20 Years of Too Much Fun

I used to joke, “I have the greatest job in the world, but it does have a dark side.”  Then I would explain, “I’ve also been bitten, scratched and pooped on by one of every creature at your local zoo.”  I was only half kidding, because there is a price the body pays for having too much fun.

While recovering from my third knee surgery I was thinking about some of the fun I’ve had in doing a job my wife describes as, “summer camp for adults.”  This year I celebrate twenty years of working at National Geographic, or twenty years of getting paid to go to summer camp as Betty calls it.  It has been filled with multiple adventures of a lifetime, and how many of those should one person be allowed to have in one lifetime?  Clearly I’ve enjoyed more than my share.

I was also reflecting on some of the costs of that fun.  In addition to the three knee surgeries, I’ve had rotator cuff surgery on both shoulders, a foot surgery, a dislocated elbow, fractured pelvis, scapula, great toe, and fractured ribs twice, a lower back injury, a few stiches on occasion, numerous bites, scrapes, and cuts, as well as a variety of infections.

No wonder my orthopedist, David Johnson, calls me his annuity.  He really is a good doctor and he’s worked miracles with this beat up old body.  He also has a good sense of humor and reviews some of my MRI’s and surgery films for a little musical history of a few of my adventures in the field that have led to adventures in hospitals and recovery rooms.

The music is a blues song, appropriately titled, “Hurts Me Too.”  I previously posted a video I shot showing my friends Bill Maxwell, Hadley Hockensmith, Phil Driscoll, Michiko Hill, and Pee Wee Hill recording this song, but now I’ve added video showing highlights of several of the adventures which ended up hurting me too.

Rhino Close Encounter

Just how bad is a rhino’s eyesight?  Here was the plan, if you can call a crazy off the top of your head idea that no one in their right mind would consider doing a plan, we were going to get out of our vehicle and see how close we could get to a wild white rhinoceros. There was a method to the madness. I was at South Africa’s Sabi Sabi Game Reserve where they were helping me with a story on rhinos.  Part of the story was to see if the old theory of rhinos having bad eyesight is true.  By the way, although Sabi Sabi does offer walking safaris to tourists, they would never do this with one of their clients.  Being with National Geographic occasionally gives you some privileged access.  Well, after you watch the video you can decide if this was a priviledge or not.

What did we learn from our test?  Do rhinos have eyesight so bad they can’t tell a person from a bush at 20 feet?  At 10 feet?  Or closer?  Did it prove I have a very small brain to even attempt this eye test?  This video shows the results.

Chairman of the Board

Gil Grosvenor has been with National Geographic for 56 years following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather as first editor of the magazine and then president and chairman of the board of the National Geographic Society.  At the beginning of this year he decided that was long enough and announced his retirement.  Gil has been a first hand witness to so much history at National Geographic that I was sure he had some good stories to tell so I had him come on my radio show, National Geographic Weekend to tell some of those stories.  Here’s that interview in two parts.