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Reflections Beneath Mt. Katahdin


October 28, 2011

In the basement waiting area of New York City's Port Authority Station I watch the buses dock and depart from tight channels and chutes like sea creatures, floating in and disgorging, engorging and floating out.
Cullen Thomas from atop Mt. Katahdin
Seated on my right, two old Amish women in black headscarves bent forward at the waist, heads in exhausted hands, like matching birds on a branch. Within reach is a moon-faced Hispanic fellow talking at cross purposes with a West Indian woman about nothing that, as far as my dim reach can manage, makes much of any sense at all; it seems they've just met: the apocalypse; a young kid who speaks Russian and should be in school, who they aren't sure they can trust; some powerful or dangerous country she is trying to think of and he can't name."

The Rumpus Interview with Tony Perrottet

The Rumpus

June 10, 2011

On a recent hot afternoon, Tony Perrottet, veteran travel writer, journalist, historian, raconteur, man of ribald curiosity, invited me up to the poolside bar on the rooftop of the Soho House to discuss his latest book, The Sinner's Grand Tour: A Journey through the Historical Underbelly of Europe.
For the book Perrottet sought out arcane places, characters, and objects of decadence and sex, from London to Capri: the Marquis de Sade's castle in Provence; the pornographic bathroom, painted by Raphael, in the Pope's Vatican apartments; the notorious "sex chair" of King Edward VII.
As we talked, bodies in bikinis and shorts drank cocktails, jumped in and out of the pool, and surrendered to the sun, the Hudson River, Chelsea, and the West Village stretching languidly below us.

A Tourist's Afghanistan

World Hum

December 10, 2009

Of course, people in Kabul asked my friend Barry Misenheimer what he was doing in Afghanistan. Not a spook, not military, not a contractor, not a consultant or NGO worker, he was rarer, more absurd than all those.
"I'm a tourist," he answered people, recalling his trip recently from his apartment on the Lower East Side. The other foreigners laughingly called him "the tourist."
And so he was without an agenda, had no objective in Afghanistan other than his own on-the-fly itinerary: to see and experience the country independent of General McChrystal and President Obama, the front pages of the Wall Street Journal.

Interview with Nick Bonner

World Hum

August 7, 2009

For a place customarily viewed as an enemy, an antagonist and a bizarre anachronism, North Korea showed a different side with the release of the two imprisoned American reporters, whatever one makes of it. And what do we make of it? How do we reach a better understanding of what is perhaps the most inscrutable country in the world?
Englishman Nick Bonner can shed some light. He is the founder of Koryo Tours, the longest-running travel company providing tours to North Korea. Teaming with director Dan Gordon, Nick has also produced three acclaimed and fascinating documentaries about the country (The Game of Their Lives, A State of Mind and Crossing the Line). There are few Westerners with his experience and insight into the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
I reached Nick via email at his office in Beijing.

Sailor Girl

World Hum

February 5, 2009

In mid-May, one day out from the Virginia coast, the State of Maine ran into 100-knot winds and 20-foot waves. In his digital log Captain Wade kept a brave face: "Weather is horrible. Swell came around to almost port beam and the vessel rolled more and more. Pitching, rolling, shipping seas ... we have it all." Under "Today's Activities" he'd written, "Hang On!"
The more than 200 cadets on board were tying everything down with rope, but they missed Mom. My white-haired 68-year-old mother was getting thrown around her room on the third deck. She was terrified; it was her first time at sea, the poor pollywog.

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