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Fisherman's Shack

Two Tuned-in Motorcycles in Costa Rica

Saw these bikes parked in Puerto Jiminez early this morning. They look just right for dirt road travel. Not overloaded with gear/

Random Acts of Backpacking

I still travel in backpacker mode. As opposed to suitcases that limit you to the airplane and cabs, the backpacker moves self + baggage on foot. Far more freedom. I took this photo of Eddie Sharman, from Reading, U.K. this morning in Puerto Jiminez. It's a common set-up: the heavy pack on your pack, the lighter one in front. All balanced.
Backpackers are the travel explorers. They get to places before the tourism industry arrives with their luxurious travelers' appointments. I also like the randomness of not having a tight itinerary. Today I took off from Puerto Jiminez by boat across the Gulf to Golfito ands on the boat met Skip, 63-year old expat surfer who I'd met the week before. We got a cab for $6 each from Golfito to Canoas, the Panama/Costa Rica border (an hour's ride) for $6.00 each, then a bus (with about 30 stops) from the border to David for $2 each. Skip took off for points east, and I found a hotel here and tomorrow will head for Panama City, thence (with plans hatched this morning), a train along the Panama Canal to the Caribbean, go to an island or two and then try to find a boat to Columbia. Quien sabe?
When I stepped out of the hotel earlier tonight, I loved the unknown factor. Got to find a place to eat, then an internet cafe. It's tough some times, but there are also many times when I get into a completely unplanned wonderful experience.

Macho Tenderness and the 60-Foot-High Jungle Treehouse

This story begins last week when I came into the little port town that is gateway to the jungle paradise where I've been hanging out. It's a dusty Central-America wild-west-feeling little place full of backpackers and pretty cool Costariccenses. I was getting a beer at a popular open-walled main street (if you can call it that) restaurant, and an old bum was sitting on the steps, mumbling to everyone who entered, In a while, a spiffy worked-on Toyota truck pulled to the curb. The driver moved fast, like an athlete, bit of an edge. Shaved head, looked tough. He noticed the old man, went over, bent down and talked to him. Then he took the guy's arm and very gently helped him get up. It was a tender thing. He got him in the truck and took off, to return a few minutes later, obviously having deposited the guy at home.
Elias and his truck-cab
Flash-forward to today when I came back into town, this time on my way southward to Panama. I'd heard of a fantastic treehouse 8 miles north of town. I saw the same cabbie and yes, he knew where the treehouse was, and since I had the afternoon free (ferry across the bay tomorrow), we headed out to the treehouse. The cabbie's name turned out to be Elias Garbanzo. The old man turned out to be penniless, without enough to eat. We headed out into a very different countryside from the beach/jungle. Lush and agricultural. Elias rattled off the names of at least a dozen trees. When we both looked over at a sweet little Tico house under some palm trees, Elias said, "pura vida." Yep.

We got to the treehouse and it was a stunner. Centered around a huge tree, which it is not attached to in any way, must have 5 stories, and is maybe 60' high. All built of local sustainable wood. Michael Cranford, the artist/builder, happened to have a well-worn copy of Shelter, and knew who I was and graciously showed his uninvited guests around for an hour. I'm actually happy when I'm working in my travels. Here are a few pix, which don't really do it justice. Wish I had my big Cannon with me, lenses and all.:
Above, Sky-high screened bedroom

Right, O ye of little faith: the clear plexiglas shower floor looks 50' down to the ground and yes I did hold on to the handy handle while gingerly stepping on to it. I will do anything for a picture.


Michael's website

Hey, now we're cookin. I shot these pix about 4 hours ago, had dinner in town, and am now sipping on a tequila at a v. cool water front cafe with DSL connection. Lugging all this digital equipment around is stressful (in weight and in worry about rip-off), but it does give me Photoshop and transmission capabilities way beyond internet cafe postings.

Water People of the Pacific Coast

My family used to go to a beautiful isolated lake in the Sierras in the '40s. When I was 4, I fell off the pier and went under water. I still remember looking around in wonder at the underwater world. Luckily, my dad happened to be on the pier and reached down and grabbed me by my overalls. As the oft-repeated family story goes, he asked me what I was thinking about underwater. I said, "I was going to turn on my putt-putt (referring to the outboard motor on our little boat) and come up."

