Actor Nick Nolte. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Who hasn't felt a twinge upon hearing that quote about how at the end of life, you're haunted not by the things you did, but by the things you didn’t do? But then we get on with our lives (of things we didn't do). But Korean immigrant Hyo So booked a hostel bed in Cairo and took off solo from his Pico-Union apartment on his first-ever backpacking trip. Since then, he's traveled to 40 countries. But he's no teenager looking to find himself: So is 76. These are the things he takes along: a frayed white baseball cap to keep out the sun, a fishing vest for its myriad pockets, well-worn sneakers in which he’s walked miles on end. Four shirts and three pairs of pants, unassuming enough to discourage robbers but not too ratty to deter conversations with other travelers or locals. Malaria medication, spare glasses and small, dark-colored pill bottles in which he stashes rum to get through airport security. One thing he doesn't carry: a camera. His only photos are ones other travelers have taken and emailed to him.
Hyo So, 76, with Maasai tribesmen in Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Hyo So)
The soundtrack: "Around the World," by Daft Punk. I'm not crazy about this song, but it seemed to work for the story. I'm in the camp of people who think Daft Punk is a little emperor's new clothes -- disco by another name.
What I'm reading
"That Time a Gypsy Told Me My Future," by Jason Smith on Medium (a good clearinghouse of interesting writing). The best thing about this piece is that I can't tell if it's fiction or nonfiction. Either way, it really drew me in. He tells of taking a train to Bern on the spur of the moment, not knowing even what country it was in. When he arrives and sees a bunch of junkies standing around, he says, "It was chaotic depravity, but in an overly-controlled, organized setting. Ahh. I must be in Switzerland." One of the junkies, a Gypsy, sidles up to him and calls him by name, which stops Smith in his tracks. “Jason … it be ok.” “Wha- How do you know my name?” He paused, looking at me to make sure the words sank in. “Jason … it is ok. Always, ok.” The rest of the fortune is more specific, but that's my favorite part. The Gypsy sounds a lot like my mom.
This is more listening and watching than reading, but I love Blank on Blank's animated "lost" interviews of famous people. The latest one was with one of my writing heroes, Hunter S. Thompson. For some reason, I had never heard him before. His voice surprised me -- not nearly as deep as I imagined. But it had the same stop-start-veer-rush rhythm of his writing. In this interview with Studs Terkel in 1967, Thompson talks about covering the Hell's Angels, and the violence that's in all of us. He has a great line about the Angels and how they might have started in the postwar years: "They get to be 30 and suddenly they wake up one morning and realized there are no more chances. It's all gone. It makes them meaner."
What's on my bedside table
My bedside table mocks me. The books pile up. The books go unread. Two weekends this month I've been at music festivals until past-bedtime hours. This weekend is going to be my lazy reading weekend (famous last words).
What's on my turntable
Although I spend most of my time listening with headphones to Spotify, sometimes I want to hear the needle touching down on vinyl. That's why I have a turntable in my office -- and two at home (one inside, and a battery-powered one outside when the weather's fine -- which it usually is in Southern California). This week's vinyl: "Rapping" by Curtis Mayfield. My copy has the telltale hole in the cover signifying it's a promotional copy. But I didn't realize that it only came out as a promotional record. One side is a pretty great interview with Mayfield, and the other some of his greatest hits, including the wacka-wacka "Superfly." (His definition of Superfly on Side 1: "It means many things. Up, hip, all the high fashions, Cadillacs, Rolls-Royces. Hip things that just might turn you on.")
Want to chat? Have a great idea for a Great Read? I'm @karihow on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org on email