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JEAN SHEPHERD TRAVELER 4 of 4 & an A.F.

PERU TRIP A LA LUDEN’S

After the following dramatic, and even soul-searching trip to the Amazon, Shepherd explained to his radio listeners what he was about to convey to them in a series of broadcasts:

“I was there. I am a trained reporter.

“I’m not going to appear, incidentally, as an anthropologist

on any of these shows—an expert.

I’m appearing as an artist who has seen something

and would like to transmit his impressions to you.”

Jean Shepherd’s friend and fellow-broadcaster at WOR Radio, Barry Farber, won a prize at a Luden’s Cough Drop Company promotional event. Farber told them where he wanted the donated prize delivered, but didn’t want to deliver it himself, though he figured that his friend Jean, who loved to travel, would want to go. Jean, not realizing where he’d go and what he was getting into, said he’d do it.

Then Shepherd found out where he was going—with a Luden’s representative and a photographer, and there would be a translator. He was going to Amazonian headhunter country to deliver to the recently converted and now former headhunters, 500 pounds of Luden’s candy and cough drops. In little boxes. Free. To headhunters.

As for headhunters, New York’s American Museum of Natural History has a couple of shrunken heads on exhibit along with a detailed text describing how to shrink a head. See small foreground case here. It’s part of the large, permanent Hall of South American Peoples that I designed over a period of years in the 1980s. This exhibit is in the Amazon half of the hall, which was curated by Dr. Robert Carneiro, a Jean Shepherd listener back in the 1960s.

headhunter-case-3

By the way, speaking of myths, I received a letter from one of the museums locally and the writer happens to be an expert on South American matters, both flora and fauna, and he sent me a long note telling me about various myths.  He says, you know, one of the best things he ever found in the jungle was to walk around in street shoes.  He says street shoes in the jungle, and he says when he was walking across streams he wore tennis shoes.

He said, don’t worry, Shepherd, about the electric eels and the piranhas.  He says, don’t worry about the crocodiles.  They’ve got them down there, but don’t worry about them…. 

[Regarding the letter which Shepherd received from the  expert at “one of the museums locally,” the present author worked with that expert for years designing and overseeing the Hall of South American Peoples, the far half of which is about peoples of the Amazonian jungle. Years before I designed that hall, in a small, temporary exhibit based on one of Dr. Carneiro’s research trips to the Amazon, he and I installed the hammock he had used there, still stained with his own dried blood, extracted by vampire bats while he slept.]

bob carneiro

Dr. Robert Carneiro.

A Jean Shepherd listener and an ethnologist of Amazonian cultures,

he sent me a copy of the letter he wrote to Shepherd fifty years before.

With his permission I reproduce part of it here:

Dear Shep,

Before you buy your ticket for the Peruvian Jungle, I suggest you forget all about boa constrictors, piranhas, and electric eels.  If I were you, I’d start worrying about the amoebae you’ll meet in your palm hearts salad at the Gran Hotel Mercedes in Pucallpa.  The world’s record for bowel movements in one day is 28, and you’ll get your chance to break it….

You can leave your heavy leather boots home, too.  In the jungle I found street shoes most convenient except when I had to wade across streams.  Then I switched to tennis shoes.

If you don’t chicken out, and prefer not to carry a headful of myths with you into the jungle, come on up one of these days.

                                                                  Regards,

                                                                  (signed)

                                                                  Robert Carneiro

An old friend of mine who does travel pieces for Playboy—Shel Silverstein—really travels around—and I mean there’s a difference between traveling and tourist things.  Usually a traveler is a lonesome, solitary figure….

shel-naked

A lonesome, solitary figure.

(Self portrait of Shep’s best friend, Shel.)

Whereas the tourist remains part of the thing that he was that he’d left at home.  He really remains a Texan or a guy from White Plains.  Because he usually travels with a lot of other guys from White Plains and Texas.  They travel like a little knot of migratory birds moving across the landscape.

Jean Shepherd, after his Peru experience, may never before have been in such an extraordinarily excited state on the air. Giving listeners his authentic Peru tales within a mere few hours after his return, he is in a heated rush. Wordsworth described poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”  Shepherd’s overflow in extemporaneous prose does not here have the necessary time for recollection in tranquility. Listeners and readers are caught up in the unstoppable flow of spoken words as he describes this unique adventure for us and we exult with him.

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 Back from the Amazon:

“I guess I came back changed.”

Indicative of the profound experience Jean Shepherd has had in the Amazon, his preconceptions and change of mind—and admitting to them on the air—are nearly unprecedented.  His ways of thinking: about the delights and dangers of the Amazon; the particular nature of primitive peoples and how they live; and even the work and nature of at least some missionaries, will never be the same.

“One of the Truly Great Experiences of My Life”

Wow, I’m back!  This is Jean Shepherd, and I can say it will take me at least a week and a half or maybe even a month to begin to sort out all the strange, exhilarating, exciting—perhaps in some cases frightening— impressions that I’ve had.  I’m going to tell you this as a man who has been in several places in the world and who has involved himself in several things.  Adventure is always something that can’t truly be described.  I’m talking about genuine adventures, not necessarily to go on a safari in Africa that is organized by a safari company.  Or even the Hemingway kind of organized adventure.

This sort of adventure that I’ve just come through is a total adventure in the sense that you’re not going to kill an animal, you’re not going to a place where other people have gone to do a thing that other people do.  This is something else again, and it’s almost impossible to tell you or describe to anyone else just what it was like. 

Peru as a country is one of the most exciting, unusual, eerie, spooky, beautiful countries in the world.  After trips, I constantly get heckled by people who say, “You go there and you come back an expert.”  I’m not trying to say that at all.  I’m not going to be an expert.  I went to the headwaters of the Amazon.  I was there.  I am a trained reporter.  My life has been devoted to absorbing sights and sounds and listening.

And I am going to try to give you my impressions

of what I consider probably the high point of my life

as far as adventures and experience is concerned.

I had no idea it would be like this when I left and I might point out that it was not a lark.  It started out a little bit that way, but by the time we arrived in Lima and had begun to go over the Andes, we realized this was a very serious thing and not only was it serious, there were certain elements of danger in it and I don’t wish to even dwell on that.  It had nothing to do with the headhunters by the way—the people we visited are ex-headhunters.

This has been a great experience for me and again I would like to thank all the people who made it possible.  The Luden’s Company.  They sent us there—to give five-hundred pounds of candy to the natives, who went out of their skull—you should have seen them.  There were guys running around throwing “5th Avenue” candy bars in the air yelling and hollering….It was not done as a promotion or gimmick for Luden’s.  It really wasn’t.  It was one of those strange, believe-it-or-not stories.  Luden’s had no idea there were even such people called the Shapras, so they weren’t down there promoting Luden’s Cough Drops with the headhunters—who don’t have much need.

