Sunday, December 31, 2006


'06 has been a good year all around. My writing continues to snowball towards bigger and better markets. Overall, not too shabby even though I only left the country once for less than a week.

In March at the Erma Bombeck conference in Dayton I made the contact that would eventually lead to my being published in the Christian Science Monitor. The great thing about having been published in the CSM is that everybody has heard of it. Now when I send a query letter to an editor it doesn't look like I'm making up publications. The Key West City Paper, the Daily Advocate, The Hub, yeah - no one had ever heard of 'em.

The CSM experience also led to a staff writing position at Glucose that lasted 3 months until the magazine went under. An editor at the Wold Vision Radio Program saw one of my pieces in the CSM and had me record a piece on soccer in Honduras. The piece has yet to air, but I'll keep you posted.

From '05 to '06 I tripled my writing work and pay. I'm hoping to have the same thing happen in '07.

I also met Dave Barry, sailed on a Tall Ship, hiked 30 miles in 100 degree temperatures, contributed to Transitions Abroad, caught 3 grapes in my mouth at one time, hugged my dogs 19,234 times, helped my parents with the headaches that come with building a new truss plant, gave one commencement speech to fifth graders and one keynote speech at a National Honor Society induction, and, I better not forget this one... got engaged!

2006 won't be easily forgotten.

Friday, December 29, 2006

An Esquire Revolution

Chuck Klosterman of Esquire doesn’t want to overthrow the government. But he applied his witty gray matter to the subject and came to the conclusion that it’s not possible here in the USA. Why? Because Americans have to pay mortgages, car payments, and because we’re not a country of stone throwers.

Read: You Say You Sant a Revolution

Memorial for Laura Gainey

I got an email from one of the former crew members of the Picton Castle asking if they could use my More on Laura post for their website memorial. I was honored to contribute.

My post is one of many. There are poems, messages from friends, and notes from sailors. I've pasted one of my favorites below. It was written my Kjetil Dimmen from Norway who I featured in my story about the Picton Castle.

We who go to sea, whether to sustain or families or sustain our souls, know all too well the risks involved. One step beyond the safety of our home at sea lies the relentless, unforgiving ocean. No amount of training and preparation can completely safeguard against the whim of the elements.

Yet we do not fear.When at rest, we are secure in the knowledge that our shipmates are using every ounce of skill, determination and energy to keep us safe.Just as we, come the turn of the watch, do the same for them.

This forms a trust so implicit, so complete, that it can probably never be understood by anyone outside of our family at sea.The bonds of friendship forged from this trust are of a kind that neither time nor distance can hope to sever.Not even death.

The time has come for us to take the deck.Rest now, Laura, it is well deserved.Watch below.

Kjetil Dimmen, WV4

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Always home for Christmas

Christmas is the one time of year that I truly don’t want to be anywhere but Ohio.

The only time I came close to missing a Christmas in Ohio was on my first major trip after college. And while I’ll always remember an open air Christmas buffet in Paris, complete with warm cider wine and lots of meat and potatoes, there’s no place like home for the holidays.

I surprised Annie, my ever-so patient girlfriend / now fiancée, on December 23rd of 2001 by stepping out from behind a tree at her grandmother’s house. She was with her mom, dad, and sister. They thought I was some loon, poised to attack, that had wondered over from the nearby trailer park.

Her sister cried.

Annie, well she didn’t react much at all. She was either stunned or indifferent. I like to think the first. She thought I was spending the holidays with friends in Switzerland. It’s strange when a person who you think about on a more than regular basis, and you know them to be an ocean away, is suddenly transported 1,000’s of miles to your grandma’s house. So, stunned she must have been. And rightfully so, I hadn't had a haircut in over 5 months.

Besides friends and family there are other things that make Christmas in Ohio great, like stuff I get and dogs. This pic combines both. It was taken with my new Canon 24-105mm lens I got for Christmas.

Ain’t Zoe adorable? And yes, she is that skinny.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Infected Mouse Brains: they're good for ya!

From the CDC’s page on Japanese Encephalitis:

An inactivated JE vaccine produced from infected mouse brains has been licensed for use in the U.S. civilian population since 1992.

