Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter Solstice in Steamboat Springs




We returned to Steamboat Springs five days ago just in time to experience the beauty of winter. Experiencing snow here is different. The lighting at this time of the year enhances the shadows and provides contrast of the whites and grays. Sometimes I find myself just sitting at the window, watching the patterns the snow has made on the pine trees.

Saturday Murray and I enjoyed a brief walk outdoors near our home. Despite the fact that the temperature was in the teens, we weren't cold. At one point I went to make a snow ball, but the snow was so powdery it just fell apart.

We suffered through a Steelers (Wrecklessberger) debacle on Sunday after which we worked out at the Health Club. For a grand finale, we went outdoors (17 degrees F) and into the Hot Springs (103 degrees). It is an amazing experience to soak in the hot sulfur water with lots of steam, surrounded by the snowy landscape.

Steamboat's economy depends on tourism and skiers enjoying the slopes. The city plows the roads efficiently and at least the locals know to drive slowly and respect the conditions. We live on a hill 900 feet above the valley. The road has lots of curves but is plowed regularly. And people celebrate snow falls because that means fresh powder! We are not skiers but our snowshoes are in our mud room and we have a trail right across the street that is calling us for a excursion before we fly off to celebrate the holiday with our family in Atlanta.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Life is just a bowl of Tai Chi

(It appears that in yesterday's post the text did not consistently appear with the picture. We haven't figured out why and are instead reposting the text that should have accompanied the picture.)

My mother-in-law, Janet Klineman, will be 88 in February. You wouldn't believe it to look at her, nor would you think that a lady of her young years could do so much. This diminutive four foot ten ball of fire paints, plays bridge and mah-jongg, drives everywhere, shops and takes care of her minimal health care needs. But above all, she is a Tai Ci devotee.

Starting three years ago, she took the beginning class of three months, three times. Now in her third session of the "continuing" class, she thinks she has progressed to her apex. Who knows?

She feels that continuing to perfect the 108 movements is a challenge in itself. Probably the most difficult part of Tai Chi for those her age (and much younger) is the movements requiring balance. But balance is one of the reasons Janet started on this journey. "Lift your leg like a dog finding its favorite hydrant!" What a mental picture.

Beyond the physical challenge, Janet loves the diversity of working in groups with people her daughter's, granddaughter's and great-granddaughter's ages. Besides age, the group varies size, sex and culture.

Her daughter, JoAnne wishes she will be able to remain as active as her mother when she achieves this age.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Celebrating the Avodah Dance Ensemble

In August 2004 I retired as founding artistic director of The Avodah Dance Ensemble.  It was a wonderful thirty years and I had pretty much reached a point where the dance muse was no longer a burning passion.  I knew it was time to move on.  Luckily at the same time a delightful and enthusiastic young woman expressed interest in Avodah and I was thrilled with the possibility that Avodah might have a future.  

This past Friday we had an Avodah board meeting where I participated via phone.  It was quite special for me to see that Avodah is  alive and growing in wonderful new directions under the guidance of Julie Gayer Kris.  For the first few years I was actively mentoring Julie.  I am still there for her when she wants it, but it is less often now.  It is exciting to see how Julie is developing her own voice and operation.  The Board composition is beginning to change to reflect the new perspective.  This year three new Board members became involved, bringing new ideas to the company.

 Avodah began as a modern dance company rooted in the Jewish tradition.  During the first fifteen years the program emphasis was in interpreting Biblical text and liturgy.  In 1989, Avodah created a piece called "Let My People Go" with Louis Johnson, outstanding Africian American choreographer, to explore the Exodus text from both a Jewish and African American point of view.  This piece successfully toured for over 10 years creating an new emphasis in Avodah and building bridges between communities.  Collaborations with Linda Kent introduced pieces presented at both Hebrew Union College and Union Theological Seminary.

In 2002 Avodah did a residency at York Correctional Institution, Connecticut's only  facility for women.  It was an amazing experience for those of us involved. The program has grown to where Avodah is active in three different prisons.  

At the Board meeting on Friday Julie discussed the different programs that are on-going or being developed.  It is clear Avodah is growing.  The prison program is taking on new dimensions having added a performance with inmates for their families.  A collaboration with a new Board member/rabbinic student is being developed looking at Jewish text and body image especially for bat mitzvah age girls. A collaboration with the Mark Lamb Dance Company is in the works.  In a discussion of our mission statement there was a clear consensus on keeping the idea of Avodah working with diverse communities and building community energy, an important part of Avodah programming.   

After I got off the phone, I felt a wonderful sense of fulfillment and gratitude to see something that I began in 1972 continuing to have an exciting future.  I am grateful to the many dancers and collaborators who over the years gave so much of themselves.  And I am especially thankful to Julie Gayer Kris, the current dancers, collaborators and Board members who continue to give Avodah new vitality!!

Check out Avodah's website at:  www.avodahdance.org.  Avodah welcomes bookings and volunteers.  If you are interested in being involved please email me and I will pass the information along to Julie.    

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Out for a drive with my granddaughter



My granddaughter Jessica will be 16 the end of December.  Living in Georgia, she was able to get a learner's permit at 15.  Last week when we gathered for Thanksgiving I had the thrill of being the licensed driver with her as she drove from our restaurant back to her other grandma's house.  She is a confident, responsible driver and it is quite wonderful to see her so grown up.  Time does indeed fly.  Both my husband and I remember a great picture of Jess when she was three with a cute purple hat pretending to drive our Dodge minivan. We still have that minivan and love to tease Jessica that we have kept the car just for her.  

