He returned from the service in to marry Helen Fabela, whom he met while working in fields and vineyards around Delano. William C. He envisioned a time when Latinos would play an important role in the American Democratic process. His legacy began in Texas. His involvement with Latino organizations was extensive. He attended Fox Technical High School where he honed his artistic skills leading to an art scholarship. Overcoming physical pain and depression he trained himself to paint with his left hand.
In his own words, "My whole career as an artist is in terms of what kind of things I can do here in San Antonio to make it a much more beautiful place". Leticia R. She represented the 26th District in the Texas Senate from — In , she was the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, but lost to her Republican senatorial colleague, Dan Patrick of Houston. Her father was stationed at Fort Lewis when she was born. The family returned to San Antonio, where she was subsequently reared. Van de Putte has six children and six grandchildren with her husband Pete.
Lionel Sosa is an independent marketing consultant and nationally recognized portrait artist. Lionel has authored three books and co-author to two others. Bush, and George W. He has served on the teams of eight national Republican presidential campaigns. He was awarded an honorary Ph. Andrade most recently served on the state workforce commission, which is the nonpartisan state agency that provides workforce development services to employers and job seekers in Texas. She took office on July 23, , and resigned November 23, She was also the first Hispanic woman to hold the office in Texas history.
As Secretary of State, Andrade served as chief elections officer, chief international protocol officer and Mexican border commerce coordinator for the state of Texas. Before entering politics, Andrade was an entrepreneur and business leader in San Antonio. Secretary Andrade resides in San Antonio with her husband of 43 years, and has a son, a daughter-in-law, and three grandsons.
Frank M. Tejeda was born in San Antonio, Texas. He attended St. Tejeda reached the rank of Major in the Marine Corps Reserve. Tejeda began his political career in the Texas Legislature. He served in the Texas House from to , and then in the Texas Senate from S Congress in , representing the 28th Congressional District of Texas. On January 30, , shortly after the beginning of his third term, Congressman Tejeda died after a year-long battle with brain cancer.
Elvira was born on July 11, in Puebla, Mexico, the fourth of seven children. Her father, Romulo Munguia, was a printer and political activist who fled the violence and made his way to San Antonio in He found work at the Spanish-language La Prensa and was followed here by his family. Over the course of three generations the extended family always has lived within a few blocks of that first home. Elvira met George Cisneros, an infantry man who survived three years of combat in the Pacific Theater and rose to the rank of colonel in the U.
Army Reserves. Together they would have five children. The high profile achieved by Henry and the other Cisneros siblings obscured the role Elvira played in the city in an era when women, especially Mexican-American women, had to make their own opportunities to advance. She volunteered at church, in the PTA, with Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and in various neighborhood and community education programs, all while raising her family. Roy P. When he was two years old, his father died of tuberculosis and his mother remarried.
Five years later, his mother died from tuberculosis as well. Benavidez and his younger brother Roger moved to El Campo, where their grandfather, uncle and aunt raised them along with eight cousins. Benavidez shined shoes at the local bus station, labored on farms in California and Washington, and worked at a tire shop in El Campo.
He attended school sporadically, and at age 15 dropped out to work full-time to help support the family. Benavidez with the Medal of Honor. This sixty-five episode program Maya and Miguel is focused on promoting the value of a culturally diverse society and bilingualism. Other creative activities include the writing of book reviews and travel articles for the general public in the local newspaper.
Teachers use the articles to promote cultural literacy and to stimulate reading with their students. Clark has developed and presented many graduate summer institutes that focused on Latino literature and culture, multicultural education collaborative approaches, curriculum development, cooperative learning and restructuring schools for language minority students at UTSA over the years.
This event included an art exhibit, workshops, and student programs structured in collaboration with the Columbian artist, Orlando Botero, traveled nationally and internationally. Fernando Reyes is a businessman, entrepreneur, community leader and family oriented individual. Along with his two joint venture partners, International Automotive Components and AmTex Corporation, Reyes leads the manufacturing of plastic parts and carpeting for the Toyota Tundra and Tacoma Trucks.
His other businesses ventures include Reyes Development and, Reyes Properties that are involved in land development and commercial real-estate acquisition. Reyes was also President and owner of Reyes Industries Inc. Most recently he was elected as Fiesta Commission President, serving to He was appointed by then Governor George W. Max Navarro and Dr. Lynda Y. OpTech offers a wide range of services, including formulating and implementing strategies for the supply chain management of products and processes.
In , the company formed a partnership with Vuteq, Inc. Together, they employ more than employees and provide Toyota with advanced assembly manufacturing. Under his leadership, OpTech has engaged in wide-ranging technical areas, including environmental science, engineering and installation of sensitive communications at U.
Along with the ever-expanding scope of services offered by OpTech, he has created additional companies in an effort to allow optimal focus in each business. Ralph took an old meat market and converted it into a unique steakhouse experience. He painted the building bright red, built picnic tables for seating, and had the menu painted on the walls. When the doors opened, Ralph doubled as the butcher and cook and Lili worked as a waitress and cashier.
