Coming face to face with Gallipoli in Wellington…

When we made it safely on the inter-island ferry, Jon was looking for campgrounds near Wellington but after driving through Wellington itself with our moronic bus, navigating small busy city streets and intimidating roundabouts, we steered our beast to the nearest parking lot and booked ourselves two nights in a hotel.

Maybe we are, as Sue aptly suggested, “peaking too soon”, but God how heavenly it is to wake up in the middle of the night and not having to negotiate with yourself whether you’ll venture to the bathroom/outhouse in the cold midnight air or whether you’re going to do your business on the Barbie stool in the camper. Besides, Jon has bruises all over his body from bumping into cabinets and the walls of the camper, so we needed some healing time. Read: having our own private bathroom for the next 24 hours.


This morning, we walked to Wellington’s famous Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand’s award-winning museum. The torrential rains of the early morning were blown away by a stiff breeze and boy, does this cultural capital ooze charm when the sun comes out. It’s a mini San Francisco, with green hills, a cable car and without the pretentiousness of America’s city of high tech and Teslas.



And it has more cafés than NYC if you can believe that…

Oktober Fest was going full force last night, and we saw many a Wellingtonian in dirndl and lederhosen litter the side walk with beer mugs in hand, and we were wondering what the German backpacking tourists were thinking of that…

But the high point today may well have been the Gallipoli exhibit in above mentioned museum. This was a brutal battle for Aussies and Kiwis especially (as well as the Turks, who became Allies of the Germans in WWI). It was a grand plan of Churchill’s but such a waste of lives (a slaughter pit really) and had very little impact on the war on the Western Front. The exhibit took you through a graphic timeline of the battle with personal stories and brutal images of what life was like in the trenches on the Aegean Sea.

I came out shaken and in tears, and Jon remarked that we could never have such a confrontational exhibit in the US because everyone would become a peace activist. The realities, body bags et. al., of war have always been kept from the general public and I think this is why Ken Burns’s PBS series on Vietnam is having such a (delayed) impact on the American public right now. Every head of state who might have to face the decision of sending men into harm’s way should be forced to walk through an exhibit like that although when narcissism reigns supreme (as with Hitler and our infamous whiny little bitch in the White House) male ego takes over and men become mere cannon fodder.

Jon and I then walked back to the hotel and saw that the local rowing club had a fundraiser, selling books for $1 a piece. Since we have one duffel bag and a small carry-on, I’m not sure what we were thinking but we came out of there, lugging a dozen books (!). If things get tense in the camper again, we can just decide to throw books at each other because, clearly, Jon hasn’t got enough bruises already.

One of the books is the delicious Faber Books series– this one of Diary snippets of famous people, listed per date. Thus Charles Greville writes on February 26th, 1831: “A drawing room yesterday, at which the Princess Victoria made her first appearance, a short vulgar-looking child.”

Looking up today’s date, there was a hilarious Samuel Pepys entry on the breaking of wind and a resolution about bowel movements, as well as this one dating back to 1943 by British novelist Barbara Pym (since we seem to be on the topic of war):

Yesterday Italy declared war on Germany. What a strange mad war. A pity they didn’t choose our side three years ago.

I am a wretched melancholy creature when I would like to be noble and strong and very intelligent. I lie in a hot bath brooding about G. […] when I ought to be thinking about the Metaphysicals in a scholarly way or planning a great comic novel.

And if that doesn’t make you smile, here’s a pic of a dachshund puppy we met on the wharf today:



Needless to say, we miss Teddy… as well as our other two-legged friends, our kids Will and Caroline…

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Marlborough Country, NZ: Clothes Optional…

After a good bit of driving– more scenic highways but WTH every road is scenic in this country, I kid you not… we arrived in Marlborough Wine Country, which exceeds Sonoma and Napa in natural beauty and way fewer crowds. IMG_0303.jpg


Jon had found a glorious campground, which looked like and English garden, literally in the backyard of New Zealand’s most famous Sauvignon Blancs.


The campground hadn’t officially opened yet and that was a good thing we realized later as it was a nudist campground, but since the season hadn’t started yet, there was no need to disrobe. It wasn’t until later when we had proper wifi that Jon could download the pictures of the place, which included a picture of what seemed like the owners in full nude regalia. I have no problem with nudism per se (if you have a problem with seeing other people naked, it’s not their problem but your problem) but it does seem curious that some people with excess skin and pounds do seem to want to go nude more often than those with divine bodies. So maybe I have a problem, after all, as well.

