Monthly Archives: July 2012

Bible Translation Stirs Controversy

This is a fact, folks, there’s a new translation of the Bible out and of course, among hard-core Bible-thumpers it’s causing a lot of controversy. . . but I say, if the King James version of the Bible was good enough for Jesus then it’s good enough for me!!!

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Queen Elizabeth at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies

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Another Columnist I Miss…

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God, I REALLY Miss This Woman!

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My Heart Is On Cape Cod Today…

Today is the 8th Annual Gary Philbrick Memorial Scholarship Golf Tournament being held at the Olde Barnstable Fairgrounds Golf Course in Marston Mills on Cape Cod. It’s going to be a good day for a golf tournament. The forecast is for a sunny but windy day with a high of around 77°F.

Gary Philbrick was the pro at the course from the day it opened until his life was cut short at the age of 55 after losing his battle with cancer in 2005. He was also my brother and I miss him.

Gary was the middle brother of a brood of seven boys. He was one of those rare people for whom it would be difficult to find someone who would have anything bad to say about him. He was really a “people person.”

Gary loved sports from an early age and he was good at them. He was an All-Star Little League catcher and excelled at tennis in high school but his real love was golf.

He went to a small college in Ohio for part of a semester when he got out of high school. As he told it, he and some friends went out one night and really tied one on. He said, “it was the weirdest thing. I blacked out, and when I woke up I was in a rubber room and dad was looking at me through a tiny window. I thought it was some kind of a dream but it was all too real. I’d been expelled and on the whole ride from Ohio to Orleans dad didn’t say a single word. It was a very long ride. For the next couple of weeks every time I’d come down for breakfast, mom would burst into tears. After a couple of weeks they sat me down at the kitchen table and said, ‘well, now that you’ve ruined your life and embarrassed us so we can never face our friends again, what to you intend on doing?'”

“I’m going to play golf,” I said.

“‘Don’t get smart with us, young man,’ they said. ‘We’re not talking about what you want to do today, we’re talking about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life.’

“Play golf,” was his answer and that’s what he did.

He apprenticed at a country club in Connecticut in the summers and came down to Florida in the winters in the late ’60s to attend the PGA school. He and I also caddied together in several of the LPGA tournaments back then. Let me tell you, those ladies bags are heavy.

When he received his PGA club pro membership he returned to the Cape and was the pro at the Dunphy’s Resort Hotel and golf course in Hyannis where he reigned for a decade or so before taking over the Cranberry Valley course in Yarmouth for several years. He then became the first pro at the Olde Barnstable Fairgrounds course.

He was the Vice President of the New England Professional Golfers Association from 1992-96, President of the Cape Cod Chapter of the N.E.P.G.A. in 1984, ’85 and ’87. He was the director of the Doreen Grace Fund Golf Tournament for the Foundation of Brain Injury Research 1985-94. and on the Board of the Cape Cod Golf Association. He received several awards including Golf Professional of the Year in 1993 and 1996 and the National Golf Founders Achievement Award in 1993, ’94 and ’95. In 2002 he was awarded the prestigious Bill Strausbaugh Club Relations Award by the New England Section, PGA, “For Untiring and Distinguished Service to Golf Facilties and to Fellow PGA Members in the Field of Employment and Club Relations.”

He met, and married a young nurse who worked at the Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Dianne Ruest.

They had three great kids, Ian, Lindsay and Tracy. I’d say they were great kids even if they weren’t my nieces and nephew. They inherited all the best traits of their parents.

Gary was a great father. I don’t know what his parenting techniques were, but I vividly remember an incident from a family reunion years ago. We were at the dinner table. Gary was sitting at the head of the table. I was to his left and Tracy, the youngest, then about five years old, was on his right. Tracy got a little fussy about something. I don’t think anyone else noticed it. I don’t remember what it was she did or said but I do remember that Gary quietly said, simply, “Remember what we talked about.” And that ended it.

He and Dianne loved to dance. They took ballroom classes and one room of their house was cleared of furniture so they could spend evenings dancing together.

If there was any doubt how popular Gary was it was dispelled at his wake. On a bitterly cold February evening hundreds, literally hundreds, of people stood shivering in a line outside the funeral home before they could get inside to pay their respects. And golfers still come to his resting place and leave signed golf balls in a hat beside his marker.

The 2005 Cape Cod Open was dedicated to his memory and each year there’s fierce competition at the Open to win the coveted Gary Philbrick Trophy for low-scoring professional golfer.

The Gary Philbrick Memorial Scholarship was established to assist college students who wish to have a career on the links.

