All posts in aric s. queen

the aric special birthday show [2007]

aricandp

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I have listened to this exactly 5 times.

01. the night of my birthday – in a crowded Nepalese restaurant – surrounded by all of the people you’ll hear in the show.

02. later that night, with Pierre and Scott – out on the balcony – fists full of whiskey and celebration.

03. a year later, while riding on a bus in Indonesia.

04. at his grave, last year in Paris – with a bottle of champagne, some saucisson and cigarettes.

05. as I sit here and type this.

… for those who didn’t know Pierre and I’s relationship, we fought and drank and laughed and argued like brothers. weeks would go by with one of us not speaking to the other, but in the coming months, you’d find us inseparable.

the weeks leading up to my birthday – the same weeks he was busy making this, my special birthday show – we were supposed to be recording our podcast OMKOS, but he was ‘too busy, man’. and I laid into him for it. ask me how much of a prick I felt like when he walked into the aforementioned restaurant with his Macbook open and a pair of earphones attached.

a very, very large part of me wanted to keep this for myself, but that decision stopped the moment he laughed.

it’s something that should be shared.

my frère français is missed daily, and dearly, but am thankful we have this – and a few other things – to remind us of his muchness.

I love you man, too.

-a

[for anyone who'd like a copy of this, I will gladly send it to you.]

things I get asked – part three: my favorite places

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I suppose this should have been the first post – as it is the question I get asked the most – but it was important that we established that I’m a cool guy. with cool things.

let’s get to it.

my Top 10 Favorite Places in the world. ever.

[all photos are mine unless noted.]

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[not my photo.]

1. the West Coast of Ireland – I’d say this even if I didn’t come from an Irish family. there’s magic here, there are ghosts that stumble and men who slur and ladies who twinkle. there’s crap weather and worse food, but… my god, when you spend the day walking across the green near The Cliffs, and then spend the evening trying to play catch-up with the craic in one of Doolin’s tiny pubs, you’ll see why this grabs my top spot. and – just in case those who I’ve appointed are either dead, or too drunk to function – scatter my ashes here, please.

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2. France. I love everything about this country – the wine, the food, the music, the people, even a hint at where The Ark resides [!] … all of it. is there an arrogance? yes. absolutely. they have one of the world’s best countries, a fierce attitude to people who tell them what to do, and a way of life that ensures enjoyment amongst adversity. in my most secret of places, I’ll admit to wanting to find an older wife there… who smokes… with an asymmetrical haircut… and lots of eyeliner… who disagrees with everything that I say.

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3. New Orleans. up until this spring, I didn’t really like New Orleans. truth. the three times I was there before were spent drunk on Bourbon Street, staying within the few blocks of the French Quarter. but this time around, I got to see the real side, meet the real folks, eat the real gumbo, feel the real voodoo, learn about the real attitude,  [think Southern lax with the above French joie de vivre... but, you know, alcoholic] – and when I left, it felt like home. and I still think back on those short few months I called it that. if I had my druthers, I’d spend Feb-May here every year.

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4. Indonesia. what a place! I got nothing but love for this country. some of Asia’s best food, nicest people [seriously], most diverse topography, easiest language for English speakers to pick up… I love all of it. even Jarkarta, the giant shithole that it is. kopi and clove cigarettes, satay and beer. and one of the best meals I’ve ever had – mie ayam – from this guy.

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5. Valparaiso, Chile. when I signed on to do the BBC series, I had one demand. [okay, not demand, it was the BBC and I was homeless], but I had one request: we film one show in Valparaiso. this place has become my South American home-away-from… well, your spare room, but with good reasons. wine [obviously], famous snacks, gorgeous views, a thriving art scene, cheap, fantastic fish, great music and, c’mon, Chileans. best folks on the continent. [and I say this after almost being locked-up... and being caught in a pretty serious riot.]

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[not my photo]

6. Bagan, Myanmar. if that photo above doesn’t tell you why this is one of the most magical spots in the world, then nothing I can say will. but trust me.

