it's been 11 months to the day since i departed nyc, and have been told a friend has departed to another world. last night, shortly before midnight, ellen rafel became an eternal angel. in the photo above, her hand is to the left and erwin's, her husband, is on the right.
this past month's journey has been intense and an emotional roller coaster. up and down and around my heart has swung. while the month of may started in a fog of romance and trudged up to the peak of heartbreak, down into the valleys of birthdays, and onto a few loops de loops of two new jobs. now, i can see the tracks race off into the distance.
while i'll spare you the lovey dovey personal stuff - let me tell you about ellen's & erwin's birthday. since 1999, i've known Gideon Rafel-Frankel, their loving son. as the years passed, gid would always invite me to their family functions... from summers on cape cod, to weekends in NYC (when i wasn't living here), birthdays, passover, holidays, parties and the like... through all of the events, i was a witness to one of the best damn relationships i've ever seen...
now separated only by physical space, the memory of erwin and ellen and the care they demonstrated for their sons, themselves and all their friends and family has left an indelible mark on my soul. the passion she demonstrated was recognized when over 100 people jammed themselves into a tiny two bedroom penthouse apartment on the upper-west side to celebrate her last birthday.
as we sang and embraced her life, i knew ellen's glorious soul wouldn't be around too much longer. as we said our goodbyes, it became apparent to me that this family had impacted me more than most. with lessons from own family, erwin's tenacity as a refuge and ellen's love as a social worker, i set forth to see the beauty of all we can touch.
along this journey i have found something that is indescribable. something i can never articulate in words, photos nor movies. on six continents, i found this thing buried in every person who open their mouths, families, and hearts... never could i have imagined that the world is filled with so many loving people.
while i haven't been diligaent in writing about the lessions i've learned, since my return i have lived every moment knowing that my passion to make this a better planet is unexcable. the love we can share with each other is something that should never be taken for granted. the opportunities we have to change everything around us is real.
sunday, when i stand with her family and countless other souls who have been touched by her love, i know she will be with us as an eternal lesson that peace and hope are the only two things we need. you don't need to be famous, you don't need to be anyone of any material goods - just love everyone - love the unescapable and work to make it better. well all else fails, be at peace.
ellen, thank you for being one of my teachers.
honest dealings with yourself and others. (it's harder than you think)
tipping / gifts are valued in every situation.
wait a min, others are slow to react.
take one step beyond.
beauty is everywhere.
drink lots of water.
make funny faces at kids.
forget hand shakes, hug.
you only need two pairs of underwear.
repeat bad jokes.
learn bad words in other languages.
nap when you can.
always cary earplugs.
in every language, learn to say thank you.
always cary pen and paper.
embrace flip flops (aka thongs or slippers).
always have a camera.
pack lightly. no, lighter.
get your vitamins
pick your friend's nose or learn to trust your friend's nose.
watch one sunrise & sunset a month.
there is an awesome pair of pink safety glasses in Vancouver.
sell your friends, but never for money. don't worry, they come back.
call your parents.
trolly tracks + bicycle + amsterdam = danger will robinson!
enjoy sleep deprivation.
find a rainbow and follow it. if you don't see a rainbow, make one up.
“show your soul” - from souldier
“be still peace will come to you” - old guy in boston
make your own stuff.
fake it, until you make it.
eat and drink local.
when in doubt, try it.
deodorant is cheep and readily accessible.
embrace the weather.
afternoon tea is good for you.
most cabbies will stiff you.
art unlocks more doors than butter knifes.
a smile is priceless.
