A Myanmar missive from my buddy TLB. Worth reading.

“Michael.  I went there in 1980.   You were only allowed a week on the visa.  The 707 was too big for the runway so they deployed a small parachute to assist with the landing which you could feel take hold.  You bought duty free Marlboro cigarettes and Johnny walker which you then sold after customs.  Everyone did it.   The proceeds nearly paid for the week in the country.   I quickly checked into the strand hotel.   Which was old and about like it was when the English left in 1947.    There was a punkah on a bike in the closet pedaling the ceiling fan.  On the trains we ate curry in banana leaves.  Transportation was by Jeep.  I counted 21 on my Jeep one time.  Pagan was deserted and stunning sunsets and sunrises lighting the temples.  It’s magical.

I’ll never forget how proud and lovely the people were.  They wore that mud plaster on their faces for the sun. They acted as impromptu guides in pagan.  Inle lake and at the cantacraig a classic British hill station outside of Mandalay.   What memories.  I’m so glad it now belongs to you and your family.”

Tiananmen football and the international language

  1. One of our favorite days on our journey. After class we walked to the infamous Tiananmen Square. As usual, Alexander had the world soccer ball attached to his hip like a barnacle.

Would the military presence stop us? What would the everyday Chinese people do and think? Would they scowl?

It sure didn’t take long to find out. We cautiously began kicking our soccer ball between us off to the side of the massive square. A soldier stood rigidly nearby. As we passed, I glanced at him and could swear I saw a slightly up turned smile. As Allie kicked me the ball, I ran by him and looked eye to eye. He WINKED!!!


Allie and I started looking for ‘playuhs’. From 4 years to 94, people wanted to be included. Not overtly mind you. The Chinese people are reserved and cautious of foreigners. But make eye contact and pass? You find a 20 year old with a little bit of skills. They stay and play then get on their way. An old lady that finds the ball at her feet, kicks the ball back. A baby who laughs and points. A pass, a smile, and always pure joy.

Kick someone a ball, get a pass back, and a huge smile from the unlikliest places. EVERYONE wants to be invited and included, the world over. Why can’t that be a rule. World leaders must bring a soccer ball to all world meetings, and be required to play for a day before they head off to ruin it for the rest of us?

(Below: Chinese girls watching, giggling, taking photos…and eventually playing, then autographing our “world ball”. Priceless.)

Seems wherever we go, that ball brings smiles for miles. Our big test yet were the police and military in Tiananmen Square.

But every so often…the sign says “no”

No shoes, No shirt, No signal.

Imagine there’s no signal, It’s easy if you try

Nothing to live…or text for?, Above us…only sky

Imagine all the children, Living for the day

Oooo Hooo

You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one

I hope some day you’ll unplug, And you won’t think once of Kim Jung Un.

My name is Michael and I’m a addict. I’m addicted to signal, charging, markets, information, and stimulus of all kinds. This is my story. It’s kind of like, “SUPER-SIZE ME”, but in reverse.

This is by no means a heroic post. I write embarrassingly, as the 58 year old pre-schooler that has just tied his shoes and is quite proud of it. Through that lens, I admit I have been the worst example of someone being tethered to an electronic leash, basically since I unboxed my first Blackberry. And having an addictive-compulsive personality honestly made it really really hard to adjust by “simply” stopping. Where did those 25 years go?

The amazing thing is how it never changes. Forty years ago, Pink Floyd wrote about, “13 channels of sh$t on the TV.” Today, one’s ability to get sucked down the worm hole of distracted nonsense is limitless. Click-bait, social-bleedia, breaking news, YouTube, and it never stops. Dear reader, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

This post was written during rehab, The Carpe Diem Center for Compulsive Life-Wasters. Betty Ford, at sea if you will. It happened, not for them. Not for us. But for everyone. And especially me. No shoes, No shirt, No signal. We have been mercilessly untethered at sea for the last week. No information. We chuckled one night when the seas were quite rough at moor, and we wondered if those were the waves of a nuclear test from the angry little North Korean boy.

So what happened?

