Key West Weird Wisdoms

“Close To Perfect, Far From Normal” (Key West Chamber of Commerce)

What makes Key West, Florida so appealing to tourists? On the surface, it appears as a typically serene tropical island blessed by swaying palm trees, endless shopping opportunities and white sand beaches along a sun kissed shoreline. The first time tourist might hop on the popular tourist conch train for a 90 minute guided sightseeing tour of the main sights in Old Town, munch on local seafood in an airy terrace overlooking picturesque Mallory  Square and pop into a local souvenir shop or two along crowded Duval Street for shopping  to their heart’s content.

Yet if you stay awhile in Key West, you might look beyond such conventional tourist impressions to realize that a spirit of fantasy weirdness provides unique attractions to this sleepy town. Three personal memories of Key West oddness seem to contradict the foregoing, casual tourist” theory  of this slow moving town: (1) spotting an aging OJ Simpson in dark sunglasses sauntering inconspicuously along Duval Street  with his young girlfriend,(2) gazing at the webcam posted near Sloppy Joe’s  Bar regularly portraying hedonistic tourist madness or (3) dodging the  overgrowth of feral cats along the famed Hemingway House tour.

My knack of finding the bizarre in Key West continued on our self guided walking tour of Old Town at this last stop of our recent Caribbean  cruise. Adventuring off the beaten track to avoid tourist hustle on a Monday morning, ten historic/cultural oddities caught my photographic attention as briefly described in the paragraphs below.

1. Follow the crazy roosters around town
Disembarking from the cruise, we were strangely greeted by a flock of noisily crowing roosters surrounding us as we made our way to town. I wonder what welcoming message they were trying to convey to me at the time?
2. Get lost in cemetery tombstone madness
In the “dead” center of town, above ground gravesites covered by weirdly customized tombstones filled the Key West cemetery grounds. Some  burial chambers  inscribed unusual epitaphs –  “I Told You I Was Sick” and “ At Least I Know Where He Is Sleeping Tonight.”
3. Seduce your artistic mind in Haunted House Heaven
Willie Smith, reclusive grandson of a prominent Key West  Sea Captain, John Geiger lived for over twenty years in his  family’s spooky 19th century mansion with shuttered windows and no electricity or running water. Who could imagine that an exquisite collection of John James Audubon birdlife portraits would thus be later displayed on this later museum site amidst these dark and dreary hallways.
4. Cool off  before lunch at Blue Heaven Cafe
Advertised historically as a brothel in early Key West times,   this  quirky outdoor  cafe amusingly advertised showers for $2.00 and watching those who bathe for $1.00. As we indulged in our omelets, the ever present roosters surrounded us again.
5. Celebrate holiday festivities in odd Key West  fashion.
The Yuletide Spirit can be demonstrated here in unusual ways  before Christmas with utility light poles attached to giant candy canes and mini Santa clad gnomes placed on top of patio furniture.
6. Hang out near bars that offer weird, people watching opportunities.
Along bustling Duval Street at night, extreme costumed revelry of Halloween happens regularly. In such case, odd people watching becomes a major activity.
7. Don’t depend on street signs to get you where you want to go.
Key West lies so far and remote from civilization so why bother to read the confusing distance and directional signs.
8. The feline species evolves freakishly here.
What genetic anomaly occurring at Ernest Hemingway’s Mansion  would produce a cat with six toes?
9. Creative marketing  strategies  stretch intellectual limits of the human mind.
Never discard your auto as junk in Key West. It might make a good advertising display. Boldly pink colors accompanied by distorted fairy tale sculptures  also make a good combination for business running appeal.
10. So many cruise boat tourists leave Key West blind to the natural beauty of sky meets sea.

My wife and I gazed at this magnificent Key West sunset as fellow cruise goers surrounded us at the bar scene on ship indulging mindlessly in alcoholic bliss.

Serious Tourist Tip:

It’s much more relaxing to arrive in Key West by cruise rather than car. The arduous drive south from Miami through the full  length of the Keys takes it’s toll on one’s physical/mental stability.


Momentous Lapses of Time

Dawned Orb Glows Blue Vastness A Most Beautiful Sight 

 Immersed In Self Goodness  New Freshness Of Light 

Gentle Waves Pulse Breath Slowly No Need To Hurry

Heed Monkey Mind  Mantra Untroubled By Worry

 Sink Into Numbed Hammock Marley Mellow Frees Pain   

Wiggle Toes In Soft Sands Feel Each Crisis Will Wane 

Self Awareness Less Ego in Tropic Palm Sway 

It’s No Aimless Existence To Love Living Each Day 

Massed Rocks On Stormed Coast Time’s Eternity Passed

Find New Fondness For Now In True Wisdom At Last

I wrote the  poem above inspired by our Western Caribbean cruise stop this week in Cozumel, Mexico. My wife and I have been visiting this pristinely beautiful island since the late 1980s, finding it every time to be a  relaxing respite from our home base in hectic South Florida. The relatively unvisited/undeveloped east coast of the island remains our favorite place to visit away from the tourist commercial bustle. On our self guided excursion on this vacation, we again drove on the only paved road in Cozumel circling the island through  dense mangrove bush dotted with mystical Mayans ruins to our favorite bohemian cafes. 

