Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More Jamaicans on Saipan!

The pilot, the passionpreneur and the performer.
Ron McFarlane, Walt Goodridge and Wayne Wright, Jamaicans on Saipan

Maybe even enough to form a political party? You decide.


As I sat in the lobby of the World Resort Hotel on the island of Saipan, the young lady I was waiting for walked in. She is a new arrival on the island and had been referred to me to get my advice and tips on finding an apartment. As she approached, I noticed a man walking a few steps behind her. Had they arrived together? Was this the “friend” she had mentioned she would bring to our meeting? He looks like someone I’ve seen before, I thought to myself. He did in, fact, look an awful lot like a guy I knew a long time ago, but….naw, it couldn’t be. That was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. As he approached the table, he broke into an all-too familiar smile….

Small World!

Eight-thousand miles, five former lives, and nineteen years ago, I was known as “Sir Walt,” the reggae deejay on WKCR-FM in New York. One of my regular guests, a fellow named Wayne Wright, was founder and lead singer of Abeng, a reggae group who would visit the station to promote their music. Shortly after I left the station, I started managing his group, and he and I and another partner formed Strata Records, a Reggae record label. (This was even before the music industry Tale from the Walt Vault episode in last week’s column)

Wayne was my first mentor in the music industry, and I learned a lot about managing artists, music production, touring logistics, and much more. I designed his album cover, and even got to participate in doing background vocals during the studio session for the lead track on his CD! ( Eventually, however, we went our separate ways, and I went on to start my own label, and Wayne and I lost touch with each other. That is, until Monday night, when he sauntered in to the lobby of the World Resort on Saipan brought to me by a woman I had never met.


Wayne and Shelli, Saipan’s newest resident, had met at Godfather’s Bar a few nights before. Once she discovered he was Jamaican, she mentioned that she had heard rumors there were THREE (yes, count ‘em), three other Jamaicans on the island--two pilots and one writer.

“He used to be an engineer,” Shelli told Wayne, about the writer.

“I know a few Jamaican engineers,” Wayne said.

“This one is now a writer,” Shelli replied.

“I know a Jamaican engineer who wanted to be writer,” he said. “What’s his name?”

“Walt,” she replied.

“Waitaminit! What’s his last name???”

Google was consulted for verification, and after the what-a-small-world-amazement phase, stories were shared, and they devised a plot to set up a meeting to surprise me!

And, boy, was I surprised! Once I got over my own shock, Wayne and I spent the evening reminiscing, catching up on the whereabouts and exploits of friends, band members, and business partners and played a reunion game of table tennis (fyi: never “ping pong” when speaking to a real Jamaican) which, um, I won. Sorry, Wayne!

In one of his own former lives, Wayne had been an electrical engineer for Bell Labs, and is now doing consulting for a regional telecom company, and had already been here for three weeks. But, his passion for music is still strong. I’m told he already picked up a guitar and did a little impromptu performance a few nights ago at a local club here on island.

Since his original CD was released years before the Internet took off, I’ve encouraged him to use some of the tools and strategies I’ve mentioned in this column (See “The Case for Createspace” Saipan Tribune, March 24, 2010) to reissue his “Unconquer-rebel” CD. You can give him an incentive by pre-ordering at

And another!

And then, “it” happened. While hanging out in the hotel lobby, we were joined by the other Jamaican on Saipan, Ron McFarlane, a pilot for Freedom Air. Now, by “it” I mean, at that moment in time, in the lobby of a Saipan hotel, I dare say there were more Jamaicans convened in one spot than have ever gathered in all of Micronesia! I would even go further to suggest that, with four of us in a population of 60,000, that there are more Jamaicans per capita (per person) on Saipan than anywhere else in the world outside of Jamaica itself! Now, please don’t ask me to prove any of this. This is simply the nationalistic, self-glorifying, hyperbole for which Jamaicans are famous. In other words, “a jus’ so we stay!” [translation: that’s just how we are”] As a footnote, Cardiff Walker, Freedom Air’s other Jamaican pilot didn’t make the rally. (He apparently didn’t get the telepathic memo.)

Yes, it was an historic moment in the on-going saga of Jamaican domination of the world! (Same thing we do, every night, Pinky!) We Jamaicans may not be as evenly distributed across the planet as Filipinos and Chinese, but every corner and crevice on the planet has at least one Jamaican representing our island. So, to have FOUR in a place as remote and small as Saipan can only mean one thing: a bid for governor is next!!

