Saturday, September 09, 2023

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Touring Panama City

Here are the last photos from my stopover in Panama City.

Mostly old city ramshackle buildings, a few bus tour shots, and some near my Casco Viejo hotel.

Monday, September 04, 2023

Panama Canal

Check out some of these Panama Canal photos. I'd been to Miraflores Locks back in 1996, but I didn't really have an understanding of how the canal worked.

I was more interested in how one could put toilet paper into the commode at the visitor's center after we'd just been in a bunch of countries where we'd been instructed to put it into wastebaskets.

Anyway, the canal is a kind of water elevator for ships. I want to go through the Panama Canal on a container ship one of these days. I don't think we're allowed to--it's a bit too high security for civilians. But maybe I'm wrong and I won't have to settle for a cruise ship.


The year was 1996. I was in Panama with a group of 22 tourists, mostly Brits but some Aussies and Kiwis too, and two driver/guides and their orange-and-white overland truck. There were supposed to be 23 tourists, but one had disembarked in Belize to spend her life there (she came back after I left).

Most of the group was on an expedition from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, but I was just testing the waters for a month by joining in Antigua, Guatemala, and disembarking in Panama City.

This sort of rough travel was new to me in 1996, and I struggled with the lack of privacy, sleeping in tents, the infrequent opportunities for warm showers, and the slow pace of getting so many people moving, stopping for meals, putting up camp and breaking it down. I remember signing off in Managua and meeting the group again in San Jose. I couldn’t hack four weeks of constant company back then. I probably couldn’t now, but I did pull it off for eight weeks in 1998 on the Kathmandu to Damascus trip.

Anyway, we cruised into Panama City after a night spent camping in a muddy softball field (I slept in the dugout), and I remember the drivers telling us we’d have to unload fast. Our hotel was in an old part of town with nowhere to park the truck, and they’d have to go store it somewhere safe.

Sunday, September 03, 2023

Mi Sombrero

Q: Should I buy a Panama hat?

(I know they aren't really from Panama. I read a whole book on how the best the researcher could find is they originated in Ecuador. Still, they look cool.)

Fun Spanish Tricks

Have you ever asked the wait staff for la Cuenca? 

I told you I got up early.

The Agony

I’m on a plane to Panama at 4:40 a.m. 

What idiot booked a 5:13 departure? (Points at self.)

Saturday, September 02, 2023

Day Trip to Suchitoto

I spent the day in the colonial town of Suchitoto, which isn't that far from San Salvador, but takes more than an hour on the bus because of the constant stops for passengers to hop on and off.

Starting in Kaleo Hotel, I got an Uber to the bus terminal where I caught the #129 to Suchitoto. Traffic in San Salvador is beyond shocking, and sitting in the diesel plume of a bus hasn't gotten any better in all the years it's been since I last encountered one.

In the Uber, we passed a man juggling in an intersection. Another man selling steering wheel covers car to car. People improvise, do what they can to survive. In some ways, San Salvador feels like Manhattan in the 1980s.

But then I'd get a glimpse of corrugated steel, of chickens and stray dogs, and a whiff of damp air, the smell of sweat and dirt and vegetation mixed with the diesel. 

Long Weekend in El Salvador

Good morning! I’m on the 129 bus from San Salvador to Suchitoto to see what I can see. How’s your Saturday shaping up?

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Gabon Nostalgia

I'm listening to the news on the coup in Gabon. 

Gabon! Where is Gabon, you may wonder. I would probably wonder too if I hadn't been there in between Cameroon and Congo (Republic of, where I bought Tin Tin carvings). 

I went back to read about it today. Here's an entry, one that gives me a bit of wanderlust.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Remember the Lines Down the Block?

I thought climate change, me having a real job, and the loss of groundwater were signs of the apocalypse. But nothing prepared me for this. 

In and out of the DMV in four minutes.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

An Unexpected Turn of Events

Stop the presses! I did something unexpected. Even I didn't expect it.

I bought a car. A gently used 2016 Prius from a friend's mom. I take possession tomorrow, Sunday.

Why? Even I am not sure. I have done just fine without owning a car in Los Angeles, and I've learned so much about the region by having to navigate it all on trains, buses, Lyft, and rental cars about 8 times a year. I've been to spots longtime Angelenos haven't even visited, more due to my exploring instinct than anything else.