Certainly feels like a "coming of age" for us grandparents as Jessica can now chauffeur us around.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Election Night


The election was three weeks ago-hard to believe the long wait is over. Finally I have time to write about my reactions. Right after the election I still had to wind up things as campaign manager for Ken Brenner. He along with two other local Dems were not successful in their races. While our county Routt did favor Obama and Udall (Democrat for Senate) by 62% the local candidates were not able to overcome the overabundance of Red in the surrounding counties. And then there was so much catch up to do in the house to prepare for this trip that writing on our blog has had to wait til now.

Both of us were busy the entire election day, volunteering. I was in the Obama office all day phoning to get out the vote, Murray was a poll watcher for over four hours. The snow managed to hold off in Steamboat until 7 pm exactly when the polls closed. We, along with Obama volunteers and supporters, headed to a local bar. It was packed. A mighty cheer went up as Pennsylvania was called for Obama. And the snow was really coming down. We stayed for just a short while longer and then headed back home.

When we got home, Ohio was called for Obama and it was clear that he would win! Somehow we needed to do something special so we found a bottle of champagne in the frig and as soon as Obama was announced we uncorked the bottle and enjoyed toasting our President Elect. And then the tears started. And in fact even writing brings the tears again. I had not anticipated that I would find myself so emotional but indeed it was. And then as I saw Jesse Jackson with tears streaming down his cheek as Obama spoke at Grant Park I realized that we had indeed arrived at an amazing moment in our country's history.

The tears continued on and off for the next few days. It was comforting to read an article in the New York Times about how many people were emotionally impacted by the election. I found myself reflecting on my work as choreographer on multicultural projects particularly between the Black and Jewish communities. One performance particularly stood out. It took place in Chicago at the synagogue across the street from Obama's house. Avodah Dance Ensemble's performance of Let My People Go was shared with a gospel choir. The synagogue was packed. After the performance the entire audience stood and sang "We Shall Overcome". This happened back in 1990. At Grant Park on Election Night, someone had a sign that said "We Have Overcome." That said it all.

Hiking in Zion National Park


At last with the election over and the house reorganized, we are back to traveling. We are completing four days at Zion National Park and have taken three wonderful and easy hikes that we want to share.

To find our legs , we strolled along the River Walk. At the end of the Zion Canyon Road, it is accessed either by taking the shuttle or if you are there off season, you can drive to it. Parking spaces were easy to find even on a beautiful Saturday in November. This is more a walk than a hike, easy for kids and people of all ages. It runs along the very beautiful, clear Virgin River. It is also the access walk for those who plan to hike in the river. We saw one couple with their boots and sticks take off to slot the slot canyon. The hike is a favorite, cameras clicking, a very pleasant experience.

On day 2 we challenged ourselves with a hike to Watchman's Tower. Taking off from the Visitor's Center, the path is steep A section of switchbacks gives this hike the moderate rating from the park service. While I occasionally had to rest it was not overwhelming. We particularly liked the section where there were birds chirping close to a small stream of water. The end is a easy gentle up hill with an outstanding view that makes the whole experience quite enjoyable. We did not see too many people on the trail. When we arrived at the top we meet a delightful woman from Park City Utah who, when she saw Murray's Obama hat, struck up a conversation. Hearing that we had volunteered for the Obama campaign, she thanked us. After she left and we were still enjoying the view and some snacks a dad with two kids arrived. He too had comments seeing Murray's hat referring to our current president as Dummie and looking forward to Obama's inauguration. He had lots of comments about the economy and the real estate crisis. We continued the hike making the circle at the top... but found it not particularly rewarding as compared to the view upon arriving.

Day 3 we did a circle hike making the easy trip to the Lower Emerald Pool without any need to rest. After taking some pictures we continued on a trail to the Grotto picnic area. On the trail there are some great views of the river and valley. We then found the trail linking the Grotto to the Lodge and in just 12 minutes were back to the Lodge (where we had parked the car). We then treated ourselves to lunch in the outdoor dining deck of Zion Park Lodge... the only facility inside the park. Every table was taken. While the service was a bit slow, it was a wonderful way to end our hike!

All three hikes were wonderful for us since we had not hiked all summer and there were three great hikes that were not strenuous and yet quite rewarding.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

New Art Work



Wow... now that I have a job my painting time is becoming more and more precious.  Yesterday I finished a picture that I have been working on for the past five weeks.  It is done in Genesis Heat Set Oil which enables me to work on it for a short period of time each day.  I call this work "And we came upon them deep in the forest."  It was fun to work on this different size canvas of 12" by 30".

I am also pleased to share a recent picture of my Mom, Janet Klineman.  Her medium of choice is water color.  I really love this pet portrait.  The personality of the dog is jumping off the page!


I look forward to sharing one of my sister's new work in the near future.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Upcoming Members' Show of Steamboat Springs Art Council

"Morning Dew"

I am pleased to share that one pastel and one oil have been accepted into the Steamboat Springs Arts Council's member show which opens on June 6th.

One of them is a pastel called "Morning Dew" which I created last winter while in Spain.  It was based on a photo that Murray took one morning when we were saying at La Serrania in Mallorca. Of course what fascinated me the most was the dew on this flower.  I have occasionally been asked what kind of flower it is.. and I don't know.  This painting was also accepted in last fall's Colorado Pastel Society Show in Aspen.  It is 17" by 12".

