For MicahWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
Approaching the turn to 45, my definition of “adventure” has changed dramatically. That word used to include a variety of self-indulgent, reckless, crazy, death-defying, spit-in-the-devil’s-face-to-watch-the-spit-sizzle double-dog dares. Now, an adventure centers around family activities, like loading the kids in the minivan and going to the park, where words like reckless and death-defying are banned and the lay of the land is far too humdrum for the devil to bother noticing.
So when a friend embarks on an adventure I wouldn’t dream of undertaking, it’s an opportunity to live vicariously through his experiences.
I met Micah Rubin about a decade ago, when he interned with me at a publication whose name never made my resume. Rubin is a tall, thin, almost always smiling man with a sharp wit, talent for photography and a healthy, moderate perspective on life. He has been a constant friend as the decade rolled by, even as his path took him to pursue journalism in the big, bad city of New York.
I love talking to Rubin, hearing about Manhattan and his adventures at the national magazines he has worked for. When my family visited Manhattan for the first time, Rubin was our patient tour guide and walkin’ dude. He took my wife and me to a rooftop hotel across from the Empire State Building, for a spectacular, non-touristy view of that incomparable structure.
Recently, when Rubin told me he and his girlfriend Joanie were quitting their Manhattan jobs to take a nearly eight-month hiking trip across Southeast Asia, my response was, “@#$& you!” Who gets to walk away from their Manhattan job and loft, put their arm around their hottie girlfriend and take off for a long walk across Asia? Who gets to do that?
My friend Micah Rubin does. That’s why I love him.
Rubin is, of course, naturally, it goes without saying, chronicling his adventure on a blog, http://bucketbath.travellerspoint.com. Tracking two vegetarians hiking their way through the lands of pork and shrimp is a great way to stretch one’s virtual adventure muscles.
Rubin, on the great adventure: “I’m looking forward to the blank slate ahead of us. The pit in the stomach after arriving in a new city, no reservation … not knowing where we’re headed or where exactly we’ll end up. It’s human, elemental survival: struggling to find ourselves amidst the swirl of the new, unknown, explored, but not by us. There’s a new person on the other side of this abyss, the most beautiful, alluring, humbling place one could be and I look forward to meeting him (and her).”
Rubin, on jogging through Tiananmen Square: “I continued north, crossing the street, past vendors selling kites strung up a hundred feet into the air, boiled corn, dumplings and Chairman Mao curios … through the security checkpoint into Tiananmen Square … past the imposing structure of Mao’s tomb, north to the gates of the Forbidden City, where kings ruled for ages. I continued south, past the National Performance Center, a modernist orb shaped like a hard-boiled egg that’s been sliced in half.
The air was a choking paste, but I kept going.”
Rubin, on the Great Wall of China: “At the ends of both sides of the Mutianyu section was a sign that said ‘do not pass.’ But for us, that’s only an invitation for adventure so we walked past the barrier and climbed the stairs. The Wall continued for another quarter-mile or so until falling into disrepair: collapsed guard towers, pathways overgrown with trees and bushes, loose stones and crumbling ramparts. I felt transported to another time, humbled and amazed at the skill and perseverance of the Wall’s builders — and waited for an ancient soldier to materialize from the chalky mountain mist.”
Rubin, on nearly breaking an ankle and visiting a Chinese hospital: “In a way, hospitals represent a country’s benchmark of the population’s health. This hospital was similar to others I’ve visited: bleak white walls stained with dirt, cigarette burns on the floor and lacking that antiseptic cleanliness that makes us squirm. Despite the unpleasantness of the hospital’s atmosphere, I was impressed by the service. Maybe foreigners are treated better or the hospital wanted to show off their (and China’s) high standard of care.”
Rubin, on cuisine in Luoyong, China (complete with colorful pictures): “Adventurous eaters beware — we might have met your match in Luoyong, China. Heart? Frog? Bugs? We weren’t quite sure what they were …”
I’m having a great time seeing China through Rubin’s eyes, and look forward to hearing about more when he returns. But his current adventure shares a characteristic with his city of Manhattan: it’s a nice place to visit, but at this point in my life, I wouldn’t want to live there.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.