I nearly bought cars a few times over the pandemic, when I didn't want to get on a bus or train, but in the end, there was nowhere to go. I live in what some call a walkable 15-minute neighborhood, near three supermarkets, a weekly farmer's market, multiple restaurants, my office, nail salons, coffee shops, a deli, and in case I'm feeling in need of a greasy spoon with car show, Bob's Big Boy. There are three bus lines nearby, and all of them go to transit hubs--the metro, Burbank's wee airport, the commuter rail, Amtrak.

The only times I really miss having a car are when I want to go to pottery class, to meet someone on the West side, or carry a box to the post office. But I have a wheeled luggage cart for the post office—which is also within ten minute's walk.

So why buy one at this point, eight years into mastering Los Angeles without a car? And when what I was really looking for was a manual transmission, possibly on an ancient VW Bug?

All I've got is the Prius fell into my lap. I went for a test drive and it was silky smooth on the road. And at some point, I'll need to drive home. As in the other home.

Today, I caught the 155 to the Red Line to the 2 bus to Echo Park, and after that took the 4 back to the Red Line to Hollywood/Vine for the 222 bus back to Burbank, then the 155 to the foot massage place and finally walked home. My last hurrah! And you know what? The buses are unchanged, but the Red Line is shockingly filthy and gross still, which happened during the pandemic, and two men had a fist fight at Hollywood and Western.

Nice of the metro to celebrate my last big day on it.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

So Far, So Good

Today's semi-dull update: I took an hour of my rainy Sunday to scrub the wheels on my Aeron chair. (A used one I bought off Craigslist early in the pandemic.)

I did this because the gunk had built up and was leaving little marks on my bamboo floor. Eww, gross. I guess I didn't know you had to clean chair wheels. They're clean now.

Unfortunately, it was a real struggle scraping out all my long hair that had wound around the casters. So I ordered some inline skate wheels for my Aeron chair to see if that makes a difference. Will they get gunky? Will they collect hair? I've switched them in--I guess we'll find out.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Don't Do It

Random thought of the day: I don't like the term "do" when applied to a destination. For example, "I did Rome last year." "I did Madagascar in a weekend." "I haven't done Jamaica yet."

It's just...weird. Think about it. You visit. You tour. You go to. You went. You experience. "Do" is so general. It sounds like having done everything somewhere, when in reality as tourists, we see just the tiniest sliver of the culture we visit.

This isn't anyone else's problem. Like when I got tired of people saying "I'm a traveler, not a tourist" (spoiler: you are still a tourist).

It's just something that grates on me.

Apologies for complaining about something random instead of noting there's a lot of water outside today in Burbank.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

And Then What?

They promised us a hurricane but we got an earthquake.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Before Storm Hilary

An ambient thickness enshrouds the Los Angeles metropolitan area tonight as we await our atmospheric destiny. Most of the birds seem to have taken shelter wherever they go when they sense danger, and the supermarket's bottled water has vanished too. Though I know where that’s gone. At least the shelves are not bare of toilet paper on this occasion. Probably because everyone bought bidets in 2020. Disaster is no longer novel.

I have about 10 days of earthquake supplies stashed in a corner base cabinet, and I’ve dug out a big candle and lighter. Every mobile device is charging. I recall the robocalls Jersey City used to send out requesting I take in my patio furniture, so I tied up the condo complex’s umbrellas and stacked the chairs. I asked the HOA manager to send out a mass email requesting people move their plants off their balcony walls, and to my surprise, everyone complied.

And so we wait. Floods are inevitable, as in Baja, but Hilary has already been downgraded to a tropical storm, so perhaps the effect on LA will be similar to the dramatic winter thunderstorms we get. We’ll find out tomorrow.

Friday, August 18, 2023

New Problem

I recently learned about little flies that inhabit plants when one waters their plants too much. 

Which I did because I was leaving town, and now I'm learning about how to get RID of these little flies.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Request for Breakfast

This is new. 

I might have spoiled the yard cats too much while I was home.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Heading West

This morning, I discovered the sofa stinks of Bernie Tomcat from his great escape, but it was too late to do anything about it. Maybe I can solve this predicament over New York Comic Con in October. 

Here are a few photos of my trip home, bookended by a feral neuter appointment at Liberty Humane and Brittany’s wedding. 

