Tuesday, June 26, 2012

2012 Azores trip - Day 6

Wake up, make a coffee, do some writing, eat some breakfast and we’re off on a day trip.  We drove up the winding roads of Lagoa du Fogo which is a thousand foot volcano with an amazing crater lake at the top which you are rarely able to see because of the frequently low hanging clouds.  As in past years, we reach the top and have a visibility of about 50 feet, so in order to avoid child disappointment, I tell the kids to stick their hand out the window and grab a handful of cloud, as we are right in the middle of a gigantic one.  They don’t believe it is actually a cloud until we’ve made our descent and look back up the mountain to see the thick cover.
Near the bottom, we pull into a parking area and start the short hike to Caldeira Velha, a popular site which we had yet to visit, and we are not disappointed.  The well groomed trail leads us through lush tropical vegetation, and a trickling stream of water on the right hand side.  We approach a big sign which says, in four different languages, “Danger, natural boiling water”, beyond which is a bubbling pond with sulphuric steam burping out.  A short distance beyond here is the main attraction, a naturally warm waterfall spilling into a beautifully tranquil swimming area.  There are six or seven people there when we arrive, and only two of them in the water, so we get our swimsuits on and jump in.  The water at the edge is cool, but the closer to the waterfall you get, the warmer the water is, and as you move into the waterfall itself, you realize this is where all the heat is coming from.  The hot water massage is amazing!

We stay in the water for twenty minutes then decide to pack up and move on.  As we’re getting ready to leave, an entire tour group of Germans and Danes arrive and the area and pool is now full of people, so we thank our fortunate timing and hike back to the car.

From here, we continue heading north east, passing one of the main geothermal power plants (which produces nearly half the electricity on the island), then we reach the north coast, just east of Ribeira Grand, the second largest town on the island.  Driving east, we pass two tea plantations, which are the only ones which exist in Europe, then continue driving along the excellent roadways all the way to the town of Furnas, which is the most geothermically active part of the island.  As we’ve explored Furnas extensively in the past, we pass through town and drive to the town of Povocao, which is one of our favourite places on the island.  It is a small, self contained village in a valley bordered by hills on all sides except the south, which is the ocean.  The streets and walkways are all cobblestone and decorated with elaborate patterns, using combinations of white and black stones.

After a delicious lunch, we walk over to the small zoo which is located in the center of the town which is always open and free to the public.  It is a lovely little spot and has many birds, monkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs and a big peacock who just loves to show off his feathers.  After the zoo, Ana and Stella do some shopping while Magnus and I kick around a soccer ball he bought in town, which helped to burn off a bit of the massive lunch I consumed.

We jumped back in the car, turned west and started heading towards home, but we had one more stop to make – Ribeira Quente, which means “hot river”.  This is another coastal town, and one which we have never visited before.  The road there was gorgeous, hydrangeas on both sides of the road, many roadside stops with picnic tables, grills and shade trees and many views to the river flowing in the valley below.  The town itself was nice and featured a large fishing port and a beautiful, big beach area, which was “under construction” as the hillside had given way and a house had been lost so they are doing a six month project to reinforce the area and prevent future collapses.  We had a coffee in a restaurant overlooking the beach, then got back on our way and were soon back at tia Ana’s.  John and Maria joined us for a dinner of fresh tuna then we played some soccer in the backyard.  To finish off the night, we played a game of Portuguese Scrabble with the kids (plenty of English words thrown in too) and that was it for the day. 

2012 Azores trip - Day 5

Since it’s our first Sunday in Portugal, we decide to join tia Ana and attend mass.  Her church is a short walk away and is spectacularly located on a cliff overlooking the ocean.  Five years ago, the church celebrated its 500th year which puts its first service sometime in the year 1507, which was over a hundred years after the Azores was initially settled.  I’m not even sure if the rocks in our subdivision at home are 500 years old.

