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    See the world like you never have before with Michael J. Hawron's engaging new memoir, Entertaining Detours.

    This fascinating collection of individual chapter-length anecdotes are both funny and poignant…but always heartfelt.

    The adventure begins with a chance email encounter as Hawron is planning a return trip to Hong Kong with his son and daughter.

    As a young MIT student in the early 1970s, he launches a personal expedition around the world—one that ultimately takes him to more than thirty countries in five different continents over the span of three decades.

    One of those countries is Hong Kong, a place that makes an indelible impression on him—one he wishes to share with his grown children. While planning the trip, he learns the family that has moved into his old home in Hong Kong has developed an environmental foundation to preserve the area—and the email exchange between them soon becomes the catalyst for Hawron's memoir.

    As the book title suggests, however, life has a way of throwing in unexpected detours, and a devastating one occurs just three months into the memoir's creation. Undeterred, Hawron completes his narrative…and manages to bring his journey full circle.

    14. Primate Bullying!

    “If you can’t handle the monkey business, stay out of our jungle!”

    ometimes when husbands go on outings without their wives and families, they get up to all sorts of monkey business. In my defense, on this particular outing, monkey business was never my intention. When you read this tale you may wonder: Is he making all this up?! Trust me! You can’t make up this kind of stuff! This tale will indeed be a bizarre story of survival, but I assure you it is all true, as I don’t have an imagination sufficiently fertile to concoct such a tale.

    By way of general disclaimer, at this point I will interject that all of the stories in this book are true, for the most part. I only deviate minimally from the truth where I portray myself as stronger, smarter or more handsome than I might otherwise be attributed by the impartial observer. This is only natural, since I am the book’s author. I read somewhere that you can even get an “artistic license” if you know the right folks.

    I digress. Back when this bullying occurred, I really wish I hadn’t digressed. Alas, it seems I am always going off the beaten path, finding detours, constantly in search of new discoveries, thus the title of this book. How else would an erstwhile and otherwise practical-minded MIT Sloan School of Management candidate end up living on a remote Chinese island far from most technology? Furthermore, how else can you experience coming face to face with a large wild boar on a remote mountain top of said Lantau Island, unless you crawl through a very tiny pathway in the shrubbery in search of the yet another shortcut. If I’m not mistaken, the compass bearing would have described my movements as a Northwest Passage of my own making.

    Admittedly, I screamed like a little girl when I found my nose was just inches away from the boar’s big hairy snout. He screamed too, after a fashion. On second thought, “he” might have been a “she,” but I didn’t have the luxury of time to ascertain the gender. Thankfully, the boar retreated, while I set a new world backwards-crawling record as I too retreated to safety—to be reunited with my concerned little family of hikers, and so here I am alive today to tell you this other tale. This next detour, however, almost proved deadly.

    Now the Hong Kong you probably most readily recognize from all of the usual movie and travel channel shots is one that bristles with skyscrapers clinging to steep mountain slopes like the five o’clock stubble on a giant’s great bony chin.

    But that uber-urban image is really only the tip of this land’s subtropical iceberg, as it were: the 10% most people see where the vast majority of the Hong Kong folk live and work. Meanwhile, the remaining 90% of Hong Kong is made up of islands, mountains, forests, farms, streams and waterfalls and lakes (reservoirs) virtually untouched by the developers, just beckoning the intrepid explorer. That’s my cue.

    As I looked out the tiny window of my tiny 13th-story office, I could see the raw hillside behind this housing development. There were all these gravesites where the ancestors were treated to the best possible ocean views. I occasionally walked among those graves, enjoying the views thus afforded and getting some needed exercise and fresh air. (There are other, safer ways to get exercise in Hong Kong, albeit with less fresh air. See “No Third Turkey.”)

    One day my eye spotted a narrow trail that led off enticingly into the woods. What I could not see was that a mile away, at the extreme other end of this dense, dark and cool, shady forest trail there was a very graphic warning sign.

    As a child growing up in rural Upstate New York in the picturesque Hudson River valley, I spent much of my free time hiking through the forests or riding along the country roads which surrounded our quiet little town. I could walk or pedal my bike for miles, enjoying the constantly changing landscape: rugged wooded hills whose hardwood trees erupted in a blaze of color each autumn; the pine forests which looked so serene in winter with their sugar-frosting of fresh snow; rolling fields dotted with cows, and one particular black bull that gave me a good chase one day; the stony babbling brooks with their cold water; the mysterious rock piles with all forms of geological specimens heaped together.

