Final Thoughts on Michael Crichton’s Travels

Loved this book.  How he sprinkled tidbits about his life and philosophies within a series of chapters about medical school and his exotic treks.  I skimmed through the last final chapters (the final 20%), but that is not uncommon for me.  My impression of Michael Crichton from reading this is that he was incredibly intelligent and driven, and incredibly restless.  What an amazing life that led to, and I can’t imagine writing a best selling novel while in Harvard Med School then leaping into Hollywood, etc.

Some final notes from his journeys: My favorite part was the section about climbing Kilamanjaro.  I didn’t realize that it was so tall (19K) and was so challenging to climb.  I love how there are three stages to the climb, including the rainforest at the base, then the meadows. It reminded me (kinda) of The Green Lakes trail in Bend, Oregon…  I thought the section about New Guinea was interesting, where the island is the second largest after Greenland, and is dominated by high mountains at the center.  Crichton mentions a couple of times in his book that high mountains – like those in Nepal — creates diversity in areas separated by short distances as the crow flies.  I thought New Guinea was interesting in that every piece of land is owned by someone, and they had to obtain permission to hike to a waterfall.  His description of the battles was interesting too, where time and intensity have a different meaning there, to the point where German tourists standing in the middle of a battle between two clans didn’t see one warrior behead another right next to them (OmG!!)…  He had some close calls diving, yet continued to dive.  In one, he lost his mouthpiece and was worried he was going to pass out; in another, he dove too deep and ran out of oxygen just as he surfaced and had to bypass safety procedures for avoiding the bends but avoided the bends, and in another he was carried by a fast current through a cloud of sharks (terrifying for him)…  He did not get along with his father, calling him a Son of a Bitch…  I loved his takes on Sean Connery, who he respected and sounds like both a talented actor and a man who is both direct and comfortable in his own skin…  They had an experience in Jamaica where a convict slipped into their car in Spanish Town, claimed he was a guide, refused to leave them, and in the end escaped with their watch and extra money through intimidation. Crichton later learned two tourists had been killed in the same area, which reminded him how lucky he was to escaped for so little cost (cheap watch and 10 pounds, I think)…  He experienced some incredible psycnics at the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain… He saw Mountain Gorillas and was shocked by how *huge* they were (bigger than theones we see in the zoos, which are the smaller lowland variety), and it dawned on him that they (the group) were the guests in the gorilla’s home. THeir numbers are rapidly shrinking (just 100s left when he wrote the book) and was heartbroken by that.  He learned that if a gorilla charges, it is important to stay in one place – to flee is the classic inspiring it to chase you.  He was charged once (the gorilla didn’t like his camera — and it was terrifying…  He visited “Shangri-la” (Hunza) and was surprised by how unpleasant it actually was…  Stepping just a few feet off the path in the jungle, he was immediately lost.  Yet, there are tribes who are never lost in the jungles…I liked that he called the Malaysians the Danes of Asia (low key and easygoing) except when it comes to religion. And I liked that he pointed out that in the culture life is out of our control, so it is better to adapt to what comes our way then to try to control everything.  

Just some initial thoughts.  There is so much more in the book and about so many places.   

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Final Thoughts on Michael Crichton’s Travels

Continuing to read Michael Crichton’s Travels

I have a difficult time finishing books.  I always read, and I always read books, but after a few chapters I get bored and I find another book, or I put the book for a few weeks, start another book, then come back to the first book.  It is not uncommon for me to have 6 or 7 books going at a time, and to take months (or years) to finish one, if at all. But I am continuing to prod through Michael Crichton’s very very good autobiography.  Some highlights from memory of this week’s reading (I am a slow reader and am little more than half way through):

He visits an ancient Mayan ruin, dated back to the 10th century.  But this is not just a ruined pyramid, but a beautiful Mayan city that was carefully built and then all traces of its occupants lost.  He finds this perplexing and disturbing, that things can be lost in time like that. (The European conquerers destroyed countless historical records, so I find it not surprising at all — but very disturbing — that we know nothing about this city).  While reading this, I remember our day of visiting southern Mexico, how flat and jungle-like and peaceful it was.  THat portion had been created by the asteroid that destroyed the dinosuars, the impact had literally lifted this shelf from the ocean, and you literally could tell.

