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Number of posts: 13
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By Chris Wohlwend:
I worked at The Miami Herald in the mid 1970s, the newspaper that was my introduction to big-time journalism, Miami was my first foray into big-city life. The Herald then was fat with pages and news and ambition. Besides several metro-Miami editions, there were a half-dozen aimed at different sections of the state, plus two for Latin America that were flown each night to Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Caracas.
New York City journalism had recently experienced a major upheaval with many of the dailies closing, sending dozens of staffers heading south for jobs in Florida. Many landed at the Herald …
Egypt’s corruption rudely presents itself before we officially enter the country at Port Said. The space between the gangplank of our ship and the immigration/customs shed is occupied by about a dozen vendors, tables set with their fake papyrus, guidebooks (“in English”), postcards, tote bags, pseudo carved camels and pyramids and sphinxes. They would not be allowed to accost us before we clear security if they hadn’t reached some kind of “arrangement ” with the officials.
The gauntlet continues beyond security – in fact all the way to the tour bus waiting outside. The vendors are persistent, entreating us with their friendship, wanting to shake our hands. One member of the group has his hat removed by a tote salesman and placed in a bag that is then hung on his arm, all in one fluid motion.
The journey to Athens begins by rail, four or five cars headed northeast out of Patras toward Corinth. To the right are hillsides covered by vineyards or grayish-leaved olive trees with citrus interspersed, deep green leaves speckled with bright orange or yellow fruit. To the left are steep drops to the Ionian Sea, the occasional sienna-tiled house perched on a cliffside. Soon, the spectacular Rion-Antirion Bridge looms ahead, spanning the Gulf of Corinth to the mountains of Sterea Erada.
But the great Grecian transformation for the 2004 Olympic Games is still under way, and the tracks end in a jumble of construction material midway to Corinth. We transfer to a bus, with seats that are more comfortable and air conditioning that is more effective.
I don’t plan to spend much time in Patras – basically I want to get to the station and catch the train for Olympia, about 100 miles south. Olympia was the site of the ancient Olympics, described in the travel literature as an idyllic glade surrounding the ruins of the games’ facilities.
It’s also well off the beaten track. From Patras, the rail route is to Pyrgos, a center of the farming community that comprises this part of the Pelopennese. There’s a train change at Pyrgos for the short trip inland to the site where Olympic athletes competed every four years for more than 1,100 years.
The Milano train station at 6 a.m. is quiet, and my train for Bari, a primary port on the Adriatic Sea, doesn’t leave until 7:35. So I find a spot to sit. Unfortunately, the only place I can find is Smokers’ Corner, so I periodically have to put up with tobacco, the Indians’ Revenge.
As rush hour approaches, the station starts to get busy and I move to where I can see the schedule to find out the platform where I’ll board. I notice a black man, carrying a large bag, as he keeps traipsing around a circle of his own making. Then he puts down his bag, next to a light pole, and goes back to his circling. By now there are a lot of commuters coming and going.
The last time I was on board a boat out of Miami, it was a 12-foot Sunfish, property of a fellow Miami Herald employee named Dave Finley. It was my first adventure on a sailboat, and it ended with the Sunfish on its side in the Atlantic off Key Biscayne and Finley and I thrashing around trying to right it as a Coast Guard Albatross circled overhead. We finally got it upright, clambered aboard, and returned to the safety of Biscayne Bay.
The Jewel of the Seas is a bit more of a boat – a cruise ship of the Royal Caribbean line, a gleaming, massive party vessel with a full casino, a theater, several restaurants and bars, two swimming pools, a library, resident acts ranging from magic to musical, and, not to be discounted, two ping-pong tables.
In South Georgia, on Interstate 75 for Florida and Miami, billboards dominate the terrain, touting pecans, peaches, and peanuts. Closer to Tifton, just beyond the sign boosting the “historic” downtown, spa advertisements take over – there is Lucky Spa, No. 1 Spa, Tokyo Spa (Truckers Welcome). South Georgia is, it appears, about more than fruit and nuts.
