Monday, December 27, 2010






scroll down..............


a little further...........

keep scrolling............

a little further.............

you are almost there...........

some things are worth the wait.............

coming up next......

Can't wait until my
new bathroom is finished.

Life is Sweet,

Monday, December 20, 2010


You may (most likely not) remember that our original plan was to remodel the apt when we returned last June 1. It needed (needs) both bathrooms and the kitchen replaced. They are functional, but ........well, they are functional. In addition to the bathrooms and kitch, some other work was on our list. Remove a couple walls and a few etceteras. Well, we had an architecto come by and were blown over and overwhelmed with the prospect at the time. So, we decided to settle for a thorough cleaning and to have every surface (walls, window frames, ceilings, balcony, railings, wood doors .......ALL) either painted or refinished or shined up or something. Including re-finishing the floors. AND, it made a h*ll of a difference and we were happy and there was harmony and peace in the land and the children danced in the street.

So? What about “Nibbling the Bullet”? What is that about? Well on the blog entry where I said we couldn’t face doing all the work and were settling for ..... you know, the paint and stuff. Anyway on that blog entry I said we could not face ‘biting the bullet’ and doing all the remodeling. And, that we were willing to do the paint stuff instead and I called it ‘licking the bullet’.

Anyone see where this really way too long yarn is going?

Back on point in a minute. But not yet.

Last Wednesday we had a bunch of people over for (low stakes) poker. I wanted to set up the finger food stuff in the kitchen. The Brennie wanted me to move side tables (from other rooms) into the playing areas. Naturally, I thought that was a stupid idea. I mean, isn’t that what the kitchen is for? Come to find out (later) that the real issue was, ‘kitchen-shame’. She didn’t want anyone to see the kitchen. My response ....... “H*ll honey, then we certainly shouldn’t let anyone go into the bathrooms.” Wrong and really stupid smart-*ss response!

Back to the “Nibbling the Bullet”.

Have you guessed yet? Yeah. SeƱor Biggy Moutho. I set myself up for having to have the bathrooms gutted and made pretty and sweet smelling. First one bathroom. Then if we are happy with the builder, the other bathroom. Still happy? The kitchen. Still happy? Build a small bungalow in a distant valley (or cliff) for the Brennie!

So, we are not going to bite the bullet ........ simply nibble on it for a while.

I really don’t see the problem. Look at the pics of the bathroom we are starting with. Everything works already! We have bathrooms. What we don’t have is a big-*ssed Harley. Now THAT is our real point of need!

Looks to me like we have everything we need.

Sink, toilet, shower/tub.

Even a plunger. Perfect.

The pipes are convenient.

Really easy to fix if necessary!

How can this be anything but good?

Impossible to run out of hot water with this setup!

No need to worry about staining or damaging the floors.

Already done.

Who needs a vent fan when you got this baby?

AND ..... freshly painted!

Life is sweet,


Thursday, December 9, 2010


Mi amigos,

I have been thinking about you as the heart of winter nears. After 6 lovely winters in Minnesota and another 20 in Kansas, I know the joy of expectation and anticipation that November and December bring. So much to look forward to. The sleet. The freezing rain. Snow. Blizzards. God, I loved it. But alas, for me, it is no more.

Example: Because Brennie and I brought our two little Pekes down with us and because we live in an apartment in old town, I must walk the horrid little beasties at least twice a day down by the river. Yes, it is grim duty ..... a burden. But, I try to be strong. To not complain. So, two nights ago (around 10 PM) I am walking little Bugger and Wanker. Sadly, the temperature had only dropped down to 55 degrees. However, I did notice that the temp in Topeka was an invigorating 17.7 degrees that night. Fabulous! I am trying so hard not to be jealous. But, I am a petty and self-centered toad. I find myself harboring resentments.

However, I try soooooo hard to keep my spirits up. I fight the pain. The loss. The depression. But I am weak. Some times, simply overwhelmed. At such times, I find that going out on the balcony with a cigar, a cup of coffee and a book helps. Please pray for me.

I leave you with some pics I took the other night on my walk:

There was a whole square filled with these luminaries.