Next stop, LAX.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Too Cool

A smooth fellow boarded the uptown 4, blaring music from his Bluetooth speaker. 

As he sat across from me, a commercial for English muffins kicked in. 

He looked down, his whole persona destroyed by commerce. He angrily kicked an overripe banana under the subway bench.

I Am Doing This Wrong

I went to a wedding yesterday, and instead of waking up with warm thoughts of friends and romance, I woke up wondering why menus offer a dish made of chicken or beef, and chicken is named chicken like the source, but beef isn’t called cow.

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

Like Every Day

 I heard yesterday was Cat Day. 

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Kitty Trauma

Bernie Tomcat is only visiting at night these days, when there is no food because even if I were to leave out food at night, the raccoons and opossums would get to it first.

I hope he's finding chow somewhere else.

He's sporting a nicely clipped ear and a shaved butt. The hair will grow back, but the ear tip is obviously permanent. That's how people know he's a community cat with his shots and neutering, not a feral in need of assistance.

That said, I watched some ASPCA videos on how to prepare cats for neutering and now I feel guilty. Poor Bernie went through a lot over at the humane society!

Monday, August 07, 2023

What Will I Ride?

Did you know it’s possible to break a broom? I did not…now I do!

Saturday, August 05, 2023

They Don't Look Feral

My supervisors await my service.

Friday, August 04, 2023

He Lives With Mom Now

 They forgot to include Charlie in this article! 

Who Would Win In A Fair Fight?

Lots of drama going on in the yard, not always involving cats and raccoons.

Thursday, August 03, 2023

Is Anyone Home?

Poor tuxedo cat. His name is Bernie, and he did NOT like being trapped and vetted. The night I brought him back from the humane society, he verbalized for a few hours, letting me know he did not appreciate having his butt shaved, his ear clipped, and being drugged and held in a small trap.

I spoiled him with rich, wet food, watered down so he'd get some moisture, though he lapped up all the water I gave him too.

Paola and I released Bernie 24 hours after his surgery, as instructed. He was scared and shivering, unlike Jay and Bart when they were released. Jay just kind of backed away slowly. Bart raced away at top speed. Bernie gingerly walked off into the nun's garden, looking deeply unhappy.

I kept trying to find him the next day, because I worried he was having a reaction to the anesthesia. I didn't see him, and I still haven't, but he showed up last night on the security camera footage. Hooray, Bernie is recovering! He'll be back to annoying the other community cats in no time.

But hopefully he'll be less aggressive and less spray-y now.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Remember the Alamo

I saw Pee-Wee's Big Adventure on its release in 1985, with a few friends I knew from high school, and later I was the perfect age to enjoy Pee-Wee's Playhouse week after week in my early twenties. But it wasn't until the weekend before pandemic when I saw a Paul Reubens-hosted screening at the Wiltern that I truly understood all the Warner Bros scenes, because of course the lot is our work's backyard, a few blocks away from my office.

And now, all those other memories have the new one added to them, seared into my memory by global events, the night I got soup dumplings, saw Paul Reubens at the Wiltern, and then took the bus back to Burbank, right before the world changed, simultaneously grinding to a halt while racing into the new future of online work and delivery of anything.

RIP, Mr. Reubens. Tell 'em Large Marge sent you.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Spa Day

Feral tuxedo cat is spending the day at the spa.


He destroyed the blinds trying to get out the (closed) window first, poor guy, but the tuxedo cat is back in the trap. I can’t give him food or water after midnight or he turns into a gremlin.

I barred the trap hatch this time and he lost his Tracy’s-bigger-crate privileges.

No more slumber parties for you, kitty.

Saturday, July 29, 2023


Did you know cats can push their way out of traps? And that you have to secure the door?

I did not! Bart and Jay both just huddled, paralyzed with fear, and didn't try to escape. 

Bernie the tuxedo cat was braver. He tested the limits of the trap and found his way out and then crawled under the sheet I had covering the trap. He ran into my bedroom and hid under the bed. 

Here is Bernie having a slumber party with me. 

Friday, July 28, 2023

I Capture the Cat

I upped my game to catch the tuxedo cat who was tormenting the yard cats with his brazen, rampant spraying of, well, everything. 