Now we’re waiting for the ferry to go to the North Island after biking for a bit in the wine country and tasting some Giesen and New Zealand’s champagne/champanoise label “No1”. We were tasting the bubbly with some folks from Scotland and admittedly, as a former college prof, I always told my students that there are no stupid questions, but one of the Scottish lasses did ask a stupid question, namely how does one get a cork into the bottle? The answer: with a machine.

I did learn that grapes are still hand-picked for the higher quality wines, which shows, I hope, that not everything can be replaced by machines (I work in translation, as some of you know, and my fear is that we will be replaced by machines, too, but when quality matters, machines don’t have all the answers, I guess).

The ferry needs to be loaded with cars, so I’ll stop right here. I’ll leave you with another picture, showing the Kiwis have a good sense of humor.


With all the stuff we’ve broken on this vacation, we tried not to take it personal.

Onto Wellington…

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More from New Zealand…

On Facebook I already referred to the down side of camping with, as an example, the NZ request in every camping bathroom to flush used toilet paper down the toilet and not throw it in the trash. Thanks to my cosmopolitan network of friends, I now know that used toilet paper often goes in the trash in Greece, Mexico, Brazil, Hong Kong and possibly China as well (I figured as much as this toilet caveat was translated in one language only and it wasn’t Greek, Spanish or Portuguese…).

While I’m on the subject, I’m going to say something nasty about the Chinese– now that China is becoming an economic powerhouse and more Chinese join the world industry of mass tourism, I’d recommend they take an International Travel 101 class. I have been on two flights now when the airplane tore down the runway for take off and Chinese people got up to get something from the overhead bin. On one of those flights a Chinese guy in the seat next to me fell asleep on my shoulder and drooled all over it. When I gave him a good shove, he woke up… and started clipping his finger nails…

Speaking of the Chinese, last night, Jon and I went to the Stratosphere restaurant in Queenstown– a total tourist trap (buffet dinner at the top and you buy a package for gondola, meal and seat by the window) but I must admit, I’ve never been on such a steep gondola ride (waves of nausea washed over me due to my fear of heights — my palms begin to sweat again, just thinking about it–, and well, the nausea didn’t do wonders for my appetite), but the view was to die for:


And I particularly like this artsy pic Jon took:

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But to come back to the Chinese, there were many of them joining the buffet and they cut in line, stepping on Jon’s toes and they seemed ravenous. One woman piled up her plate in front of me, which she gave to a family member, to then pile up another plate. I felt sorry for the waiters and staff… it was a spectacle that really doesn’t deserve any more attention in this blog.

And now we’re on the West Coast in Frans Josef Glacier, after indulging in the glacier hot springs and, once again, being blown away by the scenery: we saw deserted beaches, snow-capped mountains, tropical rain forests, all in one day, and to top it off, had another incredible meal in a small town. The waitress was from Perugia, Umbria, and declared that Italy has become a country for people who “settle”– Australia, New Zealand, she said, is the New World.

With America’s last frontier, California, going through a hellish fire, and a president who acts more like a dictator in diapers who wants to save his frail ego and legacy by provoking and possibly bombing North Korea, I am beginning to think that New Zealand is where it’s at. Part of its charm is its isolation– and you notice that when you become really still and listen: the sound of silence is so pure here that it makes you want to forget about any other lives, ambitions or countries you once called home.

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New Zealand: New World?


Jon and I truly feel there are times that we think we died and have gone to heaven. The biodiversity of this country, the scenery, the food, the people— we haven’t had a single negative experience. In fact, we are ecstatic. The US, once the place that everyone called the New World is beginning to fray around the edges and if we want to truly speak of a promising New World, New Zealand may well fit the bill.

After an incredible day of sailing down the Doubtful Sound (so called because Cook didn’t want to go down there for fear of losing the wind in his sails), we’re now in Queenstown with mountains that look like the Dolomites, a lake that feels Swiss or Austrian and vegetation that you don’t expect in the Alps (like rosemary and hydrangeas).

