San Diego – San Felipe: two hours & two worlds apart

We’re on the beach in formal attire, gazing reverently west as the sun sinks into the Pacific. 

The surf is pounding, gulls shrieking, shallow tidal pools all aglow in sunset’s last light. 

Beside this stretch of shore lies the Windsor Garden, a storybook setting at the vintage-1888 Hotel Del Coronado. We hear the faint strains of a string quartet, the clinking of crystal stemware. A memorable evening of fine food, music and dancing awaits; later, the comfort of luxurious accommodations offering every conceivable amenity.   

San Felipe sunrise - Playa Bonita campo


We’re on the beach in athletic attire, gazing reverently east as the near-dawn sky lightens and luminous pink clouds appear on the horizon. The waves are lapping, roosters trumpeting, shallow tidal pools all aglow in morning’s first light. Along this stretch of sand, from the lighthouse to the peak of El Machorro lies San Felipe Bay, the Baja beach hideaway on the Sea of Cortez.  We hear the faint strains of the RV camps coming to life: generators humming, dogs barking. The aroma of fresh-perked coffee wafts through the warm, arid desert air.   

We’ve left cushy Coronado Island for an adventure into the unknown in a rented SUV with heavy-duty tires, relying on a bad road map, passable language skills, a roll of U.S cash and internet directions to some campo on a beach.  Packing two totally different trips into week and one suitcase- think strappy evening sandals and dusty hiking boots- we flew to San Diego for a family wedding, then drove into Baja California Norte—to the less-visited east coast, frequented mainly by off-road racers, spring breakers and right now, very many retired gringos in RVs.   

 Loading up the Avis 4-wheeler — the Baja is the only place in Mexico where you can drive a U.S rental more than 25 miles south of the border—we’d headed for Tecate, home of the brewery, just-renewed passports at the ready.   This border crossing is 40 minutes from the San Diego airport by way of California 94, along which the landscape transforms abruptly from suburban sprawl to barren hillside, devoid of habitation and vehicular traffic. Turned out land travelers didn’t yet require passports; in fact, on this Monday afternoon in February 2007 the border was completely unattended.   Entering Mexico involved about as much fanfare as driving through an automatic I-Pass lane.   

Descending from the mountain tollroad we drove through low desert in fading light. I’d heard the Baja described as otherworldly, spooky—a place where the line between reality and illusion blurs. It was definitely living up to the hype. We turned south at Mexicali to drive for what seemed like hours in the Baja’s driest desert. There was no evidence of life. To the west, the San Pedro Martir mountains, to the east, the Sea of Cortez, to our eyes, only sand. Endless, creepy nothingness.  This must be what Mars looks like, I imagined, continually checking the gas gauge and drinking water supply. As darkness descended, anxiety gave way to actual fear – random scary thoughts.  We can’t be lost, there’s only one road. People could die out here. Where are the people? Isn’t Mexico supposed to be overpopulated?  What’re those circling overhead, vultures? And so forth. 

 No other cars passed. We saw no lights, no houses, eventually, no vegetation; from the radio, we heard only static.   

Finally, much to our relief, we were stopped and questioned at a military checkpoint. A baby-faced, M-16 toting Federale  in desert-camo politely informed us that San Felipe was not far. (If you’re driving Mexico’s open roads, you will routinely meet up with the army. They are looking for guns and drugs, not payoffs).   

 Soon thereafter, billboards hawking real estate appeared.  

San Felipe lighthouse


The area was in the midst of a land rush of Wild West proportions. San Felipe has become a second home to thousands of American and Canadian retirees, some of whom made serious dinero on land deals.   

 “They’re trying to make this into the next Puerto Vallarta,” sighed Catalina Montalvo, the New York native who owns the town’s only bookstore.  “It’s great for business, but it’s ruining the aesthetics of the place.”   Mike, a white pony-tailed, black-leather jacketed Chicagoan who hadn’t been home in 30 years, agreed. He had cashed in big on a  deal. “I’m going to the islands,” he said. He didn’t mention which ones. “It’s too crowded here now.” Indeed, the town is overrun with pioneers, mainly from the West Coast, lured by easy accessibility to the border, cheap land, the chance to hold title to foreign property and the company of others like themselves who are moving here with plans to terraform the area. They see visions of golf courses, shopping malls, community theatre.    

But where will the water come from, we wonder.  

It’s Happy Hour at the Taco Factory along the Malecon, almost sunset. The tide is out; shellers are working the beach and the fishing boats are taking in their haul for the day.    

