Observations of an Overthinker

I never thought I’d make it…

I never thought I’d make it to 30.
I never thought I’d make it to 40.

I never thought I’d make it to 50. Yet here I find myself, well and inspired for what is to come.

When I was growing up there were only a few networks and newscasters on television. I remember seeing my parents watching the events of the day unfold and they usually trusted them as stated. Some things changed over time and they learned to endure that too. (With a bit more grace, I might add.) Just like everything else in life, we evolve. Then the internet came along and changed everything. It has ruined my career twice now. Once with music ownership and distribution, and once with live performance due to COVID-19 (via misinformation). It has placed children in perpetual beauty contests, turned fireside folklore into mainstream legislation, given international voice to loner loyalist groups, and made way to governance by conspiracy chaos to name a few. The spread of disinformation on the internet is the single greatest threat to democracy. Yet, impoverished and oppressed people of the world rely on it to survive. For that reason, alone, we are better off living with it. Being informed, however difficult it may be at times, and having the ability to help others makes it all worthwhile. But it should come with a warning label (and life advice): If you don’t seek out the good, the bad will find you.

I have never really felt like I fit in anywhere but have always made anywhere I am my home. I have also always thought overt patriotism is strange. I had nothing to do with being born in America nor do I have anything to do with my Russian, Austrian, Scottish, English, and Mexican ancestry. The truth is, like everyone else, I just arrived. The older I got the more ideals were forced upon me through school, religion, friend groups and culture, which caused me to question everything even more. After decades of self-reflection, I still care more about people than politics; policy over patriotism, rationalism over nationalism, inclusion over exclusion, rights over fights, and equality over inequality. There are three major types of moral capital in this world: saying you care about others, choosing to include others, and personally sacrificing to serve others. May we all consider these a bit more.

I had a conversation a few days ago with a lovely soul who is fed up with our divisiveness and is discouraged by our country. I understand. I cautioned her we must want for a more equitable union. For each other, (for her children) and for our future. I admit Americans are most likely not going to agree on all policy and that is ok. It is what makes the hope of being ‘united’ worthwhile. But I am certain if we don’t start valuing our diversity we are going to fail. Historically, in countries that don’t take care of their people, their people end up taking care of their country.

I am very concerned about the conspiracy cancer in America. Unlike most of my liberal friends, I don’t think the answer is ridiculing people who choose to believe in them. I make a genuine effort to not call anyone names although I feel them brewing inside me often and trust me, they want out. I am certain the same feelings exist within the believer community. So what do we do? We listen. We talk. And we try to find common ground.

“Conspiracy theories appeal to people whose key psychological needs are unmet. Believers crave knowledge, desire safety, and security, and need to maintain positive self-esteem. During times of crisis and when difficult decisions need to be made, these psychological needs are particularly threatened, and people are looking for ways to cope with the challenges they face.” -Professor Karen Douglas

If I have any wisdom to impart at 50, which I question daily, it is no matter what you believe, before you profess it to someone else, try to imagine their lived experiences first. Try to imagine your thoughts as questions before you frame them as answers. And try to remember sharing a country with people with opposing views is what makes us great. Most things we face can and should be reconciled together. More importantly, for a person to truly change, they must feel the change is theirs, that they chose it and they control it. Otherwise, it loses all its effect.

“Sometimes it’s so much easier to look outside of ourselves—to find explanations for our own pain, our own failures, our own disappointments rather than looking inward and taking responsibility for our actions. It would be so much easier if luck, or God, or genetics, or some unthinkable sin or magical spell just made us who we are—it would be easier, wouldn’t it? Easier than figuring out who we are on our own and that in fact, we can be many things: rageful and kind, strong and weak, terrified and sad, bereft but not afraid to go forward.“ – Derek Cianfrance, I Know This Much Is True
© Tanzer Words

Remember the Titanic? Most musicians will play to the very end. It’s who we are.

If anyone told me that in the prime of my life I’d be isolated at home, stripped of all the work I’d spent 16 years creating and 30 years imagining, I’d have said they were crazy. But if you create art for a living you already know it’s true: We’re all back to square one.

My brother gave me my first guitar at the age of 15 as a means of dealing with my father’s untimely death. I remember it feeling like the only thing in the world that mattered. At that time it was. That Las Vegas house reverberated Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Ozzy/Randy Rhoads, Return to Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. These artists imprinted a promise of hope that never existed before. An imaginary universe of surrealism, one I so desperately wanted to be a part of. The guitar not only changed my life—but it also saved it. By the time I reached high school, I was taking my guitar to school every day, playing between classes as a means of satisfying my overwhelming interest in music. I was so focused on getting better it interrupted my interest in girls. 

Little did I know then how much that budding musical connection would help in the days to come.

By the time I was 19 I had moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a rock star. I couldn’t believe the job actually existed. And it paid great! In just four short years of practice time, I truly thought I could show up, find Axl Rose, and get started. I even had an outfit (or three) picked out. I had actualized the whole thing and I was ready to go! I ended up getting an audition with a band that was charting at the time. They loved my playing but said, “you don’t have the right look.” Considering I had hair down my back, I was in skin-tight clothes and could play the music, I quickly realized the only thing left was my weight. That one stung. I immediately went on a diet. That was the first time I understood the entertainment industry isn’t that easy. Or kind. I didn’t care. Tell me I can’t and I’ll figure out a way I can. Back to Mom’s Las Vegas house to regroup.

While hanging at a local bar jam night I was asked by a touring band to get up and play. They asked me on the spot to join their tour. I had to learn 45 songs in three days and off I went. Months on the road with guys I had just met. It was my first introduction to band personalities, touring, deadlines, professional expectations, stage performance, spotlights, all of it. It was so addictive. It also was my first experience with record deals. Even at age 22, I had a gut feeling something wasn’t right—that this band wasn’t me—and I quit.

Back to Vegas again.

I spent the next eight years writing and producing my own music. In a lot of ways, it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. A clean slate. An empty dry erase board. Limitless possibilities. What do I want to do? Who do I love? What are my influences? I assembled the best guys I could find and we hopped on the Bang Tango meets Led Zeppelin meets Alice in Chains thing. (Yes, I thought funky, heavy grooves and odd time signatures in drop-D tuning would be a smash hit. I still think we were pretty good.) Not long after, a name-producer came to scout us. At the time, I was an assistant restaurant manager. I drove straight from work to pick him up at the airport. Picture one of the DeLeo brothers with a biker braid halfway down his back—that was me that day. We get in the rehearsal room, a few pleasantries exchanged and we were on 10. “Play another,” he said. “Let me hear another one.” And finally, “One more.” I’ll never forget what he said: “You want the truth or do you wanna take me back to the airport as friends?” I wanted the truth. We all did. Remaining friends thereafter was secondary. He thought we played and wrote well. He also thought we had four completely different images—which we did, STP, Whitesnake, Bang Tango, and Metallica—and he thought we didn’t know how to write for an audience we didn’t even have. (I’ve always remembered that.) He said, “You guys are good but your music is way too technical. You’re alienating any audience you may have before they even like you. You have to start with ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’ before you get to ‘Kashmir’.” Talk about pulling at the string on the sweater.