While attending church in Canada can be somewhat painful, the churches in Europe are designed for maximum pain, and from what I have been told, it is to ensure you stay awake and focused during the service.  To combat this, churchgoers regularly eat double helpings of potatoes and bread to grow and extra inch or two of fat on their asses, which makes sitting on the pews tolerable.  Though I’ve been trying my best, I just hadn’t been in the country long enough to produce this padding, so the iron-like wooden boards did significant damage to my backside, not to mention the oak kneeling boards which obliterated my kneecaps.  But to be honest, the service was pretty good, and the songs and music were way better than average.  The kids are always very well behaved in church, and this time was no different, even though they couldn’t understand what was being said.

After mass, which was at 11:30, we drove over to tia Alda’s house for yet another massive lunch and drinking fest.  Today’s lunch was unique though, as it was cooked in the ground and called caldeirada.  There is a town on the eastern side of the island called Furnas, which is a very active geothermic area.  In fact, the entire town smells of sulfur and there are hot springs and steam coming out of the ground everywhere.  A tradition from this area is to take a big pot, fill it with beef, pork, sausages, potatoes, cabbage, carrots and spices, then lower it into the ground where the temperatures get quite high, and let it sit for six hours, then retrieve and consume.  Early in the morning, John, Pedro and Paul had taken such a pot of food there, lowered it into the natural oven, then picked it up in time for lunch, and we arrived just in time to avoid all the work and enjoy all the benefits of the meal.  As expected, it was delicious, and the fresh bread, wine and half a dozen desserts made it even better.

The lunch lasted right until dinner time, which is exactly how all good Sunday lunches should play out.  The whole crew that were at the previous days lunch at tio Luis’ house were here again today, with the addition of cousin Manuella, Tony and their son Francisco.  The kids all got along well and spent the afternoon playing and chasing each other around the house, it seemed like they had overcome the language barrier that made the first couple meetings with the other kids difficult.

We left at 5:30 and went straight to the beach for a quick swim, by this time the sun had appeared and the beach was full of people.  The kids and I took a dip and played around in the big rolling while Ana enjoyed the sunshine.  The sand in the Azores is black, which looks a little strange at first, but you get used to it, especially once you realize the colour makes it impossible to miss any when you’re brushing it off your body.

We arrived back at tia Ana’s house at 6:30, just in time to eat again, but this time it was a lovely fish meal of chicharros (I think the English word for these are mackerel, or at least they sure look like small mackerel)– which happen to be Ana’s favourite fish.  I was determined to get to bed at a decent time, so after dinner I went upstairs to read and wind down while the kids and ladies played a rousing game of Trouble.  We actually had the kids in bed by 10pm, and I was out cold shortly after that.

2012 Azores trip - Day 4

Day 4 – Saturday, June 23, 2012

We enjoyed a tremendous sleep-in this morning, something we never do at home, but are definitely experimenting with it here on vacation.  While the kids were busy playing, Ana and I snuck out for a quick walk to explore the area a bit.  Tia Ana’s house is on a hill, so we followed the hill up for a kilometer or so, looking at the houses, seeing all sorts of animals, mainly cows and ugly dogs, but one house had a ripe looking goat tied up at the front door, who winked at us as we passed, as if sharing an inside joke, though I have no idea what the joke was.
We drove to tia Alda’s house....wait, I’m just thinking I haven’t really explained who all these people are I’ve been talking about.  Here’s the map of our vacation world:

Cast of Characters:

Kris, Ana, Magnus, Stella – The Olson Armada

John and Maria – Ana’s mom and dad

Tia Ana – Ana’s aunt, youngest sister of Ana’s dad John, we are staying with her, husband’s name is tio Joe

Tio Manuel – Maria’s oldest brother, husband to tia Alda

Tio Luis – Maria’s youngest brother, husband to tia Genoveva

Cousin Natarcia - Tio Manuel’s youngest daughter, and Ana’s closest cousin, her husband is Paul and they have a new baby daughter Leoneld.

Cousin Carmelia – Tio Manuel’s middle daughter, husband is Pedro, daughters are Sofia and Bella

Cousin Manuella – Tio Manuel’s eldest daughter, husband is Antonio, son is Francisco

It took me about ten years to figure all this out, but I think I finally got it!

