Travel for us means diving into the storage room in the bowels of our residence to find the right suitcases for the umpteenth trip. Our problem is that we (well, you know who “we” is ) never threw out the old suitcases when “we” bought new ones. So we have a bunch.
Among the legions of suitcases, there are a few reds which are easy to single out at the baggage claim when everyone has black. And when everybody got red, we got panter skin types. Staring at us is ‘Big Brother’, for surplus shipments to ‘Third World’ locations in need. There are some more suitcase pictures, but that would be ‘repetitive.’ You get the ‘picture.’
Next, follow pictures of some places we traveled to. I regret we didn’t have cell phone cameras in those days with their enormous storage capacity. We didn’t have the same urge then to take pictures of everything happening. Now we have to collect them from photo albums. My dad went all over the world for his beer business but took mostly 8mm movies that have deteriorated. We took videos we watched on VCRs. VCRs are gone now, too, and we had to have them transferred to CD-Roms.
OK, here we go, starting from when we worked for the World Bank. That’s a bit like ‘Join the Navy and See the World.” Except that we saw ports only occasionally for work (transport was one of my fields). Mostly we saw capitals and the interior, of which our memory kept many wonderful images that are unfortunately locked up in our minds. I wish there was a mechanism that would allow us to transfer them onto photo paper, like a scanner. Who knows what the future holds.
The world we saw is very large and we may have to do it in parts, starting with Africa, then Asia – South East and Far East – the Caribbean and the Middle-East. But first some left-over honeymoon pictures of 1974.
Joy at a ‘slave hut’ on Bonaire (1974). They were built entirely of stone and hardly tall enough for a man to stand upright in (Joy is 5’7, so you can imagine). Wikipedia: “From 1816 until 1868, Bonaire remained a Dutch government plantation. In 1825, there were about 300 government-owned slaves on the island. Gradually many of the slaves were freed and became freemen with an obligation to render some services to the government. The remaining slaves were freed on 30 September 1862 under the Emancipation Regulation. A total of 607 government slaves and 151 private slaves were freed at that time.” Those were bad days and the Dutch feel very shameful about it.
Bonaire: A flock of Flamingos flying off. Of the three Dutch Leeward Antilles (Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire) little Bonaire is environmentally the most fascinating and a heaven for scuba divers.
Bonaire – a coastal rock formation.
A peaceful look at Puerto Rico’s coastline at San Juan.
Joy at a castle in Toledo near Madrid (1974).
And admiring windmills in Portugal.
Visiting flamboyant Georgetown, Guyana, and
Admiring its flamboyant trees from home.
Flying to Guyana Interior.
Getting ready to see the Kaieteur Waterfall
Kaieteur Waterfall, 226 meters deep, 113 m wide, surrounded by wilderness. Most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen.
Back at work at the World Bank, with the car parked in front of the office (impossible now!). Besides, the main office building was entirely replaced years later. Picture taken by Joy.
John’s office at the World Bank, picture taken by -surprise- Joy (years later). The window looks out on the IMF across 19th Street. The files on the radiator were to protect me from the secondary smoke from inhaling/exhaling Frenchmen/women in adjacent offices. Thank God those smoking days are over!
We will be going to Africa next time.
Here we go: it’s beach time – pictures of past and present. Some pictures at the end get doubled, but I can’t beat the Wordpress system.
My mom and dad at the beach in Holland (before I was born…somewhere in the 1930s). Probably at the Zandvoort beach.
Johnny and his sister Mary in the Dutch Dunes at the North Sea (Zandvoort) summer 1941 after Germany had invaded Holland. Picture taken by their father who had to go hiding soon after.
Many years later, Johnny on honeymoon with lovely Joy at the beach in Bonaire, the Dutch Caribbean (1974)
A few years later again, son David -above – and daughter Samantha -below – at the beach in Bali, Indonesia (1982)
Sam and Dave -above – at the beach in Goya (India) and – below – at the beach in Trivandrum (most southern point of India) in 1983.
David and Sam at the beach in Hawai (1984)
John and Joy at the beach in Guyana (1986)
Samantha at the beach in Curaçao (1994).
That’s as far as our family beach pictures go: not much beach for me, as I always get burned – so I stay away from ‘sun-beaching’ but I love the Côte d’Azur, see below.
Cavalière, my preferred beach at the Côte d’Azur – quiet and away from the crowd.
Théoule-sur-mer, another quiet place for lunch.
The beach at Nice – taken early in the morning and away from the maddening crowd. But I hate walking on the gravel with my bare feet.