That lineup didn’t agree on much after that. We decided to give it one more go. It was time to take the image thing to the next level. We hopped on the NIN meets Tool meets Linkin Park bandwagon. Musically, we were down, but the new image “requirements” destroyed us. No one really wanted to look like Rocky Horror Picture Show at 7–11, but it did hide my recreational drug use at the time well enough. Another artistic evaporation. The drugs too.

From there, I became a hired gun for record deal acts. The shows were bigger, the audiences knew the lyrics and it felt like things were progressing. I ended up landing a pro gig with a newly signed band on a major, and we were getting ready to head out on tour. I quit my job only to find out the major labels were merging and starting to shelf acts with no track record of sales. We never got a fair chance to even get started. Money dried up and I was out of a gig.

Back to the drawing board again.

I was at home working in the studio when I got the call to sub in with a hair metal cover band. In costume, no less. That part always stopped me dead in my tracks. Their guitarist was leaving for another, more successful cover band and I was recommended to take the gig. I internalized a kneejerk “No.” I had zero interest in doing covers. My girlfriend at the time suggested we go check it out. I reluctantly did. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was like they were Bon Jovi. And it paid well!

From that moment forward I began seeing the bigger picture: If I can’t be an Aerosmith, maybe I can play one locally. It was so silly. The dumber we were, the louder they screamed. Drinking on stage. Telling ridiculous jokes for minutes on end. It didn’t matter what we did. They loved it and so did I. I wanted more work. I wanted out of bartending. I wanted to play music for a living.

I put together my first cover band, an 80s tribute in costume, and landed a gig. It felt so good. Not unlike the original scene, I got us signed! For good money! We showed up, acted like fools, got food and drinks, it paid well and we slept in our own beds. It really was the next best thing! Not long after I got a call from the producer of the first show I was still in asking if I was moonlighting? “I heard you got another gig? You know that’s in breach of contract?” he said. I remember immediately thinking if anyone should be mad its Simon Le Bon, not him. That was the first thing that popped outta my mouth, “If anyone should be mad its Simon Le Bon, not you.” He lost his shit. He was notorious for losing his shit. I didn’t even care. Its that feeling you get when there’s nothing anyone can say that will affect you. I found a new venue no one ever played in and there wasn’t anything he could say that could stop me. “If you don’t give me the band, the gig, and contract, you’re fired.” I said, in a really quiet dismissive tone, “fuck youuuu” and that was that. I was onto that new new.

For the first time in my life, I understood what it meant to be a small business owner. I had a little cast of three, schedules, setlists, intellectual property; I had to maintain quality control, performance, and pay. It was the first time I looked inside the window instead of out. It was a good feeling to be naive and careless, yet still responsible. The bigger picture was brighter than ever.

I remember the singer and I were at a bar one night and Jay-Z came on the overheads. It was Izzo (H.O.V.A.). I looked over at him and said we should do a hip-hop cover band. “No ones doing it!” Our eyes went wide-eyed. There was no need for words, we wore a “yes” in our gleam.

From that moment forward, a single 80’s cover band became a company. One hip hop cover band, then two. No one was doing it. It was an untapped market. Then I got a call for a classic rock band. Then two. Then an all-request band. Then a punk band. Then three hip hop bands. Then a top 40 band. Another, and another. The calls kept coming in. Then properties wanted to start franchising them for different venues. It went from three people to seven. Then ten. Then 15. Before it even sunk in, I had 20 people working. It got to a point where I had stopped playing for a while to sustain the demand. It was succeeding! A fine-tuned production company taking offers and building shows! Cast members knew five different shows. Some knew all of them. A few more years went by and poof: 300+ acts! 50 people a week on gigs! 150 gigs per month!

Then the closure happened.

So how did everything I’ve ever worked for disappear in five days? Everyone knows. No one needs to answer it. It’s the most understood subject in decades, perhaps in a century.

I never imagined it would ever end. I’ve joked many times about retiring before it runs out but never thought what it would actually look like to finish the job. I certainly never even dreamed of starting all over.

I got my first post-closure gig offer today. The first one in 78 days. 16 years ago I went from kicking and scratching for my 1st gig to 150 per month. Back to #1 again. It’s a deep cut. Not to my ego, because I really don’t acknowledge successes externally. I’ve never celebrated a six-figure deal because the truth is this: what goes up, must come down. I believe this linear approach to business is what’s always kept me focused on the craft and quality, not the money. Grounded, even. But it was a ton of work. It is a ton of work. Countless hours, headaches, arguments, backstabbing, and failures. But I stayed with it. I never gave up. I’m an artist through and through and I wanted to help other artists navigate this industry the best way I knew how. That’s the main thing driving me to do this all over again—the artists behind the performances. They are the reason I started this company in the first place. I wanted to create a safe haven for musicians to be able to do what they love in a post-Napster (now Spotify) world. I love the arts. I love hearing artists talk almost as much as I love their creations. I love musicians, comedians, painters, actors, directors; storytellers. I love people bearing their truths. I love the truth so much it sometimes hurts. The truth fills me up like a spiritual dinner and satiates like a fact choir. Experiencing an artist’s openness does it for me on such a deep level that I can’t even imagine a world without creativity. Certainty not one without creative truth. That, and of course I can’t wait to see the looks on people’s faces when they experience live music again. Humans need connection and I’m no different. Give me an audience of 5000 people for average pay over an audience of ten for annual pay and I’ll take the big stage every day of the year. We thrive on contact and there’s nothing more valuable to the well-being of our society than the ones who inspire. We’ve been there through every major tragedy and we’ll be there after this one. It’s our job and we wouldn’t miss it for anything. The truth for most is we probably wouldn’t have stopped playing if they didn’t turn off the lights. Remember the Titanic? Most of us will play to the very end. Until the water surrounds the neck of the guitar and drowns the voice. It’s who we are.

They always ask people, “What would you say if you could speak to yourself 20 years ago?” I’d say don’t worry too much about where you may end up because even that isn’t yours. It’s all temporary. The clothes, the money, the car, and the house—it’s trivial. Enjoy the adventure of creating the best version of yourself possible, because when you finally come up for air you can only hope you like the reflection. That, and do something that excites you. If you’re one of the lucky ones you may even make others happy in the process.

