Ramblin' Man, "an adventure travel memoir with very long legs" is best selling author
John Freivalds latest book.
That's what noted world traveler Richard Carvel said of John Freivalds new book. No stranger to good reviews, The NY Times Book Review stated "Mr. Freivalds is a natural story teller."
Ramblin' Man' s 300 pages features articles written by and about Freivalds from the NY Times, New Yorker to the Los Angeles Times, Roanoke Times and the Bangkok Post, to mention a few. A close friend of his claims he is nothing more than a CIA agent. But the NY Times has a new term for this "curious culturalist."
Freivalds blogs show he has gone from Latvian refugee fleeing communism to a shirtless gun toting cowboy in Colombia to connoisseur sipping champagne on a first class flight to Paris.
Among the other adventures to be found:
Panama. Manuel Noriega, leading a heavily armed patrol, detained Freivalds in the midst of a guerilla uprising in the mountains bordering Costa Rica. Noriega assumed he must be a communist, put him in handcuffs and forced him to march 20 miles. Freivalds asked "Am I under arrest?" Noriega responded "if you were it would be worse."
Cuba. Fidel Castro, wanting to attract American investment, invited Freivalds to come a take a look. He knew he was a capitalist.
Moscow. After buying a bunch of little and heavy things to take back to the States and seeing they were put in a groaning-thin plastic bag, he asked the clerk for a double bag. She stuck her menacing finger in front of his face and uttered "One purchase, one bag."
Tokyo. After checking into a 5 star hotel, he wanted some extra pillows. He called down to the front desk. The answer was "Would you like soft, medium or hard?"
Almaty, Kazakhstan. 12 time zones from Chicago where the TV was Turkish with Chinese subtitles, it was his job to manage a neurotic expat employee who wore a bullet proof vest at all times, carried a loaded gun, always had $5,000 in cash stuffed in his pockets, and never left his passport so he would be ready to flee the country at a moment’s notice.
Budapest, Hungary. Mr. Freivalds has been a guest speaker at scores of events. One of the most interesting was the celebration for the 25th anniversary on the introduction of American Holstein dairy cattle into Hungary (you know the black and white ones). He had to drink several toasts of a wine called Bikavér (bull’s blood) with ministers at 10:00 am.
Kingston, Jamaica. In an era when the phones were scarce and did not work, to meet the people Freivalds needed to see he decided to camp out in the lobby of the best hotel knowing that the decision makers would show up for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Amarillo, Texas. The largest cattleman (1 million head a year) in the US hired him to write his biography. He was the guy who 15 years before sued Oprah Winfrey for defaming beef on her show. After numerous trips to Amarillo, Freivalds learned to speak Texan. His favorite phrase was for someone who was all show and no substance. “Too much hat and no cattle.”
Riga, Latvia. On his first trip back to his birthplace when Latvia was freeing itself from Soviet control, desperate for contacts with the west, a stranger slipped a note under Freivalds hotel door showing in intricate detail how they were related. Their great-great-grandfathers were brothers!
Hollywood USA. Freivalds went there with George Sluizer - the Dutch movie producer who bought the movie rights to his best selling novel Famine Plot. They visited all the movie moguls seeking millions. During their stay, Sluizer bemoaned the fact that movies get to the silver screen after they have been test marketed to a bunch of unemployed and uneducated people.
Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Brazilians are resistent, no matter how bad something is, there is way to fix it, há jeito - there is a way. To wit, when the plumbers installed the men's restroom urinals half way up the wall at the Belo Horizonte airport did they tear them down? Nope, they build a platform with steps leading up at the appropriate height. Jeito at work!
Minneapolis Grain Exchange. Hired to be the right-hand man of a leading grain merchant, he was told there are four keys to success: buy low sell high, the best sale is a good purchase, high prices cure high prices and low prices cure low prices, and if you watch the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.
Dublin, Ireland. The city was totally fogged in but his host wanted to take him on a tour. After arduous driving for half an hour up a curving road, they stopped. They got out of the car in dense fog. The host took out a bunch of postcards of Dublin on a sunny day and said "This is what you would see if there was no fog."
Andimeshk, Iran. To pass the nights alone in a dreary hotel in the Iranian desert Freivalds took up studying Farsi. One of the oldest languages, all modern languages derive many words and phrases from it. Some of his favorites: foreigner comes from faranghi, checkmate comes from shah mat (the king is dead) and, yes, barf comes from barf, the Farsi word for snow.
University Club in Washington, DC. Familiar with the University Club as a graduate of Georgetown's School of Foreign Service, this was his first time in the marvelous steam bath. Sweating and nude, he met the CEO of Global Options who offered to help Freivalds with whatever issues he had; he could provide attorneys, lobbyists, and, if need be, commandos.
Guerilla Linguistics. Since he had to be ready to function in whatever part of the world at a moments notice, Freivalds developed a language training program used by companies in a line of cross cultural posters which embodied the concept: use of a local word of phrase to get the other side to understand you know something about their culture.
Silicon Valley, California. A geek pal was mystified how buyers of iPhones don't know that data and information are not the same thing.
About the author. Mr. Freivalds runs an international communications firm. He carries two passports figuring he'd give the terrorists/kidnappers the one least likely to provoke their ire. He has written five books, hundreds of articles, and speaks four languages.
The Ramblin' Man
by John Freivalds
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