Friday, October 29, 2010

Election Day Approaches - Tsk, tsk, tsk

It’s that time of year again. I’m receiving “Suffragists Fought For This” and “Soldiers Died For This” emails. Posters encouraging voting are all over campus. Registration opportunities are everywhere. People are gearing up for the guilt trips; we've all heard them from those who think it's wrong not to vote.
I’m not a proponent of voting just for the sake of voting. I don’t see it as a mere right; to me, it’s a responsibility. If you don’t know or care what’s on the ballot, why risk voting the wrong way? Just to say that you vote?
I know people whose philosophies and lifestyles mark them clearly along party lines, yet they’re voting the opposite, without even recognizing their unwitting hypocrisy. Usually, they follow their parents’ or spouse’s voting practices.
I think it’s just fine to postpone voting until you develop a civic interest and take your rights seriously, instead of simply taking your right. I never voted until I was in my mid-20’s. It seems to me that no vote at all is preferable to an uneducated vote.
Instead of encouraging young people to vote, introduce them to the political process. Spark their interest. Show them how they can have an impact.

Monday, October 18, 2010

University of Cincinnati

I held my best class to date at the University of Cincinnati Saturday. I'm still learning to balance having people engaged enough to participate with having them over-engaged and taking up too much time. This was one of my biggest classes and we ran perfectly on time.
This campus is quite old and very pretty. I really enjoy the academic environment, so bouncing around to all these different schools is a lot of fun for me. Hmm, maybe a Hawaii version of the class is in order?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Woolson Spice Company

********This building was constructed in Toledo in 1864 as a coffee-roasting and spice-grinding business. The Lion Coffee brand was roasted here. It was eventually bought out by Alvin Woolson, who was an advertising genius.
He increased sales by offering gifts that could be purchased with pictures cut from the coffee label. He also included greeting cards in his coffee and spice packages. Today, the beautiful Victorian cards are highly collectible. Here are a few offerings currently on eBay:

In the 1980’s a gentleman operating in Hawai’i fell in love with an old Lion Coffee poster. Because he purchased the rights of the bankrupt Woolson Spice Company, you can still buy Lion Coffee today.

River Raisin Studios

Sarge has a studio! My sister has wanted a place specifically to work on her art for about 10 years, and it has finally happened!
She paints, often on canvases as large as 4’ x 4’, and the supplies can take over living space pretty quickly. When she lived in her house, it was always difficult to find a place to sit. When she moved to Mom’s, two entire households were combined; she still has stuff stored here and there. It leaves no space for her to work on paintings.
She just got a great deal on a gigantic space in a neighboring town. It’s a two-story brick Main Street-style building. It was constructed in 1914 as a Masonic Lodge, so it has double doors opening to what could have been a banquet hall, meeting rooms, a dance hall and a kitchen area. The ceiling is tin, with the Mason’s insignia in it.

Even my pack-rat sister can’t fill up this much space . . .
It’s pretty neat that this old building is being used as a grocery store downstairs and now an artist’s studio upstairs. The building is steps from the banks of the Raisin River, so I nick named it River Raisin Studios.
I’m so proud of my sissy!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dash Solutions

In the midst of the sailing trip, I checked my email and learned that my class has been approved by the State of Ohio as continuing ed credits for real estate license renewals. Ohio's regs are stricter than Michigan's, so I wasn't expecting this.
Although still in development, I think the web site was instrumental in this approval. It gives a more professional perspective to the application and makes it clear that another state has already approved me. Check it out at:
I HAVE to get the classes online! Until that's done, I'm just losing money.


I spent a couple days off the boat, playing around in the beautiful town of Luquillo, with its rip-tide laden surfers' beach.
Xavira and I made a night trip to kayak the biolumescent bay and I hung out on the beach watching the wind surfers.
Visiting somewhere new is good for the soul. I like to see what I learn that I want to incorporate into my life. From Puerto Rico, I gained a deeper appreciation for looking past appearances, a genuine love for people, and the importance of incorporating outdoor spaces into daily life.

I will definitely go back to sail at Isleta Marina again. I can't wait for the ferry!


