Cruise Capsule – Part 1

I know, I’ve been back a month and promised to post something on my Panama Canal trip. Well, life happens. So here’s a recap of our adventure.

bridgeSan Francisco — One of my wife’s favorite cities, we did our usual after arriving — a fresh seafood dinner and Green Apple Books. Clearly, the highlight of our departure late the next afternoon was to cruise out of the Bay under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Cabo San Lucas — After three days on the Pacific (I love “sea days” as you are required not to go anywhere or do anything), we hit “Cabo.” The Land’s End area between the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez (aka the Gulf of California) is gorgeous but overall this is an area for rich Americans and under the influence college students. It also reflects globalization — or American tourists wanting home in a foreign country. I passed a Sam’s, a Costco and an Office Max in Cabo on my way to San Jose del Cabo.

Norbert — Two days after we left Cabo, it was struck by Hurricane Norbert. We met Norbert when he was still a tropical storm but, fortunately, we were on the eastern edge and he was headed northwest compared to our southeast. Even then, we had 15-foot seas and steady 50 mph winds. Fortunately, my wife and I weren’t among the significant number of passengers and crew who suffered seasickness from the roller coaster ride. We were lucky. A cruise ship a couple days behind us had seas and winds twice as high or more. And about 10 days later Cabo took a direct hit from Hurricane Odile.

ruinsPuerto Chiapas — Although Puerto Chiapas is basically little more than a port, it’s less than 10 miles from Guatemala (which we didn’t get to) and a short bus ride to Tapachula. Tapachula is in the area where evidence indicates the first use of chocolate some 3,500 years ago so, of course, a display of chocolate making was on the agenda. The demonstration — all by hand — took us from bean to a chocolate paste with cinnamon. The city also has a fairly large open market with plenty of local fruit and other items — including plenty of plucked chickens. Notably, almost all the private stands had no refrigeration and flies were kept off the meats, particularly the chicken, with flyswatters that appeared to be strips of polyethylene garbage bags attached to a lath.

This part of the trip also showed us capitalism at its finest. We also visited Izapa, an pre-Columbian Mesoamerican site where many believe the Mayan calendar originated. (It was, though, much less developed than the Mayan ruins we saw at Altun Ha in Belize seveal years ago.) Given it was mid-afternoon in the tropics, I and others were parched. Just outside the site was a family selling crafts and with an ice chest of water, pop and beer (7 or 8 ounces). The beverages were $1 each. It was the best beer I’ve had in years.

The next installment will take us to our post-Mexican adventures.


While abroad, the senses refuse to be burdened by the mundane. They’re wearing sombreros and drinking umbrella drinks and carrying on.

Dave Bindini, Tropic of Hockey

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Weekend Edition: 10-18

Bulletin Board

  • Actual posts coming this week, I promise, as I still struggle to achieve what another book blogger calls “sustainable blogging habits”

Interesting Reading in the Interweb Tubes

Least Surprising Court Ruling of the Week

Bookish Linkage

Nonbookish Linkage


Life is a four-letter word.

Lenny Bruce

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Weekend Edition: 10-11

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Nobelish Linkage

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An optimist is simply a pessimist with no job experience.

Scott Adams, Build A Better Life By Stealing Office Supplies

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Weekend Edition: 10-4

Interesting Reading in the Interweb Tubes

Blog Headline of the Week

Food News of the Week

  • Woman spends month in jail when police mistake SpaghettiOs residue on a spoon in her car for meth

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I figured out what’s wrong with life: it’s other people.

Dilbert, Feb. 8, 2001

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Weekend Edition: 9-27

Interesting Reading in the Interweb Tubes

  • Why I Hope to Die at 75 (“Over time, and without our conscious choice, we transform our lives. We don’t notice that we are aspiring to and doing less and less.”)

Off-Hand Observations of the Week

  • Christmas trees and decorations on display in stores already?!?!? Or was the store I was in lagging behind?
  • We allow star athletes to elude responsibility for their actions for years and are only now debating why they end up here?

Least Surprising Blog Headline of the Week

(Banned) Bookish Linkage

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Things happen the way they happen because the world is the way it is.

Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice

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Landlocked and booked

Cruise InfoMy absence the last couple weeks was one abandoning the routines and topography of everyday life. My wife and I went off on an 18-day cruise from San Francisco to New York City through the Panama Canal. As our youngest lives in NYC, we spent a few days there before returning home. And as much as I love travel and cruises, there truly is no place like home.

And, of course, what do I write about first? The books I got along the way.

I’ll write more about the cruise itself in the days to come. It even included an encounter with Norbert while it was a tropical storm. But both my body and mind remain a bit exhausted. especially since my wife and I caught a cold (or tropical disease) near the end of the trip which made for miserable return flights.

Green AppleSince one of my favorite bookstores — Green Apple Books — is in San Francisco, that was a required stop upon our arrival there. In fact, it was the first stop if you don’t count the hotel and one of the best seafood dinners we’ve had in years at a restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf. And going to a bookstore when you know you’re going on a trip where you will spend more than seven days simply at sea can be dangerous, as the picture to the left shows.

One of my favorite things about Green Apple is its selection of slightly used recent releases. That accounted for about half the books my wife and I picked up. We didn’t break the $200 mark but did sufficient damage that our books were placed in a complimentary tote bag. And putting my time on the ship to good use, I read six of the books I bought at Green Apple. All but one got donated to the book exchange in the ship’s very nice library.

StrandYet there’s also a downside to reading that many books you just bought. It left me more vulnerable gave me a good excuse when we hit Strand Book Store in NYC, another of my favorite bookstores. (Our port stop in Norfolk got cancelled so I didn’t get a chance to investigate its bookstores.) As in SF, the bookstore was our first stop in the city (and the day before this event). While the picture at right shows fewer books were purchased, we met my daughter for lunch just after I got to my favorite part of the bookstore. I’d spent too much time looking for books on my shopping list. From a financial and travel standpoint, that was probably serendipitous.

The Strand also gave me the opportunity to buy autographed copies of newly released books by three of my favorite authors — Ian McEwan (The Children Act), David Mitchell (The Bone Clocks) and Ted Rall (After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back as Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan). Those with keen eyes may notice that the book on top in both pictures is the same. While on the ship, I was approaching the end of a book so I grabbed The Burning of the World: A Memoir of 1914 to take with me in case I finished the first while away from our stateroom. I mislaid it during the course of the day without ever opening it.

Of course, Manhattan has more than one bookstore. Two others I’d never been to were on my list of places to visit but we only made it to McNally Jackson Books. It’s located on the north edge of Little Italy, where we’d stumbled upon the the 88th annual Feast of San Gennaro while visiting Chinatown. McNally Jackson has the strongest translated literature section I’ve ever seen. I found a book there that had been on my wish list for more than a year. Were it not for the fact we had to get all these books back home, I would have bought more than the two I did.

So, yes, I’ve been to Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia this month. And I’m writing about and posting pictures of books.


Born to read. Forced to work.

Magnet purchased at Strand Book Store

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