From Park City to Prague: Travel Book July-August 2016

In June of 2016, Marietta and I were planning what to pack as we prepared to leave on our next vacation. The first part would be spent in Park City, looking across the pond on our patio at the Deer Valley ski run, Big Stick and watching the Osprey fish, the paddle boarders float past us, the muskrat swimming at dusk and the ducks herding their babies back and forth among the ponds. All this while I would be editing my novel and outlining a new psychology book.

I also planned to read some about Nietzsche, Bonhoeffer, Wagner and Freud, preparing for our pilgrimage to Europe. We were going to Munich, Cesky-Krumlov, Vienna, and Prague. My purpose for this trip was to understand evil. I want to comprehend how fear and hurt transform into anger and hate and then become a mass movement of evil like the world saw in the first half of the twentieth century when over 100,000,000 people were killed.

Some of the same forces seem to be at play now. As we prepare to leave, we are witnessing the emergence of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for President and watching the British vote to leave the E.U. and a recent election in Austria where a radical anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, anti-sematic candidate came within a hair of winning the election for the Austrian Presidency; and in the Philippines where Duterte, a strong man with a history of using goon squads to get his way, won the Presidency by campaigning against democracy.

The belief that evil is an inevitable force represented by Satan, created by God to have a cosmic battle against the forces of Good represented by the Archangel Gabriel died with the Enlightenment. The kind of evil that I am interested in for this trip is not merely an impulsive act of one person’s murder of another, although that is certainly evil. It is the murder of millions of people ostensibly justified by a flag, a culture or a widely-held belief. Such beliefs would include misogyny, racism, nationalism, and any wholesale entitlement that values one human’s life and an individual’s sacred right to choose above another’s.

Before the eighteenth century and the Enlightenment, metaphysical versions of reality were sometimes used by various human cultures to subdue evil. But as often as not these constructions of God were used as justification for the perpetuation and the prosecution of evil. (See the wars that followed the Reformation, the Inquisition, and the Crusades).

For many, science and the Enlightenment destroyed any metaphysical constraints, releasing humans from any reason to fear God. The Newtonian discovery of natural physical laws of nature suggested that there were also laws of human nature and that if we followed these laws in our behavior toward ourselves and others, we would develop a Utopia where evil would not exist. Before the Enlightenment people refrained from evil because of their fear of God. After the Enlightenment, many worried that there would be no reason for avoiding evil because there was no god to fear. Then some Enlightenment thinkers believed that if people conformed to Natural Human Laws that life would work better for them and everybody else. So instead of being afraid to do wrong, people would be naturally rewarded for doing right.

Hrumphing and Traveling Again: This Time to Nantucket

Chapter One

Hrumph again, I’m traveling. Last time Marietta had the meltdown before we left. This time I did. We are going to Nantucket, the place where legends are made. Ship captains, whales, sailboats, 75º high summer temperatures, and the destination of our first successful romantic trip sixteen years ago.

And there is the rub. That trip was made by a thirty nine year old man and woman. We were becalmed in a sailboat there, a once every ten year experience for unfortunate sailors we were told, two newly minted lovers not caring where they were, just glad to be together. We walked together on a golf course while I drove golf balls into the fog and we magically walked into the fog to find them together. Marietta achieved her goal of getting me pie-eyed drunk, me a person who rarely has wine or beer with dinner. We road bicycles all over town and walked along empty beaches together. When we were becalmed in the sailboat, we waited for rescue for an hour and had to be towed in. But that didn’t matter to us then because we were together. It sounds rather mundane now, but it created for us great memories and was part of a super glue that has held us together for these last sixteen years.

Italy and France


This book is for the person whose mate comes home once a week after talking to a friend or travel agent about “this new wonderful place that everybody’s going to that you got to see.” You enjoy home, the familiar, the life and friends you have and you wish that your mate could be satisfied with what he or she has at home.

This book is for the person who loves to explore, learn and grow, the person who is excited by going to new and different places and your mate is bunkered down and does not want to leave the familiar and explore alternative worlds that might challenge his or her assumptions.

This book is for the couple that flew to a strange new place, got to the hotel room and began to fight. It became so unpleasant then on this first day of the trip that one or both of you considered taking your half of the traveler’s checks and going on separate vacations.

This book is for the couple who profess to enjoy traveling together, but who often find their trips filled with conflict and tension, competing agendas, disparate values and interests.

Hrumph Goes to Spain

Chapter One: Journey Into Narcissism

 The beginning of this pilgrimage started in the same place, Bongo Java. As you may remember from our last book, this was the place Marietta suddenly burst out sobbing with our good friend Ellen McPherson as the audience/therapist when I mentioned that I wished we could go to Cortona when we went to Italy.

Since then I have become more aware of my fear of travel, especially foreign travel and Marietta has become more accepting of my seeming lack of interest. It is not that I’m not interested, well perhaps it is. It is that I like the familiar and am frightened to leave the safety of my Nashville identity and community of knowns, some people who care about me and some who don’t, and go to a place where nobody knows me and nobody but Marietta cares.