I kept an eye on the security camera alerts so I'd know when an animal showed up in the yard. My first try, the string pulled off the trigger. But the cage didn't fall, so the cats weren't scared. I quietly tied the knot, better this time, then walked back into the house, where I peeked through the blinds with my hand on the other end of the string. 

Got him. Paola and I transferred him tiny the smaller trap using a type of blocking device, and his vet appointment is Sunday at 7 a.m. 

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Annual Pilgrimage

I had a great time catching up with folks at SDCC this year, but every time I open a new message, I learn about another person coming home with covid.

I'm testing daily and still negative, but every little ache is now "I must have covid."

I figure I'll be in the clear if I'm still negative in the morning, but I already have it in my paranoid brain. I'm sorry if I gave it to you, unless I don't have it, in which case it wasn't me.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

The Civilized Way to SDCC

I was headed south from LA on the newly reopened Pacific Surfliner.

Very newly.

An earlier train had broken down and the train to San Diego took 7 hours. My colleagues were on it, and the a/c didn’t work for a while. They had to finally turn it on because summer, but that slowed down the brake repair even longer.

All the other trains were stuck behind the broken one. Several were cancelled. Two of our comics colleagues from France were scheduled to be on a train today. We’d enthusiastically told them about the view. To be fair, we did mention it breaks a lot.

I was assured my train will be fine. I guess we’ll see.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Can I Be Australian Now?

I had the exterminator stop by my JC house to spray for ants, and now I have an email to rate him and...leave a tip? 

We are supposed to tip the exterminator?? 

This is either "I'm sorry, I had no idea" or "what is even wrong with this world anyway," I'm not sure which.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Public Transit Expert

A lost pedestrian stopped me on Riverside in Toluca Lake. 

“Excuse me, where is Hollywood and Argyle? I’m trying to take the bus to Pasadena.”

She showed me directions scrawled on a slip of paper. She’d clearly gotten on the 222 bus somewhere in the Cahuenga Pass and gone the wrong direction.

But boy, did she ever ask the right person.

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Saint Candles

I was digging around for a photo from last year and came across this...I was pretty pleased with myself for making these saint candles for a few of my colleagues for the holidays. 

(Note it's always a pencil, not a cigar which is weirdly what people see if they don't look closely.)

I Think It Went For $950k

I would like this house, please. But for the 2015 price of $140k. 

(Which gives some context for how I was able to afford my own Jersey City house in May, 2015.)

Saturday, July 08, 2023

Field Test

Here are some Bonaire photos I took with my new point-and-shoot camera. It's got a pretty good zoom lens. I headed up to fishing village Playa Frans in my rental truck because the national park is closed on Mondays, and Playa Frans is at the end of a dirt road that ends at the park.

Also! A bit of iPhone video of a bunch of donkeys at the donkey sanctuary. And then a drive back to the other end of the island for another look at the salt flats.

Here are some other photos of my day. 

Thursday, July 06, 2023

A Recommendation

I am delighted to report that BETTER LIVING THROUGH BIRDING by America's Sweetheart Christian Cooper is a marvelous, heartfelt, thoughtful, and highly entertaining read.

I accidentally bought two versions, meaning I dutifully went to the bookstore and bought the hardcover on release day, but then I didn't want to carry it on the plane so I bought the Kindle version too. But I'm happy to have done's so good.

I was like...can I really read this giant book about...birds? But birds are Chris' passion, and he makes them fascinating through his framework of family, work, travel, nerd life, romance, and his own personal journey. (Of course, I'm a sucker for the travel parts.) And also...humor! I fondly recall when in his web comic Queer Nation, Chris named a portal character Calgon, and many many episodes later, another character said "Calgon, take me away!" And I laughed and laughed.

That's dedication to the long joke game. Maybe you had to be there, but the point is Chris is funny and charming in his book, just like in real life.

Wholeheartedly recommended, no notes.

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Skies Over Los Angeles

I flew back to LAX last night…here’s what it’s like coming through the clouds at 11 pm on 4th of July.

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

Sunset Over Bonaire

I’m a sucker for a container ship. I traveled on four of them during my first round-the-world trip in 2001. 

There’s nothing quite like slow ground-level travel. In Bonaire, container ships bring nearly everything (except for fish and donkeys). Here’s one moored at town center at sunset last night.