Their daughters grew up working the restaurant on weekends. They started with 8 tables that seated 32 diners. A national leader on issues of health and education for parents and children, Dr. Gloria G. AVANCE promotes mental health and works to prevent poverty, child abuse and neglect, crime and delinquency and school dropouts in addition to other social and economic problems. She earned her Ph. Ruben Mungia, a career printer, laughs as he recalls "how smart the U. Army was" to let him join the service in the middle of World War II, only to assign him to Randolph Field in San Antonio, his hometown, where he ran the print shop at headquarters command.
The second oldest of seven siblings, Mungia would never leave home during his active duty stint. Now a successful and heavily connected insider in San Antonio's local political scene, Mungia, a high school dropout, runs a family-owned print shop that has been operating in the same predominantly-Latino West Side neighborhood for nearly seven decades.
It was post-war boomtown San Antonio, and he and his wife Martha, who married in after he left the service, were looking to buy land to build a house. The next day, the sales promoter asks about my name, he said he was not familiar with the name, and asked what it was. I know what you are doing, not selling to me 'cause I am Mexican. To hell with you. Forum, which were founded to promote Latino interests and openly denounce racial discrimination.
It was what Mungia calls the more subtle instances of discrimination that led him in to be among a small group of businessmen -- he was the only Hispanic -- to promote Henry B. Gonzalez's first attempt to become a state representative in Austin. Admitted to the bar in , Mr. Herrera served as an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board. Two years later, he joined a labor law attorney with the Law Office of Arthur Gotchman.
In , Mr. Frank Herrera actively chairs numerous charitable events and sits as a member for many charitable organizations that benefit his local community. He lived on the streets of San Diego, landed a job grooming dogs, and soon gained a reputation for his calming effect on even the most difficult cases. With a few dollars in his pocket, he moved north to Los Angeles and took a job washing cars. With the money he saved, he started a freelance dog rehabilitation service, primarily offering his expertise with extreme cases.
This led him to open his first Dog Psychology Center, which eventually became the current acre site in the Santa Clarita Valley, now including a sheep herding area, air conditioned kennels, swimming pool, obstacle course, and hiking trails. More importantly, he helps the humans who thought their dogs were beyond saving but who learn otherwise as Cesar comes to the rescue and teaches them how to be the Pack Leader. Flores was the first Mexican American to become a bishop of the Catholic Church.
He studied at St. He received his divinity degree and was ordained a priest on May 26, by Bishop Wendellin Nold in Galveston. He then served as a parish priest in the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. Virgilio P. Elizondo August 28, — March 14, was a Mexican American Roman Catholic priest and community activist, who was also a leading scholar of Liberation and Hispanic Theology. Latino religious thought. Elizondo was born in San Antonio, Texas, in to Mexican immigrants who ran a grocery store. He grew up in a society where the Mexican-American community was barred from many segments of the city and speaking Spanish was not welcome.
Never hearing English spoken, he himself was unable to speak it fluently until he reached the sixth grade. After completing high school, Elizondo enrolled at St. Though he considered a career in medicine, he felt called to serve in the ministry and enrolled in Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, so that he could stay close to his home.
During his 25 year tenure at ABC News, he has reported extensively for all programs and platforms and served as anchor of "Primetime. He was one of the few American journalists reporting from Panama City during the U. He won two Emmy Awards for his reporting on the plight of illegal aliens from Mexico. Mary's University, San Antonio, Texas. He received a master's from the Columbia School of Journalism. Henry R. Under his leadership, the firm has grown significantly in both size and reputation. His work as a designer has been recognized with 30 juried design awards.
Like many success stories, ours starts with an individual spark. When Rosemary Kowalski began catering private parties in , expanding on the small barbecue diner she and her husband Henry owned, the Kowalski family name gained new culinary fame. Today, The RK Group remains a privately owned company with nationwide reach through subsidiaries that provide a full range of catering services and event logistics, plus food service for large scale sports, entertainment, and cultural event venues.
Greg Kowalski continues the family tradition of quality, service and innovation as he inspires and leads more than employees on the path his mother, Rosemary, paved. David Cortez is a second generation restaurateur and a leader of the Texas foodservice industry. He has been an essential part in establishing the foundation to a restaurant dynasty that is focused on preservation and promotion of the Hispanic Culture of San Antonio.
At the age of ten, following in the footsteps of his father, Cortez began his career in the food service industry by selling bananas outside the family restaurant, Mi Tierra. He studied in the United States and Paris. Madero organized the Anti-Reelectionist Party when Mexico's dictator Porfirio Diaz declared he would run for reelection in Madero won the presidential election in , but was unprepared for the demands of office.
He was assassinated in Born on August 8, , Anenecuilco, Mexico, Emiliano Zapata was a Mexican revolutionary and advocate of agrarianism who fought in guerrilla actions during the Mexican Revolution. He formed and commanded the Liberation Army of the South, an important revolutionary brigade, and his followers were known as Zapatistas.
Zapata died on April 10, When the opposition rebelled in , Carranza fled the capital and was betrayed and murdered. A leader in education, Dr. Since , Dr. Ferrier directs academic, administrative, and student services; vision and guidance in strategic planning, collaboration with external constituencies including the local community, business, and state leaders ; and compliance with organizational policies and procedures.
From to , her passion for education prompted her to contribute to improving local schools. In , President George W. Bush appointed Dr. From to , she served as founding Executive Director of City Year, a national service organization that became the model for the now federally funded program known as AmeriCorps. Born on December 8, , in Guanajuato, Mexico, Diego Rivera sought to make art that reflected the lives of the Mexican people. In , through a government program, he started a series of murals in public buildings.