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7a. Sicily - I knew it was going to be nice, but I had no idea how nice. are the people nuts? yes. but in the best of ways. the wine and the food and the chocolate speak to that – it’s Italy, sure… but Italy turned up to 11. one of my most beloved towns was found by accident, an eerie Easter spent in the town photographed above, some of the best bike riding and a people whose kindness, generosity were only matched by…

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7b. Greece. I didn’t expect much from Greece – as silly as that might seem. sure, a few nice sunsets on Santorini, taking in the jaw-dropping sites of Meteora [above] … but that’s about it. I didn’t expect to fall in love with Athens, to cycle around a part I still can’t remember the name of, to find the most magical of monasteries [no photos allowed], to meet the absolute kindest of folks. go for the sites, but be prepared to be embraced. a wonderful country, an even more wonderful people.

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8. the South of England - I called this area ‘home‘ for the better part of three years. it’s the England of our minds – the rolling hills, country pubs, place of legends. every person who spends more than 3 days in London gets a very stern email from me re: visit the real UK – and this is it. country folks, good cider, better golf, the best snack, gorgeous towns.

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9. Bend, Oregon - I once wrote that this was the best town in the US, and I still stand by that… small place, amazing beer, serious food, great skiing, great hiking, great venues – and the mountain keeps the dreary Oregon rain away. only drawback: the price. but hey.

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10. Berlin, Germany - if I were 10 years younger, I’d be writing this from Berlin – it’d kill me now. no other place makes me want to pull out my camera, my pen + paper, more. brash, cheap, industrial, open, beautiful, drunk … even the sex club people are nice. all of the things that make for an inspirational town.

and there you go – my top 10 favorite places in all of the world.

runners up: Havana, Belgium, Bolivia, Sarajevo, Seattle, Syria and West Texas.

places that I haven’t been, but if I had, would probably make this list: Norway, British Colombia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Romania/Bulgaria, and Montana.

[end]

things I get asked – part two: tattoos

tats_coverI got a lot of tattoos – all but a few of them being text.

I never set out to have them like this, I just started liking how they were looking. images would always have a shelf-life, in my opinion. sure, a dolphin with ‘CANCUN 4EVER’ makes sense for a few days over Spring Break… but it might not have as much meaning when I’m 40… which is in… 2 years. fuck. let’s move on.

Memento wasn’t a factor, either. I liked the movie, but didn’t walk away going ‘yes. that.’

travel was also never something I thought would be the reoccurring theme, as I don’t jive with people who call themselves a ‘traveler’ when asked what they do. it’s one nauseating step below those who tag their vacation photos with #blessed, but – as it would turn out – many of them do deal with The Going.

so, I don’t know – except that I got really, really lucky with a tattoo artist – the one who’s done 26 out of the 32. he’s in Brooklyn and that’s all I’ll tell you. reason being is that he hates this stuff and is trying to get out of it. ‘if I’m drawing an image and I get outside of the lines a bit – I can fix that. if I do that on you, I’m out of a job.’ so, fair enough. but he still allows me to come in once-a-year with my little list of words. a weird mix of annoyance, coupled with the jealousy of every artist. but god help me if I ever come in with someone else’s work.

anyway. here they are, in a left-to-right-order… of sorts.

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01. I wasn’t planning on getting a tattoo here, but a week before I went in, Brother Jeremy sent me this quote and I fell in love with it: ‘but paradise is locked and bolted. we must journey around the world to see if a back door has perhaps been left open.‘ – from the German poet Heinrich von Kleist. for anyone who’s followed the barrage of FB/I’gram updates, I’m shortly headed on a large adventure on my boat – so this seemed quite timely.

tat_02_0302. to say that ‘I love my nephew‘ is an understatement. and the day he was born, I was hit with the most wonderful and terrifying feeling. I was now an Uncle, and he would forever look up to me. this – ‘d. nephew‘ is short for ‘dear nephew’, as I’m always writing him postcards with little adventure nuggets along the way – in hopes that he too will someday see what I’ve seen. [as a side note, I recently became an Uncle again to a gorgeous niece and was tempted to put her birthday underneath this, but thought it unoriginal. something soon, though.]

03. [I was so scared my mother was going to be upset when I got this back in 2007, that I wore a large ACE bandage over it the entire time I was in Tulsa.] there’s a book that greatly affected my decision to move onto a boat and try to get around the world, a book by the name of ‘There Be No Dragons‘ – a fantastic read by an old fella who sold everything, bought a boat and had adventures – but what intrigued me most about it was the title, and the history behind it. see, back in the olden days, explorers and adventurers were given money by the kingdom to explore the oceans. but of course, back in those days, most thought the world to be flat. so said explorers would never venture too far into unknown waters, thinking they would fall off, or worse. but when they got home, and when the king and queen would ask them why they didn’t go further, they’d cite dragons as the reason and that quote – [rumored to have originated in Portugal] ‘daqui em diante, nao ha dragoes‘ or, loosely translated: ‘from here and ahead, there be no dragons’ – resonated with me.

