American Horror Story: Red Tide Episode 1 “Cape Fear”

It’s a new season for American Horror Story! Our beloved campy horror anthology series returns with another twist; the double feature! Double features appeared during the Great Depression as a way to boost ticket sales. The premise is simple: rather than show a single film to an audience you show two. Two full length features. As this applies to AHS Season 10, we get two distinct parts. While it’s unclear whether or not there will be any overlap (traditional double features are completely separate films) between the parts, we do know that some of the same cast will be coming back to different roles in Part 2. So, let’s crack into Episode 1, “Cape Fear”!

The episode begins with desolate and lonely shots of sand dunes and the ocean. The lighting is cold and flat. We’re given that this is not a beach goers paradise or even a cozy haven to escape to during the off season. A dark SUV drives down an empty road and we are introduced to our main characters. A family. White and upper middle-class by the look of the car and the clothes. In fact, it might as well be a nuclear family stereotype. We have the dashing husband, the blonde (and pregnant) wife and young daughter. The family is escaping life in the city -presumably NYC or possibly Boston – to find a quiet place for the husband Harry Gardner (played by Finn Wittrock) to find inspiration. Harry is a screenwriter and is under pressure to turn out a script to end all scripts. Harry’s wife, Doris Gardner (played by the amazing Lily Rabe), while unsure of the move, is supportive and is hoping that the move will help her interior decorating business get off the ground. Their daughter, Alma, has a disturbing habit of counting the number of roadkill that the car passes.

We find out that the family is temporarily moving to Provincetown, MA and it’s the winter months. Like most New England beach towns, the winter is the off season and we are again shown empty streets and boarded up houses; their owners having flocked to warmer climates in the south. As the family moves into their P-town house, we are led to believe that this house, like Murder House, Hotel and to a degree, Roanoke, is its own character. Time will tell if that pans out. But what we do see very quickly is that not all of the residents are as normal as they appear. There’s a distinctive “haves” and “have nots”. Throughout the episode, ideas on success, addiction and sacrifice are explored. There’s also something with red lights which I am interested to see more of.

As you would expect from AHS, we have fantastic acting. Aside from Finn Wittrock and Lily Rabe portraying a convincing husband and wife who are struggling to find success and recognition, we have some stellar performances. Sarah Paulson as the addict Karen has a great intro. I also want to call out the fantastic makeup done on her. I didn’t even recognize her at first. Evan Peters as the hot playwright Austin Sommers who also happens to have a great signing voice. Frances Conroy delivers another subtle but powerful performance as Sarah Cunningham, a writer with a great pseudonym. We even get great, if brief appearances by fellow AHS veterans Leslie Grossman and Adina Porter.

Episode 1 delivers a solid performance and setup for Part 1 of season 10.

A Journey Through Joshua Tree National Park

Hi everyone! I hope you are all doing what you can to stay healthy and happy! In these times that’s all we can really hope for, ya know?! For me, getting outdoors and away from my usual grind helps me to recenter and wind down from the grind. And as luck would have it, I was able to really get away by going to Palm Springs with my partner. I’ve been blessed enough to make this my third visit to Palm Springs. I happen to love it there. The city has thus great mid-century modern vibe in both the architecture and the decor. The surrounding desert landscape is absolutely gorgeous. And the restaurants there are world class.

Well the other thing that Palm Springs has an abundance of is outdoor activities. Of course there’s golf – the place is the self-titled “Golf Capital of the World” – but there’s also ample hiking and camping which is much more my pace. As I was researching things to do while my partner was at work I quickly noticed that Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP) was located practically next door to Palm Springs. So I told myself that I would go and check it out. And all I can say is – wow!

This might look desolate but the topography and plant life weave a fantastic tapestry.

First off, the park is LARGE. It’s slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island which is fantastically crazy to think about. An entire park devoted to protecting natural beauty that’s larger than a state. Granted, Rhode Island is teeny compared to most of the states but it’s still impressive nonetheless. It also covers several thousand feet in elevation which is cool because it allows you to see the change in the ecosystems that have evolved there.

