Mystery photo(s) of the week

I thought, as I try to fulfill my promise to get back to regular blogging, that I would try something different and choose random photos from my travels.

Maybe I’ll tell a short tale associated with the photo. Maybe I’ll see if anyone recognizes the location. Maybe it’ll just be a pretty picture.

So we’ll begin here, the veranda of an historic hotel in a small town whose fortunes have risen and fallen and risen again along with the copper mine that birthed it. While finding me with a beer in hand is not that unusual, this one came with free wi-fi (courtesy of the hotel) so I could send this picture to my co-workers back home (who were slaving away in the “mines” back home that afternoon).

Me_at_Hotel

Even with the shining sun and the relaxing afternoon, listening to the locals express hope in the future and point to the new cars they’ve been able to buy, one can not help but notice the sight on the hilltop to the south: the prominent cemetery.SantaRosaliaCemetery Indeed, it is one of the first things you see when your boat is approaching the town’s docks. I never did get any tales of the cemetery’s inhabitants (miners meeting mishaps?), but the horror writer in me wondered what would happen if a torrential rain storm came along and washed all those bones down the hill and into the sea. (Morbid, I know.)

But I wanted to end on a lighter note and chose this sign, painted on a wall, on the town’s main road leading back to the dock. If you can read Spanish, it’s pretty dang funny. Leyendo

Where am I?  (Yes, it’s Mexico – but where in Mexico?) (Judith, Jay – you can’t answer)

 

 

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A Penguin and a T-Rex Walk Into a Bar

I’m not quite sure where I read about the Chama River Microbar in Albuquerque, but I was curious as to why I had scribbled the bar’s name and address in the margins of my Moon’s New Mexico Handbook. ChamaDogs I’d arrived in town two days ahead of the scheduled start of my Chaco Canyon tour and, after enjoying the city’s museums, decided to have a little adventure Friday evening. To save money, I’d booked a cheap room at the funky Route 66 Hostel, conveniently located between old town and downtown, and decided to forgo a rental car and instead use the local buses. (Hey, $2 for an all-day pass! That’s hard to beat.) Yes, this means I was riding the bus by myself at night….pssst….don’t tell my mom; no matter how old I get she’s forever telling me to not travel alone in a strange city.

I almost missed the place, which is literally a hole in the wall on 2nd Street, just a block from the Alvarado Transit Center (a major bus/train transfer point). With the gentrified-sounding “microbar” in its name, I expected something other than a small bar with half a dozen stools, maybe four tables, and what looked like an iPod-centered music system. Positive I must’ve read a recommendation for this bar in some travel magazine, I hesitated for a brief second. This didn’t look like the sort of place travelers frequent. It’s too small and too easy miss.

But as I stood in the doorway, Ado and Scotty greeted me. Who? you ask. Ado and Scotty – that’s the two dogs there in the photo. Their relaxed stances, wiggling butts, and wagging tails told me all I needed to know. I held out my hand for them to sniff and promptly got licked, and licked, and licked. You know how it is with the dogs. I petted them and asked their permission to enter. And they made a path for me, trailing behind. The tables were full, so I plopped my butt down on the last stool at the end of the bar.

PenguinAtChamaA couple of reviews I’ve since read were critical of the bar’s atmosphere: its “locals only” feel, an inattentive bartender, and “not safe for women” vibe. But I experienced nothing like that. Certainly, I kept my day pack slung across my back – but I always keep my money and ID close to me when traveling. I was instantly welcomed by the bartender, who gave me a taste test of their available brews. (The Microbar is listed as a tasting room for the Chama River Brewery on the north side of Albuquerque.) I spent a friendly evening chatting, first with the bartender and Adam, the patron on the stool next to me and then with Aaron (who replaced Adam who had to leave) about Albuquerque and Chaco Canyon. I’m certain I was the only out-of-towner in the bar, but no one treated me any different. Heck, even the couple at the end of the bar shared their pizza with me! (The microbar doesn’t serve food, but you can request delivery from any number of nearby food establishments.)

And no one laughed when I pulled Penguin About Town out of my pack and posed him next to a glass of the Chama River Amber Ale. I figured he’d had a tough day, nearly getting devoured by Stan, the T-Rex at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. He needed a drink and a friendly welcome to Albuquerque. So did I. It was a pleasant way to spend the evening: a couple of dogs, a dozen or so humans, and a stuffed penguin. It didn’t matter how far any of us had traveled to get there, or why anyone was there. Only the beer and the conversation mattered. Words. Drink. Time. All cocooned in a non-descript hole in the wall that the average tourist would walk right past.PenguinAtMuseum

“Do you have Pepsi or Coke?” “Coke.” “Cerveza por favor.”

