David Goldman loved being a travel writer. He also loved the cool, rainy nights at his place on the North Shore of Hawaii, the view from his Montecito hilltop, and good food and drink at a good bar. He loved his wife, Shan. And he loved talking politics, about which we seldom agreed, but our friendship endured partly because I hate to argue.
David was a well-to-do property owner, here and in Los Angeles, and could have spent his leisure time aboard a luxury cruise ship or at a Paris cafe near the Four Seasons George V.
He really didn’t have to hustle for writing assignments, check out rooms in strange cities, taste questionable food, take painstaking notes and then come back to work writing the stuff up.
Freelance travel writing is a tough business and getting tougher by the day. Fewer papers find space or budget for those who roam the globe, but David found it a challenge to make it pay-as few do-and he made it even more challenging by his honest reporting. At least one major airline refused to carry him anymore because of his previous criticisms.
David really knew how to travel, and he didn’t take the easy-street route. He waxed enthusiastic about little down-home Hawaiian eateries, a mail-boat ride up the wave-tossed Norwegian coast, a jouncing car trip on a potholed road along South America’s Pacific coastline. I remember a trip to Kyoto where I had arranged for us to stay in a ryokan, a traditional country-style inn. To my dismay, it turned out to be more of a hostel. I don’t recall David complaining, but we spent the next night in a very comfortable ryokan and enjoyed a classic kaiseki dinner. Our room featured a private Japanese-style bath, but David insisted on visiting the old-style neighborhood communal bathhouse, where, with a young guide and the locals, we sudsed-down and dunked ourselves in cold vats, then hot. It was his way of immersing himself in the local culture.
I also joined David in one of his favorite cities of the world, Rio de Janiero. He took our group to his favorite place for fesuada-a savory Brazilian stew-and knew which little bar had great bossa nova music. David arranged a trip to Lisbon, Portugal, where we rode the funky streetcars and explored the cobblestone streets for fado joints. When we found one, it was dark and silent. But when we showed up the lights went on, drinks appeared, and a singer broke our hearts with sad fado songs.
He wasn’t some wild thrill seeker. We went scuba diving off a Philippine island once, but I don’t think he ever jumped out of planes or bungeed from a bridge. What he did do was rent an apartment on the Grand Canal of Venice for a month with Shan. He gloried in the annual festival on an island in the Seine near Paris honoring the late, great guitarist Django Reinhardt; and he sometimes lectured at the annual homage to the late poet Robinson Jeffers at a stone tower edifice in Carmel.
Even though he ran a major enterprise of properties, David managed to get his work done in the morning, then go home to read on his patio overlooking the Pacific. I have no doubt that as a landlord he had his share of squabbles with tenants, but he also did quiet works of generosity. When he learned that a retired News-Press reporter was living in one of his Santa Barbara buildings, he made sure her rent was affordable, although she never knew this. At his shiva, a gathering of family, employees, and others in L.A. last week, 100 people showed up in his honor, many standing up to tell of how he taught them the stern lessons of business and how he helped them in many ways.
For all his travels, David never became jaded with the wide world out there or the gems here in Santa Barbara. David Goldman died at home on St. Patrick’s Day at age 70. The world will miss his visits.