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February 2009
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April 2009

March 2009

The Face of Mexico - It's a Happy One


Mexico is once again splattered all over the news.  DON'T GO scream all the headlines.  It's so dangerous, people are being slaughtered.  Tourists are primo targets.  You'd be downright crazy to cross that border. 

All that smack is coming out of every media outlet and as I sit here in my sunny LA kitchen, I just remember the smiles.   The big, white toothy smiles of every Mexican I came across in all my travels around that lovely country.  In fact, I just got back from Mexico in February.  2 weeks of happy, pure bliss. 

Last year, I traveled SOLO for months around the country with a solar trailer strapped to the back of my truck.  I cruised down extremely dusty backroads, took precarious routes along the Sierra Madre's, and swam along lonesome stretches of sandy beaches.  Never did I fear for  my life.  Not once did I think I was gonna catch some trouble cause I was alone.  If anything, it made me travel deeper, happier...

Oh yah, there are those dozen times I've done all of Baja alone too.  Up and down the Sea of Cortez, sleeping in my truck, cruising alone down tar black 2 lane roads at midnight and then coming upon a security checkpoint in the middle of the cold, star-filled desert.  Only to skid to a stop, get out of my truck while they searched it...and laugh it up with the guards wielding machine guns.  Again, HUGE smiles.  Pretty smiles.  Curious smiles.  And, most of all, friendly smiles.

These aren't trips that were decades ago.  These are trips that happen 4-5 times a year for me.  Stay away from Mexico?  As if.  You'd be crazy if ya did.

Baby Azi Finally Goes Home

In the ICU room

Lot's of folks have been wondering about the cutest baby of all time, little Azi--our pal over in Indo that 4th World raised money for.  He needed a life-saving heart operation and through a handful of incredible 4th World Love doners, he was able to get it done!  After over a month in Jakarta, he is finally on his way back home to Sembalun (on Lombok)--all smiles, all the time. 

I'm blown away by these photos and as I sit here in the grand old USA, I just think to myself--wow.  How easy it was/is to make a difference the world out there.  People always wonder, how do I give back?  How can I even be sure that my money goes to the right place?  How do I make a difference?  Well, I will tell you something right donate to 4WL, the money hits where it needs to.  Be it for a cleft palate surgery, an organic farming program, an English teachers salary, or a surgery like the one Azi desperately needed...we spend it right.  Your money, my money, their money--no matter where it comes from...It's well thought out, it's used down to the penny and it's always, always making a MASSIVE difference to people that ain't got it like we do.

Enjoy your morning coffee, and keep on keepin' on++


On the IW room

Behind The Scenes: Sometimes, you just need a home...


How does one create a new home?  Well for me, it boils down to a few simple things. 

Get a coffee maker and some rock solid New Mexican Pinon coffee; hang a pretty sugar water filled hummingbird feeder, just like my g-dad used to have; join an organic CSA (free delivery to your doorstep) and stock the fridge with loads of fruits and veggies; buy a lime tree at the farmers market; get a cute little bag to haul things around in; make a big bowl of butter drenched spaghetti; purchase a lovely wheatgrass colored desk so I can finally, finally get some order to life; hell, I even went and bought a new truck (love, love, love the older midnight blue Land Rover).   My friend Chez said to me the other day, "Who the hell goes and changes their entire life for absolutely no reason....?"

Ah, but you see, there was reason...there is always reason to shake things up.  For me, it was and is all about making my life easy.  That is something that in all my years I have never done.  Por que?  Well, cause what fun is an easy life?  Why not live a life full of dead chaos, mail all over the world, solar trailer in Mexico, sailboat in TN, NGO in Indonesia, work in whatever country is paying the good's hectic, it's a rush and frankly, it's just exhausting.  That's really it.  I've just grown incredibly weary of living out of a suitcase, of always being on the run, of living my days in a constant, bewildering unknown. 

