Tag archives for history

There’s a piece of the road in the museum—square slabs of aged asphalt excised from west of Oklahoma City. I’ve never seen such a thing in a museum.  I have seen shrunken human heads and Tyrannosaurus teeth, polished suits of armor and a queen’s underpants, but never before have I seen a chunk of road…

New Havana

“I wanted to see Cuba,” explains one man in our group, “Before it changes.” We all nod in agreement, except for the two Cubans in the room, who simply smirk. “I’ve been hearing that for the last twenty years!” says Migdalia, our guide. And she’s right—I’ve been hearing (and saying) the same thing for the…

The river was a mirror of glass—like a silvery puddle of mercury, spilling me forever forward into the wilderness. Odd-shaped cliffs of sparkling white stone framed either side of the channel, with bulging towers and blobs that looked like some child’s dribbled sandcastle. We were utterly alone in the world—just me and Bob, a retired…

At the very moment of the final top ten round of the the 25th anniversary National Geographic Bee (congrats Sathwik Karnik!), yours truly was sitting on a stool in a glass-walled television studio at 30 Rockefeller Place undergoing a more gentle interrogation on the Today Show. The questions asked me each concerned the upcoming holiday…

Sadly, I can never be a Rangerette. Not only does being male disqualify me, but I would never make it past the first audition. Apparently, in order to join the elite dance drill team of Kilgore College, girls must be able to kick high enough to touch boot toe to the front brim of their…

Marfans

Listen to my interview with Marfa Public Radio in Marfa, Texas! ——————————————————————————— Yes, I saw the Marfa lights. It was about 11 o’clock at night, and I was alone at the Marfa Lights View Park when I spotted two pale greenish-white balls of light, hovering over the barren fields. Yes, it was kind of cool—but…

Covellite

Never judge a town by its exit ramp . . . . . . because at night, every exit looks the same: fast food beacons and glowing gas stations with trucks steaming in the cold. I spin away from the dark rush of the interstate and down the town’s widest avenue—to the snow-crusted parking lot…

I love toponyms (place names), because they reveal so much—and yet so little—about the places they are meant to typify. It was snowing in Minneapolis (Sioux Mni = “water”; Greek polis = “city”) when I boarded a flight for Kalispell, and briefly imagined that Kalispell was the name of some flaxen-haired, rose-lipped pioneer beauty in…

Two Tombs #RTW

In China, it’s all about the gift shop. Since arriving in the Middle Kingdom, nearly every destination we visit comes equipped with a well-stocked gift shop manned by an English-speaking staff all ready to grant us, their new friends, at least a twenty percent discount. Even a callused traveler as myself is susceptible to the…

I was traveling backward, the rain falling away from the final window on the train. I was sitting in the last seat on the last car of the GoldenPass, facing backward at a panoramic window that showed me all the wet green landscape I was leaving behind, the whole of it measured out in miles…

Gandhi’s neighbors are very loud. It is a sunny Sunday morning and sane people are in bed with the paper and a cup of tea—or else in church or on their way to the beach. But way out here in Inanda township, the house next door is blasting earth-shaking drums and wild marimba noise that…

I offer my sweat as a gift to the earth. Jethro tells me that my sweat is enough—the important thing is to always give back. If we take something, we must also give. We take water into our bodies and we give it back. He says this while pulling out the fuzzy black end of…

My travel heroes are many but none of them demand the kind of admiration I have for Sir Ernest Shackleton. So far, my sea voyage has followed in the wake of the very first stage of the infamous Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, in which the heroic polar explorer Ernest Shackleton sailed from Buenos Aires to the…

Edzna: Sun God

12.19.19.2.17; 5 Kayab 13 Caban; 302 days left . . . For a minute I felt very special and rather lucky. The sign at the entrance insisted that I not miss the spectacular laser light show playing that night, illuminating the ruins of Ednza into a Star Wars-like spectacle of colored light beams, flashing bulbs,…

12.19.19.2.10; 18 Pax 6 Oc; 309 days left . . .  All good rumors start with a whisper of truth. Discovering that truth is the gift that travel brings, because nothing compares to gaining knowledge first hand, on site. So far, my journey through Mexico has taken me to the place where the Maya calendar…

12.19.19.2.4 This is not my computer’s IP address. It is actually today’s date. Your phone might tell you that today is February 9th 2012. But it is also baktun twelve, katun nineteen, tun nineteen, uinal two and kin four . . . according to the Mayan long form calendar. Excuse me while I pull out…

It’s OK to wear black socks with white running shoes in Japan. That’s what I tell myself as I tighten my laces and head down the hall of my hotel. It’s not like I’m going to blend in anyway. The elevator agrees with me, chiding in Japanese soprano, mocking my last clean pair of socks.…

The world’s largest daikon ever harvested weighed exactly 69 pounds (31.3 kilograms)—more than three times the size of your average daikon. I blinked at the rubber, life-size model of the record-breaking radish through the display case in the museum—it was the same size as one of those exercise balls for doing sit-ups.  Given the chance…

Food travels and people travel for food. Such is the history of the world and such is the world now. Such were my thoughts as I ate my way through Québec’s capital. The culinary landscape of Québec City is anchored in four centuries of French-ness. It’s impossible to walk down any of the cobblestone streets…

I don’t get rich people at all. If you had all the money in the world, why would you build your dream cottage in the midst of the world’s worst mosquito infestation? That is exactly what I wondered as I stood on my hotel’s back deck in the late evening and slapped my face hard,…