Across the state line, roadside scenery quickly changes. North Florida apparently has stricter rules when it comes to billboards … Ocala comes and goes as a fierce thunderstorm hits, then it’s the tollway heading east, horse culture giving way to Mouse culture as Orlando looms … The next morning, I head east for Interstate 95, making contact in Palm Beach County at rush hour. Just before 8 a.m. two guys in a convertible speed around me, top down, golf clubs filling up the back seat. This is the Florida I remember.
The voice, despite being at shout volume, seemed to be disembodied, but the message was clear: If we all didn’t change our ways, we were going to Hell.
I was sitting in my car, waiting for the light to change at a busy downtown Knoxville interchange, three lanes each direction. Finally, I spotted the source of the sermon. The driver of a truck was shouting his message to everyone waiting on the red – preaching to the air.
Marie’s Olde Towne Tavern, despite the gentrified spellings, is an unremarkable joint on the north edge of downtown Knoxville, with the clientele one would expect from its location only a block from the Greyhound bus station.
But Marie’s does sport one thing that no other bar in town does. On the wall there is a framed, autographed photo of former University of Tennessee football player Rod Harkleroad. And on this October Saturday Rod insisted that I experience it. “I gave them an exclusive, so it’s the only bar in town where you can see it,” he said.
The year was 2002 and I was accompanying Rod on his ritualistic game-day circuit.
Today’s economic hard times have brought memories and references to the Depression of the 1930s – the Great Depression that saw almost 30 percent of America’s population without any income, that saw breadlines stretching for blocks, that saw runs on banks and the failure of financial institutions throughout the country. A new multi-media package from Shanachie underlines the parallels. “The Panic Is On: The Great American Depression as Seen by the Common Man” contains a CD of period songs, a booklet of excerpts of letters and observations from victims, and, most telling, a DVD of newsreel and movie footage from the time. Included in the music are renditions that were airwave hits – “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” by Charlie Palloy and his Orchestra, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” by Bessie Smith, “Cheer Up! Smile! Nertz!” by Eddie Cantor. But there are also more obscure songs, […]
In the early 1930s, a year or so after he dropped out of high school, Eddie Taylor caught the bus in Knoxville and headed to Morristown, about 40 miles north. He had an appointment with Herman Roddy Jr. and he had about $40 in his pocket, money he had won over several months in pool games. “This was the Depression,” he told me years later, “and we were playing games for a dime or 15 cents.” He was successful in Morristown, beating Roddy. “He had broke me twice before,” he said, “but this time I got him. And I knew then that I could do all right on the road.” So Eddie Taylor, who had been playing since his father took him into pool rooms when he was a child, became a pro, hitchhiking around the South, playing pool for money, often big money. He was 15 years old. It […]
In my early teens, before I got my driver’s license, I looked up to the older guys at East High School who not only had cars, but had customized them. There was Tommy Mitchell, who had dropped a big V8 into his purple ’37 Chevy. And Moocher Cain, who drove what I saw as the ultimate, a ’51 Mercury, in primer gray, chopped and channeled. Then, about the time I got my license, my classmate Jim LaMarr got a Henry J, squat, sort of toadlike in appearance, with an anemic powerplant. But the Henry J was actually LaMarr’s, not his parents, and that put him way ahead of the rest of us. We had to “yes sir” and “no ma’am” around the house all week long for a shot at the family station wagon on Saturday night. LaMarr had big plans for the Henry J – but within weeks he […]
As a college student in the mid-1960s, I supplemented my income, and my education, by working as a reporter for a local newspaper. The combination led to my initial first-hand encounter with abortion, then a shadowy, illegal practice. The place was the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where I lived off campus in a dilapidated two-story building popular with students. My introduction to the area’s abortion specialist came through a neighbor, an animal-science major. Though the ridges and valleys of East Tennessee are far removed from the cattle-raising plains of the West, Roy was a true cowboy. A senior in his early 20s, he already was a successful rancher, leasing pasturage in a nearby county for his beef cattle. In his junior year he had sold one-third of a blue-ribbon bull for $10,000, testament to the animal’s breeding potential. Roy exhibited Hollywood-cowboy traits, too. He was taciturn when sober and […]