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Just passing through ...
May 28, 2009 - Bill Ackerbauer
I'm still recovering from a busy and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. How about you? City Editor Adam Winslow and I both had memorable encounters with people who were "just passing through" our lovely area, so I thought I'd send along these anecdotes in a broadside:
1. At one of Johnstown's fine taverns, Adam met a couple of guys from Holland who are traveling around the U.S. in a recreational vehicle. They saw "Amsterdam" on the map and thought it would be interesting to visit the city named after their native capital. Our Amsterdam does have some interesting night life, a vigorous drug trade, a waterfront and some bicycle paths, but apparently Derk and Perry were disappointed. They have since moved on toward Boston and are documenting their travels on a blog at http://groot.reislogger.nl/foto/. (Hope you can read Dutch!).
2. Here's a minor coincidence. A few nights after Adam met these Dutch travelers, I went to that same fine tavern in Johnstown to shoot the breeze with an old friend visiting home from ... Amsterdam (the Old-World one). He's a computer/tech guy in the Air Force who has been serving with NATO for several years near the Germany-Netherlands border. Now he's on his way to an assignment in Alaska. If he shares any thoughts about how the red-light districts in Amsterdam and Anchorage compare, I'll be sure to pass that information along in future posts.
3. On Sunday afternoon, I happened to be driving along the arterial near Fifth Avenue Extension when I noticed a man with a weatherbeaten backpack strumming a guitar and singing in the middle of the almost empty parking lot next to Burger King. (See video below.) This guy obviously had a story to tell, so I pulled over and chatted with him.
He introduced himself as "Ricardo from Buffalo" and said he has been backpacking around the country, having recently been in Phoenix, and he was headed northeast to Saratoga Springs, then Vermont and eventually (perhaps) Nova Scotia.
Ricardo, who later told me his proper name is Richard A. Spadaro, said he had lived in Trumansburg, near Ithaca, and he used to run a gardening business. About five years ago, he said, he gave up that line of work, packed a backpack and a guitar and started hoofing it around the country. Busking — playing music in public places and accepting tips for it — has provided enough income to keep him sufficiently well fed, he said.
He said he couldn't quite explain why he decided to give up his "normal life," but he feels his current lifestyle is the one he's meant to lead. He said meeting a good woman might be the only thing that could convince him to settle down in one place.
"Or maybe I'll find a woman who wants to travel with me," he said.
As I snapped his photo, he asked me to let folks know: "I get better lookin' every day!"
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