Gary Philbrick was my brother. I was always proud of him and I miss him very much, especially today.




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Thank you, I’m honored…

I’ve been living here in Boquerón for nine months now. Everyone knows the old gringo and they’re all friendly. Walking up to the bus stop everyone says “hello” in English, and one man always says, “hello, mister.” Carlos and Fulvia’s little girl says “Hi” since I told her that’s how friends greet each other back in the States instead of the more formal “hello.” But one never really knows how you’re accepted into the community until something like what happened yesterday occurs.

Half way up the street towards the main road is the house of Lleya (Jaya) and her husband. They are the local dealers in the barrio for the gas everyone uses for cooking, though you’d be surprised at how much cooking is done outside over a wood fire. Lleya and her husband, Carlos, always have a smile and a wave for me as I pass by their house and she is always telling me to “drop in anytime.” In Spanish, of course.

Yesterday was Lleya’s 63 birthday and she was having a party around noon time. I’d been invited a couple of weeks ago. In the morning I made a cherry-blueberry dump cobbler* to take with me. What surprised me when I arrived was that except for her eight children and their wives, husbands, their children and Lleya’s lifetime friend, Alicia, I was the only one there outside of her family. She loaded me down with a plate of food I couldn’t have gotten through in two days, free-range chicken, rice (of course), salad and half an avocado.

My cobbler was actually a big hit. It was served along with the birthday cake and ice cream and I know that nearly everyone had a second helping of it and I saw two young boys hit the pan for thirds.

I have to admit that I spent most of my time talking to Alicia. She had been married to a gringo and lived in the States for many years. When we discovered that we’d both lived in New Orleans for many years the conversation was filled with references to Cajun cuisine and music. One of Lleya’s daughters speaks English quite well, but for the greatest part of the afternoon I tried my best to follow the Spanish conversations and I received compliments on how well I spoke the language though I think it was mostly flattery.

I definitely enjoyed the afternoon and feel honored to have been invited and accepted into the group.

* Cherry/Blueberry Dump Cobbler

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 can each of Mussleman’s cherry and blueberry pie filling (which is more than the 32 oz of pie filling called for in the original recipe)
1/2 cup butter

Heat oven to 350 F. Melt butter in a 13 x 9-inch pan. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, milk, and sugar in mixing bowl. Pour into pan. Add the cherry pie filling to the batter in the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Batter will form crust on top of cobbler.

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She’s One Wise Woman

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Poor Execution

I had to go into David this morning to pick up the license plate for the Orange Arrow. With that done I walked a couple of blocks to a hardware store to pick up some fastenings to attach the plate, a lock and wire device so I can fasten my helmet to the cycle when I go into a store or have to leave it unattended, and a blue tarp to cover the washing machine I bought yesterday.

That’s right, a washing machine. The house in Potrerillos Arriba had a washer and dryer though I always hung the clothes to dry on a line. There are few smells nicer than clothes that have been dried in the sunshine. I did use the dryer but not for its intended use. What I used it for was to store my notebook computer and my cameras when I was out of the house. I had an old notebook computer that was sort of a decoy if thieves should break into the house, but I’d put the good computer and the cameras into the dryer and cover them with a couple of sheets to hide them. Fortunately in the 15 months I lived in the house no one ever broke in so I don’t know if the ruse would have been effective or not.

There’s no washer at the house here in Boquerón, or at least not before 4:30 yesterday afternoon. The closest laundromat is about 15 miles away and there’s just no way I was going to lug my dirty laundry that far on a bus. Now don’t go thinking I’ve been walking around for the last six months in dirty, smelly clothes. And I’m not like a guy I know in Florida. Ken (not his real name) came from a rather well-to-do family but Ken had a substance abuse problem. He’d wear a set of clothes for two or three days, drop in at a friend’s house to take a shower and then go to a store and buy an entirely new set of clothes for the next couple of days. No, I dropped back 20 years to when I was out cruising on my beloved, long-departed Nancy Dawson. I did my laundry in a 5-gallon bucket agitating the clothes vigorously with a toilet plunger. (For the curious, it was bought unused at the Do It Center specifically for the purpose of washing clothes.)

Believe it or not, folks, this form of laundering clothes works quite well, and pumping that plunger up and down for 10 or 15 minutes gives you a bit of a workout. The key to getting the clothes clean is a good long soak prior to applying the plunger. If you think about it, you’re doing exactly the same thing a washing machine is doing. There’s no magic involved with a washing machine. Tiny little laundry elves don’t mysteriously appear out of no where and pick out pieces of dirt and grime embedded in the clothing and make the stuff disappear though elves do have a fondness for stockings which is why one is missing every so often from a batch of laundry. The problem with this method of doing laundry is that it’s really a pain doing your jeans and large items like sheets and bath towels. Plus rinsing them to get rid of all the soapy water in the clothes isn’t easy and often results in stiff stuff.