Jon and I biked around the lake today and marveled again at how unreal and serene it felt. We have Yosemite, Big Sur and Sausalito but we also have Fresno and Sacramento and tent camps in Oakland. Come to Queenstown and you see Yosemite, Sausalito and Lake Geneva— all in one, with no homeless encampments (1 in 10 children are homeless in the US…) and you don’t have to drive through Fresno, Sactown or wonder whether some nutter on your campground might go on a shooting spree with an arsenal of weapons that should belong to an army, not a private citizen.

I’m well aware people don’t want to read about glowing travel reports as they are boring as hell and my editorializing about gun control will turn lots of gun-crazy Americans off, so let me offset this with a gross story. 

The time had come to empty our Bolero toilet. You do this at a dump station on a campground (if it has one) and I was already so grossed out by the thought that I hardly peed and certainly didn’t want to poop in our toilet that seems to be made for a Barbie Doll house (small, flimsy and plastic— with a hole at the bottom that reminds you of train and airplane toilets). 

However, the thought of driving around with our waste made me insist that we had to empty our “cassette” as it’s called. So we stood there at the dump station, with our plastic gloves and reading the instructions, while not trying to get distracted by the mind-blowing scenery– yes, even at the campground.

First we had to dump our gray water and then came the pee and poop cocktail, which really comes out blue because of the chemicals. Needless to say this took a while, so a German couple pulled up behind us and they had no patience. They got out of their van, staring at us (truly breathing down our neck) and I glared back. No words were exchanged.

Then they got impatient, as we watched our blue waste go down the drain, and they pulled in front of us and grabbed the water hose because they just needed water. Thing is, every stand comes with a plug for electricity and a tap to fill up your water tank in your camper, so why the Germans would grab the fresh water hose at the dump station that every one uses to rinse out their suitcases of poop is beyond me. I guess they want to impress their friends with stories of how they got dysentery in New Zealand, or whatever else you get from ingesting poop. Hardlopers zijn doodlopers, as we say in Dutch.

OK onto pretty things—- in a second-hand book store, we found an anthology of some New Zealand authors— in High School I had devoured Katherine Mansfield already and it has been ages since I had laid eyes on her again. Over lunch today I started reading one of her stories and I was smitten once more. Here’s the character Jonathan, going for an early-morning swim at the beach:

At that moment an immense wave lifted Jonathan, rode past him, and broke along the beach with a joyful sound. What a beauty! And now there came another. That was the way to live — carelessly, recklessly, spending oneself. He got onto his feet and began to wade towards the shore, pressing his toes into the firm, wrinkled sand. To take things easy, not to fight against the ebb and flow of life, but to give way to it— that was what was needed. It was this tension that was all wrong. To live— to live! And the perfect morning, so fresh and fair, basking in the light, as though laughing at its own beauty, seemed to whisper, ‘Why not?’

Yes. Why not. New Zealand is asking us why not…

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Mishaps in New Zealand: Bolero and/or Bust


The reason why New Zealand is so perfect and pristine is because it’s so hard for the rest of the world to get here… we decided to come here and do come glamping by renting a “Bolero” RV which looks like a 4 star hotel inside but which is a bitch to drive, as we found out, taking it out for the first kilometer and destroying the side mirror hitting a construction fence.

It feels like driving a bus, or as I told Jon today– now I know where the expression “hauling ass” comes from– as we meander down country roads, we hear everything rolling around in the back: the bottles of wine in the fridge, the cutlery in the kitchen drawer… and as it turned out this morning– we were hauling ass for about an hour when two friendly Kiwis came alongside, mouthing to me that one of our doors was open and flapping about. Good thing the patio chairs and table didn’t come crashing out.

I blame the bed we slept on last night and which Jon calls a parallelogram. My feet are hanging out and it triggered some bad dreams like one of my kids being on heroin and sleeping under a bridge, while I was also talking to some deceased relatives. As I said– it was the bed.

But good things come to those who wait– when we hit the coastline, the sun came through and the road opened to a spectacular coastline. When we saw the road sign SHAG POINT ROAD and a house for sale, looking out over the water, Orcas and dolphins frolicking about, we had to down there, and texted the kids we had found our vacation home and a panty dropper at that. Heck, panty dropper is an understatement– anyone can have a zipless orgasm on this coastline. We looked up the house that was for sale at SHAG POINT ROAD. Realtor wouldn’t mention a price but said the sellers were motivated to sell — done with shagging, I guess…

As we hit the road again and saw a cyclist alongside and wanted to preserve the cyclist as well as that big, but restored, side mirror on the left side, Jon pulled it in and broke, then swore, then repaired the window button… How many things can we break on this bus?

