ENGLEWOOD, Fla. — My wife was clearing the shelf of our guest room closet here in Florida. It was stuffed with blankets and faded beach towels. She called out, "What is this? Hidden in a dusty corner was a flat, gray object. It was my tattered old Smith Corona portable typewriter.
It was an ecstatic moment for me. It was the one I had used lo, many years ago, when I was traveling almost around the world on those "I'm With Bill “ cruises that this noospaper used to sponsor.
This was before email, so nightly I typed my columns in our stateroom. Helen lost sleep because the dinging bell at the end of each line kept her awake. I would take my typed copy to the radio shack on the cruise ship, where the radio operator would send it to the Quad-City Times.
What tales that typewriter could tell ...
LIKE THE NIGHT we were in a typhoon. The pilot had warned that when we neared the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic oceans, great waves could be expected. The storm was a terror. It was like the movie, "The Poseidon Adventure." The grand piano skidded across the dance floor; dishes crashed in the dining room. We huddled in our room. Pictures on the wall crashed onto our beds; a bowl of fruit flopped from a shelf onto me.
"I hear water," my wife said. I climbed out of bed into ankle deep water. Pipes had shattered below our floor. All our suitcases were under the bed, soaked. The ship made it to Capetown, South Africa. In the morning we left the ship, its bow nearly flat from buffeting of the waves. It was an adventure that made good copy.
IN PAGO PAGO, I was determined to have a drink in Sadie Thompson's bar, a tough saloon made famous in literature by W. Somerset Maugham's "Rain." It was raining that day, which seemed to be just right. I asked the bartender for a menu.
She said "Sweetheart, all we serve here is beer and chocolate cake."
She actually served me a beer and slice of stale chocolate cake.
WE WERE IN Kenya five days, and I loved every minute of that African trip. Helen was scared to death. The first night we stayed in a hut with monkeys jumping around the thatched roof. Our only light was from a candle. Next night, we were in a sort-of hotel. Helen was delighted the next morning to see a giraffe poke its gentle head in our window.
BILL AUGUST, a world traveler from New Liberty, invited me to fly with him from the tip of Chile to take a look at Antarctica. It was a two-hour flight to reach the land of ice. Everyone on board had a window seat, a filet and champagne. Bill, who could convince anyone of anything, convinced the pilot that I should sit in the third seat of the cockpit because I was a reporter and intended to write about the flight. We didn't land, but flew over the forbidding ice for more than an hour. We flew at 200 feet, the pilot said. I asked what would happen if we crashed. He said not to worry: The temperature was about 80 below, and we wouldn't last long.
ONE OF MY favorite places was China, even though it was the only spot where I got sick. Our traveling group convinced me to take a swig of snake wine. The little cobra was still in the bottle. Bill August took a drink from the same bottle. He didn't get sick. I thought I was going to die.
I shall keep this typewriter and its travelers' tales for the rest of my life, even though the platen (roller) has cracked and dried, and the ribbon is gone.