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Thursday, July 19, 2012


Francesca and I continue our summer travels.          Someone asked, "If Venezuela was so problematic, why did you go there?"  As I think I mentioned, we went there to re-connect with my wife's many relatives who still live there. 
All were warm and generous. 
The country, with its beaches, mountains, and tropical greenery, is beautiful.  I'll be writing more about that adventure when we return to Miami in August.

Now we're in Europe visiting our Grove neighbor, Brigitte Kavanaugh.  We brought Ian and Dylan with us. 

Brigitte has a 300-year old house in NW France (Josselin, Brittany).   It's amazing, sheltering people like us for over three centuries.  
The weather?  Perfect.  We wish we could send some of the 64 degree air back to South Florida.  
Everyday here is remarkable.  Yesterday we stumbled upon a Catholic school in nearby Ploermel.  A monk showed us their prized 150-year-old clock. The school's founder, Jean-Marie de la Mennais, built it himself.  It fills a room, has revolving planets, and many, many dials.  One goes around every minute and another, every 1000 years.   After we took all that in he asked us if we'd like to step outside "to box the sequoia".  
    Who could refuse?  A garden tour ended at the base of a huge pine tree.  As Frere Gumanchey suggested, we took turns punching the tree's soft bark.  From its looks,  the towering giant has had put up with this silliness for many years.
   This part of France is so different from Miami.  No one there, for instance, ever invited me to pummel a tree.

Haft-timbered buildings in Rennes

Dylan, lost in plants again.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012


I don't expect Venezuela will be attacking us anytime soon.   Yes, I saw army guys toting machine guns here and there but jeez, the place is dangerous.  Everyone in Caracas should carry one.
The cover story in today's Miami Herald has the GOP "howling" because President Obama says this 2.5d world country does not pose a serious threat to the United States.
It doesn't.  Have the yahoos quoted in the article (Romney and Rubio) ever been there?  For the last two weeks I've been roaming around that country.  I got the impression that the army and everyone else does not want to invade the U.S.  They'd rather immigrate.  And besides, it's hard for anyone to leave the county because there is so much garbage blocking the way.
Jokes aside, there is a great deal of fear and poverty in Venezuela.  As soon as you leave the airport (with a secured driver, some taxis kidnap you) you are surrounded by ghetto shacks (they call them "ranchos") built by impoverished people.   All who can afford it put walls around their houses.  These are topped by spikes, broken glass, and razor wire.  The candles on the cake are the poles holding up  electric fencing meant to "light up" anyone who tries to go over.
With bars covering the windows, houses and condos look like jails.  Looking through the steel rods at condo guards while my wife's relative's warned, "Don't go out", left me feeling imprisoned.
If you do go out you might get run over.  Traffic is nuts.  You let "secured" cabbies take you places but their driving skills scare you.  Thousands of motorcycles make it worse as they zoom between cars beeping their horns like angry hornets.  
Try to avoid going out at night in Caracas.   That's when most kidnappings take place.  They call them "express kidnappings" as the horrendous ordeals now take place quickly.  We met one victim and heard of others. 
Despite all this, most of the people there love their country and have no intention to leave. 
President Hugo Chavez, vilified by the U.S. press, keeps getting re-elected.  We met many people who love the guy and swear he's making things better.
I hope he, or someone else, does. 
The machine-gun carrying guys in green fatigues need to figure out how to combat the evil within and make their own people secure.  Their smiles seemed to say they have no interest in invading anyone.

A few days ago I spotted this fallen mango that got spiked on its way down...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


   We were at  a dinner party recently when Francesca and I announced that we'd be visiting Venezuela soon.  A young woman said, "We just moved here from Caracas.  Why would you want to go there?".
    My wife's mother was Venezuelan and much of the family is still there.  That's why we went...and, to search for what could be the world's greatest grilled cheese sandwich, the renown Venezuelan "arepa". 
     The government is not exactly tourist friendly, if they posters (they don't) they might say, "Don't Bother Coming Here.  We're Okay Without You".

   Geez, and we we're still heading that way?    We did and it was a very strange experience.  It wasn't third world but at least 2.5.

    Going south I was the only gringo on the plane.  Once there, I felt like the only one on the South American continent.  I was somewhat prepared for this having visited Hialeah many times. 

As we picked up our luggage the words of the U.S. State Department's website kept echoing in my mind,  "Do not take a cab from the airport. The driver may kidnap you".  A relative suggested that we carry our money in our shoes and the woman at the dinner said, "Bring two wallets.  One for the robber and one for you". 
 That's how our adventure began