After a coup by Victoriano Huerta, Villa formed his own army to oppose the dictator, with more battles to follow as Mexican leadership remained in a state of flux. He was assassinated on July 20, , in Parral, Mexico. He played in the San Antonio area for several years and then began working with Doug Sahm in the s. Flaco then went on to New York City and worked with Dr.
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This led to greater awareness of his music outside America and, after touring Europe with Ry Cooder, he returned to tour in America with his own band, and on a joint bill with Peter Rowan. Ricardo founded the firm in with Russell and Norman Davis. He is a member of the firm's litigation section. His practice focuses primarily on commercial law and products liability defense. Michael Cortez is a Third Generation Restaurateur and has proudly worked in the family business since he was 14 years old. Beyond his service to the Cortez Family Restaurants, Michael is an active member of the community.
Above all, Michael is the proud father of two wonderful children, Elijah and Ashley. Deborah A. Cortez is an artist, self-taught interior designer and a student of Cultural Preservation under the tutelage of her father, Jorge Cortez. She grew up alongside her grandparents, Pedro and Cruz Cortez, participating in restaurant and political activities.
However, it was her father who instilled in her the appreciation for Cultural Preservation and her creative expression which ultimately resulted in her defined role within the family business corporation. Rosita Fernandez, a longtime San Antonian and pioneer of Tejano music, gained international fame as a recording artist and movie star. Born in Monterrey, Mexico, in , Rosita was one of sixteen children and daughter of a military officer.
She was educated in Laredo, Texas, and moved to San Antonio with her family when she was nine. Devoted to her family, Rosita chose to remain in San Antonio despite her blossoming career in movies. As Rosita Fernandez's popularity grew, she became known by fans simply as "Rosita. Campanas de America is an innovative twelve-piece musical ensemble mariachi band founded in in San Antonio, Texas. They have performed nationwide, and continue with an active recording career. Expanding in style from traditional mariachi sounds, the band also uses more diverse instruments including the accordion, keyboards, and a full drum kit.
They are the only mariachi band to display an instrument at the Hard Rock Cafe. In , the band reached a wide audience when they appeared on the PBS music television program Austin City Limits, on an episode spotlighting various Mexican roots music performers, in which the band performed as backup for a duet by singer Rick Trevino and his father.
They performed at the Hispanic Heritage Awards in , and Their appearance was televised nationwide on NBC and Telemundo. In they were featured in a performance at the White House for President and Mrs. Born on April 16, in Lake Jackson, Texas, Selena Quintanilla made her recording debut in the '80s, going on to become an award-winning recording artist in the Latin music scene with albums like Amor Prohibido and Selena Live. In , she was murdered by the founder of her fan club.
Her last album, Dreaming of You, was released posthumously in Edward James Olmos was born in Los Angeles on February 24, , and got his first big acting break in the stage production of Zoot Suit. He received an Oscar nomination for his role as a teacher in 's Stand and Deliver. Outside of his work in film and on television, Olmos spends much of his time as an activist. He has supported numerous causes and has been an advocate for Latino culture, organizing film festivals and other special projects and events. American writer and poet. Born on December 20, , in Chicago, Illinois. One of seven children and the only daughter, she has written extensively about the Latina experience in the United States.
Cisneros is best known for The House on Mango Street , which tells the story of a young Latina woman coming of age in Chicago. The novel has sold more than two million copies. Cisneros has explored many literary forms in her work. She wrote several collections of poetry, including My Wicked, Wicked Ways , which was well received by critics. She created an impressionistic portrait of life on the border between the United States and Mexico through a series of vignettes in Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories Cisneros has received numerous awards for her work, including the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in and the Texas Medal of the Arts Award in She lives in San Antonio, Texas.
In he joined Miguel Hidalgo's insurrection and, after Hidalgo's death, took command of the movement in southern Mexico. Between and he controlled most of Mexico southwest of Mexico City. He called the Congress of Chilpancingo in to form a government. In November the congress declared Mexico's independence. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla was a Mexican Catholic priest. On September 16, , Father Hidalgo rang the church bell to announce revolution against the Spanish. Indians and mestizos marched with Hidalgo and captured major cities but were halted at the gates of the capital.
Hidalgo fled north but was caught and shot in The anniversary of his call is celebrated as Mexico's Independence Day. In , President George H. Prior to his election to the U. Senate, he served as Attorney General of Colorado from to Secretary of the Interior. The environmentalist movement's reaction to this nomination was mixed. Bush's first appointee who preceded Salazar as Colorado Attorney General. On January 20, , Salazar was confirmed by unanimous consent in the Senate. Cleto L. Army, and in the U.
He was born and lived in San Marcos, Texas until his parents died when he was nine years old. After the death of his parents he was sent to live with relatives in San Antonio, Texas. As a boy he worked for the Gunter Hotel as a newsboy. During the holiday season, many senior citizens are alone and cannot afford to prepare a holiday meal for themselves. In , San Antonio restaurant owner and businessman, Raul Jimenez, recognized this need in his community and established a Thanksgiving Day event designed to serve these forgotten individuals.
