The Two Most Important Things About Chiang Mai

For those who have never had a Thai massage, you’re in for something different. In contrast to the soothing, along-the-line-of-the-muscle Swedish style prevalent in the US, the Thais believe that they should rub hard across the grain of the muscle. This has the effect of stretching your connective tissues, such as tendons and ligaments, in directions they’ve probably never been in before. Honestly, it hurts. But, after it’s over, you’ll ask yourself why the hell haven’t I been doing this all my life?

Sometimes You Have to Go Home

I grew up in Council Bluffs, Iowa. According to my grandfather, Council Bluffs was, “the only town that ever hurt Chicago.” I’ve given his pronouncement a lot of thought over the years and I’ve still never quite figured out what it meant.

Maybe it was because Council Bluffs made fun of Chicago on the playground when they were kids. Or maybe it was because someone from CB wrote a letter once to someone in Chicago saying that having broad shoulders and being hog butcher to the world wasn’t really that great. Especially when Carl Sandburg went on to mention that it was also the city of skanky whores and slimy gangsters.

Cruising the Bosphorus

It may be a bit of an oversimplification, but you could probably say that Istanbul exists because of the Bosphorus. It was the first thing I wanted to see when we got there. We dropped our bags at the Empress Zoe hotel, and headed right out. We were only a few blocks away, and so our first impressions of Istanbul were those of the strong current flowing from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, the ships lined up waiting for their pilots to take them through the strait, and the lines of fishermen with their lines in dark water.

A Little Treasure of Madrid, the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales

When Kris and I lived in Madrid thirty-two years ago we worked at a language school that was about eight blocks from our apartment. One of the routes we often took to work took us past a nondescript building with two large oak doors and a small sign beside one of them which identified it as a convent. (Here’s the Google map.)

The same sign offered tours during limited hours, but in all the time we lived here, and in our many subsequent visits to Madrid, we never got around to seeing what was inside the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales. We remedied that this time.

Fantastic Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia, In a word: fantastic. In the literal sense. It’s a fantasy land, both in terms of history and landscape. The region is a network of small towns that have one thing in common: the weird geology of the region lent itself over the ages to people digging caves to live in. And so they did.

And, if you look at a map, and know a little of the history of the Christian church, you’ll see that this area also lent itself to becoming a true cradle for the infant church–a cradle which sheltered Christians in these caves for up to fifteen centuries.

The Ruins of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Oplontis

I posted about Rome six days ago, and at the time promised to go on endlessly about our subsequent visits to the sites that were destroyed by Vesuvius in 79 AD, or as the secularists say, 79 CE. Since I’m a Latin guy though, I’m sticking with AD.

So, here goes. First there was a train ride from Rome to Naples, then a change for Pompeii. We had decided to stay in Pompeii, instead of Naples, for a couple of reasons. Number one is that Naples is pretty much of a shit hole, and I can’t remember the second one.

On Journalism and Bullfights in Madrid

Madrileños, unlike most denizens of big cities, are genuinely friendly and eager to talk about their city, Spain, and almost anything else you want to discuss. Our first night here, we had a discussion about journalism and its position as a profession in Spanish society over beers and a plate of olives at an outdoor cafe in the Plaza Mayor with a young man named José Angel. José Angel’s girlfriend is a journalist and he’s a carpenter, so he allowed as there was some friction with her parents over his “station” in life. I assured him that their positions would probably be reversed if he came to the United States and he’d be welcome to visit us anytime the in-laws got to be too much.

Valparaíso and So Forth

Kris and I went for the weekend in Valparaíso and stayed for the rain.

The three month long drought in Chile broke all over us last weekend. We took a two-hour bus trip to Valpo on Friday even though we’d been warned that the weather wasn’t going to cooperate. I don’t know why we didn’t just postpone until the week. It’s not like we have jobs or anything that makes us note the difference between weekends and weekdays, but, at least one of us is really stubborn.