Category Archives: Travel

“That’s Amore!” (Not)

The circumstances surrounding the recent disastrous sinking of a cruise ship inspired my husband, Raphael, to write new lyrics to the classic Dean Martin song, “That’s Amore.” If you saw the movie, Moonstruck, you heard Dean Martin sing that song. In case you haven’t heard it, check out this YouTube version.

Warning: In middle school, Raphael had his own reserved desk in detention. He has preserved some of that 14-year-old attitude. Thank goodness.

Sung to the music of “That’s Amore!”

When your boat hits a reef
‘Cause your captain’s in briefs,
That’s our cruise ship.

Parts we should overhaul
But the chief’s a meatball,
That’s a mild slip.

Safety bells tinga linga ling,
O’er the rail you they’ll fling, Continue reading

Farewell, My Lovely—Volvo

“I have a mule, her name is Sal, Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.”

I learned that old New York State folk song in elementary school. Ever since then, I’ve wanted a mule. Maybe because my name is Sal.

I’ll probably never have a mule, but I did have a Volvo.

In January 1991, my then-husband and I paid $19,256 cash (don’t ask me why cash–it’s a long, stupid story) for a new, 4-cylinder, 5-speed manual transmission 1990 Volvo 2.4 L 240DL, a silver station wagon. We lived in Northern Maryland at the time. I didn’t like the white one the dealer had available, so he found me this one in Pennsylvania.

The Volvo was the only constant in my crazy life for the last 21 years. That’s a whole generation.

I packed her with my own and my kids’ belongings when I left my first marriage. She was filled to the roof when I moved from Baltimore to San Jose. That trip cracked the front brake rotor, probably while going over the Rockies. My new husband and I filled her to the brim again when we peeled out of San Jose on the way to our new home in Texas.

In Northern California, we used the Volvo to transport our seakayaks to the water, from Monterey Bay in the south to Bodega Bay in the north. Here she is with four kayaks on top and one inside. She was 15 years old then, but still handled like new.

My Volvo 240DL

We drove that car all the way up to Vancouver, Canada, and down to La Bufadora on the Punta Banda Peninsula in Baja California, southwest of Ensenada. Continue reading

Burning the Script

Guest Post by Kana Tyler
“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” ~ Anna Quindlen

We used to operate within limited lives, my husband and I—limited by the ruts of our career paths, by our addictions, by former spouses, by people’s views of us, by the “scripts” we believed we had to follow…  We both started over three years ago, via the troublesome technique of first destroying everything with our addictions—we met in rehab (proof that God has a sense of humor!) and if our new life and our marriage have a theme, it would be the phrase, “Because we can.”  It’s a joyful ritual of ours, this oft-repeated answer to so many questions.

Why have I covered myself with stories-in-ink? Because I can. Why do we swing-dance fully dressed under the sprinklers in a state park, or put Spam on our pizza, or go fishing in the middle of a weekday, or stop to learn the life-story of a stranger in the produce section?  Because we can.  So please ask me why I would cut loose from the safety of a scheduled work-week and paycheck to WRITE.  Don’t ask because you don’t know the answer; ask because the answer itself is a celebration:  Because I can.

Here’s a question for you (not rhetorical—if you’re reading this, I’d actually be interested in your answer).  Please introduce yourself by completing the following sentence:   “I am a _____.”

And here’s why I’m interested—I’m wondering if most people would automatically fill that blank with a job title.  I’ve certainly done it.  “I’m a school administrator.”  “I’m a restaurant owner.”  But although both of those were things I DID, neither of those phrases express the things I AM.  Sometimes there’s an overlap –“teacher,” for example, describes both a natural inclination and a one-time profession of mine—and I suspect the most fulfilled folks are those with the most intersections between their “I-Am” and their “I-Do” descriptors.

A month ago I was sitting in the entrance booth of a state park, wearing my cute little ranger-hat and pondering how the incoming drivers would answer if I asked each of them fill in the “I-am” blank… So I grabbed my notebook and began to scribble what grew into a two-page list of words that I might use about myself.  “Writer” topped the list. (“List-maker” also made an appearance.)  My husband and I pow-wowed that evening and (because we can) concluded that if I wanted a job description that matched my “I-Am” list, if I wanted to write…  I should.

