Since my early days, I’ve embraced the challenge of leaving a country with the least possible amount of the local currency – unless I plan on returning soon. Not the case in the Dominican Republic. I left a tip for the housekeeper, bought us lunch at Quizno’s in the airport, bought a bottle of water for $2 (80 pesos), leaving me with exactly four pesos (USD .10), which I left on the janitor’s wagon in the men’s room.

Ciao DR!

But one last puzzle…
Tightly parked planes in hangar, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
…what the hell is this, an airplane rookery?


View of Panama City, Panama
Because we’re in and out of Panamá twice in three days, we stay closer to the airport, leaving the recently-grown stalagmites of Panama City comfortably distant. And 150 pounds of luggage parked at the airport.

For the first time in a while, we fly cattle class for this two hour flight – ‘free’ with frequent flier miles and a couple hundred ‘Federal‘ ‘Reserve‘ notes. But check it out – everyone has a personal screen, with a selection of movies (12? 16?) available to start, pause, fast forward and replay at will. Really, it hasn’t been that long since ‘we’re showing the movie now’ – ?

Amazing, really.

But is anyone happy?


Sitting in the Business Class Oasis Lounge at JFK Terminal 4 – great little spread of food and beverages, after dropping our rental car and taking the wonderfully efficient free AirTrain elevated shuttle. Then on to security which was delightfully un-obnoxious. No cancer radiation scanners. One person patted down; the agent explained to her very carefully what she needed to do, and they shared a laugh as it was in progress.

Being a little bit of a plane buff, I was awestruck with the sight of this Singapore Airlines Airbus A380-800. Watched another of these double-decker jumbos from Korean Air lumbering down the runway towards rotation (takeoff).


Connecticut: comfort

For the wedding, we stay in the house of a friend of my sister. Lush, monogrammed towels, a couple of large-screen TVs, tennis court and swimming pool. Though no expert, I find no difficulty imagining the property selling for $4-5 million.

Open garage full of bikes, tools, kayak. House full of amazing artwork collected from around the world. Security briefing: just walk in, the door is open.

Of course we were welcome to do laundry. The laundry room also houses the guts of the heating system.

heating system, expensive Connecticut house

With a total of 14 heating zones in the house, safe to say you’ll be comfortable. As long as you can afford heating oil.

So if comfort were all that mattered….

New York’s incredibly awesome Highline


Some creative citizens spearheaded resistance to destruction of the ‘visual blight’ elevated railway built to eliminate rail traffic from the meatpacking district of lower Manhattan that produced so many accidents as street level that it was called Death Avenue in the early 20th century. By the 1960s it was abandoned, and over the next decades plants grew and soil developed.

Now it has become a totally impressive, totally awesome ‘back yard’ for NYC residents, almost a Frederick Law Olmstead (creator of central Park, the ‘lungs’ of NYC) redux.


Here’s a treat, view of a Frank Gehry condo building from the Highline. Even more impressive, we’re told, illuminated at night time.

The legendary Hotel Termas!

Before my theme included the word short, and only a few months after arriving in Uruguay to live, we went with our friends Syd and Gundy on a bus tour of northern Argentina, seeing many things we would never have otherwise. Including this gem.


7 Apr 2010

“The legendary Hotel Termas de Rosario de la Frontera has conditioned its facilities and opened its doors once again to all the visitors in search of the tranquility and health offered by its hot spring waters.”

Before looking at my little 10-minute photo essay, done with a borrowed camera on our way back from northern Argentina, please take a minute or two to check out this review of the hotel, from which the quote above is taken.



You’ve found a cozy, clean spot and we want to make sure you enjoy everything about your stay.


You can have a sunny room overlooking the front…what are all those dots, you ask?


Why, they’re moths — moths enjoy this area as well.


Perhaps you’d prefer a room facing the courtyard? Anyway, have a look around!


Peek into our well-maintained, modern  kitchen…


…catch a glimpse of our efficient and clean laundry room.


Then make your way to our luxurious individual spa rooms.


It’s not every day a person gets to bathe in radioactive mud!


Our facility invites you to explore…




Wander around our lovingly landscaped gardens…


…find a little something special in our boutique…


Or just make yourself at home in our welcoming front lounge, where dedicated and professional staff stand ready to serve your every need!

So this is Christmas

25 December 2007

Here you see the corner of our town plaza today, Christmas. I offer this as an introduction. The guys on the left are the good guys. The guys on the left are the bad guys. Got it?

