A Travellerspoint blog

August 2019

In memory of my travel buddy Berni Shand

Thinking of Berni on her birthday and the life lessons she taught me.

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Berni's original Virtual Tourist photo - my first memory of her

I had a very dear friend named Berni. She was a friend from the internet. We met on a travel web site. We talked on line for hours on end. She was a very funny lady and kept me laughing late into the night on many occasions. She loved to collect shoes. She had closets full of shoes. She also loved to travel. We laughed together, we shared secrets, we cried together. We had a perfect online friendship. Suddenly one day as we were talking she said to me "Larry I have just been diagnosed with cancer." I was speechless. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. When Berni lost her hair from her chemotherapy treatments I sent her a giant Maryland crab hat. I told her to wear it out in public so she would not attract attention to herself. She loved it. She told me she laughed for days over that silly hat. Everyone who came to visit her had to wear the crab hat and she would send me photos of them wearing the hat. I went to England to meet her and she was no longer able to wear her beloved high heeled shoes. She was in a wheel chair. But we laughed and had some wonderful party moments in London. Two years later she was near the end and I traveled to England to see her one last time. She was still so full of life. She and her husband had sold their home and possessions and traveled the last two years of her life. This last visit in London was not sad. We laughed and talked and enjoyed our time together. My last memory of her is seeing her husband Carl wheel her through the British museum in London. I was surprised as ill as she to see her going through the museum. She said to me I still want to learn. I never want to stop seeing something new. Even near death she still wanted to see and experience life.

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When I was in Oslo Norway I saw this wonderful statue of a nude lady with red high heels. I immediately thought of Berni when I saw the shoes on the statue. Berni was very ill by this time. I took a picture and sent a copy to Berni. I labeled it Berni and Larry in Oslo. She replied back to me "Get your hands off my ass. Its cold back there." Oh how she made me laugh. I learned more about living from her those last few years than I had in a lifetime from any where else. One of the last times we spoke she was talking about traveling to Florida. She wanted to watch a space launch at Cape Kennedy. She never made it to Florida. I miss you Berni. But I know your still near wearing those high heels where ever you are and thinking about that still makes me me laugh.

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With Berni and Carl

Posted by littlesam1 09:56 Comments (3)

O Solo A Roma - Alone in Rome

My first two days alone exploring Rome


View O Solo Roma July 2016 on littlesam1's travel map.

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Just my cap on the bed. Alone at Hotel Relais dei Papi in Rome

I don't mind traveling alone. I've done it on many occasions. Mark and I had planned a trip to Rome. We were very excited about it. We have talked about it for years. I had never been to Rome. Mark had been in Rome when he was eighteen and traveled there with his sister when he graduated from high school. We really wanted to go together so he could show me all of the places he visited with his sister. His sister died very young in her forties. So there was a lot of nostalgia for him going back to Rome. Mark is Italian and he speaks Italian fluently. So I was also looking forward to watching him talk to the waiters and bartenders in Italian. We really had planned a very special and romantic vacation to Rome. But things don't always go as planned. Mark's parents were both elderly and having major health issues. Just a couple of weeks before our planned trip his father took very ill with pneumonia and was hospitalized. With only one child still living his parents needed him home so there is no way we could do the holiday together. Do to some complications with our travel insurance we were unable to cancel without losing a lot the money we had paid in advance. So we decided I would go alone to Rome and not lose the entire investment in the trip. I hated going without him and although not thrilled with losing the money on his part of the trip he was very supportive of me going. That brings me to this holiday in Rome I called The O Solo A Roma Trip.

Day One In Rome - Exploring the neighborhood

Rome had never been on one of my must see lists. I had not really thought much about Rome at all. I had lots of thoughts about Rome but they did not include visiting it. I had read many times online and in guide books that Rome is well know for petty theft and pick pockets. I had one friend who was in Rome for an extended period tell me how her husband was pick pocketed within an hour after arriving in Rome. She told me if you've never been pick pocketed then you've never been to Rome. I had also read it's always very crowded with tourists. There are lines for everything. So Rome was always on the back burner for me, someplace I would see someday but not today.