Now in its 35th year, the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner continues to provide senior citizens and less fortunate a place to enjoy a hot and nutritious turkey dinner with all the trimmings on Thanksgiving Day. Held at the Henry B. Once, I left my underwear on a Mediterranean beach overnight and, since I could not afford to lose a pair, had to go back and pick it up the next day, in full view of all the sunbathers.
Wherever we went, Rick Steves was with us. We seemed to have entered the world of his slides: the fruit markets and overnight trains, the sunny French river under the ancient Roman aqueduct. Sometimes our European hosts, with the quiet pride of someone who once met Elvis, told us stories about Steves.
He was a gentleman, they said, a truly good man, and he always came in person to check out their hotels, and he never failed to ask them how their children were doing. By the end of our trip, we were completely broke. We flew home looking ragged, shaggy, weather-beaten and exhausted.
But of course Steves was right: Our lives were never the same. We were still young Americans, but we felt liberated and empowered, like true citizens of the world. The most important things we learned all had to do with home. As the English writer G. I began to realize how silly and narrow our notion of exceptionalism is — this impulse to consider ourselves somehow immune to the forces that shape the rest of the world.
The environment I grew up in, with its malls and freeways, its fantasies of heroic individualism, began to seem unnatural. I started to sense how much reality exists elsewhere in the world — not just in a theoretical sense, in books and movies, but with the full urgent weight of the real. And not just in Europe but on every other continent, all the time, forever. I began to realize how much I still had to learn before I could pretend to understand anything. Some people get there themselves, or their communities help them. But I needed him, and I am eternally glad I was dragged that day to see him talk.
Steves answered his front door slightly distracted. I had come in the middle of his breakfast preparations. He was stirring a block of frozen orange juice into a pitcher of water. This was April , exactly 20 years after my first trip to Europe. I had come to see Steves in the most exotic place possible: his home. He lives just north of Seattle, in a town so rainy it has a free umbrella-share program. There is nothing particularly exotic about the house itself. It has beige carpeting, professionally trimmed shrubs and a back deck with a hot tub.
What was exotic was simply that Steves was there. He had just returned from his frenetic speaking tour of the United States and would be leaving almost immediately on his annual trip to Europe. For now, he was making breakfast: frozen blueberries, Kashi cereal, O. But of course, he could not. Steves is gone too much, yo-yoing between the misty forests of the Pacific Northwest and the sun-baked cathedrals of Europe.
Every year, no matter what else is going on, Steves spends at least four months practicing the kind of travel he has preached for odd years: hauling his backpack up narrow staircases in cheap hotels, washing his clothes in sinks, improvising picnics. He is now 63, and he could afford to retire many times over. Among his colleagues, Steves is a notorious workaholic. On long car rides, he sits in the back seat and types op-eds on his laptop. His relentless hands-on control of every aspect of his business is what has distinguished the Rick Steves brand. It is also, obviously, exhausting — if not for Steves, then at least for the people around him.
He has two children, now grown, and for much of their childhoods, Steves was gone. He was building his company, changing the world. For very long stretches, his wife was forced to be a single mother. She and Steves divorced in after 25 years of marriage. Every summer, when the family joined Steves in Europe, his pace hardly slackened: They would cover major cities in 48 hours, blitzing through huge museums back to back. The kids complained so much, on one trip, that Steves finally snapped — if they were so miserable, he said, they could just go sit in the hotel room all day and play video games.
They remember this day as heaven. One year, while Steves was away, the children converted to Catholicism. His son, Andy Steves, eventually went into the family business: He now works as a tour guide and even published a European guidebook. Steves is fully aware that his obsessive work ethic is unusual. He admits that he has regrets. But he cannot make himself stop. He has the fervor of the true evangelist: The more people he meets, the more cities he visits, the more lives he might change. At one point, as we talked, he pulled out the itinerary for his coming trip — from Sicily to Iceland, with no down time whatsoever.
Just looking at it made him giddy. What would I do if I stayed home? Not much. Nothing I would remember. In his house, Steves offered up a little show and tell. He pointed out an antique silver cigarette lighter shaped like the Space Needle. He sat down at his baby grand piano and lost himself, for a few happy minutes, playing Scarlatti. He took me to a room filled with books and reached up to a very high shelf. When Steves was 13, he decided, for no apparent reason, to conduct a deep statistical analysis of the Billboard pop charts.
The lines were multicolored and interwoven — it looked like the subway map of some fantastical foreign city. You could see, at a glance, the rising and falling fortunes of the Beatles red and Creedence Clearwater Revival black and Elvis Presley dots and dashes. Steves kept this up for three years, taping together many pieces of graph paper, and in the end he summarized the data in an authoritative-looking table that he typed on the family typewriter. This is what was in that binder: a systematic breakdown of the most successful bands from to , as determined by the objective statistics of an analytical adolescent weirdo.
Steves laughed. It was ridiculous. But it was also a perfect window into his mind. Even at 13, a powerful energy was coiled inside him — an unusual combination of obsession and precision, just waiting for some worthwhile project to burst out in. And that, coincidentally, was exactly when he found it: the project of his life. In the summer of , when Steves was 14, his parents took him to Europe. They owned a business tuning and importing pianos, and they wanted to see factories firsthand.