San Felipe- shelling along the Malecon


 We fell to talking with some recent transplants—a good-looking middle-aged couple, their entrepreneur daughter who makes deals happen, and a 30-something guy in real estate who’s wandered over from the bar to join in the conversation. The Californians are unfazed. The water comes down from the mountains, they say, gesturing to the lifeless San Pedro Martirs.

We’ll take their word for it. 

We’re from the Midwest, where basements flood, what do we know from the desert?   

Now we’re on a day excursion, 20 miles or so into deep desert, in search of the entrance to Sierra San Pedro Martir National Park. We’d gotten bum directions from a mean lady at the tourist office who was definitely in the wrong line of work. Site of the tallest peak in the Baja and home to cool forests of pine, cypress and fir, where hikers can climb waterfalls and view cave paintings, the park seems to be eluding us. The road—well, the pile of sand, rocks and rubble we’re following —stretches endlessly, frighteningly, to nowhere.    

Then we see it. 

Lago del Diablo near San Felipe- a true mirage


A beautiful lake, sparkling, shimmering blue in the distance. That’s where the waterfall flows into, we figure. We stop and take photos, driving onward to the shore. There we discover a dried-up expanse of sand, rocks and rubble,  animal carcasses, some dead tires.    

Turns out mirages are real. The digital camera was not fooled – but we were.  And we weren’t the only ones. When we got home, and found a much better map, there it was.

Lago Del Diablo.  

We never made it to the national park. We also never bathed in the geothermal springs at Puertocitos, having arrived at low tide, when the pools are scalding hot and you can’t go in.  

We found no evidence of  desert tour operators or fishing boat companies that the guide books mentioned.   

Valley of the Giants - home to the cardon cactus - the world's largest


We’re left to our own devices to explore this alien landscape where nothing green grows but cactus tops 75 feet, where road signage is a tire propped up in the sand, or a defunct air conditioner with an arrow spray painted on it pointing the way back to town.  

We wake up and fall asleep listening to the waves, with bay breezes wafting through the open door to our wraparound terrace overlooking the beach. 

The sky is always blue, the nights starry. We read good books, we eat great food, we see amazing sights, and we meet nice people. 

We retrace our route in daylight, amid all the construction that will convert the San Felipe highway from one lane to six. The return trip seems a couple hours shorter. This time we wait 25 minutes to cross back onto home soil—the U.S.A mans her borders, thank you— and take California 94 back through winding hills that had seemed so bleak, so desolate on the way down.  But now, after 5 days in the Baja these same hills appear lush, inviting, teeming with life.  It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

A walk in the woods in winter

Winter brings solitude to the woods, and silence.  All the sounds of summer are absent  –  motorcycles and lawn mowers heard in the distance, the voices of other hikers and the barking of other dogs.  There’s just the sound of own footsteps crunching against the gravel path, an occasional bird call, our own rhythmic breathing in the cold. My faithful companions beside me on this early weekday morning, I have the path to myself.

Always the trailblazer, Jack prances ahead of Ralph and me, in a gait befitting the King of Terriers. He sniffs at fallen tree stumps, piles of leaves, ever curious who may be lurking beneath – a chipmunk, maybe. He contemplates the river, so easily seen through all the naked tree branches. A few degrees warmer and he’d be pulling me towards the bank to take a drink of icy water or wade right in, mindless of the chill and the depth and the current, while Ralph, the cautious one, the thoughtful one who understands the possible consequences of such brazen acts, hangs back.

They came into our lives on Thanksgiving weekend, 2001, when their owner’s reserve unit was mobilized to respond to 9/11 and they went into Airedale rescue. Jack was four years old, Ralph just shy of five. They were the fortunate ones, placed immediately together in a forever home. We were the fortunate ones,  welcoming a  pair of well-cared for, well-trained dogs into the family. They arrived via volunteer transport from Ohio with their own leashes, collars and toys, complete medical histories and a heartfelt letter from the man who raised them acquainting us with their personality traits, likes and habits. I have thought of this man often since, hoping he returned home safely, hoping that he knew his dogs remained always together, always loved.

Jack inspects the bushes and piles of twigs along the trail, appraises some droppings from a horse, too cold and dry to merit much attention.  He walks out onto a frozen puddle, the ice cracking beneath his weight with a hollow sound like a door slamming shut in the wind. He wanders into deeper brush and fallen leaves and burrs cling to his coat. Even now he is so full of life, looking forward to whatever is waiting around the bend.