Below are some favorite pictures on our day in Cozumel. 



Welcoming Cruisebound Memories

“It only takes one cat – or person – to make another feel welcome and special.” (Laura C. Monteiro)

Overseas cruising often “opens my eyes” to the desirable presence  of welcomeness  in encountering  distant shorelines. Under those favorable circumstances, I can personally attest to my strong need to tear down self- imposed walls of negative doubt  and bigotry and warmly reciprocate with those I meet on such foreign shores. An intuitive glance at a compact physical layout  of a town center, a visible sign of human/animal  kindness or the alluring aura of a unique artifact typically produces an immediate gut feeling of welcome in facing  the unknown during excursions ashore. Thus, I reveal how the following places provide symbolic evidence  of such  “COME ASHORE , VISIT US, AND STAY AWILE” hospitality , as witnessed in our recent cruising travels.
1. The Curaçao Welcoming  Of Vivid Colors
A psychedelic looking bus on dock near our cruise liner symbolized Woodstock friendliness of the late 1960s America  in the Dutch influenced city of Willemstad. Walking to the center of town, colorful “ Welcome To Curaçao” signs similarly caught my attention that cruise boat tourists were welcomed to visit this town.
2. Shetland Island Walking Pleasantries
On the ship approach to the quaint village of Lerwick, I observed a an unobstructed walking path along the coastline of Lerwick, exhibiting ample places to stop for peaceful, shoreline views.  In strolling the coastal walking route, an emerging friendliness emerged. An open gate to a relaxing garden, a flowered  array of discarded shoes, and a large dog laying on a grassy lawn unperturbed by our passing presence further calmed my uncertainties about visitor acceptance here. Clearly, this pedestrian – friendly ambience throughout the city seemed quite hospitable from a tourist perspective.
3. Iceland Imagine Peace Tower Unity
Entering Reykjavik, a  small monument of peace and love in tribute to John Lennon lies inconspicuously to greet visitors on a lonely hill offshore. On Lennon’s birthday each year, it emits a shining beam of light in the sky while peace prayers are given in 24 languages. While  Iceland’s name connotes plenty of inhospitable ice and snow, its  spirit of global awareness provided me with a fresh outlook that such a frozen tundra image could be re-examined  in a much more positive manner.
4. Newfoundland Folk Encounter
The cold air of St. John’s  landing as we stepped ashore could be easily overlooked as we walked down the ship boardwalk to the pleasing sounds of a local string band, a fence lined with rustic welcome posters, and  the friendly dog appearance of a Newfoundland Mastiff. Walking down the dock, we enjoyed our perceived celebrity presence amidst this friendly parade.
5. Not So Dark And Dreary Halifax Citadel
At Halifax Fort in Nova Scotia’s largest city, one would not expect the stoic and stiff presence of a uniformed security guard transform at first greet to  a friendly chap patiently offering his personal tips  for visiting this confusing maze of walled chambers.  Stepping inside to the vast interior courtyard, I amusingly spotted a 1920s Model T Ford coughing and chugging it’s engine to life. The expected gloom of medieval bloody warfare definitely did not permeate the  atmosphere here today.
6. Canary Island Mystical Rocks
In yoga, I practice meditation to find inner solace from my incessant “monkey mind chatter.”  In travel, I accordingly search for vortexes of positive energy to calm my most active mind. In walking among these uniquely  stacked rocks along shoreline Puerto de la Cruz, I made such ample time for such satisfying  self reflection.
7. New York City Nonjudgment Matters
Manhattan  can be an intimidating pressure cooker of frantic human movement throughout a compact and quite densely populated area. Yet this oppressed street person has found his preferred  place to be anonymously alone along Times Square.  Any place where no one cares to judge your looks or actions no matter how important or strange you are seems eminently worth a sustained visit  in my travels.

