"When truth and compassion part ways, follow compassion." ~ Unknown

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Toledo for daggers

We're now launched on a 5.5 month stay in Europe. For the first three weeks my daughter and her family will be with us. Last week we stayed at an airbnb in Madrid. From there are three World Heritage sites within an hour of the city by train so it's an excellent base. Never mind the temperature hovered around 105° the entire time, the hottest in the city's recorded history, we visited a thousand year-old castle, 800 year-old cathedrals, 2000 year-old Roman walls, roads, and shrines stuffed with saints bones and the skulls of long dead Catholic Cardinals however, the big event was visiting Fabrica Zamorano, the shop of Mariano Zamorano, master sword smith of Toledo.

Mariano Zamorano - Master swordsmith of Toledo
For just under $1000, Clark bought four daggers,
gifts for his two daughters, his wife, and one for himself.

Now we're good old London where it's about 40° cooler and raining.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Don't mess with the press - 4th of July - America

Journalism Matters - Front page news - 4th of July
Front page - Medford Mail Tribune - July 4, 2018

What is it about
that the Party of Trump doesn't like?

Oh yeah.
That's right . . .
the part about

I am 3 - Welcome to America
Demonstration against the ICE incarceration of
1000s of refugee children being ripped from their
parent's arms who are now lost in internment camps
throughout America.
Medford, Oregon, USA - 06.30.2018

Don't be silent.


Donate what you can of your
time, energy, talent, and resources
including cold, hard cash.

Call your representatives.

We can do together
what we can not do alone . . .


this compromised, neo-fascist President
and his spineless, neo-fascist Republican Party
from continuing to undermine our Democracy.

Jon Stewart Is Ready To Negotiate With Donald Trump

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Summer Solstice 2018

Thunder and rain all night and now a cloudy, humid morning. It's almost feels tropical but this is Portland Oregon so I'm not counting on seeing a blue sky today on this, the official beginning of Summer now duly noted.

With over 2500 children currently imprisoned in internment camps by Trump and the Republicans and no end in sight, just fuckwad's useless magic marker scrawl on yet another impotent "executive order", I feel hypocritical and sad even mentioning summer as it calls to mind childhood and the golden days of summer but it is the beginning of summer so somehow make it count for good.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Common ground in the Era of Trump & Republican child internment camps and baby jails

In this darkest moment of Republican children internment camps, this twitter post from Steve Schmidt is a must read. If Republican baby jails isn't a wake up call and turning point, America is doomed.

Steve Schmidt
29 years and nine months ago I registered to vote and became a member of The Republican Party which was founded in 1854 to oppose slavery and stand for the dignity of human life. Today I renounce my membership in the Republican Party. It is fully the party of Trump. It is corrupt, indecent and immoral. With the exception of a few Governors like Baker, Hogan and Kasich it is filled with feckless cowards who disgrace and dishonor the legacies of the party’s greatest leaders. This child separation policy is connected to the worst abuses of humanity in our history. It is connected by the same evil that separated families during slavery and dislocated tribes and broke up Native American families. It is immoral and must be repudiated. Our country is in trouble. Our politics are badly broken.

The first step to a season of renewal in our land is the absolute and utter repudiation of Trump and his vile enablers in the 2018 election by electing Democratic majorities. I do not say this as an advocate of a progressive agenda. I say it as someone who retains belief in DEMOCRACY and decency. On Ronald Reagan’s grave are these words. “ I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.” He would be ashamed of McConnell and Ryan and all the rest while this corrupt government establishes internment camps for babies. Everyone of these complicit leaders will carry this shame through history. There legacies will be ones of well earned ignominy. They have disgraced their country and brought dishonor to the Party of Lincoln.

I have spent much of my life working in GOP politics. I have always believed that both parties were two of the most important institutions to the advancement of human freedom and dignity in the history of the world. Today the GOP has become a danger to our democracy and values. This Independent voter will be aligned with the only party left in America that stands for what is right and decent and remains fidelitous to our Republic, objective truth, the rule of law and our Allies. That party is the Democratic Party.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The crashing sky

Finally . . . 19:30 GMT (7:30 PM) . . .  and I have managed to crawl out from under the crashing sky of America one more time.

