stuff Clay wants to do!
A Journey Through the Northwest Passage
This is one of humankind’s greatest quests. Scores of explorers attempted to find the Northwest Passage,
including, of course, Captain James Cook. The Arctic ice has always prevented such a crossing. But with global climate change, the great northern ice sheets are melting and it is now possible to press through from Atlantic to Pacific. Meriwether Lewis was tilting at the same windmill in 1804-06, though he was hoping for a convenient river transit through the North American continent, below the 50thparallel. I’d love to take this trip, either direction or both, and write about it, or lead a cultural tour through the Northwest Passage, lecturing and performing
In Search of America
I’ve got the opportunity to buy a modest conversion van RV from a good friend of mine. It has a shower, toilet, bed, sink, refrigerator, stove, microwave, converter, etc. The most enduring of all my dreams is to take six months or a year and wander North America. For part of the time I would follow Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley route, and for part of the time the trail of Lewis & Clark. But mostly I would just wander about, to all the National Parks that appear before me, to hundreds of historical and literary sites, through the National Forests, along Theodore Roosevelt’s 1903 rail journey through the American West, etc.
I’d post a daily blog, write articles about such subjects as interested me, create photo essays, post video, and in the end write a big book about America, at least one man’s sliver of America.
This was my dream when I was 15 and none of the current technologies were in place. I had thought of what it would take to put a small darkroom in such a rig, and I wondered how I would find room for all the books I’d like to take. But now that the world is wired and digitized in revolutionary ways, the kind of loopy journey I have in mind is much easier to create.
I plan to do it. I just need to find the cash and the time. My first stop will be the Bear Paw Mountains in northeastern Montana, where Chief Joseph surrendered on October 5,1877.
Performing the lead role in the greatest play in the English language has always been one of my dreams. I first read the play at Vanderbilt University in October 1973, and it changed the trajectory instantly and forever. I’m getting a little long in the tooth for Hamlet, but I wouldn’t let that stop me. I’d go into training physically and mentally to get ready. I’ve already memorized a large number of Hamlet’s speeches. There was a time when Shakespeare meant as much to me as Thomas Jefferson and Lewis & Clark do now. Give me this opportunity, two weekend, six performances, and I will make the most of it. At Oxford, I had the opportunity to see 33 of the 37 Shakespeare plays, including Hamlet nine times. In fact, at Stratford on Avon I had the glory of seeing Michael Pennington perform as Hamlet for the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life.
Walk the Pacific Crest Trail
No, it doesn’t have anything to do with Cheryl Strayed’s recent transit. I don’t regard that a very authentic book. I don’t doubt that she made the journey, but I don’t trust the ways in which she (in my opinion) used and misused the adventure. I’ve wanted to do this for twenty years. I think you have to start just north of the Mexican border and see it through to the Canadian frontier.
Not going to happen, I know, but if NASA offered me the chance to go knowing that it would be impossible to get back, I’d be on that flight tomorrow. A British soprano just spent $51 million to fly to the International Space Station for less than two weeks. I’d do that too, if I had the money, but I’d instantly agree to go to the Moon, whatever the risks, or to Mars, no matter if it were a one-way journey.