Iceland: True Measure Of Extreme

“Few people take an interest in Iceland, but in those few the interest is passionate.” (W. H. Auden)

What kind of place most excites you in booking a cruise vacation? For me, warm island cruise destinations typically tantalize my senses as I expect to find true paradise there in the spirit of the unknown. Losing track of time on a remote coastal shoreline, engaging strangers in a cool tiki bar conversation or climbing steeply to a sheltered mountaintop hideaway thus make excellent ship excursions to satisfy my  wanderlust  longings. Gazing with awe on top deck at snow capped mountainous ranges surrounding Reykjavik on our late September, reposition cruise, I imagined Iceland as a more frigid version of my desired paradise ideal. I truly felt invigorated then to face expected extreme Arctic weather with my wife Ruth here  during our two days of touristic exploration. 

Day 1 – City Tour of Reykjavik

In mid morning on our  first day, we joined hordes of cruise passengers to disembark at Reykjavik passenger terminal. While many tourists huddled in an  adjoining  gift shop to buy local souvenirs or obtain free wi fi  service, more pressing matters occupied our immediate attention. Considering the bone-chilling weather we now faced, walking nearly two miles to the city center seemed impractical. We thus opted to escape the crowds by  boarding a cruise shuttle for drop off within walking distance of the main Visitor Center in town center. I soon observed Reykjavik as a uniquely quiet place of minimal vehicle traffic and sparse human presence as we made our way along the shoreline route to our intended destination. Our attention would now divert to the serenity of Lake Tjornin, oddly occupying a massive space in the center of town. Prolifically occupied  by thousands of sea birds  exhibiting little fear of our human presence, we aimlessly lingered by the lakeshore in spite of the chilly weather  to embrace this unique place of wildlife refuge. 

Entering the modernistic tourist center overlooking the lake,  we then requested information about visiting the “Blue Lagoon”, a hugely popular swimming attraction fed by warm geyser waters outside the city. A negative thought surfaced quickly.  Did we really want to swim outdoors in thirty degree weather and risk the chance of getting sick? Unfortunately, a bus tour would also dissuade us from making such a visit as bookings were in excess of our expected price range and required  advance reservations. An additional challenge arose as we attempted to find an affordable lunch in nearby  pubs. Our examination of posted menus in Icelandic currency typically converted prices as $20.00 for one Diet Coke and over $25.00 for one lunch entree of fish and chips. Settling  for a plain pizza to share, we now pondered our upcoming afternoon touristic options. 

My travel research had revealed  that Iceland presented an ideal place to view the spectacular Aurora Borealis phenomenon at this time of the year. Such curiosity  led us to visit “Aurora Reykjavik”, Iceland’s Northern Lights Center along the shoreline. Spectacular photographs and panoramic video re-creations  of past Aurora sightings throughout the island  there offered conflicting explanations that both hard science and religious mysticism could explain the true essence of this phenomenon.  Which theory do you believe? As we exited the museum, heightening wind gusts/ driving rain blowing  ashore from the  North Atlantic alerted us to hastily scurry back to the bus stop for our return back to the inviting comforts of our cruise ship. Amusingly, we were informed later that such extreme weather was common in Iceland for this time of year. 

Day 2 – Iceland Island Tour

Curious to explore outside Reykjavik, we then booked the popular “Golden Circle”  tour onboard the ship for the last day of our Iceland visit. Traveling inland uphill by bus  to southwestern Iceland on this eight hour journey, we obtained  a firsthand look at the remote eeriness of land devastated lava fields, lifelessly flat tundra plains, and ominously bubbling geyser fields. Feeling dispirited by the dull, gray clouds settling  amidst faint  sunlight conditions, our spirits lifted as we entered the impressive geothermal basin of Thingvellir National Park. For there we would learn that this UNESCO Heritage Site served as a  nationally protected place of underground plate fissures, where superheated magma from the earth’s core violently rose to  the land surface near a glacially filled lake. A subsequent hike along a gusty, wind tunnel- like canyon here would  arouse awe-inspiring emotion in us amidst this spectacular kaleidoscope of silence, shape, and color manifested by such extreme,  geothermal forces. 

Moving further inland, geyser activity became increasingly more noticeable. Such “hot spots” spewing steady streams of boiling liquid along both sides of the roadside would become a major distraction for us as no warning signs or barriers existed to protect humans from these  extreme heat dangers. At one geyser stop, in particular, we noticed tourists moving dangerously close to an “Old Faithful” like geyser  that soon would expel its heated gases/liquids high into the air.  In nearby fields, similarly,  Icelandic horses grazed similarly unaffected by the geothermal dangers lying below their feet.        

Looking back at our first visit to Iceland, I realize that future attempts to  walk around Reykjavik on our own must be conducted more mindfully.  Thus, we must better prepare our mind/body to face arctic- like weather,  find affordable ways to spend on food, and prioritize making advanced ticket reservations. Adventuring throughout the island will also present the challenge of selecting suitable hike routes to avoid  “hot spot” dangers of an unpredictable nature. We must also be more cognizant of how to find temporary shelter for avoiding extended exposure to the bitter cold. Clearly, Icelandic  “paradise of the extreme” cannot be been accomplished easily, yet it seems clearly worth the survival effort. Watch the  video below and you thus might find your own version of paradise in Iceland on your next Atlantic overseas vacation. 

