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January 2009

And The 4th World Love Contest Winner Is....


So remember how I told ya that the more $100 donations you make to 4th World Love, then the better your chances are to win the all-expenses-paid contest  to Indonesia (with me) this Spring?  Well, over spaghetti and cervezas for mi amiga Ayuki's birthday party at Casa Ixchel on Isla Mujeres, we have drawn a winner.  I wanted to wait til my mom was in the house (she came down for her own b-day) and have a full on non-member of 4th World do the yes, Ayuki had the honors.

***And the winner is Penn Clarke Thomas from Pennsylvania*** 

No idea who he is, but looks like he will be rocking a 10-day trip to Indo this spring with me and Lisa to give a little love to the 4th World!  He donated a generous sum, therefore his chances to win were multiplied...very exciting...can't wait to talk to him and see what he thinks about being the winner!

Thanks so much to all who entered and donated--more dispatches will be coming from the field soon...if only I can get this internet at the hotel to work!

Besitas, besitas, besitas...

24 Hours on Isla Mujeres -- How Can So Much Happen?


How can so much shake down in just a mere 24-hours on Isla Mujeres? 

I hop off the ferry, stop in for a cold Sol and some shrimp ceviche + my favorite tostadas in the world (all eaten while watching three beauties do schoolwork), head to Casa Ixchel to drop off bags (and gossip with my buddy Miguel the manager), wander down thru the winding streets on the south side of the island (where the locals live) only to be tracked by a truckload of toasty (and harmless) Mexican's out on the prowl, stop in at a new Cocina Economica where I run into Penny (someone I know from my last trip here) who rambles on and on (in a real funny, real drunk way) about me being a famous food writer and the one time she met Michael Jordan--all to her very confused but charming aunt who happens to own the place and cooks for the mayor/president of the island (she barrels out stories, while me and Lis stand and shove down some insanely delicious/crazy tender pork, cold rice and homemade tamales)...I then sleep like a baby turtle for 7 hours, wake up chipper as a bird and stroll the mile or so into town for an early AM Sol + a scout around (I check out the dive center, the much-talked-about Isla Contoy Captain Tony, and the bulging new condos being built on the north side), slam a frosty water and mosey back to the hotel where a few more Sol's are tossed into a make-shift cooler (ice in a plastic bag--thanks Lis!), proceed to kill a 6'er in no time flat (with Lis killin' em 2 to 1) while dozing in and out of a slightly erotic slumber and watching the waves break, manage to magically plow through 4 chapters in my book about a chef working aboard a sailboat in the Med for a summer...then toss on some flip-flops and cruise back to town for a crushed-ice (and 1/2 cup full-o-rum) mojito at a Cuban joint and then start up a peeping Tom session throughout the village to see what's new/gone/interesting, catch the brilliant sunset, somehow run to run into Ayuki (the super-cute housekeeper from Casa Ixchel who made us Tinga de Pollo our last day there in Feb. 08) and then end up at a tiny dive to have conch/fish/octopus ceviche and salbutes with rice and beans con Sol, of course. 

All this in about 24-hours and I think I left out half of it.  I love this island.













4th World Love Contest Almost Over!


On Monday, we announce the winner of the big 4th World Love contest!  So many amazing people from all over the globe donated a minimum of $100 to win a free trip to Indonesia this Spring.  The trip will take place in early April and will be 10 days of living like a local in Sembalun, the village on the Muslim island of Lombok that houses 4th World's first community center.

I can't believe so many folks were so generous with their cash in times like these and the good news is, you still have a few days to donate.  The website is and it's so easy to toss it on a credit card via paypal.  On my multiple trips to that village, I've had so many amazing experiences, it will be so incredible to be able to share it with someone!  It's seriously anybody's game at this point**

Kickin' Pozole in East LA -- It Does Indeed Exist


Lest anyone think that I have totally abandoned my food obsessions, please think again!   Those kind of you-are-born-with-em traits die hard and there is no getting around them no matter what city/country/outback I happen to be in.  I'm always gonna want to hunt down the best food I can.  Case in point:

This weekend in LA, all I could think about was pozole, the fantastical hominy stew that I had a ridiculously haunting bowl of on Isla Mujeres last January.  Now that said, you must realize that where there is a conglomerate of Mexicans, there will be a bowl of pozole.  Not just in's just have to know where to go. 

