My Bucket List

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” – Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

 

After the 2007 movie “The Bucket List” featuring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman came out, it seemed that everybody began making similar lists cataloguing the places they wanted to go and the things they wanted to do before “kicking the bucket”. It’s been said that preparing such a list is a great way to put your whole life in perspective, and although the list-making process it’s eerily similar to what we do when we make New Year’s Eve resolutions (and we all know what happens with those…), the potential for a real follow-through is greater with bucket lists. At least, I think it is.

I spent a little time on mine. And since I did mine shortly after the start of the second half, I kept it short-ish and sweet. And doable. But I cheated. You see, when you must fill two or three lifetimes worth of things to do and places to go in one quarter of a game, you fill the answer sheet to the brim (and on both sides of the paper if needed). I admit and concede that I was too lazy, too stubborn, and too sure of my own immortality during my youngling days. Still, I’ve done my fair share of traveling, my fair share of learning, and my fair share of living. But I will not decline the opportunity to Google-map the journey for the rest of my life. For what it’s worth, this is my bucket list in no particular order of precedence:

Ireland

1. Spend a week in Ireland and Great Britain: This entry is probably a side effect of watching MTV in the early eighties in Luis Felipe’s house, but along with the video for “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles, one of the first videos I saw was “I Will Follow” by U2. Listening to Bono and the guys was my introduction to Ireland in general (the Cranberries came much, much later), and to the Troubles in particular. It was mind-blowing for me to think, at that day and age (1981), that people were still killing each other because of their religion. Sounded something straight out of the Middle Ages. Little did I knew, ah? Anyways, over the years that interest became something akin to an obsession (my brew of choice is still a Guinness Extra Stout) and consequently, the addition of Eire and its four provinces became a no-brainer. But the trip couldn’t be complete without adding England (and the rest of the so-called Great Britain) to the mix for perspective purposes. I mean, since I’ll already be nearby I might as well go see London (Piccadilly Circus, MI-6 and the Buckingham Palace), Birmingham, Glasgow (scotch whisky anyone?), Liverpool (the Beatles birthplace, hello), Manchester, and Edinburgh, right?

North Europe

2. Take a cruise ship to Northern Europe (Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland): Visiting and spending some time on these countries would also be a hell of an adventure for any Game of Thorns fan (which I’m not). But the history, the sights and the food alone would still make a visit to Viking country very special to me, even if Noma is still closed. And to make things a little more interesting, the government of Iceland offers sweeteners (like special packages and incentives) if you do a layover for at least twenty-four hours. Many, many things to see, so little time. Fortunately, there are a couple of cruise ship companies that visit all of these countries on a single ten-day trip that lets you catch a glimpse (but just a glimpse) of the European northern exposure. Maybe on my next life I will be lucky enough to do a more in-depth visit to the region. Until then…

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3. Visit St. Petersburg and Moscow: In 1980, a Hollywood actor was elected President of the United States and somehow, between untimely naps and made-for-TV sound-bites, his tough-guy bullshit eventually made the Russian bear blink and the iron curtain was teared down. Up until that time, I had been under the impression that if the assholes-in-charge didn’t blow us all to hell, communism was historically inevitable. Trying to be ahead of the pack, I read anything Russian-related (from Leo Tolstoy and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to Tom Clancy and John le Carre), and became a bit smitten by Russian history, Soviet brutalist architecture, and their even-paranoids-have-enemies attitude. Leningrad and Moscow became must-go destinations.

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4. Eat at the French Laundry, Napa: I love eating out. But with TV shows like “No Reservations” and “Bizarre Foods” becoming part of our everyday experience, choosing an eating establishment has become very complicated. But one thing I learned from the late, great Anthony Bourdain is that we aren’t supposed to go to a high-end restaurant just for the food. We should go for the whole experience. To hear God’s gospel from a Chef’s perspective. Apparently, it’s a very special kind of table dance. So, the trick seems to be find a good dancer/chef to get good food. And of all the talented dancers in the world, a few names keep popping up. Ferran Adria. Rene Redzepi. Sean Brock. Paul Bocuse. And Thomas Keller. Well, I already had a Sean Brock’s meal in Nashville and sadly, Paul Bocuse is dead. Therefore, since this is a bucket list and Rene Redzepi hasn’t finished doing his pop-ups in Mexico (did I mentioned that Numa is still closed?), the French Laundry will be it…

tickets barcelona

5. Eat at Tickets, Barcelona: And Tickets… Although this restaurant is run by Ferran Adria’s younger brother Albert, the spirit of elBulli’s “molecular gastronomy” is very much alive and kicking here. The plan was to visit Tickets in 2018, but since I’m not going to Barcelona this year, the liquid olive experience would have to wait a little longer.

