Another New Beginning

This is a test to see if I can attach audio to my wordpress site.  I want to start an audio program of travel stories and I am looking for the proper place to host it.  Let’s see what a short audio sounds like here…  Well, how about that, something seems attached.  So now the question is; can I just go ahead and play it on an ipad or an iphone or a smartphone or whathave you  and what will it sound like if I do… sleep inducing…  I will bet you a dollar you can’t stay awake till the end.

So I’m back again… with another new beginning. Yeah, I know, I appeared on these pages a few months ago promising a new beginning. I was full of enthusiasm and bright ideas. I was all excited to write new “travel” stories with a twist. I tossed out a teaser about where we might be going to escape this year’s winter. The big reveal or surprise is that this year, instead of escaping the winter, we moved right into the middle of it. We are staying at a place we call, “Buddha Hill,” in the heart of the Catskills. Outside my window now there is more than a foot of snow. The wood stove cranks to keep us toasty warm. The circumstances of our accommodation are special because we could never afford such a place at market price. But it’s a stonework deal. The owners are connected to a Buddhist community near here where I built a couple of waterfalls a few years back and they will be living in their California home for the next year or so. Buddha Hill needs a little waterfall for its pond and we were looking for a new and interesting place to live. A few phone calls were made, the stars aligned, the Buddha approved and it was karmically correct…. Voila’. We get to live in a Catskill mountain paradise for a year and all I have to do is build a waterfall.

So that’s what I was going to write about… traveling tales from “Buddha Hill.” Indeed, I even wrote two such stories in my notebook and intended to post them. But I never did. I was also ready to launch my new book about my travels in the Middle East. The book is called, “A Journey to the Middle of the East,” and I definitely think it is my best book ever and I really want everyone to read it. My plan was to load it on the self-publishing platforms on the first of the year and spend the winter promoting it. But here we are in early March and the book is complete but it is still just a file on my own computer, it is not uploaded anywhere or sent anywhere. It sits stagnant… ready and waiting to be released to the world. But I hesitate… Why? Is it, perhaps, because I am meditating too much here? Ha. Or maybe I am consumed by family responsibilities? Or maybe it is some sort of deep seeded psychological chain that holds me back… Perhaps I am just afraid. Afraid there will be no audience for my stories… Usually, I tell myself that the audience doesn’t matter… Blah blah blah… I don’t need to sell books. I earn my living with stonework. So I can write my stories primarily for me. I believe that the act or process of putting a story framework around my life experiences gives my life a kind of meaning or substance. Some people have religion; I having living fiction, or, my life as a novel… Yeah right Pat. What a bunch of shite. You write for an audience and you damn well know it. Stories are meant to be told. As such, stories need an audience.

In my own defense, I got distracted from my book project and my travel stories blog by a family crisis. In a round about sort of way, that family crisis became the inspiration for this next new beginning. Because it really is a new beginning.

The family crisis involved my father. He’s 87 years old and he had a bad fall and bumped his head. As a result of the fall he was in a hospital for ten days and a long term rehabilitation facility for six weeks. But the crisis has passed for now. He’s back home and doing much better. His house has been slightly re-modeled to make it more accessible for an 87 year old man who can barely walk and we have hired a home care aid that we can barely afford to stay with him overnight. But at least he is home again.

My father lives about five hours away from me. So I had to leave my little paradise here on the hill for a few weeks to go “home again.” It was a little weird. I grew up there but I haven’t really spent any time there in the last 25 years. It’s a smallish house that somehow managed to be big enough for a family with seven kids. Now it only houses my father and my brother who cares for him and it seems too small for them. How it was big enough for the nine of us makes me shake my head in wonder. But yes, I lived that reality. My parents bought it in the mid 60s and it has suffered significantly from wear and tear in the last 50 years. The clutter of big families and the passage of time have left there marks.

I fixed up the old house some and stayed with my father for a while to help with his transition back to his home environment. My father has two health issues that significantly interfere with his quality of life. First, he can barely walk even with a walker. Arthritis in his ankles and bad circulation have ruined his legs. He’s not in a wheelchair yet but maybe he should be. Secondly, he has sleep apnea and severe chronic insomnia that significantly impair his mental functioning. For many years, he spent the late night hours pacing around the house. But now, because of his legs he can no longer pace.

My little inspiration… When my father was in the hospital and the rehab facility, he was often visited by myself and my siblings and a number of grandchildren. I have sort of adopted the role over the years of long-winded storyteller in the family. My tall tales from trips overseas gave us something to talk about while sitting for long hours with my Dad. And then, I noticed something interesting. Whenever I got going on one of my long winded tales, my father would shut his eyes and go to sleep. It’s kind of funny, really. My father has severe insomnia. He Never Ever sleeps…. except for when I tell my stories.

