Earlier this year, I left Blog for 40 days not to wander in the desert but to voyage the high seas as part of a crypto-cultural fellowship program thing. Since some of you have been asking (and since I promised to write about it), here are the vague highlights of what I did, with movie commentary where appropriate:
1. Sang karaoke in Tokyo. "A Whole New World" and "Hit Me with Your Best Shot," among others. It was archetypal, and cinematic. Sofia Coppola-ish. But much more high-energy than Bob Harris.
2. Bathed in a hot spring in the Zao Mountains in the north of Honshu. There is no appropriately corresponding cinema for this episode.
3. Spent 30-plus days at sea on an ocean liner. Threw up zero times. During some meals, the kitchen staff would frequently play not only "My Heart Will Go On" but also the parts of the Titanic score that accompany the sinking. The ship might as well have been vertical during those meals.
4. Had a stranger spirit me into the Gulf of Oman on his speedboat. It was very Antonioni. Shirtless, leaning against the bow of a boat with my sunglasses on, hurtling over small waves to some rocky deserted isle. I did not disappear, however.
5. Got ankle-deep in poverty in Chennai, India, the first third-world country I've visited. I'm woefully undereducated when it comes to Indian movies, but suffice to say the experience was not Bollywoodish.
6. Made it from a southern harbor in Singapore to Johor Bahru in Malaysia (and back) in four hours.
7. Memorized and performed the first half of the climactic dance in "Dirty Dancing" (up to and including Swayze's stage jump), with the movie projected behind me and my dance partner. I'm not joking about this. It was perhaps the most fun I've had on stage ever.
8. Acquired a surprising and valuable perspective on myself and my country. Can't really tell you what that is, though, other than we're like the oldest brother of the world behaving like the youngest.
9. Developed a severe affection for Finns, Costa Ricans, Brazilians, Omanis, Spaniards, Bahrainis, Kiwis and Solomon Islanders.
10. Truly realized, for the first time, how expansive the world is, humanistically, despite globalization. The world is a big-ass place. I'm hoping this is just the overture to the adventure.