Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Notes from the Field (XV)

Travel without Travel

I was born in an area of Queens that lies close to both JFK, and La Guardia airports, so perhaps that is why travel has always fascinated me. Planes, trains, buses, vans, station wagons, and SUVs have carried me all across this country and beyond – mostly on someone else’s dime.

For most of my 20’s and 30’s, I was on some tour or the other, dancing in musicals in towns whose names I don’t remember. And my work as a clown has allowed me to see Europe with a red nose in my back pack. But the journeys my storytelling has taken me on, are truly unique.

While I have gone as far away as Middle America to tell my tales, the travel that I speak of is much more local – namely, New York City, and the state of New Jersey. Spending time in the different neighborhoods of these two locations is like a tour of the world.

In one week, I have visited a section of the Bronx where everything from the people, to the freshly made bread in the corner bakery, was authentically Italian, and then been in a tiny library in New Jersey close enough to the ocean that the streets are dusted with sand. I travel to communities where Cinco De Mayo is a huge fiesta, and to areas where every house celebrates Passover. To get to the school, library, museum, or event where I am to perform, I walk by penthouses, and the projects; Bloomingdales, and One Dollar stores. Just as I bring the world to my audiences through the tales I tell – the world is brought to me by the myriad of cultures, religions, economic groups, and races I am honored to perform for.

The fact that every culture has the same type of tales – the trickster tale, and the porquoi story, among others – constantly reminds me that certain thoughts, feelings, and experiences are universal. The same holds true for my “travels” around the NYC/NJ area. It doesn’t matter if the kids are fans of Hannah Montana, or Chris Brown; if they drive a tractor, or ride a bike. The smiles are the same, the laughter is identical, and the connection is just as real in Seaside Heights, as it is in Harlem.

Many more learned people than I have written about the importance of travel, and I agree whole heartedly. Of course, travel exposes us to worlds and peoples that may differ from ourselves greatly. But, more than that, it shows us how very much alike we are. How there really is a brotherhood, and sisterhood of mankind!

Experiencing this a time zone, or three, away is wonderful, but I am grateful, and happy, that I don’t always have to go that far to see the world. Thanks to the crazy quilt of humanity that exists within a few hours of my apartment, I can travel the world, without ever really leaving home!

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