Saturday, May 26, 2007

Greener Than Thou

The idea of global warming as reality is strengthening its grip on the global village, with the success of "An Inconvenient Truth" as irrefutable proof that people are listening, and last winter as the definitive moment in the crusade. On February 2, 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, operating under the aegis of the United Nations, released its findings from a study that portends the future of the human race. The study confirmed what scientists, supported by hordes of data and common sense, have been telling us for years: global warming is real, and the human species is at fault.

Once a rite of passage founded in 60's beat literature, the famed cross country road trip is now the enemy of the environment; the nobility of travel trumped by legitimate concerns for the environment. Amidst this sea of media induced guilt tripping is me, leaving in two weeks on one of the largest roadtrips of my life. In an SUV. Damnit, I may as well club a few seals while I'm at it.

What is a 21st century sap looking for a little adventure to do?

According to an article in, oh, every major news publication from the last six months, the latest trend in eco-conciousness is the idea of carbon offsetting. Corporations and individuals alike have carbon footprints - the amount of carbon dioxide they directly release into the environment, or that to which they indirectly contribute. The use of air conditioning, flying to Europe, driving a car across America; they all contribute to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. There are also several aspects of our lives that indirectly contribute to global warming, such as buying non local food, as it needs to be trucked in from outside sources. There's that pesky 'automobile factor' again, the one I won't be able to avoid this summer.

Or will I?

Carbon offsetting is the new practice of paying a company to offset the amount of carbon dioxide for which a business or individual is responsible. Several companies, such as, whose slogan is "Reduce what you can, offset what you can't," have sprung up to meet the demand of an increasingly eco-conscious public. These companies allow you to calculate your annual footprint, and then pay them to offset this footprint, typically by planting trees somewhere to absorb the increased CO2. The good news is that even if I drive as many as 10,000 miles this summer, the cost of offsetting the trip is only $28.70.

But is it worth it?

While proponents argue that it brings awareness to the average citizen, allowing them to do their own small part, opponents argue that it is simply throwing money at the problem. People will be encouraged to be as wasteful as they want but feel it is ok because they are paying someone else to clean it up for them.

There is no snappy conclusion to this entry, just a mild concern that I thought was worth addressing. While I would like to be a responsible citizen of the world, I don't want to give up this trip. What do YOU think I should do?

Monday, May 21, 2007

50 things to do before I die

In case you were wondering about that list of mine, here are the things I plan on accomplishing before I die:

  1. Go skydiving. (Completed 2006)
  2. Run a marathon. (Completed 2005)
  3. Live in a foreign country for a year. (Completed 1999)
  4. Attend Oktoberfest. (Completed 1998)
  5. Get a tatoo. (Completed 2007)
  6. Drive across America.
  7. Visit a nudist colony.
  8. Participate in the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
  9. Set foot on all 7 continents.
  10. Set foot in all 50 states.
  11. See the northern lights.
  12. Be an extra in a Hollywood movie.
  13. Publish a piece of writing.
  14. Sell an original photograph.
  15. Participate in the Mongol Rally.
  16. Climb Mt. Kiliminjaro.
  17. Hike the Inca Trail.
  18. Meet the President.
  19. Be an audience member at Saturday Night Live.
  20. Join the traveler's century club.
  21. Complete a triathalon.
  22. Get married.
  23. Go bungee jumping.
  24. Get my pilot's license.
  25. Go heli-skiing.
  26. Go scuba-diving.
  27. Go hunting.
  28. Watch the ball drop in Times Square on new year's eve.
  29. Learn how to play the piano.
  30. Read the bible in its entirety.
  31. See a large-scale concert from the front row.
  32. Raise a significant amount of money for charity.
  33. Drink a Guinness in a pub in Ireland.
  34. Throw a dart at a map of the world and go wherever it lands.
  35. Perform a five minute standup routine at a comedy club.
  36. Brew my own beer.
  37. Eat at a five star restuarant.
  38. Spend a night at a five star hotel.
  39. Learn how to surf.
  40. Visit the pyramids of Egypt.
  41. Climb an active volcano.
  42. Join the mile high club.
  43. Achieve six-pack abs.
  44. Be a contestant on Jeopardy.
  45. Go whitewater rafting.
  46. Be a spectator at the Superbowl.
  47. Ride in a hot air balloon.
  48. Attend Burning Man.
  49. See the Great Wall of China.
  50. Three words: ménage à trois.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

My Travels with Black Betty: the Prologue

My sister and I recently received a small chunk of change from my mom's writer's guild. Cadillac money this ain't, but it's no Jersey diner money either. While my sister is the type to be sensible and deposit the new income into a retirement fund, I am the type who is convinced he will someday retire on the richness of his life's memories, and dammit I'll accept nothing less than grand.

That said, when forced to spend a large wad of cash, I'm also the type who prefers to spend it on experiences, as opposed to material possessions. That's why I still lack an iPod (though I would absolutely love one) and a wardrobe anywhere near the term 'fashionable' (also aided by the fact that retailers are convinced people my size don't exist, but that's another blog, one which probably won't happen given my apathy towards all things textile).

I plan to do a lot of international traveling in the future, and now more than ever it is important to represent America well. One way to do so is to be able to discuss American life intelligently; its political system, its history, its geography and most importantly, the opinions of its citizens. I could learn many of these things from books and magazines, but wouldn't it be more fun to drive around the country instead?

Which leads us to the obvious: I am going to drive across America this summer. New Jersey to California and back.

It's always been on my list of things to do in life, alongside such ambitious goals as "set foot on all seven continents," "meet the president," and "be an extra in a large Hollywood movie." I feel lucky that I've already accomplished some of the items on this list, such as "live in a foreign country for a year," "run a marathon," and "go skydiving." Driving cross country just seems like the next logical thing to cross off the list.

I'm lucky. Some countries are too small, others are too dangerous, others contain landscape that is impossible to traverse, while some are all three. But I was born on the east coast of one of the largest and most populated countries in the world. Three thousand miles and some three hundred million people lie between this computer and California. It's an adventure one part On the Road, two parts Odyssey and all parts insanity. It's just what the doctor ordered and then some.

I plan to spend the whole time staying with friends, relatives and people met on I plan to see everything, go everywhere, all while blogging about it. I can't promise this blog will always be PG, and I make no apologies for that. I have been known to be a bit wild and crazy and sometimes downright silly, and I intend to put that attitude into my writing. I do hope to keep it entertaining and maybe even informative. Stay tuned, folks. You won't want to miss the ride.

Aside from itchy anticipation for the start of what will be one hell of a travel blog, I'll leave you with the following thought: what is on YOUR list of things to do in life, and WHEN are you going to DO one of them?