When it snows like this I remember when I was 13 and 14, and I wanted to travel the world. Looking out the front window of my home in Iowa and seeing snow-covered, row after row of identical mid-century homes, I longed to be somewhere warm.
It seemed the right thing to do. Television gave us an insight back then, even in black and white, of exotic places and faces. I felt an urgent need to see those places and meet the people. Now we did have wonderful food in my birth state: pork, chicken, beef and don’t forget corn. It was overcooked, but, hey. We had Jell-O in many forms and colors, so we had a varied cuisine.
We moved to New Mexico when I turned 15, and I discovered tacos, plus red and green chile. In Iowa, if you said red or green, we believed you were talking about Jell-O!
Here we were in 1962, in the land of Zorro with so much culture to absorb. Walt Disney had shown us the way of the world, and now we were getting to be a part of it. The glamour and adventures of Hispanic culture, Native American culture, and may I say handsome cowboys. It couldn’t get any better than this! Now I had seen the best the U.S. had to offer, New Mexico; I wanted more than a taste. Heck, I wanted to see Paris, France, London, England, and Madrid, Spain.
My Aunt Midge bought a slide set called “Panorama” that included 78 records with voices of famous actors, like Vincent Price. The machine that came with it allowed you to view slides in color. You could show it on any white bit of wall if you shut off the overhead lights. Suddenly before you was the mysterious Middle East, the land of Moses, Jesus and the Pharaohs. Then there was India with the Taj Mahal, and China with the Great Wall. It included color pictures of women in kimonos from Japan (new friends with us after World War II), and classic Europe, Italy, Switzerland, Russia and England. It was all there waiting for us Americans to visit and love.
Then I graduated from high school and grew up. I put away the Panorama machine. My record player stopped using 78s or even 45s, and away I went into the real world.
Then, about five years ago, Bill said, “Jo, are you ready to see the world for real?”
We went on a trip to the United Kingdom. We flew across “the pond.” They have a little TV screen on the back of the seat in front of you on the airplane where you can plot your passage. Not exactly like the pilgrims did on the Mayflower, but close. It is fascinating to see the plane go so close to the polar cap and back. No, I did not sleep. Big mistake!
We left at 10 p.m. and got in at 10 a.m. Since Bill knew this stuff, we went to the hotel for a quick nap and then on to see the British Museum. You don’t need to travel the world if you visit the British Museum; they stole everything from everywhere. From a visiting standpoint it is great. I am sure they did not know it was wrong. (And they are very, very sorry.)
The Rosetta Stone is on display there. This is the reason we can read hieroglyphics today. They finally figured it out because it has hieroglyphics, Demotics, (common Egyptian writing) and Greek. Back then, everything was Greek. Part of the Parthenon from Greece is at the British Museum, too. Everything the British sacked and pillaged is on display. (And they are very, very sorry.) It is so terrific. The only problem I had with the land of Shakespeare, Dickens and the Crown is the fact the United Kingdom is now packaged as a Disneyland ride.
I taught English literature for over 30 years and know the beauty of our common language. However, the final straw was when we visited Sherwood Forest at Nottingham. In front of a Conoco station where the bus was getting petrol, we stopped at a Burger King. There were three tall Tiki Gods on poles. One, in Europe, you expect to see knights, castles, and even a moat or two. Two, they are an island. Three, Tiki Gods in Sherwood Forest? My world trip ruined? Bill asked, “Is that the only thing that has bothered you on this trip? We have seen Chicken Marsala served in pubs where only fish and chips used to be served. We have seen rebuilt castles with gift shops that made Disney look like a 7-11. Why are you bothered by three Tiki Gods?” “Because as a kid I watched Hawaiian Eye in the 50s and Magnum P.I. in the 90s. Tiki Gods belong to Hawaii and we own them!” He walked off. So, on a snowy day like today, just get out the old Panorama. It’s easier.
I encourage you to take a trip: See the world any way you can. And don’t be too judgmental. Roaring Mouse, claiming the Tiki gods!
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.