INNOCENCE ABROAD. (Chapter 7) “Go West Young Man!”

I don’t know if Horace Greeley ever sailed across the Ionian Sea, but he was right about heading west.  We left Greece late at night and sailed to lovely Taormina, Sicily, “the Jewel of the Ionian Coast.”  Taormina was made famous by Jay and the Americans, who sang about the place back in 1965.  Of course, I might be confusing the Taormina with “Cara Mia,” but you get the point.  (OK, that was a bit of a stretch!)  Anyway, the town is quite charming, and it attracts many celebrities.  (I got Sicily Tyson’s autograph.)

The town is right beside Mt. Etna, Europe’s highest volcano, which is still quite active.  (I will skip the jokes about “Lava lamps” and “going with the flow.”)  The observant German writer, Goethe, once said, “To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.”  Rather a bold statement, but mostly true.

The area was actually settled way back in 4,000 B.C., but none of the original inhabitants are still alive.  Once pasta was perfected, the place was invaded by the Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, and Saracens.  (Hey, what the hell happened to the Venetians?  They finally missed a place!)  In recent history, 1860 to be exact, Garibaldi established the island’s alliance with mainland Italy.  Most historians (myself included) peg the founding of Taormina in 358 B.C.  Everything was relatively peaceful (if you liked your relatives) until 902 A.D., which is when those damn Saracens invaded and leveled the existing town.  (They had anger issues, and too much free time.)

Nowadays, Taormina attracts the equally destructive cruise ship crowd, but is still home to a number of well-known writers and artists.  I’ve never lived there, but a guy named D. H. Lawrence spent 3 years in the town.  (1920-1923)  The best part of the town is the incredible view (hundreds of feet above sea level) which overlooks the Ionian Sea and the ancient village of Naxos.  (A Greek enclave that has some impressive ruins.)  During our visit, we rented some beach chairs and umbrellas and spent the afternoon swimming, eating, and drinking.  (What else is new?)  All in all a great stop, and very intoxicating, if you know what I mean!

So what else is new?  Well, my lecture and book-signing in Dripping Springs was quite pleasant and well-attended.  I held court at the Treaty Oak Distilling Company (Another “intoxicating” place!) which produces some very good adult beverages.  The distillery occupies about 30 acres of the Texas Hill Country, and they give tours (and sell samples) of their products.  (Bourbon, whiskey, gin, and vodka!)

Just up the road is another complex that produces alcoholic cider, which is definitely an acquired taste.  (Cider does not “appeal” to me, which might be the “core” of the problem.)  All right, enough apple jokes.  In case you’re interested, I was peddling my two history books, THE SECOND MOURNING and TURBULENT TIMES.  Sales were brisk, and so was the weather.  Next time we go indoors!

Well, my friends, I must leave you now.  I am off to a barbecue and beer festival in Bastrop, Texas.  (Just outside of Austin)  I hope you have a wonderful and happy week, and we shall meet again next Sunday…..  in Sorrento!

Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

INNOCENCE ABROAD. (Chapter 6) “Going For The Gold!”

I know what you’re thinking… there he goes again, writing about Adam Gold and those clever mystery novels.  Well, you’re wrong.  I’m referring to gold as in gold medals.  (i.e., the Olympic Games)  I used to refer to our sweet ship as the S.S. Minnow, but now that we’re in Greece, I’m calling it the S.S. Minoan.  Today we are anchored off the coast of Katakolon, which lies in the western part of the Peloponnese Peninsula.  In about an hour (after we digest those stuffed grape leaves) we are off to OLYMPIA, the site of the Olympic Games!  The ruins at this particular location are very well preserved, and I’m not talking about those older folks on the Tauck Tour bus.

Olympia is where the present-day Greeks light the Olympic torch (viewed by billions on T.V.) and it is quite fascinating.  I met a Greek chick who is still carrying a torch for one of the athletes she met during the last games.  Must be hard to become an “old flame.”  In any case, this was truly a great visit, and due to my previous archaeological experience (and a modest bribe) I got to help out with a current excavation project.  (Photos attached at bottom!)