Jack is the happiest living being I have ever known. He greets every day as an adventure and every stranger as a friend. He is handsome, athletic, fearless; still vital and strong willed. If a positive attitude were all it took to hold his illness at bay, he could win this fight. I tell myself he has time left.  He is still strong enough to hike, happy and excited to go for walks and ride in the car, still interested in the opening of the refrigerator door.

But as we walk there are ribbons of blood trailing from his lips that crystallize in the cold, and I am forced once again to admit  that there is no turning back from this path, that soon I will brush those leaves and burrs from his coat for the last time.

Jack grows tired as we approach the bridge. He slows down and sits. I kneel beside him, wrapping my arms around him, still so muscular and strong and fit after 12 years of living and six months of fighting an aggressive, fatal cancer.  I bury my face in his coat, I feel for his heartbeat – too faint, too fast.  I tell him once again that I love him, and he responds in kind as always, with a  low, deep-chested murmur.

Then he rallies; we cross the bridge and wind our way back down the trail along the west side of the river, where the forest is thick with old-growth oak and there are many fallen tree trunks on the forest floor to explore. Ralph and Jack stay close together, following each other to sites of interest. Oak leaves cling to their muzzles.

We come out of dense forest to the  footpath that leads to the bridge on the road, the last bridge we three will cross together.

The next bridge Jack comes to he will cross alone, leaving behind all who loved him, ever mournful to have lost him, ever grateful to have found him.

In Memory of Jack

Animal Rescue:

Christmas in Singapore 1975

On the tender from the ferry docking in Singapore harbor that Christmas Eve, across from me sat a Yank –  an “older man” – engrossed in a book.  I watched him read, getting vicarious pleasure from seeing someone so absorbed in a work of serious, worthwhile fiction. It had been  months since I’d been able to get my hands on acceptable reading material.   He looked up and saw me studying the cover of his paperback.

“The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” he said. “Have you read it?” He passed me the book. John Fowles was one of my favorite authors. He was almost finished, he said, then I could have it.

Paul told me he was from Alexandria VA, retired from the FBI – which turned out to be true, he showed me his badge. He had a neatly trimmed moustache, dark blond hair, kind of a craggy face creased from lots of sun. We’d both ferried here  from Jakarta, where I’d spent a few hours wandering around before boarding, the conclusion to a 2-month stay in Indonesia.

This section of Jakarta appears unchanged since December of 1975

We shared the stories of our shipboard   experiences – which differed dramatically. He’d slept in a bed.   These policies have probably changed in the last 30 years, since so many overloaded Indonesian ferries have sunk between Jakarta and Singapore, but in those days they would take as many passengers onboard as they could collect fares from.  Westerners got preferential placement. We were allowed to camp out on the first class deck, breathing fresh air and sleeping on clean, usually dry hardwood planking. I stretched out on a sarong, my head on my backpack. My wallet containing 2000 rupias and change – just under $6- had been lifted before we left port. There went my funding for meals during the 2-½ day voyage.

More alarming was the loss of the never-used American Express card I’d brought from home for emergencies. Nobody who took it would have known what it was – but I’d been counting on it as backup to get home from whatever European city I’d end up in, months from then. A couple English-speaking Indonesian college boys were hanging around the first class deck. We had a little talk.  If they happened to know who had the American girl’s wallet, I said, tell them they could keep the money but please, please, return the wallet.

I told Paul how I’d found the captain in the airless,  foul-smelling cargo hold. That was where the extra Indonesian passengers got to stay- hundreds of them packed in on a wet concrete floor  like slaves or refugees, not paying passengers. Horrifying. The captain sort of understood English. He wrote down my plea for the wallet’s return, and announced it over the loudspeaker.

When I returned to my spot on the upper deck, there it was. They’d taken the folding money and left me the AMEX card and 300 rupias in change – about 80 cents. This bought me  one meal – a scoop of white rice topped with a fish head on which I passed – and enough tea to get through a couple days.

FBI Paul knew Singapore – great places to  eat, and an open air market that sold English-language used books.   We had an authentic Chinese feast for Christmas Eve dinner. We shopped for books.  That’s where I found Paul Theroux’s book The Great Railway Bazaar, which became my bible for that trip. 