I've discovered recently that I dig waking up at 5 am and going to the gym--a routine, if you will.  I'm happy to have a waxing lady who knows just how I like it done.  I like my mail (magazines, really) coming thru the big slot in my front door.  I am straight enamored by my parking space (never had one of those either--and now I have 2).  I set up a little office in my 2nd bedroom and I love just staring at my desk plotting my next trip.  I'm happy in the kitchen, whipping up some crazy creation (believe it or not, eating out can become awful).  And, when I get my boat here in April, that will complete the boat/home/work trifecta I've been wanting to set up.    Imagine a wild sailing excursion down to the Sea of Cortez (see top photo) and then just when you hit a wall...coming home and tucking your boat into your slip that is 20 paces away from your front door?  That is just crazy good livin'....

Point is, I think having a homebase that is 100% set up like I need it to be will help me.  It'll make my last-minute travels deeper, more intense, smarter.  I wont be on the road always searching longingly for a home--instead I can just enjoy the ride and know that I have a super-cute little place (with some insanely high thread count sheets) to come back to...all the better to plan my next trip and the next trip from. 

Sprinkle in a little work here and there and I'm in a good spot, you know?  Now, all that said...I can't wait, I mean CANNOT WAIT to hit the road!  I guess old habits die hard...






Behind The Scenes: Cancun, Mexico


Believe it or not, there are times in my travels that I end up in very, very touristy places.  I try to avoid it at all costs, but sometimes it can't be helped.  Like when I left Isla Mujeres in Feb.  After weeks on the island and enough beer in my belly to kill an elephant, I was trying to get an early flight out--to no avail. 

So, me and Lis ended up having to crash in one of those massive hotels on the strip in Cancun.  It wasn't so bad, I guess.  Nah, I take that back.  It was blood-curling.  The staff was lovely, as was the room with a killer view, but the American's (for the most part they were USA'ers) that were dotting the hallways, buffet lines and elevators were just a mess.  A horrific mess.  Not that all American's are a mess, but it seems the ones that end up on the strip in Cancun are. 

We woke up with the birds the next AM and tore the hell outta there, depressed beyond belief at what we'd seen.  The magic of Isla washed away just like that as we traipsed to the airport about 6 hours early.  We had to get out of there, for fear of throttling the masses.  I do, however, love the sparkly Cancun airport and that nifty little massage center on the 2nd floor.  Now, that place is something to write home about!

Tourist traps - avoid 'em, for real.  And, fyi--this view cost $175 per night.

Lobster in Nicaragua - Just for You, Dale...


Sometimes it's $5, sometimes $10 -- but just feast your eyes on these big fat lobster found on Little Corn Island.  Dale is heading to LCI soon and is gonna try to hunt down my treasure box I hid a few years back for a Travel Channel show I was doing...and, he's gonna MOW on some lobster.  I will be livin' thru him for sure right about then!  I don't think I've even had lobster since Little Corn, which is nothing but a shame...

Now, Dale...while you are on LCI, you must grab some ropa viejo from the Cuban joint on the beach, as well as some mojitos from Casa Iguana.  Additionally, Paula makes the best flan at her little Italian restaurant and the tamales sold out of a bucket are soft, hot and steaming.  Then, there is the coconut items - pies, bread, etc...that show up everywhere you look and if you happen upon someone selling rondon soup, well...give it a go.  It's fish head soup in coconut milk.  A tradition on the island that takes hours and hours to make.  And, about 2 minutes to slurp down.

