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the man who sailed around his soul

11th March, 2016. 10:22 am. I used to be a cat person..

I've been around cats all my life.  43 plus years.

My first cat - Tyler - also sometimes called 'Tylis Thai Tyler the Texas Thai Tycoon' was one of a huge litter of kittens, and when his brothers and sisters were tumbling down the carpeted stairs, he crawled into my crib and slept with me.  When I was 16, he had the problem many -ese breeds do (he was Burmese) and suffered from kidney failure.  I held him - against the suggestion of the vet - as he was put to sleep.

Distraught for some short period of time, my parents got Merlin and Morgaine - Merlin appears in the icon above.  These were truly special cats.  Remarkably affectionate, loyal, sweet, and a constant in my life after my mom passed away.  They too, being Siamese in their middle teen years, suffered from kidney disease, and their passing was particularly hard on kimberlogic and I.

After a short while without them, I adopted Polly, belonging to a friend of milktree's who was going away to Mexico.  It was supposed to be temporary, but she stayed with goat and I and moved out to California with us.  She eventually fell out of a second story window, and never really recovered from the fall, and I held her in my arms as a traveling vet came to the house to put her to sleep. goat was so worried about me she called 911 and the Fire Department came.

In the middle of Polly's stay with us, came Georgie, who chose goat as a kitten, crawling on her head and meowling during an early visit to San Francisco.  She came home to Boston with Georgie.

A young and rambunctious kitten, Georgie needed a chew toy, and an elderly Polly wasn't the best choice, so we got him Sasha.  They have a mostly peaceful treaty.

A lifetime of cats, and have had no regrets attaching to them deeply, feeding them, cleaning litterboxes, and dealing with moving them occasionally.  I was one of those "my pets are my children" people.

Then we had kids.  Two lovely, amazing kids.

And now..  the love of the cats is still there, but it seems overshadowed by the added challenges and am recently faced with wishing we didn't have them.  We've had scratching incidents with the kids - Sahara about 1/4" from a trip to the ER when Georgie missed her eye.  With family and friends in NY/MA, and our home that we love in CA, we find ourselves going cross county at least twice a year, for weeks at a time.  Finding cat care is always challenging, and at 6 months apart (summer vacation, Christmas/New Years) finding house sitters willing to take care of cats becomes a constant job.  Not to mention expensive - our kids are expensive enough, and they are the ones truly worth spending our meagre resources on.  Least of all, but nonetheless true, I'd be happy to not scoop kitty litter for the rest of my life.  It's not even just the expense and effort and worry, but now that we have kids, they are who I want to care for, to snuggle with, spend time with.

It breaks our hearts to consider rehoming them, but for me at least, I'm starting to feel like I can live with that guilt.  Even lately, Georgie comes to snuggle, and it's nice, like it always is, but I'm just not sure pets are nice enough to make room for in our lives right now.

I remember a conversation with someone, maybe it was tamidon, about the "pets as pets" vs "pets as children" argument many years ago.  Until even a couple years ago, I would have been firmly in the latter category,  Today?  I might be leaning towards the former.  I never imagined that would be true.

Current mood: solemn.

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7th March, 2015. 7:31 am. What's in a (last) name?

Once again, a long return to LJ realizing that FB really doesn't seem right for some things.

We'll be soon having our second little one, most likely this coming week. We're still working on a first name, though we have a front runner, not too worried about that.

However, the topic of a last name is a bit more a quandary. Short form, goat has an awesome family. Mine? Kinda small, spread out, not very close.

I didn't "force" Liz to change her name when we got married. For Sahara, we chose Liz's last name.

For our second, Liz has said he could have my last name.. But is that a good idea? I lean towards consistency, but at the same time, my family has a long proud ancestral history, and I'm "the last of my name", a final branch of an old tree. Is that worth preserving? What's in the best interest of our child?