I was very conscious of being alone. With my history of bizarre accidents when I travel I was somewhat concerned what might happen to me if I had any problems and no one there with me. Suppose I tripped and injured myself, which I have done in the past. Suppose I do get pick pocketed and lose my credit cards? I would be alone with no one else near with money. So I was extremely cautious when I first arrived. Then I took a walk my first afternoon in Rome. Just a few blocks from my hotel I found Piazza del Popolo.

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And with that Rome had captured me. I forgot all about my concerns and doubts. Rome was beckoning me. And then I saw this restaurant in the Piazza and they had this excellent wine and pizza.

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At Trattoria Ciampini, First pizza in Rome and first of many glasses of wine for one

I returned to my room happy and full. I was ready to conquer Rome. And then I realized I had lost my credit card. My first day. The art, the piazza, the pizza, the wine. It all distracted me. I let down my guard. It all worked out though. It was my error not Romes. I immediately called my credit card company and notified them and then went on to my back up credit card the rest of the trip. Then before falling asleep I texted Mark to let him know about my first day adventures He asked me if I had gone to Trastevere, his favorite section of Rome. I had not. So he said make sure to get there tomorrow.

Day Two - My first full day in Rome. St, Peter's Square. Food and Selfie Sticks

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My second day in Rome I walked to St. Peters Square. It was only a few blocks from my hotel which was convenient for me. I was expecting massive crowds. I went early and it was not crowded at all. I had plenty of time and space for photos and selfies. You never quite get over that first glimpse of St. Peters Basilica.

Everywhere I looked there were sculptures. There were nuns. There were Swiss guards in colorful uniforms. It truly was awe inspiring

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Leaving St. Peter's Square it was time for some lunch. I found a small restaurant just across the river from Vatican City called Mela Stregata, Mela stranslates to apple and the pizzeria was decorated with a Disney Snow White Theme dealing with the evil queen and the apple. Not what I was expecting in Rome near the Vatican but interesting to say the least.

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So there I sat surrounded by Snow White's woods drinking wine and eating lasagna.

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The lasagna was very good. So I guess Snow White must have a little Italian in her ancestry. Leaving the restaurant I had a car stop next to curb and the driver called out to me. He asked for help locating something on his map. I had just been approached by my first scam artist in Rome. He offered me a leather coat from his store in Paris if I would be kind enough to help him locate a near by location on his map. Luckily for me this was the only scam artist I would see in Rome.

Castel Sant'Angelo was also nearby so this was my next stop. The views from the top of the castle were amazing.

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Castel Sant'Angelo

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Flemish sculptor Pieter Van Verschaffelt's bronze angel on top of Castel Sant'Angelo

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Viewing the River Tiber from the top of Castel Sant'Angelo

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Viewing Vittoriano from the top of Castel Saint'Angelo

There was a small cafe inside the Castel Sant'Angelo. And yes they did have wine.

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I did see some unusual things my second day in Rome. Nothing too shocking but still interesting.

I saw a bear begging for money near Castel Sant'Angelo

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I saw a man napping on a bench with a rubber duck on his stomach

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And I saw a blonde baby Jesus in a shop window.

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Because I was alone I made sure to take my selfie stick with me to make sure I could get photos of myself during the day I had a great deal of fun with it. I know they drive people crazy when you are in crowded tourist areas trying to use a selfie stick. But I am a tourist. And i was alone. So I ignored everyone who was offended. My first tries with the selfie stick came out a little awkward. Yes I know you are not supposed to see the stick in the photo. But I was just getting the hang of using it. I got better as the week progressed.