The Point

Which brings me to the point of this article: If you’d like to encourage the rise in political power here in the CNMI of the world’s most ambitious, adaptable, skillful, creative, musically and otherwise endowed, sexiest national group of people, then do the following:

1. Thank the next Jamaican you meet for Bob Marley, Reggae, Rastafarianism, Colin Powell, Harry Belafonte, Notorious B.I.G., Grace Jones, Tyson Beckford, Usain Bolt, as well as the pineapple* or any other plant you see fit to be thankful for [*the pineapple was brought to Hawaii in the 1700s by Captain Bligh; search “captain bligh” on]

2. If you meet Wayne Wright about the island before he leaves this weekend, say in a bar or club, put a guitar in his hands and force him to sing a song or two!

3. If YOU are Jamaican on Saipan and haven’t been counted in my unofficial census, feel free to check in with me, and finally,

4. Come election time, check your ballot for “Jamaican for Governor,” and let’s do the right thing! Yes, we can!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Funny Things That Customers Do No. 3

The Funny Things That Customers Do No. 3

Tales from the Walt Vault: The Gouger and The Glory:

Welcome back to Tales from the Walt Vault, stories of the funny-humorous and funny-strange things that customers and clients do. (#1, and #2 in the series appeared in Saipan Tribune April 14, and June 16, 2010)

The Goal

Once upon a time, several years ago, I ran an independent record label. We had produced singles for our Hip Hop artists, an in order to market them more effectively, I hired a video producer named "Dante" (not his real name) to create a video for one of our artists.

A contract was signed, money was paid, and the process begun.

Through numerous contacts, and relationships, we reserved a friend's photo studio, recruited dancers and pretty girls, and over the course of a hectic weekend, shot the scenes which were to be used in the video. It was an exciting time. We were all hopeful that this video would be professional enough to be played on BET (Black Entertainment Television), MTV (Music Television) and Video Music Box (a popular local New York show with tremendous influence in the Hip Hop market).

The Gouge

As I waited for Dante to call us to view the completed product, I slowly started to realize that something was amiss. I called, and got no reply. I visited his home in Manhattan's upper west side, and that's when he laid the gouge on me.

Things had been more expensive than he had originally contracted, and so he needed an additional $5,000 in order to complete the project. He wouldn't give us the masters or the raw footage so I could complete the project on my own. It was blackmail. If I didn't pay the additional money, we would have no video, and nothing to show for the investment.

The clock was ticking. The summer was gearing up with new releases from other well-funded artists with whom we would be competing, and, if we didn't have our video in time, we would miss our window of opportunity, the summer would pass, and our

songs would be "old" in a few months. What was I to do?

Well, one thing was sure, I was not going to give in to the extortion. I wasn't going to cave in to the Dante’s “gimme.” Instead I was going to go for the glory!

(gouge: verb. to extort from, swindle, or overcharge.)

The Gambit

Through either some person or process I’ve since forgotten, I found a film student named Lance Cain (real name), who had just graduated from New York University’s Film School. As I learned, every new graduate needs to develop a "reel," a collection of work that can be used as a visual resume. So, we agreed that Lance would create not one, but three videos, at cost. In other words, I would pay for the film, developing, and editing (and I think I fed the crew, too!), and everyone would be calling in favors, and working for free, all for the chance to add some accomplishments to their resumes.

It was a risky option. I had already sunk about $10,000 on one producer, and was about to spend more on one who was fresh-out-of college. The success hinged on getting it all done in one weekend, after which everyone—artists, producers, cameramen—would be scattered all over the country, unreachable and unavailable.

(gambit: noun. any maneuver by which one seeks to gain an advantage.)

The Glory

The story of that weekend shoot itself, and how it came within a hair’s breadth of being cancelled is worth telling (perhaps another time), but to summarize, it was hectic, ambitious, impossible and a work of sheer genius. We would shoot one group's scene on one side of the street, then while they rested, we would shoot another group's scene on the other side. Cameraman Ian Woolston Smith, co-director Ken Greenblatt and Lance worked tirelessly for the entire weekend to make it happen. In a testament to their planning, coordination and editing genius, the locations were chosen and filmed such that you'd never notice that they were all within a 5-block radius in Harlem.