These went on for at least 4 blocks.
Maybe more. I don't know.
I was walking in the other direction,
toward the river with Bugg and Wank

Using a different (not better) camera setting.

For this one and the next two,
you need to look at the people
in the foreground to get a concept of the size!

Those black shapes in front are people.

I am not so skilled with the camera.

Life is Sweet (but entirely too warm),

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I had another blog entry written (in the word processor) that I was going to post today and embellish with a couple pics. It was a typical blog post for me ..... you know, the boogers and farts, pull my finger mentality that I m so comfy with.


I have decided to change track for this one entry.

We have a housekeeper. Her name is Monica. She is just a sweetheart. My dear Brennie made her cry today. Monica has been working and crying for about an hour now. So what did the Brennie-Beast do?

Well, we have a combo storage room / laundry area / tiny maid's quarters on the roof. The Brennie-Beast asked Monica to give it a cleaning. This is not the reason Monica is crying. I mean, she is a housekeeper after all. She cleans stuff. But, up in that area, we have some doors and some shower doors and some other stuff we have taken out of the apartment and didn't know what to do with.

Back to this in a second......

Monica came to us via some friends of ours that she also works for. They were introduced to her via a local couple. As part of the intro agreement, we had to agree to pay Monica what everyone else is paying her ........ $12/day. We had to promise. $12/day, no more. You know, don't spoil it for everyone else ....... and don't spoil Monica. By the way, when Monica started working for us, she quit another lady that paid her $10/day and she had to strip the wax off her floors every week. (My Spanish is bad but I think this is accurate.)

MOVING ON AND A SLIGHT DETOUR ...... and I WILL eventually get to what the Brennie-Beast did.

Let's look at this pay thing from my personal perspective. I taught in the Kansas public schools for 20 years. Kansas was 42nd to 46th or 47th in the nation in teacher pay that whole time. Benefits? Health Insurance? Don't make me laugh. In order to be able to afford to teach I always had to create other streams of income and over the years there were many. For the final 4 years, I had my own little lawn mowing business. Except for a couple extraordinarily bad days (the first year), I never earned less than $20/hour mowing. Usually it was $30+/hour. And I worked a lot of hours! That is my personal perspective .... and now back on point.

Monica arrives at our house at 8:00 every Thursday. She walks 1/2 hour (1/2 mile? I think it is 1/2 hour, actually.) to get from her house to her first bus. She also has to take a 2nd bus. Total commute 1 1/2 hours each way. By the way, she is one of the most personable, cheerful people I have ever met. Truly a ray of sunshine to have in the house.


Well, 'The Beast' gave Monica the doors and glass/plastic shower doors. Monica's house does not have doors or windows. Did you get that? Her house has no doors or windows. Holy shit! No wonder she is crying.


We have never paid Monica the $12 a day. Not even close. Some promises are evil, so we broke the $12/day promise immediately. Never remotely intended to keep it. Remember what I made mowing yards (and cleaning gutters and cleaning leaves and trimming hedges and hauling sh*t to the dump)?

I read a gringo blog entry a few weeks ago basically telling gringos not to over tip, or over pay for services, etc. You know, don't spoil the natives. Don't upset things. Don't raise expectations or hopes. We are guests here, so follow the local custom (of oppressing the poor). I have heard this a number of times.

By United States standards The Beast and I are not even remotely rich. We always saved for retirement, been very careful with our earnings and now have a decent nest egg. But by US standards ....... not rich. By Ecuadorian standards, we are 'Fabulously Wealthy'. Almost every gringo down here is 'fabulously wealthy'. It is relative.

So what do we do?
- We give money to beggars. Not the alcoholics, but the old, feeble, crippled and disabled. I give a buck. Not 25 cents. A buck. Because we are FW.
- I tip. I tip cabbies unless they try to overcharge me. If they try to overcharge, I will give them as little as possible. I tip the guy that brings the heavy gas bottles to my door. I tip the poor and the hard working. I tip the waiters and waitresses. And, I am going to start tipping the poor and hard working even more ....... every chance I get. Because we are FW.
- I break my promises. Yep, if I promise to underpay the hired help ....... well my word is no good on that. And I am VERY old fashioned about keeping my word, telling the truth, etc. But giving my word to underpay, to oppress ......... yep, that is a lie.
- And you know what, I am going to do more of the above. As much as I can. Because we are FW
- I am going to stop price haggling as hard as I have been. (I have gotten very good at it by the way.) Haggle, of course. Drive a hard bargain ....nope, not any more

To those that say, don't overpay, don't tip, don't upset things......