However, I remember my ten-year-old self, whose back did not ache, who wasn’t afraid of anything and who wanted to see the world and all seven of its wonders. In the spirit of that ten-year-old boy, I begin to trust that there are beds in Spain that my back will appreciate.

Annecy, France

             I sit and write six floors above the ground looking down at cars and people traversing the Rue de Revoli in Paris. Sounds like the life huh? But wait. Marietta and I are on the first day of another quest. The intention of this quest was a pilgrimage to Annecy France, home of the great thinker, philosopher and idea man behind the American and French Revolutions, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In my psychology world this man was the first, before Freud, to speculate that past events and childhood memories have great impact on human development. He was the first thinker to pose the culture as the problem 300 years before narrative therapy; the first to develop the notion of narcissism and the first to propose a core self or personality existed in each of us. He was the father of modern autobiography and he was the first person to write an honest, self-critical, self aware account of one’s life with what today would be called an authentic observing ego or a mindful self. He was the first thinker/writer to suggest the importance of “being” over “doing.”

Rousseau fascinates me. To me he represents an excellent example of long standing debate in psychology, the nature/nurture debate. Though he was the first to say that nurture was important to future development, his behavior and temperament follow a path clearly laid down before him in what I believe to be the genes of his ancestors.

My purpose on this trip was to explore the implications of this debate in how therapists interpret and explain our patient’s behavior through an examination of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s life. My primary source is Leo Dameosch’s biography of Rousseau, Rousseau, a Restless Genius.


The curmudgeon is off again, this time to China for a two week tour. My usual provocateur, Marietta, seems about as apprehensive as I am. “There are so many people there,” she says again and again. “I’m afraid of being swallowed alive in a world where I can’t read a street sign.”

“Treat the trip like a school outing,” I replied. “Imagine a rope connecting you and me and John and Rita and hold onto me as if I were the rope and I will hold on to John and we will follow Rita.”

Oh sorry, I didn’t mention that we are fellow travelers with John and Rita Lindell. They traveled with us May of 2013 to Annecy, France for three weeks. (See my report of that trip and our education about Jean Jacques Rousseau).

On each of my foreign trips (you might remember from reading my previous travel essays) I create a quest or pilgrimage and I go in search of some sort of spiritual Holy Grail. This trip is no different.

My pilgrimage to China is to learn more about the mystical, magical side of myself and of humans in general. I am a modernist thinker. I believe in science, facts and logic. I generally oppose superstition and magical thinking in favor or empirical data.

Hrumph Traveling Again: This Time to France


Like our trip to Italy, Isabelle and Christian, our Paris friends, were going to play a prominent role in our vacation. We were traveling to Marseille in France and would recover there from our jet lag for two days. Then our plan was to meet Isabelle and Christian in Buis-les-Baronnie at a rented villa in the Luberon Mountains with a view of Mont Ventoux.

Isabelle and Christian spent two years in Nashville while Christian was completing a fellowship in Cardiology. Isabelle was trained as a psychologist in France. While in the U. S. she attended to her children, Thomas then 6 and Charlotte then age 2 ½. I hooked up with her by a request from Hans Strupp, who she sought out when she arrived in Nashville. I invited her to be a member of our peer support group and to supervise me on a case. During her time in Nashville, we met weekly. She observed my work through a one-way mirror with permission of the patient, and then we talked over lunch. We had both Christian and Isabelle over for dinner.

We were excited to see them again, because of our previous connections, because of their kindness to us on our last trip and because we were so eager for the refuge of their company in a foreign land. Isabelle had a similar excitement about travel and new experiences as Marietta’s. Christian had a similar notion to mine that everywhere you are, you are still there. To Christian and me, this means we reserve the right to complain. Neither of us alone is a match for our wives high moral ground, but together we make a formidable team. My seeming composure was not without complications. As the time approached for us to fly to France, I was aware of a gloom descending over me. This feeling seemed familiar to me. It had many of the hallmarks of the dread I felt before our last foreign trip.

Feel The Rain

Chapter One
Preparing for the Journey
The curmudgeon is off again with Marietta, this time to France, Caen, Nashville’s sister city east of Paris, Paris for several days and Isabelle and Christian’s country home in Féricy east of Paris.

I’m doing some homework for the trip. No, I’m not learning French as I should. I am reading three books, David McCullough The Great Journey, Marilyn Yalom’s How The French Invented Love and Camilla Paglia’s Images.
Bob Dylan observed that “some people feel the rain and some people just get wet.” When it comes to art and culture I’m one of those who just gets wet and I want to see if I can go to Paris and feel the rain.

I am reading McCullough’s history of Americans in Paris in the nineteenth century to understand why Americans find Paris so fascinating, in hopes that I can too. I’m reading Yalom’s book about France’s influence on the construct of love to better understand the French culture and the personality of its people. I am reading Paglia’s book to see if I can open my closed mind to art.

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