Seems I get sucked into that shit show at least once a day . . . 

... US Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III claiming he's doing "god's work" ripping children from their parent's arms at the border ... and Trump pretending Democrats are making them do it.

...Trump saluting North Korean generals and praising murderous dictator Kim Jung Un as a "pretty smart cookie" with a "very good personality"...

... lies swarming from his mouth are like great gray clouds of terminates rising from the foundation of a rotting house.

It's exhausting.

Puppets at the window
Through the glass

The South should just secede from the Union, erect a wall around itself and be done with it. They could have all the guns they crave ... machine guns, cannons, bazookas, ground to air missiles, bombs, whatever ... replace science class with bible study, deport anyone with skin darker than a peanut and worship Trump as the divine messenger they know him to be.

But I did go for a bike ride today. That helped. We're in Portland, Oregon at the moment. We rode down to the Sellwood bridge and along the way discovered the Portland Puppet Museum. That was a bright spot in the day. Swami would love it. Closest people to his friends at Artist's House in Bangkok.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Tombstone storie - girl of stone
The girl who waits and watches

I got back on Wednesday after three weeks in Oregon visiting family. We unloaded the car and then I put a few peanuts out in the Bird Park. Good old Maggie, the 7 o'clock magpie. She showed up almost immediately. I love that bird. She's always appears with the 24 hours after I get home, even if I've been gone for months.

Tombstone stories - William Moore, murdered
William Moore
Murdered between
the 9th & 14th of Dec. 1900

The next day Minerva the crow and her magpie partner appeared and, as I was watching them, it occurred to me that Minerva's companion doesn't have a name which is odd because they've been coming to the Bird Park together for years. He should have a name by now. For two days I couldn't come up with a thing then this afternoon, while strolling through the local graveyard, it came to me . . . Kafka, Kafka the magpie.

Au revoir

Henri, Le Chat Noir has retired. I weep.


Henri's first video, 2006

Friday, May 18, 2018


The word "do" entered our language sometime before 900 CE and although it's only two letters long it is incredibly nuanced. Whatever did we do before we got do?

Sunday, April 15, 2018

There Is No White Jesus | Famalam

I doubt many in Trump's evangelical base realize that Jesus was a black man in the middle east . . .

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Rest in peace, Sudan. I am so sorry.

Sudan, the last northern white rhino has died. His death leaves only two females of his subspecies alive in the world, his daughter and granddaughter and they are too inbred to conceive.

RIP Sudan :-(

Poachers and the black market animal horn trade is responsible for this pending extinction. And why? Because there is still a market for rhino horn on the bullshit folk or traditional Asian "medicine" market. Horns are believed to give a sexually impaired man big stiffies. It's a lie. Traditional "medicine" so-called doctors and herbalists add Viagra to the mix and sell the compound to fools and now the northern white rhino has paid the ultimate price. For this same reason, elephants are in line to go extinct as well as all the other horned animals in the world.

I just can not comprehend why we have not yet internationally stopped this criminal, immoral, unethical, cruel, deceptive trade. Oh, that's right! Unscrupulous shit-heel politicians are making money on it. The situation has reached such a critical juncture I seriously entertain the idea that idea that dealers and poachers should be sentenced to death and buyers should receive massive fines and serious jail time. Oh, and maybe give shit-heel politicians some or all of the penalties too. There's an idea.

Last moments of Sudan's life

Rest in peace, Sudan. Words cannot convey how sorry I am for what my species as done to yours.

Bird ways

Quail really don't mind body contact. In fact, bumping, cuddling and squeezing in is a major part of life in the covey. If two quail are drinking wing to wing at the water bowl, a third one would just as well squeeze in between them than find an open spot. Same when they are grazing seed under the butterfly bushes. They cluster and continually bump into each other and, except when they are chest bumping and chasing each other in dizzying circles, they act like one big soft gray feathery body sharing a single mind.