My companion insisted on spotting me a night at the Strand hotel – real showers, real beds with clean sheets. The next day, not wanting to impose on his hospitalit or give him what  girls then referred to  as “the wrong idea” I checked out and got a room above a Chinese restaurant.  He helped me get settled.

On Christmas Day I wandered around the pristine city (when people get caned for littering, things stay pretty spic and span) stopping outside churches to listen to Chinese Christians singing hymns. I wandered down Queen Elizabeth Walk along the Harbour, stopping to read and people watch. Heaven in a dictatorship. It was warm and breezy, not oppressively hot and humid like in Indonesia.

At some point I met a soldier on leave from the Singapore army – a Hokkien Chinese who spoke perfect English. “Steve” had a fiancée waiting for him in Canada, where he planned to emigrate. He showed me the sights – Tiger Balm Garden – kind of a cheesy theme park – and took me out for Hokkien chicken. He ate with his fingers, sucking all the bones clean and piling them on the table. I was grossed out but this is how Hokkiens eat chicken. Chinese and Yanks have different table manners.

The night before I left as I was walking up the stairs to my room above the restaurant I crossed Paul coming down.  He’d come to check on me. I was staying right down the street from Raffles, Singapore’s famous hotel from British colonial days. In huge rattan chairs where a plaque said Somerset Maugham and Rudyard Kipling used to sip cocktails, we had a farewell drink.

Paul was probably in his early fifties. He may no longer be among us, but if he is – or not –  I wish him a Merry Christmas –  across the miles, across the years.

New York – after the towers fell


Most of the passengers on an early morning weekday flight from Chicago into LaGuardia are regulars on that run and they’re not on the plane for fun. No one talks. They’re reading the paper or working on laptops or catching up on some of the sleep they missed when the cab picked them up in pitch dark at 4AM.

This flight was different- for most of us it would be the first time landing in New York after the towers fell. It was the last week in September 2001, two weeks after 9/11. The plane was turning into its final descent and all the regulars knew that after that turn we were going to get our first glimpse of the New York skyline – the disfigured, empty New York skyline.

A tense murmur rose in the cabin. One man had his camera ready. I considered that myself but it seemed inappropriate, like taking pictures at a funeral. I took plenty of pictures later- what was left of the towers, still smoldering after two weeks. All the people, shell shocked. All the flags. Remember all the flags? I get a lump in my throat when I think of it now.

I always had the same reaction when the skyline came into view. From that angle, the Chrysler building and the Empire State looked like they were standing right next to each other.  Vintage buildings of an earlier, more graceful era, facing downtown towards the tall, sleekly modern twin towers, like a pair of doting grandparents gazing upon their strapping young grandchildren.

Where the grandchildren had stood was all empty sky; only the grandparents remained, looking down on the wreckage.

timessqflags1In Manhattan, buildings, fences, signposts plastered with “Missing” flyers that were starting to peel – by that time their fate was known.  The city was covered in red, white and blue; flashing neon flags lit Times Square. Vendors sold t-shirts and photos of the towers. Midtown bustled, seemingly normal and functional – except that everyone I spoke to wanted to tell me everything – exactly where they were, how they heard, what they saw and who they knew that got out or didn’t get out that morning –  and  I wanted to listen.

After conducting the day’s business I took the subway downtown and got off at the stop that was still marked World Trade Center.  Just a few miles south the brilliant blue sky of Midtown was grey, there was still so much ash and dust in the air. The odor of burnt plastic was overpowering – all that remained of the contents of the buildings that had been incinerated.

The streets, the store fronts all closed – everything in the shuttered shop windows was covered in inches of ash, like a modern-day Pompeii.  The streets were filled with people, some crying, some praying, some just walking around expressionless. The area immediately surrounding the buildings that had fallen was fenced off, about a square mile in all. Beyond the fences were admitted only the police, the Red Cross and the uniformed men and women of the National Guard. None of the stores or coffee shops were open, but on Wall Street, The New York Stock Exchange was in business, an enormous flag draped across the whole front of the building. 

Behind the fences stood the wreckage of the towers. gasmasksP-aI stood there and watched them smolder for a while and then the whole scene simply became overpowering – the display cases of a jewelry store covered in inches of ash, the signs posted with faces of the missing people, the ashen sky and the atmosphere filled with toxins and pollutants you shouldn’t breathe – my head was pounding and my heart was breaking. I had to get out.

Tight lipped, face drawn, striding towards the subway I passed three young men. One of them looked at me and said “Smile. It’s not that bad.”  

Yes it was.