We did have a nice lunch in Dunedin (Unesco city of literature and voted best city in NZ to live and… oh, they make sweaters out of possums) but just as we were gaining some confidence about driving our Bolero Bus, we pulled out of our parking spot and then heard a terrible scraping sound, followed by Jon’s desperate “Fuck it. This RV is a stress boat”. Thing is– we wanted to leave, but a road sign wanted to come with us. This bus is just so damn high (and long).

Jon took over driving at that point as I had lost all confidence in my bus driving skills but then we almost got killed, for two cars in front of us stopped for… a mother duck with little ones crossing the road…

Oh and did I tell you about the sheep? In the past, I’ve joked about moving here and starting a sheep farm, but every farm is a sheep farm here and now that it’s Spring, there are lots of little lamb jumping about– some take naps in the green, green grass and they look like white stones dotting the landscape.

Time to get gas– and then it took us about half an hour to get the gas cap off. The gas station attendant even came out, taking pity on us. Innocents abroad…

Our route went in land, in the direction of Te Anau, going via the towns of Clinton and Gore– I kid you not.

And now we’re camping in Bush land (Fjordland really) at Te Anua, overlooking the lake.

After all the stress of the Bolero and not having brought Valium we were hitting the Pinos Gris and rum from Fiji to toast the men in skirts whom we have exchanged for a scenery that is truly out of this world, as we’re dancing the Bolero on our bus.

What can I say? Incredible vistas, sheep, sun after considerable rain… and we petted two little lamb who put up a show for us– I’ll never eat lamb again…

Then we had a sunset over the lake with the table and chairs that did not fall out of our Bolero. We are so blessed… and the pic below doesn’t even do it justice…

Doubtful Sound tomorrow… but then what’s in a name?







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Cast Away…

As our flight took us into the pitch-black night out of SFO, we started crossing that enormous body of water, the Pacific. Seeing nothing but the moon and stars reflected in the water you realize what a tremendous feat the Polynesian migration (in simple canoes!) was. Christina Thompson, whose New Zealand book I’m reading, said it mostly brilliantly:

For the voyaging European, the Pacific was a vast, inscrutable emptiness, an endless horizon, a sky full of light. It was the opposite, in every respect, of the place he called home, a cozy, terrestrial cluster of cities and farms, busy with human activity. The Pacific, by contrast, seemed dreamlike, a liminal space, a place of clouds and shadow. […] For early Polynesians, the ocean, far from being a “trackless waste”, as so many Victorians had called it, was crisscrossed by sea roads and pathways. Over every horizon lay islands, some near, some far, some big enough to colonize, some barely big enough to offer respite on the way to somewhere else. For two thousand years, knowledge of these islands, where they lay and how to reach them, constituted the core of their arcana. Traveling in large, double-hulled canoes, they navigated by the stars and the ocean currents, the winds, the swells, the birds, the look and the feel of the sky and the water. They knew hundreds of constellations, identified dozens of winds, could feel the interaction of as many as five different swells through the deck of an oceangoing canoe. They knew which birds flew out from land in the morning and returned to it at dusk.

In other words, they were more ocean creatures than land creatures, and when the first Europeans landed here, they thought they saw “savages” but these were noble savages, not in the Rousseau-esque term of the word, but real sophisticated beings with natural sensibilities that were far greater than the sensibilities of the land-locked and smelly Europeans.

We arrived at Fiji in the dark, but as soon as we felt the tropical breeze and heard the tropical birds announcing the dawn, our whole bodies went limp and soft. But that short reprieve of relaxation was crudely disturbed as our phones picked up WiFi inside the airport and the first tweets rolled in about the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

I don’t want to go there, so rather than writing about morons with semi-automatic rifles, I want you to imagine the Fijians: tall, athletic and some of the most hospitable people I’ve met on the face of the planet. You don’t see men with guns here but men in skirts and there’s nothing weird about that. In fact, it’s elegant and cool (in more ways than one).

The natural beauty and the vast ocean that’s surrounding us does make you feel like you’re in paradise, so it’s hard to believe this country with its many islands is a… dictatorship… (at this rate, I’ll happily trade it for ours).