When I left to go visit these people, I had the usual hip, urban attitude towards the “native,” and particularly what we call the “unspoiled” savage.  That anyone who went and tried to bring any kind of help to them was, quote, destroying them.  You know the feeling.  And I’d like to say that, after having been out there and having been around these natives and listened to them talk and watch what was happening, and heard things about the other tribes in the area, I came away with a totally different concept.

Primarily because it is an inevitable problem that civilization will creep in and is creeping in on these Indians because there are great oil deposits in the jungle.  Great mineral deposits—gold is found there and there is gold mined and gold is panned in the rivers.  Prospectors are there and if these people have no language, have no written way to understand the complexities of the world that’s coming in on them—know how to read and write—they will be totally destroyed, just like we destroyed many, many tribes as we moved West.

And these missionaries are trying to prevent that by giving them a language that can be preserved, so that a thousand years from now somebody will be writing in Shapra, and their literature can be preserved and they will have a way of dealing with civilization when it comes in on them. Of course, not only that, they take to the Indians something which is of inestimable value and that’s medical aid.

I guess I came back changed, no question about it.  We walk around town, we walk around our world, and it’s unbelievable how much we take for total granted.  One thing I learned out of this experience—which was a tremendously moving one to me—was how resilient and how tough and how un-killable, in a genuine sense, mankind is, and even you and I.  I wasn’t in this camp twenty-four hours and found myself drinking the river water without question about it, eating the roots and the vines and one thing and another they dug up and gave us for food, and I realized very quickly that if need be, we can survive.  We really can.  And not only that, it’s a pleasant survival.  It’s hard but it can be done and it is done.

You eat their food—if you don’t eat their food, it’s not really an insult, it’s a slight.  Can you imagine somebody arriving at your house and they bring their own lunch?  And they say, “You know, we don’t trust your food, so we’re bringing a lunch.”  So we ate their food.  They have a kind of yam they boil that tastes very much like roasted chestnuts.  They also have a kind of banana that’s not quite like ours.  They throw them in the fire to roast.  You split the skin after it’s been burning and it’s fantastically hot and succulent and absolutely delicious.

So we had eaten and they were burning a monkey for us.  Here’s the recipe for cooking monkey.  You get a spider monkey or a rough monkey or a howler. You just throw the monkey, fur, insides and all, onto the fire.  That’s the recipe.  An hour later you drag it out and call the gang.

 

•    •    •    •    •    •    

[Tariri is the native chief, Dori is the missionary/translator.]

I want to tell you this little story.  This is one of the truly great experiences of my life and I want you to accept it as that.  I’m just telling you what happened.  After supper I went over to my bag and I took out my jews harp, and they were all looking, smiling.  And two little girls about two or three years old had attached themselves to me and they were holding my arm and sort of petting it. Just beautiful.  I’d look at them and they’d giggle, and they loved my beard—they’d reach up and pull it.  They loved to feel it, and they were laughing about it.  It turned out that the reason that they loved me was that Indians are beardless—no beards at all but their ancestor had beards.  Tariri said that the children laughed whenever I said anything because they said that “He is the first big monkey who talks.” I was like a big monkey to them.

I said, “Dori, call them all around,” and they stood there.  They didn’t know what was going to happen.  I said, “Tell them I will play for them.  This is an American folk instrument.  This is what the natives of America play.  I’m a native of America.  I’m not going to play a violin or an organ or sing a hymn, I’m going to play what the natives just like you play.  I’m also a native.”

I took the jews harp and I sat up on the table and I began to perform.  And there was a moment—the kids giggled and Tariri looked, and Arushpa looked.  I played You Are My Sunshine, and I finished it and they were astounded!  And I said, “Now I will sing the song for you.”  They were so enraptured by that, their eyes were shining.  And then I took my kazoo.  I said, “Now I will play another native American instrument.”  You couldn’t believe it, they loved it so!  And then I took out my nose flute and that threw them, because they play flutes.  The kids died—they were rolling on the floor and Tariri was yelling.  I played You Are My Sunshine, and Red River Valley.

shep-peru-tape-deck

Shepherd holding jews harp, tape player in front.

Luden’s Lee Chamberlain holding microphone,

Sol Potempkin must have taken the photo.

I played about five songs and then Tariri says, “We want to sing,” and they all sang for me.  Arushpa came creeping out with his long bamboo flute and he played the very intricate music they play, and the other boy brought his out and they both played.  And I said, “Now I will play with you.  Let’s all sit in together on a session.”  Probably for the first time in the history of music there was a headhunter/Madison Avenue, flute-and-jews harp duet and we really swung.  I caught the beat of what he was doing—their music is pentatonic—a five-note scale, a very minor-sounding scale.  Well, they led and I followed with my jews harp and my nose flute and the three of us played and the crowd went out of its mind!

We stayed till three and four o’clock in the morning playing and singing and the translator had faded off into the darkness.  They’d never had anything like this in their lives before.  

Many white men come to them and give them medicine, white men come and preach to them, white men come and study them. But no white men ever came to entertain them. And be part of them.

When I left, Tariri said,

“We have never seen this kind of white man.”

He said he loved it. He said–to use his exact phrase, he said,

“This is the first white man

who has ever come to them

who has participated with them.

Who has done things with them.”

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JEAN SHEPHERD–“THE BEST OF” & (30) ARTSY Guitar

I recently noted an LP record titled  “The Best of Jean Shepard.”

So I thought, why not a “Best of Jean Shepherd.”

This proves to be a difficult task to compile, in part because there are so many audios of his broadcasts and so many published stories and other works. My memory is deteriorating and I can’t listen to and reread all his published work. I’d appreciate suggestions about what to add to my list, including sources/dates and reasons for the choices.

As a representative selection for possible inclusion with my EYF! (which never happened–it was nixed by the publisher as too expensive) and for eventual distribution as a premium for WBAI, I compiled a CD-worth of excerpts from Shep programs.

RADIO

Assume that, as a given, I choose the broadcasts below because I feel or assume they are well-told besides having the particular attributes that especially gab me.

I, Libertine,.First comments and suggestion of a hoax. (4 ?/??/1956) One of the great “Holy Grail” Shepherd broadcasts. I have not heard it but I have thought about it and read little bits about it so often that it is a permanent part of my “memory,” and it must be one of the great moments in literary and shepherdian history.

March on Washington. Narrative told the day after the March. (8/29/1963) Shepherd describes his trip, not as a reporter, but as just another American. This conforms to his attitude as an informed and enthusiastic American patriot.

JFK Assassination. First day back on the air. (11/26/1963) Shepherd, from time to time, had described his feelings about psychological issues in America, and he takes this opportunity to reiterate some of them and link them to the assassination.

