I captured this photo, on Kim and my second day in Cuenca. We were walking back from exploring El Centro, the old town section of Cuenca and saw this door on one of the plethora of cathedrals in the city. I am fascinated by doors and am obsessed with taking pictures of doors that appeal to me, which is a broad range. After a couple of days Kim would identify candidates ahead of time before I even saw them. There is something magical in my opinion and they serve as entrances to many facets of people’s lives. I always run through my mind what I think is on the other side and what I would find if I opened the door.
As our son and I walked through a mall in Japan, we came across this beer display during the beginning of Cherry Blossom season. I was floored by the pink color. In the US, all beer displays are masculine oriented and one would never see such a base wrap or theme, associated with a beer display. This is one of the reasons I love Japan, they are not in to gender framing and are very open to diversity in all areas!
The first time I visited Cuenca, I wondered off from the Casa Ordonez boutique hotel I was staying at, to the center of old town called Parque Calderon. I noticed on one side of the park there was an elaborate cathedral and had to investigate it. This is the photo of the altar from the rear of the cathedral and shows the marble columns, floor and the gold in the altar. It was a dramatic picture in my mind and the church took many decades to construct and complete. I loved it and was felt an overwhelming peace standing in the church.
I thought I might start sharing photos daily, to add to my stream and give my subscribers another avenue to share my travels. I am a very fortunate individual and sometimes run into photo opportunities that are amazing, even if only in my on eyes! Ha! As I was walking home from the Metro Convention Centre on Spadina, the last day of the TBEX conference in Toronto recently, I looked to my right as I crossed a bridge and lo and behold there was this photo just waiting to be taken. I love the train tracks, the baseball stadium and the CNN tower. All of which play a critical role in the success of Toronto. Please let me know if this is a feature I should continue. Thank you kindly!
When I was younger, oh so much younger, a book by John Howard Griffin entitled “Black Like Me” was published in 1961. I read the book around the age of 13 and became dramatically impacted by the issues Mr. Griffin brought to light. I grew up in Texas and had no idea that racism existed, as I always went to school with many Hispanic children. I knew no difference until I started high school and became a part of the first racially integrated class at Arlington High School, as ASID desegregated in 1965. I bring this up as it was discussed yesterday in my interview with Minority Nomad also known as Erick Prince-Heaggans.
Erick and I met online, as we are both residents of Austin when we are not traveling and came across each other on Twitter. We decided to meet at Madam Mam’s on Anderson Lane and I soon discovered why. For reasons I will not go into (old age) I was approximately 45 minutes late and Erick thought it was funny. I was totally embarrassed. We ordered our lunch and I got down to the interview as agreed upon earlier.
Question #1 What made you start traveling?
“I have a project that is near to my heart and I needed to find a way to fund it. I want to inspire young Afro American Blacks, Latinos, LGBT community and other Diverse groups to travel and to let them know the world is a diverse and wonderful place. We as a country have about a 36% passport ratio, which lags substantially behind the rest of the world. I want to move this needle to at least 50% by the time I pass. I want us to shed the “Cul de Sac” mentality. I loved that quote and completely understand it”.
Question #2 Which country that you have visited did you like the most overall?
“Without a doubt its Thailand. It has such an acceptable approach to diversity and tourism. I was treated like a “Rock Star”!”
Question #3 What type of food, in a country you have visited, did you favor the most.
“Thai food is my favorite (okay now I know why we are at Madam Mam’s).”
Question #4 What country’s people that you have met, did you like the most?
“Swedish, Finnish and other Scandinavian populations if you want an educated discussion. If you are talking friendliest, that has to be the Balinese. They smile all the time and are genuinely happy to see you, do things for you and ensure you stay is a wonderful thing. If you are talking fun to be around (Code for Party Animals), the Brazilians are a blast and I could hang with them for a long time! If you are talking people you meet on the road it has to be the Canadians and Germans. They are frequent travelers and I constantly run into them on the road. Plus they are fun to be with. Rounding out the discussion he stated the Eastern European people of Poland, Budapest and Hungary are the most genuine and you always know where they stand even if you don’t agree with them.”
Question #5 What culture have you liked the most in a country you have visited?
“Thai for sure. They appreciate family, faith, diversity and most agendas I believe in.”
Question #6 If you were to do long term volunteer work which country would you go to?
“If it was for educational purposes, it would have to be central Africa. They do not have the “Oil” or “Tourism” industries to support their needs and are struggling more than other African countries. If it was more to help the people, I would have to say Liberia, as we have made this country a mess. Even though it is probably the most dangerous and yes I would be scared to go. It needs our help more than any other country at this time.”
