Category Archives: Travel Blog

Coming soon to a blog near you…

We just got back from our Guatemala trip and I’ve got grants to write and errands to run, so for now just a preview of the posts-to-be-written:

The Most Dangerous Moment on our trip was at about 5 in the morning on the tourist shuttle mini-van to the airport on the road from Antigua. The road is curvy, but newly paved and well-lit. Up ahead a truck is turning on to the highway. The truck isn’t moving fast. Suddenly, we are stuck in a moment. The van hasn’t slowed down, but time decelerates as we are very closely approaching the metal wall that is the side of the truck. I am sitting in the middle seat of the second row with no seat belt, perfectly positioned to fly through the space between the driver and the front passenger seat and crash through the windshield. The moment lasts long enough for me to experience the irony of my coming death. My husband is the uncomfortable flyer. I’m the one always arguing that you can trust the pilots who are for the most part professionals. It’s the idiots on the road who will kill you. The van suddenly without even the screech of breaks comes to a halt about a foot from the truck bed. The truck pulls onto the highway, and then we keep going.

The book I’m currently reading is Larry Harrison’s, Glimpses of a Floating World. Here’s the mini-review, I posted on Amazon: “1963, London, Soho, sex, drugs and yes even rock and roll. Ronnie is like a strung-out, hipster, Holden Caulfield if Holden had been a seventeen year old working class Brittish junkie. Harrison perfectly portrays Ronnie’s world, “the scene” that Ronnie will do anything to get back to — the “floating world” of illusion so expertly shown that the reader will never forget the journey. This is an amazing story and a very addictive read.” I promise to write a better, longer-one soon, but please buy the damn book.

State of the Union — I so want to believe in Obama. Travelling, I kept thinking about the President’s mother and how she was a woman who if she hadn’t spent so much time in Indonesia, could have loved Guatemala and isn’t it remarkable that the son of a woman like that could be President of these United States? And then tonight I’m watching that speech hoping for something that doesn’t sound like the sos, and he says how he’s going to “work with Congress” on repealing don’t ask don’t tell? Work with Congress, my ass. This is an easy one. Executive order Mr. Commander in Chief. Harry Fucking Truman did it with integration.

The Writing Life — So I come back to the good news that I’ve got honorable mention for my 3 day novel entry! No money or publication but the possibility that if I turn the damn thing into a full length book, I could at least mention the honor in a query. Needs work but think Lolita from Doleres Haze’s POV meets The Shining or maybe The Lovely Bones for cynical adults without a happy ending. Meantime, Loisaida is sitting, requested as a full on some agent’s desk.

My addictions — Honestly think that the internet/social networking may now have taken over my life more completely than even the television machine. Still experiencing authonomy withdrawal. Having just got back from a vacation to a previously “remote” part of the world, I’m more and more concerned about how the net (and easy access to it) may affect how we experience travel. Anyone remember the ritual of the picture postcard or letters? Stopping to write them on the road. Maybe if you could find a place to make a copy in case they got lost or mostly you took your chances and sometimes finding the post office was an adventure itself. If you came across a phone, you probably used it to check in same as you would a clean toilet whether or not you needed to go. You were forced to talk to people or to no one because you didn’t have IM or the office party atmosphere of facebook at your disposal. (We didn’t have laptops with us this trip and actually didn’t spend much time on the web, but it was available everywhere.) I remember meeting people simply by asking for directions which I’m sure in a couple of years won’t be done when every street in every town in every country is instantly on google maps and accessible on a variety of devices.

More to come. Stay tuned boys and girls.

Niagara Falls, January 2007

There had been an ice-storm so all the bushes and branches were crystal-covered and from our room we could see and hear the Falls. The rumbling was soft and constant like the earth purring. En suite we had a faux fireplace, a Jacuzzi, a king size bed with too many pillows and a thick down comforter. We drove across to the New York side and did the deed in the judge’s chambers with the clerks’ witnessing, and then we crossed back giddy, hoping the guards would let us back into Canada and not judge us deranged. Back in the room we shed our clothes in record time like teenagers though we were in our forties. Later we realized that we hadn’t even taken pictures and only had a piece of paper to prove it had happened.

Jewtown, Fort Cochin

Earlier today I came across a site — a blog, where you can submit your story in six sentences. Here’s the link: Six Sentences and below my submission.

Jewtown, Fort Cochin
We found our way to Jewtown in Fort Cochin, Kerala, India where the street is lined with old shops that have names like Sarah Jacob’s Taylor Shop, but the Jews are long gone. There’s a synagogue built in the 1500’s — the oldest in India, now a tourist attraction – outside, white stone with a large window shaped like a star of David, inside not so different from any old shul with a pulpit, a rich blue curtain with gold lettering covering the ark and hiding the torah, a plaque with the shma, another shaped like the tablets with the ten commandments, a chandelier, an upstairs women’s section. The tourists come everyday except Saturday, but no one is left who knows anything about the Jews. It’s a Sunday at the end of Diwali, and a lot of Indians are traveling and enjoying the holiday, so that day many of our fellow tourists are Indians. My partner and I are trying to remember our Hebrew, pointing and reading the shma when a young woman in a yellow sari asks me about the words. I say them aloud first in Hebrew and then I translate, explain the context, and find myself giving an impromptu tour pointing out where the women sat and why, discussing the mystery behind the curtain, that the rabbi was not a priest just a teacher, and how the torah would be carried around and the men would have a chance to kiss it.

Passage to India (Part I)

Back in October, I visited India. I shoulda been blogging then, but wasn’t. I have a few stories to tell which I’ll get to eventually. For now here’s one:

We arrived late in Fort Cochin, Kerala after a long complex day of travel including a delayed flight and the loss of a guidebook which made us grumpy. We found our way to a homestay – an Indian B&B without the breakfast. There was the requisite eccentric proprietor and a small second-hand bookstore attached. My better half picked up a couple of books while we were registering. One, he knew I would like. It was about a young, uneducated Indian who goes on a game show called, Who Wants to Win a Billion? The concept inspired of course by Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. (I live in NY where Millionaire is filmed, and I’ve auditioned several times always passing the written test, but never convincing the producers that I’ve got that certain je ne sais quoi that they’re looking for.) The book, Q&A was written by Vikras Swarup, a diplomat and first time novelist.

It proved to be a much better guide to Indian history and culture than the missing Lonely Planet, featuring as it did a map into the Indian psyche and page-turning adventures in Delhi, Mumbai, Agra and points in between. Through the Dickensian tale of Ram Mohammed Thomas, I learned about the cruel exploitation of orphans, child prostitution, conflict between Hindus and Moslems, war with Pakistan, gangsters, aging Bollywood stars and the dangers of train travel.

Of course the book has been made into a movie with a new title and a completely revamped plot. Now it’s known as Slumdog Millionaire and even the protagonist’s name has been changed. The movie is entertaining, even moving, but ultimately forgettable. I will never forget riding the packed train from Kerala to Goa during Diwali, sharing cashews with a group of young men who occasionally passed the time with some a cappella harmonizing in I know not what dialect, as I raced through Ram’s exploits and and learned how he saved the girl from the dacoit.