Monday, July 03, 2023

Tour of Bonaire

When last we checked, I was in Dominican Republic and aiming for Bonaire by noon. Well, to my surprise, everything went according to plan! The plane ticket I'd bought on the tiny airline didn't have the airline's name or correct flight number on it, and no amount of googling or calling turned up any relationship between the info on my ticket and the info of the only flight leaving at that time from Santo Domingo. 

But Air Century had my name and that was all that mattered.

I was in Curacao Airport an hour later, where my next problem was getting through in time for my Bonaire-bound flight 70 minutes later. I sailed through the new e-gates and was at Divi Divi Air's check-in line in no time. I'm lucky I was dealing with tiny planes and not some 200-seater. There were no delays.

Sunday, July 02, 2023

Early Rise

I woke up at 5 to get a 5:20 a.m. Uber to the tiny less-known airport to the north of Santo Domingo. The AirBnb night guard waited with me outside the block’s pedestrian zone.

The Uber Hyundai had a giant container of…natural gas? LP? in the trunk. The driver said no ingles, but his phone gave him English directions.

I had airport coffee machine cappuccino and Mini Chokis (Clasico) and granola cookies for desayuno, using my last DR pesos post-security. Breakfasts of champions always remind me of desperately snacking on Pringles and Pepsi when the road down from Machu Picchu was blocked while I was there.

I spent last night on the phone with my ticket's travel vendor, unconvinced I actually had an airline ticket. The name of the airline and flight number didn’t match the only 8 a.m. flight from Santo Domingo’s small airport to Curacao. 

Somehow it all worked, though my tight connection from CUR-BON became my new concern.

Saturday, July 01, 2023

Santo Domingo Weekend

Tuesday is a holiday. You know what that means? Extra-long weekend!

I’m not one to let an opportunity to travel pass me by, especially since I’m on a quest to see corners of the world I have to work a bit to get to. Islands fall into this category since one does not just happen upon them when visiting nearby.

I’ve been trying to get out of my SoCal comfort zone (aka Mexico) and see new-to-me countries. Sometimes they aren’t countries, like when I went to Curacao and Aruba, to New Caledonia. But to me, those are every bit as novel. Other times, my destinations are absolutely countries—Vanuatu, Luxembourg, and now…Dominican Republic.

I caught a Thursday night flight to Santo Domingo. I did “work from home” on Friday from an AirBnB in the Zona Colonial, but we’re in the middle of summer Fridays, so that only meant working until 4 pm Eastern time.

Tanna Video

When I went to Tanna to see the volcano, there was a New Zealand couple along on the same flight. They had moved from New Zealand to Chile and bought a dairy farm, which they'd run for around a decade before purchasing a sailboat and taking to the seas.

Vanuatu was an early stop for them. They were there waiting on some parts, and so took the plane to Tanna instead of sailing.

They messaged me today with "We made a video of our Tanna trip! You'll have to find it--can't figure out the link."

If you're curious about the volcano trip I went on, this is a pretty good summary. It's charming. 

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Angels of Angeles

My HOA has some long-abandoned bikes to dispose of, and I remembered Burbank Bike Angels from when I’d once bought a used bike from them at an event in front of my old office. They’re a charity and they fix up old bikes to give away to the needy. (They also sell some to pay for parts.)

I wrote to them, and they said they’re by the Burbank Farmers Market every Saturday. I was skeptical as I’d never seen them there, so I went to check it out.

As I’d suspected, they were nowhere to be found. I asked at the information booth.

“Do you know where the bike people are?”

“Sure, they’re in that building.”

I’d been completely off-base looking for some volunteers and old bikes in a parking lot. They have a whole building full of bikes and parts and workshops. All volunteer workforce! It’s perfect.

Friday, June 23, 2023

What's the Limit?

As I read about the submersible disaster, I am reminded of the book Into Thin Air, where we see the toxic combination of adventure tourism and catastrophic danger. What factors drive outfitters and entrepreneurs to overlook safety risks? To take a chance on a small window of good weather among a very large mansion of bad weather? To believe their own personal judgement is somehow superior to recommendations from the wider world and its standards?

It's the profit, sure. Follow the money. But it's also those seeking legend, and those who are inclined to trust their own vain instincts. "We know best! We are innovative! Trust us. Regulations do not apply to genius." I know it's heresy, but Shackleton was cut from the same cloth, though the pressures were slightly different, investors and national pride replacing tourism. And he ended up with dog soup. (Sorry, sorry, I love the Endurance story too.)

