Sunday, September 22, 2013


I was lying in bed trying to think of something useful, when a map of London flashed into my head, perhaps because we had visited there in August. I remembered how to find my way around large parts of the city, even though I haven’t visited for many years and even though I haven’t lived there for over 50 years, but I did grow up there and I have visited many times in the past. Then as a mental exercise I began to think of which other cities I carry maps of around in my head. I was surprised at the large number of them that I could in principle find my way around without too much difficulty.

We lived in New Jersey for about 3 years and often drove into New York City and I think I could find my way around there, but like the “Bonfire of the Vanities” by Tom Wolfe, I would be afraid to take the wrong turn, as I did once leaving Kennedy Airport with my newly arrived wife and kids. I went straight ahead to Astoria on the Van Dyck Highway rather than turn left on the Driveway to the Verrazano Bridge and Staten Island to get to NJ. This mistake in rush hour cost me three hours, a mistake that nearly ruined my marriage. But, if we could survive that I reasoned we could survive anything.

Jerusalem, I know quite well because I lived there for a bitter winter in 1995 when I had a visiting professorship at Hebrew University and lived in student housing in Kiryat Hayovel, which was very basic and terribly cold. Then I used to work part-time in the Pharmacy School at Hadassah for 5 years and used to stay overnight rather than drive home and back from Netanya where I live, and I got to know a lot of the restaurants in Jerusalem. I also know my way around Tel Aviv, but have often been lost there.

I know San Francisco very well, because I used to attend many conferences there, it is the favorite conference city for scientific meetings in the USA, and can accommodate tens of thousands of visitors. Also, my son lives near there, an hour’s drive away in the Bay area, and so we have visited many times. We have become so blasé that the last few times we have visited him and his family in Livermore we haven’t even bothered to go into the city.

We lived in Bethesda MD, just outside Washington DC for 27 years and I know the whole area like the back, or even the front, of my hand. I could drive around the most obscure short cuts to avoid the traffic. I used to take Seven Locks Road, which runs parallel to the Beltway, to get to Georgetown or even Virginia, where I worked for several years, in order to avoid the terrible 5-lane traffic jams. Of course, Bethesda has changed in the past 20 years, it has grown into a more habitable and pleasurable entertainment area, with lots of restaurants and bars, but it still is a suburb of Washington.

There are many cities that I have visited that I know quite well, Baltimore of course, Stockholm, Sweden, Beersheva, and especially Copenhagen, Denmark, which I visited many times when I collaborated with a friend there. And of course, Toronto and Vancouver, which is one of my favorite cities. We drove there once from Seattle and around the Olympic Peninsula and took the ferry to Victoria and then another to Vancouver itself, a great trip.

There are many cities I’ve visited that I wouldn’t have a clue how to get around, such as New Delhi, Kyoto, Madrid, Tokyo, Moscow, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Sydney, and so on. The fact that I carry the maps of about ten cities in my head is amazing. I told my wife about this and she said “send me a postcard.”


Post a Comment

<< Home