Friday, November 28, 2008
The 5 Gulf States that I was in I had never been to before and I'm always glad to add extra countries to my collection but Jordan I had been to just 4 years before. I didn't cat around Amman this time but got on a van going to Wadi Musa, the town next to Petra. Lots of hotels just pick the one you want. In the morning I hopped a van for the 2 miles to Petra, the "Lost City," the city of Sele in the Bible. Settled by the Nabataeans in ancient times and rediscovered by the Swiss adventurer, Johannes Burkhardt in 1822, Petra was kept secret to the West for a thousand years (ha, ha, actually I don't know why), a city largely carved from Red Stone. And the redness of Petra had largely faded in the 4 years since I had last been there, I have no idea why, I asked and didn't get any good answers. The most famous building is "the Treasury" which is the first you come to and it's about a mile and a half to the furthest point, "the Monastery," which I reached this time. There's a lot of climbing involved and 4 years before a silly Arab was acting up and kept me awake at the hotel I stayed at, I didn't have the energy to get to "the Monastery." There's lots of other tourists and they're riding camels, horses, donkeys but I made it a point to just walk, to me that's part of it. The area around Petra is strange, I've seen cumulus clouds that were barely above the ground. The Moabites were originally here and denied the Jews passage through their land, the Jews eventually returned and threw the Moabites from the cliffs. I ate at the huge buffet in the middle of Petra, $12, it was just basic grub but you could have all you wanted, calories you need to explore the place. I didn't miss anything this time, I was exhausted by the end of the day but I enjoyed it. The next morning I got on a van going to Aqaba, on the Red Sea. Little to see there, this was my 3rd time to Jordan, I had been in Aqaba 15 years before. Took a taxi to Wadi Rum, it's like a national park, it's just a lot of desert and mountains. I stayed at this friendly place which has a restaurant and a bunch of tents out back which cost $4 a night. I walked out into the desert and read for a few hours, it was pretty nice. I ate at the restaurant, wrote postcards and eventually retired to my tent for the night. No light, just darkness after the sun went down and it was cold as heck but plenty of blankets in the tent. And the wind howled that night like you wouldn't believe and swayed that tent back and forth like somebody waving their hand. All in all it was a pretty good experience and I slept well. The next morning I took a taxi back to Aqaba and then took another taxi to the border and crossed over into Eilat, Israel.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Gobble, gobble. I wish that I had kept the receipt from the pharmacy of that Coptic family in Kuwait City so that I could send them a Thank You card or postcard. It's not like me not to have it, I'm German, I keep records when I don't want to keep records. Maybe it was because I was so sick that it got lost in the shuffle. I was coughing up a lot of blood, I was really sick. I think that maybe I got something from the illegal aliens at the gym I go to and the bad air of Cairo enhanced it. When you're in a plane even 2 miles up the air is brown, only time I've even seen that. They say that antibiotics are the biggest medical breakthrough of the past century. In the mid-20's President Coolidge's teen-age son died from an infected tennis blister, the President's son would have the best of medical care but the advent of antibiotics was in the 30's. From Dubai I took the bus to Muscat, Oman, got in late, found a hotel behind the bus depot and flopped. Ha, ha, I did bargain there and got 20% off, basically all you have to do is ask, they had a room to sell and a buyer standing in front of them. I didn't even know where Oman was until just before I went there. Muscat is pretty good, I don't think they have the oil wealth of the 4 northern Gulf States. I liked their History and Cultural Museum and they give you a nice memento of your visit. Their Military Museum is real big and interesting and you have a military escort showing you around, I had a picture taken of me with this Warrant Officer, this was quite nice. Oman's National Mosque is fabulous! And boys and girls, that's the biggest carpet in the world, it took 600 women three years to weave (bet they were tired) it. I went to some town 60 miles away where they had a fort and catted around out there. Back in Muscat I had a taxi driver drive me some places and then to the airport and we got into a disagreement about the bill. I was being generous and I thought that he was trying to take advantage of me, to decide this the head officer in charge of Security at the Muscat Airport sort of had a mini-civil trial. This officer sat behind a desk with me sitting in front of him and the taxi driver sitting a distance to his side and a bunch of Security Personnel sitting in chairs in a semi-circle behind me. The officer asked to hear my side first and then he heard the taxi driver's side and then he rendered his decision in favor of the taxi driver. It was actually a trifle blown out of proportion, I just thought that the guy was trying to take advantage of me after I was being nice to him. I pulled myself together and hopped on a plane to Amman, Jordan. Yemen is the only Gulf State that I haven't been to, I was thinking about going there but they've had a lot of bad incidents and kidnappings and I was thinking about going there overland by bus. Also I didn't think that I could get out of there to Amman very easily. Royal Jordanian is a nice airline, I like to fly different airlines and I've flown a lot of them. One of Man's basic instincts is to explore, that is go places, and I find travel to be very exciting, it's good clean fun that hurts no one.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I watched the 1986 Kentucky Derby on TV, a really dramatic race with Willie Shoemaker aboard Ferdinand in a masterful "trip" through the "Invisible Hole." When I learned 2 years ago that Ferdinand had died in a Japanese Slaughterhouse it went all the way through me. I couldn't believe that such Evil had befallen this Equine Champion. A groom said of Ferdinand, "He was so sweet. He'd come over to me and press his head up against me." I saw the 1991 Kentucky Derby, I was basically dropping down from Ohio to Florida and ran into it. All it cost to get into the Infield was $20, they didn't even give you a ticket and there was no limit to the number they'd shove into the Infield. It was a real good time, I was out there 5 hours and everybody would be walking around talking to each other. The Derby itself was the 8th race, I had thought that they just ran the Derby and then everybody went home. I had bought the local newspaper and it seemed like Strike the Gold was undervalued at 6-l so I put $20 on him. I didn't really feel like betting at all but I would have felt stupid being there and not betting on the Kentucky Derby. In the Infield all you see is the beginning and end and you watch the race on Big Screens (although I was right there on the Rail at the Start-Finish at the Preakness 5 years ago, a really good "Seat"). Strike the Gold won and I won 116 dollars on the son of Alydar and Majestic Gold. I had never been on the Internet before 3 months ago but once I was I Googled Strike the Gold. Apparently he's in Turkey and they're talking about eating him! Some people are more civilized than others. There's a retirement home for thoroughbreds in Kentucky called "Old Friends," and its at www.old friends equine. com. Since Ferdinand's fate in 2002 became well known a couple years ago "Old Friends" has received a lot more support and maybe we can all pitch in and save Strike the Gold and other Equine Champions from a dreadful fate and give them the retirement that they deserve. Half the Country was watching the Stakes Race between Ruffian and Foolish Pleasure in 1975 and a lot of people thought that Ruffian, a filly, would win. When Ruffian broke her leg so badly and had to be destroyed right there at the track that for me was one of the all-time Tearjerkers. Apparently due to the demands of a Stakes Race this was the last one ever run in this country. In 1917 Man O' War lost his only race at the Sanford Downs at Saratoga, the horse that beat him giving his name forever to unexpected victory, "Upset."