It's impossible to read about the submersible story without feeling a visceral reaction, a disturbed queasiness as one momentarily wonders what instant pressure death would be like. It's terrifying, gross, and creepy, and then you was indescribably fast. Did their brains even have that moment of comprehension or was it all so instantaneous, no one had a thought at all? Then I go on to think about how time slows down when I'm in danger. Best not to think too much about it.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

What Is Dignity?

Going through some papers and found this gem.

A man is haunted by his childhood memories, comic books, etc., and asks the dignity a suit and tie?

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Requiem for a Mentor

John Romita Sr. was so kind and unassuming back there in his office at the corner of the Marvel Bullpen at 387 Park Avenue South—it took me a while of working nearby before I figured out he was the legend whose Spider-Man art I’d grown up on.

He died yesterday at 93, after living a long and rewarding life as an artist whose influential work defined and refined an era.

But he was also a leader, an art director, and he mentored dozens if not hundreds of aspiring artists who worked doing art corrections and touch-ups as Romita’s Raiders over the years. His leadership included setting an example of kindness and authenticity as well as professionalism. Some of my closest friends came into the business as Romita’s Raiders.

I remember we’d sometimes get annoyed when our art director was so often tasked with drawing cards celebrating some exec’s friend’s anniversary or whatever, chafing that the recipient likely had no idea what a treasure they received. But I for one was maybe a little jealous. I only wish I’d gotten around to asking for one myself. All our best to John's family and friends—he impacted the lives of so many of us.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Tempting Darkness

In April, 2024, there will be a total eclipse across parts of Mexico and Texas, going up through Ohio, Buffalo, and Montreal. Hotels rooms are already going fast. 

Trying to decide if I'm going to have a go at this--I'd have to fly somewhere. The eclipse won't be anywhere near California or New Jersey.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

New Camera

I got a new point-and-shoot camera...just testing it out today. 

Still a lot to learn!

Friday, June 09, 2023

Gallery of the Pacific

Here are some photos of other moments from the trip I took last week.

Enjoy! At least, I did. 

Sunday, June 04, 2023

Pacific Postscript

I met up with my old friend Sean last night to check out 1) dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant in Darlinghurt followed by 2) the nearest iteration of Vivid Sydney, an annual light show. 

If I’d known the light show was this cool, I’d have gone to the Circular Quay installation instead, but I was too worn out by then to add more to my day.

Next stop: LAX. That’s all, folks.

Saturday, June 03, 2023

Polaris Pajamas or Paw Paws?

The processing power of my brain has gone numb, and I am lying in a Best Western bed across from Sydney’s Hyde Park, unable to compute what all I’ve seen over the last week. The volcano alone would have been enough, but the land diving had put me over the edge, and I can’t take any more input. At least, not yet.

How did I used to travel like this for months—even a year once—at a time? Everything is overwhelming and exciting, and it’s funny I used to also build in time for writing. Right now, I feel like a social media post is about my max, and I’m woefully behind even on that, because sleeping feels more essential than social media.

The sudden shift from Vanuatu to Australia is aggressive, like flying to New York from Haiti. I filled my water bottle from the hotel room tap and took a few tentative sips, then laughed at myself and gulped it all down.

Diving Into Dirt

All three of Air Taxi’s small planes were scheduled to fly to Pentecost Island this morning for Naghol, or land diving. I went to the Tanna volcano with Air Taxi last week, so when the transfer van pulled us tourists up to the domestic gates at the Port Vila airport, I scampered up to the counter and paid my departure tax immediately, rarin’ to go. The next seven people to follow my lead went on the same plane as I did, captained by Duncan from…I have no idea. I can’t even remember his accent. British? Aussie? I have forgotten, weirdly. Anyway, Duncan was a professional pilot who works all over the world, including in Afghanistan during the most recent evacuation.

“How old is this plane?” I was pretty sure it was at least as old as I am, but Duncan wasn’t saying. “Older than all of you, younger than me.”


We all put in our earplugs and took off first, and the single-engine Air Taxi followed with six passengers 13 minutes later. The other two-engine aircraft with eight more folks followed along after that.