© Tanzer Words

Santiago, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro

I had a predetermined vision of Chile in my mind. The largest southernmost settlement in the world, ranging from the hot desert to ice caps and everything in between, 7 climates in total. I imagined a folkloric, historic, and immaterial Eden where water and air were replaced with wine and song. I still assume they are but it wasn’t meant to be. The city’s people had bigger plans for themselves. (That last sentence makes me proud for Chileans.)

About 3 weeks before we left, the country started to show signs of civil unrest. By the time we were ready to fly there were a million people in the streets. It started in response to a rise in the Metro’s subway fare and the increased cost of living. One of the most powerful things I’ve read on the subject is from a 30-year-old art teacher, “We can’t return to normality, we haven’t achieved anything yet. The reforms the government is proposing are superficial and do not solve the deeper problems—it is not about 30 pesos, it is about 30 years of abuse of power.” Since then, President Piñera changed eight ministries of his cabinet, dismissing his Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick. On November 15, most of the political parties represented in the National Congress signed an agreement to call a national referendum in April 2020 regarding the creation of a new constitution.

“In an April 2020 plebiscite, Chileans will be able to vote whether they want a new constitution and, if so, whether they want it to be drafted by a mixed citizen-legislator convention or one entirely comprised of elected citizens. More than 80 percent of Chileans are in favor of a new constitution, according to recent polls.”

To be determined. Anything that involves the redistribution of power and money is always “to be determined,” and it’s always by the people trying to keep it.

I’ve read Buenos Aires is the “Paris of the South.” Comparison is such a subjective thing. Most people need an explanation for reference. Music, art, culture, travel. Even restaurant suggestions. Most need to hear something is cool so they can decide to experience it for themselves. Plus, it is a catchy phrase. I was curious about how that came to be.

“Argentina didn’t gain its European flair during its era under Spanish rule. In fact, after gaining independence from Spain in 1816, Argentinians didn’t want to employ their former colonizers. Instead, they looked to visionaries from other European countries, like France and Italy, to serve as the architects and engineers of their developing capital.”

The cosmopolitan capital is everything I thought up and more: A heart of culinary mastery, world-renowned wines, and a European atmosphere intertwined with vibrant Latin American roots. But most surprising to me is how welcoming it felt. It didn’t even feel like a vacation. Unlike Paris, while regal, romantic and majestic, I didn’t feel like I needed to ask permission. For anything. It felt like home.

Argentine children smiled a lot. They looked more loved than other places I’ve been (no matter how dumb that sounds). There was a photographic feel to families in Buenos Aires, a strong sense of familial structure there. It was lovely to be around.

There were a ton of dog walkers. I don’t know why I find the chaotic tangling of canines to be so sweet. It was like a reverse Christmas tree of panting tongues, all going different directions; smelling, peeing, smiling, and happy to be together. Most dogs are like that. They love belonging to a tribe. Humans aren’t that much different but most don’t smell each other’s butts in public. Most.

Cars rule pedestrians. Traffic control signals only exist in main intersections. No lights, stop signs, or yield signs on most corners and pavement markings (where visible) are a suggestion. Although Argentine motorists are kind outside the car, they relentlessly Tertris their way to the head of the intersection. It felt like a VR video game and everyone was in on it. Pedestrians don’t have right of way even when crossing with a walk signal. You had to be aware of vehicles turning because they may not stop for you.

Smoking still seems popular there. I’m surprised smoking is still popular anywhere, including Paris. It’s just like anything else, once the information is available the excuses lie on the individual. I did see some people frowning on it, waving the air with a snotty look as if to say “not near me.” As an ex-smoker from a lifetime ago, I don’t feel right saying much on the subject except smoking will kill you, and fanning air makes you look funny.

And finally, crazily, music still matters there. Considering music is my living, it actually blew my mind how much music mattered in South America. I haven’t seen too many people so deeply passionate about music in a very long time. For fear of offending countless people I work with daily, I don’t mean professionals and some of the best performers and talents I’ve ever seen. I mean passionate. The music was coming from a place of lustful concern. Avid, fierce, and intense desire to get it right and for very few people. (Yes, covers.) I saw one band playing for 11 people. They had more devotion in their hearts and conviction in their eyes than 100. It reminded me of being a child again. Wetting my hair, grabbing an ax handle, and rocking out to Kiss Alive 2 in my bedroom. In my current world, there’s a clear understating of it all. It’s a business. The goal, style, expectation, times, image, pay, all of it. Once you remove the curiosity out of music, it changes the conviction. And in turn, it changes you. This is true with almost anything, especially life. The more you know the harder you have to try to keep it fresh. For a city of almost 3 million people, Buenos Aires still plays with passion, curiosity, and innocence. It was beautiful.

My only knowledge of Rio before coming here was “The Girl From Ipanema,” “Copacabana” and Carnival. 2 outta 3 ain’t bad?

At first glance, the natural and constructed beauty that makeup Rio’s geographical contrasts are absolutely gorgeous. On one block you have this vibrant, fun, beach vibe, and on another, you have the stunning natural allure of historic mountainscapes. Then, favelas in the middle.

A favela is a low income, unregulated type of “slum” neighborhood that’s experienced historical governmental neglect. No zoning, oversight from any public authority, or public services. Old, recycled tiles covering flimsy shacks, illegal electricity wire extensions, and blue cisterns.

“Geography is destiny” is such a fascinating topic to me. What were you born into?

I read a few articles about the 10-foot high fence along the highway from the international airport. I’m so intrigued by this. Behind it Maré, a complex of 16 favela communities mostly under gang rule. There are differing accounts as to why the wall exists ranging from a “sound barrier,” “welcoming wall” for the 2016 Olympic arrivals, and finally to hide an “eyesore.” My befriended taxi driver named Mario seemed to sum it up best, “Yes, sure, all that may be true but during rush hour the thieves would walk onto the highway and rob people at gunpoint.” Most everywhere I’ve traveled has some sort of social class division but this may be the greatest I’ve seen. Extreme wealth and poverty right on top of each other. Some of the favelas have equal, if not better views than the high rises. Upon digging deeper, one thing I found inspiring about the favelas is many have created, managed, and elected their own officials. Their own cities within cities. These are for the people by the people, off the grid, and on their own. I could spend a week talking about socio-economic abandonment, what basic roles any government should take but its literally not my place.