Monday, November 24, 2008
I pumped some gas today and they had a TV screen on the pump, I went to the supermarket and at the check-out stand they also had a TV screen, in the locker-room of the gym I go to they have 2 TV's and I posed the question, "Why do we have TV's in the locker-room?" Hearing this an old man said, "It's to traumatize the Masses to make them subservient." Hmmm. I can put my thoughts into people's minds in old movies or old newsreels. I was watching the "History Channel" and I did this with Hitler once. It was a scene where Hitler was viewing a military parade passing beneath him, I said, "Adolf," and 2 seconds later I said,"Heil." Hitler exploded with laughter and had a hard time containing himself. Eh, that was funny. Of course I wasn't pledging allegiance to Hitler, how many people do you think addressed Hitler by his first name? He knew that I was an entity equal or superior to himself and reacted accordingly. It was just a joke between 2 guys. Hitler was often seen smiling and laughing unlike the rest of the Nazis who always had an air of gravity about them. If you didn't know better you'd think, a happy-go-lucky Bavarian. That Adolf had a malevolent side is well-known, his father used to beat him all the time and I think once put him in a coma, he made young Adolf address him as "Herr Fater," Mr. Father. We can all agree that Hitler had a mean side to him and this is why. Adolf had great ability and it's a pity that it couldn't have been utilized for Good. Hey, I'm so different from everybody that Hitler might have gotten me in the Holocaust had I been around in those days, we wouldn't want that. But I can't change History and it's not a wise idea to try. I did try it with whatshisname who played Superman, I'd see him in movies and think "Don't Ride Horses!" I would think that somebody would heed this warning, it didn't work. That was the only time that I ever communicated with Hitler, there's nothing to be said. I don't know why the Nazis did what they did, you have intrinsic knowledge, you're born knowing that it's wrong to rob and murder people. And look at the zeal they put into it. I don't think they did regard the Jews as being inferior, they had better jobs and more money than most, I think they regarded them as a competitor to be gotten out of the way. The Nazis also killed 400,000 Gypsies and they despised them. It's good that those days are behind us but is the World actually better today than it was then?
Sunday, November 23, 2008
California State Employees receive a paid holiday for "Cesar Chavez Day," there's Washington, Lincoln and ..... As small as Kuwait is it possesses 10% of the world's oil reserves. I flew to Manama, Bahrain. Bahrain is an island and has good things to see but not nearly as many as Kuwait. The National Museum is real good, both Kuwait's and Manama's National Mosque are real good. Generally speaking I prefer a great Mosque to a Cathedral, there's nothing in it to speak of and you can admire its grand simplicity. The Arabs love to dicker, you can bargain about anything, hotel rooms, taxi rides, you name it. From my hotel I wanted to go to the National Museum and I expressed this desire to a taxi driver and he said 7 Dinar (a Dinar is 2.50). I raised 2 fingers and said, 2 Dinar. Onlookers smile as they like the interaction. After awhile we settled on 4 Dinar, it was worth about the 2 but I'm not a very good bargainer. Due to the oil riches throughout the Gulf States you can see beautiful big buildings and more of them being built. Any place is worth 3 days, even Qatar. I flew to Doha, Qatar and there's close to nothing to see there. Even a hotel concierge would tell you this. I liked their Mall, I ate there every day. I took a boat ride into the harbor, big thrill. But just to be in a place where there's all these beautiful skyscrapers and just as many being built is very interesting. An English guy recommended a Souk (market) where they had all these falcons. The best of these would cost several thousand dollars and they are very beautiful birds, I really enjoyed seeing them. I flew to Abu Dhabi, which has 9% of the worlds's oil reserves and is one of the 7 United Arab Emirates, a country which has existed since 1958. Abu Dhabi is better than Dubai, not nearly as congested, decent air. Good things to see, the best of which is the Emirates Palace Hotel, a 3 billion dollar hotel and much better than anything in Las Vegas. And very friendly personnel who act as though they enjoy your walking around gawking at everything, that's our kind of place. I took a bus to Dubai, 2 hours, and I should have gotten a hotel around the Gold Souk (a zillion shops selling gold jewelry) instead of a hotel out a ways, due to the bad traffic it was hard to get to. Eh, got to look around. Went to the Jumeirah and Burj al Arab Hotels to look around, they're shaped like boats. Went to this mall where they had a long indoor ski-slope and a lot of people were using it. The Gold Souk and its vicinity are real interesting and I enjoyed their History Museum. I was getting bad misdirections on where to take the bus to Muscat, Oman and I commented, "These people don't seem to be too bright." Hearing me say this a guy from India said, "You've got that right," and he showed me where to go.