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Posts Tagged ‘Tavern’

She insisted that I accompany them, stay the night and return to Milan the next morning, leaving Hayden and her to spend two or three weeks there. I demurred, explaining that I had had enough traveling for a while. Following somewhat emotional discussions and a series of telephone calls to the so-called friends, it was agreed that I would accompany them to the Veneto and remain with Hayden lodged at the farm while she returned to Milan with Nikki and departed for Thailand to return in about two weeks.

So, four or so hours later we drove into Sacile (pronounced Sah Chili) a town about 40 kilometers north of Venice. It is also known as “Il Giardino del Serenissima,” or something like that. It translates as “The Garden of the Most Serene Republic of Venice.”

Before reaching the center of town we stopped on a side street at a coffee shop/bar operated by a friend of SWAC and Nikki, a tall slender middle-aged woman named Lucia. Outside the bar were a few tables, one of which was occupied by several locals playing the traditional Italian card games of Scopa and Bresaola. They and the other patrons were generally drinking Prosecco, not the sweet bubbly crap one gets in the US but the refreshing local, hot weather afternoon, kick back and enjoy life drink. It was very good. We had two glasses and spent about an hour in pleasant conversation with Lucia, her strange boyfriend and some of the customers.

We then walked to the main plaza of the town that has a river running through it. Apparently, during the heyday of La Serenissima, barges from Venice would travel up the river to the small falls that made further travel difficult. The barges, carrying, I guess, things like Murano glass souvenirs, porcelain Carnivale mask and things like that would be offloaded and replaced by agricultural goods from the area and other goods like cuckoo clocks carried over the alpine passes from Switzerland and Austria. The town sprung up to service this barge traffic, I assume to provide food, drink, and entertainment to the lonely bargemen as they awaited their consignments.

The town is a picture postcard of what someone would imagine a Venetian town should look like. At first blush, it appears that the ancient town has reemerged from history. A closer look reveals something a bit more like one would find at the Venetian in Las Vegas, a use of post-modern architectural design flowing seamlessly into the few remaining vintage structures.

Post-modernism despite the acres of intellectual drivel generally written by those hoping to make some money off of it, is merely a form of colorful mostly straight edged Moderne (with pitched rather than flat roofs) as it existed before Walter Gropius sex crazed with Anna Mahler tarted it up into Bauhaus (Or had Gropius become a sexual deviant before the advent of Moderne, I never could remember which). Essentially it consists of a series of rectangular planar facades painted or otherwise colored in earthy reds, yellows and beiges adorned with simple architectural elements, like plain arches ( now and then festooned with architectural artifacts). It was concocted by Venturi and Graves hungry for commissions out of their impression of the reconstruction of traditional domestic and small commercial structures in post-war Italy as the local people filled in the bombed-out spaces between the surviving historical structures with simplified copies of traditional design and painted them with a brighter version of the standard stucco. It spread back to Europe and It works here in Italy since that was always the local vernacular architecture anyway.

In NY, Johnson, tired of living in glass houses and unable to diddle Anna himself, nevertheless attempted to capitalize on the post-modern craze by creating the worlds largest and perhaps ugliest misrepresentation of a piece of obsolete junk furniture as a New York skyscraper. San Francisco, ever ready to slavishly follow East Coast fashions adopted postmodernism as the design element of its planning code thereby converting something generally simple into the gross monstrosity of pink-tinged architecture that graces the City today.

Ah well, I liked Sacile a lot, even if it seemed a little bit like an urban version of Danville.

As we walked about, I noticed that this was a town populated by people with prominent noses, from fleshy cyranoesque proboscis to hawk-like aquiline appendages cleaving the air as they walked along like ax heads cleaving a log. These notable features adorned generally slender well dressed men and equally fashionable and sensuous women. Unlike the drab dark colors, I found ubiquitous in the US, here both the men and women were more colorfully attired. Although there was the usual excess of pre-stressed jeans and off the shoulder tank tops, there was nary a velour exercise outfit to be seen,

After wandering around the city for about an hour our hosts arrived and we followed their automobile to their farm on the outskirts of a village with the pleasantly sounding name of Tamai.
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A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