The second painting accepted was done in Genesis Heat Set Oil and I call "Canyon Rose."  It is based on a picture that Murray took of a rose at Havasupai Canyon at the Lodge we stayed at in Havasupai Village last November.  It is 30" by 30" on a gallery wrapped canvas.  What fascinated me was how the yellow shadows in the rose took on the lush rust color of the canyon.

"Canyon Rose"

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Job - Campaign Manager for Ken Brenner

Yes.. that's right, I am now back to work.  Just four days after returning from Pittsburgh, I ran into an acquaintance who is running for Colorado state senate.  When I was sharing with him my enthusiasm for my experience in Pittsburgh working on the Obama campaign, he asked me if I wanted to be his campaign manager.

We met the following morning to seriously talk about it and I agreed.  I would never had thought that all my experiences with the dance company would actually prove to be a good background for being a campaign manager but it has.  

My time is spent between phoning, fundraising, event planning, data base design and management, and supervising volunteers.  And I am thoroughly enjoying it.  I love the diversity of the job and it feels good to be so busy.   Ken is running for the Colorado State Senate District 8 which is the North West area of Colorado.  It is an interesting and beautiful area including Glennwood Springs, extending South to Basalt which is close to Aspen.  Vail, Edwards, Minature and Red Cliffs are also part of it.  Then it goes up to the Wyoming Border and over to Utah including Steamboat Springs and Craig.  Already I'm learning lots about the area and attending all kinds of events.

Ken's area of expertise is water issues and he has been working actively in this area for years, particularly during the seven years he was on the Steamboat Springs City Council.

For me, I was quite surprised that I was so enthusiastic to join the work force again.  But the truth is that the timing was right for me and I like the fact that the job has an end point... November's election. 

It is important to balance my time by painting so I am managing to get in an hour or so most days.  I look forward to posting my new art works, but at a slower pace and I'll also be sharing some of my campaign experiences.  In the meanwhile I encourage you to check out Ken's website and his blog.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Immaculate Reception Statue at Pittsburgh Airport



On entering Pittsburgh's Airport,
I was amazed to see a life-size replica of Franco Harris scooping up the ball before it hit the ground. Not losing a step, he ran with that ball into the end-zone to cap off a 13-7 victory over the Oakland Raiders for the Steelers that had won its first Division Title in its forty year history just weeks before. For those of you who have not seen the statue, I have attached the picture. The entire play is presented here. video

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Working on the Pennsylvania Primary for Obama in Pittsburgh

Murray and I decided to put our feet where our mouth is and so we have flown to Pittsburgh to work on the Obama campaign. While we both grew up in Pittsburgh we have not lived there for over forty years. And other than working for Kerry and some local candidates in the 2004 election in Steamboat Springs this is the first time we have been committed and excited about working for a candidate.

We first became interested in Obama when we listened to CD's 0f him reading "Dreams from My Father" as we were driving cross country in December. Moved by the story of his life, we eagerly followed the first primaries and began checking out his website on a regular basis. The grassroots energy, reflected in the website, hearing him speak and debate we continued following his progress during our month in Panama. We were thrilled to see that our community caucus in Colorado went overwhelmingly for Obama. Knowing how important the Pennsylvania's primary is, we decided to return to Pittsburgh and help out.

Our trip quickly fell into place. A call with the Obama headquarters office in Pittsburgh was welcoming, a cousin of Murray's had an extra room and bath that we could use, and we were able to use frequent flyer miles for our flights.

We arrived on Saturday, April 5th, and after checking in with our cousins we headed to the Obama office. The energy in the office is great. We were the 118th and 119th out-of-staters to register and meet with the out-of-town coordinator. Now five days later we feel a real part of the team. We have canvased door to door, phoned, entered data and attended events. At first phoning and canvasing felt awkward, but no longer. We are learning how to handle the difficult questions and to not take it personally when someone is rude.

Best of all, the energy in the office is a great example of team work reinforcing the message in Obama's speeches.

On a different note, for three days we were dog sitting. Now Murray and I have never had a dog but Tucker (that's really his name) this cute Yorkshire Terrier has won our heart. We have even taken him canvasing!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Yampa Valley Recycles "Green Bags"


Back in Steamboat Springs we found  lots of snow on the ground with piles sometimes taller than either one of us.  We have enjoyed some sunny 50 degree days and beautiful walks along the Yampa River. 

A highlight for us is to see people shopping with the Yampa Valley Recycles "Green Bags". Back in December before we left on our winter journey JoAnne created a simple design for Yampa Valley Recyckes which they decided to use on one side of the bag.  This is the first time she had ever tried her hand at creating a graphic for use on an item such as a bag or T-Shirt.  When she was director of the Avodah Dance Ensemble she edited a photo for use on a T-Shirt but never before had she simply created something from scrath.  

Yampa Valley Recycles ordered 5,000 and they have nearly sold out.  The few left can be found at the health food stores in town at $1.00.  The design was a donation.   The goal is to get as many people as possible to use fabric bags when they go shopping to help the environment.  JoAnne is delighted to be a part of this project.   