So I took the night shift at the family home when he got out of rehab until we were able to find and hire a nighttime nurse aide. I sat in the recliner chair next to my Dad all night long. I told him I was making audio recordings of the travel stories in my books to sell on the Internet and he was the official studio audience. If he thought I was “reading him to sleep,” he would object not wanting to burden me with the task.  But he likes to be useful and as my official audience he felt like he was doing something so he went along with it. It really seemed to work like magic… I would read and he would fall asleep. When he awoke several times during the night disoriented and confused and wanting to get up, I would just say it was the middle of the night and I was still recording. I’d help him to the bathroom but then settle him back down in his recliner bed and start reading again. The sound of my reading voice would orient him to time and place and he would go back to sleep.

Of course, I wasn’t really recording stories to put on the Internet. I was recording stories for my father. Now the night time nurse aide has the recordings on an iPad and she can use them as a tool to help him sleep through nights. But there is no reason why I can’t record audio stories for the Internet. What do you think; I can market my travel stories as a sleep aide for insomniacs….

Ha ha. Not really.

My stories are not really especially sleep inducing. In all likelihood, it was the anxiety relieving familiarity of my voice that helped my father sleep not the specific content of my artistic creations. I don’t think he even heard a single full story. He rarely made it through a whole paragraph. Any of his other children reading any stories would produce the same effect. Indeed, his new found ability to sleep may have more to do with the new sleep medicine the doctor’s at the hospital gave him than anything I did. But really, I must say, it was an incredible human experience to read my travel stories to my Dad during my overnight shifts. Not only did I bond with my father in a weird almost transcendental way, but I discovered something very important about myself and my stories during the process…

The stories need to be read out loud… or told.

The more I read the stories out loud to my father, the more obvious the truth became. I’ve always been a storyteller… even as a little kid. Writing books is a career in the modern economy.. telling stories is the manifestation of an impulse that is embedded in the genes. My travel stories began as yarns I used to spin while drunk on whiskey at the bar. Indeed, the language of my stories is such that they seem like they are all meant to be spoken. I never liked public speaking because it always seems too formal of forced. I get severe anxiety whenever I try to go onstage. But give me a whiskey and a small group of people in a comfortable setting and the stories spill out of me like water from a leaky cup.

So now I’m back on Buddha Hill and I have this recorder. And I have been making practice audio tapes of my travel stories. And it is so much fun. I just have to start sharing them with the world. I can hardly contain my enthusiasm.

I’m still working out the technical details, but my plan is to either add audio story telling to this website if WordPress has the capacity and tools to make it work. Or set it up somewhere else and link to this site.

I have almost 200 crazy travel stories in my collection of notebooks from visiting over 50 countries in a fifteen year period. I would like to record them all… or, well, most of them… for audio in the next few years. I’m thinking, perhaps, a program of some sort… not exactly a podcast but maybe a podcast… What in the heck is a podcast anyway? I want to do a weekly regular schedule so people will get used to tuning in and listening. Maybe I will call it Travel Stories from Somewhere… and upload a new episode with a story or two every week or so…

So that’s it. The new beginning. I hope you will give it a listen because it is coming soon to an Internet site near you.

I have uploaded a little audio here to test WordPress capacity and quality for audio but it is not the first installment of Travel Stories from Somewhere.  I’m guessing this site is the wrong place to set this up. I’m kind of annoyed with anyway because they added effing advertisements to my site when my premium plan did not automatically renew. Pharmaceutical advertisements no less… Auuuugh! Enough to make me run screaming into the forest with horror. I hereby apologize to all my readers who were subjected to that obscene horrible bullshit when they merely came here to read travel stories. So I was thinking of moving anyway. Maybe my new plan to add an audio segment will be the final incentive to make the move….  I guess we will just have to wait and see.

See you somewhere…









A New Adventure Begins…

Where to this year?

When you face the mighty serpent during an ayahuasca vision and he opens his jaws to consume you, what is the wisest course of action?  In other words, how do you overcome fear and discover truth?

I’m back… sort of… or, at least, I hope so.  It’s been almost a year since I last posted anything here.  Little did I realize, the extent to which living and traveling with a toddler (two and a half year old) would infringe upon my writing time.  We did travel last winter but for only six weeks in Costa Rica and Nicaragua and we brought the little one with us.  I wrote several stories of our adventures in my spiral notebook that I intended to post here. But child care got the best of me.  There are only so many hours in a traveling day.

