Enter all ye, who in the Order of Magellan be!

I’m not sure why my pirate voice sounds like Yoda, but somehow that’s how it works in my head.  A few years ago, I was looking to obtain a copy of my Order of Magellan Certificate, since I wasn’t quite sure when my signed copy was going to arrive.  In doing so, I stumbled upon a great organization.  I sent an innocent inquiry email, met with a member and the next month I was renting a tux to see Michael Palin receive an award in NYC.

This international organization is the Circumnavigator’s Club, headquartered in NYC.  At events it’s ok to ask others “Which way do you go?” and not get raised eyebrows since the response is East/West in the Northern/Southern Hemisphere.  It’s not a travel-club, it’s a club of travelers.  And while trying to get travelers together in one place is like herding-cats, the meetings we do have are unforgettable, like the upcoming award presentation to two astronauts.

Berlin 2010 at the East Side Gallery (Berlin Wall). Corollary to the Circumnavigator’s Moto: (my attempt at translation) Whoever wants the world to stay as it is doesn’t want the world to stay (at all).

When I was deployed to Afghanistan, this group was one of the many organizations that supported me from the home-front.  Their motto is “Through friendship, to leave the world a little better than we found it” and among the many ways they do that, there is one way in particular that stands out.  Among most children-of-80s, or among those who like Indiana Jones (and died a little when the fourth one came out), or maybe just me, I wanted to have a room with artifacts collected from around the world.  And much to the chagrin of my wife, our small apartment had fake-samuri swords, beer steins, a rug from India and a poorly aged bottle of cream-sherry from south-west Spain.  Well, the Circumnavigators Club doesn’t collect artifacts (sorry, that’s just me 😉 ), but we do send people around the world, sponsored by our Foundation.

Kids on a Goa, India beach, November 2006. Buying a rug in India was an experience in itself, one that I wouldn’t rush into. It took a month or two for it to clear customs and I’m pretty sure I overpaid. There were probably cheaper artifacts…

In one of the most creative foundation projects, we sponsor college students on an around the world study program, in which they are able to conduct field research through this amazing experience.  In fact, you can follow three of the foundation scholars as they are making their trip, right now:

  1. Thomas Larson, Georgetown University.
  2. Leah Luben, Arizona State University.
  3. Harry Boulding, University of Liverpool.
  4. Kevin Short, Northwestern University.

So what’s the deal then?  Well, first I’m trying to get the word out about the Circumnavigator’s Club.  We don’t really advertise per se.  And honestly, we need some younger members.  The requirement to travel the globe is not waiverable, but can be done by plane, which is a bit easier these days than when the club was founded 100 years ago.  And when I say younger, I mean that most members are retired.  But, what this club stands for and supports is timeless and should equally appeal to those in Gen-X and later.  That and I would like some company when I’m older. 😛

In Japan, December 2006. There was hope back then (mainly by wife) that I would eventually like skiing / snowboarding. A hope that I faintly subscribed to, which is why I must have kept the lift ticket on my jacket, that was probably a year old at the time. That hope is officially dead now; I’m a lodge dweller.

The yearly dues are affordable to college students and no-one is without at least one interesting travel story.  Applications are here and ideally, you can sync up with a Circumnavigator at a local chapter (listed on website) who can help with the application process, or you can send an email to HQ.

Literaturhaus NYC

For those visiting NYC Upper East Side, I recommend the following half-day trip, which happened to be my Monday morning.  Start off with Breakfast at Café Sabarsky at 86th and 5th.  It’s a quiet, Viennese style café in the Neue Galerie Museum.  It has the distinct European café feel, where they make real caffè lattes (milchkaffee) and where one can sit with a Newspaper stick and enjoying leisurely reading.  Café Sabarsky reminds me of my other favorite café in Berlin, the Literaturhaus Berlin.  Like Sabarsky and as its name implies, the Literaturhaus café is designed for reading.  And not the kind of reading one does with a highlighter or with the swipe of the finger, these cafés are the battlefields to tackle Joyce, Foster, Dostoyevsky, or Pynchon.  None of whom I brought, since I had excellent company at the time.  But I semi-frequently go to restaurants by myself just to read, which I recognize is not a normal habit…

So, after a European breakfast topped off with Sachertorte, walk down (or through) the Park to the south-east corner of Central Park at 60th and 5th Avenue.  There you will find two kiosks.  One, is the Vendy Award winning Belgian Waffle stand: Wafels and Dinges.

Waffles and Dinges Cart

Skip that for now, since you just had Sachertorte, but remember to go back one day and try a waffle with Speculoos.  Instead focus on the stand of one of the great NYC companies: The Strand Bookstore.  This kiosk is a mere speck of the books offered in the main bookstore which contains over 18 miles of books and where one can order books not only by the author, but by the foot.

The Kiosk, open 10 AM to dusk April through December, weather permitting, is the reverent flame for the book against its barbarian attacker: the eBook.  Even mentioned in this recent WIRED article, the book benefits from what the eBook readers lack: good

Strand Kiosk on the SE Corner of Central Park

design.  Now, I own a Kindle and it has its place for me, but there is something about browsing through table-tops of books at the entrance to central park.  And if the location and availability hasn’t won you over, the pedigree of books on display will.  Of course, at the kiosk, the Hunger Game Series and other popular fiction are available, but the majority of this corner shop is the boxes of half-priced (slightly) used classics.  I had to limit myself to three: Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf (natürlich, I would try to read it in German, but Kafka is still difficult for me.  And I tend to collect German books and not finish them.  So, I really want to read Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann in German, but you see, I’ve just purchased these books…), Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale, and The Redbreast, a Jo Nesbo novel.

While this may not be the itinerary for first time New Yorkers, stay an extra day next time to give this a try.  Or, if you forgot to bring your copy of The Brothers K., try the trip above in reverse and pick up a copy at the Strand Kiosk on your way to Frühstück.  As of Monday, there were three copies left.