“When the lights go down in the city And the sun shines on the bay I want to be there in my city”
– “Lights” – Vocals by Journey and Music & Lyrics by Stephen Ray Perry & Neal Joseph Schon
In 2020, my planned trip to Pittsburgh with my dad was scrapped. We had airplane boarding passes, hotel reservations, and baseball tickets to see the New York Yankees vs. Pittsburgh Pirates. The loss of this trip is insignificant in light of the tragedy many have suffered during the ongoing pandemic. Yet, the cancellation of our journey led me to reflect on our father/son baseball connection, which I discussed in previous posts. Furthermore, it made me think of our trip to California in July of 2012, nearly ten years ago. It was a memorable trip, filled with historical sightseeing and live baseball. There is no better way to heal my empty “travel” heart than by recalling this father/son trip to San Francisco in today’s post.
“Shanghai is split by the Huanpu River, a tributary of Yangtze…The one thing I know for sure about China is; I will never know China. It’s too big, too old, too diverse, too deep. There’s simply not enough time. That’s for me the joy of China, facing a learning curve that impossibly steep.”
– Anthony Bourdain, “Shanghai” on Parts Unknown
I have discussed my one-month stay in China in June of 2018 twice on this blog. Once, I discussed the trip in the context of the brewery scene in Shanghai. More recently, I detailed my weekend excursion to Beijing and visit to the Great Wall of China. Even so, I failed to cover, purposely, some of the significant locations I visited and experiences I had during my time in Shanghai. Therefore, I thought it appropriate to venture back to Shanghai and explore some of those incredible moments that I think about fondly. With the ability to travel still at a standstill, the best I can do is travel into my memories. In those recollections, I discover that I am a pretty capable traveler.
“Wait a minute. You look at your window here, you look at those hills, those mountains, all that green, that blue sky and gem-clear sea. It sure looks like paradise to me.”
– Anthony Bourdain in “Hawaiʻi” from Parts Unknown
There are moments in life often reflected upon with eagerness. As I wrote in A Brief Hawaii Moment, my time living in Hawaiʻi was one of the most significant experiences of my life. I got married, earned a Ph.D., lived according to Aloha, and met incredible people. In that post, I explored my life in Hawaiʻi, but I purposely left out some travel narratives that deserve closer attention. One such trip was a sojourn to the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. This trip included snorkeling, a luxury resort, volcanoes, and an encounter with sleeping sea turtles. I most remember the time spent with my wife Corinne and two of our closest friends, who accompanied us on this journey. Someone said, “A good friend knows all your stories. A best friend helped you create them.” Colleen and Don are two best friends who helped us forge memories through travel. Join me as I explore a friendship born with Aloha, board a plane from Oahu, the gathering place, to the Big Island, and observe its beauty, coast to coast.
“Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong.”
– George Carlin
The time finally arrived; my wife and I took a trip away from home for the first time in over a year. We took a two-night venture to Falmouth, Massachusetts, and stayed in an Airstream at AutoCamp Cape Cod. I am not much of a camper. Even so, staying in an Airstream seemed a perfect way to spend a couple of nights but still enjoying all the luxuries of travel. We would be outside, away from others, and could bring our dog, Mr. Tuttles. It seemed a perfect way to reacclimate to the outside world. If I have learned anything recently, it is that in a pandemic experienced world, anything is possible.
But was it a trip I would do again? Did sleeping in an Airstream help me see the outdoors as a viable alternative to resort amenities? Keep reading to see, but here is a hint; this anti-camper not only recalled memories of childhood but could also not stop quoting a ‘88 John Candy film. Sure, while I do not consider myself “obnoxious,” I am slightly more the Roman character played by Dan Aykroyd in The Great Outdoors than Chet played by Candy. A classic comedy from 1988 written by John Hughes, the outdoors always makes me think of this film. So, buckle up, get the fire pit ready, and dust off the VHS player. We are talking camping, travel, and a classic cinematic comedy.
“Here in New England, the character is strong and unshakable.”
– Normal Rockwell
In 2015, my wife Corinne and I finally took a weekend trip to Nantucket Island, located off the South Coast of Massachusetts. There we celebrated our anniversary but did so in a distinctive style. Although the weekend followed no primary schedule, we took in the history, scenery, and beauty of this fantastic island. When we left, we were not surprised by how wonderful the trip was, but wondered why it took so long to visit in the first place. We knew we found a place where we would travel again. If for no other reason, to feel the majesty of the island environment and be taken aback by the splendor of the ocean water as it crashed onto our feet as we walked along the lovely beach.
I am a born and raised New Englander, one who grew up able to see the local harbor from the bedroom window. I do not feel calm or at peace if I am without access to an ocean. This need to live “oceanically” is one reason I found myself living in Hawaii by 2010. If I was going to work towards a Ph.D., I thought, why not study on a gorgeous tropical island surrounded by water. After my wife and I moved back, we found ourselves living in Salem and, once again, had a window with views of the ocean and a sense of peace. The ocean is essential to me, and being as close as possible to it, is vital to who I am as an individual. Nantucket is the perfect example of a location that can instantly recharge my core emotional battery in that way. Just by setting foot on the island, feeling the ocean breeze, and observing the ocean’s vastness from the roof of the Whaling Museum or coastal road, I appear centered.
“I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. But when my sister brought Doug home, I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack… it grew by one. So there… there were two of us in the wolf pack… And six months ago, when Doug introduced me to you guys, I thought, “Wait a second, could it be?” And now I know for sure, I just added two more guys to my wolf pack.”
– Zach Galifianakis (Alan) from The Hangover (2009)
In the long history of my life, which isn’t that long at all, I have never had a ton of friends. Sure, I have close friends from my past who I am still in contact with from time to time. I communicate with colleagues and classmates who I met along the way and positively impacted me. But friends I hang out with and talk to frequently are a much smaller group, at least in terms of number. Over the last decade, I built a small group who I consider great friends. So, it should be of no surprise that when returning from my month-long stay in Shanghai, China, in July of 2018, I was invited by a couple of those close friends for a weekend trip to Philadelphia; I responded yes. This group of friends goes on a trip once a year, usually to visit a Major League Baseball stadium, test out the local breweries, and eat fantastic food. I was thrilled to be invited. I had not been on one of their weekend excursions, but I enjoyed playing softball and exploring breweries with these four guys, so I was eager and excited to join them. Filled with history, a couple of breweries, and a visit to Citizens Bank Park, this trip became an unforgettable memory.