JTNP can be broadly broken down into three different areas. These areas are based on the different desert ecosystems that converge within the park’s boundaries. The parks south and east sides are lower, hotter and drier and is part of the Colorado Desert. The north and west portions of the park are higher in elevation, slightly cooler and wetter and are part of the Mojave Desert. The third area is the transition zone between the two deserts where a unique ecosystem that blends both deserts is located.

I entered JTNP from the south off of Interstate 10. The drive from Palm Springs took about 45 minutes. Signs to the park were easy and there is only one road that enters the park from the south: Cottonwood Springs Road. Note: There is no formal sign indicating that you’ve entered JTNP from the south. But you’ll know you’ve entered the park from signs along the road. There is a ranger station at Cottonwood Springs about three miles past the park border where you can get water and pay the entry fee. There’s also a great little museum at the ranger station and large billboards showing what’s open and providing you with helpful, but general information about the current status of the park.

If you make it to the southern area of the park then you should definitely the Cottonwood Spring Oasis which is about a 5 minute drive from the Cottonwood Springs ranger station. Like many of the oases in and around the park, this formed from geologic cracking in the Serbs surface. While the topography is not the most stunning, it is cool to see more green against the austere browns and tans of the desert. The oasis area also sports a small nature trail and more challenging hikes into the park’s wilderness areas.

The Cottonwood Springs Oasis provides a nice splash of vibrant green in the desert.

Continuing back through the heart of the park is easy as it’s the only road (the road name changes from Cottonwood Springs to Pinto Basin but since there are no road name signs it doesn’t matter!) to in the southern part of JTNP. The road slowly slopes down into various washes and lowlands of the Colorado Desert. This part of the park is vast and you appreciate just how large the park is. It’s even more humbling when you realize that you’re only in the middle of the park. In the summer and months, monsoonal moisture from the southwest can generate thunderstorms which can cause flash flooding. Seeing the scope of the washes and how the road can flood is humbling.

At the bottom of the basin the road begins to curve towards the west and approaches a steady rise towards the high desert – the Mojave. But, there are three things worth seeing and enjoying before you head up to the high country in the park.

  1. Make sure to take pictures and just admire Mt. Pinto. It’s pretty noticeable by its prominence. You can also hike to the top of the mountain but you need to be an experienced backpacker as the trail is not marked.
  2. Take pictures and get up close to the Ocotillo Tree. It’s a deciduous tree that loses its leaves several times a year and then blooms and regrows leaves when the rains come.
  3. Stop by the Chola Cactus Garden. These cacti are fantastic with great color and form. But unlike the Ocotillo, you do not want to get close to these guys!

Once you’ve had your fill of the lower Colorado Desert you can begin the journey up the rise to the Mojave Desert in the desert high country. You’ll know that you’ve reached the Mojave by the fact that the general area becomes greener and the temperature drops by a few degrees. This part of JTNP is less open and expansive being replaced by narrower valleys and more fantastic rock formations. The road splits at a T-junction a few miles after entering the Mojave Desert section of the park. If you have the time, go right first and you’ll find the road slowly sloping down and eventually leaving one of the park’s northern exits. Trust me, you’ll want to do that because there’s a hidden gem within JTNP that you can only access from outside the main visitor entrances: Indian Cove.

Mojave Desert portion of JTNP. A lot more flora and fauna variety.

Indian Cove is small, sheltered part of JTNP along the park’s north border. While it can be accessed via hiking trail from the Hidden Valley campsite within the park, the easiest way to get to it (especially in the hot summer months) is to drive out of JTNP and go along California State Highway 62 until you reach Indian Cove Rd. Be aware though: the signs for Indian Cove Rd are hard to spot on the highway and the road comes up fast. As you head up the road, you’ll be greeted by some absolutely fantastic rock formations rising up like a natural damn. The road meanders into this wonderland of stone to a variety of campgrounds.

Upon leaving Indian Cove, you can either continue out of the park or return through one of the two north entrances. I chose to retrace my steps so that I could cover ever mile of road within JTNP. Once you reach the T-junction from earlier, continue straight ahead and you’ll soon be surrounded by the park’s namesake, the Joshua Trees. Fun fact: Joshua Trees are not actually trees. They are actually a type of Yucca which is related to the asparagus! The more you know, right? The Joshua Tree provides fantastic and interesting shapes to photograph and like the plants in the low desert, bring a welcome splash of green life to the barren and rocky landscape.