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1st July, 2011. 6:00 am. Photo Friday: A Lesson in Mayan Numbers Using Canoes

Last month I found myself in the Yucatan peninsula for the first time, invited to witness the Sacred Mayan Journey, a recreation of a ritual which required worshippers to paddle canoes 17 miles across rough seas from the mainland near Playa del Carmen to what is now the island of Cozumel.

Mayan Canoes

Over 300 dedicated canoeists paddled across the Strait of Cozumel in these traditional dugout canoes. Carved out of massive trees, they are one piece boats with a 3-inch thick solid wood hull.

Their only adornment are simple patterns of dots and dashes along the bow of the boat. They also just happen to be boat numbers, corresponding to the Mayan numbering system. Pictured here are lucky 13, 10, and 7.

(Related pictures can be found here.)

Originally published at The Pocket Explorer. You can comment here or there.

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28th June, 2011. 6:00 am. Review: A Sacred Mayan Journey

As lavender clouds herald the rising sun, over 300 men and women ready themselves for a grueling journey, hoping that five months of hard training have prepared them for this day. Barefoot and dressed in simple linens, they walk across the white sand beach with oars in their hands to a line of dugout canoes strung out along the shore. Spurred on by the beating of drums, they paddle away through a haze of burning copal incense.

Canoeists digging in as a Shaman watches

This was the scene a few weeks ago at Xcaret, a cultural resort on the Mayan Riviera, halfway between Cancun and Tulum. These dedicated canoeists were the most important participants in the 5th annual Sacred Mayan Journey, bringing to life an ancient and sacred pilgrimage. Over the course of nearly seven centuries, millions of Mayan pilgrims would make the journey to the village of Polé, where Xcaret now stands. Often traveling in groups, they walked for hundreds of miles on white stone “sacbe” highways across the Yucatan Peninsula. Some would be ferried up the coast in canoes from Mayan port cities as far away as Honduras.

Turning the corner into rough seas

Once at Polé, these worshippers would brave 17 miles of rough seas to reach the island of Cutzamil (Cozumel), where they would bring offerings and pray to the goddess Ix Chel for prosperity, bountiful crops, and fertility. As a rite of passage, young women would travel with their families to receive her blessing and ask for strong sons. This important journey was put to an end with the Spanish Conquest when the crown prohibited the Mayans from crossing the water, but in 2007 a coalition of sponsors, including the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, got together to revive this tradition and promote Mayan culture.

A Mayan Market and a Shipwrecked Sailor

The 2011 Sacred Journey (Travesía Sagrada) officially began the night before with the recreation of a Mayan market, called a Kii´wik. Using cacao beans instead of pesos, we joined the other invited guests in bartering for such items as dried fish, fresh fruit, necklaces, and roasted tortillas. The vendors wore white linens and their language was Mayan, not Spanish. I tried to buy a beautiful pink seashell for my lovely wife back home, but the tanned woman simply held her hands out as if holding a basketball representing how many cacao beans I would need.

With the setting sun, we were ushered away from the ancient bazaar towards a small cove to witness the opening ceremony. A large man – tall and broad, wearing bells around his ankles and dressed in feathers and gold jaguar shoulder plates – strode across the sandy beach waving a censer of copal. After sanctifying the space, the King of Polé received the visiting pilgrims who presented their offerings. Among the corn, flowers, and jewelry was a man in chains. A stranded Spaniard, Gonzalo Guerrero begged for his life.

Gonzalo Guerrero begs for mercy

As his luck would have it, the princess took a liking to him. The king commanded Gonzalo to beg for Ix Chel’s mercy, so he joined the pilgrims as a slave and Zazil Há waited for his return.

Triumphant Celebrations

30 hours after watching the canoes charge out into the ocean with the sunrise, the crowds gathered on the shores of Xamanhá (Playa del Carmen) to welcome them back.

