Tag archives for The Good Traveler

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.

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.

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.

Shira Lazar is the host and executive producer of the interactive show and 24/7 news hub, “What’s Trending” (check out the live show Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m. PST/1:00 p.m. EST), and good friends with the Good Traveler Aric S. Queen, who will be hitting L.A. later this week. Here are Shira’s picks for what to see and do in La La Land.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

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.”

Everyone’s heard of Brer Rabbit. Everyone knows the song “Kumbaya.” And everyone has cooked a “one-pot meal” at some point in their life. So why do so few of us know about the Gullah – the people who gave us things like these? That’s the question many people with Gullah heritage — descendants of slaves brought from West Africa to the “Rice Coast” in the South Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry — are asking. Bill Green, the owner of Gullah Grub in Saint Helena Island, South Carolina, is one of them.

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After spending a day at Fields to Families — a Charleston charity that collects fresh produce from farmers and distributes it to the needy — volunteer coordinator Tina Arnold pulled me aside and said, “If you really want to meet someone doing good things, you should go to the soup kitchen here and ask to meet “The Librarian.” That’s all she said, but I could tell by the look on her face that everything would be explained to me once I got there.

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.  

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.

Come Fly With Me?

As stated in the video, while driving out of Charlotte, NC, I received a random message on Twitter to join an unknown person in his plane. This is how that went. [Apologies for the bumpy ride -- this was shot and edited on my iPhone.]

Dear friends, I’d never heard of Lynchburg. Lynchburg Lemonades – sure, but never the town. On a tip from a reader, I pulled in for a cup of coffee. And ended up being two hours late to Greensboro because of it.

Photojournalist Gaby Varela is currently based in Boston, but before that the former Traveler photo intern lived in Savannah off and on for six years. She says Savannah offers the best of city living and small town charm all in one package with its vibrant art scene, close-knit community, and air of mystery. And if you’re an out-of-towner,…

We’re sending one of our most popular bloggers out on the classic American road trip to uncover uncommon stories of everyday people who are bringing change to their own communities. Aric S. Queen = The Good Traveler, and the adventure begins on Monday, May 7th. Follow Aric’s journey on Intelligent Travel, Twitter @GoodTravelerNG and Instagram (@GoodTraveler) to get inspired, to be entertained, and to give him advice about what he should see and who he should meet as he blogs his way across the U.S.