Finding Food in LA - It's Gonna be a Haul*


In downtown LA, there is of course, a Chinatown.  Within the Chinatown boundaries are loads of Vietnamese restaurants...which of course is the best of all the Asian cuisines.  Their magic with flavors makes Thai food taste almost dirty, very unsatisfying (unless we're talking Palms in Hollywood which has the best Thai iced tea I've ever had).  I cruised down to Chinatown this past weekend to get some of those big Chinese lanterns for my new place and was immediately overwhelmed by the traffic, smells, people, trinkets, and just damn good looking food visible from every window I strolled past.  But, again...Vietnamese is where it's at*

You gotta cruise all the way down to the end of the main drag before you happen upon one of my faves--Pho something or over.  Could be 666.  Could be 777.  I just know it by looks, really.   They have these intoxicating crispy fried rolls that are most delish when tucked into a leafy piece of lettuce stuffed with basil and mint and then dunked in the super special, super sweet fish sauce.  Best thing ever.

Here's the thing about LA that I'm just gonna have to fave foodie treats don't really exist much in Marina del Rey. I'm gonna have to venture far and wide to appease my cravings.  Persian over there, Mexican over here, Lebanese down there, etc...which is a slightly tough transition from my Chi hood which has every ethnicity in the world within a 10 minute walk of my place in E. Rogers Park.

But...LA does have Indonesian food complete with ymmy Bintang, whole fried fish and sambal out the ying-yang.  Just a few more weeks and I will have it for real, but in the meantime, point 1 for LA!





I Could Do With a Giant Bowl of Sopa de Limon


On the last day of the PURE retreat on Isla Mujeres, we had my favorite local family come over to Casa Ixchel to teach a ocean-sdie cooking workshop.  With Daisy at the helm, they turned out octopus and shrimp ceviche, sopa de limon, onion-infused rice, and rich guacamole for the masses.  It was done my favorite way of cooking - all hands on deck.  Everyone fromt he retreat was kept busy chopping, cutting, slicing, drinking (rum punch, of course), and nibbling all afternoon and it was all incredibly delicious.  Mine and Lisa's hotel room which was the make-shift kitchen, on the other hand, was a straight disaster when it was all over...

But now looking at the photos, this sopa de limon just looks so clean (here in the aftermath) - with potatoes, squash (could have been pumpkin), carrots, chicken, tasty broth and a fat dollop of creamy spaghetti (and rice for me of course, cause I can never shove down too many carbs).  The ceviche was perfect (again) with generous squirts of lime all the way around.  And, Alexandria (who just got married at the tender age of 15) whipped up the BEST guac ever. 

I woke up this AM thinking about this very dish and the sunshine of Mexico, and thinking about just how much I want to hop in my truck and head down to Baja this weekend.  Not gonna happen, but it's good to know that I am just a few hours drive from the border - which means, tamales, fish tacos, coconut shrimp and frosty cold cerveza. 







The LA Homebase is Done and Done...


So, you see that little houseboat down on the far right?  Well, just 2 slips over from that is where my sailboat is gonna be parked!  Yep, that's right, I'm trucking her out to Marina del Rey, CA where I lucked into a 40' slip (impossible to come by).  I also shook the rootlessness that plagues my soul and got a little townhouse perched right at the end of this dock (I can literally throw a rock and hit the boat from my balcony).  Guess I'm setting up camp in LA.  Only makes sense in the grand scheme of things since I am out here working so much--I just needed the ultimate homebase for work/play/live and I think it might be MDR--at least for right now. 

Funny how things flip on a dime...I was all set on Mobile, AL then onward to Central America, and now it's LA and the South Pacific.  But, when things like this cross your path, ya gotta be ready for them.  It came, and I was ready. Simple as that.

In other breaking news, the show I am on finally wraps in a few weeks, and then I'm outtie!  Heading back to Indo for a month, then right when I get back to LA in April, the boat will be arriving on a friggin' 50 ft. semi, so I will get that project underway for a week or so, and then back to San Miguel de Allende, to hide in my trailer for a few weeks before heading back to Chicago.  Just cause I set up camp in LA DOES NOT mean that I will alter my wandering spirit, you know?  That's the doozie to contend I told myself this AM, I just gotta accept that on the road is where I am happiest.  Now, I just have a place out west to come back to.  Nice.