Back to the story, we drove over to tia Alda’s house, watched half of the Spain/France game then moved onto tio Luis’ house for lunch.  The front of his house is tiny, probably about fifteen feet across, but goes quite far back and has three bedrooms.  But when you walk out into the backyard, that’s where you get a big surprise.  As you walk back, you first pass through a lovely covered patio area with picnic tables and umbrellas and lots of decorative flowers.  Passing there, you climb a few steps and enter into a grapevine enveloped sitting area with two tables and a big outdoor wood oven which, at the time, was piled high with sardines grilling slowly over the glowing embers.  Beyond here was an outbuilding which housed a separate dining/sitting room, a full kitchen and yet another wood burning grill, but this one was piled high with various types of meat and sausages, and the smell was incredible!  There were people everywhere, cutting up vegetables, cooking food, preparing salads, chasing kids, being chased by kids and generally having a good time.  I assumed this was the end of the yard, but I soon discovered otherwise, as tio Luis led us further back on a tour of the estate.  We walked up another set of stairs to find a huge garden area, and a concrete pen which was home to a cute, smelly little piggy.  There was wide selection of herbs growing on the edges of the garden – I was able to identify rosemary, basil, parsley, anise and spearmint, but there were many more.  The main part of the garden had lettuce, cabbage, fruit trees, kale and a bunch of other stuff I didn’t recognize.  Tio Luis led us further back, into the last section of the garden which, besides lots more fruits and vegetables, had a shed full of chickens and rabbits, and two mangy mutts, tethered to a post beside it standing guard.  By the time we reached the end of the property, we were so far back I could barely see the roof of the house.

After the tour, we tucked into a massive lunch – they had every meat imaginable including beef, chicken and pork, but also home-made chorizo sausage, blood sausage and back bacon, all derived from the previous residents of the piggy pen.  It was a feast fit for a king and we stuffed ourselves silly and washed it down with generous glasses of red wine.  We had a great time and an excellent visit with everybody, and I got to practice my wretched Portuguese on the poor folks.
After lunch, we headed down to the beach area to enjoy the hot sun which had appeared mid afternoon, and Ana and I enjoyed a drink on the patio, soaking up the sun and scenery, while we watched the kids down on the rocks exploring and searching for creatures.  The bill for the giant beer, coffee and drinks for the kids was five euro, which is a hell of a lot cheaper then we’re used to paying at home.

We then met back at tia Alda’s house, joined up with cousin Carmelia and family, then head off to Villa Franca, about 15 miles east, for a big parade and festival called Festa de Sao Joao.  We managed to find a parking spot then walked all the way down the main street in search of free sardines which Pedro had told us about.  When we saw the lineup of several hundred hungry looking Azorean folks, we knew we had found it.  After fifteen minutes in line, having made fifteen feet of progress, we decided to abandon mission and go in search of quicker, paid food instead.  We moved back into the main area where there were a couple food vendors, and claimed a nice spot along the wall from which to watch the parade.  The first float didn’t arrive until 10pm, and by then the streets and sidewalks were jammed with old people, young people, babies and kids.  Now this was our scene.  One of the things we’ve always tried to do differently than most people in Canada is take our kids everywhere we go.  The status quo for the majority seems to be put your kids in bed at 7pm, get a babysitter, then take off for the night.  Or dump the kids with the grandparents and go on a couple only holiday.  Or weddings where they don’t allow kids.  All of that is strange to me.  In the Azores, we are now back in the majority, as evidenced by the kids everywhere, at all hours of the night, out having fun with their parents and other kids.  It’s a great scene.

We are told that there will be 12 parade groups and by midnight, after making it through six of them, we decide to head home as we’re all getting a big tired after a big day, and want to beat the crowd out of there.  The parade groups are huge and comprised of a set of singer dancers backed up by a huge marching band.  Each of the main towns on the island provides a group for the festivals, and the festivals run all summer long in a different town every weekend.  The choreography and music is fantastic, and we all enjoy it, especially Stella who claps and dances throughout.