We came away with three outstanding videos with entirely unique feels, two of which got aired on BET, one which got aired on Video Music Box, and a host of other shows nationwide. And we did it all for under $7500! That figure will mean more if you understand that at the time, the lowest cost that most people thought you had to spend for just one music video was between $10,000 and $20,000!

We went for, and grabbed the glory! Lance has gone on to be an Emmy-award winning producer ( Ian Woolston Smith is a famous steadicam operator (

The Gravy

A few months later, I found myself in a courtroom in lower Manhattan, sitting next to Dante, facing a small claims court judge.

I was ready. I had our original contract. I had my receipts. I had my documentation of the airing on BET and other shows, and I had my testimony.

Dante was visibly (and satisfyingly) shocked when I told the story of our BET victory, and Video Music Box airing. This was key to my case, because I had to prove I incurred additional expenses as a result of having to hire a new producer to complete the project he had failed to complete. He grabbed the documents to verify that I was telling the truth! He couldn't believe that I had already won!

Long story short: I won the case. (All the years of watching Felix Unger's courtroom exploits on the Odd Couple sitcom paid off!) Dante was slapped with a $7,000 judgment, and I walked away with the glory. As we passed each other in the hallway, Dante's last words

to me were, "You're never going to see any of that money, Walt." I kind of already knew that.

But, that was fine. I had the glory, and my principles in tact. I hadn't given in to his extortion. I hadn't allowed him to block my progress. And he had a permanent judgment on his record

to remind him of who he was messing with!

The Good

My mantra in life is: "The Universe is Perfect." I really only had three choices: 1. pay Dante more money. 2. Find another way to get things done. 3. use a baseball bat.

Think about all the good that I experienced as a result of making the right choice and responding correctly to what might have been perceived as an obstacle (I didn’t use the bat): I got three videos done for less than the price of one. I worked and helped a future award-winning producer. I got our videos played on national cable networks, and I now have a better story of victory to tell you today!

So, what have we learned from today's tale, boys and girls?

1. People will do what people will do

2. The Universe is Perfect, and what may appear to be disaster might be the catalyst for greater glory!

3. Don't mess with Walt!

The knowledge gained from that experience and others is included in Change The Game: How to Start, Run and Really Make Money with your Independent Record Label by Walt F.J. Goodridge (that's me!)

Visit to check it out!

Stay tuned for more exciting gems from the Walt Vault, and, in the meantime, go for the glory!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Clear plastic bag? What's the point?

When I was growing up in Jamaica, it was pretty well understood by all that the purpose of a supermarket grocery bag--whether paper or plastic--was two-fold. 1. to carry the items purchased which would be too cumbersome to hold in one's hands, and, more importantly, 2. to afford a measure of privacy so the world wouldn't "know your business." The contents of your shopping bag, as you strolled back home, were a private matter between the store owner and you.

So, today, when I purchased a box of raisins at a local market, the cashier bagged it in a clear (as in "see-through"), I refused the bag and opted to carry my bought box of raisins in hand. I mean, what was the point? It was a single item, easily carried in one hand. There was no privacy, as anyone who cared to look would know what I purchased. (And, hey, the store could save a penny and use the bag for another less-eccentric customer.)

I've watched silently over the years as supermarket plastic bags have gotten as thin as shear stockings (and equally transparent), but no more! I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore! It's time to stand up and reclaim our right to shopping privacy!!!

hmmmm. Or maybe I could bring my own re-usable bag. Maybe that was their plan all along....

Yes, that's where I am right now!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Funny Things That Customers Do No. 2

Tales from the Walt Vault

The Funny Things That Customers Do #2

Of Curmudgeons and Cutthroats

Welcome back to Tales from the Walt Vault, stories of the funny-humorous and funny-strange things that customers and clients do. (#1 in the series appeared in Saipan Tribune April 14, 2010)

"Wrong," said Fred

First, a little background for this tale. As mentioned in a previous column , I have a website called, which, for the past 6 years, has listed and emailed to tens of thousands of subscribers an ongoing calendar of the free summer concerts happening in New York City. Last week, after sending out the email blast, I received the following email from “Fred” concerning a specific concert presented by the popular Central Park Summerstage Organization.

Fred: “John Butler and State Radio” [the name of the artists] is a benefit concert for Summerstage. Not free. You'll find a handful of these shows on the Summerstage calendar.

