Archive for travel

He Ain’t Heavy

My brother died a year ago. Or was it a little more than a year ago? Or a little less?

All we know for sure is that the police, responding to a welfare check requested by my sister, broke down his kitchen door on Halloween Day and followed the smell to his bedroom, where he’d been lying dead for weeks. As long as a month, the police surmised, but judging from the recollections of friends who last spoke to him, probably longer.

David P. Hauser Oct. 1949 – Oct. 2022

What I know for sure is that he failed to send me a birthday card on September 25. It was not like him to forget a birthday, and he usually sent one of the cards that various wildlife organizations had sent him as thanks for his generous donations.

I thought of calling, but then worried that it would sound rude: “Where’s my birthday card?” A few weeks passed before I sent him a newsy email without mentioning the birthday he had missed. No answer.

So it wasn’t until Halloween, when my sister called from Portland to tell me the results of the welfare check she had requested, that I learned that David Paul Hauser, my little brother, had died all alone in his secluded rural home.

A few years earlier, before my move to Indiana, he and I had gone hiking along the Columbia River. As we trudged along he casually asked if I would serve as his executor. At age 72, he thought it was time he made a will. He also told me he would name me as a beneficiary.

So, a few months after his body was discovered, I flew to Portland to attend his memorial, to meet with the lawyer and tour David’s house with a Realtor. The house, ready to be sold, bore no evidence that my brother’s decomposing body earlier had lain in the back bedroom.

David was a very caring and generous man but when it came to his own health, he was negligent. He had recently been diagnosed with diabetes, but he told my sister he had trouble changing his lifestyle. From all appearances, he did not watch his diet or take prescribed meds. The last people who talked to him said he sounded confused and disoriented. Apparently, as he began to slip into a diabetic coma, he lay down on his bed, never to rise again.

After David’s memorial, my son, Cory, and I took possession of David’s truck in order to drive it to our home in Indiana. Entrusted to me were his cremains, the several pounds of bone fragments remaining after his body was cremated. My sister had already poured some of them into the soil at his home in Amboy, Washington. Cory and I decided to take the rest of David on a final road trip (an activity he loved), leaving parts of him in different locations along the way.

Our first David deposit was in Washington State, on the east side of the Columbia River after it turns northward. Next we scattered some of the cremains on a snow bank in the mountains of Idaho. In Montana a meadowlark sang as we left David in a field near the town of Rosebud. Early one morning, in sub-zero weather, we left a bit of David in Fargo, North Dakota.

We hurried to get back home, never stopping to continue our task in either Minnesota, Wisconsin or Illinois, arriving late that afternoon in Chesterton, Indiana. I took home with me the rest of David, promising to find a perfect spot for the remains of the cremains.

I didn’t attend to it until after David’s estate had been closed this July. I had many months earlier requested that the post office forward all his mail to me, so I had been getting almost daily reminders that he needed a final resting place in the form of scores of solicitation letters from the many organizations he had supported. The letters requested that he buy a heifer for a village in Africa, that he pay for an indigent person’s Thanksgiving meal, that he pay vet bills for abused pets, that he continue to support the Democratic Party, Planned Parenthood and other liberal causes, and of course to continue his subscriptions to magazines supporting wildlife, national parks, birds, etc. The oddest request, I thought, was for him to sponsor Holocaust survivors. I can’t imagine there are too many left to sponsor, but I assume David gladly contributed to that cause too.

My brother’s sixth and final resting place, with a lovely view of Lake Michigan

On a clear and sunny summer day I leashed my dogs, placed the bag of cremains in my back pack and drove the five miles from Chesterton to Indiana Dunes State Park. After a short hike, bearing my brother on my back, I found a high dune overlooking Lake Michigan. I thought David would have loved the view. The dogs rested in the cool sand as I furtively dug a hole and then dumped the small amount of cremains into the embrace of a sand dune.

Thinking of my brother now lying in various places along two-thirds of the width of the nation, a line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet comes to mind, as Juliet wishes that after Romeo’s death he will become a multitude of stars and shine down from above.

Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-brow’d night, Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night And pay no worship to the garish sun.

Dear David is now mixed, not with stars, but with soil and sand, so that he will make the face of earth so fine . . . 

