Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Three Years of Homelessness...

"And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful
And you may ask yourself-Well...How did I get here?"

"Once in a Lifetime" lyrics by the Talking Heads

Our days go by and turn into years. 

It's hard for me to believe I began this lifestyle experiment 1,095 days ago. But here I am still homeless. For the "Why?" behind the story, please check out my last anniversary blog. 

It's been an interesting run. When I'm healthy and visiting pretty places with miles of trails to explore, all is swell. It's a simple and peaceful existence. When everything is in sync, I'm living lean, tan, well-read and happy. 

However, my days aren't always as fine as a four-pack of Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA, occasionally I gets untracked. This past month, I've been feeling derailed. 

I recently rolled a snake eyes of not only being injured (a knee that developed a mind of its own), but sick as well (cold turning into a sinus infection) and multiple stubborn nose bleeds (with a beak like mine, this could prove fatal). 

I've even felt lonely. 

At times like these, I can blurt out an unwelcome thought to myself. It's this one, "Self! What's going to become of me?" 

Yes, even Wandering, Wondering Jews get the Blues. 


Buy any one of my Kindle Books from Amazon, and you've been kind enough to purchase one gallon of go juice for Barley the Van. That's 15 miles of downhill travel with a tailwind. 

Two Kindle books purchases will provide the author with a Happy Hour IPA (no tip included). 

Buy three e-books and its Happy Hour on me when we meet.

Have I mentioned, "Destroying Demons on the Diagonal" has won the prestigious 2012  IPPY Gold Medal Award for travel yarns?

We now return you to our regularly scheduled blog.

I know my Wandering, Wondering ways has an expiration date. It's called the aging process. As for now, I'll keep rolling along until I find a place I can call "Home." In retrospect,  I've always been restless. Could this be the trickle down affect from my ancient ancestors who wandered around the desert for 40 years? Maybe. 

One thing I know for sure, I've eliminated Tucson and any state east of Interstate 25 from my home list.

It would be a beautiful thing to have a pleasant woman to share the scenery, campfires,  my Coleman Stove cuisine and sunset Happy Hours with.
No one wishes to grow old alone. Not even me.

Besides, having a girlfriend gives me someone to nurture and fuss over. Two Jewish Mother traits I'm real good at. Clara Sambur taught me well.
For the right woman, I would even upgrade to an extended cab 4x4 Barley the Van II. See the photo.

To my readers, thanks for stopping by. If it gets your fancy, feel free to pass the link along. 

Its a mystery to me how this will all play out, then again no one is aware of what lies around the corner. 

Soon I'll be off to backpack the Grand Canyon with my brother from another mother (Brad). Please wish me and my knee Good Luck!

Cheers from the Old Pueblo
Go Syracuse!

PS. I wasn't joking about well-read. Look at all those books on Barley's shelf. The Library of Congress borrows books from me.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

I woke up...

feeling a bit mangy after too many Peruvian IPAs. I suppose drinking 8% alcohol brews is not the healthiest way to make entry in a city that sits at over 11,000 feet. The need to hydrate for altitude ain't easy in Peru. You can't drink the tap water without getting real problems. (Like "Lose weight, ask me how" issues.) 

The evening before, I got caught up in the moment when I found myself in a real honest to goodness bar and grill. The place was featuring the Bronco/Patriots game on its big screen TVs. They could have been showing synchronized swimming for all I cared. The bartender spoke New York. It felt like being back home. 

After a tasty breakfast with real coffee, I did some early morning sightseeing while Cuzco woke up too. I strolled around the Main Plaza with its Roman Catholic cathedrals, restaurants and hotels. There I saw street vendors who were starting to warm up. Their wares were as diverse as their personal appearances. Jewelry, knick-knacks, alpaca woolen hats, food items and sketches were being hawked. They looked at this Gringo as a possible first sale of the day. I disappointed the Peruvian entrepreneurs by saying "No Gracias!" many times. I'm not much of a shopper. 

At one time Cuzco was the "Navel" of the Inca Empire. Intricate stone work is still prevalent throughout the historical part of town. They employed a lot of muscle power in their building construction techniques. Hugh granite blocks were sanded, polished, scraped and cut to fit. It didn't take long for me to realize these stonemasons were not being paid at a Union rate. Civic projects did not spring up overnight. 

My favorite scene was watching a petite, pretty and well-coifed traffic cop. She was making a futile attempt to direct the mayhem of cars, buses, trucks and taxis from occupying the same place at the same time. She wore a white, shiny vinyl gun holster. Unlike the Carabineros of Chile there were no strings attached to her pistol. 

