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Uncle Markie out and about.

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Oct '23

The End

When I got the diagnosis of colon cancer that had spread to the liver on April 22. 2022 it was a shock, but it had taken weeks to get to that point, and I got to this Zen place. I’ve lived an amazing life. I haven’t worked a desk job since I was 43. I’ve traveled the world. My heart goes out to those people who put that off until they are 65, and then they get my diagnosis. Also, VERY glad I took social security at 62!

Handed a statement to my doctor to that effect and his response was, “fine, you are at peace, let’s talk treatment”. I love you, Doctor Gold. I couldn’t have wished for a better oncologist, and after a year and a half I feel that we have become friends and I see your pain in my decline. You used every tool in your belt, but my disease was a willy one, changing courses, blowing out colon, ballooning my liver tumor.

Eighteen months later I still have that Zen feeling, albeit they are more intense on hospice meds. Today we received that last piece we need for me to get the prescription from Death With Dignity. Those who need to know the date will know. Not making it public incase that nutcase from Topeka wants to turn up and protest.

This is the last formal photo from the boat — getting dressed up and ready cost me that day’s energy, sending me to my stateroom for the remainder of the trip, but it is a great one to remember me by.

This is what I was able to complete in the 18 months of cancer and chemo:

18-Months Chemo Travel
146,253 Total Travel Miles

Air: 124,834          Drive: 3,289          Boat: 12,645         Train: 5,485

I started this blog in August 10th, 2008 after a trip to China with The Colonels – our first trip together since the 5-week Lisbon to Antarctica trip in 2004-05.

Saturday, my priest/friend/Solus flew down from Vancouver to perform last rites. While I’m not overly religious, it is an important part of Solus’ life and by extension, of his 40+ year friend. We both needed closure. He started the service with this piece, Kontakion, by Rupert Lang, composed in Vancouver, and this staging was at the main Cathedral where I was last year for The Eucharist with MaryBeth after a train ride across Canada.

Going Forward

Please feel free to comment on this page, which I will monitor while I’m still here, though likely won’t reply due to energy levels. After I’m gone comments will be moderated by someone else to keep out the haters.




24 Responses to “The End”

  1. Alicia Says:

    You are so loved

  2. Mari Jo Says:

    What a fabulous 18 months! You have had more adventure in those days then most people do in a lifetime. Kudos to you, even with the dregs you have been able to drink to the last drops from your cup of life! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and photos of so many of your worldly travels through your blog, it’s been a pleasure following you. You will be missed, Markie, and you are loved. Farewell, Uncle Markie.

  3. Daniel Says:

    Safe travels, my dear friend. I love you so fucking much, and am honored to have known you for 35 years. Thank you for breaking your other date to ask me out all those years ago.

  4. Roberta Goering Says:

    What a way to exit!
    I am sorry to see you go but I am happy it is on your terms.
    I am flooded with memories from 50 years ago, of a skinny kid with long dark hair.
    Godspeed, kiddo.

  5. Clayton Neff Says:

    I have so many great memories that involve you, so thanks.

    “Holy Jesus Mother-sit-on-a-rock” is still a common exclamation around our house.

    Here’s to a life well lived.

  6. Deanna Says:

    Remembering: All Souls, LRY, weekly potluck dinners, drive-in movies, the lake house, THAT truck. You lived, and lived well. You will be missed and you will be remembered with love. Thank you for this chance to tell you.

  7. Claire Says:

    Sending love, so much love to you. And hugs ongoing.

  8. Joe Fico Says:

    All the love for you.

  9. Stuey Says:

    Well Mark, after your text this evening I’ve not been able to sleep at all. So many memories are just flooding through, and that’s just the stuff I can remember! You’ve shown me a side- several sides- of this world that simply would not have been available to me; fantastic, wonderful, glamorous, chaotic. Throughout it all the food was divine, the wine, the booze, hot tub, sauna, cars, art, literature… Good lord Mark, didn’t we even go to that ancient underground steambath in Pioneer Square together?

    I am really, really, going to miss you.

  10. Drew Derby Says:

    I gotta say, Mark, you’ve always lived life to the fullest. Having known you for over 45 years I used to think of you as a hedonist… I guess I still do, but with envy. Love you.

  11. Ben Powers Says:

    Hey Mark It’s a long road traveled, literally. Enhanced by this crazy creative striving for comfort. Many thoughts,Love to you

  12. Lisa Benson Says:

    There are no words other than to say we love you. Peace my friend.

  13. Renee Derby Says:

    I am glad you are at peace. I have many happy memories from back in the day before children and many of them happened while hanging out with you! I’m grateful to know you and sending all the love!

  14. Michael Henry Says:

    We’re all dancing on the head of a pin are we not? You did it with grace, vigor, and style! While I’m sad that one of my larger than life icons will be gone I’m grateful for your friendship and the memories.

  15. Stephen B. / Tag Says:

    From Breitenbush to Butte, Seattle to Las Vegas, you were always sharing your adventures. Thank you for welcoming so many of us, for being our friend, and even now for showing us how to face things with an open heart. We love you uncle Markie.

