Aric S. Queen – Intelligent Travel

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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.

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 Queen of the Gypsy Nation”

“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.

Stalking Otis Redding…Again.

Her name is Karla, and her dad was Otis. Otis Redding. I’m praying she won’t recognize me — my hair was longer then; a few more grays in my beard. The whole “me camping outside their house thing” happened years ago. Surely they’d forgotten, right? I couldn’t have been the only slightly deranged fan to show up on their doorstep.

Starfish Cafe: Southern Regeneration

“Hi, this is Aric – I’m either unavailable, or I’m avoiding someone. Leave me a message, and if I don’t call back… it was you.”

“Hi, Aric – this is Paul, returning your call. Hope you’re not avoiding too many people. You might miss a few who are worth it. Call me back when you can.”

Look Ma, No Hands: Savannah from a Bicycle

If I’m being honest — totally honest — I’ll admit to liking Savannah just a bit more than I liked Charleston. Less people, less fuss, less care, less… well, children. “People don’t discriminate by race here,” a new friend of mine said. “But they do by the square you live near.”

Charleston in Black+White

Oh, how I wished for nine days to walk around with a camera. But what I got was about an hour. So what you get are a few quick snaps from my iPhone. They won’t blow you away, but hopefully they’ll add to your ongoing list of reasons to visit Charleston.  

A Couple of Keepers: Tracy + Paul Wilkes

You have to wonder what Paul and Tracy Wilkes did. Rob banks? Run a Ponzi scheme? They had to have done something terrible. Because no couple devotes so much of their time to doing good.