City: Detroit, Michigan
Years on Couchsurfing: 15
How did you first hear of Couchsurfing, way back in 2004?
My long time friend, Jeannine, told me about Couchsurfing and encouraged me to make a profile – what a life changer!
Wow! And what made you get so involved?
Having recently divorced, I was free to host travelers, something my ex felt nervous about. I stayed up late having a great conversation with the first surfer I hosted on my own, a guy from Germany fresh out of gymnasium hitchhiking across the northern US – in February. I dropped him off on a freeway ramp in a foot of snow and wished him good luck. Later I learned he was on his way to Chicago in 5 minutes. I was hooked. I hosted as often as I could, and got involved with attending then hosting local CS meet-ups. Many years, guests, and Couch Crashes later, I became Detroit’s first AirBnB host and continue to host Couchsurfers whenever possible between reservations. Because of this unusual arrangement I often get to host people on short notice, like those whose hosts cancelled last minute.
Wow! That guy is lucky, as we both know hitchhiking in the USA isn’t as commonplace as other parts of the world! What has been your most interesting experience hosting?
Sooo many…! But one that sticks out was Jason who was motorcycling through Detroit and interested in exploring our famous ruins. (This was some years ago, near “peak ruin.”) At the famously mammoth abandoned Packard Plant we discovered an old underground steam tunnel flooded by a water main break that was endlessly gushing untold thousands of gallons of city water into oblivion. We couldn’t see around the nearby corner. Adventure beckoned. Jason was leaving the next morning but insisted that we return with waders to explore the turn in the tunnel before he took off. With trash bags strapped on as jury rigged waders, we cautiously advanced toward the turn, walking an underwater plank across a deeper submarine pit…. We turned the corner and our headlamps revealed… a cave-in. Dead end. Ha! Jason wasn’t very late getting on the road, and we both felt great having explored the tunnel to its premature end. He left me with one of Detroit’s famous “Stop Halloween Arson” posters he’d obtained, but couldn’t safely transport on his bike. It still hangs in the entryway of my ‘Detroit Loves You’ Guest Home.
What a great story! The anti-climactic ending makes it even more fulfilling in some way. What about your most interesting experience as a surfer?
Most is a strong word! Though this one’s certainly a contender…. My friend, Jeannine (who, you’ll remember, turned me on to Couchsurfing) and I surfed with an awesomely quirky couple in Ottawa on our road trip to Quebec City. Together we played Morton’s List, a game that gives you random real life missions to do. That July night ours was to dance, which we interpreted as holding a dance-off. Even though it was sprinkling outside, we relocated to a nearby park and drew dance styles out of a hat. Jeannine and I got Bollywood, they got Ballet. We practiced our routines in private then performed for each other in the rain, to everyone’s soaking delight.
Haha! I’m sure you were an excellent Bollywood dancer. If you could Couchsurf with any celebrity (alive or dead), would would it be?
Tough…. María Sabina, the Mazatec healer and shaman from southern Mexico
Very cool. What is one book that has inspired your travels?
Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing by Robert Wolff. This short and simple autobiographical book is the amazing story of how through contact with native Malay and Sng’oi people the author discovered “heart consciousness” within himself, an awareness of profound empathy and connection with those he meets. It’s a beautiful journey about simply being human. A quick yet profound read I cannot recommend highly enough.
What is your favorite travel quote?
In a mad world, only the mad are sane!Ran (1985), Arika Kurosawa (director)
What is the craziest thing that has ever happened to you while traveling?
Guatemala City, December 2012. I had a gun pulled on me by a guy who’d been attempting to hot-wire our van, and who I’d chased around said van and into the passenger seat of his big black getaway truck parked right behind it. That’s when ‘fight’ should have pivoted to ‘flight’. Instead, that’s when I flung the passenger side door open to find the guy tumbled inside, fumbling for his pistol. As close as I am to my laptop screen, the barrel was to my chest. Slow motion kicked in, right on queue. Simultaneously, my hands go up, I say “WHHOOOAAA”, slowly, and my torso twists flat, Matrix style. I’m free falling to my left, away from the car door and firing arc. No bullet whizzes slowly past me. He wasn’t trying to shoot anyone. The car door slams shut and the truck speeds off, leaving me unscathed – and with an indelible memory!
Oh. My. God. That sounds terrifying. I would have immediately just ran. There is no ‘fight’ in my fight or flight! Ok, so transitioning away from life-threatening memories, what is your recommendation for a ‘Must Eat’ when someone is in Detroit?
My favorite of Detroit’s two most renown culinary innovations is Detroit-style pizza. I don’t often eat pizza, but when I do, I often wish it was Detroit-style. The other being the Coney dog, a hot dog with chili, mustard, and onions.
Wow. Those both sound amazing. Of dubious nutritional value, but delicious nonetheless! Lastly, what is your go-go Karaoke song?
I’ve only ever Karaoked once. In Japan, for what it’s worth. To Material Girl, for what that’s worth. Madonna’s a Michigan native. Circle gets the square.