I need to get the vaccine for my upcoming trip. I hope that as I’m being injected, I don’t find myself in the middle of an explosion involving gamma-rays, like this dude did…

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Warning: The World is dangerours

Today I’ve been researching vaccinations that I need to get on the CDC’s travel site and travel warnings that might be of some concern to me on the State department’s travel site. No surprises on the vaccine front. But there was a state department alert that struck me as rather odd:

Worldwide Caution Public Announcement

Apparently, the world is littered with anti-American terrorists looking to mow down tourist with reckless abandon. Al-Qa’ida gets a shout out and the recent London plane scare is referenced along with bombings in Pakistan, Thailand, Egypt, New Delhi, to name a few.

I’m all for informing people that the chances of bad stuff happening in certain areas of the world are higher, but to issue a worldwide warning seems a bit ridiculous. If you are a person that wasn’t aware that people occasionally do bad stuff to other people then maybe this warning is very insightful.

But I think we all get that already.

Cross the Panama Canal

My 2005 trip to Central America was supposed to end with a hike from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Unfortunately, my trip got cut short and this still remains on my to-do list.

Until then, thanks to the wonders of You Tube and time lapse videography, you can cross between the Earth’s largest bodies of water without so much as a single mosquito bite. I first saw this on Vagablogging, author Rolf Potts's website.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Walden meets Wal-Mart

Arizona State is launching a School of Sustainability, the first of its kind. It’s big -- millions of dollars. It even includes a Decision Theater -- some type of 3D hologram future predictor that kind of sounds like the room the X-men train in.

I was reading about this in today’s Christian Science Monitor with interest when I was floored by this sentence: “The university is attracting donors and business people, including heiress Julie Ann Wrigley and Rob Walton, chairman of Wal-Mart, who last month agreed to chair the board of ASU's Institute of Sustainability.”

Walton of Wal-Mart as the chairman of the board of the Institute of Sustainability? Somewhere Walden of Walden is rolling over in his grave.

I don’t want to enter a debate here if Wal-Mart is good or Evil? I know they sell the most blood diamonds, employ cheap labor at home and overseas, and drive small companies out of business. But I would have trouble bemoaning these not-so-good things to someone from small town USA who makes $5.15/hour at the local 711 and Wal-Mart is the only game in town.

So, on this issue I’ll plead moral neutrality. What got me about this story is that most hard core, and even not-so-hardcore, environmentalists hate Wal-Mart (the whole Wal-Mart is the devil thing) and I just can’t imagine Walton of Wal-Mart being received with much less than an environmentally-friendly, organic lynching.

(Note: On google images I searched for “Wal-Mart devil” and up popped this photo promoting an anti-Wal-mart movie showing on the campus of Arizona State. How ironic is that?)

I hope things work out. I think that it is in our best interest if people with good ideas and the Earth’s interests in mind hang out with billionaires.

Mirror mirror on the mountain

Winter in Ohio sucks. I’ve always felt that way. The sun disappears for months. The land is so flat that snow-sports other than angel making are basically impossible. I dislike the season so much that I wrote this in one of my Travelin’ Light columns a few years ago:

The wind howls, blasting tiny ice pellets against my window. It’s 7 AM, but it is pitch-black outside. I roll out from beneath the covers and plant my left foot onto the floor, the cold floor. The blood retreats from my toes. My right foot protests as I do the same with it. Seven more steps and I am in the bathroom squinting at myself in the mirror. I have a reflection, but it is “vampyric”- pale, bloodless, and horrifying. My skin itches and my knuckles bleed. Each arm is tattooed with the word “DRY” that I etched with my fingernail two days before. It’s winter in Ohio.

It’s depressing, but I’ve always taken some consolation that surely somewhere there is a village that sits in the shadow of a cliff and never sees the sun.

There is. At least there used to be.

The town of Viganella, in the shadow of the Alps, sits at a base of such a cliff. For 800 years the village went without direct sunlight from November 11th to February 2nd. Until now.

The mayor of the village has installed a mirror atop a nearby mountain that is angled to shine light on the town square. It measures 26 feet by 15 feet. The story is practically a fairytale. Read: Mirror mirror on the mountain please let the sun shine on our fountain.

In the history of politics, filled with smoke and mirrors, this may be the first time that a politician has used an actual mirror. Ingenious. If the governor of Ohio built a system of mirrors that brought us Caribbean sunshine during the winter months, I would vote for him. I wouldn’t care what his politics were.

