I’m Kicking You Off

By the time you are reading this, the wife (Cruella) and I will be winging our way homeward, off the Azamara Quest and returning to reality. It’s been a much needed break from that sometimes cruel state. Aboard ship one can, if one so chooses, be totally cut off from the outside world. Internet service is spotty and slow, to say the least. In addition it is, frankly, expensive, so much so that Cruella and I opted to just have one account we shared. Sharing of course means having to let each other know when one or the other of … Continue reading I’m Kicking You Off

A Few From Afar

One of the best things about travel is you get a different perspective on what’s going on in the world.

You also get a different perspective on how the rest of the world sees Americans.

Keep in mind I’m on board a luxury cruise ship. This isn’t your seven day six night Carnival “fun ship” where it’s cheap to get on but expensive once on board. This is the kind of cruise for an older, wealthier clientele so of course it tends to skew conservative.

And then there is the flaming liberal, me, unafraid to voice an opinion and prepared by six years of vicious mudslinging to battle to the death on every issue.

Except I’m not. I am having insightful conversations with people of all political stripes that end more often with toasts to each others health than knives in each other’s backs.

Example: A self described “very right wing” British gentleman I met and had drinks with, (something becoming an oddity in itself in the US) was heard by me to utter “well at least you got rid of Trump” when the subject of politics came up.

That brought me up, as they say in the UK. “You didn’t like him?” I inquired. That lead to, gasp, a civilized discussion of politics and especially what it means to be conservative. He didn’t even fully approve of Boris Johnson but of course the British system means that while you may support and vote for the Conservative candidate in your constituency, sometimes one must have to gulp twice, smile through gritted teeth, and accept the leader of the party when he takes the office of Prime Minister.

Stiff upper lip and all that, don’t you know.

Meanwhile he was puzzled at how America could have fallen for, his words, “a carnival showman with no clear political agenda other than to stay in power”. I mentioned that not once but twice Trump didn’t win the election, but rather he won the Electoral College, another concept my friend from the UK was totally stumped by. I wanted to go into a history of that most peculiar institution, but more drinks arrived just then saving my breath and I’m pretty certain his sanity. We toasted each other, fist pumped, and moved on to other subjects.

Another example: A Canadian couple from British Columbia and I had a chat that swerved into the politics of Canada-US relations. Now these folks were more liberal than my UK friend, voted for Trudeau, and were totally aghast at what happened during the Trump years and in particular the way Trump had treated Trudeau. “He acted like our Prime Minister was a political novice who didn’t understand the complexities of foreign relations when in fact the opposite was true”. I pointed out that that was Trump’s modus operandi, to cleave his faults onto the other guy while proclaiming himself the “expert”.

“Well that’s certainly not the way to deal with others” they proclaimed, insinuating that type of behavior was more playground than political. Our conversation ended with smiles and fist bumps.

Continue reading “A Few From Afar”

A Postcard From the Safest Place In The World

I am currently aboard the cruise ship Azamara Quest and it is the safest place in the world. It is the safest place in the world because of the 220 passengers and 400 crew members aboard the ship, every one of them (us) has to be fully vaccinated against COVID and be able to show proof of status. You want to call my little California state issued vaccine card a vaccine passport go ahead because it fits neatly inside my federal government issued actual passport. It is the safest place in the world because all 220 passengers and 400 crew … Continue reading A Postcard From the Safest Place In The World

Let’s Hear It For The Immigrants

The wife (Cruella) and I are travelling for the next two weeks. Actually we’ll be on a cruise ship. More about that next time. This time I’d like to say a good word for the newest Americans working the crappiest jobs who frankly saved our bacon over the last 24 hours. Our flight from San Francisco to Atlanta was delayed two and a half hours because of the winter weather on the East Coast. Just quickly, really Delta? Are you not aware that in late January, early February it can get really snowy on the East coast? And if so … Continue reading Let’s Hear It For The Immigrants

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude

Tommy T. is feeling poorly, and I’m filling in for him. Let’s all send him our best wishes for healing. I mentioned back in the fall that I had finished planning our first vacation in 9 years, and we actually took it earlier this month. Wow. We planned the trip back in September when there was no Omicron outbreak, and we ended up canceling our trip to see my family for Christmas because of Omicron, so we had to do some serious thinking about what we were going to do. The day before we were set to leave my parents … Continue reading Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude

Chinese Checkers

Beijing Winter Olympics 2002 Logo

In two weeks the Winter Olympic Games ™ will begin in China.

I won’t be watching.

I will be boycotting these games. My physical attendance was never going to happen, so my boycott will be of the television kind. And I strongly urge you to join with me on this boycott journey.

