ForsythiaNairobi, Kenya, is not far from the equator. We lived there for five years. Since the elevation is close to a mile high, the climate is ideal – about 70 degrees (21c) year-around. But since the climate allows for many people to live in very easily-built and relatively inexpensive homes (mud walls and a tin roof), lots of people live there. Too many, in my humble opinion. The city’s infrastructure was built for about 300,000 – and roughly 4 million live there now.

Living further north or south necessitates having solid insulated homes.

Back to seasons – I love four seasons. Spring is now fully here. The warm weather is such a relief after a long cold winter.

Change is a good thing.


Family skiing

On the chairlift at SolVistaHeather and I skipped work last Friday. We went skiing at SolVista. It’s a family ski area that’s not the closest to Denver, but still within easy driving distance of our home in the suburbs.

We had a great time. The slopes are gentle and smooth. Ben and I loved cruising down one slope as fast as we could – repeatedly. And it’s uncrowded, so we had no fears of any life-threatening accidents.

Rachel, our youngest, did fine, even though she hasn’t been skiing very much. She was able to drift through the trees and navigating a fun course for kids that included skiing through a small “barn.” Jay, our oldest and most adventurous son, had fun doing several stunts in the terrain park.

I know a lot of hard-core skiers and snowboarders would turn their nose up at SolVista, but we loved it. If you’re ever in Colorado and want to have some family skiing fun, SolVista’s the place.

And a final footnote – so you can tell this is not a sponsored post – if you have the cash for a ski condo, the company that runs the resort way overbuilt, so you can get one for a relative steal.


The Champs-Elysees

Alfa Romeo MitoLast summer we went to Paris.

I don’t say that to brag. It was part of our visit to my sister and her family, who live in Belgium.

Anyhow, one afternoon, my oldest son Jay and I decided to stroll along the Champs-Elysees, a famous avenue in the city known for its romantic cafes and luxury specialty shops.

Needless to say, we didn’t sip coffee at a sidewalk cafe. However, we thoroughly enjoyed visiting a Fiat/Lancia/Alfa Romeo shop/museum. (Jay is next to the wonderful Alfa Romeo Mito, a car that sadly won’t be making it to the USA.)

Arc De Triomphe wedding photoOne surreal moment was seeing scores of Chinese people getting wedding pictures taken in front of the Arc de Triomphe.

The point of this story? My romantic dream of experiencing The Champs-Elysees involved a leisurely brunch at one of those cafes. That didn’t happen. What did happen may have been even better – a fun afternoon with my son that we’ll probably both remember for the rest of our lives.

p.s. Heather and I did enjoy a romantic evening in Paris. We had dessert at a divey bar, not on the Champs-Elysees.


Anonymous photography

People I will never meetOne thing I love about photography is that you can take photos and have them for a while.

We took a long trip this summer, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed looking at the photos I took, over and over.

This family was in the Harrod’s Store in London. I will never know who they are. They will never know who I am. We will never meet. But I can wonder about what their lives might be like.


We saved for a long time

French restaurant receiptIt was going to be our great extravagant dinner to end all dinners. The atmosphere was nice. Very French cafe. Very authentic.

We had saved all year long, putting the money toward one great event. (Yes, even the kids made sacrifices.) We decided to have an elegant French dinner. Heather had been inspired by a book written by Julia Child, describing her years in Paris.

Huge disappointment. No baguette and butter as a warm-up. Ben’s entrée was the most expensive – and the worst. (I won’t even describe it.) The dessert was far less tasty than what we had at the pâtisserie just down the street from where we stayed.


Moral of the story? Don’t put all your hopes in one basket. You may be disappointed. And, be sure to read those guide books before you make a commitment.

Don’t worry, I gave them a really bad writeup on Google Places.


You pay the price

Loveland Pass hike and traffic jamHeather, Jay and I went for a hike up at Loveland Pass, Colorado, yesterday. It was wonderful. (That’s the two of them in the snow, just off the trail – yes, and only a day before August.) We were cut short by thunderstorms… It’s not nice to get hit by lightning at 12,000.’

Anyhow, though we live just 90 minutes’ drive from that beautiful spot, we paid the price on the return… stop and go traffic for about 3 hours. (The traffic was stopped enough that I actually got out of the car and stood up to take the lower photo.)

So nothing’s free.


The beauty of zoom

Sidewalk cafe in Paris (copyright Paul Merrill)I could have never gotten this photo with my previous camera. This Sony has a 10x optical zoom. Great for getting closer than I would otherwise.

(Sidewalk cafes, during an evening in Paris.)


Relic of the past

This motorcycle was made in about 1970 by a German company, Mammoth. When I was a kid, I got the book, Motorcycles: Classics and Thoroughbreds. This lovely machine graced the cover. I love how it’s so ugly that it almost becomes beautiful.

From age three, I was into anything that had wheels. I still am. (Some things never change.)

I always thought it would be great fun to have a motorcycle. However, roughly half a lifetime ago, I decided the potential for losing my life or becoming disabled wasn’t worth the risk. Then my good friend Gary’s accident confirmed this decision.

So I’ll stick with my Lotus. (I wish.)


Remember what a privilege it is

This “Discover Riches at Your Library” bookmark was given to my daughter as part of a summer reading program at our local library.

I remembered that in Nairobi, a city of about 4 million people, there are a few libraries. Most of them have old tattered books. There is not a selection of the latest best sellers. There are no libraries at all in Kakamega, a city in western Kenya with maybe 250,000 people.

So be thankful for what you have, people of “the western world.”