Communicating to Survive

Armed with a curious mind, open to all experiences, my eyes wide open, I’ve discovered a vast array of strange, wonderful and challenging characters, settings, languages, cultures, viewpoints, ideas, stories, characters, and imagery in the most unlikely places during my travels through Western and Eastern Europe, throughout North America, and during the 3 decades I spent as a pseudo-immigrant living in the Serbian diaspora.

As a pseudo-Serb, historian and adoptee, it was imperative that I visit Yugoslavia to … “see what history meant in flesh and blood.” – Rebecca West and I.

Monastery, Bol, Yugoslavia 1987 (c) Michael Payne
Monastery, Bol, Yugoslavia 1987 (c) Michael Payne
Istanbul, Turkey (c) Michael Payne1987
Istanbul, Turkey (c) Michael Payne1987

With eyes wide open, I’ve sunbathed on the Greek Isles, and the Dalmatian, French Riviera, Italian and Turkish Rivieras; volunteered on an archeological dig in Domžale Castle, Slovenia (a.k.a., cleaning out centuries of garbage from the castle’s dungeons!); played front desk clerk in a hostel on the island of Brac, seaside resort of Bol; ignored by waiters at the Gare du Nord in Paris; watched fire eaters, street jugglers and petty criminals work the tourists in Montparnasse, Paris, and Skadarliya Square,

Venezia, Italy (c) Michael Payne 1987
Venezia, Italy (c) Michael Payne 1987
Venezia, Italy (c) Michael Payne 1987
Venezia, Italy (c) Michael Payne 1987

Belgrade; gaped in awe at the otherworldly voice of Kate Bush, scraped together enough for a pint and a meal in a London pub; browsed the bins of London’s Portobello Road Market, and the shelves of The British Museum; slept on park benches, in woods, on beaches, terminals, train stations, and various secluded holes just to stay in Europe ‘one more day’; watched in fascination as the prostitutes in an alley off Boulevard Saint-Germain just outside Église Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin emerged from darkened doorways under cloud cover then retreated when the sun broke through the clouds; counted forklift parts in an Etobicoke warehouse with a Pakistani immigrant kicked out of Kuwait; planted trees in the mountains of British Columbia; watched Neil Armstrong bounce around the moon; watched MTV’s 1st video while tending bar for amazing locals and university kids in Southampton; listened to the astounding music out of Detroit on my AM transistor radio; listened to the birth of so many amazing bands – Led Zeppelin, U2, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, etc.;

Monterey Pop Festival, 1968
Monterey Pop Festival, 1968
Toronto, Ontario (c) Michael Payne 1992
Toronto, Ontario (c) Michael Payne 1992

sadly watched the 1st televised war in Vietnam, watched in awe as Walter Cronkite proclaimed the war in Vietnam was doomed and America should ‘surrender’; and then during the years while I was a guest in the Serbian diaspora, watched the disintegration of Yugoslavia; witnessed the riots in Watts, Chicago, Detroit, L.A., and London on TV; listened to the broadcasts from the Monterey Pop Festival; whined to my parents about not being allowed to go to Woodstock, then as the decade wound down, names like Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Charles Manson, Richard Nixon, Mao Tse Tung/Mao Zedong dominated the airwaves; waited with dread as Ronnie Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev duked it out over who would push the button first; witnessed the tragedy of the Berlin Wall coming down; bounced with reckless abandon to the rhythms of the Sex Pistols, The

Avignon, France (c) Michael Payne 1985
Avignon, France (c) Michael Payne 1985
Milan-Bari, Italy (c) Michael Payne 1987
Milan-Bari, Italy (c) Michael Payne 1987

Clash, The Specials, The Stranglers, The Talking Heads, The Pretenders, etc.; attended Die Fledermaus (The Bat), an operetta composed by Johann Strauss II at die Wiener Staatsoper, then Dire Straits the next night at die Arena Wien; wandered the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and then nearly killed in a back alley on the Asian side; nearly hoodwinked by a family of gypsies in Nice, then robbed by a couple of German tourists sporting Canadian flags on their motorcycles; dabbled in acting, but thank goodness, never singing … in public; walked in wonder and awe through the streets of Venice, Padua, Florence, Milan, Bologna, London, Athens, Belgrade, Vienna, Budapest, Munich, Nice, Avignon, Carcassone; cycled countless kilometres around all parts of Europe; nabbed by the police while unwittingly cycling on the M1!; and, still found the most incredibly fascinating characters from around the world, to wrap my stories around while packed like a sardine on daily commutes to and

The Red Rocket, Toronto
The Red Rocket, Toronto

from downtown Toronto.

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