Zazil Há waiting for Gonzalo

Under the heat of the mid-day sun, brown and white dots on the horizon slowly resolved into the returning worshippers. One canoe after another made landfall, and the beach came alive with the cheers of triumph. The mood was joyous as paddlers hugged each other and helped pull the boats onto land.

Victorious paddlers pull traditional dugout canoes to shore

With Ix Chel’s blessing, Gonzalo was welcomed as a villager and reunited with the princess. Guerrero forsake his allegiance to the crown, marrying Zazil Há and becoming the Chief of the town of Chetumal, helping to defend the Mayan people against his born countrymen. The first Spaniard to fall in love with a Mayan, he fathered three mestizo children, and is considered the father of Mexico.

Every year has a different story,” pointed out Xcaret’s Chief Communications Officer, Iliana Rodríguez. “This year we’re honoring 500 years since Gonzalo Guerrero came to the Mayan people. Next year we will tell another story.”

 

Next year’s Sacred Mayan Journey will be May 17-21, 2012. My bet is on the asking of Ix Chel to deliver the Mayan people safely into the 14th baktun (long count calendar cycle), proudly celebrating that it is not, in fact, the end of the world.

Waiting Boats

Waiting Boats

Gonzalo and Zazil dancing

Gonzalo and Zazil dancing

Gonzalo and Zazil dancing

Gonzalo and Zazil dancing

Gonzalo and Zazil reunited

Gonzalo and Zazil reunited

Ix Chel

Ix Chel

Triumphant paddlers return

Triumphant paddlers return

Mayan dugout canoes lined up on the shore of Xaman Há

Mayan dugout canoes lined up on the shore of Xaman Há

A canoeist smiles after returning home

A canoeist smiles after returning home

The Mayan King sanctifies the space with burning copal incense

The Mayan King sanctifies the space with burning copal incense

The Mayan King says a prayer

The Mayan King says a prayer

Originally published at The Pocket Explorer. You can comment here or there.

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24th June, 2011. 1:00 am. Photo Friday: What does a $7 beach bungalow look like?

In honor of Afar’sSF Meetup to share travel highlights“, wherein I presented a 30-slide show in 10 minutes on some of the best stories from our Southeast Asian Adventure,

I bring you a $7 beach bungalow.

A $7 beach bungalow on Gili Air

After being not quite the only people in the world to have been unimpressed with our experience in Bali, we escaped to Gili Air, an island small enough to circumambulate in 90 minutes. Our favorite memory of Bali is actually watching the sun set behind it from the comfort of our daybed at ‘Wanderer‘, our home for over two gloriously relaxing weeks.

Sunset over Bali

Originally published at The Pocket Explorer. You can comment here or there.

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17th June, 2011. 6:00 am. Photo Friday: Off into the desert

This week begins a new series, Photo Friday! Every week I’ll highlight one photo that tells a particular story. Enjoy!

Our guide leads us into the Sahara

Back in 2007, we had been going to Burning Man for several years. From Boston (to a barren salt flat two hours north of Reno) is quite an undertaking, requiring lots of money and coordination. We decided to trade the Black Rock Desert for the mother of all deserts — the Sahara.

We went to Morocco, and spent 12 days there; roughly split evenly between Marrakech, Zagora, and Essaouira. Zagora (and the even smaller town of M’Hamid) are on the very edge of the vast desert. Camping among the dunes, watching the sand change colors with the sunrise and sunset, and sitting by the fire at night listening to nearby Berber nomads was one of the most magical experiences of our lives.

This photo was taken as we rode our camels out into the desert for first time, led by our guide Abrahim.

It is now almost 4 years later, and we have since been to Costa Rica, Fiji, Mexico, China, and Southeast Asia, but the Sahara pulls at our souls every day, calling us back.

Originally published at The Pocket Explorer. You can comment here or there.