As winter days go, today seems pretty sunny. I think I’ll bundle-up and go outside to give my dogs a hug. Because, as the villagers of Viganella know, when the sun is a shining you should go out and warm your nose in it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

All I want for Christmas

Dear Santa,

I’m a simple man and there is not much I require for Christmas this year. But if you can find it in your heart to gift me with the following, I’ll believe in you always (note: some of these things may not be very Santa-like and somewhat illegal, but you’re above the law doggonit. You make reindeer fly; the law can’t touch you.)

I would like a knee defender for Christmas so I can avoid encounters like the one I had with the wart-ridden diamond banshee on my flight to St. Thomas. According to their website the knee defender will “help me defend the space I need when confronted by a faceless, determined seat recliner who doesn't care how long my legs are or about anything else that might be "back there".”

Instead of coal this year, would it be possible for you to leave a lump of steaming crap in the wart-ridden diamond banshee’s stocking?

Also, if the wart-ridden diamond banshee happens to be stepping out to her shed where she keeps the souls of children that she feasts upon and you happen to be passing-by, could you have Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Donder, Blitzen, Cupid and Comet trample her into itty-bitty bits?



PS - I’ve been very good this year.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Please keep your seat back in its upright position or I'll write a scathing post on my blog about your overall ugliness as a person

I was minding my own business -- hands in lap, halo floating somewhere between the crown of my head and the reading light -- when she tried to recline. My knees resisted. She began to rock against the seat, hitting my knees with all the force she could muster.

“Ouch!” I said.

She turned around. She was short. Her face was covered in warts. She was soaked in diamonds and had a piercing I-get-everything-that-I-want Jersey accent.

“What? Is there something wrong with my seat?” She said.

“Yeah, it is banging into my knees.” I said.

“What am I supposed to do, be uncomfortable the entire flight?” She said.

Like people that eat at fast food restaurants and leave their trash on the table, this lady is what’s wrong with our world. It didn’t cross her mind that anything but her own comfortableness was at stake. That someone with a 34” inseam and a bum ankle might need a little space too.

30 minutes went by until she tried again. My guard was down and she succeeded.

Ever so politely I tapped her on the shoulder, “Excuse me mam, could you please put your seat forward a little?”

That’s when the yelling began. Hers not mine. Passengers within a 3 row radius turned to see her, steam coming out of her ears, drool dripping from her fangs.

“If you wanted more space you should have paid for first class.” She said at a banshee level of volume.
For a moment I considered stooping to her level, but decided to look around at my fellow passengers stunned at her loss of cool. I sat back and listened to the whispers, content with the fact that she was a bitch. And everyone knew it.

Your source for info on the irrepressible nature of monkeys

Touron Talk covers a wide range of subjects including travel security and cartoon underwear, Hulk Hogan, farting on planes, etc. I get a big kick out of seeing what google searches point to the site.

Today some troubled soul from Bosnia stumbled here after searching for:

“and the nature of monkey was irrepressible”

Touron Talk was the 3rd hit. Maybe after this post, TT will be the #1 place for people to turn to after encountering the disorderly ways of monkeys.

A guy can dream, can’t he?

Thursday, December 14, 2006


You did it for Peace. You did it because at the time you thought you were Elvis. You did it because you love Smurfs. Heck, you even did it when you were feeling a little horny.

Why not once more for big JC?

Taken in the Indiana countryside by Annie. Thanks for humoring me.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Thoughts on Laura & the Picton Castle

The Picton Castle never found Laura. They searched the waters long after hope for “small miracles” had faded. Now they continue on their sail to the Caribbean where they will continue to “live Laura’s dream.”

I first learned of this tragedy on my flight home from St. Thomas. And ever since, I’ve been following it closely. Initially I didn’t place Laura’s name and figured that the missing sailor was some newbie. When I saw her pic it hit me. I knew her.

She had a tattoo on her left shoulder of a tall ship – a silhouette. There was a red dot on one of the sails. I had no idea what the red dot was, but I was always curious about it - curious enough to steal glances, but never curious enough to ask.

Dimples dotted her smile.

Her hair was shorter than mine.

I didn’t know that her father was hockey hall of famer, and GM of the Canadiens, Bob Gainey. I haven’t read a story about her disappearance without the mention of this and it kind of burns me. They all read: “The daughter of Bob Gainey, hockey hall of famer…” To me she was just Laura. I didn’t know her last name. I had never heard of her father. Referring to her as “Bob Gainey’s” daughter makes her seems like she was a vulnerable little girl. She wasn’t. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if it came down to it, she could’ve whooped me.