We ferried our lazy jet-lag asses to another island which is closely located to the island where they filmed Cast Away with Tom Hanks. We set our watches to island time and are now recovering from jetlag to get ready for the New Zealand leg.  Follow this blog to read more in the days to come!

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Traveling to get away from it all…

“If you stick a hatpin in at Boston and drive it through the center of the earth, you come out very near the Bay of Islands.”

~ Christina Thompson

On Sunday, Jon and I will be packing our bags and travel to New Zealand, so I will turn this into a travel blog.

Jon’s last few months were insane from a work point of view, so I’m glad we’ve picked a destination where we can truly get away from it all– hopefully, we can simply turn off the news, avoid newspapers and take in the scenery and stars at night to cleanse for a bit and rejuvenate the soul.


We are renting a camper (first time we’ve done that, ha!) and the other night, I dreamed we came off a horrid long flight to pick up our camper in Christchurch and the whole damn thing was full of sand– we were told in that chill way of Down Under that people before us had taken the thing for a spin on the beach and would I mind cleaning it first before taking off? I woke up in a sweat, and was checking for sand in the bed.

New Zealand has been on my bucket list for a long time and my hope is that Jon won’t get bored, as he’s more into big cities and I, as I get older, am more drawn to nature (and fewer people). We have done little research beforehand because of a chronic lack of time, but I’m reading Christina Thompson’s excellent New Zealand memoir Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All (2008), in which she writes about New Zealand and her marriage to a Maori man by the name of Seven. I told Jon we should be like Seven who, according to Thompson, didn’t obsess with planning anything either:

he was a fatalist and an optimist at the same time. If he set out for someplace without directions, he would find it anyway by chance. If he wanted to go somewhere crowded — a hotel by the sea on a holiday weekend, say — he would just turn up and there would be a sudden cancellation. He never decided where he was going, he just ended up wherever he was. He could never commit to a meal in advance, because how could he be sure, when the time came, that he’d be hungry?

If this is the Maori way, I’m signing up for this lack of planning and living in the moment as far as our trip is concerned. Why do we have to research every restaurant and read reviews before we commit to a reservation, and why plan every moment of our trip? How much of our valuable time goes into that sort of planning? I’d say, we’ll just load up that camper with food and booze and drive into the sunset…

And well, if the world blows up, we’ll just become Trump refugees in the Land of the Long White Cloud, which ain’t such a bad fate, nuclear fallout in the Southern Hemisphere notwithstanding…

Come travel with us and follow this blog!


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September 21st: When Boring Means Blessed

I’ve had such trivial weeks the last few weeks or so, that I hesitated to even update you in my blog because I have nada to share.

Oh yes, the world is falling apart: hurricanes seem to be on steroids, Mexico had two earthquakes squashing innocent children, and #NOKO, Rocket Man and dotard are words we now associate with the coming apocalypse, yet are we really tuning in?

I usually care deeply about these things and keep up with the news but with all the drama of the last eight months it’s hard to stay tuned if you care about your mental health. But we need to pay attention because these are freaky times. And we are dancing on the edge of the volcano.

But the world crises couldn’t be in greater contrast with my own life which was filled with the usual translation deadlines and mundane things like ordering a new fridge and a new couch. Yawn.

While the fridge fitted perfectly underneath our kitchen cabinet (we measured five times), when the day was here to welcome that stainless limousine into our house, to replace a 20-year-old fridge that’s literally falling apart, the guys couldn’t get it through our door.

For real.

We could have shoved it through the kitchen window but with two guys + Jon that involved some major lifting and their company won’t allow for that. So we declined it and plugged our old fridge back in, and refilled it with all the shit we had pulled out to put into the new fridge. It was a Winnie the Pooh kind of day, without the honey:


The couch we ordered never came on the estimated date because they had our landline in the reservation and we got rid of our landline as all it offered was time share deals, political polls and the occasional call from Jon’s dad.

It was rescheduled for today and after much huffing and puffing of dragging that beast into the house and putting it together, I realized the third package which was supposed to hold the legs for the couch contained butt ugly curtains I never ordered. So now we have a couch without legs, and curtains I wouldn’t even dare hang in a brothel.


Charming, huh? I can’t wait for the next person to come to my house and tell her/him that this is actually a new trend, partly Japanese, partly Middle Eastern and especially suitable for crossing your legs and eating sushi. Wait for it. My usual deadpan manner will make people believe anything. I should have become a politician or a trial lawyer.

