Lijiang: The Old Town and Market


Yunnan Province

People’s Republic of China

Elevation 2400m 7900 ft.

June 2, 2014

Dear Friends and Fellow Travelers,

I can never resist a market.  Can you?  Always lively, colorful and surprising, the market is a core element of daily life.  What is more essential than food, clothing and household goods?   And what is more fun? 

So after our early morning stroll through the Old Town of Lijiang that included an invitation to a tea ceremony, my guide Illian and I head over to the main market.  I took about “a thousand” photos, and finally stocked up on a half kilo of fresh, sweet green plums for the ride ahead.

Long Live and Prosper



April 1, 2014


I haven’t mentioned this to anyone before because it was such a long shot.  Astronomical, really.  I never thought that I would even have a remote chance.   But now …?

Last Easter, (Orthodox Easter), the USA National Aeronautical and Space Administration, NASA, in conjunction with the Russian Federal Space Agency, Федеральное космическое агентство России or the FKA, sent out a notice to several hundred travel bloggers. Including yours truly.

They were looking for an experienced traveler and travel writer to ride to the International Space Station.  They wanted to transport someone talented who could write an arresting essay about their visit there. (You know.  Something like the New York Times “36 Hours in Ocho Rios.”)

The requirements are quite stringent: decent physical condition, current Passport valid for at least 90 days, travel experience beyond the Caribbean, and the ability to feel comfortable in Slavic cultures.  (Ha! Jan? Polatschek??) 

Single and “mature” is also an advantage.  Just in case anything unforeseen happens, either during the training somewhere in Kazakhstan, or during the blast-off somewhere in Siberia, or during the re-entry heat and friction somewhere in the Ukraine, or somewhere, you know, as they say at NASA, “up there.”

Well, I just got a message on my mobile phone.  (How the hell did they find the number?)  It’s good news.   I am on the “Short List.” 

Super Bowl XLVI - 2012

February 1, 2012
My Dear Sports Fans,
I admit it.   I was about to pen some very snide remarks about Indianapolis!  Indianapolis??  The Super Bowl?? Somehow those two ideas seem so incongruous. (Admit it my friends, some of you are thinking the same thing, yes?)
Then I did some research.  To all my (3) friends and (2) relatives in the Midwest, I apologize for my initial  inclination towards irreverence and disrespect.  Indy really is a special place.



Next Stop? The Horn of Africa!


March 29, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

My upcoming departure for the Horn of Africa reminds me of the dramatic events and the enduring personalities of the 1960's - especially Haile and Abebe.

Who among us can ever forget the sounds and images from late November, 1963: the gunshots in Dallas, the bloodied dress, Walter Cronkite's tears, the murder of the murderer (?), Chopin's music, a boy's salute to the flag covering the coffin of his father John Kennedy, the rider-less horse?

Do you remember the funeral procession - heads of state in a solemn march? Le Président de la République française, Charles de Gaulle at 6'5" (1.96 m) walking beside and towering over the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie at 5'1¾" (1.58 m).

De Gaulle died in his bed in 1970. But Selassie?

The opening sequence of the film "Marathon Man" features the archive footage of a graceful young athlete, on a summer evening in 1960, effortlessly running the 42km (26 mi) Olympic marathon, gliding past the Coliseum and along the darkened, torch lit avenues of Rome, sprinting toward the finish line at the Arch of Constantine. Abebe Bikile became the first black African to win a gold medal at an Olympics event. {C}


Spirituality at a Bangkok Synagogue

This essay was published in To Thailand With Love by ThingsAsian Press.  2013


As I descend towards Suvarnabhumi Airport, Wat Sothon Wararam Worawihan appears below.  Since the population of Thailand is 95 percent Buddhist, a temple complex near the airport is not unexpected.  What is unexpected is the large Aeyatul Muslimin mosque that towers beside the airport expressway en route to downtown Bangkok.  

Most Thai Muslims live in Southern Thailand, near Malaysia, but there is a sufficient population in the capital to support more than 100 local mosques.  Citizens of the Hindu faith maintain several mandirs.   

Christians of every denomination attend large churches or smaller neighborhood assemblies.  

As an American Jew who retired to Bangkok, I expected to find a semblance of Jewish life in this city.  But what took me by surprise was the vibrancy of the small yet devoted community.  I met Jews from the Americas, Israel, Australia, France, England, Romania, Hungary, South Africa, Afghanistan, and the Middle East.