  16. Rob Fellows Says:

    Mark, thank you for your determination to have fun, your generous nature and for the spice you add when you’re in any social situation. I’ve been happy to know you, and I respect that you’re going out on your own terms. Peace to you, I’ll miss you.

  17. stuey Says:


    Old age ought to know. Death will soon enough come to its rescue. Till the knowing ends, all that was wasted and wronged in youth—through ignorance, haste, competition, bad belief—all that was bored by middle age into one long snooze, has borne its juiceless fruit, and is now known for what it is: nothing has been righted here. Yet if desire can be kept from contamination, if it can be aimed, as one’s fingertip, at the root’s place, if it is not harnessed to the horses of dismal domination, but is allowed to be itself and realize life, then the flutter of an eyelash on a cheek will assume its proper importance; Wall Street may crash and the gods of money be smelted back into the sordid earths they came from; yet, unfazed, our heads will rest at least on one another, a fall sun will shine on the sheets, your nipple shall enter my ear like a bee seeking in a bloom a place to sleep; life shall run through us both renewed; we shall feel longing, lust for one another; we shall share rage for the world.

    William H Gass

  18. Devon Says:

    Uncle Markie, I am sitting here sipping on a single malt scotch, remembering the first time I met you in Seattle in early 2002. You served me a McCallan’s 12 at your home on Capitol Hill and asked me to sit on your lap. Of course I obliged. I have enjoyed your humor and zest for life ever since. I have followed your adventures over the years with my beautiful partner Alicia. We have most of the Pigletta books and we will cherish the many wonderful meals and laughter you shared with us over the past 21 years. Thank you for allowing Alicia and I to spend a few nights at the church on Lopez island. It was magical and romantic. It was the first time I declared my love for Alicia and you helped make that moment possible. I am eternally grateful for that experience that has led to my wonderful life that I share with your dear friend. You will be missed kind sir and I want to thank you for the wonderful gift of getting to know you. Mahalo and Aloha until we meet again. “Such a long long time to be gone and a short time to be there”

  19. Rachel Burke Says:

    Mark, you’ve been in my mind and my heart these past weeks. Remembering the warmth and friendship you and Paul extended to me years ago at Camp Rotamer(?). And the years since. It’s beenway too long as I’m remembering things so long ago. Yes, a toast to you and a life lived fully. I’ll miss you, my friend.

  20. Eric Gowins, LtCol, USAF (Ret) Says:

    Mark, as one of your “Colonels”, I’m chocked up with things I want to say, but I’ll have to just say that you have enriched my life and I’m proud to have know you. You’ll be missed by me and the other colonel for the rest of our lives.
    God bless and be safe. Peaceful travels, my friend.
    Eric Gowins

  21. Kate and Eric Says:

    Goodbye my friend. We would not have known people in your orbit and you would not have hung with the colonels but for fate. We loved you.

  22. Mindi Caselden Says:

    Thanks for the adventures and ALL the memories. Love you so much and sending comfortable, peaceful hugs. Safe travels my friend <3

  23. Auntie (DW Kana Shephard) Says:

    If someone could choose life to live as they wished, that was you. You remained an inspiration to the end, naysayers be damned. As both a friend and Fae alike, I wish you great peace and more boister in the great beyond, Uncle Markie. Will alert Evergreen to your passing, since I have many alumni moments there, too, with you, braddah. Always Auntie to your Unka… postcards on the wind.

  24. Conan L. Hall Says:

    Mark there are no words. I’m going to miss you, your smile and generosity. Love you.

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Oct '23

Trip Report: Waikiki To Seattle. The Final Leg Home

Well, early day on the royal – off the boat at 9am – Uber to hotel, 10 minutes away, checked in but no room until 4 (fortunately, ready at two).

Choices of reclines were:

Or the meat-locker cold Business center.

We vent for privacy.

First order of business was to track down a “transist wheelchair” for sale. Found, bought, Ubered back.

Lovely views from the Two-Bedroom Presidential at the Wyndham Waikiki Beach Walk. Three balconies spread between two floors!

And then off to Tommy Bahama!

Tommy Bahama is my second home during happy hour on Waikiki!

Sadly, just two more nights and back stateside.

When we wee still on the boat, I swapped our Alaska Premium tickets (extra leg room, free drinks) for one of the few lay-flat beds back to the states…Hawaiian Airlines A330 Business Class seats.

And now that we have our own wheelchair, makes it MUCH easier go get around – and a pretty sticker:

Johnathan got us into a lounge (since I couldn’t since we’d switch airlines)…

And now onto the areoplane!

And a GREAT movie about a family run bathhouse….

What a lovely way to end my final trip!


For the final blog post, click here.