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I was still a little jet lagged from the time change so I had an early dinner before returning to my room for an early sleep. I had supper at Pizzeria San Marco. This was located very near my hotel. I had a delicious pasta with cheese and bacon and some wine of course. For dessert I had an excellent panacota with another shot of grappa. A pattern is forming here. Good food, good wine, and a shot of grappa to end my day.

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I ended my day back in my room. I took some time to text with Mark and tell him all about my day and what I had seen. He had lots of questions and was very excited for all I had seen. He asked me again did you go to Trastevere. I had not. He insisted that I make sure to go there. We had this same conversation every evening when we chatted. After talking to Mark I reviewed my thoughts on the day and I was glad to find that I had not lost any credit cards. I had avoided getting ripped off by the con artist with the leather coats. And then I looked at my camera bag and there was no selfie stick attached. I had lost it. My first full day in Rome and my selfie stick was gone.

Posted by littlesam1 08:20 Archived in Italy Tagged italy rome wine the_tiber grappa castel_sant'angelo selfie selfie_stick the_vatican Comments (8)

Honeymooning in Hawaii with Elvis and Dennis The Menace

Everything I need to know about Hawaii I learned from Elvis and Dennis the Menace


View Larry and Mark Go Hawaiian - Sept 2013 on littlesam1's travel map.

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I am a child of the 1950's. I was born in 1952. There were only forty eight states in 1952. I entered the first grade in September 1958 at the age of five. I turned six while in first grade. Hawaii became the fiftieth state on August 21, 1959 just two weeks before I entered the second grade. So in 1959 when I was in the second grade the addition of two new states, Alaska and Hawaii, was something exciting. At the age of six I became fascinated with our new fiftieth state. I can remember going home from school all excited and asking my parents when were we going to be able to visit the new fiftieth state of Hawaii. We were a working class family. My father was a heavy equipment operator and drove a tractor and trailer for the Department of Defense. We lived in a rented house in a small town in Maryland. Hawaii was in a different world from us. My sister was just born in 1959. My father, who was taught by his mother to use a sewing machine, made my mother's maternity clothes for her to save money. We weren't poor but we did not have a lot money for extras. Vacation meant driving down the street to Jeff Baldwin's boat dock and talking our little boat out to the "flats" just off the city park in Havre de Grace, Maryland to go swimming on Saturday afternoons. The closest I got to Hawaii was getting my parents to buy me the comic book Dennis In Hawaii - congratulations to our 50th State.

I must have read that comic over one hundred times. Dennis and his family flew on Pan American Airlines to Hawaii. Dennis yells to the taxi driver taking them to the airport "We're going to Honey Lulu". This little boy wanted to go to Honey Lulu also. Dennis got to go to Oahu or "Wahoo" as he called it. He saw a heavy lady in a moo moo and asked his mother if it meant moo moo like in cow. He went to Pearl Harbor, and even though he was too young to understand, he still got teary eyed at Pearl Harbor. Dennis got to taste poi at a luau and thought it tasted like school paste. Dennis even included a glossary of Hawaiian words for me to learn and practice saying.

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Two years later, in 1961, the new state of Hawaii was still big news. Hollywood was making movies about the new fiftieth state. Surfing was becoming a new fascination. Movies set on the beaches of Hawaii were very popular with the small town Saturday afternoon matinee kids. And who else, but Elvis Presley, would capitalize on it it best. I still had my Dennis the Menace comic book, but now Elvis now brought Hawaii to life on the big screen. I saw the movie Blue Hawaii at the State Theater in my little home town on a Saturday afternoon. From the moment I saw the opening credits and the view of Diamond Head my fascination with Hawaii grew even stronger. As you can see above those opening credits still make me smile.

Now I just had to go to Hawaii. Elvis was there. He sang on the beach. He surfed. He rebelled against his parents. He got married and sang the beautiful Hawaiian Wedding Song on a canal in Kauai. I learned about luau's and what the words hooki lau meant from Elvis. What I did not learn from Dennis, Elvis taught me.

