Strangers in Good Company

An iPhoneography workshop in the rolling Palouse Hills of Eastern Washington with Teri Lou Dantzler and Harry Sandler offered up incredible photo ops and 4 days of learning about taking and processing photos with the iPhone and iPad. But the trip gave the added wonderful bonus of the people in the class. We braved 4 a.m. wake-ups for sunrise shoots, scorching heat in the high 90s, and dust everywhere. No whiners here–only a bunch of photo and iPhone fanatics who made the time an unforgettably fun experience.

And when they hunkered down in a patch of posies seeking the perfect shot, they looked like a bunch of lovely flowers themselves.

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Cody and the Tetons

What can beat a week in the Grand Tetons? Having Diane’s great, great nephew Cody with us. We crammed in a boat ride across Jenny Lake; a hike past Hidden Falls to Inspiration Point where Cody lured and petted chipmunks; a bicycle ride; a fly casting lesson; canoeing Lower Slide Lake; a horseback ride; moose, buffalo, pronghorn, raccoon, and eagle spotting; outfitting Cody with cowboy hat and boots; fishing on the Gros Ventre River; a fish/float on the Snake River; and a birthday dinner for Diane.

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Cuba: Russians and the Tropicana

A trip to Havana would not be complete without an evening at the fabled Tropicana. Opened in 1939, it survived the Mob and the Revolution to continue offering up voluptuous showgirls and muscled showboys in sequins and feathers, accompanied by the hot beat of Cuban music.

Diane and I were squired by two handsome guys from our group who managed to land us stage-side seats for the extravaganza. Just before the house lights dimmed, a minor commotion attracted our notice: Two house staff members were escorting a couple to join our table.

Our new companions were clearly completely blind, as signaled by their white canes and dark glasses. We said hello and soon learned that our neighbors were André and Tatania from Russia. Sharing our limited common words in English and Spanish, we managed to exchange a few pleasantries. Then the show began, and thinking we had done our bit for Glasnost, we turned our attention back to the stage.

But then I heard André’s deep, guttural voice saying, “Debora, Debora.”  “Yes, André?”  “Debora–you must dance with me.”  Of course, the aisle by our table was completely dark, but André didn’t know that. Not another soul was dancing, but André didn’t know that. And, well, how do you refuse an invitation like that from a blind Russian? So, we danced for a bit, then returned to our seats.

We were not, however, yet finished with our Russian encounter. Apparently, André had brought along some good Russian vodka and was well along into consuming it. He began talking to his vodka bottle in a very loud voice, seemingly providing an emotional non-stop account of something–sort of like a Tourette’s onslaught in Russian.

We nevertheless managed to enjoy the sights and the sounds of the dancers and music, accompanied by André’s constant commentary.

Then, another commotion at our table.  Two staff members arrived to lift André’s head from the table where it had fallen and carry him from the room.  They said something to Tatania  (who had yet to say a word, break a smile, or tap a foot)–perhaps asking if she wanted to go with André. Whatever they asked, her answer was a definitive “Nyet.”

A bit later, the staff members returned and poured Andre back into his seat, where he spent the rest of the evening with his head and white cane resting on the table.

Tatania never smiled.

And that was our evening at the Tropicana.

In honor of Andre and Tatania, a new cocktail called Two Blind Russians. It’s a variation of the classic Three Miller (aka Between the Sheets), substituting vodka for the rum and lime juice for the lemon juice:

  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • 1 oz. cognac

Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with two maraschino cherries. After a couple of these, you’ll be as blind as the Russians.

Cuba: Oh, Those Beautiful Old Cars!

Call me shallow, and it’s true. One of the big draws of Cuba for me was to see those old 40s and 50s U.S. cars. They exist in all states of repair and disrepair. Some have newer, non-U.S. engines hidden under the vintage hoods.

Many of the most beautifully restored cars serve as taxis and gather in front of the tourist hotels. Here’s the early morning lineup in front of our Parque Central Hotel.

Horse-drawn carriages and bicycle taxis also vie for the tourist trade.
One evening our group took advantage of some of the fabulous convertibles for our ride to dinner. We were as happy as a bunch of teenagers cruising the square.
Of course, ordinary Cubans don’t ride in such vaunted conveyances.  They take the old, unrestored cars; overcrowded, un-air conditioned buses; bicycle taxis; or horse-drawn taxis. Or, more commonly, they walk.
Here are a few more of those fabulous cars.