2 Responses to “Trip Report: Waikiki To Seattle. The Final Leg Home”

  1. Diane Hill Says:

    Dearest Mark,
    Sending you love and blessings for your next adventure. The closing song of many a LRY worship service keeps chanting in my brain…May the longtime sun shine upon you. All love surround you. And the pure light within you, guide you all the way Home. ❤️

  2. Melba Toast Says:

    Funny thing, Markie: I never thought of you as a hedonist. You were just someone who loved the taste of life, and the pleasure of joy, and the authenticity of ‘quality’ in your surroundings. You showed me “It’s possible to live in boring spaces with hum-drum, uninteresting furnishings — but WHY??”

    Today I glaze my walls with deep plum and glowing terra cotta; I stay up all night in my front yard prepping for a 2’x3’solar-activated print of a cedar branch in vivid orange that begins to emerge on my fabric when the brass-gold sun of a summer morning ignites my dew-wet fabric, now forever redolent of abrasive dawn breezes freighted with the smoke of forests that blazed all night — like I did, waiting. I call it “Wild Fires” and I love it. Without you in my life, it would have slogged along as survival. Instead it’s become an unrepeatable alchemical compound laced with vaudeville coelesced around a Heart hungry for FIRE.

    You lit that in me, Markie, when I watched you making curtains. When you visibly purred over some outrageous find acquired thru the ‘Tradin’ Times,’ picked over like the cooling remains of a Rock-Cornish Game Hen. It would later be like you, Markie, to perhaps pop such a hen or three into your oven before sallying forth in your dad’s brown station wagon, your brain abuzz with the intoxicating aroma of DEAL. Many’s the time you returned with an objec both arcane and repairable; I’ve always caressed the memory of an ancient pinball machine with me wedged in longwise beside it,giddy and grinning. Having a role in your exuberant, well-upholstered, and often borderline-illegal brain children made my life more savored and savory, more brazen, and more hilarious; more rich like whipped cream (when I order a latte, I say simply “enough to go up my nose when I drink it” — the baristas usually grin, and my order is never wrong), luxurious as the feel of velvet on all my bare skin (my favorite thing at your Capitol Hill house was the “Clothing Optional” sign just inside the front door), and as warm and vital as the heart that is breaking inside me at having to say goodbye to you from this dismal, deluded plane of existance.

    You found the exquisite in it, Markie. And whe it’s my turn to rise, glowing and beautiful and whole again, I’m going to be looking for the ETERNAL BLAZING COMBUSTION of your exquisite Heart among those who greet me. I’d know it anywhere.

    Hasta la vista y viya con Dios, my dearest, longest, most enduring friend-family of 51 Earth-years. See you on the other side.

    (Only next time, I’m not riding next to the damned pinball machine. And no sneezing into my hand, you hear me? I mean it…)

    With such Love, and So Many Tears… I am gonna miss you for the rest of my life, Markie. Now, if I can just stop typing and let you go……..

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Oct '23

Trip Report: 7-Day Cruise From Seattle-Vancouver.

Up at the crack of something…

Onto the train to Vancouver for dinner with Will and Solus!

Somehow, I have no shots of Will, Solus, Jen, Jonathan, and I. But here I have one with Jen and poutine:

Wonderful meatloaf dinner tor fix and The Canadian.

And soon it time to make or way Food Pleasure Dome, oh, I mean boat:


Jonatjan is off to a massage at 2pm, but I have a makeover at 1PM(was supposed to be shave at one with Jen tags along to photograph.) And frankly, it felt so good I didn’t winch about the extra $100

After that it’s time to dress up for dinner!


And then more fancy dress for the format night – which means pictures!


Cockails in hand, time for photos!

The boat docks early and we are off it. Showing up to the hotel lobby for a 4PM check in we hang in he business center. Better than the lobby! And very close to one of the best ABC stores on Waikiki.


More tomorrow. For more blow posts, click here.










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Sep '23

Trip Report: Whistler, Finally, This Summer

Usually, I go to Whistler three times a summer, this year it was supposed to be twice, but other commitments kept me from the first visit.

Finally, WHISTLER!

My friend Michael from Tokyo is joining me and arrived a couple of days early, so off to The Museum of Flight we go!

Trying to decide if I like the selfie more, or the one the docent took.

On the night before, we have an “amuse-bouche” stop at The Camlin, downtown Seattle. Amuse-bouche meaning a frivolous tasty nibble of a stop.

The studio plus off the courtyard…

And the Cloud Room where we took takeout Poké and opened a split of Champagne:

Owner update meeting at 8:30, out the door by 10am checkout with 30,000 Wyndham Rewards Points!

Border was blessedly short – with our Canadian Border Guard saying goodbye in Japanese to Michael as we pulled away. So civilized.

Several hours of driving (and a little shopping) we arrived at WorldMark Cascade Lodge:

And Whistler Village itself:

Michael was out exploring one afternoon and came across The Original Wailers doing a sound check for a later show…

Too soon, we were back in the car headed back to Seattle. Good fun, good food, good friends.

Sigh, too short.


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Aug '23

Trip Report: SLO Time

Summertime, and the living is easy…and SLO. San Luis Obispo by AmTrak that is.