“Blues I Love to Sing.” Program I describe and partly transcribe in EYF! (6/16/1957) Shepherd interacts with the singer on the record and expresses his joy in the narrative situation he depicts. This but a ten minute portion of the four-hour program. He uses what is a familiar image from his earlier days of the “figure tattered and torn.”

“Why I am Such a Sorehead.” Discusses Mark Twain and Morse code–I describe in EYF! (1/6/1965) He integrates into his narration, Twain, one of his favorite predecessors. He develops the metaphor of the Mississippi as a dangerous path in life, and relates it to one of his favorite activities, Morse code, suggesting that we all have some activity that, in reality, we are not as good at as we think and hope we are.

“Shermy the Wormy.” My transcription in Shep’s Army. (9/4/1964)

“Fourth of July in the Army.” My transcription in Shep’s Army. (7/3/1963)

“Lister Bag Attack.” My transcription in Shep’s Army. (6/17/1966)

“Boredom Erupts.” My transcription in Shep’s Army. (9/18/1969)

“Private Sanderson.” My transcription in Shep’s Army. (1/13/1971)

“Naked Baseball in the Army.” Told on the air, published in Playboy.

“Troop Train Ernie.” Told on the air, published in Shep’s A Fistful of Fig Newtons as

“The Marathon Run Of Lonesome Ernie, The Arkansas Traveler”

“Og and Charlie.” He told stories several times about these two cave-man-type-near-humans. They were a good metaphor for how Shep felt that humanity still was–not quite the mentally/emotionally advanced race we think we are.

Peru–The whole group of programs focusing on his trip, from how it came about to when he got home to contemplate the experience. At the time, he felt it was the best travel experience he’d ever had.

In addition to all of the above, one must add some of the innumerable bits and pieces of his delightful and cuckoo musical interludes on his silly little instruments–including on his sometimes silly head.

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artsyfratsy 10010

(30) GUITAR

I made my own classical guitar. I’m fascinated by how the shape/formation of objects combine form with function. (It’s my design training still influencing me after all these years.) How does the form of a guitar contribute to its sound? Encountering a two-semester, adult evening class in constructing (not from a “kit”) a classical guitar from the raw materials one buys in a shop that supplies such to professionals, I took the course.
guitar head drawingguotar 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I kept notes and I took photos. Two parts of the classical guitar that might vary are the shape of the head and the luthier’s (guitar-maker’s) choice of how to configure the inside structural supports for the top of the body. I designed a simple, classical head, and chose internal struts for the body’s top that I thought would enforce high notes on the higher strings, and lower tones for the lower strings. I redrew all the instruction pages for the instructor’s future use–the upper left  of the head is one of my pages.

eb guitar rosette0002

An eb element of the rosette

around the sound hole.

I also designed and made the wooden rosette with my eb initials, and designed and installed my label.

label,rosetteguitar work 2

While I was peacefully working on my guitar construction, my then-wife, from Granada, Spain, threatened me with a kitchen carving knife and I grabbed and rolled up for protection, my Sunday New York Times Arts Section (Yes, the Arts Section–it was the closest at hand), and that’s as far as I’ll take that true story. Except that I did incorporate the episode into my fact/fiction unpublished novel, The Pomegranate Conspiracy.

I completed my guitar at the end of the course, and practiced playing, struggling

for several unsuccessful years. Now my guitar is hung on a wall.

20160609_133021 (4)

I love classical guitars and guitar music. I also like looking at Picasso’s guitar collages. So much so that I played around with one of his collage reproductions. First, with a color copier that scans one color at a time, I let it scan the first colors, then slightly shifted the original for the scanning of the black. Then I printed it and applied black-and-white photo prints of the underneath side of my guitar top, half on each side, with, in the middle, a photo of myself playing my newly completed guitar. One might title it:

“The Picasso/Bergmann Guitar Collage.”

Picasso guitar collage and eb (2)

I’m Conflicted About This Artsy Of Mine.

Is it a witty, clever, personal homage to an artist I greatly admire,

done by manipulating one of his works

(that he had first made by manipulating and reconstructing stuff),

or is it a fartsy, esthetic travesty for which I should be ashamed?

→  It is a unique collaged collage  

Would Picasso have liked it? *

ARTSY ARROWS0010

         *Picasso “Guitar” original for comparison. guitar collage (3) 

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JEAN SHEPHERD–Travel–Peru–a Phony Tale? Part 10a

“A Peculiar Kind of Galloping Disbelief”

Shepherd being questioned about the truth of his travels:

One of the problems is–I think–I don’t quite understand yet, it has not been explained to me. A growing–even in my own mind I can’t quite put the things together–there’s a growing, peculiar kind of galloping disbelief that people have in our country–in everything they hear. Can you explain that to me–seriously. Like, anything that a politician says, “is ridiculous political talk, and obviously is not true.” You’ve heard that many times. And the simplest statements today, are challenged.

Barsotti-Truth-2-580.jpg

For example, I have received a large number of letters from people (I won’t say a large number, but enough to make it significant) from people who doubt that I even went to Peru! Now, why would somebody come on with a whole big shlamou about going to Peru. And going to the headhunter country of Peru and so on, and it’s all just a thing in your imagination? Now I’m going to read a letter here. It says:

“Dear Mr. Shepherd, I was terribly sorry…”

(Now the only reason I’m doing this is to make a point about this peculiar kind of growing disbelief that is galloping throughout our soc–You know, I have guys come up to me after I do a Limelight show  and they’ll come up and say, “Aw, come on now, Shep. now come on, just level with us–you never really lived in Indiana.” [laughs] Why would I invent living in Indiana!? I can’t comprehend this! And so, I don’t know quite what to say about that. Guys will come up and they will say, “Aw come on, Shep. You never really were a White Sox fan, were ya?” Well, I’ll admit, that’s hard to believe–that anyone would be a White Sox fan, but nevertheless they’ll ask you that as if you somehow invented that you were a White Sox fan. So I often will ask somebody, “So where do you think I was–where did I come from? If I didn’t come from Indiana? Why do you think I would have invented that?” They sort of look–funny look–they say, “Aw, come on, why don’t you just come out, why don’t you level?” I say, “Okay–Trenton. I’m from Trenton.” They say, “All right, fellow, why don’t ya just say it all the way!” That’s the end of that.

I don’t know. I’m just curious about that problem. And I can understand why politicians must be frustrated when they’ll come on–and I’m not saying all politicians tell the truth–I’m not saying that. Nor does anybody–tell all the truth about himself.)

Aw, Shep, now ya got it! “Nor does anybody–tell all the truth about himself.” You do recognize, don’t you, the extent that you don’t tell all the truth about yourself?

