Cairo, Egypt 1979
y savior of the day turned out to be a friend I’d met in the Army in Washington, Larry DuBois. He had been a reporter in Time Magazine Washington bureau, but at that point had left to work as a freelance writer.
He said he had been commissioned to do a Playboy Interview with movie director Roman Polanski at his home in London. In one of the more shocking events of 1960s America, Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate and others in her Los Angeles home had been killed in 1969 by followers of cult leader Charles Manson.
It was to be Polanski’s first interview after the event. Larry wanted to know if I’d like to take a break and join him and his wife for some rest and recreation before and after his interview. With my writing task foundering, I leapt at the chance to plug a real vacation into the time gap I’d created before having to turn up to work in Chicago.
The London part of the visit lasted only about a week but was fascinating. We’d booked rooms at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane near Hyde Park Corner. First off, I joined Larry for a tour of the nearby Playboy Casino. It was new and already running full tilt. Before long, Polanski’s chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce picked us up and dropped Larry off at Polanski’s mews residence for the interview. I had never imagined that just 60 days after mustering out of the Army, I would be chauffeured in solitary comfort back to my London hotel in the limousine of the Oscar-winning director of Rosemary’s Baby. After the Polanski interview had been completed, there was time for a cruise on the River Thames. We also took time to poke around Carnaby Street where we saw remnants of the London of the “Swinging ‘60s.” The fashion and cultural revolution that had brought stodgy and conservative London into the modern age was still in view.
Shortly after I had arrived in London, Judy Arndt, whom I had dated in Washington when I was in the Army, heard of our outing from Larry’s wife and joined the largely unplanned excursion. With a week in London passing quickly, we made side trips to see Billie Jean King play at Wimbledon and the busby-wearing guards in red tunics at Windsor Castle.
Then it was time to plot our next step by looking in the Sunday paper for a package trip to a sunny place. The task was to combine an inexpensive charter flight with a week’s house rental somewhere.
With the others soon headed back to the States, Bob Raymond and I had time to burn before our next commitments. Bob would later be lawyering in Washington for the Department of Health, Education & Welfare (now Health & Human Services), and for me it would be restarting life as an associate lawyer in Chicago, this time with the Ross, Hardies spinoff Roan & Grossman. Together Bob and I plotted an extension of our vacation to Greece and Egypt. On a leisurely pace we started in Athens and then headed from its port of Piraeus on ferries to extended stays in the Aegean on the islands of Ios, Santorini and Crete. Then it was back to Athens for a flight to Cairo.
In Cairo, we stayed in the 1957 reincarnation of Shepheard’s Hotel. The original Shepheard’s was a storied relic of the day European travelers were first discovering Egypt in the nineteenth century. The hotel seems set for yet another reincarnation with recent reports of plans to turn Shepheard’s into an updated outpost of the Mandarin Oriental chain by 2024.
After visiting the pyramids near Cairo at Giza, it seemed like a natural thing to hire camels there to head across the 13 miles of desert to the step pyramids at Saqqara. Saqqara was the extensive necropolis of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis. Then it was south from Cairo by overnight train to Aswan and the not so grand Grand Hotel. This was not long after the Aswan Dam on the Nile had been built and it had created the vast reservoir of Lake Nassar upstream to its south. The goal of this part of the trip was to take a hydrofoil 160 miles farther south on Lake Nasser to the reconstructed temple of Abu Simbel.
The temple and its four massive sculptures of Ramses II dated back to 1264 B.C. In an engineering marvel of the modern day, when Lake Nassar began to fill after the dam had been completed, the temple had been completely dissembled and reconstructed on higher ground. On our return north to Cairo we stopped at Luxor to visit the extraordinary Valley of the Kings. This was part of the ancient capital of Thebes and the burial place of many of the Egypt’s greatest pharaohs.
Bob and I parted ways in Cairo. He flew back to Washington and I headed north to first stop in Oslo, Norway on my way home to Chicago. I had time to hike in the nearby hills to the great ski jump used in the 1952 Winter Olympics. My stop in Copenhagen, Denmark, gave me my first visit to the great Tivoli Park and awakened me to the more liberal sexual mores in evidence in its everyday street life. The guard at the palace entrance gave a more dignified look to the capital. I also took the first of many later trips down Amsterdam canals in The Netherlands and my last stop on the way home in Brussels, Belgium, gave me a nice aerial view of the city from my airplane.
With my Army days behind me, I was ready to return to the private practice of law at Roan & Grossman, so it was time for me to decide on living arrangements in Chicago.