Sunday, January 26, 2014

This Week: Singapore

Basset Hound meets Buddha

Moving with a pet can be difficult. Now imagine moving halfway around the world with a dog in tow. Sandra Goodman of Lakewood, CO, found herself in that situation in 2006 when her husband, Bob Schafish, received a 3-year work assignment in the Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore. An avid world traveler, Sandra was ready to go, but wouldn’t leave her beloved Basset Hound Emma behind. Getting Emma into the Lion City proved quite a task.

"We learned it's much easier to get a person into Singapore than it is a dog," Sandra laughed. They even hired a ‘pet handler’ to help. Sandra said the foreign community that lived in Singapore was so large, several companies provided relocation services to help navigate the county’s strict laws. These companies helped families get children into schools, leased apartments, and even brought in pets. The company, Pet Hotel, made sure Emma’s medical records and other documents were in order.

Paperwork was one hurdle. Another was the 30-day quarantine enforced by the government’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority. The Authority told Sandra that Emma had to arrive on September 5, Labor Day weekend.

"I wasn't happy about that," she said, "but it had to be within 3 days of that date or Emma's paperwork would get put back at the bottom of the pile." Airlines were also an issue. Dogs weren’t allowed on direct flights so they had a stopover in Taipei. Emma was in her crate for almost 24 straight hours. Then came the quarantine, or doggy jail, as Sandra called it. In October 2006, Emma became a free dog in her new country.

According to Sandra, Singapore was dog friendly, but daylight hours proved unbearable for walking to both dog and human because of the overwhelming heat and humidity. Sandra went jogging in the dark of morning and walked Emma late at night. The late walks proved useful because midnight in Singapore was 10 a.m. in the US so Sandra could make her family and business calls. The heat also led to medical issues. Dogs were susceptible to heat rashes and Emma developed several. However, Sandra said Singapore had excellent veterinary care so Emma recovered quickly.

Sandra also learned about Singapore’s pet culture. Dogs, while loved and adored, were also a status symbol in this wealthy financial capital. The bigger, more foreign the breed, the higher the status. A family with a Siberian husky had a lot of money, she joked, because they could afford to run their air conditioning all day. German Shepherds were also quite popular. However, most families preferred small breeds because they were easier to handle, especially when living in tiny Singapore condos.

Sandra enjoyed taking Emma to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The gardens were shady and large and allowed dogs, even in the outdoor restaurant. They met many new friends there, canine and human, expats from England, South Africa, Australia, and France. Sandra’s only problem was Emma would pilfer the food offerings locals left for their ancestors at the many Buddhist altars around the city. Sandra hoped the ancestors would forgive Emma.

From their new home, Sandra and Bob traveled all over Asia, including China, Thailand and Indonesia. Both experienced SCUBA divers, they enjoyed their free time diving in the beautiful reefs around the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, Emma had to stay behind. Sandra discovered a boarding and dog care facility called Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD). More than just boarding, ASD was a non-profit organization that provided care and adoption services for Singapore’s stray cats and dogs and to help raise funds they boarded dogs for traveling owners.

"It was a wonderful place and Ricky Yeo (ASD Founder and President) was great," Sandra said. They even put photos from one of Emma's stays on the ASD website. She said the ASD had many great stray animal programs and she and Emma were glad to help support a local organization in their adopted new country.

Returning home in February of 2009 was much easier for Sandra and Emma. All Emma needed was proof of her rabies vaccine. Back in Colorado lounging in her favorite chair, 12-year-old Emma was quite content. For Emma, home was wherever Sandra was.


