Blog

Get the story behind the story and outtakes from the road in my blogs which cover everything from the craft of journalism to weird things that happen on the road.
Washington Post: Dylan Thomas’s Wales

Washington Post: Dylan Thomas’s Wales

I've long felt a kinship with Wales, perhaps because it's where one of my favorite writers, Jan Morris, lives. Recently I had the chance to stay overnight and tour Dylan Thomas's boyhood home in...

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Nat Geo: Top 10 Secrets of the Maya

Nat Geo: Top 10 Secrets of the Maya

People often ask me what my favorite destination is - I don't have just one but I always include Guatemala, the hub of the Maya world, in my top 5. When National Geographic asked me to share some...

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Kauai still a Dream Trip, Islands

Kauai still a Dream Trip, Islands

Islands magazine sent me to the Garden Isle of Kauai to write a feature for its Dream Trips issue which marked the magazine's 25th anniversary. I was honored to have my essay appear among stories...

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NY Times: Vineyards with Vistas

NY Times: Vineyards with Vistas

My first New York Times story was a piece about Wine Country real estate:   Destination Guide | Napa and Sonoma Vineyards With Vistas   By MICHAEL P. SHAPIRO Published: July 26, 2006 An...

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Gambling column: NBA title futures

Gambling column: NBA title futures

Here's my latest Gambling column from the San Francisco Chronicle, on odds to win the NBA title. As expected, Miami is the favorite, but Golden State has it's best odds in more than a decade. Read...

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Making a living as a freelancer

Making a living as a freelancer

Every June, I mark the anniversary of leaving my last full-time job, at CNET in SF. It's been 15 years with lots of highs and lows, but I've never regretted the decision to walk away from the...

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Cowboy Junkies keep it fresh

Cowboy Junkies keep it fresh

In the early 1990s, Cowboy Junkies lead vocalist Margo Timmins performed just for me. I sat about 30 feet away from her and she sang one of her favorites, "Misguided Angel" to an audience of one....

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Riding the Rails in Wales, American Way

One of the best ways to see a country is on a slow train. Perhaps the most enjoyable of these are the 19th-century railways of Wales. In 1996, I came across a site called The Great Little Trains of...

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Abolish the one-game playoff in baseball

Abolish the one-game playoff in baseball

Well the playoffs worked out beautifully for our SF Giants, but I still think a one-game playoff cheapens the season - here's my comment for The Press Democrat - it's short, a 2-minute read. October...

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Rejection slip, rejection slip

Rejection slip, rejection slip

A friend passed this on to me years ago, still as appropriate as ever: Dear Editor, Thank you for your recent rejection slip. As it does not quite fit my present requirements, I am returning it....

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Self-publishing tips

Self-publishing tips

I'm on a panel at Book Passage today on self-publishing. The two main ways to go about this are: produce a print book or publishing an e-book. Both have their advantages. For an art or photography...

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Amazon cruising: A Ride in the Wild

Amazon cruising: A Ride in the Wild

I always thought if I ever floated down the Amazon it'd be in a dugout canoe on a shoestring adventure. But when the editor of a magazine for country club members asked me to join a luxe cruise, of...

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Lily Tomlin rocks the house

Lily Tomlin rocks the house

These days Lily Tomlin’s character Ernestine, the gossipy telephone operator who used to parody the AT&T monopoly, works for an insurance firm, “denying health care to everybody.” She told me...

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Was Pat Tillman murdered? SF Chron.

Was Pat Tillman murdered? SF Chron.

Ballistics evidence suggests the bullets that killed NFL-player-turned-soldier Pat Tillman were fired from just 10 yards away. We know it was friendly fire -- his mother believes it may not have...

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Sumptuous cuisine in Lima, Peru

Sumptuous cuisine in Lima, Peru

Sometimes dream assignments get even dreamier. After asking "if I'd be willing" to go to Peru and take a cruise down the Amazon, my editor said something like: As long as you'll be in Lima, try a...

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Leo Kottke: How the guitar saved my life

Leo Kottke: How the guitar saved my life

  Leo Kottke is a quirky and genuine as you'd guess from his music - here's an excerpt from our interview which ends with him talking about music being a type of home for him: Renowned acoustic...

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Interview with Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson

Interview with Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson

I spoke with the genius behind the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, in August 2011. The man who penned hits such as "California Girls" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" has suffered terribly from mental illness...

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Ballad of Pat Tillman, Metro newspapers

Ballad of Pat Tillman, Metro newspapers

The football star–turned–soldier became the Pentagon's poster boy, and when he was shot dead by U.S. Army Rangers, the military said he was killed by enemy fire. The deception, it turns out, was not...

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