Nice, when it’s weekend.
Me, running away from a shark in Portland Maine (2002)
Bathing in the Dead Sea, Jordan (2010). I did so in my underwear early in the morning because I did not have my swim trunk with me. It was completely ‘salted stiff’ when I got out and sneaked back to my hotel room. I had to throw it in the trash.
Let’s end with the July 4 fireworks.
Our Beechcraft stood at Executive Airfield near Charleston in the glistering afternoon sun. Friends dropped us off after a weekend fishing off the South Carolina coast. We loaded our bags in the hull and walked back to the flight desk for weather information. Tom, my muscled friend from college and a Boeing 737 captain, and I drew up our flight plan. We had been flying the Beechcraft for several years now and enjoyed the fruits of our investments, going out each weekend if we could. I had been flying small planes since I was twenty-five. As I did well in my career as an investment banker, I could afford purchasing the aircraft. Tom pitched in as well.
“Fueling done?” asked Tom
“All fine. Here’s your invoice,” the attendant said. “Weather report OK, but you may hit some thunderstorms near your destination. Nothing to worry about.”
It was my turn to take the Beech back to Manassas in Northern Virginia, our hub. I started the engines, let them roar a few times, and taxied to the run way. Patrick Allen of Dreamstime.com took our picture. A few moments later we were airborne. Soon we would be home to tell the funny boat stories and show off our tanned bodies. Sunita, my wife, would be waiting anxiously. She would never come along. Andy, my son, and daughter Sonia, sometimes flew with us, but they were busy with parties this weekend. Besides, Sunita did not like them coming along. Tom was engaged to his umpteenth beauty, a smart girl from Manilla, but she felt terrified in small planes.
We were flying under visual flight rules in clear skies at an altitude of 9,500 feet, enjoying the scenery of fluffy clouds, the patches of forests and fields gliding by below us, the sonorous hum of the engines. As the weatherman had predicted, after about an hour and a half we began to experience some turbulence but the bright cumulus turned dark much faster than we heard.
Tom radioed Flight Watch for an update and they reported that conditions ahead were changing rapidly. I contacted Flight Service and activated our instrument flight plan, as visibility deteriorated fast. We contacted Air Traffic Control, and the Washington Center controller reported significant storms developing along our planned route. Tom and I discussed if we should return or reroute. But from the cockpit, the sky to the west looked darker and even more menacing. The controller suggested we proceed in northeastern direction to avoid the worst of the storms. Knowing they might have a better radar overview than we, we accepted the new course. It didn’t look much better, but at least it seemed less threatening.
Then flying conditions got suddenly pretty rough. We could not see anything anymore because of the harsh rain and thick clouds. I asked Tom, who had more experience, to take over the controls. We were about twenty minutes from Manassas. The hazardous weather and fierce lightning was now all around us. Turbulence shook the aircraft pretty badly and the instruments beeped several warnings. Tom struggled to keep the aircraft level. The controller informed us of severe thunderstorm activity near Manassas. Tom sneered that it couldn’t be worse than what we were having already.
The controller said landing was still possible and instructed to descend to 4000 feet, but there the clouds were even darker. Lightning kept slicing through them.
Hail began to clatter and the turbulence became increasingly violent. Then the aircraft experienced a sudden loss of 2000 feet. “Damn! Microburst!” yelled Tom to the tower. “Loosing speed going down!” We were far too low, still half a mile from the runway and facing tough headwinds. I led the landing gear down at about 100 knots. Tom applied full throttle to gain height but the aircraft continued to be pushed down. We saw the ground approaching fast. Tom tried to pull up again and level but the Beech veered abruptly to the left in strong gale winds and the nose pitched downward. We hit the ground, skidded and spiraled several times with tremendous shocks, and came to a very rough halt. My seat broke loose or cracked, I didn’t know what happened, but I felt a terrible pain in my back. Luckily no fire broke out and the canopy was still intact, but rain, hail, lightning and thunder continued unabated. Tom leaned forward over his stick, his shoulder hugged in a forward position. I couldn’t move.
“Tom!” I screamed. “The hell wake up man! I feel like I’m dying.”
I noticed a slight shrug in his shoulders, thank God he was alive.
“Tom!” I yelled again.
He came through slowly. His hair was bloodied and his lips were cut. “Come on, John, don’t panic! The tower knows. The meds are coming. Hold on!”
We tried to loosen our seatbelts but everything was twisted. My vision blurred and my senses numbed. The last thing I heard were the ambulance sirens. Thank God! I just hoped they would be in time to get us out before the plane blew up.