But alas, a new winter is upon us and this year will be different.  Of course I’m not giving up my child care responsibilities but I’m hoping to squeeze hours to write out of some non-essential part of my day to day existence.  Who needs sleep anyway? My stonework season is behind me again for now so my annual writing season begins. As such, I will be loading these pages with my unusual commentaries on the ever unfolding collapse of the empire as well as my tantalizing tales about traveling in far away places.  If I have any readers left after my long hiatus, I hope you will tune in again to see what I have to offer. I promise it will be lots of fun and very interesting.

My book about traveling in the Middle East is now complete and fully edited as well. All I have to do is load it onto the various self-publishing platforms (Lulu, Smashwords, and Amazon) and it will be available to purchase by the general public.  Many of the stories were posted here as rough drafts while I was traveling but they have been refined and combined with several unposted stories from my spiral notebook to create a continuous narrative.  If I do say so myself, it is my finest literary creation yet.  I may even try to find a real publisher instead of self-publishing so that it can reach a wider audience.  Anybody out there have any suggestions on possible publishers of non-traditional travel books? One way or another though, it should be available soon.

So where are we going this year?   Someplace different… very different.  I have already been to Central and South America, Africa, The Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent and Asia.  Where can we possibly go this year to escape the dreaded woes of winter?

Can you guess?

When you face the mighty serpent and he opens his jaws to terrify you….  what is the wisest course of action?

If you guessed Peru or South America, you guessed wrong…  How many times have I told you?  Do not confuse metaphor with reality…





The Lycian Way II (The Cost of Being Alive)

Here is another one from the archive of hand written notebooks.  It is also a chapter in a new book I am working on about traveling in the Middle East.



The Lycian Way II (The Cost of Being Alive)

Patara, Turkey  March 2013

Everything is free… Nothing is free…  Aye… there’s the rub; the fine line which fractures humanity.  The question arises every single day.  Why do we have to pay money for food and shelter?  The spiritual traditions tend to teach the opposite…love your neighbor; practice compassion, the golden rule.  For me, at least, the spiritual traditions are but metaphors to describe an instinct that is real and present in all humans.  Indeed, to push the concept into the realm of the radical, I would even suggest that the instinct is not just a human instinct but rather a fundamental force in the formula of the whole darn universe. The prophets call it kindness or love.  Scientists call it entropy… the opposite of energy.  The truth is; humans and all living things have a communal or social instinct.  

No doubt, we have an individual instinct too.  The other side of the equation.  The energy that opposes the entropy.  The two forces counter-balance one another and free will comes forth from the center. Unfortunately, these days, civilization is way out of balance.  The controlling economic system penalizes the social instinct and rewards the selfish instinct.  As such, finding that middle path in between love of self and love of others can be rather difficult.  In other words, it’s not always easy to “be nice.”        

As the cold rain pours and the harsh wind blows outside, we are warm and cozy inside with candle lighting and amazing food.  Ms. B and I are in the common room of a guest house on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. We are the only guests so we have the place to ourselves. But then, an angry young woman comes forth from the storm to interrupt our private romantic dinner. I am correct in my guess about her nationality. She is American.  She is mad because she had arranged a free place to stay in the nearby village of Alinca but found the house closed, locked and empty upon arrival.  Furthermore, the Turkish cell phone she bought for the trek is not functioning so she can’t call her friend back in Fethiye to find out why the house is locked and nobody’s home.  The blowing wind and rain is a nightmare outside so she can’t set up her tent.  She desperately needs a place to stay.

“No worries,” I tell her, “they have plenty of room here.  It’s only 40 lira (20 bucks) with dinner and breakfast and the food is really amazing.”

“But I don’t have any money with me,” she says.  “I was planning to stay everywhere for free.”

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A Modest Proposal

This week’s episode is transcribed from my archive of handwritten notebooks.


A Modest Proposal

Istanbul, Turkey; February 2013

The rock is special.  I found it at Wadi Rum when I was camped alone on a sand dune in the middle of nowhere.  It sparkled in the setting sun and grabbed a hold of my attention.  Its crystal structure bent sunlight into all the colors of the rainbow.  It looked, quite literally, like a droplet from heaven.  I even thought it might be a diamond.  But now I’m not so sure.  In the plain light of day and the harsh glow of fluorescent light, the stone does not look so magical.  It’s still nice and all, but I have my doubts.  It might be technically worthless.

