Monthly Archives: December 2014

Maybe get a watch?

Guys, I get it. You want the feel of leather and metal against your skin. But I’m here to tell you, a fashion bracelet, no matter how well made, is not the answer. I’m really just trying to figure out which fashion “expert” decided that guys want a woven leather bracelet with a metal clasp “inspired by” a marine shackle or riding buckle? Especially when they offer it for $69, or ask us to splurge for the $129 version based on a “rugged Swedish design.” Seriously? When did a Swede ever wear a rugged leather $129 fashion bracelet? Fashion gurus: Swedes everywhere are laughing at your feeble efforts.

In the 1980s I grew up in New England and my outfitter of choice was (naturally) Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS). In the early 1990s I relocated to California and switched to Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) and their small outlet in San Francisco’s East Bay. Then back to New York and a regular drive to the Campmor outlet in Paramus. These outlets always emphasized everything I wanted in an outfitter: utility, quality, flexibility, and economy. And none of them ever – ever – offered a fashion bracelet for men.

So I went looking. Campmor sells a paracord bracelet for $5.99. It comes in five colors and is woven from two and a half meters of 160 kilogram test line. Yeah, a Swede would wear one of those. REI has a similar band for sale, plus a do-it-yourself version, and also acupressure bracelets. The EMS website stubbornly refused to return any results as I searched for a bracelet. I could almost hear the website laughing at my feeble efforts.

Still, even a basic web search turns up hundreds of options from Inox, J.Crew, Mooby, Jared, Royal Republiq and Alor. Maybe I’m out of touch. When did this become a trend? How did this become a trend? Swedes everywhere want to know.

Rugged Swedish Fashion Bracelet

I Hate the Taj Mahal

Welcome to the Taj Mahal - I Hate My Job

Welcome to the Taj Mahal

It was shaping up to be another blistering hot day at the Taj Mahal. I arrived as they opened and approached the east entrance. For me it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Most of the other visitors felt the same, and the excitement was tangible. We crowded toward the security checkpoint and split into lines for men and women. And then I overheard this:

“Sometimes I wish Shah Jahan had never built this place.” ~ Security guard at the Taj Mahal. 

How about that for a dose of reality? The temperature had already pushed above 35ºC on an early June day in Agra, and it was only 10am. For the guards and indeed all the other workers at this World Heritage Site, it was the start of another long day at the office. The tourists were not visitors. The tourists were problems. And the tourists would not be here if the most elaborately constructed tourist trap in the world had never been built.

Rolf Potts, author of Vagabonding and Marco Polo Didn’t Go There cautions his writing students to look for stories beyond the tourist matrix. He says “if your best stories come from your cab driver or bar tender, you are not working hard enough.” At the same time (as my mother reminds me) tourist destinations exist because they are usually really interesting.

So while the best travel stories are found off the beaten track, some of the best travel experiences can only come from inside the tourist matrix.  When I visited Istanbul, a Monday tour of Hagia Sophia was only possible because I went with a tour group – because the Hagia Sophia is otherwise closed on Mondays. So don’t let the “tourist trap” label turn you away from the experience of a lifetime. You are the best judge of what is interesting to you.

Like the disaffected worker at the Fatehabadi Darwaza gate, your job might hold days of tedium, especially if you face the public every day at a popular destination. Just keep in mind that today could be a lifetime event for that guest, an experience for which they have traveled many miles, and have dreamed about for years. Your office may not be a World Heritage Site, but you still owe each guest an amazing experience. Don’t hate your Taj Mahal!

– Ed

(And if you enjoyed this short story, others will too – please share. Thank you!)

Ed at the Taj Mahal - What is that behind you?

Hey, what is that behind you?