It may well be true that there’s a galloping disbelief in this country (in the radio interview of you in 9/1965) but–don’t you understand that there have always been at least a few listeners who felt that your stories–kid stories, army stories–were mostly pure fiction? (Your 1966 disclaimer in the first kid book, IGWT: “The characters, places, and events  described herein are entirely fictional, and any resemblance to individuals living or dead is purely coincidental, accidental, or the result faulty imagination.”) And if they were fictions, maybe your travel tales–to Peru or elsewhere, and maybe lots of other stuff you say–were fiction, also? I believe I can usually distinguish in your talk, what is mostly true/what is mostly fiction. I know the travel narratives are true, but don’t ya see that YOU caused the problem ya got with truth/fiction?

You want to hear that letter? Obviously an intelligent-type person:

“I was terribly sorry that you did not make that trip to the Amazon Basin in Peru. I told my husband how nice, Jean Shepherd’s going to Peru and he has asked all his faithful to say goodbye to him at the Pan American [terminal]. ‘Oh,’ said my husband, ‘it’s very nice that he can make such a  trip.’ However, Saturday you were heard at the Limelight and not in Lima, Peru. This is not humor. We went along with Australia.” See, obviously she believes I went to Australia. “But will we go along with what you have to say about all those birds, snakes, and flora in the upper valleys? Oh, no….”

Now why is this? there are a dozen listeners who continually write me letters, who feel, deep down inside that what I do is go to different libraries and read up on a country and come on and do a whole series of shows about them. I don’t know why that is. I know that nothing I can say on here and tonight will convince them this is not so. They will say, “Oh, come on, of course you’ll come back and say that you did it. Come on. We know, we know better….”

I think that this is a growing, fascinating trend in our country. The person  will say, “Why did I hear you at the Limelight?” ….I put tapes on the show that I [had] recorded. It was an old show, and I said that I was [playing] recording[s] all the time I was in Peru. Nevertheless there is a sizable body of people who feel that this was all invented….Maybe because there’s creeping show-biz-ism in our world.

Yes, yes,Shep, but it’s sort of like “hoist by your own petard.” They ain’t gonna believe you. Remember what you said in the Alan Colmes last interview when you were talking about your fictional stories:

“…that’s the best way to tell a good story, in the first person–that it sounds like it actually happened to me. It didn’t.

“It’s a story I invented but I put it in the first person so it would sound like–you know–a narrative, the guy telling the story.”

You want it both ways on the air–telling fiction like it really happened to you, though you know that some won’t be fooled  (in your books’ epigraphs, you insist that the kid stories are your created fictions). But when your travel narratives on the air really did happen to you, you somehow want listeners to believe they actually are true. No surprise when some won’t keep your true-sounding fictions and your true-truths properly separated. With your elegant ability to conjoin fiction and truth ya got nothin’ to blame but yourself.

Don’t think that I’m criticizing what you do on the air–I’m just surprised that you find the problem to be part of society’s state of mind, without recognizing that a good part of the issue is the one that the style of your art’s varied formats have in themselves created.

Yes, in recent years, we’ve gotten proof that you were there with the headhunters in Peru:

Shep chief hat Amazon0004

shep peru tape deck

I know you didn’t photoshop these from images taken in your backyard in Trenton.

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JEAN SHEPHERD–Travel–Peru Part 10, Leavetaking

Jean Shepherd, traveler, has returned from the greatest adventure he ever had. Tariri, chief of the Sharpas, former headhunter of the Amazon, on the last night Shepherd was with them, recognized the wonderful gift Shep had given to them (Interacting with them one-on-one) and expressed it in a way that made it manifest to all who listened to Shepherd tell the story. For all those who know that Shepherd sometime fell short of his human obligations, this story of Tariri’s recognition of Shepherd’s gift should give pause to those who judge him without recognizing this mitigating circumstance.

Besides telling of his Amazon adventures on several nightly programs, Shepherd does a show-and-tell on one of his Saturday night live broadcasts from the Limelight Cafe.

limelight shep

Shep during a Limelight session.

Portions of that follow, and cap off his Peru travel narratives. Unfortunately, we can’t view any of his souvenirs–but neither could his radio audience.

Among the objects he brought back and which he describes to his listeners are a native violin and Tariri’s paddle.  These two objects have their own stories to tell and they are important parts of Jean Shepherd’s unforgettable adventure in the Amazon. The violin and the paddle are physical reminders of the special human contact he made with these “primitive” people.  The stories embodied in these two objects help explain why Jean Shepherd is a world-class traveler and, in important ways, a world-class missionary exemplifying human sensibilities and promoting understanding.

I was in the Peruvian jungle, about seven or eight-hundred miles on the eastern slopes of the Andes, visiting a tribe of headhunters.  Real ex-headhunters called the Shapra Indians.

Just a couple nights ago I was in a tiny clearing that these Indians made, where they lived.  They’re nomadic, they move throughout the jungle.  They’ll move maybe ten miles or twenty miles up or down-river, to different clearings that sometimes their ancestors lived in.  In fact, the clearing we were in had been lived in by their ancestors some hundred years before.  And they knew it.

It’s a funny thing about the Indian memory.  They have no written language, any of these tribes.  And that’s what the missionaries who were there are working on.  They have no way to keep their history.  All they do is tell stories and each one of their heads is filled.  What corresponds to our education is an Indian’s head full of myths and lore, knowledge about the jungle, and stories of his ancestors.  Which, by the way, is what our education consists of too, in a very real way.

[I condense a couple of Shepherd’s descriptions here

and continue with Shep’s narrative.]

This is a bloodwood war club used by the Awupa Indians, which, up to a very recent time, had not been contacted by any kind of civilization.  They were one of the worst, most feared tribes in all the Amazon Basin….It’s swung and they catch each other right on the side of the neck.  It’s heavy and beautifully balanced.  You get this thing in your hand and something happens to you.  Your soul begins to grow hair.

This is a wife-beater. Notice that it’s pretty.  It’s got style.  This wife-beater is used in the only known competition they have—it’s a wife-beating competition, and the wives love it by the way! All of you think of an American girl getting beaten—no, no, this is a very different scene because the wife there has her ways of getting back–have you ever sat down to a meal of half-cooked monkey? …it is a strict rule that the women prepare the food.  There’s a taboo against men doing it.  So he’s dependent on her.  He’s not going to say, “I’ll fix supper tonight if you’re that way!”  No, no.  All she’s got to do if he gets smart is to melt into the jungle—and then he’s in trouble.  Real bad trouble.  He’s got to go out to a neighboring tribe, brain somebody, and steal his wife. So how do they compete in wife-beating?  It’s done ritualistically.  You’re eliminated from the contest the minute you draw blood—that’s a bad wife-beating.  Just a little gentle flick on the hindquarters.  Just to keep her moving, see?  Wouldn’t that be great at Macy’s?  I think you’d sell a lot of these.  In the tribe that uses these, they are very prominently hung on the center-pole of the house.

[Shepherd then shows some arrows and a blowgun. He shows a feather

headdress and a bead necklace] 

Leigh here is wearing the type of beads they make for themselves.