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4. ‘shut up and play the hits.’ was something the lead singer of Arcade Fire shouted at James Murphy in LCD Soundsystem’s final show – as seen in the captivating documentary of the same name. but it was what it meant that made me put it on my body permanently – a reminder of my place, my role, what I think I was put here to do – which is to show people who might not have the opportunity – the world. my job is not to moan about politics, the weather, gas prices - it’s to stay [relatively] quiet and deliver the stories, the pretty pictures… and I really like LCD Soundsystem, which helps.

5. the lovable deadbeat Charles Bukowski had one thing to say about trying something… and it was this: ‘if you’re going to try, go all the way. otherwise, don’t even start. this could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and even your mind. it could mean not eating for three or four days. it could mean freezing on a park bench. it could mean jail. it could mean derision. it could mean mockery – isolation. isolation is the gift. all of the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. and you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. and it will be better than anything you can imagine. if you’re going to try, go all the way. there is no other feeling like that. you will be alone with the gods and the nights will flame with fire. you will ride life straight to perfect laughter. it’s the only good fight there is.’ – I mean… how could I not have that on me?

6. the word ‘flanuer’ is my favorite in the French language. it’s basically a man who strolls around town, with no fixed destination. it was also the moniker of my brother Pierre, who left us back in 2008. the bottom part ties into that, but it’s also a tribute to my favorite book, the gist of which is a man who is quite happy to lounge and to loaf - something he sees as noble, something most do not.

7. ‘I see skies of blue / and clouds of white / the bright blessed day / the dark sacred night / and I think to myself…’ - aside from the obvious being that this is one of the greatest songs ever recorded [alongside 'Runaround Sue'], it  became kind of a mantra of mine when I started The Bike Trip last year. from the day I landed in Berlin and then set off to Amsterdam, I played it once-a-day. sometimes when I was happy, sometimes when I was sad, but once-a-day, just to remind myself of what I was actually doing – biking around Europe and North Africa. a few days out of Amsterdam, I came upon this little village – with a gorgeous square – and began snapping photos. there was a band to my right and they began playing a song for no one in particular. and that song? you got it.

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8. I don’t really get Shakespeare. I mean… nope, not even going to make an excuse for that. however, when I [attempted to] read Merchant of Venice, and came across the quote from Portia to Nerissa: ‘how far that candle throws it’s beams! so shines a good deed in a naughty world.’ it made me smile. the power of simply being kind.

9. a few years back, when I was living in New York City, some friends and I caught the inimitable Goran Bregovic at Carnegie Hall [!]. his English was good, but he got stuck on trying to explaining how one’s situation in life should never delegate how their nights are spent. ‘it’s like… it’s like… well, champagne for gypsies, I suppose.’ I woke up that next morning and walked straight to the tattoo parlor.

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10. it’s no shock that I’m a Wes Anderson freak. and when Moonrise Kingdom came out, I saw it three straight nights – in the same theater, with the same hidden bottle of wine, by myself, and would go on to see it two more times that month. his entire works aside, this film seemed to speak to the innocence and purity of adolescent  love. the matter-of-fact-ness of it all. and this quote – ‘no… I said… what kind of bird are you?’ – from Sam to Suzy when he first saw her, seemed to sum that up for me.

11. in one of the decade’s best page-turners, ‘Devil and The White City‘, the architect responsible for designing the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Daniel Burnham, famously defended his strive for awe with this quote: ‘make no little plans, they have not the magic to stir men’s blood.

tat_1212. [I wish my arm weren't wonky here, it's actually a very straight tattoo.] growing up, we weren’t allowed a television, which sucked as a kid, but I’m very thankful for now. what we did have was a free ride to the library as much as we wanted, so – being landlocked, poor and curious in Oklahoma – I inhaled every adventure/exploration/travel book possible. and who mightier than Jacques Cousteau, who penned ‘when a man has an opportunity to live a life extraordinary, he has no right to keep it all to himself.’ – I liked this. and I liked it a lot more when I met his grandson, Philippe Jr., at a bar in Los Angeles and was able to show it to him.

tat_1313. like so many back in the 90s, I got a Chinese tattoo - – for ‘strength’ or ‘power’ or something one gets in his 20s. years later, when I moved to China, someone commented on my ‘incomplete tattoo’. I asked what he meant and would find out that what I got was grammatically incorrect [great], as it was basically a preface to ‘looking for‘, but didn’t have the following subject matter. so – essentially – I was looking for something, but what that was was unclear… which now makes sense. the broken circle around it was one of the first things I ever wrote, an essay on ‘breaking the circle’ – or – how to change up the monotony of life’s routine. [needless to say, I was kind of an asshole in my 20s.]

