From Stories

Barefoot Cooking Class

I took three cooking classes on my big trip in 2013 and 2014. One in Nepal and two in India. Each one left me with their own special memories. The one in Kathmandu began with a trip to a local shop to buy ingredients so you get to see how locals buy their food. The next was in Thekkady, India and part of an organized tour. The instructor looked like Jerry Stiller (Ben Stiller’s dad, played George Costanza’s dad on Seinfeld) and I found a gigantic tick crawling up my leg. The third one was in Varkala, a beach town in Kerala on the southwestern coast of India. Read more

Camino Notes: Why the Umbrella?

Backpack + Umbrella

You’re out hiking. It starts to rain. You put on the shell jacket you bought for this very thing. It’s designed to “breathe” — to let water vapor out — while blocking the rain. But you’re hiking. You’re working up a sweat and your jacket’s high tech space age fabric isn’t breathing as much as you’d like. Now you have a decision to make: get soaked by the rain or soaked by your own sweat.

Back in the old days of the Camino—the Middle Ages—the days of wool, leather, and fur—a pilgrim on the road could either find the nearest shelter or just suffer through the damp. Read more

Camino Notes: Advice Without Spoilers

The evening before my Camino began, some new friends and I had dinner in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port with a woman who had walked 12 days before an injury ended her Camino. Twelve days! A veteran. We plied her with questions. Now I don’t remember anything she said.

I’m a big believer in spontaneity on the Camino—if you’re planning too much, you’re doing it wrong. Advice kind of implies planning, but I would like to give some very minimal advice without too many specifics. Advice without spoilers, if you will.
Read more

Video: Kjosfossen Huldras

The world famous Flåmsbana (Flåm Railway) makes a couple stops on its trip from Myrdal to Flåm and one of them is at this waterfall, Kjosfossen. (“Foss” is the Norwegian word for “waterfall.”) I don’t think you can actually drive to it, but according to Google Maps, it does have a street address: 5718 Frekhaug, Norway

When the train halts everyone gets out to take pictures of the waterfall. Not me, though, I’m too cool for that. Run out and get the same old photo as everyone else? No thanks! But Norway has a surprise in store.

Elbows on the open window pane, I’m watching the people and the waterfall. Then some music starts up — I spot a woman in red dancing on the waterfall. I wasn’t intending to shoot a lot of video on my trip, but I figured this was a good time to do so—I grab my 20x zoom camera. She disappears, I zoom out to show the scale of the waterfall (exaggerated by the wide angle view, you should know), then she reappears! Zoom back in.

The woman in red darts in and out of view like a shy pixie. To someone like me who knows little of Scandinavia, it all seems very Scandinavian. According to WikiPedia: “The Huldra is a seductive forest creature found in Scandinavian folklore.” So, kind of like a siren on a waterfall. I didn’t realize this at the time, but there are actually two Huldras on this waterfall. (Look in the upper right of the waterfall when I zoom out.) Or maybe there’s only one and Huldras just have the knack with space and time.

In the age of Trip Advisor and “1,000 waterfalls to see before you die” checklists, the unexpected is really the only thing that I appreciate. I wasn’t expecting this bit of theatrics on the waterfall, and I thought it was pretty well done. Bravo, Norway!

(August 25, 2013 at Kjosfossen, Aurland, Sogn og Fjordane, Norway)

Video: Hurricane Sandy Arrives in NYC

(October 28, 2012 at Times Square, New York City)
(October 28, 2012 at Times Square, New York City)

We had watched the news, assessed the situation, arranged shelter for the next few days, and acquired supplies. We were in no immediate perilous danger. With Hurricane Sandy on our doorstep, and all our ducks in a row, what else was there to do but go out and bear witness to nature’s fury?

I was in New York City for a friend’s wedding. It was a costume wedding, so I spent my first day there visiting some costume shops and doing some general sight-seeing. I didn’t notice anything that would suggest a looming disaster or that would prompt a “wait, what’s going on here?”

One thing I noticed: Trader Joe’s had longs lines out the door and around the block. (One line for the grocery store, and one line for the wine shop.) I realize now that people were stocking up. At the time, walking by all those people in line, I just thought Trader Joe’s is THAT popular.

Weather forecast for Hurricane Sandy
An Understated Forecast: Hurricane Sandy rolled in on Sunday, October 28, 2013.

I don’t habitually monitor the weather, except occasionally to check the day’s high temperature.゠The first time I heard of Hurricane Sandy was probably in conversation. Perhaps it went something like this:
What do think of this hurricane? they may have said.
What hurricane? I may have said.

The wedding was on Saturday, Oct. 27. The hurricane would arrive late on Monday, Oct. 29. Still not worried, I took that interstitial Sunday to walk around and see some sights, visit some bookstores, relax in a coffee shop, etc. Now I was seeing warning signs. Particularly the subway closure notices. Also empty shelves where bottled water is normally stocked.

Hurricane? First I heard about it…

Monday was get-serious day. My friends and I moved from an apartment we were renting in the East Village. There were other serious problems with it, but the fact that it was one block from a mandatory evacuation zone was the deciding factor.

By dusk we were settled in at my friend’s apartment in Murray Hill. None of us were really worried. It was time to head out into the breach.

The video post here is a glorified compilation of clips from that foray. In it you can see people running errands, a guy training for the New York Marathon, and unusually high winds. What did Times Square look like? Pretty empty. Watch now!

Video: Thrown from a Camel in Erg Chebbi

Technically it’s a dromedary. Whatever it is, this animal threw me to the ground with extreme prejudice.

Actually, I think it slipped on the angular top of the dune. When it began to go down, this image came to mind: my left left crushed under it’s weight. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to roll off it when my left foot hit the ground.

I also had the presence of mind to press the record button, but only after the fall. I didn’t know my camera was recording during the…’event.’ I thought it was on pause. Powered on, but not recording. The video ends when I press the record button, thinking that I’m starting recording, when actually I’m stopping it.

Too bad no one got a wide shot of it. The POV shot will have to do.

(December 30, 2009 at Erg Chebbi, Morocco)

Music: “Heard Them Stirring” by Fleet Foxes.