Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Snippets 2019

- Greetings all. Over a year since I checked into this blog space. A year! I know eventually, google will remove the blog due to inactivity so I've got to pop in at least once a year to keep this record alive. How else will I remember anything before Facebook? If I can't remember when something happened, I can at least refer back here. So here I am.

                                 With our wax pal Marilyn, New Year's 2019

- Many many things occur during the course of a year. How many can you remember? I will use google photos to help me remember though I have gotten out of the habit of being kid Kodak.

- Last post was February 2018! What was happening then? Let's see, I was driving an hour each way for a contract out in the sticks and treating myself to breakfast for my commute. That's when I started on the Avocado toast. (By the way, I invented that decades ago before it was a thing, I used to go to my local diner and order a bagel with cream cheese and a side of avocado which I mashed up for the bagel.)

- We have done our usual traveling all over the place. See Facebook lol.

- I feel like this is the year I have hit the big DECLINE. Always something new that hurts or doesn't work right. Sound escapes my lips every time I rise from a seated position now. Sigh.

- Serge and I did our 25th anniversary trip in September after our usual week at Campcamp.com in August. We went to Portugal and Spain, doing a roadtrip across Northern Spain from Bayona to Barcelona. Serge and I agreed it is in the top three trips we've done. Now we want to go back and visit Portugal more in depth.

- I think this was the best picture from the trip. I'd like to blow it up and hang it. Of course we ate like kings and drank like fish. Little did I know that was coming to an end.

- Oh speaking of drinking. Serge made a boo boo and drank too much on the plane on the way to London. Long story short. They canceled our whole itinerary and we had to pay $2500 on our first day to repurchase airline tickets to Portugal and then back home.

- At the same time, I started working at another college where all the students are from India on work study visas. The problem is, none of the students want to study, they just want to work. But they must be in class in order to keep their work visa. Ugly dynamic for the classroom.

- Then as busy ness descended as always in October, we went to Key West where I fell into a drinking spiral that proved impossible for me to dig out of. I felt like I was dying.

- So I got on the phone and called all over town asking for help. The shorter the wait, the higher the price. To get in that day at a private place was $27,000. Yikes. Finally, I did the detox on my own at home with drugs (which didn't seem to do anything, but it was valium so of course the pharmacist was all twitchy about it.) and then spent 10 days in a psycho/social detox. Haven't had a drink in five months now. I decided to take a year off, but I am seeing so many benefits that I'm sure I'll ever drink like I did before. Best of all, it cost nothing and once again I was quite impressed with our health care system. (I avoided the month long wait for a supervised detox by successfully doing that step at home.)

- I was offered a 3 month rehab stay but I declined. I really just needed to get off the sauce and learn to go to sleep again without booze. (It's so easy, what was I so afraid of?)

- Sometimes I think about my old Vegas buddy Becky. She's not dead as far as I know but I'm not sure I would know if she died. Luckily I found a new Vegas buddy who I can go with every year now.

- We went to Universal Studios for New Year's Eve with some good friends. It was $375 per person! But it was fun and silly and now we don't need to do it again, lol.

- Finally this last month, Serge and I visited Cuenca, Ecuador. Why? Because we met those expats on the cruise in 2016 who live there for less than a thousand per person per month. I didn't believe them but I am now a believer. (Three course lunch for four people 11 dollars total for example)

- If all goes well, we will retire there in 2021. We need to tidy up our building and sell it. Since banks in Ecuador are paying 8% interest on deposits and the currency is US dollars, we could easily live off the interest from the equity in our building and maintain all our capital. Hopefully I will post a bit more frequently to document our moving to Ecuador. It's still a little bit in the dreamy stage. But every expat we met in Cuenca (dozens) said the same thing when I asked if they had any regrets. "Our only regret is not having made the move sooner." I will go back again this summer.

- 20 years in the Canadian ice box seems like a reasonable stint. Cuenca is 70 degrees year round. Ahhhhh.

- George is doing well but he is almost 12 now so he is getting slower just like his masters.

Thanks for stopping by! I'll try to update more than annually! XO

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Already 2018

Wow and sigh! I think this is now the longest I've neglected the blog, hopefully not a trend. I've got six months to catch up on on this here little blog thingy. Last post detailed our trip to Ohio last July. Now it's February! Where or where does the time go. Aside from working all summer, we made another trip to Campcamp where we enjoyed another best time ever.

In addition to my work schedule and my travel agent biz on the side, we have continued doing our 2 airbnb units and also, I am watching dogs. I love all the dogs but some more than others. This is Oscar who stole my heart last August. I'd say we make an extra $500 a month doing this and it is mostly pure pleasure. We do get the odd bad egg, like 'Lady' who pooped in my bed 5 times, once while I was in it and then I subsequently rolled around in it. In the morning with my coffee, I noticed a brown stain on my undershirt. What's this? Acckkk!

