Chad Comello

Librarian, cinephile, et al

Category: Travel (page 1 of 4)

Autumn in Asheville

I’d heard a lot of great things about Asheville, North Carolina, so my wife and I finally made a trip there happen to meet up with some Durham friends for a long weekend in the mountains. Surprise: It was wondrous!

Our Airbnb was a cabin on a mountain farm in nearby Black Mountain, complete with sheep named Frodo, Samwise, Arwen, and Twiggy (the last one was named by previous owners). This was the view the first morning:

asheville2

We missed Peak Fall foliage, but there was still plenty of color to mix with the barren branches:

asheville4

And cozy morning frosts—very Hygge™ indeed:

asheville3

One morning we hiked up Lookout Mountain in Montreat based on the recommendation of our Airbnb host. We were not disappointed by the Misty Mountain-esque view:

asheville1

Asheville proper offered lots of walkable streets, good southern food—had chicken & waffles for the first time—and, among other Liberal College Town accoutrements, several “poems while you wait” street typists:

asheville6.jpeg

We flew into Atlanta and drove up to Asheville through South Carolina, but on the way back we drove through the Great Smoky Mountains. We did this not only to enjoy the gorgeous terrain but to stop and see the remnants of Camp Toccoa, the World War II paratroopers training camp made famous by Band of Brothers:

asheville5

The camp site was closed, but we could see the famous “3 miles up, 3 miles down” Currahee Mountain from town.

I took pictures on a few other occasions, but so often my phone pictures failed to capture what I saw with my own eyes. That’s OK: being there in the moment was reward enough, as was hanging with friends, finally seeing Asheville, and getting to enjoy a crisp autumn weekend in Appalachia.

Durham Days

We just got back from a long weekend in Durham, North Carolina, for a friend’s wedding. I had a great time bummin’ around the area while my wife was busy on bridesmaid duty. Had some barbecue, heard some blues, and took a few pictures…

at Ponysaurus Brewing:

at Carolina Soul Records, where I found some Sam Cooke, Dionne Warwick, and a Stax Records compilation:

at Stagville, one of the largest plantations in the antebellum South—this one was in the “Great Barn”:

I call this one “Freedom”:

And there was the unintentional irony of a Master lock on one of the preserved slave cabins:

The wedding reception was in a beautiful building near the Eno River State Park:

And our last stop before our flight home was Duke University’s “chapel”, which, come on, is actually a cathedral of epic proportions:

The Strangers I Met

“When you talk to strangers,” writes Kio Stark, author of the TED Talk turned book When Strangers Meet: How People You Don’t Know Can Transform You, “you make beautiful and surprising interruptions in the expected narrative of your daily life. You shift perspective. You form momentary, meaningful connections. You find questions whose answers you thought you knew. You reject the ideas that make us so suspicious of each other.”

We’re especially susceptible to these interactions when traveling, when we’re out of our comfort zone and into the unknown of a new place. That was the case for me last week, when I was visiting a previously unknown place for a few days with my wife. Though I hadn’t yet read When Strangers Meet, I knew it was on hold for me at the library for when I got back, so just the idea of talking to strangers pervaded my time there:

  1. Two of my Uber drivers were very laconic, but two weren’t. We asked Latanya about the craziest rides she’s done: she said she once delivered fried Oreos to someone 12 miles away, which got us talking about the insanity of fried Oreos. And as Edward drove us to the train station, I noticed he had a “Morehouse Alum ’69” badge hanging from his rearview mirror. I said I knew Dr. King went there and asked him what it was like.

  2. It was an unusually cold morning for this southern town, and as I walked down the street a twenty-something dude walking with his friends ducked into a building entrance for just a moment to get out of the biting wind. He reemerged apace with me, huddled and ill-clothed for the temperature, and said “Damn it’s cold.” I said I was from Chicago and was used to it. He showed me the rabbit’s foot he kept on his belt and was stroking just to keep his hands warm. “What you up to?” he asked. Just walking, I said, and asked what he did for a living. He paused and said with a chuckle he makes beats. Anything online? I asked. He said no, then asked if I had a phone number. I laughed uncomfortably. Email? “Yeah,” I said with another chuckle. “Why?” He didn’t say anything, but was still smiling goofily. I told him I was off to find a Dunkin’ Donuts and we parted ways.

