Rereading A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson’s riotous account of hiking the Appalachian Trail with the delightfully curmudgeonly Katz, made me think of two things:
- How little humor there seems to be out there these days – in the public sphere, on college campuses, among newspaper opinion writers – and how much I miss it. And no, I don’t mean tweets of Donald Trump driving a golf ball into Hillary Clinton’s back, which the Three Stooges couldn’t make funny. I mean humor that is self-deprecating, that makes you laugh out loud, and that reminds you that, while the issues are serious, humor help us appreciate our foibles and humanize our adversaries.
- My own walk on the Appalachian Trail many years ago with my daughter Gayley. For Christmas she had given me a week hiking the Great Smoky Mountains, just the two of us, and April found us in a Wal-Mart outside Knoxville, Tennessee, stocking up on supplies – and feeling like a traitor, since the newspaper I published in Pennsylvania was editorializing fiercely against Wal-Mart’s efforts to build a superstore just outside our small town.
“So if this is your Christmas present to me,” I grumpily asked Gayley at the checkout counter, “how come I’m paying for everything?”
“Because,” she replied, impatient with my denseness, “I did all the planning.”
From which I deduced that, on this walk, mine would be the role of Katz.
And so we set off, struggling under our packs, into the Smokies, so named because you rarely see the sun through the fog – off, as my granddaughter Calliope likes to say, on an adventure.