Steves approached this first trip abroad with the same meticulous energy he brought to his Billboard graphs. As he traveled around the continent, he recorded the essential data of his journey on the backs of postcards: locations, activities, weather, expenses. One day, Steves spent 40 cents on fishing gear. Another, he met a year-old man who had witnessed the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. To keep everything in order, Steves numbered the postcards sequentially.
He still has them all packed lovingly into an old wooden box. On that same formative trip, the Steves family visited relatives in Norway. They happened to be there in July , when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Europe was a crash course in cultural relativity. In a park in Oslo, he had an epiphany: The foreign humans around him, he realized, were leading existences every bit as rich and full as his own. That first trip set the course for everything that followed. When Steves was 18, he went back to Europe without his parents.
Soon, life in America became a series of interludes between travel. He taught piano to earn money, then stretched that money as far as he possibly could, sleeping on church pews and park benches, in empty barns and construction zones, from Western Europe to Afghanistan. He turned his cheapness into a science. Instead of paying for a hotel room in a city, Steves would use his Railpass and sleep on a train for the night — four hours out, four hours back. He would stuff himself on free breakfast bread, then try to eat as little as possible for the rest of the day. Naturally, he recorded all this, and today he has an impressive archive of old travel journals.
Their pages preserve, in tiny handwriting, shadowy young dissidents in Moscow, diarrhea in Bulgaria, revolution in Nicaragua. In his 20s, Steves brought his wide-roaming wisdom back to the United States. He started to supplement his piano teaching with travel seminars. His signature class, European Travel Cheap, ran for six hours. Steves could have talked longer than that, but it struck him as impractical for his students.
In Europe, he rented a nine-seat minibus and started to lead small tours. Eventually, his seminars and tour notes morphed into his books. It had no ISBN and looked so amateurish that bookstores assumed it was an early review copy. This was the birth of the Rick Steves empire. Rick Steves both is and is not his TV persona. Offscreen, he allows himself to be much more explicitly political. He has the passion of the autodidact. Growing up, Steves led a relatively sheltered existence: He was a white, comfortable, middle-class baby boomer in a white, comfortable, middle-class pocket of America.
Travel did for him what he promises it will do for everyone else: It put him in contact with other realities. He saw desperate poverty in Iran and became obsessed with economic injustice. He studied the war industry and colonial exploitation. In the early days, Steves injected political lessons into his European tours. Sometimes he would arrive in a city with no hotel reservations, just to make his privileged customers feel the anxiety of homelessness.
In Munich, he would set up camp in an infamous hippie circus tent, among all the countercultural wanderers of Europe. Today, Steves is more strategic. His most powerful tool, he realizes, is his broad appeal. He has an uncanny knack for making serious criticism feel gentle and friendly. But other nations have some pretty good ideas too. Steves learned this strategy, he said, from his early days running tours, living with the same people for weeks at a time.
Survival required being pleasant. Instead, he pointed out different perspectives with a smile. He became fluent in the needs of American tourists. I want to preach to organizations that need to hear this, so I need to compromise a little bit so the gatekeepers let it through to their world. This balancing act has become increasingly difficult over the past two decades, in a world of terrorism, war, nationalism and metastasizing partisanship. After the Sept. They canceled tours and cut back budgets.
Steves, however, remained defiantly optimistic. He promised his staff that there would be no cuts, no layoffs and no shift in message. He insisted that a world in crisis needed travel more, not less. Soon the shock of Sept. In his hometown, Steves caused a controversy when he walked around removing rows of American flags that had been set up in support of the war. It was, he argued, an act of patriotism: The flag is meant to represent all Americans, not just war supporters. Lately, Steves concedes, his political message has begun to take over his teaching.
Some moments in the book verge on un-American. Occasionally, despite his best efforts, Steves still ruffles feathers. After one recent speech in the Deep South, event organizers refused to pay Steves — their conservative sponsors, he learned, considered his message a form of liberal propaganda. In recent years, Steves has become a happy warrior for an unlikely cause: the legalization of marijuana. He first tried the drug in Afghanistan, in the s, in the name of cultural immersion, and he was fascinated by its effect on his mind. In his headquarters you will find a poster of the Mona Lisa holding a gargantuan spliff.
On a shelf in his living room, right there among all the European knickknacks, Steves displays a sizable bong. Sometimes, fans urge Steves to run for office. To stay in a family-owned hotel in Bulgaria is to strengthen global democracy; to pack light is to break the iron logic of consumerism; to ride a train across Europe is to challenge the fossil-fuel industry. Travel, to Steves, is not some frivolous luxury — it is an engine for improving humankind, for connecting people and removing their prejudices, for knocking distant cultures together to make unlikely sparks of joy and insight.
When people tell Steves to stay out of politics, to stick to travel, he can only laugh. When I want to do something, I can do it. Steves is deeply indifferent to creature comforts. When I visited him, the back seat of his car was covered with a greenish slime, practically disintegrating, because of a mysterious leak. He just cracked the windows to try to dry it out. Steves prefers to spend his money on his favorite causes. His activism can be quirky and impulsive.
This, pointedly, was how much money he would get back from President George W. Last year, during a chat with one of the national leaders of the Lutheran Church, Steves wondered how much it would cost to send every single Lutheran congregation in the United States a DVD of his recent TV special about Martin Luther.
