Archive for August, 2013

Sometimes I get to act like a kid again and do something impractical. Getting out on the open road was a practice that formed the mindset I enjoy today more than any other influence. So…when I got the chance to put a cool car like a Camaro Convertible on the road and drive to San Antonio Texas I was thrilled at the prospect. Highway construction in Texas is like religion, zealous and never ending. Whatever your chosen destination or route there are plenty of alternatives, from super toll ways to busy highways , freeways laced together with turnpikes and farm roads that stitch the  hinterland together.

The amazing thing is that any road you choose will be in fantastic condition. The route I took was so smooth… it was like gliding on silk. We drove the always busy TX E 35S out of the massive Dallas Metroplex to the 130S that took us through Austin….and on the way back we drove the TX 281N to the HWY 67N and FM 1382 dotted with small town America and the history of the Old West. Many of the sparsely populated towns along the way …. like Hico…or Glen Rose…are like time capsules that stopped growing when cotton peaked and caused the entire area to fall into a long slumber. This separation cleaves two worlds neatly in two…. the old from the new.

Civilization along the sleepy HWY 281 N/S between Dallas and San Antonio is primarily centered around a bucolic ranch culture…tall signs pop out in the form of elaborate wrought iron gates above cattle barriers announcing a fanciful name …like Rancho del Blanco …or some such thing….but  indicate that nothing but more miles across  barren land through grazing herds of scattered cattle or goats might be at the end of the road.

San Antonio itself is a tourist machine for primarily American holiday makers from the South and South West…..and it is a fantastically well developed place for easy access… for example the River Walk is spectacular.  Although there are now thousands of restaurants, tours , an incredible range of accommodations, hotels and gee gaws designed for family fun…. San Antonio is primarily famous as  home of the Alamo…which sits like a queen amongst a palette of tourism jewels.

This was the location where tough minded Texans fought Mexican General Santa Anna and lost… but eventually declared  independence on March 2, 1836. Something that’s not as well advertised outside the region  is that this area had been occupied by  Spanish missionaries for hundreds of years prior to  American immigration. Before that  native Indians  occupied the land for thousands of years. Each left some fascinating reminders of what Texas looked like before the United States came to be.

A chain of religious missions and outposts …including aqueducts, built by the Franciscan order of Catholic missionaries now forms a series of National Parks called The Mission Trail. The trail is composed of four missions and other private settlements, set miles apart  connected by a narrow strip of asphalt that winds  through  broken desert and green arroyo’s . Although the fortified building complexes seem to be ruins at first glance, they are still being used as active churches for local people. The sense of 500 years of continuation, church bells, prayer ,  history and community is fascinating. Fortunately for us, none of these places are over run with tourists. The experience reminded me of visiting profound archeological sites somewhere in the third world…..not minutes from comfortable San Antonio.

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Time flies when you’re having fun. How many times in your life have you said that? If it hasn’t been a lot… then you’d better get busy and start living. Trish and I are constantly amazed how fast the months are flying by . I suppose it starts with being busy and enjoying what we do. The number of perfect days in North Texas is a huge catalyst towards keeping the blues away. Life beneath these clear blue skies has really had an effect on my daily outlook.

We’re now in ‘the dog days of summer’. Long lazy days of perfect weather, sunshine and swimming pools have to be remembered rather than taken for granted. After living in Vancouver I have rediscovered my love of the open road. Instead of having to think of transportation as a claustrophobic chore, the open roads of Texas have added a new dimension to my appreciation of life. I know, songs about ‘the open road’ are cliche… but you have to experience it to really get it. There’s something instinctual that’s released in a persons soul when there is nothing but blue sky and open country in every direction.

As opposed to cities like Vancouver where  transportation infrastructure is so poor it discourages  travel in every aspect, and makes going any distance pure drudgery and a hellish experience….Texas infrastructure invites you to come out and see the country. The culture here is too get out of the city frequently and visit the historic towns that dot the landscape. This element of the lifestyle creates a huge economic boost to the countryside and encourages people to not buy a city condo and become a rat in a cage. A major US politician ( John Kerry) said recently “The Internet has made people hard to govern”. I suppose by extension…. freedom of person, thought and spirit also make for an independent minded population…. and you have that in spades in Texas. Think about it.