Nobody else who comes to the Bird Park does this. The magpie swoop and dive each other in a semi-congenial fashion, the lordly crows and ravens have the breakfast table to themselves, the little birds either battle or ignore each other all together, and the starlings gobble like they are competing for scraps in a madhouse. Only the mourning doves and pigeons eat together without boast or incident.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

In like a lion

The little birds are eating as fast they can and the quail just arrived. Soon snow will cover everything and everyone will have to wait out the night tucked as best they can out of the wind. "In like a lion, out like a lamb" mother always said of March but who can be sure anymore? At least the hawk hasn't made an appearance yet this evening.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Stable genius

For your viewing pleasure, here is a short clip of the current Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau and Russian and alt.right America's favorite "Stable Genius" Donald J. Trump discussing "things". 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A little night music for today

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music)
Dorothea Tanning, 1943, Tate Modern

1 Hour Sufi Music of Turkey | Hakan Mengüç

Gass's Invocation to the Muse

This quote from Biblioklept taken from William H. Gass, his book The Tunnel. It's fabulous and daunting and I'm afraid I have to add it to my already neglected reading list.

"An Invocation to the Muse
O brood O muse upon my mighty subject like a holy hen upon the nest of night.
O ponder the fascism of the heart.
Sing of disappointments more repeated than the batter of the sea, of lives embittered by resentments so ubiquitous the ocean’s salt seems thinly shaken, of let-downs local as the sofa where I copped my freshman’s feel, of failures as frequent as first love, first nights, last stands; do not warble of arms or adventurous deeds or shepherds playing on their private fifes, or of civil war or monarchies at swords; consider rather the slightly squinkered clerk, the soul which has become as shabby and soiled in its seat as worn-out underwear, a life lit like a lonely room and run like a laddered stocking.
Behold the sagging tit, the drudge-gray mopped-out cunt-corked wife, stale as yesterday’s soapy water or study the shiftless kind, seedy before any bloom, thin and mean as a weed in a walk;
Smell the grease that stands rancid in the pan like a second skin, the pan aslant on some fuel-farting stove, the stone in its corner contributing what it can to the brutal conviviality of close quarters,
Let depression like time-payments weigh you down; feel desperation and despair like dust thick in the rug and the ragged curtains, or carry puppy pee and plate-scrapings, wrapped in the colored pages of the Sunday paper, out to the loose and blowing, dog-jawed heap in the alley;
Spend your money on large cars, loud clothes, sofa-sized paintings, excursions to Hawaii, trinkets, knicknacks, fast food, golf clubs, call girls, slimming salons, booze;
Suffer shouting, heat rash, chilblains, beatings, betrayal, guilt, impotence, jail, jealousy, humiliation, VD, vermin, stink.
Sweat through a St. Louis summer and sing of that.
O muse, I cry, as loudly as I can, while still commanding a constricted scribble, hear me! help me! but my nasty echo answers: one muse for all the caterwauling you have called for! where none was in that low-life line of work before?
It’s true. I’ll need all nine for what I want to do—perhaps brand new—all nine whom Hesiod must have frigged to get his way, for he first spoke their secret names and hauled their history by the snout into his poem. For what I want to do …
Which is what—exactly? to deregulate Descartes like all the rest of the romancers? to philosophize while performing some middle-age adultery? basically enjoying your anxieties like raw lickker when it’s gotten to the belly? I know—you want to make the dull amazing, you want to Heidegger some wholesome thought, darken daytime for the TV, grind the world into a grain of Blake.
O, I deny it! On the contrary! I shall not abuse your gift. I pledge to you, if you should choose me, not to make a mere magician’s more of less, to bottle up a case of pop from a jigger of scotch. I have no wish to wine water or hand out loaves and fishes like tickets on a turkey. It is my ambition to pull a portent—not a rabbit but a raison d’être—from anything—a fish pond, top hat, fortune cookie—you just name it—a prophecy in Spengler’s fanciest manner, a prediction of a forlorn future for the world from—oh, the least thing, so long as it takes a Teutonic tone—a chewed-over, bubble-flat wad of baseball gum, say, now hard and sour in the street, with no suggestion of who the player’s picture was, impersonal despite its season in someone’s spit, like a gold tooth drawn from a Jew’s jaw.
Misfits, creeps, outcasts of every class; these are my constituents—the disappointed people—and if I could bring my fist down hard on the world they would knot together like a muscle, serve me, strike as hard as any knuckle.
Hey Kohler—hey Koh—whistle up a wind. Alone, have I the mouth for it? the sort of wind I want? Imagine me, bold Kohler, calling out for help—and to conclude, not to commence—to end, to bait, to 30, stop, leave off, to hush a bye forever … to untick tock."

