Categories
Eastern Europe Europe

Digging Dubrvonik’s Alternative Side – Port Gruz

I recently went abroad for the first time in 20 months to film. I had both my jabs back in April, so I was itching to use my get out of jail- I mean, get out of the USA, free card, and Croatia was welcoming vaccinated US travelers. I’d never been. This seemed an opportune time to hit up this over-touristed travel darling before the crowds bounce entirely back. I’m glad I did.

Dubrovnik’s Old Town

I began my trip in Dubrovnik, staying in the Old Town, which seemed crowded to me. But I was told the crowds were like 40% of 2019 levels. Dubrovnik has been struggling with over-tourism the past decade or so, culminating and untenable crowds in 2019, so 40% is not necessarily a bad thing. Of course, the locals catering to tourists would like to make more money, I get that. But the reality on the ground is many of the more touristic local establishments cater to same-day in-and-out cruise crowds. Hence, quality control is not a big deal in many places. It was also expensive. While Dubrovnik tourism is working to come back smarter, not bigger, the Old City is charming and will always be a draw for travelers, pushing locals out. Thus it didn’t feel very punk rock.

Ivo of Urban and Veggies
Urban and Veggies – Delish! 

But I was told to head over to the Port Gruz area, and indeed I got a much different vibe. Port towns always seem a bit more bohemian, and I’m not 100% sure why, but probably back in the day they were a little rough around the edges, while also being welcoming point for travelers (unlike the Old Town which had only two entrances and required foreign visitors to quarantine centuries ago… well before Covid). 

Port Gruz felt more real, if not exactly punk rock, at least DIY. After stopping in a new vegetarian restaurant I’d heard about called Urban and Veggies, I had one of the most amazing vegetarian meals of my life. Scratch that, one of the most amazing meals ever, vegan or not. Ivo, the talented proprietor, wasn’t expecting me, yet he rolled out the red carpet and prepared a feast fit for King whatever-his-name was from Game of Thrones (GOT was famously filmed on location in Dubrovnik). I was hungry but there was no way I could eat that entire spread myself. 

Dubrovnik Beer Company

After stuffing myself, I waddled my way to the Dubrovnik Beer Company, where I met the proprietor Dario and his merry band of craft beer mates. The beer was excellent, but the conversation was even better. These smart fellas are doing everything they can to showcase another more authentic side of Dubrovnik away from the tourists-laden old town, and it’s working… or at least it worked for me.

Kreso of Red History Museum

After the sun went down, Dario escorted me down a dark side street to meet Kreso, owner of the Red History Museum. Kreso refused to talk shop until we’d had a few shots of Rakia and no arguments from me. After three or four shots of Rakia, I was ready to relive some communist history.

The Original “Yugo” from Yugoslavia

The Red History Museum is a highly entertaining way to see what the former Yugoslavia was like during communism. For those who don’t know, Yugoslavia had a much different history than the rest of the Soviet Union, thanks to Tito, the enigmatic, Dictator who held the territory together through his reign. Ask a Croatian today about Tito, and you’ll get decidedly mixed reviews. Still, there is no denying he kept the place together as shortly after his death, a power struggle ensued, war broke out. Some of the worst crimes against humanity and mass murder in recent history occurred.

Head to Port Gruz in Dubrovnik, Croatia to avoid crowds


But all that seems blissfully behind Croatia now. You can still see the wounds of war, but not so much on the Dalmation coast where Dubrovnik is located. Though I did stop by the Museum of Martyrs to get an idea of what the town went through. I’d find much more damage and destruction as I wound my way inward toward the Serbian border town of Osijek. However, I still had a few days left on the Dalmatian coast. Next stop, Split. You guessed it, it was time to split for Split but not before bidding a regretful goodbye to the friendly folks of Dubrovnik and especially my new pals in the Port Gruz area.

Categories
North America

Helping a Pal With Covid Get a Double Lung Transplant

The J. Giovanni Baquerizo Family

I don’t normally promote a personal cause on the show’s page, but there are many people who’ve expressed a desire to help. So here we go – As many of you know, I have a pal struggling with covid for the past several weeks. His lungs have failed, and his only option is a double lung transplant, of which he’s been approved. Because I’ve struggled off and one with a relentless cyberstalker for over a decade, I wanted to keep his identity private, but that is no longer practical.
Giovanni (Gio) was one of my first group of good friends when I moved to NYC, part of a period of my life I didn’t realize would be so important to me. I just knew I was having a blast getting to know a crew of funny, engaging, beautiful people at WXTV Univision 41, where I worked. We were drawn tightly together by the shared experience of working for a silly, silly company culture with a cast of characters running things that were hilarious when it wasn’t enraging—like my commission always getting shorted by some financial guy named “Ernie” in Jersey who couldn’t seem to add 2+2.

But don’t get it twisted. That experience was not bitter but sweet! It shaped my life in unimaginable ways. How could it not? I was from Tennessee and was living in the Big Apple, surrounded by people who were so different from me, yet so very, very much the same. Yes, it’s where my wanderlust first began to sprout.

Gio is a good guy. We’ve thus remained friends all these years. And as you can see, he has a lovely family, five kids, and a lovely wife, Jen, who is TRYING to hold it together while holding down a job. My heart is simply breaking for them, breaking in two, actually.


I’m a softie, but Gio is a hard worker. He had to be. He has five kids, all smart as whips, some receiving full scholarships to prestigious universities. They’re going to be givers… not takers. But they have to get to the other side of this misery with their father first. Right now, they are all holding down part-time jobs to help themselves, and alas, that is how covid entered Gio’s household. People who HAD to work in hospitality, in risky scenarios around other people who did not take things seriously. Many insurance companies have quietly discarded their covid deductible waiving policies. Health costs are going to run into the millions of dollars on this one. I like to give my money to places where it can do the most good, hence my fundraisers for Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, Laos, etc., and other developing nations. But when it comes to bearing healthcare costs, the USA IS a developing nation. Work all your life, save your money, do the right thing, but don’t get sick, or it’s all gone in a flash. That’s the American dream? Sounds like a nightmare to me. Or a bait and switch.

But this isn’t about politics. Gio and I may or may not even see eye to eye in that regard. I don’t know to be honest, as we rarely discussed it. I’m hard-core. Most people aren’t. That’s okay. I am who I am, and they are who they are. Friendship has nothing to do with that, so long as someone is a good person. And Gio is a good person. If you know Gio, you know this. If you don’t, I hope you’ll take my word for it. And if you have the means, desire and motivation, I hope you’ll help me help his family through this difficult time—nothing too small. $5, $10, or $20 shows love and support, and if not able to give, that’s okay. Your continued prayers and support are and will continue to be treasured.

NO PRESSURE! Just love.

https://gofund.me/e8fc5f57

The J. Giovanni Baquerizo Family