Where the Mountains Meet the Sea

Posted by: elraymundo at 7:49 am on Thursday, April 5, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: History, Art, Euphoria, Lotus Blossom, Travel, American Idol, Nature, Argentina

Jeff Watson AI Threat Level: Orange - There is a small amount of American Idol content present in this post. Proceed with caution.

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When La Raymunda and I talk about where, ultimately, we’d like to live, I usually tell her that I’d like to live somewhere very far away from Virginia and somewhere where the mountains meet the sea. That narrows the possibilities right away: the Chilean Andes run right up to the edge of the Pacific, New Zealand has mountains and glaciers all over the place and is surrounded by the Pacific. Washington State, though not perfectly qualified, comes close. Alaska and western Canada might also be in the running, and Iceland (active volcanoes!) and Norway, of course, with its spectacular fjords.

Normandy pops up a lot in this conversation also, but usually when I’m more in the mood for WWII battlefields, medieval history, Norman manors and castles, cuisines based on meat, heavy cream , cheese and brandy, pastoral landscapes dotted with orchards abutting seaside cliffs, cathedrals and the incredible Bayeux Tapestry. Oh, and Paris is just down the road from Normandy, too.

I never considered Argentina, though, since its only mountains are the Andes and the Andes form Argentina’s western border with Chile - the Argentine side of the mountains do not meet the sea. But once I got a look at Ushuaia from the air as we approached the airport I had to add Tierra del Fuego to the mix of possibilities.

At nearly 54.50 degrees south latitude, Ushuaia is the world’s southernmost city and currently has about 100,000 people living there. It sits on Tierra del Fuego at the southernmost edge of South America, ringed on three sides by snow-capped mountains (see the Photo of the Day just above here) and is fronted by the Beagle Channel, named for the ship that carried Charles Darwin on his famous naturalist voyage and which gives Ushuaia access to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The chief industry is the Antarctic tourist trade, so there are photo shops and gear shops and plenty of restaurants and pubs. Working for a company that traveled regularly to Antarctica wouldn’t be bad, either. The local seafood is tasty (the king crab and the king crab soup at Volver, a seafood joint working out of what looks like an old wooden weather-beaten house sitting just across the road from the water’s edge, was great and the local dark beer, Artisanal Beagle, was really good, too).

I don’t speak Spanish, which is initially a problem, but fixable. Aside from that, though, with mountains, glaciers, glacial lakes, ocean, good food, good beer, adventure-type stuff all over the place and a decent camera shop, Ushuaia has just about everything I need to be happy. Oh, and the dollar is actually strong against the Argentine peso, so we wouldn’t be broke all the time like we would be in Normandy.

Anyway, something to think about.

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By the way, was it just me or could you actually see Haley’s uterus peeking out from under her miniskirt last night on American Idol?

To Istanbul!

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:00 am on Tuesday, March 20, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Art, Lotus Blossom, Travel, Friends, Family

It appears La Raymunda and I have settled on our vacation plans for 2007. It’s going to be Turkey for three weeks in October. Yes, yes, the original plan was Hawaii in June, which evoked the ghastly specter of me without a shirt which inspired my marathon-training-weight-loss-program, but that fell through. The plans for the trip, that is; Hawaii is still there.

We’ll be traveling with my cousin Damon the Genius Painter, (among many others, I like Big Wanda of the House of Fur Bikinis, What Goes Down Must Come Up, and St. Theresa, Patron Saint of Gunless Meeting Attendance) and our friend Leigh, the sexiest one-third of Sister Swing, a trio rocking Sacramento with swing/jazz music of the 1930’s and 1940’s (they’re right up your alley, Joshkins). This will be our second go-round on the Wheel of Travel with Damon and Leigh; we met up with them, quite by accident, in Paris a couple of years ago and since we all seemed to play well together (nobody went after anyone else with butcher knives or ice picks, no rabbits were stewed in stock-pots, etc) we decided to travel together again.

While the itinerary remains up in the air, current ideas are to wander Istanbul for a week to ten days or so, see the cave-dwellings of Cappadocia, then noodle along the coast to the ruins of Ephesus and finally Troy, as in The Battle of, and then return to Istanbul. Anyone with experience in Turkey feel free to weigh-in with thoughts, opinions and ideas and such.

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On the marathon front, I’ve begun Week 5. Yesterday, Monday, was a rest day. Today is a three-miler. I’m actually at the place where I look forward to the three-mile days. “Only three miles? Piece of cake!” Running three miles horrified me six weeks ago.

Total mileage thus far: 62 miles.
Weight lost: 6.2 pounds (I don’t get why the weight hangs on. Must be because I’m hungry and eating all of the time. But I’m in skinnier pants now. This pleases me.)

P.S. I’ve begun sorting through the 200+ Iguazú Falls photos. The first one is today’s Photo of the Day, Salto Mbigua, which, mighty as it looks, is but a pittance of the overall mass of the waterfall complex at Iguazú.