I went to my first Brazilian football game. 67k people. Singing the entire time. Cheering, screaming, throwing beers, in-fucking-sane. It was Flamengo vs Ceará, both Brazilian teams. I’ve been told I’m lucky for that. And, that they won. Brazil is the only team to participate in every World Cup competition ever held and they are *crazy* about the sport! I’ve never been in a traditional war but it felt like how they must start. 10 people, then 50. A hundred, then thousands. The disorderly, chaotic, nervous energy of 67k people all in one place. An air of uneasy, angry, excited and on edge; swelling moods overcoming different factions in seconds. And then without notice, complete pandemonium erupts. Screaming bloody murder! But, it’s…a celebration! I felt like a dog that kept accidentally peeing on the carpet when everyone was looking. But I wasn’t. Sort of.

There seems to be real, heartfelt disdain from the taxi drivers towards Uber drivers. They really dislike them. Like class disgust, only the taxi drivers do pretty well here. The only people taxis hate more than Uber drivers are Uber Eats and the like: iFood, Pedidos Já, Mr. Food. Even they caught my attention. Best I could tell, the entire home delivery system works off of motorcycles and they’re timed. They do not obey any of the traffic laws even in front of the police. Rush hour dawns a symphony of Roadrunner-like “meeps” in Morse code. The only thing that could make it any more interesting was the kids were using rented bicycles to deliver food. Everyone’s gotta hustle, I respect that.

Portuguese is a much more difficult language than I thought it would be. Or, they’re much harder on my efforts. Since everyone was polite, I’ll say both. Also, Google Translate seemed the most incorrect here so far. Vowels and constants were wrong and pronunciation had me down the wrong road a few times. I got more help from locals than Google. The language also sounds laced with French. I was told by multiple people who live there, Portuguese does not sound French. Au contraire sounds French to me. Ah bem.

I really don’t know why people cheek-kiss greet each other. It’s as strange as saying “bless you” after a sneeze. In South America, it’s for real. I had to read more.

*One Kiss: Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Peru, the Philippines
*Two Kisses: Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Bosnia, Brazil (though, like France, the number can differ by region), and some Middle Eastern countries (though not between opposite sexes)
*Three Kisses: Belgium, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Egypt, and Russia (where it’s accompanied by a bear hug)

“…touch cheeks and administer an air kiss — a soft smacking sound, as opposed to the more bombastic mwah!—forgoing any actual exchange of saliva.”

Superstitious, ritualistic customs always make me feel weird. When forced into a quick kiss hello, I don’t make the noise. I’m not fake lip smackin’ for anyone.

Cars rule pedestrians here as well. (Insert the same paragraph from Buenos Aires.) However, I saw three different busses stop for someone running to catch it. I’m gonna venture a guess it’s not normal practice, but there’s nothing better than those types of small victories. I love it when the bus stops for someone running. I hope everyone’s bus waits for them.

Many people tell stories and that becomes their truths.

“When your beliefs are entwined with your identity, changing your mind means changing your identity. This is why facts don’t change minds.”

They see what they wanna see, hear what they wanna hear, and believe what they wanna believe. There’s a survival mechanism in place to save us from our greatest fears, usually the truth. An underlying, terrifying realization that maybe it’s all for nothing. Perhaps a symbolic separation from our parents, fantasy over reality, aloneness, personal/spiritual evolution, life responsibilities, and death. We demand perfection of others while lacking the necessary self-reflection to refine ourselves. We work, we save, we purchase and we hope. We expect our nest egg dreams will be met. We pray that everything is going to resemble the fairytale we created in our head. (Read that again.) But even the wealthiest people in the world can’t pay for perfection. They can’t pay for avoidance, and they can’t pay to circumvent life. And praying isn’t going to change the outcome. It may make you feel better about the path you choose, and your place in it all, but unfortunately, divine intervention isn’t up for sale. The sooner we realize everything is going to be ok, regardless of the outcome, the sooner we’ll accept that which is. The sooner we’ll be happy, always, no matter what happens. I mean, let’s face it, we’re all extremely fragile and just doing our best. A little self-acceptance can go a long way.

People often ask me, “how do you go so many places where you don’t speak the language?” My go-to joke is always Google Translate (although Portuguese isn’t its strongest suit). While it saves my ass daily, the truth is more easily described: with a little effort and a lot of humility. Try to fit in. Try to speak the native language. Show some effort. But most importantly, be prepared to say sorry. A lot. Show people of the world, with your actions, you’re thankful to be wherever you are. And remember, you’re representing the next person. The next stranger. Express yourself with grace, try to be a person of the earth, not on the earth, and look people in the eyes with respect. I have yet to find any currency that spends more freely than respect.

If you knew someone was going to take your place on this marble and pick up the pieces you created over your lifetime exactly where you left them, wouldn’t you try harder to leave behind a kinder, more refined legacy for them? That’s exactly how I feel about travel. I didn’t purchase the right to walk through foreign lands like a bull in a china shop. I was afforded a right of passage, revocation is up to the natives.

To be determined. Only this time it’s by the actual people who wield the power. Fortunately, it’s just my memories I’m trying to keep.

© Tanzer Words

Paris, Berlin, Athens, Barcelona, Amsterdam

On a plane from Athens to Barcelona, I struck up a conversation with a retired school teacher. It was delightful to have intelligent, worldly discourse in the air. We spoke of economics, world affairs, current and past leaders, health care, terrorism, life, love, and health. As we got deeper in, she thought I must’ve experienced something tragic. She said, “for you to leave the love of your life, even for a few weeks—to travel alone—you must’ve found meaning in your life?” I paused, and with a smirk replied, actually, I’m out here still looking for it. I have many things to be thankful for but they all, with the exception of love, seem so simple and insignificant. Like I’m an actor in a play I’ve written, directed, and acted out over and over again. Travel is the only thing that gives me a new purpose. It breathes life into this old soul. She just looked at me, smiled, and repeated, “like I said, you must’ve found meaning in your life.” We both shared a sweet, silent smile.

We read for a while, I wrote, and we both even napped a bit.

The moment I woke I began to ponder the irony of misfortune. Again. The unlucky draw of straws; how we never wish for the short one and what it can do to you. If you’re lucky enough to live through it, you’re bound to become clearer in what you want. And that, for me, has become travel.

Paris is everything, everyone has said and then some: the heartbeat of love, the candlelight of romance, the warm embrace, the first drop of wine in a glass. It radiates passion. The senses are all awake in this city. There are only two things that come to mind I have not read about Paris. First, the people are lovely. I’m not sure who is getting an uptight Parisian but they were all delightful to me. I find American’s can be so damn American that they can’t even understand why anyone else doesn’t act… American. Secondly, Paris is so remarkably regal. I’ve never been anywhere to date that felt so well-organized and precise in its plan. Methodical beauty, class, character, and resolve. Paris is the benchmark of refined taste and grace. I can’t imagine anywhere being more beautiful than Paris but I’m up to the task. And search on, I shall.