Hawaii did not become a reality for me for many years. My best friend from high school and I talked about going to Hawaii after we graduated. I started to save some money for the trip. World travel and tourism was still in it's infancy in 1970. So the thought of going to Hawaii was a real fantasy for us at the time. In reality my best friend got married and I used my savings to go to college. Hawaii remained in the world of Dennis the Menace comic books and Elvis Presley movies for me.

I had two other opportunities to go to Hawaii over the years, but both times they did not happen. One of the planned trips was going to allow me to stay at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel where Gidget and her family stayed in the movie Gidget Goes Hawaiian. But Hawaii was still a fantasy for me and would continue beckoning me in the future.

In 2013 I started thinking about Hawaii again. I had long lost my Dennis Goes to Hawaii comic book. However with the technology of Ebay, I found an original copy of the comic book at a price much higher than the original twenty five cents. But I wanted it. When it arrived I was a kid again exploring Hawaii with Dennis and the Mitchell family. The Elvis movie Blue Hawaii had been in my DVD collection for many years. It still fascinated and inspired me, even with it's cheesy dialogue and plot. I was getting older and knew I still wanted to see Hawaii but wanted to go before I was too old to enjoy it. I wanted to go before I needed a cane or walker. So sixty seem liked a good age to finally visit the island paradise.

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Little did I realize at the young age of six that fifty four years later I would finally get to visit Hawaii. And I would not need Dennis' glossary of Hawaiian words because I would be going to "Honey Lulu", as Dennis called it, with my husband Mark who is a linguistics master. Same sex marriage had just been legalized in our state of Maryland and we decided to go to Hawaii for our honeymoon. We had not traveled for two years, which was an eternity for us. We had recently bought a new house, but we unable to Mark's previous house, so we were paying two mortgages for over a year until his house was sold. Much like my parents, we did not have a lot of extra cash for traveling at this time. But with the sale of his house and now being married the chance of a Hawaiian honeymoon was becoming a reality.

I was a little nervous about finally going to Hawaii. I had such high expectations and was afraid I would be disappointed. I love to travel, but I hate touristy places where nothing is authentic. I love to meet locals, explore foreign cultures, and learn lots of history. Hawaii was touristy. Some places were not authentic. But there was so much more to see and explore than I had expected. When I returned home with over a thousand photos I was overwhelmed at what I had seen and learned. When my daughter came to visit and to see my photos I broke out the Dennis the Menace comic book and showed her how I had followed Dennis The Menace's adventures and she was amazed that I had been able to recapture Dennis' trip all these years late. . I showed her where Dennis had visited and where I had visited. Everything I had learned from Dennis was still there.

As I slowly labeling and organizing my photos after I returned I often had Elvis's Blue Hawaii on my big screen TV. Along with my guide books, notes I wrote, and Dennis's guides, I also have Elvis's travelogue to be my companion in remembering the details of the vacation. Elvis wore a blue Hawaiian shirt on the movie poster and sound track album cover to Blue Hawaii. Can you guess what color shirt I bought in Hawaii to wear to the luau?

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I will close this with words from Dennis the Menace and the Mitchell family on the last page of the comic book.

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Posted by littlesam1 14:01 Archived in USA Tagged honeymoon elvis oahu hawaii statehood honolulu blue_hawaii dennis_the_menace Comments (5)

Transitions in life while visiting Copenhagen in 2005

Visiting Rosenbourg Sloss, making new friends and ending an old relationship


View Scandinavia trip April 2005 on littlesam1's travel map.