“smart” people are ignorant, and “nice” people can be rude.
wealth is a mental condition.
turkish ice cream doesn't melt; pheonm phen features happy pizza, and Vancouver is known for their pot. (three things i did not try.)
you'll eat with your hands more than you think. wash your hands and face frequently. don't forget to keep your fingernails clean.
forgo the bus, there is a train that connects melbourne to sydney.
a good book gives you room to write. a better book will write on you.
give people a reason to give.
remember to look in the mirror.
embrace hair or lack of hair.
note your experiments and seek multiple results.
never trust an egyptian customs agent.
befriend the rastafarian at the end of the world.
balls and honor.
look at your footsteps, but don't measure them.
be the first to volunteer.
homeless people want youtube.
digg a fox hole.
join a kickball league.
make dinner and invite random people.
learn new games and teach them to others.
auto white balance is always wrong.
a meal will unlock more hearts than a rainbow.
there are more similarities than differences.
bring toilet paper.
learn to take cold showers.
befriend a quebecer named alex.
don't eat at an american fast food chain in cairo.
religion, practice don't preach.
open your home to strangers.
the holy trinity - happenstance, providence and shit.
outsource your news to people who don't get paid to write it.
politics, policy and pornography will take you nowhere.
religion and commerce are interchangeable
everyone needs something to build.
read, write, build. - jullian bleaker
ride a rocket-ship and tour the stars.
don't take yourself so seriously.
behind the next rock is a new friend.
love is a blind, blubbering hobo who will pass you countless times uttering not a word until one day he knocks you on your ass and gives you a key.
have a back up plan, but don't write it down.
in Argentina they love salt.
never pass up a free meal.
chastity is a virtue.
art is laborious.
embrace manual mode.
the journey starts and ends with sunrises in airports.
when it comes to religion, everyone is right and wrong.
while ignorance was found everywhere, more was found amongst my fellow north americans than anywhere else.
pop music around the world sucks.
bart simpson rules the world.
wolfs are everywhere and so are sheep.
reality is a perception lost to the eyes.
the dude abides.
in many ways i feel that i should retitle this journey as "the luck of seven - the re-education of noneck." in reality, it's more discovery than education. when i departed NYC, there was a blank screen with ideas to note, places to walk and face to see.
with 11 days till my six month anniversary of departure, i know these few weeks in ushuaia are just the start. coddled by my global family of geeks, the end of the world features no wikipedia entry, no bulletin board, no hospitality club of wayward transportation. the step from here to the last continent is going to be rough (and of my own decision).
out of all the antarctic travelers whom i met, there's not a single one who hasn't paid less that $4,000 USD in transportation costs (and that's just the boat and hotels here in Ushuaia). while deep down i know there is another way, i know that it won't be easy. the lonely planet guide to boat hitching is clean and simple - don your largest smile, grab some cash, go to the water front and wait.
with temperatures hovering up and down in the 50°s (teens°C) and the wet weather less than perfect, i've been reluctant to be brass. short of donning a skimpy cocktail dress and hitting up every tourist bar, i've scratched every possible option only to find no easy winning number.
as i've pondered these externalities, i've internalized a few of them and wonder where is my ushuaia? if my future idealist vision of the world is antarctica, what part of civilization is closest to it. granted there's a bunch of hard work between here and there, but where do i find that port city that has the most opportunities?
when this trip is over, i'll be living in and out of houston, tx to be with the 8th wonder of my world. when this trip is over and for the next year, i have a long walk back to humanity - i'll work on the two luck of seven books, a movie and finding funding for the three. while my physical placement might be temporary, dr. miggy and i will spend the next year researching our next port of call.
after everything i've seen, touched, smelled and tasted, i can not give up finding the illustrious seventh continent.
i don't know how to title this entry, let alone what to say.
my departure from houston is a mixed blessing. 55 days from now, i will arrive in nyc. 55 days from now, i will complete my journey. 55 days from now, my heart and mind will see the world like i've never seen the world before...
unlike other departures, i found something unescapable. wrapped in beauty, dipped in southern comfort, educated in the complexities of humanity's humor, i found something that will bring me to houston time and time again. 50 some odd days from now, i will embrace someone who's reaffirmed my belief in humanity's never ending quest to solve our deepest problems. like the other side of a coin, the two of us are tied to this place named earth seeking to solve the cancer that grows in all of us.
for the next 55 days, i will have a cancer that only one person can cure.