In the s, working in partnership with the Y. The plan was to take that money out of the banking system and let it do a few decades of social good, at which point Steves could sell the buildings to fund his retirement. Eventually he worked his way up to buying a whole unit apartment complex — and then he donated it outright to the Y. The mothers, he said, needed it more than he would.
Steves is obsessed with the problem of poverty and amazed at our perpetual misunderstanding of it. This needs to be talked about. I can do it, and I can get away with it. I could retire now. Once the travel market finally recovered, some years after Sept. By taking a principled stand, Steves flourished.
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Today, his chipper voice is reaching more Americans than ever. One night, in his living room, Steves pulled out a plain black notebook. This, however, was something else entirely — a record of a very different kind of journey. For the next 20 minutes, Steves would read me koans about the glories of being stoned.
He would get baked, open up to somewhere in the middle and jot down whatever he happened to be thinking — deep or shallow, silly or angry. There is no chronology; on every page, axioms from many different decades commingle. The entries covered an impressively wide territory. I found myself wondering, for the thousandth time: Who does this?
What kind of mind not only thinks of such a project but actually follows through with it, decade after decade after decade? As Steves read, he interrupted himself again and again with great shouting honks of laughter, and I cackled right along with him. Then, suddenly, with almost no transition, we would find ourselves deep in earnest conversation about the nature of true happiness or the dangers of ambition. And then we would suddenly be cackling again. And of course there were many, many more descriptions of getting high itself.
At some point, he looked up from the journal. Because this is me. He shook his head. An earlier version of this article misstated the size of a bus Steves used in his early tours through Europe. It was a nine-seat minibus, not a nine-foot minibus.
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When my wife and I were married, my mother-in-law told us she had a special gift for us. In Sweden, on an island, in the forest. As with all magical places, getting to the island in Sweden requires some effort particularly as my wife, son and I live in Los Angeles. After the plane, the train and a car ride to the countryside, a boat ferries us across the lake from the mainland. There are only a handful of cottages — with no electricity or running water — on the island. Distances walking in the forest are hard to determine. You spend so much time walking over, under and around branches, brush and fallen trees that a simple hike can quickly become a disorienting journey.
There are no straight lines in a forest. In Sweden, mushrooms are like gold. Specifically chanterelle mushrooms. Aside from their high cost and their subtle earthy flavor cooked in butter and served on toast , their value is enhanced by how late in the season they grow. So Swedes are extremely protective of their chanterelle patches.
The day my mother-in-law took us for our first walk, everything seemed slow and quiet besides the buzz of the mosquitoes. I listened to her tell stories of playing here as a child; exploring it made me feel young, and nostalgic for a past I had never lived. I marched behind my wife and was careful when stepping over fallen trees or catching branches she bent back to allow me to pass. Some mushrooms you can eat, and some can make you very sick. Animals know this, and people who spend lots of time in the forest know this.
My mother-in-law knows. She took us to a clearing among some trees, looked around a bit, then stopped and bent down. She said she had given each of her children a patch in the forest where she found that mushrooms consistently grew each year. The whale sighting happened right away, minutes into Day 1. Jon, Dave and I had just been dropped off on a remote Alaskan shoreline, an hour and a half by boat from the closest speck of a town. Jon was working as a sea-kayaking guide that summer in Glacier Bay National Park, and he had invited us up for a seven-day excursion during his week off. As the boat that delivered us vanished, the drone of its engine dampening into a murmur and then finally trailing off, it became unthinkably quiet on the beach, and the largeness and strangeness of our surroundings were suddenly apparent.
It was a familiar phenomenon for Jon from the start of all his trips: a moment that people instinctually paused to soak in. We were on earth — finally, really on earth. We were only starting to move around again, packing our gear into the kayaks, when we heard the first huff of a blowhole, not far offshore. Jon was ecstatic. It seemed to him as if the animal were putting on a show, swimming playfully in the kelp, diving, resurfacing, then plowing its open mouth across the surface to feed. He took it as a good omen. Though I had no idea at the time, he was anxious that Dave and I might feel intimidated about making the trip; such a big payoff, so quickly, would get us excited and defuse any apprehensions.
For Dave, the whale-sighting had exactly the opposite effect. Once, when he was a kid, his dad took him scuba diving with dolphins. They were friendly, awe-inspiring creatures, purportedly, but they terrified Dave instead. He could still conjure the feeling of hanging defenselessly in that water while the animals deftly swirled around him, less like solid objects than flashes of reflected light, while he could move only in comparative slow-motion.
Ever since, he had harbored a fear of large sea creatures — a niche phobia, particularly for a young man who lived in the Bronx, but a genuine one still. And so, even as Dave understood that a chance to see whales up close like this was a major draw of a kayaking trip in Alaska, and though he feigned being thrilled, some second thoughts were kicking in: We were going out there, he realized.
The whale left me exhilarated and gleeful, like Jon; but deeper down, I also remember feeling shaken, like Dave. Nothing about the animal registered to me as playful or welcoming. It just appeared in the distance, then transited quickly past us, from left to right. Watching it made me feel profoundly out of place and register how large that wilderness was, relative to me.
At the time, I was working at a literary magazine in New York City called The Hudson Review, picking poems out of the slush pile and mailing them to an outside panel of editorial advisers. I was trying hard in my letters to impress one of them: Hayden Carruth, a gruff and irreverent year-old poet who lived far upstate. Never then or now have I been able to look at a cloudless sky at night and see beauty there. A kind of grandeur, yes — but not beauty. The profusion and variety of celestial lights have always frightened me. Why are they there? Why these instead of others? Why these instead of nothing?
