Gunned Down at Second Base, Out at Home

On Saturday at Kilbourn Park in Chicago, an umpire fled from home plate fearing for his life. “Keep your money! This game is over.” And so it was.

On Wednesday, a congressman was gunned down at second base at Simpson Field in Alexandria, Virginia, many hundreds of miles away from Chicago, but much closer in my heart. Somewhere in there the blood pumps to the part of my brain called Coach. It pumps from from that part of my heart up Mt. Vernon Avenue past George Washington Middle School. Hang a right turn on Monroe and just past the YMCA, you’ll see the dog park and basketball courts, bleachers and home plate. My blood pumps from Simpson Field.

Now there’s blood on second base. How many young men were gunned down at that same second base over the years? Would-be thieves were gunned down by young catchers. I remember TC Williams catchers Patrick Crook and Gus Cavanaugh and Alex Haitsuka. Haitsuka had an arm like a rifle and a temper like a time bomb. Crook couldn’t always make that 60-foot throw back to the pitcher, but he still hosed a few on the base paths, gunned them down at second base.

On Thursday, Chicago police reported two killed and ten wounded in various shootings across the city. Two of those shootings took place within a mile of Kilbourn and Humboldt parks.

See the map here.

Kilbourn vs. Humboldt were the two teams matching up at last Saturday’s friendly baseball game between thirteen and fourteen-year-olds. At least I expected it to be friendly.

In the third inning, the umpire told me that he was tired of being disrespected at Kilbourn Park. This would be his final game there. He was tired of the coaches drinking liquor in the dugout and swearing around these young men. He wasn’t talking about four-letter word swearing. Sometimes I’m guilty of saying “shit” or “damn” around the players. He was talking about four-syllable swearing that would get you ejected from a professional baseball game.

In the fourth inning, a Kilbourn player barreled over Humboldt’s catcher in a play at the plate. Our catcher dropped the ball and the runner was initially called safe. By rule, players must slide into home plate to avoid collision. I conferred with the umpire and he got the call right: out at home.

What followed was one of the greatest embarrassments I have seen on a baseball field. The liquored up coaches from Kilbourn Park lost their tempers and stormed homeplate to aggressively berate the man who made the call.

Another umpire may have ejected the coaches and continued playing the game. But how could he know that he would be safe afterwards and not confronted by the belligerent men in the parking lot? Instead, he walked off into right field in the direction away from the third base dugout where those coaches were drinking and swearing, and now loudly declaring “WE WIN!” while other players and parents scratched their heads in confusion. To the contrary, everybody lost that day, especially the kids. They learned that this is how disagreements are handled in America: one side threatens violence and the governing body quits.

Here at home in Chicago, like any community, giving kids a safe place to play, to compete and to grow into respectful young adults is paramount. What message does it send when adults argue to the point of a belligerent threat? When adults act like that during a game, how will these young men react during a disagreement on the street?

Congressmen are not the only ones bleeding near baseball fields. Here in my beloved city of Chicago and around the country, people are gunned down everyday. If we don’t do something to turn around our collective attitudes when handling disagreements on the field, in the classroom, in Congress, or in the streets, then people close to us will continue to be gunned down near our homes. Kids will keep killing in the streets instead of playing ball in our parks.

I Love Bernie for All of the Wrong Reasons – and All of the Right Reasons Too

Do I love Bernie Sanders for all of the wrong reasons? Do I love Bernie Sanders because he reminds me of my cranky grandfather from Brooklyn – minus the lying – and because he reminds me of one of my favorite comedians, Larry David? Yes. Do I stand beside him because he would be the first Jewish president?  Partly, yes.  His parents fled from Eastern Europe much like my own great grandparents.  This heartfelt connection is grounded in similar sentiment to those women who support Hillary who are ready for a female president, politics and policy be damned, including my own mother.  Do I love Bernie for some of the right reasons, too?  I think so.

Trust is a complicated thing. It is fragile. It is personal. I consider myself an Independent and not a Democrat. I have never been involved in any political campaign and never thrown my full weight behind a candidate.  That is, until now.

Bernie’s passion and his genuine straightforward approach is unquestionable. He is standing up to the big banks on Wall Street in order to support middle class Americans. His unwavering stance against greed and corruption is not limited to Wall Street. He tells it like it is. Greedy lobbyists supporting any number of causes influence our political system.

And that’s where his campaign finance overhaul comes in. As soon as campaigns are no longer beholden to the big pockets of big corporations, our politicians may be able to act on behalf of their constituents: the people, not the profits.  The campaign finance principle holds true whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Man, Woman, Black, White, Jew, Muslim, Catholic, feelin’ the Bern, making America great again, or supporting Hillary Clinton. Campaign finance reform is what will allow for ideas that are perceived to be radical long-shots in a gridlocked Congress to come to fruition. It is principle. It is fundamental. It must come first.

The Clinton campaign went on attack a couple of weeks ago, just as they started to grasp the gravity of Bernie Sanders as a threat to their plans for the White House. Regardless of whether he becomes president or not, his campaign has injected undeniable energy into the race and flooded the conversation with thought-provoking issues. Clinton’s approach to these issues has been troubling. The most troubling approach to me has been on the subject of universal healthcare.

Universal Healthcare: Cohen vs. Clinton at the Club in Chicago

In 2008, it sounded as if Hillary supported an end goal of Universal Healthcare in America.  She was appalled at the gall of the Obama campaign for knocking her stance.

Then here’s Chelsea not only challenging Bernie’s plan, but grossly mischaracterizing it.

According to politifact:

It’s impossible to predict with certainty how Sanders’ plan would play out in real life. But Clinton’s statement makes it sound like Sanders’ plan would leave many people uninsured, which is antithetical to the goal of Sanders’ proposal: universal health care.

We rate her claim Mostly False.

Bingo.  And since when is Hillary using the former first daughter as an attack dog?  I challenge Chelsea Clinton on the above discourse here at a Clinton campaign rally in Chicago.

And Chelsea nails the response!  She begins by agreeing that it is really important to have a public discourse on policy so that we can reach a consensus within the democratic party and move forward, in direct contradiction with what Hillary said in 2008.  She goes on to say: “if you had asked me” – with her own emphasis on “me” – rather than asking Hillary, “I think it’s very important that we have different policy discussions.”  Time and time again, I notice that supporters in the Hillary camp, from her own daughter outwards, don’t totally agree with what she has to say.  And isn’t it difficult to agree with her, when her stances are so often swayed by the political tide of the day?

Okay, Chelsea, let’s actually have that policy discussion.

Bernie Sanders stands for Universal Healthcare of the single payer variety.  While the plan has yet to be completely fleshed out, this means that Medicare would cover all American citizens with some basic level of coverage rather than only covering the elderly.  This is ambitious, yes, but moving towards a simplification of our convoluted system is imperative.  As it stands today, Medicare and CMS are the only ones publishing unbiased prices for services based on what they are actually estimated to cost.  Without a doubt, we must move in this direction or something similar if we want to reach an end goal of Universal Healthcare for all Americans.

