I met Peter Gregutt when he worked with me as an editor on a piece published in Asheville’s Mountain Xpress titled “How Christopher Mello Sows Peace and Community in his West Asheville Garden.”
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When I learned Peter had climbed volcanoes in Guatemala, trekked the Himalayas, and spontaneously took a boat to Africa, I wanted to get him on the podcast. I was interested in his time in New York City studying English at Colombia, that he’d spent decades as an editor, and I admired his clever phrase Armpit Travel as a way to capture some of his experiences on the road.
As a way into our conversation, I asked Peter to read from the introduction to his collection. Here it is:
My Slime, Your Dime, High Time
Some folks “travel” via flickering images that dance across the screen. Others prefer to plant their ample posterior on a cushy seat in plane or train or air-conditioned motor coach and watch the world pass by beyond the glass.
And then there are the Armpit Travelers, those intrepid souls who strive to sniff out places a less ardent sort might choose to skip entirely in favor of a visit to the proctologist’s office.
Guided only by their own nose or gut, these indefatigable wayfarers aim to see the world — to taste the motley pleasures of the road and touch the very essence of experience — while ducking the troublesome encumbrance of paying for it. (Inevitably, of course, one does pay, though perhaps in blood and suffering in lieu of legal tender.)
To some, the words “budget travel” evoke visions of bland, greasy food; filthy, flea-infested beds; bathing in frigid water thick with icky microbes; and long, arduous bus rides that seem to go from nowhere to nowhere else. But to the true Armpit Traveler, the rewards of the road don’t stop there.
Beyond thrift, beyond grit or grift, beyond sanity, even, there lies a further storied realm whose streets might well be paved with gold if only they were paved at all. And to those with ears to hear and a nose that isn’t overly particular, that unceasing siren song may ultimately prove as irresistible as the last unprepossessing-looking person who’s still lingering in the singles bar at 2 a.m., blurry but determined, and casting inflammatory glances your way…
No travel agent orchestrates the Armpit Path; no map can aptly delineate its putative treasures. No, it’s up to the self-annointed pilgrim to discern and pursue the elusive way, guided only by the kind of enigmatic inner prompting that drives the arctic tern on its annual pole-to-pole journey and makes lemmings take their fateful leap…
But to the curious, the damned, the misfit or the annelid, a hint or a whistle or a tissue of outright lies just might prove to be the fire that lights the fuse, the fire ant whose mordant mandible incites the sluggard’s reluctant posterior to forward motion…
And to any and all who thus succumb to the blandishments and ballyhoo presented in these pages, I bid you a hearty bon voyage, albeit tempered by the slippery wisdom of an old Scottish proverb: “What may be, may not be…”
Thanks for checking out this edition of the Torg Stories podcast!
Coming soon: French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson and Grail Moviehouse owners Steve and Davida