I had no intention dressing up in drag at Campcamp this year but Todd wrangled me into it since I had wrangled him into it the year before. The girls kept coming up to me telling me it wasn't fair that I was so pretty. Meh. I never really need to do that again. I've never really been a dress up kind of guy.

This was my best year at Camp yet. I was so relaxed and every day was filled with laughs. I loved the early morning swims across the lake (I kayaked) and also the LGBT history classes. It was great to trace our history from Ancient times to the present.

I kept trying to get a shot of the Charcoal rainbow group AKA the smokers. This is probably half the group. All the fun gossip gets shared around these tables. Although I am no longer a smoker, I plan to buy a vaporizer with no-nicotine juice so I have an excuse to visit the table this year. Yes! We have signed up for our 5th year, can't wait. Join us!

Ollie came home with us from Camp. He stayed in a B and B in the village but we hung out every day. Very fun to hang with Ollie. Hope he comes back to camp this year from London.

We finally made it out to Parc Safari, an animal park where you drive through the park and see all sorts of things. Then we visited the zoo side with the lions, monkeys and such as well as this petting zoo. Once was enough.

In September, after a three year hiatus, I got back to Vegas with my new Vegas buddy John. It was great fun and I hardly lost any money. Can't wait to make it back every year again. I have missed it.

In October we sold the car as Serge's mom gave us her Corolla. Our Cabrio was a '99 and the Corolla is 7 years newer, lol. Toyotas are great cars though and I was happy to learn that the 2006 model has a timing chain as opposed to a timing belt which means I never have to replace it.

Then it was time for our big trip to Spain with my family. Serge bowed out and stayed home to tend to the airbnbs. First stop was Madrid. We spent a few days in Madrid and met up with my cousin who was in for the weekend from Jordan and also Curt and Scott (from the South America cruise) who had just finished the Camino and happened to be in Madrid at the same time. Cool! As usual, great food, lots of drinks and oh the olives, the olives.

We took a day trip outside Madrid and saw the Valle de los Caidos or Valley of the Fallen, which is a monument to all who died during the Spanish civil war. Franco's tomb is here and the place is rather controversial as it seems political prisoners were used as labor to build it. It is the largest cross in the world.

On the last night in Madrid we went to dinner with the De la Puerta family. Jose (the dad) was an exchange student when I was a teenager. He stayed in my room for a month. Now he has 7 beautiful, well-behaved children. Very sound of music. Very.

Then it was road trip time. We drove 2-3 hours each day and stayed at a different Parador each night. These are government run hotels that use heritage sites such as old castles and monasteries. At the hotel, beer was 2.5 euros and wine was 3 euros. Such a deal for a hotel.

We saw lots of roman ruins along the way. This was the old aqueduct in Alarcon. Each day we arrived, went for a walk in the surroundings, had a snack and a beer. Came back, napped and went out to dinner. It was a perfect way to do a road trip.

We got to this town at the top of a hill. A medieval town, a very protected village with sheer cliffs on three sides and a wall on the other. I had to drive the car through this space. I think we had a quarter inch clearance, it was so ridiculous.

We had lots of Spanish snacks, serrano ham, manchego cheese, olives galore and wine city. It was such a great trip, I have planned another for this September. Wanna come? We are flying into Lisbon and staying 3 nights, going up to Porto on the train for 1 night then heading to Viga Spain and renting a car. Gonna go across Galicia over to Barcelona. Same formula 2-3 hours drive then stay at a Parador. Message me if you are interested in joining us. Sept 11th-24th.

So the last week of work before the holidays, something truly wretched occurred. I announced it on FB, "I've shit myself at work." While some expressed a TMI sentiment, most who commented seemed to have a shared experience. Have a nice look at those cakes and candies above as I detail what happened.

Perfectly normal morning. Did my #2 in the morning before leaving for work. Go to work and as soon as I get into the classroom and sit down at my desk and turn on the computer, "Gurgle gurgle gurgle," goes my stomach. Must be the coffee. Suddenly cramping. Okay then, need a toilet. I'll go to the secret toilet where I like to poo in peace at work. As I am walking down the hall, more cramps and no, no we will not be going to the secret toilet. We will be going to the very first toilet we come to. There it is just up ahead. As I approach, things get more insistent. I make it into the first stall, full on pushing now. I turn around and GASP the lock thingie is broken. Okay, now my anus is angry, like I psyched it out or something. I get myself into the next stall, lock it, start on my belt when GLERP, oh no oh no oh no no no NOOOO, I get my belt undone and a second GLERP. Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck and as I start taking my pants down, all hell breaks loose. Lets call it a megasplatter. EVERY FUCKING WHERE. My work shirt is languishing in a pool of liquid shit on the back of the toilet. So. This is the first time where my will to keep my anus shut has failed. I now have a spare set of clothes at work. It took me 20 minutes to clean myself up as much as possible and then I had to teach ALL DAY, shit remnants caked to my body. My students said I didn't stink though. So there's that. UGH.