Cuba 3

6. Spend a week in Cuba: Jose Marti, Ernest Hemingway, Fidel Castro. The best baseball in the world. Celia Cruz, Compay Segundo, Silvio Rodriguez. La Bodeguita del Medio, el Malecon, el Morro. Cortaditos, Cohibas, and Mojitos. Cuba have always felt like Puerto Rico’s first cousin (two wings of a single bird, the song says) and most of my friends are first or second-generation Cubans-in-exile. I have always imagined Cuba to be like home, but older, wiser and with hot looking women. But if you give credence to their parents’ (and grandparents’) stories and put them all together, I am pretty sure it would require erecting at least four more floors above Cuba to fit all the buildings and factories and properties that were purportedly left behind by them. Maybe more. And some of the old timers (and most of the corporations, like Coca-Cola, that had their assets nationalized by the revolution) want their shit back. Even after sixty years. Therefore, as recommended on Parts Unknown (Season 6, Episode 1), I got to go and visit and enjoy Cuba ASAP before relations between the countries normalize and the shit actually hits the fan.

Yankees 2

7. Watch a baseball game in Yankee Stadium: Are you kidding me??? I missed watching the core four live during their dynasty years. I’m not going to miss the baby bombers at Yankee Stadium. And coincidentally, the Baltimore Orioles are visiting the Yankees on August 1st of this year. I’m just saying…

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8. Watch a concert at Carnegie Hall: Since it opened, Carnegie Hall has set the standard for musical excellence as THE destination for the world’s finest artists throughout the years. Everybody from Tchaikovsky to Billie Holiday to the Beatles have played in Carnegie Hall. And Manhattan is always a great idea…

Yellowstone National Park 15

9. Hike through Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming: Sometimes, maybe once in a blue moon, I miss running (which for medical reasons I can’t do anymore). But ever since I began taking long walks regularly, I have grown to love hiking as well. Maybe is the chance to be lost in thought while experiencing nature first-handed. Who knows… Anyways, why Yellowstone? Like most of you, I loved watching Yogi and Boo-Boo on Saturday mornings trying to steal picnic baskets from tourists (and most of the time, succeeding), so visiting their neighborhood had always been a big dream of mine. Imagine my surprise when I “recently” found out that the Yellowstone National Park was an actual park and that Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Canyon Village were actual places. With more than 900 miles (1,449 km) of hiking trails to boot. So, yeah. Definitively.

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10. Hike through Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: This is what the National Park Service says about hiking on the Grand Canyon National Park: “hiking the Grand Canyon is very different from most other hiking experiences. Mental attitude and adequate water and food consumption are absolutely essential to the success of any Grand Canyon hike, particularly in summer. The day hiker and the overnight backpacker must be equally prepared for the lack of water, extreme heat and cold, and isolation characteristic of the Grand Canyon. Hiking in the Grand Canyon is so demanding that even people in excellent condition often emerge sore and fatigued. Yet small children, senior citizens, and people with physical disabilities have successfully hiked the canyon. A hike into the Grand Canyon will test your physical and mental endurance.” This park brings back memories of National Geographic magazines of many years past. Have you ever looked at a photograph of the Grand Canyon and been anything but awed? You can keep Vegas for all I care. This one’s for me…

camino-de-santiago1

11. Walk the Camino de Santiago: The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of Saint James, is a network of pilgrims’ routes to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth, but it’s also popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts. The most popular route is the Camino Francés which stretches nearly 500 miles (780 km) from the small town of St. Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, across the Pyrenees and on to Santiago. For me, walking the Camino will be the picture-perfect way to go back to Santiago de Compostela.