Yesterday, or perhaps the day before, I watched a Stewart Granger retrospective on TV — King Solomon’s Mines, Prisoner of Zenda, and Scaramouche. Granger was one of my favorite “action” heroes of my youth. I always thought there was something strange about him, however. I did not know what gay or homosexual meant back then, but he always appeared to me to be uncomfortable around women — not like Gary Cooper or Rock Hudson who clearly were men’s men and comfortable around women. Well, after having my mind washed out about jumping to conclusions regarding sexual orientation, I learned that Granger was not gay, merely a flaming asshole despised by his female co-stars. I guess that’s the price of maturity — all the heroes or heroines of our youth turn out to be dickheads. I suspect, a goodly number of He who is Not My President’s admirers will wake up some day and realize they’re no longer pre-adolescents.

Anyway, Scaramouche, in my opinion, contained the greatest sword fight in cinema. Some of it even realistic as well. No, not the jumping around or fighting up and down stairs — that would produce instant death in a real sword fight — it was when they were fighting from the en garde position that the parries and thrusts were almost real. In fact, Granger actually suffered some serious wounds while filming the sequence. Not that anyone cried over his suffering apparently.

Well, well, I may have been premature in announcing my clean bill of health. During my visit to my oncologist yesterday he said that one of the reasons they could find no potential cancer cells was because the sonogram could not see through the scar tissue that had grown up around the mass, so I need to have a PET scan in order to complete any definitive diagnosis. So it goes. As Rosanna Rosannadanna warns, “It’s always something.”

Last night I watched a Dana Andrews retrospective. Yes, old square jaw himself. I also learned that these movies I have been viewing for the past couple of weeks are part of TCM August programming focusing on a different star each evening. So far I have seen, La Dietrich, Nelson Eddy and Janette McDonald, Doris Day, Stewart Granger, and now Dana Andrews. TCM had nights that featured brighter stars, but I guess, I have only caught the more campy ones.

One night, however, I saw the 1935 production of Midsummers Night Dream with the young Mickey Rooney as Puck (it may have been Mickey Rooney night), the young James Cagney as Bottom, the young Dick Powell as Lysander and the young Olivia de Havilland in her screen debut and Hermia. It was great fun.

I don’t usually watch television except for some news or sports, but until yesterday (the convictions of Manafort and Cohen) the news has been so depressing that a little cinematic fantasy was a welcome respite.

Carol Baker, Baby Doll herself, was last evenings featured star. Two days later it was Anthony Quinn night but I only watched Viva Zapata.

One evening, we attended the monthly Jazz Night at the Pool put on by the HOC. They had a local group — a singer, pianist, guitarist and bass player — that played some standard jazz tunes including my favorite The Girl from Ipanema. I do not know why, but ever since I moved here in the Enchanted Forest, I find myself hanging out with people my age — The i Vecchi as we are referred to in Italy. More then I recall having done before. Perhaps, it is inevitable.

Anyway, we sat next to a woman our age or older who I had been told was an artist of some repute. She was dressed in “aging artist,” — all flowing fabrics encircling her body — and carried a handsome cane. After Naida explained to her our relationship, she quipped, “That’s nice for you. It seems that all of my recent affairs have been with parking-lot attendants.”

 

B. A FEW DAYS IN CARMEL AND BIG SUR:

 

The following week we traveled to Carmel and Big Sur. Naida had attended high school there and had many good memories of that time in her life. We intended to try and contact a few of her old BFFs.

I used to visit this section of California’s coast almost every week from when I first arrived here in California in !973, until about 15 years ago — at first as a wannabe hippy frequenting Ventana and other haunts and sometimes hiking off into the mountains for a week or two of camping usually by myself then later, during the period when I was active on coastal resource protection matters. I would go there often on one site visit or another.

That evening we strolled along Carmel beach and through the town visiting the art galleries and stopping for dinner at a place that had properly prepared Neapolitan pizza.
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Pookie on Carmel beach.

Next morning we visited one of Naida’s high school classmates at an assisted living facility in Carmel Valley. She was a woman who lived what appeared to be a fascinating life. She had been a major fundraiser for many charities and traveled the world, from Borneo to Africa and South America tending to peoples needs. She now suffers from advanced Parkinson’s and is confined to a wheel-chair.