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Squirrels, squirrels squirrels

Today is the Big Day
Squirrel Appreciation Day!

Of course, it's best not to feed wildlife but I'm sure that if you toss a few peanuts to a squirrel, she wouldn't mind. In any case, remember they were here before us so at least let them pass in peace.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Five days until National Squirrel Appreciation Day

Remember to pick up some UNSALTED peanuts at the store. National Squirrel Appreciation  Day is on Sunday.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter Solstice

The science

I started this post in the morning and now, hours after dark, I'm finally getting around to finishing it. Tonight is Winter Solstice so I must. Whether you ever read this or not, I want to wish you a serene end to the old cycle and at least one moment of deep peace sometime during this longest night.

It's also four days before Christmas. Neighborhood houses, trees, and bushes twinkle with lights and re-inflated santas and cartoon characters wobble in the dark. It's a nostalgic and, all too often, bitter time. In the last several years the solstice has been my personal winter sanctum and, as in years past, I'm re-posting this poem. It's my candle in the window after I turn out the light.

Winter Solstice illustrated

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Bird Park December update

It can be confusing first thing in the morning determining just which peanut is the biggest and best and, while sleep is still in your eyes, it's hard picking up two or three nuts at a time, especially when other birds are fussing all around but it can be done. Today is our fourth morning home and the Bird Park is in full swing.

We've been gone for six months but, as usual, Maggie the 7 o'clock Magpie, showed up the first morning we were back. She's always got half an eye on the place. The little birds, doves and quail appeared a couple of days later. They are out there now pecking away at apples and seed. Today was the first time a whole tiding of magpies came. Grackles showed up about 20 minutes in. I hope they stick around after breakfast and chat awhile. Their conversations are enchanting. Oh and seems Rosie the skunk is still here. She woke me up two nights ago fighting with someone. She sprayed the hell out of them. I believe she may have taken up residence under the house in what was BoB's old place. The horrible neighbor cats may have gotten him but, by the smell of things, they won't be getting Rosie anytime soon. This will be interesting. We'll have to relocate her at some point, just not today.

The only guys I haven't seen yet are the crows. They're always the last to arrive. Very careful, the crows. Smart. We might not see them before we leave for Oregon on Wednesday but we'll be here this winter so, I'm sure at some point, they'll make an appearance as well as a hawk or two. They come to the valley for calving season but that's another story. The tiding is gone now but Maggie is still here. How do I know it's her? She's my girl, the fat one . . . first to arrive, last to go.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Stewart Lee and good-bye

Leicester Square Theatre - London

Last night we saw Stewart Lee at Leicester Square Theatre. A wonderfully outrageous fellow, I've been wanting to see him perform live for a few years now so this was a real treat. Tomorrow we leave London for the US thus ending this odyssey which began in London last July.