He climbs Kilamanjaro!!  His guides had a bet going that he would not make it, but after five days of hell he did.  I didn’t know this, but it is 19,000 feet tall and consists of multiple volcanos with a shelf (“the saddle”) between them.  It is the tallest volcano outside of South America (Everest is created by colliding continents). They had to be careful of altitude sickness, which kills several people a year (I learned that separately), and the main symptom is a dry cough.  The climb consists of climbing through rain forest (with lots of streams and waterfalls!), alpine meadow, then up into the mountain.  The top you are hiking through ash, which is like climbing vertical sand, and the hike was excruciating.  It was tempting to quit, but they made it, and it takes less than a week.  He doesn’t talk much about it, but it was something he was proud of himself for doing.

While making a movie, he visits  a psychic research center (or something like that).  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was a member, and was prone to believing in wild claims related to the supernatural.  Crichton feels there are similarities with Doyle — both were doctors turned writers — and didn’t want to fall prey to that.  He finds that a number of psychics knew of things — specific things – they should not have known, that they seem to only see the past and not the future, and that they are translating what they see; it is like they have tapped into something that has happened, but not things that are going to happen.  I am not a believer in psychics, but did find this interesting/compelling (I am remembering The Changeling, where the professor tells George C. Scott that when they test psychis that 99% are “utter frauds, but the 1% — astounding””).  

Continuing to read Michael Crichton’s Travels

Continuing to read “Travels” by Michael Crichton – he visited Malaysia and Venezuela

In Travels, Michael Crichton describes a few more trips he took…

Bonaire is an island off the coast of Venezuela where he went diving.  In a night dive, he lost his air hose and his sister had to help him find it, barely finding it in time when he was 60′ under water.  This scared him, since he could have died.  But a week later they went diving very deep (200′) down over a few days to a shipwreck.  At this depth, you can get the bends, and he pushed his luck and his tank was out of oxygen by the time he surfaced. He was nervous he’d get the bends but did not.  He wondered later why he’d dangerously pushed his luck and realized he was unhappy; he began keeping a daily journal about how he was feeling and realized that every day his thoughts were negative. He realizes that the only way to measure how a person is doing is to keep a daily log then go back and review that log for trends.

He travels to the jungles of Malaysia, hoping to see tigers and other wildlife.  He hears a tale about — and later meets – little jungle men who never get lost in the dense jungles (even Crichton’s guide is not this good) who were until the past century hunted for sport by Malaysian rulers (wtf???). He hears the story of a deer that adopts the village, but kicks the village’s goats to death, so the village no longer keeps goats.  He ralizes that these people have learned to adapt, that when life changes it is out of their control so they adapt with it, and he himself has not had that ability, that he needs to learn to stop trying to control what he can’t control (lung disease did this for me ­čÖé ).

      

Continuing to read “Travels” by Michael Crichton – he visited Malaysia and Venezuela

Read More Travels By Michael Crichton. ┬áNotes about his travels from Travels :) regarding his trip to Bangkok…

I am really enjoying the book Travels, by Michael Crichton.  In fact, I read it all the way home on the bus last night.  Some notes:

His first trip was to Hong Kong and Bangkok.  He said there is nothing like flying into Hong Kong at night: with the sea, lit buildings and mountains it is like flying into a bright jewel.  He comments that the Chinese love fresh food, to the point he saw a woman carrying a live fish home in a plastic bag so it was alive to the last possible moment.  In Bangkok, he mentions several times how easygoing the people are (they are called the Danes of Asia), except they take their religion very seriously (you can be jailed for climbing religious statues in temples).  He struggles a little bit with his height: people openly stare, plus it is a custom that no one should be higher than a buddhist statue so often he has to duck to avoid that.  He makes the mistake of smoking too much Thai grass and goes temporarily blind.  He also is taken to a massage parlor where a soaped up woman massages the client with her body, and to a brothel of underage children, and he finds both disturbing (he does not stay in the children’s brothel).  When he flies home, he mentions the trip was almost traumatic for him, and he realizes how sheltered (my word, not his) he is despite having traveled to nearly every US state and several times to Europe.  A personal note, he mentions the humidity (“steamy”) twice, and for some reason that sounds pleasant to me, the heat and humidity and fresh air.  I am also craving a Thai coffee, which I don’t normally do ­čÖé