I've had these magical moments in water. Like the day I first went bodysurfing at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. We used to have swimming meets at Fleishacker pool, a huge outdoor salt water pool and after a meet one day my teammate Jim Fisher (later a big-wave surfer) took me out into the ocean. Blue skies, blue water (no wetsuits), the big swells, I was in heaven. Under waterfalls, in clear creek pools, hot springs, warm ocean, cold river. Getting in charges you with the energy of that spot on the planet. If you're a water person you know what I mean.

The Jesus Christo, lizard that runs on water (on its hind legs). (Sounds better in Spanish; "Hay-sue Kree-sto"

Amerikanomade: Two Argentinian Gypsies On the Road For 3 Years in 1965 VW Van Road

I saw this van on the next beach down from where I'm staying, was fascinated and stopped in at sunset last night to meet Diego Mariot and Veronica Bavaro from Argentina. Diego started out on a road trip in the van 3 years ago and on the fifth day of the trip, met his soulmate Veronica and they have been traveling together ever since. Their main source of income comes from Veronica's handmade necklaces, bracelets, and ear rings. They look like beadwork, but are woven knots (I don't know what the correct name is for this craft). They are lovely things.
Diego and Veronica were fascinated by Home Work. I left it with them overnight. We were immediate soulmates as soon as they saw the book

Every square inch of the van inside is decorated, and it's neat and orderly and intelligently designed. Diego does all the mechanics on the van.
You VW van fans will love this: Diego showing off the "air conditioning."
Parts are sometimes hard to get, he says. They are vegetarians. So far they have spent 2 months in Argentina, 20 days in Bolivia, 6 months in Brazil, 1-1/2 years in Venezuela, 2 months in Columbia, 9 months in Panama, and have been here in Costa Rica for 2 weeks and will probably stay 3 months. Then on to Mexico "…for 6 months or 3 years." They don't speak English, so I'm gathering this info in Spanish.
They have a killer: website (in Spanish). Trust me, check it out even if you don't speak Spanish. These two have a beautiful, interesting, exciting life.
By the way, America does not just mean the United States. It also refers to Central and South America.

Surfing and Swimming in Warm Water, Rafa and Chilón

I get up at 5:30 every morning, make a cup of coffee, and walk to the beach. Yesterday I swam about a half mile, around a rocky point, and walked back on a jungle trail. A little south swell came up yesterday and this morning there were 4 of us in the water surfing at sunrise. It's uncrowded enough to be friendly. Water 80 degrees, mon! The same as in British Columbia, I'm running across people who are real familiar with our book Shelter (1973). Seems a bunch of people here and in other tropical places used the book for inspiration.
Before I left home I had heard from my friend (Leo), who with partners owns the place where I'm staying), that their cuidadora (caretaker) Rafa was very tall. I told my wife Lesley I could see the photo, with Chilón, who is short and wide with Rafa, tall and lean, and, sure enough, here it is. Rafa is a master of the jungle, knows every plant, bird, animal and insect and is also a good surfer.

Palapa en la Jungla

This is a precious part of the planet where I'm now hanging out, and there are a lot more people here now than there were a few years back. It makes one wonder if this place will get bulldozed by the rapacious industry of tourism, as did the Los Cabos area of Baja California. I sure hope not, and in this spirit I'm going to be unspecific about just where I am. Let's just say it's the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

La Jungla

Sunrise through the jungle (beach in background)
It's Sunday and we've been here three days, and I'm overwhelmed. We've been getting up before sunrise, making coffee and walking to the beautiful beach, sitting an a simple bench and watching the sun rise over Panama across the water. I've gone surfing twice and am working out the rusty skills. I go swimming at least twice a day, swimming in warm water is one of the best things in my world. The surrounding jungle is just unbelievably full of life, monkeys, birds, butterflies, mapaches (CR's version of the raccoon), plants and trees and flowers in profusion like I've never seen before. Chilón turns out to be a world-class cook and has been making fantastic meals. I've shot about a 1000 pictures, and have a ton of stuff to show people, but for now it's time to get a meal. We came back into town this morning to get provisions. Chilón has found out from out local maestro of the jungle Rafa of a Tico place (no gringos) to eat lunch and we're going to do that, then get ice and groceries and head back out to paradise. In Spanish, the word for jungle in jungla (hoon-glah). Mas despues.