    I imagine my love for exploring nature never really left me and yet, now here I was in Hong Kong, in an extremely un-natural, noisy, crowded, concrete maze. Like the sirens of Homer’s Odyssey, that unexplored trail on the edge of the hillside graves beckoned me irresistibly. Thus my adventure began, as I responded to my innate boyish curiosity.

    Mind you, I was not totally irresponsible—not by a long shot! I was equipped with my prescription sunglasses from the Yu See Nau optometrist shop on steep Wing Wo lane above Central district. I also possessed a 375 ml wax carton of Vitasoy green tea drink. Clever Chinese discovered soymilk to be a viable alternative for the lactose-intolerant long before westerners discovered this condition even existed. Google search it for yourself if you don’t believe me, since I don’t think I have a Vitasoy story in my arsenal that I will be relating to you. You can see exactly what that carton looks like if you thumb ahead to the chapter “The Lady Who Planted Trees,” where there is a photograph of Jenny’s then-young son, Angus, clutching one himself.

    It’s hot and humid in Hong Kong in July, thus I was wearing only a thin t-shirt, shorts, sandals, and of course, my glasses—not exactly proper body armor for the attack that awaited, unbeknownst to me. The trail started off peacefully and fascinatingly. The hillside I had left behind was pretty much scraped clear of most vegetation in order to build all of the concrete skyscrapers, gravesites and pathways. The hot glare of the subtropical sun soon gave way to cool green shade as the trees grew ever taller and denser.

    It suddenly was quite dark and quite still. One would be forgiven for mistaking the location as something akin to a cross between the Black Forest of southwest Germany and the Rainforest of Manaus. I was enthralled! I didn’t know where this enchanted narrow wooded detour led, but I was momentarily unconcerned. I had stumbled upon a beautiful treasure of nature’s richest foliage, just a few steps from the edge of one of the world’s densest populations, one of Hong Kong’s great contradictions!

    I was also about to stumble upon something entirely different. You know that feeling you get when you sense someone is watching you, but you can’t see them? I suddenly had it. But no other humans were (stupid enough to be) in this forest watching me.

    It’s called a “troop.” That’s what a bunch of baboons is called. The premonition I had was entirely accurate. There they were, way up high in the trees, glaring down at me malevolently. I froze. I knew you weren’t supposed to run from dogs, so I extrapolated that the same must be true of a troop of baboons. Suddenly a large female literally (not figuratively) dropped from the tree just a few meters away from where I stood, doing my best imitation of a statue. She was carrying a nursing little one.

    The infant—I checked and that is indeed how you properly refer to a baby baboon: “infant”—was probably adorably cute but my vision was growing fuzzy right about now. I had read about how viciously mothers will protect their young in the wild. Why couldn’t this baboon have been a young single? Well, maybe not, on second thought. For a few tense moments we stood staring at each other. Then my worst fear began: Mama Baboon charged at me, bully-style!

    I assumed my best defensive posture, viz: I closed my eyes as tightly as the orbicularis oculi muscles would allow. For some reason, during that brief window of opportunity to reason, I had decided that the thing I wanted most to avoid was having my eyeballs scratched out. Now without vision, as my eyes were scrunched tightly closed, I had to rely on my other senses to inform me of my circumstances. I could hear and smell danger rushing at me. Then I sensed my arm had been jolted. Then all was calm. After some hesitation, I slowly opened my eyes, one at a time, not entirely certain that I really wanted to survey whatever damage I had sustained. Amazingly enough, there was none!

    Did you forget that small detail I mentioned earlier? I did too, until that exact moment when I heard the baboon rendition of laughter. I dared myself to glance upwards at the sound and there I beheld Madame Baboon finishing off my Vitasoy drink, deftly sipping through the tiny white straw. It seems that she was a vegetarian, or at least fortunately for my sake, she was at that particular moment. She had skillfully scooped that drink right out of my hand while running past me at full speed without ever touching a hair on my hand.

    The definition of “relief” was never as crystal clear to me as it was at that precise moment! I skedaddled out of that enchanted and dangerous forest before the baboons’ next course (me) could commence. Fortunately for my shaky legs, civilization was a mere hundred meters or so away. As I emerged from the dark forest into the broad daylight I encountered a nice paved road, by the side of which was a large red government signboard with a frightening full-color picture of a toothy baboon, warning all sane individuals to beware. Needless to say, I took the long way home.

