Smoke and Mirrors

In a perfect world . . .

Category: Travel (page 1 of 3)



It began as an innocent and seemingly serendipitous friendship that came by the way of my personal weblog some 5+ years ago.
If you’ve read my blog before you will know the backstory of all that I am about to say.
If you haven’t, this will be a good time for reading a pretty amazing story.

How this friendship happened seems to defy any logical explanation because that’s how many friendships start.
What happened in the ensuing years is the stuff of fairy tales and Ripley’s ‘Believe it or not’ stories, all but true.
I still have to pinch myself some days though; days when I find myself woolgathering about whether me and Pamela did actually visit Australia for two simply incredible weeks this past July.
It’s taken some time to not only process the whole experience but also to figure out
just what I want to say . . .
[Interpretation: this is gonna take a lot of  posts]

We left Boston on a sunny,  pure and crystal late Friday afternoon in July –  our first destination: LAX.
Good weather, nice takeoff, flight is smooth, everybody is happy, life is good . . .  piece of cake, right?
As we crossed somewhere over Lincoln, Nebraska at approximately 30,000 ft my gorgeous wife grabbed my hand and said, “I don’t think I can do this.”

“Do what?” I said. [me thinking about the mile high club]

“Flying this far. I don’t know if I can do it.”

“Sure you can,” I said, “we’ll be fine,” as I squeezed her hand harder in mine.

“You promise?” She said.

“You betcha,” I said.

Not what you want to hear from a wife on the verge of tears and only 3 hours from your point of departure.
We still had another 13+ hours in the air to get to Brisbane after getting to LA.
This was not working out as I’d planned.
It rarely does though, right?
It was about this time that I was able to connect to the net with my laptop.
I have never loved Facebook more than I did at that particular moment in time.
“Here,” I said,  passing her my laptop, “Play Farmville or chat with someone who’s on.”
Maybe sometimes a human connection is all you really need to get you over a flying hump.
The Facebook diversion worked and we landed safe and sound in the City of Angels at 9PM (PST) Midnight (EST).
Our flights were connecting so we didn’t need to worry about our checked luggage as we would pick it up in Brisbane on our arrival on Sunday morning (thanks in part to the International Dateline)

Turned out that our 11PM flight was delayed and we didn’t take off until 1AM (PST) or 4AM (EST).
We were both sleeping in the terminal like oh, so many homeless people when our plane started boarding.
We made our way onto a V-Australia huge ass airbus and found our seats.
We were ready for some sleep.
After a nice snack we both hunkered down for a long summer’s nap, as visions of the calming waters of the great barrier reef danced in our heads . . .
(alright, I made that part up)

If anyone tells you that flying to Australia is easy and you could ‘do it in your sleep’, tell them they can go pound sand.
It is a long ass ways away and when we finally landed in Brisbane [19+ hours later] if all that we saw was two crazy kangaroos getting their freak on with some abo playing the didj, we would have left happy campers.
That’s not what we found.
The air was different.
The sky was different.
The layout of the land was different.
The spring water was different.
The birds sound were different.
The toilet water flushed the wrong way.
And the people are friendly! [unlike some in Boston]
And they drive on the wrong side of the road (a trip unto itself!)
I think I actually shit my pants as we drove through our first roundabout.
Bringing adult diapers is merely a suggestion.

We found out very quickly that Australia was more than just an island,  a huge ass country, and a continent unto itself.
It was a place of incredible beauty and majesty, a place of tropical fish the likes of which we had never seen, wildlife that boggles the mind, food that makes us yearn for more, Cadbury chocolate that will never see the US shores and nighttime constellations that are unique to the southern hemisphere.
We also found out that Australia is a place where one very special family would open their hearts and homes to two American strangers they’d never met before.

We got our suitcases in Brisbane and headed to Australian Customs before embarking on the final flight to take us to Tropical Queensland and the home of Mark and Maureen Harrod, friends of a lifetime.

We didn’t know it then but we’d already fallen in love with this magical place called Australia.
As I looked at the Southern Cross in the sky on our first night,
I decided I should stop dreaming. I was here, we were here.

to be continued . . .