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14. the best concert I’ve ever seen is Paul Simon. hands down. and Graceland might be the greatest album ever put together. but it’s significance – the soundtrack to my recent stay in New Orleans – was big for me. for some reason, I/we just couldn’t seem to play anything else. I mean – we did, but it always came back to Graceland. there were a thousand quotes I could have gotten, but, with things being what they are, this one – ‘he is a foreign man / he is surrounded by the sound [the sound] / cattle in the marketplace / scatterings and orphanages / he looks around, around / he sees angeles in the architecture / spinning in infinity / he says amen! / and hallelujah!‘ – from ‘You Can Call Me Al’ – begged to be inked.

*the ‘dot’ was my first tattoo. I sat down, they poked me with the needle and I decided I wasn’t going to sit through an hour of that. so I left.

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15. strange to see a different font, even for me, but this was a] before I met my artists in Brooklyn and b] the closest I could find to the author’s handwriting. back in 2008, while in the city of Rajasthan, India [the city that would end up being my favorite from the entire trip there], I was up late drinking with a few folks and – having been fed-up with everything that is travel in India – I re-quoted some advice given to me when I first arrived: ‘India. you’ll hate every minute of it until you get home… and then you’ll love it.’ the group chuckled and one fella said that it reminded him of the poet Vikram Seth’s passage of: ‘I sometimes seem to wander the world, merely accumulating material for future nostalgia.‘ I made a mental note to have that put on my arm as soon as I got home.

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16. every time I’m home, Mum makes her famous chicken enchiladas for my first and last meal. it’s been like this for years and so, I decided to get that recipe put on my arm. for the record, when I asked her for it and told her why, she refused and I had to snoop through her cookbooks to find it. there’s a very, very good chance she’ll kill me for this.

17.  Tom Hardy’s line to JGL in Inception both made me laugh and made me think.

18. Absurdity. my first boat. oh, how I loved it. but then I got kicked out of England and had to give it to the boat yard and then – recently – got a new one. but you can’t have the name of two boats on you, just as you can’t change the name of a boat. so, to appease Poseidon, I begrudgingly crossed it out, so that I might have safe passage on my new sailboat…

19. … named Odyssey. we all know the book, but it wasn’t until I looked up the definition of the word that I knew this was the boat for me: a long wandering or voyage marked by many changes of fortune. – sounds about right.

20. back in 1999, when I sold everything and headed to Europe with a one-way ticket and an over-stuffed backpack, I reached into my side pocket and found a note from my Father. and it read: ‘dear bud, remember the 4 L’s: live. love. learn. and leave a legacy. -dad’ – and if that doesn’t sum up my old man, I really don’t know what does.

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21. this time last year, I was in the South of France with one of my besties. drunk on 3 days worth of ‘pink wine’, he hugged me and said – in fluent English, but with a French take on it – ‘man, we must do this every year. and then we’ll be old, and it will be perfect; sitting here, drinking wine and laughing for nothing.’ and I said ‘my god, Nico. that’s a tattoo.’

22. of all the greatness that Hunter S. Thomson left us, this – from The Rum Diary – might be the greatest: ‘there’s a thin veneer between the dream and the reality. wake ‘em up, and the people might ask for their money back.