At about 8 am, a passenger van and our guide Alex showed up at the hotel. Me and a few fellow Inca Trail soon-to-be sojourners boarded. Introductions, handshakes and pleasantries were made. I sighed in relief when everyone appeared to be nice, normal, interesting and pretty smart. I was hoping they were thinking the same thing about me. Well, maybe I was reaching for the sky for them to think of me as "normal."

Our ultimate destination was the Sacred Valley of the Incas with a few stops along the way. If the tourist spot didn't grab me, I would wander about and snap photos. (See the Guinea Pigs? In Peru, it's what's for dinner.) 

Much of the day was spent in the van watching the Peruvian world go by. From my vantage point, villages appeared to meld into one another. Most had a hard scrabble look about them. Many of the housing units seemed to be in a construction or deconstruction mode. Dogs milled around piles of plastic garbage bags strewn along the roadsides. Long walls were painted up with presidential political ads. From my impromptu poll, I think Cuna will get the nod in the Cuzco district. Old women trudged by bearing enormous who-knows-what loads wrapped in red woolen blankets. They wore bowlers and other not seen in the USA type of hats. Lots of men just seemed to be hanging out. 

Si! But if you looked past the human side and gazed up at the natural side. Here's what you would see: lush green steep hillsides, distant 20,000' mountains containing glaciers and terraced farmland clinging to the angled slopes. I liked the Mother Nature side more. 

Yep, I was surely in a foreign country. 

We made stops at some ruins with Inca names I can't even begin to pronounce or spell. Then again, I can say the same thing about a multitude of places in North America. Alex would talk (sometimes drone on) about the site and its significance to the Big Picture view of what the Inca Empire was all about. I felt like I had enrolled in a freshman Machu Picchu 101 course. Alex didn't mention if there would be any surprise quizzes. 

It was an infringement of my Happy Hour by the time we returned to the hotel. Me and my fellow travelers would soon find out long days would be the norm instead of the exception. We didn't know it, but we had all paid to be in an ultra-marathon. The finish line would be Machu Picchu. 


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Be Prepared...

When venturing behind the Zion Curtain (AKA Utah).

For thirty-five years I've been giving fellow travelers free advice about the Beehive State.

I simply tell them the truth. "When you're going into Utah, load your vehicle with your favorite alcoholic beverages. When you run out of liquid entertainment,  it's time to run out of Utah." 

Little did I know (until I researched this blog), I was breaking a Utahan law! 

Bringing booze into Utah is like smuggling cocaine in from Mexico
All alcoholic beverages (which at this point might as well include Yoo-hoo) must be imported or shipped by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Possession of any booze that you didn't buy through them is illegal. Of course, there are loopholes, but they're more hairline cracks than holes. If you're coming from a foreign country and clear customs, you can keep up to two liters for personal use. Or if you have a Summer estate in Zurich second residence outside Utah, you're permitted some booze... with DABC approval, after you pay a fee, and only one time. Accredited foreign diplomatic missions, or inheritances, also clear the law, so you might want to get on becoming an ambassador.

For 3.5 decades I've been a clueless criminal! I plead ignorance!. That comes easy these days with the amount of senior moments I've been having lately.
However, ignorance of the law is no excuse. 

All that being said, I'll still bring my own personal stash (plus a few extras in case I meet any other thirsty heathens along my way) into Utah. Don't rat on me.

Weird alcohol imbibing laws are what happens when there is very little separation between church and state. Especially when the church doctrine (LDS or is that LSD?)  is anti-alcohol and anti-caffeine. 

For example: the brewpub's in Utah can only sell less than 4% alcohol by volume beer (ABV) in draught form. However, if they put their product in a can or bottle, the sky is the limit on ABV! 

This was one reason Epic Brewery chose to open a second facility in Denver, CO. That doesn't - make-sense law meant a tapless-tasting room for a company proud of making heavy beers. Epic now makes an IPA aptly named "Escape to Colorado." Welcome to the Centennial State! 

These Blue laws seem almost whimsical. The average heathen will scratch their heads trying to decipher what's legal and what's not. One thing I can tell you, there is no Happy Hour in Utah. It's illegal to reduce drink prices to lure in patrons.

If you decide not to heed my been-there-done-that advice and enter the state ill-prepared, there are Utah state owned liquor stores. These Sin Shops can be found on a dusty side alley with blacked-out windows. There's an entry code to gain access. Rap on the door three quick times, followed up by two slow raps. A peephole will slide open. A shrouded figure will then ask  "Who sent you?" The answer of course. "Joseph Smith." 