Life is sweet,

Upon leaving Kansas, I vowed not to get controversial any more. No talk of politics any more. Be congenial. Avoid arguments. Etc. I am not interested in debating any more. Seek tranquility and harmony. Change the subject if someone starts talking politics (or gossiping), etc. Avoid arguing with idiots and morons. (Oopsie, strong statement ...... my bad.)

This post is a distinct breech of that vow. It is a temporary slip. I promise. I will return to banal moronic blogging ASAP. I promise.

If anyone feels like posting a comment taking issue with what I have said here. Wants to argue it, criticize it, debate it, point out how I am ruining the economy and/or status quo, etc. No problem. I will simply delete any opposing comment. Back to peace, harmony and tranquility.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


OKEY DOKEY, chronological, alphabetical, or in order of importance?


While walking Corky and Fluffy (aka Bugger and Wanker) Sunday I came across some kind of ‘dog event’ down on Ave. 12 de Abril. Don’t really know what it was about, but lots of people (lots) hanging around with their dogs. 12 de Abril was blocked off like it is most Sundays. There were 5 or 6 booths and it looked like the dogs were getting free exams (and products?) from the vets. OK, sounds boring when I write about it, but it was pretty cool. I came back later with a camera, but things were winding down by then.

Ivan, his wife and their beasties.


While at the thing above with Corky, I ran into a lady that also had a Pekinese. As usual, when an owner of a female Peke sees Corky, they ALWAYS ask if Corky would be available to do the doggy dance with their female. This is actually the 5th or 6th time this has happened down here .......... people stopping Corky and I and asking if the Corker is ..... you know. Anyway, I always tell them that he is ‘castrado’. They are usually a little surprised. Anyway, Sunday the gal was truly shocked and asked ....WHY? I told her that my wife really wanted to have me castrated, but settled for Corky. Curiously, this seemed to make sense to her.

Sorry Corky.

Not part of your future.


So while walking the dogs this AM, I see a lady with 2 cows grazing down by the river. Not unusual to see cows grazing, but had never seen it by the river this close to downtown. OK, so I am curious and continue to watch. A couple minutes later, she walks the cows up the river bank and through the gate to the school that is right there. What the heck? Show and Tell? School milk program? Hamburgers for lunch?

I came back later to take a pic.

But Obviously the cows were already gone.


Taking Yoga 3 times a week for the last 2 1/2 weeks Seems that Yoga is like mostly a lot of stretching and poses designed to make me feel clumsy, off balance and inadequate. But, I am going to stick with it, because anything that I hate that much has just got to be good for me. Also a little safer than motorcycles for me down here. I ‘failed’ to mention that I laid down the moto again a few weeks ago. Second time since I have been down here and also the 2nd time in 20 years. What the heck? And, duh, yeah ..... it really hurts. I keep the first aid bag on the back of my bathroom door now where it is real handy. My wardrobe is taking a beating what with the blood and tears. (That word “tears”. I mean rips and holes ......... not the blubbering crybaby water that comes out of your eyes.)


Went to the rodeo here at Plaza del Toros on Saturday night. Very cool. Would tell you more, but I hate long blog entries. But, very cool and lots of fun!


Nope. Nothing about cats and goats. Just threw them into the title for fun.

Life is sweet,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


You didn't REALLY expect .... 'deep' or 'introspective' did you?
Brennie says I am about 1 cm deep.

Life is Sweet,

Thursday, November 11, 2010


OK NOW: The Brennie has been kind of sick the last couple days. Symptoms are not important for this little tale.

So this AM I am out walking the dogs (like I do at least a couple times a day ..... the joy of apartment living). As I am walking, our doctor pulls up on his motorcycle to say 'hi and how are you'. I mention that Brennie has been feeling sick for a couple of days. As we are only a couple blocks from his office he tells me to come by. I walk on over and her gives me a couple scrips for Brennie.

