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March 1, 2015 / pjcharles

Why would anyone ride a bike in Hong Kong

I definitely can see it in Copenhagen. The notion is so central to the Danes’ core that there are actually more bikes on the road than cars (at least that is this girl’s perception). And I think I would be bold enough to do it in Paris. After all, I know the city so well and can cover it from one end to the other happily on foot. New York seems possible since they have made the streets friendlier to cyclists. London is out of the question after seeing the movie One Day (2011). I jumped out of my seat about 3 feet. But Hong Kong is a big NEVER. Wouldn’t even consider it.

prevention of influenza

That is why this bike seemed so out-of-place. Sure. Cars in HK? check. Ferries and junks, ships and yachts in HK? check. Even rickshaws in HK? check.
But a bike? NO WAY.

February 27, 2015 / pjcharles

The Wonder of it all…..

My mother had told me that one of Dad’s many admirers attending his remembrance had a service dog that liked to sing. She had come to pay final tribute to my Dad – the common man’s common man – accompanied by said singing dog. It seemed a casual enough comment until the church broke into the first hymn and from the back a howling rose in volume and tone along with the song. In the first pew I smiled to myself finding comfort and joy in the fact that this dog was happily joining us in celebrating my Dad. Mom had done such a beautiful job with the music. It suited him. And when the entire church sang America the Beautiful (along with the Dog) I thought of how much he would have loved it. It is a perfect memory that I will cherish always.

Shortly thereafter during a peak walk in Hong Kong with my friend SW, I turned a corner to find this dog sitting atop the stairs looking at me. It was startling. This white dog. A Ghost dog. A coincidence? I think not.

ghost dog

It was as though he was there to make me reflect on the moments in the chapel and to let me know that I was being watched over. He looked straight into my eyes with a clarity and focus that stopped my breath and filled me with glorious wonder.

February 25, 2015 / pjcharles

What is it about a Ferris Wheel?

Ferris Wheel-2

I have considered something I heard in a movie a long time ago. A grandmother was comparing life to a Ferris Wheel and a Roller Coaster. She believed that many of her friends preferred the Ferris Wheel to the Roller Coaster suggesting that the latter was more thrilling. “A Ferris Wheel simply goes round and round” she said.

While in HK I took two shots from different perspectives of the same Ferris Wheel – different angles and different times of day. And of a different ride – more of a free fall. It got me thinking about whether there are times when riding a Ferris Wheel is more suitable than a roller coaster.

Lately life has been a free fall of sorts for me and my family – much like being on a roller coaster. We are managing the turns of lives upside down with uncertainty at each drop and spin around the next bend. Our hearts beat faster for each other as our stomachs flip and we white knuckle our way through each rise and fall. We know that when the ride is over we will share harrowing stories, laugh at the adrenaline rush, and share in tempting fate and beating the odds.


I think about the predictability of the Ferris Wheel – simply going round and round. One of the reasons I like the Ferris Wheel is the view from the top. There is something magical about seeing from the pinnacle the landscape below. And when done, to step from the car to the ground with solid footing – not the weak knee’d stomach churning departure from the Roller Coaster.

ferris wheel-3

Metaphorically I like the perspective of the Ferris Wheel. I enjoy the view. The slow rise to the challenge and the soft drop to the ground. There is magic in a car full of family and friends who are on the ride with you sharing in the ups and downs. Sure, there is a place for thrills, but the rhythms of a Ferris wheel suit me fine.

February 22, 2015 / pjcharles

What is a Sweet Monkey?

My Dad could eat ice cream. I remember Saturday afternoons. After finishing the yard work he would settle in front of the TV to watch golf with a bowl heaping full of ice cream, Spanish peanuts and Hershey’s syrup. He never missed a chance to eat ice cream. Years ago we lived for a time in Columbus Ohio where there is a dairy that since 1870 has made the most delicious ice cream – Graeter’s. It just wasn’t Father’s Day without a shipment from Graeter’s – a tradition we began years ago. Yesterday I was chatting with my friend NP who has a similar fascination with an ice cream parlor in Hawaii. It is the universal sweet treat as shown by this young man’s supremely contented face…. and focus as he tries to avoid the inevitability of a dripping cone.

Ice cream-2

CF and I had a history for a while with pints of Ben and Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk. It is a slippery slope for if I were to have some now, I would devour it just as a did then. I loved the rich dairy goodness of the chocolate ice cream with all the hidden gems of chocolate bits and nuts. This girl’s apple did not fall far from her father’s tree. I also loved Ben and Jerry’s for they were clever with their names like Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey. I imagine that to be the most fun job at Ben and Jerry’s – the naming of the new confection.

sweet monkey

It’s a shame Ben and Jerry’s didn’t think of Sweet Monkey. An odd name when you consider it, but somehow it cannot help but make you smile. And what carnival is complete without a stand that supplies endless doses of sugar. Just the thought of eating cotton candy makes my teeth hurt. But there it was, off in the corner – illuminated by the Carnival screen – and looking just as you would imagine a sweet monkey to look.