More than anything, we must move forward.  Hillary Clinton seems content with the status quo that leaves millions uninsured and even more millions underinsured, while private insurers profit on ballooning prices that the layman (and even experts) can hardly understand.  The Commonwealth Fund, an independent scholarly organization, estimates that over $500 billion per year could be saved by investing in a single payer system in the US.  Over $500 BILLION.  Of course, it would take political buy-in and an initial investment from the federal government.  Those details need to be fleshed out, and Bernie’s current plan does not sufficiently flesh them out, nor does it need to at this juncture.  Just ask policy wonk and former Clinton Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.  But for the Hillary Clinton campaign to disregard an opportunity of this magnitude, to improve the health of our nation and to save such large sums of cash is preposterous.

I can sense uneasiness among readers who wonder how on Earth we might gain political buy-in for such radical change.  Proponents of the single payer were shut down during initial ACA talks.  Firstly, we must allow the voice of the people to be heard.  It starts with campaign finance reform to allow candidates representing the people to once again take seats on Capitol Hill.  On that note, our female politicians could really teach their male counterparts a lesson in responsibility.  They are an inspiration.  Progressive minds, regardless of their political stance for a candidate, must do their homework and make it known that the single payer system is the end goal.  Right now, a certain candidate is doing the nation a disservice in the name of pragmatism that may more accurately be deemed cowardice.

If you really want to dive into healthcare and educate yourself on the problem, refer to this excellent 2013 article in Time Magazine.

“Taken as a whole, these powerful institutions and the bills they churn out dominate the nation’s economy and put demands on taxpayers to a degree unequaled anywhere else on earth. In the U.S., people spend almost 20% of the gross domestic product on health care, compared with about half that in most developed countries. Yet in every measurable way, the results our health care system produces are no better and often worse than the outcomes in those countries.”

I have worked with hospitals on making the cost of care, specifically the out-of-pocket cost for patients, become more transparent.  Check out this article I wrote back in 2014 to help explain healthcare costs and pricing (spoiler alert: nobody knows what healthcare costs because our system is overly complicated and in dire need of simplification).  I helped design this Price Transparency website at the University of Michigan Health System. Trust me, it was a challenge. Not even the most financially responsible hospital in the nation can tell you the cost for all of their services. They are reimbursed at different rates across all insurers (payers like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, United, etc.) and prices for the same service or drug fluctuates tremendously from hospital to hospital. It is hardly based in any logic whatsoever. Instead, it is based on profit-driven greed by the private insurance companies and often times by for-profit hospitals. The only consistency when it comes to price is that uninsured patients end up paying more – far more, sometimes 100% more – than insurance companies do.

And while the Affordable Care Act has made tremendous strides in providing universal healthcare, we’re not quite there.  According to the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, over 32 million people remained uninsured in 2014 after the ACA registrations.  That doesn’t even touch on the many more millions of underinsured Americans who are forced to meet high deductibles that they can’t afford to pay.

Again, the ACA made great strides.  It expanded Medicaid, provided the marketplace plans, regulated what uninsured patients may be charged and ended pre-existing conditions loopholes for insurers.  But now is no time to rest on our laurels.  The writers of the ACA – Bernie Sanders among them – were forced to make concessions due to gridlocked politics.  We have a long way to go to see that all Americans are not only covered, but covered completely.  In order to get there, we need a gross simplification of the system.  Medicare and CMS are the only trustworthy sources we have for estimating costs and keeping patients from being charged out the wazoo.  While a single payer plan is ambitious, it has to be considered as an optimal end goal.

An Evolution of the Candidates – Bernie and Hillary Over the Years

Many among us doubt Bernie’s foreign policy prowess when compared to Hillary Clinton’s experience as Secretary of State.  I think that Hillary has done an admirable job as Secretary of State and I, too, have doubted Bernie’s capabilities in this area.  Remember, however, that prior to Clinton becoming Secretary of State in 2009, she, too, was green to foreign policy having only been a senator.  The same could be said for Obama and countless other presidents.  When it comes to the presidency and the role of Commander in Chief, judgment is at least equally as important as experience.  Bernie was vehemently opposed to the 2003 War in Iraq and outlined a litany of considerations that ultimately and unfortunately turned out to be true.  Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, supported the war.

Kudos to Clinton for acknowledging her mistake in Iraq, but we can’t afford that lapse in judgment from our Commander in Chief.  While I have the utmost respect for Hillary Clinton as a stateswoman, I’ll take judgment over experience in the White House.  I trust that Bernie Sanders will surround himself by plenty of seasoned and experienced statesmen in his cabinet.

The Clinton campaign also launched an attack on Bernie’s gun record.  Sanders is strong on gun control.  He once lost an election for his stance on banning assault weapons in the state of Vermont.  Hillary claims that he has “flip flopped” on a vote he cast that prevented gun manufacturers from being prosecuted if someone buys a gun legally and then breaks the law.  There is nuance to the bill, and he now supports a revised version of it.  He holds a D-minus voting record from the NRA.  What is most important, and what he supports completely, is that guns do not get in the hands of criminals and that mental health issues are treated promptly.  If proper background checks are implemented, then suing gun manufacturers is irrelevant.

I’m not naive enough to believe that a presidential candidate, as any human being, may not evolve intellectually as they continue to learn and grow.  I would like to give Hillary Clinton the benefit of the doubt in some cases, as I would for Bernie on the gun legislation.  When it comes to this evolution, however, it is apparent to me that one candidate changes course when it is politically advantageous to do so.  That was the case for Hillary on gay marriage, Universal Healthcare, and the Iraq War decision.

Nor am I naive enough to believe that any great change or revolution will happen overnight.  Sanders supporters are not stupid or unrealistic.  Quite the opposite.  Let’s keep the forward momentum and see how far this ball can roll, because taking a chance beats the status quo.

For those among us, including my aforementioned mother, who would like to see a woman in the White House, consider that fellow crusader Elizabeth Warren is a likely running mate of Bernie’s.  Imagine her heading her own ticket for the presidency in four or eight years.  Let’s get the right woman in the White House, not just any woman.  Read her Op Ed here on the impact of enforcing the law through presidential appointments.  Do we really trust a candidate who made over $600,000 in Goldman Sachs speaking fees and these ties to Wall Street to enforce the law against white collar criminals?

So far, this revolution has not been televised. Maybe CNN should apologize and explain why the media has missed Bernie. I understand the conventional wisdom: Hillary Clinton was supposed to be the inevitable Democratic candidate.

