Wonderful profile of travel guru Rick Steves www.nytimes.com:
… Steves has established himself as one of the legendary PBS superdorks — right there in the pantheon with Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross and Big Bird. Like them, Steves is a gentle soul who wants to help you feel at home in the world. Like them, he seems miraculously untouched by the need to look cool, which of course makes him sneakily cool….
Rick Steves is absolutely American. He wears jeans every single day. He drinks frozen orange juice from a can. He likes his hash browns burned, his coffee extra hot. He dislikes most fancy restaurants; when he’s on the road, he prefers to buy a foot-long Subway sandwich and split it between lunch and dinner. He has a great spontaneous honk of a laugh — it bursts out of him, when he is truly delighted, with the sharpness of a firecracker on the Fourth of July. Steves is so completely American that when you stop to really look at his name, you realize it’s just the name Rick followed by the plural of Steve — that he is a one-man crowd of absolutely regular everyday American guys: one Rick, many Steves. Although Steves spends nearly half his life traveling, he insists, passionately, that he would never live anywhere but the United States — and you know when he says it that this is absolutely true. In fact, Steves still lives in the small Seattle suburb where he grew up, and every morning he walks to work on the same block, downtown, where his parents owned a piano store 50 years ago. On Sundays, Steves wears his jeans to church, where he plays the congas, with great arm-pumping spirit, in the inspirational soft-rock band that serenades the congregation before the service starts, and then he sits down and sings classic Lutheran hymns without even needing to refer to the hymnal. Although Steves has published many foreign-language phrase books, the only language he speaks fluently is English. He built his business in America, raised his kids in America and gives frequent loving paeans to the glories of American life.
And yet: Rick Steves desperately wants you to leave America. The tiniest exposure to the outside world, he believes, will change your entire life. Travel, Steves likes to say, “wallops your ethnocentricity” and “carbonates your experience” and “rearranges your cultural furniture.” Like sealed windows on a hot day, a nation’s borders can be stultifying. Steves wants to crack them open, to let humanity’s breezes circulate. The more rootedly American you are, the more Rick Steves wants this for you. If you have never had a passport, if you are afraid of the world, if your family would prefer to vacation exclusively at Walt Disney World, if you worry that foreigners are rude and predatory and prone to violence or at least that their food will give you diarrhea, then Steves wants you — especially you — to go to Europe. Then he wants you to go beyond….
Steves is a passionate marijuana user and advocate.
For the next 20 minutes, Steves would read me koans about the glories of being stoned.
“High is the present,” he read.
“When you’re high, you debate long and hard over whether to put on your sweater or turn up the heat.”
This journal, Steves explained, contained what he called his “High Notes.” For nearly 40 years, he had been writing in it exclusively after smoking marijuana. He would get baked, open up to somewhere in the middle and jot down whatever he happened to be thinking — deep or shallow, silly or angry. There is no chronology; on every page, axioms from many different decades commingle. It is a lifelong treasury of Steves’s stoner thoughts….
I found myself wondering, for the thousandth time: Who does this? What kind of mind not only thinks of such a project but actually follows through with it, decade after decade after decade? Who, for God’s sake, is this disciplined when they’re high?