Angels on Regent Street - London

Sunday, December 3, 2017

A Christmas reminder

🎄Pets aren't just for Christmas🎄

This one brought tears to my eyes. Luckily, it has a happy ending.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Junction of the ages

Back from Africa and in London for the next week. I woke up dreaming about the animals again. Seeing them in their wild state was life changing. After a week in the bush, I was grateful to not see a giraffe or elephant in the game reserve just outside Johannesburg. The 4m electric fence separating it from the freeway, separating the Holocene from the Anthropocene, made the rift between the ages sadly all too clear.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Moving on

Let's see. My last post was a month ago. Since then I tried writing something about our two weeks in Berlin but got bogged down so I'm moving on. After Germany, we spent a very cold week in very expensive Copenhagen then we stayed two weeks in Egypt. Like Berlin, it was a shock and overload but of a different order. Since childhood, I've been fascinated by the mystery of Egypt, its pyramids, mummies, camels and cats. Being there only deepened the mystery. I also tasted Egypt's bitters. Maybe more about that later. Maybe more about Berlin later. This post is just an ice breaker because I backed myself into a corner trying to write about Germany and stopped posting altogether.

We are currently in Cape Town, South Africa and today we're going out with the hope of seeing some whales and penguins. Tomorrow, we'll try to catch up with a few of the native baboons that live here. If we do see any, I'll try to avoid their tricky ways. Seeing as monkeys manage to snatch things from my hands, I'm sure I'm no match for baboons. Also, haven't seen much of the night sky yet but I hope to get a good look at it before we leave this continent. Being that we're now (finally) in the Southern Hemisphere and a good distance from the equator, there should be constellations I've never seen before.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Balkans good-bye

Brasov, Romania - Train to Budapest
Brasov, Romania -  train to Budapest

I didn't post much about our summer train tour of the Balkans while it was happening and now it's over. That's how life goes, isn't it? One day, you're just starting out and the next you're looking back. It all started last winter in Bangkok. M. Lee got the crazy idea we should check out Romania this summer by the most indirect, meandering, roundabout route he could devise and, well, that is what we did.

photo by M. Lee
Romania anytime in the last 1000 years
~photo by M. Lee~

We left London in July on the Eurostar and, to date, have taken 16 trains, one plane, one bus, lots of undergrounds and trams, rented one car, and walked hundreds of miles exploring some new-for-us old worlds in northern Italy, the Balkans, and now northern Europe. We're done with the train part of the journey now. It's hectic being so much on the move but it's been fun. Plus, we both love trains anyway, even Balkans trains which are pretty funky.

Swami viewing "Dracula's Castle" in Transylvania
Swami viewing "Dracula's castle" from afar

As M. put it, “comparing trains in the Balkans to the Eurostar is like comparing skateboards to rocket ships”. OK, an exaggeration but that's how it felt after being on a train averaging 25mph for 13 hours . . .  with no dining or café car, no vendor with water and snacks, and no toilet paper. However, experience has prepared us for days like this. We brought our own sandwiches, apples, cookies, water, and tissue.

The medieval town of Sighisoara - Romania
Vlad Dracul House, birthplace of Vlad the Impaler
in the medieval town of Sighisoara

But trains aside, seems M. really was inspired when he came up with this trip. Romania is a special place. Of course, Transylvania is in Romania so, yes, we drove out to the village of Bran to see "Dracula's Castle", a hot tourist spot in the Transylvania mountains. Its real name is Bran Castle and it was built by the Saxons at the end of the 13th century. Some claim it was Vlad the Impaler's (aka Vlad Dracul) castle during the 15th century and that Vlad Dracul was the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula but the history is unclear. Whether Vlad Dracul ever lived at Bran Castle or Bram Stoker knew anything about him is up for debate.

Inside the walls of a medieval fortified church - Romania
Inside the 16 ft (5 m) walls of the fortified church in Prejmer
The town's people took refuge there when invaders attacked the village.

What is clear is that Vlad the Impaler was an all too real, brutal sadist, as well as a prince and wartime leader. For example, I read that when he was imprisoned he amused himself by torturing rats. And a Romanian fellow we met along the way was only too happy to tell us that, according to legend, knowing that the Ottoman army was approaching, Vlad Dracul personally impaled 1000 Ottoman soldiers and laid them out row by row as a way of greeting and that upon seeing the carnage, the army turned around and left. We only did a drive-by at "Dracula's Castle". The tour gets horrible reviews.