First of all let’s face it, nobody really cares about winter sports unless they or a family member are playing them. Strapping boards on your feet and sliding down a mountain trying to be one tenth of a second faster than the other guy is not compelling sports viewing. Really, it is like auto racing, we’re just waiting for the crash. Don’t get me started on ice skating, a “sport” tailored to be a cesspool of corruption. Ice hockey? I have the NHL for that, if I really need it. Luge, bobsled, cross country skiing? Fine things to do, but a bore to watch. Now curling, that’s something I could get into, but until they let the curlers (don’t call them athletes) play it in their natural habitats, ie, with a beer can in their hands, I’ll pass.

But all that’s just my distaste for winter sports. That’s not the real reason I’ll be boycotting.

Did I mention these games are taking place in China? You remember China. The land that censorship loves so much it bought a timeshare there. The land of suppression and repression. Where surveilling leads to jailing. Where human rights are thrown into the back seat of a police car never to be heard from again. Yeah, that China.

China, or to be more correct the city of Beijing, was selected to host these Olympics through some pretty dubious means. Back in 2014 when the selection election was held, Oslo Norway was the leading candidate. That made perfect sense since, well, Oslo is well known for it’s winters, i.e., they have plenty of naturally occurring snow and ice. But at the last minute the International Olympic Committee (IOC) threw in demands such as:

“Diva-like demands for luxury treatment” for the IOC members themselves, such as special lanes on all roads only to be used by IOC members and cocktail reception at the Royal Palace with drinks paid for by the royal family. IOC also “demanded control over all advertising space throughout Oslo” to be used exclusively by IOC’s sponsors, something that is not possible in Norway because Norway is a liberal democracy where the government doesn’t own or control “all advertising space throughout Oslo” much of which is privately owned and has no authority to give a foreign private organization exclusive use of an entire city and private property within it.

Now the IOC is pretty well known for being a little footloose and fancy free when it comes to demanding things from potential host cities, but that was ridiculous. It actually sounds to me like the IOC made these requirements with the idea of gaming the election so that ONLY Beijing would be able to win. As it stands the only competitor for these games after Oslo pulled out was Almaty Kazakhstan, another Asian country with dubious credentials when it comes to human rights (but notably better than the Chinese).

So Beijing becomes the first city to ever host both a summer and a winter Olympics and they will have done both in the span of 14 years, far quicker than any other two time host city ever has. Then again, while once upon a time cities fought tooth and nail to get an Olympics now they mostly have an ambivalence about them, especially the winter games. Let’s face it, as a ski destination you only have a few months to make money and if those months have to be given over to preparing for and then hosting an event you don’t make money on, well thanks but no thanks.

But having the IOC game the system for them is the least of my problems with China hosting these games. Let’s talk about what they are requiring of those attending the games, both participants and partisans.

Continue reading “Chinese Checkers”

Cry The Beloved Almost Visited Country

South African Flag

So while everyone waits with baited breath on the results of the further tests on the Omicron variant of COVID I have a selfish reaction to the news.

Fuck, there goes my vacation. Maybe.

Yes, the wife (Cruella) and I were going to be heading to South Africa in about six weeks. Why South Africa? The beauty and wonder of a land so far from our own. The chance to leave winter behind and regale in the warmth of the southern hemisphere. And, ironically, it had until last week, one of the lowest COVID infection rates IN THE WORLD. The U.S. has a rate of 25 cases per 100,000 people. South Africa has a rate of less than one per 100,000. In a country of 59 million that means, hold on let me get the calculator out, let’s see divide by 100K, multiple by one percent, oh crap the calculator battery ran out, anyway that means like 59 people in the entire country diagnosed as COVID positive.

Those are the kinds of odds I’ll take a chance on. Besides I wanted to photograph lions and hippos and elephants oh my.

I’ve been on the side of vaccination, social distancing, mask wearing, et al throughout the pandemic. Do I think the world is overreacting to Omicron? Hell no, until we know more everything should be shut down. Seal off any country where it rears it’s spikey little head. That includes those European countries that relaxed their testing and sequencing efforts (looking at you Belgium, you frivolous Flemish fop).

Here’s the thing about Omicron, at the moment hospitals aren’t overrun with Omicron variation patients. As a matter of fact, few have gone to hospital and even fewer have ended up in Intensive Care and those who do tend to be (say it with me) unvaccinated. The symptoms that present seem to be along the lines of general achiness and a bad cough. Um, I don’t know about you, but that’s how I wake up each morning. And yes, all those who have tested positive for it are on the younger side so are more likely to be able to fight it off with relative ease, but compare that to original COVID-19 where people got it and ended up on a ventilator eventually.