The bad guys are the demons.

It starts with girls dressed up carrying – well, what the hell are they – going into the church…

…followed by some good guys (saluting), some bad guys, and the band.

And people with various iterations of baby Jesus, presumably to be blessed during this most sacred ‘Christian’ celebration.

After mass, they re-emerge.

The good guys are ready.

The bad guys warm up by threatening onlookers.

They don’t seem all that formidable, until you notice the gear they carry – chains and hooks.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The girls pound their colorful stick thingies with bells on them, the band strikes up a distinctive off-key refrain, and it’s fun time – the good guys start taunting the bad guys…

…and the bad guys attack, lunging at their legs with the hooks.

And connecting – notice the state of the jeans. You’ll notice that the good guys wear several pairs of jeans – and protective gloves. Notice that the good guys wear several pairs of jeans – and protective gloves….you’ll see why I repeat this in a moment.

The staged mayhem can get a little out of control…

..but it’s all an impromptu act, a play.

Everybody knows everyone else. Well, maybe, but hold a minute for that…

And besides, it’s Christmas. Ya know, Santa Claus’n’all…look again at this picture…

OK, a tad more WWE than Bing Crosby, but what the hey.

Then the girls and boys in white start doing a weaving in-and-out Maypole thing, and all seems kind of civilized. Wait, you say, Maypole? At Christmas!? Well, think about it:  no actually, don’t…because just now,

…the band strikes up its monotonous discordance once again.

And the battle between good and evil continues, Maypole/whatever be damned.

Anyway, it finally wraps up and people head off to – who knows. Hours later, they’re still wandering around town in costume. At least the demons.

But first they rest a while…

…giving a gringo photographer an opportunity to take a photo of another gringo taking photos – our Canadian friend Gary, who brought his wife, daughter and 12 year old grandson Lucas (‘this doesn’t really seem like Christmas,’ he confided to our son Jesse) to make up the handful of gringos observing.

Oh, Jesse. Did I mention that he ended up being a total pain in the ass this morning? I won’t go into details. If you’re the parent of a teenager, no further explanation required. If you’re a teenager or above (but not yet parent of a teenager) just think how incredibly oppressive-retarded your cro-magnon parents can be (which, curiously, your friends’ aren’t).

That kind of day. We go to our friend Donna’s for lunch and games (her family tradition) but eating wonderful food and sitting on her patio overlooking Pátzcuaro, blahblahblahing with Jerry and Shelly and Harry and Judy and Betty (we have five times more friends here in less than a year than we had in Spokane in almost two), enjoying a glass of wine or two, we decline to play Scrabble in Spanish or Monopoly in Turkish (f’real – Betty lived in Turkey couple years), The shared horror stories of teenage children serve as a balm to our souls, and on the way home we stop to buy carnitas para llevar (pork’n’tortillas’n’salsas to go) because we figure Jesse will be hungry and, pain in the ass or not, he deserves to eat.

But he’s not home.

I don a dark sweatshirt/hoody (good local look) and walk five minutes to the plaza to look for him.

Halfway there, saying buenas tardes to one of neighbors, a horn blares, and I greet Rick and Deb, and their parents Rose Ann and Errol, cruising our pueblo Tzurumútaro on their way home from a dinner in the big city Morelia (they all – well, except for Errol, who doesn’t give a shit about such things – wear black; we haven’t achieved that level of sophistication yet ;-).

Lots of people in the square, all eating – communal feast of some sort, as the Posada couple nights ago, which I didn’t quite get around to blogging about – one of several we’ve attended last few days, – sowweee!; styrofoam plates and cups left in the street because the planning, which may involve bringing huge metal pots in wheelbarrows, doesn’t extend to disposal of the disposables – all of which nonetheless have disappeared the next day.

No Jesse.

I wander by a cluster of giggly teenage girls, one of whom asks, ¿Busca Jesse?

Si, I reply.

Está en la tienda, she says, pointing, ‘the store.

Conosco ‘tienda,’ I reply with a wry smile (and giggles from them), gracias.
And sure enough, there’s Jesse, in the middle of couple dozen locals, several cradling cervecas.
One’s our immediate neighbor, others I sort of generically recognize. A slightly older (and slightly inebriated) guy affirms this is my son and asks my pardon for what has happened to him.

Meanwhile, Jesse clowns to a receptive audience.