Question #7 What is the funniest thing that has happened to you on the road?
“Well (stutter, as he wasn’t sure if he should share it) two of the gentlemen that went with us were crazy Aussi’s. VERY over the top and already three sheets to the wind. A quarter ways through the show three beautiful Thai women brought put a massage mat and asked for volunteers. The Aussi’s started goading me into volunteering and making fun of Americans. Being the person I am, I agreed. How bad could a massage be. Well once I got on stage the three women stripped me naked, stripe naked themselves, and proceeded to give me a naked massage in front of 150 people.”
Question #8 What is the worst thing that has happened to you on the road?
“Well it has to be getting arrested in Buenos Aires. I went to a bar with people I met where I was staying (2 Italians, 3 Brazilians and me). I only had one beer and paid for it when I arrived. The Italians drank heavily and walked their tab. The server brought me the tab and I said it was their bill not mine and he should have collected from them before he kicked them out for fighting with local Argentineans. The server then called the police. The police officer asked for my passport and I said I left it at the place I was staying, in a secure place. The officer told me I could be arrested and deported since I wasn’t carrying the passport as required. I told him that was not really a law. The officer said I was in deep trouble for trying to skip the bill and not having my passport. I had to spend the night in jail. The next morning the Captain, who spoke excellent English, listened to my story about the Italians and my passport. He laughed and told me I was lucky and he gave me a small fine and sent me on my way. Left a very bad taste in my mouth for Buenos Aires.”
Question #9 What is your least favorite country?
“No question it is Russia. I was denied entrance twice (my military history) and resorted to a dock entry at a port and got in serious trouble. They questioned me hard for about an hour and a half. Funny, I will tell you later, why I now have Russia on a good list also. By the way since my incident in Buenos Aires, Argentina is near the bottom also.”
Question #10 What is your least favorite food?
“Italian food in Buenos Aires. The cheeses have the consistency of gum!”
Question #11 How long will you travel?
“That’s easy. I will never stop!”
Question #12 What is the one item you cannot do without on the road?
“Have you read Douglas Adam’s “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”? As he states, a “Towel” is the most important item you can have. It has a myriad of uses. If you are talking electronics, its my camera. I love photography and try to shoot about half raw and half with minor editing. I am not a fan of “over-editing”.”
Question #13 Where has prejudice been the largest issue and how did you handle it?
“St. Petersburg Russia and Buenos Aires Argentina (endured for 30 days) are the two worst countries over and above any other.”
Question #14 What advice would you give minority or diverse travelers, if they are traveling?
“I would tell them to do their research and make sure it is the latest information available. Do you know that 76 countries have laws against gay couple associations and it is very illegal in them? In five countries (Mauritania, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran) you can receive the death penalty.”
Question #15 What has been your favorite “Tour”?
“A walking tour in Warsaw, narrated by a fellow that worked at the hostel I was at. He was the event and social planner and knew the city literally backwards and forwards. Best of all it was free! I also took a tour on the Baltic Sea on a ferry from the St. Petersline over five days, that left a lifelong impression. It circled the Baltic sea, hitting all the Scandinavian countries, Russia and Poland. The ferries they use are frequented by dock workers and you find many workers in cabins on the boat. I had a couple of Russians, one on each side of my cabin and a Hungarian guy across from me. Over the next five days my impressions of the Russians grew worse each day.
One night the guy on the right of me starts pounding on my door at about 2:00 AM. He was very drunk and looking for his friend. He then kept apologizing, when he discovered his mistake. The next night his friend Igor starts knocking on my door late at night and had been drinking also. He gets apologetic also when I open the door, but he carries it a little farther. He starts touching my and his hearts and saying “America/Russia”! “America/Russia”! “Governments don’t like each other not us”! He gave me a huge hug that must have lasted two minutes or so. I almost was brought to tears by this and really then knew that all the people around the world are the same down deep!”
Question #16 What is your next “30-Day” adventure (He polls his subscribers with about 10 choices of what adventure to fulfill next)?
“I am learning to Ski in Chile (August), Muay Thai fighting in Thailand (October), Brazilian Jui Jistsu in Brazil (December), Crab Fishing in Alaska (January). That’s what my subscribers voted for. (Me-Are you crazy that’s absolutely the worst month to go?)”
Question #17 What is the country you would settle down in if you decide to stop traveling?
“Thailand (what a surprise!), as I love its culture, its people and its food. Now if I was on an unlimited budget, it would definitely be Japan. I can’t tell you how much I love Japan. (Really, I can tell you, as its probably my favorite also, just can’t afford it these days!).”
