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Mark Twain experience

 I have been in Hannibal, MO for the past week. Oh, it was a very wise choice to come here. Sometimes I really think that somebody up there, probably God, is taking a good care of me during my journey in America.
 While in California, I had a mail from one of my good professors in college days way back in 1970’s that there would be a conference on Mark Twain in Hannibal, America’s Hometown, where the famed writer and humorist had spent his childhood days. Twain was born in Florida, MO, in 1835 and moved here to Hannibal in 1839 and grew up here. When I checked the website of Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, I found out that the conference, which was held for three days from Aug. 11 to 13, was the first of its kind sponsored by the Museum.
 On arriving at Hannibal, I found quite a few renowned scholars and reseachers coming to the conference. I’m a novice, although I had managed to translate one of his stories, “Pudd’nhead Wilson” into Japanese and published it two years ago. I only thought just being among the noted scholars on the writer would give me something precious for my American literary journey and I would be cherishing for the rest of my life.
 It turned out to be far better than I had hoped. All the people I came across at the conference were just good-hearted and many of them gave some tip on the writer. Some of them also gave me some useful information on the other American writers whose related places I’m planning to visit and write about later on.
 One of the questions I’ve had on Mark Twain was just how he could drift away from the Civil War, which had ravaged the South and surrounding regions in 1860’s. Before coming here I almost believed that this part of Missouri was part of the Southern region, therefore the Confederacy. I have thought amazing the fact that Mark Twain, who lived throughout the Civil War era, had managed to be somehow free from the aftermath of the war and continue to write on various aspects of human beings beyond the war. Whereas such a fantastic writer as William Faulkner, although born after the war, seemed to have lived and written always lingering on the Southern cause and being a Southerner.
 I was glad when I asked Barbara Snedecor, and she did not consider my question irrelevant. Barbara is Director of The Center for Mark Twain Studies, Elmira College, NY. She agreed with me that it was very lucky for him and for us to see him go to the west right after the start of the war in 1861. She also enlightened me into an aspect, until then I had not been aware of. His first piece, a jumping frog story, made his name travel throughout the country and made the nation laugh. Although it’s a simple and maybe dumb story, after the bloodbath of the Civil War, people had needed it.
 Don’t think please that I’ve enjoyed and understood all the presentations during the conference. Some of them were too deep for me, I’m afraid. And some of the presenters talked too fast for me to catch up with, although I had no doubt that they were good presentations. Among them I thoroughly enjoyed a presentation by John Pascal. He spoke on “Artemus Ward: The Gentle Humorist and His Lecture Influence on Mark Twain.” It made me understand better now with the American tradition of the literary comedians in which Twain also had a great talent and used it to pay back all his debts. John is a high school English teacher from New Jersey. No wonder his talk was crisp and easy to understand.
 After the fruitful three days, I decided to stay in Hannibal for a few more days. I had to find another place to stay. Oh, I almost forgot to thank the venue of the conference, Hannibal LaGrange University. We could stay at the student’s dorm, 15 dollars a night! What a bargain, especially for me struggling always to find a good and reasonable price hotel. And of course I wish to thank Henry Sweet, Cindy Lovell and other staff from the Museum for their wonderful work and hospitality.
 When Kent Rasmussen and Tim Champlin, both independent researchers, drove me to a B&B downtown on their way out of Hannibal, Kent kindly explained to me the historic fact that the B&B, called Lula Belle’s, had been actually once a famous bordello. His departing shot was: “Shoichi, are you single? If so, you can order a special room service later on? Enjoy your stay.”
 No, Kent. No thank you. Those days are gone for me. I’m a born again atheist.
 On the first night, I woke up at the middle of my sleep. I found my bed shaking in the room named "Angel of Delight." No. I didn’t order any room service. I soon found out that it was the vibration coming from the nearby freight railway traffic.
 (photo: The last laugh boefore leaving the University dorm. Tim drove me to the B&B in this car. Kent insisted sitting on the back of the car, letting me sit on the front seat. )


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