Writing Challenge: Selfish Me


Mark. Part 1. I have kind of done this and that and the other thing, but most importantly I have been one to make a mistake or two, okay maybe three. I am human. At my advanced age, which is pretty relative, I have been able to get a few things done, some of which I am even proud. I made it through High School, later, I got a BA, and later still, a Masters degree in Education and a few other degrees sprinkled in here and there. I’d have to say that education has been pretty important to me. For a long time, I have been a teacher and professor in the US and abroad in a skilliion different subjects. All the while, I have come to appreciate reading, writing, and journeys, and  more. Letters, books and words have been much more than “actors on a stage” or “minstrels in a magical mystery tour.” Words have been my escape, my release for damn near a half a century. These have served as a launch pad to a larger meaningful literary purpose. In many ways, my method of learning about most everything was sort of a cart before the horse approach (also known as the ass backward approach). Before I was ten, I dove head first into life and kicked it off by studying Farsi (Persian), and while living in Iran for the next two years. By the end of elementary school, I gingerly squeezed out of my stylish skinny jeans of the early 70s and leaped from the scourge of the humpty back camel (which incidentally was a herculean task for this pre-pubescent redhead). The difficulty was getting up on the camel in the first place. Mom or Dad tricked us! To this day, I vividly remember my parents practically pleading with my little sister, my brother, and me,  to go to Iran (as though we had any real choice in the matter), “Think of it,” they said, “as a long family vacation, you’ll love it.” I guess I had also been reading a little too much about the Silk Road, Hannibal, the Great Wall and all that stuff. Come to think of it, I never really did suffer from a lack of subject matter for social studies projects, writing topics and even stuff for tales and travails of a lifetime; like making the most of my bee bee gun, or checking out our Iranian neighbor’s daughter (when I thought nobody was looking). But, I shouldn’t disregard all of the sincerity of it all. I was also going over to the Middle East as a mini 10-year-old emissary of Richard Nixon. Two years later, my tour in Teheran complete, you can imagine how delighted I was to hop down from the hairy beast (the camel) and on to an Italian  Vespa in Naples, Italy (my next tour of duty). My raging hormones were delighted too. Iran, which you can probably imagine, wasn’t comfy for a self-conscious tall redhead whose testicles had dropped like a lead balloon, and felt all eyes were on him as he wandered through the streets and bazaars of Teheran with attempted, but failed discretion. By the time I had managed to earn my second merit badge in the Boy Scouts of America, I had the “privilege” of conveniently “misplacing myself” somewhere around the Caspian Sea and later at the GUM department store in Moscow. I somehow sensed a theme of getting very lost among total strangers. That theme has stayed with me till this day, and I am now into my fifties. It is also curious that of all the stories and colorful memories, the only ones recalled and retold, is when my mind is of when my brother and I took my bee bee gun and shot out a string of lights that a neighbor had strung over his store front. Surely, it was a vandalous and childish act committed by two fools, and I’m sure it pissed the guy off to no end, but why should this be one of my brightest memories? Why not the trip to Persepolis where Alexander the Great, the former King of Macedonia rests? What about of us, a family of American blondes attempting to tackle the Alborz Mountains of northern Teheran on skis. But no, my strongest memory has to be about a string of lights being shot out with a bee bee gun in a raging hormone air strike. How strange that I feel obliged to even mention it in the same breath as the Macedonian hero.

I can also see how the antics and mischief of my brother and me must have driven my Mom and Dad a bit batty. A few months later, this aspiring chemist (me) decided to discover at what temperature iron would burn, or melt, in a field of dried hay–a stunt, which this former aspiring young chemist admits deserved a good spanking (and got). But, despite all of the tricks and trouble that a slippery redhead could manage, I think I came out smelling like a rose. Well, maybe not quite as nice as that. I suppose that is due to my “good” Catholic school education, a dedicated Language Arts teacher and a few years at a New England boys’ school.

By High School; I had carved out my own “literary niche,” a special place to retire to, whether I liked it or not. High School in Naples, Italy was an experience in itself, to say the least. To no great surprise, I sometimes failed to take advantage of much of what the one of the world’s richest of cities had to offer. For example, rather than enriching my sole by taking in the beauty, bounty and history of Pompei, I chose to skip school and go to Pizza by the Metre (which I paid dearly for with a month of detention!).  But, after a few years of living the Neapolitan experience, which included everything from being the worst on a local futbol team (which I really got a kick out of) to joining in on outrageous neighborhood fireworks celebrations, some good seems to have rubbed off somewhere. From my time in Naples and Moscow and Germany, I was “good” to go. My years in Russia were life-altering, to say the very least. Just one day spent in a country as backwards as the USSR was mind-blowing, so imagine being there for two years. My stay there was an experience of a lifetime, whether it was learning to play chess (shaxmati) from a soviet worker who viewed me (this 19 year- old college kid) as a Spy and intelligence operative, ha! But I can see where my “goings on” might have seemed a bit shady. When I wasn’t out cross country skiing with my friend and CIA operative, I was out on a date with a Soviet lady friend or some self-proclaimed “Euro-communist.” My downstairs neighbors in Moscow were a veritable battalion of marines, “the Guard.”  Next, after a stint in Moscow and several months at the Ludwig Maximililian Universitat and the University of Maryland in Munich, Germany it was off to Japan, which coincided with the cherry blossom season. For the next nine years, the Orient and a personal gem captured my attention. Writing was clearly rearing its head, but I knew I had to get back to the states to get a BA under my belt. In my case it was in Soviet Studies, Russian Language. A few years later after receiving my BA I landed a job at the Japan Times and was off to Tokyo. The next eight years were sort of a blur, but I know I got in some serious backpacking to Nepal, was in Indonesia and Thailand for a while, did the Philippines and a mess of other places from Angkor Watt to…to… some tropical islands, with a few buds who are still spread out across the globe.

 

  After nearly eight years in Asia, I was pretty intent on getting back stateside for some of Mom’s home cooking and putting down roots of stateside. It wasn’t but a couple of years later that I got a case of the itchy feet, picked up and headed off to Mexico, for what turned out to be a couple of years as a Professor in a university and a couple of other universities. In my spare time, I backpacked around Mexico, exploring the hidden delights that most tourists never get a chance to see. My favorite adventures included learning white-water rafting as a second language, which was especially interesting since it was also my introduction to Spanish, skirting the infamous Col. Marcos’ Polizia and his drug lords. It wasn’t long after that I met some of the Mayan Greats who originally brought Jai-Jalai to North America. Once again, the “misplacement” of me was challenged. I don’t understand how I got into the predicament into the first place, but I had to find my way out of Guatemala from Chiapas, which I had somehow trespassed on horseback. I came back to the states. My feet are getting itchy again (However, I’m a little older too). Well, that is me in a nutshell.

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