UPDATE:

Paul Simon, My Parents, Bernie Sanders, and America

I remember my mother telling me the story of Paul Simon at the age of 17 coming in to play for her elementary school classroom in Queens, New York. He wasn’t famous yet, and his mother was my mother’s teacher. I remember my father telling me the story of how he got tickets for Paul Simon in Central Park in 1974 and how he took a date to hear Simon play. And I remember riding along in the passenger side of my father’s car en route to the Outer Banks for a beach trip. It was that 1994 Honda Passport that I would inherit as my first car, that I would whip around the streets of Alexandria making trouble. But long before I had my driver’s license, I was my father’s travel companion, the nine-year-old child of his first marriage. We were beach bound to the Outer Banks, North Carolina. Paul Simon’s Graceland was in the tape player, our heads bouncing and bobbing along to that deep and infectious African bass line that permeates the album and simultaneously my heart by way of my ears. We weren’t going to Graceland of course, we were going to the Outer Banks, but we did have reason to believe that we would be received when we got there.

We all have reason to believe that America will be well received in the competent hands of Bernie Sanders.  Consider this ad to be among the wrong reasons to vote for Bernie.

I took four months to travel the world and returned reinvigorated with pride in my country.  I trust that Americans will get this one right.  From Costa Rica to Japan and everywhere in between, I came across the same question: was Donald Trump for real?  No, I assured them.  Now I’m not so certain.  In national polls, Sanders beats Trump by higher margins than does Hillary.  Frighteningly, Hillary loses to Cruz where Bernie beats him out by four points.

I’m feelin’ the Bern.  I will not apologize.  This is a once in a lifetime progressive revolutionary American presidential candidate.  I will not apologize.  In the words of Black Thought, “yo, a revolution’s what it’s smelling like, it ain’t going to be televised.” I will not apologize, and neither will Bernie.

 

General Update

Hey everyone – I’ve made it to the brand new world of Asia.  I spent a few days in stinky Bangkok and now I’m hanging in Chiang Mai for a little while.  I’ll meet up with Andy Hart and KP in a week or so for some more Asian adventures in Cambodia.

For those wanting to contact me, I’ve misplaced my phone in Bangkok.  You can call me or WhatsApp me if you want to practice your Thai, but if you actually want to reach the real me then you can message me on Facebook, email me at asc4m@virginia.edu, or Skype me at Drewskie227.  Throw back to the Dr Ewskie days.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated you all on where I’ve been.  Before Bangkok I was in Prague, Amsterdam, Heidelberg, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, San Sebastian, Madrid, Granada, Barcelona, and Cordoba.  Pics and stories to follow.

I don’t have a firm plan in Asia, but I do have the following booked:

  • December 1: Bangkok to Tokyo
  • December 17: Tokyo to Chicago

I’m going to book a flight home to DC for December 22 or 23.

Much love to everyone out there, see you all stateside in December.

Take the Best and Keek the Rest: Gibben, Nebben, Morocco

Abderheim

I took a short trip to Morocco. I made friends.

The music from the tape player faded to small static and subsequently silence. I could only hear the groans and splashes of a man washing himself across the room. I staved off a sneeze so as not to break the silence.

Allah Akbar

Mumbling, kissing the carpet.

Allah Akbar

More mumbling.

Allah Akbar

Dead silence.

Allah Akbar

The urge to sneeze was brought on by the dust of centuries, clinging to tapes and tea kettles, adorning mirrors and great books of prayer in myriad languages and religions. This was the form of silence. Clocks ticked slowly inside the store. A baby cried softly and fleet feet found pavement outside. Voices grumbled and mumbled in a foreign language from the streets in the background. But in the foreground, forcefully, in fortissimo:

Allah Akbar

If you want to find a God, you look for yourself,” Abderrahim had said.

The guide books for Fez warn you of the unofficial “guides” that show you around and demand your money. But it’s difficult to say no to them in the bustling maze of a medina paved in cobblestone and walled into tight winding quarters. With 97 kilometers of walkway inside its walls, it is helpful to have a guide after all. There are endless shops, cafes, and shady dealings behind beaded doors to explore. Once you have accepted a guide, however, the challenge is finding a way to relieve them of their duties. Duties that you never really requested in the first place and never committed to pay for.

I no push like George Bush,” my guide had assured me, drenched in sweat as we trekked upwards toward the panoramic view of the city. “I am good man. You give me what you like.”

I wasn’t sure what it meant at the time, only that it was one of a few English phrases that Mr. No Push could muster. Mr. No Push George Bush resembles George W. Bush about as much as I resemble Christina Aguilerra. He is olive skinned, long, pudgy, sweaty, and generally shaped like a weeble wobble. He is almost as clumsy with his movements as he is with his words. I also came to know that Mr. No Push has a blind mother and chain smokes. He introduced me to worthwhile tourist spots that I otherwise wouldn’t have found during my limited time in Fez: a hike to panoramic views of the city, stinky leather tanneries where they dip sheep skin into large holes of water, natural spice shops, and a traditional Hammam bath.

He also showed me to Abderrahim’s antique shop, and for that, I am grateful.

By the time I made it to Abderrahim’s antique shop, I was exhausted. I had been walking for hours in the desert heat. The energy that I wasn’t spending on walking I had spent on halfway communicating with the grunting oaf that was leading me around.

When Abderrahim welcomed me with familiar music on his tape player, familiar languages, and offered me a cup of tea and a seat in his shop, I was content. In a land where the official languages are Arabic and French, we were communicating in English and Spanish.

I used to be big hippie!” Abderrahim bellowed, beaming with a genuine smile as he queued up the tape player.

Still beaming, he pulled out his box of photos for proof of the life he had lived.  He was smiling this adorable natural smile in each photo.  There were shots of him and his Spanish girlfriend, snaps of him in the desert, and some from years ago in the very shop within which we sat.

Then he showed me a portrait of two important-looking men riding horses together.

“You know this man?”

I thought for a moment.  “Yeah, that’s Ronald Reagan!  And that other guy’s not you, is it?”

He was ecstatic. “Morocco has been friend to America longer than any country in the world. We were the first country to recognize America’s independence.  That is the Moroccan king Hassan II.”

I took a short trip to Morocco.  I made friends.

And so we sipped tea, shared music, and talked for hours before I fully realized that he was trying to sell me. Fair enough, the man must make a living, and he seemed honest and respected my boundaries. Soon I had agreed to buy a hand drum and an antique horn in exchange for a fair dollar price.  He even offered to host me at his home for a night in the countryside outside of Fez.

Gibben, nebben. This was the phrase that Abderrahim used to close deals, demonstrating the simple exchange of goods with a simpler hand gesture, one hand extending towards you (gibben) and the other hand receiving from you (nebben). Gibben, nebben.

Neither of us knew much German and we both laughed at the clumsy sound of the German rock band’s tape that he popped into the dusty player.  He poured two cups of tea and changed the tape.  We sank into our seats, sipping tea and trading stories. Mostly he shared stories and I listened. I was comfortable.