In doing this project JoAnne learned about copyrighting a design, photographing an image done in pastels for printing purposes, and letting someone else determine the final look of the product.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Panama Canal Transit

video

Movie of Container Vessel Moving through Miraflores Lock on the Canal

Panama City and the Canal


The old city has a New Orleans flair. Here renewed and to-be renewed, side by side

Our day in Panama City

In contrast to the rural nature of Boquete with its hills, winds and moderate temperatures, Panama City is urban, hot and humid. The city is very commercial. The largest bank is the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC). Its mere presence beginning with the acquisition of Grupo Banistmo in 2006 signaled the coming of age of Panama and its capital. Once dirty barrios have been replaced with high-rise apartments and office buildings. Panama City has become an expensive place to live and like all urban renewal has driven many of its residents to desperate measures.

Flying into Gelabert (also known as Albrook), the local airport located on the former American base, one may be lucky to see the ships lined for transit through the Canal. The cab ride to the hotel was a short distance, but the traffic was such that Los Angeles would have envied. For the two of us the ride was $5 (the tourist center at the airport said that it should be $3.25, but considering the traffic, we did not quibble). Manuel, the driver, spoke some English, and offered to pick us up at the hotel for the trip to Tocumen Airport when we were scheduled to leave, two days later.

Our decision to stay at the Panama Marriott was the result of having a free night certificate and enough points for a second night. The hotel is all American, except for the casino located in a connected building.

The shower was especially welcomed since mid afternoon was hot and humid. We did our email and other Internet things at a nearby Internet only shop, there are several. Before returning we passed a 24-hour restaurant, CafĂ© Azul, and decided to partake in the local fare. The food was moderately good, but the price was extremely right, especially when compared to the hotel’s menu.

For our second day in Panama City, we wanted to do something we normally avoid, a City Tour. JoAnne had located a relatively new tour operation and had had email correspondence with the owner when we were in Boquete.

The owner of Panama Tourism & Travel, Marina Ehrman, met us in the lobby of the hotel at 9:30. The guide, Adolfo drove up a few moments later, and we were off. Our first stop was the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal. The operation of the canal is handled by experts and is among the highest paid work on the Isthmus.

See Movie of ship moving through locks

Ships from the south (Pacific side) were moving into the locks where the water level in the first lock was raised 27 feet. They then moved into a second lock for another 27-foot increase. From there, they went into the Miraflores Lake on their way to the northern locks. The feat of moving a cargo vessel that has about one foot of clearance through the locks is worth seeing. The ship is under its own power, commanded by a Pilot supplied by the Canal Authority.

After witnessing the transit of one container vessel, we moved into the four-story display of the building of the Canal to a five screen view of what the pilot of a container ship sees as the vessel moves through the locks. Since movement is something like watching water boiling, it is sped up ten fold.

After the Canal we toured the residential area near the Canal and proceeded to three islands that are connected by a causeway. The last island has a shopping area, hotels and highly rated restaurants. Along the Causeway were many views of the Ciudad Panama.

Lunch was included in the tour. We journeyed back to town and were seated at a table. We were told that our lunch was limited to one of three pasta choices (the cheapest on the menu). The meal was pretty bad. At the start, I was told that if I wanted a beer, I had to pay extra. No problem. Coca Cola came with the meal. Murray ordered a beer knowing he had to pay extra. When his bill arrived, he was informed that Coca Cola Light (that JoAnne ordered), was extra. Both of us found this extra charge to be "cheap" and the lunch not to be up to the standard of the rest of the tour.

Our tour continued to the Ancient City of Panama, the archeological area that was first settled by the Spanish. It was destroyed by the pirate, Henry Morgan, who thought that Panama City was rich with gold. The only gold treasure was the altar, removed by the citizens, hidden, and then carried to the new city and placed in the San Jose Church. (picture). A museum provides both relics from the ancient city, a model of it, and various boards that detail the city’s history.

We wandered about the ruins, culminating in a climb to the top of the watch-tower that provides a panoramic view of the area out to the Pacific. The last stop was the old town, the area of the city to which the population moved when the ancient city was destroyed. This rundown area is being renewed. It has a certain charm, much of which reminds one of New Orleans.

We returned to the hotel at 6PM, a full day seeing the city and learning about much of its fabled history. Giving in to fatigue, we decided to have a small dinner in the hotel. The food and service were excellent as was our stay. The next morning Manuel met us at the appointed time and whisked us to the international airport in plenty of time to catch our return flight.

  

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Boquete Restaurants

JoAnne and Ricco in front of his restaurant, the best based on food, service and price

There still are abundant restaurants that can be dubbed "local" in Boquete, although their numbers are diminishing. However, we decided to dine at the restaurants frequented by ex-pats and visitors. We had agreed to have one large meal a day, so we embarked on having at least one meal at almost every "upscale" restaurant in the center of the town.

At the center is Boquete Bistro. It is owned by an ex-pat from Aspen, CO who took over a former gathering place for locals. Lauretta Bonfiglio has decorated her place with her own abstract oil paintings that are pleasing to the eye.

Since Murray is alergic to shrimp, he had to stick with meat or poultry. He concentrated on the filet mignon. The dish is served with one of several sauces. His favorite was the carmelized onions with a mushroom sauce taking second place.

While the steak is advertized as tender, it was stringy and hard to cut. It was difficult explaining to the waiter how he wanted the steak cooked - he likes it medium-rare. The waiter took this to mean 'medio' which is one step removed from 'moo.' His second go round, the steer was even in more pain and the beef was returned for more cooking. When the platter returned, it was obvious that the meat had been nuked - not a pleasant thing to do to a steak.