Outside the inner walls of Viscri,
a medieval church in Romania
~photo by M. Lee~

What we did do, and really loved, was exploring a few of Transylvania's amazing medieval fortified churches and villages. Romania has been an out of the way place for centuries which means many of its historical sites have survived intact to the present day.

Outer walls of a Viscri - a medieval fortified church - Romania
Outside the inner walls of Viscri,
a medieval church in Romania

Of its over 300+ fortified churches built between the 5th and 15th centuries, over 150 well-preserved sites remain and many are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We rented a car just so we could visit a few. Also amazing is that we were free to wander around the 1000+ year-old churches on our own. Sometimes we even had the place to ourselves. That is positively as good as it gets.

Romania good-bye from the train

Balkans good-bye
~Horse, colt and wagon along the railroad tracks~

And Romania's countryside was the most pristine and beautiful I’ve ever seen. Shepherds and dogs still tend their flocks on the mostly open (no fences) gently rolling hills and horse and wagon are still a regular means of transportation. Now it has already been a month since we left Romania and the Balkans behind. I took this picture (Balkans good-bye") from the train the morning we left. As it has been since humans and horses first worked together, the colt is running along beside his mother as she and another horse pull the wagon. Romania, the land where time goes to get away from itself. 

Medieval Romanian castle in the countryside
Romanian countryside

So 15 cities and 12 countries later it's autumn. Though I haven't written much about it here, I took hundreds, maybe 1000s of photos along the way and even managed to post a few here, on Instagram and Flickr and will continue to. We've been in Berlin a week now and are leaving on the bus Saturday for Copenhagen and with that, this episode comes to an end. Next, Africa.

Asha in Vienna
Vienna, Austria

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Vagabond Lee's very good birthday in Romania

It's been about seven years since the vagabond guest blogger, M. Lee, contributed anything here but last week, after his birthday encounter with a Romanian cop, he agreed to share the story here.

M. Lee's very fine birthday in Romania
Peles Palace

I like Romania.  It likes me. Here is my birthday story.

Today was our last day with the car.  We're leaving tomorrow for Budapest.  I hate renting cars and I'm pretty sick of driving in general, but for here, it's a necessity.  So we had this car for six days.  On the first day, I dented it.  I have 3rd party insurance, but still, paperwork, anxiety, etc.  That was the first day.  Do you think I put it out of my mind?  No, of course not, each passing day it only got worse.

Asha hurt her knee so she can't walk much right now but we already took yesterday off, so I was at least going to take a road trip.  We headed out to visit Peles Palace on the main highway, a two lane road.  According to Google, it would take us an hour to go 20 miles.  I moved with the flow of traffic and about 20 minutes out I got flagged by a traffic cop who was parked by the side of the road.  I've been through this enough, it's the shake down and fuck it, Romania is cheap, but I've been saving the last of my Romanian money to fill up the gas tank on the way back.  It's a minor inconvenience, but I'm not really sweating it when the traffic cop comes over and starts talking to me in Romanian.

"Romeneshte no, inglese?" I say.

"I need to see identification and license please."

I hand over my passport and drivers license and he tells me to get out of the car and follow him back to his car.  There, he shows me a dashboard device displaying, presumably, my speed and the contrasting speed limit.  The angle is bad and I can't really see it but who cares, I know where this is going.

"You pay the ticket now.  145 lei.  You pay now."

"I need to see the ticket first, can you show me the ticket." I say.

He shows me the large ticket book but remains adamant, I must fork over the cash now, and he'll give me the "ticket" after.  I fork over the cash.

"You go back to your car now and wait."