I wrote back:

Walt: yep, that is correct. If you read the full detailed listing for that event, you'll find the benefit concert info. Even though they [the benefit concerts] are not free, I list them for the same reason Summerstage presents them: to generate funds to help keep the rest of the events free! Thanks for the feedback!

I didn’t want Fred to think I was ungrateful for his feedback, so, to acknowledge that he was indeed justified in pointing out the inconsistency, I added:

Walt: p.s. I'll modify the opening statement [of the weekly email which reads] "The following FREE Concerts are taking place in the next few days in NY" in the next mailing. Thanks!

Fred wrote back:

Fred: I read the description. I was wondering if your [sic] had. It's misleading because your website is called Free Summer Concerts.

Now, was it just me, or do you detect a little “attitude” in Fred’s email voice? So, after thinking about it for a while, and to add a little levity to the exchange, I wrote back:

Walt: Now, don't take that tone of voice with me, young man! Or, I'll refund your money and...., oh, waitaminit---

Get it? It’s a free service. That was a little sarcastic joke on my part. At this point, Fred was supposed to chuckle at himself, and we both would agree that his level of seriousness and complaining was way out of line given that he’d signed up to a free service, created as a free labor of love, to promote free concerts. And, my decision to include a not-so-free concert here and there shouldn’t cause him to get so bent out of shape.

Fred wrote back:

Fred: Please unsubscribe me

Ooops. Guess I lost one. Seems Fred wasn’t amused.

So, anyway, what have we learned today, boys and girls?

1. People will do what people will do

2. Sarcasm, or perhaps simply my brand of it, may not translate well in emails.

3. For someone who joined a free event service (presumably) to have fun, Fred's got absolutely no sense of humor!

[Definition: Curmudgeon. noun.a bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person.] [sic = he Latin word for “thus,” or “such;” in other words, the misspelling appeared thus in the original email.]

Charlie the Chiseler

A few years ago, I agreed to help a coaching client convert an existing business manual he had found into an ebook in order to make sales online. I reserved the domain name, designed the site, enabled the e-commerce account, hosted the site free of charge on my server, fulfilled the orders manually as necessary, and dealt with customer service issues (refunds, download difficulties, etc.)

I promoted the site on the search engines, and after several months, our Google rank was steadily improving, our sales were increasing, and we were earning about $900/month. We had agreed to split the proceeds three ways—between the original author, Charlie, and myself.) Things were going well.

Hand me a chisel

Then suddenly, two years into the arrangement, without notice, reason, or explanation, Charlie decided to cut me out of the partnership. It started with a request (prompted, he said, by his lawyer’s advice) to transfer ownership of the domain name to his name. Then came his unannounced changing of the passwords to the ecommerce and email accounts.

I was able to observe and save copies of the emails chronicling the entire goings on—with back room deals, money exchanging hands with new partners, and attempted character assassination—as Charlie plotted behind my back, because he was using the shared access email account to communicate with his cohorts!

Charlie continued to (and still does) use the site I created, along with the graphics I designed, the ebook I proofed and edited, as well as the Google ranking I was able to achieve, and continues to sell the book without any compensation to me, or, at the very least of courtesies, any explanation as to why he decided to end the partnership.

In response, I’ve simply walked away, for it profits me not to work with individuals who don't share the same level of trust, respect and courtesy with which I conduct my affairs.

One advisor suggested I take legal action. However, there was no written contract in our gentleman’s agreement. As a general rule, I don't do contracts. I figure if I have to force a person to act ethically (especially in such a simple low-stakes agreement) with a piece of paper, then this is not someone I really want to do business with.

My personal philosophy is that I don’t chase money. Money chases me. The amount of mental, physical and emotional energy required to force people to pay something they don’t want to pay is simply not worth it to me. That energy could be better used to create something more lasting and that generates money that is free of negative energy, and given grudgingly, with resentment and ill-will. (I give that same advice to my friends seeking child support or alimony from former spouses. What if he/she simply wasn’t around for you to chase for cash? You’d have create your own income, anyway, wouldn’t you? So just skip the battle, and go straight for the glory.)

In a future edition of this series, I’ll share the story of the $7,000 small claims court victory I won over a video producer who tried to blackmail me for more money than we had agreed upon, and the “glory” of national media exposure I achieved by creating my own rather than giving in to his extortion.