Actually this post wasn’t intended to be about my washing machine, but you’ll have to forgive me. I suffer from ADOLAP! Disorder. For those of you unfamiliar with such afflictions that’s Attention Deficit, Oh Look A Puppy! Disorder.

No, when I was headed back to the bus terminal from the hardware store I stumbled across something that caught my eye. As I’ve said before, one of the few things that distresses me about the Panamanian people is the way they treat their beautiful country like a giant trash can. There is crap everywhere!

Some people obviously have their hearts in the right place in regards to this national disgrace but their execution of a solution is somewhat lacking.

I may be wrong, but I think this would have been more effective had there been a bottom attached. Or maybe whoever put it there is a basketball fanatic and figured people would try and score two points with their trash rather than dumping it on the ground somewhere else.

On the other hand, someone had a creative solution for disposing of their trash in the same area…


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Putting On Some Miles (Kilometers?)

I’ve been putting a few miles on the orange arrow in the last week. Sunday I went for a nice ride into the hills and, of course, forgot my camera. But that’s okay, just gives me a reason to go back.

I really wanted to get out Monday for a birthday ride but Mother Nature had other ideas. We’re into the rainy season now, and as I’ve said several times before, the mornings are usually beautiful before clouding up in the early afternoon and then pouring hard for a couple of hours later on. But Monday was one of those rare, odd days. It was gloomy when I got up at a little past six but not raining. It brightened for a couple of hours but I didn’t plan to hit the road before nine so as to let all the commuters clear the road.

Of course as nine o’clock rolled around it started darken up with threatening clouds. So I just played around on line. Then there would be some breaks in the clouds. Patches of blue appeared here and there. But when I’d put on my riding clothes the holes would slam shut in an instant. You could almost hear them closing. Nature kept on toying with me like that all day until it was too late to go anywhere. It didn’t start raining until about eight that night.

I couldn’t get out yesterday. I had to go in to David to hit the bank. I also wanted to check the prices on small washing machines. I’m really getting tired of doing my laundry in a five gallon bucket. It’s especially hard to do sheets and jeans that way. I then took the Cerro Punta bus up to Bugaba to buy my cigars. Once again, by the time I got home it was cloudy and too late to get on the road.

One of the places I’ve wanted to go for a long time was down to the beach. You can’t get there by bus. You can get through the small town of Alanje on public transportation but you’re still a dozen miles from the ocean and would have to take a cab  which, being a gringo, would most likely be expensive. The morning was sunny and things looked good. I got on the road at about 9:30 and headed down the hill. I was a bit apprehensive about having to cross the Inter American highway at “El Cruce” but it was a snap. Traffic in both directions had a gap of about a half a mile between the crossroads and the oncoming vehicles.

The ride down to and through Alanje is fairly scenic. There are twists and turns but with a lot of good straight stretches in between and sugar cane fields on both sides of the road. In the distance at the edges of the big cane fields were thick groves of trees that reminded me a lot of the hammocks one sees scattered among the sawgrass as you cross south Florida on Alligator Alley.

There were a few rough patches on the road but eventually the road ends at La Barqueta Beach and the monied  Las Olas Beach Resort

To the west is the La Barqueta gated rich folks houses. Kind of reminded me of The Hamptons on Long Island where I’d seen houses similar to these but with palm trees here. Cropping the photo screwed it up but take my word for how they looked.

The sand here is volcanic black. Snugged in between the two developments were a couple of restaurants. This one was closed though a sign said they were open Wednesdays through Sundays starting at 1 p.m. though at noon I saw no sign of anyone trying to get the operation started.

The other restaurant, more of the small “fonda” type that serves “comida corriente” may have been open because I saw people working around outside of it but it, too, gave no hint of being open for business. I can understand it, though since there were only three people on the beach itself and one lone surfer dude who wasn’t doing all that well.

But it’s a pretty stretch of beach looking to the east…

And over to the west with Costa Rica just barely visible in the haze…

At our family restaurant, “Philbrick’s Snack Shack,” at Nauset Beach in Orleans, Mass., we used to rent beach umbrellas for people who wanted some shade during the heat of the day. Here they do things a little different…

Heading back home I failed to make the turn that would have taken be back to El Cruce but I did come across this neat old abandoned house…

Having missed the proper turn I eventually found myself entering the edges of David and I sure didn’t want to be there. There was no way I was going to take the Inter American Highway back to Boqueron. I made a U-turn and headed back the way I’d come. I was cruising along at a sedate 35 mph (the speedometer reads in mph and kph) when the Alanje-David bus passed me headed away from David. Problem solved! I swung in behind and followed the bus until I had gotten my bearings.

