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In Philosophy, Travel on
May 8, 2017

The Bohemian Beach Bum

Sliding a wave removes our brains out of the ordinary and slips us into the extra ordinary of being there now. No more worries about mortgages or strife of being poor or rich. When you enter the domain of an ocean cylinder, that moment, those split seconds belong to the Zen part of just being. Period.”
~Bill Hamilton

It’s 6:30AM. The moon has just set and the sun is rising in the sky above, its golden rays dancing on the dark water lapping at the shore. In a trance I get out of bed and make my way toward the gurgle of the coffee maker. Pulling a mug from the cupboard and taking the coconut creamer out of the fridge, I pour myself a very necessary cup of jo, and pull on my swimsuit and rash guard. Reaching for my phone I dial 596-SURF. “Holding on the small 11 sec SSW. Surf is 3-4′ and fairly clean with light-moderate offshores. Top sets are slow rolling and inconsistent but showing decent form.” With my long board in the back, I head for Ho’okipa my whole body anticipating the adrenaline and one of a kind one with nature feeling shared by bohemian beach bums everywhere.

Duke Kahanamoku, one of the original bohemian beach bums, once condensed the surfer philosophy down to six short words: “Out of water, I am nothing.” In a very meta way, Duke is right. They say the world is 70% covered with water, and human beings are made up of something like a whopping 80% water. Surfing is the sport that drives its participants out of bed at early hours each and every day because we all have water coursing through our veins, and it feels like coming home to be in a large body of water. It’s somehow like an extension of ourselves; and without water we cannot survive.

The modern-day bohemian beach bum has ancient roots. It is connected to the Hawaiian tradition of “he’e nalu”, which translated to English means “wave-sliding”. In the Hawaiian traditions of the past, the sea was anthropomorphic and had human traits, which could reflect emotions. A good day of surfing required the proper waves, and in order to convince the sea to provide these waves, Ancient Hawaiians relied on Kahunas to pray for good surf. Kahunas would engage in ritual chants and dances, with the intention of pleasing the sea to provide the people with surfable waves. Beyond spiritualism, surfing also served as a mediation practice of conflict resolution. Disagreements were resolved on the waves.

All this tradition changed though upon the arrival of the white man, or what the Hawaiian’s would call ‘haole’. With their arrival came all of the complexities and cultural conquests associated with colonialism. The ancient Hawaiian culture in its unadulterated form would soon be sullied by the arrival of Captain Cook in the late Eighteenth Century. Increasing numbers of foreigners visited Hawaii after hearing accounts of Cook’s adventures. Initially these intruders were explorers and traders seeking wealth, yet soon missionaries and settlers came, looking to convert the native Hawaiian’s to Christianity, impose their beliefs and political structure onto their culture and take the land for themselves.

“These people brought no respect for the ancient traditions of the culture they invaded, and soon it would be nearly lost. The introduction of western religion stripped the supernatural elements from surfing. Forced to adapt to a new lifestyle, the natives lost touch with their ancient ways, and surfing soon went into a major decline.”

For close to one hundred years surfing was nearly an extinct pastime. However, the dawning of a new century brought with it a new era of surfing. The ‘Beach Boys of Waikiki brought popularity to the sport once more and the surfing bug would soon spread like influenza.

The surfboard became emblematic of the counterculture movement of the ‘roaring twenties’, and the technological and commercial progress in surfboard design made the sport more accessible to the public. The first ever major surf competition was in 1928. With the invention of the automobile, surfers were able to easily venture along the Californian coast in search of the best waves. “This led to the days of Surf Safaris (or Surfari’s), during which the dedicated surfers of California would spend entire weekends travelling up and down the coast, partying as hard as they surfed.” This was the beginning of the bohemian beach bum era. Beach bums were nomads; they travelled with the seasons and followed the waves. This was a time where seeking emotional highs, and living for human experience more than mere existence were prized.

The media caught onto the craze, and sought to profit from it. Advertising would be the next major boost for surfing. Dale Velzy was the business executive credited for the popularization of surfing. He was the sport’s first sponsor, giving boards to local surfers in exchange for endorsements. Velzy was also the first major surfboard manufacturer to utilize a wide-scale advertising campaign. Velzy made surfing visible to the American public.