Here’s a thought. What if Omicron is the end stage mutation of COVID? What if it is like the mutation that turned the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920 from deadly killer to winter time annoyance? I have no epidemiology training and I don’t play a doctor on TV, but the fact that no one is dying of it suggests that there is at least the possibility of this being true. And if that’s the case, don’t you actually want that variation to reach as many people worldwide as possible? Is there a lab somewhere in the world where an original strength COVID molecule is being put into the proverbial ring with an Omicron microbe to see who bests who? I mean even Coke and Pepsi did that.

And now from the beautiful Sands Hotel in fabulous Las Vegas Nevada, it’s fifteen rounds to determine the heavyweight virus championship of the world!

Drizzle drazzle drazzle drome click the link for more

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Today on Tommy T’s Random Ruminations – Brussels spouts edition

Spouting off

Barbara and I went on a snorkeling trip last time we were in Playa Del Carmen, but only for the boat ride and not to go snorkeling (Inah reef is pretty much dead now). The trip goes from Puerto Adventuras, North around 10 miles along the coast. The “Piratas de Tejas” is a 75-foot V-hull and not a catamaran, so it’s pretty susceptible to the wave action that is mostly nonstop in the channel between the Yucatan and Cozumel island, and it was a pretty rough ride.

For some reason, the crew were playing Spanish language rap and techno (as if any of the 20-odd passengers were going to be dancing around instead of just hanging on) all the way out. We stopped South of the reef, and the snorkelers were herded into a bait ball and led over to the reef. Barbara and I took advantage of the wind, stillness, and impossibly blue water to relax and chat with the other non-snorkelers, and have some ice-cold beers.

After the touristas were loaded back on and lunch served, we headed back.

That’s where it got a little strange.

More after the clickbait…

Continue reading “Today on Tommy T’s Random Ruminations – Brussels spouts edition”

Notes On A Wedding

Maxwell House Wedding Photo

My apologies for not writing last Friday, but I was caught up in the travel and prep for my younger son’s wedding.

Did you miss me? The wife (Cruella) would say aim lower.

The youngster and his intended live down in Los Angeles. The wedding itself was in Pasadena. Do not, under any circumstances, ever refer to Pasadena as being a part of Los Angeles. They are two very distinct and different cities and while Los Angeles loves having Pasadena nearby (I mean the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl if nothing else), Pasadena abides having Los Angeles nearby. All that new money you know, terribly gauche if you ask Mrs. Snottybottom. She’d tell you even if you didn’t ask.

Trekking down to the Southland from Sonoma means taking Interstate 5 down through the Central Valley of California. If you don’t know what the Central Valley is, just check out your kitchen cupboards. Probably a quarter to a half of all the food you have in there is from the Central Valley. Remember those Happy California Cows or the California Raisins? They both call the Central Valley home. It’s also one of the more conservative areas of California, at least from the standpoint of the landowners there. And by landowners I mean HugeAgriBusiness Inc. Who was supplying the money for the recent recall movement? Most of it came in boxes postmarked from Bakersfield, Fresno, or Merced. So as you traverse the concrete byway that is I5 there are plenty of signs espousing conservative beliefs, from what you would expect (Recall Newsom!) to head scratching (Prevent Man Made Droughts — Build More Dams). So you agree the drought is man made but believe the solution is not to deal with climate change but to build more dams. So you can have more low cost or even free water while us city folk go thirsty. Suuurrrreee.

And that’s all before you get to Harris Ranch, an 800 acre feedlot containing 250,000 head of cattle and all the necessary equipment to turn those cows into what’s for dinner. We call it Cowschvitz. If you’re not at least considering going vegan before driving past, you will be once the aroma of a quarter of a million cows permeates your nostrils. Believe it or not, they have a restaurant and hotel on the property. Hard pass on that for me.

At the end of the 420 mile, six and a half hour car ride was the Langham Huntington Hotel. We had decided to pamper ourselves a bit with a stay here. The last time we were here was about 40 years ago and it was for work. This time we would be able to take advantage of all the coddling and first class service they could provide. They did not disappoint. I mean, turn down service, who still does that? Well they do. And they leave the Bose system in the room tuned to KUSC, the SoCal classical station so when you get back in late at night it’s a calm and soothing way to slip off to sleep.

Jump in past the break, we haven’t even gotten to the wedding yet.

Continue reading “Notes On A Wedding”

Emily Litella

Well That’s Very Different…Never Mind

Emily Litella

There are three things you need to know before you head into this story:

  1. Next Door is as localized message board for neighbors to post notices about lost dogs or to inquire about what that noise was last night or to randomly spout off about politics. On that last point I’ve been known to call it QAnon for the slightly less crazy.
  2. Pacaso is a company that puts together groups of people to purchase properties as second homes and use them as “vacation” get away locations.
  3. Picazo Cafe is a beloved Sonoma restaurant famous for their burgers and nachos.