This is all we need,” he said, Cat Stevens singing softly in the background. “To live simply. We don’t need greed or money, none of that. Money is not important, it is only the world, the people, peace and love.”

Ahh, yes. I responded with a soft mmhm indicating agreement during a moment of pure peace. “Verdad.”

Can you please pay me now?” he said abruptly, sharply interrupting the calm.

I paid the man.

Humd’allah, humd’allah,” he muttered. It was a phrase that Abderrahim would mutter any time there seemed to be negative energy hovering. He would invoke it if he had just spoken ill of a person or, in this instance, after he contradicted himself. Money was obviously important to him. Money is important to everyone. If there is somewhere in the world where it isn’t, I haven’t found that place.

I once knew a man who tried to sell me ocean front property in Arizona. I also met a Moroccan who tried like hell to sell me a trip to the Sahara Desert.

Mr. No Push had decided that I should go to the Sahara Desert for $300. Upstairs in a shady cafe loft, he had me talking to another strange man about the trip. He wanted to close the deal, but I was uncertain. The man I was speaking to spoke better English than No Push, and perhaps that was why he had me speaking to him instead. During our conversation-turned-negotiation, a white man with glasses carried a tall glass of tea up the ladder to the loft where we were speaking. The glass was tall, bubbling, and filled with green leaves and sugar. It was also scalding hot. I think that Moroccans take pleasure in serving tea to foreigners in glasses without handles just to watch them burn themselves until they figure out how to balance the glass lengthwise between pinky and thumb.

I excused myself from the conversation and stepped down the ladder to the traditional Moroccan bathroom (a hole in the ground), where I was approached by a man speaking with a familiar drawl. “Where you from, man? I overheard your conversation up there and you don’t sound like you’re from here.” He laughed and fidgeted. “I’m just happy to hear another American’s all.” He was middle-aged, short, tanned, and clean-cut with a goatee. His polo shirt was tucked into khaki shorts, a look you would expect to see on a municipal golf course in New Jersey, but not at a cafe in Morocco. He stood out.

He told me that he was in Morocco for work as a marble salesman.  “I get here and I see all this beautiful Moroccan marble and I wonder why the world don’t know about it!  But deez…” he lowered to a whisper and came closer to me, peering over his shoulder.  No Push was lurking somewhere nearby, but nowhere was close enough for him to understand nuanced English.  “Deez guys out here don’t know how to do business.  They mix business with emotions.  Everything is personal.”

He also confirmed what I was thinking already about the desert trip.  It was a bad idea. Why rush out of Fez?

Karl in the khaki shorts wanted to grab a drink and talk some more. “I’m headed up to da Blue Gates up there, you know. Good people watching up there.  You’ve got tourists walkin’ in, walkin’ out, da guides hounding them and whatnot.  Let’s grab a drink, I want to chat more.” The Blue Gates are the entrance to the the old city medina. I was interested, but apparently it was a breach of contract with No Push.

We have reservation for dinner,” he said curtly. He seemed bothered, but he gave me a forced smile between drags of his cigarette. “Good, you feel good?” He gave me the thumbs up. Somehow the thumbs up is a universal symbol of faux good times. It’s unnatural. I find that it pops up most often at times when other communication is failing. Mr. No Push only offered it when he sensed that I was uneasy and he sensed me slipping away.

I don’t remember asking for a reservation.”

We have reservation, you no can just leave.”

I was becoming uneasy with this whole relationship, but we had already made plans to go to the Hammam bath after dinner and No Push was my connection. He had already bought me supplies: Moroccan black soap and a small towel.

That’s okay,” offered Karl. “Meet me back here after dinner, I want to talk to ya some more.”

I knew we wouldn’t meet. Meeting someone in the Fez medina was complicated. It took extra commitment from both parties to have a very specific meeting point and the ability to navigate there. I suppose that this was why Mr. No Push didn’t want to leave me.

Dinner that night was one of my loneliest moments of the trip. I should have been enjoying the beautiful views of Fez atop the medina restaurant roof. I should have been savoring the taste of my tangine. But instead, I had a chain smoking man dropping in and out of my meal with the thumbs up symbol pestering me about Sahara.

After dinner, the Hammam was just what the doctor ordered, or what the doctor might have ordered if the doctor was a gay Muslim.  Sitting nearly naked on a cold stone floor, a lanky man first bathed me out of buckets of hot water and then moved on to the ritualistic massage and bath combination.  It was an expert display of body control and contortion from the sinewy Moroccan.  All the while, he was barking orders in broken Spanish, our common denominator.  In between commands, he would offer a forceful and extended SHHHH SHH like a woman hushing a baby, only screaming.

At some point in the storm of arms and legs and loud emphatic SHHHs from the masseuse, I was asked to grab the man’s dirty feet for leverage.  I found myself laughing with my face down on a stone floor.

Moroccans may have a streak of masochism, but they know what they’re doing.

After my bath, I felt refreshed and rejuvenated. I slept easy that night.  In the morning I would meet Mr. No Push outside of Omar’s place before heading to Abderrahim’s for breakfast. I was checking out of Omar’s home, freed of the nine-person family home with half a cold shower, half a bathroom, and a full hole in the ground for a toilet. Zero TP.  Omar had tried to sell me an overpriced meal that his mother would cook. He had also discouraged me from speaking to some nice boys that I met playing music outside of his home, calling them thieves. His mother later cooked me a meal in good faith and I shared music with the boys on the street. I think that Omar was the thief.

I was taking Abderrahim up on his offer to stay in his home in the countryside. He offered his home as part of the sale.

El arte de vender. Salesmanship. Abderrahim has it. When there’s a sale in progress in Fez, if you observe closely, you can witness everyone playing a part like a symphony.

The next day I was sitting in Abderrahim’s shop sipping tea when a family entered. A mother, father, and three children. Two girls and one boy. Abderrahim stood up to greet the man and the woman and took them to the back of the shop. I stayed seated where I was at eye level with the children. The children were curious. The oldest, boldest girl approached me and looked me in the eyes. “What language do you speak?”

Que piensas?”

Huh?”

I picked a simple rhythm on the three stringed Moroccan gimbre.

Tell meee,” she whined.

They were Swedish, but they spoke flawless English.

The older girl started playing the gimbre and the younger played the drums. I tapped rhythms along with them. The older girl quizzed me with math puzzlers. The boy struck the drum too hard and I had to tell him to stop. After all, this was my drum that would be shipped to Chicago. The girls took pleasure in seeing their brother scolded. I glanced over at the mom and she smiled at me. She was happy to have a babysitter for the moment. I realized that my keeping the kids occupied was contributing to Abderrahim’s sale as he jabbered along with the father.

No Push George Bush was watching creepily from the doorway to the shop.  He was like the guy who dropped the cymbals during a silent rest.  You know, that part of the symphony.  He approached us. “Where from?” he said to one of the girls. “Where from?” he asked me.

