2018: My Year in a Nutshell…

Christmas fear

How did Christmas get here so soon and how can it be over already?        Where did the year go?


At just about this time last year I wasn’t feeling very well. I had chalked it up to the fact that I was fatigued from driving cross country for the holidays and then surviving the bustle and chaos of the holidays. But by the time I’d driven back from Massachusetts to California, I knew something was very wrong and soon thereafter, I was diagnosed with diabetes. I remember the dark days of late January as I started monitoring my blood sugar levels, watching them fluctuate wildly with almost anything I ate, and worrying that if I dared to eat even one cookie, I’d fall into a diabetic coma. With the help of a low dose of medication, some weight loss and a lot more exercise, I gradually began to find that I could continue to eat pretty much whatever I wanted (in moderation) and I slowly got my health back. Nearly a year later, my sugar levels have remained stable and in the completely normal range, and I am infinitely grateful to have come through this relatively unscathed.

February & March:

As my health improved in February, I got back to work and got a kick out of the rare snowfall that covered Bay Area mountain peaks. I even saw hail on my deck!  In March, I headed to Rome and Venice for my Spring Break, and learned that given all the walking I was doing, I could pretty much eat all the carbs I wanted… so I did!


In April I got the devastating news that Fleetwood Mac, my all-time favorite band since 1975 had fired guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and hired two new guitarists and vocalists to take his place. Fans on various social media sides almost instantly sided with either Lindsey or the rest of the group, and the arguments between the two camps rivaled the ugliest political debates of our times. As more and more details about what really happened came to light, it became clear that Stevie Nicks, whom I loved more than Fleetwood Mac, was really behind the entire break up, had lied about things in interviews, and I found myself squarely in Lindsey’s camp and for the first time in 43 years, not overly keen on even listening to her anymore. To console myself in these traumatic days, I feasted on the best food that Portland, Oregon has to offer as I attended the Western Psychological Association Conference there with my colleagues and my friends. I sat at the counter in Blue Star Donuts, but it would take more than fresh blueberry and passionfruit-cayenne donuts to help me come to grips with a Fleetwood-Mac-less world.

May & June:

As soon as hats were thrown in the air at graduation and my grades were filed, I headed off to Europe for my annual summer trip. I explored Devonshire, Cornwall and Dorset, three areas of England I had never seen before. I then made a first visit to Portugal, seeing Lisbon and the wonderful coast of the Algarve region and loving every moment of it. Of course I spent a couple of weeks in my beloved Italy and a couple of quick visits to Mykonos and Paris before heading back to the States.


After a few days’ pit-stop in San Francisco to celebrate the 4th, I went to Honolulu and then spent over a week at Napili Bay on Maui at a condo where I’ve been staying for many years. I’ve begun to realize that when I travel, I have a tendency to try to pack too much into my trips, wanting to see too many different places and only spending two or three nights in any one spot. As I get older, I’m finding that hectic schedule to be more difficult, and so I plopped myself down on Maui for 8 days of total and utter relaxation, spending hours in the water, taking naps, driving a half an hour to the remote village of Kahakuloa to simply hang out and “talk story” with my friend Lorraine and her husband guy. The only big decisions I made were whether to have ahi or mahi for dinner. I have to say it was one of the most rejuvenating trips I’ve ever taken, and I hope this will push me to do more of this type of trip in the new year.


After all that relaxation, it was time to hop in the car and head cross country again, spending late July and much of August on the road, seeing friends and family in New England, Virginia, and Tennessee, and trying to deny the reality that the start of a new semester at school was imminent.


September is a month in which I rarely travel. School is in full swing, I’m still paying off my credit cards after a summer of travel, and so I am usually just back to my routine. However, I was invited to speak at a conference about Natural Disasters in Naples, Italy over Labor Day weekend and so with some funding from school and setting up some assignments for my students to work on in my absence, off I went to chaotic and crazy Napoli for a week, scoring a phenomenal AirBnB apartment with a million dollar view of Vesuvius and making a good impression at the conference speaking about the Natural Disasters course I developed and teach regularly at my university.


Like a salmon that has to swim upstream and return to its home, I simply must return to New England in the Fall to experience the colorful foliage, crispy apples, cider donuts, and festive Halloween decorations of my native land, as well as spending time with family and friends I’ve known for most of my life. I caught the foliage at its peak in New Hampshire, there was a dusting of snow, and there were hours of shared meals and fun with all my New England “peeps” – I couldn’t have asked for a better visit.


Within three weeks of returning from my fall foliage tour, I was on a plane back to Boston for Thanksgiving break. California was suffering the horrendous fires in the far north and near Los Angeles, but smoke from fires almost 200 miles away were making San Francisco and environs look like something out of a science fiction film, with a dimmed sun trying to penetrate layers of smoke and classes at my university canceled due to the extremely unhealthy air conditions. It was a relief to breathe in the cool fresh air off the Atlantic when I arrived at Logan Airport. Thanksgiving was great, and then just 4 days later I turned the big 6-0, and celebrated the big event with a big group of friends over Italian food, of course!


And now, it is December 31st, 10:30 PM Eastern Standard Time. I again made the cross country journey to New England last week via Salt Lake City, Denver, Chicago, and Pittsburgh and giggled like a child when I awoke on Christmas Eve morning to find a thin layer of new snow covering everything and intermittent flurries for the rest of the day. Friends soon texted me to ask how I seem to be able to bring the snow with me every year, much to their consternation. I had a quiet and restful Christmas, and have been making the rounds visiting everyone, walking in snow in New Hampshire and on beaches in Massachusetts, and dining on New England cuisine. I’m taking time to be thankful for everything that 2018 has given me, and am hopeful that 2019, now less than two hours away, will be kind and gentle with us all.