Pacaso, the real estate scheme, has been very controversial around these parts. While I and my neighbors all live here, we do understand that our little part of the world is a tempting vacation location, what with all our scenic beauty, pleasant weather, and oh yeah all those wineries with open doors and enticing aromas of fermented grapes.

Full disclosure, my day job as a tour guide is dependent on getting people to come and vacation here.

While we love our area for all the reasons stated above we also love it for our neighbors; for the connections we have made with the people who live next door or down the street or across town. They are our friends. And we welcome newcomers to the town. We want the just arrived to be as invested in our community as old timers are.

Which brings us to why Pacaso is so controversial.

When they put together 6-10 people who don’t know each other to purchase a single property as a second home to share on a rotating basis it not only takes that home off the market for potential sale to someone who actually wants to live here full time, it takes away a family completely invested in our community. This consortium of strangers won’t make connections in town, they won’t contribute to keeping our small businesses going, they will care more about short term value rather than long term growth. And most importantly, they will not vote here.

In addition Pacaso brokering a house raises the costs of buying property here. Everyone loves to have the value of their home go up, but around here most believe it shouldn’t come at the cost of not knowing who your next door neighbor is. Pacaso doesn’t look for one or two bedroom homes. They look for four or five bedroom homes, a bedroom for each of the members of the consortium. The kind of homes families move into. The kind of homes where kids play in the yard and go to the local school and declare to their parents “why do we live in the most BOOOORING place on earth?” only to come back after a few years away and say “wow, this is really a special place”. In other words, the kind of homes where the owners are fully invested in their community.

Years ago when AirBnB and Vrbo came into being, the people of Sonoma voted to limit the number of homes that could be used as “short term rental” housing for precisely the same reasons as why so many of us are against Pacaso. We want neighbors, not transient vacationers. Pacaso would effectively get around the short term rental restrictions by having “owners” who might use the property for themselves, or might allow a friend to use their allotted time for a small fee. All of which is why neighborhoods around town are dotted with handmade signs voicing opposition to Pacaso. Truly a grassroots movement.

And one other thing. Those Pacaso owners and their “friends” wouldn’t pay hotel taxes, the ten to twenty percent tax that gets included in your bill at the end of the stay and that goes no where else but straight into the county’s coffers. That tax is another reason we like tourists who stay in hotels — they keep our tax bills down. No hotel tax increase has ever been voted down in Sonoma, hardly surprising since the people who pay the tax can’t vote here.

OK, so now you have all the background. Let’s get to the funny part…

Continue reading “Well That’s Very Different…Never Mind”

Anticipation Is Keeping Me Waiting

I spent Tuesday morning watching the red carpet show at the Met Gala. I realized how much I missed sparkles and elaborate hairdos and beautiful jewelry on display. I have a coterie of friends who love couture (even if none of us can afford it) and we spent the day going through photos from the event as we had time and then discussing them in a private Facebook chat. Watching a bunch of people absolutely delighted to get dressed up and have fun was an excellent distraction. Seeing so many people of color walk the red carpet, and sharing designs … Continue reading Anticipation Is Keeping Me Waiting

Assault On A Queen

Assault On A Queen Poster

I’m a sucker for a good “caper” movie. Give me protagonists with shady pasts who devise brilliant schemes to make themselves and their buddies rich and man that is just good old fashioned entertainment. This movie, ASSAULT ON A QUEEN, is a 1966…well…at best okay addition to the caper cannon. Sinatra just kinda walks through it, the plan has you wondering why they do things the way they do, never explains away nagging incongruities, and the two best acting performances are supplied by supporting characters (Franciosa and Conte). But in terms of audacious plans it’s hard to beat raising a sunken submarine, retrofitting it, and making it your get away vehicle for robbing an ocean liner at sea.

I’m sure by this point you’re probably thinking “okay where’s he going with this”. Patience. Just like a good caper movie you need all the backstory.

The film’s ocean liner is a real ship, the RMS Queen Mary. When used for the filming it was in it’s next to last year as a seafaring vessel. Soon after the filming was completed Cunard/White Star sold the Queen Mary to the City of Long Beach in southern California where it has been permanently moored for the past 54 years. It has functioned as a hotel, convention center, and general tourist attraction for all that time.

The city had leased the ship to a management company who agreed to run the facility and keep it in good shape. “Just send us the check each month” seemed to be the municipal attitude. But Grande Dames, especially those of the ocean going variety, need constant maintenance and upkeep. Constant maintenance and upkeep costs a lot of money. For as long as tourists paid their way onboard to see how the other half once traveled or conventioneers thought it was a hoot to stay on a ship instead of a Sheraton things were fine. For the last year and a half though the tourists haven’t been coming. Neither were the checks. And an independent inspection of the ship’s condition showed that it needed over a hundred million dollars just to get it back to a state that would keep it afloat for the next 25 years. It would be close to half a billion dollars to retrofit it to last another hundred years.

