My pal Michael Challik, the great veteran “shooter” at KDKA TV and a born Dutchman, did me a great favor the other day by translating part of a video interview with Steinbeck-chaser Geert Mak.
Mak, a famous and renowned Dutch journalist/historian/author, retraced Steinbeck’s “Charley” route in the fall of 2010 and wrote a big fat, footnoted book that became a best-seller in Holland. Mak’s book, “Travels Without John in Search of America,” is being translated into English. Mak kindly mentions me about a dozen times, favorably.
Unfortunately, the book, like the video interview, is in Dutch.
Here’s a link to the video — Geert Mak talks about the journalism & politics of “Bill Steigerwald.”
And here’s the translation of the 5-minute video, courtesy of the kind Michael Challik:
Geert Mak is lying awake thinking of the competition.
You think you have designed a great plan, but one afternoon in a little town, Lancaster, we were looking for a place John Steinbeck had stayed. The night, a motel, pouring down rain, got out at a gas station, asked where is the motel from the 1960′s. I can still see him, a hat on turned backwards, “Oh Steinbeck! Right?”
(The service station attendant continues.) “Yesterday, there was also somebody here.” So you think you’re the only one. Real quickly Googled, wondering who that could be, and got the answer in about three minutes. Bill Steigerwald, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, retired journalist. Did exactly the same, except took off half-an-hour sooner. We left at at 8:30…he left at 8, so we just missed him on the ferry to the mainland.
Bill wrote in his blog on the ferry at 8:45 where he met a third journalist, a guy called John Woesdijk (sp?), who was walking the route with a dog for a dog magazine. Later we found out that there was a fourth. She was with the Washington Post with her Mum. The last two I didn’t hear anything from again. All four wanted to follow Steinbeck’s route, but Bill S., I must be honest, tried to follow Steinbeck’s whole route. I must say I couldn’t agree with his political views, to say the least, but he did describe the route very precisely, like where Steinbeck bought his gun, with all kinds of movies, including if you would like to follow the route through his eyes. I really recommend his website.
QUESTION: You didn’t have any contact with him?
ANSWER: Oh yeah, later on we talked a lot about it. I really did want to talk to him because I really did find – even though he had opinions on Obama, etc. – he was very dedicated, and he did it by himself, and he was the only one who was roughing it, because Steinbeck stayed in hotels mostly. Bill really roughed it out. I got a lot of respect for him, but I thought the only thing I can do is to use him in my book…and so it goes.
But as soon as my book was finished, I wrote him – and he had also heard of me. He heard about a book in Holland, and we talked openly and frequently, and we are planning in our lives absolutely to come together, and with a great glass of beer and talk about world problems and solve them by the end of the afternoon.
QUESTION: He is an arch-conservative, right-winger Republican?
ANSWER: No, no! He would get real mad if you tell him that, because he really didn’t like George W. Bush. He is a Libertarian thinker. No, No I am a half-Socialistic, latent drinking, French loving, Volvo driving, European.
So I was really different, but Steigerwald found out that Steinbeck said things in his book that were absolutely not true, and I also discovered that too. Because if you follow Steinbeck’s journey you find, for instance, he went fishing a whole afternoon with a companion, and talks about his marriage etc., but supposedly on the same day when you follow his iterinerary he drove 400-450 miles. You can’t be fishing in the beginning of the afternoon – and then drive 450-miles. So you find a lot of discrepancies.