Football English Style For You?

I recognize the dominance of football in sports- driven America yet soccer rules the world in spectator  games popularity. In my short attention world, it seems difficult to embrace soccer’s  rules of continuous “time of play” and  its low scoring  nature. Looking globally then for a personal explanation for such heightened  soccer intrigue, I vividly recall the excitement I felt as a professor for my  ESOL students of Latin American background. For I encouraged them successfully to improve their ability to speak English by proudly describing the soccer mania in their respective countries. 


From a travel perspective, I also recall our 1980s – 1990s summer vacations in Italy , France , and Holland, where we often observed citywide celebrations of winning teams in World Cup action. Later in 2010, Africa’s stunning landscape backdrops and competitive game action associated with the World Cup Finals  would definitely pique our interest in visiting South Africa that year. Most recently, our  vacation visits to London and Southampton, England in Fall, 2018, would thus provide a unique opportunity to study up-close the mass appeal of English Premier League soccer. The following video captures a sample of such soccer mania  that we experienced at this time.

September 26 – Brentford Bees at Arsenal Gunners 

On the day of this well publicized, playoff match, I surprisingly purchased inexpensive tickets for my wife and I for thirty British pounds apiece. Due to a transit strike that day in London, alternate tube station routes would require greater walking distance to and from North London’s Emirates Stadium. So we patiently made  our way through the center of town from our outlying transit station to the stadium on foot following a slow line of fans two hours before the game. Interestingly, we noted then that designated pubs were strictly marked with signs  for home and away fan attendance. Yet fans of both teams of both teams were observed amicably mingling on the streets.Observing souvenir stalls  on sidewalks for both teams along the way, we soon purchased a relatively inexpensive, Arsenal sash to mark the moment.  We noted then that Gunner fans wrapped similar sashes around their bodies to combat the surrounding chill .

Entering Emirates Stadium environs on this cool and clear night, dazzling billboards of Arsenal team unity immediately. attracted our attention. As policemen vigorously patrolled the Emirates perimeter, we then enjoyed the serenity of walking in this pedestrian safe and oddly quiet environment. In addition, with no auto traffic/parking lots to cross and noticeably light crowd congestion here, we would  locate our entry gate with ease. Our small handbags would  then be quickly cleared in a security tunnel leading to a conveniently located elevator to our midfield, upper level seats. Gazing around at the simplicity of the stadium’s inner structure at  first entrance , we quickly noted a “sea” of uniformly designed, red seats, one stadium clock and minimal advertising banner distractions. 

As match time approached, the stands filled quickly with spectators in businesslike fashion. As the two teams conducted pregame practice on the field, team unity seemed prevalent then as groups of players informally gathered to discuss upcoming strategy. After a brief return to the locker room, both teams  now re-entered to raucous crowd singing and flag waving mania. A single line formation of players from both teams at the center of the field indicated their appreciation of such positive crowd energy provided prior to kickoff.


As both teams settled into a vigorously contested defensive struggle, I noted that every spectator  surrounding me seemed intensely engrossed in the game’s action. Scoreboard reference to goals earned and assigned penalties by player(s) reinforced such undivided fan attention. At times, however, the sprinkling of shouted profanities (yet few boos), spontaneous cheers, and loudly heard chorus of home/road team singing seemed more interesting than the game action itself. Midway through the second half of the match, we joined a line of fans who surprisingly chose to forego the end of match celebration and thus begin an orderly exit from the stadium. We soon waited patiently in the long queue of passengers at our designated tube stop  for the  return trip home. 

Displayed below are some sample pictures depicting the kind of behaviors  that I observed this night. 

How strange to me that in spite of the few goals scored and the transportation inconveniences that night, the sheer fun of being there then sustained my interest throughout the night. Clapping for an injured player who rose from the turf to play on, the cheer for a star player returning from the bench, and the unified linking of home/road team fans singing in unison their respective fight songs seemed to transcend the intense concerns about who was winning. 

What conclusions might you consider from this soccer blog to make your next American football experience a more pleasing one? 