Mt_-Kilimanjaro

12. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro: This is one of the most extreme bucket list item I have, and it’s considered extreme for good reason. Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, is the tallest freestanding mountain on earth, and it’s even crowned with a perpetual snow-cap. It takes from seven days to ten days to get to the top and the ambiance temperatures vary from 90 degrees and 100% humidity at the bottom to sub-zero temperatures at the top. Most climbers suffer altitude sickness and not all climbers reach the top. Read my lips: Summer of 2020…

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13. Attend the 2024 Olympic Games at Paris: Every four years I say the same thing. And every single time I don’t follow through. Olympic Games + Paris? And I have six years to save enough money and to make arrangements? Duhh…

french

14. Learn and become fluent-ish in French: Going back to France is one of those instances in which the question is “when” am I going back rather than “if” I’m going back. Learning the language will greatly enhance the experience, and I finally have the time and the will to see it through. It’s time to stop procrastinating and trust the process…

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15. Watch a tennis match in Wimbledon at the Championships: Actually, I have been in London during the Championships and it was an experience that I will never forget. The year was 2013 and we were returning home after a long circuit through Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin. We had a short layover in London before we flew to New York, and from there, hopefully a short puddle-hopper to San Juan. But we had forgotten about Mr. Murphy. Silly us. About two hours after takeoff, halfway through the Atlantic, the pilot announced over the intercom that something was wrong with the cabin’s pressure and that he had to turn the plane back to London. Did I mention that we were in the middle of the Atlantic? Well, the plane made it back around 2:00 am and we were beyond beat. Don’t worry, I told the girls, per European regulations, they have to settle us on a hotel. Right? In case I wasn’t clear enough at the beginning, we were in London on Wimbledon weekend. Which meant that no rooms were available in all London. At least that’s what we were told. They gave blankets to all the passengers and directed us to a ballroom at the airport in which to sleep. All of us. Together. In masse. And three hours later, they turned on the lights and kicked us all out of the ballroom. Very British of them. And then we got to spend the whole day at the airport dead tired, smelling kind of funky, and just a bit pissed, while we waited for the next flight back. Anyways, that’s my sappy-sad travel story.

Back to the bucket list thing-y, ever since I watched the Wimbledon finals between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe in 1980, I wanted to attend the All England Club, eat strawberries and cream, and watch a match (any match) during the Championships, dressed in white like a true gentleman. I know that it would be a bit gluttonous of me trying to fit this experience into any other trip, but (like Hamilton told Jefferson) if the shoe fits, I will show you…

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16. Visit the Orient (China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan): I will be bending a little the bucket list rules with this entry (this is something like a ten in one), but I just run out of fucks to give. Even though my friend Laaz does this trip twice a year, I am a mere mortal and I will be lucky if I get it done once during my lifetime. I understand that China, Hong Kong and Japan are doable on one trip. It would be a tight fit, but it’s fine, since white Caucasian gentlemen find it less intimidating that way. Adding Vietnam and Thailand will be a major over-reach. Unfortunately, I don’t see myself going to the Orient more than once during this lifetime, so it is what it is… Visiting China would be a dream come true and so will be visiting Hong Kong. I was afraid that things would change a lot with the transfer to Red China, but it seems that capitalism is alive and well on the old British colony. Japan will also be special for many reasons. But doing Vietnam and Thailand too on that trip would be the icing on the cake. Time will tell…

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17. Spend a weekend in Washington DC: Although spending a weekend on the Nation’s capital would seem simple enough for most people, it hasn’t been the case for me. The main problem here has been the lack of enthusiasm of my usual travel partners. Too many museums, monuments, and buildings. Not enough shopping opportunities. Ok, I guess it’s just karma. But for the time being, this trip will remain on the launching pad waiting for the stars to align. It could be next week, it could be this year, it could be the next. Let’s just hope that the Man from the High Castle’s scenario doesn’t come into fruition before I get a chance to visit Jefferson’s folly…

machu-picchu-wider-view

18. Visit Peru: I need to go to Peru and visit Machu Pichu. I need to see the Nazca lines. I need to visit and explore Cuzco and Lima. This is not up for discussion. And while at it, I might as well have a bite or two at Central. Maybe three…

Santiago_de_Chile_de_noche

19. Visit Chile: Isabel Allende is to blame for this. And to some lesser degree, both Ruben Blades and Sting. So much history, so much pain, so much promise… This country has a little bit of everything. Cosmopolite cities like Santiago, Valparaiso and Viña del Mar are tailor-made for foodies and shopping enthusiasts, and the breathtaking sites, like the newly created Route of Parks that links up the country’s most remote corners, fit adventurous spirits like a glove.

