Happy new year 2022

Setting out on our hike

Dear readers,

Just a quick note to thank you for your support this year and all ten years of this blog!! 2021 has been our best year as far as visitors and second best year in terms of views. Records that I hope to improve on next year!

As usual my most popular post was the one about Don Quixote and Existentialism, which you can check out here. Surprisingly and unexpectedly the second most viewed was the post on Jonathan Dickinson State Park, which you can see here.

I hope to continue bringing you interesting and solid content in 2022. Until then, thanks and Happy New Year!!

(Oh, here are a couple of the most popular photos from 2021)

I made it!!!

Love letter to El Camino (sorry, en Español)

Every day that passes I am closer to getting back on the Camino. This Summer I hope to walk the Primitivo, from Oviedo to Santiago, the same one that king Alfonso II -the first pilgrim- did sometime around 840 to check out St. James’ tomb. It is apparently the most rugged and thus the most beautiful although it is only 14 stages at 314 km (about 195 miles).

The other day I saw this beautiful video/love letter from Condé Nast Traveler, which while not 100% authentic, it does capture the spirit of the Camino, so I am sharing it with you in this tender time that is Christmas.


Arriving in San Sebastian!

Why I hate Christmas, call me The Grinch

Richard Rohr’s great little book

If you read my Thanksgiving post, you might have gotten the idea that I am a Grinch. Well, I am.

Before we go any further, I hate the lights, the mass euphoria, the presents, and most importantly the assumption and expectation of happiness. “It’s Christmas, you will get presents, everything looks pretty and everything is lit up; therefore you must be happy”. This is stressful, at least for me.

On the other hand, I love the spirituality of the celebration of the birth of Jesus, of the Winter solstice, and most of all, I love Advent.

Madrid, like most cities during Christmastime is chaos. Everybody is out; apparently enjoying the pretty lights, and walking around, and stopping for a coffee, and buying presents, and getting drunk, and singing and getting drunk and singing. Jesus, your emotional wellbeing, your financial wellbeing, silence, reflection, and meditation are nowhere to be seen.

This year I found a great little book: Preparing for Christmas, Daily meditations for Advent, by my guru, Richard Rohr. In it he reflects on the daily reading, and then à propos of the reading writes a meditation for the reader. Some of them are:

What expectations and demand of life can you let go of so that you can be more prepared for the coming of Jesus.


What attachments in your life can you let go of to make more room for God?

Or, last one:

What perceptions of Jesus and Christ do you have that need to be changed?

This is excellent food for thought and meditation and this is part of the journey of Advent. You see, the presents and the lights no not make you a better person, you are lucky if you feel grateful for getting another sweater, another tie. What is enriching is the journey to Christmas, the spiritual preparation, the reflection, and the meditation.

So, it is not that I hate Christmas, I just hate the commercial, superficial Christmas.

On Pizza

Disclaimer: Google recently had a pizza doodle which included a cute game, but I was planning this blog before that. Ok, now we can move on.

Like languages, pizza is a relatively modern variation of an ancient dish, basically jazzed up flatbreads that you can taste all around the Mediterranean basin: Coca in Spain, pita in Greece, etc. Of course, pizza wins the popularity contest due to Southern Italians immigrating everywhere and taking their recipes with them, grazie.

Growing up in Franco’s Spain, I was not exposed to pizza until high school in London, specifically Pizza on the Park on Hyde Park Corner (now closed and turned into a fancy hotel). It was love at first bite! American pizza during college was different, but still delicious, the most memorable one being Pizzeria Regina in Boston’s North End. Through the years, as I moved around, I discovered great pizza joints, Napoli in El Escorial, The Upper Crust in Boston, Italian Pizzeria (IP) in Chapel Hill -they also showed European football, which was a great plus!, and NAP in Madrid.

In my old age, my taste buds require simple, few, but delicious ingredients, (I have written before about the “Minder is meer” less is more adage) so nowadays I only eat Margherita pizza which should only have three ingredients plus the dough: mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce (which should have a bit of garlic), and basil (plus obviously olive oil and salt).

Due to its heavy New Yorker population, South Florida has decent pizza. Almost every week I meet my friend Manuel for some great pizza at County Line in Juno Beach. Here in Boynton, there is Pizza Rox which makes a textbook pizza and has a great selection of local beers, and Frankie’s. Recently I have also discovered my friend Arlene’s great pizza place in West Palm Beach, Pizza Al Fresco set in a lovely Spanish patio with awesome staff!

My pizza fever has been compounded by a guy called David Portnoy who does pizza reviews on the internet. I confess that I have gotten to the point where I can guess the points he is going to give the pizza he is reviewing before he does! Check out his pizza review app Onebite and one of his many reviews below!

The secrets to a great pizza are a screaming hot oven (800 F – 450 C), fluffy, airy dough so you get the bubble – you need the bubble! And simple, excellent ingredients. Enjoy.

What is your favorite pizza place? What are your thoughts on pizza? Let me know in the comments!

Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism

I guess that like most people, I knew the pop culture Frida Kahlo: Mexican artist, unibrow. It was not until I started teaching that she always popped up in different cultural units and readings. So, I did some research and was blown away! Soon we were doing full units on her, watching documentaries, and writing essays for class. I was so fascinated by this woman, that in 2008 I took the train from Boston to see an exhibit of her paintings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

When the Norton Museum of Art up the road from me in West Palm Beach hosted an exhibit based on her, her husband Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism, I liked it so much I went twice!

Unlike other exhibits, this one delivers on what it promises; It not only has a delightful selection of Kahlo’s work, but it also has a good representation of Rivera’s work and of the whole Mexican Modernist movement, it even has a dozen Mexican dresses on show.

Of course, the real star here is Kahlo beyond the pop culture iconography; Her strength as a survivor of polio, and of having a bus handrail impale her pelvis at 18. She is a crucible of pre-Columbine and Hispanic culture, of Christianity and ancient Mexican religions, of nature and urban environments, of communism and capitalism, of sexuality, and so on with everything.

Besides the dresses, the exhibit has other nice touches like the photos Patti Smith took on her visit to Kahlo’s house in Coyoacán in Mexico City, and a quote from Carlos Fuentes, one of my favorite writers. It is a wonderful exhibit and if you are in Southern Florida you should see it.

As I have mentioned before on this blog, the Norton Museum is an oasis of culture in the suburban wasteland that is Southern Florida, so a morning at the museum with a lovely coffee in the courtyard and a visit to the gift shop is a morning well spent.