Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Es un Pajaro? Es un Avion? Es SuperMarkito!!!

So, I am now convinced that at least one of the following are true: doors, especially car doors, are made of inferior materials that are lighter than American doors and slam easier, OR in this country I have super-human powers not unlike Superman on Planet Earth.  I´m convinced of the latter, but either or both may be true.  (Cab drivers HATE me.)  I´m trying to contain the fuerza...

So, I have been blessed with a very gracious host, who happens to be the father of a friend of mine.  Oscar warned me that he likes to talk, but it has been somewhat of a linguistic adventure.  I´m doing my darndest to practice my Spanish with him, but for some reason he still calls me "Mart," and doesn´t seem to catch my body language that says "I have no idea what the hell you are talking about; may I please just go to sleep?"  Perhaps my finely honed international spy skills have masked any such cues, which would explain why I get asked to do readings at French church services and why Spaniards at work think I enjoy running around for no tip (sorry to my Spanish friends).  In any case, Señor Gonzales and I have had some priceless conversations.  This morning, he explained Colombian history, and switched gears to World War II, basically calling us Americans cowards for our tardy entry.  I do the minority of the talking, so I didn´t ask when Colombia stepped in to topple the axis.  However, I was happy to inform him that since, we have learned our lesson and have no problem stepping in first to fight communism, terrorism, and all other manner of -isms we deem counterproductive to the planet (or at least to us).  He liked that a lot.  I discussed this, along with an answer to her query as to why I am not a liberal, with my new friend Silvana at the Gold Museum, and she doesn´t want to be friends anymore.  So much for my foreign relations endeavor.  Time to find a steak and a beer

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bogota, Colombia... Buscando Shakira

I know it´s still early, but 48 hours in traveling in Colombia, and I have yet to witness a kidnapping or come into any contact with any illegal drugs.  I am in the capital city of Bogota.  It is a huge modern city in a valley surrounded by lush green mountains.  So far I have only heard Shakira once (and Michael Jackson at least three times) but I will survive.  I arrived from Miami on Saturday, and was kindly greeted my my friend´s father, Señor Gonzales.  We went directly to eat at the local mall which had churrasco - a grilled steak with fried rice and banana.  Que rrrrico!  I met up with my friend´s cousin and about ten other friends, for unbeknownst to them what was to be my pre-birthday dinner at a ... of course... Spanish restaurant.  All of my new friends were very warm and kind, and there was a mix of them practicing english and me practicing spanish.  Through some miracle of modern technology, my friend in DC, Jaime, alerted my gracious dining partners that it was in fact my birthday eve.  Well, we celebrated.  There was much dancing, aguardiente, and even a cheesecake complete with candle and "Feliz Cumple" written in a berry sauce on the plate.  It was a great time.

Yesterday, I spent some time with my new friends Silvana and Julio.  I toured the old part of the city where all of the government buildings are.  I saw an unexpectedly great collection of art, including works from Cesanne, Monet, Picasso, and a local favorite Botero!  Botero is from Medallin and paints and sculpts all fat things.  There is even a fat version of Mona Lisa and Adam & Eve... pretty interesante!  Nearby, there was a restaurant that advertises "el mejor ajiaco en todo el mundo", so we had to try it.  It was a chicken stew.  I might try to make it.  Later, we all met up for what was ostensibly "coffee", but was decidedly more aptly described as Aguila cerveza; hey, I´m just a guest here, so who am I to complain?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bienvenido a Miami

Of course with a 16 hour overnight layover in Miami, Florida, I did what any sensible red-blooded American would do - I tried to stay awake the whole time.  Given the Orange Bowl Catastrophe of y'or, it was a must.  MI-AMI!!!

So I rented a car and drove to South Beach.  Dinner at Ola (1745 James Ave.) was quite nice, as it should have been given the price tag.  I enjoyed some non-Peruvian "Fire & Ice" ceviche, crispy pork, and a delicious "Deconstructed Key Lime Pie."  Afterwards, I strolled to find a cool (temperature) place to hang out, and yeah, there are no cool places in Miami... just places to sweat, and sweat less!  Since all of the girls were wearing 6 - 9 inch high heels, there was really no one there eye-level or below with whom to make friends, so I opted for a different locale after a few hours - Fort Lauderdale.

I knew my friend Natalie was a bartender there, and it wasn't too far, and I had to utilize my wheels.  What I didn't know was that Natalie's twin sister ALSO works at the same club and had absolutely no idea who I was!  "Hellooo... helloo?  Remember me?  No?  Really?  That's cool, I can take a hint."  No, actually Didi was very nice once she stopped ignoring me as the crazy guy waving his arms in the air like a third base coach on steroids (Do the base coaches take steroids too?), and she took me to her sister.  It turns out their family is from Colombia and actually gave me some travel tips for the big trip.  Well anyway, everything closed at 4 am, so I slept in the car for two hours and proceded back to South Beach just in time for sunrise.  I hope you like the photos.  Next stop: Bogota!