Later that day, we left for Big Sur. It was fascinating for me to see now, so many years removed, the amazing results of our efforts to preserve that shoreline from development — Including, the purchase of most of the still vacant land on the north entrance to Big Sur in an effort to halt creeping development from the already built-up areas (The Parks Department opposed it because it did not have high recreational value as did the Coastal Commission on the erroneous belief that they could retain it in open-space through regulation — why would a rational person want to repeatedly fight that battle anyway?) — and the 5000 acre Hill Ranch that surrounds Point Sur Lighthouse.
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Pookie in Big Sur.

We ate lunch at Nepenthe, where I had eaten many times over the years.
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Lunch at Nepenthe.

I then visited their curio’s store and marveled how little had changed over the 40 or so years I had been visiting there — the same curios, the same wind chimes, the same flowing, colorful, and expensive hippy fashions.

The next day we returned to the Enchanted Forest.

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Sunset at Carmel beach.

 

C. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

Days pass, another PET scan, more swimming and dog walking, now and then driving the Scooter Gang here and there, endless Kavanaugh hearings and ravings by he who was not elected president, good and bad dreams, decent food, all and all an ok week.

One day, I was walking around the lakes in Town Center and saw the Scooter Gang coming the opposite way. There were two girls about the same age as the boy’s age walking with them. HRM scootered over to me and said, “There are two girls with us. They just forced their way in.” I thought, “That’s one way it all begins.”

A few days later we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the clubhouses. I was chosen as the bartender for the Sock Hop next Friday. I did not volunteer. I do not know how to bartend. I assume it will just require passing out beer and pouring the wine. We old folks enjoy volunteering for things. The Sock Hop is a party where mostly geriatric cases dress up as they did when they were teenagers and dance the Hokey Pokey. I can’t wait.

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A few sunny days on the Mendocino coast allows me to sip my morning coffee and enjoy the view:
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One day, I drove into Fort Bragg to have my tire repaired. Waiting for the repairs allowed me to do what I love doing best, wandering aimlessly. Among my wanderings, I visited the Noyo Headlands Park that the Agency I created and headed (1976-1989), the California State Coastal Conservancy, helped to bring about.

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The Park represents to me an ideal use of an urban waterfront — an environmentally sensitive open park along the shorefront. I believe it will soon be considered one of the nation’s premier oceanfront park and restoration areas. Now if we can only get the City of Fort Bragg to post proper signage along PCH so that people can find it, it will be a boon to the City’s economic health as well as to its environment.
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I urge you to visit it and see if you agree with me.

The overcast skies and rain have returned. Still the walks along the bluffs are exhilarating — the churning surf battering the black cliffs below.

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Now and then as I walk by, I notice a tiny bit of color among the bushes.
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One morning, the sun was out. My walk along the bluffs of the Mendocino Headlands took me to an area that, despite my almost 50 years of visiting here, I had not gone before. I felt a little like Kirk and Spock visiting a new world — except here there were no large breasted aliens with skin-tight costumes, colorful body paint, and prominent dark eyebrows. What there was, however, were white crested waves pounding the bluffs and curling onto the black sand beaches hidden among the cliffs.
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Later, as the sun dropped toward the horizon, we strolled along the Headlands again.
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All this dramatic natural beauty began to irritate me. I longed for a sidewalk, curb and a gutter blocked up with urban refuse. So, after my morning walk, I fled north to Fort Bragg in the hope that I could find a dingy bar filled with out of work loggers or a cafe with the paint peeling off the walls where I could drink weak American coffee.

As I approached the town and circled the round-a-bout, I took the road that said, “No exit,” or something like that, since it agreed with what I was feeling. I drove up what John Olmstead called the Mendocino Ecological Staircase in hopes that I would find a forgotten tavern among the Redwoods. The homes, more shacks than homes, became shackier as I drove, the fences more homemade and the “No Trespassing” signs more prevalent. I realized I was entering the zone that 20 or 30 years ago harbored the area’s high-value cash crops (marijuana). I soon came to the end of the road and retraced my steps down the Staircase.

