Saturday, July 8, 2017

California's North Coast 

Thought I would share a few images from the Little River/Mendocino/Fort Bragg area. This is  an experiment using a Blogger patch and unedited images. But it appears that I can only post a single image at a time. t

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Another Pen

Pens keep coming in at an incredible rate. This one is pretty special, an M111 the first and the least commonly found of the Originals of Their Time Series. Twenty years on it is not at all common to find these in new unused condition, but this one is. Get it now at a special price of $1,400. It will be more when it goes up on the site. And if you like, we can add a custom vintage nib assembly which will give this beauty not just the look, but the feel of a vintage 111.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The PENguin Spring and Summer News

We are currently loading new pens only onto the home page pending the June arrival of the new website. But we have some really good stuff and more coming in this week. Check us out.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Farewell to Cuba: Final Days

Final Days

First my apologies for letting this last Cuba post take so long. I’m not sure why, other than the fact that February and March seemed to be very busy with both random personal stuff and lots of pen sales. And maybe I just didn’t want to let go of this final phase of our Cuba adventure.

February 10 was our final day in Cuba. We would depart from José Marti Airport on the morning of the 11th. Neither Jim nor José, our group leaders, made any secret of the fact that they wanted us to go out with a splash, that they were going to make that last day extraordinary. Spoiler alert: they did.

But let’s start. We began, as we did, with a lecture. This one nominally on architecture and preservation, but the lecturer ranged much more broadly into demographics and the problem of a declining and aging population.  I did not record it but it was quite interesting and gave us a lot to think and talk about.

From there we went to the La Cabaña fortress, mostly to see the sights there, we did not tour the fortress itself and that was OK. The fort is sited on a prominatory across the harbor from the city and gives a great view of Havana from a distance.

The city from across the bay

Unlike so many modern cities, the lack of population pressure has easily preserved open space

Warning: there will be people pictures. Up to now for the most part I have not included them since most of you do not know these folks. But as I do this entry I'm waxing nostalgic. First, our crew: From left, Juan Antonio who so ably drove us, then José. Most of were pretty well educated, but whatever we asked José seemed to know. And to the right Jim Fitch who hopefully is now in the Dominican training ballplayers for the Cards.

From there we got some retail therapy at a massive Almacenes de San José market near the port of Havana which offered a bit of everything from fine art to t shirts and all in between. I got a couple of typical guayabera shirts, we bought trinkets and t shirts for all. You get the idea.

Suresh (see below) enjoys a coconut

while José checks his look

Our last cultural stop of the trip was to see and meet with a group of young dancers. Apart from their talent and enthusiasm what was notable is that they worked with no government subsidies other than some very primitive performance and rehearsal space in a school.

The troupe

their acrobatics

In conversation

Cindy enjoys a last dance, and the kids enjoyed her as well

From there we retired to our hotel for a brief rest before our final evening in Cuba. Earlier in the trip Cindy and I decided that we needed a ride in some of the vintage taxis in Havana. We mounted a minor insurrection which group leader Jim cut off with the announcement that a cab ride along the Malecon and city tour was planned to transport us our last group meal which would be at La Torre, the restaurant atop the Edificio FOCSA, the 1956 monolith that remains the tallest building in Cuba. It was a finely nostalgic evening with festivities, cake, speeches, the whole thing.

OK, people pics--I didn't get everyone but . . .
John and Claire (not a couple)

Tom and Sarah (a couple)

Linda, Rosalie and Bob. Still hoping to catch up with Rosalie and Bob.

Ursula, Joan, John, Claire, Jane and Suresh, a learned, erudite and amusing fellow.

Jim herds Cuban taxis. Cats would have been easier. The only time in two weeks that he seemed at all ruffled.

Me in a '54 Roadmaster with Tom, Sharon and Sarah.

Our procession

Riding along the Malecon

Note the wave in the background, the seawall is under constant pressure from rising seas

This one would be Linda taking a picture of me taking a picture of Linda
This may be my favorite image from the trip, the Hotel Nacional and the city through clouded glass from atop the FOCSA building. One of my few regrets of the trip is that I just never seemed to hit it photographically. I'm slow and we were in a group.

 Our flight the next morning was not too early and so after breakfast we bade farewell to Cuba, Havana, the Hotel Nacional and finally to one another. In truth we hung together for another day not just when we arrived in Miami in early afternoon but later back at the hotel where it had all begun two weeks earlier. On the twelfth Sharon and I flew home.

Us waiting at the airport. The plane was only two hours late, which, we were told, was very fortunate

Linda and Laurie

Some final thoughts: I write this on the 19th of April, some two months after the trip. Our group, which pledged to keep in touch and share photos, have all returned to our own lives. Dunno how it is for any others but Sharon and I have had only intermittant contact with any of our fellow travelers.

We both enjoyed the trip immensely. At times the heat proved a real challenge for Sharon and, in truth, it got to me a few times. Otherwise I sweated happily through it. The exposure to another society, one with very different values and assumptions about levels of material comfort, the value of community and culture, was invaluable. You are never too old or too “cultured” to learn.  

Thorughout this segment of the blog I have tried to convey our joy and wonder. It was more than eye opening. Seeing life in Cuba from their side was invaluable. In short, it was great, as good as any trip we have ever taken in forty-five years of traveling together. Would we do it again? In a heartbeat. But this fall we will resume our touring of the US and Canada with a trip to Yellowstone and up into the Canadian Rockies. Until then, happy trails.

Friday, March 31, 2017

At Home with Ernest and Mary

View of the house from the back

9 February 2017

We began the day in the Road Scholar way with a superb lecture by Dr. Carlos Alzugaray, one of those scholar/diplomats that represent, in one way and another, the best of any nation. This presentation resonated for me, given my background having taught American foreign policy for so many years. The presentation rather brilliantly combined a tour d’horizon with a constructivist theoretical approach.

Then we were off to the fine arts museum, a most interesting excursion. They do not, of course, allow phgotography inside the museum, which is unfortunate. The guide, a curator, gave us a historical tour of Cuban art. What struck me most was the degree to which protest art was hung, here on the walls of the official national museum. If the building looks vaguely familiar, it was built in the mid-1950s and patterned on Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for the Guggenheim Museum in New York.  

Our curator/guide, Jim, and José confer

After the tour, lunch, and a stroll along the fabled Malecon
The walkway still shows damage from the hurricanes of 2005 and 2012

From there came the main event of the day, a visit to Ernest Hemingway’s farm Finca Vigia (Lookout Farm).

Hemingway spent the last twenty years of his life here with both his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, and his last wife, Mary. As with anything related to Papa, there are a multitude of stories connected to the house and as with Cuban-American relations there is a tangled story connected to the Cuban acquisition of the house. For years, apparently, the 1886 building and its contents, supposedly as Ernest and Mary left them in July 1960, were endangered by neglect.

 Hemingway was a supporter of the revolution and was a hero to the revolutionaries and after his death the government Mary negotiated a handover to the government that may or may not have been coerced. Regardless, today the building stands much as they left it. Visitors cannot go through the house, but the expansive windows are open and afford a good view of their life in what seems like paradise.

The entry 

From the front, the view to the back
At the back, Hemingway's office

As in Key West, Hemingway wrote in a tower, behind and to the side of the house
The guard offered to shoot the inside of the tower office for me

The typewriter

Also enshrined here is Hemingway’s fishing boat, Pilar, from which he launched a brief World War II effort to hunt German submarines operating in the Caribbean.