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Previously I've been all over Egypt, to Aswan, Alexandria, the Suez Canal but Cairo and Luxor are the best at least for a layman, I'm certainly no archeologist. I flew to Kuwait and had to wait an hour to get a visa at the airport, usually you get it instantly. They made a guy who worked at the American Embassy wait 2 hours. Kuwait's real good, I went up their tower in Kuwait City (which is most of Kuwait for practical purposes, the rest is just oil fields), there's a lot of neat stuff to see. I made a friend at the airport, the manager of one of those exchange booths, the one that has all that foreign currency layed out. I talked to this guy coming and leaving 3 days later. In the Gulf States there's a sevant underclass to do most of the work. They're not citizens, not paid too much, have few rights and can never share in the oil largess that the Arab citizens do. This guy's family had come from Iran 50 years before but can never be citizens of Kuwait, in fact his brother was jailed the year before for a few months, the Gulf State Citizens roust these people every so often to keep them in line. A lot of the servant class are Filipinos of either sex and guys from India and they make more in the Gulf States than they could in their own country. This manager, wouldn't know how to spell his name, was "27" and really a sharp guy, he manually counted a big stack of bills a lot faster than I've ever seen in Vegas. He gave me a bill from the Iraqui Occupation of Kuwait with Saddam's picture on it, which they normally sell, and an Iranian bill with the Ayatollah Khomeini's picture on it, it was very nice. Later when I was in Qatar a young fellow, "24," from Nepal told me that he made $320 a month working 60 hours a week as a plumber, a lot of that heavy labor, say lifting a toilet, and this was better than he could do in Nepal. My last day in Kuwait I was still sick as a dog and I decided that instead of going in a hospital that I should go to a pharmacy as I had read that in Cairo you could buy medication without a prescription and I hoped this was true of Kuwait. There was a lady pharmacist with her family in there and I told her that I'd been coughing incessantly and she reached behind her and pulled out a small box of antibiotics and then a box of anti-inflammatory, both Swiss pharmaceuticals and twice a day and a bottle of local cough syrup every 4 hours. She and her family were Coptics, the Coptics began when Saint Luke came to Egypt, a sect like Greek or Russian Orthodox, they don't give allegiance to Rome. The Coptic women stand out in a Moslem world by often or usually wearing a cross around their neck. This lady knew that my Easter was the next day and wished me "Happy Easter." All the Coptics that I've ever met are personable, smart, save you money and in this instance save your health, I think they're very good people. From the time that I entered the pharmacy until the time I left was 10 minutes, the medication costing 32 dollars total, I took it as the Coptic lady told me to and two and a half days later I was cured.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
A lot of times things are as good or better when you return to them. To see the 4 Temples and the Valley of the Kings across the Nile I hired a taxi and driver for the day. Luxor tour buses are for sissies, a little bit of time here, a little bit there and back on the bus, a canned tour and poorly canned. Each time I've been in Luxor I've gone to around the Luxor Museum and hired a taxi and driver and it works out great. This time I paid Ali $40 for 10 hours, a different driver each time. We took the ferry across the river to where the taxi was and it was great as always, you can take as much time as you like, say see all the tombs that are open instead of 3 or 4 (except for Tut's, clogged with Russians). I also had Ali take me to a real good place he knew of where I bought 6 alabaster Scarabs for people back home. The Scarab (dung beetle) is the ancient Egyptian talisman for Good Luck, all of us need to catch some every so often otherwise we'd all be toast. The only athletic team that I've ever heard of that had the Scarab as their team nickname was Cleveland East Tech High School (the Scarabs). Cleveland East Tech produced Harrison Dillard who won the 100-meter dash at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic and Jesse Owens and their Luck was Good. The first time I was in the Valley of the Kings I rode in on a donkey, well, I'm a humble guy. The next day I do as I always do the last day I'm in Luxor, I crossed the Nile and rented a bicycle. I rode it about 15 miles in 6 hours, you ride through villages, you ride past the archeological sites and a lot of the people you pass wave to you, it's a whole lot of fun. That night I took the train back to Cairo. I was sitting in 1st Class and the conductor asked me if I wanted a sleeping berth for no extra money, I said I was happy where I was at, but it was quite nice, I've always had a good opinion of the Egyptian people. The train pulled into Rameses Station in the morning and I took the subway (only the strong survive the Cairo Subway in the late afternoon) to around the Egyptian Museum where you can buy airline tickets at many places and bought a ticket to fly to Kuwait, where I had never been, that night. Except for a ticket to a general area and back, I always buy my air tickets on the fly, no pun, to use that day or the next, they're reasonably priced and there's always space, not like in this country. And you don't have to take your shoes off at the airport, why would it be necessary for people to take their shoes off? Reminds me, on November 17, 1997, 62 tourists, mostly Swissies, were gunned down by Moslem Extremists at the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor. I was there several years later and I asked at the ticket booth where exactly did this occur? I was told, "Under your shoes."
