Airbnb and the Art of Hospitality

Zarr photo IMG_4518As I write this, my husband and I are on our twentieth day away from home as we travel through parts of Europe and England on holiday. It’s a celebration trip for us—as of this August, we have been married twenty-five years. Though at one point we envisioned six or eight weeks abroad, neither of us has ever been outside of North America before so we kept the scope of the trip manageable and will be headed home in another week.

To save money, we’ve used Airbnb for lodging in a couple of places along the way. If you’re not familiar with Airbnb, it’s a network of people around the world who have rooms, apartments, houses, treehouses, houseboats, RVs, yurts—and any other type of space you can think of—on offer for travelers to use instead of hotels, motels, hostels, or other managed properties. Property owners (or “hosts” as they are called on the site) list descriptions of their spaces along with maps and pictures and, perhaps most importantly, reviews by previous guests.

We booked an apartment in Amsterdam (our first stop on the trip) and a converted shed in someone’s backyard outside of London through the site. Leading up to our arrival in Amsterdam, our host, Camille, provided helpful and detailed instructions about how to get from the airport to the apartment, just as a friend or family member would. He was there to greet us when we arrived. Hanging from the staircase was a heart-shaped chalkboard on which was written “25 years together! Wow!” just for us. [Read more...]

Kissing Sideways

kiss“I want to write,” people often tell me, eager to talk about the myriad ways that this happens in our mysterious, internet-driven world.

Writing means different things to different folks: “I want to get published,” or “I want to be seen,” or “I want to be heard,” or “I want to change the world.” This last one, so full of hubris and hope, is especially dear to me, and the trap I fall into the easiest.

I try and encourage others the best I can, mindful of the journey I have been on, and how I am only at the beginning. But the best thing I can say to anyone who wants to write is this: you have to be a reader, and you have to be a generous one.

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Angel Trades a Shotgun for a Shovel: An Interview with Terry Scott Taylor, Part 2

IMG_3926-BW-flareGuest Post by Chad Thomas Johnston

Photo taken by Phillip G Brown Fine Art Photography

Continued from yesterday.

Chad Thomas Johnston: Can you talk about the circumstances under which you wrote the new Daniel Amos album, Dig Here Said the Angel? What factors influenced its creation?

Terry Scott Taylor: I suppose the simplest answer to your question is that life itself is the circumstance that most influenced the record. I’m in my sixties now, and when I first sat down to write the tunes for Dig Here it occurred to me that, in a genre like rock ’n’ roll, you’re not going to find a lot of songs that honestly explore the inner life of those of us who have fewer days ahead of us than behind us. That being the case, I decided to write as honestly from my perspective as I could.

In writing about issues such as aging and lost youth, life’s disappointments and regrets, and even death itself, the challenge was to avoid morbidity, which I think we did quite successfully. Many fans and critics seem to agree that Dig Here is addictive, enjoyable, and anything but dark and depressing, which I think it easily could have been.

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Where Is the Human Touch?

These days, we’re besieged by merchants marketing in myriad ways: boulevards blighted with billboards, postboxes bulging with catalogues, televisions blaring commercials, email apps packed with spam, web pages popping ads, telephones pirated by robots.

These strategically planned campaigns are often costly and complex. It seems merchants have forgotten the best business builder in the arsenal, one that costs little or nothing and requires no marketing team: the impromptu generous gesture, the simple human touch.

I recently confronted this reality as my husband and I were completing our eighth season as subscribers to a dance series in Seattle. The series had always been excellent, and we looked forward to it every year.

This season I was especially excited because the spring lineup would include Pilobolus, a particularly imaginative dance troupe of international fame. For decades I’d longed to see them. I couldn’t wait to watch the group—named after a barnyard fungus that propels spores with astonishing speed—perform its colorful, lyrical magic on the stage.

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Matteo’s Shoes: An Observation from the Way of Saint James

I wrapped the thick terry robe around me, refreshed by the bubble bath I’d taken scented with lavender salt. What a glorious day it had been. Puerta del Sol, The Prado, Madrid Cathedral, the rose garden at Retiro Park. Tapas for lunch, a little shopping, then back to our multi-starred hotel.

And that was just the preamble. In two days we’d begin our Camino. We would walk The Way of Saint James—El Camino de Santiago—a pilgrimage across Spain that began in the middle ages and remains immensely popular today. We would trek 200 miles in twleve stages, beginning in León and ending at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela with the Pilgrim’s Mass.

My husband Mark was reading emails on the bed as I toweled off my hair. “Bad news,” he said. “The firm has let go of the word processors. The whole department. What will I do without Camille?”

I tossed the towel on a chair. “Why would they fire all those people? Camille’s a single mom. How will she feed her kids if she doesn’t have a job?”

Mark typed something on his iPad. “It’s another cost-cutting measure. Camille has emailed me too. I’ll write her a recommendation. I hope she finds something soon.”

“Still, the layoff is a sin.”

[Read more...]


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