McPhee to writers "You're going to get there."


“When a person is twenty-one or twenty-two years old and facing that great enigma about what to do, envying the law students or medical students who can get on a set of rails and run on it and know where they’re going, the writer doesn’t know. But a writer should also bear in mind there are numerous paths to this goal and they’re all O.K….You’re going to get there. If the person expects the big answer at twenty-one, that’s ridiculous. Everyone’s in the dark.”

(John McPhee quoted in Literary Journalism in an essay by editor Norman Sims)

When I was twenty-two I was a world-traveling SCUBA instructor with a degree in Anthropology hanging on the wall of my vacant bedroom at my parent’s…

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The $10 for Tuesday Project: "Letting my babies down"

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My “Free Money” post, part of my $10 for Tuesday Project, has received over 60 comments. Everything from “Give me $10 or I’ll kill you” to, more often, tales that are a sign of these tough times.

It’s become much more of a responsibility than I ever imagined. To think someone was so desperate that they Googled “free money” and took the time to comment or email me their story hoping they might get a measly $10 breaks my heart. I always try to respond.

I received this note a while back:

My name is Michelle I am a 32 yr old single mom of 2. A 12 yr old lil girl and my 7yr old…

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The Poor Give More than the Rich

If you had more, you would give less.

Americans earning less than $25,000 give away 4.2% of their income on average and those earning $75,000+ give away only 2.7% of theirs according to a piece by Judith Warner in the NY Times The Charitable Giving Divide.

Some of the most interesting parts of the story were Warner’s discussions with grad student, Paul Piff, about his research at UC Berkeley:

“…lower-income people were more generous, charitable, trusting and helpful to others than were those with more wealth. They were more attuned to the needs of others and more committed generally to the values of egalitarianism.

“Upper class” people, on the other hand, clung to values that “prioritized their own need.” And, he told me this week, “wealth seems to buffer people from attending…

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He-Man vs. Dora The Explorer

I watch Dora the Explorer, Wonder Pets, Go Diego Go, Ni-Hao Kai Lan. I absorb them by osmosis while my toddler stares mesmerized. I barely watch any ESPN. I should have my man card revoked purely for the reason that I sing this song everyday…

What I’m saying is that I consume as many cartoons now as I did when I was six. And while the cartoons of today teach my little girl how to share and be a good friend and how to say “hi” in Spanish and Chinese, I feel like they are lacking in the imagination department (Backyardagins is a phenomenal exception).

Lenny,…

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5 reasons American Apparel is on "path to Hell"

“Dov Charney is at the moment of truth,” said Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates Inc., a national retail consulting and investment banking firm based in New York City. “And all roads for him lead to hell. He’s got to pick the best of the worst choices.”

From the Financial Post story American Apparel a hipster darling no more as bankruptcy looms

Dov Charney is the controversial CEO of American Apparel, the US’s largest remaining apparel manufacturer. Dov is reportedly very hands on when it comes to clothes and, reportedly his female workers. I write about AA in Where Am I Wearing? as an option for engaged consumers who are looking to support American-made products.

But recently the company’s stock has fallen lower than the necklines…

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Invoking the Great Touron King

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Cartoon by Geoff Hassing

So this fella Matt Long wrote this piece titled, “Don’t be a Touron.”

Gasp!

Hand me my backpack, scepter, and crown. You might want to back up a little.

(adjusts crown, raises scepter which is really just a stick that happened to be nearby)

“By the power of Grayskull, I am the Great Touron King!”

The flashes of dozens of disposable cameras fill the sky.

That glow that you see radiating from me isn’t my aura of power. That’s just the sun reflecting off of my SPF 80 sunscreen.

My first published sentence was, “In the Land of Tourons I am the Great Touron King.” It appeared in the Key West City Paper in 2002. Each week for the following three years, I recounted my experiences in places that weren’t home; places that I didn’t always know how to act or where to go; places that I found new and creative ways to make myself look like a jackass.

Here’s Matt on Tourons:

The Urban Dictionary defines a Touron as “The derogatory term combines the words “Tourist” with “Moron” to describe any person who, while on vacation, commits an act of pure stupidity.”

Ultimately, a touron is a person who apparently hates to leave home, but for some reason has decided to spend coin and time to do just that. After a recent trip to New York, I was reminded of how awful these individuals can be and as a public service want to provide some tips on how not to be a touron, in the classical sense.

When traveling, it is vital to have at least a modicum of self-awareness. You are a visitor and you should comport yourself as a guest, not an invading army. Pay attention to what local people are doing, and then do that! Also be a smart traveler. No matter how much you try to blend in, you usually won’t.

Here is my definition of Touron:

1) A touron is one part eager tourist and one part well-meaning moron.

2) Faced with a deluge of new sites, smells, sounds, and behaviors, a tourist turns touron because of an enhanced curiosity and innocent unawareness. The farther behind we leave the familiar, the more touronic we become.

3) Matt Long

4) You

In his “Don’t be a Touron” piece Matt says he came across the term “Touron” when he was “a college student in Williamsburg, Virginia, which is inundated with millions of tourists every year. Of these millions, there is a not-so-insignificant percentage which may be described as being tourons.”