  3. I stopped in the main library branch to look around, as is tradition when in a new place. I approached the reference desk and asked the librarians for recommendations of places to see and food to eat. With that oft-reported southern hospitality, they rattled off several sights and restaurants that we ended up going to.

  4. Our flight home was overbooked. We weren’t in a rush to get back home, so we took the airline’s offer of generous flight credit, a free hotel stay, and another flight in the morning. We walked out to the hotel shuttle station where dozens of people were shivering in the surprising night cold and waiting for their shuttle. A woman next to us asked if our flight had been canceled. We told her about the deal and she said she and her boyfriend had done the same thing. She asked what we’d been doing there. Business and pleasure. They were really friendly and were going to the same hotel, but once we got onto the crowded shuttle we didn’t talk again.

Norway, July 2016

This is part 3 of pictures from my summer trip to Scandinavia (previously: Finland and Sweden). I posted pics on Instagram throughout, but these are my favorites from Norway.

Norway-boat

Norway-bridge

Norway-Vardo-house

Norway-fjords

Norway-Hurtigruten2

Norway-mountains

Norway-trollfjord

Norway-Trondheim-trains

 

Sweden, July 2016

This is part 2 of pictures from my summer trip to Scandinavia (pics from Finland here). I posted pics on Instagram throughout, but these are my favorites from Stockholm and greater Sweden:

Stockholm-airplane

Stockholm-flags

Stockholm-library

Stockholm-norsk-museum

Stockholm-norske-museum2

Stockholm-sign

Sweden-clock

Sweden-Karlskrona-church

Sweden-Karlskrona-flag

Helsinki, July 2016

Just got back from a two-week trip to Scandinavia, through Finland, Sweden, and Norway. I posted pics on Instagram throughout, but first up here are my favorites from Finland:

Helsinki-airplane

Helsinki-birds

Helsinki-boat2

Helsinki-clock

Helsinki-Uspenski-cathedral2

Helsinki-Suomenlinna2Helsinki-SuomenlinnaHelsinki-windows

Silence Is Beholden

2013-09-17 12.42.28

I was on a solo hike a few weeks ago on a beautiful northern Californian day in Shasta Trinity National Park. It was a weekday morning, so I had the place to myself. I followed the Waters Gulch trail for about a mile or two as I trekked the path toward Packers Bay. The river (pictured above) was low, exposing the golden sediment beneath the thick green trees. It wasn’t long into the trail when the bustling world outside the Park faded and the world hushed. Though I knew I was walking through a vibrant and wild ecosystem of life in many forms, I was awed by its absolute silence.

Not a car. Not a plane droning above. Just my boots on the gravel. It was divine.

I wanted to capture that moment to take with me back into civilization, but I knew that some moments are better left uncaptured, free to roam on in time for the next eager seeker in need of some bliss. But I think some ought to be documented, if only because places like that — where noise doesn’t intrude on the soothing symphony of nature — are an endangered species.

And that’s why I suspect Gordon Hempton has the best job in the world. He’s an “acoustic ecologist” who records rare nature sounds and the few places on earth where silence still rules. He’s also the founder of One Square Inch of Silence, a research and advocacy project to protect the naturally silent habitats of the Olympic National Park in Washington.

I learned about Hempton through On Being, a podcast hosted by Krista Tippett I recently started listening to. It’s a great interview series featuring makers and doers of many stripes. Some recent guests include a Zen master and poet, a mathematician, a physicist, a pastor, and an oceanographer. Each has their own area of expertise and interest, but what I like about the series so far is how each show, despite the varying subject matter, still lives within the same sphere held together by the centripetal forces of truth, discovery, beauty, and meaning.

Tippett’s conversation with Hempton was so serene and poetic and enlivening. He defines silence not as merely the absence of sound but instead as “silence from all these sounds that have nothing to do with the natural acoustic system.” He sees the world as a “solar-powered jukebox” and links our modern world’s lack of silence to our inability to listen.