Photo of the Day - 3.19.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:40 am on Monday, March 19, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Art, Travel, Photo of the Day, Argentina

Photo of a gargoyle from the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Exif: ISO 400; f/2.8; 1/125 sec; 70mm
12.20.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007

Photo of the Day - 3.16.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:51 am on Friday, March 16, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Art, Travel, Argentina

Three guys playing jazz and blues in Plaza San Martin, Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Plaza San Martín, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Exif: ISO 400; f/3.5; 1/125 sec; 200mm
12.21.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007

Photo of the Day - 3.15.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 11:08 pm on Wednesday, March 14, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Art, Euphoria, Travel, Photo of the Day

Photo of tango dancers at Cafe Tortoni in Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Café Tortoni, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Exif: ISO 800; f/2.8; 1/100 sec; 70mm
12.20.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007

Death’s Requiem World Premier

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:17 am on Tuesday, March 13, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Art, Euphoria, Friends, News of the Clever, Family

Photo of Tim Maddocks, Ian Barcaly and some dude named LarkinCongrats to my Aussie buddy Tim Maddocks, whose film, Death’s Requiem (a Maddfilms production) will have its World Premier at Method Fest, a film festival in Los Angeles. Tim and I go way back, to our bull-running days in Pamplona. Here’s the scoop on the World Premier – if you’re in LA on March 31 stop by and check it out. And shake Tim’s hand – he’s the guy with the shiny dome and the funny accent.

Death’s Requiem

March 31, 1:30pm

Louis B. Mayer Theatre
Motion Picture & Television Fund
23388 Mulholland Drive
Woodland Hills, CA 91371


Allen Shen, a former colleague of mine at The Place of Evil and Darkness, sent me a story about a Dutch guy who plans to climb Everest in boots, shorts, hat and gloves.

Apparently, said Dutch person (code name: Wim Hof) has achieved some sort of inner control over body temperature which allows him to run a barefoot and shirtless half-marathon in Finland in winter with temps in the -4 to -22 range (-20 to -30 for you Euros).

And now he wants to take a whack at Chomolungma.

That’s all well and good. A hat, boots and gloves will trap the vast majority of escaping body heat (a hat traps 40% of your body heat all on its own). What he’s going to need at 26,000 feet, though, is skin of steel to withstand the wind. The world’s top mountaineers are slowed to a crawl once they hit the Death Zone above 26,00 feet, often taking 30 or more seconds between each step. And the top of Everest is another 3,000 feet past the start of the Death Zone - that’s a lot of very slow upward steps…and a long time to be in savagely cold temperatures with no skin protection.

My guess is that he succeeds but returns with the mother of all frostbites.


Finally, they are kicking my dad out of the hospital today. He’s decided his recent condition was nothing mortal and that he’s perfectly ready to spend another couple of decades playing golf, messing with computers and watching “24″.

Glad to have you back home, Dad.

Photo of the Day - 3.9.2007

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:27 am on Friday, March 9, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Art, Travel, Photo of the Day, Argentina

The Virgin Mary just outside Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Virgin Mary of Recoleta - Buenos Aires, Argentina
Exif: ISO 100; f/3.5; 1/500 sec; 175mm
12.19.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006 - 2007

Songs of the Guaraní

Posted by: elraymundo at 8:25 am on Tuesday, February 27, 2007
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Art, Travel, Argentina

On our last night in Yacutinga we were sung to by a chorus of Guaraní Indian children singing Guaraní spiritual songs while standing around the fire. The children stood in rows, holding hands, swaying hand-in-hand and stepping back and forth as they sang. It was just beautiful. One girl, very pretty, was an absolute flirt. She stole glances at us while she sang, smiling and poking and giggling with her girlfriend the entire time.

The children were accompanied by an acoustic guitar and a drum. I was impressed by how the melody, mode and feel of the songs were much like those we heard sung in Tonga and Fiji, half a world away. Could there be a common major key vibe among tribal music? The small sampling of tribal music that I have heard, from Oceania, South America and Africa, seems to share similar traits in the way the melodies rise and fall in harmony, the way they soar and play like birds on the wind. And the songs always sound uplifting. I say this, of course, without knowing what the people are actually singing. They could be singing stories about the rat-bastard Europeans who came to their land and wiped them out with diseases and guns and how they wish they’d all just go back to their cold, grey European countries and die slow, horrible, unremembered deaths there. But if that’s what they are singing about they sure sound cheerful about it.

So my question is this: Does it require modern-day stresses and oppression to create a minor-key blues? If Africans were never enslaved in the New World would the blues never have existed? Or are there examples of minor key music among the world’s tribes? From what I have heard so far it seems that a human’s natural music is not one of oppression but one of joy and hope.

Or maybe I just can’t understand the words and I’m full of hooey.

Photo of the Day - 07.14.2006

Posted by: elraymundo at 9:13 pm on Friday, July 14, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: History, Art, Photo of the Day

US Soldier in Vietnam
Soldier, Vietnam - Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Exif: ISO/50; f/8.0; 1/25; 70mm
07.02.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006

Photo of the Day - 07.13.2006

Posted by: elraymundo at 7:56 pm on Thursday, July 13, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: History, Art, Photo of the Day

Sculpture of US Soldier in Vietnam

Soldier, Vietnam - Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Exif: ISO/50; f/8.0; 1/25; 70mm
07.02.2006 ©Michael Raymond 2006

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