Several years ago they restored King Street Station in Seattle. High gloss white wouldn’t have been my choice, but considering the amount of money they spent restoring the plasterwork, I can understand.

AmTrak has adopted the cruise line model of, bid for a bigger/better room. Fare on the way down (Seattle-San Luis Obispo) was $571.00 – and I bid the minimum of $225 on the upgrade to a bedroom. Mind you, this is one way – but it is a long way:

And, the bedroom is nicer (and twice the size) of the roomette:

And there were menus onboard for the first time in memory:

Food is included with any sleeper car reservation. And a free cocktail/wine/beer with the evening meal.

Speaking of drinks – in the sleepers, you can bring your own!

And yes, I bring my own glassware (and bloody marys) but apparently not glare features that make me look like a one-eyed pirate.

And seasonally, you will find National Park Rangers onboard to stamp your passport. I’ve learned that it’s NOT a good idea to have them stamp your ACTUAL passport from the US Government – think more of the Parks Department version. Sadly, I only had an information sheet with me for them to stamp:

Scenery heading south…had to magnify to actually find the mountain in the shot!

First stop for getting off the train is Portland – also, another beautiful station:

I jumped off to grab a postcard or two to send to a friend.

Slowly south we go – grabbed this great shot of a what looks like a 40’s Trolley Car in Albany, Oregon, and there are a couple of trolley car museums in the area:

Next up, various food pictures, all lumped together. Sleeper passengers get breakfast, lunch, and dinner included – don’t forget to tip even though it’s free!

And the cabin when it’s turned into a bed…


And the toilet/shower combination:

The views coming into the San Luis Obispo are amazing as the train snakes through hills and horseshoe bends…

Only got into SLO 30 minutes late or so, and by Amtrak, that is on time! Jameson came and grabbed me from the station and off to familyland we went:

And nothing like giving a two-year-old a milled aircraft aluminum skateboard – good Uncle Markie!

Dinner at home that night, the next we were out at the San Luis Obispo airport for a restaurant with a security gate to the FBO (Fixed Base Operations):

And guess how wife and child are getting back to her dad’s house where they are staying while I’m in town…by plane!

Dad currently doesn’t have his medical clearance to fly but that doesn’t prevent him from taxiing across the airport for dinner with family!

Next night it was dinner at his house – after a tour and a pool party. Two out of the three cars…

And the daredevil on the diving board ready to jump (which he did):

There shouldn’t be any problems with handling a skateboard.

Time to say goodbye to SLO – with the family to see me off:

Last shot (Salinas Valley) was made possible because I was in the last car of the train, in the second to last room – out the back window.

Six hours later or so I was in Emeryville for my usual northbound “hug stop” from the boys:

The choices are 8:30am on the Southbound or 9:30pm on the Northbound. 8:30 is too early for me to have clothes on.

And a final Southern Oregon scenery shot to close out the post.

That’s all for this holiday – next up, Whistler, British Columbia.


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Jul '23

Trip Report: White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad

As part of our Alaska Cruise, Marybeth and I only booked one excursion… the White Pass & Yukon Route train out of Skagway.

For the tourists off the boat, it turns around at the top of the mountain and returns to town.

They say that if you are to take just one Alaska excursion, it should be this one!

All aboard and off we go!

And here is a little video of us passing a train going up the mountain as we are going down:

Now I see why they say, it you only do one…. And I’d do it again, though maybe not off a cruise ship and do the whole route into CanadaLand.


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Jun '23

Trip Report: Alaska With Marybeth

Been weeks since I’ve traveled – but I’m off with Marybeth for a 7-day cruise from Seattle to Alaska.

It’s an overcast day when we leave Seattle..but hot dogs are perfect on any day when they are good (and free).

That is the Rueben Dog – dog, Swiss, sauerkraut, 1000 island dressing.

And then the RAIN started!

Marybeth had a slice of pizza – my preference would have been to eat a sit-down meal, but we were actually on board BEFORE they opened, and I was starved.

And we eventually got into our room…

And some pictures of life on the boat…

And the food…

Let’s not forget dress-up time!

Random pretty pictures of cruising up the inside passage…

Before long, we were pulling into our final brief stop in Victoria:

And the Coho from Port Angeles pulling out of the Harbor…

And this was all that remained…

We did one excursion on the trip – which was the train up to Yukon Pass. That will be the next post.


For more blog posts, click here.

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  1. Tia Says:

    You both look like you had a great time!! So glad you are on the road again!

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Jun '23

Home Report: Obis From Japan

With summer almost on us, that means travel deals have dried up with all the revenge travel going on.

Time to do some work around the house!

Back in March when I was in Japan, I did some Obi shopping in Nagoya. Obi’s are the middle stomach wrap in a kimono. My nephew Julian took me to the used Obi district (I kid you not) and walked into this LARGE store and quickly gravitated to the “sale section” where everything as color tagged as to its price. 100 yen, 500 yen, 1000 yen, 2500 yen, 5000 yen – I wasn’t buying the upper two tags. At the time I was there, it was about 110 yen to the dollar.