Try this… a game I started with my friend PD of trying to take our friends and give them ice cream names… Everyone needs a giggle each day and the game provided just that. If done well, the names are hysterical and the fun is in getting there. Just ask Strawberry Chipmunk.

February 20, 2015 / pjcharles

What we have in common is greater than our differences…..

SW and I arrived for our dinner reservation early just so we could shoot at the carnival located on Hong Kong Island near the Ferry landing. It was a Saturday night and all my meetings were done for the week. The trip had been a successful one, but the morning meant saying goodbye which is always bittersweet. Such a good friend and a rare person, my time with him is always special. The dinner was a treat for him – one where he got to choose the restaurant to celebrate a milestone. As it turned out, there was time and opportunity for some giggles beforehand.

I learn something new each time I am in Asia and especially when I am with SW. This visit he taught me that he is the master of the selfie (unquestionably) and that he is equally bad at carnie games as me (actually perhaps a bit worse). Last trip he taught me about these little gems.


I never miss eating the sweet center of one of these yummy pastries at breakfast. It is a sweet egg custard that is like having morning dessert and reminds me of my Dad’s saying that “life is short, eat dessert first”… But I digress….

Back to the carnival…. Bright colors, lots of noises but mostly families sharing a Saturday evening together. The sentiments associated with family and time shared were without geography or boundary. I remember times as a kid when we would go to the carnival at our school in Newark, Delaware. Years ago…..

And so it was that I came upon this family as the elders encouraged a young man to try his hand at ring toss. I love the series as he sizes up his shot…..




And watches the result….


It made me consider that no matter the place, we are all human. That which we share in common is so much greater than our differences. If we could focus on that wouldn’t the world be a smaller community… I know that by doing so my friendships have been richer.

February 18, 2015 / pjcharles

Wishing you a Happy Lunar New Year!

Happy Lunar New Year.

For over a year it has been an ongoing debate between my friend SW and myself on whether 2015 is the year of the Sheep, or the year of the Goat. I wrote about it last year Year of the Sheep…. .or Goat? immediately following a trip to Asia where the confusion began. It would seem I am not the only one.

Chinese New Yar

CNN has taken a position in favor of the sheep.

And USA Today is pro goat.

What is one to do? Celebrations are beginning and still no answers. Back to the source of all this debate… my good friend SW who sent along this “clarifying” piece direct from Beijing.

BEIJING (AFP) – Sheep or goat?
China’s coming lunar new year has stirred a debate over which zodiac creature is the correct one – but Chinese folklorists dismiss the fixation on animals as missing the point. Traditional astrology in China attaches different animal signs to each lunar year in a cycle of 12 years.The symbol for the new year starting on Feb 19 is the “yang”, which can refer to any member of the caprinae subfamily – or even beyond – depending on what additional Chinese character it is paired up with.
For example, a goat is a “mountain yang”, a sheep is a “soft yang” and a Mongolian gazelle is a “yellow yang”.Both goats and sheep appear in Chinese New Year paintings, paper-cuts and other festival decorations. Folklorists say it does not matter which one is used since the zodiac sign was chosen for the Chinese character’s auspicious connotation rather than the specific animal – at least in the beginning. “This ‘yang’ is fictional. It does not refer to any specific kind (of sheep or goat),” Zhao Shu, a researcher with the Beijing Research Institute of Culture and History, told AFP.

“Yang” is a component of the written Chinese character “xiang”, which means auspiciousness, and the two were interchangeable in ancient Chinese, experts say.
It is also a part of the character “shan”, which counts kindness and benevolence as among its meanings. “Therefore ‘yang’ is a symbol of… blessing and fortune and represents good things,” said Yin Hubin, an ethnology researcher with the China Academy of Social Sciences, a government think-tank. “It is connected to the original implication of the Chinese character as an ideogram and reflects the world view of the Chinese people in primitive times,” he said. That said, the zodiac sign is being shunned by some Chinese parents-to-be, with expectant mothers scheduling Caesarean sections to give birth before the current year of the horse ends, according to media reports. The rush apparently stems from a Chinese superstition held by some that nine out of 10 sheep will be unhappy in life – a belief Yin dismissed as “ridiculous”.More often, the animal plays a positive role in Chinese folklore, experts say. A fable that can be traced back to more than 1,500 years ago depicts five goats carrying crops in their mouth to save people suffering from years of drought in Guangzhou. The southern boom town, today the capital of Guangdong province and dubbed the City of Goats, has enjoyed timely wind and rain ever since, according to the story.