The management company, when informed of the repairs needed, basically said “New phone, who dis?” and declared bankruptcy, leaving the City of Long Beach holding the proverbial bag and forcing the city council to debate what to do with the ship. By the end of the debate I’m sure most of the council members were wondering why in hell their predecessors had come up with this cockamamie scheme.

Their options, according to the Daily Mail, came down to three:

Option 1: Renovate and preserve the Queen Mary for 100 years 

It’s estimated that preserving the Queen Mary until 2120 could cost taxpayers between $200 million and $500 million. Extensive repairs and upgrades would need to take place on a dry dock and could take several years to complete.

Option 2: Renovate and preserve the Queen Mary for 25 years

Experts say short-term preservation could cut immediate costs to the taxpayer. Marine engineering firm Moffatt & Nichol says taxpayers will fork out $150 million and $175 million to keep the boat viable as a tourist attraction until the late 2040s.

Option 3: Dismantle and/or sink the boat

It is estimated that either sinking or dismantling the boat could cost upwards of $105 million because metal from the 81,000 ton vessel would have to be transported to a scrap facility or moved further out into the ocean

First of all it’s a ship, not a boat. A ship can carry a boat. A boat can never carry a ship. End of naval semantics lesson.

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Welcome Home

Some say the best part of going away is the coming home. Well it’s certainly nice to be home. At least I know where everything is supposed to be and generally is unless of course I moved it before we left because “It’ll be so much easier to find it when we get home”. When we left California there was still a pandemic going. When we got home…not so much. I mean it’s still going on everywhere else, but here in the Golden State it’s become as clothing optional as Baker Beach. And by clothing I mean masks. Masked up … Continue reading Welcome Home

Notes From The COVID Road

West Coast Postcards

Random thoughts along the West Coast COVID trail

You know how in JAWS they wanted to kill the shark to save the summer holiday season for Amity Island? Well they blow the shark up (“Smile you son of a …”) and swim back to shore and…fade to black. We never find out if they saved the summer holiday season.

That’s kind of where we are right now with COVID, vaccinations, and the summer season. Some places have opened up fully for business, some partially, and some, well, it’s hard to say what they are doing. So in California the shark blows up and everyone comes flooding in. While on this trip I have booked four separate tour hosting gigs for groups coming from all over the country. Meanwhile in Washington the shark is blown up and people from Washington itself and neighboring states who are vaccinated are taking the opportunity to get out and enjoy some of what they’ve been missing for the past year and a half. Oregon? Best I can say is some people think the shark either wasn’t blown up or was never there at all. Others think everything’s fine. Totally depends on where you are and even from one town to another the rules change.

Asked the waiter at the restaurant last night if their business has been impacted by the ferry service closing between Victoria and Port Angeles. He hemmed and hawed, finally admitting that he doesn’t pay much attention to Canada since he can’t go there (hmm, that little scrap over the illegal substance conviction must have put a damper on his pro snowboarding career). But the town has definitely suffered since there is no ferry service from Victoria to Port Angeles because of Canada’s COVID border closure. That ferry normally carries hundreds of cars a day back and forth and suddenly it’s up and gone. What few waterfront bars and restaurants are still in business (lots of empty store fronts) were busy on a Father’s Day Sunday night, but only BECAUSE there were so relatively few left. On the other hand the hotels were jammed with Olympic National Park enthusiasts eager to get out in the fresh cool air and hike, bike, backpack, and otherwise take advantage of the beauty of nature.

Washington does have a more lenient attitude toward COVID precautions. Signs dot pretty much every retail and eating location that say in effect “All employees have been vaccinated so if you don’t want to wear a mask, we’re okay with that”. And almost as a thank you for their efforts, most people will wear a mask into the building and remove it at a designated point (at a table in a restaurant, once fully inside a retail establishment, etc.). And no one barks or demands compliance with government mandates.

In general it’s the small towns that seem to be doing better than the large cities we visited. I suppose if you don’t have a lot of businesses in the first place you have less businesses to lose. Seattle in particular has a horrible problem with drug addicts on the streets downtown because they have moved into the abandoned buildings large retailers (Macy’s, Ross) and small have abandoned. At one point we walked back from Pike Place Market to our hotel along Pike Street and watched no less than a dozen junkies lighting up crack and meth and shooting up heroin, all sitting in the doorways of these abandoned retail locations. With no one caring to push them away from their front doors, Superfly’s cliental are beginning to act like they own the street. That’s not good for what retail establishments still ply their trade down there and even worse for the city as a whole. Vibrant downtowns bring not just locals and tourists but a sense of a city moving forward. Frankly it made even me, urbanite from day one, feel uncomfortable and on edge. The response from the police and city officials? A shrug and the excuse “why arrest them, they’ll just be out and back in the same space in a matter of a few hours”. I understand this has been going on pre-COVID, but the pandemic has worsened the situation.

