Almost from the beginning, I sought refuge in the library of the Alliance Academy. The prevailing norms of library etiquette suited me. Silence and solitude gave me a sense of safety, which the dorm did not. I arrived in Ecuador a reasonably keen reader already, but I’d never had hours like this to kill before. I was running out of Captain Horatio Hornblower novels to read and that is never a good place to be. C. S. Forester wrote a lot of those things, like more than 20, and you know after the first five that it's just not going to get any better, you should probably quit while you're ahead, but you don't--because you can't. The library at the Alliance Academy had a daily subscription to the Miami Herald newspaper, and in an attempt to slow my Hornblower habit down, I turned to it. It was a good newspaper to get. Even the thin days were pretty thick.
Legendary newspaper humour columnist, Dave Barry, it soon became clear to me, was two or three cuts above the rest. If he had a column out, that’s what I went for. The situation in which I found myself was dire. I had no home, and so I had to hide a lot of days, just to stay out of trouble. Reading Dave Barry made me laugh out loud—like, most of the time. Even just realizing yourself that you still know to laugh, that it’s still physically possibly, comes as such a shock that it’s like briefly coming to life again; just for a few seconds for sure, but you wouldn’t trade those flashes for anything. That’s some powerful medicine. Barry retired his column in 2004.
“The only other normal instrument in the band is a harmonica, played by Gene. Gene has been attempting to play the harmonica for a number of years, and has developed a repertoire of several songs, all of which sound exactly like Oh Susanna! "Here's another one!" he'll say, and then he plays, Oh Susanna! He plays it very rapidly, totally without pauses, as if he's anxious to get back to journalism, so if you tried to sing along, you'd have to go: "Icomefromalabamawithmybanjoonmyknee" etc., and pretty soon you'd run out of oxygen and keel over onto your face, which Gene wouldn't notice because he'd be too busy trying to finish the song on schedule.” -Excerpted from BANG THE TUPPERWARE SLOWLY, by Dave Barry The Miami Herald, 1987