There Is a Wonderful World Out Here!


Happy Hump Day, All!

I am up and doing one of my favorite things, putting together some thoughts and ideas and sharing them with those willing to be “shared with”!  It is interesting as I share my “experiences”, I get different types of feedback.  Most of the feedback is positive, wishing me well, telling me to be safe and to enjoy my journey.

Needless to say, I have never done anything like this before, traveling from country to country, visiting different cities … alone.  It wasn’t a daunting task, it was just something that materialized as I sought to gift myself a trip to Barcelona for my birthday.  I had one friend say, “Oh, I will meet you there when you arrive!” That never happened … which was okay because I got to “know” that person better.  I was planning pretty much on staying in Barcelona, Spain … visiting Valencia, maybe even Madrid … but as I looked at my budget, things there also changed a bit, so I had to modify.  I had one person, oddly enough, who attended the same university as I did, try to make fun of my trip!!  Ironic because I was never close with this person but often knew that “he” felt superior to me because of the fact that he had earned a law degree and works for a firm in DC.  As I was raised up in the world of “hippydom”, I believe in the expression “more power to you”!  One thing a person shouldn’t do … and doesn’t want to do with me … is try to put another person down who is trying to enjoy their OWN life and hasn’t asked for any advice!  Don’t get me wrong, I am cool with advice, but I prefer it to be helpful … not hurtful.  So, I am in the process of putting this character “in check” on MY social media pages as he posts his uninteresting, unwanted and unkind comments.  Sometimes, I just delete them!

I have recently been thinking more and more about my father on this trip!  My mother was the traveler of the family while my father was unequivocally more sedentary … he didn’t like to go further than the Catskill Mountains to hunt deer or to Florida for Christmas vacations with the family, or to Croton-On-The-Hudson for a cookout and softball game or to Bear Mountain State Park for the 4th of July or Memorial Day for a family and friends cookout!  Yet, here on this trip, which my mother would do in a heart beat, I have had memories of my father … songs, sayings, challenges and the like.  I try to handle the challenges as he did.  He was a much quieter man than me and had a close circle of friends … like I do!  I know (or am familiar with) a lot of people … but  a lot of people don’t “know” me.  I am a basic guy, I try hard at everything I do … I have my talents which NO ONE can take away from me (he taught me that!), and I go that extra mile to be kind and nice and sociable!  But please don’t “take my kindness for weakness” nor my desire to get along as a sign of desperation for friendship.  I can deliver a tongue lashing in the crudest of forms in a New York second, though I am not “proud” of myself when I do so.  I usually shy away from that type of behavior because it takes me out of being the person whom I wish to be.  I usually just distance myself from people who annoy me to that point once letting them know that “you got the wrong person this time”!  My father – Big Ike – was the same.  I am fortunate to be a combination of the two of them … my mother’s unending love for goodness and excellence and my father’s tireless efforts to live a good life, not be hassled or harassed … and provide a good life for himself and his family.

So here I sit in Amsterdam, Holland – a place that I have never been – in a hostel that I had booked once being jerked around by another hostel in Amsterdam through “”, and I currently have an open dispute with them through Bank of America.  They had double charged me after using a misleading add for a low cost booking – charging me once for the cancellation and once for the entire week I was planning to stay in Amsterdam.  I am hoping for the best and currently have a temporary credit from which I am currently “living”.  I am not a lavish person and don’t need to be “everywhere with everybody” spending money that I don’t have.  I like to go out, but I know when to take it easy and stay at home, too … especially during my early retirement.

A young man who attended White Plains High School when I taught there is planning to meet up with me on Friday, since I leave Saturday, to have lunch at a place he is suggesting.  Trevor Henry was a student that I didn’t have in class but was always very outgoing and progressive.  It seems that he and his wife and a lovely family live in Germany somewhere … I don’t know why or how but will have to ask him.  I was visiting his Facebook page once he in-boxed me his interest in meeting up and saw a clip of Louis “Satchamo” Armstrong, trumpeter and crooner from Big Ike’s era!  My dad used to always be so cold and callous when I complained about things.  He was a tough old “cookie” … no pun intended … and had a hard life growing up in a very racist and “Dirty South” of the 1920’s and 1930’s.  When watching that video on Trevor’s page with “Satchamo” singing “What A Wonderful World”, I remembered how my dad used to always tell me to toughen up, be grateful for what I had and NOT want what others had that I didn’t have … It’s an interesting philosophy to entertain when you are NOT wealthy.  Yet, it keeps you proud and sensible and grounded at the same time.  That philosophy has encouraged me to reach out to people, places and things that I normally would not reach out to.  So, as I continue to travel, meet people, and enjoy the most beautiful responses to my e-mails and social media posts, I must admit that “there is a wonderful world out here … should we decide to reach for it!”


John I. Cook, Director

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