 

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A coming film… The Worlds End….just happens to be written around my favorite pub which happens to be situated in my favorite neighborhood in the world… and coincidentally The Worlds End pub on Camden High Street, London appears in two of my novels…The Bloody Oath,,, and The Enablers. Now is that weird or what? Great travelers find great places wherever they may be. I remember traveling in the days before guide books and backpackers when there were only a few travelers, the world was still relatively pristine and unsullied,  and we’d meet in the oddest places simply because there were no other foreigners to be seen.

A small village in Bali for example….it was simple enough to ask a headman..”Is there any other foreigners here?” And they would send a child to find them. In Bangkok, the Malaysia hotel was the place to run into your friends and the odd CIA or KGB agent. Now of course such places are overrun with tourists looking for coincidental fame and we travelers do our best to avoid them. Strange as it may seem. in the late sixties and early seventies there were under a dozen hardcore travelers, all traders and traffickers of the exotic of the world, and we would meet constantly in airport bars, woodworking villages, gem mines, clothing districts….. And now the movie industry has ‘outed’ The Worlds End…and I’m sure the ancient dive will be awash in backpackers hoping some ‘cool’ will rub off on them…..argghhhh:(

The Worlds End has hosted Charles Dickens who set many of his novels in Camden…..Percy Shelly lived around the corner. The heavy oak floors are bowed from being stepped on since the seventeenth century, The ancient stone tred on the door step is swaybacked with use. I liked to sit looking out the imperfect panes of glass into the street and watch the world go by along the high street. The interior walls are black with five hundred years of pipe smoke. There are few places in London like The Worlds End…..I’m conflicted that they’d made my old haunt a movie set. Of course I say that about all the places that should have rested instead of being commercialized…..oh well…..sometimes it’s true…you can’t go back.

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Given that I have choices, I will confess, I love what I do. As strange as my lifestyle seems to some, you can’t imagine being rootless… until it happens to you. Most days I feel as if my feet never touch the ground. I’ve written extensively in the past on the subject of the hard core travelers life…but I’m not sure I’ve ever really nailed it. I would imagine this inherent rootless nature is what keeps me searching for another place to temporarily hang my hat. I know of many people who make an entire life out of one city, one job, a single interest,

I wonder how they do it. That would bore the crap out of me. Some people start with good intentions, but let themselves be dragged down by an avaricious disposition to possess material objects. Others get lonely while away and seek the structured comfort of a long term relationship and all that entails. Young people lose their youth and the world becomes objectified into paying bills and raising children. It takes a special personality type to drift off and never  touch down…like a perpetual travel machine.

I learned early on how to make a living out of an empty suitcase. I married in the middle of an ocean and raised a child on beaches, in airports and strange cities. It’s a life style I recommend to everyone. I have witnessed travelers suffer tropo so that the antipodal cultures they encounter becomes confrontational. That defeats the whole purpose of traveling. Ideally, you’ll become a kind of  Sadhu, eschewing the possessions and  standards of the world you leave behind. Imagine your freedom…if you can….and become the mighty mighty traveler. Forget about your short term vacation strategy… a month or six won’t cut it…… set yourself free. I promise….you’ll see the most amazing things along the way. Life is short….you’ll never get younger than you are right now.

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Trish and I are celebrating our one year anniversary in Dallas….but this is just the latest stop in a long line of stopovers. As Canadians, we are considered an anomaly. Most people in my country tend to hunker down, build a nest and stay in that one place for life, in the same job, short term vacation, paint the house every five years, have 1.2 children, put a different car in the driveway, buy a house they can’t afford, spend thirty five years trying to pay it off, divorce at least twice…. and never leave their comfort zone until  taken out in a box. Canadians in general are sedentary unimaginative and predictable people. The banks and government love them for acting like sitting ducks.