We arrive back home to find tia Ana still awake, so we have a quick visit with her then retire to bed, completely exhausted – but in a good way.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

2012 Azores trip - Day 3

Day 3 – Friday, June 22, 2012

I awoke with a slight headache, likely due to an improper beer to wine ratio I was testing out the day before, will need to make some adjustments on that one, perhaps more beer?  Or maybe I should throw the odd white wine into the mix?  Trial and error has served me well in the past so I will continue testing.
Shrugging off the morning daze, I soon heard the signature honk originating from our open bedroom windows, so I threw on some dungarees and a tunic and raced downstairs.  I threw open the front door in time to see tia Ana doing a deal with the vegetable man in the vegetable van, and from his stereo came the unmistakable rocking sounds of a Mariachi band.  I did sleep through the fish man and bread man, but fortunately the day’s plans included a trip to the farmers market, so I was sure to find plenty of product there.

We got the kids fed, watered, clothed and shuffled them into the car then raced downtown to meet John and Maria, as the first order of business was to take care of some paperwork at the local government office concerning the Borges’ citizenship cards.  It seems that every time we come here, there is always a piece of administration to take care of, so it’s better to get it done early in the trip as it is always twice as difficult and take three times longer than you expect.
After that, we split up and sent John off with his brother-in-law, the ladies shopping and Magnito and I went to the farmers market, which takes place only on Friday and is quite amazing.  It is in central Ponta Delgada and has an amazing range of vegetables, fruit, flowers, meats, fish and cheese.  I’ve learned that the age of eight is when you can really start using your kids as pack horses, so I loaded Magnus up with plastic bags full of fresh produce, which multiplied as I scoured the stalls for deals.  The fish counter in particular was fantastic, and it was all I could do to talk Magnus out of buying a full moray eel.

We rendezvoused with the girls around noon at a local cafeteria for a delicious plate of cod casserole, after which we moved on to the Parque Atlantico – a local shopping mall. We had somehow lost Stella’s jacket the day before so the ladies could not rest until it had been adequately replaced, and I did not want to stand in the way of their mission.  While the ladies bee-lined for the clothing shops, I made the natural decision to take the kids over to the supermarket to check out the booze isles – that is the only sort of shopping I enjoy.

By the time the mission was accomplished, it was already 2pm, but before heading back to tia Ana’s we decided to make a detour to Feteiras, 10 miles west of Ponta Delgada, to check out the piece of land we had purchased seven years previous.  Each time we return, I expect to pull up and find that somebody has built themselves a nice new house on our lot, but fortunately this has not yet happened.  What was there, though, was a thick growth of bamboo and many other other native species, making the lot look rather jungle-like.  The kids thought it quite amazing that we owned this and by the time we left Magnus already had plans to built a petting zoo on it.
On the way home, the kids fell asleep in the back of the car, so we did what we do best and immediately pulled into the first cafe we could find, cranked the windows down, and abandoned our kids for a brief moment of happy couple time over a beer, a coffee and a Portuguese cupcake.  See attached photo, but please do not alert child services because I will deny everything.

By the time we had happy hour, did some visiting, ate dinner, cleaned up, and played some games with the kids, it was 10:30 pm and time for teeth brushing, snacks, teeth brushing again, story time in bed, pee-time, one more snack, light mouth rinse, lights out, lights back on, and now Stella and I are sitting here at midnight in my bed typing this blog, listening to Billy Joel while Magnus rolls around on the floor playing with Lego.  And the two Ana’s are still downstairs yapping.

Hey, it’s vacation.  We’re good.

2012 Azores trip - Day 2

Day 2 – Thursday, June 21, 2012

After a wonderfully sound sleep we awoke at 7am to Ana’s chirping iPhone alarm which I had set the night before, and my first discovery of the morning was that Apple had installed the “snooze” function, which was put to good use.  Once I remembered the breakfast that was awaiting us downstairs, I got my butt out of bed and started getting people moving.  My favourite part of the day in the Azores is the morning meal, which at tia Ana’s house, consists of black coffee, fresh buns, fresh cheese, and these delicious little bananas she grows in her backyard.  From the kitchen you can hear the sounds of the morning vendors passing by, each with their distinctive horn blast, identifying them as the bread, fruit or fish man.  But you have to be quick to catch them as they pass rapidly.