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
This past March and April I was in the Middle East for a 47 day trip with a stopover in Brussels and I flew back from Greece. I flew into Cairo, my 4th time in Egypt as it's the most interesting to a tourist of any country in the world. From the airport I took a taxi to a hotel that I had stayed at before----I never make reservations, they can expect me once they see me walk through the door. In the morning I went to the Pyramids via city transportation, Giza is on the outskirts of Cairo. I rented a camel, "Miken," who was "9" (camels live to be about 25) and rode Mike around the Pyramids and the Sphinx and the other archeological sites, that Mike was a real good boy. Cheops, the largest, is about 4000 years old and is still the heaviest man-made object. I've gone inside Cheops before to Pharoah's Burial Chamber but did this for Chephren, the 2nd biggest, this time. I saw "the Boat" and walked around and saw the little pyramids, etc. You used to be able to get real close to the Sphinx in the old days but no longer can. Lotsa fun. Mikerinis is the 3rd biggest, and they're all so nice. My previous visit I rode an Arabian horse around, change of pace. The next day I went to the Egyptian Museum, by far the best museum in the world, not air-conditioned, I've always been there in the spring. The place is packed with pieces any one of which would be the best at most museums. The ticket doesn't cost much, for a little extra you can pay to see the Pharoahs' mummies, I think there were 15, they show more each time, by the time I left Egypt I had seen 22. You can see Rameses II, the Pharoah in Exodus and his dad, Seti I. What Egypt had this time that they didn't have before were Russians, the Russians are now oil-rich and the place is full of them on package deals. I talked to some, seemed like nice people, but I think that you probably have to be say, like an engineer to be able to do this. Under the Czars the serfs only fun was potato vodka and it's the same for the lower class today. Tutankhamun's Treasure is always very good, they show different pieces each time and because I've been there 4 times over the past 23 years I've probably seen it all. I was in the Egyptian for 7 hours, if I'm in a great museum I'll stay there until they're ready to throw me out, it's just the way I am. Took the train to Luxor and stayed at a real good 3-star, the Hotel Emilio, just $30 a night, Egypt is still cheap although Israel next door has gone way up. Good breakfast buffet included and nice restaurant on the roof. The maid for my room took the very large bath towels and shaped one like a swan and the other like a flower in blossom, I've never seen anything like that before, true artistry, they looked so good I didn't use them. I started to cough in Cairo, I think the terrible air brought this on, I'd cough every few seconds and I couldn't sleep at night for this reason, just layed there coughing but I never slacked off on my trip, I put as much effort into seeing the sights as I would otherwise. Went to the Temple of Karnak, the Temple of Luxor, the Luxor Museum, the 4 temples on the other side of the river and the Valley of the Kings. I think there were 12 tombs open and I went into all of them except for Tut's, easily the smallest but most famous, even though I had gone into Tut's 4 years before but now there was a long line of Russians. A lot of times things aren't as good when you return to them.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Whenever somebody on the street asks me for money I always give them $5, today even. To buy something to eat you're going to need that much and even if they don't spend it on food and instead, say, spend it on a hit of crack, the fact that somebody that day found worth in them is something that they might be able to build on. I don't recommend that women do this. In February I'm going to have my third colonoscopy. My father died at "63" from the effects of colon cancer, I'm "61" and I'd like to avoid that. I had my first colonoscopy when I was almost "47" and the lady doctor said that my colon was "a thing of beauty." This sounded pretty funny and so I told the boy doctors what she had said and Dr. Weinburger said, "You should have asked her for her phone number, I'm still waiting for my wife to say something like that to me." I had my second colonoscopy almost 10 years later and they found a small pre-cancerous polyp (they snip it out right then, it doesn't hurt) and so I'm having one 5 years and 4 months later. I'm getting older but I'd like to avoid learning that One Great Secret for as long as possible. Life has its off-moments but its better than being dead. I urge everybody I know to get a colonoscopy, a lot of the guys I know walk around with their chests stuck out and most of them are too pansy to get a colonoscopy, they have the "ostrich" attitude about it. What sense does that make? I'm really looking forward to my next colonoscopy. In my previous 2 they gave me an IV of joy-juice and if they said that they were going to shove you out the window you wouldn't care. You're on your side when they do this, at least for me its this way, and you get to see your own colon in living-color, that is so much fun! Katie Couric was on the lecture circuit, maybe she still is, about getting a colonoscopy because she had a good husband who died at "42" from the effects of colon cancer (my father died in bits and pieces) and she wanted others to avoid this fate. I think that last year Katie, who was "50," had a boyfriend who was "33" so it sounds like she's found some solace (ehhhh young stuff). And yes, having a colonoscopy is one of the most fun things you can do in life.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
The most common name for an English King is "Edward," and my father met the last of these. During the Korean War my father was Officer-in-Charge of the Brook Park Tank Plant, also known as the Cadillac Tank Plant, outside of Cleveland. My father was a reserve officer who didn't even like the Army because it didn't produce anything. In its wisdom at the time all able-bodied men who attended Akron U. had to take ROTC and this provided an officer corps for WW II, all they had to do was plug it in. For WW II he had to go overseas but for the Korean War, not as big, he stayed stateside. We never lived in Cleveland, the Army gave him a car and he drove back and forth, hey we were Akronites. Ha, ha, yes that's what a resident of Akron, Ohio is called. The Duke of Windsor, the former Edward VIII who gave up his throne "For the woman I love," as part of his official duties as English Royalty toured the plant as it was the largest tank plant in the country at that time. A picture was taken afterwards of the participants in this event and there was my father and other Army officers in uniform and the Duke looked very dapper in a suit but there was also this little fellow wearing factory workers' clothes. I said to my father, "Who's he?" And my father replied, "He was a worker at the plant who was from England and he wanted to meet the Duke." I've been told by an English guy that Eddie was probably too soft-hearted to be King, this guy was telling me about a Welsh Coal Miners Strike that Eddie had gotten all worked up about. Nobody would have wanted this guy in that picture except for the Duke, believe me this guy looked terrible, my father wouldn't have wanted that worker in the picture and neither would anybody else. Edward Windsor didn't want to be the King of England but he really did care about his People, it didn't matter how grubby they looked, it didn't matter how grubby they were, he really did care about them. I once told another English guy about this picture and he got a real serious look on his face and said, "That's a very historic picture," and I didn't have the heart to tell him that I don't know if it still exists, I'm not in it. I think my older brother, Bob, might have it.
