USA: San Diego Holiday Time

Posted by on Nov 26, 2016 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Well I slid back into town after a wonderful two weeks in Portland visiting my friend, Karen. The trip was only marred by a bad case of the Trump Flu. The weather was kind of lousy, but I was up there to plan a 25 day French Whirlwind Tour of Paris, the Loire Valley, the Dordogne, Provence and Marseilles anyway.

Karen offset the effects of our illness with a variety of delightful soups. It was worth being sick for the soup. I should have taken some pictures, but I was far too taken with its consumption to bother with photography.

Upon returning to San Diego, Thanksgiving was around the bend, and I wondered if Donald Trump was going to rear his ugly head and soil our celebration. I am happy to report that we managed to steer clear of that nightmarish eventuality.

Someone did mention Melania when I brought up my 2017 visit to Slovenia. I assured them that my visit was not related to her future status as First Trophy Wife. How very far we have fallen.


THE BEAR CAVE – My little private sanctuary in the hostel. Evidently, a private room wasn’t enough to prevent the kind of mishap I had encountered on my previous encounter with this hostel group. All was copacetic until I discovered that the trash basket had been used as a urinal the night before, and the cleaners had failed to empty my garbage can or pour it out as was the case in this circumstance. The people who stay in these two hostels can’t seem to handle their liquor or their bodily fluids which brings me to a story that occurred on my last visit to San Diego a month ago at the sister hostel across town.

I was in a four-bed dorm, minding my own business and watching Netflix on my computer while lying on my bottom bunk. At around midnight an inebriated Aussie clambered into the bunk above me after a raucous game of beer pong and immediately fell into an apnea laden snorefest. I gave it little thought as I have seen this happen all over the world. What followed was new and something I could have done without.

The unmistakable rattling sound of recently consumed food being forcibly launched out of a convulsing esophagus filled the room followed by the inevitable collection of moist dull thuds as it laid out a minefield of effluent around my bunk. Not satisfied with his display, he spat the remaining bile out onto the carpet after numerous volleys. Think Mister Creosote in Monty Python’s “The Meaning Of Life,” except blind drunk and skinny.

His hurling finally abated, and I managed to navigate past his dinner and out of the room. Given the late hour, the cleaners were off duty so I had to make do with some towels to lay down on top of that vile, acrid-smelling melange of pizza and beer so that I could get in and out of my bed without treading in the mess.

And so it was until one hour had passed, and Netflix had transported me from the earlier disturbance. There came another familiar sound that I’ve never heard in a bedroom. This one resembled a noise from your neighborhood beer bar that has one of those long urinal troughs in the men’s room. You guessed it. I looked up from my movie to see the faint yellow glimmer made by a stream of urine as it arced from the top bunk and ricocheted off of the opposite wall, one foot to the right of a wastebasket, and forming a considerable pool of Beer Pong residuals. Evidently, our Australian friend had regained consciousness, struggled to his knees, and continued his blackout assault on our room. Again more towels were offered. I am happy to report that on the following hour he failed to soil himself, and thus complete the full trifecta of filth. As it was, he truly outdid himself and offered no apologies the next day. I have met many Aussies in my travels, and they are by and large a good bunch of lads who know how to hold a drink.

I think the worst part is they made some sweet, petite Asian girl clean it up armed only with a broom, a dustpan, a vacuum cleaner, and some carpet fresh. It turns out they actually do have a steam cleaner. I hate to imagine what would have to happen for them to feel compelled to use it. I think the most bizarre thing is that these are two of the most highly rated hostels in San Diego. Fortunately, my experiences with hostels around the world have mostly been exemplary with just a few exceptions. I don’t relate this to gross you out, but to assuage the possibility of envy of my lifestyle. My friend Jason was shocked at my ability to shrug off these experiences, I enjoy writing to the such a degree that I am willing to go through these ordeals merely for benefit of the quality material I gain for this blog.