Back in midtown, where the sky was blue and the air was clear, there were flags everywhere you looked. Times Square was lit up in neon of red white and blue.




And at night the Empire State Building, the grieving grandfather, showed his colors.

Bangkok – after Saigon fell

bangkok street scene2Don’t go to Bangkok they all warned me – stay away.

Overland travelers with serious road cred, those who’d started in Athens and gotten to Southeast Asia the hard way were unanimous in their distaste for the dirt, chaos and crime of the Thai capital and really any other major city.  Surely Bangkok would overwhelm a  novice like myself who had flown to Tokyo from Chicago only 4 months earlier.

 bngkwmn-1But I’d racked up some cred of my own. After  a month navigating the Tokyo subway system, being hospitalized with dysentery in Java, managing  a harrowing border crossing from Malaysia into Thailand with a ditsy travel companion from Lincoln, Nebraska who “forgot” he had some opium in his backpack –  at the last minute he palmed it off on our trishaw driver as a tip  – I felt prepared for Bangkok, where the prospect of Western toilets, hot showers and mail from home being held at the American Express office awaited. 

Also I had a phone number to call. The forest fire fighter/journalist I’d met on Penang could be reached at this safe house for Kuren rebels in Bangkok. Thirty years before this phrase was coined he was embedded with the rebels and their cause and was filming them at their camps and on the front in the remote hill country that spanned the Thailand-Burma border up north near Chiang Mai.  We’d spent a week or so in  Batu Feringhi, in Penang exchanging  scorching glances, always surrounded by a group of people. Peter had left a folded piece of notebook paper with this Indian guy we’d befriended on which he’d written me a poem and this number to call.

In Bangkok with  Nebraska Bill and Eric from the Peace Corps, who’d joined us in  southern Thailand  we got a Western-style motel room with private bath and a pool and had  breakfast at Mitch & Nam’s, an American-styled diner run  by two Viet Nam vets who decided not to go home after the war. This was February, 1976 – less than a year after the fall of Saigon. Eggs, bacon, hash browns, pancakes, heaven. We lingered over coffee and The Bangkok Post – the  first English language newspaper I’d seen since leaving Hong Kong in November.  

budhstmnk-1Overland  travelers in those days were almost completely isolated from the outside world.  In Asia you could go weeks without access to any form of Western media.  It became known that  I had a  transistor radio that might pick up the BBC on a clear night and sometimes a  group would gather, listening to mostly static.  There was a brisk trade in paperbacks, but news was a scarce commodity.

 The Thais loved us Yanks. After months of being heaped with scorn and derision by both natives and  Europeans who held us personally responsible for our government’s decisions – something any American traveling abroad at any time has no doubt encountered – this was heady stuff.

At the motel I tuned the transistor to an English-language station playing the blues and my frst hot bath in three months. The water turned black. Apparently the cold dipper baths didn’t slough off dead skin cells.  So I refilled the tub with more hot water and shampooed my hair – lather, rinse repeat. Heaven.

I wrote home faithfully once a week but hadn’t gotten mail since Hong Kong;  parents   communicated with backpacking kids back then  by sending letters  to Amex offices marked “Hold for Arrival.”  There were 7 letters from home.  Ecstatic, I sat at the pool and read them from the  most recent back, not understanding  my mom’s   references to “bearing up under the circumstances.”   The earliest letter – one from my brother – was hilarious.  I laughed so hard  people around the pool turned to look at me. Then he wrote that our grandmother had died. Gram and I were astral twins -we shared the same birthday – and I was finding out three months later. I  cried so hard the same people around the pool turned to look at me again.

When I got back to the room I reached Peter at the number he’d given me, amazing since this was the first time he’d actually been at the safe house; he’d be leaving for the hill country that night but he wanted to see me. He caught a three-wheeled taxi  and came over. Bill and Eric were out. As soon as I opened the door he knew something was wrong .  He held me while I cried, and for a long time afterward.

Santa Fe: Hiking the Atalaya Mountain Trail


Santa Fe is one of those destinations that has something for everyone so it’s a great place to go with friends whose idea of what constitutes a good time may differ slightly from yours.  The area offers hiking, skiing and rafting for the outdoorsy types, Canyon Road and the museums for art and history buffs, shopping and spas, Taos and the Pueblos, great restaurants and bars. Spring and fall bring gorgeous, dry warm days and cool nights when it’s nice to curl up by the kiva fireplace in your casita and relax after the day’s activities.