(this is a total departure from most of my ramblings... i'm exhausted, but i want to get my "fresh" thoughts on "paper." all y'all should note i listen to the motorcycle dairies like a rechargeable battery pulls it's juice from the wall. track to track, i find an energy like none other... am i alone in this???)
from vancouver to Seattle, i sat with a cast of characters. boarding a amtrak chartered bus, i found myself surrounded by stereo typical travelers - the sports junky worried about customs, the hot college coed, the two friends setting out on a long journey, a preppy couple who had a copy of the ny times, a few hipsters, grandmas, etc...
as rain pounded the roof, we all waded through customs, reboarded the "secure" bus and shlepped to seattle. as we drove through the foggy morning in "upper northwest" (really it's all subjective, in vancouver they call it the lower mainland), the sun caressed the horizon which illuminated mountains to the left and large bodies of water to the right. somewhere through my drowsiness, i too caressed the mountainess coach chair to my left and to my right, i poured out a widow into a never ending water world.
once in SEA, i found myself in the same tiny train station from which i departed. with my eyes barely working, i found the seat assignment keyosk and requested an ocean view. as an FU to my mental state, the vending machine decided to stiff me on my morning ritual of M & Ms. after a solid five mins of cursing, banging and a 110% vagrant disposition, i convinced the machine of my worthiness and was granted my treat.
as i stood to board the coast starlight, i danced (ie wobbled back and forth trying to keep balance) as i looked around at my fellow passengers.
i wondered whom i would meet. i wondered whom i would befriend. i wondered about their destinations, stories, but more importantly, i wondered which cute girl would fancy this bearded flip-floping hobbit.
would it be the hipster from vancouver or the mid-20's vixen wearing an unusually light sun dress for a cold day?
would it be one of the three young college coeds or the layered granola crunching intellectual?
would it be the grandmother who's traveled around the world or would it be married woman traveling without her husband?
after scoring a seat with a rare electrical outlet, i crossed my finger on whom my join my bench. as my luck would turn, i got the acid washed early 40s stoner who interjected "dude" instead of "ahum" or "ahh." behind me and to the left, sat a woman who's disposition suited an afternoon cocktail party, not an early morning long distance train. directly behind me and next to the boisterous three cups of coffee, sat a cute fashionable question.
tipped with firey red hair, this late 20 year old sported flat-black calf high boots, a teal dress of notable distinction and black leggings. the dress looked really familiar. the style was something i had seen a few times before. either in nyc or sf or some other hipster sub-capital. i knew the cut, the frills and somehow i knew the personality would be interesting.
as the train departed, i fell back into my previous state of traveler's coma. an hour or so later, i woke up and ran to my lunch reservation in the a dining car. (btw, what a rip off!)
upon my return, i was blessed with the two women blabbing away and my bench mate passed out sporting a nice collection of drool. tired and alone, i settled into eavesdropping mode. as an observer, i've found myself enjoying the conversations of others... when you've already developed a distain for someone's attitude, it can be a real treat!
behind and to the left, the older woman clad in "funky" jewelry provided enough comments to paint a picture of a strong independent upper-middle class woman from the united states. sounding like a blend of a million and one other conversations, i dreamt she lived in a comfortable house, struggled with her life's investments and more importantly, she was more concerned how others perceived her and her husband. (all of which was confirmed as the conversation wore on...)
sitting to her right sat the fiery red head who was verbally amazed by every burning autumn leaf. from topic to topic, i heard an open, inquisitive and fiery disposition. too boot, i heard the voice of a self made woman. when she said the words "school of hard knocks" my heart skipped a beat. i wondered who was this woman. more importantly, i wondered how to interject an introduction.