For the holidays, we went to California. We visited with my brother, my dad and my mom. We also got to see Elaine in Oakland and Donna in Eagle Rock. Other folks got the flu or fell off a ladder so we had a fairly tame visit socially. We did get to meet my brother's girlfriend. She was all sorts of fun.

It was a great 3 Kings party this year. I hadn't seen Caya or Noah for a couple years so it was really nice catching up with them. Their mom had the flu so maybe can catch up with her next year.

As we continue to watch dogs, we are constantly reminded what a great dog Georgie is. He is so low maintenance compared to almost all the other dogs. Right now we have Katrina, a little beagle. They are really cute together.

Okay, so all caught up now. Hopefully I won't wait so long to post again. Thanks for stopping by. Mwah!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Summer update

Hey kids, long time no blog. Maybe that is because we haven't gone anywhere since Cuba in February. Until last week that is. I am just gonna go through the few photos I have taken since then and see if we can't craft a post out of this.

As it turns out, I have no pictures from March. This is probably because I got terribly ill after I stopped taking Champix and was down for the count for 9 days. Moaning on the sofa and Serge trying to get me to eat. I have no idea what caused it but I wouldn't wish that on anyone. We did have our annual game night though right as I was starting to feel better. I posted a pic of that on FB.

We had a very rainy April but the first chance we got in May, we tripped around town. It was chilly in May, probably ten degrees below normal all month. This is the new installation at the old port where they do light projection shows in the evenings this summer.

The giant marionettes came to town and we saw a couple of them. Quite impressive to see. The crowds were stunningly large and I got a little anxious trying to stay on the perimeter of the crowd which seemed to change constantly.

In June, Serge noticed water bubbling out of the street and alerted the city. Cue 2 weeks of digging and digging and then filling and paving. It was a nice distraction from all the rain and chilly temps. Some of the worst flooding in years plagued the city but what are you thinking building your house on the bank of a river?

At the beginning of July, we had our annual summer potluck at Jacynthe's house. We always have so much laughter together consuming wine.

Our good friend Dave from Long Beach, CA came to visit for a week. We tripped around town playing tourist and managed to get into our fave breakfast spot. Regine Cafe. The only place I have ever been where I consider breakfast to be gourmet.

Then last week we went to visit our friends in Columbus, Ohio. Our first time there and what a lovely city. Thom gave us a little tour of the brewery where he works - Land Grant. We were all worried we admitted at the end, that it might be too long together but we all got along swimmingly.

We did a culture day and saw museums and then we did a nature day in Hocking Hills state park. What a beautiful place. First time I have seen Amish in person. Some of them had digital cameras. What? I thought there were no electronics for them. Maybe they are progressive Amish. Hard to tell but there is also a waterfall in this picture.

All along, we have been watching dogs for others. George looks like he is over it here. Also, I worked all the way until last week and I go back next week already. Hard to get used to after having had 3 months off every summer but it's good for the bank account.

I think I will blog again soon as we are headed to Camp Camp for our 4th year. Really looking forward to my annual cut off from the world week in the woods. Until next time peeps, Mwah!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Wintertime wanderings

The day after my last blog, I went to California for my annual holiday visit. It was cheaper to fly into San Diego so that is where I went. I got to meet up with Beth in Pacific Beach (cute neighborhood!) for food and drinks and a walk on the beach. It was a spectacular day in the 70's. This would not be repeated until my last day.

Then I headed to camp Mama where they have a whole new backyard. I spent a week there hanging out, playing Candy Crush and binge watching Travelers on Netflix. Plus I turned her onto Martha and Snoop's potluck party which she loved.

We got to meet up with my grandma for lunch one day. It was cool because even though she has memory issues, she recognized mom right away. Can't remember the last time I hung out with both my mother and father. Pleasant.

It was nice ringing in the new year with Donna and Nathan and their pups Apollo and Stella. Their neighbor used to work int he pinball business and he had saved up every Canadian quarter that he came across for 20 years. He offered me nearly fifty bucks in quarters for $20 US dollars. You know I jumped on that!

Mom turned 70 so we tried a chic Spanish tapas restaurant and decided once was enough. Not that it was bad or anything, just not extraordinary. Plus it wasn't cheap. It was nice to have foie gras since the ban on it was lifted in California.