That was how I felt, watching the whale from the beach: afraid that everything was accidents. It was mid-August , and we were 23, 24 and We had graduated from college together two years earlier. Dave, whom I also grew up with, shot out of undergrad knowing he wanted to be a doctor and had just finished his first year of medical school.
Any similar momentum I had after graduation was instantly sapped. Three weeks after that, he died. My grief was disorienting and total; at a moment in life when everything is supposed to feel possible, making any single decision became impossible. I gave into that sadness for the better part of a year, resettling at home in New Jersey with my widowed mother and sliding back to the summer job I worked during school, glumly breaking down beef at a butcher shop two towns over. I read a lot of books about Ronald Reagan, for example, even the collection of his love letters to Nancy.
He withdrew awkwardly after the funeral, and I suppose I was happy to hold that against him. It triggered some longstanding jealousy. A part of me always resented how he seemed unfairly exempt from the self-doubt and heaviness that I was prone to. Jon, meanwhile, was teaching at a rustic little boarding school in Switzerland, where his mother was from. The summer after graduation, before starting the job, he set out for Alaska with a friend, sleeping in the bed of their old pickup.
In the minuscule town of Gustavus, the gateway to Glacier Bay, he picked up seasonal work in the warehouse of a kayak-tour company. Jon had little actual experience of sea kayaking but had always felt drawn to the ocean in the abstract. In college, he and another friend plotted out a paddling expedition near Glacier Bay, across the border in Canada and applied for a grant from our school to fund it. The grant was set up in memory of an alumnus who died in an avalanche while mountaineering. They seemed insufficiently prepared. He was bright but scatterbrained, forever picking up things and putting them down, both figuratively music projects, conversations but also literally.
I can still picture him hustling around the house we shared in college, hunting for his keys or his soldering iron, having gotten in over his head rewiring some device. He was an artist; one piece I remember consisted of a half-peeled banana, implanted with circuitry and suspended in a jar of formaldehyde.
Once, he grew grass in our upstairs bathroom — a living bathmat, he said — until the turf became muddy and flooded the downstairs. Jon had no serious concerns about our safety, but he felt he bore responsibility for our emotional well-being. To enjoy ourselves, we would need to feel comfortable, not just in the wilderness but also with him as a leader. We knew him before he became a professional guide, and our perception of his expertise lagged behind the reality. Do we have everything we need? Jon seemed to have solid answers for all of them. He was living alone for the summer in a house that an acquaintance was building in the woods.
The structure was framed-up but largely wall-less, and Jon, to be safe, needed to check that no moose had wandered in. After a spectacular first day of paddling, we came ashore on a rocky tidal flat about two miles from where we were dropped. Jon gave us his detailed tutorial about bear safety while we set up our campsite. The last thing you wanted was to come across a brown bear unannounced.
This was intentional. It was essential for their safety, but it felt silly or vulnerable somehow, like singing in public. It loosened everyone up. They were performing for their friends now; the whole group was in on the joke. I had never seen a wild bear, though I have backpacked in bear country a handful of times. I felt comfortable with the animals in the abstract. There were bear trails everywhere, leading from the tree line to the water, and disquietingly close, I felt, to where we were pitching our tent.
We found heaps of their scat. We saw trees where the animals had slashed off the bark to eat the inner layer, tufts of fur from their paws still plastered in the sap. I pretended I was having fun. But that evening I grew increasingly petrified, almost delirious. My eyes tightened, scanning for bears. The sound of the wind became bears, and so did the mossy sticks cracking under our feet. I gave myself a migraine, then phased in and out of sleep. At sunrise, I woke feeling foolish.
While Jon cooked pancakes, I reasoned with myself, privately, in a notebook I brought on the trip. I tried to conceive of the situation as a geometry problem. Yes, some number of bears roved this landscape, I wrote: relatively tiny, independent blips, going about their business randomly, just like us. In all that empty space and confusion, a lethal collision of their moving blips and our moving blips would be an improbable coincidence.
It was embarrassing, really. I was reminding myself that freakishly horrible things are, by definition, unlikely to happen. Even now, my reasoning feels sound. Day 2 was a slog. We paddled through a spitting drizzle in an endless straight line, along the high granite walls of the coast. We talked less and less, just pushed through the emerald chop. Then eventually we gave up, hauling in our boats and making camp in a wide, crescent-shaped cove, short of the site that Jon originally picked out on his map.
In the s, one prospector built a cabin not far from our campsite and brandished a gun at the Alaska Natives who passed through. We intuited that the scenery was beautiful, but we could see very little of it through the fog. Soon, the big rain started. We rushed through dinner, then loafed in our tent until, eventually, the loafing turned to sleep. Gale winds, with gusts up to 59 miles per hour, turned back two cruise ships in Skagway, about 85 miles north.
Around 2 a. We heard torrents of water lashing down and the waves crashing in the cove. We got up three or four hours later. The rain and wind no longer felt ferocious but were still too gnarly to paddle through; there was no question, Jon said, that we were staying put. We cooked breakfast and took turns playing chess in the tent. By late morning, the storm seemed to have passed.