We decided to make a trip to Ponta Delgada to see the new cruise ship port and marina called “Portas du Mar”, so we walked down to the bus stop and the kids did some lizard hunting while we waited and watched the cars, trucks, tractors, motorbikes and horses passing by.  After a short bus ride we arrived downtown and immediately bumped into Ana’s cousin Natarcia, who works at a rental car company, and she hooked us up with a car at a great price so for the next ten days we’d have wheels.  Yes!

We started with a nice walk through the marina, totally impressed with the facility, and even the prices – monthly dockage on our sailboat would be less than 300 euro per month, so we plan on retiring next year, just need to find some foster parents for the kids.  As part of the marina they have built a giant commercial complex with restaurants, bars, shops, and even a small bowling alley!  They also upgraded the existing pool and built an amazing recreational area.  In short, it’s probably the most amazing marina we’ve ever seen and we look forward to the day when we will be sailing our own boat into harbour.

After a light lunch and a wonderfully cheap mug of lager, we moved on to explore a few of the shops downtown, where I picked up some wine and beer and Ana bought shoes, then we decided to head back to the house and get our swimsuits so we could get down to the pools in Lagoa to enjoy the sunny, warm day.  Driving around the Azores is quite easy, and since we’re familiar with the main roads, it’s no problem getting around.  We stopped at Ana’s other aunt’s house on the way to say hi to John and Maria, and they decided to join us at the pool, so we continued on home.  Along the way I was shocked to see a sign for “Azores Veterinarian Hospital” which I assumed was some sort of local code word for guns and ammo shop, but was later informed by one of Ana’s cousins that they do indeed treat animals from time to time, though you’d never know it by the scruffy dogs everyone has chained up in their backyards.
By the time we made it down to the pool, the sky had clouded over and the wind had picked up, making that cold water a little less appealing than expected, so while the cold-resistant kids jumped into the water, the rest of us sat on the edge, and John and I enjoyed a nice glass of beer.  It wasn’t long before we all went back to tia Ana’s house for an afternoon chitty-chat session where, among the more interesting topics discussed in rapid fire Portuguese, were the benefits and drawbacks of cousins marrying cousins, which was (or perhaps “is”?) common in the Azores.  Ana’s grandparents on her mom’s side were actually first cousins, so we discussed the resulting genetic afflictions in the family, which ranged from detached retinas for several of the cousins, to partial insanity in Ana’s brother’s case.  One big happy family, whose belly-buttons are all just an inch or two off center.

Tia Ana cooked us an amazing meal of swordfish, which I stuffed myself on, as we watched the quarter finals of the Euro cup, which featured Portugal versus the Czech Republic.  By half time there was still no score, so we decided to take the kids down and find a cafe somewhere to watch the rest of the game.  We drove down to one of the beach areas, found a nice little spot with a tv, got the kids an ice cream, the mom a coffee and the dad a beer and watched the rest of the game where Portugal eventually scored a nice goal and took the game.  As we watched, I was reminded of a conversation with my brother Curtis a few years back, where we were trying to figure out what language these guys were speaking in when they were yelling at each other all the time.  Between the players, the referees, the coaches and everybody else on the sidelines, there must be at least a dozen languages flying around at any particular time.  It does make you wonder how they manage to communicate.  Through careful research and intensive lip reading, we were able to determine that the phrase “What de fuh?” is all these guys ever say, and it is as universally understood as it is versatile.  An English player gets a yellow card, he’ll say to the German ref, “What de fuh??”  A Spanish attacker gets tackled by a Swedish defender, he’ll get up and say to him, “What de fuh??”  A Brazilian net keeper gets caught by the ref pushing over a Costa Rican scoring star, and the Japanese ref will say, “What de fuh??”
Watch and you’ll see.

