I have a two-fold travel and web content proposal I want to pitch to you:
1. I want to fly from Boston to Ho Chi Minh City and visit Nha Trang where my dad fought in the Vietnam War from September 1969 - October 1970 when he was nineteen-years-old.
My father's father is dying tonight in Massachusetts as I type this email. He just received his last rights from the priest. I am not extremely upset about this, because I am not very close to my father or his family. I was close to my mom's parents; they essentially raised me when I was a child, and I was deeply troubled by both of their deaths. But anyway, this isn't supposed to be a sob-story.
The reason I am not close to my father is because he has had a fucked up past. He dropped out of college in 1969 and was drafted to fight in the Vietnam war. He was only 19-years-old. He served in Vietnam from September 1969 to October of 1970, when he returned home to marry my mom. Within months of returning home it became apparent that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress and extreme anxiety. His VA doctors prescribed him Valium to calm him down, and within weeks he was completely addicted. In order to wean himself off the Valium, he started substituting alcohol, and quickly became a full-blown alcoholic. By the time I was born in 1974, he was raging angry all the time, and began beating my mother. One of my very first memories is of my father dragging my mother by her long blond hair up the brick steps at the front door of our pretty suburban home. My father scared the shit out of me. I was five-years-old the last night we slept in his house -- and my mother was so scared for our lives that night that she slept with a butcher knife in her arms. The next day when my dad left for work, my mom packed up the old station wagon and put her two kids in it and left for her parents' house.
Luckily, my mom's parents had time to raise me and my little brother while my mom waitressed double-shifts. Somehow, my brother and I both turned out "good" and got financial need and academic scholarships to top-tier colleges. (Neither of my parents had earned their college degrees, nor had any of my grandparents.) I was deathly afraid of my father during all my childhood years. He had visitation rights, and was often physically and verbally abusive to us. When I was twelve-years-old, he got angry at me and kicked me in the stomach with work-boots on. He would also kick our dog. My mother explained that it was not my dad's fault that he drank a lot and hit us -- that he had been messed-up by the things he had seen in the war. Still, she stayed as far away from him as she could.
In recent years, my father has "mellowed-out" a bit. He is over 50 now, and he doesn't scare me anymore. I talk to him on the phone long distance from California. I do still, however, I wake up in the night from terrible nightmares of someone trying to kill my family. And I know the person in my dreams is my father. I hate the Vietnam War for robbing me of my childhood, for robbing my dad out of his childhood at nineteen.
I would like a ticket from Boston, MA to Ho Chi Minh City in August. I want to visit Nha Trang and see the places where my father fought in a war at nineteen.
The amazing web-content aspect of this pitch is this: My father has 8 slide trays with 40 slides each of photos he took while serving in Vietnam. I've never seen these photos before, but he is promising to share them with me. "I've got pictures that will blow you right away!" he told me. "No one has slides like these." My mother said he has great photos of a peaceful protest they attended together in April 1971 of 200,000 people who expressed Anti-War sentiments by chanting "1, 2, 3, 4 - we don't want your fucking war!" Here is one of the only sites which mentions this protest on the web: http://www.nyu.edu/library/bobst/collections/exhibits/arch/1971/1971-3.html
My father told me today that I could have all of his slides and publish the photos on my website. I would like to do this, as there are not many photo sites built by Vietnam vets about their experiences. I will put these photos online along with my dad's personal recollections. When I travel in August to Vietnam myself, I will take photos and post daily to an online journal describing my experiences.
I have recently been layed-off from work, so I finally have the free time to commit to a big project like this. I also think that in building this website and visiting where he fought in the war, that my father and I will grow closer and possibly make up the years we have lost.
Why am I qualified?
I have been writing extremely personal content on my website -- poprocks.com -- since 1995. I have a passion for traveling, and I've always written about my adventures on my website. For example, in the summer of 1994, I took a spontaneous road-trip from Boston to Montreal with my high school friends to conduct "field research" into peep shows. The article is online at: http://www.poprocks.com/journ/strip.html and there are some existing photos at: http://www.poprocks.com/photos/montreal94/montreal94.html
My first major trip leaving the United States was during my sophomore year at Vassar. I received financial aid so that I could go on the International Studies department's spring break to Russia. I wrote an article with my experiences on the trip for the college's Miscellany News. The article is online at: http://www.poprocks.com/journ/russia.html and there are some existing photos at: http://www.poprocks.com/photos/russia/russia3.html There is also a little expose of what Vassar students behave like while abroad, called "conversationskill" that I self-published here: http://www.poprocks.com/write/converse.html
In summer 1995 -- the summer between my junior and senior years at Vassar -- I saved up my whole summer's worth of waitressing wages, and spent it all on a plane ticket to Athens, Greece. The return trip was from Istanbul, Turkey. My girlfriend and I saw the Acropolis and the whole Aegean sea coast of Turkey on less than $1000 each. In my true form, I wrote an article for Vassar's Miscellany News. Here is the current adress of that article: http://www.poprocks.com/journ/turkey.html and here are my photos and commentary: http://www.poprocks.com/photos/turkey95/turkey95.html
All of the people I have bonded with during my travels -- and who I mentioned in these articles -- have remained my lifelong friends.
My passion for having traveling adventures and writing about them online did not stop when I finished college. In 1999 Wildweb flew me from Boston to Burning Man to write about the event for their website, and here are the resulting pages of articles:
2. So, the Vietnam leg of the trip will be about paying homage to my father's past, and there is another leg of the journey I would like to do take to pay my respects to my mother's mom, my Italian-immigrant Nana who raised me and provided all of my life's inspiration.
In June, I would like to fly to Rome, Italy and take a car to Pettorano Sul Gizio, in the province of Aquila. This is where My great-grandmother -- Theresa Emmanuela DiFonso -- was born on March 28, 1879. She married my great-grandfather, Pietro DiCenso, on November 25, 1897. They emmigrated to America in 1900 because they were almost starving in poverty in their own Italian home town. Over the next 20 years, my great-grandmother gave birth to thirteen children in all (my Nana was the second-to-last), and three of her children died young (one in a drowning, one from severe burns, and one from the plague). When her first-born son Anthony died of drowning at the age of twlve, my great grandmother had a nervous breakdown. She spent time in and out of mental hospitals for the rest of her life. She died in an institution.
My Nana wrote down stories that she read to me when I was little about what is was like growing up during the Depression in a huge, poor, Italian-immigrant family. Her stories are not depressing -- they are colorful and funny. for example, there's a tale about how the neighborhood children had a "circus" one day to amuse themselves by kidnapping the neighborhood dogs and cats and painting them with exotic stripes and tiger patterns. The stories are gorgeous, and I would like to type them in (they're handwritten) and create a website with my grandmother's writing about growing up as an Italian-American immigrant. I would also take photos and keep a web journal while in Italy. I will stay with my distant Italian relatives, so that I can learn more about them. Here is a photo of my nana with her mom: http://www.poprocks.com/photos/nana/nanateresa.jpg
I will also scan in more of my grandparents' photos from the time period, such as the ones found in the folder: http://www.poprocks.com/photos/nana/
My grandmother never made it back to Italy to see where her family had come from, and I have never been there myself.
Thank you for reading my proposal, and I hope to hear from you soon!