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20. Visit Brazil: I have been back and forth about Brazil for years. My uncle Alvaro and my aunt Maty lived in Curitiba for many years, and during High School, I was less than one fuck-up away of being shipped there with them. On a perfect world, I would have already visited Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Brasilia and Manaus years ago. My sister did traveled there with a couple of friends during her college years and they brought back bikinis more akin to dental floss than to bathing suits, but I digress… As a matter of fact, during the pre-planning stage of our 2016 family vacation, Brazil was the clear frontrunner for many reasons. But when our research highlighted many security and safety concerns, and since we were going to be traveling with a very precocious eleven-year-old, we took the safest route available and chose Europe instead. Brazil would get their shit together in the future. At least, I really hope they do.

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21. Take a cruise ship to Greece and the Greek islands: This one has been in the books for a while. The nature of the trip and the locations have suffered some changes along the way, but the usual suspects remain unchanged. Athens, Crete, the Cyclades (Santorini and Mikonos), Delphi, and the Peloponnese. And doing it on a cruise ship from Athens would ease our youngling’s pain of having to hike through the scorching sun in yet another site with historic ruins…

Giza

22. Visit the Giza pyramid complex, Egypt: Once upon a time, visiting Egypt was on top of every wish list I had. Still is. Kind of. But nowadays, instead of wanting to roam around Cairo and the rest of the country for weeks and weeks, I’m tempted to just visit the pyramids, take a selfie and go back home immediately. And it’s not just because the opening scene of Despicable Me 2 with the tacky tourists and the Sweet Home Alabama soundtrack. But since I don’t travel with a large, protective entourage like the guys we see on TV in travel shows, the safety and security of my inner circle is always a concern. To get around that issue, a friend of mine suggested that I should just do a virtual reality tour of Egypt and be done with it. Nahhh, I don’t think so…

Alaska

23. Take a cruise ship to Alaska: The last frontier… Alaska’s history as Washington’s de facto colony has some similarities to our own fucked-up situation and, for better or worse, its lessons learned might shade some light on what the future holds for me and my countrymen. But if you are just looking for an Alexander Supertramp-type trip with a less drastic ending, as I am at this time, taking a cruise ship from Vancouver to Anchorage might just be the answer. It’s simple and convenient, huge floating chunks of ice notwithstanding. And this adventure can be nicely paired with a brewery tour of the northwest and a visit to my eldest sister.

GondolaRideVenice

24. Spend a month in Italy: I already did a panoramic tour of Italy, visiting some of her greatest hits at light speed: Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, Pompey, Capri and Pisa. But no Milan. No Cinque Terre. No Amalfi Coast. It was the travel version of David Bowie’s “wham, bam, thank you Ma’am”. Next time, I must do it slowly, lovingly, with greater attention to detail, just like a good lover should.

Granada

25. Spend a month in Spain: One of my favorite non-sexual fantasies is retiring to a small apartment with an awesome view of Mediterranean. And in my dreams, it’s always Catalonia because of its strategic location, great food, and awesome climate. But since I probably will be working my ass off until I kick the bucket, the next best thing would be spending a whole month in Spain and slowly (and I really mean slowly) explore the major regions and spend some quality time in Barcelona, Sevilla, San Sebastian, Malaga, Madrid, and Valencia. Rinse. Spin. Repeat.

Ricardo

Twenty-five bucket list items sure seems very ambitious, but there were still some obvious and painful omissions. Aspen. Bora-Bora. Boston. Buenos Aires. Cape Town. Cartagena. Casablanca. Ecuador. Istanbul. Jerusalem. Kathmandu. New Zealand. Sydney. Teotihuacan. Warsaw.  Places that have stroke a chord deep within me for some unexplained reason. Unfortunately, I got more places that I want to visit than remaining time to visit them. And I might not even finish THIS list. But I am pretty sure that I’ll have a hell of lot of fun trying.  I will be seeing you on the road. I’ll buy the first round…

!!!Un abrazo!!!

In “The Bucket List” Morgan Freeman’s character tells Jack Nicholson’s character that in ancient Egypt it was believed that when you died, Anubis would ask two questions before allowing you to enter: Have you found joy in your life? Has your life brought joy to others?

After more than fifty years, my answers are still a work in progress…