2012 Azores trip - Day 1

Day 1 – Wednesday, June 20, 2012

We arrived in Ponta Delgada at 6:30 this morning to a rainy and cool morning after an easy overnight flight from Toronto.   The kids enjoyed the flight, though weren’t able to stay awake for the meal, which wasn’t served until 11 pm as the flight departed at 9:45 pm.  I don’t think Magnus would have impressed with the chicken anyway – the crunchy delicious exterior neatly disguised the mashed broccoli stuffing inside which, while delicious to most adult palates, would have made him gag.  And the last time we flew to Azores, five years previous, Magnus began the flight by unloading his stomach contents on his dad, covering me from neck to ankle in coagulated milk substance whose foul smell nearly caused a chain reaction vomit party on the airplane.  I’ve reminded him frequently about that experience since then and it makes him laugh every time.

We were met at the airport by several of Ana’s family – Tio Luis, cousin Natarcia and cousin Pedro and his beautiful daughter Bella, who seemed two feet taller than the last time we saw her.  We drove to Natarcia’s parent’s house and had a short visit over a delicious breakfast of fresh buns, cheese and coffee.  We then moved onto Ana’s aunt Ana’s house, which was to become our home for the next two weeks.  It was so nice to see her and tio Joe again after so many years.  To our delight, absolutely nothing had changed in the neighbourhood, and this is the real delight of the Azores, the slow pace of change and the simpler style of living.  This is still a place where the mornings bring vendors, sometimes by truck, other times by horse and cart, down the street selling milk, vegetables, bread and fish.  We were astonished to see this the first time we visited ten years ago, and it continues on today.

After a visit with Ana and Joe, a delightful nap for yours truly, and a delicious fish lunch, we took the kids for a big walk down to the nearby town of Lagoa, which is home to an amazing ocean-side recreation area consisting of natural ocean swimming areas, artificial chlorinated pools, and a snack bar serving food, drinks and ice cream.  By this time, the rain clouds had scattered, and it was a sunny 22 degrees outside, which brought out the lizards on the rock fences which are everywhere and serve as property line divisions, providing amble hunting opportunities for the kids.  Since we didn’t pack our swimsuits, we just stopped at the pools for a coffee and ice cream and to show the kids around, in particular, we had to show them the “Boca da Belaea”, which is a part of the pools where the incoming swells force out the air from an underwater cave and result in an explosion of water which resembles the blow hole expulsion of a whale.  Stella and Magnus were very impressed, but failed to believe our assertions that there was indeed a whale trapped in there causing the spray.

On the way back home we stopped at the nearby port to see the fishermen chopping bait and getting ready for the next morning’s efforts on the sea.  We passed by one proud fellow who had caught a gigantic lobster, and Ana was quick to snap a picture.  We also stopped at a small market and picked up some essentials – kids sugar cereal, beer and wine!

After we arrived, it wasn’t long until all four of us were napping – Ana out on the balcony in the sun, and the kids and I on a bed in a cool room.  Considering the kids only slept for a few hours on the plane, I was amazed they had stayed awake that long.  Ana and I woke up around 7pm and tried to wake the kids, but they were finished for the night, so we just packed them into bed, then went downstairs for a nice dinner and an easy evening visiting with tia Ana.

The late days naps kept Ana and I up until about midnight, and as we were going to bed we heard the shuffling of four little feet at the kids broke into our room, wide eyed and ready for the next event of the day....which turned out to be a family movie on the laptop with all four of us squeezed into the bed.  To my horror they chose “Happy Feet 2” which is probably the second worst movie ever made.  Fortunately for Ana, she immediately fell asleep and I somehow remained awake for the painful duration...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Vacation arrives!

This is shaping up to be the easiest work month ever, besides the ones when I was unemployed or in jail, those were pretty easy too, but in a different way.

We are leaving for the enchanted island of Sao Miguel in the Azores tomorrow night for over two weeks (please don’t rob my house….if you try I’ll get you on camera you thief), we haven’t been there in five years so are very excited for this trip.  Last time we were there Stella and Magnus were approaching the tender age of 1 and 3 – otherwise known as the “hell ages”.  The trip was generally fun, but frequently interrupted by short, but intense, episodes of putrid toilet visits, immature melt downs, horrible temper tantrums and fussy eating.  And that was just Ana – you should have seen what the kids were like.