But what really popularized and, some would argue, commodified the sport were the surf movies. From Gidget to The Endless Summer. These surf movies ignited an explosion of interest. Who could resist the sport when an adorably sporty and spunky blonde actress says the following line on screen about her first experience: “Surfing is out of this world. You can’t imagine the thrill of shooting the curl. It positively surpasses every living emotion I’ve ever had.”

These films not only attracted athletes and sports industry folks, music, fashion, language and literature were all impacted. The culture caught on and many young people moved to where the surf was best. Without high paying jobs, these nomadic wave-riders became known as beach bums. Camping on the sand, or renting whatever cheap housing they could find, they would surf by day, and waitress and tend bar by night. Surfing became their religion. It was the sense of freedom it provided that attracted young and old to the sport. It is what makes it the bohemian sport of choice.

Ultimately, the difference between the casual surf sport enthusiast and bohemian beach bum is made clear by Cliff Robertson’s character The Big Kahuna from the film Gidget: “Ride the waves, eat, sleep not a care in the world. […] For them it’s a summer romance; for me it’s a full-time passion.” The key take-away from all of this is that if you really want to become bohemian, you should try surfing this summer, and then…forever.


In Food, Travel, Uncategorized on
April 17, 2017

A Moveable Feast: Eating aboard the Hiram Bingham Train to Machu Picchu

 One of the things I think [poets] enjoy about a great meal is that it goes away… that you make a terrific meal for friends and family, and if you succeed, it’s gone. And there’s this pleasure in that because it’s exactly the opposite of writing a poem or writing anything. You are struggling and struggling, and finishing means it’s permanent, or at least feels that way. ~ Kevin Young, the editor of “The Hungry Ear”

We knew it would be great. It just had to be. Standing on the platform at Poroy Station, you couldn’t help but be impressed by the beautiful blue and gold spectacle there on the tracks. It was once an Orient Express train; now it is known as the Belmond Hiram Bingham train to Macchu Picchu. Greeted with Intipalka Extra Brut sparkling Peruvian wine and white glove service, we were shown to our seats and told by the maître d’ that our luncheon would be served promptly at 11AM.

Through the window, we could see the dancers on the platform dressed in colorful Peruvian alpaca woven wool costumes twirling to pan pipe music and drums. Soon the train whistled and, at the sound of a bell and steam rushing out from the engine, we began our journey through the sacred valley and onto the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu.

Dear Passengers, Our meal is prepared with ingredients that Pachamama or Mother Earth off­ered us. The trout, avocado and corn are grown and raised in these valleys. The dessert will delight you with a unique mixture of flavours of our local products including a variety of corns which are collected from the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Allin mikhúkuy káchun! ~Hiram Bingham Train Menu

We had a couple of hours before lunch would be served. So, we made our way to the back of the train where the bar car was located. Coca tea for my altitude headache along with delicate pastries and sweet rolls made for a lovely light breakfast.  The plush armchairs and large windows in the lounge area of the car gave us a front row seat to a visual symphony of gorgeous fertile landscapes, rushing rivers, waterfalls, and emblematic animals like the llamas and alpaca.

Coca tea on the Hiram Bingham train was more of a refreshing Moroccan mint, palate cleansing flavor experience than the no-nonsense medicinal coca tea from our hotel.  The pain au chocolat and crescent rolls, while perhaps more Parisian than Peruvian, were so light and buttery that you felt as if you could be a 19th century Le Train Bleu passenger on your way to the south of France.  They were very well done, and while perhaps not culturally accurate or indigenous, eating them with the smooth minty coca tea became an instant antidote to all my Bohemian existential angst.  Coca tea definitely has a “cast all your cares and worries aside” quality to it. Let’s just say, Celestial Seasonings would fly off US shelves if they added that magical ingredient to their Tension Tamer tea.

After a couple of cupfuls, a trip to the well-appointed restroom, and taking in the open air panoramic views of the valley from the small terrace at the back of the glass observatory car, tea time was over and lunch time began.  We returned to our seats for the main food event.

First to take the stage was the appetizer: Wayllabamba’s Smoked Trout with mashed fava beans, quinoa tabbouleh. All of the food served on the train is sourced from small organic family farms on the land the train travels through. Wayllabamba is the first campsite for those hiking the Inca Trail. In Quechua, Wayllabamba means ‘grassy plain’.