23. I almost got married last year to a girl who’s laugh became my daily objective. when we first met, she thought that the Heath bar I had was for her [her favorite], when – in fact – it was for me [my favorite]. later that evening, I made a crack about loving her ‘in sickness and in Heath‘. a few weeks later, I was in New York and she was having a tough day, and so, I decided to get this on my arm to make her laugh again. it worked. it ended up not working out and this past time in the city, I realized that the last time I was there, it’s when I was in love with her…

24. and while I will always be, it also was something I needed to let go of, so I got a[nother] nod to Wes Anderson’s ‘A Life Aquatic‘ by crossing it out and putting ‘DEEP SEARCH‘ below. if you don’t know the movie, it won’t make sense. but if you do, well… you’ll know why it’s perfect.

tat_26_2725. in ‘A Moveable Feast‘ – possibly Papa Hemingway’s best, he sums up people in the absolute best way I’ve ever read with this: ‘the only thing that could spoil a day were people, and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. people were always the limiters of happiness, except for the few who were as good as sprint itself.

26. I’m an Otis Redding nut. like… freak. I waited outside his ranch until his family came out, and then, years later, under the guise of National Geographic, I stalked them again. terrible, I know, but ‘go ask Otis’ is all you need for a good day, a sad day, or a confusing day. throw on an album ['Sings Soul Ballads', perhaps?] and you’ll see.

tat_2828. the greatest story I’ve ever read, and perhaps the greatest story ever told… and it goes like this:

‘sunshine was creeping across my rug. it was almost seven-thirty. I sat on the edge of my bed, puffed an old cigar butt, and thought about what Bob Boone had said to Tug McGraw.

it was the World Series. Philadelphia versus Kansas City. Tug McGraw of the Phillies was pitching. it was the fifth game of the series, the bottom of the ninth, with the Kansas City Royals behind four to three. the Royals had the bases loaded with two out. Kansas City had just won two straight games to tie the series, and now they had a chance to win a third and go ahead of Philadelphia three games to two. the game was being played in Kansas City. the ball park was packed. the crowd of over fifty thousand frantic Kansas City fans were on their feet, yelling their heads off. it was bedlam. in the middle of all that commotion, Bob Boone, the Phillies’ catcher, asked the umpire for a time out and walked to the pitcher’s mound. he said something to McGraw, turned, and walked back to home plate. you know what he said? he said, “isn’t this exciting?”

what a wonderful thing to be able to say. – Chuck Barris, Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, p. 8

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29. and lastly – my ichthus. I’m not a religious man at all, I like gospel. what the Bible and Jesus are to you, The Good Book and The Good Lord are to me. there’s a reason you never see a Baptist Brunch at Stubbs, and what Christianity has turned into disgusts me, and I’m fairly certain the Man Upstairs is looking down right now, shaking His head, going ‘what the hell did you do with my message?!’ – but enough about religion [shut up and play the hits, Queen] I like the story behind this symbol. and, well, I figured Mum and Dad couldn’t get too angry about it. [sorry about the mosquito bites, I live in a trailer.]

… and there you go. all 29 + 1 of them.

there’s one more, but… no. it’s bad. so bad. some other time.

-a

 

you’ll sleep here tonight

while this site is reserved for things I humbly produce, when a vignette so well put together as this one I recently did with award-winning director J.R. Heffelfinger is produced, I couldn’t help but share it.

this – one of the more heartbreaking stories from the road I’ve ever encountered.

it’s all free now, over there.

[cross-posted from the other site]

I was going to wait until I could change a few things on my big ole travel site – AQueenAndCountry – namely the home page with the loooooong introduction video and stuff like that, but I don’t have the money for it.

nevertheless, I leave for Amsterdam tomorrow and wanted to get this out there.

it’s free.

the vids, the photos, the stories, the podcasts – it’s all free.

once upon a time, I had envisioned a way to charge $5 a month for all of this – thus funding my adventures and showing you a bit of the world. but that’s not exactly fair, nor right, and I ended up feeling like an asshole for it. I thought back to being a poor kid in Tulsa, Oklahoma and my parents barely having enough to feed us. so why should another in that same position miss out on my Life of Riley? he shouldn’t. and I’m sorry I ever tried to make money from my blessings.

it should be said that a large handful of people saw past that and helped kickstart this little thing – and for that I thank them…

but it’s all free now.

watch, steal, laugh, think, ignore, enjoy – all of it.

there’ll be much more after this Europe on a Bike Adventure I’m heading off on soon, but for now… well… tuck in.

 

the indestructible wine glass.