It was a huge section that took my breath away – thinking about how many I could put in my suitcase and whether I’d have to buy another!

In the end I settled on five Obis and five Happi coats which are sort of semi-formal dinner wear.

And ready for packing…

So, here is the living room before…

And after adding five new Obi’s to the collection:

Yes, like Minnie Pearl, I left the price tags on.

If you are curious about the process of making obi, here is a link to a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsUr6GZSyn8

And here are Marybeth and I modelling two of the Happi coats…

Even before this addition, I had a new guest to the house whose first comment was “It’s like a museum in here.” High praise for walking into my living room!

But, on a more somber note, there is a graphic that is hanging under the smallest of the three oils:

This is a map of the destruction of the center of Tokyo by US Armed Forces in 1945 using Napalm to incinerate the city. The one museum I visited on this year’s trip was a museum dedicated to telling the story. There were at least 60 other cities that suffered the same fate. All of this was BEFORE the two atomic bombs were dropped. War is an ugly thing.

Sorry to end on such a sobering note. My shrine to the resilience of the Japanese people.


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  1. Gary Smith Says:

    Wonder full ❤️

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May '23

Trip Report: Kentucky – The Colonels – Bucees

Bluegrass country, but it’s dark when I arrive…

And the reason for my visit.

And the second reason for the trip…a new Buc-ee’s!

Really, just hanging out with the Colonels.

Lovely to see them, for more blog posts click here.



2 Responses to “Trip Report: Kentucky – The Colonels – Bucees”

  1. Colonel Kate Says:

    It was a wonderful visit. Enjoyed the company, the sausage gravy and biscuits, the green chile pork stew, the Buc-ees visit and your presence. We love you, friend.

  2. Eric Gowins Says:

    Markie, come back soon so we can have sausage gravy again.
    Get well!

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Apr '23

Trip Report: My Week In Dublin & Boston

As all my stories start, another day, another lounge. This time the British Airways Terraces Lounge at Sea-Tac:

And that would be my plane off to the left. Aer Lingus this trip!

I was a little surprised at the VERY LIGHT load up in Business Class – 4 or 5 seats out of 20+. Wow.

Nice views from the window:

And then the parade of food begins….

Add a little music…

And, of course, some sleep.

This trip is all about taking time off, hanging out with friends, sleeping, working through life’s decisions…

Yes, I brought some of my Princess Gin to share.

But no trip to Ireland is complete without a distillery tour!

And then the tasting…

And more drinking – we came via cab.

We had the Old (New Market) Fashioned, made with this German liquer:

Damn tasty. Picked up a bottle when I got home!

Was surprised to find a can of Calmato in Jeff and Mindi’s beverage fridge – it didn’t last long:

Much food and festivities over the week…

On an odd side note – the power went out my last day, so THAT was amusing. Fortunately, they have a gas hob (and an American-style BBQ) so we didn’t starve (or go without coffee).

Far too soon it was time to leave, for yet, another lounge:

And onto the plane…

And a little pre-landing snack…

Unlike my direct flight from Seattle to Dublin, my return is via Boston for an overnight with Jill and her wonderful view condo.

Moved my flight to later in the day so we could have a lovely lunch out…

So much fun!!!

But back, to another lounge after lunch…

And back on the final leg…

Well, that was a fun jaunt.


For more blog posts, click here.

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Mar '23

Trip Report: Trip Report: Pacific Grand Tour – The Long Way Home

Off in the morning to Narita via the Narita Express. And Daveson all dressed up for work – they are taking me to a station where I don’t have to transfer to get onto the Narita Express:

And the Narita Express!

Another day, another lounge as they say. This is the JAL First Class lounge at Narita-Tokyo:

Yes, I am spoiled! And speaking of spoiled, I traded in my business class direct for an indirect flight via Chicago in a First Class Suite, and sweet it was!

Extra nice is that the guy in the window seat wanted to trade for my center aisle seat so he could sit next to his wife. This is what I started with…

And this is what I ended up with, which was really nice because it was the same seat I had in March 2020 coming back from Japan (to SFO) at the beginning of the pandemic. The one above on that flight they made up as my bed because there were so few people on the flight that they gave me TWO First Class Suites.

Yes, my carryon is in the suite with me. Very handy!

And then the parade of food and drink started…

And then it was nap time – manage to get 5-6 hours of sleep!

And a little breakfast before landing…

With views of Chicago down below!

Hello Chicago….

And hello American Airlines Flagship (First Class) Lounge!

Nothing like being greeted by a Champagne Counter…

But to be honest, what I wanted the most was a shower.

And shit, showered, shaved in the pajama tops JAL gave me on the flight (came with pajama bottoms as well):

And then onto the food and drink…

With some great plane spotting as well…

If you are going to have an 8+ hours layover, this is not a bad way to do it.

This is all I remember of my last leg home, Alaska First Class to Seattle:

The flight attendant gathering all the Buffalo Trace from the back of the plane for the front.

Seriously exhausting, but super fun trip!


