Archive for Politics

Is Your Luck Holding?

If you’re here, reading this article, your luck is probably holding, but not everyone is so fortunate. Have you met or do you know a refugee?

Sure, the guy who mows your lawn or the woman who changes your sheets may be an undocumented worker – an “illegal” – but they’re probably not refugees. Neither are the guys who hang out in the Home Depot parking lot looking for odd jobs or the dishwasher at your local Mexican restaurant, but there are real refugees among us; Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who helped America fight its Middle Eastern wars, people from Honduras who fled murderous death squads, and girls from Asia or Central America who escaped their human traffickers. I count several Vietnamese who fled their country after the fall of Saigon as friends. These are all people who meet or met the definition of “refugee,” but today I’m thinking about the fresh-in-their-skins variety like those fleeing Myanmar, Syria, or Afghanistan–people on the run without homes to go back to. Up to the minute refugees.  read more

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Anne Frank, Rick Steves, and Me

“He’s got it. He’s got my wallet…” I was half on the bus. Marilynn was behind me. I had taken our bus card from my wallet at the bus stop in front of the central train and bus station in Palma – one of the busiest streets in the city – people coming and going, busses coming and going, and the late afternoon crush beginning. I put the wallet back in the lower pocket of my cargo shorts, one with a Velcro closing, and joined the queue for the bus. I had the card in my hand ready to validate it as I stepped into the bus. I barely noticed a little push from behind. It was crowded, several people getting on the bus at the same time, but it felt odd. When I turned to see who was pushing, I instinctively felt for my wallet. It wasn’t there and the guy behind me had stepped off the bus and was walking away – blue T-shirt, jeans, curly hair and a bag of some sort over his shoulder. read more

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Thoughts on Formentera… and more.

I don’t remember how I first became aware of the Balearic Islands, but they seemed exotic to me. Dots in the Mediterranean. Ruled successively by Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Moors, and Catalans. Spanish but not really Spanish. From that first awareness I felt a magnetic attraction. My first visit in the 1960’s, was a late honeymoon – several months after the ceremony. Abby had never been to Europe and we were looking for a special add-on experience. Something different.

On that first trip, we flew from New York to Barcelona, then on to Ibiza where we immediately boarded a lancha rapida to Formentera, the smallest and most remote of the Balearics. It was exotic. Palma, on the big island of Mallorca, was a full-on city. Ibiza was a jet-set hangout. No one had ever heard of Formentera. We were off the radar. read more

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At Home in Palma…

I’m sorry Seattle… I’m really tired of long winters, gray skies, and the rain that’s coming soon. When we left Saigon four years ago I put together the Surviving Seattle blog in an effort to cope with it, but in my heart of hearts I’ve always been a blue sky, warm water, palm trees kind of guy and this month I’m falling in love with Palma de Mallorca.

I don’t want to oversell it. We just spent a month in Berlin, and I’m easily seduced. It’s not really apfels and oranges to compare Seattle and Berlin to Palma. They’re both northern temperate climates and though our Berlin weather was seasonably good outside dining wasn’t really in the cards. On the other hand, stepping off the airplane in Palma on Thursday – the day a storm nearly blew Berlin away – the early evening sky was dark blue, and it felt like Santa Monica. Indeed, parts of the taxi ride from the airport into Palma looked like Marina del Rey. I immediately thought of tapas and wine at an outside table. Sidewalk cafes were tugging at me. I’ll own it; Southern California has always felt like my natural habitat. Berlin was a treat, Seattle is exciting, but I could live in Palma. read more

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City of Spies

It might have been lifted out of a spy novel–the caller, without identifying himself, simply referred to “the interview you requested…” The instructions that followed asked me to have the front desk contact “Mr. Winter” and, when cleared, directed to his room.  So, on a hot summer day in 1962, I drove from the Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro to the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles to meet with a CIA recruiter.

I knew, even then, that “Mr. Winter” was not his real name, but it was kind of sexy going through the charade. “Mr. Winter” fit the profile of what, in those days, was the stereotypical CIA spook – tall, Waspish, Navy-blue suit, white shirt, rep silk Club tie and the bearing of a Yale graduate. I don’t remember a thing about the interview except that it was business-like. I never heard another word from “Mr. Winter” or The Company. read more

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