The Newest Member of the Family

My Niece’s Little Son, Ollie

Meet Oliver Moorman, the youngest member of the family. For now, anyway, since his mother Hilary (my brother’s daughter) has another one on the way. Ollie is two years old, likes ice cream, swimming, playing outdoors (not always possible in Seattle, where he lives), and is a highly concentrated bundle of energy.

I enjoyed our little family reunion. The culminating moment was Sunday night, when my brother Dan prepared one of his famous Meatapaloozas: a selection of beautifully prepared meats with roasted vegetables. Although I fancy myself a good, cook, I cannot hold a candle to my brother when it comes to food preparation.

It was great to see Hilary and Joe again, and her half-sister Jennifer. Young Danny was unable to make it from Colorado, having just embarked on a new job. And it was great to see my brother Dan and sister-in-law Lori.

Hilary, Ollie, and Joe at the Hot Tub

With luck, I might see my brother next month in L.A. I promised to introduce him to Korean Barbecue, which is one of the culinary jewels of Los Angeles—along with Mexican, Armenian, and Iranian.

It was a delightful weekend. In addition, I got to visit some interesting museums, about which I willo write in the coming days.

 

Christmas in Palenque

The Town of Palenque, Chiapas, Near the Ruins

The year was 1979. My brother Dan and I were traveling in Southern Mexico, roughly following the route Graham Greene had taken in his book The Lawless Roads (1939), when he was doing research for his novel The Power and the Glory (1940).  It was Christmas, and we were in the little town of Palenque, just a few miles from the Mayan ruins of the same name.

Dan liked hanging out in the cafés along the zócalo, because that part of Chiapas was a major coffee-growing area, and Dan is a coffee aficionado the way I am a tea aficionado. You have to understand that Dan was wearing slip-on loafers. While we were munching away, we were approached at our table by a shoeshine boy. Dan slipped his shoe off and handed his foot to the boy, which foot was clad in bright red wool socks. The whole restaurant erupted in laughter, including the shoeshine boy.

Mexico has some wonderful Christmas customs, especially the posadas. Between December 16 and 24, children travel around singing carols. We always donated to them.

Christmas Posadas Singers

 

 

Redwood Camp Lodge

The Log Home My Brother Is Building in Idyllwild, CA

I may have mentioned once or twice that my brother is a home builder. He started building log homes in Minnesota, then moved on to the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, subsequently diversifying his efforts in Paso Robles. Now he lives in Palm Desert (near Palm Springs) and is working on a log home in the San Jacinto Mountains at Idyllwild. What distinguishes his log homes is that they do not employ any kind of mortar, or “chinking” as it is also called, between the logs. Instead, the logs are scribed by chainsaw to fit exactly one on top of another, as shown in the following photograph:

Logs Put Together Without Mortar

To see the realtor’s link to the project, click here. To learn more about Idyllwild, click the city’s tourist website. Dan originally planned to build the house for himself, but found it was more convenient to headquarter himself in Palm Desert.

Below is a picture of my brother Dan which I took in Ecuador. Here, he is examining religious sculptures from the former Cathedral of Cuenca:

My Brother Is the One Leaning to the Left

You could do far worse than live in one of Dan’s superbly built log homes.

Pre-Christmas Break

Dan at the Parque del Condors in Otavalo

Dan at the Parque del Condors in Otavalo

I will be taking several days off from blogging. The whole Paris family is gathering at Dan’s place in Palm Desert this weekend, and Martine and I will also be there.

When we get back, I’ll have some interesting Coachella Valley material to post beginning on Monday. While we’re there, we’ll also celebrate Christmas.

For Ecuador With Love and Squalor

Cañar Indian Woman in Alausi

Cañar Indian Woman in Alausi

Late last night, I returned from Ecuador to another Los Angeles heat wave. It was yet another wonderful South American trip, with a number of highs and one very big low.

That low had nothing to do with Ecuador, and everything to do what happened to our country last Tuesday. Watching the election returns on CNN from my hotel in Quito, I spent a sleepless night twisting and turning, only to wake up early to leave for the airport.

But then, the Trumpster is our own American nightmare; and Ecuador for the most part cheered me and even amazed me. Even on the way to Mariscal Sucré Airport, my taxi driver pointed out the snow-covered Mount Cotopaxi looming to the south in a moment of extreme clarity. (It is not usually visible from Quito.)

Ecuador is a country with a number of viable indigenous cultures. In Otavalo, Alausi, Cuenca, and even Quito, I saw a number of what we incorrectly call Indians. I took a number of candid pictures, such as the one above.

One special feature of this trip was that I spent the first two weeks with my brother, and the last week alone, as Dan had to return to Palm Desert to fulfill some construction obligations. It was fun sharing my vacation with him, and it was a very different experience for me. I am not used to sharing the decision-making process during my trips; but here it worked out. We may be very different people, but there is considerable overlap in the matter of preferences.

It’s good to be back, even if it is to a Frankenstein-Dracula America. We’ll just have to see what happens.

Viejo Cuba

Our Boutique Hotel in Quito

Our Boutique Hotel in Quito: El Viejo Cuba

For almost forever, I have been in charge of planning the vacations for Martine and myself. My brother Dan knew that, so I thought I’d let him have the upper hand. As we tend to think alike on most issues, that will be no problem.

We will be in Ecuador together for two weeks, then he will return to L.A. by himself because of business obligations. I will have an additional week in Southern Ecuador all alone. For those last seven days, I will do all my own planning as before. I think that’s a good compromise.

One thing that will be different is that Dan wants to rent a car and drive. That gives us a much broader choice of places to stay and allows us a lot of flexibility. I keep thinking of the three all-night bus rides I took in Argentina and Chile. Although I rather enjoyed them, I don’t think that Dan would quite so much.

That puts me in the role of navigator, which is a role I enjoy. Whenever, as a child, I went anywhere with our family, I was the one hunched over a map and dictating directions.

Our first stop in Ecuador will be the Hotel Viejo Cuba (illustrated above).  It’s a few blocks north of the popular Mariscal Sucré neighborhood, named after Bolivar’s favorite general.

This trip will be different, but I like the way it’s shaping up.

Back from the Desert

Me on the Randall Henderson Trail in Palm Desert

Me on the Randall Henderson Trail in Palm Desert

I had a great time in Palm Desert with my brother and sister-in-law. While Lori worked on Saturday, Dan and I hiked the Randall Henderson Trail off Highway 74 in Palm Desert. My brother took the picture with his cell phone.

Fortunately, my legs were in the picture. As my Dad always used to say, if you don’t include the legs in the picture, people will think that I have no legs. Well, now you know…. And my Dad, looking down on us from the heavens, will be gratified.

In my right hand, I am holding my own digital camera against the belt holster I use for carrying it.

After the hike, Dan took me to a great Mexican place on Date Palm Drive in Cathedral City. It had the best tacos el pastor that I have ever tasted. I loaded it down with pickled jalapeño chiles and a hot green salsa. The burning stopped only when I took a sip from a giant cup of horchata. If you are in the area and want to try it, look up El Tarasco at 34481 Date Palm Drive. It’s a bit of a dive, and you are not likely to run into any gringos there. Be sure to order the tacos al pastor.