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Mar '23

Trip Report: Pacific Grand Tour – Nagoya to Tokyo

Tonight headed to Tokyo but one more meal with Julian – out at a kitschy Shogun era restaurant a block from the main Nagoya train station. Interesting enough, on the 4th floor of a small high rise. Welcome to Japan, where home improvement stores can be on the 18-20th floor.

Fun, fun, fun. And the food was good as well.

Took the train to Tokyo after dinner – the Shinkansen!


Dave was a saint and met me at the train station…with a CAR.

And my digs for the next couple of nights:

Saturday, Saint Dave drove us (and my request) to a museum WAY off the beaten track, Center of the Tokyo Raids and War Damage

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A very nondescript building housing a sobering account of the Napalm Fire Bombing of Tokyo during WWII. If you want a clue as to the massive scale of bombing and the fire that followed, take a look at this map:

That was central Tokyo. Sigh.

Later in the evening we were off to a jazz club known as The Pitt. Small, less than a hundred people. Off to Shinjuku we go!

And downstairs to The Pit, in the basement:

Here is the poster for tonight’s show – seems he’s had the club for the last couple of nights doing various styles. Tonight was mostly experimental, with a DJ spinning between sets, though the closing number was more traditional jazz. Loved it all.

Sadly, I won’t be here for Wednesday’s show:

Final night in Tokyo was devoted to dinner out with Dave and Miysio at Seika Japanese Restaurant:



Many little plates o food to share, with a couple of different styles of sake. Yum!

Early to bed tonight, up at 5:30 to catch plane that is an hour train ride away.


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Mar '23

Trip Report: Pacific Grand Tour – Komaki For Honen Matsuri

So, the English translation for Honen Matsuri would be Penis Festival. This would be my fourth or fifth. All but one in Komaki (outside Nagoya), the other in Kawasaki which is always on the first Sunday of April, rather than Komaki, which is always on March 15th, no matter the day of week. Fewer tourists if it is on a weekday.

But, we have to get there!

So, what is it?

According to Wikipedia: Harvest Festival (豊年祭Hōnensai) is a fertility festival celebrated every year on March 15 in JapanHōnen means prosperous year in Japanese, implying a rich harvest, while a matsuri is a festival. The Hōnen festival and ceremony celebrate the blessings of a bountiful harvest and all manner of prosperity and fertility.

Click here for the full entry about the history of the festival.

If you click on the next three, they will link to short videos:

That’s it for the festival.

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Mar '23

Trip Report: Pacific Grand Tour – Nagoya

Flying into Nagoya from Guam…

Compared to Guam, immigration and customs was a breeze in Nagoya. Bags and through in minutes, not hours.

Left my luggage at a hotel that I may or may not stay at tonight, and headed over to The Flight Of Dreams which is connected to Terminal 2 at NGO.

Who would have thought I be greeted by The Seattle Terrace!

Complete with Starbucks, Beecher’s Cheese, Ethan Stowell, Seattle Fish and Chips…

I went for the Fish & Chips and a Highball!

Nothing like having lunch under the wing of the FIRST 787 to roll off the line for test flights in Everett.

Lots of interesting exhibits, including the DHK Lego Diorama:

And there was even a Boeing Store – which I picked up something for Jonathan…


Around four, Julian was done with his “new parent” job today – the birth of he and Yurika’s identical twin girls via c-section a little after noon. He kindly met me at the airport to help wrangle my bags.

On the train to his house so I can set up the snack bowl of “Lounge Food”.

Dinner tonight is in. Korean, prepared by the excellent chef Julian:

The next day found us out shopping at Eon, and then out for conveyor belt sushi, though it’s now all special order.

And our haul from the store…

And some random tourist shots…


And after the temple, off to look for Obi and Hopi….

And here was the haul! Five Obi, five Hopi Coat:

Some random Japanese Posters…

And vending machines…

And another GREAT Julian meal or two, breakfast and Okinawan dinner:

The next post will be devoted to the Fertility Festival happening in Komaki.

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  1. Marybeth McCarthy Says:

    Dandy House!

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Mar '23

Trip Report: Pacific Grand Tour – Guam

This won’t be much of a post, because, really, unless you are a fan of beaches (me, not so much), Guam really didn’t have much to offer me except a place to decompress for a couple of nights as an interesting means of not having jet lag.

Wyndham Guam is the freebie hotel (OK, points) for this stop:

The bathroom featured a glowing blue automatic flushing toilet:

And there was a huge patio/pool area (which I didn’t use):

Lots of stuff closed/not offered post COVID — like the shuttle to local places (cabs run $15-20 for a ten-minute ride), soda machines, lobby sundry store, etc. But the Korean Spa was open (also in the lobby):


Not sure it was worth it to take the space to pack a pair of shorts since it was too breezy to wear them in Waikiki. But., here they are:

Was up at 6am, and the two closest mini-marts were both still closed, so I walked further to an American Icon:

Fortunately, the smaller of the two mini-marts was open on my return where I picked up things for the afternoon and evening meals (pickled octopus and chicken adobo):

Today’s holy grail mission is to visit the world’s most profitable Kmart – and that was when there were KMarts everywhere, not just the remaining eight stores:

Amusing that HALF that are in US territories.

