My Tribe of Travel Professionals Provides Needed Sustenance

After a long day that just ended at 8:45 pm, my head is full to bursting with so many interesting conversations after meetings with 35 tourism board representatives and dozens of fellow travel writers here at Canada Media Market in San Francisco.

Of all the places I learned about today, the one that stuck out and the one I most want to visit is Revelstoke, British Columbia. This small town of 7,500 in the mountains of this beautiful province sounds a bit like Bend Oregon. As Thom Tischik, the town’s marketing manager put it, it’s a town where people are confident, smart and ready to make a go on their own. They open businesses and on “pow days” (days with great snow), they close their businesses to go skiing. The people in Revelstoke, I was told, love living in their somewhat remote paradise, and have their priorities straight. I can’t wait to get out there and see what this town is all about.

I am thinking back on some of the people I just hung out with at the after party: An actress named Juliana Dever who has had a regular role on the ABC TV show, Castle who studied travel writing in Paris;  a travel writing teacher and book editor named Lavinia Spalding who is moving to New Orleans and spending her summers on Cape Cod, my travel and business buddy Tim Leffel, and the SF Chronicle Travel Editor Spud Hilton. I also met a PBS TV show host named Colleen Kelly and an interesting guy who used to work for Apple whose company wrote a messaging cellphone app called Cola. And old pal Johnny Jet with his wife (and new green card holder) Natalie.

Each of these people shared their stories with me and had much to teach me…another reason why getting out into the world and mixing with my tribe of travel professionals never gets old and each time, rejuvenates and brings me back to full steam. I needed this!

Canada Media Market 2016: Flying West

Tomorrow I’m flying west, to San Francisco, where I’ll meet with my good friends who together run the publicity and press relations for all of the Canadian provinces. It’s all hands on deck at Canada Media Market, where each year it alternates between New York or San Francisco.  Anyway, it’s always a fun event because so many of our Canadian provinces tourism boards are run by really great people who always are fun to hang out with and who innovate and work hard and bring in many many tourists by dint of their abilities!.

It’s two days of schmoozing and meetings, and then I am going to visit with Iliana from Stiya, the new app that collects your photos and knits them together with local information gained via GPS. I”ll have a chance to find out more about Stiya and what might just be the next big thing! That’s what’s fun about visiting Silicon Valley, you know, well, you never know what might happen.   More to come!

George Jones Never Knew What He Was Really Worth

George Jones and the woman who saved him, wife Nancy Sepulveda.

George Jones and the woman who saved him, wife Nancy Sepulveda.

There’s a new book out about singer George Jones, and the story in the WSJ had an audacious headline: ‘George Jones Was as Good as Sinatra.’  WOW!  But in Ryan Cole’s review of the new Jones biography, “The Grand Tour” by Rich Kienzle, he makes a claim, and I’d have to agree, after I listened to original recordings of “The Window Up Above,” and “She Thinks I Still Care.”  This guy was a fantastic voice and deserves this high accolade.

What I love about biographies is the same thing I like about obituaries: You can follow the arc of someone’s life and find those key things in childhood that made the person what they became as an adult.  Though I wish more obits were as clear and provided as many nuggets as biographies do.

George Jones was born in 1931 in the southeast corner of Texas, a place known as “The Big Thicket.”  He father was a drunk and used to demand that young George sing on command.  No wonder he decided to leave home at age 16, and eventually served in the Marines.  “He was the son of an abusive father and “a loving and devoutly Christian mother. This combination, in Mr Kienzle’s telling, created the singer’s Jekyll and Hyde character, at times sweet and humble, at others selfish and violent.”

Kienzle’s knowledge of his subject gets kudos in the review, as the book reveals the blur of Jone’s life as a top country star: It’s booze, bar fights, missed gigs, mismanaged finances and four marriages.  One story shared is about how Jones was always  jealous of another singer, California country pioneer Buck Owens.  “The two, who often shared billings, bickered over who would open. One night Owens prevailed and Jones took the stage first, played every hit from his rival’s repertoire, and then strutted backstage and told the furious Owens, “You’re on!”

It took a good woman to rein in Jones, who had cocaine habit that almost killed him.  That was Nancy Sepulvado, who cleaned up Jones and helped him back on track. In his later years, “he never felt worthy of his success.” He even recorded a song titled “What Am I Worth?”   After he married Nancy, he continued to tour and make records, but as the book reveals, Nashville was already moving on to younger stars, despite how much respect he had from top artists like Alan Jackson and Randy Travis.

Going on Google Plus to Share Ideas

I about to jump into a Google Plus hangout with a friend, Deb Thompson, a fellow website publisher who lives in Cadillac Michigan.  Working at home makes me enjoy setting up these ‘visits’ where we can both see each other on screen, and we can share ideas and complaints about our work lives. I often have meetings with two colleagues, one in Florida and the other in Connecticut, in this same way. It makes working at home and enduring the endless solitude a bit more manageable.

I am often struck by how different website publishing is from other businesses. It’s different because traditional notions of competition, and not sharing secrets is really not the same.  I can provide Deb with ideas about advertising and other plans that worked for me, and it doesn’t mean I’ll have to lose business to her. There is just a lot to go around, more than anyone can get.  I would never had compared notes with fellow t-shirt salesmen, because back in those days we were all gunning for the same bunch of buyers.

But with the web, with its global reach, and our particular type of marketing, I don’t think we’ll exhaust anybody’s budgets even if we did share the same customers. I am always surprised at the ideas that people come up with, and I never run out of questions I need to ask my colleagues.

Gould’s is Where You Go for Pancakes!

Helen Gould who runs Gould's Sugar House in Shelburne Falls.

Helen Gould who runs Gould’s Sugar House in Shelburne Falls.

Helen Gould is a ‘Greenfield girl.” She told us that when we visited Gould’s Sugar House, 570 Mohawk Trail, Shelburne Falls….an institution if there ever was one, in New England tradition and pride.  They have had this farm since 1775, and have increased their acreage to the current 464 acres, where they have sugar maples and grow crops.

The signs for the maple syrup look like they’ve been in use for more than 10 years. That shows you that maple syrup is still about the same price as it was way back when those signs were new.  It’s a whole lot of labor to make a gallon of the beloved Maple liquid, and I”m proud to have been a Yankee and a maple syrup lover for 30 years.  2015 newsmaple barrels

The Gould’s place in Shelburne Falls has been in the family since 1775.

The Eventide Singers Bring Peace in the Final Moments

The Eventide Singers sing to 95-year-old Esther Krebs at the Arbors of Greenfield. Recorder photo.

The Eventide Singers sing to 95-year-old Esther Krebs at the Arbors of Greenfield. Recorder photo.

What a joy these singers must bring to their bedridden, sick and dying audiences.  I read today about the Eventide Singers, who organize singers to visit people in hospice and hospital and sing gently to them.  Simple.

What a calling. What an honor.  And it’s tough getting into this club. They sing in many languages, and they memorize long lists of songs, nearly 60 in all.   Singers research the person who they’ll be singing for, learning who they care about, and what their life was like.  Then sixty times a year, they visit people like Esther Krebs.

This story in today’s Recorder showed the photos and showed the emotion of this kind of a task. Director Joe Toritto, shown here second from right, told the Recorder how ‘you can see a real shift in breathing, an easing, a relaxing. He’s been singing with the group for eight years, and every ‘sing’ is a little different, he said. READ THE ARTICLE

Listen to the Eventide Singers from February 2014