Friday, November 14, 2008
In the most recent "Ring," Dr. Margaret Goodman who is a ring doctor and who often has a column, states that lately several of the ring physicians in Las Vegas "...Have been shirking..." their duties and she even gives a couple names. You don't see that too often. The greatest problem in this world is OVERPOPULATION and you hear very little about it except from me right now for some odd reason. In 1950 the world's population was two and a half billion and today it's six and a half billion and this is why the earth's resources are being exhausted, why the earth's stratosphere is all messed up, why there's all these droughts, most of the ills of society can be traced to overpopulation and it's getting worse all the time. China's and India's burgeonning populations are competing more and more for natural resources which drives up the price of everything for everybody, these depleted resources eventually will be exhausted. With a more managable population things would be a lot better. There's over 300 million Americans with another 40 million aliens of one type or the other, that's why we've had this lengthy drought in the Southwest, everybody's using up the water. Mexico's population is 105 million and that's not counting all the ones in this country, in 1960 it was 35 million. If the Mexicans had some control over themselves they wouldn't have any problems at all and their teeming masses wouldn't be illegally entering this country. 90% of the Mexicans you see walking around either entered this country illegally or their parents did, strict law enforcement wouldn't have allowed this to happen, any country that doesn't even enforce its own laws isn't worth its salt. There's been a general weakmindedness among the American people for the past half century or more and they're dragging me down with them. Unfortunately I see this trend continuing, it's no doubt impossible to reverse it. So belly up to the buffet table while you can, whatever you plan on doing hurry up and do it, probably after awhile you won't be able to.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
There were 2 very personable Indian tour guides with 10 tourists apiece for the tour of the Cerra Rico Mine (correct spelling). First we had to buy six sticks of dynamite and some goodies for the mine workers so that they'll tolerate us, soda pop, coca leaves (big bag), bags of chips. While this was going on I bought a bowl of llama stew (also cute n' tasty) for fifty cents to fortify my innards for the task at hand. Then our guides had us don miners clothes and boots for the arduous half mile climb into the mountain. My mistake was selecting boots too small, these things are hard and you need some room so you don't hurt your toes. We also wore miners lamps on our hardhats. The only other American was some guy "63," I was almost "60" and the other 18 were all Europeans or Australians of college age. Into the mine we went (if you ever go to Cadiz, Spain, the cathedral was the last built with riches from the New World), they say that the Cerra Rico built the Spanish Armada. Many, many thousands of slaves died in there, at first they used the Indians but later used African slaves as they could work harder and survived longer. The Catholic Church initially banned coca leaves as evil intoxicants but relented when the Spanish learned that the slaves could work much harder while chewing them. It's rough as heck climbing all hunched over into that mine which gets hotter and hotter, there's a track running through the passage and you have to step to the side every so often for an ore car to pass. Zinc, lead and some silver, not a lot, are what the mine produces today and boy is that hard work! The workers seemed happy with our gifts, glad to brighten up their day. My boots began to hurt me with every step I took and 2 weeks later my left big toenail came off, I was actually glad to get back to the surface. We were 14,000 feet up and that was quite an effort. Once outside we were all standing around when I heard a voice behind me say, "Hold this." It was my affable tour guide and what he handed me was a lit stick of dynamite. Some of the others also were holding lit sticks of dynamite which fortunately our tour guides gathered up after a bit, I said, "Let's not forget any," which drew a general laugh. The guides took the dynamite off a ways and then ran away while letting it explode. It was a dynamite tour and a memorable experience, I tipped each of the guides $6 in their money, I then urged the rest of the group to tip them something and nobody else tipped them anything. Such bad conduct goes against my grain and when we all got on the bus I said loudly, "You're all a bunch of cheap bastards!" They actually seemed to take my critique well, I guess that I could have been more subtle but how are young people to learn if older people don't teach them? I paid some guy $9 to drive me a hundred miles to Sucre (with him chomping on coca leaves all the way) and then took 3 buses (and a third of that was hard bump city) over a day to Iquique, Chile and got the bus for a day-long trip to Santiago, it's very good and I hadn't been there for 17 years, and 2 days later flew to Easter Island.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