Why don’t you ask them yourself,” I said, toying with him. I knew that his communication with the kids would flounder.

After some time I sensed the mother getting restless. She paced out of the store and then back in as if to tell her husband that they weren’t buying anything. The husband was still yucking it up with Abderrahim. The children were still playing. The mother was powerless.

El arte de vender. It takes a village. Spending time in Fez was like attending a fine school of negotiation. I’m sure the father bought something from Abderrahim.

During a rare moment when No Push was not present, probably out fetching groceries with which to make lunch, I was able to speak privately with Abderrahim. “Yo no quiero viajar al desierto,” I explained to him. I didn’t want to go to the desert. I wanted to take him up on his offer to stay at his home in the countryside outside of Fez.

Dicelo a Abdul. El quiere dormir en mi casa.”

He wants to sleep in your house?” I switched to English for clarification. “Why?”

I don’t know.” Abderrahim scrunched and contorted his weathered, mustached face into a look of contempt and disgust. “

You don’t want him to stay, do you?”

No!” He was clear and emphatic with his no. I was learning that this is important in Fez.  No Push George Bush was not coming to the countryside with me and Abderrahim, and I was not going to the desert. Now I knew that I had Abderrahim’s support in order to tell No Push to hit the road.

Now we were airing truths. “I no like pushy people, push-ey, push-ey people,” Abderrahim declared. “Greed-ey, greed-ey peeeople,” he said with emphasis.

It’s like I always say,” he would say at these times. “Take the best, and KEEEEK the rest!” as he made a kicking motion with his feet.

Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I told him.

Say that again?” He was inquisitive, indicating that he liked the foreign phrase.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Hunnubahgot time fa dat!”

H’ummdallah, H’ummdallah. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Take the best, and keek the rest. Take Spanish jamon and keek German food. Take Moroccan black soap and keek the chemical crap. Take South American dancing and keek the clubs. Take Italian coffee and keek the French garbaj. Take the good people and keek the greedy bastards.

I have brother in England,” he said, staying on the topic of greedy people. “He has no sense. He only has money. He takes and he takes. Puhh.” His face held a scornful look of contempt, like a Frenchman.

But you love your brother. Do you not love your brother?”

He held the scornful look.

You should love all people.”

Keek the rest.”

Does the Quran teach you to love everyone? Even your greedy brother?”

I glanced at the artifacts of Jewish ancestry on display in his shop. A torah covering was hanging high up on a beam, centrally situated in the store. He had old books with Hebrew scribblings of scribes past and rocks from old temples.  We were sitting just a few meters from where he earlier rolled out his prayer carpet.  Our chairs were angled partly towards each other, a near-empty plate of lamb, peppers, olives, and grapes sat between us.  My favorite tape from the day before was playing at low volume.  Hijos de Agobio, an epic fusion of flamenco and rock.  But we weren’t listening intently this time.

Yes, we have same stories in our books.” His eyes were like small flames. He was ignited, excited to be preaching the Quran’s teachings.

I thought for a moment about Cain and Abel, trying to recall the story. I knew that one killed the other. But surely murder was universally viewed as a bad thing. I couldn’t remember what happened to the murderous brother according to the scripture.

Like the story of Cain and Abel.” I took a shot in the dark.

Perhaps Abderrahim didn’t recognize the names, or perhaps he wanted to tell his version of the full story. “You cannot question Allah,” he said firmly. “When God says to Abraham to kill his son, he listens.”

I nodded, familiar with the story. But my face challenged the assumption that one should not question Allah. I also wondered how we got here from Cain and Abel. Shouldn’t he love his brother?

You see, we share many stories. But there is one true book. All others are translated.”

And you know Cain and Abel?”

Ohh, yes. The sons of Adam. We call them by different name.”

And one son murdered his brother.”

Yes.”

We agreed on the story, but now I was questioning what the lesson was from the story. Abderrahim held no remorse for what he said or how he felt towards his brother.

How do you know which book is true?”

The Quran was written by Allah. Our stories are similar, but the Quran was written first.”

I thought that the story was passed down from the angel Gabriel.”

Yes.”

And who wrote it down?”

Later that morning, a young, portly, conspicuously clean shaven man came spring-stepping into Abderrahim’s store. He was followed by Mr. No Push. The young man greeted Abderrahim formally with one kiss on each cheek. They exchanged pleasantries in Arabic before the man turned to shake my hand. He smelled like cheap after shave.

I didn’t know why this man was so eager. I went along listening to the music Abderrahim was playing. Soon the man grew visibly anxious, and he turned to No Push with a giggly look. They both scurried out of the store.

Abderrahim motioned to his mouth to indicate that they were going to smoke a joint. I laughed and wondered to myself why the man was all cleaned up only to go smoke a joint with the likes of No Push George Bush. He was a bit overdressed for a date with a delinquent.

When No Push returned 20 minutes later, freshly lit, he conjured up the best English he could and tried to make his face appear friendly and cool. It wasn’t.

When do we leave for Sahara?”

I don’t… I don’t know, man. Not today.”

We go with you to Abderrahim house? Leave in the morning?”

No.”

We no leave tomorrow?”

Well, no.” I was saying no, but my body language was wavering.

Abderrahim interjected. “Do you want to go to the Sahara or not?”

No.” I was firm and emphatic this time. No Push George Bush looked heartbroken, confused, and then angry.

No go to Sahara?” he shouted. “We make reservation. We have driver!”

I never told you to make a reservation.” I looked to Abderrahim for support, but he looked unsure. I side-barred with him in Spanish, a language that No Push did not understand. “Yo no perdio a reservacion. Yo no conocia hombre de manejar.” Abderrahim’s expression changed. Abderrahim the arbiter seemed convinced by the fact that I had never met the driver.

He spoke swiftly and firmly in Arabic. No Push offered a lazy rebuttal, but looked defeated. He slunked out of the room. Suddenly I could hear the clean shaven man yelling. “We no go? We no go!” Then he stormed off. Apparently he had been slated as the driver, but nobody had communicated that to me.

That afternoon, Abderrahim and I set out for his home 11 kilometers outside of Fez.

Abderrahim was in his element in the store, but on the swirling streets of Fez, he was hardened, guarded, calculating, and stone-faced. Maybe he was always hardened, guarded, and calculating. But in his store and in his home, he was affable and easygoing. His smile was natural, open and genuine among streets that were dirty, tight, and filled with swindlers. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to stay in his shop.  That and the music he played and the genuine joy that it brought him to share it.

Abderrahim navigated the bus line to his home, muttering to me every now and then about rude passengers or the bastardization of the Moroccan countryside as it gave way to cafes with Western names like the “Barcelona Cafe”.

