San Francisco

san-francisco-painted-ladies

Family and I took the opportunity to visit my sister in Mountain View, Calif. as a chance to also visit San Francisco and Monterey.

Photos on Facebook here.

SACM and I rented bicycles for a wonderful tour of SF, including, predictably but wonderfully, over the Golden Gate Bridge to Monterey, and all the way back to the Mission and the StrEAT Market.

We did the cable cars and Uber to a boat out in the Bay (dramamine actually worked for me!). Saw the Condor Club and Chinatown and Ghiradeli Square and all that, after we started down to Monterey for the aquarium and beach-going.

Panama

panama-trip

A week in the dense, central heart of Panama, the small, narrow pathway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans was the memorable international trip I was privileged to get the chance to take on this month.

Panama, a country of less than 4 million people on land less than that of Pennsylvania, is best known for its powerful Panama Canal that was American operated until 1999. Until 1989, it was run by the dangerous despot Manuel Noriega but since then democracy has flourished and, with the New York Times profile in toe, is growing its tourism sector to try to compete with more popular Belize and Costa Rica.

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Boom Boom Caberet story at First Person Arts Story Slam

I told a ROAD TRIP story at the latest First Person Arts Story Slam. It was, looking back, a little racy for the audience, so I hope you enjoy it — five minutes or so. Maybe NSFW. Give it a watch

It was my first time telling a story in a public setting like that, in this case part of the popular Story Slam series from the nonprofit First Person Arts. I had told this story first for Story Shuffle, but cut it down by half.

Assateague Island National Seashore

assateague

Assateague National Park on this 37-mile barrier island south of Ocean City, Maryland is famed for its 300 wild horses, managed by a contraceptive darting program. Here is one at the park entrance

Birmingham, Alabama for Valentine’s Day

Like cities across the country, 210,000-person Birmingham, Alabama has a growing creative class pocketed among communities of post-industrialization decline (though some of it remains).

Founded in 1870s after the Civil War while much of the leading Southern cities of the era were in shambles, Birmingham grew up as an iron town, as symbolized by the Sloss Furnaces National Park, an elephant-graveyard of production hidden underneath a highway leaving the city center (it had the nickname of Pittsburgh of the South, for its wide-ranging metal production).

But as Birmingham twisted in the wind in the mid-20th century, other took hold of new industries — Atlanta fought to be a air transit hub. Today, that small creative class — aided in part by the University of Alabama at Birmingham — is helping to fuel a few small pockets of the walkable urban ideal.

Yes, what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than a great long weekend in Birmingham, Ala.

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Ireland

I spent the last week on a road trip dotting across the southern half of cloudy Ireland.

Touring with longtime friends Michael Butler and James Spadola, I knocked off a couple items on my list. We drove more than 600 miles and roughly hit this map. Our itinerary here and expenses here.

See highlights of the tour below.

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Amsterdam Canal at night

A canal not far from De Wallen, the famed Red Light District of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, on Oct. 7, 2008.

Pacific Footloose

Friend Matt Sheehan takes his shoes and socks off on the Pacific beach off Ocean Avenue in Los Angeles County January 2007. I liked how it looked like his right leg was gone.

Taken with a Panasonic PV-GS500. On Flickr here. See another below.

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Africa (My summer abroad in Ghana, West Africa)

Posing alongside children after playing soccer with them in Nkwantanan.

I spent this summer in the West African country of Ghana, living in East Legon, a hamlet outside the capital city of Accra. (Read up on the fairly stable democracy here.)

I lived in a hostel on the campus of the University of Ghana, where I was studying politics and the West African aesthetic.

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