Explorer Alan Fisher logs the milesLong before...


Explorer Alan Fisher logs the miles

Long before he ever wrote a word about an unfamiliar place, Alan Fisher understood the pitfalls of travel writing.

For 20 years, he watched his parents research a book about Mexico, only to have the finished product quickly go out of print.

Yet he remained undeterred.

"I enjoy exploring. When I'm going some place new, I just know everything for the rest of that day is going to be great," says Mr. Fisher, 47, who lives in Bolton Hill.

He logged 20,000 miles while working on his latest guidebook, "Day Trips in Delmarva," a 271-page account of the back roads and small towns around southern Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia.

"Many people regard the Delmarva Peninsula as something you have to drive across to get to the beach," he says. "There's a lot more variety there than you might imagine."

His first book, "Country Walks Near Boston," grew out of a graduate school project at Harvard University. After that, he set his sights on Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington. He takes ++ particular pride in knowing that all seven of his books are still in print.

Now, if he could only find a way to enjoy his time off.

"A vacation is nothing special to me," the father of two confesses. "My family is away right now, and I'm here painting the house."

When Vanda Guzman Perry was freebasing cocaine, guzzling whiskey and writing bad checks, only two things sustained her: prayer and music.

Although she kicked her habits eight years ago, she's never forgotten what saved her from herself.

"Music kept me alive," she says. "I sung myself whole."

Now she's performing for others. A respected gospel singer, she has played the Apollo Theater in New York, the Baltimore Museum of Art and will sing outside Festival Hall at 3:20 p.m. today as part of AFRAM '92.

Growing up in a home filled with music, she collected Aretha Franklin albums and realized early on she wanted to sing professionally. But a fatherless youth, a failed teen romance and a reckless lifestyle as a rock-and-roll back-up singer all unhinged her dream, leading instead to a $2,500-a-day drug addiction.

In a California halfway house, she began to turn her life around. After returning to West Baltimore in 1979, she got involved in a drug ministry, started college and got married. Today, at age 42, she is a devoted volunteer, grandmother and reverend in the Bethel A.M.E. Church.

She still relies on singing to relieve the painful memories of her past.

"When I sing, I feel a peace," she says. "I could do it all the time. . . . That must be what I was put here for."


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