A seasoned traveler’s memoir about his father’s death and the nagging need to make peace with the past.
Flashing back to 1972, when the 7-year-old author was “living with my parents in the worst apartment in a good Jewish neighborhood in Los Angeles,” Galaudet launches into a chronicle of his three-decade relationship with his father, an old-school Chicagoan who survived the Great Depression by honing a keen skill of hustling to survive. A big drinker, gambler, and coarse adventurist with few parenting skills, he would disappear and reappear, first for days and weeks, and later years, throughout the author’s life. Despite the absenteeism, Galaudet, who runs the In the Know Traveler websites, clearly respected his father, yearning for his approval and striving to emulate him while nurturing an ongoing love-hate relationship. Fast-forward 20-some years, when the author was a restless, multiskilled, soul-searching adult living temporarily in Las Vegas as a location scout for a boss he hated. One day, Galaudet received a call from Cathy, his father’s most recent wife, who informed him that his dad had suffered a fatal heart attack. He also left a bizarre last wish to have his ashes spread near the seaside village of Cadiz, Spain, while a native speaker sang “Ave Maria” as the soundtrack. “Really,” writes the author, “he wanted to be sent into outer space on a rocket, but he knew that was not going to happen.” So Galaudet was suddenly forced to contend with the past, a project that he shelved indefinitely. Several years later, he finally traveled with his father’s remains in a rucksack, attending a bullfight, visiting cafes, and having conversations with the ashes as he struggled to find closure. With asides spanning the years from his pot-smoking, pill-popping teenage years to his later adult failures as an average American man, this navel-gazing hoot of a memoir rings with themes that will appeal to many readers coming-of-age in the 1970s and ’80s.
A candid and humorous tale.