Memoirs -- fact and fiction, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

Christmas Eve, 1967–Hunting for Perry Como

To understand the significance of Perry Como passing through our town on Christmas Eve in 1967 – no, not just passing but actually stopping – you have to understand the insignificance of Brookville, Pennsylvania. 

The town that I fondly, though inaccurately, call my hometown, was in the middle of nowhere until the honking huge Interstate-80 was laid north of town and sucked up all traffic and little remaining interest in Brookville. Though you could see and hear thousands of cars and trucks pass by daily, Brookville was deeper into nowhere than ever before.

And, I think, most people seemed OK with that.

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Memoirs -- fact and fiction, San Miguel de Allende, Uncategorized, Writings

That time Jerry Lee Lewis talked to God atop the Peabody Hotel in Memphis — and God listened

This is Jerry Lee Lewis, live in England, in 1964. It is all-video, all-animal energy, all-Jerry Lee. Punk before punk was ever a word.

Like the kids in this video, I stood at the very edge of Jerry Lee’s piano while he played. Inches from the 88th key and his left hand.

The year was 1989 though, not 1964, and the setting was more subdued.

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Memoirs -- fact and fiction, Rants and raves, San Miguel de Allende, Writings

That time I tried to overthrow the local government at a Tiblisi puppet show

Editor’s note: In a newsletter for former Union-Tribune newspaper staffers, a colleague in San Diego recently recalled a review I once wrote that outraged the mayor and her staff. Jack Reber, the editor of the newsletter, asked if I would fill everyone in.

Glad to do it. But, as in my online days with SignOnSanDiego.com, I take great pleasure in scooping mainstream media. So, you will read it first, here on my own blog. My newspaper friends may get it at midnight tonight. (Sorry, Jack. I can’t help myself.)


Ah, the Russian Arts Festival of 1989. Gather round kids and I’ll tell you as much as is permitted by the several nondisclosure agreements I signed to gain a generous separation bonus from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Obviously, I kid. There was no bonus.

My one assignment during the Festival was the Tiblisi State Puppet Theatre, under the direction of the great and late-Rezo Gabriadze (below with some of his creations). Georgean puppets aren’t like the Muppets, Shari Lewis and Lambchop, or Punch ‘n Judy. They tell real and elaborate stories, often tragic, and even violent or sexually mature.

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Ireland, Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, Uncategorized, Writings

One last day, walking Dublin with James Joyce by our side

Walking down Eustace Street in the Temple Bar district, toward the River Liffey as evening begins to set on Dublin.

Leopold Bloom poses a tantalizing puzzle in James Joyce’s epic novel “Ulysses”: “cross Dublin without passing a pub.”

Thanks, I suppose, to computers, GPS, and Google maps, that puzzle has been solved many times over. Why you would want to do it, is a puzzle to me. When in Ireland. …

Here’s a tougher puzzle: Walk across Dublin and not see a reference to James Joyce – be it a photograph, a statue, a quote on a wall, a bookstore window, a mural, a pub name, a simple conversation, or a T-shirt in a tourist shop.

It feels like Joyce is Dublin and Dublin is Joyce, and though he has been dead these many decades, the full ripe glory of his passion for this city is everywhere.

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Ireland, Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, Uncategorized, Writings

Sunday morning and Ennis slowly stirs awake

Dublin is alive and kicking by the time we arrive

Dublin toward dusk while crossing the River Liffey, heading for the Temple Bar district on a quiet Sunday.

Our man Mick picks us up at Corofin Country Lodge on Sunday morning and drops us off in the center of Ennis, as promised. Thirty euros all.

Mick looks like Jason “The Transporter” Statham. All efficiency and business. The man in black. The car in black.  

Unlike Statham, Mick likes to speak. He’s quite a conversationalist. I think. Mick speaks in a thick accent that may have been a mix of Gaelic and English. His words came in phrases, in short rapid bursts like an assault rifle.

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Ireland, Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, Rants and raves, Uncategorized, Writings

Day 5: Carran to Corofin: “Turn right at the castle ruins.”