Seriously who wants to read about some guy seeing beautiful things all the time and living the dream. That gets boring and is surely going to lead to some underlying resentment. Your protagonist has to tread in some dog shit every now and again so I am grateful to step up once and a while. Writing about this sort of thing is fun and effortless. I laugh so much at the absurdity of these events and truly enjoy crafting the sentences describing these calamities. Like the Croatian bus driver who ripped me off, and then tried to run me over with the bus. The material I gleaned from that incident only ran me $30. I even snapped a picture of him as he tried to run me over. The photo showed him smirking with my screaming face reflected in the windshield. Priceless.

So whether I’m feasting on duck in the bucolic French countryside or suffering from dysentery on the island of Don Det in Laos where my bathroom (fully tiled with drain) looked like a Tarantino movie with feces instead of blood, it all balances out in the end. Actually, I could have done without that Don Det three day, bedridden, dash to the toilet relay. The irony was that the night before it started I was having dinner with a couple, and they shared a similar experience. I responded that even with my extensive travels in Mexico and South America that it had never happened to me. Oops!


Not enough space for mess which I organized in short order. I had already sorted out the urine in the wastebasket.


SLEEPING ALCOVE – With additional Playa Del Carmen post-partem debris.


TV ROOM – Ron Burgundy and the Beatles add to the decor of this Party Hostel Extraordinaire. This place would have been fun for me about 35 years ago. The big problem in this hostel is the inability to find some quiet and an escape from obnoxious crappy music.




Steve, Uncle Boris, Dina, Mia, and Vilena – We all gather at Boris’s house for a holiday extravaganza.


YELENA AND JOE – My former wife and her new husband arrange the macarons.


Steve, Turkey and Yelena – Yelena is well known for abusing deceased turkeys with delicious results. Steve grins in approval.


Mia awaits her first Thanksgiving dinner. Her catch all rubber bib came in really handy.


Everyone revels in Mia’s abundant baby talk fueled by the Thanksgiving abundance. Uncle Boris mugs for baby Meechka to everyone’s amusement. My ex-wife is remarried to a nice guy, and the two kids are both happy with their new partners freeing me up for extended, guilt-free world travel.

Like they say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I stop back for a pit stop on a yearly basis for Thanksgiving and Christmas to catch up with the kids and check on my new granddaughter’s progress.


HOMEMADE FRENC MACARONS! – Lavender, raspberry, orange, and rose.


Courtesy of Yelena – Reminds me of something.


MIA’S BALL PIT – Our little princess in her adorable self contained play space. No grotty, germ-filled McDonalds ball pit for our baby girl. I just ordered another batch of 200 balls to properly fill the thing up. No anemic ball pit for my granddaughter. Just in time for her upcoming birthday for the rest of the kids to enjoy.


The Schizophonics – The most original and dynamic act in town

Check out the teeth at the end of his guitar head.


On Saturday, November 5th. at the Casbah in San Diego, the Schizphonics put in a typically outstanding performance. So much so, that the headliner must have felt like one the opening bands for the Beatles.

I have been catching their shows for about four years now, and always come away wondering how talent like this has to hold down a day job while so many McMusic hacks are riding around in limousines filling our lives with the audio equivalent of empty calories that deliver the originality and stimulation of elevator music.

Go to a Schizophonics show, and you will feel as if you have stepped back into a time when music was vital and delivered a unique experience. Not like today where so much of it sounds the same because most of the artists are using just a handful of producers. It’s the same phenomenon found in the car industry. Have you wondered why most of the cars on the road look alike? It’s because almost all of the designers are using the same design software.

To give you a sense of what a Schizophonic experience is like, just imagine a front man who is a combination of Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townsend, James Brown and Mick Jagger rolled into one with a shot of adrenaline thrown in for good measure. Pat Beers is a breath of fresh air in a world of predominantly banal bands. Before the show he and his wife, Leti, who plays drums give the impression that they just are a low key, kind-hearted, happy married couple, but put these two on stage with their newly acquired Bassist, Brian Riley, formerly of “The New Kinetics” and you have an explosive tour de force to be reckoned with.

