How to Be a Good Traveler in 10 Easy Steps

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.

Cutting through Red Tape to Fight Hunger

“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.

Is the “Next Austin” in Oklahoma?

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?

Tulsa: An Architecture Fanatic’s Dream?

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.

VIDEO: Finding the Good in Grilled Catfish

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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.

Photo Gallery: Keep Austin Weird

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.

“Rev” Smith’s Dirty Little Secret

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.

The Strangely Comforting World of Voodoo

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“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.

Irvin Durand: Ambassador of NOLA Goodness

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.

The Secret Freedoms of Train Hoppin’

“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.