On the last night of my vacation and pass back through Paris there was a huge, violent protest. “Gilets jaunes” or yellow vests, numbering near a hundred thousand, are a leaderless grass-roots resistance against diesel tax hikes and the high cost of living. They take their name from the bright yellow safety vests all drivers in France must carry to wear in an emergency. And to think its the law to own them.

I have always wanted to travel to Berlin. As long as I can remember. It’s been a fantasy I’ve played out in my mind over and over again that’s only grown with time. What’s Berlin like? Is it modern? Vibrant and pretty? Or is it still unresponsive and dark from the war? Do people dance all night to techno? Are they sad? Do people even laugh? Is there anything funny or is everyone serious? Is everything still in black and white? Surprisingly, it’s all of that.

Berlin has such a crazy history that I don’t think they’ll ever be able to entirely shake it off. As with any generational divide, it gets easier with time. Kids felt completely oblivious of the war as they should, to some extent. Robbing children of their innocence is one of the worst things you can do—as long as they understand their history. But the elders, they had decades of pain in their eyes. Like they felt sorry for things, I’m assuming, they had no part of. Weathered paths with narrowing memories and timeless guilt. It was heavy.

Berlin was all but demolished after the Second World War so it’s essentially rebuilt from the ground up. Many parts of it are a prefabricated response to a lack of housing. Quick, and relatively inexpensive, grey, concrete structures to curb the country’s severe housing shortage of the times. Two and three-story apartment houses stretching miles. An ironic wall of refuge in a place that doesn’t need or want walls ever again.

Then there’s the new Berlin. A highly intelligent and innovative tech hub where most cities pale in comparison. It has vibrant art, film, TV and gaming industries, and a live-and-let-live mentality for artists and activists. It’s contemporary, family-friendly, extravagant and it’s covered in graffiti. Like, most of it. And no one seems to mind. Upon first glance, it appears like it’s owned by the street artists. Berlin is somehow the youngest and oldest city I visited this trip.

On my ride from the Athens airport to my Air BnB, I was picked up by a taxi driver named Nick. Once my “Geia sas” wore off, I surrendered to English. He chose “Nick” for my sake. He told me everything he could about the city in a short cab ride. He promised me the best chicken souvlaki in the world while cranking the Scorpions “Still Loving You.” I love unembarrassed people. I feel like it’s the sign of true awareness. Or innocence. I haven’t figured that one out yet.

My first 3 hours in Athens and what do I stumble upon? My first protest of the trip.

November 17 is observed as a holiday in Greece and the 45th anniversary of the 1973 Athens Polytechnic student uprising against the military dictatorship. The rebellion began on November 14, 1973, escalated to an open anti-junta revolt and ended in bloodshed in the early morning of November 17. Every year a demonstration begins at the gates of the Polytechnic School of Athens, where the authorities of the military junta had sent a tank to crush the entrance gate as it cracked down on rebellious students holed up inside and ends outside of the American embassy in Athens. Shouting mainly anti-American slogans, 10,000+ protesters, whose majority came from various leftist groups, are marching demanding the removal of American bases from Greece and blamed the US imperialism for the infliction of the military junta. And to think I came here to learn about history.

Athens, the capital and largest city in Greece is just as alive and hopeful as any modern capital I’ve been to. With endless miles of flea market hucksters, restaurants, and sprawling nightlife—all striving for tourist oxygen—it reads like an endless welcome mat where one could easily be seduced into a blissful sense of abundance and security. And that, I felt.

It was, though, interesting that one block off the forged trail and I found myself in a no man’s land. Like Kurt Russel in Escape from New York, it smelled lawless. Isolated. Remote. The scent of danger was convincing as if no one’s coming to help. Like no one had been there in days, years even. Graffiti-ridden streets with boarded-up shops; dark, listless energy weighing the cold air. Hundreds of people strewn about, lining the streets, waiting for something to happen. Anything. Self-starting traders selling trinkets, food, shoes, watches, phone cards, and used pants. Day drinking locals telling stories, laughing, and even shouting at times. An unrehearsed human symphony without melody. It was chaos. I had only felt this way once before in an open-air flea market in Bogota. It was wild then, and now. Like an old west movie I couldn’t get out of, I didn’t know the language and I wasn’t about to ask for directions. And, I couldn’t find Dolores Abernathy. But somehow I wasn’t afraid.

I can always tell when I’m in danger. It’s a general feeling of whether or not anyone is paying attention. Strangely, they didn’t seem to mind me being there. Some would even look me dead in the eye, then just look right through me as if I didn’t exist. And maybe, just maybe to them, I didn’t.

Then there’s Ancient Greece. The majestic memoir. Athens is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The Acropolis, among many others here—breathtaking world heritage sites dating back to 429 BC are no exception. The records of Greece are remarkable. Astonishing.

I am constantly amazed at how humans can work together to achieve anything. Good and bad. Extraordinary stuff. Athens may just be the busiest place on earth to get lost.

I could easily live in Barcelona. Maybe it’s because I speak Spanish well enough to get by. Maybe it’s because of the people. The gracious, passionate, and powerful people. Maybe it’s their food. It’s as good as anywhere I’ve ever been, hands down. Maybe it’s because of the architecture. The colorful contrasts—the gothic art nouveau that make up the facade. Or maybe it’s the climate. Or, all of it. Barcelona is a place that felt more like home than anywhere I’ve been so far.

I was getting my hair cut and the gentleman asked me where I was from (as most everyone abroad has). I replied Las Vegas to which everyone responds about the same. They repeat it as if I don’t remember what I said and then say “ooh” like they want to go there, or “ahh” as they’ve read about it. In response: Barcelona is the only place so far I tried convincing people otherwise. Moreso than Vegas, anyway. I finally won the debate by saying, comparing Las Vegas to Barcelona is like comparing lust to love. Everyone, initially, thinks they prefer lust until it wears off. Now, love, it stays as long as you nurture it. It grows with you. It becomes a part of you. Barcelona is a living, breathing, organism capable of giving love back. Las Vegas was not built to do that and it’s not capable of loving in return.

Amsterdam is like Europe’s grandma. This is my second time visiting Amsterdam and I can already see myself coming back. “When,” she would’ve asked? I haven’t planned yet, but I will, I promise, grandma. (Just like I would’ve responded if she were still alive).

Amsterdam is the place you don’t go often enough but every time you get there, you wonder why it took you so long to get back. It’s whimsical, ornate and it sometimes even smells like a holiday. That freshly baked oven smell, mixed with laughter and cheer. Festival songs recounting tales of innocence. Stories that have to be told the same way, every year. Amsterdam is a cartoon-like city where everyone is safe and nothing is ever going to go wrong. I know that’s not entirely true and I don’t care. As with most things in life, we prefer to remember them how they first felt, innocent, and free of judgment and that is exactly what Amsterdam is. As everywhere should be.