I INTERRUPT THIS WITH COMMENTARY: He was troubled by the brothel and left his friend who took them there, as did another friend.   I find it shocking that we — including myself — allow children’s sex places to exist.  We proudly storm into Nazi territory to liberate concentration camps, but we allow in this day and age brothels to exist where we know in fact there are sex slaves, including children sex slaves. OMG those poor things…  America is funny: if you threaten our Corporate interests, we will invade you.  But want to buy children and young women and use them as sex slaves?  We turn a blind eye.  Crazy.

Read More Travels By Michael Crichton. ┬áNotes about his travels from Travels :) regarding his trip to Bangkok…

“Travels” by Michael Crichton notes: his time as a resident

Before he was the author of Jurrasic Park, Crichton was a doctor. The first few chapters include (often humorous) stories about his residency.  In his first rotation, he is in the neurology department, which they refer to as a museum since it is mostly patients with neuroses who can never be cured and seem mostly on display for medical students to observe.  The chief resident seems like a prick, a well-dressed sadist with a pressed neck tie who takes glee in pricking patients with a needle he carries.  Crichton is responsible for drawing blood each morning, a task he must get used to and takes time to do on time.  One patient insists on taking his own blood (he is an addict), and takes the blood from an unconscious man as well.

He spends several weeks in psychiatry and is assigned to a young seductress who he tries heroically to feel comfortable with. There is a humorous exchange with his mentor in the ward, who tries to get Crichton comfortable with the fact that he can admit on a secret level he wants to “fuck” the girl, but that he must not.  Crichton, who is young but married to his high school sweetheart and believes very strongly that doctors should not exploit their authority by sleeping with patients, resists the woman.  But she seduces him in another way: he is convinced she will be okay, when in fact she is manipulative and uses her high IQ to her advantage.  She will need more therapy, and when he tells her this on his last day with her she storms off and he never sees her again.

He spends time in the maternity ward, where in the 1960s it is the rage to give to-do women an amnesiac drug (one where it doesn’t reduce the pain, but they’ll not remember it later).  He is disturbed by all the women laying on rubber sheets who are writing and screaming in pain, referring to it as Dante’s Hell.  Another area has the unwed mothers, who aren’t treated well by the nurses (in judgement), but he is moved by them and feels like it is more natural than the other section where the women writhe in drug-induced states. He hates this ward, and is glad that it is now closed.

He had a woman approach him and greet him once, and it took him a few moments to recognize her.  He pointed out to the reader that as a doctor you see soooo many patients it is difficult to remember or recognize them out of context. 

He mentions the story of a patient who came in with spot on his lungs.  They recommended surgery and the patient agreed, but then backed out last minute saying he need time to review the paperwork.  The same thing happened the next day. For a week this continued.  Finally, a visiting somewhat famous and blustery doctor more or less forced the patient to have the surgery.  The spot turned out to be benign, but the patient didn’t trust or believe them and killed himself two days later, convinced he had terminal cancer.

Finally, he brings up the story that there was a statistical fluke where they got a lot of heart attack patients at once.  He spent time talking to them, and asked why they had a heart attack, and almost to a person they blamed something they’d done or something in their life, such as cheating on their wife or stressing about an upcoming event.  It made him reflect on how much of diseases are related to the mental state, and in some ways by telling patients to leave it to doctors they are doing damage by essentially telling the patient they have no control.  Over the years, he has come to believe that all diseases are caused by something we do (i.e. we are to blame as an individual), primarily because he wants to believe that he has control and therefore will take responsibility for his heatlh. 

Link To Book

“Travels” by Michael Crichton notes: his time as a resident