I’ll show you probably my greatest possession of anything that I have.  Because there’s a very important story connected with this when we played music together.  When I played “Greensleeves” there was absolute silence.  I told the interpreter to tell them “that’s a love song.”  She told them, and one of them, who was a young boy, said, “That is so sad it made me cry.”  He loved it.

The Sharpa Violin and Bow

We had a great time for about a half an hour and then the boy crept off into the darkness.  I’m going to show you something you will never see again—this is what he brought out.  His name is written on it.  This is his prized possession.  Somewhere back in the jungle is Arushpa, a sixteen-year-old boy, and this is his violin, which two years ago he made by carving it out of a single piece of wood.  He has tacked, somehow, a very thin lath over it and on the top there’s a little face.  A tiny face carved in it with two little blue-bead eyes, and I asked him what those were and he said, “This is a nose and that is a mouth.”  He said it sings to you.  “It’s the face of the violin singing to you.”

Here’s the bow he made.  It’s a tiny piece of wood with a piece of palm-leaf fiber.  He took them and played.  It’s fantastic what he gets out of them.  Well, he gave me this violin because he said he wants the people in America to see how his music is made.  Now he’s at work making another one.

Chief Tariri’s Paddle

About three in the morning, Tariri–who had had such a wonderful time and his children had enjoyed our music that night–wanted to give me a paddle.  This is very important to them because they live on the river and a man’s paddle is more important to him than his bows and arrows, because it takes longer to make one.  This is carved out of a solid piece of a certain kind of wood which, when I asked him what kind of wood, he said, “the wood that does not know how to break.”    It’s carved by hand, they rub it with bone and various other things, and it’s not flat, it is gently concave and the other side is rounded, and they stand on the top of this tiny dugout canoe and they paddle back and forth.

When he said he wanted to give me a paddle I said, “I appreciate that, and I’d like you to sign your name on it.”  That’s important.  For thousands of years these people have had no written language.  And it’s now the greatest thing they have gained from civilization.  I couldn’t describe to you how proud they are of the fact that they can write their names.  To ask him to write his name is like the greatest complement—you know, you say “write your name”—that means “you’re just like me, you do these things.”  And he said, “Of course.”

So we went to bed.  Here it is, about three-thirty in the morning and I can hear the frogs down by the river and I can hear a few parrots beginning to wake up, and I see over in his hut across the small clearing, a tiny light.  Now this sounds corny.  It’s a very dramatic thing.  This headhunter chief, who had killed upwards of thirty to forty men—a real headhunter—he’s sitting there wearing his red headdress and his beads in the dark with that little light, trying to write his name on the paddle and I’m watching him as he’s working away.

This is the paddle that was used just this past week by an ex-headhunter chief on one of the most remote rivers in the world.  Thousands of miles and ten light years away from our world.  These people are just out of the stone age.  And this is the greatest gift that he could give me.

Chief Tariri’s Farewell Speech

In the early morning, Tariri gave his little speech on the river bank when we were about to get back into the plane and fly away—a very touching, strange quality of leaving this little group of seventeen people in this dark jungle, flying away, tears coming in their eyes when they let you go.  Tariri, standing on the shore wearing his regalia—he wears a beautiful feathered headdress and beads.  He gave me his paddle—to a male in this area, a personal piece of gear—it’s very important to him, and he gave me his own paddle at three o’clock in the morning in this tiny clearing.  One of the most touching things I’ve ever seen in my life.

Tariri said: “We have never seen this kind of white man.”  He just loved it.  He said, “This is the first white man who has ever come to us who has participated with us, who has done things with us.”

Chief_Tariri

Shep chief hat Amazon0004

On a different broadcast, Shep described the occasion this way (This is such an important, symbolic event in Shepherd’s life that it’s worth repeating this variation):

Many white men come to them and give them medicine,

white men come and preach to them, white men come and study them.

But no white men ever came to entertain them. And be part of them.

When I left, Tariri said,

“We have never seen this kind of white man.”

He said he loved it. He said–to use his exact phrase, he said,

“This is the first white man

who has ever come to them

who has participated with them.

Who has done things with them.”

________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD–Travel–Peru Part 9

Jean Shepherd is back from the Amazon

Indicative of the profound experience Jean Shepherd has had in the Amazon, his preconceptions and change of mind—and admitting to them on the air—are nearly unprecedented.  His ways of thinking about the delights and dangers of the Amazon; the particular nature of primitive peoples and how they live; and even the work and nature of at least some missionaries, will never be the same.

“I guess I came back changed.”

When I left to go visit these people, I had the usual hip, urban attitude towards the “native,” and particularly what we call the “unspoiled” savage.  That anyone who went and tried to bring any kind of help to them was, quote, destroying them.  You know the feeling.  And I’d like to say that, after having been out there and having been around these natives and listened to them talk and watch what was happening, and heard things about the other tribes in the area, I came away with a totally different concept.

Primarily because it is an inevitable problem that civilization will creep in and is creeping in on these Indians because there are great oil deposits in the jungle.  Great mineral deposits—gold is found there and there is gold mined and gold is panned in the rivers.  Prospectors are there and if these people have no language, have no written way to understand the complexities of the world that’s coming in on them—know how to read and write—they will be totally destroyed, just like we destroyed many, many tribes as we moved West.

And these missionaries are trying to prevent that by giving them a language that can be preserved, so that a thousand years from now somebody will be writing in Shapra, and their literature can be preserved and they will have a way of dealing with civilization when it comes in on them. Of course, not only that, they take to the Indians something which is of inestimable value and that’s medical aid.

I guess I came back changed, no question about it.  We walk around town, we walk around our world, and it’s unbelievable how much we take for total granted.  One thing I learned out of this experience—which was a tremendously moving one to me—was how resilient and how tough and how un-killable, in a genuine sense, mankind is, and even you and I.  I wasn’t in this camp twenty-four hours and found myself drinking the river water without question about it, eating the roots and the vines and one thing and another they dug up and gave us for food, and I realized very quickly that if need be, we can survive.  We really can.  And not only that, it’s a pleasant survival.  It’s hard but it can be done and it is done.

Maybe you heard Tariri—he was interviewed on various shows here a couple of years ago.  Yes, they flew him here to New York.  He had no concept of what the city was like.  He said, “They have all these places, all these stores, and they have all the beads (beads meaning wealth), all the wonderful things, but you know what they don’t have?”

“What?”

“They don’t have monkey meat!”

That was his idea of saying that these people think they have everything but the poor fools haven’t even made it, because to him, the prime, greatest delicacy, was monkey meat.  He loved monkey meat and he couldn’t see why they didn’t have monkey meat at the D’Agostino.