One of the best preserved sites was the Olympic stadium, which held about 40,000 spectators and a few hundred hot dog vendors.  (Actually, they were serving Gyros.)  Men AND women participated in the games, (the sporting contests, that is) but the women had to be married.  Why?  Because all of the athletes were naked!  (Seriously)  One of the photos below shows the bath tubs that the athletes used to soak their  weary muscles.  Notice how small the tubs are?  These ancient athletes were slightly over five feet tall.  (This figure does not include any type of “shrinkage.”)

In case you’re wondering, the entire olympic site used to be dominated by the temple of Zeus, with the temple of Hera nearby.  (Both sustained serious earthquake damage over the centuries, plus some vandalism by various ruffians.) According to Greek mythology, Pelops, the king of Peloponnese, was the founder of the Olympic Games.  However, the stadium I previously mentioned, has not been used since 393 AD.  (For those of you who do not have an archaeology background, allow me to explain that BC means “Before Christ,” and that AD means “After Dat.”)

I felt a little guilty when I left the Olympic site.  I thought about the amazing athletes who spent countless hours perfecting their bodies, lifting weights, and training for marathons… and there I was, back on ship, trying to lasso the television remote with my phone charger.  Pathetic.  I run my mouth a lot, but that’s about it.  (I thought growing older would take longer!)

So what else is new?  Well, last week we celebrated Dr. Max Talbott’s 39th birthday.  (Max is my former neighbor and cousin.)  Instead of going to Taco Bell (my suggestion) we all drove out to the Steiner Ranch Steak House for a wonderful meat-fest and a concert by the Bellamy Brothers!  Fortunately, Max and his lovely wife, Barbara, were paying.  (I left my wallet home again… by accident.) The food, music, and company were great, and we wish Cousin Max many, many more years of happiness and good health.  Max was tempted to start going to the gym again, but I told him to grab a beer, sit down on the couch, and just wait until the feeling passed.  Good advice, eh?

Incidentally, speaking of books (What??) I am happy to report that among the best-selling books at this year’s Texas Book Festival, were two brilliant history books written by yours truly.  Copies of TURBULENT TIMES and THE SECOND MOURNING flew off the shelves.  (during strong winds)  At other times, my reps just sold the books.  In any case, both books were quite popular with the attendees, and if you did not find an autographed copy, just drop me a note and we will arrange something.  (CHRISTMAS is right around the corner, and these books would make fabulous gifts!)  The royalties would also help me pay for my upcoming trip to the Caribbean, which is vital for my continued mental health!

Next week’s blog post will take us to Sicily, so stay tuned!  By the way, our first stop in Sicily was under Mt. Aetna, which is currently sliding into the sea!  (No kidding.)  Check out the volcano article on CNN or YouTube.  Quite amazing.  I’m glad I left when I did, but I forgot to buy a lava lamp.  Maybe next time.

Have a safe and prosperous week… and don’t forget to vote for me!

Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

INNOCENCE ABROAD. (Chapter 5) “It’s Greek To Me.”

Tradition tells us that the Greek island of Corfu is the island where Ulysses was washed ashore.  My question is this:  What the hell was General Grant doing in the Ionian Sea?  I thought he was in the Army, not the Navy.  Oh well, I guess he was welcomed with open arms.  After all, the island of Corfu has been invaded (and occupied) by the Romans, Normans, Sicilians, Venetians, (there they are again!) Turks, French, Russians, and the British.  Oops, I forgot the Italians and Germans.  All of these foreign influences have made the island quite interesting, which is why some folks call Corfu “The Jewel of the Ionian Sea.”  (Lots of jewels in this part of the world!)

Of course, like most islands, Corfu has an “old town,” filled with new souvenirs that are mostly authentic fakes.  Way up top, sits the Old Fort, built by those damn Venetians, who apparently never stayed home.  The big “cash crops” are sponges and ceramics bearing Greek god images.  (i.e., Hercules,Achilles, and me.)  The best dishes, in case you go, are Sofrito  (veal with garlic and vinegar),  Bourdetto (white fish), and Kalamarakia (fried squid).

Our party did a tour of Old Town and then drove across the island to one of the famous beaches.  The beach was lovely, but the water was a bit chilly.  By the way, if someone says “Corfu,” don’t say “God bless you.”  (They didn’t sneeze)  All in all, this was a fun stop, and one of those small islands that few tourists get to see.  (You’ll note that Corfu is on the WESTERN side of Greece, which gets a lot less traffic than the Mediterranean side.)