I left under impressed – so it MUST have been a KMart!

Sadly, another early wake up call for the flight to Nagoya.

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  1. Marybeth McCarthy Says:

    Did you buy anything at KMart?

  2. UncleMarkie Says:

    Sadly, not much.

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Mar '23

Trip Report: Pacific Grand Tour – The Island Hopper

Yet another 4am wakeup call – this is getting old. But, The Island Hopper only runs twice a week, and there schedule is their schedule.

What is The Island Hopper? It’s a famous old Continental Airlines route through the South Pacific. When United bought Continental, the continued the route (and I wear, using the same old planes).

There are some unique features of this route from Wikipedia:

The flight operates three times weekly as United Flight 155 from Guam to Honolulu, and Flight 154 from Honolulu to Guam.[9] Unlike other flights, a mechanic and extra set of spare parts is carried on board the Boeing 737-800.[2] Other peculiarities include having four pilots working on each flight. Two pilots would fly the leg from Honolulu to Majuro and the other pair fly the remaining legs.[9] Flight attendants also receive crew duty time exemption from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Since many runways in the islands are short, fire trucks are usually staffed and lined up beside the runway ready to cool the brakes and tires after each landing. The front rows of the economy class can be collapsed to accommodate stretchers in case of medevac.

The full article is here: Island Hopper – Wikipedia

And here we go – imagine that, a LOUNGE starts the trip!

And then onto the plane:

Saw one of ANA’s Hawaii-specific A380’s parked at HNL. They have three, just for the Honolulu route.

So, one of the unique things about the 737-800 that they use on this route is seriously comfortable seats for the reserve pilots:

They recline so far that they have to block off seats 2A and 2C.

And a little food:

That will be the last real food until the final leg of the flight. Snacks with each short hop.

So, here are some pictures from the various stops….

And then, there is my favorite photo from this whole long (15 hour) flight day:

And their view:

And finally, onto Guam, my stop for two nights. But first I have to get my bags after making it through customs…

There were well over 100 coolers on this flight. Sadly, it’s United which doesn’t have a 20-minute bag guaranteed. This was more like an hour plus.

What is in all those coolers? TUNA. Apparently, Chuuk and Pohmpei harvest 10% of the world’s tuna.

Headed to the hotel for a couple of nights using Wyndham rewards points!

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Mar '23

Trip Report: Grand Pacific Tour – First Stop, Waikiki

I first tried to plan this for March of 2021, well, there was a pandemic still going on. Tried again for March of 2022, and there was STILL a pandemic going on, and Asia was MOST DEFINITELY closed for business.

Which brings us to 2023 and I’m finally making the trip.

Technically, my return is out of NRT, not HND, but they are only a hour apart and I was too lazy to change the map.

First stop – two nights in Waikiki!

Requisite airplane and airplane food photo:

Got an Uber to the condo – a Studio Unit (500sq feet) at the Club Wyndham Waikiki Marina Resort at the Ilikai. First time I’ve stayed here even though it is park of the Wyndham empire (which includes my WorldMark membership). This bunch of rooms was owned by Shell Vacations before Wyndham bought them. I was using Wyndham Rewards Points (30,000 for the two nights – GREAT DEAL). I’d seen availably here before – must be that I booked it last March!

And day and night views:

The Ilikai was the supposed offices for Hawaii 5-0 (the original). It’s right by what I call the “Gilligan’s Island” Marina.

Speaking of which – I had breakfast at Pesca, the restaurant on the roof – which had views of the marina from the glass elevator.

If you click on the photo, you will get a video of the elevator ride coming back down.

Had a truly wonderful Eggs Benedict ($18 – not unreasonable for Hawaii, and CHEAP when you consider the VIEW) with an Aperol Spritz ($14).

And said views…

Forgot to mention, speaking of views – I was serenaded this morning buy hospitality workers wanting a contract:

If you click on the photo, it will link you to a video clip (since I can’t figure out how to embed videos anymore).

Spend an hour late morning doing another “owner update” when the guy realized I was a WorldMark owner not a Wyndham owner and cut me loose with 30,000 Wyndham Rewards Points – so I basically got that condo for free. Going to use those points to book NYC in the fall for a train trip.

That’s it for today, off to Guam tomorrow!

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Mar '23

Trip Report: Five Mileage Runs To Cincinnati In Two Months

And One More To Come

One might ask, why Cincinnati? To keep my status on Alaska.

Every winter one city stands out for cheap, long-distance turnarounds (out and back on the same plane). The previous five years, it was Raleigh-Durham. At around $250 r/t, which I can book in Premium which is the free booze and extra legroom portion on the plane, not First, but I usually get upgraded. At this point, only one leg did I not get upgraded.