Es un muchacho grande, I say to the ‘responsible’ guy, hoping that translates as ‘he’s a big boy.’
Jesse, I say, we brought you some carnitas. You hungry? Heading across the plaza, we (no actually Jesse: no, gracias) refuse a couple styrofoam bowls of food held out to us; all the way we entertain laughter, and at one point Jesse says to bystanders looking at his bloodstained trousers, ¡Pinches diablos! (Damned devils!)

So here’s the deal. In our absence, our son has been engaging the locals. How cool,
you must think, but consider that the locals whom he has engaged have hooks.

Is that blood? we ask. Yeah, he says, they cut my finger.

Then he shows us his leg. From the front …

… and from the back.

Remember my comment about the performers: Notice that the good guys wear several pairs of jeans – and protective gloves… Jesse has no gloves, hence his hand gets cut, subsequently staining his jeans. The claws tearing his jeans also tear his flesh, because he has only one layer of jeans.

The gringo kid joins the local fray, sin protection, gets his pants shredded by metal hooks, shows blood – which the performers don’t – all a bit interesting. Moments ago, as I edited photos and prepared this, he reappeared home, then took off again, on foot, to the plaza, five minutes away. I don’t wish I was in his place: I have no desire to be 19 again, but I look on in marvel, as perhaps my parents did, or as perhaps would have his birth parents had they lived that long.

Life manifests in remarkable ways.

Gone walkabout

My recent absence from blogging comes from having gone walkabout in the USA without a laptop computer. In other countries, you can find internet cafes everywhere. In the USA, you can find connections everywhere, but without your own computer, more dedication is required. And I enjoyed being offline. Not only that, but one day I logged on to find 11 new friend requests – so apparently shutting up and staying offline enhances my popularity in MySpace. (I’ll have to remember that.)

We were exploring the idea of relocating. From Spokane, we drove south through central Oregon, and through California to Flagstaff, Arizona. Appalled by the extent of the real estate bubble there, we took a side trip to Bisbee – I had never seen that particular tourist trap / ego – er, artist – colony. We stayed in an historic hotel, calling the police at 2 AM to report some blues-harp playing drunk piercing the silence (a sign on the hotel door advised of Bisbee’s noise ordnance, and suggested the popo). Next morning, extending our travel a half mile to gaze into the open-pit mine in town before returning the way we came, we were sold on the idea of continuing to Douglas, through a serendipitous encounter with a stranger in the mine-overlook parking lot.

We had previously very little interest in looking at Douglas, Arizona; it seemed rather grim. So, true to form, after a few hours we made an offer to buy a house so we could live 1.4 kilometers from the border of Mexico. (We haven’t heard back yet from the owners of the house.)

Then we drove home through Phoenix, Flagstaff, past Bryce Canyon, through Salt Lake, up into Idaho and Montana and back into eastern Warshington – some rather spectacular scenery. Yes, gas is getting a bit pricey, but every time the price of gas went up so did the value of a crude oil futures option I purchased (the option is for 1,000 barrels of oil, so the rising price of oil I’ve potentially purchased in the future more than offset what we consumed in our little road trip).

OK, OK, OK, I know: you find it a little hard to relate to someone who casually takes off for ten days to wander around without a particular plan (we had a lovely visit and met a couple of great-nieces for the first time in California), who casually makes an offer to buy a house 1,200 miles away, and who talks about obscure things like crude oil futures options. So, ignore that and check out this gem: the Mohawk Restaurant in Crescent, Oregon, somewhere south of Bend. The sign out front says ‘animal and bottle collection.’ If that’s not reason enough to go inside, consider too that it was the only place to eat within walking distance of our motel.

I can’t begin to capture the ambiance, nor exhaustively catalog the critters (who cares about the bottles?), procurement of which might land you behind bars these days. For example, the Great Horned Owl my little red arrow points to…


…or the Green Sea Turtle above the fireplace.


If you find the idea of dining in the presence of them off-putting, then you’d probably find no charm at all in the two-headed calf (about to be attacked by a Golden Eagle?) and the two-head whatever just aft of it.

Yes, I said two-headed calf. Don’t be too judgmental, because…

…her daddy seems rather proud of her. That’s a Gerenuk there with the long neck, and I know that little deer behind seems too small to be real. However,

…what more appropriate way to commemorate the fetal fawn from a pregnant roadkill? (Don’t you have any imagination at all?) There were something like 26 of those little things, in a variety of sizes.

So, have you saved some room for dessert?