by the stroke of luck, the conductor announced we would be stopping in portland for a "fresh air break." within a matter of mins... oh wait, snap! so, there was a glance. when the two got up to get lunch, i sat typing away. next to me sat mr. spicoli (as "fire" would eventually come to describe him). somehow, someway, we made brief eye contact, but too brief to be substantial. ok, if "fire" would have dropped a hanky, then it would have been substantial... so off they went... glare, look, glance noted...
then, when the conductor called out the fresh air brake, i hopped up and to my delight so did "fire." amazingly, mr. spicoli stood in front of both of us. as a die hard smoker, he was ready to pound a few sticks in the 5 / 10 mins we had outside. as we worked our way down the stairs, "fire" commented on the characters and i was taken back... was she talking to me? was she being coy or snotty? was she calling me a character?
regardless, i knew this was my one opportunity. if i screwed this up... i would be screwed up. so i shot back the classical "oh, i think we're all characters."
low and behold, that one little line set off a chain of events that would force me to turn around and hanging over the back of my seat for the next few hours. when we re-boarded the train, "fire" pulled out her old ibook and i was like... "whoa, can i steal some of that?"
in ease, i built an itunes playlist of rock n'roll, jazz, soul, 60's and cover songs... ahem, i am that high fidelity guy. i have that disposition where i judge people by their musical tastes. i know it's such a bad thing... and if you're female and i make you a mix tape. watch out! ;)
maybe it was her light blue eyes or her constant application of a fiery red lip gloss... but every movement seemed to be in slow-mo. i was completely transfixed from topic to topic - indian pizza, dysfunctional family, fashion, music, technology, social networks, self made adventures, etc... every comma, apostrophe, period and question mark had my total awe. if this wasn't enough, she was to be in vangroovy from monday to thursday, but had to cancel to attend her grandmother's funeral... instead "fire" routed to her way to seattle. can some one say "star crossed?
it was weird to think of destiny and the world that exists beyond/after this project. it was weird to have chet baker's "my ideal" stuck in my head after so many months of celibacy. maybe this is a T.M.I., but when i started this journey i dreamt about being a casanova and meeting the love of my life. i still dream that i will find the love of my life... but i now fear that the love of my life is something that's beyond any one particular person. AND that really freaks me out...
well, i now have a crush and an address in SF which will soon start to receive post-cards. :)
it's been four days since i replaced my macbook with the paper back "skinny legs and all." if you haven't read the book, you're in for an treat. i haven't set it down and am almost done with the adventures of spoon, can o' beans, dirty sock, stick and conch. as my laptop sat in an air conditioned server room of OpenCraft, i could only wonder the stories it told the servers and computer components.
as for my journey, it seems to be physically manifesting my mental discomfort. my stomach woes while gone one day have returned. while there are many things that i could say, i will not bother you with my torment. well...
well i will say there is there is a torment i have yet to detail... the hustle. from time to time people come up to me and say "hello." as a courteous fellow, i don't like ignoring people. hell it's hard enough ignoring pour beggars with no legs, but fully capable humans who can clearly walk and talk is another thing...
when i don my straw hat, down every street i find someone saying "hello", "where you from?", "hey, come here..." it gets to the point where the stern new yorker appears, my eyes glaze, and the desire for a baseball bat emerges.
as for the knot that is developing in my brain... despite the mini-media-hit i got last week from dries' video, i need to spread the word further. i'd like for more people to know about this project. yet, since my time connected to the internet is very limited, i need your help.
it's funny to think about this trip as a ministry, but as the kind egyptian preacher sat next to me on the train to alexandria reminded me... this is a ministry. i've dedicated my life in this mission. open societies is developing to be my spiritual work. i know to most of you this might sound crazy, but i honestly feel this trip was settled in my bones long ago.
why do i say this? well, i've always held faith in the world. i've always held faith that as the human race we can solve our own problems. and like this trip, it's not an easy journey...