I wasn’t going to talk a lot about it.

the entire idea was to get away from talking about it.

to get back to books, to substance. photos are fucked, as are their masters – thank god we don’t have an Instagram for writing yet. here’s a few lines, but they don’t snap… maybe I’ll try the Norman Mailer button – ahhhhh. yes. now I’m sounding good. so the writing is all that’s left these days. I got tired of the instantaneous prose – the NatGeo thing wore me out – go here, write this, get up, go there – the beautiful spontaneity went out with Kerouac and Co. and ohmygod, even his name is on the Hollywood Billboard again.

so yes, I like writing books. that’s what I’ve decided.

there was some money in my pocket a few months ago and I bought a bike and a tent and an indestructible wine glass. with the money left over, I bought a one-way ticket to Europe – where I write you from now.

I wasn’t going to talk about this – simply do it and save you the hassle of liking whatever I manage to mutter in 140 characters, but I woke up this morning and it was cold and rainy in Berlin and my throat was sore and I walked around looking for something warm of Alonso’s to wear because I don’t have any warm clothes and I got real, real scared because I chose to bike around Europe for a long time and it’s cold and rainy and I don’t have any warm clothes.

add to that, I don’t know how to bike – I mean, ride, sure. but I don’t know how to change a flat.

nor do I have the money for proper campgrounds every night, which means I’m going to have to stealth camp – out late, up early. in fact, I spent all of my money on this bike and tent and indestructible wine glass. if I was guessing, I’d say I have about $700 in my bank account. if it weren’t for a childhood friend basically inventing a position for me at his warehouse, I’d have nothing but $700 for the next 8-9 months. there’s a magazine I really like that I just started writing for, but that money’s going to the adventure after this and…

oh wait. I’m getting ahead of myself.

here’s how this all came about:

while on the NatGeo gig, I was driving and began to worry that everything after this was gonna be a drag, ’cause there I was getting paid and shit from National Geographic. that’s it, son – the tops. you can’t get bigger than that. well done and stuff, but where to after this? what in the world could I do to impress my nephew after that? what was cooler than being a National-Geographic-Fucking-Traveler?

I thought and I thought and pondered and then realized that there was – within my reach – only one thing that could beat that:

a treasure hunter.

oh, you laugh, but in the past few months, I’ve been buried in books, on forums [youngest guy talkin' coils by 20 years], in touch with people who know people, re-watching Indiana Jones and – don’t laugh – Sahara, planning-planning-planning. you should see my Amazon cart. it’s so cool.

so yes – I decided to become a treasure hunter… when I turn 40. seemed like an appropriate age to take life seriously. which meant I had to get the remaining big trips underway – no matter the weather, the funds, the horrible planning [see: flat tire], all of that. but if you wait until everything is perfect for an adventure, then it simply becomes a vacation. I’m no good at vacations – they have an end date. not to take away from yours – god knows I’d love a beach with a bar and a card that worked for buying drinks without that horrible BoA email letting you know funds are low. gosh, that sounds fun. but I’m no good at it. my inability with money is almost as strong as my aversion towards it. but it ain’t me.

so, yes. treasure hunting and the last few remaining big trips. Europe. I missed Europe. I ached for Europe. once you peel back the touristy side and then the annoying side, there lies a side to it that opens the door for anyone to dream anything – something about the architecture and all the booze and fucking. it’s dreamy and sad and sings sad, sad songs that make you just want to walk in an orange and red leafed park with someone you’re about to break up with. chain smoke. be-boop-bop, yeah. whatever you want to feel can be made to look cool and ohhhhhhh, babe – it’s right here. especially in Berlin where the secrets are only kept from those not here. did you hear who _____ to ________? it’ll be passed from ear-to-ear, but not emailed. no sir, you be right here for this scandal or you get none of it. I like that. I miss that. even childish gossip gets made over in dark grownup eyeshadow and is cooooooooooool. I like that.

so yeah, I missed Europe and I wanted to go real slow and be able to take in the castles and cheese and chateau’s and try out that fancy titanium indestructible wine glass that I might have mentioned. it’ll take a while – but I got a lot of while. the debates and Chic-Fil-A sandwiches and people getting shot all the time and finding water on Mars but no one cares because ohmygod some  living Cabbage Patch hillbillychild got some TV show and said something mildly dumb and hang on while we put a fake taco into a Dorito and serve that shit up with a now-illegal large soda size and…

fuck.

that’s an exasperated fuck, not an angry fuck. just like an uuuuuuuugggggggghhhhhh with a side of how the fuck did we get here?

