I LOVE TO TRAVEL
Yes I do. It’s in my blood, in my history. When I was a kid my family would always go somewhere in the summer for two or three weeks. By the time I was 16 I think I had been to 40 states (and there were only 48 of them then, until I was 12).
Always in the USA, of course. Somewhere you could drive to. But for me the anticipation and the journey were as good as the destination. I could never understand nor sympathize with kids who hated to ride long distances and had be cajoled into behaving. Brats with no imagination.
As the only kid I got the entire back seat to myself. Mostly we had a pretty new Oldsmobile or Buick, with a bench back seat about the size of an aircraft carrier. I would shift between watching the scenery crawl hypnotically by, taking a cozy nap with pillows and blankets, reading comics or books (never got carsick), playing solitaire on the wide carpeted floor while luxuriously stretched out on that bench seat (I couldn’t even see my parents from there, adding to the sweet situation), or I might even stage a campaign with my set of King Arthur plastic knights and maidens.
MAGIC CAR(PET) RIDE
Imagine waking from a nap to behold Half Dome, and waterfalls spilling nearly half a
mile down as you make your way to the stone majesty of Ahwahnee Lodge, or cruising
past towering geysers to find your room at the sprawling Old Faithful Inn rustic wood palace, floored as you entered the lobby by the sight of the seven-story boulder fireplace going through the roof. Yup, my parents managed to pick places we could all enjoy in our own ways.
Back then, even a much less overblown Las Vegas was its own kind of wonderland for a kid. All day, joyous respite from 120 degrees in a giant swimming pool with low and high dives (scary!). All night, a mind-blowing dozen channels on TV instead of only three networks at home in Albuquerque (plus the educational channel, boring except for beloved original science guy George Fischbeck). Heaven. We went every summer, often with my cousins from Arizona, and I never tired of it. That’s where I also managed to build an awesome silver dollar collection from the winnings in my Pop’s jangling pockets, dating back as far as 1878. Back then, the silver dollar was the currency of Vegas.
He was kind enough to donate any I found that I didn’t yet have, but then he teased me, “That’s a lot of dollars you’ve got there, but have you ever seen a million dollars?” Since that was when a million meant something, and I was just a kid, I could hardly conceive of it. So we all went to the lobby of the Horseshoe Casino downtown, finally located the
hallway deep inside where two serious-faced armed guards flanked a horseshoe display
case with 100 crisp notes of the $10,000 bill with Salmon P. Chase on the obverse, known only to bankers and other very high level mobsters. It’s a gorgeous example of the engraver’s mastery, and emblematic of my interest in currency. You get art, history, geography, culture, all beautifully rendered on a small piece of paper. Much cheaper to acquire an old 10,000 ruble note from Imperial Russia, though, than a Chase note.
He was Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary who introduced our first official currency, and a national banking system which made possible the sale of government bonds to finance the looming war; in 1862 half a billion (with a B) dollars worth of bonds were sold. Good luck, Jefferson Davis. Chase was aggressively anti-slavery. By 1864 he was our sixth Supreme Court Chief Justice and in that role presided over the impeachment trial of Lincoln’s hapless successor Andrew Johnson. (Bogus charges, politically motivated, by, no surprise, Republicans.) Chase had a career of note, for sure.
GOD BLESS THE U.S. ARMY?
Hardly, but some good can come out of seeming disaster. As an unmotivated college student with low grades and a low draft number during the Vietnam Adventure, my number came up and through sheer luck I wound up in Germany instead of Uncle Ho’s garden. Dropped in a small compound buried in the Black Forest near Stuttgart, my lifelong travel bug got instantly globalized. Four years after discharge I took off with wife and 2-year-old son on a year-long trip all over Europe, out of a VW camper van, and repeated the adventure six years ago with a second wife and my 17-year-old daughter graduating from Samohi. Both were life-changing experiences, for all five of us.
Travel abroad does that. And that’s why it was easy for Jeff Jarow to get me hooked on
his Sister Cities International organization. He’s president of the Santa Monica chapter and will be hosting the regional board when they have their meeting here on Saturday. Jeff and I met for coffee and exchanged travel tales but he’s got me aced. Listening to the waves crashing and Pink Floyd’s “Meddle” in the caves on Crete after a primo bowl of Nepalese temple balls on a warm starlit night with new global friends was a memory worth cherishing, but child’s play next to some of Jarow’s adventures. And you thought he was just a real estate guy who helps organize the Main Street parade every 4th of July.
Sister Cities Santa Monica has already done a lot to send Santa Monica students and adults abroad and bring our sister citizens here, but Jarow has designs to do so much more. I’ll be going to that regional meeting and report back. Unless I’m already flying off to Mexico, Japan, Germany or Cuba.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: If all that money was spent on LA’s school board election yesterday (some very nasty ads, too), by charter school corporations, does that make you at all suspicious of the motivation behind it? Our schools need help, but diverting public school funding to line corporate pockets doesn’t seem like a good solution to me.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page.” — Saint Augustine
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else
in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at