ALSO: He offers to come by the apartment later in the day. I believe that this is called a "housecall". Yep a housecall! Unbelievable! I have heard that they used to have them in the US. He did come by and has just left.

COMPARE THIS WITH THE LAST TIME I SAW MY DOCTOR IN THE US: When I arrived, I gave my name at reception and was given one of those vibrating disks with flashing lights so they could buzz me when it was my turn. You know what I am talking about, they use them in some of the really busy restaurants in the states too. Then I was sent to waiting room one. When my buzzer/flasher went off, I was escorted to exam room 7 to WAIT SOME MORE. When my doctor finally arrived in his $300 shoes, he spent eight minutes with me and charged me $120. I will repeat that in case you thought it was a typo ....... 8 minutes & $120. That's about $900 an hour! (Um, we didn't have any health insurance the last three years in the states as we couldn't afford it with only my salary. So I KNOW what the medical non-care cost!)

So ........ go ahead. Ask me how I feel about the health care delivery system here in Cuenca.

Ask me.

Life is sweet,

FYI: The word 'housecall' gets flagged by the spellchecker. Dropped from the word bank as an archaic word, possibly? Or maybe it was always two words. How would we know as it doesn't even exist as a concept any more.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Last Weekend was the celebration of Cuenca's Independence from Spain ..... 190 years. Fascinating.

According to what I could figure out (my info is always suspect) there were between 125,000 and 150,000 visitors (either expected or actually here). It was madness. Chaos. Very cool.

There were things going on everywhere and all the time. Concerts in the parks ..... several. We went to a concert in the Parque de la Madre one night. A Chilean Folklore group called Illapu. They were fantastic. We did not see any other gringos at all. The music was great.

There were parades and go kart races. Donkey and military parades. Art and handicrafts sold all over the place. Fireworks. Celebrating.

It was really something and lasted for 5 days.

We took the opportunity to buy some much needed art work. Most of it still needs framing and we still need more. But we literally have years.

The other expat blogs have done a much better job describing the celebration and posting much better pics than I took.

THIS FIRST LINK is to an album or random pics over the last few months. In some of them, you will see people in blue coveralls. Cuenca has literally brigades of street sweepers, and that is who the blue coverall people are. Sometimes it is orange coveralls, or green. I don't know the difference. But there are always people cleaning the city. And it shows.

THIS SECOND LINK is to a bunch of pics that I took on a walk last July. I just started walking and took random street shots. Truly random: not looking for interesting or beautiful. Just random. When I looked at the pics later I realized that there were almost no people n the streets or sidewalks. SUNDAY! It was a Sunday and the town is DEAD on Sundays. Apparently Sunday is truly family day and tends to be very quiet. The people you do see out on Sundays tend to be in family groups for family activities. For instance, on most Sundays, 12 de Abril (a major street) is usually blocked off to all but bicycle and foot traffic. On Sundays there are lots of family groups there doing family stuff.

Life is Sweet,

Sunday, October 31, 2010


As far as I can tell, insects and bugs are topics rarely addressed on the expat blogs. (Are bugs and insects the same thing?) It is true that there are few bothersome insectos here. I have yet to get any kind of bug bite ...... and I am usually 'the guy' that gets devoured. Yeah, the six summers in Minnesota were a delight. They say Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes. More like 10,000 mosquito breeding swamps. The summer working in Alaska was 'interesting'. The clouds of mosquitos were so dense they actually cast a shadow. (blatant exaggeration)

Moving on.......
True, Cuenca seems to be relatively free of insectos. We get some flies in the apt, but it usually seems that they are trying to get out by the time we see them. They are good size and the slowest flies on earth. So easy to kill, it is a wonder that they aren't extinct.

Off track again, so moving on again .......
We live on the 6th floor and have a huge balcony with 3 doors and 3 windows to the balcony. We routinely leave the doors / windows open. An obvious invitation to bugs (and thieves if they could get up here).

So, well .........
Today we went out to the art fairs that are part of the celebrations here for 5 days. When we got back ........ holy mother of god! The two biggest insects I have ever seen ........ in the apartment and NOT trying to get out.

Pictures are worth a 1000 words:


Wingspan: Almost 10 feet!
Luckily, our rooms are big.