Sandra is a friend of mine and one of my first interviews when I began the International Pet Examiner at The article was originally printed there, however, this version is a condensed one I used to enter a writing contest. It didn't win, but I still like the story. Sandra also helped me contact Ricky Yeo at ASD for my next IPE story. Those two interviews really established what I wanted to do with the column and made it what it is today. Emma was a wonderful dog. She passed away just over a year ago, but lived a long and content Basset Hound life. I still see Sandra when she gets her weekly coffee next door to the frame shop and she has two new pups, Truman and Toby. Sandra still travels the world to go diving too. The smaller dog in the photo next to Sandra and Emma belongs to a Singapore friend. See more of my work as the International Pet Examiner by using this link: 

Singapore Botanic Gardens
Action for Singapore Dogs

Monday, December 23, 2013

This Week: Maui

The totally untrue story of Marilyn Monroe’s Maui House

My husband and I were riding in van, returning from a downhill bike tour of Haleakala Volcano. The tour company, Mountain Riders, picked up seven of us tourists from hotels in Ka’anapali in Western Maui at 2:30 AM and drove us to the 10,000+ foot summit of Haleakala volcano to watch the sunrise. That was 10 hours ago. After the sunrise, we coasted down the mountain on bicycles to the town of Pa’ia some 23 miles away where we had lunch. However, this activity is not the focus of this blog. That’s because I was more intrigued by a story our van driver Duane recounted on the return drive. The van had just dropped off the bike trailer at the Mountain Riders office in Kahului and was now returning us to our hotels, about a 35 minute drive. As we headed out of town on Highway 30, we passed a building so large it could easily be seen from the side of the mountain to the highway a few miles away.

“You see that house up on the hill?” asked Duane as he pointed in its direction. “That was supposed to be Marilyn Monroe’s house.” Even the three women chatting in the back of the van perked up at that statement. With the hook baited, Duane continued his story and it went something like this:

Marilyn Monroe had a house built on Maui with plans to retire in it, wanting to become a recluse like Brigitte Bardot. However, she died before she could move in. According to Duane the house was built, furnished and paid for by Monroe, but she never got to enjoy it. Then the house languished for many decades, but in the 1990s was purchased by a Japanese business man who then expanded the house into a clubhouse and built a private golf course around it.

As I sat in the van listening to this story, I thought how sad. I only knew the bare minimum about Marilyn Monroe, sex symbol, film star, multiple marriages, and tragic death by drug overdose. Monroe seemed to have a lot of demons and to hear she wanted to get away to a beautiful island paradise and retire would have been a happier end to her life. Brigitte Bardot is still alive today, age 79, and is a renowned animal welfare activist. What would Monroe be doing today?

This story so intrigued me that every time we drove by the house on Waikapu as we traveled around Maui, I would take photos. Mostly I wondered how different history and Maui would be if Monroe had succeeded in retiring to Maui. How would Maui with change with Monroe in residence and how would Monroe change after living on Maui?

A few weeks after returning home, I wanted to learn more about Monroe’s Maui house. I logged onto my computer and began a Bing search for “Marilyn Monroe Maui house” just to see what would come up. Sure enough, a few titles popped up, including a website for the golf course, called King Kamehameha Golf Club. I was on the right track. Frank Lloyd Wright’s name also appeared in some of the links, something Duane didn’t mention, along with photos of the building. I clicked on an architecture blog called “The Well Designed Life” by Ginger Brewton and learned that everything that Duane had told us in the van was completely wrong. Well, almost completely wrong. He was correct that a Japanese business man owns the property today, but that’s about it. So here, as paraphrased from the King Kamehameha Golf Course website and several other places, is the true story of the house on the hill in Maui.

In 1949 a wealthy Texas couple commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to design a house. His plans were quite extensive and called for 8,000 square feet, but for some reason, the couple never had it built. Wright filed the plans away. Then in 1952 the Mexican consulate to the US and his wife commissioned Wright to build them a home in Acapulco Bay. After a visit to the site, Wright pulled his Texas design and added to it increasing the building’s size to 10,000 sq. ft. However, the consulate’s son died suddenly and the building was scrapped. Wright put the plans away. Then in 1957 Marilyn Monroe and her third husband Arthur Miller called on Wright to design a cozy hideaway for the couple in a beautifully natural hillside setting. That setting…Roxbury, Connecticut, about as far from Maui as one could possibly get. The couple also had a few requests for the new home, a movie theater, a swimming pool and a nursery. Wright showed Monroe the plans he already had and she agreed to use them. The size of the house then grew to a whopping 14,000 sq. ft. In 1958 Monroe and Miller divorced and canceled the construction and Wright passed away about a year later. His plans were put away at his design firm, Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona. The home was NEVER built, on Maui or anywhere else.