A year ago last spring I flew into Lima, Peru to begin my trip, getting in around midnight. I bought a ticket to Cuzco to fly out around 6 A.M. and I hoped to be more successful than 17 years before when I couldn't get out 2 mornings in a row due to bad weather, this is commonplace. I bought a couple backrubs, relaxed and bided my time. Flew to Cuzco! Destroyed by Atahualpa in 1532 in the Incas' Civil War, the Spanish began to rebuild it in 1534. There's a lot of great stuff to see in and around Cuzco. Took the train for 3 hours to the Machu Picchu, the "Lost City of the Incas." Discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911, later U.S. Senator from Vermont, it has a surrealistic quality with huge pillars hewn from rock seamlessly joined without mortar. There's a mountain next to it with artifacts at the top and climbing it is a rite of passage. They only take 300 a day and the last is by l P.M., I didn't know this, I just wandered in there, I was the 2nd to the last taken that day. If you make a false step you'd be maimed or even killed but any able-bodied person can do it, sissies won't attempt this---so what are you gonna do? It was quite an exertion, I wouldn't want to do that 2 days in a row but it was a lot of fun. I spent that night in the village below and the next day enjoyed their baths from the mineral hot springs and bought souvenirs at their very good market. I took the train back to Cuzco and had a really good dinner of alpaca steak for $9 at an upscale restaurant on the town square. Alpacas are really cute but they sure do taste good, this one didn't die in vain. The next day I took the bus to Puno on Lake Titicaca which also borders Bolivia, at 12,400 feet the highest big lake in the world. The Indians out there live about the same today as when Pizarro rocked their world. I went out on the lake on a day-tour, the Indians have small villages floating on the lake itself and I went to a couple. There's an island on the lake and they had us climb, rough at altitude, up a long trail to the village at the top where we had lunch. Quite an experience, I had always heard of Lake Titicaca. Then I took a bus to La Paz, the capitol of Bolivia, the highest capitol city in the world at 12,500, and 13,000 at their airport. They've only had a fire department over the past 40 years or so just because big cities are supposed to have one, no fire will burn very long due to the altitude. La Paz is neat, they have all kinds of nice, little museums and churches. Was in the coca museum and bought a bottle of coca liquor. The Indians in Peru and Bolivia eat coca leaves like candy, they're supposed to greatly increase your stamina but I never felt anything myself. Took the bus to Potosi, today one of the poorest cities in South America. I got a nice room for $12 at the "Koala Den," a really nice hostel there and I paid $10 to go on their "Mine Tour." Founded in 1546, for 200 years half the silver mined in the world came from Potosi's "Cerro Rico" mine, and this is where I went.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The soldier then took me to a well-lit area where he could see well and had me take everything out of pockets and empty out everything that I had in the bag around my neck. He pawed through everything I had getting to my cash and travelers checks last. I always take a lot in travelers checks, why not, I might need it for something and they're replaced if they're lost or stolen. Well, actually, the only possible downside to t-checks is that if a foreign government seizes and keeps them that you're supposed to be out that money. In a pig's eye. From looking at the large amount of money that I had in t-checks I could tell that the soldier was beginning to think that I might be somebody of importance and I tried to foster that belief by saying, "Mucho dinero." The soldier then nicely told me to collect my stuff and that I could get back on the bus. The soldier seemed like an all-right guy, I just rubbed him the wrong way. But in the meantime while all this was going on the rest of the soldiers got all worked up and made everybody get off the bus until the one was finished with me, so my fellow passengers were probably happy with me. 3 more security checks for a total of 10 from the border to Caracas. Caracas is very rough as are a lot of the cities in South America so be a little mindful. Venezeuela is the only country in South America where baseball is the main sport and has produced many Major League baseball players, a lot of shortstops. I would have loved to have seen the "Caracas Lions" of the 6 team "Venezeuelan League" play a game but their season is from October through February. Very bad air in Caracas so you don't want to stay there too long. The art museum was quite good, the Tomb of Simon Bolivar was good, good subway system, nice place in general. A country of only 30 million, Venezeula (correct spelling, sorry) has won more international beauty pageants than any other country, the place is full of beautiful women. Decided to go to Margarita Island, not far away in the Caribbean, the favorite vacation place of Venezeula. I was there 3 days and enjoyed it, nice beaches, nice warm saltwater, mmmm. Venezeula is awash in oil money and has been ever since oil was discovered around the Maracaibo Basin in the early 19teens but very little has ever gotten down to the common people. Venezeula was ruled by Juan Gomez, a caudillo (strongman), from 1908 to 1935 and there was so much oil money that in the early 1920's Venezeula paid off all its foreign debt but still the people remained poor. A gallon of gas was a quarter the last I heard, a little comfort. I was talking to a reputable businessman concerning Venezeula's politics and their history of caudillos in relation to Hugo Chavez and he said, "...But they were right-wingers, this monkey's a Communist."