I learned that Erick is a very compassionate and intelligent man. He has his life’s agenda set. His desire to help the underprivileged and center city kids struck me very deeply, especially after my recent visit to Mexico and how I was impacted by the Homes of Hope project. I was so energized by Erick and his agendas and told him of my travel desires and my wish to help young children in Ecuador or wherever I may be. I must say this young man has his head on straight and I think he will serve the world very well, in his capacity as a mentor, for the impoverished of the world. I can’t begin to realize or understand the issues he has faced, as a Black American growing up in the projects of Cleveland Ohio. Safe Travels mi amigo and I hope you get to that 50% ratio soon!
Approximately 57 years ago I walked into the small store, on the square in Lampasas Texas, next to the newspaper where my father worked and bought my first package of baseball cards for a nickel. Inside were several cards and a large massive square of chewing gum. I couldn’t wait to tear the package open and see which player’s cards I received with my purchase. This began an insane hoarding or collecting phase in my life and every red cent I accumulated through helping my father, mowing lawns or throwing paper routes was dedicated to increasing my collection of baseball cards. I was hooked!
All through elementary my collection grew and I kept them secure in a couple of shoe boxes. No one was allowed to touch the cards and I was a fan of the New York Yankees who had many Mantle, Ford, Berra, Maris and other players during the 1950’s. The Yankees were the team in Professional baseball for about a decade or so. I have six cousins and three are female from my aunt’s family and three are boys from one of my uncle’s family.
One day I come home after school and my boy cousins are in my bedroom with my baseball cards all over the floor. Not only did they pull them out, they had a pair of scissors and were happily cutting all my cards in half, that I had saved for about six years. They managed to destroy about half of my collection. I went absolutely crazy and asked my Mother why she allowed them to do this. My uncle’s wife and my Mom just stood there sheepishly knowing that they had not been paying enough attention and this had broken my heart.
Alas after the incident, which I am sure has left scars and caused severe anxiety until this day, I regained my composure and started collecting again, salvaging what was left of the cards. I tell my cousins they owe many thousands of dollars when I see them and remind them of this incident. I seriously don’t think they came away with any regret or remorse. To this day I harbor ill will about this insane experience.
I became interested in sports and girls and boxed my cards up and put them away. After Kim and I got married and had our three sons I started back up with the collecting and it became an major obsession again over time. I made sure to purchase complete sets for the specific year each son was born. I literally have boxes and boxes of baseball cards and do not know exactly what all cards I own. I asked our three sons recently if they wanted the collection, which at one time had considerable value.
The response was an overwhelming no and I was left to jettison the cards from my life, one way or another. So one day while surfing Twitter I ran across a fellow baseball card advocate and inquired if my collection would interest him. He replied in the affirmative and now four days from now he is coming to my home to evaluate whether he wants my collection of many thousands of cards, some over 100 years old. I am trying hard not to be emotional about this transaction, but it is impossible, given my eternal love for baseball and the memories all the cards bring.
My only hope is, that if we agree on compensation, is that he take care of this part of my life and protect them as I have done. He is young and that makes me feel good, as a large contingent of the younger generations have no appreciation for collectibles and I feel assured he will treat them with the respect they deserve. I know this sounds strange to a great portion of my followers and some have no understanding of how traumatic this can be. I will simply state it can be compared in my book, to having to put a long term pet down, when they become sick. May all my heroes forgive me!
Sean, our middle son, called me last Friday at around 5:30 PM and said lets go out to eat. I am in South Austin and we can meet downtown, he says. I told him great idea, but a bad concept. One does not leave for downtown Austin, on a Friday night to go out and eat, unless they plan on eating around 9:00 PM. Not good for Kim and I, as we are generally yawning or going to bed at this time of the evening. Besides, I told Sean, I have dinner ready for your Mother and me at home. So I asked why would you call and ask this, as we had just been to his apartment the day before for a July 4th BBQ. He told me that the position he had been waiting for had materialized and he was the new Branch Manager. I told him how proud I was that he had gotten the job and would love to celebrate another night. How about Sunday night at Truluck’s he asked, knowing its the best seafood place in Austin and we all love eating there.
Sunday rolls around and we get a 5:00 PM reservation and show up early. Surprise the restaurant doesn’t open until 5:00 PM. Kim and I wait and Sean gets there right at 5:00 PM when they open the doors. We walk in and its apparent that crab is in season and they are featuring various items. Everywhere you turn are illustrations both live and on ice of these magnificent morsels. We sit and the restaurant comes alive as the server brings us bread and gets our drink order. The bar tender who is a friend of Sean’s stops by and asks the occassion. Sean tells her of his promotion and the fact we are celebrating his birthday early.