We were antsy. We figured we would take a look around. The terrain was crammed with thickets of alder and spruce, underlain by ferns and a furor of prickly things. The plant pierced fleece and hurt like fire. There were no trails. We followed it downstream, looking for a way across, and eventually found it bridged by a hefty tree trunk. It seemed like an easy crossing. Jon stepped up and led the way, and Dave and I waited in a single-file line on the stream bank behind him. The creek was loud, like a factory with all its gears and rollers churning. But I must have scanned those trees long enough to feel satisfied and safe, because I know I was turning my head, to go back to my friends, when I saw the dark shape rushing forward in my peripheral vision.
What I heard must have been roots popping. If a tree is large enough, you can apparently hear them cracking underground like gunfire. The thud was seismic. The trunk crashed down right next to me. Mapping out bits of evidence later, we concluded that the tree must have been about 80 feet tall and perhaps two feet in diameter. It was some kind of conifer — a spruce or cedar. When I got to him, he was crouching, stunned but O. The sight of Dave going down had canceled out everything else.
It had narrowly missed his head, struck his left shoulder, shearing it from his collarbone and breaking many of his ribs. Jon had heard nothing, seen nothing. He was turning around to help Dave onto the log — again, feeling responsible for our safety — and the next thing he knew, he was in the water.
He tried to reach out his left arm but could not make it move. He could not move his legs. He felt a bolt of pain down his spine. Jon later described flashing through an idiosyncratic sequence of thoughts, all in a few milliseconds, as if watching a deck of cards fanning across a table. One was an image of himself in a wheelchair, sitting behind a mixing console in a fancy recording studio. He had never worked in a recording studio and, though he played music, he had no particular plans to.
Still, this vision apparently felt like an acceptable future and freed him to resurface in the present. That was when he registered me, screaming his name. He knew from his many wilderness first-responder trainings that moving a person with spinal injuries risks paralysis. He somehow hoisted himself out of the stream before Dave or I got to him, using his right arm and his chin and biting into something loamy with his teeth, for additional leverage. He reassessed the situation: better.
Also: worse. He now realized that we were at least a mile inland from our camp. Suddenly, his body was walking; his legs just started working. Dave and I put him between us, supporting his frame. He was moving faster than we expected, but uncoordinatedly. Then he crumpled between us. We tried again; Jon was dead weight. Dave noticed that his breathing was shallow and his voice was low — signs, Dave knew from med school, of a collapsed lung. He began battering Jon with a pep talk, telling him, firmly, that he had to get up, that we had to get out of here. He looked down to see why this log he was resting on was so lumpy and realized that he was, in fact, sitting on his left arm.
Jon had zero feeling in it. He found it amusing, this sensation of complete estrangement from one of his limbs.
Jon had been stressing that it was important to stay together. But this was another theory of wilderness survival that appeared to be breaking down in practice. Someone would have to get on the radio back at our camp. By chance, while marooned in our tent during the rainstorm the night before, Jon showed us how to use the device, though he did it almost as a formality; the hand-held VHF unit was merely a line-of-sight radio, he told us, meaning its range was small, its signal too weak to pass through most obstacles.
There was a moment of discussion, or maybe just an exchange of looks between me and Dave. I told Dave he should go. Besides, I took for granted that Dave would make it. He was more capable in my mind, less likely to cinch himself in indecisive knots. I know that you, growing up, definitely felt insecure about things, and I think you looked at me and thought, Dave has everything figured out. But I had so much anxiety. But I guess I thought of the tremor as strictly physiological. What if he broke the radio, foreclosing whatever marginal chance we had of getting help? There were lots of ways to screw this up, Dave realized.
More occurred to him as he ran. He found the radio. He turned it on. He was lying near a log on his injured side, his beard and glasses flecked with dirt and tendrils of moss. He seemed to be on the brink of losing consciousness. Still, I knew I was supposed to keep talking to him, to tether him to the world with my voice somehow. I started vamping platitudes: We were going to get out of here soon, and so forth. But I could feel myself treading water, even blundering, at one point, into a long-winded apology, worried I overstayed my welcome that one Christmas with his family.
I was afraid that the helplessness in my voice might be counterproductive, unsettling Jon instead of steadying him. It was a tremendous silence to fill. What can a person say? I had two literature professors in college who made us memorize poems. You never knew when some lines of verse would come in handy, they claimed.
One liked to brag that, while traveling through Ireland, he found that if he spat out some Yeats at a pub, he could drink free. This is how I wound up reciting a love poem to Jon. After that, I imagine I also did some W. Auden; I knew a fair amount of Auden back then. Jon and I would spend about an hour and a half together alone on the forest floor.
I ran through everything in my quiver — Kay Ryan, A. Ammons, Michael Donaghy — padding each poem with little prefatory remarks, while Jon said nothing, just signaled with his eyes or produced a sound whenever I checked in. I felt like a radio D. I must have also done at least one by Hayden Carruth, my curmudgeonly pen pal at the literary magazine. Hayden and the animal pass a moment in stillness together. The foot patrol boat normally spent its time coursing through the Gulf of Alaska, inspecting halibut-fishing vessels, or circulating, as a terrorist deterrent, near the oil terminals at Valdez.
It was home-ported in Seward, hundreds of miles from Glacier Bay.