As usual, the best part of the voyage was meeting some of our fellow shipmates, and on this occasion we really hit the jackpot.  Two days before we landed on Corfu, we met Miss Helga and Dr. John, a fantastic couple from Naples, Florida.  Helga is a beautiful and talented former interior designer, originally from Cape Cod.  (Personally, I’ve never seen a cod wearing a cape, but I guess it’s possible.)  Her hubby, Dr. John was an imminent heart physician, now retired.  The four of us (and a few interlopers) shared many joyful moments, and as you might imagine, we spent a great deal of time drinking and laughing.  As they say, the best ship is friendship!

Speaking of great friends, I would like to thank the lovely and talented Princess of Portugal (and her husband, Baron Lee) for hosting a spectacular feast last night at their villa in Round Rock.  The Princess made the MOST delicious version of coconut chicken curry that I ever tasted.  (along with Indian vegetable pies, great wine, and the BEST port I’ve had in a long time!)  Thanks also to Countess Connie, who brought the port all the way from Portugal, via France to the USA.  (Gluttony is such a great vice.  Sloth is nice, too.)

By the way, I just read that the creator of autocorrect passed away.  Restaurant in peace.

So what else is new?  Well, my Internet went down this past week and I had to spend some time with the family.  They seem like good people.

The Texas Book Festival is here in Austin this weekend, and I’ve been quite busy signing autographs, conducting lectures, and asking rich-looking women for their phone numbers.  (For research purposes!)  The rain has finally stopped, and our weather is sunny and warm.  This should help book sales, although after Texas lost to Oklahoma State last night, the natives will be depressed.  If you’re downtown this weekend, look for me, and if we see each other, please ask for my autograph in a very loud voice.  (That damn Stephen King is sitting next to me, and he thinks he’s hot stuff.)  Thanks.

Well, I must run.  My fans will be disappointed if I show up, I mean, don’t show up in a timely fashion.  I shall leave you with this departing thought:  Despite the old saying, “Don’t take your troubles to bed,” some wives still sleep with their husbands!  (Just saying)

Have a safe and sweet week.  Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

INNOCENCE ABROAD. (Chapter 4) “Debbie Does Dubrovnik!”

Yikes, that sounds like the title of a porn movie!  Don’t get your hopes up.  (Or anything else.)  Debbie was the name of our tour guide, and had she not incurred a minor bicycle injury, I’m sure she would have met us at the pier.  However, since Dangerous Deb did not show up, we toured Dubrovnik on our own.  Well, almost on our own.  We were lucky to meet a charming and intelligent couple of Brits, whose names are Roy and Carol.  These nice folks now live in Thailand, so we decided to “Thai one on” with them!  Smart move on our part.  Roy was kind enough to rent a boat, so we puttered along the lovely shores of Croatia and saw some memorable terrain.  We spent most of the morning laughing and getting thrown out of churches, and a great time was had by all.  (I shall post their photos, the one used by Interpol, at the end of this blog.)

Dubrovnik is a spot I have been to once or twice before, and I always enjoy visiting this historic city.  (Which, of course, bills itself as “The Jewel of the Adriatic.”)  Believe it or not, the city is also called “Little Venice,” but since I’ve already made some disparaging remarks about the Venetians, I shall let that one pass.  (Euros are NOT used here!)

Just for the record, Zagreb is the capital of Croatia, which currently has a population of about 4.5 million people.  (and 7.9 million goats)  The most interesting part of Dubrovnik is a place called “old town,” which by strange coincidence, is an old town.  (Established in the 7th century.)  The Croats, having no access to the Internet, built a wall around the city, making it difficult for tourists to avoid exercise.  (Lots of steps)  Of course, there weren’t many tourists during the 90s, when those pesky Serbs started dropping bombs in the countryside.  Fortunately, the city remained unscathed, and it is now quite popular with the jet set.  (and the cruise set, and the driving set, and the walking set!)