We knew rain was imminent, but Duncan was a pro. He dodged the clouds and got us through the hour-long flight with minimal turbulence. But when we got there, he landed and then turned to us as soon as we all had our earplugs out.

“The other two planes turned back due to the clouds. You’re the only people here today.”

Shit, was I lucky! Last week, I’d been thwarted by the Air Vanuatu jet from Sydney being delayed by two days, and I’d missed my Saturday booking. Imagine if I’d come back to Vanuatu from New Caledonia and missed it again! I sure wouldn’t be able to hang around another week.

Check out the land diving photos, they tell the story better than I can.

We missed the picnic and dugong spotting on Efi Island on the way back. Duncan wasn’t taking any chances with the rain. I’m back in my hotel now, drenched in sweat and dirt, and I’ve just scrubbed the mud off my shoes so I can get into Australia tomorrow. I’ll be there for 20 hours before it’s off to LAX.

What a completely weird and incredible experience.

Friday, June 02, 2023

Thursday, June 01, 2023

But Will It Rain?

Here's the plan for Saturday. I hope it doesn't rain. I hope Air Vanuatu doesn't leave me stuck on New Caledonia tomorrow. I hope I see the dugong, but I hear that's tough.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023


I’ve been in Noumea, New Caledonia since Monday night, and it not nearly as exciting as being on the rim of Mt. Yasur in Vanuatu! But I could use a little down time.

Monday, May 29, 2023

To Tanna

Volcano Day was amazing. I left my bag at hotel reception and took just a few things for overnight. Air Taxi picked me up, then we fetched two Kiwi dairy farmers living on a boat (having sold their dairy farm in Chile), then we picked up two French IT guys from Bangkok who were working at a local bank in a contract. A local grandpa joined us at the airport, and off we went in a 10-seater plane to Tanna Island.

We stopped by the lodge to drop off our stuff before a driver took us (not the grandpa, he was just hitching a ride home) to the volcano. The road was nuts, muddy potholes you could lose a Toyota in. Our driver was young, jolly, dreadlocked, and unable to speak English, French, or Spanish so the events all felt random. We never knew what was going to happen next, like travel before the internet. But he drove well and planted us just under the volcano rim. We hiked about five minutes up the ash to stand on the rim and gaze into the literal abyss.

It was terrifying, dangerous, and awesome. It took me about 20 minutes to work through my fear of standing close to the edge, but the view was worth it.

We watched the lava past sunset, then hiked back down to our driver. We were all covered in ash, and the lodge had lovely and welcome showers, plus dinner.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Quick Pivot

Vanu-what? Vanuatu! That’s where I am.

I came to see Naghol land diving (Saturday), and a volcano (Sunday). But Air Vanuatu’s big plane broke, so I was supposed to be stranded in Sydney until Sunday. Yes, even after the call center agent had promised me the delayed plane would get out on Friday night.

When I got back to the Sydney airport after my visit to Taronga Zoo, the Air Vanuatu agent was handing out hotel vouchers...for TWO nights. Folks heading out for a week's vacation were quite upset. "We drove two hours to get here! Where did you come from?"

"Los Angeles." They looked horrified...and continued to wait for their hotel vouchers. Not me. I raced to the shuttle bus to the domestic airport. Maybe there was a way.

While on the bus, I bought a one-way ticket to Brisbane. I got to the bag check two minutes before cut-off. Then at the gate, used the airport wifi to buy a discount ticket from Brisbane to New Caledonia off one of those sketchy sites, then bought a ticket for Saturday morning from New Caledonia to Vanuatu. 

An hour later at Brisbane, I raced from the domestic terminal to the international terminal. I got to the gate six minutes before they shut the door—I was improving. While sitting on the plane waiting for takeoff, I was able to google and ascertain that I couldn't sleep in the Noumea airport, and there were no hotels at the airport. So I booked a shuttle and a hotel room. A few hours later, I was on a shuttle to a hotel in Lemon Bay. I didn't see a lot of Lemon Bay since the return shuttle was due in at 5:25 a.m, but I'd be back to Noumea later in the week.

After all that, I got to Vanuatu two hours after the Naghol Air Taxi left for the land diving. Curses.

I’m sorting out how to go to Naghol on 3 June instead (it’s complicated), but in the meantime, today is volcano day!