I passsed both the tests, each with 100 questions! He approved me for a 30' boat; I need more instruction for something larger.
The UofM has a sailing club that I can join for a great price. I hope to fill up my new log book with lots of Great Lakes ports!


Today Captain Michael made me play skipper to my fellow students - an architect and a Justice Department employee. I learned a lot doing it and it gave the Captain a good idea of my capabilities.

The Walled City

Xavira invited me to dinner and I was excited to see her place in Viejo (Old) San Juan. This is the original part of the city, still protected by the city walls that are part of the fortification. In North America, there are only two walled cities; the other is Quebec City. Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Xavira's place is beautiful! She has the upper two floors of a 3-story building that is 350 years old. The top floor has only room for the stairway opening and a pass-through kitchen; the rest is all patio, with a tiled counter opening from the kitchen. Her patio/roof has ocean views in two directions. Her ceilings are probably 16 feet high. The living and bedrooms have tall wooden double doors that open to individual balconies with iron balustrades. The floors are all gorgeous tile. It's a truly prime property.
She served a simple, tasty dish of raw veggies, tuna and breadfruit tossed with olive oil, garlic and tarragon. I will definitely try it at home, replacing the breadfruit with rice or orzo or something. Delicious!


It's just the Captain and me today, slicing through the Caribbean. He worked me, with lots of repeats of all my newly-learned maneuvers. I hope I can pass the tests . . .

DAY FIVE & Xavira

Today brought me a new friend. Xavira is a fellow student of Captain Michael's - a journalist who lives in Old San Juan. She is about my age and single; we hit it off immediately.
We had a great day sailing. We both knew enough that Captain Michael was at ease and it was a fun day.
I'm so happy that I stuck with the lessons. I was close to quitting. Thanks to Dramamine, I didn't!

Puerto Rico

I'm comfortable in Puerto Rico. My little island marina offers its own security, by way of its removal from the mainland, but I'm also comfortable on the bigger island, even alone.
Two years ago, I was here with a male friend and I feel more more secure this time. I think I just understand the place better.
Much of the beautiful, centuries-old Spanish colonial architecture is crumbling. Most of it needs a paint job. The salt air makes the metal balustrades and gutters rust, discoloring the cement buildings. Even disregarding a lack of wealth, lots of places appear run down.
There's also lots of garbage in the streets. I can't imagine why it isn't managed, but it's all over, even along ocean-front property with stunning views, on municipal beaches and at business frontages.
People are mellow and sociable here, so they hang out wherever there are other people (they call it "liming"). There are impromptu little gatherings wherever you look.
In Michigan, property in disrepair, garbage on the ground and groups of people hanging around are all clues to a bad neighborhood. Those standards don't apply in Puerto Rican culture. Two years ago, we were intimidated by these visual cues, but now I'm not. The garbage looks awful, but it doesn't indicate danger here.

********Driving is very different in PR, too. People routinely let pedestrians and other drivers go in front of them. Nobody speeds up to prevent someone from getting ahead of them. It's very courteous, really although at first glance, it seems that everyone pulls out in front of you. They're just expecting the standard accommodation that is the norm here.
Motorcyclists (even cops!) all squeeze between cars, too, even on a freeway. There are few parking restrictions, so street parking is chaotic. Products and packaging aren't the least bit environmentally friendly, which is unusual for an island. People are very loving to children, often kissing them and being very patient. Customer service is non-existant; if the clerk is on her cell phone, you'll have to wait for her. Strangers greet each other.
It's so fun to learn the intracacies of other cultures!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Boat Dwellers

All the guys who live on their boats have an ex-wife. I wonder if that's why they chose this life, which is, in a manner, dropping out of society.
A couple of them love women, but I sense some latent misogyny in a couple of them, too.
Here are my favorites -

Polito is somewhat iconic on the island. He is a rope-maker and a skirt-chaser. He performs a lot of marine maintenance on the boats at the marina.
Polito likes to dance and, apparently, is really good at it. I didn't get to see it, but he likes to dance without toppling a can of beer he balances on his head (must be a Puerto Rican thing . . .).
He wore the hat in my honor.

