Revisiting the Iron Rooster

I’d been sitting on a story for 20 years — the story of my life’s greatest adventure so far (outside of getting married and becoming a parent, which are different kinds of adventures) — when I finally had a good opportunity to tell it. It’s the story of riding the trans-Siberian railway in the winter of 1991, right at the historical fault line where the Soviet Union died and a new China was born. My audience for this telling, on January 18, 2012, was about 60 or so residents at the Wake Robin Lifecare Community in Shelburne, Vermont. I told them my story in about 45 minutes of continuous talking, punctuated with slides. They seemed receptive.

Now I’m trying to figure out how to tell the story digitally, maybe with interactivity (of a different sort than that interactivity innate to the oral telling). There are a lot of directions in which I could take it, but its most compelling element, at least based on the Wake Robin reception, is the story’s central character: the enigmatic Cai Jun (below), with whom my traveling companion and I shared a small train compartment for almost six days straight. I’m eager to tell his story, inasmuch as I can. Meantime, if you see him, would you please tell him that I’m looking for him?

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