Joan Didion’s Hawaii

Unwavering eyes, like a microscope, the quintessential observer grabs you by the lapels and gives you a good hard shake. Reading her is like having a candle lit inside you.

Italian Lessons: Sociability versus Efficiency

I was given a prescription by the surgeon to address the recovery process. One day, there was a knock on the door, which I answered it in my pajamas and robe. It was the local pharmacist, asking if I needed any refills. I had never imagined a pharmacist making house calls.

Canada: Battered by Climate Change and Growing Political Division

Canada is, at this moment, a stormy place. The Great White North is a physically battered country.

BC’s Perfect Storm: Housing Prices Jump And Homelessness Comes to a Small Town

The colliding factors include a very rapid rise in housing prices, up 31 percent in the “Comox Valley” this year. What had been an affordable area for people fleeing the sky-high cost of housing in metro-Vancouver has now affected small towns and rural areas.

An Unexpected Kindness

In our little Italian village, an extended construction project across the street turns into an opportunity for unexpected kindness.

Postcard from Zurich: Connections to Home

It’s not that homelessness is nonexistent. There’s just not a lot – well, practically none – compared to U.S. cities. Still, there’s enough to make the Swiss nervous.

With a Little Help From our Friends…

We had to learn how to live all over again – where to shop, where to find things, where to go when we had a problem, who to ask our questions – but learn we did. 

Venice is Back in Business. Sort of

Along with this diaspora of ordinary working families went most of the local shops and cafes. Long gone are the little shops carrying clothing and jewelry made in an adjacent room. Also gone are the small, quirky galleries selling authentic works of hand-blown Murano glass. They have been replaced by shops carrying mass-produced tchotchkes for tourists who want souvenirs to cram into their carry-on bags. 

Cats as Traffic-Calming Devices

No one wants to be blamed for harming a cat aleeping in the lane. Drivers really pay attention and watch the road. After four years, I know now all the cats by sight. I have not noticed any missing

The Perils of Being an Electric Car Pioneer

A German company that supplies charging posts recently conducted a survey of car buyers and found that at least 30 percent were very skeptical of electric cars. The greatest fear was being stuck somewhere with a car that cannot move.

Letter from Santa Fe: The “City Different”

Santa Fe is a unique and bewitching place, rich with cultural amenities, surrounded by stunning countryside and with lots of progressive thinking. It's a place where one can make friends easily, receive more types of alternative health treatments than ever imagined, and feast on the famed regional cuisine.

Justin Trudeau Calls An Election: A Short Primer on Canadian Politics

Why now? The polls look favorable, Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination rate tops that of “the States,” and Trudeau’s government has doled out billions in aid to soften pandemic impacts. 

So You Want to Visit Italy (Or Better Yet, Move There). Here’s How

First, let’s clear up a couple of common misconceptions. Anyone can buy property in Italy; one does not need to be a citizen or even a legal resident. However, without a specific visa, one is limited to staying a maximum of 90 days in a 180 period.

Nicholas Kristof — The Next Governor of Oregon?

A columnist has only one boss, his editor, who can also stand between him and angry detractors. A governor—even a candidate for governor—is naked against the scorn. Even veterans of other offices are often surprised by how incredibly personal being a governor can be, and how lonely. 

At Last! Back to BC. Here’s Where to Go

It will be grand to cross the (water and land) boundary again and share the region. A writer for Macleans, the Canadian magazine, once described British Columbians as a privileged people surrounded entirely by envy.

Beleaguered Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler Faces Recall

The recall movement, which claims to have close to 200 volunteers, began just last Friday, July 9, hours after city regulators approved the filing, and organizer have until September 6 to collect the necessary valid signatures.

The Oregon Coast: Lots Of Jobs But Nowhere to Live

“In the past, we’ve hired people living out of their cars. We had one kid from somewhere in the Midwest who worked a deal at a motel so he could shower there, and then he’d sleep in his car.”

Postcard from Wallowa: Heat in the Northwest Back Country

I’m worrying about the unseasonable heat along with the heightened potential for wildfires. It seems like climate change is shouting at us, but our hearing isn’t very good.

But Wait! There’s More!: Adventures in Buying an Electric Car in Italy

The savings from not buying gas, not maintaining an internal combustion car, not paying the normal taxes, no ZTL fines, no speeding tickets, and not needing to rent cars for long road trips means buying an electric car virtually pays for itself. Not quite, but close. Close enough for it to make a lot of sense.

Cautiously: BC Loosens its COVID Shutdown

The border, closed to non-commercial travel since March of last year, remains shut until at least July 21. Cruise ships cannot use Canadian ports until March of next year.

Portland: Down in the Dumps

These days, Portland is struggling with the question of what it takes to make a city safe and how to rebuild it too, as it gradually opens up from the Covid-19 shutdowns.

Taking Hawaii Back: COVID Pause forces rethink of Over-tourism

While Hawaii rebuilds a shattered economy that lost tens of thousands of jobs during the pandemic, there’s growing pressure to tamp down on the excesses of over-tourism.

Italy: Rethinking Tourism before the Hordes Return?

Italy is returning to normal, which is a relief. But now the country, as many places, has to figure out how not to return to the normal of harmful, soulless tourism.

Back to the Wallowas

“Private Property” was a concept that European immigrants to America brought with them, but which was alien to American Indians. Euro-Americans kept trying to get Indians to “settle down” and farm a particular plot of land. Though some did, it was alien to their culture, at least to the Nez Perce culture.

San Juan County, like Seattle, Takes Aim at Reforming its Charter

San Juan's modern county charter allows for a ready path to modifying it. Voters may soon get to vote on environmental and equity issues.

Oregon Gains a Congressional Seat (But Where?)

So, slam dunk for the Dems to score again in 2022, as new congressional borders are drawn? There is predictable pressure from Republicans to rebalance the delegation by drawing a new district that would look purple but could turn red. But it’s a long shot.

Lost in Time: Australia during COVID

I see nothing for most people to complain about and don’t understand why, now the restrictions here have for the most part been put away, so many people are acting as if they have been let out of jail, or just got their sight back.

Explaining Idaho: Growing Fast and Changing Politically

My North Idaho neighborhood is a tiny blue puddle in a sea of red. For all the talk (hope?) that the influx of newcomers would moderate the politics of Idaho, the opposite is the reality. The last Democrat to win an Idaho presidential election was Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

“Lying Cow”? Breathtaking Misogyny and Political Malpractice in Australia

The coinciding scandals spurred massive March 4 Women protests that drew 110,000 into the streets of dozens of cities under the banner of “Enough is Enough.”

The Year of Living Pandemically — Italian-Style

The First Wave of Covid hit like a freight train. Then came a second wave, even worse. But the government has adapted and neighbors have turned out to help small businesses.