Nevertheless, my plan is to give it to Ms. B..  Ideally, the presentation of the rock should be both dramatic and romantic so that she remembers the experience for the rest of her life.  A spontaneous overflow of emotion would be nice. Perhaps even some tears of joy.  I’m hoping to push the metaphor of our love story long into the future and the rock giving game as a symbol of commitment is a human tradition that goes way way back into the past.  The modern world has, of course, spoiled the narrative with crass commercialization, sentimental clichés and legally binding contracts but the underlying story is still a good one.  Two individuals decide to become a single unit… a couple… a family.  It’s a radical move.  It’s an optimistic bet on the future of the world.  The giving and accepting of the rock is the moment of destiny; the climax of the love story.  It is the moment when the happily ever after begins…

 Welcome to Istanbul!  There is a convenient metro station below ground at the airport.  It is cheap and efficient so that is the route we take into the city center.  Ms. B. is exhausted after 20 hours of travel time from New York via Amsterdam.  Dinner time now in Istanbul is breakfast time in New York and poor Ms. B. has been up all night.  I, however, am as chipper as cricket in a field of flowering clover.  It was a short two hour hop to get here from Amman, Jordan and I had a good night sleep and a healthy breakfast.  I was also here in Istanbul a couple of months ago so I know my way around a little.

The metro journey to the Sultanhamet neighborhood takes a bout 45 minutes total.  We have to switch from tram to train about halfway there.  On the train we have seats.  Ms. B. leans into me and rests here head on my shoulder as we exchange a few words but the train is crowded and the scene is not appropriate for much conversation.  She nods in and out of consciousness as we communicate non-verbally.  Ten thousand miles from my apartment on a subway in a foreign city but with Ms. B. asleep on my shoulder, I feel right at home.  After we switch to the tram, however, we no longer have seats.  It’s very crowded and we are lucky to find space to lean our backpacks against a center pole.  We hold on with one hand each as the tram rumbles slowly through the busy city.  Ms. B. keeps blinking her eyes open.  She looks dead on her feet… like she might collapse.  I look around at the many passengers on the crowded tram car.  Ms. B. and I are both rather blonde and we definitely stand out amid the dark haired, olive skinned locals.  Nevertheless, there is no sense of stress, discomfort or anxiety.  The other passengers pay us little mind.  Tourists with backpacks on their way to Sultanhamet is a fairly common sight on this tram.

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Manifest Destiny

Hi everyone.  I’m back. This website is now renewed for another year and my stonework season is finished so I will continue again with weekly postings of crazy travel stories and radical essays.  This is a travel story from my archive of handwritten notebooks.



Manifest Destiny

Istanbul, Turkey and Amman, Jordan; February 2013

The story is… We have been following each other around the globe for all eternity.  In 1992 I was in Costa Rica and in 1993 I was in Ecuador.  She was in Ecuador in 97 and Costa Rica in 99.  In 2001, we were both in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia).  But we didn’t know each other then.  It’s possible we collided inner-tubes on the river in Vang Vienne or shared a shisha lakeside in Phnom Penn but such encounters are neither documented nor specifically remembered. In 2004, we were both in South America.  She was traveling with her sister and I was on my way to meet an Argentinian love.  We knew each other then, but just barely.  Same hometown. Social acquaintances.  Friends of Friends.  We even exchanged a few e-mails.  Perhaps we will meet up in Bolivia.  But the timing didn’t work out.  I was in a hurry to meet the Buenos Aires Babe and she was on her way to Machu Picchu.  In 2007, we were both in Mexico at the same time.  We were pretty good fiends by then and I thought seriously about going to see her in San Miguel.  But she was involved with a friend of mine at the time and he was not with her.  Avoiding temptation, I went to Chiapas instead.  Then, of course, there was 2008-2009.  My harrowing trip through North Africa where so many things went wrong.  No, she was not traveling in North Africa that year.  She was home in Oneonta reading my travel stories about North Africa on the internet.  She was also the first person I saw on the streets of Oneonta when I returned from that trip broke, defeated and slightly traumatized.  She gave me a hug on Main Street and welcomed me home.  She offered to make me dinner some time for a proper welcome.  She was no longer involved with my friend.  I went to dinner a few days later.  And the rest, as they say, is history…

We’ve been together for almost four years now but I do not discard the possibility that we were together in past lives or future lives as well.  Sometimes it seems as if we have a connection that lasts for all eternity.  We’ve already been on a few long wanders together.  A big romp through Peru and Ecuador was the honeymoon trip and we also went on an extended journey through the campgrounds of the Southern United States.  She’s a good travel partner.  We always seem to find ourselves inside of fun little adventures.  This year, I came to the Middle East on my own for a couple months but she is meeting me for the second half of the journey.  These past two months of traveling is my longest time away from her since our togetherness began.  I just want to put my arms around her and give her a great big hug…

In two more days, I am flying from here in Amman, Jordan to Istanbul, Turkey in order to meet Ms. B.  Before I leave Jordan, however, I really want to see the ancient ruins of Jerash.  It’s only an hour or so away by public transport.