Before long you’ll pass by the famous Skull Rock which does indeed look like a skull. You can luckily see it from the road which is what I did as it was literally crawling with people; I think like 10 or 12. All over the rock face. Being in a snarky mood I unfortunately didn’t even take a picture so you’ll have to use your imagination or just google search “Skull Rock – Joshua Tree”. As you continue west, the Joshua Trees become more dense and while there aren’t enough to call it a forest, it is impressive to see this line of green.

At another fork in the road you’ll have the option to turn right and drive up to Keys View. Definitely. Do. It. The road is somewhat narrower than the rest of the roads in the park but you get even more beautiful views of the Joshua Trees and you are treated to a truly spectacular sight once you reach the top of the road. The views from Keys View are spectacular. Splayed in front of you like your own private domain is Coachella Valley. On a clear day, you can easily see Mt San Jacinto towering over Palm Springs, the desert cities and to the far left the Salton Sea. I was lucky enough to see all of on the day I was there. Due to the vista point’s elevation, the temperature was a good 7 degrees cooler and a stiff breeze coming up from Coachella Valley helped make it feel like a nice respite from the hotter parts of the park.

As I descended back into the park I was greeted with another vista that you don’t see as you are driving up to Keys Point. Most people don’t take the time on the way down to stop and admire the view which is a shame. Perhaps they’re too overwhelmed with the views that they saw? Or perhaps folks are tired from a long day of beautiful landscapes and scenery? Regardless, I enjoyed the view while countless cars whizzed by on the road to my left.

View from the road going down from Keys Point; a great view to be sure!

Joshua Tree is a mesmerizing place and I cannot recommend it enough. I went in the height of the summer season and it was hot for sure. But it’s definitely doable from the comfort of an air conditioned car. I hope to get back out there when the weather cools off so that I can spend more time hiking and exploring.

Review: Picchetti Winery 2017 Vino di Vicino

Hello Everyone! It’s time to review another bottle of wine and like the last review, it’s from Picchetti. I’m a member of their wine club and have a backlog of wines from previous releases. So it’ll be Picchetti for a few more weeks. I’ve always had a soft spot for Picchetti for a couple of reasons. The first is that they were close to where I grew up in the SF Bay Area so it was easy to get to. The second is that they don’t sell their wines outside of the winery and their online store. This makes the wines fun to talk about and share with folks who are not local or knowledgable about small wineries.

Today’s wine is the 2017 Vino di Vicino. The first thing I wanted to know was what the term Vino di Vicino meant. The language is Italian and it translates to “wine of the neighborhood”. Some quick checking online reveals that the term is not commonly used. I found a couple of references to wine stores in the US and Italy that use the phrase in their name. But I found no other wine with the phrase on the label. This gives the wine a nice, casual feel while not casual in price!

My immediate impressions of the wine are positive and it is an improvement over the 2019 Cinsault in the last review. However, I will update this review after I have allowed the wine to settle for a few days and have been able to pair it.

Overall Rating: 11/15

Here are the specifics.

NameVino di Vicino
ProducerPicchetti Winery
Vintage 2017
VarietyRed blend composed mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon
OriginSanta Cruz Mountains
Price (single bottle, non-club)46.95 USD


BOTTLE: Once again, the bottle would get top marks if I included that in the score. Like all their other wines, this bottle has an elegant and understated appearance which I find sophisticated and attractive.

WINE: The wine is a deep red which makes sense given that it is primarily composed of Cabernet which is a pretty dark grape. Unlike the Cinsault from the last review, this wine appears more “mature” but I base that purely on the deepness of the color and on no other scientific observation. There were barely any wine legs that formed when the wine was angled against the glass.

Rating: 4/5


I was immediately reminded of spice and leather when fully inhaling the aroma and letting it linger. There was also a hint of black pepper and dried apricots when inhaled from a slight distance from the glass while swirling the wine. I enjoyed the aroma and when I did the full inhale I was immediately reminded of the smell of a leather shoe – before it was worn!