Again, why Cincinnati? $152 round-trip for 1,914 flight miles each way, plus 2,455 bonus miles because of how much I fly (which won’t be as much this year as last). Doing the math, that is $912 for 22,968 flight miles (which gets me MVP Silver for 2024) and 29,460 bonus for a total of 52,428 redeemable miles, which is just a few thousand miles short of a one-way business class ticket to Europe. It’s also a little cheaper (0.0173) compared to the value of Alaska miles (0.018)

Cincinnati is also an hour shorter in each direction, making the flights more tolerable if I don’t get upgraded. And it’s a 9am departure, which is civil.

We will start with all the pretty, out the window shots – I try and seat in window seats on the way east if I get upgraded to First for the mountain views:

And some interesting infrastructure shots:

Braidwood and Byron Generating Stations outside Rockford, Illinois. More info at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braidwood_Nuclear_Generating_Station

And then there is this:

The Fowler Ridge Wind Farm in NE Indiana. For more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fowler_Ridge_Wind_Farm

And then the personal and food stuff:

Feta and sweet potato omelette on the way out:

And the Jerk Chicken on the way home:

For the next trip I’m trying the vegetarian pasta dish, though the Jerk Chicken was quite nice. And here is what you can order if you don’t get upgraded:

End of the day…

And the most amusing thing about the Cincinnati Airport is that there is a Bourbon Tasting Bar and Store next to gate that I fly in/out of:

I’ll end this post with the two most amuzing things from the 5 our of 6 miles runs…

Number 1 — A new cocktail (to me). A Nutty Irishman. Oregon Hazelnut liquor and Irish Cream liqour:

Number 2 – When a group of Coral Directors is on board and they want to sing a song to the First Offier who is taking his last flight as one, to become a Captan. That beats my hitting Alaska MVP Silver on this trip. I got a bit of video:

Sadly, for some reason I can’t get YouTube to embed the video as usual, so click on the link below – it’s a quick 21 seconds.


Well, there is our humor for the day.


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Feb '23

Trip Report: San Diego With MB

Nothing like starting off a trip sharing an Uber with Jonathan to the airport and getting time in the lounge to just hang.

Hopped to San Jose barely making my connection to San Diego – when you are using First Class upgrades, you take less than ideal routings!

Second leg (San Jose to San Diego) was in an E175, and I had an entire First Class row to myself!

And a couple of decent shots coming into San Diego.

And waiting for me at baggage claim was MB! She came in on Southwest – we really should fly together next time.

A friend from high school, Debbie, came to pick us up and take us to the condo.

I have precisely two photos of the Inn At The Park, unless you count what is in the background of a couple of people shots.

The view:

Poseidon out in the garden:

Debbie hung out and we had nachos across the street. FYI, she flew in from Atlanta for this visit, but her daughter lives here so she has a car.

Here are some great pictures of all of us from this adventure.

Spent Tuesday thrift shopping until I dropped, MB and Debbie went to explore Balboa Park which is just across the street from the condo.

Wednesday, we hit happy hour at La Taverna, a favorite of Jonathan and I as it is run by two brothers from Rome, and it shows.

Lobster mac and cheese, and a healthy Caesar (as in salad, not Canadian national drink).

Flight home Thursday was a bit of an adventure. Accidentally changed to the earlier flight when looking what seats were available, cancelling my First Class upgrade (put back in my account with a phone call). While not in First on the way home, I was still in Premium (free booze and more leg room), and it meant MB and I had a chance to hang out in the lounge before our flights:

Flight home was on a VERY new MAX 9, still had the new plane smell!

What it didn’t have was an APU (Auxiliary Power Unit), or internet system (did have wi-fi for movies). Seems that it was delivered from Boeing to Alaska without those two components. Seems supply chain issues – they are also short on engines so they are stripping them off Chinese ordered and built planes that can’t be delivered due to sanctions.

Even though I was in the aisle (8D), I managed to get these INCREDIBLE shots out the window:

And I’ll close with what the new airsick bags look like on Alaska. I approve.

That’s it for now.


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Feb '23

Trip Report: Return To Victoria

Of my many travel rituals, one of the constants is visiting Victoria, British Columbia a couple of times in the winter and Whistler, British Columbia, up in the mountains, a couple of times in the summer.

This year is no exception – this being trip two to Victoria this winter.

Got to the dock early and went next door for Clam Chowder for MB and a Manhattan for me.

And spied this sign in the bathroom stall.

And our boat is here!


Custom and immigration was fairly quick, and we are at the condo shortly.

And I start cooking, forgetting to take pictures of the finished meal. Therefore, you get photos of the chicken stop I’m making for the black-eyed peas and some pumpkin bread.

But here is a shot from BobaDog:

And from Ocean’s Finest fish and chips food truck:

And in front of The Cathedral for Evensong:

And random shots from our time in Vic:

In on Monday, out of Friday, but we leave with a gift from Nicola at the front desk – a dragon named Arthur:

Too soon, back on the boat and home…

Until next winter.

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  1. MB Says:

    Great to relax and unwind. Next time the museum!

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