    I wonder how Mama Baboon learned to pilfer a hiker’s drink so expertly? Perhaps there is a support group out there somewhere I should contact. Sure enough, decades later as I wrote this story in the comfort of my office, I came across a wonderfully informative article entitled: “How to Survive a Baboon Encounter.”

    From reading it, in retrospect, it seems I did all the correct things without the luxury of having had this prior knowledge, except for one critical point of advice I had not heeded: “Do not walk through a troop of baboons; instead, wait for an opportunity to walk around them, or wait for them to leave before you proceed.” You should read the following article yourself before wandering in the woods alone. You have been warned. See the website:

    http://survival.about.com/od/8/a/How-To-Survive-A-Baboon-Encounter.htm



    Review

    - Kirkus Reviews
    "A spry debut memoir charting the adventuresome life of a well-traveled, nature-loving family man.

    'I have had the privilege of living a full life,' writes Hawron, who spent time on five continents in about30 countries and fathered 12 children. In this book, he generously shares stories of his life, accompanied by photographs of locations, family members, and cherished friends. Spurred on to complete his memoir by his daughter Suzy, who passed away prior to its publication, Hawron narrates a rich, hardy memoir filled with harmless escapades, unconventional follies, and familial love.Unsurprisingly, his childhood in New York state's Hudson River Valley was spent hiking; later, he attended college at the Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology, and he later indulged his wanderlust. Among the more colorfully depicted places he visited was Lantau, Hong Kong's largest outlying island, where he lived for years with his wife and kids; it's a locale that he ponders extensively with an engaging amalgam of adoration and trepidation. With that same diligence, the author educates readers on what he considers the "major Hong Kong fear factors," including typhoons, noise, the city's "olfactory tapestry," and traffic (Hawron's chapter on Hong Kong taxicabs is riveting). He also reveals the origins of his surname and the wonderment he harbors for his children, tells of his time spent in New Zealand and reflects on the strangeness of life in China. Certainly, the writing is splendidly detailed, and Hawron'sskill as an engaging raconteur is evident throughout... the memoir's wholesome core and genuine verve for all things wild and worldly remain: 'Actually, my real purpose is to entertain,' the author writes...A...diligently chronicled travelogue featuring tales that are illuminating and effortlessly entertaining."

    Title: Entertaining Detours:
    Unique Tales from My Journey along the Road Less Travelled
    Author: Michael J. Hawron
    Genre: Memoir

    After fathering twelve children, living in almost thirty countries, and spending a lifetime chasing adventure and spur-of-the-moment opportunities, Michael Hawron certainly has a few stories to tell.

    His memoir, Entertaining Detours, chronicles the winding road of his eclectic life, from helping his wife through labor on an isolated island, to being robbed by a mother baboon, to navigating the fast and furious world of Hong Kong taxis.

    The narrative picks up at a brisk clip with the audience being thrust right into the middle of the joyful discovery that the family homestead is indeed still standing after the many years since Hawron's family last laid eyes on it. This pace is sustained throughout and keeps the audience from losing interest in Hawron's stories... Hawron's writing is clear and clean and gleams with loving detail.

    He has a talent for picking out humorous slices of his life abroad for the enjoyment of his audience and polishing them until they shine. Charming pictures of Hawron's children and his family's Chinese island homestead are sprinkled throughout the book. He effortlessly weaves insights into local languages and cultures into his tales, which makes the narratives as educational as they are pleasant to read. Hawron's anecdotes remain engaging and diverse throughout...

    In addition to providing detailed retellings of the stories most beloved by his grandchildren and friends, Hawron occasionally provides what he calls "echoes" at the end of his chapters. These "echoes" are transcripts of emails he received from a family friend who currently resides in the old Hawron homestead. Some of these echoes are joyful, such as the updates about renovations being done to the house, and others are sorrowful, such as the poem that was delivered to Hawron after his daughter Suzy died. While some readers may get pulled out of the happy reverie of reminiscing by these asides, others will find they add a pleasant nuance to Hawron's storytelling and round out his memories of home.

    Hawron writes with an affable, grandfatherly air that immediately makes the reader feel welcome to pull up a chair, make themselves at home, and get lost in his stories. His narrative voice is easygoing and laced through with humor and earnestness. For those who enjoy a good yarn by the fire about far-flung places, Entertaining Detours is not to be missed!

    - The Book Review Directory.

    "I've arrived at chapter 13 of your book, and find it hard to put down! You describe the experiences so well, it's like I was there! For example the ferry in the fog, I can just see the ship & its props. You take the reader there Mike!" -Darryl.