Nevertheless, I would certainly recommend a visit, and would also suggest that you rent a boat and see the magnificent coastline.  Dubrovnik is actually on the UNESCO World Heritage List, so they must be doing something right.  Incidentally, they actually offer a yoga class in one of the ancient castles in old town.  (I haven’t tried yoga, but I have bent over to pick up my keys, so I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like it.)  While I was waiting for the wife to finish her class, several Croats came up to me and asked for directions.  Sometimes I wonder what happened to the people who asked me for directions.  Just saying.

So what else is new?  Well, as you might have read in the NYT or the Washington Post, my history book, TURBULENT TIMES, just won another literary award.  Last Friday I received the Gold Medal for the 2018 “Outstanding History Book of the Year” from the IAN.  (Independent Author Network)  This marks the 10th award that the book has received, and as you can imagine, I am quite pleased.  (And a little astonished)  My sincere thanks to all of the wonderful judges at the IAN.

Well, I’d like to stay and chat, but it’s time for a bowl of corn flakes.  You know, it’s 2018.  You’d think that cereal boxes would have ziplocks by now.  My wife went to exercise class, so I have to serve myself this morning.  Which reminds me…  sometimes, even after all these years, I wake up in the morning, look over at my wife and think:  God, is she lucky!  (Just saying)

I do hope that you and yours have a safe and joyful week.  We shall chat again next Sunday, when yours truly will be highlighting a remarkable day in Corfu, Greece.  (“The Jewel of the Mediterranean”)  Until then, love to all,

— Doc Yanoff   (The Jewel of Austin!)

 

 

INNOCENCE ABROAD! (Chapter 3) “Goats, Moats, & Croats”

Well, here we are on day three of our voyage, dropping anchor in Rovinj, Croatia.  Fortunately we’re in the harbor, so the anchor fell into the water when it was dropped.  (Dropping the dang thing on the pier causes all sorts of problems)  Rovinj is a lovely port, but is often confused with Revenge, Croatia.  (I hear that Revenge is sweet, but I haven’t been there.)  In any case, we are in Rovinj, which bills itself as “The Jewel of Dalmatia.”  These Dalmatian towns are quite nice, but I don’t think there are 102 of them, and I haven’t met anybody named Cruella De Vil.  (Just saying)  Our first stop was a Roman-built castle, (hence the moats) and then it was off to a local farm.  (The goats)  The locals (here we have the Croats) were very friendly and gracious, and very proud of their charming city.

Since walking is known to cause physical exhaustion, I immediately rented an electric scooter (photo attached) and took off for the city’s main attraction, St. Euphemia Church.  The bell tower of the church is modeled after the tower of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.  (See, I told you those damn Venetians got around!)  The church was built in 1736, which makes it about 40 years older than the United States!  I was tempted to scooter over to Pula, but it was a bit too far.  (Pula is home to the world’s sixth-largest surviving Roman amphitheater, and was constructed at the time of the Colosseum in Rome.)

After a small Croatian snack, I puttered south of the city to the “Golden Cape,” which is also known as Punta Corrente Forest Park.  This natural park contained a beautiful beach, and for those who were fit, offered hiking, biking, rock climbing, swimming, and snorkeling.  (I rented a lounge chair and took some photographs of scantily clad Croatia chicks.)

The highlight of our stop (for me) was visiting a local farm and chatting with a goat rancher.  Did you know that a baby goat is called a kid?  If you have a lots of kids, you hire a nanny goat.  (No “kidding!”)  The rancher’s wife raised lambs.  Believe it or not, her name was Mary.  Yeah, she had a little lamb, but some big ones, too.  They offered us some mutton for lunch, but I didn’t care for the aroma, so I just drank wine.  (Do you think the plural of mutton is mitten?)  All in all, Rovinj was a wonderful stop, and I would definitely recommend a visit.

However…. I wouldn’t recommend the Air and Space Museum.  (There was nothing there but air and space!)  For some reason, the museum insisted on playing (loudly) Barry Manilow music.  By the way, did you know the if you play a Barry Manilow song backwards, you’ll hear a message from the devil?  Even worse, if you play if forward, you’ll hear Barry Manilow!

