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THESE STORIES ARE DESIGNED to be read in random order. Clicking on the little icon that follows this paragraph will take you to one of the twelve; at the end of which the same icon will take you to another, and so forth. If you prefer to read sequentially, use the "Next" and "Previous" buttons at the foot of each page; but stick to one of the navigation systems, because mixing them may take you to the same page twice or not at all. The rest of this page is an Introduction to the collection.


IN THE LATE 1960s, which ran roughly from the Summer of Love in '67 to the Fall of Nixon in '74 (mere chronology was hardly a top priority in those days), a new international subculture emerged: the Traveling Freak.
The road to India was wide open then, and very cheap from Europe, in the days before the Iranian and Afghan revolutions. A British student could hustle all the way to Delhi and back in a summer vacation, traveling rough for a couple of dollars a day, if that; but for the full experience you needed months or even years. Some tolerant parents looked on it as the modern Grand Tour, the post-graduation once-in-a-lifetime chance to See the World. They tended to get less sympathetic the second time, or the third.
Dope (hash, mostly) was part of the attraction, of course, since it was widely available and indeed often legal till Washington started putting the pressure on. Acid rapidly appeared, following the laws of supply and considerable demand. And there were certainly junkies around, and others intent on using the opportunity to get as high as possible. But many of the travelers found they smoked less, or less compulsively, on the road than they did at home; there was less to blot out, and more to see (to groove on, to dig, to get into).
India, especially, was a trip. A deep and ancient culture of unbelievable diversity, where cows roamed the city streets, rubbing shoulders with women in saris and Sikhs in turbans and businessmen in suits and holy beggars in loincloths and cripples on the corner and fat housewives with pounds of gold jewelry, and students drinking coffee and discussing Marx and Lennon; a kaleidoscope of such color and interest that you could spend the day sitting on a balcony and watching the street and never get bored for a moment. Indians do conform according to their caste or sub-group, but there are so many subcultures and they look so different that the effect is of dazzling spontaneity.
And they, in turn, didn't care what we looked like; we were just another caste. In the days when jeans on women and long hair on men were signs of subversion (They want to destroy our society! Well, yes, or at least ignore it), this was a huge relief, and led to an explosion of play with henna and kohl and fabrics and rings and all that fun stuff that later got co-opted by the Music Machine. Keef Richards got together with Anita Pallenberg in Morocco, and they became the public image of freak style; but there were hundreds of Keiths and Anitas in Goa, with everything but the money and maybe the talent.
Sure, we were freaks. And proud of it. And on the road we met each other, and it was a blast. We formed a community, without of course ever intending to, and that sense of belonging was also part of the attraction. We were Italian and Dutch and French and German and British and sometimes American (the Atlantic being more expensive to cross), but we were none of them; we didn't want those wretched western societies. And it was wonderful to find we were not alone.
Some of us did it briefly and stopped; some founded businesses, big (the Lonely Planet) and small (textile imports) to fund their roving habits; some settled into unobtrusive middle age; some rotted to death in jail (Midnight Express); some OD'd and some just burned out; but even now you can see some of us, the old folks in Lhasa and Kathmandu, Lamu and Bali, watching the changes and wondering. This little collection is for all of us.
The stories are snapshots from that era. I wrote them in 1982, and I would write them differently now, because I know different things. Not necessarily better, I think, just differently. They are very short, the longest being less than 400 words, and self-contained, but they were always meant to be taken together (there is more about this in the Essays section of this site) to give some sense of that world.
I was influenced by Hemingway's splendid collection of short-shorts in our time, which were later published as epigraphs to the stories in his first major collection, called, confusingly, In Our Time. In my original printed version, I titled the stories "chapter one" etc, to follow his example; I did think of nicking his title too, but I quite like my own, with its connotations not just of travel but of the space between us all, and the way our experiences flow into each other's and distinguish themselves, the way we are all different and all essentially the same.

A note about the graphics

The eyes are a crude reminder of the Eyes of Swyambhunath, just outside Kathmandu, which is a very holy and wonderful place that is equally welcoming to pilgrims and tourists and monks and monkeys.
The icon is a hypercube, a two-dimensional representation of a four-dimensional object. I have used it as a logo for at least seven years now; this is therefore the end of that cycle, and it has come gracefully to the home it didn't know it had. Would that we all were so lucky. Here it is in a larger form. Namaste.



 May 1997