Rating: 4/5


You can definitely “taste” the spice. The notes of pepper from the aroma were accompanied by notes of fennel as well. The slightly sweet taste from the apricot was a pleasant experience particularly when swallowing the wine immediately and letting the after taste linger. Several additional sips helped to convey a fatty flavor as well though this was probably helped by the coating of the tannins in my mouth by that point.

Rating: 3/5

UPDATE! 2019 Cinsault by Picchetti

Hi there! Here is a quick update on the 2019 Picchetti Cinsault that I reviewed a couple of weeks ago. The wine mellowed considerably after letting it sit. I also pared the wine with a pork belly dinner which was absolutely superb. The flavor of the cherry in the wine complimented the pork belly nicely and gave an overall sweetness to the meal without overpowering. The wine on its own is still not my favorite to drink as is, but, when pared, it really shines.

Updated Review Score: 12/15

You can read my original review here!

The Importance of Permission

Hi Everyone! I hope you are all staying safe and healthy during these continued painful times. I am immensely thankful that I and my loved ones have managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic. While things might be looking up for the US and Europe, other parts of the world, like India, are continuing to suffer immensely from the COVID-19 pandemic. This thought weighs on me as I talk about my own journey below.

I have been fully vaccinated. My partner is in between his vaccinations. My family are all fully vaccinated. Typing these words and reading these words give me an immense sigh of relief and they do give me hope for the future. Regardless of how the rest of the world is faring, it’s hard to not feel optimistic at times with this news. I know that my family will be safe from this virus – and I know that I too will be as well. And now, things go back to normal, right? I can go outside without a mask on. I can dine both indoors and outdoors and not worry. I can hop on a plane and travel to Europe now. So we just carry on and look forward.

That would be the easy thing to do. That’s what I would normally do. I made it through a bad time and now it’s better. It didn’t leave a lasting impact on me. I could not be more wrong.

I was traumatized by what I went through since the pandemic started. I will never forget where I was when shelter-in-place was ordered for the Bay Area (getting gas in my car with the radio on). I will never forget the first time I went into the grocery store and saw all the masks, social distancing, cleaning and low supplies on the shelves. I’ll never forget seeing the freeways go from bumper-to-bumper traffic to empty. Or the silence outside my window as the planes that flew into San Jose Airport were grounded. But I will also never forget the endless hours I spent in my apartment, locked away from the world. Watching the world unravel through the pandemic and civil unrest plus an election and insurrection that I would just as soon forget if I could. I felt trapped. I felt suffocated. Terrified. Alone. Exhausted.

On top of all that, I still had a job to do. And while it was cathartic to work with amazing and kind people virtually, I had never felt more alone. I live with my partner and we have spent some amazing time together. But I felt like I was in a void. My pain and depression acting as a shell, preventing me from moving forward. And while I talked about it with my therapist, I was still preventing myself from really feeling it – and more importantly acknowledging it. But then, over time, things started to change. But the change wasn’t some new internet hack or way of thinking that magically manifested itself via Instagram. It was a slow evolution. I realized that I had given myself permission to not be ok and I had given myself permission to make myself better.

When I did this, it opened me up to a slow realization that I am worth it. My needs and wants are critical to my happiness. Dreams to be a writer or be a pilot were no longer something for me to scoff at. They are in my grasp. The permission for me to quit my job and put my career “on hold” while I recover and discover what comes next. These are all things that I don’t think I would have done if the pandemic hadn’t thrown a proverbial wrench into all of our lives. And through it, the trauma and the pain, I have a more authentic view of who I am and who I want to be.

Review of The Enigma Cube

I was up late one night randomly sifting through the Kindle Store on the lookout for my next read. After nearly 30 minutes of electronic rabbit holes I had given up finding something to read. I had seen adverts for The Enigma Cube on my Kindle’s off screen. I normally do not select ebooks based on the ads that Amazon sent me but this time I did it on a whim. What transpired as a fun and fast paced sci-fi action thriller.