On the third try, a friend suggested that Murray tell the waiter 'tres quartros.' This suggestion proved correct as the meat was just a warm pink and sliced appropriately.

Service, was appropriate. Bistro does have one beer that none of the others has - Panamanian brewed "Warsteiner."

There are two restaurants offering 'Peruvian' fair. The first, Delicias del Peru, has an excellent outdoor section overlooking a hillside and a garden. The service was slow - we had to find a waiter. The food was heavily salted. Because salt affects Murray's blood pressure and poor service adds to it, we did not return.

The second, Machu Picchu is excellent. The setting is formal-cloth table cloths and linen napkins. Murray's first dish - repeated on the second trip - was a steak cordon-bleu. Joanne fell in love with the cordon-bleu. To compare with Bistro, Murray had the filet mignon with mushroom gravy. Both meat dishes were prepared just right and served elegantly.

On our first and second stop we ordered slices of lemon pie. The taste reminded both of us of excellent key lime pie. On our third outing, the pie was bland and the crust partially burned. We did not try a fourth time, but friends of ours did and offered a taste - it was again bland
with a burnt crust.

On each of our first four forays, service was excellent. On the fifth we had to ask for bread, and when it came it was well below the quality of the first four times. Service was slow or non existant on the last time. Apparently we had a trainee who was concerned with serving the single male at the table behind us who arrived after us and was served before us.

We took one meal at Roxanne's. The food was good, but we sat (our fault) at a table next to a window where the sun created an uncomfortable climate, and we could not open the window that overlooked a creek because between the window and a screen were six flies.

Across from Roxanne's is a Mexican restaurant. JoAnne was "OK" with her vegetarian buritos. Murray found his cimichanga the best he had ever had.

The best of the restaurants is new and run by an ex-pat from Key West. "Papa Ricco" has consistently excellent Italian food. His lasagna is mouth watering as was a mahi-mahi and chicken parmigana. JoAnne loved the spaghetti with meat balls and our neighbors took home a large Sicilian style pizza that the family enjoyed.

But, frankly, no one makes a breaded eggplant rolatini like Ricco. Service is excellent as is the running commentary by the owner, a refugee from Brooklyn. The only desert, ocassionally available, is caneloni- well made, but we've had better. Also Hobson's choice of Atlas Beer (probably the worst of the Panamanian beers) was finally improved upon on our last visit.

All meals were reasonable by American Standards ranging from $6 pp at Ricco's to $12.50 for the steak at Bistro.

Comparative Rating
Bistro Boquete *
Delicias del Peru *
Machu Picchu ***
Papa Ricco's ***

Preliminary Rating
Roxanne's **
Mexican ***

Friday, February 29, 2008

Paradise Gardens

Baby Howler Monkey climbs on Murray's back

Paradise Gardens is the third and newest Boquete garden that we have visited. Not really a garden, it is a wild animal rescue and rehabilation center. Started just two years ago by a retired couple from England, their intent was to house their rare bird collection but it quickly grew as a place where locals brought hurt or abandoned animals.

Murray and I were met at the entrance by a volunteer guide who leisurely walked us around giving the history of the garden and introducing us to the various animals and birds. A butterfly house, beautifully landscaped is a bit short on butterflies right now as mice seem to be eating them.

Our guide shared that there is always something new that she discovers when she comes. Maybe it is a newly arrived animal or the absence of one that has been released back into the forest.

The highlight were two young monkeys that delighted visitors with playful interactions.

Following our tour we spent some time chatting with the owner, Jeannie. A ten month old howler monkey, named Macy, was nestled under her T - shirt with just her head showing. Shortly after Murray sat down, Macy decided to go over to him and explore his camera and his watch. Feeling right at home the young monkey nestled into Murray's lap resting her head on Murray's arm and gently playing with his watch. I took pictures which we will post later of the relaxed pair.

The garden is so new that it isn't mentioned yet in guide books. We highly recommend it. The suggested donation is $5 but it is voluntary and there is no pressure to contribute.

Paradise Gardens is a short drive south from the center of town, turning right onto the road to Volcanito. A taxi ride is 75 cents per person and we had no problem hailing a taxi after our visit to return to town. In typical Panamian style, we shared the taxi with locals.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Finding a Jewel


Our Canadian friends, Connie and Chris, had to return their rental car by noon on Monday. Chris had seen something on a by road uphill from where we stay... Exploradora ... or something like that. Chris couldn´t remember the exact name. Connie found a short note in her travel book about it, and since it was on our (admittedly long) way to town we agreed that it might be worth a stop.

No matter which way you come from, the road is bumpy and care must be exercised not to hit rocks when driving a sedan. This passage - a shortcut through Jaramillo Central that avoids going the full circuit through Jaramillo Alto on a paved road that can take 30 minutes. It is winding with each lane only ten feet wide and no room for error.

We came to a refreshment stand in what might be termed the middle of nowhere. The sign read ¨Exploradora.¨ The stand was closed and we thought the park might also be closed. Connie spotted a unique switch, a picture with an electric light switch as its nose. She switched it on. There was no announce box, but when she did it a second time one could hear in the distance a faint buzzer.

A woman walkng the road smiled and said the owner would open it at ten. A few minutes later promptly at ten an elderly woman came dow the steep driveway and invited us to begin what turned out to be a fascnating trek through her 5-acre garden, highlighted by recylced everything.

