Believe it or not, the Urchins were once children. And like most children, we grew up with childhood heroes. We looked up to them, and we’d like to think that they in some way impacting the way we grew into the adult Urchins you see before you.
Maybe it was because she was one of the few singers I knew who wrote all of her own music; maybe it was because she co-founded Camp Mariah for inner-city youth with the Fresh Air Fund; maybe it was because she had a song called ‘Hero,’ but my childhood hero was Mariah Carey.
I listened to her music night and day and was endlessly impressed by the fact that she was the first celebrity I had ever heard of who gave back, both financially and with her time. My friendship with my current best friend of 16 years was solidified in the third grade over our shared love of Mariah Carey, and when we met her many years later after leaving school early to attend a CD signing in Chicago, we were speechless. As soon as the security guards led us away, I started crying. To this day, I wish I could have gotten up the courage to thank her for being the first artist, musical or otherwise, to instill in me the importance of both artistic integrity and philanthropy.
I still considered myself a child at twenty. I hadn’t yet done much with my life, nor had I possessed any realistic plans to do much with my future. I was an aimless, wayward youth, which usually spells trouble, but in my case it kind of worked out. I don’t even remember why I signed up to study in London. I’d never been anywhere on my own before, knew nothing about the city, and didn’t even know what travelling really meant.
One thing I did know was television. I never really followed any of the current shows (basketball games and reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air were my jams), but one show I looked forward to catching every week was Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Bourdain, a New York City chef, travelled the globe, immersing himself in the many cultures of the world, all while keeping his sardonic, true self. Without really realising, I began to look up to him immensely, and before long, I wanted to travel the way he did.
The morning I left for London, I was a nervous wreck, and the only thing that got my immobilised behind out of the car and into the airport was the fact that you’d never see Bourdain afraid to go somewhere. To this day, whenever I’m travelling and feel any hint of fear or reservation, I pretend I’m on my own travel show, and I’d better give people what they came to see.