Christmas, trains, God

I stood at South Station tonight watching the Christmas Train roll along the tracks.
They set it up every year and tonight I found myself daydreaming [night dreaming?] a bit,
reminiscing about days gone by, Christmases past, simple times and in some smaller way, happier times.
Gone are the days of smoking Lionel train sets
and Adirondack baseball bats made of white ash, a hardwood that had that ‘swack’ sound
when you made contact with the ball.
We didn’t use those shitty aluminum bats made to save the freekin’ rainforest.
We cut down trees for bats and played baseball.
End of story.
I wonder how many boys have ever discovered the feeling of a baseball finding the ‘sweet spot’ on a bat;
it is something almost indescribable in a way.
It feels so very right and almost heavenly.
The same goes for the waxy and comfortable aroma upon opening of a fresh box of  ©Crayola crayons.
The memories of things that made me happy back then are now located high on a shelf,
out of view and out of reach.
I’m afraid that if I did try to touch them that they would sadly dissolve, settling into some
cob-webbed and cranial antechamber to be forever lost and untouchable ala ‘the Island of misfit Toys’;
“Nobody wants a Charlie in a box.”
Or a train with square wheels.
Christmas is supposed to be a season of hope and sacred renewal, love and unexpected miracles, the innocence of a child and the birth of the Christ.
My biggest problem is my inability to turn off the omnipresent and methodical holiday din; a most socially accepted version of seasonal torture.
Please don’t waterboard me with the Carpenter’s Christmas album.
I’ll give you my PayPal  and Amazon password, just not that.
My mind gets filled with everything but holiday spirit as sights, lights and sounds careen off my internal walls of yuletide cynicism and silent nights; I want so much more for my heart but it never seems to happen.
Maybe this year . . . maybe I will drift away on some runaway train to a tropical island where I can sell hot dogs from a stand while drinking Guinness and smoking Cuban cigars.
My Perfect Merry Christmas.
In a perfect world . . .


Cryptic Prayer

What can you say to a wall?
Not much, I guess.
What can you do when there is so much left to do but nothing left to accomplish?
Who do you talk to when the one person you need to hear is no longer present?
Why do some people believe they are always right?
Because that’s their ‘truth’.
When will people realize that life is a journey with happy endings, awkward beginnings AND unhappy endings?
When will the telling of one-sided fairy tales stop?
Ask Walt Disney.
When will you get off of that cross? [someone else needs the wood]
*no answer*
Where are the answers?
But more importantly where were the questions that should have been asked?
Never sent.
Ask and you shall receive.
Unless you aren’t prepared for the answers.
If you don’t have the intestinal fortitude to ask,  zipper that talkbox shut.
(say that 3X real fast) [LOL]
Amen, my brothers and sisters, amen . . .


Halloween will be here on Saturday and I have a few creepy and crawly things
to offer you between now and then.
If you are not a horror flick fan, I’m so sorry.
This short clip is from ‘An American Werewolf in London’, a film by Jon Landis.
The clip is pure Landis with musical soundtrack, graphic manipulation of human flesh and all.
At the time it was state of the art.
Still looks pretty damn cool today, methinks.
Check it out.
Oh, and . . .  Booo!


You know you’re getting out there when the only reason you know it’s Monday
is because there’s an NFL game on tonight.
My Tweet this morning was telling to say the very least:
“I’ve officially lost track of where the week ends and where the new one begins.”
Everything seems just so helter-skelter these days and Monday only serves to exacerbate the issue.
For instance; last Monday night, a train I occasionally ride home was dispatched and routed improperly.
Long story short, the outbound train was traveling on the same track as the inbound train.
Never a good thing with that inertia thing and all.
Both were going @ 30-40 MPH.
The phrase ‘as subtle as a train wreck’ springs to mind.
There would have been some serious carnage, folks.
Mucho carnagio, muchachos.
Thank God the situation was recognized and thank God it was rectified.
Still makes me wonder, what if?
Some assflap person was not on their game that day and many people could have paid the ultimate train fare.
The MBTA would have loved that, too.
The money grubbing bastards.
Sad, huh?
It was a small revelation of sorts for me.
A ‘holy-crap-I’m-still-alive kinda thing’  because I rode a different train that night.
( a 25 minute delay, medical emergency . . .  sheesh)
Even the automated train announcements were strange today.
It’s a woman’s voice that tells you what stop is coming up.
The voice sounds like June Cleever from ‘Leave it to Beaver’.
I’m tired but I am definitely not kidding.

“Beave? Wally? The next stop is Framingham. Get ready Beaver!”

(the sampled voice even mispronounces the approaching town’s name as well which adds to my Monday weirdness.
It should sound like ‘Fray-ming-ham’ but the voice says ‘Fram-ing-ham’ God help us all.)

Steve, the conductor, walked by and said to me, “Oh, man . . .  Mondays.”
Oh, man, he is absolutely right.

2,592,000 seconds

time, blogging, trains, writing

I figured out that I spend approximately one month a year riding the train back and forth to Boston.

One month.

30 days.

720 hours.

43,200 minutes.

2,592,000 seconds.