In some of the reports I’ve read, experts are calling out for an investigation. But neither the Canadian nor the US governments can investigate because the Picton Castle is registered in the Cook Islands. These same experts did not expect one to be launched, but the Cook Islands just announced that they will be carrying out an investigation.

It’s not uncommon to have ships registered with a country far away from its homeport. This is the MO for about every cruise ship. Capt. Moreland the Captain of the PC says that the reason the ship is registered in the Cook Islands is to make it easier to employ sailors from all over the world, not to skirt regulations or safety procedures.

Being on a boat is dangerous. This is nothing new. It is especially dangerous when you are on a ship that requires you to work 10 stories above the deck on a rope ladder. It’s what made sailing on the Picton Castle such an experience.

I hope the investigation is carried out thoroughly to the satisfaction of all and that the PC can continue to do what it does. Because, as I mention in the conclusion of my story on the PC:

The Picton Castle haunts the dreams of those who know her. But even if they never see her again, they will find comfort and joy in the knowledge that somewhere out there, on Earth’s great waterways, she is afloat. That someone is on watch from her decks. Someone is aloft, greasing her masts.

My heart goes out to Laura’s family and the crew of the PC.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sailor lost at sea

This summer I spent a week sailing with the Picton Castle from Cleveland, Ohio to Bay City, Michigan. Sailing and living like they did in the days of yore was an unforgettable experience. I wrote about the trip for the now belly-up Glucose Magazine.

But sailing in living like they did in the days of yore also comes with the risks from the days of yore. This past Friday Laura Gainey was swept overboard by a rogue wave while on watch. The ship was 400 miles off the coast of Cape Cod. Despite search efforts coordinated by the Coast Guard, Gainey has not been found. The Coast Guard has called off the search, but the crew of the Picton Castle has vowed to continue, hoping for a “small miracle.”

I took this picture of Laura while sailing on the PC this summer. She’s working. She’s smiling. She’s sailing.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

C-ya next Tuesday

I’m off to St. Thomas tomorrow for a wedding.

I hope to do some freediving, but I busted my ankle two weeks ago and I'm not sure if I've got much of a kick right now. It's still kind of gross and painful. See...

I may be forced to just float and look at the colorful fish. Or lounge while someone brings me a fruity cocktail as I enjoy views like this...

Jealous much?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Anyone for Kabbadi?

One more reason why I’m super excited about my upcoming trip - Kabbadi.

Kabbadi is the national sport of Bangladesh. It’s a hybrid between Red Rover Red Rover, tag, and goold ol' fashioned wrastlin'. Players where socks and underwear - sometime boxers, sometimes briefs. Players in the roll of Red Rover must not take in a single breath and, to prove it, chant “kabbadi-kabbadi” repeatedly.

Tomorrow at the Asian Games -- which is really today with the time difference – the gold medal match will be held between India and Pakistan. Bangladesh will play for the bronze. Better luck next time Bangladesh.

I know you want to learn more about Kabbadi so here you go.

I like to set pre-trip goals and one of these goals is definitely playing in a game of Kabbai. I’m already practicing: kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabadiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii………………

Monday, December 04, 2006

Hesitation Point

I started dating Annie, a sophomore, when I was a senior in high school.

I graduated and went to Miami University. Two years later Annie, my girlfriend of three years, graduated and went to Wilmington College.

After graduating college I went on an around-the-world trip. I returned days before Christmas, surprising Annie, my girlfriend of 5 years.

I worked in Key West as a dive instructor for 6 months. I called Annie, my girlfriend of 6 years, often. She was studying at Wilmington College. I took off work to see her perform as a dolphin trainer at Six Flags in Ohio.

I spent two months in New Zealand. I returned in time to have Thanksgiving dinner with Annie, my girlfriend of 7 years.

I returned to my job in Key West. I took off work to see Annie, my girlfriend of 7 ½ years graduate college.

Annie, my girlfriend of 8 years, and I moved to North Carolina. She was a nanny. I was an aspiring writer and a smiling retail face.

Annie, my girlfriend of 9 years, and I left North Carolina. She got a job in Muncie, Indiana. I went to Central America.

This weekend, standing on a wooded-ridge in southern Indiana known as Hesitation Point, Annie, my girlfriend of 10 years, agreed to marry me.

Annie, my fiancée of one day, and me on Hesitation Point.

Never in the history of vagabonding writers has a vagabonding writer been privilege to such patience and support.