Body: 3+ feet.

Eyes: Beautiful!


Number of Feet: <100
Feel free to count them.

Body Length: 40 inches

Length from tip of antenna to the end of whatever that is: 5+ feet

Eyes: Not so beautiful.

These things are 'all metal' sculptures.
They are extremely heavy.
Hanging them on the walls should be interesting.

I hope they don't give me nightmares.

Life is Sweet,

Monday, October 25, 2010


Yep. The Brennie is at the coast (beach?) with her little girl friends. They left Saturday morning. So ...... keeping in mind that while the cat is away the mice should play ...... I am engaging in some "behaviors"?

Well, I walked /hiked /climbed to Turi again Saturday (yawn) and have smoked a couple cigars IN THE APARTMENT and went for motorcycle ride yesterday. Yesterday I also ate two desserts and did not floss my teeth even once. Looks like I am headed for Turi again today. Back to those cigars. ...... yeah baby, I smoked them in the apartment. Whad'ya gonna do about it? Huh?

This 'bad boy' thing is not like I remember it from 30 years ago. How sad.

Married too long. Domesticated. House broken. Loser.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


The climb to Turi. Gringos that live here know where Turi is. For those that don't, it is a village on a hill/mountain (?) south of Cuenca. If you want the fabulous view of Cuenca, you go to Turi. If you want some decent exercise you walk to Turi (walk is spelled c-l-i-m-b). We live in El Centro so that is where our walk/climb originated.
The (blurry) pic above was taken from our balcony in El Centro. The arrow points to the village of Turi. The church is circled. The squiggly line is where the stairs start. As you can see, you have done some climbing before you even get to the stairs.

Anyway, back to the 'gringo fitness test' part. Well I guess that is the fitness test .... getting there without a heart attack. FYI, the red squiggly part (stairs) .......... 453 stairs. Yeah I counted them. I lost count a couple times when I passed out. But I think the count is pretty accurate.

More pics of the lovely outing are below. We took a cab back.

Well, poor Brennie got the haircut from h*ll Thursday. I think it looks fine. How does Brennie feel about it? I didn't know a woman could cry for 36 hours. Now is that stamina or not? I am truly impressed. I don't know any guy with that kind of endurance or determination.

Anyway, what does a gal do when she hates her haircut? Buy hats of course.

This one is my favorite.
Just makes me smile to see her wearing it.
BONUS: Check out the apron!

She is wearing this one out to dinner tonight.

About time she got some hats!


Clarke (sucking in stomach) on one of the 453 stairs.
This is right before I passed out the first time.

The Brennie on stair #318.
I just love that hat!
AND, she is so so so cute!

View from Turi.
Red dot is approx where our place is in El Centro (Old Town).

At the top.
Sucking in my gut (again).
I am thinking of just buying myself a corset.
Red dot is our place (again).
Spots on shirt are from throwing up.

Life is Sweet,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


In about 1980 (give or take a couple years) I worked as a deck hand on a fish tender in Alaska. As such, I had to pull 2 six hour shifts daily in the wheelhouse. The captain did not allow smoking in the wheelhouse. (I smoked at the time.) Therefore, I took up chewing tobacco .... Skoal Long Cut Straight to be exact. So, for the last 30 years, if I have been awake, I have had chew nested up there between the gums and lips ......... that is, until I ran out about a week ago. You see, they don't sell it here. I have seen some cans (2) of other types of chew in Quito at $15 bucks a can ...... holy sh*t Marvin, that is expensive oral cancer. Anyway, I am now cutting up some of my least favorite cigars and making chew out of them. Different, same, different, close and different.

As of about a week ago, the Brennie and I have our Cedulas. For those not in the know, this is kind of a national ID that you can get only after you become permanent residents ....... which is something that you can't do until you have helped a lawyer make a number of his/her house, car or vacation home payments. (Our lawyer is building a really nice new house.) For the lawyers, getting permanent residency and Ceduals for the gringos is a major growth industry with unbelievable profit margins. Anyway, having the Cedulas is a good thing.

We were thinking of a river boat trip on the Amazon. Then the Brennie did a little reading on all the different parasites etc that are possible there. Maybe a lovely little trip to Bemidji, Minnesota instead.