So I’ll admit it fair and square: my life is boring (why do you think I’m writing a book on Henry Miller?!).

But while boring can put you to sleep (if it hasn’t done so already), boring can be good. Two close friends of mine had particularly shitty weeks, this week, and my sad little life all of a sudden looked like a walk in the park. To underscore that fact, and get away from more reading on obscenity in art (this may seem riveting, but after the 6th piece you think you’ve seen it all), I took Teddy around the block, enjoying the cooler September weather. Yes, my life is boring, I realized but boredom can be a blessing. And then I heard a voice coming from the road (It wasn’t God):

“Inez! And then in almost perfect Dutch “Goedendag!!!”

I looked over my shoulder and saw our sweet Algerian friend, who loves Holland. Gosh. Isn’t it nice, I thought, to come from a country that some people adore… because it has good drainage, sea walls, universal health care, nice cheese, affordable higher education, and bicycle paths instead of rampant homelessness. A bit boring, you say?

I waved back and invited him to come to the house but Camino Pablo looked like 880 in rush hour traffic so there was no way to get out of that little Orinda cluster fuck.

Back home, I poured some tea and read more about pornography and Marquis de Sade– not because I need to juice up my pathetic (sex) life but because of that Miller book. I’m repeating myself. Boring, boring, boring but oh so very blessed.





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September 13th: Sexual Politics

Kate Millett, feminist author of Sexual Politics, died last week. This was an important work in Women Studies and it was the death blow to Henry Miller’s hope of ever becoming a respectable author in this country. She crucified him but made the ultimate mistake of confusing a character/a persona with the person who wrote the book. While Millett destroyed Miller, Henry praised Kate after reading Sexual Politics:

The funny thing is, I began to believe while reading it that what she was saying had an element of truth in it– about me being the prime example of the male chauvinist pig.

When I reread passages from those books I’m most noted for even I am shocked by my use of language. Especially in regards to women and sex. I can well understand the rage women must feel having themselves talked about in such a crude manner. One would think I despise women which couldn’t be further from the truth.

You see, I created a monstrous character in my book and I gave him my name, Henry Miller. He’s a demon, a rogue, a scoundrel. […] That character was me and wasn’t me. […] I was a much angrier man when I wrote those first books than I am today.

Whatever. The damage was done. Henry was never seen in any other way after Millett’s book.

And yet the patriarchy continues. But the demons are not American writers– the demons are those who are in power.

Since we’re on the topic of sexual politics, I happened to see my OBGYN this week for my favorite doctor’s appointment, the pap smear– possibly the worst phrase in the English language. Smears are for bagels, not vaginas.

Anyway, since I’m full blown menopausal and sex ain’t what it used to be, we started on the subject of the great drying out. This was after the speculum business and she and I bonding over the fact that we both have daughters who are into comedy and improv. Yes the shit you talk about to get away from the notion that this new OBGYN and total stranger is all over your private parts after a 5-minute introduction…

She offered prescription meds ALL of which, she warned, are not covered by most insurances. I get it. First world problems.

Just out of curiosity, I asked whether Viagra was covered. Not that I need it.

“Oh, yes!” She exclaimed.

“Medicare, for example,” she said, “fully covers Viagra, but none of the meds postmenopausal women might need to deal with 4-hour-erections.”


She didn’t mention actual 4-hour-erections demented men don’t know what to do with. What she did say, or imply, was that this is why older men switch to younger, naturally lubricated vaginas.

Yes. First world problems, for sure. Nonetheless, if I get born again, I want to have a dick because to screw is still better than being screwed…

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August 21st: As Another Summer Fades Away…

On this rather gloomy eclipse kind of day (haven’t really looked yet but then I’m in a spot where there’s not much to watch), I’m taking stock of the summer. My summer was mostly filled with work but I want to highlight some of my summer moments here. Like visiting The Netherlands (long overdue) with Caroline and meeting Will after his stint in South Africa, and realizing I need to visit Holland every year to connect with family and reconnect with a country that seems so faraway but that still has a special place in my heart. Grateful, too, for meeting new people in Holland, more than just business connections but soulmates and people with their heart in the right place.


