It was 4th of July weekend this weekend. Even though I live in Montreal and am Canadian, I have the sweetest memories of my first and only 4th of July.
When I watched the news these last couple of days and saw the high security measures that were being taken to ensure the safety of the citizens, it was disturbing. What has happened to our world? How did we allow all this to happen? How could things change for the worse at a time when we are getting better and better in sciences and in technology and in many, many other fields.
And I remember my 4th of July weekend in 1988. It was my late husband’s and my first trip to the United States. We started with New York. We were there for only four days, but I can say they were among the most memorable of our days. We landed at JFK airport. Even though we carried a Lebanese passport at the time and were traveling from Dubai, everything at the airport, customs and all, went so well for us that even we were surprised. Because at the time the civil war was still going on in Lebanon and we were prepared for the worst.
During the four days (including the weekend) that we were there, we managed to visit an exhibition at Lincoln Centre, stroll around Central Park, visit the Statue of Liberty, roam the streets of Manhattan, visit MOMA the Modern Museum of Art, and the Guggenheim Museum. We also managed to see the Broadway show “Midnight Express”.
Most importantly for me however was my visit to Doubleday bookstore. You can imagine my excitement when I first entered the bookstore.
There was nothing like it in Dubai, and even the bookstores we had visited on our previous trips to Rome, Venice, Paris and Australia were nothing like that. I was so overwhelmed that I felt like a child again, walking around in awe just looking at all those books until my late husband reminded me to get my list out.
It was on that day that I bought my first John Dos Passos books. I had read about him in Jean Paul Sartre’s writings. Sartre had referred to him as “the greatest living writer” back in 1939. I wanted to buy his U.S.A. trilogy, since I had read somewhere that he used a special technique called the “camera eye” to write the trilogy. I not only found the three volumes but thanks to the salesman I also bought The Manhattan Transfer.
I treasure those memories specially now that my husband is no longer here with us, and traveling has become such a problem. Just as I treasure all the books I got on that day, most of all the books by John Dos Passos. Throughout the years I have read his trilogy over and over. I have so much respect for his talent and writing technique, even though he once said in an interview:
“I never felt I wanted to be a writer … I didn’t much like the literary world as I knew it. I studied architecture. I’ve always been a frustrated architect. But there are certain periods of life when you take in an awful lot of impressions. I kept a good diary- very usual sort of thing- and I was consistent about putting down my impressions. But I had no intention, really, of being a writer.”