Continue reading “Notes From The COVID Road”

A Postcard From Portland Oregon

Portland Oregon Postcard

Portlanders say it’s necessary to keep Portland weird.

Sorry gang, but that horse has left the barn, the door is closed, and the fat lady has sung. The party’s over, it’s time to call it a day.

Oh I’m not saying Portland isn’t quirky. Sure it’s got it’s quirks. Except those quirks are only quirks if you have been living in a cave for the past ten years. In fact those quirks aren’t even quirks anymore. Portland has gotten less quirky as the rest of the country has turned quirky into mainstream.

Donut shop with wild flavor combinations? That trend has taken over the deep fried sugar breakfast industry throughout the land. Voodoo Donuts might have done it first, but they have been copied to the point where it’s the expected, not the unusual. Civic artwork splashed across every formally blank wall in town? Um, have you seen the Windward Walls in Miami? Or the Arts District in Los Angeles? Or the Mission District in San Francisco? Or the one in, well you name the major American city, you’ll find it. Civic engagement in the age of COVID via taking the annual Rose Festival Parade and turning it into a stationary parade of people’s front porches decorated with what would have been the parade floats? Eh, well talk to New Orleans about this past year’s Mardi Gras.

Don’t get me wrong, Portland is a beautiful city with warm engaging people. They are the kind of people who will go out of their way to help a stranger in town find the best brewpub (Deschutes Brewing in the Pearl District) or let you know about the off the beaten path ramen joint (Kayo Ramen on North Williams). They take their eating and drinking seriously in this town. But it’s not anymore serious than any other big city has become.

We’ve homogenized “weirdness” to the point of sameness across the land. Portland is no more or no less weird these days than New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles or any other urban mecca. It’s all a heady mix of coffee shops, vegan restaurants, non-traditional companies looking to shift the paradigm, etc.

OK the citizenry might have a few more tattoos but let’s face it, tattoos are soooo 2012 on the weirdness scale.

I really want to make this clear, I love Portland. What a wonderful livable city it is. Mile after mile of tree lined streets with single family houses on either side. It’s even quaint the way so many of the residential streets are barely wide enough for two cars to pass one another. Forget it if there are cars parked on the street, maybe one car can get through. And I love that the city has done it’s best to keep major chain retailers out and given room for the local guys to try and make a living. And the food scene is incredible. No matter what kind of food you want to eat there are probably a couple of restaurants serving it, complete with their own house brewed beer or locally sourced wine. And when push comes to shove, the Rose Garden in Washington Park is the place you go to shove the push out of your life for a few minutes.

But really how many pot stores do you need? I don’t mean the kind of pot you put a bird on. I mean the kind of pot that their state legalized back in 2015. There are streets where it’s literally one shop after another and arguments can be heard over which one is best. It may not be the way your town boogies, but it probably will be real soon.

Portland is not weird. Not the way they want to claim it to be.

Continue reading “A Postcard From Portland Oregon”

A Postcard From Ashland Oregon

Ashland Oregon Postcard

Greetings from balmy Ashland Oregon where the temps today will stretch all the way to the mid 70’s and the cloud cover will, well, cover the sky most of the day.

It’s an interesting change from Sonoma where the temps will hit the hundreds while we’re away. Ah, too bad. Along the drive it was astounding to see the change in topography as we sped north, from the arid brown of the Golden State to the lush green forests of the Beaver State. No jokes please, we’re woke around here.

This is our first stop as we wind our way through the PacNorWest ™. Five hours from home, it’s one of the longer drives we’ll be making. That’s a good thing as the wife (Cruella) was just about done with my bad jokes and choice of music. Apparently Gregorian chanting isn’t her thing. Go figure.

Ashland is of course home to the world famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Since 1935 the Festival has presented a variety of plays both Shakespearian and modern in their five performance spaces. The most famous of the theaters is the Elizabethan outdoor stage, a model of Will’s own Globe theater. Fortunately the modern audience all get seats, no groundlings allowed. The season runs from early March to early November.

Of course COVID hit the Festival hard, cancelling the entire 2020 season and forcing a drastic cut down of the 2021 season. Usually 10-12 shows are done per season, this year there will only be two, a new musical called FANNIE about the life of civil rights pioneer Fannie Lou Hamer which will be presented in the outdoor theater starting July 1 (too late for this trip) and IT’S CHRISTMAS, CAROL a gender bending take on the Dicken’s classic opening in late November.

