Another of my ideas for the book cover
[Part 2 of introduction to the manuscript]
For Jean Shepherd, Midwestern boy from the steel-mill city of Hammond, Indiana, traveling the world is one of his favorite activities, maybe in part because, as he later describes his hometown as it was in the 1930s, “between the refineries, of course, would be dotted picturesque steel mills. And what glued it all together—some of the most colorful and some of the most unforgettable used car lots and junkyards ever created by man.”
The hometown region was crisscrossed by tracks—freight and passenger trains taking cargo and passengers from exotic places (not pausing as they crossed Hammond), just rattling through to other exotic places. He could see the trains go by and he dreamed.
Shepherd’s enthusiasm for encountering new information surely began as a child when, he says, he very much enjoyed reading, a pastime he continues to enjoy all his life. There is the exploring and discovering of ideas and places he finds in books. As an adult, traveling not only in his mind through books, but physically all over the world, he encounters by going and doing himself. When he can, Shepherd moves as a radio broadcaster to Cincinnati, then Philadelphia, and when the opportunity arises, to the creative and entertainment center of the world in the 1950s, New York City. He wants to see everything and experience everything and then talk about it—to friends, passersby, and, on his nightly radio show, to his tens of thousands of listeners. Several times on his broadcasts he talks about what it means for him to travel, once in mock-melodramatic tones, wondering why he does it:
Deep down inside of me is a little violin playing that says, “Yes, why, why me? Why am I a Flying Dutchman, forever sailing over the seas—the seven seas of this benighted globe? Always looking, always searching, always hunting and never finding?”
The Flying Dutchman
[From the Internet by MegSer]
In reality, he is forever finding. He has his very good reasons for traveling. He emphasizes that being in new places promotes new ideas, new ways of understanding our world. All the simple things should be noticed because they are of a different order from the simple things at home. As the cliché has it so accurately, “travel broadens one.” He seems to revel in his escapes from the known into different worlds, including through skin diving—exploring the under-water world. Undoubtedly he must enjoy this watery other-world for its sense of freedom from constraint and even from the partial encumbrance of gravity. Probably most important is the thrill of all travel, as changes of environment seem to make him feel most intensely alive. Hungering for experience, on another broadcast he expresses it this way:
As far as I’m concerned, I have found travel to be the one thing I find that really, truly, does give me a kind of final sense of involvement and satisfaction. I love the sensation of being completely removed from my known environment, and just looking out—just being able to walk through a street that is completely unknown to me, to look at people who are unknown, to go into a place that is unknown.