Sitting at Abderrahim’s table at his home in the countryside outside of Fez, away from the fumes of exhaust in the new city and the shady dealings of the old city, we could breath. Abderrahim walked his bicycle through his gate and parked it next to his son’s motorcycle. Next to his home was a modest garden where he grew tomatoes, peppers, basil, and spinach. Beside the garden furthest from the house was the chicken coop.  Between the rows of crops ran a rubber irrigation pipe, pumping water from the well.

There was no running water in his home and the bathroom contained four buckets of water for washing, like a miniature version of the Hammam.

I dropped my backpack in the open air outdoor dining space between the kitchen and the single bedroom that he shared with his son.

His eighteen-year-old son plugged away at his iPhone.

I went into the kitchen to help Abderrahim unload his bread bag. He prepared a plate of meat and peppers. Abderrahim warned me that the pepper was picante.  I ate it in one bite.  Soon they were laughing at me when my face turned red and I was frantically shoveling water into my mouth.

After dinner, I played a song for Abderrahim from my phone. Tu Tranquilo by Jackson Browne. “My father showed me this song,” I told him. “Much of my taste in music comes from my father.” His face lit up.

Did you hear that?” he said in Arabic, turning to his son. “He told me that I share the music tastes of his father.”

Then he turned back to me and said, “Similar tastes in music, must mean we share similar …” he pointed to his head, “similar way of thinking. Cabeza similar.”

As I closed my eyes to sleep that night, I felt a terrible burning sensation in my eyes.  Tears flowed down my cheeks.  I tried to hold them back and tough it out, not wanting to bother Abderrahim as he lay his head to rest on the floor beside me.  Eventually it was too strong to overcome.  I stood up and begged for help, frantic.

“Quieres medicina de flora?” Abderrahim asked calmly.

“Yes, any medicine will do!”

Abderrahim splashed the mysterious clear liquid into my face and I was instantly cured.

I took a short trip to Morocco. I made friends.

On the way into the city the next morning I had plans to meet Karl for coffee at the shady cafe where we had first met. Abderrahim warned me that the owner of the cafe was a thief. Years earlier he was in business with his brother. He had stolen from his brother and opened up his own cafe instead.

He said, “Un ladron siempre es un ladron.” A thief is always a thief.

Karl had told me he was a marble salesman, but now I was questioning whether that was true. Was anyone who they said they were in Fez?

Abderrahim struggled to sack a cab for us to take to the bus stop. He was heading off to his son’s school to complete some paperwork. Eventually we split into two separate shared cabs.

Abderrahim made the fifth passenger in the shared cab ahead of us and I made the fifth passenger in mine. An elderly woman sat in the middle seat next to me. Our driver took off towards the swirling city and I sat in silence. The elderly woman exchanged a handful of Arabic words with the man to her left. I sat in silence.

I met Karl the tucked-in Italian American at the shady cafe in town, late for our meeting as I got lost on the way. I happened to run into No Push, who was wearing a clean shirt. The two prior days I had known him only to own one shirt. He smiled and pointed me in the direction of the shady cafe. His fresh colorful shirt indicated to me that he got the point. He was looking for new business.

Karl and I walked to the Blue Gates for a coffee and some people watching at the medina entrance.  Taxi doors opened and shut, opened and shut as people shuffled through the gates.  We watched and chatted, perched on a cafe patio overlooking the gates.  Midway through our coffee, I spotted a Catalan backpacker that I had met on the train to Fez from Nador. “Albert!” I called. Him and his friend were headed to the Jewish Quarter. Karl and I joined them.

Karl kept joking that border police always think he’s a cop or a journalist when he enters Morocco because of the way he dresses. We all laughed, but there was some truth to it.  Who was this guy?

At some point Karl casually mentioned in the midst of a story, “yeah that was before I spent 5 years in da joint.”

What? You can’t just casually drop that in there,” I said.

Yeah, I spent 5 years in federal prison.”

Abderrahim was right, there must be a reason that this guy was caught up with the ladron who owns the cafe. Marble salesman? I don’t think so.

By the time we made it back to the Medina, it was almost closing time for Abderrahim. Our stroll through the Jewish Quarter ended up taking most of the day. I wanted to get back to the shop to see Abderrahim and let him know that I wouldn’t be staying with him tonight. I would stay in the Medina with my Catalon friend in order to catch my train to Tanger in the morning.

In Fez, people move quickly and things happen slowly.

By the time I got to Abderrahim’s shop, he was closing up. No Push George Bush was hanging around. Abderrahim seemed rushed. I retrieved my backpack and gave him my address to ship my purchase.

I thought you were closing in an hour,” I told him.

No, something came up. I must leave now.” It was something with his soon-to-be wife and his son.

I felt a knot in my throat. I had grown attached to the man and I felt bad that I had kept him waiting and then bailed on staying at his place another night. Would I ever see him again? Likely, not.

Earlier he had given me a winky winky indicating that he wanted to cut No Push George Bush out of the transaction for the drum and the horn. He didn’t want to pay him commission. Of course, No Push had assured me that he makes no commission from Abderrahim’s sales.  Lies.

I had paid No Push $20 the day prior as we made our clean break. Or so I thought. As I said my goodbyes to Abderrahim, No Push got pushy once again.

You no have gift for me? I am good man.”

I gave you your gift,” I said, incredulous. “What are you talking about? I paid you yesterday.”

No Push motioned towards his head, pulling at a phantom brim of a hat that he wasn’t wearing.

You want my hat? But this is my hat.” I was fed up. I wanted the moment with Abderrahim to say goodbye, but instead, I was getting shaken down by Mr. No Push George Bush. Fitting. “This is my hat. I am traveling, I need this hat.”

No gift? No want money, want gift.” His English was deteriorating alongside his manners. He pointed to his face, to his eyes.

My glasses?” I wasn’t even wearing my glasses at the moment. He remembered them from yesterday. “Those are my sunglasses. I’m on a trip, I need those sunglasses.” I shuffled in my backpack, momentarily looking for a gift to give him. I came to my senses. “No! I have nothing for you.”

I am good man!”

No. I paid you. You are a good man. Thank you.” I feigned gratitude and shook his hand. Finally, he left. Abderrahim walked me to the cash machine for me to withdraw the remaining sum that I owed him to ship the drum and horn to Chicago. This was the clandestine transaction to cut No Push out.

I felt choked up saying goodbye to my friend, but he seemed to be mostly concerned with my money. “I hope that you are able to spend this money well on your house,” I told him genuinely. “When I return, we will ride into the Sahara desert the right way, in a car playing good tunes.” He had suggested this trip when we shared bread at his home. He smiled, but we both knew this was unlikely. Abderrahim’s days of riding into desert sunsets seem to be behind him.

He walked away carrying a hand bag with fruit and bread. I walked the other way carrying my life in two backpacks.

By the time I made Tanger by train from Fez, I was feeling strong in my ability to fend off pesky Moroccan swindlers and pushy peddlers. In Tanger I planned to either push through to Tarifa by boat or to spend the night. I would play it by ear.