This time, we’re all a bit older and hopefully wiser so are anticipating a much easier and enjoyable trip.  The kiddies are approaching 8 and 6 so can practically take care of themselves, while Ana and I, at the primo 40 mark, are now much more patient, easy going, relaxed or perhaps you could say simply worn out, so better able to sit back and watch the chaos unfold around us instead of actively participating.

I’m hoping to put up a posting each day of our trip, these vacations are always a good time for me to do some writing.  I have been working on a travel book for about 5 years and my goal this year was to complete it, so I’m going to see what I can get done on that front, it’s been a long time coming and if I wait until it’s perfect, it will never get finished.

After the Azores trip, we’re back to work for two weeks then off again for another two weeks on our annual Lake Erie sailing trip.  Our sailboat, Bella Blue, is in top shape and eager to cast off those dock lines and take us away on the water.  We installed a second refrigerator this past weekend (see image above, pre-installation), which went surprisingly well for a boat project – I only cut myself twice, hurt my back, smashed my toe, and had to hold an inverted dog/warrior position inside the tiny cockpit locker for about 20 minutes, which left stretch marks on my ass.  My neighbor Andrew’s injuries were similar, but he was stuck in the locker for at least 40 minutes – I was surprised he could still walk.  In the end, it was a lovely job, and though we had originally considered using the extra space for broccoli storage, we did finally come to a consensus and decided to utilize the space for beer and wine, then just tow any such green vegetables behind the boat and hope some sad, hungry fish consumes it.

More to come from the Azores!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A grizzly week in the news

Another lovely weekend spent on Bella Blue. And it was exactly what we needed after the week of Hollywood style, grotesque events in the news. Early in the week, we learned of an attack in Miami where a crazy nude dude strung out on a designer drug called "bath salts" plucked a homeless fella off the side of the street, stripped him down, beat him unconscious, then started chewing off his face. By the time the cops arrived, and shot the attacker dead, after he growled at them with a mouthful of meat, there wasn't much left of the victim's face. Luckily, or unluckily the man survived and will be the next candidate for a full face transplant. Maybe he will even get his own reality show - that would be nice. I'm sure the networks are on it.

Next up, the strange case of the hungry black bear in Kamloops, BC who came across a dead man in a car on a small back road in hillbilly land, somehow accessed the vehicle, pulled the body out, ate half of it, then dragged the rest of it into the bush and buried it, for later midnight snacking, or maybe as a nutritional gift to a lady bear he fancied. But wait, the story gets better - it turns out the victim was a convicted murderer! The police don't know how he died or why he was there, but the are actively searching out the bushy benefactor of his misfortune to send him to the big petting zoo in the sky.

Lastly is the sickening story of Luka Rocco Magnotta, the small time gay porn actor, who recorded himself murdering and dismembering a gay lover and posted the video online. He then mailed off at least two of the severed body parts to political party headquarters, then supposedly hopped a plane to France. His mother must be very proud.

Which leads me to the point of this posting. In a connected and shrinking world, are we better off knowing the details of these terrible things that happen everyday, the moment they occur, complete with video? Or is it better to remain blissfully ignorant? I can say that the times I have been disconnected, such as fishing trips, sailing trips, all-inclusive trips to the Caribbean, there has never been a moment where I had wished I "knew what was going on". To me, it really doesn't matter, in fact, all this information does is distract you from experiencing the moment at hand, your surroundings, and your companions. I know this goes against the grain of the culture of always-on smart phones and social media, but it does seem that we spend most of our time in somebody else's moment instead of our own. In June we will be spending two disconnected weeks in the Azores and I can hardly wait. That will be shortly followed up with two partially disconnected weeks on our annual sailing trip on Lake Erie. I plan on experiencing each and every moment, then blogging about it so I can be a total hypocrite and encourage you to shun your own personal moments in favor of my own. I will also do my best to make my life and experiences as glamorous, as intensely spiritual, as remarkable, as death defying, and as incredibly unique as possible, by using the right mixture of complete fiction, half truths, partial lies, creative fabrication and even the odd truthful tidbit here and there, to make it as rewarding a read as possible, and to offer you the opportunity to momentarily escape the daily drudgery. Please make some time for me and forget about Rocco - he really doesn't matter too much.