Thanks and Goodbye: Part 2

After four revisions of this, my final blog entry to you all (and proving Hemingway’s theory on first drafts), I’ve come to the conclusion that this needs to be split into two parts. One from The Good Traveler. And one from me – Aric S. Queen. This is Two.

After four revisions of this, my final blog entry to you all (and proving Hemingway’s theory on first drafts), I’ve come to the conclusion that this needs to be split into two parts. One from The Good Traveler. And one from me – Aric S. Queen. This is Part One.

Power to the People

Democratizing the internet, while paved with good intentions, often backfires. Trust me. It was only a year ago in New York City when I had to wade through people my own age tweeting “Down with corporate greed!” on their iPhones, while munching on $12 kale chips and moving to the beat of a drum circle headed up by Kanye West.

Photo Gallery: Very Venice Beach

There are few places that sum up L.A. quite like an area called “Venice.”

And this one isn’t sinking — it’s kept afloat by all manner of West Coast Weird.

Muralist For Good

There are people who find success, and are still not satisfied. Some of them work harder, make more money, and continue to fill their lives with tangibles — stuff. And then there are those who take a step back and think, “What am I doing for good?” Good thing L.A.-based artist Nichole Blackburn is one of the latter.

As you can tell from, ahem, Crashing a Space Station, I can’t pass up an adventure. Even if that adventure involves a helicopter, which happens to make the Top 5 List of Things That Frighten Me. But who could say no to a chance to fly over what’s considered one of the world’s wonders? Not this guy.

A “Bonanza” of Good

If it was a (Sci-Fi-/horror-) Western, there’s a very good chance it was filmed at Imogene Hughes’s Bonanza Creek Ranch — so-named because, well, “Bonanza” was also shot there — just south of Santa Fe.

When I pulled up to Arcosanti, architect Paolo Soleri’s experimental town in the middle of the Arizona desert, I saw a large group of people off to one side casting molds for the famous bells being sold here. They differed in age, sex, color – all of them smiling and most of them wearing Toms shoes. Here we go, I thought – another commune.

VIDEO: Santa Fe’s Good Folk(s)

Imagine meeting a person who told you they made $17,000 in just one weekend. “Nice gig!” I’m sure you’d say, as you wonder what lucky soul nabbed such a cush job. That would be the dread-locked man from Vanuatu, who sells his sculptures to feed his family back home and the artisan from Sudan, who uses what she makes to bring running water to her village.

There are no silver spoons at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.

Crashing A Space Station

When it comes down to it, I simply can’t pass up an adventure.

Especially when it involves a space station.

Virgin Galactic’s space station.

As you’ll see in the video, I caught The Royalty’s show at Padres in Marfa the other week, and then hung out with them after the show. They offered to give me a tour of their hometown of El Paso, and pointed out some of the city’s lesser-known spots (see below for each band member’s picks). Great band, by the way. Get into them now; it’s sure to give you guaranteed street cred once they hit it big. And they will hit it big.

If you haven’t heard of Donald Judd, don’t feel bad. I didn’t know who he was, either.

That table your laptop is resting on while you read this, the one you bought from that ubiquitous Swedish do-it-yourself store, the one that’s easy to put together because of its clean lines, well, you have Judd to thank for that.

Those who leave their homes for temporary jaunts to other places can be sorted into three basic categories: Tourists, travelers, and good travelers. (Notice that last one wasn’t capitalized — this isn’t about me.) I owe many of my most memorable trips to the serendipitous kindness of strangers, and am firm in the belief that you get what you give when you travel. Here are a handful of easy tips to help you bring the good to your own journeys.

“On average, restaurants throw out 27 pounds of sanitary, untouched food per day,” says Oklahoma City-based Needs Foundation co-founder Joey Abbo. “If we were to collect that food from just 20 percent of the restaurants in Oklahoma, we could virtually wipe out hunger in the state.” Too bad it’s not that simple.

At the risk of cheap rent increasing and a Pinkberry being on every corner, I’m going to go ahead and say it — one of Oklahoma’s two main towns is going to be the next Austin. Oklahoma City or Tulsa. Granted, I don’t have all the fancy numbers to back this claim up, but fancy numbers are not what Okies are all about. They’re good folks who love their live music, and anyone who begs to differ should spend an evening catching a show at Cain’s Ballroom. So which is it?

The best thing about Tulsa (my hometown) is the worst thing about Tulsa. It’s not a big place. But, when your pal sends you a text message saying he’s going to be an hour late to meet you down on Brookside, its smallness comes in handy. Especially if you’re into architecture.

Catoosa’s Famous Whale

There’s a story my mother tells about our famous Blue Whale — the one set right off old Route 66 that runs through our flyover state.

And then there’s the truth.

It might seem like a funny thing to say — finding the good in catfish, but if you listen closely to restaurant owner Ty Walker, you’ll hear something that resonates beyond the grill. You can keep your fancy 5-star joints, because what they do at Wanda J’s in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma is more about making people happy.

Trying to sum up Austin in seven photos, taken in 48 hours just doesn’t seem right. You can’t hear the music, taste the BBQ, pay tribute to the late Leslie Cochran, dodge the fixed-gear bikes on South Congress, attend Eeyore’s birthday.

San Antonio native Mark “Rev” Smith is all about good, sure, but he also has a secret. You can tell by the way he talks. But what Mark “Rev” Smith doesn’t know is that I know he’s hiding a secret, and I plan on finding it out in three simple steps, with three simple questions.

“Get back in here!” Miriam stood in doorway watching an embarrassed man in his mid-30s shouting at a woman who was running down the street screaming. “What is going on with that girl?” she laughed. “Oh she… she just gets scared easily,” he said. Miriam shut the door and turned to me. “Some people these days, they’ve just gone crazy.” She smiled, but you could tell that her feelings were a little bit hurt. And you could tell that it wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. But, then again, when you run one of the most famous Voodoo temples in the U.S., you have to expect a few faint-of-hearts to cross your path.

I’ve been going about this all wrong, this looking for good in every city I visit. See, there was an assumption that if someone was doing some real good, then they’d have an office with a big sign, or a business card…something to suggest or confirm the goodness. But that’s not always true. When I jumped in a cab a few days ago in New Orleans, I met someone who was doing good without even knowing it.

“No.” I’m confused. Two days earlier, I had met filmmaker Brian Paul in New Orleans while he was promoting his documentary, Cure For the Crash, a fascinating look inside the minds of “train hoppers.” I told him I wanted to learn about the “art” of hopping, and he agreed to meet me across the river.

“What do you mean ‘No?,’” I ask, not even trying to hide my annoyance.

The Pit Bull “Problem”

Dr. Seuss had one. Helen Keller claims they’re one of the best therapy dogs. Jon Stewart has two – and they watch over his young children. But these aren’t the stories you hear when you hear about pit bulls.

“If you’re looking for something interesting,” the security guard said, “you should go visit the Queen Gypsy’s grave.” I asked who this was and he began to tell me a story that’s too long to go into here. In short, when Kelly Mitchell, “Queen of the Gypsy Nation,” died in 1915 while giving birth, as many as 20,000 Romanis showed up for her funeral in Meridian, Mississippi, flooding the small town to pay their last respects.