This has been a great experience for me and again I would like to thank all the people who made it possible.  The Luden’s Company.  They sent us there—to give five-hundred pounds of candy to the natives, who went out of their skull—you should have seen them.  There were guys running around throwing “5th Avenue” candy bars in the air yelling and hollering.  A mother came up to the interpreter, really worried.  She had a little kid by the hand and she asked the interpreter, “He ate the whole box!  Will he die?!”  He’d eaten a whole box of Luden’s Cough Drops.  Just popped them down one after the other.

But they loved it and we had a great time.  It was not done as a promotion or gimmick for Luden’s.  It really wasn’t.  It was one of those strange, believe-it-or-not stories.  Luden’s had no idea there were even such people called the Shapras, so they weren’t down there promoting Luden’s Cough Drops with the headhunters—who don’t have much need.

Shep chief hat Amazon0004

Shepherd with the Sharpas.

[Until the image of Shep playing his instruments with them surfaced, the torn, ragged photo above, which I’d neatly cropped for my EYF! had been the only one to survive some New York photo-file disaster (originally 8″ high by 10″ wide–at least half the image–to the left–is lost). So, beyond the Shepherd broadcast audios, little seems to have survived for the historical record. I’d hoped to find preserved info and more photos in some carefully cataloged files–I contacted the Luden’s company and they had no file for the Peru trip–or anything else, and the company they had been sold to claimed not to have any Luden’s files either. As for the 20th century’s historical record-keeping, kinda makes ya wonder.]

luden's

Cough Drops for the Headhunters.

You should have seen the moment when they put on their T-shirts with the big block L on them.  Oh, what a time!  I’ll never forget it.  I’ll continue the story tomorrow. 

___________________________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD–Travel–Peru Part 8

Sol and Lee Chamberlain and I were in our hut and we sat around this little lantern and we just didn’t know what to say about it.  These people were so overwhelmingly kind and beautiful to us.  No connection with the “noble savage” concept or you’re idea of hospitality.  You could see they were doing all their little things that they could do for us.

Music

jews harpkazoonose flutes

Modern American jews harp, kazoo, nose  flute.

I want to tell you this little story.  This is one of the truly great experiences of my life and I want you to accept it as that.  I’m just telling you what happened.  After supper I went over to my bag and I took out my jews harp, and they were all looking, smiling.  And two little girls about two or three years old had attached themselves to me and they were holding my arm and sort of petting it.  Just beautiful.  I’d look at them and they’d giggle, and they loved my beard—they’d reach up and pull it.  They loved to feel it, and they were laughing about it.  It turned out that the reason that they loved me was that Indians are beardless—no beards at all but their ancestor had beards.  Tariri said that the children laughed whenever I said anything because they said that “He is the first big monkey who talks.” I was like a big monkey to them.

I said, “Dori, call them all around,” and they stood there.  They didn’t know what was going to happen.  I said, “Tell them I will play for them.  This is an American folk instrument.  This is what the natives of America play.  I’m a native of America.  I’m not going to play a violin or an organ or sing a hymn, I’m going to play what the natives just like you play.  I’m also a native.”

I took the jews harp and I sat up on the table and I began to perform.  And there was a moment—the kids giggled and Tariri looked, and Arushpa looked.  I played You Are My Sunshine, and I finished it and they were astounded!  And I said, “Now I will sing the song for you.”  They were so enraptured by that, their eyes were shining.  And then I took my kazoo.  I said, “Now I will play another native American instrument.”  You couldn’t believe it, they loved it so!  And then I took out my nose flute and that threw them, because they play flutes.  The kids died—they were rolling on the floor and Tariri was yelling.  I played You Are My Sunshine, and Red River Valley.

shep peru tape deck

Shepherd holding jews harp. Luden’s Lee Chamberlain

holding microphone, tape player in front.

Sol Potempkin must have taken the photo.

I played about five songs and then Tariri says, “We want to sing,” and they all sang for me.  Arushpa came creeping out with his long bamboo flute and he played the very intricate music they play, and the other boy brought his out and they both played.  And I said, “Now I will play with you.  Let’s all sit in together on a session.”  Probably for the first time in the history of music there was a headhunter/Madison Avenue, flute-and-jews harp duet and we really swung.  I caught the beat of what he was doing—their music is pentatonic—a five-note scale, a very minor-sounding scale.  Well, they led and I followed with my jews harp and my nose flute and the three of us played and the crowd went out of its mind!

We stayed till three and four o’clock in the morning playing and singing and the translator had faded off into the darkness.  They’d never had anything like this in their lives before.  Many white men come to them and give them medicine, white men come and preach to them, white men come and study them, but no white man ever came to entertain them and be part of them.

More to come.

___________________________________________________

 

JEAN SHEPHERD–Travel–Peru Part 7

After we had plunged through the undergrowth for about two miles in what to almost anybody would be an impassable jungle trail, and hacked through to this clearing away from the river, we arrived, and immediately Tariri took myself and the other two guys down to this little jungle stream that they live on that comes right through under the trees and we undressed and went into this water and took a bath.  He gave us a little pot to just pour the water over ourselves.  It was a great feeling.  They’re very clean and meticulous people and they’re also exceedingly modest.

They live off the land itself.  They live off hunting and they’re beginning small adventures into agriculture.  They grow a very little field of bananas.  They don’t live in a village, at least in this tribe—they live in small family units.  Tariri has two little thatched houses built on a few poles.  A palm-thatched roof and a platform that they sleep on that they kind of enclose with palm branches.  amazon hut

This sort of thatched house.

There may be one or two males with wives.  They’re polygamous.  Wives with their children, and they’re unbelievably friendly and kind to their children.  I never heard a Shapra child cry.  Beautiful children.  By the way, the people are beautiful.

Let me tell you about the native beer—they don’t drink water.  I guess they learned over the centuries that water is deadly.  They drink a native drink.  It’s a lightly fermented, yellowish liquid which they drink after every meal.  It’s not much alcoholic, so don’t think in terms of the natives getting drunk and yelling and hollering.  It’s a food, and the alcohol, of course, is a part of the native disinfectant.

manioc

Manioc, (cassava) a tuber similar to yam,

made into food and drink, very

common in the Amazon.

You eat their food—if you don’t eat their food, it’s not really an insult, it’s a slight.  Can you imagine somebody arriving at your house and they bring their own lunch?  And they say, “You know, we don’t trust your food, so we’re bringing a lunch.”  So we ate their food.  They have a kind of yam they boil that tastes very much like roasted chestnuts.  They also have a kind of banana that’s not quite like ours.  They throw them in the fire to roast.  You split the skin after it’s been burning and it’s fantastically hot and succulent and absolutely delicious.

So we had eaten and they were burning a monkey for us.  Here’s the recipe for cooking monkey.  You get a spider monkey or a rough monkey or a howler. You just throw the monkey, fur, insides and all, onto the fire.  That’s the recipe.  An hour later you drag it out and call the gang.