Zoom Bloom: Bloomsday in a Time of Coronavirus

James Joyce

It was exactly 50 years ago that I attended my first Bloomsday. At age 22 I had a strong sense of priorities, so I skipped my college graduation in order to wake up early in Dublin on June 16th, ready to trace the routes followed on that day in 1904 by the two protagonists created by James Joyce for his masterpiece, Ulysses.

The year was 1970, but the crowds of scholars I anticipated joining at various Joycean landmarks did not materialize. I wondered if I were the only Joyce enthusiast in Dublin who was celebrating Bloomsday, named in honor of the book’s main character, Leopold Bloom, whose peregrinations, along with those of Stephen Dedalus, are described in the 1922 novel.

Looking back, I would have been safe on that deserted Dublin day from coronavirus, had it then existed. The empty streets of 1970 will be replicated for this year’s Bloomsday, but this time out of necessity rather than neglect. Although there undoubtedly will be more Bloomsday celebrants than in 1970, they will not be strolling, but confined to the Hollywood-Squares-style boxes of Zoom meetings.

According to what I have read, Dublin didn’t officially start honoring Joyce and his literary achievements until the centennial of his birth, in 1982. Resentments lingered over Joyce’s sometimes uncharitable depiction of Dublin and Dubliners, not to mention embarrassment from 1930s obscenity trials in both the US and UK over the novel’s content.

In 1982, however, a slew of international Joyce scholars picked Bloomsday in Dublin for

James Joyce Statue

the date and site of their symposium.  The city, at last deciding to let bygones be bygones, rolled out the red carpet. Dublin never looked back. In 1990 the city even erected a bronze statue of the author holding his walking stick. Ever irreverent, Dubliners dubbed the statue “the prick with a stick.”

In 1996, the James Joyce Centre was established in a 1784 townhouse just down the street from Joyce’s alma mater, Belvedere College. On Bloomsdays past the center has offered Joyceans a number of Ulysses-themed walking tours of Dublin. It also houses exhibits and artifacts, including the actual front door of No. 7 Eccles Street, the address Joyce chose for the fictional home of Leopold Bloom. In 1970 I viewed that exact same door in a pub, The Bailey, where it had been on display since 1967.

A more recent local tribute was in 2003 when the James Joyce Bridge was built across the River Liffey and dedicated on Bloomsday. Better a bridge than a “disappointed bridge,” the term Stephen Dedalus uses in the second chapter of Ulysses to describe a pier.

The first Bloomsday is thought to have occurred in 1924, the 20th anniversary of the day recounted in the novel. In a June 27 letter that year to his patron, Harriet Shaw Weaver, Joyce makes mention of “a group of people who observe what they call Bloom’s day – 16 June.”

Thirty years later, on the 50th anniversary, a small group of Dublin authors famously attempted to visit all the landmarks mentioned in Ulysses by horse-drawn carriage, the same transportation used by Leopold Bloom on his way to a funeral. Once the group of literati hit the aforementioned Bailey, however, the drinks flowed freely and the tour came to a sudden and sodden halt.

Reading Ulysses at the Rosenbach

Meanwhile, Bloomsday came to be an annual event in locations around the world. In 1992, for example, the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia held its first Bloomsday event. The next year, the street on which it’s located was closed to vehicles for what became a tradition of beginning-to-end outdoor readings of Ulysses by local notables. The Rosenbach bears the distinction of housing the original hand-written manuscript of Ulysses.

Since 1994 there has even been a Bloomsday celebration in the Hungarian town of Szombathely. Why? Joyce described Leopold Bloom as the son of Rudolf Virag (which means bloom in Hungarian), a native of Szombathely. The town repaid the compliment by erecting a bronze statue of Joyce in time for the Bloomsday centennial, 2004.

But this year the celebrations will either take a year off or will bloom in a vast bouquet of Zoom meetings around the globe. In New York City, Symphony Space’s annual staged readings of Ulysses, Bloomsday on Broadway, will go on. Since the event’s beginnings in 1981, this will be the first Virtual Bloomsday on Broadway, and will be shown on YouTube.  Stephen Colbert kicks off the event at 8 a.m. (the time at which events of Ulysses are launched) with a reading of Telemachus, or Chapter One.