Both photos by Chilon

Into the Jungle

We got on a 12-seat single prop plane heading for the coast. You had to squeeze by people to get to your seat. It was like getting into a phone booth. Up we went over the mountains and then along the beaches until we reached the landing strip in the small town that was our jumping-off point. I sat right behind the pilot and we're looking down at the landing strip here. Not only was the runway short, but the town cemetery was right alongside it. We landed nicely and got out into the jungle heat.

Costa Rica 2, Honduras 0

Photo by Chilón
We ended up spending 5 days in the city, going to the soccer game between Costa Rica and Honduras Wednesday night, a world cup game between two fierce rivals. We sat in the end zone, Chilon bought a crazy Tico hat, and partied with everyone within range of his voice. There were maybe 35,000 fans, of which maybe 5000 were Hondurans. I'm not a soccer fan, in fact I don't really watch much of any sports these days, but this was an experience to be in the midst of screaming crowds. Ticos insulted Honbduras — the country and the players —all night lobg, chanting:
O-lay, O-lay, O-lay, O-lah,
Tico a Ganar
The players were in such fabulous shape. I loved watching the stretching and warmup, their grace and strength (and in the game, endurance). I like the facts that they're not giants, like football or basketball players. They're normal sized humans with extraordinary athletic skills. Each time CR svored, the stadium roared like a lion amplified.

Merriment in Every Cab Ride

Chilón has had just about every cab driver (a dozen, anyway) in stitches. A bunch of them were laughing so hard, they were pounding on the steering wheel and dashboard. Chilón makes everyone feel good. It's extraordinary I watch faces that are solemn, or maybe a little suspicious, begin to smile, and then laugh. One time Chilón and a cabbie were laughing so hard, the cab was shaking. Today we got a cabbie who told Chilón at least 30 jokes, rapid fire. Screams of laughter…

El Gringo y El Mexicáno

Photos by Chilón


Left and above: at the Cinco Hormigas Rojas hotel, below on a nearby street

On the Streets of San José, Costa Rica




The photo above, on the right, is a protest against "Free Trade" ('TLC)").

Pulperías, the Mom and Pop Stores of Costa Rica


There was an exhibit in the museum of paintings of the pulquerías of Costa Rica, the neighborhood mom and pop grocery stores that are being supplanted by "mini-supers." These paintings looked like they were all the work of one artist, but the 30 or so paintings were all done by different artists.

Grasshoppers On Motorcycles: Chapulines en Motocicleta

The word chapuline means grasshopper in Spanish. In Mexico, the word is used to describe a politician jumping from one party to another. In Costa Rica, chapulines refers to thieves who rob people on the streets. Two guys will roar up to a pedestrian on a motorcycle. One will jump off with a knife and demand your money. And they'll roar away. San José is a wonderful city in many ways, but it has its dark side. Its a crossroads of cultures: people from Nicaragua, Salvador, Guatemala, Columbia — come here because of desperate poverty at home. It's a strange mix. The hospitality and warmth of just about everyone here, the good vibes and openness and positive attitude, with the backdrop of ripoff artists. Every door and window and courtyard within the urban area is barred. There's concertina barbed wire on roofs. You can't leave anything in a locked car on the streets for 5 minutes. When we go out at night, we take enough money for dinner and a few beers and leave passport, my silver bracelet, everything else in the hotel room. It's just a fact of life in this city. Yesterday 2 chapulines jumped off their M/C and accosted a priest carrying his church's donations. They were wearing M/C helmets with darkened visors. When they asked for the money, he told them they were stealing from God. They shot him in the leg, grabbed the money, and vrooom!

