Early one evening in 2001 I watched an airplane as it cut through the African sky leaving its long and distinctive vapor trail. I stood still, taking a moment to wonder what the view looked like from above. Recalling my own thoughts when traveling—arrival, the days that lay ahead, a new movie on the in-flight entertainment, the ever-shrinking leg room—I realized that few would have reason to suspect the calamity that was unfolding below.

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I left the chicken simmering on the stove and stepped out onto the balcony. I wasn’t sure if I had heard the front door buzzer or not, but there was a tall young man—my daughter’s apartment-mate was tall, she had said—standing outside the building, fiddling with his keys. Maybe he had gotten locked out. I propped open the apartment door with a mop and ran barefoot down the three flights of stairs. So many things to adjust to in New York City: locks, shoes.

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CAPTURING THE ESSENCE OF THE STRANGEST CITY IN THE EAST, a travel essay on Portland, Maine, by J.A. Salimbene

Portland is where the nice go to be nice, where the humans go to be human, and where everyone goes to eat lobster. So yes, it’s a wonderful and liberating city to create in, but regardless of where you are or the tools at hand, it’s important to recognize that you can achieve that kind of creative liberation in all of your travels as a photographer or a tourist. A good photograph tells a story that allows the viewer to fill in the blanks or complete the story themselves. Keeping this in mind while you travel is vital to travel photography. Don’t just take snapshots, because you want people to be as stimulated as you were when you felt the moment needed to be captured. The images you make on your journey say something about yourself and the nature of your experience, so seek out the frames that will capture that essence and make them immortal.

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When people ask you about San Francisco, you always get stuck on the way you sense it. It starts with the smell. Wherever you lived before here, it didn’t smell quite like this. The pot is open, lingering around parks and sidewalks, not just your brother’s basement room. It’s hand rolled joints after work. It’s chocolate covered blueberries eaten at the movies. Pot in San Francisco is beer in Berlin: commonplace and open. If anything, pot knows this city better than anyone who lives here.

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WHILE I WAITED: Traveling in Colombia and Ecuador, an essay by Sean James Mackenney

WHILE I WAITED Traveling in Colombia and Ecuador by Sean James Mackenney Rain hit hard, dirtying the white city of Popayán, Colombia. People took shelter underneath overlapping tin roofs, laughing as they ran in a rare display of urgency. Popayán is a sleepy city where people meander along quaint cobbled streets, acquaintances share an embrace in the main square, adults congregate in groups conversing with both ease and conviction, and children giggle and eat pineapple chunks and taffy from Styrofoam cups. I flashed a smile, looking at people for a reaction. I towered above them, yet still went unnoticed. I tried to involve myself in their joy but it wasn’t mine to share. I was a person of the outside, a dollar sign to some, completely irrelevant to most. I convinced myself of it. I gave a knowing nod and headed back to the hostel, hoisting my head upright to the … chop! chop! read more!

BABELIA: Living and Speaking Spanish in Seville Spain, a travel essay by John Julius Reel

BABELIA Living and Speaking Spanish in Seville, Spain by John Julius Reel 1. Learn Spanish in Your Car If you consider yourself capable of learning another language in less than two years, without immersing yourself in it twenty-four hours a day, either you live in dreamland or you’re a genius. I know how these quick-and-easy language learning programs advertise themselves, but they just want your money. After you spend forty hours, or whatever it is, or even six months in a course, perhaps on the Internet, and you earn a certificate qualifying you as “fluent,” you’re still just a beginner, taking baby steps. Even if you go the traditional route, spending 150 or 200 hours of quality class time in a legitimate language academy, don’t expect too much. You can learn a language in an academy just like you can learn to dance flamenco in an academy. It’s a mere … chop! chop! read more!

A BRIEF GLOSSARY OF IRELAND for the American Tourist Trying to Cram Thousands of Years of History into a Ten Day Tour by Sarah Ann Winn

Carvings: Everywhere there were stones, vines, and leaves twined together, along with knots and crosses, where animals often played in the hewn greenery, or people’s faces peered up at the top of columns. In some places, they’d been knocked away, in others they were restored from drawings, and in still others, most amazingly, the originals retained their details. A monkey sat at the foot of a monk. Saint Catherine held her book with the cover cross intact. At Maynooth University, the College Chapel featured fantastical creatures and plants in rare wood and marble, which never repeat after that first appearance. Between the gold leaf, the hand painted ceiling, the chorister which seats four hundred and fifty people, the pipe organ with three thousand pipes and bells and spinning stars, and an ornate marble alter piece surrounded by five small chapels, equally extravagant, the effect is exactly what each craftsman and designer over the two hundred years of construction intended — provoking marvel and wonder.

