Archive for Travel – Page 2

Leaving the Comfort Zone…

The A/C and ceiling fan at 95D Nguyen Van Thu Street are white noise and always there, but the clock alarm’s frequency is different and pulls me back from a deep slumber. I hit snooze and wrap the sheet tighter, hoping to catch another minute of sleep. The oppressive heat of the Saigon night has diminished. At 5:15 a.m. the street outside is quiet except for an occasional motorbike.

I peel back the covers and sit on the edge of the bed. The walls are sweating and there’s a faint hint of mold. Heavy condensation on the front window makes the streetlight a yellowish blur. I step onto the cool tile floor, turn on the computer and link to the Seattle NPR station. There are tornados in Oklahoma, floods in Texas. In Seattle, it’s the usual November rain. read more

Denmark, Dinesen, and Serendipity…

Coffee, according to the women of Denmark, is to the body what the Word of the Lord is to the soul.

Isak Dinesen aka Karen Blixen

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the mystery of personal connections. Six degrees of separation is just the tip of the iceberg. I never met Karen Blixen, but I knew a friend of hers, and the way we met and its consequences remain one of those enduring mysteries.  

In the winter of 1965, I was four months into a solo tour of Europe. I had traveled around southern Europe and the Middle East but wanted to see Germany and Scandinavia as well. It wasn’t the best time of year to visit, but I thought it might be my only opportunity. I flew from Istanbul to Frankfurt, took the train to Berlin, and after a few days there, opted to take the train to Copenhagen. That meant riding an East German train to the Danish ferry at Warnemunde. I thought it would be an adventure for an ex-US Marine to ride through the “evil empire.” But first I had to get from West Berlin to the station in East Berlin and transfer to the East German train. read more

Rusting Infrastructure…

The new Showtime series, American Rust, has two-fold resonance for me. The episodes are released on a weekly basis, so at this point it’s hard to predict its arc, but the empty storefronts, crumbling steel mill, and desperate characters touch me and set up parallels I see and feel.

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Back in October of 1990, I was in Berlin. It was exactly one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall. October 3rd was designated German Reunification Day, the day East Germany (DDR) reunited with the Federal Republic of Germany. My wife and I lived in West Berlin during the ‘70s and early ‘80s, so it’s not surprising that we had tears in our eyes as we walked through the Brandenburg Gate where armed guards and barbed wire had, for all those years, kept us from crossing over to the East. That day, the crowd was immense. Total strangers were smiling, hugging, and giving high fives. It was euphoric but the beginning of a tough transition. read more

My Obituary…

My wife is adamant – no funeral, no obituary, no nothing. Maybe a few friends over for drinks and stories. The only thing she wants is a bench on the Burke-Gilman Trail where bikers and walkers can stop and catch their breath. It’s where she ran, rode, and walked for more than 40 years.

So, how about you, she asks? Do you want an obituary? How about a funeral? Well, I say, I haven’t given it much thought. Well, she says, you need to, because if you go first, I need to know. She’s a career woman, but at heart she’s a family planner, a garden designer and household manager. Always organizing something or someone. read more

Love Letter to Ellen…

I’ve always been a list maker, another vestige of my OCD – shirts hung according to color, shoes arranged by function, books by subject, music by artist, etc. So, 21 years ago it didn’t seem crazy to begin keeping a list of books (including plays and films) and restaurants, by year, so I could look back and refresh my memory. Around then time was collapsing, and what I thought was 10 years ago was really 5 and so on. 

Recently, reading my high school English teacher’s obituary, I discovered she did the same – “7000 books, 3000 movies and plays and 27 countries visited.” Not the only similarity! read more