  1. Focus on the game more. Turn off your cellphone, ignore the continual advertising distractions and give full attention to the action in play.                                  
  2. Lighten up” some and enjoy the present moment of witnessing a competitive moment. Look for positive opportunities to cheer performance of individual players in times of need rather than mindlessly booing their errors. More clapping and singing should be encouraged before and between game action.
  3. Consider commuting to the game in some other method than car. Walk around the stadium more and notice places of quiet solitude. Avoid purchase of cheap and unusable souvenirs as you tour the stadium grounds.
  4. Embrace opportunities to unify with others. Mingle with road fans. Avoid divisive political discussions. Be more aware of those sitting around your seat. Look for  opportunities to engage in human interactions with players at stadium gates, souvenir opportunities near the field or at organized team events. 

Montreux Landscape Artistry

“If you want peace of soul, come to Montreux” (Freddie Mercury)         

 The natural beauty of Switzerland lures Ruth and I to frequently visit it on our European vacations. With the inviting presence of endless Alps hiking routes interspersed with quaint Swiss villages, crystal clear lakes, and cow sprinkled pastures, we imagine Switzerland as a fairy tale dream. Our most recent visit to the pristine shorelines of Lake Geneva  flanked by inviting hillside vineyards and the towering Jura mountains in September, 2018 thus bode well for us as a similarly uplifting experience. 

On this particular day, we decided to visit Montreux by slow train on a cool and sunny  weekday. Strolling through town on foot, we intended to examine the artistic legacy here of Freddie Mercury, of Queen’s rock music fame. Descending from the Central Gare Station through downtown along a steep walk to the popular lakeside promenade, we first paused to view the famous statue of Freddie. His crowd-pleasing, musical presence situated prominently along the lake soon resonated a deeper meaning of creative artistic expression emanating from this exquisitely beautiful place. Feel Freddie’s flair for seeing Montreux in his own  inspired way in the following video. You might sense a poem in his lyrics an impressive art piece or one of his magical music performances. 

Click on Freddie’s Montreux link below.

Freddie’s Montreux

Moving uptown away from the shoreline in further search  of Freddie Mercury’s enduring musical legacy in Montreux, we then toured “Queen, The Studio Experience Exhibition, at the elegant downtown casino. From 1978 through Freddie’s death in 1991, Mountain Studios functioned as the epicenter of Queen’s musical production. Here, Queen produced seven record albums including their fifteenth and final one, “Made in Heaven.” Our tour of this legendary place would now yield a firsthand look at a young man of musical genius surrounded by the excesses of rock star fame. His handwritten musical lyrics, priceless photos/album covers and graffiti-like, wall dedications from adoring fans provided a solid testament of his iconic artistic brilliance.

When Freddie received his AIDS diagnosis in 1987, He sought more peace and quiet in his life at Montreux. He then spent more time at his nearby lakeside home, relaxing outdoors. For a legendary rock star used to the wildly raucous “grind” of world tours, my observations about  one of his writings at this casino museum visit clearly suggested that in these painful moments  of his life, Montreux’s natural environs  provided him with a greater “peace of mind.”


 Other reminders of Montreux’s rich legacy to spur rich artistic accomplishment surfaced on a  second day visit by car.  Chillon Castle stood prominently along the lake where Lord Byron’s felt inspired to compose his epic poem, “The Prisoner of Chillon”. Our short visit here thus provided chilling irony that  within this castle’s stony walls along a  beautiful lake, enslaved victims were once cruelly imprisoned for innocently opposing  the religious dogma of the Protestant Reformation.           

5E7A04E3-A3B9-4C02-8EB0-03A952316317 Moving out toward the suburbs of Montreux, two additional sites of of artistic interest caught our interest. The “avant-garde” design of famed French architect Le  Corbusier provided breathtaking, open air vistas of Lake Geneva at his home, “ Via Lac Le Corbusier”. The winding drive to Charlie Chaplin World in the the vineyard – filled hills above Montreux  also provided a breathtaking overlook of the serene lakeside below. How enlightening it seemed then to relive the humor- filled artistry of this legendary, silent movie actor near his home and special place of refuge. 

In early July each year, Montreux buzzes with endless musical creativity for three days  at its  renowned jazz festival My wife and I on several occasions in the past have listened to unforgettable  live performance there in ticketed indoor venues of popular bands of jazz/rock interest. We  have also enjoyed many smaller scale performances performed for free  as we settled into French Riviera relaxation along this beautiful, lakeside shoreline. If you plan to visit Switzerland in the future, I thus urge you take time to enjoy the  unique magic of  Montreux’s landscape artistry as described in this blog. 


Let’s Act Without Labels

“Once you label me you negate me” Soren Kierkegaard

My wife always reminds me of one of her favorite phrases when I go into my “mental meltdowns” about others I disagree with. Practice the ideal of “To Each His/Her Own”. Having spent a lifetime as an educator assigning labels to my students based on informal observations and test results, it seemed “second nature” then that I could detach myself so emotionally from them as I assigned predetermined labels conveniently for my teaching needs. For my student victims, however, being categorized as slow learner, emotionally handicapped, or learning disabled….would represent a permanently stereotyped imprint on their fragile minds for the rest of their lives.