I set out after breakfast in the early morning.  Thankfully, I stop and talk to the guy at reception on my way out the door.  He tells me I want the north bus station for Jerash and he writes it down in Arabic on a piece of paper.  He also gives me a hotel business card with the name and address in Arabic. “If you get lost,” he says, “just give this card to any taxi anywhere and he will take you here.”

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The Promised Land




The Promised Land

Amman, Jordan; February 2013

I think they are from Iowa in the United States, but I can’t say for sure.  They are middle aged with grey hair, expansive waistlines and Midwestern accents.  “I can’t believe we are really here,” says the woman.  “This is where it happened.  This is where it all began.  God told Moses that the lands of Israel belong to the Jews.  Look honey.  Isn’t it amazing?  The map points everything out.  All of Israel is before us.  Can’t you just imagine God and Moses standing here, on this very spot and God pointing it all out. All this land belongs to your people Moses.” 

“That’s why they call it the Promised Land,” says the man, “God promised it to the Jews.”

I am standing about ten feet behind the couple.  I am politely waiting for them to finish their turn at the lookout before I step forward to check out the special view.  We are on Mount Nebo; another Biblical tourism hotspot.  It is the dramatic setting for the closing scene of the Book of Exodus.  According to the story, God talked to Moses here and gave him the lands of Israel. Walking around the Mountain, it’s fairly easy to understand the origin of the story.  The view is spectacular.  All of Israel is literally spread out before me like a single plot of land.  I, myself, can almost hear the voice of god talking. “It’s all yours my son, it’s all yours.”  No doubt about it, the guy who wrote the story probably sat on this very spot and dreamed the whole thing up.  Sure, why not, a complex metaphor, a well designed plot and lots of interesting characters.  Put it down on paper and it will be a best seller for years to come. 

If you ever find yourself in Amman, Jordan, or anywhere else in Jordan for that matter, you have to try the lamb mensaf.  As a general rule, I like to sample a great variety of meals from the many different cultures I visit and when I arrived in Amman I intended to work my way through the full range of culinary possibilities.  But I had the lamb mensaf my first night there and I could not bring myself to order anything different for the whole week afterwards.  Oh my god… so delicious.  I could probably eat it every day for a year.  One of these days, I’m going to have learn how to make it myself.

When not eating lamb, I drink coffee and tea and smoke shishas.  I move from cafe’ to café and restaurant to restaurant.  I wander along the wide streets and meander through the narrow souks of the big city.  I don’t see many tourists or Westerners; it’s a very Arab and very crowded place.  There are ruins to see in the city; some ancient columns, a citadel and a Roman theatre.  I also have a couple of excursions planned.  I am going to see Jerash on one day and I want to go to the Dead Sea and Mount Nebo on another day.  I’m saving Jerash for the very end though and the Mount Nebo thing is complicated by the lack of public transport there.  I don’t really want a tour and hiring a car and driver for a day is a bit pricey.  While I hesitate, I have a few days to just hang out here in downtown Amman and learn a little about the proverbial Arab Street.  Continue reading

Family Travels Begin



Dancing in the moonlight… Indescribable joy. An emotion so powerful it overwhelms reality. How did this happen to me? I know, this sort of thing happens to humans all the time on a regular basis all over the world. It has happened throughout history and will happen until the end of time. It is, you might say, the quintessential human experience. But still, I like to think I’m special. Has any father anywhere ever had it so good?

It started with intense anguish of course. All moments of great joy are preceded by tormenting anxiety. That’s just the way the universe is constructed. Joy and anguish… two sides of the same peso… You can’t have one without the other. Before the big moment, there must be the ordeal. In this particular case, the ordeal was intense…

All I want is a scenic spot to park where it is warm enough to camp and a beach within walking distance. We begin the quest in mid February in upstate NY and go south to Pennsylvania. We are hoping to stay the first night in Pittsburgh with friends but we get a late start and little A. has a meltdown in the back of the camper van shortly after sunset. Crying babies on busy highways are super stressful. We end up in a Quality Inn on strip mall road in everywhere America. As a hotel room in a corporate chain it is an adequate prison cell with all the necessary creature comforts. But it definitely doesn’t dazzle with originality. A Bonanza restaurant next door is our only dinner option. Corporate food and a corporate bed. Not surprisingly, I have nightmares and diarrhea. Apparently, my system doesn’t agree with “the system.” Continue reading