David Bruce: Travel Anecdotes

Edward Lear, author/illustrator of A Book of Nonsense, traveled widely in the 19thcentury in order to paint landscapes of lands not then frequently visited by Europeans. In Albania, he was sketching a castle when a shepherd visited him. Seeing the sketch, the shepherd immediately began shouting, “SHAITAN!”—a word that means “DEVIL!” The shepherd had never seen anyone create such a work of art before, and he thought that it had to be the work of the devil. The news of the presence of the “devil” spread, and many villagers shut their doors when Mr. Lear approached, and other villagers threw stones at him. Near Jerusalem, Mr. Lear drew some Arabs, not realizing that Islam forbids such images. When the Arabs saw what he had done, they pulled his beard and robbed him of his money, his handkerchiefs, and his hard-boiled eggs.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma owns some very expensive musical instruments, and of course when he travels, he can’t simply put a Stradivarius in the cargo hold of an airplane. Therefore, he pays an extra fare to carry his instruments on board. Once, a person at the ticket booth could not find the reservation Mr. Ma had made for his instrument. Mr. Ma asked to look at the reservation list, and he discovered that the reservation was made under “Mr. Cabinba”—which is short for cabin baggage. (Because of Mr. Ma’s heavy travel schedule, he has practiced in airports, on board ship, and even once on the Autobahn after his car broke down.)

When Larry “Moon” Mullins was a football coach, he traveled frequently—according to his wife, much too frequently. One day, after he returned from yet another away game, his wife met him at the door and said, “Good afternoon. I’m Mrs. Mullins, and I would like to introduce your children. This is Larry, this is Mike, this is Mary Ellen, this is Kathleen, this is Anne, and this is Maggie.” (A rival coach once asked Mr. Mullins how many children he had. Hearing the answer—six—the rival coach said, “I’m not surprised. You never were one to hold down the score.”)

In 1962, sculptor Louise Nevelson traveled to Italy to represent the United States in the Biennale Internazionale d’Arte in Venice. Unfortunately, her trousseau turned up missing, and the airline officials had little interest in locating it for her. Of course, she did not want to wear her traveling clothes at such an important competition. Therefore, she lied to the airline official, “I’m getting married tomorrow, and I’ve got to have my trousseau. My white wedding dress is in it!” The airline official started making telephone calls and soon the trousseau was located for the 62-year-old “bride.”

Back when the Dodgers were in Brooklyn, Danny, the seven-year-old son of Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine, made his Little League team as an outfielder. At first his father thought that Danny might have had an edge since he was the son of a Dodger, but Danny’s coach said that Danny had earned his spot on the team: “He catches fly balls better than anybody I’ve got.” Later, the Dodgers announced that they were moving to Los Angeles. Of course, lots of people in Brooklyn were upset, including Danny’s coach, but Danny’s coach was upset for a different reason than other people: “I’ve going to lose the best center fielder in the league.”

Famed photographer Yousuf Karsh once took a portrait of the crew of Apollo XI, which included astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon. Afterward, of course, the crew of Apollo XI went on a worldwide goodwill tour. Mr. Karsh was well traveled, and Mr. Armstrong asked him many questions about England, France, and other countries. Finally, Mr. Karsh said, “You have just been to the Moon! Why are you so interested in these mundane places?” Mr. Armstrong replied, “To tell you the truth, that is the only place I’ve been to.”

A couple who lived in New York City went on vacation in rural Maine. They met an old man, bonded with him, and asked him what the good things were about living in the country. The old man said, “Well, everybody knows everybody else. People often come and visit me, and I often go and visit them. And there are lots of children here.” The couple then asked, “What are the bad things about living in the country?” The old man thought for a moment, then said, “Well, the same things, really.”

Life on the road can be hard for a stand-up comedian. For a while, Margaret Cho was so busy that she often woke up not knowing in which city she was performing. Whenever that happened, she would look for a telephone book to find out where she was. While sleeping in her own home, she occasionally had a nightmare about missing a flight. She would wake up, quickly get dressed and pack a bag, then realize that this was a rare day off and she didn’t have to travel anywhere.

Dance impresario Paul Szilard and ballerina Nora Kaye once went to see Kabuki theater in Japan. Unfortunately, Ms. Kaye grew bored during the entertainment and demanded that Mr. Szilard pull the curtains of the private box they were in. Mr. Szilard was worried that pulling the curtains might seem rude, but Ms. Kaye demanded that he do it, so he pulled them just enough that they hid Ms. Kaye, who took a nap.

While traveling in the Soviet Union in 1939, Noel Coward stayed at a Leningrad hotel where he turned on the tap and was shocked to discover tadpoles coming out along with the water. He complained to the hotel’s management, saying, “In England, when we want hot water, we turn on the tap marked ‘Hot.’ When we want cold water, we turn on the tap marked ‘Cold.’ And when we want tadpoles, we turn on the tap marked ‘Tadpoles.’”

Being an aviator in the early days of flying had its disadvantages. Aviators wore goggles, and the sun tanned the skin around the goggles. Amelia Earhart wrote that after a long air trip, she used to resemble a “horned toad.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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