I batted the swindling guides away at the train station. I told the cab driver I would walk before he lowered his price for a ride to the port.

At the port, I was again accosted by guides, literally tugging at my shirt. “Necesito aire. Voy a caminar. No.” I was emphatic. Eventually a small man shooed the others away. “Have some respect, man, let him breath.”

He turned to me. “They have no respect.” He tried to show me a room for the night and I explained to him that I was considering heading straight to Tarifa. “Okay buddy, I understand, I understand. I won’t push you. You follow me, I will show you a good meal. I give you space, then you tell me if you want a room or not.”

The small man was not pushy. He listened. He had salesmanship.

After my meal, I decided to stay in Tanger for the night. No hurry, I could stand one more Moroccan night. The small man showed me to the hotel.

At the hotel, the small man introduced me to a large man whom he referred to as the Boss Man. I scoped the room and agreed to a price. Of course this included a price to the small man as well, despite his earlier lies.

The Boss Man’s version of checkin at this “hotel” was to roll a joint, pour some tee, and growl platitudes translated to me through the small man. He communicated through intonation, Arabic, body language, and the translation of the small man.

The Boss Man bellowed Arabic in a booming, authoritative voice. We sat in three chairs in the lobby of the “hotel” forming a triangle.

He says you have the beard of Alli Babbah,” translated the small man. “You have seen things. Some people, they do not know how to communicate. They are small.”

I nodded, trying my best to stay large. I smiled and agreed in the direction of the Boss Man. I echoed platitudes to the small man. “He is right. Communication is more than words. You must be open to everyone.” I gestured openness with my arms.

The small man translated to the Boss Man.

The Boss Man erupted, ecstatic, pleased. Thunderous came his voice, excited but not laughing. This time he spoke in longer sentences filled with more words.

He says…”

More thunder, as the small man smiled.

He says that the man who does not speak is only understood by his mother.”

A Wee Bit of Scotland: Fair Play to Ya’

Most of this post including the Oban story was written on the train ride from Glasgow to London on 9/26. 

Hello there universe,

It’s been a wee few weeks since I’ve posted anything.

Scotland is an incredible country if not somewhat conflicted: wet and rainy with a dry humor; elegant English manners and filthy drunk mouths.  They light up when you join in for a wee drink and a few four letter words.  They are the home of both golf and single malt whisky, yet they don’t drink on the golf course.  They’ve been calling for independence for years, yet they seem to rely on England and the United Kingdom more than they realize.  It’s also a great literary country, home to writers like Robert Louis Stephenson (Jekyll and Hyde) and the location where JK Rowling famously scribbled Harry Potter on napkins.

The literary pub tour in Edinburgh was the best

The literary pub tour in Edinburgh was the best “tour” of my trip so far. It was more theater than tour and included a wee bit of drinkin’

It has been one of my favo(u)rite countries so far no doubt, and for that, I’ll share a story.

I’m writing to you from somewhere between Glasgow and London. That is to say, I’m somewhere in the UK. I’ve watched this video at least 10 times and I’m still confused as to what the hell Scotland is. Wikipedia says it’s a “country within a country” – which means that Scotland is a country and so is the United Kingdom. Plato the Greek bartender in Oban insisted that the United Kingdom is not a country. I asked him what it was and he replied that it’s a “sovereign state.” I shared with him that in my opinion, a sovereign state is synonymous with nation is synonymous with country. A Chicoguan couple a few seats down the bar agreed.

When I say that the couple agreed, I mean to say that the woman – whose name none of us ever seem to recall in conversation despite the fact that she forced her card upon us after forcing massages on my friend Nicholas – agreed. Her husband, Randy, generally stewed in silence. There was a growing, palpable rage emanating from Randy as his wife thrust her hands onto Nick, who was becoming visibly uncomfortable yet somatically relaxed.  By the time she asked him to lay down on the floor of the bar, he excused himself for a wee fag.

I met Nicholas while alighting the train in Oban where I had traveled from Edinburgh. Brendan had departed on Monday after our golf excursion and so I decided – on the advice of a man I’d met in Edinburgh – to head for this sleepy fisherman’s town in the western highlands. It was raining in Edinburgh (shocker), and I had already been there for a few days, so I Followed the Sun to Oban. Actually, there was rain forecasted there as well, but hell, it’s Scotland.

Thanks to Angelica for introducing me to this tune in Costa Rica, as it’s followed me along my travels and treated me well.

All I really knew about the town was that it had the best seafood in the country, er, in Scotland, that it was out of the city, and that there was a famous whisky distillery. The food in Scotland is mostly rubbish (see Haggis – although Black Pudding is delicious), I had been city slicking for a few stops in a row and could use some relief in nature, and I hadn’t yet tasted the good single malt whisky that Americans refer to as Scaahhhhtch. It seemed like a no brainer to make the Oban trip. To top it off, everyone raved about the train ride and its scenic views through the green Scottish hills, firths, and lochs.

By the time Nicholas and I found ourselves at the Whisky Cellar on our second afternoon in Oban, strangers were assuming that the two of us had been old friends for years. Somewhere into our second whisky, Plato the Greek bartender asked us how we had met. We all had a hearty laugh at the absurdity of asking a stranger for directions to the Old Church, which is what I asked Nicholas as we got off of the train in Oban.

It took two hours after meeting Nicholas to find out that he was a surgical resident and uses Epic. It took me two days to find out that he was what the dutch call a persnidinest (sp?) or a circumseesee and what the Jews call a moyle. That’s right, boys and girls, Dr. Slater cuts the wee foreskin off of little wee wees. This led into a night of laughter that flowed like the Firth of the River Forth.

September 22 – Oban, Scotland

Today, we road the ferry to Kererra Island and mountain biked the trail around the island to a cafe. “Go right at the first fork, yeah, go right and pretty much take every left after that.” Those were the instructions that I remembered the bike woman, Zoe, telling us. Zoe was laid back and natural, as a bike lady should be. Of course, we took many wrong turns, including one that led us down a manure filled, cow filled private property where we were harrassed by a woman with a blend of a Scottish and New York accent – mostly New York. I recognize that pronunciation of man-ooah anywhere. 

The ride to Kererra island, where according to one local there is a population of exactly 42.

The ride to Kererra island, where according to one local there is a population of exactly 42.