There I  did something I vow I will never do again –  took a solitary mountain hike on an unfamiliar trail.  It was a 7 mile loop that you picked up close to downtown Santa Fe that started off kind of easy and flat and became increasingly challenging. Some people I met coming back down mentioned a shortcut that joined up with a dirt road that eventually led to where I’d parked.  They also said once you reached the final peak the trail split. You could take a longer more gradual incline or a steep straight shot up to the summit. One of them looked middle-aged me over and said, “you know, it gets extremely strenuous from here….”

Game on.  The steep uphill was actually no  problem, I’m at the gym every morning. Anyway I was antsy to finish the hike already and meet up with my travel companion, who was back in town dividing her time between browsing the galleries and searching frantically for public restrooms when it became apparent she should have opted out of the hot chile sauce on her huevos rancheros  – enough said.

The lack of trail markers was concerning.  In the Midwest there are always those little signs with the colors, here, not so much –  just a narrow footpath winding through the pines. Covered in pine needles it  didn’t look a whole lot different from the ground where the footpath wasn’t.  Nevertheless, I made the summit without incident.

The vistas from up there were amazing. The 18x zoom on the Olympus SP 550-UZ was getting quite a workout. That camera is no longer with me, it got ripped off last winter at a different Mayan ruin. Bad camera karma at those ruins, makes you wonder….

In any event, a woman at the summit who did this climb daily obligingly snapped my pic and started back down.

I said to myself, I should follow right behind her,  she knows this trail. I should have listened to myself.

Heading back down one minute I was on the trail, the next minute, not so much.  I ended up perched out on some high precipice, with a serious case of acrophobia, no water and almost no battery power left in a cellphone that only showed one bar. I tried calling the New Mexico State Forest Department. This trail wasn’t in their jurisdiction and they couldn’t help. I called some number at the Santa Fe county. They told me to call state forestry department.  I heard the low battery signal beeping and hysteria creeping into my voice. A cold icy hand gripped my chest and  squeezed really hard. I broke out in a sweat.

Then my inner voice said, Self,  hang up. If you panic all is lost. It said trail or no trail, clearly the direction you must go is down. It said,  just keep the sun on your left. I listened. Grasping some tree roots I got off the precipice and on solid ground. That the ground was at about a 60 degree angle I had no choice but to ignore. I crouched down and slid – pine needles are actually softer than they look – finally reaching somewhere flat enough to stand upright. Sliding down was  a hell of a lot faster than climbing up but I don’t recommend it. There I spotted a v-shaped seam in the side of the mountain,  like maybe where snow melt runs off. 

The voice said water knows it way down a mountain better than an ignoramus like you. It said, follow that sluice and it will bring you back to the trail. 

That never happened.  But damned if that sluice didn’t deliver me to the exact spot those people told me about where the dirt road linked up to the parking lot. Eventually I met up with other hikers on the road who were looking at me funny. Apparently the pine needles had ripped my aerobic tights to shreds and they saw London, they saw France, they saw Caryn’s underpants.

Bali: Where you go lady?

So I like to go places – exotic or mundane, city or country, domestic or international – anyplace I’ve never been is someplace I might want to go. 

The recorded history of my travels dates back to the purchase of my first camera – an Olympus Pen that shot double frames, I bought it in Tokyo.  You could get twice as many pictures in a roll. I recently found out these cameras were collectors items which made me regret all over again the fact that I dropped it down a Mayan pyramid.  It still worked when I found it. After that motor drives came in so I guess I threw it away. Wish I hadn’t. But I still have the pictures.

I did everything backwards on that trip. I’d never been out of the country, and I started out in the Far East. Clueless. By the time I got to Hong Kong  I realized I had packed wrong and I really wouldn’t need  a grey wool blazer in Southeast Asia.  Everyone else I met coming from the other direction had been on the road for like 4 or 5 years, they couldn’t believe I had just left home like a month earlier. For the sake of the narrative I guess I’m going to have to admit this was in 1975. As a newbie on the  circuit I was much in demand because in these pre-internet day I was an actual source of information from home. Who won the World Series? – did Gloria and Mike on All in the Family have a baby? – what about this new president Gerry Ford? (Not a bad guy, I said, maybe not presidential material  but he’d make a nice next-door neighbor. He reminded me of the dad on My Three Sons).

In Bali all the little kids would chase me yelling “Lady! Where you go? Where you go?”  It drove me nuts but that was all they knew how to say.