Yes, that was me while traveling through much of Spain along the Camino de Santiago. Many of the little cafe bars – especially in Basque Country – would frequently have Pepsi signs on the outside, but no Pepsi on the inside. Here’s me enjoying one of my few treasured bottles of Pepsi I did find along the way. pepsi_spain

So frequently…okay maybe more than frequently…I would choose beer instead. (I saw the word “biere” far more often than “cerveza” which many Americans are more used to.) It’s quite easy to get used to drinking beer for lunch AND dinner. But I most certainly did enjoy my morning tea with its companion croissant. I just wish I could remember where it was I ate the most delightfully freshest croissant I’ve ever had in my life.

I have to admit I developed a love/hate relationship with the food along the trail. I think experienced peregrinos will know what I mean: the Pilgrim’s Menu. Designed to be fuel for the trail, there were a lot of carbs and a lot of protein. And the choices can get rather repetitive.

One of the items I never want to see again is a bocadillo.  What is a bocadillo, you ask? bocadilloA huge hunk of bread with some form of pork between them. See how that sandwich is almost as big as I am? There were, of course, some really good bocadillos on really fresh bread. And then there were some stale ones, like the one in the picture on the right.

Did I mention that you get french fries with almost every meal? And fried eggs too? (It must be the horror writer in me that caused this Freudian slip: when I looked at my trip notes just now, it said “fried eyes”) Ha! Hey – I could use that in a story. Hmm…do you think Hannibal Lecter would ever want to eat a zombie’s eyes or eat a zombie’s brain? But I digress.

The fried eyes…uh, I mean eggs, have followed me home. They’re now finding themselves topping foods I’d never before considered combining them with: a nice filet mignon, a glob of chili over a bed of rice, a basket of french fries. Oh – there’s those french fries again.

penguin_san_beer

But back to the beer. I much preferred the San Miguel brand to Cruz Campo which was served on Renfe (the trains) and in Barcelona.
 As you can see, #PenguinAboutTown also preferred San Miguel. And both of us were delighted to find that Spain is such a civilized country they offer beer in vending machines! But…sigh…no Pepsi.

beer_vending

 

…but I’ve been to Oklahoma

Is it just me or is it beginning to sound like a Three Dog Night song around here?

Here I am preparing for the Camino and…rats…gotta run out of town for a quick business trip. But I’m back now and, shaking off that disruption, trying to finish getting everything ready that I need for Spain with less than two weeks left. Got extra memory for the camera, got the European plug adapter, got a ready supply of allergy and migraine meds….but more items still to acquire. Not to mention this is the last week of my graduate “Introduction to Emergency Management” class with one more paper to write (yet another distraction from my Camino prep). Wish me luck getting back on track!

In the meantime, I did get to enjoy myself last week in Oklahoma where they have delicious barbecue, juicy steaks (Cattleman’s), damn good fried chicken (Eischen’s),beer served margarita-style (ChelinosChellenosand old-fashioned shrimp boils on back patios spiced up with a visit to a tornado shelter and a little 4-year-old running around chanting “Boomer Sooner, Texas Sucks” to taunt our colleagues from Texas. (Yes, her father put her up to that.)

I also got to have some more Twitter fun @TheFarPlaces with #PenguinAboutTown who – despite his diminutive stature – has developed a fondness for food, beer, and gambling.Penguin_gambling Fortunately he’s too short to drive my car otherwise I might wake up one morning to find it parked half on the sidewalk/half in the bushes, full of empty beer bottles and fast food wrappers. Some people think Penguin is adorable, some think his photo antics are cute, and others think his Twitter appearances are corny and/or dumb.

Penguin_Beer

So…if you’re one of the latter, brace yourself because, yes, Penguin will be going with me to Spain, where he will (temporarily) become #PinguinoEnEspana. (Please correct me if that is a wrong translation for #PenguinInSpain.)

(Sadly, Penguin does not have his own separate twitter feed; #PenguinAboutTown is too many characters long – violating Twitter naming rules, so he has to share mine @TheFarPlaces.) So, please, if you are so inclined, watch for Penguin on Twitter. I will also be blogging here on WordPress whenever I can.

I’d also like to thank those of you who have offered your comments and suggestions, and provided links to your blogs so I can get better prepared. I’m just catching up with myself now, so once I get that last paper written for Crisis Management, I will be checking out all of your helpful information. Thanks!!

Giving Thanks

It’s cliche to be expressing thanks this time of year, but today – after a busy morning running around followed by a mid-afternoon nap in the big overstuffed chair – I awoke to two cats draped across my lap, purring. And I felt thankful. Thankful for small furry bodies keeping me warm on a rainy day. Thankful for their gazes which tell me that I am their whole world.

So I’d like to thank all the felines who came before who have shared their companionship and love…and their lessons about life and death…with me.

KC

To K.C., my first cat when I was a teenager. He loved to annoy my mother by sleeping on the clean linen and taught me that I would do pretty much anything to save my cat – including climbing out onto a slippery roof to retrieve him. He was the first to teach me that hearts can be broken from many miles away: he’d gone to live with my sister because I wasn’t able to keep him and passed away without me learning about it until later. (That’s my sister in the picture.)