Initially set in the near future, the reader is introduced to the main protagonists. They’re enjoyable enough if somewhat idealistic in both thoughts and prose. We deal with an enhanced soldier and a baseline human female and the two do have chemistry which makes for enjoyable reading. It also helps that there are a variety of witty responses and sarcastic comebacks thrown in with some sci-fi references that will make any true nerd in the 21st century happy. What struck me as interesting was the way that the author dealt with the two timelines within the novel. The initial timeline takes place in the USA in the mid 2020s. During this time, the American government has discovered the “Enigma Cube”. It’s actually not called this in the novel but it’s better than just saying “cube”. We discover that this cube has the power to control space and eventually, time. The Chinese, of course, know about this cube as well through some techno wizardry and of course want it.

Approximately midway through the novel the main characters are transported back to the world in the midst of WW2. Through scenes taking place in both Berlin and Canada we come to learn of how the “Enigma Cube” was discovered and how it almost fell into the hands of Nazi Germany. And this is where the timelines play a fun tug of war with the reader. While time travel is involved, there is a plot twist that was enjoyable enough to tie the two timelines together in a way that would have made for a satisfying closure without needing to explore the WW2 timeline in greater detail. But, we get that anyway which is great. There’s even a moral conundrum which makes one really think about whether or not changing the past would make the future better.

The book ends with some nice emotional prose about family and finding meaning and connection in life which helps to humanize the characters. All in all this was a fun book and one that I would recommend.

Blood Vessel: Nazis and Fairytales

Blood Vessel is an entertaining film filled with tension, Nazis and a lot of red lights.

Cool movie poster. And a decent enough movie.

Spoilers galore below!

The film starts out with a group of people stranded in a life raft. Their hospital boat was torpedoed by a Nazi ship (or maybe a submarine; I didn’t read the opening text on the screen). Suddenly, out of the mist, a Nazi minesweeper appears before them. The group is made up of three yanks, an Aussie, two Brits and a Russian. Cue up poor joke.

As the group approaches the boat, they notice that no one is on board. Through some gunslinging, the Russian is able to shoot a cable that the group uses to get on board. Naturally, one of their group doesn’t make it. The yank captain falls into the water and is sliced and diced by the propellers. A typical way to go in these films.

Upon boarding the deserted ship, the group begins to explore. They soon stumble upon several deformed and grotesque bodies on the boat’s bridge and engine room. It is almost certainly the crew though that is not explicitly stated. Realizing that something is definitely wrong, they decide to do the most logical thing they can: explore the ship some more. Although, to be fair, all the lifeboats on the ship have been sabotaged.

A few more minutes into their exploration they are startled by seeing a small girl crawl out from a dark niche down a hallway. Upon finding her again they confirm that she is not German (at this point she’s either Italian, Romanian, or Bulgarian according to the characters), they continue their exploration. Also, the girl, whose name is Mya, bites one of the Brits hands. And all Mya seems to say is something like “familia”.

As they get down to the next level, they run into a survivor – a German no less! After they convince the German that the group won’t kill him he begins to let his guard down. He then sees Mya and falls her “the beast” though not in an Alyssa Edwards sort of way. A scuffle ensues and the German guy shoots one of the other yanks before being stabbed by the Russian.

We’ve now lost 2 yanks at this point. Remaining: 1 yank, 2 Brits, an Aussie, the Russian, and the Italian/Bulgarian/Romanian girl.

Continuing with the exploration, the group splits up. One of the Brits decides to do his own thing, the remaining yank and Aussie do some more research and the remaining group are in the infirmary treating an injury from the earlier scuffle. Btw, the girl, Mya, looks at the blood in a hungry way. Probably foreshadowing. We also learn a little more about the Russian as backstory filler happens. Same with the Brit as well. We soon find out that the Nazis had a map of Transylvania, an ancient tome with a skull on the cover and several photos of men in front of an ornate looking coffin. I think we know what is about to happen in earnest.

