CBS’ new Asia correspondent Ben Tracy is scheduled to be in North Korea getting familiar with one of the hot spots on his overseas beat.
“Diving in headfirst,” Tracy told me, via e-mail. He has not yet moved from L.A. to his new home base in China.
Here is Part 2 of my interview with the St. Paul native, who along with photojournalist Joe Berglove, created WCCO-TV’s “Good Question” segment during Tracy’s time here.
Q: Do you keep a bag packed with a change of clothes and essentials?
A: For nine years, I have had a fully packed suitcase and toiletries in the trunk of my car as well as my wildfire gear and enough boots, jackets, etc., to cover any natural disaster. I think I can probably leave the fire gear in California.
Q: What’s the most exotic meat you eat? Recently my mother asked her husband what he wanted for dinner and he said, “A pig ear sandwich.” I thought he was joking!
A: I have eaten pig ear in L.A. at a restaurant aptly named “Animal.” It was basically everything bacon bits wished it was. So good. I took my parents there and my mom thought I was crazy. My dad ate it though and said, “Tastes like bacon.” My only aversions are slimy shellfish (it’s a texture thing). However, let’s just say the term “meat” is more expansive in some parts of Asia, so I will need to pay attention.
Q: Has your palate remained Minnesota-bland or do you go Szechuan?
A: I love food. All sorts of food. The biggest gift in life has been travel and the things you discover. I love Asian food … especially Thai.
Q: You know what they have in Asia that we don’t? Prawns as big as your fist!
A: I think I will need to get used to looking my food in the eyes. Lots of eyes and feet on the plate over there.
Q: Do you read lots of books?
A: Every year I resolve to read more nonfiction, but I don’t. I am currently reading “Age of Ambition” by a writer for the New Yorker who spent several years covering China. Next up: “The Party” about China’s Communist leaders. “Fifty Shades” will have to wait.
Q: How much smaller will your residence in China be, compared to where you live in L.A.?
A: I don’t live too large in L.A., so it won’t be a huge adjustment. But most of the expat apartments in Beijing come furnished. From what I can tell from photos, that means not remotely livable and furniture you will want removed. They do have an Ikea there and your first visit is considered a rite of passage. Ikea Sunday in China … just think about that for a moment.
Q: Does CBS help find you a place to live in Asia?
A: Not really. But my good friend and colleague Seth Doane (who was the CBS Asia correspondent for three years) has given me the lowdown on where to live. His first piece of advice: Check into the St. Regis Hotel for the first month. Sounds reasonable to me. He also showed me where to get an Aperol Spritz. He knows me well.
Q: Which of the continents have you not traveled to yet?
A: Africa and Antarctica. Definitely want to see both, but my guess is that will have to wait for a few years. Not an easy flight from Beijing.
Q: Are your parents Pat and Barb or siblings likely to visit you in China?
A: I have offered free pollution masks to anyone who visits. When I told my parents about the new assignment they said, “Well, Asia wasn’t on our bucket list, but now we have to go.” I love that. And I will hold them to it!
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Jason Show.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.