In 1980, a friend and I flew to New York, where we spent a few days, and then we hitch-hiked to San Francisco. I have transcribed some letters that date back to 1980, which describe this trip to the USA. I hadn’t read “On the Road” when I went to the States; I read it after I came back – whilst I wrote these letters.
They were written to my brother; he was working in Africa at the time – teaching English in Sudan, I think. (I am sure he will tell me if I have got this wrong.). I was a twenty year old student.
Going to the States was a big adventure. I travelled with G, to whom I gave a copy of the letters (and who knows I am going to post about them), together with some of the photographs.
So at least three people have read these letters; possibly more, since I may have shown them to variouspeople down the years. I can’t think who else may have seen them.
After G read them – twenty years ago – he said that it sounded like an interesting trip – but it was very different from the one he and I took together. They are very subjective. It is odd that what I remember now and what I put in the letters: there are episodes that I know happened that aren’t in there. (The pure joy and awe of walking up 3rd Avenue, my head craning to look at the skyscrapers; G and I arguing over whether he should give me the cab fare so he could stay chatting up a girl in a bar; and a guy we met on the Staten Island ferry: he said he was an ex-convict fresh out of Sing-Sing. I took his photograph as he held court on the deck of the ferry. Why didn’t I write about any of that?)
For a long while, I have intended to transcribe these letters. It was one of the things I wanted to do with my journal when I started on blogging. In doing so, I have hardly edited them at all.
Reading them makes me cringe slightly – they really do need editing, and I may yet do so – I may turn them into stories. Or I may do nothing. Any footnotes are modern, to explain things.
I am leaving them (more or less) unedited so I can use them as a source; but it means that you will be able to see things about me that I think have changed considerably. I have twenty six years on the kid that wrote this stuff; I guess I have learnt a lot.
I have wondered what to call this series of posts. I settled on Coast to Coast. Kind of self explanatory. I will break up the posts (and there may be quite a time between my posting different bits of the story; it will depend on how quickly I get around to doing the two remaining letters) into logical chunks.
The pictures that accompany the words were taken on the same trip. I have scanned them from Ektachrome slides. After twenty six years, the slides were in a bit of a mess: they are dusty, and I couldn’t get the dust off. I have tried to tart up the images to make them acceptable – passable – but I haven’t worked too hard. (In case anyone is interested, Ektachrome produced very blue shots – it was famous for it; so I have also tweaked the colour balance, to make the pictures a bit warmer.) There are some pictures I can’t find too: images that I know I took – because I have prints of them. The view from the New York apartment window, for instance. I have it somewhere. I can’t think where.
Anyhow, if you choose to read what I did one summer twenty years ago, I hope you find it interesting. I have changed, though.
By the way, New York quickly became one of my favourite cities; I have visited many times, and I have very good friends there. Every time I visit, I take the same photographs.
Read the “Coast to Coast” posts…