| the history of wake forest
When Adam and Eve made their forced exit from the
garden, they no doubt noticed certain regional differences
between where they had been and where they were going—
topographical, botanical, zoological, and climatic—and
regional differences have been exciting telling, if not
exciting listening, ever since.
Man is incurably mobile, and as Ethel Merman used to
shout, “A lady needs a change,” too! Eve was probably only
the first to sing, “Take me along.” In any case, so much do
we like to travel, if only to get away for a little while from
the Eden of Forsyth County, it is hard to believe that Adam
and Eve regarded their sentence to mobility as very harsh.
Miss Millay, who was the poet laureate of the radicals
of my college generation, expressed the desire for the
exotic in this way:
How shall I know, unless I go
To Cairo or Cathay,
Whether or not this blessed spot
Is blessed in every way?
Now it may be the flower for me
Is this beneath my nose;
How shall I tell unless I smell
The Carthaginian rose?
The fabric of my faithful love
No power shall dim or ravel
Whils’t I stay here,—but o, my dear,
If I should ever travel!
When some impudent American undergraduates wished
to remind T.S. Eliot of his expatriate status, they sent him
a record they had cut of “You’ve Come a Long Way from St.
Louis.” Eliot acknowledged the gift graciously, saying that
the most striking line was the last, “…but baby, you’ve still
got a long way to go!” That restlessness abides with us all.
Which brings me to the subject of this talk: regional
One of my friends, an Alabama woman, tells the story
of how she and her two teen-age children were gazing
awestruck on the rim of the Grand Canyon. She turned to
share her awe with her English professor-husband and
found him seated on a bench, his back to the glories of the
sunlight on the great gorge, happily squinting into a viewer
that showed slides of the natural wonder at his back.
Daniel Boorstin in his book, The Image: A Guide to
Pseudo-Events in America, give a similar account. He
records the image of a man in a Chevrolet advertisement
looking at an image (a set of color slides in a General
Electric viewer) and being photographed as he does it by his
daughter with her Eastman Kodak—all this taking place on
the edge of the Grand Canyon, at which nobody is looking.
As image piles on image, is reality being pushed out of
sight? Does the advance of technology include such a rear-
rangement of the world that we don’t have to experience it,
as Max Frisch suggested?
The art of travel in this country is rapidly being lost,
simply because of its ease. Those stern realists, Harriet
Martineau, Charles Dickens, and Alexis de Tocqueville,
experienced the full brunt of it, all of the hardship and all
the glory of the ordeal. Their experiences are recorded
in observations as perceptive as Richard Joseph’s if not
Julius Caesar’s. Neither technology nor all of technology’s
interpreters—Max Frisch, Boorstin, and McLuhan included—
can close man’s senses to the differences between two
places. New York would never be mistaken for San Francisco;
Chicago could not conceivably masquerade as New Orleans.
Every city has, for all its urban similarity, its own personal-
ity, its particular flavor, its peculiar ambience that identifies
One can absorb the unique character of a city not only
from the “hot” medium of actual experience—if I may lapse
into McLuhanese—but also at second hand through the
“cool” medium of a lively observer who records his impres-
sions. For instance, long before I saw it, I knew London
through Dickens’ and Galsworthy’s and Maugham’s writings
about it. Santayana evokes the spirit of Spain as easily as
wake forest university club – thanksgiving dinner november 20, 1967,
by James ralph scales