Jump ahead to 1988 when Hawaiian business investor Howard Hamamoto and his partners were touring Taliesin West in hopes of finding plans for a golf course clubhouse. There were few clubhouse plans in the Wright archives, but he was shown the plans for the “Marilyn House” and between the plans and Monroe’s attachment to them, he was hooked. The plans were expanded to 74,000 sq. ft, however, most of the new space was put below ground, while Wright’s original plans were used for what people see above ground. It opened in 1993. The group sold the course a few short years later.     

This private members-only golf course was used mostly by rich Japanese men and when the Japanese economy tanked in 1999, the course was closed down and abandoned. Then Tokyo investor and part-time Maui resident Makoto Kaneko bought the property in 2004 for only $12.5 million. He and his investors poured another $40 million in renovations including design elements that emphasized Maui’s history and reopened the course in 2006.They also made an effort to include Maui’s residents to be a part of the course with a museum and other events as well as a men’s and women’s day spa that anyone can use. Today the clubhouse is an excellent example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. Many Wright devotees come to tour the building and a portrait of Wright hangs in the clubhouse, The property, which hosts many weddings,  is also known for stunning views Haleakala volcano to the east and both Ma’alaea Bay to the south and Kahului Bay to north as it sits on the isthmus between Maui’s ancient volcanoes.

So this interesting, yet minor story in the lives of both Marilyn Monroe and Frank Lloyd Wright have been brought to my attention because of an incorrect tale told by a bike tour guide. What should I make of Duane? It’s an interesting question because he also told us a house high on a hilltop near Lahaina belonged to Tom Cruise. I attempted to look that up online as well. I found out Mr. Cruise is an investor in a resort property on the neighboring island of Lanai, but could not find anything about a house in Maui. However, I don’t think Duane was intentionally lying. I sure he believed what he was saying. Or maybe he was telling us what we wanted to hear.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

This Week: The US (economy)