In all I covered 52.8 miles today (88k X .6 = miles). In all I’ve gone 132.3 miles on the back roads of Chiriquí Province.

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Happy Birthday To Me!

Today I reached three score and ten. A milestone birthday of sorts. Tom Hanks and I probably had a much more enjoyable day of it than Orenthal James, though.

For this momentous occasion I bought myself a super present. An Hofai 200GY-5A motorcycle.

As my regular readers know, I don’t own an automobile. For one, they cost much more than I can afford to spend. For the car, for the insurance, for the gas which hovers between three and a half and four dollars a gallon.

I’ve been quite content to use Panama’s exceptionally good public transportation system. It’s efficient and cost effective. For instance, to make the round trip from my house into David and up to the Plaza Terronal shopping center with the El Rey supermarket costs me $1.90. You absolutely cannot make the round trip in your car at double that price. However, as I take that ride in, generally, air conditioned splendor I see roads going off to the north and south of the Inter American Highway and wonder, what does Bágala look like? Straight down the Boquerón road and across the Inter American is the road down to Alanje and the Las Olas beach at the Pacific Ocean. I haven’t been to either one and I’ve been in Panama for over two years now. I’ve ridden the Routa Sur that runs from Potrerillos Abajo to Volcan several times in other people’s cars but when you spot something particularly scenic you can’t say, “Hey, stop, I want to take a picture of this.”

About a year and a half ago my Gringo snowbird friend, Denny, and I went to the annual Féria (Fair) in David. One of the things we did was look at the various motorcycles on display. There were Hondas, Yamahas and Suzukis, of course, and then there was this Chinese brand, Hofai. The Hofais were anywhere from one half to one third the price of the name brands.

Denny is a major motorcycle guy. He’s ridden most of his life. He’s done major trips on two wheels including riding one from the great Northwest of the United States all the way down here to Panama. I trust his knowledge when it comes to motorcycles. After closely examining the Hofai he said they seemed to be pretty well built and, at first glance, seemed to be a good deal for the money.

I was, of course, hot to buy one. But Denny said he had a friend who owned a Suzuki 125 dual-sport bike that he was interested in selling since the friend owned a couple of farms and wanted to move up to something a little bigger. A couple of weeks later I met Denny’s friend, Brian, and the bike he wanted to sell. It was in excellent shape, had a new rear tire and Brian is a fanatic about maintenance. The price of his name-brand 125 was a couple of hundred less than the Hofai 125. What Brian was going to buy to replace it was a Hofai 200. That’s 200 as in 200cc.

Two things stopped me from sealing the deal. First, while I had enough money to buy the bike it would have brought my cash reserves down to a level that would make me feel uncomfortable. Secondly, I never liked the looks of the off-road bikes.

So I held off.

Recently the Egg Harbor 43 that I’d bought for my corporation at a theft price six years ago was sold and I received an infusion of cash into my bank account. I immediately went down to the Hofai dealership and started to look at the bikes once more. I really liked the looks of the 200cc street.

This snazzy model, including tax, tag and mandatory insurance, could be had for $2,400. I didn’t buy it right then because it was going to be a couple of days until my cut of the Egg Harbor money would be available.

That evening I called Denny’s friend, Brian, to ask him how things had been going with his Hofai over the last year. He gave it two thumbs up. Said he’d abused the bike more than any others he’d ever owned riding around on the farms. He said he wouldn’t hesitate to buy another one. It sounded like a ringing endorsement.

So why, then, did I end up with an orange dual-sport cycle instead of the street model? While the main roads here in Panama are superior to most other Central American roads, they certainly don’t hold up to U.S. standards. Take a look at this clip and you’ll see what I mean.

When I went back to the Hofai dealer I opted for the dual-sport bike which actually turned out to be nearly $400 less than the street model.

I also went to another store where I bought this expensive but highly regarded, according to internet search results, helmet and this bright reflective vest. One thing that’s imperative when riding a motorcycle is that drivers in four wheeled vehicles SEE you. Visibility is a life saver. With a Day-Glo yellow helmet, a Day-Glo vest and an orange motorcycle I should be seen by almost everyone else on the road from a great distance.

In the future I plan to be posting photos of the things I find on the back roads of Chiriquí Province, Panama.


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