The Aussie and the yank then find said coffin in the cargo hold. Of course, the yank decides to unchain the coffin and open it. Leading us to see what looks like a pretty hideous bat creature thing just laying in the coffin. Of course, the thing’s eyes open immediately and the creature (known as The Patriarch, thanks to the subtitles) rips out a good chunk of the yank’s neck. We’ve now lost all the Americans onboard. The Patriarch – or, let’s call him the Bat Dude – then attempts to attack the Aussie but he gets away. At the same time, we see Mya, back in the infirmary, go into a trance like state and attack the Brit lady. It seems that Mya and Bat Dude are connected since she attacked after Bat Dude woke up.

I’m fairly certain this is how I must look when I first wake up after a dead sleep…get it?

As Mya is about to turn the Brit lady into a midnight snack, the Russian shoots Mya who scurries away. We then switch to the other Brit who is on the radio trying to contact the outside world. In the background of the shots, we see Mya slowly crawling towards the Brit. As the Brit is yaking away with someone on the radio, Mya goes in for the kill. This is of course after the Brit decides to sell out his country to the Germans. We’ve now lost one of the Brits. We are down to The Russian, the Brit lady and the Aussie. Plus two undead creatures.

After watching a brief video, the remaining survivors realize what they are dealing with. Through the old tome mentioned earlier, the Russian figures out this creature comes from old Eastern European fairytales. We also learn that the only way to kill these fairytales is to use holy relics. And of course, there happens to be a box down in the cargo hold. Convenient as always. While this happening, Bat Dude finds another coffin and decides to wake up his long lost love. We now have three humans and three undead things. The odds are getting worse for the humans.

We find out that the Brit lady, who was bitten by Mya earlier in the movie, has been infected and is starting to change. Again, more foreshadowing. The group captures Mya in a small compartment. But Mya, having another trick up her sleeve, tries to confuse the group by being a small human child. But, unswayed, the humans burn Mya alive. Bat Dude, being engraved by Mya’s death, begins to exert his control over the Brit lady. She tries to fight it but she succumbs to Bat Dude’s whiles. It is then assumed that Brit lady dies when Bat Dude and Bat Dudette decide to dine on her neck.

We are now down to Aussie and Russian and Bat Dude & Dudette.

Russian gets bit by bat dude but is able to escape after shooting him with a flare gun. Aussie man gets tricked by Bat Dudette and almost looses his face. Russian then shoots Dudette with a machine gun and throws an axe to the Aussie who the proceeds to decapitate Bat Dudette. Now Bat Dude is really, really pissed off. The guys realize that they have to destroy the boat to prevent Bat Dude from escaping. This is further compounded by the fact that they hear another boat in the distance – presumably the Germans heard on the radio from earlier.

The film ends with the Aussie and Russian fighting more of the undead (who happened to be locked away in another compartment that they didn’t see until the end) as they attempt to reach the ship’s explosive armaments. The Russian stays behind to set off the explosives as he has been bitten and realizes that he is starting to transform. Russian blows up the ship and Aussie – who finds Brit lady at the last minute, both jump into the water as the ship is destroyed.

As Aussie and Brit lady are saved, she bites him. We slowly fade to black with the Aussie guy sinking to his death while Brit lady – now probably Bat Dudette 2 is the sole survivor.

The adjoins and action were pretty good. I’d give it a solid 3.5 out of 5.

Continuing to find mindfullness

Happy Sunday everyone! I hope you are all doing as well as you can be during these trying times. It’s hard to believe that we are in August already! This year is still marching ahead even while all of our lives still feel stuck in neutral. That’s just how life works, right? And not just “life” but the universe as well. Earth is rotating on its axis and is continuing its ever-wandering journey around the sun. The seasons are changing. The universe is not static. And our lives aren’t, either. Unless we choose to live that way. Dwelling on the past or worrying over the future are helpful in small doses; that’s how we learn and invest in ourselves. But, ideating on it, or worse, living in a “static” state is not healthy nor helpful…especially in this day and age.

