A happy-go-lucky noodle around the “backyard of Western civilization” with Dodson and fils.
It was to be an eight-week, 40,000-mile round-the-world tour for Dodson—a man who truly enjoys rambling about with his children—and his 11-year-old son Jack, also known as Nibs: across Europe, a dip into Africa to see the black rhinos, then moonlight on the Taj Mahal, the view from the Great Wall. It would be a roving Chautauqua, a broadening of experience and the spirit. It doesn’t turn out that way, at least not geographically, but western Europe does very nicely for father and son and their episodic traveling companions, giving Dodson a chance to dispense both his erudition—the collective wisdom of Ben Jonson, Martin Luther, Lord Byron, and Cyndi Lauper, among others, fall easily from his lips—with great humor. (Maybe one reason Dodson has so much fun traveling with his kids is that he believes in the power of laughter.) Traveling without reservations or firm schedule, the two become certified fools in Glastonbury, devour every museum Paris offers, and, since the US embassy suggests it may not be the best time to voyage into Africa, head north to Holland, land of Vermeer, Rembrandt, chiaroscuro, dope, and sex (“‘Hey, Dad, what’s that?’ Jack called out excitedly. . . . ‘I think that’s the world’s largest plastic vagina, son’ ”), and go on to Ghent, where a shopkeeper cackles of the German tourist influx, “Fifty years ago they came with tanks. Now they come with American Express cards.” Dodson’s fatherly advice to Nibs—there’s plenty, from girls to bullies to faith—is less didactic here than in Final Rounds (1996), more self-effacing and sincere: “The nude body is nothing to be ashamed of, Nibs. Unless of course, it’s mine.”
The serendipities and pitfalls of foreign travel fuel Dodson’s great loving embrace of fatherhood.