What a jewel. The owner, a 75 year old native of Panama, spoke only Spanish. Since she spoke the idiom slowly, we could understand or get the sense of what she was saying. In addition to the tour, we were receiving a practicum in Spanish and an introduction to her philosophy of life.

Native plants of all kinds stretch aong the ¨Ruta.¨ The full tour took two hours - up and down, over a walking bridge and ultimately a bonsai garden. A discarded computer, its screen removed is labeled ¨computadora vitual.¨ Later we come across a similarly recyled television set that is set up against some plants. We label it ¨real reality TV.

Her family´s used shoes and boots and purses form pots for plants. Stones have painted faces. But more important are the sign posts - all in Spanish -- most easy to understand, a few that she explains, a couple that are not comprehended.

During the entire circuit we are transfixed by the nuances and talking almost entirely in Spanish. Each of us hugs our hostess for showing us a delightful adventure.

Cost is $2 per person.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Finding the Quetzal

There are two quetzals in the picture. Can you find them? (Hint at end)


Quetzal is the currency of Guatemala, it is the favorite pursuit of birders in Costa Rica´s Monteverde Bosque and scavenger adventure in adjacent Panama´s Chiriqui Province.

Outside of the town of Boquete where we are staying for a month we heard rumors that the famed amazingly colored bird had begun its seasonal nesting. From our experience in the Monteverde Rain Forest we knew that the guides knew where to look, and that we didn´t have a glue.

By some fortune, we encountered an English speaking guide escorting two ladies through the well manicured and excellent ´eye candy´available at the standout attraction ¨Mi jardin es su jardin¨that lies just outside the center of Boquete on the road to Bajo Mono and Alto Quiel.

Eduardo Serrano Quiel (phone 507-6601-6479) speaks acceptable (not perfect) English and has a wealth of knowledge of the Boquete vicinity. After a short discussion in which he suggested a hike - one of a package he offers - we decided to hire him.

On Thursday we met Eduardo at a local spot at 9 bringing along our neighbors, Chris and Connie Smith, a Canadian couple from near Toronto. After explaining what we would do for the next three to four hours, we bought water and climbed into the Smith´s rented car, heading for the start of the trail.

The trail begins on a jeep road at a fork where a sign indicates park land. We had to cross private property owned by Eduardo´s uncle, but which anyone can traverse.

The area starts off relatively open. After about 15 minutes on the road the vegetation produces more and more of a canopy. Pipes conveying high mountain water to Boquete run along the roadway.

We cross three bridges over what is now fairly easily forded streams. Eduardo explains that streams become rivers for a large part of the year as rain is a constant feature for 9 - 10 months of the year.

The road ends at a path that leads to the farm of Mario - an elderly gentleman, quite fit, whom we met carrying a machete.

Aside from the birds that we more hear than see, there is an abundance of flora. Eduardo explains that many of the plants are used medicinally. There are many varieties of bromeliades hanging on branches and tree trunks - some of them flowering. One or two orchids appear on the same branches with spray of flowers.

We walk. We keep asking ¨Where are the Quetzals?¨

Eduardo responds, ¨Sometimes we see them, sometimes we don´t.¨ We get the idea, they´re here, but they are elusive.

About two hours into the hike, Eduardo motions for us to stop and be quiet. He´s spotted a tall dead tree with no branches and plenty of holes. ¨That´s where a quetzal nested last year.¨ Then he puts his finger to his mouth again looks up and advises us to do the same.

First two, then three, then four of the birds are seen darting among the tops of the trees - their long tails a sure sign of their species, the loud almost laughing sound they make a distinctive indicator that we have been successful. But most important is to see this magnificant bird sitting astride a branch and getting a photo. Eduardo took our camera and swiftly obtained photos that will be posted here at a later date. The most valuable one shows a male at one part of the tree and a female at another.

While our mission was accomplished, we continued to hike until all of us felt we had enough. We reached a small waterfall and were able to sit for a few moments and enjoy the site.

Eduardo had an additional mission. A friend of his knowing where he was going asked him to pick a bag full of watercress. For ten minutes Eduardo set about on his mission. Chris and Connie continued exploration and JoAnne and Murray decided that sitting was the preferred mode of the hour.

Returning to the city we stopped for a brief moment to witness the town´s claim to a petroglyph. There were indications of ancient drawings, but the entire stone was covered with moss and lichens. In town we bid adieu to Eduardo and headed for a grand meal at one of two restaurants offering Peruvian cooking.

Hint: One is at top left and the other is at bottom, right

Monday, February 11, 2008

Boquete touring

Taking local buses is both an inexpensive and interesting way to explore the environs. There are three buses that make circuits from town and return. The round trip for each is $2. You can leave the bus at any point and, knowing its schedule, can get back on. Each segment is $1.

On Friday we took the Alto Quitel or Mono bus. The leg room is not conducive for a big man and the bus, while not packed,was full. We did not get off but made the complete circuit. Passing waterfalls and trails we climbed to the heights overlooking Boquete from the west. We passed the Quetzal trail entrance and the entrance to a coffee plantation.

The locals load up their intown purchases and those picked up on the way load in their things like produce, etc.

On Sunday we road the bus to Jaramillo Alto. This bus was jammed when we got on and the driver made two children give us their seat by the door. The driver then made a circuit around the town center and picked up MORE people. By the time we started up the hill, we were loaded with familes, their purchases including a propane tank.

Going up the hill, we added still more, a trio of hikers. Sardines have more space.