Thank you so much for visiting my site and reading my posts this year. Happy New Year to all of you!

Monkeys and Elephants and Sea Gypsies, Oh My! Adventures in Thailand and Bali

Back in 2003, during a sabbatical from my university, I made a circum-Pacific trip that took me to Thailand, Bali, Australia, New Zealand, and Tahiti for the first time. My adventures during the last three stops have been documented in separate blogs here on my website, but I thought it was time to resurrect the Thailand and Bali parts of the trip. I’ve decided to post them in the form of the travel diary I kept and which I sent to friends and family via e-mail while I was on the trip. So here were my impressions of these two amazing travel destinations.

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The Thai Coastline in Krabi Province

Let’s go!

There’s No Place Like Home: Fall in New England

Not unlike a salmon fighting its way upstream to return to the place where it was born, I go through considerable effort to make an annual pilgrimage to my native New England in October to experience the most wonderful time of year to be there: fall foliage season. Typically lasting from mid-September to mid or late October, the change in the foliage that occurs in the northeastern USA is an event that attracts tourists from all over the world and until I can manage to live back there permanently, I will continue to travel back for at least a few days to experience the show.


The gold of fall touches southern Vermont

Read on…

“They Won’t Kill You; They Just Rob You!” A Visit To Naples, Italy

You’d think I would have had enough travel over the summer: a month in Europe, a few weeks in New England, a cross country drive from California to Virginia, Boston and back, and 10 days in Hawaii. But during the second week of the school year I was selected to present at a conference in Naples, Italy…


Naples in all her glory, with Vesuvius looming in the background

Join me on a trip to Napoli…

When Tiziana Says, “Mangia”, You Better Mangia! – Sora Margherita, Rome

One of the joys of travel is meeting strangers who become new friends, and on my most recent trip to Rome, I met a man named Scott, a humanities professor from a university in the American Midwest who was living in Rome for several weeks while working on a book. After some conversation it was apparent that we were kindred spirits and I invited him to join me at my favorite restauant in Rome for lunch. Thankfully he liked my restaurant choice, and as we were parting ways for the afternoon he said that the following day he  planned to go to a small restaurant called Sora Margherita he’d been to a couple of years prior. He asked if I wanted to join him and I accepted, though I was a little unnerved when he mentioned something about a waitress who’d simply seemed to despise the friend he’d dined with there the first time.


The charming front entrance to Sora Margherita

Back in my apartment I google-searched the restaurant and because I have come to rely heavily on TripAdvisor reviews, I was a bit uneasy when I noted that many of the reviews there were negative. It seemed, however, that most of the bad comments concerned the service, not the food, and many reviews mentioned a surly, rude waitress who “abused” the customers. Some said that she would “force” people to finish the food on their plates, which sounded rather scary. I wondered whether this was the same person who had “despised” Scott’s poor friend.

With a little hesitation, I headed out into the blazing Roman sun the following day and headed for Rome’s “Jewish Ghetto” neighborhood. a part of the city that I was not terribly familiar with, in search of Sora Margherita. I met Scott out front as planned and we headed inside with a little trepidation. The restaurant is a long, naoow space with maybe 15 tables. We were seated quickly, and before I even got my bearings I noticed a waitress eyeing us suspiciously, and thought, “Uh-oh”, as she swaggered over to our table. In Italian she asked us what we wanted, and having not even seen a menu we were hesitant to reply. Before we could get a sentence out, she told us just to “trust her” and she would bring us what she thought we should eat. She had a look about her that told me not to argue, and for some reason seemed to like us, so we agreed to go with the flow and allow her to choose our dishes.

I was really glad that I’d been forewarned by the TripAdvisor reviews, because otherwise I would have been even more taken by surprise than I was. Our waitress came to the table bearing a dish of marinated vegetable and before I could even react, she spooned up a healthy portion from the plate and shoved it into my mouth, a strange and triumphant look on her face as she stared at the camera that Scott had whipped out to capture the moment. I was laughing hard, but also trying not to choke to death on my food as she proceeded to break off some bread and shove a slice of that into my mouth as well. Honestly, all I could think of was that I was in some lost episode of I Love Lucy, and had to fight the urge to call Ethel for help! She did also attempt to force-feed Scott, but the look he gave her back was enough for her to back off and focus her attentions solely on me.

Thoroughout our meal we chatted with her a bit more and learned that her name was Tiziana. She really was good humored, but with just enough of an edge to let me know that I did not want to get on her bad side, and I imagine that many of the poor TripAdvisor reviewers that spoke about her rudeness and abuse had not taken her behavior with as much of a sense of fun as I did.

Aside from these antics, I thought the food was quite good. The marinated vegetables were delcious and she brought us out a couple of different pasta dishes that were quite tasty. There were a couple of other dishes that were not so memoriable, but my favorite part of the meal was dessert. (Ok, that is not uncommon for me!) It was a warm ricotta cake with black cherries and was molta, molta buona!

All in all, I would not by any means say that this was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in Rome, but it was an entertaining and decent lunch and is a memory I will carry for quite some time. And I think by the time we left I had definitely made a new friend in Tiziana, who gave me a gentle kiss on the cheek that seemed to suggest that she does have a tender side despite all evidence to the contrary!  Grazie, Tiziana! Until the next time… arrivederci!