The first leg started out pleasant, an unhurried drive to Branson airport, a plane change in Atlanta that involved merely strolling across from Gate 7 to gate 4 in the same terminal and grabbing a sandwich along the way, and being met by friends Margaret Underwood and Linda Wolf in Raleigh, NC.
Dinner, a good visit and a leisurely sleep later we drove over to Wilson for my first interview with Civil Rights veteran Bob Zellner. I was put off immediately, despite warnings by Linda that North Carolina’s economy was in the pits, by my entry into Wilson by the back roads. Can you say agricultural and industrial blight? Miles of closed or run-down businesses, followed by a search for a recommended motel that,once I got a look at it, I wouldn’t have spent a night in under any circumstances. I’m sure it was affordable, but after the small swarthy and mustachio’d fellow who looked as if he’d just stepped off the set of the Maltese Falcon assured me ( through a barred window that hadn’t been washed since before Peter Lorre died) that all the rooms were smoking rooms, and by the way nothing was available, I gratefully accepted a further ride from Margaret and Linda over to a much cleaner side of town and got a room at a partially finished Quality Inn.
Later that evening, Bob showed up in a borrowed pickup truck and we retired to Cracker Barrel for a small feast and a large helping of information and contacts from Bob’s trove of experience. It was a lovely evening. Next morning I decamped and caught the Amtrak, and napped my way up the Carolina and Virginia countryside to Falls Church, Va. where I was met by longtime friend and fabled educator Judy Findlay who was just back from Pakistan. Whenever I get to thinking maybe I’m too old for my little adventures, a good dose of stories from Professor Judy’s life brings me back into focus right quick. Favorite line from this trip, talking about her experiences in international education: “Maybe I should start with the night I almost got arrested in Saudi Arabia.” Yeah. That would be a good start. It’s a good place to finish for now. More to come. This trip is just beginning.