Monthly Archives: May 2013

Another Step Closer

I had to go do some grocery shopping in David this morning and still not having heard from the driving school about what’s going on with my diploma I stopped in. (The school only a block and a half off the bus route.) Et voilà as we used to say in Antibes, it had finally arrived.


I go to the licensing agency Thursday morning to take the written (in Spanish) and practical tests. I don’t think it’s going to be too hard taking the written test. Just need to remember the speed limits for things like school zones, etc. The rest of it is just common sense and not really any different than the rest of the world. I’ll let you know what happens.


Filed under Uncategorized

Your Choice…


1 Comment

May 13, 2013 · 6:00 am

A Word A Week Photo Challenge – Patterns

Bridge of the AmericasBridge of the Americas (Panama City, Panama)

Bridge of the Americas Detail editedBridge of the Americas (Panama City, Panama)

Shrimp plantShrimp Plant (Panama)

IMG_0456Chagres River (Gamboa Rain Forest, Panama)


Filed under Uncategorized

Up For The Challenge?

This is the first time I’ve run a post like this, but it’s so unusual and so beautiful I have to let my readers know about it.

A new person has chosen to follow my blog. Why? I haven’t a clue, but their blog is so unique, so worth looking at I have to pass it on. It’s called A Word In Your Ear. If you like photography from all over the world you need to take a look at this.

“Skinny Wench says, “Once a week I dip into the dictionary and pick a word that the page falls open at, the challenge is to post a picture or use whatever genre you prefer to share what your take on the word is

“If you are taking part don’t forget to :-

“Create a post and add a link/pingback to this one so others can follow the trail and join in or check out entries of other bloggers.

“Add a tag ‘A Word A Week Challenge’ in your ‘tags’ box so I can find your post easily if you would like a chance to reblogged –  I like to share your posts with the rest of my readers and highlight new bloggers on the grid.

“Hit the follow button if you would like an automatic alert for this challenge each week.

“You have a week to post if you would like to take part – I normally post a new word each Sunday.”

You may want to take the challenge.

Comments Off on Up For The Challenge?

Filed under Uncategorized

I Wonder…

Ants navigate in their world by following scent trails as they forage away from their underground homes. It’s the only way they can find their way back.

I wonder what happens to the ones that are thrown far away from their scent trails whenever I sweep the front porch. Do they ever find their way home again? Do they get adopted by another colony of nearby ants or are they killed for being an enemy intruder? Or do they simply starve to death far away from home?


Filed under Uncategorized

You Can Observe A Lot Just By Looking – Yogi Bera

I have always been a reader. It’s one of life’s greatest gifts, for if you enjoy reading you can never be bored. You can transport yourself to other worlds while sitting at a laundromat waiting for your clothes to dry. There are certain genres of writing that I tend to gravitate to, of course. Naturally I love stories about the sea as well as trashy mysteries and detective stories.

I also tend to read authors. What I mean is, if I come across someone who has written a book I enjoy, I will often spend the next few weeks or months devouring everything of theirs I can get my hands on. I read everything John Steinbeck wrote before I graduated from high school after reading Cannery Row (I’ve read it at least three times). The same with Joseph Conrad who I believe is one of the greatest masters of the English language and astonishingly so since English was his third language after Polish and French. I have no favorite author but Paul Theroux ranks high on my list of people I like to read. I’ve read his novels (The Mosquito Coast, Hotel Honolulu, and My Secret History) but it’s his travel writing I really love.

Theroux spends a lot of time riding on trains. His first such adventure was detailed in The Old Patagonian Express which came about when, while living in Boston, Mass., he discovered that he could get on the streetcar near his house and travel all the way to the southern tip of the western hemisphere by rail. It was on this adventure this line (A French traveler with a sore throat is a wonderful thing to behold, but it takes more than tonsillitis to prevent a Frenchman from boasting.) hooked me into reading everyone of his travel books.

Not too long ago I downloaded his The Great Railway Bazaar recounting his four-month rail journey through Asia in 1975, from to listen to while riding the buses into David or to La Concepcion to do my shopping. Last month I downloaded Ghost Train to the Eastern Star in which he retraces some of the trip described in The Great Railway Bazaar and I started listening to it this past Thursday. It has a different narrator than the first book. That one was read by a young-sounding voice while the latest is by someone obviously older. But then, Theroux, on this journey, is 33 years older than when he made the first trip.

What grabbed me in the opening chapter brings me to the theme of this post. Riding out of London Theroux reflects on Ford Madox Ford’s thoughts about riding on trains.

“Ford Madox Ford wrote in his book The Soul of London that riding on a train speaks of how the relative silence of sitting on a train and looking into the busy muted world outside invites melancholy. ‘One is behind glass as if one were gazing into the hush of a museum; one hears no street cries, hears no children’s calls…one sees, too, so many little bits of uncompleted lives.’

