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…









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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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

The Jihad Cafe’

As the vehicle slows to a stop in traffic on the interstate and the baby cries in the back, I can’t help but wonder if the traffic jam we are encountering was caused by the wreck of the Republican clown car.  It was not our intention to arrive in South Carolina on the day of the Presidential primary, it just worked out that way.  The great American spectacle unfolds and we are driving through the middle of it as we meander south in the camper van.  The TPP is approved, the largest US military budget ever is passed, more and more NATO military assets are moved closer to Russia, the blown up financial system is ready to pop but HEY everybody look at Donald Trump!

When I was in junior high school I used to watch professional wrestling on tv. Then one day, my older brother informed me that wrestling wasn’t real.  It was acting.  The wrestlers are characters in a story who are following a script.  The outcome is pre-determined.  I have thought the same thing about US politics since the 1990s.  This year’s presidential performers are sure putting on a show…

This week’s travel story is from the Middle East a couple years ago.  Not surprisingly, it has some connection to the ongoing presidential extravaganza.



Amman, Jordan; February 2013

The Jihad Cafe

The first one I went to was in Turkey but I have probably been to a hundred since then.  I go almost every day.  They are everywhere in the Islamic world.  Comparable culturally to sports bars in the United States, smoking cafés are ground zero for male bonding and intense conversation.  Muslims don’t drink alcohol so tea and coffee are the only beverages but a variety of tobacco smoking options are also available.  I don’t speak Arabic or Turkish, of course, so I don’t understand the conversations going on around me.  But I like to sit in the smoky atmosphere and listen to the flow of foreign words as I sip tea or coffee.  As a general rule, I don’t enjoy tobacco products, but this whole shisha thing is kind of fun.  I’m not an addict yet but I am becoming an aficionado of cultural immersion.  If I want to understand their ways, I have to participate in their rituals.  We drink beer and argue about sports and politics in the U.S. while they smoke shishas and discuss Islam and jihad in the Middle East.  It really is the same bowl of potatoes.

So, here I am again, at another café drinking tea and absorbing the scene.  I have a balcony seat today.  I am overlooking a busy street in downtown Amman, Jordan.  Meanwhile, just inside this glass door there are dozens of crowded smoky tables effervescing with animated conversation.  I am searching for a sliver of peace in between the chaos of the outside and the chaos of the inside.  The server comes out the glass door bringing a bucket of hot coals and the loud conversations from inside come roaring out to the balcony. I am trying the mint flavored tobacco today.  The server uses some tongs to put hot coals in the basin of the shisha.  I inhale deeply as the tobacco lights up.  I know it’s not good for me but still, the burning sensation on my lungs feels good.  It has some kind of mystical power.  The server turns and goes back inside and closes the balcony doors.  I exhale a rather large cloud of smoke towards the sky above.  It feels as if a sensory volcano is erupting inside of me.  And then, all of a sudden, something remarkable happens.  I overhear a conversation taking place just inside the glass door of the balcony.  Somebody is talking in English.  And the subject they are discussing is jihad…

Amman, Jordan is the original Philadelphia that the Philadelphia in the U.S. was named after. The City of Brotherly Love in Jordan should now, however, probably change it’s motto to the city of Refugees.  Located at a crossroads of several war zones, Amman and its environs are home to one of the highest concentrations of war refugees on the entire planet earth.  There are Palestinian refugees and Iraqi refugees and Syrian refugees.  They crowd the cafés; fill up the buses and occupy space in the overflowing streets.  There are now more refugees than official citizens but the country keeps welcoming more.  Give us your tired and your poor and your hungry and your war torn.  We have no more space or resources but we will accept them anyway.

I arrive in the afternoon but the bus does not stop at a Central bus station.  Instead, I am somewhat unceremoniously dropped off on the side of a busy highway underneath an underpass.  There are, however, a bunch of taxis there so it’s not a problem.  The taxi takes me to a cheap hotel on Faisal Street somewhere near the center of all the action in downtown.  The ancient Roman theater is around the corner on the main road and the Citadel is straight up the hill that rises behind me.  But those are the tourist attractions.  For now, at least, I’m more interested in the everyday attractions.  I hope there are some good restaurants and cafés.

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A Restaurant in the Middle of Nowhere

The Amazon Jungle is a long ways from the Middle East. Indeed, it would be difficult to find a location more geographically re-moved from the Islamic World.  Nevertheless, it is all connected by the international news media and all the victims may yet unite against the common aggressor. This week’s story re-examines last week’s fear of travel theme from a different perspective.  It is a mirror in the fun house to last week’s story. Same author, different time… different reality.  If you read the two stories together, it is almost like passing through a time/space portal.

“But is it real?” says Ms. B. from the front of the camper van, “or are you making stuff up again?”

The story is fiction but it is based on a real experience.  In 2002-2003, I went on a 5 month journey that began in Rio De Janiero, Brazil and ended in Lima, Peru. I found the overall experience so intense that I wrote a novel about it.  The novel is not exactly auto-biographical though. The main character is a young and naive American on his first ever traveling adventure. He is also carrying a big bag of cocaine.  When I traveled all the way up the Amazon River in 2003, I was a fairly experienced traveler with many overseas journeys under my belt and I wasn’t carrying any cocaine.  But I did go to all the same places at more or less the same times as the young hero(David) in the novel and we did have several similar experiences.  The incident in the restaurant at the center of this week’s story really did happen to me but it happened in a different small town.   What is truth?  What is fiction?  You tell me because I don’t know anymore.