for now i'll keep my head down and keep plugging away. if you haven't found a good reason to tell a friend. today is as good as any other...
i have landed prematurely in asia. originally, i thought my flight would take me into the airport on the european side, it seems my feet have wondered and have walked on asian soil.
fear not, my head lies comfortably on European soil. while the differences are minor in such a grand city as istanbul, i am now the furthest from my family, friends and what i once called home.
to be honest, what i just did was unbelievable... jumping from city to city/country to country every four days has destroyed me. it's hard to think about all the great conversations, stories, and situations by moving from one to the next.
i now hope that i can splice together a story line that is truly representative of all that i've seen.
as i sit in the cafe of my istanbul youth hostel, i know this trip wouldn't have been possible without all the great hosts and more importantly the last two great hosts, andy smith from jaiku & Nadya Peek in amsterdam and Joshua Kauffman & Gwen in eindoven. andy and nadya gave me spare keys and a huge bed to dream of a better world. joshua and gwen gave me a spectacular dinner that charged my mind and body.
one of the most unexpected benefits from this trip is seeing so many great couples. from will and sue, alex and matt, dries and karlijin, andy and nadya, joshua and gwen... i am in total awe of their love and affection, and their generosity in giving me a humble home for me lay my head.
pictured to the left is my mother, marlyna, posing with me in october of 1978. i was five months old. she was just entering the united states air force for what would turn out to be 25 years of service. last year, when she retired as a lieutenant colonel from the united states air force reserves, she out ranked my father. my mother has always been a true patriot.
when i last visited my parents, my loving mother showered me with gifts. from powerbars, books on leadership, to a small guide book from the library of congress, her love was tireless.
contained within this little book is a simple guide for interviewing veterans for the veterans history project. packed within it's pages are documentarian's dream. paid by the american tax dollar, you can easily cut and paste their simple guidelines, sample releases, audio and video recording log, photo log, and manuscript data sheet into any project you would like. check out their website for PDF versions. also, if you know of any pearl harbor survivors, you should also check out the pearl harbor survivors project.
while i may not always agree with american foreign policy, i will never forget that the men and women that serve our country are no different that any family i see walking down the street or having a bqq. as i once prayed that my parents would return home soon, i pray that our warriors can return to their families safe and sound.
"Always fall in with what you're asked to accept. Take what is given, and make it over your way. My aim in life has always been to hold my own with whatever's going. Not against: with." - Robert Frost
as you might have noticed, today marks one month until departure. in my head, there are many thoughts... too many bubbling thoughts to place in writing. somewhere between Zanzibar and wanting to scream at my inner child, i will not lie, i am very conflicted. gratefully, my father's words reverberate in my head as they were first muttered 20 years ago. "you come from a family of explorers."
the time i spent with my family to make episode 4 affirmed my unquestionable believe that we really are explorers. my parents, like my grandparents, married at a young age. since that day, they have seen the best and worst this world has to offer. from birth, love and beauty to segregation, genocide and terminal illness... my parents have always fought for a better world.
episode 4 is just a small smidgen of the hour long interview i conducted with them. in due time, their words will pop up again and again... until then, let me introduce you to my other partners...
for now there are three, and incase you're wondering, a partner not just some schmo who comes off the street offering wine, women and song. these partners, have been vetted to have similar beliefs. also, they see the merits of sending me around the world without asking for too much in return.
Transitions Online (TOL) - http://www.tol.cz - founded in 1999, this Czech non-profit was founded to replace it's print predecessor, transitions magazine. TOL works within the vast post-communist region of eastern europe to help young, up-and-comming journalist to take advantage of electronic communications for journalism.
after a chance meeting at the salzburg seminar, TOL's Evgeny Morozov sought me out to help present a week long course on new media essentials. since the course was scheduled to coincide with the start of my trip and they offered to cover a portion of my transportation costs, i couldn't refute an offer to help fellow citizen journalists learn about new media.
