Boston Globe: Las Fallas — the fiesta that sounds like a war zone

VALENCIA, Spain — “You simply won’t walk three seconds without hearing an explosion.”

It’s half past midnight, I’m watching a man in a neckerchief up on a ladder wrapping a string of explosives around a flammable statue like Christmas lights. Another man  —  also wearing a neckerchief  —  at the base of the statue, is preparing a Molotov cocktail. As soon as the firemen arrive, they’re going to light the fuses and burn the statue to ash.


It’s the last night of Las Fallas, and all over Valencia, sculptors set fire to their own creations to mark the end of an eight-day round-the-clock party.

Fallas is a mash-up of several celebrations, including St. Joseph’s day, pagan springtime rituals, and the traditions of local carpenters (for whom St. Joseph is the patron saint).

Fallas is not one big party with a hub, like Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street, but a mess of block parties on every block in the city.

Each neighborhood has its own sculptures and fireworks and dance tents. There’s no need to venture beyond your own corner to see most of what’s going on. There’s no hype, you don’t have to pay for anything, and there’s no need to make plans, because you can just step outside and follow the sounds of explosions.

Like a war zone

There aren’t many places that would compare themselves to a war zone as a selling point. But it says exactly that in the program of events on the Valencia City Guide.

Continue reading in the Boston Globe

7 Reasons to Bring a Tarp — DD Hammocks

My girlfriend and I balance each other out perfectly in the outdoors. She’s a climber and I’m a waterman. She knows how much food to pack, down to the calorie, and I (almost) never get us lost. She has all this camera gear, and I never get cold so there’s always room in my pack where warm layers should be.

But we have radically different ideas when it comes to shelter. I have one criterion: if it keeps the rain off, I’m good.

She, on the other hand, thinks shelter should:
> Keep the rain off.
> Keep the wind out
> Keep mosquitos and midges out.
> Act as a barrier against things that crawl and slither.
> Provide privacy
> Keep out murderers and tent burglers.

Guess who wins that argument? When we camp together, we usually sleep in a tent. But I have learned (the hard way) that it pays to bring a tarp even when you’re sleeping in a tent.

Here are few things you can do with your tarp other than sleep under it.


Make a Raft

Let’s start with the Macgyver option. Maybe you’re taking a shortcut across a lake, maybe you’re bored in camp on a rest day and need a project, or maybe you actually need a raft for survival purposes.

With just a few branches and some paracord, you can turn your 3×3 tarp into a raft. You can make an oar with the tarp bag and the right shaped stick.

Continue reading at DD Hammocks Adventure Blog

Writing All Night in Dublin Airport

Note: the following was written, edited, and published in the middle of an all-nighter. All typos and style fails are strictly rhetorical.
(Dec, 2016)

I’m writing this in Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport at four in the morning. I’ve decided to turn an overnight layover into an espresso-fueled writing spree. Here’s what I got up to during my impromptu residence.

I Observed and Took Notes

What was cool about spending a waking night in an airport is that all the people I was people-watching were doing the same thing, but they were all doing it differently.

Some people clutched their luggage while they slept, some knew my leg-hooked-through-the-pack-strap trik. One young lady seemed to be having a staring contest with her upright rolling luggage, totally paranoid. One guy slept with his feet up on a luggage cart.

Other people didn’t seem worried enough about their bags.

Continue reading on Medium 

Pen Review: Kaweco Classic Sport



This week, I drafted my first short story in 2 years (more on that soon.) I wrote it with a new fountain pen, which I bought to mark the occasion: the Kaweco Classic Sport . (Pronounced ka-vay-co.)

I had moved away from short stories in favor of more profitable but less fulfilling work, and I had traded my beloved fountain pens for more practical alternatives I could pick up at Rite-Aid. This was my return to both.

From the first line, the Kaweco brought back the whole sensory experience I was missing.

On the page, the Sport is smooth and responsive. Off the page, it looks so good I’m waiting for the chance to say “here, use my pen.”

The Nib


The soul of any fountain pen is the nib. It’s where 99% of the value resides. This nib is a workhorse that can compete with pens at a much higher price point. It’s decently springy for a steel nib–more so than the Lamy Safari anyway–and it doesn’t scratch or skip.

For fountain pen beginners, the Kaweco is very forgiving, with a large “sweet spot.”

Other reviews have noted a problem with railroading when too much pressure is applied. So if you’re into varying line thickness, the Kaweco might not be for you. My handwriting isn’t sophisticated enough to tell the difference.


The Ink

This is a small pen which uses small cartridges. I had my doubts about ink capacity, but my first cartridge was good for 30+ A5 notebook pages.

Here in Spain, the ink is cheap ( €2.10 for 6 cartridges.) The only places where I could find that price State-side were Jet-Pens and Goulet Pens. Expect to pay $6 elsewhere.

The Design & Looks

kaweco-sport-clasic-black-fountain-pen kaweco-sport-clasic-black-fountain-pen

Capped, the Kaweco is small. It looks more like a lipstick tube than a writing instrument. But When the cap is posted (pen-nerd speak for putting the cap on the back of the pen) it becomes full-sized. This feature gives you portability without sacrificing writing comfort.

The flat sides of the hexagonal cap keep it from rolling around on your desk.

kaweco-sport-clasic-black-fountain-pen kaweco-sport-clasic-black-fountain-pen

The clip is detachable. I tend to leave it off.

The price

You can pick up the Kaweco  Classic Sport for about $23. This is up from $15 in 2011 when playwright Jon Robin Baitz proclaimed his love for the Kaweco in the New York Times. He said the pen cured him of  a fear of handwriting that had followed him since elementary school.


The Bottom Line

I would highly recommend this pen to just about anyone. You can’t go wrong with gifting this beauty. For a serious pen collector, it’s an outstanding day-to-day pen with a fun design. For the uninitiated, I couldn’t think of a better introduction to the world of fine writing.

However, if you have extra large hands, you may want something bigger for cramp-free writing.


DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links. All Amazon prices and availability are subject to change, and only current as of the time of publication of this review.

Irish Farmhouse – a Sketch

The farmhouse two miles out the Beach  road near Bantry belonged to a man named Jackie. The House was built tight against the road, or maybe before the road, and faces the North Atlantic with two fields between the house and a stone beach. Winter gales from the north and west produce waves powerful enough to hurl seaweed and stones the size of bread loafs into the fields. Local farmers add seaweed to their fertilizer. When it rains, the runoff from the fields stains the baywater a tea-with-milk brown.


Jackie and his sheepdog used to sit out front and watch the road. Whenever a car or a walker passed, Jackie would wave with two fingers in the shape of an  imaginary pistol. Irish drivers call this “saluting.”An easy way to mark yourself as a tourist, a snob, or a bore is not to salute. Jackie was known for saluting so fast you could almost miss it. And so in town his nickname was “the fastest gun in the west.”