A more extreme example of this phenomenon occurred during the rise of Adolph Hitler in his propaganda campaign for expelling Jews in conjunction with the rise of Aryan Nazi Power. Stereotyped as outcasts in increasingly demeaning ways, innocent Jews were forced to live in depressing “ghettos” and wear the yellow star of “Jude” as constant reminders of their alleged inferior status. Ominously, such inhumane branding resulted in “The Holocaust”, a systematically bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and cold-blooded murder of over six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its complicit collaborators.

BE339026-EF4F-4A49-8B7C-D5F94BCFF633In Nazi schools, stereotyped persecution of Jewish children became particularly heinous. Witness the case of Rebecca Weisner, who recalled her anti-Semitic treatment in her German school: “When I was six, Hitler came to power. I started school in April 1933, just at the same time… There were some German girls I was friends with – we grew up together – and, all of a sudden, one day I come down and they call me dirty Jew. My friends, the friends I grew up with! I couldn’t comprehend it. I would say to my mother, Why do they call me dirty? I am not dirty. And she said, You had better get used to it. You’re Jewish, and that is what you have to learn. So just take it. But I didn’t want to take it. I fought.”

Or consider the traumatic recollections of Hedwig Ertl as a teenage student: “We had a history teacher who was a very committed National Socialist, and we had four Jewish pupils. And they had to stand up during the class, they weren’t allowed to sit down. And one after the other they disappeared, until none were left, but nobody thought much about it. We were told they had moved…. We were told all the time that first the Jews are a lower kind of human being, and then the Poles are inferior, and anyone who wasn’t Nordic was worthless.”


With the November 5 Midterm elections looming, I observe a similar stereotyping phenomena in the political arena.  “Leftists and Rightists”emotionally “ dig in  to lay claim to their own uncompromising ways toward what needs to be done for reaching the “promised land” in our country. Unsurprisingly then, such appeal to one’s self-full filling view of political party domination perpetuates confusing, “cognitive dissonance” when situations require them to uncomfortably look beyond their narrow frame of reference to recognize opposing points of view. In effect, our country continues to suffer with endless political gridlock as so vividly captured today by polarizing anger and blame intensifying in the second year of the Trump Presidency.

B1855746-AE41-4206-846D-5B7E6595167ERepublicans and Democrats should not be labeled as exclusively conservative or liberal respectively. Nor should stereotypical blindness deny our pursuit of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all. Imagine we together embrace the phrase “May The Force Be With You“of Star Wars fame as a new anthem for reminding us to find reason for unity in our daily lives.

Blog References:

1.Jewish Children In The Nazi Classroom

2.A Student In a Nazi School

Historic Scars of Anti Semitism

“What I want you to take away from my life story is just how important it is to defend your freedom, at all costs. Experience has shown me that if you lose your freedom, you are condemned to fail.” (Leon Schgrin – Holocaust Survivor)

For many individuals of Jewish faith, Anti-Semitism presents a stark reality of cruel injustice that has continued throughout history. Ponder the endless clash of Judaism vs. Christianity concerning the holy  presence of God and Jesus Christ. Think of the coldly systematic extermination of over 6,000, 000 Jews in war torn Europe. Or imagine the Nazi induced fears of Anne Frank and her Jewish family hiding in an Amsterdam attic to maintain their daily  survival. Some racist conspiracy advocates even deny that the “Holocaust” ever took place. Click on the link below for a more detailed video documentation of Anti Semitism throughout European  history. 

Clearly, Anti-Semitism  presents a serious problem in many  countries throughout the world today as well. Witness the anti-Jewish  hatred expressed in “right wing”  political rallies or examine the ominous statistical trends of such prejudice  rendered in the pictures below. Oddly, however, I have rarely seen evidence of such blatant racism in my daily life routine in suburban South Florida. In fact, my friends/acquaintances with solidly Jewish roots excel in religious, business, and educational  careers. While I thus conceded my own naïveté on this subject, I deeply desired to gain a more focused perspective about this historically human tragedy by way of my world travels.           

My Fall 2018 tourist visits to three history museums in Italy and France  thus revealed the incidence of Anti- Semitism more intensely.  The resultant  blog entry here intends primarily to serve here as an informational  tool for my readers to understand the serious nature of  this enduring problem. I also hope that social media interest in my blog  provides momentum for supporting policies of political action to fight back against this rising scourge of Anti Semitism in the United States  today. 


