Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's Nice to Go Trav'ling

Four years ago today, I arrived in the Philippines for an indefinite stay. The indefiniteness has deepened to the point that, even though I've had more than enough of this place, it evidently hasn't had enough of me. Four years of living like an ordinary Filipino, even if my per capita income is more than twice the national average of $2,000, and I could live a lot better if I weren't supporting three other castaways who happened to wind up in my lifeboat.

I alluded some time ago in this blog to the misadventure that landed me here in the Sticks - a small island tied by a bridge to a bigger island. Someone once said that freedom is like air conditioning - once you've experienced it you find that you can't live without it. It's a funny line, but I've learned that freedom isn't at all like air conditioning, since I've lived comfortably without the latter all this time. For half of that time I have somehow lived without cable TV. So I missed the entire 2008 presidential primaries, all the debates, the conventions and the most remarkable election of my lifetime. I feel a deep sense of regret that I wasn't home participating in my country taking those enormous steps.

I was preoccupied with the daily challenges of maintaining my composure while I was afflicted with typhoons, swarming tropical insects, power failures, screaming roosters, full-volume karaoke, and the alarming day by day spectacle of poor people struggle against a full-fledged oligarchy for the last ounce of liberty they can cajole out of them. Compared with all this, the economic crisis in America is like distant thunder or watching the track of a super typhoon as it veers to the north toward Taiwan or Okinawa. Not a disaster averted but one diverted. I tell myself that I'll deal with the scarcity of jobs, the reluctance of banks to provide credit to small businesses or ordinary people, or the prospect of a Republican winning the 2012 election when I get home.

There are moments when a cold wind will swoop down from somewhere high in the atmosphere and slip through my window, making me wonder from what compass point or what altitude it came and remind me of fairer climes and better times. Like the lyricist who wrote the song "It's Nice to Go Trav'ling",* I've learned that the best part of a journey may well be its end.

It's very nice to go trav'ling
To Paris, London and Rome
It's oh, so nice to go trav'ling
But it's so much nicer
Yes, it's so much nicer to come home

It's very nice to just wander
The camel route to Iraq
It's oh, so nice to just wander
But it's so much nicer
Yes, it's oh so nice to wander back

The mam'selles and frauleins and the senoritas are sweet
But they can't compete 'cause they just don't have
What the models have on Madison Ave

It's very nice to be footloose
With just a toothbrush and comb
It's oh so nice to be footloose
But your heart starts singin'
When you're homeward wingin' across the foam

And you know your fate is
Where the Empire State is
All you contemplate is
The view from Miss Liberty's dome
It's very nice to go trav'ling
But it's oh so nice to come home

You will find the madchen and the gay muchachas are rare
But they can't compare with that sexy line
That parades each day at Sunset and Vine

It's quite the life to play gypsy
And roam as gypsies will roam
It's quite the life to play gypsy
But your heart starts singin'
When you're homeward wingin' across the foam

And the Hudson River
Makes you start to quiver
Like the latest flivver
That's simply drippin' with chrome
It's very nice to go trav'ling
But it's oh so nice to come home

No more customs
Burn the passport
No more packing and unpacking
Light the home fires
Get my slippers
Make a pizza

(Frank Sinatra sings the song

*The lyricist was Sammy Cahn.

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