November 19, 2017

Good Call: Las Vegas with Antonio Esfandiari, Inspirato, Winter 2016

In 2012, the World Series of Poker held its most expensive tournament ever: it cost $1 million to buy into it and the top prize was more than $18 million. Antonio Esfandiari, who emigrated from Iran to the U.S. when he was a boy, finished on top and instantly became one of the best known poker players in the world. I met him in Las Vegas in October 2012 and we spent about an hour talking over an early dinner. He had the poker player’s stare; when we discussed the possibility of me writing about him his look bore through me; there was a power in his assessing that I’m sure serves him well at the poker table. Ultimately he chose to trust me with his story and I went on to play poker that night at Wynn and later at Caesar’s, where a few winning hands covered all my costs for the trip.

Esalen: Retreat on Big Sur Coast, Press Democrat, Jan. 2016

After failing to get through the gates to paradise years ago, I finally made it to Esalen. To see the story on The Press Democrat’s site with some pictures, click here.   By MICHAEL SHAPIRO I couldn’t wait to get to Esalen on the Big Sur coast. I love hot springs and though I wasn’t […]

Ultimate Tequila Tour with Julio Bermejo, American Way (American Airlines)

Over the course of two whirlwind days in Tequila and one in the highlands town of Arandas, I visit eight distilleries with Julio Bermejo.

Kayaking to see bears at Alaska’s Pack Creek, Alaska magazine, Aug. 2015

Our guide had us check every pocket to make sure we weren’t carrying any food that might attract bears. Yet the grizzlies seem to be running through the drizzly afternoon straight at us.

Winged Wonders: Great migrations of sandhill cranes, Horizons, March 2014

With an assist from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, crane populations have rebounded dramatically, though habitat loss and hunting continue to imperil these graceful birds.

Yosemite with Ansel Adams, Press Democrat (Aug. 2015)

With Yosemite preparing to celebrate its 125th anniversary (Oct. 1, 2015), my wife and I spent four days there in midsummer seeking new perspectives on the park.

Paul Theroux’s Cape Cod, Inspirato, Summer 2015

I first interviewed Paul Theroux in 2004 for my book, A Sense of Place, a collection of interviews with the world’s leading travel writers. Though some consider him brusque, blunt and — this irritates him the most — curmudgeonly, I found him to be engaging and genuinely interested in me when we met in San Francisco a couple of weeks after the interview. We spoke again in 2015 for this story on Cape Cod and how his adopted home has become so important not just for his personal happiness but for his writing life.

Here’s an excerpt from the story: Theroux said the potential dangers of paddling around the Cape tuned his senses to hazards while traveling abroad. “This complex landscape has taught me ways of measuring the world of risk,” he writes in “The True Size of Cape Cod,” an essay in Fresh Air Fiend. “But the word ‘landscape’ presents a problem on the Cape. I find it hard to separate the land from the water, or the water from the winds.”

In our interview Theroux noted that the “Cape waters, and Nantucket Sound especially, can be dangerous in a small boat – even in a big boat.” The ocean liner Queen Elizabeth II ran aground 10 miles west of Martha’s Vineyard in August 1992, forcing the evacuation of more than 1,800 passengers, according to the New York Times, and knocking the ship out of commission for a year.

Sweet home Chicago: Blues, baseball and barbecue, Inspirato, Summer 2015

Sometimes, if you’ve worked with an editor for a while, she approaches you with an assignment. And occasionally she opens the door to your dream story. When my editor at Inspirato suddenly had an opening for a feature and asked me to pitch a story about Chicago, I sent in essence a three-word reply: “Blues, baseball, barbecue.” Ultimately I got the assignmet and wrote about my favorite aspects of the City of Big Shoulders.
Here’s an excerpt from the story: Wrigley Field has been showing its age, but that’s part of its charm, and a new Jumbotron installed this year adds 21st-century technology to the creaky yard. Mark Gonzales, who covers the Cubs for the Chicago Tribune notes that baseball is “deep-rooted” in Chicago and that loyalty is passed down through the generations. “You can always sell hope, and hope remains strong with the Cubs.”
That hope is captured in Norman Rockwell’s 1948 painting The Dugout. It focuses on a slump-shouldered bat boy with dejected Cubs players sitting in the dugout behind him. Above are several jeering fans, but there’s one smiling kid, thrilled just to be at the game. That’s the symbol of the true Cubs fan.

Guess who’s slicing your sturgeon, NYC’s ethnic food, Inspirato, Spring 2015

It’s no secret that many of the cooks making New York City’s best ethnic food didn’t grow up eating smoked salmon or corned beef sandwiches. On the upper east side I found two Chinese brothers selling fantastic sturgeon; the guys making the pastrami at Pastrami Queen on Lexington near 78th came from the Guatemalan pueblo of Solola. When I told a chef at Pastrami Queen that I’d been to his hometown, he smiled as if to politely say “yeah, right.” Then I mentioned that Solola’s market days are Tuesday and Friday and that the village near Lake Atitlan is one of the few places in Guatemala where men still wear traditional colorful clothing – his grin widened in recognition.

NY Times: Vineyards with Vistas

It is no mystery why the towns and countryside here are so attractive to second-home seekers: seduced by high-quality restaurants, coast-side golf courses, unique shops and galleries, easy access to the Pacific and the redwood forests, and wineries that routinely outrank the top French producers, many see paradise in this nook of Northern California.