Cinco Hormigas Rojas, Museo Nacional de Costa Rica

Above is the entrance to the third hotel we've checked into here, the Cinco Hormigas Rojas (the Five Red Ants), where the owner, Marya Guell, an artist and bohemian, has created a unique oasis in the midst of the city. The garden is like a jungle, and the inside is charming and whimsical; the walls filled with paintings, sculptures, masks and paper maché art of the owner.
The National Museum of Costa Rica: I am not much on museums, but this one is wonderful. It's the history of Costa Rica, from pre-Columbian times to the present, and the exhibits are tasteful and hip and not overwhelming. I'll try to write a bit later about what I learned about this country today, but I'd recommend to anyone living here or visiting here to go to this place. One of the features is a huge butterfly garden, with 1000s of butterflies floating around. As you walk through the ferns and tropical plants, the butterflies flit around you, like they're saying hello.

Old Pink Building with Soul


We've been in San José for 3 days and we have so many photos and so many fine experiences I don't know where to start. Chilón has been cutting a swath of good vibes and good humor everywhere we go. We were just in a taxi and he had the driver laughing so hard he was pounding on the wheel and the car was shaking with their laughter.
I didn't realize I had this picture until I looked at my photos today.
When a Tico or Tica says goodbye, the say, "Pura Vida." Pure life. Right on.
The people here are wonderful.

Sambadá's Latest Music Video

My son Will is a member of the Santa Cruz Brazilian band, Sambadá, and here I am in San Jose, Costa Rica, and just discovered their new video:

Chilon Con Ticas

Chilon and Ticas at Blues Festival

Guitar Shorty and Hs Talking Guitar

Acknowledging that I am prone to exaggerations, and have been told same more than once on the home front, I've got to say that one of Guitar Shorty's gun-slinging guitar solos last night was the best guitar playing I've ever seen in person. I closed my eyes during sections and followed his mastery and taste in the back reaches of my brain. The Club Cubano was packed with hundreds of blues lovers, and by the time Shorty came on, the crowd had coalesced into an organic whole, and the playing was brilliant. Chilón, who in a former life was a professional photographer in Mexico City, placed himself up front, and shot some great photos.

Incredible All Day and Night Blues at Club Cubano, Guachipelin Escazú Feb 7, 2009

Guitar Shorty and Chilón at the Second Annual Costa Rica Blues Festival Feb 2009

I cannot believe it! The next morning, having a café au lait in town I saw an ad in the Tico Times for the 2nd annual Costa Rica Blues festival, featuring Guitar Shorty. And who should wangle a joint photo with Guitar Shorty but Chilón, he with the golden tongue.

Day One in Costa Rica: Peruvian Panpipes Playing Beatles Song in Alajuela


It was 3 hours to Houston on a rickety long-in-the-tooth Continental jet, packed to the gills; then a 3 hour wait, then another 3 hour flight from Houston to Costa Rica, this time in a brand new B-757, with individual TV screens for each seat — better! Still, discomfort and indignities abound in 21st century air travel, like the officious jerk who removed every single one of about 40 objects in my backpack.
I got a room in a little hotel in a small town close to the airport because I was picking up my friend Chilón, who's coming in from Mexico City tomorrow morning. I hit the streets, groggy from no sleep, but excited by how different everything was. Comfortably warm.
A lot of people in the central park, big very green trees and a deafening din of birds. Two serapé-wrapped Peruvian guys had recorded songs on a loudspeaker and were playing along with pan pipes. A lot of young lovers snuggling and nuzzling on the benches. Hey, it's the tropics! People are relaxed.
Young punkish dude had a pet iguana and in a surly manner said OK to take pics, and that he'd had the iguana), which was a beautiful specimen) for 5 years. I walked over to the corner ice cream store, got an espresso milkshake, and went back in the park, and listened to Peruvian pan pipes playing a Beatles song.
I walked around for a couple of hours, reveling in the different landscape, and shot photos. As I was walking back to the hotel, two motorcycle cops came down the road on nimble and lightweight bikes, doing wheelies. Skateboarders doing incredibly graceful things on 4 little wheels…

