By JIM HUNT
author, speaker, consultant
As I close out another year writing the Amazing Cities column for the News & Journal, I want to thank the many readers who stop me on the street or in a restaurant to tell me how much they enjoy the stories of my travels. From the very first time I ventured out on a journey, I knew that travel would be a lifelong passion for me. Writing the column has allowed me to relive my travels and recall the excitement and pleasure on my many trips. Lately, I have used my time in the air to write my column on my IPhone. Occasionally, I will remember some odd story or experience and it just doesn’t seem to fit the story of the city so I thought I would write some of these things down as I bid farewell to 2016.
One story that I will never forget is the time that I asked an older gentleman in China if I could take his picture. He had a small cage with him with a yellow parakeet in it and he wanted his pet bird in the picture. He opened the cage for me to see the bird and it suddenly flew away. The old gentleman had a look of fright on his face and I could see that the bird had flown high in a tree and seemed to have no intention of returning to the cage. Our tour leader wanted us to get on the bus, but I felt so bad that the old man had lost his bird that I begged them to wait just a little bit to see if the bird would return. Fortunately, after about fifteen minutes, the bird flew back to a nearby branch and the man was able to recover his pet.
On another trip to Marrakech, Morocco, a young boy approached me with a monkey and before I knew it, he had set it on my shoulder. I thought it would be nice to have a picture with the monkey, and my wife was snapping away when the young boy had his hand out. I reached in my pocket and pulled out a couple of dollars. The young boy became quite irate and about that time, an older gentleman came over and demanded more money. About that time, the monkey felt the need to relieve himself on my shirt. I reached in and found some more money and my wife and I went off looking for a wet sponge.
Years ago, in the former Soviet Union, I saw these vending machines and I asked our guide how they worked. He explained that the choice was mineral water or flavored mineral water. The machine had a glass sitting on a little shelf on the machine and they explained that you put your coin in the machine and then hold the glass under the spout as the water filled the glass. Our guide explained that when you were finished, you would rinse the glass in the machine and place it back on the shelf for the next patron. They explained that the glasses would rarely be broken or stolen and that often, the glasses would become so worn that they would need to replace them.
In 2000, I participated in an event called the Mayorthon. It was an awareness project to spread awareness for organ and tissue donation. As a former Mayor, I would ride a bicycle into dozens of cities along Route 66 in Oklahoma and meet with organ recipients. It was inspiring to meet the various organ and tissue recipients and know that they owed their lives to the generosity of others. On the trip into Oklahoma City, I rode the bike into the city and was greeted by hundreds of people, including the Mayor and other city officials. It was later that night when one of the organizers asked me what I did with the bike. I told them that I just leaned it against a wall when I went over for the press event. Unfortunately, none of the assistants recovered the bike and some young Oklahoma City kid got an early Christmas gift.
So as 2016 winds down, I look forward to an exciting 2017. I am already planning several trips for next year, including stops in England and the Czech Republic. I will be doing dozens of book signings for my new book The Amazing City – 7 Steps to Creating an Amazing City and hopefully meeting many interesting people.
So until then, safe travels!