U.S. Journal: Pinellas County, Florida Attractions

A visit to Walt Disney World.
The first thing I did at Walt Disney World was to take an oath not to make any smart-aleck remarks. A Disney public-relations man had told me that attitude was everything. So I placed my left hand on a seven-Adventure book of tickets to the Magic Kingdom and raised my right hand and promised that there would be no sarcasm on my lips or in my heart.

Travels with Toni

The author accompanies Toni Morrison to Stockholm, where she accepts the Nobel Prize in Literature.

"Hi," she said on the telephone, a week after the announcement. "This is Toni, your Nobelette. Are you ready for Stockholm?" Well, since she asked, why not? I left town for Greek light, German sausage, Russian soul, French sauce, Spanish bull, Zen jokes, the Heart of Darkness and the Blood of the Lamb. Toni Morrison's butter cakes and baby ghosts, her blade of blackbirds and her graveyard loves, her Not Doctor Street and No Mercy Hospital and all those maple syrup men "with the long-distance eyes" are a whole lot more transfiguring. Where else but Stockholm, even if she does seem to have been promiscuous with her invitations. I mean, she asked Bill Clinton, too, whose inaugural she had attended, and with whom she was intimate at a White House dinner party in March. (He told Toni's agent, Amanda "Binky" Urban, that he really wanted to go but... they wouldn't let him.) Salman Rushdie might also have gone except that the Swedish Academy declined officially to endorse him in his martyrdom, after which gutlessness three of the obligatory eighteen academicians resigned in protest, and can't be replaced, because you must die in your Stockholm saddle.

How to Mend a Broken Heart

A visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships.

Olinka and Drazen are artists, and after some time passed, they did what artists often do: they put their feelings on display. They became investigators into the plane wreck of love, bagging and tagging individual pieces of evidence. Their collection of breakup mementos was accepted into a local art festival. It was a smash hit. Soon they were putting up installations in Berlin, San Francisco, and Istanbul, showing the concept to the world. Everywhere they went, from Bloomington to Belgrade, people packed the halls and delivered their own relics of extinguished love: “The Silver Watch” with the pin pulled out at the moment he first said, “I love you.” The wood-handled “Ex Axe” that a woman used to chop her cheating lover’s furniture into tiny bits. Trinkets that had meaning to only two souls found resonance with a worldwide audience that seemed to recognize the same heartache all too well.

Letter from Liberia

A Monrovia travelogue:

Even Liberia's roots are sunk in bad faith. Of the first wave of emigrants, half died of yellow fever. By the end of the 1820s a small colony of 3,000 souls survived. In Liberia they built a facsimile life: plantation-style homes, white-spired churches. Hostile local Malinke tribes resented their arrival and expansion; sporadic armed battle was common. When the ACS went bankrupt in the 1840s, they demanded the 'Country of Liberia' declare its independence.
  1. Part One

  2. Part Two

The Romance of Birthright Israel

On the Birthright Israel program, which sends young American Jews on a tour of Israel free of charge, thanks to massive funding from both the Israeli government and philanthropists like the conservative casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

A new era is dawning for Birthright. What began as an identity booster has become an ideology machine, pumping out not only Jewish baby-makers but defenders of Israel. Or that’s the hope.

Las Terrenas

The writer and his girlfriend move to the Dominican Republic, joining the rapidly expanding community of expats who claim to have found paradise. They promptly get robbed at gunpoint. To cope, he investigates the country.