“He noted a bus near a church, a ragged child, a blue policeman. A man on a bike, a woman alighting from a bus, school children kicking a ball, a young mother pushing a pram. And, as this was a panorama of London back gardens, a man digging, a woman hanging laundry, a workman-or was he a burglar?-setting a ladder against a window. And the constant succession of much smaller happenings that one sees, and that one never sees completed give to looking out of train windows a touch of pathos and dissatisfaction. It is akin to the sentiment ingrained in humanity of liking a story to have an end.’”

Short, quick glimpses of the passing scene. I see them through the windows of the buses here in Panama: A volleyball net set up in a field of knee-high weeds, Christmas lights still on a house in May, a man leading a horse in a field followed by five other horses, a woman doing laundry on the rocks of a river, uniformed school children huddled against the rain in a bus shelter. You see these little vignettes of uncompleted lives, too, every time you leave your house. Do they register? Are they tucked away to be remembered at some later date?

Theroux also writes of his own thought that: “Luxury is the enemy of observation, a costly indulgence that induces such a good feeling that you notice nothing. Luxury spoils and infantilizes you and prevents you from knowing the world. That is its purpose, the reason why luxury hotels and great hotels are full of fatheads who, when expressing an opinion, seem as though they are from another planet. It was also my experience that one of the worst aspects of traveling with wealthy people, apart from the fact that the rich never listen, is that they constantly groused about the high cost of living-indeed the rich usually complained of being poor.”

It’s not just these glimpses into people’s lives that we observe. Sometimes it’s just the things around us. Things that don’t register immediately and then wham! They’re there.

This year in Panama the rainy season has been a long time coming. Rivers are so low that hydro-electric generating stations are in desperate shape. President Martinelli has ordered drastic measures to conserve electricity. Thursday when I went shopping at Plaza Terronal in David the air conditioning was off at El Rey supermarket, at Panafoto where I went to buy a new set of ear buds for my iPod, at the Subway Sandwich shop to get my “gringo fix” for the week. All by presidential decree.

The last couple of days, though, it seems that we might be getting back into our usual weather pattern. Glorious sunny morning. Blue sky and cotton ball clouds followed by intense rain in the afternoon. Gully washers. Frog choking rain. I can hear the nearby river tumbling across the rocks for the first time in months. A few days ago people who live on the other side of the river could cross it without getting their feet wet. Now they take off their shoes and roll up their pant legs. The grass in my yard has gone from Cheerio brown to jungle green and I have to get out the weed whacker and attack it in the next day or two.

And then I noticed this tree in the field next door. A week ago it didn’t have a leaf on it. It seemed dead. But yesterday I noticed that its suddenly turned green.


You can observe a lot just by looking.


Filed under Uncategorized

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves…

Recently one of my Facebook “friends” asked me what my birthday was since she said, “I fiddle in astrology.” I answered, cryptically, that it was the same day as Argentina’s Independence Day (look it up for yourselves) of 1942. Now, I have to say that I believe in astrology about as much as I believe in the six day creation story. But tens of millions of people actually DO believe in it. Heck, foreign and domestic policy in the United States was influenced by astrologers during the eight years of Saint Ronnie of the Ray Gun’s administration.

My friend’s request got me to thinking about an old high school classmate or mine, Robert Hand.

Robbie Hand

We knew him as Robbie back then. Robbie was our class “nerd” though the term hadn’t yet been coined. He was the guy with the plastic pocket protector and slide rule. While he was our nerd, he was one of us. He played clarinet in the high school band and orchestra and was in the Town Band. a mixture of school-aged and adult musicians, as well.  We had some great parties at his house through our high school years. Nerd was just the position he held.

Robbie was a little strange, to say the least. His dad invented Arid antiperspirant and a mysterious but never marketed product referred to as “Fart Allure” which was supposed to make one’s flatulence smell like roses. His mom was a brilliant chemist in her own right, too. They lived in a big old house near Rock Harbor, and I remember one morning in the eighth grade when Robbie showed up at school looking as though someone had beaten him up. In a way that’s true. It seems  Robbie believed he knew the route from school to his home, about a mile or so away, so well that he could walk it with his eyes closed. He made it for about a block or so before doing a face plant into a phone pole.

When we were driving age our friend, Fran Higgins, Robbie and I used to take Rob’s mom’s car out on some of the deserted back roads in town where we’d get Rob to put the car in neutral, red line the engine and then drop it into gear to lay some rubber on the asphalt. It’s a wonder we never dropped the transmission during one of our outings.

Not surprisingly, Robbie was our class valedictorian. I don’t want to take anything away from that honor but I also have to point out that we had a graduating class of only sixty students. Bob left Nauset Regional High School to attend Brandeis University, and Brandeis doesn’t accept ordinary scholars.

