Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. [Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain]
Since starting this blog I have discovered another favorite pastime. Reviewing 150 year old books. I read them first of course, that is half the fun. Innocents Abroad is one the most hilarious books I had the pleasure to read in my entire life. The last 2 days were spent reading until my eyes crossed taking occasional breaks because I was laughing so hard my eyes were watering making it impossible to read. Then there were breaks to indulge in the necessaries of life; eat, sleep, argue, etc.
In the book, Mr. Twain chronicles his 6 month adventure to the Holy land via steamship. The published program for the trip started off with:
Excursion to the Holy Land, Egypt, The Crimea, Greece, and Intermediate Points of Interest. Brooklyn, February 1st, 1867. The undersigned will make an excursion as above during the coming season, and begs to submit to you the following programme: A first-class steam ship, to be under his own command, and capable of accommodating at least one hundred and fifty cabin passengers, will be selected, in which will be taken a select company, numbering not more than three-fourths of the ship’s capacity. There is good reason to believe that this company can be easily made up in this immediate vicinity, of mutual friends and acquaintances.
The program of this trip goes on for about 15 pages. And ends with “the trip can be extended, and the route changed, by a unanimous vote of the passengers.” I have never, ever seen such a thing printed on any modern-day itinerary. Sign me up!!! All I need is to gather 150 of my closest friends and acquaintances and away we go. The creators of today’s magical mystery tours having nothing on these guys.
The program was issued by a certain Chas. C. Duncan 117 Wall Street, New, York R.R.G. Treasurer. And went on to list members of a selection committee. Apparently any old body could not just pay their money and take their chances. One had to be inspected, selected and deemed worthy to embark on such an illustrious journey. Aside from a large sum of cash beginning with a 10% deposit.
Twain’s humorous insight into his fellow travelers, the people he met, and human nature in general is timeless. Their ship was quarantined at several ports because of fear of cholera. He and several companions snuck off the ship at several of these ports. That would be me. The worst that happened was they got chased by a farmer with a rusty musket for stealing grapes. Hey, they were thirsty and there weren’t many snack bars or convenience stores back in 1867. Twain even got cholera once, I suspect that’s what they called any bout of vomiting because he was only sick for one day. He claimed it was more fun than another day of sight-seeing in the broiling noon day sun of Damascus. I’ve been there. Sometimes enough is enough.
Perhaps I found the book more hilarious from the point of view of someone who has been overseas. But no, the book stands on its own, even it you have never walked around the block. OK, I can’t match his tale of being hauled up the pyramids by the arms under great protest. But I have crossed the Rio Grande in a row-boat. It seemed like a good idea at the time. We drank tequila, bathed in a natural scoop of rock shaped like a bathtub, ate beans and tortillas, slept on cot in a room full snoring adventurers and was home the next day before lunch.
It was an ever-loving blast and impossible to do now that there is that Border Wars program on TV. 25 years ago going to a border town in Mexico did not require a passport and shotgun, and was not considered a possible criminal activity. It was more a right of passage for any youngster growing up in Texas. As a side note, do not even try to drink the Tequila with the worm in it. It is beyond nasty. Nothing you mix with it will make it any less nasty. Stick with Cuervo Gold.