The soul proprietor

But what about justice, Walt, you ask? Well, in reality, our “justice” system dispenses punishment and money, not justice. Money is not justice, it is merely compensation. However, for those who need a little karmic footnote to this story, I’ll share this with you. In one revealing email between Charlie and his new partner-in-the-chisel shortly after the split, Charlie mentioned that sales were down 50% since cutting me out of the partnership.

You see, I believe that products sell and businesses thrive because of the sustained focused creative energy of the people behind it. Withdrawing that creative force from a business or project is like removing its soul.

So, what have we learned from this tale from the Walt Vault, boys and girls?

1. People will do what people will do.

2. Justice is a natural process of balance that doesn’t need to be enforced with a piece of paper, and works well if you have the patience.

3. Fred in New York still has no sense of humor.

[Definitions: cutthroat noun. An unprincipled, ruthless person.

chisel. verb. to cheat or swindle (someone): He chiseled me out of fifty dollars.

Stay tuned for more exciting gems from the Walt Vault, and, in the meantime, go for the glory!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rasta in health practice

"Their ital diet comes straight out of the Bible, from Levitcus and Deuteronomy, with a lot of very specific rules about what you can and cannot eat. No meat except small fish, no milk of any kind, no eggs, no salt, nothing processed and only the fruits, nuts and vegetables that grow in their own gardens, eaten raw if possible."

"The natural lifestyle of an original Rasta in Jamaica - alone, isolated, surrounded by nature, eating only what grows in his garden, no distractions like radio, television or the internet - has embraced fulltime a method which guarantees him a brain that will attune to higher, spiritual intelligences..."

A few excerpts from an interesting site featuring profiles of a Rasta...

Interesting, how that's the lifestyle I'm drawn to even living in the heart of Babylon (New York), and what now draws me to live a nomadic, vegan/raw, close-to-nature lifestyle here in the Pacific....

“Trust me, you’re losing sales!” Intro to Customer Service 101

It's been over two months since this article appeared in the Saipan Tribune, but as late as yesterday, a fellow approached me in the supermarket to say how much he enjoyed it! (Thanks, Alvin). So, I offer it here....(to receive access to the sequel, Customer Service Talk #2, sign up to my whereiswalt community list using the form at the bottom of the blog, or to the right.--Walt

“Trust me, you’re losing sales!”

Intro to Customer Service 101

By show of hands, how many business owners in the audience would like to make more money? Thank you. By show of hands, how many people have noticed a decrease in sales? Thank you. Now, suppose I could share with you a few simple tips for increasing those sales, how many people would be interested? Thank you.

Well, while there are numerous strategies for advertising and marketing that can increase sales, the purpose of today’s lesson is to impress upon you the importance of some basic points of awareness that can have a profound effect on your sales.

So, welcome to the “Customer Service 101” Training Course!

What’s Going On

As a business owner, you need to be aware of how your frontline staff is treating your customers, and the message and impression that is being sent every day to the potential buying public.

Because you are not on the frontline every day, interviewing your customers as they leave, you may not realize what is really going on.

Businesses are suffering the effects of phone answerers who are unintelligible, receptionists who are surly or downright unfriendly, wait staff who play “favorites,” desk clerks who don't acknowledge visitors respectfully, or at all, and even cashiers who are talking on cell phones while ringing up purchases. Trust me, these things are affecting your sales!

There's always Amazon!

Perhaps it’s a malaise that creeps in when one does business in what’s essentially a small town in the middle of the Pacific ocean. However, even on a little island with a "captive" market, people can and do exercise their freedom to choose where and with whom to spend their money. There are always other options. People can order online, those who can, may choose to go to Guam, or have relatives ship items from abroad. Or, they can simply decide to do without. I know one person who will only buy his gas from an “A” brand vendor” here on island because of how he felt he was treated at a “B Brand” station.

“Even if I ran out of gas,” he joked, yet serious, “I would still walk past a “B” Station and get my can filled at “A!”

Especially in this economy, we don’t have the luxury of offending, ignoring, or mistreating the lifeblood of every business—the customer.

The Talk

So, starting tomorrow, I’d like you to call your staff into a weekly meeting to give the following talk, or some variation of it:

“Ladies and gentlemen. We are a business in business together. As a business, we survive through our customers. Our job as a business is to make the customer happy and to keep that customer coming back. Therefore, we need to make our customers feel welcomed, valued, respected and special. So, how do we do that? It’s very simple.