Sean then orders a plate of Calamari and we settle in. Kim orders Blackened Red Fish, which is right up there in my opinion, with the best fish in the ocean. I love its taste. Sean obviously orders Stone Crabs, the House special. I finally decide I will have a Dungeness crab. They go to the tank and obtain a live Dungeness that appears very large. I ask the server how much it weighs and she states a little over a pound. Okay that’s good I think, as the shell has to be half the weight. What do you want for your sides she asks. I look and the Mac N Cheese with Crabmeat looks delicious and I break down and order it and Asparagus.
The server brings out an array of tools, that will be needed to eat the Dungeness crab with. They are menacing and I am frankly not entirely sure how to use every tool. The server kindly illustrates the techniques. Our meals arrive and I am looking at what appears to be a three pound crab. I am scared I can’t finish it and am not sure if its safe to take crab home. I know one can get very sick around seafood if its not handled well. I have had food poisoning three times in my life and never want to go through that again.
Somewhere between about half of the Mac N Cheese with crab, half the Aparagus and about 75% of the crab, I start feeling like I need to regurgitate! I am fastly filling my stomach and I am not sure how much room is left. I stop eating the sides and concentrate on the crab. By this time Kim and Sean are done and I am still cracking legs, etc. Then they bring out this massive cake to help Sean celebrate. I want to literally toss my cookies. I have to taste it, but know there is no way I can finish the slice that Sean has carved for me. I get up to stretch my legs and go to the restroom. Maybe a little walking will help.
Sorry it didn’t. I return and sit down and take a few bites and tell Sean maybe I better take the rest home. In the end we all take our desert home, as I learn I am not the only one filled up. I rise and start to walk out and I realize that I am close to barfing. I need a wheelbarrow to help me to the car. Somehow we hug Sean, congratulate him on his promotion and get in our car to drive home. I am so full I can’t breathe! We get home and I tweet that I had to get in my elastic pants as soon as I walk in the door. Apparently this is a common syndrome, as many responded with appropriate and similar thoughts about the wheelbarrow. Next time I go to Truluck’s no heavy meal and I will be a good man and eat a filet of fish…OR NOT!!! Happy Birthday son!!!
I promised myself I would take the day off and not drop a post on everyone today. I am sure all of you are getting ready to celebrate with family and friends and planning to go watch an “Epic” fireworks show at a local park. When our sons, now all young men, were younger we would make a big deal and BBQ all day, pig out over my Mother’s potato and pea salad recipes. It really didn’t matter what type of meat I was cooking as long as Kim made deviled eggs and I made the salads. It was a Texas tradition.
The boys would always find an easy way to amuse themselves and play games in the yard, which they created and developed entirely from some TV show like Ninja Turtles or something of that nature. I was still fairly active and would join in sometimes between cooking and making the salads. Of course the occasional beer would be ingested and Kim would have her glass of wine so the eggs and other items she made would come out just right.
When all was done we would sit around a table, eat until we couldn’t walk and finish with ice cream and watermelon. Kim loves watermelon. I hated the next portion and that was cleaning up the mess we made preparing all this very unhealthy food. It seemed to always take longer to clean than to cook. By this time it was getting near dark and we would pile into the van, yes we had a van for many years just to haul the boys and their stuff to sporting events, to school and to activities. It was nice to have that many seats as the boys didn’t have to touch each other. Touching each other always led to arguments for some reason.
Most of the fireworks programs that we would view lasted a fairly long time and we would bring folding lawn chairs, another great reason to have a van. Through baseball we became friends with Mary and Larry Heffernan and started a tradition of attending the parties they threw on the 4th. After all the eating and cleaning it was the best scenario for watching the fireworks. All we had to do was walk right out into their Cul de Sac and plop our folding chairs down. The fireworks went off behind their house at a local park and these seats were the best in town!
Now we have a son in Japan, one in the Dallas area and one still here in Austin. We are going to his apartment and having a mini 4th BBQ. I hope we don’t embarrass him! I miss the old days and having all our family so close! Life has a way of hitting you right between the eyes at times and for some reason it did that today. I sincerely hope all you young parents “relish” (sorry I couldn’t help myself) the time you have now with your children and spend it wisely. Before you know it your children will be grown and out the door. Be careful with the fireworks and try to eat healthy! Happy 4th of July for all those friends “Living in the Land of the Free”!