I came across the term in Key West while working as a dive instructor and taking thousands of tourists into an environment where they found new and creative ways to try to kill themselves. I would give the dive briefing, “Whatever you do, don’t swim over there where you see the waves breaking onto the reef,” and five minutes later a diver would emerge waving his arms as he was slowly pulverized into bloody coral powder. Then I would swim like hell over to him, keep him from dying, and drag his sorry scraped up butt off the reef.

Although I cussed at these people through my regulator on a regular basis, I never looked down on them. They were my people. I respected the fact that they were brave enough to enter a world in which they didn’t belong. And some of them REALLY didn’t belong there. But I didn’t belong either. You can’t travel through a more foreign environment than swimming along a reef at 60’ beneath the Atlantic with hammerheads, puffer fish, and spotted eagle rays.

This is how I feel about traveling in general. Whether you want to label yourself a tourist or a traveler, I could give a flying flipper about, but if you pack your bags and head out the door to somewhere in which you are a foreigner, you are my people. You are a Touron.

Like a SCUBA diver, you’ll likely stick out like a sore thumb. You won’t lug your tank around, but you’ll be hefting plenty of cultural baggage. You’ll do your best not to kick the coral or cultural norms, but no matter how much you try, you will on occasion.

This is the beauty of the word Touron. It tears downs all these “my traveling is better than your traveling arguments.” It embraces all our inherent faults as travelers and unites us in our love for travel.

I love that Matt travels the world. I’ve never met him, but I’m guessing he has loads of tales of how he’s looked like a jackass around the world.

I do. It’s pretty much required to be the Great Touron King.

And as the GTK I hereby dub Matt Long (adjusts crown – these Burger King crowns just don’t fit like they once did. Places stick on Matt’s left shoulder and then his right) Sir Matt Long, an honorary knight of the knights of the Touron Table.

(If you want to read my first published piece “The Land of Tourons” it’s below the cut)

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Friday the 13th, let the adventure begin

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I was once held hostage by monks in Nepal. (old column from the experience below the cut)

When I finally convinced them to let me go, they consulted some scrolls to see if the date was a good one to release a hostage. It wasn’t but the next day was.

That trip, my first around the world, began on a Friday the 13th. I traveled for 6 months in Hawaii, Australia, Thailand, Nepal, and Western Europe. Those first experiences traveling led to my writing a travel column. I wrote about 200 columns about that first trip and other trips that followed. The column was my grad school. It was where I found my voice and started to do what I do today.

Friday the 13th was the first day of the rest of my life and a great time to hit the road.

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$10 to the forgotten people of Bangladesh

I was invited to speak to class in Indianapolis by John Clark, who runs a very cool organization called Provocate that seeks to connect Indianapolis to the world.

I was trying out some new material on being a glocal (think globally, act locally). The more I travel and the more I come into contact with extreme poverty, the more I realize that it is Bangladeshi’s that are the most capable of helping other Bangladeshi’s, just as it is Hoosiers who have to help other Hoosiers.

So now I donate money to organizations that I feel do a good job of supporting Bangladeshi’s helping other Bangladeshi’s. And where I’m a local – Muncie, Indiana – I’m donating time to fight poverty in my community.

I think that it’s important that each of us thinks about our place in the world and in our local community. I’ll hash these thoughts out more in a future post. This is something I really want to work into my new and improved “Where Am I Wearing?” presentation this fall.

Anyhow, during the Q&A after the talk someone posited, “Wouldn’t it be better for countries like Bangladesh if instead of traveling there you just donated the amount of money you would have spent and stay home?” I like the question. It kind of reminds me of this one that Wall Street Journal asked me. The audience turned a bit on the poor fella who was really just playing devil’s advocate and lobbing up a softball for me to knock out of the park.

I answered it similar to my answer in the Journal:

That’s misguided, says Kelsey Timmerman, a 28-year-old Muncie, Ind., scuba-diving instructor and author. If he’d never been to the Great Barrier Reef, he wouldn’t care as much that it is dying from rising ocean temperatures. Decisions he makes as a consumer and a voter offset emissions resulting from his travels, says Mr. Timmerman, who visited Bangladesh, Cambodia and China last year. “Travel helps us care more about our world.”

My answer was okay, but nowhere near the answer that came from the next hand that went up. Anwar Khan and his wife were planning a trip to Bangladesh with the intention of helping one family. They went and couldn’t do it. There was just too much suffering to help only one family. They founded OBAT Helpers an organization that gives hope to Pakistani refugees in Bangladesh.

Soon as Anwar told his story, I knew that some Tuesday in the very near future I would be giving OBAT $10. Today is that Tuesday. Here’s how to join me.

A letter from Anwar is below the break

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Tornado Tourism: It's the journey not the destination…trust me

I can understand most acts of God.

If you live somewhere as beautiful as Key West or any other Caribbean island you might have to pay the price of dealing with a hurricane now and again.

If you live in Hawaii, there’s the occasional volcano.

If you live in the rugged outdoorsness of the West, there’s the occasional forest fire.

If you live in Santa Carla, there’s the “damn vampires” that need dealt with now and again.

But explain tornadoes to me.

What are the peaceful folks of the Midwest paying for? The majestical flatness? Sweeping fields of corn? Low cost of living? It doesn’t make sense. Until now.

Enter Silver lining Tours: Are you ready for the atmospheric adventure of a lifetime?

Do you get giddy…

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