I write, read, sleep, text message, eat, drink
and look out the slightly opaque windows and think.
I’ve been doing this for over 4 years and if it weren’t for my writing stuff and my
Ipod Nano (thank you M), I think I would have thrown in the towel years ago.

I will say that it endlessly fascinates me when I look back and read some of the things
I’ve written on the train; the original thought process with my cross outs and all.
It’s the true ‘me’ that not too many people see.
Pamela and the girls have seen much of it and one other special friend
but my journals tend to get sequestered soon after they’re filled.

The journal I’m currently writing in has
Beginnings, mishaps & didgeridoos’, ‘Akubra’, ‘Communion’ and ‘Serenissima’.
The corrections and edits are actually quite funny in a way; silly things,
inconsequential explosions of neurons misfiring and my internal editor trying to patch it up.
It’s a literary ER of sorts going on in my mind 24/7.
Though I’m very proud of much of my work, there’s so very much more to do.
Tough pill to swallow when I look at the stacks of yellow legal pads & journals filled with my thoughts, blues and dreams.
I currently have 7-8 stories waiting to see the light of day.
It makes me sad because I just don’t have the time to devote to editing them and finishing them in the fashion they deserve.
When they’re ready, the will let me know.
I honestly think that what I’m trying to do here is keep myself sane as I think about those 2,592,000 seconds.
You know what my commute needs?
A 20 minute neck massage times 2; into the city and out.
Maybe a rub or three on the soles of the  feet on the way home.
Hey, a writer can dream, can’t he?

Beginnings, mishaps & didgeridoos

Ayers Rock

*I have no clue as to how many chapters are waiting to be written regarding this incredible time in my life.
As sure as the Akubra hat on my head, this will be far from the last.

I’m not entirely sure where to begin because my grey matter is still processing all that’s gone on these past few weeks. If I haven’t stopped by your blog it’s simply because the last month has consumed me both physically and emotionally leaving very little of me left to visit.
As most of you know already my family and I vacationed for a week with Maureen & Mark (M&M), Annie
and Evyl & Joyce down on Cape Cod.
The week after, M&M stayed at our home and rode the train into Boston with me most days.
I worked and they did everything from walking the Freedom Trail to taking a Trolley Tour all over the city. I was blessed on one night with a surprise game at Fenway Park. (saving that for a later post)
M&M also had their own personal city guide, my daughter Hannah,
who has found a new best friend in Morky (Moe, as well)

Akubra Hats, Australian products

Cut to Day 1:

The flight carrying M&M, Annie and a very special present for yours truly landed late the Saturday they arrived.
No worries, right?
Planes land late all the time.
Little did I know that this was the proverbial tip of the holiday iceberg of mishaps.
I expected a phone call from Maureen when she touched down in Boston and assumed it would be her when the phone rang.
The phone did ring and I was surprised to hear Annie’s voice. (cue the bah-da-dum-dum)
All I remember from the conversation was Annie saying,
“They lost the didj. Don’t worry they will find it and hand deliver it to the house on the Cape tonight.”
The ‘special’ present was a custom made Australian Didgeridoo just for me. (click the link for a description)
I had already known about it for months because Moe had sent me pictures.
This instrument was special; sacred, actually.
I realized that Annie had made the call because Mark was physically restraining Maureen
from committing her first murder on American soil.
This didj was unique as a constellation in the sky, a one and only; a present that M&M held so dear.
My heart broke knowing how upset they both were.
Thank God Annie was there as the voice of calm and reason.
It seems she quelled the impending riot and got everyone to the van that would bring them to my house.
We made it to the Cape and got settled and began our wait for the didj.
Saturday night, no didj.
Sunday night, still no didj.
Monday, no didj.
496 phone calls later (by Moe and Annie) told us to expect it Tuesday night around 5:30.
Guess what?
No didj.
More phone calls and a promise that said instrument would be delivered by 10:30PM.
Things were getting surreal now.
A firepit was lit, many drinks were poured, cigars were lit and we all sat around the fire playing ‘Celebrity Heads’  laughing and listening for the courier to pull up in front of the house with the long lost precious goods.
It was at 10:30 that a van finally pulled into the driveway.
Like children on Christmas morning, all of us ran out to the front yard of the house totally freaking out the driver. He could tell that we were all very happy to see him
(* a bit pissed as well).
I high fived the guy and took the didj into the house as Mark and I began opening the nuclear war-proofed package.
Mark took the black padded sleeve off, handed it to me and said, “Here’s your didj, mate.”
Holding this incredible instrument was not unlike holding a newborn baby.
I knew how much it meant to Maureen and Mark and the moment overwhelmed me.
I then did what all father’s do when they hold their newborn . . .
I cried.
Like a baby . . .
Still learning to play it and getting close to an actual didj sound.
Stay tuned.
Annie, thank you for your relentless pursuit and urgent phone calls to the courier.
And Maureen?
Thank you for not ripping the head off of an innocent American body. (she’ll be right, mate)
(below is a pic of the actual didj)

