“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.
“Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering – because you can’t take it in all at once.”
– Aubrey Hepburn
I continue to reflect on those things that brought me joy, whether toys or food. One thing I have not discussed is museums. There is no need to worry; I will not put on my historian hat today, but instead recall those places filled with artifacts, history, and have inspired, moved, and awoken me to the larger, more complex world. As an adult, I have both different and similar viewpoints about those museums or historical sites I traveled to and observed as a child and adolescent. It is interesting to remember those places I went at a young age with the lived experience and the years of museum visits I have since stockpiled.
Today, I seek to engage in nostalgia once again, but with “field trips” as my focus, as well as those museums that I cannot forget, like Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts. One foot in the past, the other in the present, I hope to respect the educational pursuits that inspired me and the various museum visits that moved me. Sure, I won’t discuss every trip or visit a historical site or museum but rather build a narrative of the moments I think of most often. As the pandemic continues, diving into my nostalgic past has brought great comfort. Like my post on food and toys, and to an extent, music, and movies, here I take on public history.
“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.
“But the Colorado rocky mountain high I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullabye Rocky mountain high”
– John Denver “Rocky Mountain High”
The other day was gorgeous outside, with the sun shining and 65°F. I mean, it could have been 50°F, and, as a New Englander, I would have thrown on shorts and celebrated! The temperature was incredible, and the snow finally melted. I went for a run, and along the way, as I allowed myself to fall deep into thought, I reflected on my favorite half marathons. I have spoken of them before on this blog, but my memory kept bringing me back to Denver, CO. The Rock n’ Roll Denver Half Marathon is one of the best races I have ever run, and I mentioned it in an August 2020 post. Denver is a fantastic city, and this was an awesome trip.
As I mentioned in one of last month’s posts, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn!”, my brother Jeff promised that if we ran the Rock n’ Roll Brooklyn race in 2016, he would support me in selecting a race destination, further away, in 2017. Knowing exactly where I wanted to go and supported by a series of welcomed cosmic occurrences, the stars seemed to align. I went to Jeff with my request to run in Denver. Join me as I explore the city, the race once again, but honestly, for the first time, first observing the emotional connection that sparked my need to visit the city and see the mountains I had read about, or more importantly, heard about in songs.