One more thing. Make sure you have plenty of ice in your cooler. Real beer is sold only at room temperature. 

I don't think you need to leave a set of fingerprints when you pay. 

PS. I love Utah despite the drinking laws. The National Parks are of a take your breath away beauty. The town's are clean, wholesome and quiet. The locals are friendly and polite.     

I'm looking forward to my five week road trip there. 
I'm pretty sure I have adequate supplies.

Cheers and stay hydrated,

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Lessons unlearned from...

The Hohokam. 
Long before White Folks discovered the Valley of the Sun, known today as Phoenix, the Hohokam resided there. 

The former occupants built elaborate canal systems throughout the Gila and Salt River bottom lands. At one time, they had 100,000 acres of irrigated farmland under cultivation. The longest canal was 20 miles long. In total, there was 1,000 miles of man made waterways coursing through the lowlands. 

I'd like to think of the Hohokam as the early day Bureau of Reclamation. 

The Hohokams occupied the area from 600 to 1450. Then the Hohokam went missing. 
The modern Pima Indians provided the White Folks with their name. Hohokam loosely translates to "all used up" and "gone." 

What happened to these Busy Beavers?

Many Eggheads provided us with many theories. Here's a plausible one. As the Native population swelled, more canals were required. This meant more maintenance and water requirements. Then the droughts came. Foodstuffs and cotton were harder to grow. Great floods followed destroying the watery infrastructure. The Hohokam evaporated away to greener pastures. 

Now Metro Phoenix fills the void. The city's name came from an Englishman in the 1860's " A new city will spring phoenix-like upon the ruins of a former civilization." True! 

Now there are canals running to and fro across the valley. Water is pumped up and over from the far away Colorado River to fill the CAP (Central Arizona Project) waterways. It's an engineering marvel and the possible high point of Floyd Dominy and his Bureau of Reclamation. 

The whole premise of Phoenix is built upon a house of cards. How can an Metro area of 4.2 million people get by on 8 inches of precipitation per year? The answer is not likely without the infusion of Colorado River water. The Gila and Salt Rivers do not pass beyond the city. Every drop of water is sucked up. What once were river beds are now relegated for flood control. Where there were once perennial streams are now dried up and dusty repositories for tires, shopping carts and other detritus of modern man. 

Yet, the subdivisions keep springing up. The golf courses, palm and orange trees, water features, hay fields and Kentucky Blue Grass are still in use. 

No one seems to pay attention to the inevitable. The Colorado River is used up. All of it. One day, there will be a price to pay for Man's Hubris. Hohokam history will repeat itself. 

Please read Maxina Lewis' quote from the last photo. From the mouths of babes comes wisdom. 

Please use water wisely. It's a gift. (It's a necessary ingredient of IPA's too)


Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Rare Political Blog...

By the Wandering, Wondering Jew.  

In lieu of Trump's Super Tuesday's triumph, I had to come out and write something.

I've heard rumors of a minority of Chosen Ones who are throwing their support behind The Donald. 

OY! This is the moral equivalent of Hebrews handing stones to the Nazi mobs on Kristallnacht. 

No Bueno! Don't do that!

This man is a Hate Monger. He would be a poor leader for the people who introduced the world to the common sense rules of the Ten Commandments. 

Trump's ideas don't  represent the honorable and noble values of America either. 

We are, and always have been a great country. 

I give thanks each and everyday that Austrian born Clara Sambur gave birth to me in Bronx Community Hospital. I'm proud to be an American. 

Politics 101 is now no longer in session. 
Vote responsibly,

Whatever happened to the Republican Party of Lincoln, Jacob Javits, Nelson Rockefeller and Theodore Roosevelt? 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

It was a Great...

Roll, and I wish I could still be out in our National Parks.

However, Cactus League Baseball (and a rental casita) beckoned me back toward Phoenix. 

I completed my lap of the sandy South West in Joshua Tree National Park. It used to be just me and the rock climbers who visited the helter skelter boulder fields. Now everyday American citizens and people from other places are drawn to its subtle beauty. There's even Boy Scout Troops on merit badge missions.

I always envisioned the terrain to be the playing field of Giants engaged in a contest of "Stack 'em High." I'll admit I moved a couple of large stones around to improve the overall Feng Shui of some random piles. No biggie. A good upper body workout. That's how I roll.

In retrospect, I would rather be in a campsite than a casita. Baseball could have waited a few more days. 

This was a lot better trip than Texas in the Spring of 2015. 

I still have heaps to learn in retirement. Good thing work doesn't interfere with my class time. 

Cheers from Litchfield Park, AZ.
That's a Happy Hour story too. Like I said, still learning.