Drink Beer; Save the Economy

After covering the Colorado drinking for scene for three years now, 3 years as a blogger for Drinking Made Easy and 1 year for DrinkDenver, I have seen the brightest star in the US economy and that star is beer. Whether a casual drinker or total beer snob the size of the beer industry in the US has seen unprecedented growth over the last decade and completely exploded the last few years.  All this growth culminated in October at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, the world’s largest gathering of brewers and beer judging competition. Try and wrap your head around these numbers:
There are currently 2,538 breweries (including brew pubs) operating in the US with 409 breweries opening in 2012. Craft brewers (defined as small independent breweries making 6 million barrels annually or less) sold an estimated 13,235,917 barrels of beer in 2012 and the industry’s retail dollar value for 2012 is $10.2 Billion, note the “b.” If you include large production breweries (such as MillerCoors), that number increases to $99 Billion. The Coors Brewery in Golden, the world’s largest single-site brewery, employs 1,300 people alone. In the Denver-Boulder metro area, just one small part of the country, some 12 breweries/brew pubs opened or are in the process of opening in 2013. Breweries like these employ 108,440 people across the country, including servers in brew pubs. (Facts and figures provided by the Brewers Association and Coors Brewery).
The numbers are nice, but let’s expand on this topic by considering all the businesses that brewing supports.
Agriculture – Hops are one of the fastest growing (pun intended) production crops in the country and US hops are quickly becoming some of the most sought after in the brewing industry. Washington, Oregon and Idaho lead the country in hop production, but other regions are not far behind. Don't forget barley and wheat crops either. With the creativity of the beer industry, other agricultural products, like honey, peaches, apples, cinnamon, even chillis, are finding their way into beer. Did you know the Wynkoop Brewery in Denver makes a beer with bull testicles? But I digress. Following in the footsteps of chefs, there is also farm-to-keg movement with brewers seeking out the freshest and most local of ingredients to use in their beers.
Manufacturing – In order for you to buy a six-pack of your favorite craft beer, someone had to put that beer in a bottle or can. That means an increase in production of machines that bottle, can, seal, label and pack beer. Of course brewing beer takes a lot of equipment too; fermentation tanks, chillers, pipes, kettles and kegs. As breweries continue to open and expand, they will need more equipment.  New Belgium, Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues breweries will all begin construction on facilities in Ashville, NC, next year and Green Flash Brewing in San Diego will begin construction on a facility in Virginia Beach in 2015. Sierra Nevada is the country’s second largest craft brewery while New Belgium is the third.
Hospitality – As briefly mentioned in the statistics, brew pubs are included in the craft beer industry. A brew pub is a place that serves food and has an on-site brewery that produces beer consumed by customers of the pub. And other, non-brewing restaurants are getting in on the popularity by holding beer pairing dinners and tap takeovers. People who cater and hold special events are inviting craft beer into these events and events planners are having special beers created just for those special occasions such as weddings and anniversaries.
Tourism – Fanatics will seek out the places where their favorite beers are brewed. Think Guinness in Ireland or Hofbrauhaus in Munich. Beer cities in the US are gaining a following as well. Places like Ashville, NC, Boulder, CO, San Diego, CA and Portland OR, are growing hot spots for beer connoisseurs from around the world. Resorts are adding brew pubs to their properties. Examples include the McMenamins chain of hotels with brewpubs, or brewpubs with hotels depending on your point of view, and the new “destination brewery” being built in Littleton, CO by Breckenridge Brewery that will include a BBQ restaurant, retail outlet, hop farm, special event center and visitor center. Airports are serving more and more craft beers and several airports even have brew pubs on site. Sporting arenas are adding craft beers to their menus and one, Coors Field in Denver, has a brewery inside the ballpark, The Sandlot.
You may wonder, with all the other pressing issues the country faces, why discuss this? Because I think the industry is bigger than most people outside of it realize. A press release I received the other day just proves my point. Denver Beer Company, started in August 2011, just purchased a 48,000 sq. ft. warehouse to open as a production facility. The company will begin bottling and canning their beers in Spring 2014. The company purchased canning equipment from Wild Goose Canning in Boulder and barrels and fermenting equipment from DME in Prince Edward Island, Canada.  The company has hired Unleaded Group in Denver to create labels for the new bottles and cans. Denver Beer Co. will be hiring people to work all that equipment soon. All those jobs in just in three years. There’s a saying in the brew business, Drink Locally, Think Globally. So instead of feeling guilty about spending your hard earned cash on some craft beer, instead savor that beer. Breweries are located where their customers are, in the community, in your neighborhood. And the people who brew beer are passionate, smart, well-educated folks. Because they brew for their neighbors, they strive to make the highest quality beers possible.
The next time someone asks you to join them for a beer, do it. You’re supporting a local industry that supports many other industries around the country. Do it for you; do it for your country.  

This blog was rejected by Jean Chatsky, Money Guru for the Today Show, former editor of Money Magazine and author of several self-help financial books. Jean made a request for guest bloggers on Twitter and I answered thinking I could write about saving money while traveling.  Her assistant Arielle said they had enough travel advice and since I wrote for DrinkDenver, maybe I could offer a blog on “ways to save money during happy hour.” Really? Last time I checked happy hour pretty much EVERYWHERE meant half price or 2-for-1 drinks and cheap finger foods. Anyway, I offered up this idea, that if more Americans drank beer, we could save the economy. Arielle said no because it wasn’t “personal enough.” However, I thought my idea was fun and light (and true!), and we can all use some humor in this heavy, serious economy. I’ll let you be the judge.