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I visited Copenhagen in May of 2005. 2005 was an unusual year for me. My ex partner and I were into the tenth year of our relationship and it was a rocky year. I think we both realized things were changing in our relationship but we were not sure where it was headed. We were both holding onto something that we knew was slowly coming apart. We traveled to Copenhagen together but spent very little time together in the city. He had a business conference he was attending. I was part of an internet travel group called Virtual Tourist at the time. I was planning to meet a group of friends from the site who lived in the Copenhagen area. I had not met them in person but was looking forward to meeting them for the first time. This was to be my first of many times meeting Virtual Tourist friends while traveling. He was not overly interested in meeting my online friends. So between his business conference and my spending time meeting new friends we spent very little time together. We did have some good times on the trip. We spent several days in Norway and enjoyed ourselves. But for most of the time in Copenhagen we saw very little of each other. It was truly a time of transition. Our relationship did not endure the rest of the year. Looking back in hindsight I can see it all starting to end here in Copenhagen. This photo of me in front of the Rosenborg Schloss is the perfect memory from the experience. It's just me standing alone in front of a beautiful palace having my photo taken by a complete stranger. And although beautiful the photo is flawed. The person taking the photo blurred the photo and cut off the very top of the palace towers. At a glance all looks good but close up you can see the problems. Just like my relationship with my ex partner at a glance all looked good but close up you could see the problems.

Before our visit ended I took my ex back to see the castle. My photo of the Rosenborg Sloss came out much better than the one taken of me by a stranger. It was perfectly cropped. It was in focus. The color was beautiful. And there is no one in the photo. It was empty just like our relationship. It's just the palace by itself. Coincidence? I don't know. But looking back all these years later I can see the symbolic difference in the two photos.

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Internet friendships are real. And they can endure. Jon. Claus, and Charlotta with her family and me. Copenhagen 2005

I enjoyed.my time meeting new friends from the internet in Copenhagen. My buddy Claus became a life long friend. I still see him on occasion when I travel and when are in the same city. We have great times together and have shared many experiences over a drink. I also met my friend Jon. We are still internet friends and have met several times again while traveling also. And I met a delightful lady named Charlotta. Charlotta and I are still friends on Facebook and chat on occasion. Of course Virtual Tourist has long since disappeared. But we are all still friends and still keep in contact. The friendships have endured. The relationship with my ex partner ended. It's been my gain. All of the conversations we shared on Virtual Tourist have been deleted. Our photos are gone. But our experiences will live on. There were a lot of stories shared between friends on Virtual Tourist. And there are even more stories I have shared with friends on Facebook. But this is the first time I have shared this one. My friends I met that day had no idea my life was in transition. But to this day I am glad they were there and helped me cross that bridge.

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Internet friendships are real. And they can endure. Jon. Claus, and Charlotta with her family and me. Copenhagen 2005

Posted by littlesam1 21:01 Archived in Denmark Tagged palaces norway denmark copenhagen relationships beginnings endings virtual_tourist rosenbourg_sloss online_friendsips Comments (9)

The Battle of the Taxi Drivers - Chicago

Meeting the new Big Jim Walker in Chicago


View The Music Legends Tour - April 2018 & The Bad Bad Leroy Brown Trip - Chicago June 2018 on littlesam1's travel map.

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You don't tug on Super Man's cape.

You don't spit into the wind

You don't mess around with that old Lone Ranger

And you don't mess around with Jim.

When I travel music is always a part of my experience. I either hear a new song that stays in my memory with the trip or I have an old song in my head when I arrive and that becomes my personal sound track. I first started to notice my habit of creating a sound track for a vacation when I took my first trip to Europe in 1999. I went to France and was very excited about finally seeing Paris and Marseille. While there every single day I heard the song Sex Bomb by Tom Jones. It was playing on radios in taxi's. It was playing in hotel lobbies. It was playing in restaurants. There was no escaping the song. To this day when I look at my photos from that vacation I think of that song. I bought a copy of a CD with the song on it during our layover in London on that trip.

