Slow Boats To China?

April 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm (Personal essays)

Those who know me well know that I love old movies from the 1930s and ’40s.

And one of the things I loved about those old movies were the scenes shot on old steam trains and old passenger cruise ships.

In those days, travel was something that was meant to be savoured.

Enjoying the scenery of land and sea at a leisurely pace.

Today travel seems to be standing in line at airports for hours and hours to eventually move through a booth where you’re gawked at and strip searched by beady eyed perverts in uniforms as the leaders of our respective countries turn into Orwellian Big Brothers and neither they nor we seem to notice.

The line of the U.S.S.R. was, “Your papers, please?”.

The line in today’s world, “May I see some ID, please?”.

Nouns may change but the intent remains the same.

At least the U.S.S.R had its Aleksandr Solzhenitsyns.

Where are our Aleksandr Solzhenitsyns?

Why, text messaging of course.

But a work like Gulag Archipelago would be marked and classified as so much spam in a world of quickie thoughts and quickie sex.

The greatest accomplishment of a totalitarian state would be to make the unfree think they’re free.

Freedom is an illusion and I’m loving it- the welcome sign over the Matrix says.

What the Kremlin in Moscow and the Reichschancellery in Berlin failed to accomplish- the globalization of Madison Avenue has made it a fait accompli in 2010.

We have our Nike shoes and our Gucchi bags.

Our cell phones and our ipods.

We are hooked in and interconnected.

We want fame and adoration?


We just need to grab Simon Cowell’s attention.

Or kill our neighbour and then post it on YouTube.

The hits and the offers will come flooding in.

The medium IS the message.

We ARE the pieces on the board game of Monopoly.


But unseen masters roll the dice and we move.

And think we’re free.

The only real outbursts of freedom seem to come from Icelandic volcanoes.

And the volcanoes stop our flying through the skies.

And we are grounded with no where to go.

But what happened to the slow-moving steam trains?

What happened to the easy pace passenger ships?

What happened to that old maxim, “We’re going to find our way to heaven is a rough and rocky road if we don’t stop and smell the roses along the way?”.

What happened to that old song, “… taking a slow boat to China”?

I’d like to take a slow boat to China.

Or a slow boat to Malaysia.

Or a slow boat from Malaysia…

after picking someone up and then going off to see the world.

As the song Moon River put it, “There’s such a lot of world to see.”

Maybe if we looked up from our text messaging and looked outside the confines of the screen showing us American or whatever idol we’re currently worshipping, we’d be able to see that.


  1. Dracul Van Helsing said,

    Reblogged this on Dracul Van Helsing and commented:

    I was looking through the 2010 archives here at WP to see if I had posted the eulogy I had written for my dad at his funeral (which was held 9 years ago today) but sadly I hadn’t.
    This one from April 2010 was the sole WP post I had made that year.
    But reading it now, it was really prophetic.
    The totalitarian Matrix I saw taking shape in the world back in 2010 is even more omnipresent now in 2019 than it was back in 2010.

  2. Jennifer Vasquez said,

    The world has definitely become a place consumed by social media and media in general. There comes a time when we need to unplug once in awhile to regain our bearings. Very thoughtful piece.

  3. annieasksyou said,

    You know that Jungian synchronicity of minds you wrote about not long ago? I touch a little bit on the ideas you express here in the post I just published.

    I’m sorry that you couldn’t find your eulogy to your dad. I would have liked very much to read it.

    • Dracul Van Helsing said,

      I posted it on my Xanga blog which was my most pre-eminent blogging site at the time.

      I was hoping I posted it here at WP as well as I did post some of my writing at WP as well as Xanga.

      But I didn’t.

      I believe I wrote it a couple of days after my dad died.

      I wrote it around the verse from I Corinthians 15: “Oh death, where is they sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory.”

      I had faxed it to the priest to read at my dad’s funeral because I knew I couldn’t read it aloud in public, I’d break down.

      The priest had left an answering machine message asking a question about it.

      I thought I’d recheck the verse to answer his question.

      Since I was by my computer, I googled the verse.

      The very first post that appeared at the top of the 1st page of the Google search engine (the 1st of hundreds of thousands of posts on that quote) was my very own Xanga post that I had written a couple of days before on the subject in relation to my dad’s death.

      I thought of what my dad kept telling me the last month of his life about the importance of my writing to the world.

      Whatever I had written in relation to that verse must have produced such an impact that my post had shown up first of hundreds of thousands of posts on that quote.

      I thought it would have been nice to re-blog it over again.

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