By “static” state I am referring to the reality that we create in our minds. For the past, it could be a harkening to the “good old days” when things just seemed better or at least less complicated. For the future, it could be worrying about something that has yet to pass when you have no control over it. I frequently find myself here. I worry about things as silly as meetings and think about how they could derail or how someone may not show up who needs to be there. I can ideate on it so much that I get stuck in a loop where I spiral down into despair because I think of negative outcomes which then feed negative thoughts which lead to even more negative outcomes. The worst times are when that feedback loop begins to turn onto myself and I start using the negative thoughts as a reflection of myself as a person. That’s tough. And it’s very toxic. All you can do is live in the moment and learn from it.

When I am able to apply this, it helps immensely because “this too shall pass”. And I think that is part of what living in the moment really means. Knowing that both the good – and the bad – are fleeting. Life and the universe march on. And luckily, for most of us, it continues to march onwards and upwards. This is what gives me hope for today.


2020. What does that word…or number…mean to you? For me, it conjures up images of hospitals and nurses. Long lines at supermarkets and testing sites. Protests and violence. It also elicits several emotions for me. Anger. Fear. Disgust. Hope. That last one is always a welcome change of pace.

I go through this pattern with my emotions where I cycle between negative and positive emotions just like the rest of us. But with the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown that is still in effect here, it feels like that cycle has broken, at least for now. There is so much anger and fear that I deal with and hope is fleeting. But, perhaps the hope is there; it’s just harder to get to. I have to make a conscious effort to reach it. To make sure it doesn’t escape out of my grasp. And so, here is why I have hope.

I am down 20lbs from my highest weight, ever. I say this as a point of pride and as a point of reflection. I am proud of the results for several reasons. The first and most prominent is that I am seeing a change in my body that is positive. I see more definition and less softness. I don’t look as bloated and my clothes are starting to fit me in a way that I feel flattered. That gives me hope.

Second, I have more energy and feel better. My back and my feet don’t ache when I walk unless I put a lot more effort in compared to where I was when I started. I think I am sleeping better. Because of this, I am continually motivated to eat healthier and limit my portions. I also only snack on fruit now and have essentially cut out all refined sugars from my diet. That gives me hope.

Third, I am seeing results from hard work. Most of my life was spent in pursuit of wanting fast or even instantaneous results. After two weeks, I would lose motivation and give up. I’m realizing that this is a marathon and you need to pace yourself. It’s ok to indulge on occasion. The key is to realize it is an indulgence and not something to have every day. Because of this cognitive shift in perception, I am changing for the better. And I can do it. That gives me hope.

I suppose the moral of this story is that you realize the type of person you are during the worst of times. And I’m realizing that I am a pretty cool guy who wants to make himself a better human.

Wanderlust in the age of COVID

My fave locals part 1

Wanderlust – it’s a delicious word. A thirst, or desire to wander. For those who love to travel it conjures up a yearning sensation to be someplace other than where you currently are. This is more poignant than ever while on Earth in the year 2020. With COVID continuing to ravage not just the US but large swaths of the world, it feels like travel as we know it is over. In fact, this polar shift from cheap and accessible travel with low risk to today has created a new term: revenge travel. I’ve linked to a good article in The Washington Post on it if you want to learn more. It’s an interesting concept and certainly one that I can see myself emphatically agreeing to join in on after a few glasses of wine.

But before the wine has a chance to kick in, I am going to talk about my favorite places. And the place that consistently takes my top spot is Greece.

I was fortunate enough to visit Greece for the first time while living in the United Kingdom for work in 2014. It’s a quick jump across the Channel and over the continent taking approximately 4 hours to get to. So, in the same time you can fly from San Francisco to Chicago, you can go from London to Greece (well, Athens specifically). Pretty cool, huh? Since that first trip, I have been blessed enough to be able to visit Greece 3 times. 2020 would have made it 4 but I’ll plan something grand for my revenge travel in the Hellenistic Region.

Greece, to me, is magical. It’s the combination of history, geography, climate, people and culture that make it a place steeped in tradition but one that welcomes outsiders to experience it. Yes, yes, the country is extremely dependent on tourists to run, but there is a warmness and welcoming attitude that Greeks have which make the country extremely accessible. But enough generalizations. For my first spotlight, I am going to focus on the island of Ios.


