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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Going Down The Shore

Philadelphia's somewhat unique in that it has four distinct, three-month-long seasons. Winter, spring, summer, and fall are all very different and generally last (at least back when I was young) right around three months each. I never noticed it until I moved away to California, where we said that there are also four seasons, shorts-and-a-sweatshirt (winter), shorts-and-a-long-sleeved-shirt (fall and spring), and shorts-and-a-short-sleeved-shirt (summer).

My dad's been pushing Diana and I to come during the summer as she's only been there for Thanksgiving and Christmas and he really wanted us to spend some time at his place in nearby Wildwood, New Jersey. Well, not wanting to let my dad down, Diana and found ourselves visiting Philadelphia recently so she could enjoy the summertime splendor of the Delaware Valley.

The Philadelphia airport's international-arrivals hall (there's a Dunkin' Donuts there too, which also would have provided a nice backdrop):


Before I write more, I have to say that, once I got back home after the trip, I was sad to realize how few pictures I had taken. Thinking back about it, most of the time during this trip was with family doing family-type visiting that didn't lend itself to taking photos. I'm bummed that I didn't though and, next time, I will (that's a promise and a threat). So, to everyone who doesn't appear in this story, I'll try harder next time.

Anyway, most of our time was spent visiting with family, eating, shopping, eating again, going to the shore, eating, and maybe a couple of other non-eating things I can't remember right now.

Hanging out with a couple nieces and a nephew at a family pool party:


A big part of the reason we were there was so that Diana could experience a piece of my childhood summers by going to my dad's place down the shore. The shore is what Philadelphia folks call the southern New Jersey beaches where they spend summer months. I've written about Wildwood before so I'll skip lots of the details.

But, definitely the highlight of our time there was the chance meeting of a bunch of family and family friends. I'm especially bummed I don't have any photos from this fun couple of evenings catching up with folks I haven't seen for awhile, in some cases, for maybe ten years or more.

Of course, we did a couple of beach days and other classic summer activities like the afternoon we spent checking out the boardwalk and its amusement piers:


My dad, Ginny, and Diana riding the log flume ride:


...and Diana and I on one of the roller coasters (I took a photo a lot like this one with me and my dad, which is still one of my favorite photos of us):


Of course no visit to Wildwood would be complete without overeating boardwalk food, which we did, and riding the Tramcar (watch the Tramcar please):


And, further confirming Diana's belief that all people in the United States do is drive and eat, eating breakfast at a local breakfast hot spot, which we drove to:


I love going to the U.S. with Diana. There are so many things that people/I/we take for granted in that there are just soooo stereo typically American that we don't even know it. Stuff like our giant houses, giant cars, giant streets, giant coffees, giant meals, and so on are things that the rest of the world notices while watching our television shows and movies. I have to say that I've been away long enough where things like Super Big Gulps do look pretty ridiculous.

During a couple of summers while at university, I drove an ice cream truck. It was a tough job as I had to work seven days a week and it was verrry hot, but I was my own boss and I was out and about. Diana's always kinda' laughed at it because they didn't have ice cream trucks in Colombia (although they do have coffee carts!) and it's something she's only seen in movies or on TV. While going back to my dad's house one day I spied a truck making the rounds so we stopped.

Diana enjoying her first from-the-ice-cream-truck ice cream cone:


A random bit of Americana that jumps out at me now:


Finally, my sister's family was camping for part of the time we were in town so there was no way we could miss out on the scene and making S'mores over the evening fire.

Diana checking out a game of Washers at a combo RV-and-tent camping place in south-central New Jersey:


Thanks dad for the great trip home. Getting to see everyone was a bonus and makes me miss home more every day. Until next time, when I'll take more photos, we'll miss everyone!



Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Eagles In Dublin

Being in the right place at the right time and trying to say yes to as many opportunities as possible has lead me to some exceptional experiences.

About a month ago on one of my trips to Dublin, someone I know there asked if I liked the Eagles. Normally, I'd think of the Philadelphia-variety of Eagles but, in this case, I knew that the music group the Eagles was playing a few nights at the nearby O2 arena.

Sure, I said, while thoughts of concerts flashed in my head. Sure enough, she had a ticket she wasn't going to use for that evening's show. And with that, off I went to check out the Eagles in concert in Ireland! Woohoo!


Now, I'm definitely not a huge fan of the Eagles. I don't even have any of their music saved on my phone. But, the chance to see them live - for FREE even - was too good to say no. Most of my exposure comes from my dad when he would listen to the radio or records on the weekend. Some of that music included bands like Boston and the Beatles, which, to this day, are familiar to me. So, on some level I knew of their music but probably couldn't name more than a few songs.

Well, damn. They've got some pretty amazing stuff. Crowd favorites like Hotel California, Take It Easy, and Life In The Fast Lane got big responses but I ended up pleasantly surprised by how many of their songs where I knew the words. The show lasted about three hours and was very entertaining as it was presented like a history of the band, which included videos, interviews, and story telling by different band members.


I've definitely got a new respect for Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and the rest of the Eagles. What a great surprise and fun way to spend an evening. How crazy is this thing called life?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pug Saves A Life - Or - What Did You Do On Your Last Vacation?

One of the nice things about living in Barcelona is that it's not super difficult to get family and friends to visit. Now some might see having visitors as a burden but not me (or Diana). We love and look forward to it. So I was very happy to hear that my long-time friend Pug would be coming to Spain for for a month's visit and would be spending about half that time in Barcelona.

I've known Pug since high school when we met through a mutal friend named Mike. We've been good friends ever since and were even roomates for a short while when she first moved out to California from Philadelphia. Pug's one of those people who continues to impress and amaze me. She's a vegetarian, supports animal-welfare organizations, runs her own business, and started and continues to lead a charitable organization that raises money for women with cancer. In other words, she's always looking to help others and, without a doubt, is a way-better person than me (not that that's difficult, but still).

Diana, Pug, and I up at Tibidabo:


For the first two weeks she was in town, we did a bunch of the normal touristy stuff, ate some meals together, and had a good time catching up. When Diana and I left for the U.A.E., Pug went traveling around southern Spain, incluing visiting the Alhambra, Cordoba, Sevilla, and a couple days in Gibraltar.

Pug's a big runner and while she was in the hills checking out the monkeys (yes, monkeys) at Gibraltar's Upper Rock Nature Preserve, she happened across a situation. Down below where she had stopped, a group of monkeys was ravaging an unattended baby stroller including ripping open and trying to eat everything. She became extra worried when one of the monkeys tried to eat the contents of a prescription bottle. (It makes me very happy that Pug got and shared this photo!)



 Never being one to shy away from trouble, she ran to an attendant and told him what's up. His face turned white and he immediately called for emergency services. Unbeknownst to our hero, a man had collapsed just out Pug's view...or so she says...and the women whose stroller was being attacked had just gone over to the man. The attendant was able to see the man and thanked her profusely for letting him know about the emergency. Turns out the guy had had a heart attack or something and Pug had basically provided the guy with the extra minutes that may have been key to his survival.

I didn't believe Pug's version of this story though. Knowing Pug like I know Pug...how she really is...I know the truth...that she actually did see everything but is just being modest. It's just like her to hide behind some crazy monkey story. Anyway, to thank her for her civic service, I couldn't wait for her to get back so we could celebrate over churros and chocolate at Cafe De L'Opera:


It was good to see you Pug. Diana and I can't wait to have you visit again. And, while you're busy vacationing, maybe another life can be saved...