Boris is Russian, with all the brawn and swagger of Yeltsin. This Boris worked as a nuclear engineer and was at Cherynobl during its meltdown. His doctor says he shouldn't be alive today.
Boris sits outside the restaurant, regardless of the heat, smoking and drinking. "I no like air-condition. I like breeze!"
When I passed on a drink because I would be driving later, he said, "Is no problem in Caribe."
Boris left Russia when the Soviet Union split. The breakdown really angered him. "You create shit, you live in it. I go live my dream in islands of Caribe."
He sailed to the Caribbean and taught at a university in Puerto Rico for a while. Now he's retired and loves the security and solitude of Isleta Marina. He told me, "I die here."


Captain Michael came on my boat early, calling in his cheery, British accent, "Good morning, Nancy! Are you ready for another beautiful day of sailing?" wtf? Had he been asleep the first couple days?
I expressed my reservations and he said, "Take your medication. If you get drowsy and fall overboard, I'll circle back and pick you up." A real sensitive type, Captain Michael . . .
It was just the two of us and we headed out on a different boat with a large bimany (sun shade). So, I got to ditch the hat, which made it a lot cooler.
I was able to follow orders without having to ask, "What does jibe mean, again?" I noticed, for the first time, the contrast of the whitecaps against the tourquois sea. I took the helm and got precisely the rush you'd expect when the boat heeled over. The warm Caribbean breeze felt wonderful.
I get it, now!
After our return, I realized that I was neither sick nor drowsy. Yay!

Isleta Marina

********I stayed on a boat in a marina on a tiny island off the coast of Fajardo. A ferry takes you to and from the island. Besides the marina, there are two towers of exclusive condos, one restaurant, a swimming pool, a beach and some dry storage. Not much. The restaurant is the social scene.
There are three kinds of people on Isleta Marina - rich people visiting in their boats or condos, students of Captain Michael's sailing school, and single, oddball men who live in their boats at the marina and do whatever work they can.
I think I was an oddity on the island. Most of the students come for day classes. The few live-aboard students aren't usually female and rarely are they single. By the time I arrived, most of the boat-dwellers already knew my name!
I got plenty of advice for seasickness at the restaurant. "Eat a big breakfast of eggs, ham and potatoes." "Drink rum." "Have only rice and bread." "Don't eat anything greasy." One guy gave me a lemon to smell occasionally.
I really liked this collection of oddballs . . .

Sailing Lessons

Sailing is HARD WORK! My first day of lessons was miserable.
I had to wear pants and long sleeves, as well as a hat with a flap over the ears and neck, to block the equatorial sun. It's 90+ degrees in Puerto Rico this time of year and I was working my butt off. Add to that the glaring sun and all those clothes.
The heat was really tough; you just drip sweat constantly.
Worse yet, I learned that I am prone to seasickness, which is exacerbated by becoming overheated . . .
I started yawning (apparently, the first visible symptom) and my instructor ordered me leeward and aft. He was right.
I stopped lurching long enough to sit in a daze in the cockpit, stomach in convulsions. My one fellow student, a doctor, complimented me on my "quick recovery time," as if I were better. Uh, huh.
When Captain Michael started ordering me around again, I knew the kid gloves had been removed.
I really had tried to prepare for this. I ordered motion sickness prevention patches, which were sitting in a pharmacy in Toledo; it closed earlier than I realized. I got some OTC meds, but they are labeled as causing drowsiness, something you can't afford while working onboard a sailboat.
So, after sleeping on a lurching boat all night, I tried again the next day.

Repeat of Day One. Besides the heat, work, sun and vomit, I did notice how clumsy I was with the ropes.
Skippers have no mercy for seasickness. Captain Michael ordered me to clean the boat. His boat. After I paid him for sailing lessons . . . Seeing the doctor on his knees with a scrub brush, I sighed and joined him.
The doc, whose lessons were complete, gave me his number so that I had "someone in PR to call in case something happens." Aww, how sweet!

I called off sick. Screw it. What's wrong with sailors??