A month later, I’m writing for an Idaho travel magazine.  I’m picking up freelance jobs.  Last week I was writing about Scuba-diving destinations around the globe (I AM a Research Diver).  This week I’m writing 400-word blurbs about travel destinations for a car rental agency (I AM a Traveler).  They aren’t glamorous gigs, but I just cashed my first-ever paycheck for writing.  And because I’m at the keyboard, I’m also resuming my long-neglected practice of writing for myself.  I’m relishing a life in which I’m not limited to “safe” choices.   Our existence is spicier since we burned the script.

Plus, I love my new commute. 😉

This post first appeared here on September 23, 2011.

Manchester and the Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer

Guest Post by Barry Crowther

My dad says if you can’t be smart or you can’t be funny then be brief. With that in mind I’m going to be brief, I know your time is important.

While on vacation recently I got to thinking ‘How did I get Here?’ I was on the beach in Santa Barbara. I’m pretty sure at various checkpoints in our lives we all do this.

Even if you’re laying on the couch eating WotSits riding out a massive hangover and wondering what made you get an Aston Villa tattoo.

Doesn’t matter. We all still check in from time to time.

My wife was reading a magazine and starts to tell me that if someone relocates more than five hundred and fifty miles from their hometown then the friends and family they leave behind experience the same trauma as abandonment, on some emotional level at least.

She pulls out the iPhone and presses some app.

“The distance between Los Angeles and Manchester England is five thousand three hundred and three miles.”

“That’s a long long way past the abandonment line.” I tell her.

And I was right. When I think about all we’ve left behind it saddens me. And though my lifestyle is amazing I still crave all things Manchester.

Manchester United are my team. And Manchester City are doing well (finally). I still have lots of friends and family who are City supporters. And Man U and Man C are two financially sound clubs, both are on the up and up. So while I was back in Manchester last Christmas I got a chance to experience a great match at FC United. Never been before but this was a team that’s trying to get up there. And it felt like Home, so very – Mancunian.

That’s why I decided to donate a portion of my book sales to the FC United Development fund and put this team up there with the others. I do this because I want ALL the teams from the North to do well. They might have to wait a while as I’ve only sent them a tenner so far (only kidding).

My hometown is my first love. Please don’t tell the wife … and while you’re at it don’t tell the dog either!
It could be that being so far away for such a long time that it’s the “idea” of Manchester I’ve come to love. I’m sure this is the same kind of emotional trauma my wife mentioned and takes place for anyone who leaves their hometown and doesn’t look back … for a while at least.

Maybe it’s just nostalgia? Baz Luhrmann in the video Suncreen said “Nostalgia is a way of fishing the past from the waste disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

The nostalgia I feel is different, it seems to keep Manchester in some kind of time capsule. As my kids are growing older and I hear the music they listen to I hear echoes of my dad within myself. He would be telling me that The Housemartins and The Smiths were ‘bloody crap’ while trying to force a 78rpm Frankie Laine album onto the spindle. All this is very familiar as I’m doing the same with Rhianna and Jay Z (not the Frankie Laine bit of course).
Or maybe it’s the things I enjoy…

Crap jokes, Warburtons Toastie Loaf, A pint of Boddingtons, Chips and gravy, Oasis, Town on a Saturday night, Rotters (maybe not), Regular Heinz baked beans, Greggs sausage rolls, Coronation Street, Peter Kay, Buses, Taxis (slight waft of spew), Local pubs, Take That (maybe not), Tiger Tiger, MEN Arena, The Lowry Hotel….

The list could go on.

Most of all I miss the people and the Northern attitude.

Just to think I gave all that up to live near the beach?! So How did I get here? I’m not entirely sure, I know it took more balls than brains, maybe that’s another Northern thing.

One thing I am sure about though is that even from this distance Home still looks pretty sexy to me.

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For more Manchester mayhem with murder, gangsters and an array of crazy characters you might like Missing*. UK Readers Here | US Readers Here

If you fancy some Southern Californian fayre then try Nothing. UK Readers Here | US Readers Here

* A portion of all books sales goes to the FC United Development Fund.

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This post originally appeared here on July 8, 2011.

Thank you, Barry!