* * *
We woke up in a bright white hospital room. Sunita stood near my bed, with the kids, tears in her eyes, but so glad I was alive. Tom’s fiancée, with her typical Philippine name, Mahalina, stood at Tom’s bed, holding his hand. He looked like a Sikh and a surgeon with his head in a ball of white bandage.
“You guys are very lucky,” Sunita said. She wore her black hat as if she had been preparing for my funeral. “Better leave that flying to the birds.”
I laughed, Tom grinned painfully. He couldn’t move his face.
“Yes,” he mumbled through his bandage. “Flying is for the birds.”
Credit: Photo Iris Paris
“That may be right from your point of view, Barber, but I see it differently!”
So, what IS this Point Of View then? For a writer, it is the voice of the character, what the character sees, hears, smells, tastes, feels and touches in his imagination. He creates the Point of View of the character but often it is part of his own, made up from his own experiences, or pure imagination. For the reader, it is how that Point of View opens up his own imagination. When I read a book I see skies, people, shapes, hear noises, smell a restaurant, taste the wine the character drinks, feel the knock-out or the kiss, or the touch of a compassionate hand, as if I had created the images myself.
Point of View and imagination are inseparably linked, for the writer as well as for the reader. Do they see it with the same images? That’s a mystery. We all know bad smell, awful taste, false sounds, horror sights, hard blows. The film maker interprets the story as he or she sees it, the director stages it how he or she imagines it.
It is one of the most remarkable features of the human being. Each of us lives with a view in our mind that is totally our own, though we can commonly see, hear or feel the same images transmitted onto our Cinerama-visional brain. Cameras, film screens, bill-boards are attempting to broaden their fields, but they seem incapable of matching the almost infinite size of the images our brain can produce at will.
When I get up, I see this Cinerama around me, and millions of other human beings do the same at the same time. Collectively we see the world around us wherever we are, as one of the some 7.000.000.000.000 people on earth. I am just a little spot on earth, seen from space. My goodness, I completely disappear in that sea of people! All those people! How do you feel walking in New York, London, Paris, Rome, Lagos, Johannesburg, New Delhi, Calcutta, Dhaka, Bangkok, Hongkong, Manilla, or Tokyo and Rio?
All those people! To use a cliché, we are like ants in a huge ants heap. It’s true. But the strange fact is that we don’t feel it that way (well, unless you have to live with 7 in a one bedroom apartment). We feel that the world we live in is our own that only we see the way we see it. It is our own from OUR vantage point, how it was shaped through birth, location, education, religion and social environment.
However, our point of view is by no means homogeneous. We think it is because that’s how we are. Then we discover that not all of us have the same point of view. Migration of peoples from one region to another has had a great impact on mixing up point of view. Religion and social background, inluding race, are major influencing factors. If a writer writes a book from his point of view, there will be those who can identify with it and those who cannot. We do not see things the same way, even though as human beings we have the same brain facility. In many ways we are very different, and when we move to totally different areas this poses serious assimilation problems: peoples of the same cultural background group together because of language, customs, religion and social values, and become enclaves of disengagement from the country they fled to, to survive, or were taken to as slaves or contracted as indentured labor.
Common laws may force us to adhere to a system of rules drawn up by a collective legislature over time, but does our current point of view, influenced by so many more recent events and group pronouncements, still identify with these rules and their origin? How do we interpret them? These questions are, for example, at the core of current divisions about the configuration of the Supreme Court of the USA. But they also arise in recent racial controversies where opposing views have become so apparent over the last decade. They play a role in juries, jury selection, and judgments; in school councils, student councils and rotary clubs; in labor issues and work places.
How does a writer deal with this? A writer writes for an audience. There are as many different audiences as there are genres (thriller, mystery, romance, etc.). But due to the influx of new societies, these audiences are constantly changing with new influences, new mores, new social values. I am still finding out where mine are. In my job it was pretty clear (almost) how different people are in the Middle East, East and West Africa, India and the Far East compared to Europe or the USA, and how to approach these differences. And this is even measured with a very broad brush. People who have never set foot in these places to understand them or don’t have a mix in their families that gives them a natural enhancement of their point of view will have a hard time to understand these differences. Lesson: broaden your point of view from an early age on and learn from those who did!
So now you have written a BOOK! That’s how all author consultants, advisers, promoters and websites start. A HUGE INDUSTRY! Some are deft predators out to get money from the thin pockets of innocent writers. It’s an industry full of CROOKS and a few genuine operators.