Lovely

To Lovely, who wasn’t even my cat. She wandered into the basement one day while I was doing laundry. Emaciated and weak, she cried for attention. Sucker that I am, I took her to the vet and found that she had cancer. I’d never seen her in the neighborhood before so I can only assume that her owners, discovering her illness, had tossed her out like garbage. So I felt it my duty to give her peace with caring human hands holding her as she passed. It was the wonderful staff at Broadway Pet Hospital who dubbed her Lovely. They didn’t want her to die unnamed or unloved. Only in my life for a few days, I believe it was her task to teach me about death firsthand, preparing me for the time three years later that I would have to let go of Indy, who I had raised from kittenhood.

Indy1To Indy, my first cat as an adult. I found him at a pet store marked down multiple times from $9.99 to $3.99. He was the smartest cat I’ve had, able to open drawers and cupboards, digging out toys that I had hidden away. At night, he lay on my right side. I would drape my arm across his body and he would wrap his tail around my arm. He taught me the true, and sometimes expensive, responsibilities of cat ownership.

marian1To Marian, who taught me that I had enough love for more than one pet at a time. She would sit in my lap while I was on the computer and rub her slobbery face all over my hands while I typed. (Yes, cats can slobber.) And she taught me guilt. The day before she unexpectedly died from a blood clot, I’d been very busy and kept pushing her away, unable to give her the attention she craved. There was no time to apologize to her, only to tell the vet to end her suffering as quickly as possible. I’m sorry Marian.

FluffyTo Fluffy, who I took in as an elderly feline on behalf of an elderly friend who could no longer care for her. She turned out to be sick, so our time together was short, but it was long enough for many laughs, like the times – completely oblivious that there was already a cat sitting on my lap – would climb right on top of that cat (usually Annie).

 

AnnieTo Annie, who taught me that it’s the cats who are in charge. She would sit on the floor halfway in between the couch and the computer desk…and wait. When she felt that I had spent a sufficient amount of time at the computer, she issued her demands: a series of sharp “MOWS” (not meows, mows) until I obeyed her and sat on the couch, so she could sit on my lap. She had deep maternal instincts, helping to raise Turtle and Bender. She was the only cat who missed those who had passed before her, looking for them in their usual hidey spots.

And, of course, to Turtle, who I’ve written of many times before. She taught me that your soul mate is not always the same species as you.

And to Ariel, who I lost last month. She taught me that a single act of kindness can change your entire world.

You can see photos of Turtle and Ariel in earlier blogs.

BoysTo Bender and Paco, thank you for being with me today. What would I do without your head butts and forehead licks, Bender? And your nose rubs, Paco? I hope that I can do whatever is needed to make your lives better. We will always have love in this house.

And lest I forget the people:

Thank you friends and family. Thank you to the childhood friends who found me on Facebook (yeah, Facebook can be a huge sucking waste of time, but I’ve reconnected with many people important to my past. It’s also giving me a chance to learn about my nieces and nephews who grew up halfway across the country and a way to get to know my two sisters-in-law.)

Thanks to the friends who found themselves terrific spouses who I’m lucky to also count as my friends.

Thanks to the friends I’ve made in my world travel with Lindblad Expeditions. I look forward to traveling with you again.

Thanks to all of those friends and relatives who have raised intelligent, outspoken, independent, and interesting children. It gives me hope for the future.

Thanks to those of you who have bought my e-books. I hope that I’ve entertained you.

And many thanks to the ancient Mesopotamians for inventing beer.

Rockin’ a Migraine

ImageFeeling a bit like a zombie today thanks to a setback with the worst migraine I’ve had in two months. It’s the first time since the beginning of February that I’ve had to take a full dose of my zombie-fying medication. But I’ve refused to let the pain or the drugs stop me from accomplishing the many, many things I’ve had to do today.

I’m blaming the wine from last night’s dinner at Fondue Fred. (The fondue craze did not end in the 1970s; at least not in Berkeley.) Excellent food, but I think I should’ve substituted beer for the wine. Alcohol is a prime trigger for many migraine sufferers, but beer has never bothered me. I’ve had difficulty in the past with both white and red (white wine is the worst), but have been fine drinking a rose. Not any more. So remind me in the future: pass up the wine. Drink the beer. (No, I don’t have a hangover. I know what those feel like from my college days.)

It’s a good time to be a beer drinker with all the micro-breweries and the increasing popularity of home-brewing. I’d consider taking up the hobby myself, but I don’t have the space for it…nor the time due to my interests in writing, photography, and cross-stitch. Fortunately I have both a younger brother and a good friend who are home-brewers. (My favorite of their ales: a saison brewed by my brother, and my friend’s Angry Planet Imperial Red Ale, brewed in honor of Curiosity’s landing on Mars on August 6, 2012.) Unfortunately, I don’t live that close to either one of them.

So in the meantime I’ll have to make do with visiting a couple of my favorite local spots: Beer Revolution and The Trappist – both part of Oakland’s burgeoning brew pub scene. And another favorite: The Speakeasy over in San Francisco.

I wonder: do zombies like a good ale? Next time I hear about one of those zombie pub crawls, I’ll have to find out.