Actually the real reason we come to Ashland is to eat at this place:

Omar's Restaurant Ashland Oregon

This is Omar’s Steakhouse and with neon like that you just know it’s going to be good. And it has been for the last 75 years. A dry martini, a fine steak, some Dragonfly Tempranillo  wine, what more does a man need? A good story to go with? It’s got that too. Seems the man who started it was named Omer and that’s what the sign was supposed to say, but Noodnick Nate the Neon Man screwed up and old Omer didn’t want to offend so he just went with it.

We on the other hand just go with the mouth watering steaks and coma inducing desserts. This is old school eating. Bring your second stomach and be prepared to fill it.

steak at Omars

Coupe Denmark Sundae

Ashland is also home to Southern Oregon University, where “artsy” children are sent by their parents who have compromised in order to at least get them to go to college and not head up to Portland to live out their coffee house and poetry dreams. That and the fact you have a Shakespeare Disney World right next door might lead you to the conclusion the town is just a tad liberal. You would be correct. But it’s a small island of blue in a sea of Southern Oregon red.

The larger city nearby, Medford, for many years has been the home of Harry and David, the gift packaged fruit kings of the world. If you’ve ever opened your door to find a gift from your Aunt Gertrude containing fruits and nuts lovingly arranged in a reusable, if you use those sorts of things, gift basket it was probably from Harry and David. They are a huge company with 8000 employees but most of that is farmed out labor. They were purchased a few years ago by 1-800-Flowers and in the midst of the pandemic closed down all their stores, laid off all the store employees and went completely online. Complaints are up, mostly about the quality of the fruit and the customer service. The company’s response? Teach your Aunt Gertrude how to use a computer.

Continue reading “A Postcard From Ashland Oregon”

Why We Travel

Mark Twain on Travel

During World War II the Antifa government of the United States commissioned their great factory of propaganda called Hollywood to produce a series of films called WHY WE FIGHT. These films were the product of the best and the brightest of American cinema; written by the Epstein brothers of CASABLANCA fame, scored by the dean of film music Alfred Newman, shot by the father of the documentary Robert Flahtery, and directed by three time Academy Award winner Frank Capra. They told in a simple and easy to understand style the reasons America was in the war. In fact they were so good the Feds decided the films, which were made for the troops, should be released to the general public.

I think we need the Biden Administration to underwrite a new series of films for our times. Maybe have them star all the Marvel superheroes, they’re popular. Call the series WHY WE TRAVEL. And then get people to travel.

63% of Americans don’t have a passport. Most say they don’t need one because they don’t see themselves leaving the country…ever. Some though say they don’t feel the government should be mandating “papers” for citizens. That might account for why 43% of Americans are against the idea of a vaccine passport. Of course most of them don’t have a driver’s license either. Sarcasm.

Personally I’ve held a passport for 40 years. My oldest ones are filled with entry and exit stamps from countries around the world, some that don’t even exist anymore, some where travel by Americans was limited. I’m actually peeved now when an immigration official doesn’t have one of the old “ker-thump” style hand stamps that rattle the desk with an imprimatur of official recognition. Hell, the Swiss don’t even stamp your passport at all, your comings and goings simply noted via barcode scan sent to a central computer deep inside an Alpine mountain.

Or some goatherder’s hut on top of the mountain. The Swiss, whatcha gonna do?

Travel broadens your horizons as the saying goes. As Sam/Mark says above, it’s hard to stay bigoted about someone once you’ve seen their home. Strongly held beliefs tend to wither away in the face of actual experience. Being in the Soviet Union in 1986 gave me greater understanding of Gorbachev’s Glasnost plans and why they had to be implemented. Walking the streets of Havana is truly the only way to understand the resilience of the Cuban people. Spending an hour in a pub in Belfast brings the knowledge that though tempered, The Troubles are far from over. Exploring the back alleys of the old city of Jerusalem made me realize that all this bloodshed, all these tears, all this drama, is over a bunch of rocks.

In that same vein I highly encourage anyone who is anti-immigration to spend some time in Central or South America. Or someone who is against socialized medicine to spend some time in any country that has it. Or anyone who can’t understand why African Americans don’t just do what the nice police officer who pulled them over for no reason says to do to spend some time in a third world country like the Philippines or Nigeria and learn what it truly means to have no power over a situation.

Continue reading “Why We Travel”

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – “I Me Mine” edition

Shortest “Obsession” post in my history here at First Draft :

“I Got Mine” Won’t Work Anymore
Posted on 5/1/2021, 9:03:47 AM by DIRTYSECRET

Okay my friends.How do we fight the catch phrases like ‘income inequality’? Makes us the defensive right off the bat. They just have to point to the obvious wealth out there to say it’s unfair. ‘No one working 40 hours/week should live in poverty.’ Blowing them off doesn’t do anything for the younger generation-communist. They’re lost. College loans, putting off marriage, investing in Obamacare they don’t need. Major surgery is needed and the poverty pimps have an easier time stroking resentment while we quietly go about our business. What’s the solution?