By the way, my trip to Florida was cancelled due to the arrival of Hurricane Michael.  Just as well.  We were having all sorts of problems with our flight.  The first time we took off, we got halfway across the gulf when we ran out of gas and had to turn back.  They filled up the plane and we were just about to land in Ft. Lauderdale when we ran out of gas again.  So we turned back, but this time we took plenty of gas.  Well, what do you think happened?  We were just about to land, maybe three or four feet away, when the pilot realized that he’d forgotten the plane!  (If this sounds like a Marx Brothers’ routine, you’re right!)

And on that note of frivolity, I shall take my leave…  I hope you all have a pleasant and peaceful week!  Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

INNOCENCE ABROAD. (Chapter 2) “Smooth Sailing”

Do you remember the book “MEN ARE FROM MARS WOMEN ARE FROM VENICE?”  Neither do I, but we spent our last day (and last Euro) in St. Mark’s Square, and then it was off to the ship for a night-time crossing of the Adriatic Sea.  By the way, did you know that this body of water was named after the famous Italian-American boxer, Rocky Balboa?  (Yo, Adriatic!)  All right, that was a bit of a stretch, but there are very few good jokes about the Adriatic!

Incidentally, the Adriatic is a gorgeous body of water and actually the most northern part of the Mediterranean Sea.  Most of the water is crystal clear, and quite refreshing.  Our destination (upon leaving Venice) was Piran, Slovenia, which bills itself as “Slovenia’s Prettiest Town.”  The most beautiful woman in Slovenia now lives in the White House, but as a whole, the local chicks were quite gracious.  (The men need to shave more often.  Some of the women, too.  But mainly the men.)  Where was I?

Oh yeah, Slovenia.  The country is considered the Switzerland of the Istrian Coast, and the comparison is fairly accurate.  (Like my memory!)  Piran’s claim to fame is its Oval Square, which is something of an oxymoron.  (Although I did not see any morons or oxen there.)  The town square, as I’m sure you’ve figured out, was built in an oval shape, and named after a gent called Giuseppe Tartini.  Mr. T, as he’s often called, was a composer and virtuous, I mean virtuoso, violinist.  His fans erected a statue of him in 1896, and if you glance around the square, you’ll notice that many of the buildings are Italian-styled structures.  (This is because Piran was part of the Venetian empire from the 13th century to the end of the 18th century.)  Those dang Venetians are everywhere!

In case you’re wondering, Slovenia gained independence in 1991, and they joined the European Union in 2004.  Unfortunately, they also use those damn Euros, so we had to purchase a few more colorful bills.  We did not have enough time to visit Ljubljana, the nation’s capital, but we did catch a glimpse or two of Bled Castle.  I only have one complaint about Slovenian men.  (Aside from the infrequent shaving)  Their last names contain way too many consonants and very few vowels.  Hence, our tour guide – Vladzk Jrvkcpt – and many of his comrades, were given nicknames.  (Vlad The Cod did not like his name.  No idea why.)

One other minor complaint.  One of our shipmates slipped and broke his arm.  When we took him to the (hospitable) hospital, he told the doctor that he had broken his arm in two places.  The doctor told him to stay away from those places!  (Come on, that was funny!)

So what else is new?  Well, this past week I began teaching a writing course at Longhorn Village in Steiner Ranch.  I’m conducting a creative writing class, focused on personal memoirs, and it’s great fun.  My students are mainly senior citizens, and they all have marvelous lives to write about.  One of the gals in my class told me that husbands were the best people to share secrets with.  (They don’t repeat anything because they’re usually not listening!)  True enough.

By the way, the Texas Book Festival will be held in Austin later this month, so if you’re in town, you might want to drop by and take a look at some of the outstanding books on display.  My books will be featured at a (semi) private evening event.  I’ll post the details as we get closer to the festival.  In the meantime, check out my last history book, TURBULENT TIMES, which just received an unusual honor.  Doris Kearns Goodwin (a friendly competitor) recently published a book titled, LEADERSHIP IN TURBULENT TIMES.  (With my blessing)  I was fine with the slight copyright infringement.  Hopefully, folks will now order  my book, thinking that it was written by a Pulitzer Prize Winner!  (My mama didn’t raise no fool!)

Well, time to leave.  Lots of chores to do today.  To tell you the truth, I’m a person who wants to do a lot of things but I’m trapped in the body of a person who likes to sleep a lot.  Ah well, onward and upward.  I shall leave you with one final thought…  The person who invented the doorbell obviously did not own a Chihuahua!

