I say that though technically one was not a student but in fact we were all still students) were probably about as affluent as their two visitors. Obviously, there is relativity regarding finances in such situations, but the differences were probably not significant.
In addition, I had already sort of renounced the conventional (and attainable) path to career and prosperity by dropping out of college a year and a half earlier in order to travel. I think the students’ existence dredged that controversy back up. Weeks later, I received a letter that my mother sent ahead to Merida; it reminded me that my father would like for me to return to college after my travels to finally finish my degree.
My European travel, which ended three months earlier, figured in the internal debate as well. I was ready to be home at the end of that travel. I was ready to start a real life. I had started trying to paint with oils. I was interested in city planning and in carpentry. There is nothing quite as pathetic as a rootless young man with a meager budget traveling the world. Only a giant mistake or sacrifice or lack of alternatives would have induced me to submit myself to further humiliation along those lines, but I did it. And in the end, I did not regret it. But by the time we reached San Miguel, all the doubts about what I had done and where I was going surfaced again in response to my new experiences.
And, too, when I was in Italy, my flatmate and I avoided Americans like the plague; that was a luxury afforded me by his Italian-American background and fluency in Italian. Otherwise, in Europe I connected with individual travelers who like myself were on their own. One on one was one thing, but encountering Americans abroad who asserted a proprietary relationship with the host country (and primacy of place over me) was extremely irritating. I received my comeuppance and saw firsthand how my attitude toward Americans who stumbled upon Via Senese in Florence was somewhat fraudulent and petty. I am not afraid to say that I was (and am) ashamed that on occasion I acted ungraciously to those who at some point had been generous to me and were undeserving of the slight.
Back in the early 1970s, after a few too many beers in a pizza parlor on Summer Avenue in Memphis, a friend and I dismissed the movie The Go-Between as lackluster. In defense of the movie, another dear friend who was with us famously said that the story seemed boring to the viewer because it was told through the eyes of a boring voice, a clueless child. She apparently thought that it was enough that English majors could easily pick up the nuances and brilliant craft of storytelling behind the dull voice and unimpressive movie. (The film in fact went on to win several prestigious awards – I guess proving the error of the crass critics who had expected to be entertained.)
One would hope that English majors, and other good people of discernment, might apply an equal measure of charity to a faulty journal by a flawed journeyman. Every fresh pile of ho-hum, partly digested life must surely signal that an original thought might be nearby.