It’s becoming increasingly clear to me humans are on a path with destruction. Not that this is groundbreaking news but most everywhere I went we were in some kind of fight. A war of words, thoughts, ideals, taxes, civil liberties, health care, immigration, and so on. Half of everyone everywhere is pissed off at their government. You wanna know what the through-line is to all the uprisings? Money.

I have an inherent need to reconcile my behavior with results. An unshakable, critical passenger looking for purpose and accountability in everything I do. It never feels like a burden. Usually, it’s just a barometer of truth. A means of measuring what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and does it feel good? So…what am I doing, why am I doing it and does it feel good? I find the answers to these questions become much more simple with age:

I don’t know.
I don’t know.
And, I feel great but even feelings change with time. Everything changes with time.

For now, I know I miss my home, my love, Rockie Brown, and my bed. I always miss my bed. But first, let’s see what the airline lottery has in store for me for the next 18 hours. I hope its Del Griffith trying to sell me shower curtain rings made from the finest Czechoslovakia ivory. At least that will make the time go by quicker. I think.

Until we meet again, Europe.

© Tanzer Words

Japan

Japan is my favorite country to date. It’s on another level, zero exaggeration. These are the kindest, honorable, hard-working, forward-thinking and technologically advanced people I’ve ever encountered. I’m in awe of their grace. This is a country of 127 million people and generally speaking, you’d be hard-pressed to find a trash can. Even more impressive, you be harder pressed to find any trash on the streets. It’s understood people simply take their trash home and recycle it. It’s also one of the top-ten safest countries in the world. The number of recorded crimes fell to 915,042 last year, the lowest level in the postwar era. That came as the nation’s economy had its longest run of sustained growth in almost 30 years, which drove the unemployment rate down to 2.8 percent. Atop of that they have not-for-profit healthcare (!); extremely efficient, punctual transportation including bullet trains which can take you cross-country in a few hours; public lost-and-found boards with personal property forwarding; public restrooms; toilets with heated seats, bidets, and non-touch systems everywhere; cheap alcohol (which can be consumed in public) and killer food available almost everywhere; taxis have driver-operated passenger doors; discreet and respectful server/call buttons in restaurants; a general no-talking-on-your-phone in public understanding; they wear masks not only for health reasons but they respect the idea of a clean workforce, and they’re the kindest, warmest people I’ve ever met. Oh, and they have some of the most advanced cityscapes in the world. It’s like walking into the future and the past at the same time. Pure harmony. Imagine Shogun and Minority Report in agreement.

The only thing I can see they haven’t figured out is change. It’s an unusual currency system with lots of change. Like, everywhere has a tray to pay because they know there is some serious change coming. Not sure why they keep this up. All things considered, that’s pretty damn impressive and their social agreement is rock solid. Most could learn from this level of respect.

Our last full day summed up my entire Japanese experience. We went out for the 2018 National Cherry Blossom Festival. Everyone out on blankets, telling stories, drinking, laughing and celebrating Earth as they know it. The smell of savory and sweet foods in concert, children playing, music and arts. Spring is in the air and everyone is happy to be alive. We hear the sound of a children’s musical rehearsing in the park, we follow it. We then see swan-shaped paddle boats on the lake, we go for a picture. Then I see a swarm of sparrows eating out of a lovely Malaysian woman’s hand. Then a woman, seemingly drunk in love, Facetiming the deepest soliloquy one could muster of love and longing. Loudly. All, to the soundtrack of Disney on Ice.

Japan, I respect you, and I’m thankful you’re so welcoming to foreigners. Please know, the pleasure was all mine.

Arigatōgozaimashita. Mata au made, Japan

© Tanzer Words

Medellín, Bogotá y Cartagena

As I wind down my three-week, three-city tour of Colombia, I am reminded of a few things. First, a preface about the country I fell in love with:

When I set my mind to visit Colombia, most everyone I knew wanted to stop me, or at least heavily caution me. It was as if the ghost of Pablo Escobar was still operating people’s projections in a cinema looped in 1980’s Medellín. Granted, Colombia has seen some serious shit, no one’s denying that. But what I find even more fascinating is humanity’s ability to hold onto things as if it were yesterday. In the US, we’re perpetually clenched in fear, afraid of the unknown, and it’s being driven through our brains like a captive bolt pistol in a slaughterhouse. We live in an unrelenting cycle of “everyone’s out to get us” because “we’re the best.” Well, allow me to shed a little light on that. Yes, the USA is remarkable, but not because we say we are, and unquestionably not because we think we’re better. We are incredible because of our profound gift of aid, infinite opportunity, and our welcoming spirit (of yesteryear). The policy of generosity exuded by the US when she’s acting on her best behavior far surpasses any country I’ve ever been to. The problem is, we’re in the middle of another growth spurt, and the best way to sell a used car is to make it seem better than all the other ones on the lot. It’s just that simple. I’m neither mad at her, nor sad for her, and most importantly, I’m not influenced by her scorn. As with all things, this too shall pass. With the grace of future generations innocently steeped in imagination, ingenuity, and of course an abundance of love, she’ll be back to her old, welcoming ways, this you can be sure of.

When I flew into Medellín, I didn’t really have an idea of what to expect. I mean I knew what everyone else knows: the aforementioned drug lord and his reign of terror, and the 1990’s label that Medellín was widely considered to be “the murder capital of the world.” But what did I actually know about the place, and its people? Nothing, really, and that’s just the way I like it. I choose to go places where I can immerse myself free of expectation. I like to refer to it as a “Baptism of Culture.” Well, Medellín was just that. From the moment I stepped foot onto Colombian soil I felt my disposition change, I was immediately welcomed in.

Medellín is a bustling city at the outset of its metamorphosis with an authentic commitment to 21-century means. With a dignified public transit system, The Metro, reaching far into the neediest and most vulnerable comunas (common areas), hillside escalators veining communities with its Metro, Internet “mesh networks” connecting non-service areas by a series of routers and antennas mounted on rooftops, the design of 5 library multi-parks, new museums, cultural centers, and schools to enrich the impoverished, Medellín is leading the world in initiatives, and its primary focus is building social wealth through investments in early childhood. The urbanization and globalization of Medellín are so unbelievable, it’s no wonder The Wall Street Journal named this city the most innovative in the world in 2013, and why it was chosen to host the World Urban Forum 7 in 2014.

