Why am I here?

I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.

Joseph Campbell

"er eee eez"

That particular question has driven me to write, travel, read, and think since I was old enough to remember doing any of those things. It is now once again the question that is ringing most loudly in the storm of my thoughts. Why am I here? Why am I in Colorado? Why do I want to write? It seems with writing, it is not about want, but some inner drive to create, to see things manifest from the immaterial of my memories and the images that come from absolutely left field in my head. I have done this kind of creation with directing and acting in the theater, firework shows, stand-up comedy, and of course storytelling both written and oral. I love an audience! I am pretty sure I am better at anything I do well with an audience.

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Finally – We Have Arrived

Morning "Tea" at the Garden of the Gods

Finally, after 1 full year of deliberation, hard work, and emotional trauma, Juliet and I have left Houston, packed most of our belongings into storage, sold 1 car, sold our Italian travel company, and moved to Colorado. [Read more…]

Snoring in Europe (Part 2)

Near Montecucco

This is part 2 of my existential piece on snoring in Europe and how it enlightened me on Friendship, duty, and following my passion. Keep in mind I was living in Tuscany at the time this was written. Some fine work by my colleagues Alfonso Cevola and Jeremy Parzen have brought the subject of DOCG wines from the Montecucco appellation in Tuscany to light this week, and as I was embarking on a job in this area at the time I penned this, I thought it an appropriate piece for the week. [Read more…]

Snoring in Europe (Part 1)

God be with those who explore
In the cause of understanding:
Whose search takes them far
From what is familiar and comfortable
And leads them to danger or terrifying loneliness.
Let us try to understand their confronting or
Unusual language; the uncommon life of their emotions,
For they have been affected and shaped and changed
By their struggle at the frontiers of a wild darkness,
Just as we may be affected, shaped, and changed
By the insights they bring back to us
Bless them with strength and peace.

This week for me begins with a tale from 2006 and my first days leading for BACKROADS. The prayer from above has stayed with me and in my pocket since 2006 and it never fails to remind me of who I am and what I do. As many of you know, I actually led cycling trips one summer before I decided to start my own biz with Antonello.

I was training in the south of France when this story took place and it led to a subsequent snoring story with my good friend while cycling in Tuscany a month later. [Read more…]

Puglia in May

View to the Road

Ca’ del Fico is available in May!

Since I have been involved in Puglia my dear friend Antonello’s stunning villa (Ca’ del Fico)in the hills outside of FASANO in Puglia has never been available in May. As my readers know I fell in love with this amazing property in 2006 when I set eyes upon its’ acres of olive trees, orchards of figs, and view of the Adriatic. Now, my first year removed as owner of Southern Visions Travel, I am more enamored than ever by the region and by this stunning piece of property. [Read more…]

My Dinner with Malcolm Gladwell (Part 2)

…he smiled to himself, adjusted his laptop screen downward hiding his work, turned his chair in my direction and told me…

Just Threw this Together

MG – I find it curious how often I am asked that question..uhm…uh..

Me – Michael…(beat) don’t worry man I am sure you forget quite a few names

MG – (cutting me off) No I don’t. I forget very few names and even fewer faces

Me – Would you say you had spent 10,000 hours getting to that level of mastery with names? (smiling to myself as I knew I had him on that one)

MG – Yes, for sure. Imagine that I have been writing for the New Yorker since 1996 and imagine the number of interviews I have conducted; with and without the assistance of recording equipment

Me – What are you drinking?

MG – Excuse me?

Me – What kind of coffee drink are you drinking?

MG – Oh, this is a cappuccino with a little less textured milk, so really it is more like a latte’ without so much milk…

Me – Or a cappuccino without schiuma

MG -What was that?

Me – Schiuma, the Italian name for the foam. Italians don’t go down the path of naming things cutely just to make a menu sound better. I mean, an Italian will use many words to describe something, but taking license with the structure of the language seems pretty Anglo [Read more…]

My Dinner with Malcolm Gladwell (Part 1)

The Top Coffee Shop in Houston

On Tuesday afternoon I went into my beloved Catalina coffee for an afternoon pour-over of their fabulous Rwanda coffee that had recently arrived. I had just eaten a below-average lunch at the TQLA on Wash-Av and needed a dose of quality in my diet to assuage the misery in my still hungry stomach. At TQLA I had ordered a Ceviche and a Mushroom tamale for my lunch. My server came to my table moments later with tamale in-hand and informed me that the kitchen had dropped my Ceviche and would be re-making it. I informed him very politely that I really wanted the cold ceviche before my warm tamale and he obligingly took the tamale back and very likely stuck in under a lamp. [Read more…]

Puglia: The Finest Raw Ingredients in Italy (Part 1)

Mchel’…ma tu addò stae?

Literally: Michael where are you? (In the dialect of Bari)

Lecce May be the "Coolest" City in Italia

I am not sure if my very dear friends in Puglia are asking that question today as so many magical things are unfolding in this amazing region at the beginning of the busy season, but I am most certainly wondering why I am here and not there this week typing this blog over a caffe’ at Bar La Nave. It is Apulia Week on my very good friend Jeremy Parzen’s outstanding wine blog Do Bianchi and he will be sharing some of the best information available on what is happening in the exploding wine world of Apulia. As for me, I am missing my second home; a place where I have spent almost a year of my life since 2008 and along with one of the most ambitious and talented people I have ever met, Antonello Losito, founded the most successful tour company to date in Puglia: Southern Visions Travel.  Antonello and I worked together for Backroads in 2006. While working for one of the most successful American tour companies Antonello and I became fast friends, in many ways because we believed we could do more than just take people on well-organized cycling trips through Italy. We truly believed and continue to believe that seeing a country for better or worse through the eyes of the locals, and in the culture of the native habits is the best way to authentically and hopefully even soulfully understand a place.

In the wine world sense of place and all things that go with it are referred to as terroir. Yes, wine friends I know I am oversimplifying so just keep reading my story and we can argue semantics over a bottle of bourgueil at my house later. Travel is basically the same recipe and the terroir of travel is why I am in the game in the first place. The place, people, soil, climate, cuisine, religion, common and divergent ethos(es), and even the time of day that people typically have sex are all part of the algorithm that calculates terroir. I have been asked on so many occasions, “if you love Puglia so much then why the hell did you sell your part of the company?”  This blog today is my attempt to answer this involved and very personal decision I made in August of 2010. Today I will share reasons that only some, and perhaps none of my readers, friends, or family know about why I chose to part ways with something that was very much like an incompletely nurtured child. For the sake of the reader who prefers to stop after this paragraph I will say it was an Obi Wan decision. I knew that if I removed myself from the job that I could become a more powerful ally than Puglia, Southern Visions, Antonello, or my family ever imagined… [Read more…]

I cook well because I can’t afford Le Bernardin

This essay is my submission to Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw Challenge. Anthony asked, “Foodies: What does it mean to cook food well?” And this is my answer… If you like what you read, please vote to support my entry as I would love to get published in the paperback edition of his bestselling book, Medium Raw! [Read more…]