The formula to being a travel writer can be found in the following anecdote:
I was sitting on the front porch of the apartment in Bangor Maine just puffing away on a meerschaum pipe and watching the world go by.
All of a sudden the world stopped going by: it stood right in front of me on the sidewalk with a sideways look on its face.
A larger sized women with pink sweatpants cranked high up over a half tucked in Bart Simpson t-shirt stood right before me. Big and broken plastic eyeglasses hung askance upon an askance sort of face.
I took another drag from my pipe, as we entered into an odd sort of voyeuristic gridlock.
Shit, I am going to have to talk to someone, I thought to myself — panic, panic — I hate talking to people in my own country. If I am an open sea of conversational inquiry when traveling abroad, I am a sealed tight virgin clam in the USA.
The contorted faced, pink sweatpant, askance eyeglass woman continued staring at me.
I thought for a second that she was either retarded or lost — or, retarded AND lost.
But before I could inquire she began speaking:
“Is that an ice cream cone?” she asked.
“Is what an ice cream cone?” I retorted.
“That,” she again queried while pointing at me.
I looked all around for an errant ice cream cone. I could not find one.
“Is that an ice cream cone, in your hand?” she again asked with a little more clarity.
She was referring to my meerschaum pipe, which was carved out of a white stone and, apparently, resembles ice cream.
“No,” I responded, “it is a pipe, for smoking tobacco.”
She then watched a demonstration of its use with interest before continuing down the street.
I watched her go.
At the next house, she found something curious about the people sitting on the porch and began her inquiries all over again.
I laughed to myself: the tables had been turned, the wandering asker of stupid questions had now found a porch to sit upon to be asked stupid questions.
How to be a travel writer: walk through the world going from house to house asking questions about anything that baffles you without fear of looking stupid.
The feeling of being baffled is the raw materials of the written word.
“I write about what sticks in my craw,” a NYC novelist once told me.
The writer is the fellow with the questions, not the answers.
A meerschaum pipe
Sitting on the Maine porch, smoking a meerschaum pipe
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