If my editor will indulge me, I should like to tell you about a book today rather than a play or film. The book is called “As I Remember It” and it is my memoir which has just been published.
As the publisher describes it, the book “chronicles the author’s adventures in the Philippines, Spain, South Africa, India, Norway, Ethiopia, Boston, Hartford, New York, Brazil, and California. It tells of the fascinating people she met and worked with in Ethiopia, at Expo 67 in Montreal, at CARE World Headquarters in New York, as the Director of Publications at Boston University, and as an Assistant Vice President at the University of Hartford. Her memoir also includes apocryphal stories of her family, her grandmother and “the Memas,” advice on Places to Miss and a Beckett review.”
Here’s an anecdote from a trip I took to Sudan for CARE.
It was 1984 and I had taken a film crew to Ethiopia for CARE during the famine. All the networks were showing mobs of starving refugees sitting nearly comatose in the sun, too lethargic to shoo the flies from their faces. So, in addition to filming the refugee camps, I took the crew to parts of Ethiopia that were still functioning and beautiful. I wanted to document why Ethiopia was worth saving.
Unexpectedly, we got a cable from the head of CARE, Phil Johnston, who requested that we go immediately to Sudan to document a trip that he and Ted Kennedy and Ted’s children, Kara and Patrick, were going to be making to visit the refugee camps there. It took us nearly a week to arrange the visas, but we finally got to Sudan in time to rendezvous with Kennedy and his small entourage, and to sit with him outside a local royal palace while he ruminated on what he, personally, could do to ameliorate the situation.
The next day our crew departed with a rather large convoy of Land Rovers to follow Teddy from camp to camp and film him interacting with the refugees, the aid workers, and the doctors on site. The plans were that when we got back to the tent-camp that we were all bivouacked in, I would interview him on camera to record his impressions.
So, around 9 a.m. we started out on what was to be a 2-hour journey. Quickly, all the Sudanese drivers turned the expedition into a drag race and we found ourselves racing full speed across the Sahara. We had made visits to several refugee camps and were on our way to the next one when our Land Rover suddenly ran out of gas. We were ahead in the race, so we jumped out and tried to wave down the other vehicles. They waved back gleefully as they shot past us. Within minutes we were abandoned in the midday heat of the Sahara Desert. Worse, we had no food or water with us.
We were there all day. The only life we saw were two Bedouins on camels who offered us a tin ladle-full of lumpy camel milk. After a few hours, our driver decided to walk back across the desert to get help. He was gone for the rest of the day. Finally, just as it was starting to get dark, we were rescued by one of the convoy vehicles that had come out to search for us. As it turned out, they had realized early on that we were missing, but they didn’t have enough gas to drive back to look for us. Our driver steered them across the empty desert directly to where we were.
By the time we got back to camp the Kennedy group had left. They had waited for us, but they were traveling in a small plane and had to take off before it got dark. We were told, however, that Teddy had called twice from the plane to ask about us and to find out if we were alright.
As a postscript: several years later I wrote him a note to congratulate him on something or other and mentioned our encounter in Sudan, although I was sure he wouldn’t remember it. He wrote me back to thank me for my letter and to say that of course he remembered the time in Sudan and that he was glad we had been found and that he was sorry we hadn’t been able to do the interview.
And that’s the Ted Kennedy I knew. When he died I felt like I had lost a personal friend.
If “As I Remember It” is of interest to you, you can order it online by typing my name in the address line on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, Xlibris.com, Books A Million.com, Alibris.com, et al. It comes in hardcover and paperback, but if you can read it on an ebook it’s only $3.99. If you don’t have an ebook reader, Amazon will provide you with an e-book reader app that you can download free.