I’m sentimental about bananas for a rather odd reason. Once, as a young fellow, I happened to circumnavigate the globe. Not by boat, but by train (and of course, air). The longest stretch on the ground was through the (then) U.S.S.R., which took me weeks to cross. I’d procured a special visa which allowed me to travel alone, which turned out to be a pretty big mistake for a 20-year-old in 1986. The Wall had yet to come down and that thing known as the KGB still took plenty of pleasure in harassing hapless college kids. They weren’t alone. More than a few small town policemen and party apparatchiks enjoyed the same sort of sport. I therefore spent several afternoons in custody at various points along my route. It was a feature of the trip they didn’t advertise in the brochures.
One early morning I found myself waiting on a platform literally in the middle of Siberia, praying for the arrival of a train that was over three hours late. I’d been up all night, scared that a local “detective” might make good on his threat to send officers round to my hotel to collect me for “interrogation.” I was getting the heck out of town. Bleary, frightened and depressed, I sat on a bench on the deserted platform feeling more alone than I’d ever felt in my life. Unable to sit any longer, as I was being eaten alive by crow-sized mosquitoes, I decided to stretch my legs. I stood up and walked cautiously alongside the empty attendant’s booth. When I came around the far side of the crumbling shed I was surprised and amazed to find there, a chair. On the chair was a bright yellow bunch of bananas, sitting there as if posing for a still life, nobody around. I stood there and stared at them, wondering how on Earth a bunch of perfect yellow bananas had made their way from the tropics all the way to that God-forsaken train platform in the wilderness of Siberia. Then it struck me: if they could get there, I could get home. Renewed, I returned to my seat.