Rome Italy – Historical Museum of the Liberation of Rome

Picture an Italian residence standing inconspicuously on a side street  leading away from the bustling center of Rome. Transform this house into a secretive Nazi facility of black darkened windows and walled up interrogation rooms designed for systematic torture and ultimate deportation to death  for thousands of Jews during World War II. Such heinous crimes of Anti- Semitic inhumanity  were exhibited in full display on my recent visit to Rome this past September. Lining the halls along our tour of the facility, I noted the chilling presence of official, Anti – Jewish manifestos, death order records, as well as wall charts branding Jews  with inferior yellow star status. Such evidence indicated a ruthless Nazi resolve to complete their Holocaust mission in war-torn Europe at that time. 

Turckheim, France (Alsace Lorraine) – Musee Du Memorial des  Combats 

The quaint medieval town of Turckheim appeared at first glance on our recent visit as  a “fairy tale” land of bright flowered cottages, intimate French cafes , and inviting cobblestone passageways. Yet Turckheim lies in the strategically valuable plains of Alsace -Lorraine, a politically contested area historically belonging to both Germany and France. As Allied troops in World War  II fought Nazi armies to free Alsace from German occupation, a murderous reign of Jewish arrests and Nazi camp deportations took place from here and in the more populated surrounding cities of Colmar and Strasbourg. 

As I descended to a small cellar now functioning as a small museum in the center of town, I learned that this place  had functioned as a dismal shelter of refuge for town residents from the surrounding war battleground in 1944-1945. I thus imagined the Nazi Anti Semitism factor  surfacing at the time while  families lived in fear here without electricity and water here while sleeping on dark and dirty floors to avoid enemy detection. As I photographed a vast collection of Nazi weaponry/pro- Hitler artifacts  in prominent display here, I logically reasoned then that such Jewish fears  were justified. 

Paris , France – The Shoah Memorial/Holocaust Museum

The Marais district of Paris exists today as a bustling center of activity for the Judaism faith.  Jewish children busily scurry to Hebrew school. An orthodox rabbi sits quietly on a bench to recite his lines for his latest sermon. A Jewish family informally gathers together at home for “Shabbat” meal at Friday sunset.  Such freedoms to learn, worship, and assemble seemed miraculous in view of the human atrocities resulting from Anti- Semitism observed at the Memorial de la Shoah on our most recent visit. 

As a relatively recent addition to the Marais district in 2005, the Shoah induced me to feel shock  and hope  with respect to the Anti- Semitism problem. Along the exterior  of the facility,  the extensive list of Holocaust names  inscribed on the “Wall Of  Remembrance” certainly provided overwhelming negative outrage. In the interior galleries, the presence of Nazi storage cabinets containing personal documents/ physical object collections of Holocaust victims as well as adjoining photo collages of Jewish victims equally repulsed me then. 

 More positively, I now realized that the  egregious evils of  Anti-Semitism so graphically exposed at the Shoah provided a valuable educational tool  to inspire new generations to change such prejudicial thinking. For new leaders would be discovered at ongoing workshops, debates, and conferences… offered at this museum to instill new optimism that these historic evils of Anti-Semitism would never again be repeated. 

Research Sources

South Florida Plea For Unity

 “Everyone has a responsibility to create a more inclusive society and challenge hateful rhetoric. The safety and well-being of our community depend on it.”(Sabina Mohyuddin, program manager at The American Muslim Advisory Council)

 In response to the tragic murder this weekend of eleven Jewish followers at the “Tree of Life” Synogogue  in Pittsburgh, I read that security would be tightened at Jewish synagogues throughout South Florida. Arriving on Monday morning for a speaker presentation  at the David Posnack Jewish Community of South Florida,  I observed the enhanced presence of police patrols and massed array of  local TV news vans in the parking lot at this securely gated facility. As I entered the reception area, I then received word that this event had been cancelled. Meanwhile, I also heard that an open press conference reaction to the Pittsburgh tragedy would soon be taking place in a nearby building.

Given the free time now, I made my way to the press conference area, considering it as an opportunity to educate myself about community plans to deal with the Anti Semitism problem. As I entered the room,  I noticed ahead of me a row  of TV cameras facing a crowded press conference stage. Anticipated tension seemed to settle amid the diverse crowd I determined to be religious leaders, politicians, and other community organization activists To my left, a memorial table had  been set up to recognize each of the eleven Jewish victims  slain in Pittsburgh with lighted candles. Moving closer, I curiously scanned the official list of prominent speakers/attendees  from South Florida at this event.

I then saw an ideal opportunity to mingle among the crowd and speak to various attendees informally. Conversing candidly about their presence here today with  priests, rabbis,  mullahs, volunteers, and community activists, I now realized that this would be no politically divisive rally. An exhausted looking Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz would soon provide a tear-filled speech deploring this attack on the Jewish community as an attack on all humanity in this country. As the press conference continued, I surprisingly noted that other speeches contained largely factual reporting about Jewish hate crimes with no mention of Donald Trump or the upcoming midterm election.     