I’m thankful for Caroline being home from college and being able to connect with her in long conversations, talking about life, dreams, hopes, aspirations and bitching about the dangerous and irresponsible rhetoric of a president who can’t condemn white supremacists (just saw another clip on VICE in which a woman, two babies in her lap, declares there “should be another genocide”… Please, America don’t confuse free speech with hate speech…Or in the words of the slain Heather Heyer: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention”. Any student of the history of 1930s Germany can see eerie parallels with where we are now and the US Constitution has never seemed so fragile to me).

The darkest day of our summer was having to say goodbye to our Frankie and while it was hard on Caroline (first pet), I was glad we could share that experience, too.

I’m sad we’re seeing so little of Will. Internships and school make it feel like he lives on another planet but he’ll be in town this weekend with lovely Lily, so hopefully we can catch up, and then there is Thanksgiving in Chicago with the whole family.

Someone once told me that life is a continuous process of letting go, but I think we can fill up the void with light and laughter of our own and that nothing is ever final but that we’re all works in progress– it’s a state of becoming and growing if only we open ourselves up to new things, new places and new people.

Summer trivia: Caroline learned how to drive a stick after a couple of traffic light stalls, slight rollbacks, a couple of jolts and a little frying of the clutch on the side. If you want to learn how to drive a stick, you might as well learn it in the hilly Bay Area, right? She drives like a pro now, so I can send her on errands and tell her to pick up Will and Lily at SFO at midnight on Thursday (hihi).

More trivia: after some confusion about Frankie’s absence, Teddy has settled in like a Prince, being the sole center of attention, barking more, and to make up for the buddy he used to sleep with, he has found a bear. Yes, for real:


More trivia: we have noticed that a mother deer and child have taken up refuge in our backyard late at night. We hear them and admire them and they eat all our blackberries but we’re honored with their presence and it’s a nice change from skunks, rats and raccoons.

Summer lessons: spontaneity is the juice of life. After finishing the translation of one book and finishing a novel of my own, I looked up to realize we really hadn’t had much of a summer break and that summer was almost gone, so I asked Caroline where she wanted to go for a weekend — anywhere in the continental US. She picked San Diego and that’s what we did this weekend. There was nothing finer than having lunch in San Clemente overlooking the Pacific, and going for that long walk with Jon on that nice Torrey Pines beach.

We flew back from Long Beach Airport. I simply love small airports– makes you feel like you’re globetrotting in an era when flying was still considered cool and exclusive:


And last but not least, summer revelation: delving deeper into Henry Miller, I’ve come to realize his life lessons, his attitude toward mindful living is beginning to rub off. The last few years, and especially so since I started contracting/freelancing there was always that pressure of finding the next client (or better: clients finding me), the stresses of earning a steady living, or at least an income that would supplement Jon’s and would help provide for our children, living and tuition costs, but I’ve decided to quit the rat race– or rather, instead of running with the rats, I will have life take its course work wise. That is to say, if clients find me and want to pay me standard rates, fine, but I’m not going to chase certain jobs for piddling wages just because I might have an “in” with a cool start-up or interesting company.

I want to free up my time because at this stage in life, time is the most important asset and I want to use it wisely, and not be some corporate serf/have my life being lived by the company whose pockets I fill. The freed-up time is Henry Miller time, or rather a book on Henry Miller that will not only be a reassessment of his oeuvre but that will also be the kind of accessible book for people who, like Miller, want to discover that certain things in life can set you free, if only you’re receptive to it and willing to commit to it.

Not having the means, income or luxury to do so, Henry Miller simply dropped out, long before the 1960s when dropping out became the hip thing to do. We must say yes to life to feel truly alive, but most of us go through life with blinders on because we’re constrained by things we think we have no control over. The mindfulness revolution that we hear so much about now was a central and consistent theme in all of Henry Miller’s major work, so not only was he very much ahead of his time, he’s also timely medicine for an America that’s burned out on life, work, and politics.

“In no celestial register is it written,” Miller wrote, “how far we must go or how much we must endure. It is we, we ourselves, who must decide… Whoever has experienced the oneness of life and the joy of life knows that to be is the all. ‘Ripeness is all,’ said Shakespeare. It is the same thing.”

Remember, as Miller said: It is we, we ourselves, who must decide… So, before time runs out, what will you decide?

You can find more about the book here:, and here is my blog on Henry Miller:

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