[I wanted to include here a photo of a cooked monkey, but all the googled images were too horrific and disgusting. If ya wanna see one, google it yourself and don’t blame me–I don’t even wanna think about it. Instead I’ll show the travel accommodations I had while in Peru’s jungle, down the Amazon River from Iquitos, Peru, 600 river-miles NE of Pucallpa. We chose a tour company that seemed to offer the least touristy experience. Except for the low, neat wooden walls, this tourist hut is not too different from one common type of native thatched house. We slept on thin, pallet-like mattresses on the floor, covered by mosquito netting.]Amazon hut I stayed in

After we had eaten, it was dark now.  Darkness comes immediately in the jungle.  One minute light, the next minute dark.  Pitch black.  You cannot believe the blackness of the jungle and we could see overhead that the moon began to come out.  And the jungle moon is so bright in spots where it comes through the trees that you can literally read by it.  It is a brilliant white light.  There was nothing for miles—just us and Tariri’s family of seventeen and another young man who had arrived because he heard we were coming.  He was just a great, beautiful young man who had come, and Tariri’s son, Arushpa, who took a fantastic liking to us.  I discovered he was a musician.  A sixteen year old boy who took a great liking to us, particularly to me because of what happened.

Yes, more to come.

________________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD–Travel–Peru Part 6

It was fascinating to watch the pilot fly his plane, literally flying it by his body.  Taking off from this jungle stream, he takes the wheel with his arms and the trees are getting closer and GAGAGAGAGAGA! we go up in the air RAAAAAAAAA! literally he just flies this plane—talk about flying by the seat of your pants!

Now that’s the kind of thing—when we all started out we didn’t have any idea that we would run into things like this. And the dangers of the jungle there are dangers that are almost all unseen. The vampire bat is an interesting thing in this area.  The translator we were with said one of the big problems is that the vampire bats kill the chickens these people grow in their chacras.   I didn’t see one but many of the people told me about them.  The vampire bat attacks by moving in quickly—it’s a tiny bat.  It usually bites the nose of the person.  A quick bite with very sharp teeth.  It does not attach itself to you.  The blood flows immediately because it has needle-like teeth that dig deep, and it injects an anti-coagulant into the wound and the blood.  The person remains asleep—doesn’t even wake up—it’s all painless.  The blood flows and the bat laps up the blood.

Vampire bat1

[Remember I described Dr. Carneiro’s hammock

stained with his blood caused by vampire bats.]

On the other hand, the jungle itself is indescribably beautiful.  Great orchids unlike any we know.  The jungle has a strange quality about it that some people describe with one word—solemnity.  A quality of course, of solitude.  But more than that, a kind of cathedral-like air about it.  In this kind of heavy rainforest, the undergrowth is not as great in other types of forest because the sun can’t get down to the ground, so smaller plants can’t grow.  But these great trees reach into the air maybe a hundred-and-fifty feet.  Can you imagine a tree that’s fifteen stories or more in height?  These fantastic trees reach up and form a canopy that’s impenetrable to the sun.  And these natives—the Shapras and other Indian tribes—move through this jungle like shadows.

So the plane set us down in Shapra country.  I made a tape nights ago when I was in the Amazon River Basin, many, many hundreds of miles from civilization in an area that is still marked on the Peruvian Air Force maps as unexplored, uncharted.  I carried this little recorder in a big pack on my back.  We went in about a mile-and-a-half in from the river, over this almost impassable trail, walking over logs and through the trees.  It was just a tiny trail, and was so hard to get through because Tariri, the chief—a strange, powerful, very paternal kind of man.  Kind of a combination of Kruschev with that peculiar sense of humor, a little touch of Stalin, a little touch of Santa Claus—apparently the greatest fighter the world has ever seen.   The reason he was chief for so many years, such a powerful chief in the area, was that he had personally disposed of all of his rivals—that’s the way you stayed being chief—it is not an inherited job, it is not an elected job.

Chief_Tariri

Chief Tariri

Many years ago he became chief merely by braining everybody else who wanted to be chief—in fair combat.  And you wind up taking his head and eventually you take enough heads that you’re recognized as the local big man.

More to come.

_______________________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD–TRAVEL–Peru Part 5

When I had the chance to do this, I had a lot of misgivings, and then I felt, well, if you can go there—we don’t have any concept of the real frontier today.

peru amazon map

We landed in Lima on the coast, and in the airport we waited to take a jungle airline DC3, that goes over the Andes.  They have not built DC3s since about 1947.  We piled into this little airplane, and you should have seen the people in this plane.  A motley collection out of all the Somerset Maugham novels you’ve ever read.

We got up over the Andes.  Now, I have flown many times over the Alps, I’ve flown over the Sahara, I’ve flown over the outback country, which is considered a great sight from the air, but believe me, if you ever get a chance to fly over the Andes, do it.  And the thing that really scares you about it is—these are angry mountains—you know, some mountains are just beautiful.  You look at the Alps and they look remote and cold, they’re all covered with snow, they look sort of inaccessible but beautiful.  These mountains look dangerous.  The Andes Mountains just lay there, brown, and there’s not a stick of vegetation.  They’re just brown, black, great sweeps of gray and they’re high, huge mountains.

andes use this

There are Incan ruins in certain areas of the Andes.  You look out there and there is a sense that you’re looking at the thing that’s in all of us, a kind of savage, primal past.  If a plane goes down in the Andes, forget it.  There’s no going back….

You go higher and higher until all of a sudden you’re at the peak of the Andes.  It’s a mountain range that starts right outside of Lima.  Right on the coast and builds up and up just like that.  In an instant you’re at the peak and everybody’s sucking oxygen.  The planes are not pressurized.  And here’s these little old grandmothers sucking their oxygen.  They give you a pipe and the oxygen is pumped in and you sit and suck it.

And the mountains here are higher up than we are.  That is a sobering thought when you look up out of the airplane and see two big walls, and the pilots are flying along and, of course there are all kinds of air currents in this place.  The plane goes ARRRRRRGAGAGAGAGAGA.  The steward goes up and down the aisle wearing a big air mask with tanks on his back.  He’s giving you a Life magazine and on the cover is Ann Margaret.  This is life, and out there you see these mountains black and gray, and the plane is sweating AEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

And suddenly you’re going down the other side and it’s another world.  It’s another world.  It’s the jungle.  You see a green carpet and it stretches from one horizon to the other.  And it’s flat and it’s just solid green with no variation in color.  No fields, no hills, it’s just like a great green, soft, woolen carpet and you realize that these trees down there are maybe a hundred-and-fifty to two-hundred feet high.  Just a great canopy.  And if you go in, they just don’t find you.

amazon_USE THIS

On the other side of the mountains is a city—a strange frontier town in the heart of the jungle, right on the river.  The Ucayali River.  Everybody goes down to this little jungle town which is on the other side.  It’s a town called Pucallpa.