Friday, September 6, 2013

This week: Go World Travel

I have written a total of 3 pieces that the folks at Go World Travel website have been kind enough to publish. I enjoy writing for them because they prefer offbeat locations and personal narratives. My pieces focus exclusively on the Virgin Islands, but hopefully I'll have some others for them in the future. If you would be so kind, please take some time to read one or all three. Show some support for this unique travel magazine and writers like me!

Go World Travel

or cut and paste:

Friday, August 30, 2013

This Week: Jost van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

That Time of Day

Kenny Chesney and I share a common bond. Not every day I have the same experience as that of a country music superstar. What could we possible have in common? We both know the joys of happy hour. However, I should state that it’s not just any happy hour. We know deeply the sublime and transcendent experience that is happy hour at the Soggy Dollar Bar in White Bay, Jost van Dyke. An experience so memorable Chesney wrote a song about it for his latest album, Life on a Rock. I hope he doesn’t mind if I borrow the song title for this month’s blog.
First some background. Jost van Dyke, a British Virgin Island, is only four square miles of rock and scrub in the Caribbean Sea. It sits next to two much larger islands, Tortola, its British sister and St. John, its American cousin. The remnants of an ancient volcano, Jost resembles an emerald boulder dropped in the ocean. Nothing financially productive can grow on it and it’s too small for any industry, which makes it ideal for leisure. Jost is a great place to vacation precisely because you can’t do much there.
The Soggy Dollar Bar is an icon in its own right. Part of the Sand Castle Resort, it was built in 1970 by George and Mary Myrick. It quickly became the favorite watering hole of local fisherman and millionaire yachties alike. In the mid-1970s George created the Painkiller, an intoxicating mix of rum, pineapple and orange juice and crushed nutmeg on top. Over the decades word of this concoction spread from sailor to shore to mainland to continent and now people from all over the world come to White Bay for a Soggy Dollar Painkiller.
After several visits to this Caribbean hideaway Kenny and I have noticed there is a certain melancholy at this place that considers itself as the happiest on earth. Kenny put his feelings very succinctly in a song. I, however, will blather about it in this blog.
I should explain a few things in more detail. The Soggy Dollar’s happy hour is from noon until 3 PM, unlike in the states where happy hour normally ends the work day, usually from 4 to 6 or 7 PM. The reason for this early event is because a majority of visitors to White Bay are tourist from the US side and before they return, these boats have to pass through customs and those offices close between 4:30 and 5 PM daily. So around 3 PM is when these boats leave the bay for the trip back. It’s also when the sun starts to dip down in the sky. I found out when happy ends the hard way. Starting at noon I purchased two painkillers for $8, $4 each. Shortly after 3 PM I went to purchase two more (my husband and I had already had three). The bill? $16, double that of happy hour.
But oh the joys experienced in those three short hours! An entire life is packed into them because the people you meet will become lifelong friends you will never see again. You trade stories about your kids and pets, share smartphone photos and get awkward hugs from men you don’t know while your husband gets cheek kisses by co-eds. You laugh, you cry, you sing songs and dance and yes, you get drunk. You beg your boat captain to stay for just one more drink or you beg your new friends’ boat captain to stay. When you’re on a boat, the vision of Jost getting smaller behind you is depressing. When you’re on the shore, it can feel down right lonely watching the boats leave one by one.  If fact, a lot of things on Jost shut down after the tourist boats leave, which makes staying on the island even more lonely. The two places to stay in White Bay, The Sand Castle and Ivan’s Stress-free Campgrounds, don’t have TV’s or phones or wi-fi. When the sun goes down, you are in the dark. The Soggy Dollar’s kitchen closes at 8 PM. We didn’t know that when we stayed on the island. However, in true island manner, when we arrived hungry at 8 PM the bartender and chef offered us a series of appetizers; all that they had left that evening. We were grateful for that.
As Kenny sings, though, you never really say goodbye to Jost. Instead you say, ‘until we meet again.’ That is the real beauty of happy hour at White Bay.
It’s That Time of Day by Kenny Chesney
It’s that time of day
That we all knew would come
To pay for all the rum
And pull up anchor cuz we’re done
It’s that time of day
I see a cotton candy sky
So many colors in my eyes
Proof again God’s alive
This ain’t a goodbye, it’s ‘til I see you again
What a wonderful time we’ve all shared my friends.
Another day at sea has come and gone away,
Adios to Jost
Adios to Jost
Adios to Jost, it’s that time of day
It’s that time of day
When we bottle up the sun
Let our inhibitions run
Feeling courageous and numb
It’s that time of day
When we take a leap of faith
Hand in hand as we pray
In this moment we could stay
This ain’t a goodbye, it’s ‘til I see you again
What a wonderful time we’ve all shared my friends.
Another day at sea has come and gone away,
Adios to Jost
Adios to Jost
Adios to Jost, it’s that time of day
I see sails in silhouette
Sailor’s sky turning red
So many I love you’s said
Toasts are made
It’s that time of day
Adios to Jost
Adios to Jost
Adios to Jost, it’s that time of day - my article on the Bubbly Pool for Go World Travel