I digress. sorry.

it comes down to this: I like writing books now and seeing things and taking a photo [most likely with the Hefe setting on Instagram, thank you] and being able to share all that with the few folks who might enjoy a little peek. blogging sounds gross and I’m not a big fan. I want to write something and then send it to Sunny and then have her send it back all nice and pretty and then get drunk on some cheap prosecco and rewrite it and send it to her in the hopes she won’t disown me and then, two years later – ta da! a real live book. that some people laugh because of. or imagine because of. or feel really bad for everyone I date because of.

but it’s a contribution – one that is worked hard on. one maybe you’ll like and laugh and imagine and feel bad for.

god, where am I going with this?! DAMN YOU, BLOGGING.

ahem.

I bought a bike and am now in Europe and don’t have any money so it’s going to be interesting and an adventure and I hope you’re doing okay and autumn is really, really pretty where you’re at and you’re not about the dump the person you’re walking through it with.

see you later.

I’m gonna go see some stuff.

the plan

didn’t know if you heard, read, were deafened by my shouting it from the rooftops here in Brooklyn…
National Geographic called.
called me.
on the phone.

and – as stated – there’s some stuff I can’t talk about.
but there’s also a few things I can.

I’m headed coast-to-coast soon.
in America.
from D.C. down South then alllllll the way to Los Angeles.
6 whole weeks.

but it’s not just a trip, it’s got a theme.
the theme is good.
as in ‘The Good Traveler’.
want to see something cool?
here’s the link to the page that has the name of the giant and then the name of your pal Queen as well.

they made me a banner.
THEY MADE ME A BANNER.
there’s nothing on there yet and I might get in trouble for sharing it but I’m sorry.
someone at NatGeo [I'd like to think we're on a nickname-friendly basis] asked someone else to make a banner with my name on it.
and they did.
and they spelled my name correctly.
National Geographic spelled my name correctly.

allow me one moment to mentally print that off and hang it on my non-existent fridge.

anyway.

it’s all about good stuff, namely: people doing good stuff.
food and music and adventure, sure.
but I’m headed off to find the good folks.

do you know any?

people and places like The Big O Foundation, The Tiziano Project, Caine’s Arcade, etc.
there’s no wrong suggestions – it could be an org, it could be one person.

but it’s all going to come from public suggestions.

so if you got someone good in/around that area you see above, then tell me.
I’ll go pay ‘em a visit.

let’s start there…

because this trip starts next Monday.

oh man.

the call.

we need to talk is never a good thing to hear.

someone’s breaking up with you.
someone’s offended by something you said or did.
someone’s watch has gone missing.
etc.

this was from National Geographic – this email. I could only assume it was about me splashing the big ‘as seen on National Geographic’ logo everywhere since my first article, and assumed this was the one conversation I’d have before being contacted by their legal department.

as I emailed back, I wanted to tell them look, sorry, but how often does a wannabe travel writer end up in The House With The Golden Border? and how could they blame me? if your band opens up for The Killers, then you engrave ‘as seen on tour with The Killers’ on every t-shirt and album printed, right?

a lot was said in that phone call, none of which alluded to me milking their logo.
and a lot of it I can’t talk about.

but when the phone call was over, I sat on that balcony in Buenos Aires wondering if it had actually been them, or an ex-girlfriend who knew exactly how to crush my very soul.

it took a few months to understand what was going on.
and it took a lot of contracts and phone calls and shared documents to make me believe it was actually happening.

but it was.
and it is.

and – in one week, I take a train to D.C. where I’ll spend a few days being pre-briefed in the Golden Offices.
and then – a few days later, I’ll be getting in a car they paid for.
going coast-to-coast with a video camera, a microphone, a regular camera and a pen.

because in 10 days, I go from being one of National Geographic’s siphon-ers…
to being one of their Travelers.

more soon.
as soon as I’m done throwing up.

pickles. and jams.

different people come into your life at special times – for special reasons.

sometimes for love.

sometimes for support.

sometimes for inspiration.

and sometimes to keep you from being stranded at the airport en route to Rio.

 

the two girls and I laughed at the fact that – despite us not really doing the touristy stuff here in Buenos Aires – we kept running into each other. and you need to know that this is a big ole place. but 3 times in 4 days was enough and we finally all decided to sit down for a beer and get to know one another.

where ya from. where ya been. what’d ya like. where’s next?

then:

isn’t Buenos Aires nice?

my god, it’s gorgeous. I don’t even want to go to Rio now. I just want to stay here until I fly back to the States.

yeah, we know. we were just in Rio, though, and it’s gorgeous there. so you’ll love it. and after everything they make you go through to get the visa, you’d better!

ugh. another long line at the border? do they charge us as much as they did in Bolivia?

you don’t have your’s yet?

nah. will just get it at the airport.