Many books of all literary genres for sale in a bookshop
I am among those 12 million. Who will find me? That’s the question. Going on the street carrying a board on your back displaying your book? Loading your trunk with copies and stand at a farmers market, yelling “Hey! Buy my book?” Have friends advertising for you?
Please buy my book!
One wonders why everybody wants to write and why some get so desperate.
Dreaming Romance Author and another with Writers Blog
A lot of bad quacking instead of good writing!
So-called Wise People in the industry say, it’s all perseverance, not just talent. Talent is only 10% of the game. Sounds much the same percentage of writing being 10% of “getting read.”
The friendly-looking Predator Promising You the Moon. Write a book in 30days! Only $237! I will promote you for just $14 K!
Go to a bookstore and arrange for a “book signing” hoping that visitors will buy your books with your autograph? I did so recently in Williamsburg in Virginia because my novel Enchanting The Swan starts at the College of William & Mary for the first ten chapters. They wrote an article about it in the Virginia Gazette, even mentioned it on the radio, and I put stickers on W&M boards and had someone announce it on their Law School internal website. I dropped bookmarkers at The Trellis restaurant at the touristic Merchant Square, right at the edge of the W&M campus, with a notice of the book signing the next day. The two main characters have lunch and dinner there from time to time. What more can you do?
The friendly Librarian displaying my dream books
I traveled to Williamsburg in my Jag XK8 (not earned from book writing!), cap down, on October 22, in splendid weather. Still summer, folks! I did a rest stop at a Panera near Fredericksburg to pick up some display boards from my charming publisher and designer, Melanie Stephens of Willow Manor Publishing, one of Some Women I have Known, one of Audrey Hepburn who features in it, and one showing the cover of Enchanting the Swan. I made a second “pit”stop at the Williamsburg Information Center, boasted about my books soon to be signed, and received a sticker “Virginia is for Lovers” in return, which I immediately glued to the back of my Jag. Drivers be better aware of my romantic intentions.
The lovely girl wanting to read Enchanting The Swan: “True, Are you Dutch? ” Oh my, if I had just been a little bit younger…I would have read it for her at her bedside.
It was W&M Home Coming weekend starting October 23 on a beautiful warm day. After a quiet but sleepless night at the Williamsburg Lodge, dreaming of throngs of people standing in line for my books, I settled down at a nicely arranged book signing table at the Barnes and Noble/William and Mary Bookstore. The events manager Beau Carr and his charming assistants Eric and Joanna had done a splendid job. I even got a free coffee!
So as of 10 AM I waited for the throngs of booklovers to come in. The first was John Lindberg, of the W&M Department of Music at Ewell Hall, the unsurpassed percussionist, so-called “retired” but still in full action, who is one of the memorable characters appearing in Enchanting The Swan. I had promised him a free copy but he insisted on buying it. Then a charming lady appeared who wanted to buy a book for a dear friend, who also appears in the novel, but whose name I can’t mention as I would betray her gift. And then nothing. As the hour went by, shoppers smiled at me but went for the William & Mary T-shirts, not my books! Finally some buyers showed up, chatted and purchased a few copies of Some Women and Swan, getting my handsome autograph wishing them a good read. The last visitor was Deb Boykin, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs (Campus Living) and Director of Residence Life, with whom I had a most productive interview during my research at W&M. That was a worthwhile close of my book signing! All in all, a little over 10 books sold (about 3 books an hour, which seems to be the going rate according to knowledgeable sources).
W&M Barnes & Noble Bookstore
After 4 hours I had to pack up to make room for another author. It was award-winning Wilford Kale!
A longtime Williamsburg resident and former Williamsburg bureau chief and senior writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, who wrote a magnificent photo book of the History of William & Mary, which I had purchased earlier for my daughter Samantha who studied there. I felt honored to get to know the famous writer. When later in the day I passed by his table, full with W&M and Williamsburg related books, to see how well he was doing, he also complained that everybody went for the W&M T-shirts. Well, if he as an author with much local notoriety did not sell much, I could not feel too sorry for myself.
I left with a last look at the Crim Dell Bridge at W&M. After all Virginia is for Lovers!
Beau Carr of the W&M Bookstore found that I had a respectable showing, despite the surge on W&M clothing! Some did better, others did not. Then I checked back with Judith Briles of the Author University website (http://authoru.org), my favorite, if book signings are a useful marketing tool and the answer was negative. Personally, I believe that seeking your audience through book clubs and speaking engagements increase your book sales more.
All in all, a new adventure. It surely keeps you on your toes!