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WHO ARE WE, WHEN WE TRAVEL IN BURMA? A travel essay by Judy T. Oldfield

WHO ARE WE, WHEN WE TRAVEL IN BURMA? by Judy T. Oldfield I reached up, scratched the side of my nose, and out popped my brand-new nose ring, falling down to the tile floor of Yangon’s Bogyoke market. Squatting down, my husband, Jason, and I searched for the tiny starter stud, bent into an L shape. We retrieved it from where it had rolled a few feet away on the dirty ground. And then I started making plans. The very first thing I needed was some sort of rubbing alcohol. Yangon is a marvelous city, whose pulse manages to straddle languorous and fast paced, where you can buy a pot of tea for $0.30 and a bowl of noodles for $0.50, where people smile at you in the park, and where hundred year-old trees loom over sputtering cars. But it is not what I would call a clean city, and … chop! chop! read more!

MEMORIAL by Peter Tiernan

My girlfriend Jackie and I came across the memorial in a cemetery near our house in Flagstaff, Arizona. It was a slanted stone slab low to the ground with two plaques on it. The smaller described a 1956 midair collision over the Grand Canyon between a TWA Constellation and a United Airlines DC-7 that killed 128 people. The larger listed the names of the sixty-six who were buried there: three Maags, four Kites, two Crewses, and so on. My eye found the groups of matching surnames, and my mind turned them into stories.

It seemed odd that this sunny patch of grass, tucked away in the aspens, looking more appropriate for lawn chairs and bocce, would be a memorial to decompression and falling and terror.

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Ten Years in Belgrade by Sara Alaica

by Sara Alaica

It had been ten years since I’d been to Belgrade and the first things I noticed were the billboards. The blasted-out skeletons of iron had been rebuilt, painted, and were skinned in colorful faces smiling down on the grey skyline. They seemed so oddly out of place, as if they had landed straight out from the sky.

I’d spent my childhood in the city, but I’d gone abroad and hadn’t been back since just after the war. The airport hadn’t reopened, so I had flown into Frankfurt, rented a car, then driven 120 mph in the slow lane of the Autobahn through the deep tunnels of the Viennese Alps. The highway linking Belgrade to Zagreb was empty, and the deep impressions of tank treads were still visible on the shoulder.

But now, ten years later, had been shown the ruins of Avala, the tower on the hill overlooking the city where I had gone as a child to see the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was just a wet tangle of cables and rubble all along the slope of the hill, as if someone had pushed it too hard and it had fallen, exhausted, on its side.

But now, ten years later, it had been rebuilt, more beautiful than before, and everywhere that had once been rubble was now so new that I couldn’t recognize the turn-off to my aunt’s house, and I almost missed it.

I was meeting my sestra there, who had agreed to take me through the city and show me what had changed. As we drove back across the Danube she pointed out a hotel down by the water. It was yellow and gold, framed by old oaks in the traditional style of old Europe. Do you know what that is? I looked at the exit that led down to it and marveled at the change. That’s where that old decrepit factory used to be.

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NOM DE VOYAGE by Travis Kiger

It was less about ego surfing than curiosity is what my fingers self-consciously whispered into the keys spelling my name in the box. If you did this, you would find, even before finished, that Travis is a former city councilman of Fullerton County, CA. Click one of those links your search produces and you would read critical blogs with critical comments written about him. You would read the headline, “12 Year Old Takes Fullerton’s Travis Kiger to School on Bullying.” You would learn that he is a progressive politician by finding a video posted of his rant purporting DUI checkpoints as unconstitutional and are a union scam. Scroll down—he plays soccer for Lee University. Scroll down—he coaches debate. But mostly, thanks to busy bee search engine optimizers, you would see that he is a former city councilman. Each Travis Kiger with a different face. Each with a different occupation.

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by Barbara Haas

An inch or two of new snow has fallen since morning, flocking the graves at Novodevichy in feathery white. Black marble obelisks and basalt monoliths create a vertical as well as horizontal tombscape, a way to organize death into the narrow alleys and lanes of a space-cramped necropolis.

Shostakovich, Chekhov, Yeltsin, Kruschev—they lie here. Mayakovsky, Bulgakov, Gogol, Tretyakov—tons of granite guard their rest.

Moscow is never more silent than under a mantle of soft mounded snow and winter never more Russian than on a somber day whose gray sky is wooly with constantly sifting flakes.

