Monday, June 17, 2013


I'll be leaving for Rome July 3, thanks to my dear, sadly-dead friend Norm's generosity, for a 15 day cruise from Rome to Istanbul. This will be my third visit to Rome, my first being 57 years ago courtesy of the United States Navy. But I'll also be revisiting, for the first time since my Navy days, Athens and Istanbul, of which I have fond memories. As those of you who have been following my blogs well know, I have a strange obsession with and relationship to the past. While I cannot fool myself into thinking the journey or I will be the same as it/I was, it promises to be a fascinating adventure.

This will also be my first time on an ocean (well, sea)-going vessel since I left the navy. The river cruise I took last year from Budapest to Amsterdam was beautiful, but I'm not sure river cruise boats, large as they are, are really considered to be ships.

The one less-than-idyllic aspect of the coming cruise, as it was with the river cruise, is that I will largely be unable to take advantage of the marvelous food and wines provided. With great regret, but little choice, I have accepted the fact that as a result of my ten-years-ago, now, dance with tongue cancer, I have absolutely no interest in solid food beyond a few bites. No bid for sympathy; just the way it is. For dinner each evening, I'll be lucky to finish an appetizer. And since wine, or any regular alcohol, burns the hell out of my mouth, though I can fairly well tolerate beer, I'll try to drink as much dark beer as I can.

The point of mentioning the food is that I will unquestionably, as I did on the river cruise, be losing 10 pounds or more during the trip. I have ordered two cases of Benecalorie liquid nutritional supplement—each with 24 1.5 oz cups of highly-concentrated nutrients providing 350 calories each—and will try to pack as many of them as I can into my suitcase so I'll be guaranteed at least 1/3 of my necessary caloric intake each day. I normally also drink two 8-oz, 350-calorie bottles of nutritional supplements per day, but I can't carry enough of them with me to cover the entire trip.

I'm looking forward to taking a ton of pictures and, while it should be no problem while ashore, I'm mildly concerned about taking pictures while at sea. I'm sure they sail mostly close to the shore to facilitate passengers taking pictures, but I have found that pictures taken at a distance lose a lot. And if I use the zoom lens feature, the slightest motion while clicking the shutter blurs the photo (moving ships are not ideal for stability).

My fondest memories of Athens—recorded in my A World Ago: A Navy Man's Letters Home, 1954-1956—are of being ashore with my shipboard buddy, Lloyd, upon whom I had a gigantic but totally unrequited crush. I think today it would be called a “bromance.” The pictures we had taken of the two of us in front of the Parthenon still make my chest ache whenever I look at them. And while the details were blurred by alcohol, I distinctly remember the night the two of us went ashore and got utterly, totally drunk and would never have made it back to the ship were it not for the kindness of a couple of Greek sailors we encountered at some point in the evening.

Istanbul provided another cherished memory, and one from which I have a tangible reminder as well. While I can't recall the exact details, I found myself at the Istanbul Hilton hotel with some shipmates, and ordered a small glass of sweet vermouth. I'm not sure why, but I considered it the time to be the height of elegance and sophistication—I was at the Istanbul Hilton, after all. The tiny glass had the hotel's logo etched onto it and, man of the world that I was, I stole it. I still have it. So I want, if possible, to return to the Istanbul Hilton, if it still exists at the same location, and risk the burning of my mouth to have a small glass of sweet vermouth. I will try to resist stealing the glass this time, but....

So yet again I find myself acutely aware of Thomas Wolfe's caution that “you can't go home again.” And yet again, despite knowing I can't, I can try.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is now also available as an audiobook.


Kage Alan said...

I think what you're doing is incredible. It's an attempt to reach across time, touch a memory, and breathe life into it once more. Am very much looking forward to reading your posts about the trip and then your afterthoughts.

Breda Shannon said...

I have read but just your most recent post but I like it and I have a sense that I would like to explore your past posts - that memory and the past thing is powerful for exploration and as one gets older, one cannot but help put perspective on the past by somehow revisiting it in writing, if one writes of course - Have a great trip - I have started a new blog From the style and narrative of your writing, I feel you might enjoy mine too. But perhaps not. Anyhow link provided in case you decide to read.

Breda Shannon