The two echoing pillars of Medellín today are democratic architecture and education with dignity. It’s their strongly held belief that they must find the will to find happiness in tragedy. Truer words have never been spoken. Medellín even offers free walking tours of the city as a rebranding of sorts. This was eloquently articulated by the outgoing Carlos, one of the many bright, young tour guides on the scene today: “The new Medellín is not only yours, mine; it’s ours. And together, we are working very hard to show the international community that we are not only safe, we are also desirable.”

There is a famous children’s book indoctrinated by Colombians, written by David McKee called, “Ahora no, Bernardo” which translates to, “Not now, Bernard.” The story is about a boy named Bernard who is constantly ignored by his parents. Even when he tries to tell them about a monster outside in the garden, they still don’t pay attention. Bernard is subsequently eaten by the monster, who then takes Bernard’s place in the house and still, somehow, goes unnoticed. The moral of the story, again, as told by Carlos, and as seen through the Colombian Biblioteca’s public schooling programs is, “Our children are our future and if we don’t take care of them, teach and listen to them, we will be creating a whole new generation of monsters.” So simple. So pure. So true! Bravo, Carlos. Bravo, Medellín. Bravo!

Bogotá was a very curious read to me. It felt exactly like what one might expect a capital city to feel like: sprawling, historic, and systematic. This high-altitude hub, located on the Bogotá savanna (the uplands in the center of Colombia in the Eastern Ranges of the Colombian Andes), is the largest city in Colombia and features colonial-era landmarks, some of the country’s most popular museums (Museo Botero, exhibiting a personal favorite of mine, Fernando Botero’s art, and the Museo del Oro, displaying pre-Columbian gold pieces), and is the home to senior agencies of the executive (Office of the President), the legislative (Congress of Colombia), and the judicial branch (Supreme Court of Justice, and the Constitutional Court). Taking a 5-hour private tour through the city included the following: touring their financial, legal, and executive district, seeing the President’s house (Casa de Nariño), exploring the aforementioned museums, the graffiti district (which is an extensive and picturesque walk), trolleying up a hillside to Monserrate, and finally, the Assumption of Mary observed holiday-turned-street fair where the entire downtown was closed in an “Escape from New York-esque” doomsday parade where anyone and everyone could sell just about anything you could think of, and that they did. I feel like I learned quite a bit, most notably, what it’s like to patronize the largest, most chaotic, and unsettling garage sale I have ever attended.

Highlights include La Candelaria, Zona T, and Monserrate. La Candelaria is a historic neighborhood in the downtown district. The architecture of old houses, churches, and buildings had a Baroque and Art Deco feel to it. Super cool! Zona Rosa de Bogotá (or “Zona T” named after its T intersection) is a neighborhood with many pubs, restaurants, malls, shops, and nightclubs. This neighborhood is also known as one of the most exclusive quarters in Latin America and it felt like it. And finally, Monserrate (a 17th-century church with a shrine devoted to “El Señor Caído” or, as it was translated to me, “Fallen Lord”) is a majestic and holy lookout 10,341 ft. above sea level. It’s a stunning, and romantic observation post with a 180-degree view of the city’s skyline. All in all, a pretty amazing reveal into the republic’s capital.

Cartagena, the “old city,” or “walled city” as it’s commonly referred to, is a colonial, historic, and heavily fortified fortress town with narrow, cobbled streets, and a settler’s structure. This open-air sanctuary has a constant stream of music, dancing, and busking, a killer restaurant and mixology scene, and is overflowing with notable architecture. The street performers were truly on another level. First, there was the hip-hop element, my personal favorite. While the kids seemingly didn’t have many instrumentals to choose from; Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E.” and “The Next Episode,” 50 Cent’s, “In Da Club,” and one other I didn’t recognize, they were still spitting, fluent and fresh new rhymes daily. Then there was the sea of mimes. From traditional mimes (as we know them in the States) to old-world theatrical mimes, real actors awaiting any denomination to be dropped in the hat, sometimes for hours, before they sprung into the show. Lastly, you have the characteristic Victorian violinist, local artisan’s selling their hand-crafted chachkas, food vendors in the streets, and all somehow harmonizing to a cacophony of laughter, and the metronomic clock of recurring Horse and buggy movement, the old world clatter as it does. Plaza Santo Domingo acts as the heart of the city hosting outside restaurants, performances, and it’s helmed by Botero’s statue, “La Gordita.” The never soon enough breeze, food and drink, and a ceremonial backdrop of the surrounding buildings make Cartagena a magnificent fairy tale!

From taking a free city tour into underprivileged neighborhoods and getting to see Medellín’s next generation willfully learning in a public forum, liberally expressing their questions and watching their creative minds allowed to flourish in front of a world stage of visitors (without question, my favorite part of the entire trip), to walking on set of the world’s largest anarchic flea market, to the sound of thousands of people celebrating symphonically in the streets, I am reminded of a few things: 

•    Wearing shorts in Medellín makes you look like a tourist. Wearing pants in Cartagena makes you look like a tourist. Bogota doesn’t give a shit what you wear.

•    Every city has a busking Iron Man. I don’t just mean Colombia; I mean everywhere, which prompted me to think, there’s got to be a business model here…The International Busking Iron Man’s Union?

•    Don’t slam the doors in Taxies. This is not an exaggeration; every cab driver in the country doesn’t like it. They really don’t. Like, it’s a thing…and no, I don’t know why either.

•    In Colombia, there is an 11th commandment: “A papaya dada, papaya partida.” It’s a colloquial expression, which basically means, “What has been given, can be taken.” It translates into watch yo shit, and don’t give people an opportunity to take said shit. I feel like everyone everywhere knows this without the use of prop-fruit in an idiomatic example.

•    It’s my experience thus far, that no matter where you dine or drink in Colombia, you can take an unfinished bottle of purchased alcohol with you when you leave. Like, “I’ll have 5 shots of Don Julio Reposado, please.” “You should just buy the bottle, it’s cheaper.” “But I only want the one round of shots for me and my friends- I can’t drink that much tonight?!” “No worries, take the bottle with you.” It’s legal. Everywhere!

•    Buying a size 11.5 shoe in Colombia is like trying to publicly talk about Pablo Escobar and I didn’t even try to publicly talk about Pablo Escobar.

•    Some of the local street vendors selling fruit have microphones to apparently tell you their fruit is better than the guy‘s fruit *right* next to them. Loudly, and in a continuous loop. How does the guy without a mic stay calm? Or, sell any fruit? And why doesn’t he just move down the street?

•    Directional or guidance tactile paving is used on every single sidewalk I walked on, in all three cities. It begs the question: Is it really that hard to take care of our blind? Colombia doesn’t think so.