I don’t need an excuse to seek out quiet. My introversion calls for a degree of separation from the world in order to recharge, and often that separation leads me to a quiet place, where I can only hear waves overtaking shoreline rocks, or rain falling on leaves. It’s so hard in an urban setting to escape the noisiness of the world, but it’s important to do so. Quiet, as Gordon Hempton says, is a “think tank of the soul.” We don’t have natural ear-lids for a reason.

Chacho En Bogota: El Fin

I’m sitting in the El Dorado airport in Bogota, waiting to board my flight. I’ve been here for 100 days, and I must say it will be bittersweet leaving Colombia. I met some great people here and got to live in another country and culture for a prolonged period, which has always been a personal goal.

I will miss the food. I bought freshly made bread at a nearby bakery what seemed like every day. The croissants were especially tasty. It’s something about the altitude that makes baked goods especially succulent. I’ll also miss empanadas, ajiaco (a soup), and lots of other foods.

I will miss the family I stayed with, the Encisos. Jorge works as the pastor at Iglesia Comunidad Viva, which is a great community of believers I came to really enjoy and respect. It was great living and working with them every day. The two girls, Maia and Matilde, were also a ball when they weren’t screaming their guts out. I’ll definitely miss the hugs they gave me randomly throughout the day. If you can, please support Jorge & Ginny in their ministry. There is information about how to do so on their blog.

I actually won’t miss the climate. Crazy, right? But as a native midwesterner, I need me some cold and snow once in a while. If 60s and 70s every day with a little rain is your thing, than Bogota is the place to be.

And so ends another chapter in my life. I don’t know what my future holds yet, but I’m glad I got to live for a little while with the good people in Colombia. Gracias a todos y que estén muy bien.

Chacho

Chacho En Bogota: The Napkins Are Free, Right?

So in the time of my last posting, two milestones were passed: the one-month-left-in-Colombia date, and the 55th anniversary of lightning striking the Hill Valley Courthouse clock tower on November 12, 1955 at 10:04pm. I’m here, I’m a nerd – get used to it.

In other news, on Friday Jorge brought out the ping-ping table into the street in front of the house so we could play with a few of the neighborhood hooligans who have caused Jorge and the family some consternation in the past. It turns out these kids were all right and just needed something constructive to do rather than drink beer and be disruptive. We played ping pong for at least four hours, during which I won (I kid you not) about 25 straight games. Granted, the kids weren’t the best ping pongers, but still. Afterward we watched Into the Wild and they stayed until about 11. It was great progress for starting a relationship with these kids.

Tonight, I just got back from an outing with Jorge and some of his friends. Two of them, a married couple, are starting a restaurant and they toured us around the place which is still under construction. It sits on top of a valley, so the view is incredible. Very spacious and chic. I hope I can eat there someday.

After the tour, we went to dinner at Andres Carne De Res, which is apparently a very famous – if not the famous – restaurant in Colombia. This means it was very expensive, but the food was incredible. Seriously, it was probably the best steak I’ve ever had. The restauranteur-friends were telling me that the owner of the place is filthily rich and a huge jerk. (He was actually eating a few tables away from us.) There are currently three of his restaurants in the world – two in Colombia and one in New York – and the Bogota establishment alone made him $20 million in personal wealth last year. In spite of this, the man takes 3% of the 10 percent tip the waitstaff gets from each bill.

To make up for this douche-move, I stole a cloth napkin. Apparently they check bags at the door for theft, so I just stuffed it down my pants. With my beer glass I got from the Bogota Beer Company, that makes two souvenirs I didn’t have to pay for. Hat trick, anyone?

Chacho

Chacho En Bogota: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Extend My Visa

I was technically an illegal alien for a few hours yesterday. I forgot to renew my tourist visa until a day after it expired, so I was nervous going downtown to the DAS office (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad). After a two-hour wait, I got fingerprinted and a woman looked over my papers, stamped my passport, and I was good to go.

No fine, no hassle. Praise the Lord.

– Chacho

Older posts

© 2017 Chad Comello

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