According to a guide we received, the ride contained three

According to a guide we received, the ride contained a “Bog Factor” of 3.  By the end of the ride, we understood what that meant.  We earned one bog when Nicholas flipped his bike riding through a hole (shortly after this picture)

We made it to the Kerrera Tea Garden, the only island destination where many of the 42 people live

We made it to the Kerrera Tea Garden, the only island destination where many of the 42 people live

We earned bog number 2 by taking too many left turns and getting lost. I believe bog number 3 was when we reached a part of the trail that was unrideable with rocks

We earned bog number 2 by taking too many left turns and getting lost. I believe bog number 3 was when we reached a part of the trail that was unrideable with rocks

Oban Whisky Distillery

Oban Whisky Distillery

Oban Whisky Distillery

Oban Whisky Distillery

I promise more posts soon, including  anecdotes, pictures, videos, bad jokes, and pop culture references that I’m ripe to unload since they’re often lost on my foreign travel companions. My dutch friend Nicholas hadn’t heard of Paul Rudd (although he did believe – with increasing certainty after a few whiskies – that Owen Wilson had “topped himself”.) In this context, topping himself does not mean that he finally came out with a funnier film than You, Me, and Dupree – because honestly, how is that possible? “Who the fuck is Yoomee Dupree?” quothed our Greek bartender and whisky connoisseur. Case in point. I was, however, impressed by Owen Wilson’s global relevance.

Plato Laphraoig Quarter Cask

Plato with my new favorite whisky

Side note: I almost topped myself on this train ride due to this group of Scottish Jersey Shore wannabes who sexually harassed me and drove the entire train bonkers.

When I really get my act together, I’ll post a few focused essays that I mentioned in my opening post. On Communication, On the Farm, On Intentional Communities, On Trains and Planes, On Fear, On Drinking the Water, On Sharting, etc. Hopefully they will be less rambling than these kinds of posts. Trust that these thoughtful posts are already in the works, both in my journal and in my mind. They do, however, require some real reflection and a wee bit of focus.

^Keep telling yourself that, Drew.

Oh yeah, and me and Brendan payed some golf at St. Andrews and North Berwick (pronounced Berr – Ick with a rolling Scottish R).  Highlights: we both parred number 1 at the beautiful North Berwick, a championship quality beach side traditional links course where they treated us like members for the day.  The employees of St. Andrews, on the other hand, acted as if they had 7-irons wedged up their asses, but that’s another story.  Brendan also eagled number 9.  In typical fashion, I became fatigued on the back 9 and triple bogeyed two holes in a row en route to a respectable 93.  Brendan stayed strong for a solid 85.

North Berwick

North Berwick

Brendan preparing for the St. Andrews round

Brendan preparing for the St. Andrews round

Cheers for now, mates.

Update: I’m Alive

Okay.  I’m in a bad habit of updating bits of posts, then failing to post them, then returning to them in a new location where the previous post is outdated.  Part of the reason is that I want to upload pictures and it takes some time and quality connection to do so.  At this point, I’m just going to forge ahead with the posts and update with pictures later.

I’m going to make this post now for a general update, and then make subsequent posts that were written previously.  I’ll include the date and location where the other posts were first written to give you some context.  If I haven’t written a post in a given location, I’ll steal part of a journal entry.  That’s right, I’m keeping a straight up teenage girl style diary on paper.  And you get to read what was never intended for other eyes, albeit curated for the public.  I’m like an ornery teenage girl; DIARY: KEEP OUT.  In reality, much of this journal is filled with mundane facts, lists, directions, and plans that may or may not have come to fruition.

Por ejemplo, here are a few journal entries from Colombia, where we last left off.

9/7 – Bogota, Colombia – Juan Valdez Cafe

Today I depart for Medellin.  Reflecting on a long weekend in Bogota, I took a lot in.  Cutler AKA “James” to the locals put me up in a posh apartment complete with my own room, towel, and hot water.  Yes, please.  It was a total change from the finca.  More of a touristy gringo style weekend.

Friday – adventure de cambio, Zipachira salt min, lunch at Andres, adventure de cambio parte dos.  The Lunch with friends

Saturday – hike monsirate.  Asado

Sunday – Bogota Bike Tour: rock game (Telo?), fruit market, chicha corn drink; salsa lesson: 6 pasos – linea, lado a lado, Colombiano, cruze en frente, cruze abajo (?), tap

Wednesday 9/9 – Medellin, Colombia

I’m trying to “blog” but there are always internet issues.

Fascinating stuff, I know.

Rock game picture

Drew and Cutler picture

The last time I posted, I was in Medellin, but most of the post was focused on Costa Rica.

Since that post, I have been to:

  • Paris, France
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Oban, Scotland
  • London, England

Currently, I am in Malaga, Spain – a pleasant pueblo with a beach, laid back Spanish culture, tapas buenas, and the home of Pablo Picasso.  It’s also a port city on the southern coast of Spain, which I plan to use to my advantage tomorrow as I ferry off to Morocco.  That is, if all goes according to the plan that I concocted 5 minutes ago.

Egészségedre: Buda and Pest

A Rainy Day in Paris

I spent one day in Paris en route to Budapest.  It was, how do you say, a Rainy Day in Paris.  True fact: speaking Spanish with a French accent is French.

Rainy Day in Paris

Just another photograph I took in the rain

I have heard the theory that before you arrive in a country, you should know how to say “hello” and “I’m sorry”.  Seems like a good start.  In Hungarian, hello is hello as well as goodbye.  That’s where simplicity ends.  I still don’t know how to say I’m sorry.  When I asked the waiter on our first night how to say “cheers” in Hungarian, he grew a snotty smirk and spat out this five syllable gem: egészségedre.

Budapest was a welcome “vacation from the vacation”.  I was living luxury style in the Hotel Zichy Palazzo (or Enrico Palazzo as I like to call it).

The three of us in front of the Zichy statue

The three of us in front of the Zichy statue

Wednesday, September 16 – Printa Cafe, Budapest

We saw so much in Puda and Pest – mostly Pest.  Special thanks to our buddy Rick Steves.  I adapted to a new way of travel with this new voice in the mix: the guide book.  Here’s what we covered with his help:

Monday – opera house, parliament, boat tour of Danube – Buda + Pest.  Dinner: Russian spot – duck “p” word, dumplings

Tuesday – Castle Hill, WWII hospital, Szechenyi baths.  Dinner: Museum – veal in paprika sauce, Bulls Blood blend, apricot brandy

Wednesday – Jewish quarter, great synagogue, Jewseum, lunch, cafe – here I am.  Opus!

Carol – Hopefully you have more to your food notes than I do.  Duck “p” word?

Dad and the piano player share the same “low profile” hat. Dad puts his on when he doesn't want to be recognized as an American tourist (I can't imagine this ever worked), while the piano player put his on in order to channel his alter ego for a quick solo jaunt on the ivories before calling the band up for the second set. This guy was a real comedian judging by the crowd's reaction to his Hungarian monologues between songs.

Dad and the piano player of this Soviet Underground Jazz share the same “low profile” hat. Dad puts his on when he doesn’t want to be recognized as an American tourist (I can’t imagine this ever worked), while the piano player put his on in order to channel his alter ego for a quick solo on the ivories before calling the band up for the second set. This guy was a real comedian judging by the crowd’s reaction to his Hungarian monologues between songs.

Love birds with Parliament

Love birds with Hungarian Parliament