At the edge of the city, another road stretched off to the East. This road promised to cross the mountains to Willits on Highway one. I suspected, since this was a numbered road, a roadhouse would exist somewhere along it. So, I drove again up the staircase until I reached a sign that announced a curvy road for the next 25 miles. I knew that roadhouses only existed on straight-a-ways and I decided to forgo the possibility of encountering the ghost of Patrick Swayze and returned to Highway 1.

After passing through the harbor in the hope I would find a fisherman’s dive with no luck, I drove into the back streets of Fort Bragg.
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I had just about given up when I spotted a place on a woebegone corner of the city that seemed to have some promise.
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I parked, went in and found what I was looking for. The twelve stools at the bar were filled with men and women, most of whom were my age or older. Nearly all of the men wore baseball caps and a few were dressed in work clothes. A woman with blond hair, who now would be referred to a naturally proportioned, presided behind the bar. Although I intended to order ginger ale, I decided to order the bar’s special amber ale instead. I felt it would be more appropriate. Much of the discussion around me involved the bar’s multiple Super Bowl pools whose mathematical basis was far beyond my comprehension.

A man sitting next to me knew Duke Snyder when they both lived in Compton. They would meet walking their dogs and discuss baseball and life while their dogs humped each other.

In the corner sat a man with dark skin and a magnificent beaked schnoz, I thought he was either Native American or Mediterranean based upon the size of his proboscis. I know schnozzes — we Italians revel in the potatoes or hatchets grafted onto the front of our faces. We believe it makes us look distinguished. I learned that during the 1950s, the beaked one pitched triple A ball for a team in South Carolina before his arm gave out. I was in heaven. Next to him sat a small dark woman with many tattoos who kept bouncing up and down running off to talk excitedly with someone else sitting at the bar.

Feeling happy, I ordered a second ale.

Later, more people showed up including a younger woman who seemed to be over six feet tall. She had long braided blond hair. She slammed down the drinks like she was born to it. Everyone seemed to know everyone else and appeared happy to be there or, at least, happier than being where they were before they got there.

I left after I finished my second ale because I wanted to be able to drive home and I had begun to feel the buzz. When I die, I want my ashes sprinkled on the floor of the place.

Later that night, we all returned to Fort Bragg because it was “First Friday” when all the galleries stay open until late at night. I bought an old used book that contained some interesting illustrations. We then had dinner at a Mayan Fusion restaurant in the harbor. It was quite good.

The next morning we hiked along the bluffs of Spring Ranch just south of the town of Mendocino. Spring Ranch is a Coastal Reserve created by California State Parks and the California State Coastal Conservancy.
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It is an example of the type of project I had in mind when I wrote the Conservancy Concept into California’s Coastal Plan (1975), shepherded the legislation through the legislature, and administered the agency during its formative years. It not only removes the land from the vagaries of regulatory conflicts but begins to push back the impacts of prior land uses, ranching and the like, through restoration. At the time the Conservancy was proposed, restoration of environmental resources was not a high priority of the State and in the case of wetlands opposed by many in the environmental community as well.
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The Reserve is long and relatively narrow, stretching from PCH to the ocean for several miles. This type of public acquisition, small narrow units, along with the purchase of undeveloped subdivisions along the coast were frowned upon by the State because of management and cost issues. Yet, we believed they were necessary if critical coastal resources were to be preserved and the goals of the Coastal Plan achieved. I am pleased to see that, in part through the efforts of the Conservancy, up and down the coast these objectives are now accepted.
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Although the several entrances are a little difficult to see, once you do, you can stroll down across the coastal terrace, along the bluffs, and through a magnificently restored cypress grove. There are a few benches along the way where you can sit and watch the tumultuous surf crash of the rocks, and if the season is right, see whales migrating and seal pods roaming the waters and hauling themselves onto the rocks to sunbathe.
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The Reserve is an excellent counterpoint to the more urban Noyo Headlands Park a few miles north. You should visit both if you are in the area, and don’t forget to stop at Point Cabrillo lighthouse and park and the Mendocino Botanical Gardens two other Conservancy projects in the area I am proud of. And, of course, end your trip sipping the wines at Pacific Star Winery while sitting on Dad’s Bench watching the sun dip into the ocean.