Mobile Active - http://mobileactive.org - is a global network of people, tools, projects, and resources focused on the use of mobile phones for activism, campaigns, and civic engagement. Mobile Active focuses in on four principles - 1. expand access to knowledge, ideas and experience about the use of mobile technology, 2. reduce learning costs for civil society organizations, 3. accelerate the use of effective tactics in campaigns, and 4. provide a comprehensive platform for building partnerships, and for facilitating access to technology and funding.
as a former campaign coordinator, technologist and volunteer, i know all to well the intimate complications of skill sharing within organizations that have little to no budget and infrastructure. when katrin, also the executive director of nten, contacted me about forming a partnership, i couldn't think of a better complement. while on the road, i'll be reaching out to organizations who are using mobile technology and profiling their use in the field. conversely, Mobile Active will provide logistical and mobile technology support.
Michael David Vineyards - http://www.lodivineyards.com/ - home to the award winning seven deadly zins and seven heavenly chards, and producers of "seven brands of distinctive wines for each of your varied whimsical desires." Michael and David Phillips are fifth generation of growers in Lodi, California. though not certified organic, Michael~David Vineyards strives to use all natural methods including integrated pest management, beneficial insects for pest control, trellising, leaf pulling and natural mined sulfur for mildew control.
in their initial donation/email, they wanted to send me a few bottles of seven deadly zins and seven heavenly chards. then i informed them, that i'll be hosting a few salons, and they snapped at the offer to send a few more! as i make my way back to north america, i've added lodi to the list of places to visit. let's just hope that Creedence Clearwater Revival did not write a premonition.
also, i hope you are in new york city on the day of departure, 7 july 2007. my friends and i are having a mid-day roof-top brooklyn bbq! so save the date and see you real soon!
Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.
Recoded: 30 May 2007
Locations: video is shot in Beavercreek, Ohio; photos are from around the world.
Tags: Noel Hidalgo, Marlyna Hidalgo, Parents, Interview, History, Photo montage, Beavercreek, Ghosts, ccMixter, oldDog, narva9
Music: Don Quioxte by oldDog and Don Quioxte (with guitar, vocals only attached) by narva9
About: at the end of may, i ventured to the midwest to attend on old friend's wedding. on the way back to new york city, i stopped by my parent's home in beavercreek. for three days, we chatted, told stories, and reviewed old photographs. in the evening of the last day, i asked my parents to sit down for a interview. this segment contains seven minutes of an hour long interview.
the photos that bookend this segment were rescued from my paternal grandfather's house. starting with rare photograps of my great-grandmother, the intro primarily contains images from my father's side of the family. the ending photo montage contains photos of me primarily shot from my father.
the past two weeks have given me introspective time to think about one of the most important part of this trip... love. the unrelenting, always self giving love. you know, the type of love that builds from years of exposure and common kinship. the type that type that exists from parent to child. the type of love that builds among friends who grow up experiencing the same joy, excitement and loss. the type of love never seems to die.
thankfully, the past two weeks have been spent with some of my oldest and dearest friends, stories of treasured memories, my brother and my parents. as the next five weeks unfold, there are many things that must be done. a majority of them will rattle my cage, shake my will, and question my own personal resolve. one thing is certain. love is immortal.
this morning, as i uploaded several photosets to fickr, i read a pleasant piece about two late-twentysomethings who will embark on a similar voyage around the globe. throughout the article, i can hear the same answers to the same quick witted questions i am asked. when it comes to why we attempt such an experiences, well...
“People are always willing to lend a helping hand,” Ms. Collins said, “because there are so many things, like the wind, that are completely out of your control.”
...and frankly i feel the same way... my mother has always said, "if you are nice to people, people will be nice to you."
over the next week, i'll be cranking out two video pieces, a travel narrative of the past few weeks and a very special announcement (that has taken longer to announce that original conceived). until then, i leave you with Buddha's four immeasurables - love, compassion, joy and equanimity.