Love to all,

Doc Yanoff

 

 

INNOCENCE ABROAD!

When I was a young lad, my parents sent me abroad.  Unfortunately, I had to return her.  (Groucho Marx)  Thus we have the theme of today’s (semi) humorous blog.  Due to popular demand, (i.e., my mother and mailman) I have decided to share my recent travel adventures in episodic fashion.  (A series of loosely connected installments.)  Most of these tales will be truthful.  Mainly.  Please keep in mind that I do write some fiction, so you might encounter a word or two of inadvertent exaggeration or hyperbole.

Chapter One of my saga is titled, “A SINKING FEELING.”  (Fortunately, this has nothing to do with our ship.)  My recent book tour/tax deductible vacation began in the water-logged city of Venice, Italy.  As you might know, the city is slowly sinking into the Adriatic Sea.  (“Slowly” being the key word)  How slowly?  About .04 to .08 inches per year.  Why?  Some blame climate change and rising water levels.  Personally, I think it’s due to the over-consumption of pasta and wine.  Both have been known to weigh folks down.  Just saying.

In any case, the city of Venice will sink about 3 inches in the next 20 years, so if you pack quickly, you still have plenty of time for a visit.  However, DO NOT plan to sit down when you arrive.  The city’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, has proposed a fine of up to 500 Euros ($600) for anyone who sits or lays down in an “undesignated” spot.  Hopefully, toilets will be exempt.  Plan to bring your own stool, so to speak.

Speaking of Euros, they are like everything else in Italy… colorful and confusing.  The Euro is denoted by a symbol from the Greek alphabet.  (An “epsilon.”)  The notes are printed in different colors… grey, red, blue, orange, green, yellow, and purple.  (For real)  So far, 30 million color blind Europeans have gone bankrupt.  (My first exaggeration!)

Our travel party stayed at the luxurious Bauer Palazzo Hotel, which is located alongside the city’s Grand Canal.  Due to my literary fame (and a modest bribe) I received a lovely upgrade, directly above the gondolier loading platform.  Our gondola (shown in a photo last week) had a chandelier and was operated by a gondolier who wore a leather bandolier.  (I was a little leery about this venture.)

The Bauer Hotel is very close to St. Mark’s Square.  (Which is actually a rectangle.)  The Piazza San Marco (a/k/a St. Mark’s Square) is a fascinating venue, and the best place to start a visit.  Napoleon called the square “the drawing room of Europe,” and in my humble opinion, it remains a breathtakingly beautiful place.  Who am I to argue with Napoleon?  The man has a freakin’ dessert named after him.  Anyway, if you visit Venice, you must visit the square.  However, I wouldn’t advise you to wine or dine at any of the open-air cafes — unless you have a lot of those colorful bills I mentioned, and you don’t mind spending $15 for a cup of cappuccino.

To be honest, the food in Venice is not remarkable.  (The prices, however, can often be memorable!)  I would advise spending your hard-earned loot on a gondola ride.  Those rides will cost you 85 Euros for 30 minutes, 125 Euros for 60 minutes, and 200 Euros if you want to add some music.  (Please note that these rates DOUBLE in the evening.)  Now you know why the “average” gondolier makes about $200,000 per year!  (No joke)

So there, my friends, is Venice in a pistachio shell.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or wish to obtain a small loan.  Before I say arrivederci, I’d like to thank my young friend, Connor Evans, for writing a book report based upon my last mystery novel, A RUN FOR THE MONEY.  Connor brilliantly outlined the book’s conflict and resolution, and I’m sure he got an A+ for his efforts.  I heartily commend him for his thorough analysis and exquisite literary tastes!  (You can scroll down to see his work.)

Finally, in closing, I must also thank the beautiful and brilliant Judge Susan for delivering a box of special treats from Stein’s Bakery in Dallas.  OMG, those were the best cheese pockets in the universe!  I ate one the moment she left, and I’ve hidden the others in a safe place.  (The box is wired with explosives, so keep your distance, Miss Patty!)

Well, dear friends, I shall conclude with a salient thought…  Accordion to current studies, 90% of you are unaware that this sentence started with a musical instrument!

Love to all,

Doc Yanoff