This story is also one chapter in the long novel.




A  Restaurant in the Middle of Nowhere

April 2003.

David awakes in his hammock in the early morning and the area around him is a bustle of activity.  People are scurrying about, taking down hammocks, packing up suitcases and backpacks.    They are all getting ready to get off the ship.  He rubs the sleep from his eyes, climbs from the hammock, walks to the rail and looks at the river.  Sure enough, a rather large town is up ahead.  By the time he takes down his own hammock, packs up his pack and organizes his stuff, the boat has just about pulled into dock.  The final photos and goodbye hugs are being exchanged among the passengers.  A few people shake his hand, say goodbye in Spanish or Portuguese and even ask him to join in group photos.    The spontaneous short term community is breaking up.   The old guy, “Bobo”, is not around and neither are Catherine and Giroux, but the three Colombian amigos are there taking part in the fond farewells.  They approach David and offer to escort him to a hotel on shore.

A line has formed by the gangplank and passengers are now filing off the boat.   David and his three amigos join the line and are soon on the dock, solid ground; land again after seven days.  It feels kind of funny to walk around.  The legs need time to adjust.    They wait by the dock until they find Catherine and Giroux.  They lingered in their cabin before exiting so as to avoid the crush of the crowds.  When they see David, they wave and rush over to him.  Their mood is extremely optimistic.

“Feels great to finally be on shore again,” says Catherine. “Do you know where you are going to stay?”

“Bobo recommended the Garcia Guesthouse,” says David, “but I have no idea where it is.  These guys offered to show me the way.”

“Residencia Garcia?  That place is recommended in the guidebook,” says Giroux. “We looked it up last night.  It’s in Leticia, not Tabatinga.”

“Leticia is supposed to be a better place to stay,” says Catherine.

“Where are we now?” asks David.

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The Fear of Travel

Ms. B. won’t let me take little A. to the Congo yet so we are all going to Florida on a camper van journey instead.  Most likely, this first ever full family wander will involve at least a few escapades worth writing stories about.  In the meantime, I will be continuing with my series of stories about traveling in Islamic countries.  It will be interesting to see how family travel now in America juxtaposes against independent travel in Muslim countries then.  Perhaps there will be a way to mingle stories from the opposing worlds for interesting literary effects. Hmmm…  I guess that all depends on what happens.  Anyway, this week’s story is from Jordan in 2013.




Amman, Jordan (February 2013)

The Fear of Travel

 The verifiable truth is; a lot more Americans die each year in household furniture accidents than die in terrorist attacks.  But household furniture accidents don’t sell news coverage; household furniture accidents don’t sell advertising revenue; household furniture accidents don’t sell weapons or war.  Household furniture accidents are boring.  As such, most people are blissfully unaware of the great danger household furniture poses.  That is unfortunate because… the good news is… your chances of getting killed in a household furniture accident are greatly reduced during the entire time you are traveling out of the country. But most Americans never travel out of the country. Less than 30% even have passports. Many people won’t travel because they are afraid of terrorists. And there you have the paradox.  While it is true that traveling outside the country may slightly increase your chances of getting killed by an act of terrorism, the reduction in the threat from household furniture more than makes up for that slight increase.  Reality is sometimes confusing but it does make sense.  Don’t be afraid of terrorists.  Be afraid of household furniture instead.  Go traveling.  You won’t regret it.

After my hike in the canyon near Dana, I linger at the Dana Tower Hotel for a couple extra days.  The food is incredible there and the couches on the rooftop terrace are nicely atmospheric for creative writing.  Indeed, I manage to complete my non-traditional story about Mount Sinai and the Ten Commandments before I leave town.  I also have several interesting encounters with some fascinating people.

On one particularly delightful afternoon, I share a shisha on the rooftop terrace with an older backpacking dude from Austria.  As luck would have it, he is a man with a traveling gene similar to my own.  He works seasonally in Vienna and world wanders when he is not working.  He is presently in the midst of an extended Mideast journey that began in Turkey and circled through Iran and Oman before bringing him to Jordan.  He tried to go through Saudi Arabia as well but the Kingdom would not let him in.  With the worst human rights record in the region and perhaps the world, the Saudis are not too keen on independent travelers.   The only westerners allowed to visit them are oil buyers and weapons sellers… not tourists, travelers or journalists.  Now isn’t that just a fascinating little factoid. Meanwhile, my extended tour of the Mideast also began in Turkey.  I, however, circled through Cyprus and Egypt before arriving here in Jordan.  I, too, suffered through a case of journey interruptus for political reasons.  The passenger ferry from Cyprus to Haifa in Israel no longer runs so I caught a cheap direct flight to Cairo instead.  The best laid plans of world travelers are so very often interfered with by the mice and men of world governments and their petty disputes.  Sometimes, the world is just not fair.  Oh well, the Austrian and I meet at the crossroads of a roof top in Jordan and trade our traveling tales.  As the shisha smoke swirls up into the atmosphere, the stories stack together like stones in a stone wall.  How much fun are humans allowed to have?

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