Alongside the grassy plain of Wayllabamba runs the Kusichaka River which is home to many fish varieties including popular wild rainbow and brown trout. This lovely trout was like eating smokey Japanese rice paper. It melted onto your tongue and, mixed with the texture of the quinoa and flava beans, made for a light beginning that left us excitedly anticipating the main course

But, before moving on from the opening act in this three part culinary concert, I must take a brief intermission to discuss the wine.

To pair your brunch we have carefully selected this wine to create a unique experience. ~Hiram Bingham Train Menu

We could have chosen to deviate from the white and red wine options included with our admission. They have additional bottles, including some from Europe, at additional cost. However, this whole experience was already feeling a little more Bougie than Boho, and we wanted to experience South American wines that went really well with the tasting menu. So, we stayed with what the sommelier had pre-selected for this meal.

Accompanying our appetizer was a glass of Tacama Blanco de Blancos D.O. Ica, Peru. It was pale in color, very drinkable and refreshing.  It reminded me of Cakebread’s Sauvignon Blanc from back home in Northern California.  It was the perfect companion for the trout. The dry acidity in the top note helped the fish melt in your mouth, while the soft, sweet after taste it left behind nicely rounded out each bite.

Upon finishing that glass, our red glasses were filled with a unique Merlot.  The Montes Classic Series Merlot D.O Valle de Colchagua, Chile was unlike any Merlot I have tried.  It had pinot-like tanins and a spice to it that reminded me of a Hess Collection red to compare it, once again, to wine from home.  As soon as our glasses were filled with Merlot, the main dish appeared: Grilled Tenderloin Beef.

The meat was tender and served with a traditional Peruvian sautéed sauce, rustic mashed potatoes, and a bouquet of colorful steamed vegetables. Each bite sent me straight to Inca god heaven.

Last, but certainly not least, was dessert: Sacred Valley’s Corn Cheesecake. Its foundation was constructed from crispy corn flour, the next layer was a light cheese cake the top of which was garnished with a sprig of Andean mint and Chulpi’s corn praline. But, this was not all. There was a beautiful brushstroke of purple corn and elderberry sauce on the plate to dip each decadent spoonful of cheesecake into.

The saying “It isn’t over until the fat lady sings” rings true once more here. The final note of this exquisite culinary concert was a silver tray of cookies and Pâte à Choux washed down with freshly brewed coffee and cream before pulling up to Aguas Calientes station. I was the fat lady, and my soul was singing after experiencing the transcendental meal and journey of a lifetime aboard the Hiram Bingham Train to Machu Picchu.

In Travel on
April 3, 2017

The Sound of Silence: Discovering Machu Picchu

If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? If an entire civilization, their culture and customs are erased, did they ever truly exist? What marks existence? Are the artifacts that are left behind, and the finder’s interpretation of their significance, the only landmarks we can point to when we map out the history of the human race?

I wish I had nice and neatly packaged answers to each of these mindbenders. The truth is I don’t. But, today, I can offer insights into one beautiful “tree” that fell in a forest years ago and wasn’t heard until one fateful day in 1911.

It was the 24th of July 1911 when Yale professor and explorer Hiram Bingham stumbled onto what the New York Times would later call “the Greatest Archaeological Discovery of the Age.” Bingham, who had embarked on a journey through the Peruvian Andean Mountains in search of the last two capitals of the Inca Empire: Vitcos and Vilcabamba, got a tip from a local farmer Melchor Arteaga that there were ruins high up on a mountain called “Machu Picchu” which, when translated from the ancient Incan language Quechua, means “old peak.”

In Bingham’s own words,

The morning of July 24th dawned in a cold drizzle. Arteaga shivered and seemed inclined to stay in his hut. I offered to pay him well if he showed me the ruins. He demurred and said it was too hard a climb for such a wet day. But when he found I was willing to pay him a sol, three or four times the ordinary daily wage, he finally agreed to go. When asked just where the ruins were, he pointed straight up to the top of the mountain. No one supposed that they would be particularly interesting, and no one cared to go with me.

Little did he know that this treacherous journey would lead him not to Vitcos or Vilcamba or the mythical city of Tampu-tocco as he supposed. It would lead him to an undiscovered place, built by a lost civilization, the purpose of which is still unknown today.

With Peruvian policeman Seargeant Carrasco and Arteaga by his side, Bingham left the wet camp around 10 am. After a short while the party crossed a small bridge spanning rushing water so unnerving that the intrepid explorer was reduced to crawling across it on his hands and knees. From the river they climbed a slippery slope finally reaching the ridge of Machu Picchu at around noon.