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That afternoon, as I suggested above, we had a delightful picnic at Pacific Star Winery.
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I bought a new hat there also.IMG_1097

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One of my favorite writers is Henry David Thoreau, not because of his insight or style, but because he was an amusingly truly strange dude (Remember he thought getting thrown in jail was…well..cool). He believed the minutia of life represent the archetypes of the big things in life and by paying close attention to those little things you will learn something about something and maybe everything. He once spent a better part of a week at Walden Pond observing and writing about two gangs of ants who had decided to fight over something in the dirt in front of the door to his cottage. Thoreau seemed to see in their tussle a metaphor and analog of the larger conflicts between nations, people and within one’s own spirit.

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I really couldn’t understand what he was talking about. If I were to choose a metaphor for life from his experiences, I prefer the one where Thoreau stands at the back of his rowboat traveling down the Connecticut River spittle dripping off of the end of his nose, passing under the bridge on which the spittor glares down at him. Think about it. Put yourself in Henry David’s flip-flops. Do you, staring at the smirk on the face of your adversary, feel the spirit of unity and oneness with the universe well up inside you as Henry David claimed he did, or do you decide to head the boat into the bank, jump off and beat the SOB to within an inch of his life or continue on forever questioning the nature of your experience and of your response. Now, that’s life.

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Anyway, although the monsoons have arrived, so has the heat of “mad dogs and Englishmen” and so after walking to the cafe for breakfast, I return to my apartment turn on the AC, take a cold shower and nap until the shadows of the building cover the pool and I go for a swim and then at night perhaps walk along the beach in hopes of catching some ocean breezes.

Henry and I have a lot in common — but sadly no one has spit on me recently.

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We spent the night at Gun Girl‘s house in Chyaphum a town in Issan. It is located near another national park that lies astride the divide between Lanna and Issan that I had visited once before. The divide like the Sierra Nevada’s rises gently on one side and falls off steeply on the side facing Lanna. On the Issan facing slopes grow a remarkable purple flower that looks like lupine with somewhat larger and waxier petals. What is unusual about them is that when in bloom they grow in great profusion over the meadows and hills of the park, each on its individual stalk without leaves, containing a single group of flowers per plant and these stalks grow separately about 18 inches from one another as though some god came down and planted them for his own amusement because like most gods he was insane.

Anyway, Gun Girl‘s house was, along with her automobile in which we had been riding, the spoils of her recent divorce.

The next morning no one felt like moving too much so we spent the day straightening up the house, cleaning the car, walking around the neighborhood and visiting GG‘s relatives. I spent most of my time traveling from my bedroom to the bathroom and then to the porch where putting up my feet on the railing, I sat and read old magazines from Australia that I assume belonged to the now unlamented husband.

The following day we left for Korat. Korat is a relatively large city that functions as the gateway to Issan. When I was here last, almost 10 years ago, it was a center of the pottery and ceramics industry much like Gubbio and the surrounding hill towns in Italy are the centers of the Faience (Majolica) industry. In addition to the pottery and the like the artisans of Korat specialize in large bas-reliefs, some twenty or thirty feet wide. There is one of an elephant on the exterior wall of the house in Chiang Mai.

All cultures everywhere have similar centers of artisans. After a society disappears, when archeologists dig around in its detritus, it is often the product of these industries that are dug up and declared great art. During the Renaissance, when many of the grey marble statues of classical civilization came to light, they became the models for the great art that began to be produced at the time. Unbeknownst or ignored by the aesthetes then and now, these classical artworks were more often than not, the by-products of the same sort of workshops that one found in Korat and not only that but they originally were all brightly painted in colors that today we would find amusing on a circus clown. Nevertheless, the paint has worn off during the centuries leaving only the bare stone and metal prompted artists down almost to today to sculpt their images in unpainted stone (except for the Della Robbia family who sculpted in clay and fired it with colored glaze).

Anyway, we went to the house of GG‘s sister. The house was quite large and originally belonged to the sister’s departed (dead) husband who was a high government official of some sort. The sister had used the money she had stolen from us and from our employees that she supervised to remodel the first floor into the restaurant, According to her, her customers made up the nouveau riche of the area (She serves wine and steak as well as Thai food).