I'm Off to Costa Rica

In about an hour, Lesley is driving me to the Airporter, where I'll catch a plane to Houston, then Costa Rica, where my friend Chil&oactue;n will join me and we'll spend a few days in San Jose, then catch a $99 plane ride out to the southern Pacific coast. I've got surfing, swimming, hiking, shooting pix, exploring the tropical world on my agenda. As well as exploring with Chilón; we've been on many avventuras together in Baja: remote ranchos, small-town festivals, cave paintings, y mucho mas.
18 years ago I went the Caribbean side of Costa Rica.. I went from Puerto Viejo south to Manzanillo. From there a friend and I took a 2-day walk through the jungle and along the beach when possible, into Gandoca, a small town in Panama. I remember two things:
1. When we got to the town, it was a dirt road, and the dirt was brick red. It was raining softly. I looked down the road and thought, what if I just kept on going? See where it leads?
2. But I didn't, and we went into the open air bar and sat there drinking beers. A big guy walked in, carrying a machete. No shirt, kind of sweaty, he'd been working.
"Come éstas?, he said.
"Bien, y tu?
"Tranquilo'
How great, when you ask a guy how he is and he says, "I'm tranquil." It's relaxed and friendly.

I actually love posting these blogs — it took a few years, but now it's part of my fabric. I like telling people about what I find, because goldarnnit, I run across so much interesting stuff. Check here in about a week or so for La Costa Rica Avventura de Chilón y Lloyd…

Mountain Bike Rider Jacquie Phelan's Blog and Wombat Website

We just got a postcard from Jacquie Phelan saying, "Love your boox!" I checked out her website & this photo caught my eye, it looks like one of the temple friezes at Angkor Wat. Here's what Jacquie writes:
"Mumamel of Barcelona took this groovy pic! It’s at the Casa Macaya in Barcelona…There is something very comforting about the fact that someone (Josep Puig) designing and building a modern house would take the time to include in the facade a (carved? cast?) cyclist. Upon further research, I realize this Catalan architect was in perfect tune with his turn-of-the-century mood…when worldwide, the bicycle was extolled (or reviled) as a harbinger of progress, change, and ‘efficiency’. And women grabbed that tool so fast no one had any time to erect rules. When the motorcar came along, the patriarchy (and the heads of industry as well) were prepared to frame the car as a power symbol that women would willingly let their man steer. Do I sound biased?"
Here is Jacquie's blog.
Here is the website of the Wombats (Womens' Mountain Bike and Tea Society), which Jacquie founded).

Namba Parks: Green Rooftop Gardens in Osaka, Japan


This photo is on Flickr. Here's what Wikipedia says about it: "Namba Parks was conceived as a large park, a natural intervention in Osaka's dense urban condition. Alongside a 30-story tower, the project features a lifestyle commercial center crowned with a rooftop park that crosses multiple blocks while gradually ascending eight levels. In addition to providing a highly visible green component in a city where nature is sparse, the sloping park connects to the street, making it easy for passers-by to enter its groves of trees, clusters of rocks, cliffs, lawn, streams, waterfalls, ponds and outdoor terraces. Beneath the park, a canyon carves a path through specialty retail, entertainment and dining venues."

Baby Great White Shark on Beach

Our friend Tom came by Saturday afternoon and told us he'd just found a baby Great White Shark down on the beach. He was pretty excited by it. "It's like a pit bull," he said. So yesterday just before sunset I went down and found it. By then it had been somewhat gutted by buzzards, but it was still an impressive little animal, a miniature version of one of the Pacific Ocean's most powerful predators.

Heritage Salvage in Petaluma, California

Michael "Bug" Deakin at his Heritage Salvage company in Petaluma, California. I just discovered this place last week. They have all kinds of reclaimed lumber, doors, windows columns. handcrafted furniture and slabs http://www.heritagesalvage.com/

Clay Clown by Roxanne Swentzell Celebrates New Era

I've been to visit Bill and Athena Steen (see below) three times at their strawbale building compound (at the end of a dirt road in the southern Arizona desert). I love going there. The Steens are kindred spirits; hospitality and good vibes abound. The first time I went there I saw this incredible clay sculpture of a woman (maybe 18" high) perched on a low wall. It was startlingly alive. It was done by Athena's sister, Roxanne Swentzell, and you can see more of these remarkable sculptures at:
http://www.roxanneswentzell.net/roxanne_swentzell_bio.htm When Bill and I exchange emails we often include a photo or two. He sent me this last week, saying it was a "…whimsical pueblo clown done by Athena's sister Roxanne in celebration of the new era."

More Oakland Early Morning Pix

Left: Obama pariphenalia. Hey, the American flag means something different these days!