Wednesday, July 31, 2013


March 19, 1998 - July 31, 2013
We lost our wonderful dog Jasmine today. She was 15 years, 4 months and 12 days old. That’s over 105 in human years. Jasmine lived a lot of life.  She rode with her daddy when he traveled the Baja Peninsula. She’s been to Moab. (I have yet to see Moab!) Jasmine has been to the top of Colorado 14ers (although she rode to the top of one mountain inside daddy’s backpack when she was a puppy). Not once, but twice she patiently rode in the back seat when we drove Florida. She swam in many ponds, lakes and rivers. She chased a lot of tennis balls. And she was with her daddy in Aspen in 2000 when he met me. He trusted me to watch his baby, who was only 3 years old at the time. She had the softest ears, like velvet. Now it’s time to say goodbye. Good puppy.

Photos by Natasha Japp

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

This week: Worldwide - Ugly Volleyball Nets

Since last month's blog was photoless I thought I would do something different this month - A photo essay as they call them in the biz. This is actually how the blog got started, with a webpage called Ugly Volleyball Nets. I took it down when I started this blog. Although most of the photos I have are ugly, the ones below are some of the nicer nets to play. All my volleyball court photos are available to friends on Facebook, so friend me if you want to see the entire album. Enjoy!

This was taken in Aspen in 1997 on the grounds of the high school at the Motherlode Volleyball Tournament. Georgeous.
This was taken in Esslingen (Stuttgart), Germany, in 2010. It is part of the city public pool and you have to enter the pool grounds to play.
This is from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, from December 2012, during our trip to the Orange Bowl. The group playing on the far net are members of the FSU marching band.
This is one of a group of nets at Gulf Shores, Alabama, from January 2012.
This is Smather's Beach from Key West, Florida back in December 1998. Taken right after Hurricane Georges so the shore is pretty torn up.
This is a court next to Lake Zurich in Switzerland. Since the ferry boat was slow, we got to see a few plays and these people were good. Wish we could have played here.
This net is in front of the Sheraton Maui on Ka'anapali Beach on Maui. We'll see if it's still there when we head back in November. Looking forward to playing here.
This is a summer day on North Beach, Chicago. Awesome sight with all those people and the buildings in the background. The building with the two towers is the John Hancock building.
This net is behind Pirates Bight on Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands. Pirates Bight is a restaurant and rest stop for boats and the only structure on the island. Nearby in the bay is Willie T's boat and bar. 
This shot was taken on Ambergris Caye, an island of the coast of Belize in Central America. The net is located in front of a bar in the town of San Pedro. We played on it earlier in the day and when we returned for dinner, locals had taken it over. They were good too.

This net is one of many on the famous Manly Beach near Sydney, Australia. The people playing are semi-professional players who meet here everyday to practice. I got to pepper with them, but they wouldn't let me play.