Saved for lack of an opium pipe. The summer before my sophomore year at Florida Presbyterian College, and again the summer before my senior year, I went to visit my parents in Kenya. The two visits blur in my memory; I'm not sure I can keep them separate. In one my folks were still living in Nairobi; they'd moved back into town from Ruaraka. That was the summer I took my friend the muse on our one and only date, up in the Ngong Hills. It was also the summer I stayed up two nights in a row to read War and Peace. What I didn't mention about that summer was the opium. I was looking for hash but my guy didn't have any; he suggested I try opium instead, so I bought a gummy little ball of it. After I got home I realized I couldn't smoke it in my hash pipe so I ate it, à la De Quincey. I was lucky. Nothing much happened. I went to sleep, had some vivid dreams, lost interest. Quite possibly a near miss. Alcohol and dope are bad enough.
It probably helped kill them off; I went for really hot water. The other summer my parents had moved out to Voi. That was a heckuva trip. Voi is not a mile high like Nairobi, it's in the Nyiri Desert, in Kilimanjaro's rain shadow. My mom must've hated it. I used to have a photo of my dad holding up a cobra he'd just killed there. He's holding up the tail end overhead; the cobra's head still reaches the ground; it was a little over 9 feet long. Two memories stand out: I cooked for them, some gourmet crap I'd come up with that was not very good. But more to the point I made them some very fancy sangria, using a bottle of Beaune and Grand Marnier instead of brandy. It was yummy, tho' what a waste of good wine. The other is about seed ticks. I had noticed reddish brown clumps on weed stalks along game trails. Those were seed ticks waiting for the next mammal to come along so they could complete their life cycle. I went hiking in shorts like an idiot and brushed against one, getting the ticks on my right thigh. I have never endured itching that came anywhere close to that, before or since. At one point I took a hot bath, thinking that heat might help. Oh man was that ever the wrong way to scratch my itch.
It was kind of charming in London, at first; I'd never spent time there before in the summer. The other memory is not of Kenya but my trip back from Kenya to the Fish Farm. I visited with my folks in June, and my plan was to spend the rest of the summer traveling in Europe. I had a Eurail Pass and enough money to pull it off. I flew to London, planning to hang out there for a while before heading through the Chunnel for adventures on the continent. I headed out for a walk the first day I was there. It was Sunday afternoon. There were lots of hippies out in the street, and they all seemed to be headed the same direction, so I tagged along. Hyde Park was the destination, and as we got closer I could hear music. Pink Floyd were giving a free concert in the park. I wandered in and listened for a while, but I started feeling lonely. All those beautiful people and I was all alone. I was shy; I didn't know how to meet people. I ended up cashing in my Eurail Pass and using that plus most of my traveler's checks to buy a Yamaha acoustic guitar. Then I headed home to the welcoming safety of the Fish Farm.