The island of Ios, which is part of Greece’s Cyclades Islands, lies in Aegean Sea almost smack dab between the islands of Paros and Santorini. The island, like everything else in Greece, has a rich history that dates back thousands upon thousands of years. There is some evidence that the name Ios derives from the Ionian tribe; one of the four major tribes that made up the ancient Greek world. I’m also going to go out on a limb and say that Ionian columns come from this island but I have no claim to back this up…hmm…the wine is starting to kick in.

While you may not have heard of Ios (everyone just assumes Santorini when they think “Greek islands”), I can guarantee you that every university student in Europe has. While the neighboring island of Mykonos may have been the original hotbed of young beach life in Greece in the 1960s and 1970s, progressive development and a good dose of bougie homosexual glitter have lead to young people to flock to cheaper pastures. And they find it on Ios. Between late May into early September, young folks flock to the island like a gaggle of Canadian Geese. They do the traditional things like party all night and sleep on the beach all day. But they can also experience less orthodox things like partaking in the Slammer Hammer. Yes, there is a bar inventively names “Slammer Bar” where you can wear a helmet and get smacked on the head with a hammer. If you look this up in Google Images you’ll see several other objects being used. FUN!

But I digress….

When I visited Ios, it was at the end of the season. I was there at the end of September after all the Geese had decided to reverse migrate back north to their dreary dorms. Most of the bars including “Slammer Bar” had closed for the season. But I was by no means alone! On this trip I was accompanied by my partner and one of my best friends. We spent four wonderful and stormy days on the island.

We arrived, as one does in this part of the world, via ferry. The air was thick with smoke from the diesel engines…the paper plates had — luckily — never been used. Our ferry was not The Ship of Dreams… and thank god for that because whoever would dream something like that up should be committed. The ferry docked in the main port, in fact I think it was the only port and we were able to find a taxi to take us to our hotel: Levantes Ios Boutique Hotel.

The view of the valley and ocean from Levantes Ios Boutique Hotel from the hotel pool

We got to Levantes in the mid afternoon and were immediately taken with the property. Nestled on the edge of a hill, we were greeted with expansive views of a valley dotted with small white farms and houses. The valley gently slopes down to the right to touch the Aegean Sea at Mylopotas Beach. The hotel is exactly what you would expect in a boutique hotel catering to international clientele. It’s modern and clean while all the while wrapped in a rustic chic charm that works really well. Our room was gorgeous and elicited a sense of tranquility which is exactly what we were looking for. The sun sets on us while we have a drink at the pool and we are treated to a gorgeous view.

Don’t mind that I didn’t get the ocean in this pic. Just look at the pretty sunset.

After watching the sunset, we decided to go down the hill to get some dinner. We came across a restaurant – Salt – which became a staple for us during lunch and dinner while we were there. The food was incredible but the service and the views were even more magical. After several bottles of wine, appetizers, entrees and desserts, we were ready to quit our jobs and move there. That happens to us a lot so that will become a common thread in these posts. We make it back to the hotel at some point and are greeted to this incredible image. Little did we know that this would be the most peaceful night of our time on the island.

A peaceful evening before we got whacked by a Medicane the next day…

The next day the weather progressively got worse. The wind picked up to insane speeds and clouds kept flying over the mountains of the valley. We spent the rest of our time trying to stay warm on the beach and keep the sand out of our eyes. During our second evening, we were just hanging out in the hotel’s common area and we saw on the TV that a hurricane was passing the island! Well, this wasn’t a hurricane. It was a Medicane. Yes, a Medicane. It is literally a portmanteau of Mediterranean and Hurricane. And Ios got smacked by winds, rain and clouds as the storm passed close by us. I had no idea that the Mediterranean could produce hurricanes but as an American, I am going to give myself a pass on this. It’s a miracle that I don’t think of Europe as a country.

This image doesn’t do it justice. But the wind was crazy and we didn’t see the sun for two days during the storm.

If you have any questions on Ios or the Cyclades islands, let me know! I cannot wait to get back there at some point. The wine has moved in so it’s probably a good time to end. You all take care of yourselves. Stay safe and healthy my friends!

Wine of the evening: Pichetti Granache.