Then I headed to Dad's place for the next week. He had scoped out a hike off of Ortega Hwy to San Mateo Peak, the next highest peak after Santiago and Modjeska in the Santa Ana mountains. The summit is 3994 ft, so with my height, my head was at 4000.

It took almost 4 hours to do the 5 miles. Of course we had lunch sitting on the summit gazing from Catalina Island to the Santa Rosa mountains in the distance.

We took grandma out to lunch again at the beach at Ruby's at the end of the pier. Another thing I did with Dad was go see La La Land. Wow, I have not been enchanted like that in a long time from a film. I grinned helplessly throughout, except when I cried at that one part. As an LA boy, I appreciated all the location shots. When I got home I took Serge to see it for a second time. I still loved it so of course I own the soundtrack.

So quickly the last day came. It turned out to be spectacular weather-wise like the first day. My friend David met up with me and we had brunch, walked on the beach and had a drink on the roof of a beach hotel in Venice. What a sweetheart. I got a room near the airport and it had a Denny's attached to it. That is where I discovered everything hashbrowns. YUM! I had it for dinner and breakfast the next day lol.

Ok Imma skip a month now. Not that nothing happened in January. We had fun at Helene's birthday party, at Rita's for dinner, walks around town and lots of trips to the video store as we devour series after series hibernating til spring. Jon arrived the last day of January, a day before all the others would arrive for our big trip to Cuba. I turned Jon onto smoked meat and poutine. He ate that whole poutine and half that pizza and he's skinny as a rail.

We had a big sleep over with all the peeps who came in a day early. Then we headed to Cuba, my third straight year to the same resort. A lot of the staff remembered me and even asked about Serge. Here we are in the evening hanging out in the lobby bar. We totally lucked out and it was in the 80's every day and no rain.

I let everyone experience the resort for a couple days and then knew that suggesting going out to dinner would be a definite yes. It's like the buffet was better than I had prepared them for but still rather repetetive. So we went to Varadero 60 which is #2 for restaurants in the city. (I just learned that and now wish to return to try #1) Everyone loved the food, so much so that some went back another evening to eat there again.

Since we were 13 people (the other 11 who came with us did their own in French) we got to have Havana a la carte. A bus, driver and guide for the whole day for $35 a person and we could choose what we wanted to see. Of course we wanted to see everything that is done in the regular tour. The bus ride is a little over 2 hours to Havana from Varadero. The guide was very knowledgeable and talked about everything we were passing sprinkled in with history lessons.

Our first stop about half way to Havana at a scenic overlook, I had a beer and looked at trinkets. When we got back in the bus, it wouldn't start. So we pushed the bus uphill (!) so that it could use gravity going down the hill to pop the clutch. Yes, the buses have manual transmissions, but thank glob, because we were swiftly on our way. The driver never turned off the motor the rest of the day.

We walked all around old Havana which has no vehicular traffic most of the time. I was surprised to see a couple of high end shops. The architecture is pleasing. I spent most of the time counting everyone even though the guide was doing it too. Still we lost one of our pack members right before lunch. The guide went back and found him, very stressed out about it.

We all snapped a ton of photos. There were street performers and other more pushy kinds of busking going on. Never felt unsafe at all. We ended up eating on the rooftop of the hotel where Ernest Hemingway lived for a while. I burped up that pork sandwich I ate there for like 12 days after. Not exaggerating.

We also went to Revolution Square which has a big monolithic monument and very big likenesses of Che and Fidel and lots of flags. After that we went to a Cuban crafts market which was cool except for the constant pleading to look at everyone's things. The day passed quickly. On the bus home, my American visitors asked lots of questions and the guide was very open and frank. My favorite moment was when someone asked, "Well can't you go into the street and protest to have some change?" Of course not, we would be jailed. It was interesting watching them wrap their brain around the fact that the government owns everything and although appearing free, their freedoms are quite restricted compared to ours.

I went on a Varadero city tour with John (as opposed to Jon) and got to feed the pelicans! He gave me a thick glove but their clacking beaks freaked me out as they clambered over each other to have the piece of fish in my hand. Really neat seeing them up close though.

The week flew by. The last day we waited in the lobby for the bus plying ourselves with drinks. I wonder how many I had had at this point in the picture. I don't even know which day this was. Ah open bar.

We finally got a group shot of the whole English speaking side of our gang. We were 13 and there were 11 Quebcois who came as well. It turned out to be a really fun vacation, I cried laughing several times and we all got along swimmingly. They named me "Richard no filter" after hearing some of my stories. On top of all that, I made a bunch of money doing it. Very cool, and will try to organize more group vacations.

Thanks for stopping by everyone :)