I wonder if I will ever succeed in riding my moto to Giron? Giron is a town about 40 km down the road. I have tried to make it there twice on my moto and have failed both times. The first time, I was with my little buddy Randy. We ran out of time because of a some little side trips and a cigar break. So we had to turn around before we got there. I tried again last week sans Randy, cigars and side trips. Instead, I laid the bike down a little past the half way point. In my version of the story, it was not my fault. No big injuries (helmets is good). The bike is ok as I managed to shield it from the road with my body. Some tissue damage (road rash) and bruising. Gawd, it hurt like h - e - double hockey sticks! I am not to old to ride a moto .....maybe a little to old to be laying them down on concrete. The Brennie is not thrilled.

"I am happy to hear that you successfully fled the United States to South America. Rasdall and I were unable to get details of your crime but we were assured that it had institutionalized several of your former students. Rest well however knowing that the authorities are no longer looking for you, I believe the coast is clear should you ever want to return to the United States." Ryan R

Life is sweet,

Thursday, September 30, 2010


HEARD: National and municipal police on strike!! Chaos in the streets.

SAW: That seems to be true. I broke every traffic law known to man on my moto this morning. I (and everyone else) got away with it. Uh, really can't see anything new here - with or without police presence.

HEARD: Big uprising going on in Parque Calderon (this is the main park or plaza in old town.) Dangerous. Stay away. They are rioting and burning tires.

SAW: Yeah, I went down there to catch the action. Yawn. About 50 people doing some kind of half-hearted rally thing with chanting in Spanish. Maybe another 200 watching. I would be #201. All in one corner of the park. Apathy seemed to reign supreme. The rest of the square was completely tranquil. Street vendors were at work as were the street sweepers. Didn't seem violent or scary. Maybe about the same amount of littering as usual.

HEARD: There will be marches and demonstrations in the downtown streets.
SAW: A couple of sparsely constructed groups walking with babies and old people. It could have been mistaken for a church parish parade.

HEARD: SuperMaxi (the local upscale supermarket) had to close due to __________. You gotta fill in the blanks here yourself as the story was different every time I heard it.

SAW: Yeah, I went to SuperMaxi against Brennie's protest but we had no food in the house. It was open. Quiet. Calm. Did some shopping and came home. PRIMARY CAUSE FOR CONCERN ? They were out of JIF Peanut Butter. But then they were last week too. In all fairness, there are 3 SuperMaxie's in town so maybe one of the other 3 were (looted, stripped bare, whatever). Of course this happens in Kansas grocery stores every time there's a tornado warning or ice storm prediction.

HEARD: Stores are closing. Safety concern.

SAW: Yeah, it seems that half or more of the downtown stores are closed but, then, that also happens when there's a big soccer game on TV.

HEARD: Bank robbery in Guayaquil.

SAW: Well I actually didn't see anything as I am in Cuenca. But, yeah a bank robbery in Guayaquil. So what? Guayaquil has a reputation for a high crime rate because it's a port city. That's why we live in Cuenca.

HEARD: Firebombs and gunshots in Quito/Cuenca.
SAW: Must be using those new smokeless firebombs. We have a pretty good view off the old balcony. Beautiful day with no smoke or fire sirens. However, we did hear the usual backfiring of old cars which sound alot like gunshots if you use a little imagination.

HEARD: Student riots at the university
SAW: Drove by there on my moto. Musta been one of them passive-resistance kind of riots. You know, the kind led by Ghandi or Mother Theresa.

SAW: Standard operating procedure when Ecuadorian elections draw near. It's a cultural thing. They do coups. The U.S. uses hanging chads.

HEARD: Thugs roaming the streets.
SAW: Myself in the mirror.


Standing on the bandstand.
Facing east.

Standing on the bandstand.
Facing south.

Another shot of the park during the ruckus.

Some businesses were closed.......

....And some were open.
This is Tutto Freddos (above and below).

I went in and got a Tres Leches Cake to go (for the Brennie).


Seemed open so I got Brennie some flowers.



Never close down.
I got strawberries, tangerines and avocados.

Basically another day of peace.

Hope tomorrow is the same.