•    No matter where you are in the entire world, everyone loves the song “Yeah,” by Usher, unless it comes on at your place of employment. Then, apparently, you have the right to hate it. Otherwise, it would seem like it’s your civic duty to act a foo when it hits.

Recurring excerpts from previous works:

•    Electric razors for men are harder to find in Colombia than gold and I didn’t even look for gold. Forgetting your charger renders your electric razor useless after an unfortunate switch-on during flight. 

•    A kind smile and gentle disposition are all you need to communicate across the globe. Well, that, and the Google Translate app. 

In closing, be kind, it’s the only form of currency accepted worldwide.

© Tanzer Words

Bangkok, Koh Phangan, Siem Reap, Ho Chi Minh

As I wind down my three-week, three-country tour of Southeast Asia I am reminded of a few things. First, here’s a birds-eye view of the road less traveled.

Thailand is a beautifully rich country filled with content and confident people. They seem quite satisfied with what they’ve achieved and equally ok with what they haven’t. It’s a remarkable thing to witness a people so enriched by their day-to-day that they exude a sense of pure oneness and feel everything is as it should be. These are always traits of a stress-free and calm existence and I really resonate with that. A lot.

Cambodia really struck a chord with me. Cambodians are a weathered yet innocent people, kind, generous and accommodating and still wholly and respectfully guarded. You can see generations of stories in their eyes while the infancy of acceptance right on the surface. Never, and I mean never have I seen a more profoundly kept souls-secret in a people to date. The impact even in the short time I spent there will last a lifetime. Powerful place.

Vietnam is one of the most curious places I’ve ever been with a complex social makeup right on the surface. This is 21st-century metropolis directly on top of sidewalk economy and both seemingly living in harmony. Their rush hour rivals anywhere I’ve been on the globe and by 7 pm, the day crew takes refuge leaving room for the night shift. I’m speaking to full-contact traffic in every direction in a surreal dance of bees at the nest and then as if choreographed the night owls come out to play. Complete chaotic synergy, it’s amazing. Even more noteworthy are the people I came across. Both close interactions and acquaintances were very outgoing. These lovely, funny and sociable folks would outright make fun of our style, brotherly bond and poke fun at our accents all the while keeping it light and never crossing the line of disrespect. I’ve never seen such truly charming and witty people at the onset of meeting. It was such a delightful and unexpected surprise.

From riding a scooter the entire length of an island to celebrate a full moon on Koh Phangan- an event that exists everywhere on the globe and usually without hubbub, to climbing the largest religious complex in the world seated in a lush and majestic 500-acre panorama in Angkor Wat, to drinking banana wine in the marshlands of Mekong, I am reminded of a few things:

  •      Walking through the streets of Bangkok I finally know what it feels like to be a woman. I couldn’t walk more than 50 steps without getting cawed at like a construction site damsel in distress. It’s good to know Stella still has her groove even if it’s for money.
  •      More people equal more stress; fewer people equal less stress. Never forget that when you’re trying to recalibrate.
  •      The car horn in Asia is used a lot. More than I prefer.
  •      I’m pretty sure now that when I see Asian travelers in the States wearing masks they’re not sick, they’re just protecting themselves against air pollution.
  •      Religion is an idea which means vastly different things to different people. Practicing it is a state of mind. Projecting it is a state of weakness. No one anywhere cares what you like or don’t like about his or her deity until you try to explain why you think they’re wrong. Unless asked, don’t answer and even then think long and hard about how much you really care about someone else’s privately held personal beliefs. Then, and only then decide whether or not it’s worth your breath to engage. Chances are you’ll find people are way more beautiful in mystery.
  •      Electric razors for men are harder to find in Southeast Asia than gold and I didn’t even look for gold.
  •      Staring at the ocean can cure most things gone awry in your life. Most.
  •      A kind smile and gentle disposition are all you need to communicate across the globe. Well that, and the Google Translate app.

In closing, be kind, it’s the only form of currency accepted worldwide.

 

© Tanzer Words

Boulder, Colorado

As I wind down my one-week stay in Boulder, Colorado sitting in the Denver Airport, I thought I’d pen a bit about my new favorite small city.

Boulder is as enlightened as it is exquisite and as charming as it is vibrating, a real breath of fresh air. Imagine a city of 90,000+ people split between Silicon Valley-types and collegiate fresh-brains converging in a progressive yet laid-back think-tank. Health, well-being, quality of life, education, and art is rampant here and everyone I ran across was open, well-read and just downright cool. These folks were easily some of America’s biggest and brightest freely engaging in metaphysical, political, social and religious discussions without self-importance. I’ve never seen such warm, high-intellects ready for stimulus in my life and it felt great!

Flying in from Dallas, I spent a week with one of my very dearest friends Rich and his girlfriend Elena and boy did they know where to go. We ate at exclusively farm-to-table restaurants, sipped exotic teas and coffees flown in from Bali, had charcuterie plates of locally sourced meats and cheeses, drank an entire day of organic juices and milks, awoke to the smell of his local bakers daily offerings, snowboarded on two world-class mountains, took painting classes, went to escape rooms and even booked a last minute photo-shoot with a local model and fashion designer. I mean Rich even gets their personal supply of milk and yogurt from a dude’s garage that he knows the code too! If that weren’t enough, we were even fortunate enough to have a chef actually bring our food from his farm to our table and shared the backstory about it. Super. Cool! Author’s Note: To be completely honest, I thought I was quite progressive until this trip but I hadn’t been exposed to this degree of socially-conscience engagement before and boy was it a treat. It brought the natural, pure and positive reflexes right out of me, as it should anyone. Most generally live in such a sense of expectancy and denial about resources so let it suffice to say I’m an awoken man from this way of life and responsible consumption that I will be making a concerted effort to evolve even more. Humbly, onward…

So, as I wind down my one-week stay in Boulder, Colorado I am reminded of a few things…we need not make mountains out of molehills, cry over spilled milk or recite any other silly idioms that have been engrained in our heads by the village elders. Nope, Boulder, Colorado is a new story, a peacefully advanced small town that doesn’t need any outsider’s bullshit. If you decide to go there, which I can’t suggest enough, go there on your best behavior because they deserve it, and they’ve earned it. See here’s the thing I gathered about Boulder in one week- Boulder is like a fresh-start utopian hideaway, a reboot for quick-consumerism and corporate takeover. Yes, they have a Starbucks and McDonalds but they also have three times as many spirit-cleansing outposts ready for the daily baptism. There’s so much forward-thinking conduct right on the surface it’s downright contagious. So the next time you’re planning a getaway, might I suggest Boulder, Colorado? It may just remind you that the best vacation you can offer yourself is the one you give your conscious mind, not the vacation you’re presenting as escapism.

© Tanzer Words