As the bus continued its loop, it began to empty and space for knees became available. As Murray was in the front seat and had to get up for all who wanted to exit, he became the unofficial conductor, opening the door and collecting the fare. What fun!!??

Alto Jaramillo is VERY high and we felt as if we were climbing into the clouds. Our stop was near the end of the loop, so we called for the stop and the driver stopped right before our driveway.

We highly recommend that if you are in Boquete to take these rural circuit buses. It gives one the opportunity to see the very beautiful countryside and to experience how the people live at a very inexpensive cost.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Boquete Panama Crime

Thieves are having a field day in Boquete Panama. Anyone traveling to Panama should be very careful and probably avoid the country until authorities get serious about enforcement.

After a delightful and peaceful week here we were robbed of our laptop computers while we were sleeping. A bit creepy to have been broken into at 2 AM through a narrow bathroom window and then had our two laptops and some money from our wallets taken. We immediately notified the owner of our house who lives on the property who called the police. The police did respond quickly to take a report but the word around is that it will amount to nothing.

So we are reading more and determined not to let this stop us from enjoying the rest of our time here. We do want to caution other tourists that this has become a major problem since Christman and that one needs to be extra careful.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Retirement Travel-Panama

In order to catch our flight to Panama leaving at 6am, we had to get up at 2:45am. We had scouted out a parking lot that was 24 hours and had a monthly rate. For an international flight, the airlines said we had to be at the airport 2 hours in advance. We arrived just before 4, checked in without incident and moved through security. It’s almost worthwhile to take such an early flight- no crowds and the planes leave on time. Announcements for the plane were only in Spanish- no English- quite surprising.

Landing on time three hours later we had to wait almost an hour for our luggage. Of the crowded plane, only two other couples and a single woman were waiting for luggage- the rest, presumably, was “in transit.” Panama is a hub, particularly for Cuban-Americans traveling to Cuba. Points in South America were additional destinations.

After retrieving our bags, we sought a taxi to transport us to the other side of Panama City to the Allbrook Bus Station. The information desk told us the fare would be $30. Having heard that the City was a ‘hole,’ we were pleasantly surprised by the building. Skyscrapers are replacing the barrios, so long neglected. Half of the trip was over a newly constructed toll road that cuts off at least 30 minutes. The renewal reminded us of Singapore and how that hole turned into vital economy.

The bus station is somewhat confusing. We wanted to find the next bus to the second largest city, David. We found a young woman in a line marked “David.” She said that the next bus from this operator was at 3PM. It was now only 11am. In another line, the bus was an express that ran at night.

The third line was long, two or even three busloads. The next bus at 11:30 was closed. The bus after that was scheduled for 12:30, but if we were at the end of this line, we would not have been able to take a bus until 3:30. Seven plus hours would have put us in David after ten with another hour to get to Bocquette and find our house.

A woman in line who spoke English spotted our concern and offered to buy tickets for us. No one behind objected to us cutting in line even though it meant that someone immediately behind us would be forced to take a later bus. We agree that Panamanians are both helpful and used to waiting.

Well, the 11:30 bus did not leave until noon and we figured our bus (that had not arrived and would not until 12:30) would also be delayed. Turned out that we got underway at one o’clock. The first part of the bus trip was the most interesting. We crossed a bridge over the Canal and saw the ships in the wide expanse that makes Panama City a port. The road parallels the Canal for a short distance, and at one spot we were adjacent to one of the many locks. The bus ride is long and, while comfortable, we decided that our return to the City would be with an airline that takes only one hour.

The woman who had helped us in Panama City, led us to the bus to Bocquette. It was just pulling out, but stopped to allow us to board. It was the last one for the night and was supposed to leave at 9, but was pulling out at 8:45. As we moved the sky seemed to open-up and millions of stars were visible in clear, crisp night sky, undiminished by urban light.

We arrived in Bocquette at 9:30. There was no phone at the station, so Murray ventured to the terminal office; “?Donde esta un telefon?”

“Huh?” replied the woman at the desk.

“Telefon?”

“”Afuera en medio de las puertas”

“Gracias,” I responded, noting that my Spanish needed some work.

We called the residence of our hosts, and Sunshine, who speaks acceptable English, said that Jerry, her husband would pick us up in front of the major Supermarket. Having fifteen minutes before he would arrive, we bought several items we felt essential for the next day.

Jerry found us in the market. While we were both exhausted having traveled for 18 hours, we were delighted with Jerry’s attitude. He spoke English with a Dutch accent, and, while not perfect, was completely understandable. In his Pontiac, we drove up a steep hill to an electronic gate. passing through the gate, we were inside a yet to be discovered treasure of foliage and fauna. Inside the house we rented, we were introduced to the workings of various appliances. The house has three bedrooms, although we only needed one. There is a large living room and an eat-in kitchen. Upstairs, awaits another bedroom. The stairs are more like a ladder. We decided that we would keep that room off-limits.

The most important feature of the evening- wi-fi silently beckoned. Having addressed our emails, we looked forward to a long nights rest.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Morse Museum and Visit to Orlando

In order to fly nonstop from Florida to Panama we had to go to Orlando. Everyone knows that this city as the home of Disney World and many other family attractions. On arriving, we spent two hours wandering the City Walk of Universal Studios. We both had visited the Western counterpart in LA several years ago, so had no desire to partake the amusements (a day would have cost us $150). The stroll around the lake, suggested by our son-in-law, David, was pleasant, and we decided to use a deli take-out in the park that we could later have for supper.