Faces have come alive. Books enthrall. Dinner calls! “Wait, I’ll be right there, I’m in the really good part”. Laughing and hanging around at meals. “I need to slow down, I’ll be out of my books before we reach land”. “Arthur, can you give me more math puzzles”. Challenge. “Tell me the story about why you passed up being an astronaut.” Discussion. “I get scared I won’t know what I want to be.” Insight “Can you edit this draft for me now?” Engagement. An older brother, who has overshadowed his junior his whole life, reading his brothers work for the first time and saying, “WOW, he’s a really good writer.” Junior, glowing with pride. “I think this can be more than a short story, this might be a book that takes all year to write.” Confidence.

“I love writing.”, one says.

For me, a realization. I hadn’t had a video game on my phone, ever. I had loved digital games when they first appeared in the Paleolithic Era, with titles like Donkey Kong and Missile Command. Just before leaving, I loaded a nonsensical mind-numbing game called, “WoodyPuzzle.” I started to play, and that old compulsive monster arose from the crypt. Hours yesterday, then again three hours this morning, while the kids were in class with Arthur. At mid-day snorkle break, Nicholas comes to get me and asks, “What are you working on?”

I sheepishly tell him I’ve been playing “WoodyPuzzle”, during their morning session. [He laughs out loud] I tell him, “When this match is over, I’m deleting the game immediately.” [Again, a laugh] I also confessed that I am reminded as to how powerfully addicting this garbage can be. And that I will be more understanding when my kids need the devices to be ripped from their fingers. Or perhaps not. As we all hopefully gained some crucial insight from each other about how cool life is without that stuff.

Finally, let me finish by saying I’ve re-learned something very important. Kids hate hypocrisy. For me to stare scornfully at the children about getting off the phone, the network, the iPad, and the games, when you yourself remain entranced under the guise of, “work I have to get done”, is simply not fair. And they see through it instantly. I’m certain it’s been heard as, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, iPad…blah, blah, blah, dinner…blah, blah, blah, blah, homework…blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, we’re taking them away…

And now I, and they, know it too.

Imagine all the children…living for the day…Oooo Hooo…

It’s the peaceful, silly.

A quick escape.  There’s a  serene and peaceful  je ne sais quoi about the Balinese way of life, that when combined with slow or even no-WiFi access, makes one happy. Heck, could it be the inability to see events going on elsewhere? Perhaps. Whatever the reason, we are grateful to be without. Enjoy a morning Hindu song, broadcast from seemingly everywhere, wafting on the smoke in the burning fields. [The two volcanos in the background are a story for another day. Uploads are often very slow, and that’s okay. The backlog is building] I hope this makes your day… calmer.

And Finally, A Word Of Thanks to Our Sponsor…

“You cannot explore new oceans until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore” – Andre Gide

In what seems like a millennium ago, I first heard the above quote from Stacia, when she and I met back in 1999. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it again. So much of our existence and experience would not be possible without her. She is smart, kind, patient, thoughtful and lovely to look at. A true vagabond and intrepid traveler, with the chops, organization, patience, good nature, sense of humor, and persistence to not only attempt, let alone master, an epic one year, 3 adult, 3 child undertaking. It involves army scale logistics, school structuring and records, medicine, doctors, shots, passports, visas, all the while keeping kids and husband happy, and miraculously seeing around corners and anticipating the unknowable (more on that later), all whilst performing inside her own mind, chained in her own self-imposed perfectionist’s jail.

Stacia, You are a dream. And not a day goes by that neither me nor the kids are confused about the engine that makes, no allows, this ship to set sail and journey as smoothly and rightly as it does. We are eternally grateful.  

Thank you, my love.

Our First Gift Gotten

We have come to realize over our lives that gifts gotten, and gifts given, often arrive when and from places one might never expect.  And frequently gifts arrive in a form one might not anticipate. Some of life’s gifts are obvious, and sometimes they come in the form of what Garth Brookes refers to as “unanswered prayers”. (If you don’t know it, have a listen)  

Well, our first surprise gift on our journey came from Jane and Chris, two finer friends and playmates you will never cross paths with. As we left their delightful home and warm hospitality, Jane handed me a gift that is worthwhile reading for young and old alike. It is a letter written in 1940 by a British family, racing across Northern France as they try to outrace the Nazis, with tanks and troops around them, as they try and keep their dog from barking. And the end result is, well, properly British. It’s a wonderful read and a keeper. I won’t spoil it for you. Thank you, Chris, Jane and kids for hosting our tribe.

Enjoy. (Click them twice to enlarge)