Let Pat loose with his homemade guitar, complete with teeth carved into the head, and he cuts loose like a man in a semi-controlled psychotic break. Leaping leg splits, dips, spins are only the beginning of the mayhem that ensues. The most surprising thing is that during all of this frenetic motion he never misses a lick! An audio/visual cognitive dissonance ensues because you can’t possibly be hearing what you’re seeing. Surely there must be someone playing lead backstage, but the Casbah has no backstage. Jagger would have been hard-pressed to pull off Pat’s moves in his prime much less play guitar at the same time, and I doubt even Jimi could have sustained such a quality sound in that kind of maelstrom of motion. Leti’s drumming keeps the whole thing from flying off into complete chaotic disarray.

I attended this show at San Diego’s legendary Casbah last night and was once again reminded that no matter how many times you see these guys you come away feeling that you’ve been given so much more than the money you left at the door.

Even if the Schizophonics are not your cup of tea musically, you will no doubt come away entertained and feeling as if you have seen something special. How many bands can you say that about? The Schizophonics should be on everyone’s bucket list. They are not just a great band. They are an experience.

The Schizophonics are currently touring in England. Better hope the Brits don’t snatch them up like they did with Jimi! If they do it will be well deserved, and I will be happy to go see their shows on the other side of the pond. Easy for me, traveling the world as I do.

VILLAGE HAT SHOP – Dropping off a Panama hat to be stretched for Jason to accommodate his cranial excess. Panama hats like the one I am wearing are made in Ecuador and not in Panama. Wide brimmed, white Panamas were used extensively by the laborers who built the Panama Canal and became known as Panama hats because of this. Take note of the item hanging from my neck. It is yet another fun artifact from my travels. In this case, it is a 2,000-year-old Roman key I picked up in the town of York in England. The Romans left behind a lot of stuff throughout England and Europe, and I do enjoy picking up a few of them from time to time.



                Mia Walks 11/28/2016

Mia Walks! – Mia clapping after successfully walking on her own on November 28th. 2016. Having previously achieved two successful eight-step attempts, she made one more go of it for Big Daddy Steve when he got home from work so he could share in the jubilation. Talking is just around the corner.

On December 17th. I witnessed a stroll of 47 steps. She is truly on the march. Stay tuned for her first birthday.

Mia’s Birthday

Dina in her inimitable style and desire to craft something special decided to unleash the full wrath of her profoundly potent, special event powers on the occasion of her baby daughter’s first birthday. The only way to pull this thing off was for Dina and Steve to enlist a couple of fanatical grandparents, and a sister in law who were supplied rigorous instructions complete with timetables in order to pull this thing off in the allotted time. The efforts began months before the party when she toiled away on homemade decorations. Lot’s of time was put in at the house on the three days prior to the party.

MIA’S THRONE ROOM – Adorned with amazing balloons the place begins to overflow with presents.

Princess Meechka off to mingle with her subjects.

Specialty Treats, Homemade Decorations, and Custom Cake round out the enjoyment.


12 Months of Mia


OLD FRIENDS – Dina & Audrey


Yelena poses with Dina’s masterpiece.

Quite a haul for the Meech!!!

Happy Mia & Cheerful Nana



Ground Control To Major Tom

Uncle D and Auntie V



MIA’S THRONE – The Princess of the Universe


Cake Time

Get Your Finger Out of My Cake!






BOOKS MEH – Let’s get to the really fun stuff.



90 + 1 = 91    Happy Birthday Jennie!




Grandma Tina Scored Big – This Horsey received the biggest response from Meechka.

Living vicariously through a delightful happy child.

My piano scored a close second to the beloved horse seen above.