Rob’s dad was a bit of an astrologer and passed his knowledge on to his son. Robbie became a professional astrologer himself and made a stellar (pun intended) name for himself in the field. He founded the Archive for the Retrieval of Historical Astrological Texts (ARHAT) in 1997, an archive that publishes translations of ancient and medieval texts pertaining to the ancient/classical/medieval study of astrology. In 2008 he received the Regulus Award for his life’s work at the “United Astrology Conference” in Denver.

Rob also worked a couple of summers at my family’s restaurant, Philbrick’s Snack Shack, at Nauset Beach in Orleans, Mass.

Robbie Hand

Who knew back then what any of us would become?


Filed under Uncategorized

Still Waiting

A couple of people have asked me what’s happening with getting my motorcycle endorsement added to my Panamanian driver’s license. Well, me, too.

After going through the school it’s supposed to take 15 working days to get one’s diploma okie dokied by the agency in Panama City. It’s been nearly twice that long and I’ve heard nothing so I went to the school to check on what’s going on.

The owner of the school greeted me with his usual shiny smile and his “Buenos dias, Señor Richard.” I asked him how come I haven’t gotten my diploma yet and he said the school had made an “error” on the diploma. A Panamanian driver’s license has an alphabet soup of letters at the left side bottom of the license that tells what type of vehicle you are authorized to drive. Mine says “A” and “C.” The “A” is for a bicycle (don’t ask, I don’t know why this is one it) and “C” is for an automobile or certain kinds of trucks. One can also have the following letters on their license: B (motorcycles), D (light trucks up to 8 tons and small buses for up to 16 passengers), E1,E2,E3, (all for carrying passengers) F (trucks over 8 tons), G (articulated vehicles-trailer trucks) H (dangerous cargo vehicles) and I (heavy equipment). It seems that the school had marked my diploma application for the “D” classification instead of for the “B.’ Naturally the drivers bureau didn’t approve it so a new app had to be submitted. I was promised that they would have the correct diploma back by this Saturday and I’ll be taking the test next week some time. Well see.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Three Loads of Laundry Today

Anyone reading this who lives in the States or most of Europe would most likely say, “So what?” Well, actually it’s a fairly big deal here in Panama where a lot of the time water doesn’t just come out of the tap when you turn the knob.

For the last couple of weeks the availability of water has been very sporadic. Recently there was none. Zero. Zip. Nada. And it was like that for almost 48 hours. It’s been so bad that IDAAN, the water agency, brought a tanker truck of potable water to the neighborhood twice and people came out with five gallon buckets to load up. Think about it. There’s no warning that you’re not going to have any water. You turn the tap and you get nothing. You can’t wash your dishes. You can’t prepare your meals without water. You can’t take a bath or a shower. And really important, you can’t flush your toilet. At least you can’t do those things in your house. But there’s a small river by my house I’ve written about before. All day long people come down with their laundry and dinner dishes in buckets. Kids getting ready for school come down to the river just as the sun is coming up to take a bath and their parents follow a little later to get ready for work.

Now, I’m a bit luckier than most. My house is the last one on the road and down a slight hill. I’m able to get water from what’s in the pipeline, but there’s no pressure behind it so it’s impossible to use the washer, but I can get enough to do the dishes and with my solar shower (a plastic bag with a nozzle on it) I’m able to take care of basic hygiene. But with no water pressure once you push the lever on the toilet the tank won’t refill. So what’s one to do? Well, I have three five gallon buckets and when it rains I put them out under the roof overhang and fill them up. Sometimes when it’s really pouring they’ll fill up in just a matter of minutes. I use that water to flush the john.

Even on good days the water pressure is generally only available in the early morning and it’s off by nine o’clock or so and it will stay like that sometimes for the next 10 or 12 hours. This morning I happened to be up and about just before six and there was decent water pressure in the mains. Before I brewed my coffee, checked my email, read my favorite blogs and took my morning meds I had a load in the washer. I was able to get two loads completely done but during the third the pressure had dropped so much that the water flowing into the machine wasn’t any larger than a pencil lead. It had gone through the wash cycle and was half way through the rinse when that happened. I took enough of the rain water to cover the sheets and pillow cases and finished the load that way. Drying, of course is done on the line. Is there anything better than the smell of a pillow case that’s dried out in the sunshine?

Sure it’s a hassle, but hey, it’s how it is here. It’s all about how you deal with it. You can bitch and moan, or you can just get on with your life.


Filed under Uncategorized

My Question Answered…

Yesterday I posed the question, “If a lunatic like Wayne LaPierre is only the executive Vice President of the NRA, how totally bat-shit crazy do you have to be to be made the President of the organization?” Well, here’s the answer to that one. REALLY BAT-SHIT CRAZY!

New NRA Head Not Fan Of ‘Fake President’ Obama, Thinks Civil War Was ‘Northern Aggression’

Comments Off on My Question Answered…

Filed under Uncategorized