Golly Houston

The sand is gone from my bathing suit, the sunburn from my nose. I guess it’s time to stop talking about that lovely cruise I went on. It’s just that I found Hemingway was right about one thing: you DO see a thing more clearly when you’re away from it. He could see his boyhood in northern Michigan in Paris much more clearly than he could ever see it when he was actually there. In fact it took going to Paris and drinking the many drinks with comrades good and true who had seen war and knew that a man must …. (Ha ha, sorry. It’s hard for me not to parody the guy, especially where I just finished reading The Paris Wife, a fictionalized account of what it was like for his first spouse living. It was like living with a cad of the first order.

“Talk about a thing it and you’ll lose it,” he told somebody once. I was a new writer when I first came across this piece of advice I sensed the truth of it right away. I have always been sorry I didn’t come across it earlier in my life. I’m sorry I told even four people about the time I hunted down my father and sat with him for an hour in my 19th year. Now I can only remember the words I used in the telling and not the reality of the meeting.

If I had written about it maybe I would have described his hands and the way his hair went back in waves from his forehead which was high, like mine.

Instead the thing I sealed inside the melodramatic words of that college sophomore and I can’t get to it. It’s like when you make a document into a PDF. Kind of a mistake, you think to yourself after in that you can’t mess with it anymore.

I almost got to ride on the Shuttle years ago, meaning I was a National Semi-Finalist and one of the youngest and most idealistic of the thousands of journalists who entered that competition. It was cut short by the Challenger disaster though I’m aware that many young people out there don’t know what this disaster entailed.

I entered the contest because I knew NASA needed to sell the idea of space travel to the American taxpayer if it wanted to put anything up there, and they themselves told the society of professional journalists that they needed a wordsmith; that the astronauts themselves, were hopeless at conveying what saw from low earth orbit. The best they could so was say “Golly Houston,” on seeing our little blue earth blinking in and out of sunlight…

I can’t do much better when it comes to saying what this little boat ride was like.

All is a few pictures.

I look at them now: this one of Old Dave and me in the dining room.

And the one at the top where the ship itself looks like a baby whale.

And this super-short video of the surging deep. Ah, the briny deep, mother to us all.. Where are my fins? Why did we have to evolve?

Author: Terry Marotta

I am syndicated columnist, blogger and author who loves any chance to give talks about the ease of first-person writing.

6 thoughts on “Golly Houston”

  1. I just finished reading The Pars Wife also. I could hardly bear to read to the end, for I knew Hadley would be devastated. McLain told it like it was, having done the necessarmiy research. I am now re-reading A Moveable Feast. Morley Callaghan, the Canadian writer, had a lot to say about Hem and that motley crew. He was no admirer of Hemingway the man. Anyway, I like to play with the idea that the lost Hemingwway drafts will turn up some day, to be auctioned off for millions of $$$ . Or maybe a wonderful forgery. will appear — why hasn’t that happened already? Want to take it on?

  2. It must have been recommended by someone else. However, I would have been pleased to reccommend .That Summer in Paris. ( Once a librarian, always a librarian.) Just l;ike a priest! Sort of.

  3. Farewell to Arms was a winner. It was allegedly based partly on H’s affair with Agnes. She married someone else. Lucky for her!

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