Bingham was rewarded by a vista unlike any he had ever experienced. He described it as best he could in the following words:

I had entered the marvellous canyon of the Urubamba below the Inca fortress. Here the river escapes from the cold plateau by tearing its way through gigantic mountains of granite. The road runs through a land of matchless charm. It has the majestic grandeur of the Canadian Rockies, as well as the startling beauty of the Nuuanu Pali near Honolulu, and the enchanting vistas of the Koolau Ditch Trail on Maui, in my native land. In the variety of its charms the power of its spell, I know of no place in the world which can compare with it. Not only had it great snow peaks looming above the clouds more than two miles overhead; gigantic precipices of many-coloured granite rising sheer for thousands of feet above the foaming, glistening, roaring rapids, it has also, in striking contrast, orchids and tree ferns, the delectable beauty of luxurious vegetation and the mysterious witchery of the jungle. One is drawn irresistibly onwards by ever-recurring surprises through a deep, winding gorge, turning and twisting past overhanging cliffs of incredible height. Above all, there is the fascination of finding here and there under swaying vines, or perched on top of a beetling crag, the rugged masonry of a bygone race; and of trying to understand the bewildering romance of the ancient builders who, ages ago, sought refuge in a region which appears to have been expressly designed by nature as a sanctuary for the oppressed, a place where they might fearlessly and patiently give expression to their passion for walls of enduring beauty.

His eyes weren’t the first to see the wonders of Machu Picchu. But, he was the one who made the most noise, and his noise would silence the other whispers that had rippled out before him.

One year after Hiram Bingham’s quest to the top of the old peak, the monograph “Machupiceho,” was published by Jose Gabriel Cosio in the Boletin de la Sociedad Geografica de Lima (vol. 28, no. 22, 1912). Cosio, who was the official Peruvian delegate to Bingham’s follow-up expedition to Machu Picchu in 1912, wrote that:

It is not true that Dr. Bingham was the discoverer of the ruins, but he did give them fame and archaeological interest. Before he came there, they were frequently ascended, and many people even lived there, cultivating squash, yuca, sweet potato, sugar cane, and corn. A Mr. Lizirraga, now deceased, knew the site in all its details. On July 14,1902, by the same road that Dr. Bingham took, a Mr. Sanchez, of Caicai, and Messrs. Enrique Palma and Lizárraga came to Machupiccho. But, as always happens, they had no scientific or historical interest. They were only interested in hunting for lost treasures that they thought were rumored to be buried in such locations.

Cosio also mentioned that, when he visited Machu Picchu in 1912, he learned that Anacieto Alvares, one of the campesinos farming in the ruins, had lived there for eight years (BSGL, vol. 28., no. 22, 1912).

As was the case with aviation pioneer Gustav Weisskopf, and his successful flight two years before the Wright brothers’, the people who make history are often standing on the heads and shoulders of people who were there before. There are innumerable reasons why one person is credited with discovery over another. It is safe to say that Hiram Bingham’s story was heard around the globe making him and his discovery world famous.

While others before him had charted maps of the region, photos of the ruins, so far as we know, did not exist before Hiram Bingham’s exploration of the ruins of Machu Picchu. What he caught on camera would capture the attention of the world. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Because the Inca had no written language, his photos bear record that the Inca existed and that their civilization was incredibly sophisticated. But no word in any language can accurately describe witnessing the majesty of Machu Picchu in person. As Bingham stated:

The beautiful blue of the tropical sky, the varying shades of green that clothe the magnificent mountains, and the mysterious charm of the roaring rapids thousands of feet below cannot be portrayed and can with difficulty be imagined… A stupendous canyon where the principle rock is granite and where the precipices are frequently over 1,000 feet sheer, presents difficulties of attack and facilities for defense second to none. Here on a narrow ridge, flanked on all sides by precipitous or nearly precipitous slopes, a highly civilized people—artistic, inventive, and capable of sustained endeavor—at some time in the remote past built themselves a city of refuge.

Since they had no iron or steel tools—only stone hammers—its construction must have cost many generations, if not centuries, of effort.