Sunday, November 9, 2008
What's with these "Hate Crimes," there's "Love Crimes"? I hate Daylight Savings Time, gets dark at 4:30. A year ago this past spring I flew into Lima, Peru for the 2nd time on my trip to South America, where I hadn't been in 17 years. Lima is real interesting, the Cathedral, the bullring and its museum, the Presidential Palace, etc., but today very dangerous, you don't walk around past the city center. I then took 4 buses to get to Quito, Ecuador, buses are cheap and you don't see too much flying from one sterile airport to another. It's good to look around and the buses are real comfy---but I like any kind of transportation, say the "chicken buses" in Central America so called because somebody might get on with live chickens. I had a nice, big hotel room in Quito for $9, find a bunch of taxi drivers and ask them and then one can drive you to it. Everything in this country costs too much, in South America they have those cheap prices that we like so good. The Equator runs just outside of Quito and I had my picture taken with one foot in the Northern Hemisphere and one foot in the Southern Hemisphere. Quito has beautiful churches and the Cathedral, it's at high altitude so cold at night. Took a bus to the Colombian border and then another to Cali which was interesting, then to Bogata which has a bunch of good museums (I had a private tour of the Police Museum where they proudly showed me a roof tile stained with the blood of Pablo Escabar). Everything in Colombia is very good. Took a long bus winding through the beautiful green mountains to beautiful Cartegena on the Caribbean, the finest example of 17th Century architecture in South America, one long street hasn't changed at all since then. I paid $17 for a nice room across the street from the beach, that water was good, nice warm calm clean saltwater. It felt so good that I just stayed in for an hour and a half without coming out, such a wonderful feeling. After 3 days I took a bus to the Venezuelan border and then yet another to Caracas. This was towards the end of my 47 day trip and I had traveled unimpeded throughout but now the bus was being frequently stopped by soldiers who wanted to see your passport. By the 7th time we were stopped I was tired of this and glared at the soldier who was asking to see my passport. The soldier didn't like my attitude and made me get off the bus saying to the busdriver, "Who is he?" With the busdriver replying, "A Gringo who came from Colombia!" I'll resume this story later, Little Ones.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
As I mentioned my favorite sport is boxing and this past July 26 I went to the MGM here in Las Vegas to see Antonio Margarito of Mexico challenge undefeated Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico for Cotto's WBA Welterweight Championship, 147 pounds. The place was packed with Mexicans and Puerto Ricans with a lot waving flags as Cotto was considered to be close to the best boxer in the world, there was a lot of build-up but without animosity as neither had spoken ill of the other. Only maybe 10% of the spectators were white. Cotto is an excellent boxer who also hits with power and was a 3-1 favorite while Margarito bulls in and showers his opponent with hard punches while disdaining defense. A lot of the Mexican boxers are willing to die in the ring and are known for this. After 6 rounds Cotto was ahead making Margarito miss as many as 5 punches in a row with both fighters still able to land frequent punches. I had bet Cotto to win in the last 3 rounds and was looking forward to this but it was Cotto who was weakening due to Margarito's harder punches. During the course of the fight Margarito was hit flush in the face I'm sure over a hundred times but without any seeming effect. The ceaseless barrage of Margarito's attack brought the bout to an end in the 11th round as it was stopped after Cotto went down twice, blood flying out of his mouth, his face covered with blood. The fight was stopped at the right time, I'd be the last one to want to see a game lad get hurt but you have to give a great champion the chance to see if he can somehow pull it out. Hopefully it's not a career-ender, I don't think it is. At the beginning of each round Cotto would cross himself and then kiss his right glove, I thought this was cute, ha, ha. This was regarded as one of the best boxing matches of the past 10 years, I've seen 69 pro boxing cards in Las Vegas and the promoters really lucked out on this one because the undercard was weak (I saw a good Don King card around Christmas years ago entitled "Seasons Beatings"). Neither Cotto or Margarito has any tattoos to show how tough they are. Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito are both valiant and skilled fighters and it would be my honor to share a carrot juice with either or both.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
In 1996 I was suprised that nobody, at least where I read, had noticed the resemblance between Bob Dole and a more successful presidential candidate, Richard Nixon. I thought that they looked roughly similar, sort of a dark-white, I had read that Nixon's ancestors came from an area in England near Scotland and I'll bet Dole's also came from around there. I thought that their public personalities seemed much the same, I thought that Dole seemed to share a quality that I've seen ascribed to Nixon, the "dour hardness." In 1966 I saw the Cleveland Browns play the St. Louis Cardinals at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland and the quarterbacks were Dr. Frank Ryan for the Browns and Dr. Charley Johnson for the Cardinals. Both these young men were in their late 20's and had acquired Ph D's in their spare time. Frank Ryan had a Ph D in Mathematics and Charley Johnson (his full first name) had a Ph D in Chemical Engineering. And both of them were among the best of NFL quarterbacks and both had very lengthy careers. Frank Ryan is more or less retired but Charley Johnson is still a Professor of Chemical Engineering at his alma mater, New Mexico State. There's nobody like that around today, most of the current NFL quarterbacks don't have one degree. In 1993 I wrote the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio (if you go to see that also go see McKinley's Tomb) saying that Leroy Kelly should be in the Hall of Fame and I received a really nice letter in reply. No doubt coincidentally Kelly was inducted a year later. A year ago I wrote them that Gary Collins should be in and there was no reply. Gary Collins caught 70 touchdown passes in a 10 year career and scored all 3 of the Browns' touchdowns when they defeated the Colts for the NFL Championship on December 27, 1964. I took my younger brother, Tom, out to "Koch's Clothing Store" in west Akron to see Gary Collins and ask him questions (some guy was trying to bait him about his punting), he was an exceptionally good-looking guy. In his 10 year career Collins estimated that he dropped 8 passes, in the first half of this season Braylon Edwards has dropped 13 (bring back the stick-em).
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I think it might be all these drugs that have been going around this country for the past 40 years. Yes, I see that the Drug Scene has taken its toll. In the wake of the Goldwater disaster in 1964, Ray Bliss, the Republican National Chairman from 1965 to 1969 was greatly lauded by all for rebuilding the Republican Party. It seemed as though everyone regardless of party affiliation was grateful to Ray for strengthening the 2-party system. In the late 20's Ray Bliss was President of Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity at Akron U. of which my father, a freshman, was also a member. Ray's girlfriend was elected Homecoming Queen---Ray had stuffed the ballot box and was caught after the act. In those days you were expected to have honor and his fraternity took this very seriously. The members of Phi Kappa Tau took a vote to decide whether to expel their President, Ray Bliss, and the vote came out that they wouldn't, Ray remained a member and their President. I didn't ask my Dad how he voted, I figured he would have said had he wanted us to know but I'd guess that he voted to expel him. Ha, ha, well Ray wouldn't know this and he was always very thankful to all of his fraternity brothers for not ousting him. Had Ray been thrown out I don't think that it would have fatally effected his career as a politico but it would have been an inauspicious beginning for sure. HEY EVERYBODY-----Ray is dead and gone but the Republicans sure could use him today.