I'm back in the car, waiting as instructed, about 50 US dollars poorer.  The other cop, the guy's partner, flags down a bus.  I don't feel so persecuted, so singled out.  If this is not a scam, they must have a remote radar somewhere on the road because otherwise, they are just two fat cops sitting in a car on the side of the road waiting for random victims.  As that guy passes me, heading toward the bus, he says "you go back there now".  So I go, back to the patrol car.

There, my cop has my passport open and points to the date and says "today is your birthday".  "Yeah" I reply, thinking, I don't know, maybe it's his birthday too?  "Happy birthday" he says, sticking his hand out to shake my hand.  I shake his hand and say thanks in Romanian and then he hands me back my money.  What?  "Happy birthday, you buy the missus with you some champagna, da?  You buy the champagna!"  Then he finishes writing the ticket, which takes about five more minutes because bureaucracy, and hands me my copy.  "Souvenir, you keep this for souvenir."

"Mooltzu mesk, la revederay" I say, showing off my scant Romanian, and skip back to the car.

And the dent later in the day at the car agency?  Fortunately, it's hard to see if you're tall, it's on the underside of the car below the door.  There's even a chance I didn't do it.  Amazingly, I get the tallest guy in the place to come look at the car, taller than me.  I wait inside.  He's back in a minute, rustling around, probably looking for accident forms while I act cool and pretend to be doing something on my phone.  He hands me a receipt showing the release of my deposit and I practically run out of the place before he can change his mind.

If the absence of pain is pleasure, then this has been a very good birthday.

Exploring the rafters of a medieval fortified church - Romania
In the rafters of a medieval church

Friday, September 22, 2017

Autumn Equinox

White boat - red boat at twilight - Venice, Italy
Vienna at twilight
Once again, the beginning of autumn. The equinox. I'm in Vienna. The equinox here is at 20:02 this evening then the night grows longer and the days grow cold. Be well wherever you are.

Friday, September 15, 2017


Homeless - street art - Athens, Greece
Exarchia neighborhood

In its own way, Athens is a something of a wreck. Greece has been in an economic tailspin for years now and, at least there, it shows. Of course, the fact that we stayed in Exarchia, (Aug 17/24) a neighborhood the US Embassy advises travelers avoid, amplified that reality. The streets are lined with olive trees but its otherwise post-apocalyptic look and feel is definitely not for everyone. We liked it. We had a quiet flat above a small grocery story and the area has a lot of excellent street art. I even liked the gutter to rooftop crust of weather-beaten posters and layers of graffiti.

Swami at Plato's Academy - Athen's Greece
Swami on the road to Plato's Academy

We stayed seven days so we bought the three day pass and walked to all the main sites, covering some 10 to 15 miles a day. One of my favorite places was the Kerameikos Cemetery. Its earliest tombs date back to 2700-2000 BC.  Even Plato had an Academy there, although there's nothing left of it but a sign and path leading to the face of a small hill upon which apartment buildings now stand. And we went to the Parthenon.

Swami at the Parthenon  - Athens, Greece
The second after I snapped this photo of Swami,
I was busted by a security guard.
He was nice enough but explained that,
in order to reduce traffic jams,
the rules strictly prohibit taking photos with mascotas.

As is so often the case at historical sites, it was roped off for renovation. The Parthenon has endured countless sackings during its 2455 years but the worst was by the Venetians in 1687. Thinking no one would fire upon a site of such historic importance, the Ottomans were using it as ammunition dump. Sadly, they overestimated the Venetian's cultural values and sense of history. Immediately upon hearing about the dump, they shelled the building. The damage was immense. The roof caved in, pillars collapsed, enormous sculptures were destroyed and 300 people were killed. The following year, now themselves facing attack by Ottomans, they fled. They considered blowing up the entire Acropolis before leaving but, lucky for us, didn't get around to it.

The Parthenon -  Athens, Greece
The Acropolis, Athens Greece

During high season, there's no beating the crowds. Five cruise ships were in port the day we visited. I'm glad we went but, really, I think the most inspiring views are from a distance.

Swami viewing the Acropolis - Athens, Greece
Swami viewing the Acropolis

To be continued....