Monday, October 28, 2013
In 1937 the young journalist Martha Gellhorn traveled to Spain to to observe the Spanish Civil War and to get a little private face-time with Ernest Hemingway. She carried only a knapsack, a portable typewriter, and fifty dollars in her pocket. I think for Martha, or Marty as Ernest would call her, it wasn't what she brought along on her travels that bore importance, it was more about what she left behind. There's nothing romantic in packing up your entire apartment and dragging it along with you on your travels. Far more romantic to leave it all behind. Everything.
Martha would become a life-long traveler, never staying in one place for very long. She would go on to have homes in Cuba, Mexico, Rome, East Africa, and eventually London. Her homes were always small if not humble and in terms of mod cons, sparsely equipped. Instead the layover-homes contained the essentials for a writer who spent most of her time on the move: books, a typewriter, booze, and an ashtray for her never ending cigarette. Even into her late eighties she was always ready to travel at a moment's notice and often found herself making difficult journeys on her own dime in order to research a new novel she was writing or to find the truth behind an armed conflict or the resulting carnage of that conflict.
She had a son, Sandy (adopted), but she would claim herself to be the worst mother in the world. She had several husbands (including Hemingway), but she would claim to not only be a poor wife, but also very bad in bed. Once, she spent a couple of years playing the house-frau to the then editor and chief of Time Magazine, complete with weekend house parties in the suburbs and she nearly committed suicide from the boredom and despair. I think it safe to say that Martha Gellhorn was not the domestic type.
I've just packed my knapsack. I have considerably more than fifty bucks stuffed in my pocket, but given the more than three quarters of a century that's lapsed in between 1937 and now, I'm not carrying much more than its 2013 equivalent. I'm heading back to Italy for two months and then onto France for the New Years. When I'm gone I will be rewriting two books, MOONLIGHT WEEPS and THE BREAKUP. I'll also be mapping out another new standalone that at present has no title. I'll be taking care of my normal journalistic duties for some magazines I work for (I have a deadline tomorrow which I'll make as a soon as I land in Rome). It will be a busy time that will also include some four-wheeling in the Tuscan Mountains and short trips to other countries. Traveling light without the burden of possessions is important. Traveling without regret is essential.
I'm not sure who pointed out to me that if sharks don't move forward they die. Probably some dude in a bar. But no one wants to be that dead shark laid out on the couch watching the flat screen in his living room whispering shoulda, coulda, woulda. Not me anyway.
Wallet and euros...check.
I'm off to the airport.
So long and farewell.