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17th May, 2011. 9:17 pm. A tale of two cities

My alarm went off at 7:15, in time for a quick breakfast before driving a few kilometers down the road to Chichen-Itza and being the 3rd person through the gate at 8am. I had the ruins largely to myself for the first hour. If you’re going to visit this Wonder of the World, early is the only way.

As is always the case in such places, I was approached by a knowledgeable guide, 30 years studying Mayan history. While I would have loved an in-depth tour, the $60 price tag was too rich for my blood, so I wandered happily on my own. The most famous of the Mayan ruins, it largely did not disappoint. Unfortunately, due to stupid people falling and killing themselves and “Johnny loves Jane” vandalism, all access to the ruins is blocked by ropes. That said, the sense of history was palpable. At one point I touched a column, and had that same feeling I remembered from being able to touch the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum before it was cordoned off a few years later.

Iguanas flitted across the grounds as workers swept and souvenir sellers set up their shops in growing numbers. By the time I left 3 hours later, the central plaza was filling up with tourists, and as I drove away, minivans and buses passed continuously in the other direction.

After a swim at the hotel and a cold beer, I started heading back towards the coast instead of to Merida as originally planned. A friend’s suggestion made my decision for me to spend the night in Valladolid, and I quickly found the best hostel in town, Candelaria, where $10 gets you a dorm bed and breakfast to share with other travelers in a lovely outdoor garden kitchen. I checked in, and drove back to Ek Balam where I had only seen the parking lot yesterday.

The same guide I’d given a ride to offered his services for the same $60 so once again I opted for my own exploration. It was an entirely different experience. Not only did I have the site to myself for a good hour before a small handful of other visitors showed up, but access to the ruins was largely unfettered. I clambered up and around the structures, peeking into corners and crevices. Even though the site is established, I couldn’t help but feel a bit like a true explorer coming across something undiscovered in the middle of the jungle.


The highlight was the main and tallest building on the complex, saved for last. I climbed the hundred or more narrow stone steps to the top, where I was in awe of the commanding view over the Yucatan countryside, slash-and-burn farming throwing columns of smoke in the distance. The entrance building seemed far below me, dizzyingly down the steps I’d just climbed. After enjoying the view, I carefully side-stepped halfway down to a platform covered by a thatched roof. I saw what seemed like a reconstruction, perfect in every detail. The same guide was there with a couple, and as they made their ascension to the top, he remained and we chatted for a few minutes. Not a reconstruction at all, it was a tomb that had been discovered only 11 years ago, encased behind a wall, some 1300 years ago, perfectly preserved. This was what he comes to work every day for, to show and to study this section of the complex. With a serious tone, Casimiro said that tourist dollars alone paid for the upkeep of this discovery, including the thatched roof which requires regular maintenance. If there becomes a point that they can’t take proper care of it, they will seal it up again to protect it. Hopefully, this will be unnecessary and it will remain open to future generations, but I couldn’t help but feel a sense of seeing something that may one day be hidden behind stone again.

 

Originally published at The Pocket Explorer. You can comment here or there.

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16th May, 2011. 9:07 pm. Lost in the Yucatan

Alone, I awoke this morning in the room of someone I’d met just 36 hours before. I’d been connected to JC through a woman I’d met once at a Burning Man party last summer. Thankfully, travelers tend to look out for each other and freely offer crash space, even if it isn’t theirs.

I’d arrived in Cancun on Saturday night and made the 90 minute drive south to Tulum, passing kilometer after kilometer of one resort after another. However, as soon as I reached Tulum, it had a different feel – more like Pai, and less like, well, Cancun, the top of every spring break list.

I spent my first full day enjoying the beach at Playa El Mariachi, and my first cavern dive at Dos Ojos. While entirely awesome, that will be a different story. On a rather tight timeline for the week, I don’t have the leisure of staying in one place for long, so today I started off snorkeling at Gran Cenote, before heading off towards Chichen-Itza, stopping for lunch at a roadside ceviche stand.