What have I learned today? Clearly, a plea for unity in this crisis across political, economic, and religious lines seems most relevant here. America has just witnessed one of the largest anti-Jewish attacks in the history of this country. Social media hate attacks currently run rampant. Our President continually uses blameful attacks on his opponents to exacerbate our political differences. Whether globalism or nationalism resonates with you now, we must tone down the anger and engender vigilant attention to our shared humanity. 

Pastel Paradise – Cinque Terre Italy

“The view was like a vision described in novels; a tiny town that hovered on jagged cliffs and sparkling blue water, and by no means did the “visions” stop through out the day…” (Destination: Cinque Terre”, a story by Sergio Ortiz)

On our recent forty two day adventure, my wife and I visited five European countries by Eurail Pass interspersed with Air B&Bs stays adjacent to convenient railway locations. Snippets of the Traveling Mind” returns this week with impressions of our three day visit to the five towns of  Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO National Heritage site along the Italian Riviera. 


As Ruth and I settled in slowly in late afternoon into our spacious, Air B@B apartment in La Spezia, we felt immediately relieved. For we had exited our busy time in  congested Rome to experience much quieter, suburban  surroundings here. Our amiable apartment proprietor would provide us with plentiful information about adjacent Cinque Terre National Park that we planned to visit in the next three days of our visit. As she informed us that the famous walking trails linking these five villages to the Mediterranean shoreline paradise had washed out due to recent mud slides, we opted to undertake each town separately by rail. Hiking through steep, narrow stepped lanes within each medieval village would provide a formidable challenge for us to consider then.                          

Over the next three days , we would soon discover that each town along this secluded shoreline possessed its own uniqueness, combining  colorful pastel housing, exquisite coastal panoramas, and Italian sensory delights. Click on the link below to gain a video perspective about the spectacular setting of the Cinque Terre region.

Corniglia –  Climbing Challenge 

Exiting the tunnel at the train station near Corniglia, we immediately spotted the steep cliff leading to this small medieval town surrounded by vineyards and a jagged coastline setting above. The hike  would thus be challenging, requiring  us to ascend a zig zag route of narrow stone steps to the town above. Accepting this strenuous walking challenge would enable us to view spectacular vistas of mountainside coastline interspersed with lush Mediterranean foliage along the way. Arriving to town somewhat winded, a spurt of energy returned quickly to the sounds of distant church bells ringing in this quiet medieval town. 

Vernazza – Relaxing Sunbathing Experience 

Gently descending  the narrow cobblestone road through town, we reached a bustling shoreline inlet protruding into a man-made shoreline pier. We would then join throngs of locals/tourists/sitting quietly along the pier-side walls there. With the serene vista of the colorfully pastel town and gentle, wave lapping harbor in our immediate view then, we truly enjoyed love of life on this sunny day.

Manarola –  Getting Lost Experience 

A jumbled maze of narrow, medieval streets in Manarola offered a variety of options for visiting this town. Spotting a low route along the perimeter of the village, our short hike curved around steep cliffs dotted with  rocky promontories and hidden caves. With sufficient time, we could have walked for hours along these crystalline shores with no real destination in mind. 

Monterroso – Luxury Living Experience 

As the most popular, tourist beach destination in Cinque Terre, Monterroso personified true luxury in the Italian Riviera. In fact, we observed only a few places of public access on this visit as private beaches catering to exclusive hotel occupants dominated our attention  here. Ambling amidst the pretentious hotels along the boardwalk of town, we imagined being seen as one of the  “rich and famous” catered obviously to here.

Riomaggiore – Bohemian Eating Indulgence 

As the last stop on our Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore provided a spectacular setting and old town presence. Notably, we savored a plethora of creative wall murals and colorful pastel housing amidst its steep cliffside location. However, it seemed the alluring sights/smells of food dominated most our attention here. Unlike pricy Monterroso, window shopping of small cafe patios and storefront markets for fresh seafood and fruits/vegetables  along the town promenade seemed  most natural for our “less than upscale”  tastes here. Settling for the savory crunch of the local focaccia bread later in La Spezia would suffice on this day.

Final Tips For  Visiting Cinque Terre

1.Do not try to visit all five towns of Cinque Terre in one day

2.Cool off in railway tunnels to counter oppressive Italian heat.

3.Watch your fried food choices here to avoid stomach issues.

4.Go early to each town. Avoid the tour bus crowds.

5.Each town visit involves taking many steps up and downhill. Pace yourself and wear the proper shoes.