Many people emigrate,  we are nor immigrants…. we wander by choice. We have zero intention to stay in one place, instead we float in a dish of cream. When the milk runs dry we will  be on our way. In the past ten years in particular, we have been ‘on the road’ so to speak, living in hotel rooms and long stay executive apartments. I particularily like countries that rent furnished apartments by the week, like Australia. It’s liberating to move from one great view to another. I do not want plants or animals tying me down. I have a beautiful wife …why would I need a little furry buddy to assuage my inner emptiness? Aside from Dallas we have lived/ worked in  Paris , Amsterdam, London, Bristol, Beijing, Singapore, San Francisco, Bangkok, Hong Kong, New York, Maui, Helsinki,Denpassar,  and visited many places in between…..prior to that..  long stints in  Fiji and Brisbane homeschooling our son on the beaches. For university prep we gave the boy a top boarding school education and he went on to spend six years living on the campus of a great university. He is very independent and we’re quite proud of that.

The travelers lifestyle got under my skin when very young. I suppose you develop a mindset after a while where ‘home’ becomes a concept rather than a place. Our circle of friends are living around the world rather than the house-frau and her balding husband across the cul de sac. I’m permanently tanned from too much time in the sun, whereas in Canada they’re sounding alarms against the idea of even 15 minutes exposure. My travel flesh is deep and dark. My rotator cuffs  joints in arms and hips are grinding like an old transmission from too much time spent in swimming pools and surf lines…my travel bones are worn. And still I have no want to return ‘home’ and begin collecting china or automobiles….or even worse….take up golf.  This a hell of a lifestyle…. but someone has to live creatively.

Canadians in particular are jealous to the extreme, they covet  and become angry when anyone has something they cannot. It’s a peculiarity of the culture. You’ll find  conversations with Canadians  begin with  identifiers ‘what do you do….where do you live, how much do you make.. where have you been on holiday’? It is a Canadian caste system that defines who you are financially compared to every one else. They’ll want to know if they’re ahead or behind so that they can either envy you or despise you. Vancouver , for example has been polled as being the loneliest, least friendly, and difficult to make new friends in as a city…. there is a large population of people reporting some form of depression and mental illness due to the social isolation. People there are so covetous of anything another might have that they can’t decide to ‘just be normal’.A visitor to Vancouver will notice a desperation to own real estate and a huge number of newly leased cars…. but no theater scene, no music scene, art scene, no cool neighborhoods…..just a lot of miserable people sitting around telling you how great their city is as justification for what they’re paying every month. In fact…it has to be the most miserable , covetous place I have ever been.

But I remind people that what you do in life is a choice. ‘Change your mind.. change your life’… is a phrase that popped into my head when I began my career as a traveler hitchhiking around North America and then branching off to spend decades wandering the world. It works for me…..and if you don’t like where you are…pack a suitcase and go somewhere you do. Hey…it works for us. I guess I’ll have to keep my crown as ….THE KING OF PAIN.

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People in Texas love to socialize. There is a thriving arts community that  screams…’We’re here’ !! This weekend Trish and I were at the Design District Event where locals got together in a big old warehouse and showed us what they’ve been up to. When you get this many creative minds together you know the day is going to rock. We were treated to kick ass bands… and a swimming pool in the parking lot. Food trucks and a great promotion bar held up the corners. I think the floor was shaking because when I got home I noticed my pictures were all a bit blurred…. but that just underlines the general vibe. I love meeting the local artists and making all the contacts for the Dallas underground. As I’ve said people are super friendly and inviting here. The after party invites are very much appreciated…..I think it must be my cool LOCS shades or the Kid Rock hat….not sure.

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We met Carolyn Collins…..of CarolynCollinsPhotography.com …she’s a sweet heart……sorry for the blur Carolyn….it was just one of those shaky days.  It was 108 that day…..could have been the weather. Video should be up on the Bangkok Living and Travel site soon.

I stay in a lot of hotels. I live in a hotel today. A very nice one I might add. But regardless where I go in the world I always encounter cockroaches at one time or another. My wife hates roaches, I am her designated bug killer. For years I wondered why I’ve found so many cockroaches dead or dying on their backs. There have been times I simply found them sleeping…because when I disturbed them they went off , and tried to scurry away. I found this strange, but never questioned why…. until today when I Googgled the question “Do cockroaches sleep on their back?” Surprisingly I came up with hundreds of thousands of answers. Here’s a good one.

http://www.trapsforroach.com/?node=main&id=275&lang=

I have to add…the internet has really changed my life. I might have gone to my grave never knowing the answer to this all important question.

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