But, before I tell you “how” we do that, I need to tell you “WHY” we do that. You may not always remember this, ladies and gentlemen—it’s so obvious that we often overlook it—but there is a direct connection between how YOU treat our customers and YOUR happiness. I say “YOU” because you are the person the customers see every day. While I’m in the office handling management responsibilities, YOU are the face of my company.

Remember, our customers don’t have to come here. They can go somewhere else. If they go somewhere else, we don’t make money. If we don’t make money, I have to reduce your hours even more, take a percentage of your tips, and eliminate any bonuses or incentives. Does that make sense? In other words, make the customer happy, and the business survives. When the business survives, YOU survive. Your paycheck, your livelihood, and your job are all directly connected to how you treat our customers.

But, it goes even further than that! Because this is such a small island, how a customer is treated—especially a visitor to the island—has far-reaching effects in other countries and ultimately affects the entire economy. One unhappy customer with a popular blog, a Facebook page, or a Twitter network with thousands of followers, can affect what people around the world think about our little island. You never know who is watching or reading the people who come through our doors.

Now, I understand that not all customers behave in ways that make you want to be nice to them. But, that’s just the reality of being in a service company like ours. Every day we meet people of different cultures, languages, backgrounds, upbringings, behaviors and attitudes.

We also bring our own attitudes to work. It ma be that you don’t like people from this group, or that, historically, people from this group don’t like people from your group, of that this group is always rude, or that people of this group are always loud and don’t tip well, or whatever. I understand all of this. We all have those ideas and experiences in some form.

However, as valid as they might be, I need you to leave your personal biases outside the doors of our business. I need you to do your absolute best to treat everyone exactly like they’re your favorite group! Even if they snarl at you! Be gracious and never get into fights or mistreat the customers. (For those of you in the wait staff, if a situation gets really nasty, just call me or the manager to handle it). Remember, this goes both ways, I also don’t want you to have to suffer abuse from our customers anymore than I want them to feel unhappy about doing business here. Everybody deserves the best!

So, starting today, I’m requesting that each of you do a few things: First, the minute you step through these doors, take a deep breath and remember that making ALL of our customers feel special is part of the job requirement. Smile when you greet our customers. Ask them if they need any help. Give them your undivided attention when you interact with them. Say, “Thank you very much, please come again!” when they complete a purchase (and even if they don’t).

In our next meeting, we’ll do some role playing and I’ll demonstrate how to greet, speak with, and even how to accept as well as hand the change and a receipt back to a customer, or how to return a credit card to our customers so they don’t feel disrespected.

These are just a few of some simple things that boil down to basic acknowledgement, courtesy and respect that we can give our customers so they don’t walk or drive past our doors to spend their money at another business for something we offer right here! With your help, we can create a welcoming experience for our customers that will keep them coming back and telling others about. Is everyone in agreement?”

[end of “The Talk”]

By show of hands, how many people found this helpful? Are there any questions, suggestions or other topics you’d like addressed? Thank you, and thanks for attending this session of Customer Service 101. Until next time, remember, someone is always watching!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Conversation with a Tourist!

Conversation with a Tourist!

As appearing in the Saipan Tribune

I recently had the privilege and pleasure of hosting two visitors to Saipan. Ricardo and Cristina De Leon are from South America. He is from Colombia, and she is from Guatemala. The couple are on a round-the-world trip visiting countries in this region and chose Saipan for a four-day stay in May.

While driving around the island, I called them at their hotel in Garapan to offer them my Jamaican-on-Saipan-off-the-beaten path tour of the island, but found that they needed no help at all!

Cristy: (by phone) “….we visited Mount Tapochau, Forbidden island, Banzaii Cliff, we met local residents who invited us into their homes, we toured from north to south! There’s not an inch of the island we haven’t seen!”

Walt: Wow, maybe I should be asking YOU to give ME a tour!

Later that evening, we met in their hotel lobby, and I got to know Cristy and Ricky even more. We talked about family, relationships, their travel adventures, and, of course, Saipan.

Walt: So, how did you two meet?