While the loose concept of “yang” comes naturally to Chinese people, in the West the term can often be a source of frustration for those seeking an equivalent in their own language.A Google search suggests that in English, “year of the sheep” is the most common phrasing. In French, however, the reverse is true, with convention and an overwhelming Google ratio in favour of “chevre”, or goat.Zhao thinks the translation is “open to interpretation”.”Sheep, goat, Mongolian gazelle – whatever is fine. This is the fun of Chinese characters,” he said. But some scholars argue goat is a better option for the traditional Han Chinese holiday, as it is a more commonly kept farm animal for the dominant ethnic group in China, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Many Chinese people appear to be unfazed by the debate.

“The year of the yang, 2015, is neither a sheep nor a goat. It is a beautiful and elegant milk yang! Abundant milk, clothes and food. It will be a halcyon year,” wrote one user on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter. Eschewing the lexical debate, some users have simply opted for the animal that they see as possessing their own favoured qualities.

“In the year of the yang, I want to be a strong-willed and energetic goat, not a weak sheep,” another Sina Weibo user wrote.

I am still confused and have chosen  to be a goat – strong-willed and energetic until next year’s Monkey!  There are those in my life who could argue it really isn’t a choice but that is a story for another time.

Gong Xi Fa Cai everybody – be you sheep or goat.

And to my friend SW,  for whom this year’s celebration will be filled with emotion, I wish you joy and prosperity.  12 Animals, 12 years… It is the cycle of life and I am glad you are in mine.

February 16, 2015 / pjcharles

What is the Star Ferry?

Star Ferry

I love taking the Star Ferry. For about 50 cents you can cruise across Victoria Harbor from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island and back again. The Ferry has operated under various names from 1888 until now and carries nearly 70000 passengers a day. This was the only way to get across the harbor until a system of railways and tunnels were built beginning in 1972. There are only about 12 boats that run from morning to night. I have choices in making my way from one side to the other – car services, taxi, but most always I choose the Ferry. It too seems romantic and nostalgic and frankly gets the job done faster than the alternatives. And after all, who can resist the gentle lapping of the water and the rolling motion of the vessel as it rolls across the harbor. I love it.

Carnival Cruise

February 14, 2015 / pjcharles

What does Love look like?

It looks like this. To all my chickens…. Happy Valentine’s Day.

February 12, 2015 / pjcharles

Wonder of Sea Travel

Ocean terminal

There is something so romantic about an ocean liner. I was never one for sea travel until my Dad and I went to Alaska. The Silversea was a beautiful ship and it changed my mind completely about setting sail. He loved the ocean – not to be confused with the beach. He grumbled each time there was a holiday trip to the seaside but every photo of him had a big smile. One of my favorites photos of him is as he crouched down to play in the sand with Little a. Coming upon this ship in HK harbor with the evening sun hitting it just so, I couldn’t help but stop and think of that trip. I was a bundle of raw emotion but the positive memory of those days made me smile. Later in the week the ship would be gone and too the inspiration for the memory.

I think about the times I have been on boats. Earlier in my life I spent weekends powering on the Chesapeake – with an occasional sail on a Hobie Catamaran. A couple of years ago we spent a week cruising the canals of Burgundy drinking wine and eating cheese with a gaggle of our dearest and oldest friends. Seems I don’t have a bad time on a boat. I thought of this as the week progressed and again when I looked at this photo.

The harbor walk along the shoreline of Kowloon is a favorite for me and my dear friend SW. Whenever we are together in that part of the world, we awake super early to walk as the sun comes over the hills. Rarely do I get to capture the afternoon light and with such clarity in this part of the world notorious for its poor air quality.

I relished the afternoon of friendship and the light both in spirit and in the setting sun.

February 10, 2015 / pjcharles

What about Feathering your Nest?


I came across this bird atop a rock. I was struck by how camouflaged she was. She had become – sitting cold and unwavering upon her perch – as round and organic as the stones surrounding her. I thought to myself how lonely she must be with only the rocks to keep her company. And it made me reflect on nests and whether somewhere quiet and dark she had feathered a space that would give her shelter and comfort during long nights. Do we become our spaces or do our spaces become us I questioned as I looked at her unblinking transfixed eyes. I reflected on the phrase, “feathering the nest” which conjured thoughts of downy softness atop twigs carefully gathered. I thought of CF and me taking possession of our new home and that we were metaphorically collecting twigs – painters and landscapers. I resolved that for the two of us our spaces become us. We feather our nest and before long a house is a home.

I am laser focused on that first evening when the boxes are unpacked, the wine is chilled and we can sit in our garden and feel that sense of being home.


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