The difficulties of life for several centuries in the Vilcabamba region would have been likely to have developed this ingenious and extremely capable race and given them strength of character. The influence of geographical environment is no small factor in developing characteristics. I hope at no distant future to prepare an exhaustive report of this wonderful city, whose charm can only dimly be realized from these pictures.”

Bingham captured the ‘what’ of Machu Picchu: the physical evidence that existed in 1911. But, he would spend the 50 remaining years of his life trying to conclusively prove the ‘why’ of Machu Picchu. He proposed two theories, neither of which is accepted today. One of his theories was that Machu Picchu was a convent of sorts training women to serve the Inca elite. He developed the theory based on the fact that he thought 75% of the 100 bones he found on the site belonged to women. Modern science showed that this was not the case, and that the bones were actually closer to a 50/50 male to female ratio.

His other theory was that he had found the mythical city Tampu-tocco, which legend has it was the cradle of the Incan Empire and the birthplace of the 3 fabled brothers who founded the civilization. He supported his theory based on the three windowed temple that was discovered at Machu Picchu.

Today, other theories exist. Contemporary research conducted by archeologists John Rowe, Richard Burger, and Lucy Salazar-Burger indicates that rather than being a defensive stronghold, Machu Picchu was the Meso-American Martha’s Vineyard—a retreat built by and for the Inca ruler Pachacuti and other elite guests.

National Geographic published the following fascinating findings by Professor Brian Bauer:

Brian Bauer, an expert in Andean civilization at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a National Geographic grantee, says Machu Picchu—which was built around A.D. 1450—was, in fact, relatively small by Inca standards and maintained only about 500 to 750 people. One thing is certain, says Bauer, archaeological evidence makes it clear that the Inca weren’t the only people to live at Machu Picchu. The evidence shows, for instance, varying kinds of head modeling, a practice associated with peoples from coastal regions as well as in some areas of the highlands. Additionally, ceramics crafted by a variety of peoples, even some from as far as Lake Titicaca, have been found at the site. ‘All this suggests that many of the people who lived and died at Machu Picchu may have been from different areas of the empire,’ Bauer says.

While the purpose of Machu Picchu is shrouded in much mystery, ultimately it can be said with certainty that the discovery of Machu Picchu proves that there are silent fallen trees in the forests of this world just waiting for a bohemian explorer like Hiram Bingham to hear them and make some noise. So, dear reader, the real question is: are you listening?

Bibliography and Further Reading:




In Food, Travel on
March 27, 2017

Becoming Bohemian: The Journey Begins

“Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.” – Stella Adler

It is a fact universally acknowledged that we live in a fast-paced commercial world. With each passing second it seems the world is spinning faster and our days are getting shorter. We are constantly consumed with getting ahead; with making more money than the next guy, keeping up with the Kardashians, and zooming through life without stopping to smell the roses or contemplate what it really means to exist, and where true joy can be found. More and more I find myself giving way to the inertia of it all and becoming that whirling dervish –the stereotypical crazed American glutton, and I feel confronted by two opposing statements that push me toward life change:

1) Life is too short to waste time doing the unnecessary or unpalatable.
2) Life is too long to be stuck in a rut doing the same thing over and over again.

The only way I can reconcile both of these statements is to stare the ennui that comes from being a 31 year old childless woman on the edge of a quarter-midlife crisis square in the face and say “no more”. It is to create a fork in the trench I am in and forge a new path where beauty and wonder and curiosity exist. It means being vulnerable: very vulnerable, more vulnerable than I have ever been. It means sharing the journey with anyone who cares to walk with me. It means becoming bohemian.

Disclaimer: I am opening myself up here hoping to find community not a cult of personality. I am fully aware that I am average. This is not a blog about a perfect life or a perfect person. I have faith that there are others out there who share the same existential angst, who crave a space on the internet for the imperfect, the exposed and unairbrushed. A place where what is beautiful is unique, not all the same imposed artificial size 2.

I envision this blog becoming a place to explore exciting art, literature, music, places and spaces, and not least of all food and wine; a place where we get to develop a new, slower and more thoughtful culture. We can eke out a new existence. It’s out there. I’m convinced it is. We just don’t see it. Through this blog I hope to develop new eyes and embrace the art and beauty that exists around us, but is often ignored.

So if that resonates with you, please subscribe, comment, and participate. I want to learn with you. I hope that this can be a safe place for discussion: a forum for sharing creative ideas and ways to cope with existential angst, and a place to celebrate being young and being alive.