After we got down I was talking with one of the jungle pilots who fly single-engine float planes over the jungle and we got talking about the flight over the Andes.  He says, “You came in on the DC3, didn’t you?”

I say “Yeah.”

He says, “Boy, I don’t know how they make it.”

I say, “Well, I bought a ticket!”

The jungle pilot says again, “Gee, I don’t know how they make it.  He says, “You know, that little single engine gets up there to twenty-three or twenty-four thousand feet, she’s really sweating.”

I say, “You mean that?”  You don’t think of the engines—they just go.  You can’t imagine that little engine saying, “I think I can, I think I can.”

pucallpa

Part of Pucallpa and the river.

You get out of the airplane and they just throw all your junk out.  You’re used to going around back and waiting with your ticket stubs and your baggage comes out of a slot, but they just throw your stuff out on the ground and the plane goes BAAAAAAAAAAA—it blows it all around.

So it’s a town called Pucallpa. This is all of the Wild West towns you could imagine in your life.  It’s like a combination of Singapore, Dodge City, El Paso, Teaneck, and over it all is the most fantastic miasma of malaria—you know that malaria is here.  You see the mosquitoes flying around waiting for you at the airport.  Our plane taxies off with a flat tire and the only other plane they’ve got is over there with a bent wing.  No hangers—nothing.  Just this little building with a guy sitting there.  He just sort of looks at you.

 

We were met by a big, heavy, rough metal station wagon-type vehicle with big round tires that was going to take us in to a jungle settlement about three miles away on a river, and as we rode, the houses of Pucallpa thinned out and we were in the jungle and then, here we were, in a tiny missionary settlement.  These people have about five airplanes—a little airline that flies into the real jungle, which is further on in.

The settlement is on what seems to be a little, bucolic, beautiful lake.  An hour later we’re having dinner in this tiny house, all screened in, looking over the lake.  One of the missionary’s wives is serving us a meal.  They’re putting on their finest for us.   And she’s wearing a flowered dress that seems to be the only thing she has.  They have nothing.  Making conversation, I say to her, “Gee, the jungle!  Do you ever see any snakes of anything?”

She says, “Oh yeah, in fact two days ago it was right down there,” and she points to the little beach where two missionary kids are swimming.  She says, “Right down at the beach.  I got up in the morning and looked out and there was an anaconda swallowing a crocodile.  It was sticking out of him, eight feet long.”anaconda eats croc

An anaconda swallowing a crocodile.

More Peru to come.

__________________________________________

JEAN SHEPHERD –Travel–Peru Part 4

“I find myself drawn to the uncivilized

parts of the world.” 

1966-08-dd_022_playboy_pic

Jean Shepherd talks about why he travels and what he tries to convey in his trips–especially during what he calls one of the great experiences of his life:

Of course there are many myths about the Peruvian jungle.  I hope, in years to come, there will be the great Shepherd myth about this intrepid man who once went alone and single-handed in the Peruvian jungle—and never reappeared.  The myth, of course came out later—that he became the emperor of the entire jungle in that area.

Apocalypse_Now_1_17_13

Jean Shepherd Marlon Brando

as the emperor of

Peruvian Cambodian

natives in “Apocalypse Now.”

And they said that he was the great white anaconda, which had come from countries to the north to save them from the green ants, and he did this, and now he is down there and has a harem of seventeen thousand fantastic Amazonian bells.  And all of you know what Amazons are like….

I find myself drawn to the uncivilized parts of the world.  I don’t know why.  Maybe Conrad—he didn’t write many stories about Budapest—and Warsaw, even though he was a Pole.  He wrote about the areas of the world that very few people have much experience with. And perhaps that’s one of the reasons he’s not as popular a writer as he should be.  Maybe, again, it’s that repugnance people have—a vague sense of fear about this thing—this green canopy, this jungle.

You’ll have to excuse me tonight if I’m doing a show more or less on a very personal level about things that I think about on the eve of this trip.  I intend, for what it’s worth, to go to this part of the world, not as a stunt.  I’m not particularly interested in stunts.  I want to go primarily because I want to go.  I have a chance to experience something, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  It’s as simple as that.  I’ve got a chance and I’m going to go.

When I come back I’m going to try to give you as many—I suppose you can say “objective”—but then, how is a twentieth-century man, and an urban one at that, and a fairly civilized one on top of that—how is an urban man going to be objective about a world that is at great odds and at great variance with the world that we live in?

And all the while I’m gone, you can see me somehow in your mind’s eye skulking through the impenetrable green hell.  Out there with my faithful tape recorder.

uher portable end 60s to end 80s

Uher recorder, of the brand and time period

of one that Shep sometimes took on his trips.

“One of the Truly Great Experiences of My Life”

Wow, I’m back!  This is Jean Shepherd, and I can say it will take me at least a week and a half or maybe even a month to begin to sort out all the strange, exhilarating, exciting—perhaps in some cases frightening— impressions that I’ve had.  I’m going to tell you this as a man who has been in several places in the world and who has involved himself in several things.  Adventure is always something that can’t truly be described.  I’m talking about genuine adventures, not necessarily to go on a safari in Africa that is organized by a safari company.  Or even the Hemingway kind of organized adventure.

This sort of adventure that I’ve just come through is a total adventure in the sense that you’re not going to kill an animal, you’re not going to a place where other people have gone to do a thing that other people do.  This is something else again, and it’s almost impossible to tell you or describe to anyone else just what it was like.  Of the three of us there, Sol Potemkin, a funny, fine photographer, a quiet, laconic type, had never been out of the United States in his life, and the first place he goes is the unexplored jungle of the headwaters of the Amazon.  As we came into Lima, he kept saying, “It’s kind of like the Catskills!”  That is, until we got over the Andes and we were flying in a little DC-3—a jungle airplane of Faucett Airlines.

 fawcett DC3A Faucett DC3

Peru as a country is one of the most exciting, unusual, eerie, spooky, beautiful countries in the world.  After trips, I constantly get heckled by people who say, “You go there and you come back an expert.”  I’m not trying to say that at all.  I’m not going to be an expert.  I went to the headwaters of the Amazon.  I was there.  I am a trained reporter.  My life has been devoted to absorbing sights and sounds and listening.

And I am going to try to give you my impressions

of what I consider probably the high point of my life

as far as adventures and experience is concerned.

I had no idea it would be like this when I left and I might point out that it was not a lark.  It started out a little bit that way, but by the time we arrived in Lima and had begun to go over the Andes, we realized this was a very serious thing and not only was it serious, there were certain elements of danger in it and I don’t wish to even dwell on that.  It had nothing to do with the headhunters by the way—the people we visited are ex-headhunters.

I’m not going to appear as an anthropologist, an expert.

I’m appearing as an artist who has seen something

and would like to transmit his impressions to you.

Are you prepared to accept that?

All right.

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