So, to East LA I went (Lisa in tow, of course).  We'd raged through so many insane mood swings by the time we hit up downtown LA (happy, sad, depressed, joyous, melancholy, peaceful) that we flew past a small Mexican storefront touting pozole just east of Chinatown.  We'd already long forgotten about pozole though, and were inclined to have  a smidge of Vietnamese--perhaps a bit of rice, maybe a spring roll of sorts?   Ahhhh, but no parking.  I quickly googled our little Mex hole-in-the-wall and found a BOATLOAD of positive reviews.  Done and done*

We strolled into the cozy spot and found the perfect sun-lit table, where we then proceeded to order a huge bowl of pozole and while we waited on it, we scarfed the creamiest dish of guacamole served up with a basket of crispy chips.   Simple food for very simple people.  When our sloppy bowls of soup rolled out ($5.99 each), a nice man named Hector at the neighboring table was just as enamored as we were.  Turns out he was a musician, and regular, who came all the way to this spit of a restaurant from Griffith Park and he couldn't believe we'd hauled all the way from Marina del Rey just for pozole.  I was like Hect! gotta fly off to where the goods are.  It's the stuff that makes you smile again.  It makes you remember why you travel.  Its so you can have memories like the one I have from Isla to try to live up to.  Without that, what do I have HECT??  (Suddenly Hect was supposed to have the answers to all my questions!)...

We happily dressed up our soup (as Hector watched gape-jawed) with cilantro, cabbage, lime, onion, salsa, radishes and avocado before even slurping down a spoonful.  Talk about YUM.  You gotta just hunt these places down -- they ALWAYS exist no matter where you land -- and no matter what, they always, always make me remember what I am here on earth to do.  Eat and relish the memories.  If I can keep my life that simple, then hell, I'm livin' large....






Fire in the Mountains = Best way to spend the Holiday


So, while I was home in TN over the holidays, my mom got herself a little fire going in the front yard which after about a half dozen Dos Equis on my part, I then fueled with the pages of one of my travel magazines.  I sat there, deep in the mountains one afternoon, tearing out pages from T & L to feed the fire and I was utterly delighted.  For a spell, it was just me, the colorful magazine, a cold beer and a long, dirty stick--and I was so at peace with the world. 

The fire got a little wilder after awhile (my mom's been known to burn the yard to bits at times, including the time the moho blew up--not her fault, but that bastard went up in flames one day and almost caught the house on fire), but before it did I snapped a few shots of my burning masterpiece.


PS--Came to the realization today that I don't wanna live in LA (though I work out here all the time)...and I figured out why!  Cause if I did, I would work all the time and for the love, who the heck has time for all that?  I want to be out living the adventures, NOT working til I cry!  So, there!  Glad I figured that one out.


PURE + 4th World + Central America Excursion


I have 3 MST ventures that I need to just wrap on up in the next few months.  I wake up every day thinking about them all--usually after a night of wildly vivid, terrifying nightmares that have nothing to do with the MST projects and everything to do with the fact that I have been living out of hotels, vehicles,  backpacks, and suitcases for the past 6 months + have no idea where my mail is even landing.  All good, though...all good.

Ah, but March 1 marks the end of this TV show and once that happens, watch out!  It's like I can finally see the end in sight of a long, long job and I can get back to all the good things that I have happening.

So, first up is PURE.  I leave on Jan. 17 for that Pilates/Volunteering Retreat.  It's down on Isla Mujeres and I cannot wait for the sunshine again (it is straight up dreary in LA).  Plus, my bud Captain Mad is back with his lovely sailboat and I gotta go into Manana and wolf some of their hummus and need a full smokin' tan and cannot wait for the foodie adventure that we're gonna bestow on the PURE guests.  Of course, the community Pilates class that Jen gave (for free, of course) was just epic.  They LOVED it...

Then comes Indo in March.  Gotta rock Phase 2 of 4th World Love and give all my buds over there some mad support for all their happy 09 ventures.  Maybe a couple of dives in my fave beach village, Candidasa.  Throw in a few days in Ubud at KAFE slurpin' their soy frapps...1 month is NEVER enough.

I'm back home in April and BEFORE I roll back up to Chicago, I gotta finish up my Central American trip.  That is all she wrote.  It is haunting me and I gotta just spend a coupla/few and finish it.  No distractions.  The primary focus is making it to El Salvador to scout out the next location for a 4th World community center.

Now, if I can start the summer off with those 3 doozies put to bed...I'm in real good shape.  And, the I can 100% focus on the sailboat.  Which, I think we all know what that means.  Warm tropical water, lots of rum, and remote villages down the eastern seaboard of CAmer.  Done and done!