I saw a sign mentioning Ek Balam, and decided to follow my map along smaller roads. Unfortunately, said map appeared to be a bit incomplete and outdated. I passed Yalcoba as expected, but ended up in Xtut rather than Dzalbay. Turning around, I came across a sign for Hunuku, but still had to stop a few times to ask locals the right way. Interestingly, this lostness wasn’t stressful in the slightest. There was still plenty of daylight left, and the scenery was beautiful. There were arches of beautiful red-leafed trees and rolling fields. I stopped to let a small herd of cows pass, and several iguanas played frogger across the road.

I finally arrived at Ek Balam at 4:50, only to be told that the gates closed at 4:30, and really, anytime after 4:00 since everyone gets kicked out at 5:00. But I took even this in stride. The day, much like this trip, is about the journey, not about the destination. Besides, a stranded tour guide needed a lift down the road to the next town, so clearly my purpose in showing up so late was to be his ride. Casimiro and I talked about local life and his desire to start a family as we made our way to Temozon.

Now I sit alone in Hotel Dolores Alba in the town of Piste, near Chichen-Itza, with plans to visit the ruins first thing in the morning before the tour buses arrive from Cancun, and then I shall try again to see Ek Balam, and either spend the night in Valladolid or return to Tulum, before returning to Cancun on Wednesday for the true purpose of this trip, to witness the Sacred Mayan Journey of hundreds of canoeists traveling from the mainland to Cozumel to hear the wisdom of the goddess Ix Chel.

Originally published at The Pocket Explorer. You can comment here or there.

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3rd May, 2011. 1:20 pm. Exploring the Yucatan

In just a couple of weeks, I will be participating in the 5th Annual Sacred Mayan Journey, hosted by Xcaret and the Riviera Maya Destination Marketing office.Yucatan

The Sacred Mayan Journey recreates the Mayan pilgrimage from the Ppole port (now Xcaret). The ancient Mayans would row across the ocean towards Cuzamil (now Cozumel) to hear the oracle predictions from goddess Ix Chel. The rowers would then cross the ocean once again to arrive at Xamanha (Playa del Carmen).

Not one to be satisfied with just a few days in a new place, I will also spend some time driving around the Yucatán, exploring ruins, passing through small villages, and diving in a cenote.

Curious about my whirlwind itinerary through Mayan history?

 
Every day has some driving, with the last being 5+ hours of driving from Merida to Cancun. However, like the sacred journey of the seven villages, it’s about the voyage, not about the destination. Although, I do expect a hot tub at the end.

Originally published at The Pocket Explorer. You can comment here or there.

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26th April, 2011. 11:06 pm. Introducing a new ‘Street Food’ series

It was on the corner of 2nd and Howard when it happened.

Today was like any workday in SoMa, and truly beautiful weather inspired a long lunchtime walk. On my way back to the lab, hungry, I happened to see a white trailer selling crepes.

My resolve buckled at the thought of a Cheese, Smoked Turkey, and Egg crepe. While I waited, I mused about how much I love street food. Whether a beach hut in Costa Rica, a streetside noodle cart in Penang, a blended fruit smoothie corner in Chiang Mai, one of dozens of taco trucks near home, or a stall in the middle of the Djemaa el Fna, it really doesn’t matter.

As I stood on that curb listening to the sounds of downtown San Francisco, underneath a lightly cloudy blue sky and a warm sun, it struck me that I have a mission.

In the interest of public service,
I will explore the world of street food,
and share it with you
.
(The experience that is, not the food. Sample distribution would be a nightmare.)

To sample every street food vendor in the Bay Area is a lofty goal to be sure, and I hear Portland has street carts. I want to see if this proliferance of American street food exists beyond the Pacific West. I hope it does.

I walked down the street, holding a folded cone of crispy deliciousness in hand, with a bright future of crepes, tacos, tamales, soups, noodles, and fruit shakes ahead of me.

Originally published at The Pocket Explorer. You can comment here or there.

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