National Geographic : 2000 Jan
NEW YORK CITY Did the America that had so captured SHEN PEOPLE ask me why I left England to settle in America, I tell them a story about what happened in 1973 in Stroudsburg, Penn sylvania. I had landed in New York with my guitar, a sleeping bag, and the complete works of Shakespeare, which my college expected me to read over the summer. Like so many others at that time, I was going to cross America by thumb. I caught a bus to Stroudsburg, the first stop on 1-80 in Pennsylvania, and got out on the verge of a strange, enormous continent. Walking from Stroudsburg's bus-station cum-general-store, looking for the interstate, I found myself among graceful wooden houses on maple-shaded streets, each lawn not walled or hedged in, in the English fashion, but flow ing generously onto the neighbor's property and out to the ample sidewalk. On a corner I saw a mailman kneeling beside a mailbox, emptying it. As I passed him, he looked up and called out, "Hiya, buddy!" Coming from narrow, gloomy England, this incident stayed with me, as much a vision as a memory: an America of morning sunshine, the dew barely off the unfenced lawns, of an egalitarian cheerfulness and a future as full of unbounded possibilities as the continent itself. After returning to England for a time, I man aged to land a teaching job at a college in Ver mont, where I have lived off and on ever since. Twenty-five years later, I was back on the road. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC had invited me to thumb across the U.S. again, traveling roughly in tandem with Tomasz Tomaszewski, a Polish photographer who had first ventured across the country 14 years ago.* I would write, *See "Discovering America," by Malgorzata Niezabi towska, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, January 1988. "New York is proof that almost anyone and anything can coexist," says Tomaszewski, who found evidence on the set of a commercial in Manhattan (above). Two hundred miles and a century away, students visiting a Woodstock, Vermont, orchard catch sus pended apples in their teeth and learn about the vanishing American family farm.