Cristy: We met in an airplane! It was in 1983, in March. We met in the airplane on a flight from Bogota, Colombia to Miami, Florida. He saw me sitting in the waiting area to board the plane. Then, after about 30 minutes or so after departure, he asked me if he could sit by my side. Of course, I said yes, and we talked all the way to Miami!

I was going to school in California, and was working for handicapped children and adults at that time. I was going back to Colombia to teach. That was my plan, but little did I know that he was going to rob my heart and make me live a way completely different from the one i had planned.

Ricky: Twenty-seven years later, here we are!

Cristy: We’ve been to 129 countries together!

Walt: Wow! 129 countries. I’m really curious about that. Do you plan everything out first? Do you make contacts in each country first?

Cristy: We just go! Well, now we do a little more planning, but back in the 80s and 90s, things were a lot different. We would just show up at the airport, walk up to a counter and say, “We’ve got so many miles. Where can we go?”

The ticket agent would type away for a bit, then say, “Well, you can go to Australia, there’s a flight leaving in 10 minutes at gate 7. Here’s your ticket!”

Sometimes we’d get to the gate, and the flight would be full, and we’d end up somewhere completely unexpected. That’s what happened once. The flights were booked, so the ticket agent said, “Well, there’s a flight leaving for Switzerland, so we ended up in Europe, but we had packed for the tropics! We have some great pictures of me shivering! But, it was a lot of fun!

This time, we got a “Round-The-World” ticket.* But we don’t usually make contacts first. That’s part of the adventure!

[*Search for “RTW” at]

Walt: So, what brings you to Saipan?

Cristy: Well, when you’ve traveled all around the world, you ask yourself what else is there? We found your sites on the internet and contacted you. So, thanks for making this trip possible.

Walt: You’re welcome. So, now that you’re here, what do you think?

Cristy: The energy here is awesome! It’s a healthy place to be! The air here is so pure.

Walt: Well, you know, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, Saipan ranks number 55 out of 56 states and territories for air pollution*. In other words, we’ve got the cleanest air in America! [See 2008 CNMI Toxic Release Data at]

Ricky: (To Cristy) See, I told you! I mentioned to Cristy that I could feel the difference in the air here when we were at Forbidden Island.

Walt: I’m impressed that you found Forbidden Island and trekked all the way down on your own!

Cristy: We learned a long time ago that the regular tourist experience is very limited. We like to get to meet people and find out what life is like. A lot of people just visit a place. We like to experience a place!

Walt: Any suggestions of how we here on Saipan can improve that experience?

Cristy: We’re very adventurous, and we know how to get around. But, we’d love if there was more signage. You know, a consistent sequence of signs that say go this way, then go this way to find what you’re looking for. Especially when we were going to Mount Tapochau. There was that first sign, and then, not much else.

Walt: I’ll see what I can do! Anything else?

Rick: Also, is there anything you can do about the garbage we saw?

Walt: What do you mean?

Rick: Well, some of the places we went to had a lot of trash about the place. What was odd was that a lot of it was actually in garbage bags. So, it seemed people were dumping there.

Walt: There’s actually an organization called BeautifyCNMI, that was started to address that very issue. Volunteers organize to pick up trash around the island and educate the population. Things have improved a lot, but I guess there’s still work to do.

Walt: Cristy?

Cristy: I was looking for information on Saipan online, and except for your sites, I really couldn’t find what I was looking for. Even your sites didn’t have the-- [This would be where we turn off the “microphone” and Cristy shares some of her suggestions and world-traveler wisdom for me to improve my Saipan websites! Sorry folks! This is “market research!” I don’t share everything, you know!]

Walt: Thanks, Cristy. I’ll add those to my sites right away!

Cristy: You’re welcome. And don’t be afraid to just pick up and go! You don’t need to know people there. Just do it! In fact, I’ll give you a homework assignment. Check out Siem Reap, Cambodia. We’re going there as part of our ticket, and I think you’d like it. Maybe we’ll see you there!

Walt: So, where are you off to next?

Cristy: Back through Guam on the way to Fiji, then Vietnam…

Walt: Any final words?

Ricky: Well, Saipan has got a sensation of safety and security you don’t find everywhere. Everywhere else, you’re constantly looking over your shoulder!

Cristy: It’s such an exotic destination. It really is! I’m so glad we came!

Note: Ever wanted to direct your friends and family to a set of websites that revealed the best things about Saipan? Do what I do: send them to!