The next day we took a short trip to Winter Park. The approach to this town leaves something to be desired. The railroad runs through the center and some of the trains are quite large. There are no underpasses or overpasses.

Dead-ending into Rollins College is a strip that is perhaps a half-mile of shops, restaurants and galleries. We had lunch at a restaurant that just missed in taste appeal.

The owner of the very first gallery we entered suggested that we visit the Morse Museum that is at the very end of the strip. His sincerity was sufficient for us to ‘give it a go.’

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum houses the most extensive collection of the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, famed designer of Tiffany Glass, and son of the founder of the famed Jewelry store.

What a treat! L.C. was an artist first and a manufacturer of stained glass, second. Every piece had his indelible stamp, even those put together by craftsmen in his New York plant.

His most famous construct was a chapel of stained glass that he created for the Columbia Exposition in Chicago (the so-called ‘White City” because it was the first example of a city of Edison’s lights). The Morse Museum painstakingly recreated the chapel under the tutelage of Hugh F. McKean who, with his wife, Jeanette, were the driving force in the preservation of Tiffany’s work. www.morsemuseum.org/home.htm

If you are in the Orlando area, be sure to visit this gem. The cost of admission is only $3.

The next day we prepared for Murray's book signing of Screamer: The Forgotten Voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Barnes and Noble. It was fun talking to people as they entered the store and, most importantly, selling books.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

She Paints Sea Shells by the Sea Shore

Earlier this month I wrote about the beauty of Sarasota’s beach and the delight of “shelling.” Finding treasures on the beach fascinated me as a child and I can remember having great fun walking the beaches of Sarasota back in the 70’s shelling with our two daughters even learning the names of many of the shells!! On this trip the first shell picture I painted using pastels was inspired by a bucket of shells that my two grandson’s collected with their aunt along Crescent Beach in Sarasota. The shelling was OK but not nearly what I had remembered from the 70’s along Longboat Key’s Beach.
Wanting to explore some of the other beaches, we drove to the southern most shore on Siesta Key. Much to our surprise we found outstanding shelling on Turtle Beach. It seems that the Hurricane two years ago had wiped out most of the beach and that reclaiming the beach has resulted in shelling better than ever. Before the beach had been quite rocky. Now it is very sandy, and as we wandered we can upon piles of shells. Fishing was also good along the beach. We watched a flounder and a small domed shark being caught!
I found using the shells as subject a good exercise in painting shapes, color composition and shading. All my work was done with pastels working directly from actual shells, sometimes placed in a still life arrangement and other times the shell held in my hand and studied closely.
This pastel is called "Still Life Shells on a Plate"

This pastel I call "Beautifully Broken"
To see more of the paintings I did in Sarasota, please check out my website.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Art Runs in the Family

In a December Blog I shared the work of my Mom, Janet Klineman. In this blog I am pleased to share the work of my sister, Peggy Klineman. Working in her studio in New York City she creates dynamic abstract compositions. Featured here is "Winter 2008 - 59th Street Entrance to Central Park" completed this month. Oil on paper, it is 22” by 30.”

Peggy has an MFA degree in ceramics from Rochester Institute of Technology. Following graduation she taught and exhibited in the Rochester area until moving to New York City where she spent 25 years in the business world.

The need for self-expression became overwhelming. She began taking classes at Cooper Union and the Art Student League and for six years she polished her drawing skills and gaining proficiency in the use of oils. Now spending full time in her own studio she has created several vibrant abstract series. You can check them out by visiting her art space page.

I am enjoying being able to talk “art” with both my Mom and Sister! While we each have our own approach, medium, and style it is fun to share what we are doing and appreciate the work of each other.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Village of the Arts/Bradenton, Florida

We are now settled into a five-week stay in Sarasota having successfully escaped the Colorado winter storms and the cross-country drive. While we have spent time in Sarasota before, this was the first time we visited Village of the Arts in Bradenton. Our visit was for a book signing of “Screamer: The Forgotten Voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers” at The Village Book Store by Murray.

What a delight. The ArtWalk Guide, published quarterly, describes how the village began.

In the Summer of 1999, the Artists Guild of Manatee, Inc. was formed to establish the Village of the Arts in Bradenton. The dream was a community where artists of all disciplines could live, work and prosper. From just a handful of artists, there is now a community of studios and galleries, many of whom are open to the public during the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon ArtWalks.

What really impressed me as I explored the area and talked to some of the artists was the warmth and enthusiasm they conveyed. I loved the variety of different art forms and styles. There are also several fun places to have a bite to eat or a coffee, as well as the delightful independent bookstore that has a huge collection of books of local poets, and sponsors a writer’s group.

One of my favorite stops was to the Rose/Giles Studio. Herbie Rose was my Mom’s first art teacher and it was fun for my Mom to share with him how his classes had started her in watercolor, and how much she was enjoying painting. The gallery features his “vibrant watercolors” along with those of his wife, Graciela Giles.

The Village is adjacent to an industrial area and run down section of Bradenton. It is an effort to add new life to a depressed urban area. It reminded me of downtown Jersey City that we moved to in 1986. We watched the explosive renovations and gentrification that occurred over the eighteen years that we lived there. Village of the Arts also has this potential. The idea of being able to live, paint and exhibit in the same space certainly has its appeal.