Near the end of The Green Road, a garden of earthly delights on the way to Corofin. (Photo by Rose Alcantara)

It is the last day of The Burren Way and we are walking from Carran to Corofin through a rocky wonderland in a gentle misty rain.

You know it is going to be an interesting day when our B&B host Julianne’s directions include the phrase, “Turn right at the castle ruins.” 

She also urges us to detour from the route to visit the triple ringfort of Cathair Chomáin, built on the edge of a cliff around the year 800 A.D. It was excavated in 1934 and 2003 but still holds much mystery about its origins. 

Over coffee and toast – Julianne offers us a full Irish breakfast (part of the B&B fare) but I am thinking of the consequences of a full stomach and the six-plus hours of walking ahead – we learn some of the history of her cottage which has been in and out of her family since the 1800s. It is decorated in the comfy Irish style – family photos cover every wall and horizontal surface. Books cover what is left.

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Ireland, Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, Rants and raves, San Miguel de Allende, Uncategorized, Writings

Day 4, ‘Not’ Walking the Burren: Ballyvaughan to Carran

Adirondack chairs set out behind Cassidy’s Pub in Carran offered a nice respite as the sun broke through. I can imagine sitting here with a cold pint on a warm summer evening, contemplating the Burren beyond.

We’ve been dodging in and out of the rain since we began walking the Wild Atlantic Way in County Clare four days ago. This morning, awakening to the steady patter of rain on the windows of the Wild Atlantic Lodge in Ballyvaughan, it feels like we’ve run out of dodges.

Did we really want to walk to Carran — or Carron? It is spelled both ways, often side by side, and nobody seems to really care. I asked. “Either way,” is the most common response.

One of the Burren walking guides calls this leg “extremely rewarding and scenic …”

Well, that is encouraging. Except it is dumping buckets outside.

But wait, there is more.

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Ireland, Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, Uncategorized, Writings

Day 3: Fanore to Ballyvaughan, mythic meets the mystical

A carpet of wildflowers graced the trail from Fanore to Ballyvaughan, at least part of the way.

This morning is one of those “it might rain” weather forecasts, and a few sprinkles are falling already as Amy drives the kids to school and us a mile farther up the road to the trailhead for the hike to Ballyvaughan.

We’re all talking rapidly as if trying to squeeze a lifelong friendship into a five-minute ride. We really like Amy and her family.

She tells us of the difficulties of the universal lockdown in Ireland during Covid, how neighbors turned in neighbors if they violated the 5 or 10-kilometer perimeter set up for each home, how stir-crazy everyone became, and how hard it was to make a living on a short leash. 

“You’re heading out on my favorite hike,” says Amy. “We all discovered the Burren and hiking during the lockdown. It was the only thing we could do. And now I love it.”

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Ireland, Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, Uncategorized, Writings

Day 2, The Burren Way: Doolin to Fanore, flirting with the edges of The Burren

Where the road begins its descent toward Fanore. A rare house on this part of the pathway.

There are several ways to walk from Doolin to Fanore on the Wild Atlantic Way. I think we picked the longest, toughest, wettest, and most rewarding.

Or maybe it picked us.

Our walk takes us up near the top of Slieve Elva – the highest point in the Burren – with misty views, from the Cliffs of Moher to the ghostly Aran Islands to Galway Bay and the vaguest wisp of Connemara beyond.

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Ireland, Memoirs -- fact and fiction, photography, Uncategorized, Writings

Day 1: Walking from Hags Head to Doolin along the Cliffs of Moher

That’s Doolin in the distance, the end of the first day hiking the Burren Way.

We’re In the Rock Shop Tea Room, well south of the Cliffs of Moher, an ironic place to begin a five-day hike around the rock-strewn Burren Way. Buying stones to add weight to our backpacks has no appeal but tea and scones do. And, I won’t kid you, it is awfully cold outside.

No need to rush into this thing.

Besides, my stomach needs to settle after riding the 350 Eireann bus along sinuous, snaky, undulating, rolling lanes for two and a half hours – essentially doing in reverse what we will attempt over the next five days.

At our table, we face the Atlantic and Hag’s Head Point as we sip coffee, tea, and scones. Sooner or later, we’ll have to step out the door and step onto the trail.

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