So, I could tell you a story about food poisoning and crazy rides across the Philippines, but I suspect you want to know what the cover of my book looks like, or what its final title and release date will be, or how you can pre-order it, or read about some fascinating characters from Portland who played both heroic and sinister roles in World War II.
Given that many people in the United States are thinking about accounting today, I thought I'd share some of the raw numbers from my recent trip to China and the Philippines, but rather than detail how much money I spent (speaking of which, you are welcome to complicate my 2015 taxes by donating here), I thought I'd share the following summary of the many journeys within a journey I took while traveling through China, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Macau, the Philippines, Canada and the United States:
Feet shredded while walking miles through eleven cities, many small villages, one former military stronghold and atop, along and around ruined portions of a gigantic wall: 2
Subway systems used more frequently than can be tallied: 6
Personal cars ridden with a buddhist who would later host an elaborate tea ceremony, an atheist tour guide raised in a cave, and two precocious children: 1
Bridges crossed at which the largest conflict in the history of the world began: 1
Last minute rickshaw rides organized by a guide squeezing in one more sightseeing visit before a thirty-hour train ride: 1
A thirty-hour train ride between China's current capital and the city that served as its capital during World War II: 1
Beyond the fireworks, you hear Chongqing in honking horns, sizzling streetside frying pans and screams of Schezuanese from every direction. At night, before your eyes, Chongqing's bright lights dance up skyscrapers, the same towers that shoot from fields of strewn rubble and half-buried buildings, far past the smog-smudged apartment blocks they're replacing. Chongqing's scent wafts from grilling meats and fetid alleys.
Friends often ask what they should see and do in Los Angeles. This is always tough to answer because the city constantly evolves, as do my own tastes, and that doesn't take into account the unique preferences of the asker. Nevertheless, when a family of Austrian friends planned to stop in Los Angeles last summer, I compiled a list of suggestions based on their interests (seeing the beach, experiencing iconic architecture, and viewing landmarks). With a few changes and updates, I thought I'd share it with you.
Chongqing was hot. It was loud. It was squalid. It was crowded.
It was home. Chongqing was home.
"You get to like it,” Mel wrote.
Will I like it? Five weeks from today I will wake to my first morning in Beijing on the first leg of a trip through China and the Philippines. In the weeks to follow I hope to visit Guangzhou and Manila, to see Shanghai and Cebu, to ride trains through Guangxi, and to sail through the Visayas. Most importantly, perhaps, I hope to climb from the Yangtze through the exploding megalopolis of Chongqing and, I hope, to find this place Mel and Annalee and so many others once called home.
Two hikers descend into Kaupo Gap at Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui, Hawai'i in today's photo of the day. Like what you see? Visit my photoshelter page to see more and order prints of your favorite shots. And don't forget that you can always support my work here and follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
However, if I were staying town, there are a number of things I might do:
- Check out what the Cascades Volcano Observatory has to say about the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.
- Explore the Sunday Parkways in Northeast.
- Make up for totally spacing last Saturday on National Train Day and ride the train somewhere.
- Find a hammock to string up in my yard and whip together some micheladas.
- Finally finish reading The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring after eight years of constantly losing every copy of Tolkein's classic I get.
- Write letters on my typewriter.
- Head to the coast and see if there are any last minute yurt cancellations (doubtful).
Have anything else a would-be me should do? Let me know in the comments ... and share some ideas for later, when I'm actually not somewhere that's not where I am right now.
The day takes shape slowly. Getting out the door just happens. Once you do the bus is ten minutes late. Then, so is the MAX, but you don't mind. You've been quietly extricating yourself from time. You wait in the chill beneath an interstate, listening to teenagers gossip. Staring at the spikes lining the steel beams beneath the roadway you think perhaps a bit too long about pigeon deterrence.
In the same moment a wave of familiarity washes over me here alongside the L.A. River. As the street lamps and billboards and taillights fade into the darkness I slip away from the Los Angeles I know, jostled into a new awareness by the thought of the path I am threading through the urban fabric.
I find myself all over the world. Now I am headed toward downtown Portland, Maine aboard the #6 bus, gazing at the B&M Baked Beansfactory standing starkly against the gray skies and grayer waters of the Casco Bay. A moment later I find myself on Portland Oregon'sMAX, where I see a net of concrete and steel and iron bridges crossing the same Willamette River I ride above. Then my thoughts shift and I cross the Rhine, I cross borders and history on the bus from France's Strasbourg to Germany's Kehl to buy Turkish Doner Kebab and American peanut butter. I find myself back in Strasbourg, listening to Tunisians and Moroccans joking in the center of Le Tram, the wide steel tube they ride day and night from the banlieuesof Meinau and Neudorf and Elsau toward the broad Place Kleber at Strasbourg's heart.
Familiar memories vector across my neural network, stitched together to form my life, as has begun to happen here, where I left my car at home, here, in L.A., the supposed Eden of automobiles.
How would you give a tour of Los Angeles with only a short time to do so? What would you show? Why? What do you think is quintessential L.A.? What can be ignored? Do you have a universal trip you'd share with every visitor or are there certain ones you'd reserve for certain people? Would there be a specific flow to your tour? Would you use the strict geographical boundaries of the city, or would yours be more a tour of Southern California with Los Angeles as its center of gravity? If you're not from Los Angeles, what would you want to see here if you only had a few days to do so? What is this place to you? Why would you want to visit? What type of tour would you want?