GRANDPA VANUSHKIN finally takes a break from six hours of party prep and photography to get a photo with his little ginger snap. It was all worth it since everyone had a nice time. I can’t wait for next year when I see all the new developments. She will be talking and getting into all kinds of new and exciting hijinks. The good news is I won’t have anywhere near as much party stuff to handle. Once Mia gets a little older, there should be some fun parties for her and her friends. Even though there were mostly babies, the kids really loved the playroom we set up and we sent them all home with balloons. Many thanks to Dina’s friend, Nuria, who supplied the amazing house which really made for a perfect environment.



As I head into the new year, I remember that I began my journey on January 1st. in order to mark my New Years in a meaningful fashion. Rather than getting drunk on Dec. 31st. and waking up with a hangover, instead, I step onto an airplane and start the next phase of my five-year sojourn. As it stands this minute, I am even more excited about this year’s travels than I was on the previous two launches. The nomad life has fit me in ways that I hadn’t entirely anticipated. It just feels so natural, even the overnight bus rides and dodgy hostels. Mostly the unpleasant experiences supply me with additional entertaining blog fodder. I have taken on a somewhat optimistic attitude even though our country is not exactly headed in the right direction.

I will head back out into the world and continue to have the time of my life, making wonderful memories along the way to share with my granddaughter.


Mia’s Actual Birthday

December 29th.2015

Birthday Lunch – Mia’s Birthday celebration was a little earlier than her actual birthday so, in the spirit of including some photos of her at the true age of one, I submit the following.

Feeding The Ducks

Mia contemplates the significance of being an adorable, one-year-old, short person.

“I know there’s something dangerous around here.”


Enjoying her new shoes.


Daddy plays Meechka toss as Grampa Charlie revels in the moment.

                                    Happy New Year!!!

We spent New Years at home watching a movie. I think Mia was the most festive of the group.


As I head into the new year, I remember that I began my journey on January 1st. in order to mark my New Years in a meaningful fashion. Rather than getting drunk on Dec. 31st. and waking up with a hangover, I step onto an airplane and begin the next phase of my five-year sojourn. As it stands this minute, I am even more excited about this year’s travels than I was on the previous two launches. The nomadic lifestyle has fit me in ways that hadn’t entirely anticipated. It just feels so natural, even the overnight bus rides and dodgy hostels. Mostly, the unpleasant experiences supply me with additional entertaining blog fodder. I have learned to take on an optimistic attitude try to find the silver lining even when things don’t go my way. Thwarted plans or mishaps, more often than not result in experiences that are as compelling or superior to the originals.

One might say my country of origin is in a real pickle right now. That is a fact, but all of the disgrace, greed and corruption are out in the open for all to see. It is only when these things are exposed to the light of day that they can be solved Trump is just a symptom of an underlying malaise. In order to clean house, it’s possible that we need his toxicity to flush out the bowels of the body politic.

I have decided not to let the whole thing drag me down. It would just add insult to injury to allow that to happen. If I feel the need I can always check my compass, face the United States, and give the finger to the Con Artist in Chief. Until he’s gone I’m going to bolster my sense of humor, steel myself, go out into the world and continue to have the time of my life, making wonderful memories along the way to share with my granddaughter.






  1. Dinachka and Miachka
    January 14, 2017

    Thanks for helping great photos John!

  2. BigD
    January 17, 2017

    I was worried about politics coming up during Thanksgiving dinner. Lucky for us the designated Toastmaster General, i.e Miachka, kept everyone focused on having fun and saving the political discussions for a more appropriate time.

  3. The Travel Zealot
    January 23, 2017

    Thanks Dina, It’s fun to look back and have the record. Just an early warning, this year if I make it to 100 countries there will be another party without so many balloons.

  4. The Travel Zealot
    January 23, 2017

    Yes Laddie, we dodged that bullet. I mentioned my trip to Slovenia, and someone mentioned our new First Trophy Wife but I managed to steer the conversation away from any controversy. Meechka was the big savior without question.

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