Thursday, April 30, 2015

Live Free and Die Hard - Old Friends and Beginning a World Journey

You know what they say about old friends... wait, what do they say? I feel like there is an old saying - something about tried and true... die hard... you know, Bruce Willis-type stuff. Well, I have come to know many friends in my day, and I always like to think we can all catch up right where we left off - some sort of unspoken continuum that transcends space and time. In many cases, I have found that to be true.

Fittingly so, I chose to start my world tour visiting two of those guys who fall into the category of Die Hard Friends. Two others are assisting me on the Walking Amadeus video project. With any luck, I will see a few more before I complete the circle.

Destination #1 - San Diego, California

San Diego is quite a wonderful place to be. There are many reasons, but temperature, beach, food, and craft beer are among the best... those, and my good friend Jeff lives there with his lovely Liz. We knew I wouldn't get any great stouts for, gosh, months (!) ...gulp, so we had a good couple days of exploring a few more from among the 100 or so local breweries. Of course, we had to make a trip to Underbelly for ramen just prior to my flight. Watch out, Asia; Underbelly sets the bar pretty high. I don't know if any of y'all know about ramen, but they sure do. Thanks, Jeff for the great send-off.

Destination #2 - Lahaina, Maui

I had to count, but I believe this was my eleventh time to the Hawaiian Islands. My dad took me the first seven times. He taught me that all you need is a cheap flight, a cheap hotel, and some food money, and you've got yourself a vacation. For better or worse, my dining budget has snowballed a bit since the days of KFC and bargain buffets. I won't mention how Tom and his friend made me smuggle out all of that buffet chicken in my backpack for beach snacks. Oh wait, I just did.

Anyway, I picked Lahaina, because I wanted to go visit my long-lost friend, Shaun. We were fast friends from his sixteenth birthday when he got to drive his Mustang to school, invited me out to lunch, and he had a Van Halen tape at the ready. Done. I say "long-lost," because since he moved to Maui in the late '90s, I think I've seen him twice. We haven't been that good about staying in touch, but it's great to know the offer still stands to just show up in West Maui, and I'll have a friend and a place to crash. We had a pleasant reunion, and it was fascinating to see him and his younger brother as dads now. Hopefully, it won't be as long until we meet again - found three more little kids who call me "Uncle!" I don't actually know how many people call me "Uncle Mark," but it seems like a lot these days.

Well, off to Asia!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

San Bernardino, CA

Many things come to the minds of those in faraway places who learn that I am from California. Probably very few of those things are correct about San Bernardino. Nobody surfs. We don't talk like Spicoli. Our city is bankrupt, and a fair amount of its roughly 200,000 residents would claim to be "broke." Several years ago I was surprised to learn there was an actual term used disparagingly in reference to my people and those in neighboring cities of the "Inland Empire" - "909ers." I heard it on a television program and thought, "Really, they call us by our area code?" It's true - Orange County folk, LA... they are embarrassed to share the state with us. In fact, most people who can, do flee San Bernardino eventually.

However, just because I'm leaving, I have no interest in further compounding the list of ills of my city to join the degradation. One could even look at it as a failure - not being the part of a solution. There is crime, there's smog, there's poverty, and there's blight, yet I will still always have a fond recollection of my first 21 years of life (and then some) in this much maligned dysfunctional institution of a city. I could list the ordinary and extraordinary people who taught me, trained me, coached me, prayed with me, counseled me, and befriended me in this place, but it would be far too extensive and not very flashy. The truth is we took on race relations decades ago, and many of us learned how to live together. Nobody cares what religion you are or into what family you were born. We are all proud Californians, but our identities have little to do with Hollywood or a surfboard. We are uniquely proud that we are nestled in a valley with fantastic sunsets, year-round shorts weather, and short drives away from mountains, beaches, the desert, Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Mexico, and several major airports and sporting events... and we have plenty of great Mexican food. Growing up in San Bernardino teaches that you are blessed, but certainly not entitled; you can be proud, without being arrogant; you have to be strong, but you will never be indestructible; you can aspire, and you can escape if you wish.

I imagine many of the same claims could be made for a lot of hometowns. We should all be so fortunate to have such a nest out of which to be kicked... even if we do our own kicking.

Walking Amadeus S01:E01 "Departures"

Episode 1 - Departures

Riverside and San Diego, USA; Lahaina, USA (2015)

First episode of a one-man trip around the world - leaving home in California back in April of 2015, Mark Porter starts his journey in the Inland Empire, on to San Diego, and off to Maui. This is an interactive project, in that viewers are encouraged to participate in the open-ended journey by suggesting routes of travel, destinations, challenges, visitations, etc by emailing