Monday, November 3, 2008
After the Civil War a young dentist in Georgia named John and his 18 year old cousin Melanie Holliday were in love and wanted to be married. The Catholic Church said you're first cousins and you definitely can't be married. Broken-hearted and wanting no other Melanie entered the convent where she lived to be quite an old nun while John drifted out West where he became a skilled and feared gunfighter known as "Doc Holliday." The nun and the gunfighter stayed in touch throughout John's life until he died from the effects of tuberculosis at "36." I went to Tombstone, Arizona 15 years ago, the site of "the Gunfight at the OK Corral," the most famous event in the Old West. Over 20 movies have been based on this gunbattle between Virgil, Morgan and Wyatt Earp and their ally Doc Holliday and Billy Clanton and the 2 McLaury brothers. To be there was very exciting, they have figures of the combatants set up in the exact location where this occurred , you can see where Billy Clanton stood and then died with his trigger finger twitching as well as where everyone else had been on October 26, 1881. It's a tourist town and it was really good with all these restored saloons and other buildings, I'm sure it's the same now as it was then. I bought 3 copies of the next day's "Tombstone Epitaph" and sent one to my brother Bob and gave one to somebody else and kept one for myself and I'm looking at it now. It says as a heading, "Three Men Hurled Into Eternity In the Duration of a Moment." It describes Doc Holliday as being "Cool as a cucumber." There were only 2 witnesses to what was a longtime feud between the 2 groups coming to a head, they said that Wyatt Earp yelled "Throw up your hands!" And both sides began firing simultaneously. President Garfield threatened to declare martial law in this boomtown which had only been in existence for 4 years founded by a prospector named Schieffelin who had made a huge silver strike after being told by the soldiers at Fort Huachuca that if you go out there all you're going to find is your own tombstone. Doc Holliday often said, "I'm your daisy," this was due to his fatalistic outlook regarding his tuberculosis, that he would be pushing up daisies. Some regarded Doc Holliday as a "derelict dentist," indeed there was another newspaper in Tombstone called the "Nugget" which saw the Clantons as honest cowboys constantly being harassed by Doc Holliday and the ruffian Earps (Ike Clanton died 6 years later while rustling cattle). Others saw him differently, Margaret Mitchell was related to Melanie Holliday and based the character of Ashley Wilkes in "Gone With the Wind" on John Holliday, a man of honor.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Two years ago this past spring I was in Berlin and I was reading in the newspaper about the most recent "Honor Killing" in Germany, the 50th over the previous 10 years. These were amongst Moslems, mostly Turks, and they involved a male member of a family killing a girl of the family who they felt had dishonored them. The most recent "Honor Killing" at that time was of a girl by her brother because the girl had wanted to study electrical engineering. A member of this family in saying what a good thing this was said "...She wanted to wear lipstick, she wanted to live like a German..." In Germany they have a lot of pansy laws and pansy punishments for lawbreakers to show the world that the Germans are no longer bloodthirsty murderers. Germany has been a 4th rate country ever since the end of WW II and a good place to be from for the past 100 years. Oh, I forgot, her brother stabbed her to death. All the other Western European countries also have pansy laws and pansy punishments and in fact are all a bunch of pansies. No wonder they're contiguous (the Chunnel), they have this in common. When Gunther Parche stabbed Monica Seles in the neck he just had to go to jail for a bit, he didn't have to go to prison. Things in Western Europe are a lot worse than in this country, they have all these Moslems and they bend over backwards to appease them. The Moslems are a lot different from the indigenous people of these countries so why would they be there at all? Who needs them?
Saturday, November 1, 2008
I saw "Changeling" today at the "Orleans" and thought it was okay. I go to the movies about every week, for a few dollars you can see the new 40 million dollar movie on the giant screen at the nice theater, one of the most fun things you can do in life. I've never rented a movie, I don't want to sit around in my domicile all scrunched over watching a 6 month old movie on a small screen, I want to go out. Did you know that both Bush and Kerry were members of "Scull and Bones"? Also Bush the Elder was, why is it that you have to have had an association with either Harvard or Yale to be President (Clinton was a law professor at Yale)? There's a lot more capable people throughout the country that are better presidential timber than what we've seen over the past 20 years, and Obama of course went to Harvard. Out of 300 million Americans we should be able to come up with a lot better than what we've seen lately. Tom Tancredo was my favorite, a rough and tumble guy and good for these times (I did vote for Barr). The United States passed its first serious anti-immigration legislation in 1924 because it was thought that they already had enough people, a lot of the people that they've allowed in the country over the past 50 years are really bad people, this country is full of trash and why it's probably not going to last too much longer, it's dying by its own hand. It used to be a big honor to be an American, it's certainly not that now. Did you ever read "King Rat" by the late James Clavelle? He was a prisoner of war during WW II at Changhi in Singapore, where I've been to, he said "The Japanese tore the soul from my body." A substory in "King Rat" was about a giant rat who consumed all the smaller rats and thrived but eventually he lost the will to dominate and he himself was consumed.