Similarly, there will be (mostly free) online events at Dublin’s James Joyce Centre, at the Rosenbach Museum, at the University of Buffalo (which boasts the largest Joyce collection in the world), at San Francisco’s Mechanics’ Institute and in many locations around the world.

My dream for Bloomsday 2020 was to recreate my visit to Dublin of 50 years ago and then

Joyce with Sylvia Beach in Paris, Shakespeare & Co.

to embark on a true Joyce journey across Europe, visiting again the places where Joyce lived and wrote: Trieste, Paris and Zurich. Obviously, I’m now prevented by a pandemic from carrying out my plan.

But in a sense, the online activities I have lined up for June 16th will allow me to out-Bloom Bloom. He spent that day going from place to place, all within the confines of the city. I will spend the day traveling the world, dropping in on one Bloomsday celebration after another, soaking up the festivities, all within the confines of my computer. Who wouldn’t say “Yes” to that?

On Assignment: Disneyland!

I’ve been writing for Alaska Beyond, the inflight magazine of Alaska Airlines, for many years. But unlike some airline magazines, Alaska Beyond, which is published by a company that is separate from the airline, rarely sends writers anywhere. I never got sent on an out-of-town assignment.

Breakfast at Disneyland

Until last week.

I couldn’t believe it when the magazine asked me if I would like to go to Disneyland. What a question. Of course! I love Disneyland!

It was fun writing to friends to report, “I’m in Disneyland. Working.”

In fact, I worked so hard during my three days in Disneyland that I gained five pounds. (I dropped them as soon as I returned to my own Spartan lifestyle, that is, no more appetizers before practically every meal, no more desserts after practically every meal, and no more appetizers between every meal.) Very nice people from Disney’s public relations department took me and a small group of journalists through Disneyland and its sister park, Disney California Adventure, as well as the Downtown Disney restaurant and

Millennium Falcon, Docked

shopping district, to check out all that was new or fairly new.


The last time I visited Disneyland was in 2015, and in just four years there have been a lot of changes and additions. The one addition generating the most buzz is Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which opened May 31. I was perhaps the wrong person to report on this new Disneyland attraction; I’m not really up to date on Star Wars movies, books or video games. Some of the character and place names on the Planet Batuu were lost on me.

Still, I could appreciate the effort put into conceiving and then making this desert-like area inhabited by alien creatures of all sorts. Even the creation of the marketplace required that designers do hands-on research in the ancient souks of Marrakesh, Morocco. They managed to capture the exotic feel of centuries-old shopping bazaars I have visited in Turkey and Iran.

The Marketplace

The various droids–some round, some angular–looked and sounded familiar to me. I even got to make my own pint-sized droid and take it home with me after a visit to the Droid Depot. Another workshop allows visitors to make their own lightsabers.

I got another dose of Star Wars when I tried out The VOID, a new addition to Downtown Disney that offers virtual reality encounters with Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers. With


an oculus rift headset in place, and a blaster in hand, I surely did the rebel forces proud. Afterwards, one of my teammates said, “You were so brave!” What can I say? The Force was with me.

A new restaurant that looked very familiar to me was Portland’s own Salt & Straw, which has spread its fantastic gourmet ice cream beyond Oregon’s borders. There was also a fun restaurant called Splitsville that has 20 bowling lanes. I bought an irresistible Mickey/Minnie purse at the World of Disney

Me (on left) with Disney PR peeps

and got inspired to dust off my sewing machine after browsing at the cute Disney Dress Shop.

The Disney Dress Shop

One evening, when our group watched the World of Color— the light, sound and water show next to Pixar Pier in California Adventure–I confess to feeling a bit emotional. Flashed before us, amid the 1200 gushing fountains and the swirling colors, were scenes from the long history of Disney films, accompanied by music from some of my favorites.

It occurred to me that every American alive today, except for those who have lived as hermits, is fondly familiar with much of that music and many of the movie scenes. We all have that in common. It’s like the soundtrack of our nation. On that night, sitting under a full moon and watching the show illuminate the faces of all the viewers, I felt a real bond with Disney lovers from coast to coast.

I doff my hat (Minnie Mouse ears hat, to be exact) to Alaska Beyond for giving me the opportunity to not only enjoy a wonderful experience, but to write about it. Look for my article in the October 2019 issue.