I never want to seem like a tourist. I would rather ride the 3 train from 145th street in Manhattan down to Rockaway Avenue in Brooklyn before glancing at a subway map or asking for directions from a grim-faced New Yorker who wants nothing to do with me. The first time I went to New York city in twelfth grade, I blushed (as much as my dark skin would permit) when I noticed that my starch-pressed khaki skort and aqua-blue flip flops signaled to New Yorkers my obvious tourist status. I avoided Times Square because tourists congested the sidewalks and snapped photos of the brightly lit billboards. In Ireland, I was the worst tourist I could be: me and forty raucous Vassar College Rugby players. At all hours of the night, we squawked drunkenly, bellowed, jogged through Dublin side streets as if the city was our playground. When I say I dislike being a tourist, I don’t mean to suggest people shouldn’t travel. We should just travel better than we do.
We begin 2013 with our first redesign in decades. Take a look, and read Ann Fabian on the sad life of pioneering herpetologist Mary Cynthia Dickerson and Zhanna Vaynberg on growing up between cultures, along with fiction by Cody Peace Adams, Kim Adrian, Morris Collins, Jen Fawkes, Stephanie Friedman, and William Kelly Woolfitt; a review of Witold Gombrowicz by Piotr Florczyk; and poetry by Marianne Boruch.
From the Desert Wars,” is a special section of startling and deeply felt poetry written by American soldiers fresh from Iraq and Afghanistan,“trying to make sense of things,” including work by Benjamin Busch, Clint Garner, Bruce Lack, Hugh Martin, and Patrick Whalen.
“When you have pen friends you always feel there are boys and girls abroad who consider you a true friend,” the brochure stated. “In addition to letters, you can also exchange your own drawings, photos, postage stamps, records, etc. Maybe someday you can also visit your long-time pen friend.” I probably convinced my parents that same night (likely by crying) that I, too, needed this service, needed to find this true friend in my life.
Every year around Christmas time Bahamians are divided by the Junkanoo groups they support. I was born into a family of Valley Boy supporters, but in theory I could support any of the main competing groups—Valley Boys, One Family, Roots, Saxons, The Music Makers or The Prodigal Sons. These groups practice all year for the Boxing Day and New Year competitive parades. Those used to be the only mornings there were Junkanoo parades, but now there are performances called rush outs every week in Marina Village on Paradise Island and routinely throughout the summer at the Fish Fry, a once cultural landmark now overrun by restaurants that sell syrupy-sweet strawberry daiquiris and bland peas n’rice on Fiestaware. I do want to be, nor do I try to be a cultural snob, but sometimes I do wonder if anything can belong to a country that shares and bends its land and people so often for the benefit of others. I wonder at one point does the culture become something else entirely, simply a shadow of its former self.