1 posted on 5/1/2021, 9:03:47 AM by DIRTYSECRET
I hereby present to you – right-wing nutcase-ism, Trumpism, and Republican party-ism, all in one neat little package with a bow on top :

Okay my friends.How do we fight the catch phrases like ‘income inequality’? Makes us the defensive right off the bat.Not really. Not my problem.

What’s the solution?

I got mine and don’t care that they didn’t.

5 posted on 5/1/2021, 9:09:26 AM by Sirius Lee (They intend to murder us. Prep if you want to live and live like you are prepping for eternal life)
And there you have it.
And now I’m going to go all Adrastos on you, and let Long John and the Silver Beetles wrap it up.
Click on the “Continue reading” link below for some spectacular photos from our trip to Big Bend / Terlingua.


Continue reading “Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – “I Me Mine” edition”

Saturday Odds & Sods: Drinking Again

Subway Portrait by Walker Evans

The weather roller coaster continues in New Orleans but nobody cares because the Saints are playing the Rams in the NFC championship game tomorrow. Our loud fans are bound to blow the roof off the Superdome and it’s going to be raucous everywhere in town. There’s some overconfidence among the fans but very little on the team itself. I still refuse to say Who Dat but I will say Geaux Saints.

In other local news, the Rolling Stones are playing Jazz Fest. I’ve seen the Stones 6 times, but I’m not shelling out $185 for their special day, which is especially expensive. I may just have to listen for free from my top-secret location nearby. Here’s my  only comment on the continuing gentrification of Jazz Fest:

This week’s theme song, Drinking Again, was written in 1962 by Johnny Mercer and Doris Tauber. We have versions by two of the greatest singers ever: Aretha Franklin and Francis Albert Sinatra. Bottoms up.

The song was reworked in 1968 by the Jeff Beck Group:

I hope you’re not too tipsy to jump to the break.

Continue reading “Saturday Odds & Sods: Drinking Again”

Today on Tommy T’s obsession with the Yucatan – Dave’s REALLY not here, man!

Hi all – the Barbara and I are currently defying The Darnold’s wall-eyed wishes and crossing the border into Playa Del Carmen.  This is the most beautiful (but definitely not the most expensive) resort in Playacar – the Iberostar Quetzal. Instead of paving over the jungle with concrete and marble columns, they built this place around the jungle, leaving it and its wildlife as the centrepiece. Enjoy these pics from previous trips there – adios!           Continue reading Today on Tommy T’s obsession with the Yucatan – Dave’s REALLY not here, man!

Other People Aren’t Your Tourist Attraction

On seeing Cuba “before it’s ruined.”  I appreciate good art direction just as much as anyone else, and I see that Cuba looks like a beautifully destroyed photo op. But it’s not your photo op. The old cars are not kitschy; they are not a choice. It’s all they have. The old buildings are not preserved; their balconies are falling and killing people all the time. The very, very young girls prostituting themselves are not doing it because they can’t get enough of old Canadian men, but because it pays more than being a doctor does. Hospitals for regular Cuban … Continue reading Other People Aren’t Your Tourist Attraction

Planes, Complaints and a Prick Named Gary

Occasionally, I’ll read a story like this one, where a woman was removed from a flight for singing “I Will Always Love You” at the top of her lungs for three hours. Or one like this, w here a guy was apparently throwing “gang signs for Jesus” on an aircraft. I often wonder what the hell is wrong with these people. Now, I have figured it out. When an extremely rigid set of rules are combined with massive quantities of ineptitude and arrogance, it is possible to feel completely justified in taking a shit in the middle of an airport … Continue reading Planes, Complaints and a Prick Named Gary

Planes, Complaints and a Prick Named Gary

Occasionally, I’ll read a story like this one, where a woman was removed from a flight for singing “I Will Always Love You” at the top of her lungs for three hours. Or one like this, w here a guy was apparently throwing “gang signs for Jesus” on an aircraft. I often wonder what the hell is wrong with these people. Now, I have figured it out. When an extremely rigid set of rules are combined with massive quantities of ineptitude and arrogance, it is possible to feel completely justified in taking a shit in the middle of an airport … Continue reading Planes, Complaints and a Prick Named Gary

Planes, Complaints and a Prick Named Gary

Occasionally, I’ll read a story like this one, where a woman was removed from a flight for singing “I Will Always Love You” at the top of her lungs for three hours. Or one like this, w here a guy was apparently throwing “gang signs for Jesus” on an aircraft. I often wonder what the hell is wrong with these people. Now, I have figured it out. When an extremely rigid set of rules are combined with massive quantities of ineptitude and arrogance, it is possible to feel completely justified in taking a shit in the middle of an airport … Continue reading Planes, Complaints and a Prick Named Gary