Donkeys, Iguanas, and Crabs – Oh My!

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There is some interesting wildlife in the islands to be sure! Maybe from watching lots of movies I always expected there to be lots of huge and horrifying spiders, centipedes, and other monstrous bugs, but I haven’t really seen so much of that. A few large spiders – yes, and I saw at least one scorpion that fortunately for you I do not have a picture of. Lots of iguanas and all manner of geckos, anoles, and other smaller lizards. They are common fixtures around the houses and yards. It is nothing extraordinary to see a lizard up on the wall or darting across the deck as you approach.  Click any picture for a larger view. read more

22 Hours in San Francisco

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If I’ve been to San Francisco a half-dozen times, it would have been twice on my own dime and the other times on company business. Though it is certainly a large city, it is still a “walking city” in that the downtown area is full of retail shopping, coffee shops, all manner of bars and restaurants, newsstands – everything that you would expect to be there to support and entertain a resident downtown population. (I’ve learned in my travels that not all cities are this way… hmmm, can we say… Houston? – more on that later!) read more

Out Standing in The Field

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This decades-long photo series started with a picture I took of my brother and myself on a hilltop near North Cohocton, NY in the Finger Lakes area of New York State. I used a tripod and a timer to take a few Kodachrome slides and I always thought this one had a fun “album cover” sort of feel to it. This first in the series (above), was taken in 1982.

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The date of the 2nd picture is unclear to me but I’m guessing it was somewhere in the ’94 – ’96 range. This was taken on Block Island, RI during a family vacation in August of whichever year. read more

The Stoogeum

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Over the years I have several times heard the legend of a great shrine to The Three Stooges somewhere out in the Philadelphia suburbs. More recently a friend who had read more about it fleshed out the story for me and I learned that it was actually in the historic town of Ambler, not far from the home of The Working Stiff.

I went there yesterday, finding it really just about 10 minutes from my house, and wow – what a first class establishment it is! (Note that they don’t allow any photography inside but I’ll link to their website so you can learn more.) read more

St. John – Ten Little Tourists

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It is a somewhat common thing with rental houses for the owner to leave a blank book out on the coffee table where the various renters can record their thoughts for the benefit of subsequent visitors or just as comments to the owners. People typically write something like “Thanks for sharing your wonderful house, my family had a great time……” or “ we were so thrilled to stay here at xxxxxx house, the snorkeling was great just down the path ……” or “what a wonderful location for my family reunion, see you next year…” read more

Bird Brains in Bodega Bay

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For one of our trips to California we did a road trip through Sonoma County wine country along with a side trip up the coast for a few nights in the small cliff-side town of Mendocino. Our plan was to tour wine country first and then cut over to the coast to meander north along the coastal roads and eventually end up in Mendocino. Believe me you need a Dramamine for some of those roads! We did just fine with the driving but also agreed that it was amazing that some of the roads were open for public use. You’d better not be reaching into the glove compartment at the wrong moment or you might just fly off the edge into the Pacific! (Yes, of course you shouldn’t do that anyway.) read more

Crap Sale in New Jersey

We were driving through Sussex County, NJ this past weekend and passed a few amusing signs.  We just had to turn around and get out the camera!  I just love to find interesting “roadside Americana.”  The natural humor of ordinary people, sometimes intentional, sometimes not.

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I’m not really inclined to stop and shop here, but I really do admire their honesty in advertising.  That’s certainly worth something.  I hope they did well and made a little extra cash!

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James Bond in London

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I have mentioned in at least one earlier blog entry that I used to travel quite frequently for work. When I did that, I learned to join all the rewards clubs, such as Hilton, Marriott, Hertz, etc.  One of the best of all of the programs is Starwood (Starwood Preferred Guest.) That is the mother company that owns the hotel chains Four Points, Sheraton, W, Aloft, Westin, and a small collection of really fancy properties that they call The Luxury Collection. Note that airline mileage programs are similar, though in my experience it can be easy to earn airline miles but tricky to actually “spend” them due to a labyrinth of special rules and restrictions. Starwood points in contrast, are very easy to use. read more

Kismet Villa, St. John, USVI

Firstly, let me be clear that this entry is about an island rental villa that is NOT somewhere that The Working Stiff or most of his circle of friends and family would be able to stay!

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It so happens that we were renting a house down the hill from this place a few years ago. A vastly less ritzy place to be sure, though quite nice and adequate to our needs. One morning I took a walk up the hill from our rental to take some photos of the beautiful trees and flowers all over the neighborhood. I came upon a gate with a driveway beyond leading to what was clearly some sort of gorgeous and exclusive estate but was mostly hidden from my street view. I was taking a few pictures of the landscaping outside the gate when a man yelled down and invited me up the driveway to check the place out. read more

The Lizards of Oz

The wife and I were watching an episode of Penny Dreadful on HBO the other night and there was a scene with one of our favorite characters, Mr. Lyle. My wife referred to his appearance as “The Wizard of Oz,” and I initially heard it wrong as “The Lizard of Oz.” Which reminded me of a wonderful lizard experience we had a few years back on St. John, USVI. In truth I haven’t had many lizard experiences at all, which I think is pretty much OK, but this one was something to remember!

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We were sharing a rental villa with our regular vacation partners, my brother and his wife. It was a compact but very comfortable masonry house that was beautifully embellished with local stone in a style common to many homes on the island. Perhaps the greatest feature of the house was a long covered stone and tile porch that ran along one side and allowed lots of room for outdoor dining, relaxing with the morning coffee, or just admiring the view. Sort of a long sheltered gallery with several archways from which you could look out onto the small yard or the scenery beyond. There was in fact quite a view because the house sat near the edge of a craggy bluff with crashing surf below in a small bay formed by the spit of land that accommodated our neighborhood and a substantial peninsula across the water to the east. read more