Of course in Thailand I had the song One Night In Bangkok in my background sound track when I was in Bangkok. When we moved on the Phuket I had the James Bond them from Man With The Golden Gun in my head because that is where part of the movie was filmed. I had a slight problem when I traveled to Bratislava and Vienna with music. I had Gladys Knight in my head singing License To Kill from the James Bond film everyday. When I returned home and watched the movie I realized I had the wrong Timothy Dalton Bond movie in mind. The one set in Vienna and Bratislava was The Living Daylights. But it was for the best. The theme by A-Ha is a lame theme and License To Kill fit the holiday much better anyway. While my daughter Katie and I were in Nashville last November the song was Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes by George Jones. There was so much country music history in the city it just seemed appropriate.

In the early 1970's to me Jim Croce was "the man." I loved his music. From his sad love songs to his humorous story songs they all resonated with me. When he died I felt as if I had lost friend. But thanks to old vinyl, CD's and Alexa his music is still with me. So when I visited Chicago in June 2018 I had his Bad Bad Leroy Brown song playing in my head for most of the trip. However at the conclusion of the three day trip the sound track changed a little. I did meet a man that I had best beware of just like Leroy Brown. But he was taught a lesson just like Big Jim Walker from You Don't Mess Around With Jim.

We stayed at the beautiful Swissotel on Wacker Drive in Chicago. It was a luxury hotel in a beautiful high rise. We usually don't stay at over the top luxury hotels but this was a business trip for Mark and his convention was centered at the hotel. We were on the 37th floor with a beautiful view of the Chicago River below us.

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The Swissotel in Chicago

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View from the 37th floor of the Swissotel

There was a doorman at the front of the hotel and a line of taxi's parked in front of the hotel. When you need a taxi the doorman signals the first taxi in line to drive up and pick you up. It's very convenient and easy for both the customer and the taxi driver. First taxi in line gets the next passenger. As we were preparing to go to the airport for our journey home we had thought about using Uber but decided to use the taxi's in front of the hotel for the convenience. However when we walked out with out luggage there had been a minor car accident in the parking area and the doorman was dealing with the minor fender bender. As we stood there looking around a taxi driver walked up to us and said to us "I am the next in line. Let me help you with your luggage. We followed him closely as we were not sure if he really was a legitimate taxi driver or not. We kept one hand on our luggage. We get to the curb and he picks up our luggage and puts it into his trunk. Before he can close the hood of the trunk two other taxi drivers rush towards us yelling "Don't go with him. Not honest. Not honest. Don't trust him." I immediately asked what was wrong. He said nothing was wrong and to ignore the other two men. Then one of the men grabbed our luggage out of trunk and started to walk towards their taxi. He in turn grabbed it back and threw it into his trunk again. We were getting a little concerned by this point. The other two taxi drivers told us he had not waited in line but saw us coming out with our luggage and moved in front of the taxi's that were already in line. And they kept yelling "Don't trust him." By this point I did not trust him. So I went to take my luggage out of his trunk. He told me "NO. You are my customer. I am taking you to the airport." I said politely as possible that I chose to go with the taxi driver in the front of the line. When he blocked me a second time from taking my luggage out of the trunk the two other taxi drives stepped forward and took it out for me. Now here is where Big Jim Walker from the Jim Croce song comes into play. He thought he was big Jim. And he was a big man. He shoved the other taxi drive into the street. When he did this the second taxi driver raised his fist and they both started yelling at each other. But Big Jim was about to learn a lesson. The three taxi drivers in line all worked together. One took my luggage to their taxi. The other two held the first taxi driver back from bothering us. As we drove away our driver yelled out of his window "If you are still here when I get back I will f*ck you up!" So just like Big Jim Walker in the song this man was taught a lesson. And it gave us a great travel story to share. I just wish we had made a video.

There is always a lesson to be learned from a situation like this. Ours was:
Next time - Take Uber.

(When I returned home and started editing my photos I could hear Jim Croce singing in the background. He's Bad Bad Leroy Brown and You Don't Mess Around With Jim.)

Posted by littlesam1 12:02 Archived in USA Tagged chicago taxis fights uber bad_bad_leroy_brown you_don't_mess_around_with_jim jim_croce taxi_drivers Comments (7)

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