*slightly intoxicated . . .   :mrgreen:
** btw- this didj is a low F# drone (sweet spot/fundamental tone)

didgeridoo, Australian musical instruments, Aboriginal

Cape Cod (*may not be ready)

It’s always a daunting task starting a new journal; all that virgin white space,
the absence of anything resembling a word or thought, and the cackling cynic inside me all trying to sway me towards more menial things like cutting my lawn (which needs to be done, btw) or re-grouting the tile in the bathroom.
This soft leather-covered journal was made in Italy and given to me by my daughter Jenna.
It’s really gorgeous.
I began to wonder what will be written on these pages by the years end.
In 7.23 days, me, Pamela and the girls will be spending a week on Cape Cod with
Annie, Maureen, Mark & Evyl (and Joyce!)
The location will not be disclosed so please don’t ask.
We’re celebrating Christmas in July because my wife thought
December was a silly time for all the folks involved to visit.
This is going to be one of the most amazing weeks of my life while on this spinning blue ball in space.
There will be many things: laughter, tears, music, incredible food, stories, Rum Swizzle,
bourbon, Guinness and enough fine cigars to smoke out an army of stogie veterans.
Oh, and there will be stories.
I know I already wrote that but it needs to be repeated.
Honestly, where would we be without our stories?
If someone had told me 10 years ago that I’d be spending a week of my life with people I’d never met I’d say they really ‘lost the plot’.
All of us talk on the phone and Gmail chat on a fairly regular basis so no one is a complete stranger here.
I’ve known Annie since our writing days at WVU.
And Evyl has been a true bud since I first started this blogging thing back in 2005.
As far as Maureen and Mark, I’ve known them from some previous life, or so it seems.
I could go on and on about my personal expectations regarding this most special of holidays but I prefer to record some actual memories in this very special journal.
Stay tuned for some truly awesome posts starting around the 18th of July (our first day on the Cape)
We have some blogging hijinx planned as well, actually more of a blog hijacking, so to speak.
All will be revealed in time.
We’ve all waited well over a year for this moment.
What’s 7.20 more days?
And it now looks like my new journal isn’t so new anymore.
Stay tuned.
As far as the post title goes . . .  my dear Pamela is pretty damn sure *she may not be ready.
Just watch her ‘Twitter’
for more details!
Ready or not Cape Cod, here we come!

Saying no to snow

The above picture might as well be yours truly in about 12 hours.
Yeah, buried up to my chin.
We’ve got back to back Nor’easters and the forecast is calling for 12+ inches
of the crap before it wraps up.
They say we might even see thunder and lightning with this one.
Happy, happy, joy, joy.
When it comes to snow,  just say no.


Every night I walk through the pulsing heart of Chinatown
here in Boston on my way to the train.
I’ve witnessed a kaleidoscope of urban situations
from drug deals to being solicited by “China Blue” of the night.
There’s a muted sense of mystery lurking around every dark corner, dimly illuminated by paper-cut hanging lanterns and humming neon.
Occasionally, I get a whiff of pungent sesame oil in the air creating visions of steaming woks
and maniacal chefs in the process of creating some outlandish order of Dim Sum.
I pass by the Lucky 88 Supermarket on Essex Street and glance in, surprised to see a beehive of activity.
From the front window I see a fish tank filled with anything but what I consider to be a fish.
It’s a subculture that thrives amidst the sometimes chaotic city of Boston.
Chinatown is also a place where I would never want to find myself at 3AM.
Crimson lace dragons peer from the backlit and smoky windows of Villa Moon,
a quiet restaurant tucked away on one of Chinatown’s many dark side streets.
While there’s something oddly enticing about it, there’s also a sense of foreboding and no access,
a ‘you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave’ kind of mentality.
I know it’s all in my head but it’s what my eyes see.
As the fall days melt into winter dusk, the sun sets earlier and my journey to South Station grows just a bit stranger.
The shadows stretch and move, neon and fluorescent lights from the stores and restaurants give the ever so slight suggestion of a carnival at night.
Maybe that’s what this is.
It’s only when I take the time to actually ‘see’ this mysterious place that I come to grips with its all too stygian appeal.

Dim Sum, Fried Wontons.
Stir fry and Karaoke.
Boston’s Chinatown . . .

Older posts

© 2016 Smoke and Mirrors

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