After graciously showing me around and offering me a job (that I ignored) we all left and drove almost non stop back to Paradise by the Sea where I was left off. I ran up to my apartment, took a shower and went right to bed, “…to sleep perchance to dream….” And dream I did, of my masseuse who was due to arrive tomorrow for my two-day massage. “Ay, there’s the rub.

Finis…

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All my life I have often taken voyages of the mind as I have pursued some research thread or another. Anyway, the internet is a marvelous vehicle for anyone who enjoys traveling without leaving one’s bed.

In my most recent voyage, I had been traveling north escaping from the devastation of Ninth Century Southern Italy with some Jewish merchants and settled with them in the Rhine Valley only to be forced to move eastward into the Pale, when the armies of Western Christendom had made that land too dangerous for my Hebrew brethren.

Shortly thereafter, I was at the home of the local Rabbi in a shtetl deep within the Pale somewhere in eastern Poland when that good man began to become quite emotional and upset about a radical Sephardic Rabbi named Maimonides who lived among the Muslims and was obviously corrupted by them. According to the Rabbi, this Maimonides was attempting, in his erroneous writings on sacred subjects, to humanize the faith of their fathers.

I decided to visit Maimonides at his family home in Egypt where he was working as the physician to the Sultan Saladin. One evening shortly after I arrived, I asked the honorable doctor-rabbi to instruct me in his teachings. He responded to my request by saying “Pookie, before embarking on a voyage into Hebrew esoterica, you should first travel to Persia and stay a few evenings in a caravansary called ‘The Perfumed Garden’.”

I did so and one evening while relaxing in the hot tub after the day’s debauch, I met a fellow traveler who introduced himself to me as Mercury Ali. We got to talking about this and that and after swapping some tales of our respective voyages, he suggested that that evening we attend the salon of the well-known Hori, Scheherazade,  where he assured me that the finest stories in all of Persia could be heard. “Be careful,” he warned me, “the tales are so beguiling they can  become addictive.” It has been rumored that some of the attendees at the salon had become so besotted that they remained there for over 1000 nights.

Assuring him that I will take his warning seriously, I accompanied him to the salon. I admit I soon began to find myself becoming hooked on the conversation. After a few nights with Haroun al-Rashid, Delilah the Crafty, and any number of men named Sinbad (Aladdin and Ali Baba, to my regret, were off on some adventure or another), I met up with another attendee, the besotted tent-maker, mathematician and astrologer Omar Khayyam. He invited me to spend the next few days with him and a couple of Horis, and a few bottles of Napa Valley’s finest jug wine under some trees in the desert somewhere.

One morning, having finished off the jugs of wine, I found myself with Omar banging on the door of a local tavern demanding the proprietor open the premises so that we could resume our drinking.

After a downing a few cups of chardonnay in the cool common room of the tavern, I fell asleep on the table and woke up in the early part of the Twentieth Century in  Greenwich Village in New York City at the house of two hippies who were dancing with each other while reciting Omar’s verses.

It seems that Bob Babbitt and his wife, Jessie were having a party to celebrate the end of their short unhappy experiment with sobriety. Among the guests was a gentleman who went by the obvious alias of O Henry. I was later to learn that he was a convicted embezzler, ex-con and drunken pharmacist from North Carolina who was hiding out in New York in the witness protection program under an assumed name.

He suggested that since the current party was winding down, that I join him at another get-together in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana hosted by a friend of his called Idaho. It was a reception in honor of the newest residents of the valley, Homer K. M. and, his girlfriend Ruby Ott.

The following morning, we joined Rocky and Bullwinkle on Bullwinkle’s boat the “Ruby Yacht”  and traveled down the Bitterroot to Veronica Lake where we spent the day.

[P.S.    1. If you read this far, here is the connection to the complete collection of O Henry’s tales: (http://www.gutenberg.org/author/O._Henry), You can read his short stories, “The Rubaiyat of a Scotch Highball” and “The Handbook of Hymen” should you want to take my voyage in reverse.
2. Omar (who was previously a member of the Taliban) and Scheherazade now are living together in an apartment in North Beach San Francisco with another illegal alien couple from Guatemala who formerly served in the Sandinista army. Omar and Sherry (the name she goes by now) are strong supporters of Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Barbara Boxer when they are not out campaigning for the “Green Party”.]

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