[they both looked at each other with a worried look, and then to me with a worried look. I always get nervous when people who know nothing about my well being worry about my well being.]

you’re not going to Rio.

why not? I laughed. thinking this might be Americans being Americans and making everything extreme.

because it takes weeks to get a visa. you have to get a certain type of photo, print out your bank statements, show a scan or copy of your last check from your employer, have a hotel booked and then pay $160.

I had none of those things.

and this is when my well being began to worry about my own well being. ’cause, see – my flight back to the States. the big ole expensive one that set me back I-don’t-even-want-to-tell-you-how-much… was from Rio.

but I remained calm. mostly because they were both good-looking and I wanted to appear tough.

guess I’ll just have to buy another cheap flight from here to Rio the same day and just get on my flight then.

the good-looking girls went back to being the worried girls.

they won’t let you on the plane here without a visa for there.

I suddenly stopped caring about being tough.

there isn’t money in my account for another I-don’t-want-to-tell-you-how-much flight. I spent that already on the first one.

I had a flight booked from here to Rio on Saturday.

and then from Rio to LAX a few days later.

there wasn’t going to be a visa.

and there wasn’t going to be a flight.

now, thank the man upstairs it was Sunday and nothing could be done. this gave me a chance to very calmly, very strategically and very methodically, get very, very drunk.

I seriously had nowhere to go. and no means to do it with. the last time I was this worried about actually making it out was Ethiopia a few years back.

do I go the Brazilian Embassy and wax [ahem] poetic about my own stupidity and see if they could expedite one?

could I beg them to let me on the flight and just live in the airport for 4 days?

or…

do I go to the airlines and see how much it would be to change my Rio-Panama-LAX flight to Buenos Aires-Panama-LAX?

I chose the latter. because I love it here, it would be less hassle and fuck Brazil. they should post stuff like this all over travel websites. [note: they post this stuff all over travel websites].

so, to the airline office I went.

‘how much to change the flight?’ I asked in the nicest voice my hangover would allow.

‘we don’t fly from Buenos Aires to LAX.’

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. this is Buenos Aires! everything is perfect and beautiful and delicious! nothing ever goes wrong!

‘how much for a flight to Panama? and then I can just get my connecting flight there?’

‘you won’t be allowed on the plane if you miss your first flight.’

had I eaten any snacks the night before amidst my wine bender, this is where I would have pooped myself a little.

‘then what do I do?’

‘well, to fly from here to LAX will be $950′.

I was about $500 short of that.

a grey beard. broke. I stunk. toothpaste stains on my shorts. alone. homeless. 35…

and I’m about to have to call Mom and Dad for a flight home.

and just a week or so before, I was talking someone through his transitioning phase, telling him that ‘when it gets rough, that’s when you really have the adventure! that’s when you really get to know yourself!’

I had no interest in an adventure, nor in getting to know myself.

‘is there anything you would suggest?’- pleading.

‘well… there is one thing you can do. take a boat to Uruguay, then you could fly from there to Panama, Panama to Los Angeles. it would cost you $240.’

I handed her my card, praying there was enough. last time I checked, it was around $250.

turns out I had $224. but that’s why we have overdraft protection.

so there you go. I have to find a boat to a new country, pray they don’t have the same tastes in visa requirements as their neighbor to the north… and make my $262 in cash last for 9 more days.

and $10 of that goes to buying each of the girls a bottle of wine.

’cause lemme tell ya… finding this all out at the airport the day of would have been a kick in the pants.

a

p.s. both the timing and irony of my 2nd article for National Geographic making their home page being all about me – the seasoned traveler – sharing some tips from my wise learned mind is amazing.

p.p.s. sadly, having ended up in this situation many a time, I know a select few of you will do what you always do and ask if I need money. I do not. there are some cheques on the way to my account from a few clients – a few clients who ironically chose this month to be the time when they were late with their payments. and, well, tomorrow or the next day, the new travel project launches, which you can help support. so send nothing, except potty-mouth letters to Rio… stupid Rio.

 

getting closer…

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