Miami at Sunrise

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Something New

Five years ago, my friend Drew and I discovered that we were both to turn 30 that same month of August (he's older). We had some down-time at work to plan the possibilities for a birthmonth celebration that would be suitable for such a landmark birthday, and we decided we should do something new every day before our respective special days that we hadn't done before. We started brainstorming, and it opened our minds to the possibilities if one only chooses to actively pursue new experiences. I cannot tell you the whole list, but I will say that we had a crab feast that was quite memorable. Even a little accomplishment felt like a step forward in life... and it was an exercise I highly recommend.

Fast-forward five years (Drew is 35 already) and I am 34. As my fellow Californian friend has since gone his own way, every year I've chosen in some small way to carry on the tradition - the August Birthmonth Challenge! Yes, it has seen many an endeavor, both large and small, and taken me to New York, California, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Maine, and to a Sammy Hagar/Chickenfoot show at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach. Yes, the 29 days of August (Drew only has 13) require thought, dedication, creativity... and are not for the weak nor the timid. So we press on!

I thought I would share a sampling of this year's list as I take on the final week. So far, I have: held an art exhibit showcasing more than thirty of my favorite photographs; gone water-skiing for the first time in two decades; returned to San Francisco and found a wonderful cajun breakfast and an ice cream shop that delighted me with "Secret Breakfast" and Smoked Sea Salt Chocolate; explored two new wineries in Napa Valley; unknowingly got "shopped" by secret shoppers (not my decision, of course); given a eulogy; created a strawberry-peach breakfast bruschetta; dined at Vinoteca and Poste; visited old friends for the first time in Lodi and enjoyed a perfect evening barbecue; prepared white sangria for a memorial service; prepared a Spanish meal for my Uncle's favorite people; tried (key word) to learn some latin dances; danced with a crackhead and a pregnant woman in the same night; tried several new Spanish wines and one Spanish beer... It's been a busy month. Friday, I fly to Miami. Saturday, I will enter country #20 - Colombia.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


The message of the week seems to be about friends.

Where ever you go you have the opportunity to come in contact with people.  If you're lucky, you'll find some quality people.  If you are very lucky, those people will still be with you forty years from now.  The key is what you give; the key is who you are.  Humility and generosity are the mark of a true friend.  If you are the same person to everyone you meet, in public and in private, you are genuine.  If you hold the people around you in high esteem, you are valuable.  If you act in a way that is noble and true, you are trustworthy.  If there is no doubt to your motives, your heart is pure.  If those around you feel that they are a pleasure to be around, you are a friend.  I have been fortunate to keep some great friends in many locations.  Due to the circumstances of this week, I was shown the life of a great man through the eyes of his friends.  Although it was no great surprise, it was an honor to behold the treasure of a life well spent... and made rich by bonds nurtured over decades.  May we all find such a treasure.

Rest in Peace - Ernest Samuel Moeller
November 22, 1944 - August 1, 2010

Friday, August 6, 2010

Davis, CA

Davis is home to the UC Davis "Aggies".  My mom studied here, so did my uncle, and so did I actually - just one wine seminar, but that count, doesn't it.  Doesn't make me a liberal though.  Davis is a decent sized city, but part of what makes it great is the university.   They are known for their agricultural programs, including winemaking (not far from Napa and Sonoma valleys), and I have always enjoyed just riding bikes, usually with my uncle, through campus.  Along a creek, there is an arboretum with many species of plant life from different corners of the world. It makes for a very scenic afternooon.

Toward the end of my ride, I noticed a farmers market on campus... only the whole park was full of people dancing with hoops, picnicking, and enjoying a mediocre cover band.  The weather was perfect.  Lots of families and lots of bikes.  If you happen to be in the Sacramento area, I recommend a vist.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Sun Also Sets

It was an odd feeling yesterday as my mom picked me up from the airport. I had arrived in California from across the country not to eat Mexican food or enjoy the beach or to see friends at home, but to say goodbye. I cannot count the number of times I have visited this cozy and serene city of Davis with all of its bike trails and parks, the university and quaint restaurants, the co-op and all the trees. Davis, for all those years, was where Grandma lived... and then it was where my uncle Sam lived.

Upon arrival, I was greeted with a fantastic sunset that stretched across the open plain - reds, oranges, and yellows fading into night. It was as if someone else was actually saying goodbye. If I can be Indian (casinos, not computers) for a minute, I'd say the sunset signifies not just the end of the day, but also the spirits of all men who breathed their lasts breaths that day rising up to bid a final farewell. Can there be any other explanation (besides the whole scientific thing) as to why the most beautiful parts of the day are the beginning and the end? Sunrise: life begins anew, opportunity, salvation from the darkness... rebirth. Sunset: end of an era, the source of life makes its exit, signal of darkness and unknown... goodbye. Both are exquisite, both precious, and both are temporary... just like life.