An occasional bouquet of faded flowers brings a splash of color to this cemetery. Even the grave of a mathematician from the 19th Century is graced with a spray of scarlet gladioli, proof of memory’s persistence. Roses lie crushed at the feet of alabaster statues, their petals made pale by the lacework of snow, forgotten bouquets in a forgotten season left to commemorate the lives of legends.

The statues themselves are arresting. Human figures seem to stride out of polished rock slabs but stop just short of stepping free, something in the granite leashing them to eternity. The opera singers, ballerinas and artists stare across the black and white austerity, honored guests at a quite exclusive cocktail party, VIP’s on the A-list forever. Sculpted larger than life, the carvings illustrate the way death has forced upon those who rest here super-human proportions. Their stone faces reveal the dignity of luminaries who know strangers will gaze upon them for centuries.

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ROOTS by Helen Park

by Helen Park

You never realize how impoverished the soil is, how exhaustive the journey, for vineyard grapevines—how much they are forced to withstand to simply sustain themselves. Bob, our vineyard tour guide, explained in a hushed, deferential tone how large pieces of shale and rock are intentionally buried right underneath the roots of the grapevine so that they have no choice but to strain and stretch to painful lengths in order to reach the meager sources of water deep underground. The soil itself is as nutritionless as gravel.

“This is what must occur so that the grapes remain small and tight. If they were to be fed in abundance, watered with the generosity given to other crops, they would swell and dilute in flavor, intensity and depth.” Bob wagged his finger, “If you want to make great wine, the grapes must suffer.” He presented these facts with the utmost respect.

My brother and I had traveled to Northern California for a weeklong holiday and stayed for a few nights in the Mission District of San Francisco before driving up to Napa Valley. We were able to stay over a close family friend’s house while in the city. Our friend’s mom was an on-call nurse who was about to start a 12-hour shift at midnight that very evening, and although we arrived around 10 o’clock with very little notice, an enormous Vietnamese feast of jasmine rice, stir fried pork, steamed bok choy and tofu awaited us.

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HORSES IN THE WRINKLE by Cheryl Smart On an island bigger than Manhattan rests the burned-out remains of the Carnegie mansion, Dungeness. The Gilded Age gilded the Carnegie family, so much so they could buy up pieces of the world to gold-plate. Cumberland Island is one of those pieces. The Carnegies may have bought the island but they filched the name of their fifty-nine–room, turreted Scottish castle from James Oglethorpe, first to build there in 1736. The word feels good in my mouth, Dungeness; even though the first part of the word is dungeon, the ness at the end somehow beautifies it. Beyond the Carnegie castle, forty other buildings were scattered over the island to house a two-hundred-person staff. But alas, the sequestered estate may not have been all it was imagined to be, because the Carnegies abandoned Dungeness in 1925. The mansion was destroyed by fire in 1959; most of it, that … chop! chop! read more!

BEAUTIFUL UGLY by Sue Granzella

BEAUTIFUL UGLY by Sue Granzella The temperature outside was 107, but it was hotter where I was that day in 1989, bouncing around with three friends in a dilapidated bus bound for Chihuahua, Mexico. Air-conditioning on this journey was simple: wrench the cockeyed windows up as far as they would go and pray to God the airflow wouldn’t be blocked by someone else’s sweaty body. My t-shirt was plastered to me, unable to breathe against the synthetic backrest. The years had sculpted a deep depression in the seat that had encircled my butt for the last two hours. It felt like longer. We sped through desert unblemished by buildings, the sky and horizon merging in a cloud of dirty beige. Then we stopped at a flat structure with the sterile angles of a little green Monopoly house. Except it wasn’t that vibrant grass-green but a faded minty color, coated by a … chop! chop! read more!


BEYOND RIVER, BEYOND CANYON by Michael G. Smith Once a year I backpack my ischemic-stroked brain and body into the Grand Canyon. To test. Observe. See what lost physical move I can do again. Metamorphosize. Twelfth trip: like the Earth, I have the partial wisdom of ongoing trial and error. Experience. First morning. Booted, poised at the rim’s crumbling edge. Plant hiking poles. Step down forward. Start reverse. Vertical fault line: twelve years ago I twisted my neck, dissected the right vertebral artery running through my brainstem. My neurologist: Another millimeter or two and we would not be having this discussion. The artery clotted. Three days later two clots released. Lodged in my cerebellum: center of balance, muscle control, proprioception. Vision stroked into nystagmus. Movement stroked into stillness. Isostasy. Ahead: layers, conglomerate rubble. Layers. Rubble. Primordial Earth. Mighty Colorado River flowing all away. Re-learn to see. Balance. Walk. My path … chop! chop! read more!