Monday, May 29, 2006

An Immigrant's Memorial Day: How "American Impressions: Came to Be

By way of commemorating this Memorial Day (the Jasper Johns to the left is commemoration and celebration aplenty, but as always, all is vanity, so...) I’ve finally managed to collect and make available on this site all 52 chapters of my book-length journey across the United States. First, a brief explanation.

In 1998 the Ledger in Lakeland, Fla., where I was a member of the editorial board, was looking for ideas to commemorate the millennium. I pitched a project I’d had in mind since landing in the United States in 1979: Send me across the country for a year and let me write from every state. The paper went for it, and “American Impressions: An Immigrant’s Journey” went from concept to a Chevy Venture, a couple of company credit cards, a Nikon camera and a cell phone. The rest was up to me. Beginning in September 1998 I spent most of the next sixteen months on the road, logging 60,000 miles, two kidney stones and 130,000 words, most of those produced on deadline as I went from state to state — a 52-chapter odyssey that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world even though it had me away from my family most of those months and depressed out of my mind from the separation and the usual solitudes of the road. My intention was not to write a travelogue. None of that best-places-to-see or best-places-to-eat business. Read the rest, and see the table of contents...