Puerto Rico next week!

Vieques at night.

I’m living in the sweet anticipation of impending travel.

I am taking an overdue week-long vacation starting Wednesday next week, and I’m really starting to feel the excitement.

I have my airfare booked, my Airbnb is super busy with upcoming bookings, and I even have a fishing trip booked and paid for my girlfriend and I.

The Caribbean, Puerto Rico, but more importantly, Vieques and Culebra Island are my destinations. I was last in the area two years ago, and there probably hasn’t been two weeks that have gone by that I haven’t thought about going back. Now I get to go with the woman I love, and really take it all in happily.

I also have that impending travel nagging worry. Will I get caught in rain every other day like the last time I went? Will I catch the fish I want? Will I get hung over from too much Rum and waste a day lying around? Trivial things really, but the worry is there.

The rain so close to the equator is heavy, but usually brief. The times I got caught in the rain two years ago, it never rained long enough to soak me through, and a hangover is my own fault. As for fishing, at least I won’t be at work, I’ll be a quarter ways around the world from where I am now, and in a place that will be vaguely familiar to me. For the last two years, it’s only been a memory, and a big photo album of pictures from a place that seemed like a dream.

I’m also lucky enough to have booked the Vieques Culture festival for the second time, which I hope to cover in-depth here. There really isn’t a lot of coverage of the island’s events, outside a blog aimed mostly at locals. The history of the place was eye-opening for me, and made history come to life. I’d always heard about the US occupying small islands for testing, and for use as bombing ranges, but to visit one where the history and events were still palpable was magical.

Puerto Rico too, is full of a rich history, conjuring images of giant sailing vessels pulling into the harbor, laden with slaves and looking for sugar cane. When I read about slave trade, I often learn about how in the Caribbean the conditions were much worse than in the temperate US. Malaria, Dengue, heat, working to death, the area was hell for the slaves, but deemed necessary because it was such a cash cow for the rich. Now, Puerto Rico is filled with the descendants of the slaves and the traders, making for a people who are darker than any Mexicans I know, but speak a crazy fast Spanish with pride and gusto.

Also the music, oh man I can’t wait for the music. Being on the island, I was finally able to really grasp how much of an influence African drums had on Spanish music to create the driving, hip moving beats of the Salsa, Merengue, and even the reggaeton the people absolutely LOVE. It really is the heartbeat of the place, and to feel it in your bones is to know you have something in common with these people. Maybe it’s the Spanish side in me. Maybe there is some tropical Latino blood in me too, I don’t know. My grandmother on my father’s side had flaming red hair, and very dark skin. Who knows what all I’ve got mixed in there. My grandmother on my mother’s side was from central Mexico, and after trying to trace my family back as far as I could, using an ancient family tree I have, (If anyone out there can help me with this, I’d really love it! There’s a whole giant Mexican family waiting to learn more.) I was still unable to get as far back as to my European roots. I could be from anywhere! Mexican is all I’m sure of. I do fee I have a lot in common, but all these cultures have their differences too.

The food is different, the culture is different, these people are not Mexican. Growing up in Los Angeles, it’s easy to forget that there are Latinos other than Mexican or Salvadoran. It’s fascinating to me to learn about these people, born of hardship, but proud and obstinate with all the struggle they have come through. They were extremely welcoming the last time I was there, even opening a museum for me after hours so I could get a deeper sense of the history of the island and people. The curator was kind enough to walk me through all the exhibits, and made sure I had a firm understanding of all the people had gone through. Accommodating  isn’t quite strong enough a word, but it definitely applies. Not to say that Mexicans cannot be accommodating, mind you, but the people I met worked hard to make sure I understood them.

Anyway, that’s what’s coming up for me, and for my little blog. I hope to get some good coverage of the island so more people will understand just how different we are, but how much of a common thread we all carry in us.


Classic mistake when working on a car.

Man, of all the basic, dumb advice I’ve ever given, one of the most repeated has to be “Compare the parts”.

As in when you’re buying a replacement for a busted part, take the busted part in to the parts store.

I’ve told people  hundred times to always check and make sure the parts look identical, otherwise something is wrong.

Well yesterday I bought a fuel pump for my bug, and didn’t notice until I was all the way in there, fuel pump off, engine crankcase exposed, that the pump would not work on my car.

There are two little pipes coming out of a fuel pump, an inlet, and an outlet. Basically it’s a pump’s job to get gas from the tank to the carburetor, so it’s got two little nipples for connecting hose to.

Well, my old fuel pump only had one. The other had busted off. I can’t imagine how painful it would be to have a nipple blown off. Well, it happened to my pump so off she went. The pump wold have to be replaced. In a hurry I went parts store hopping, being laughed out of Pep Boys for asking for it, “No we do not have that oddly specific part for your 42 year old vehicle”, sent from my local Lincoln Heights store, over to the Cesar Chavez and State St. store. I was told they had the part.

I was tired. I’d been to Pep Boys, and one Auto Zone already, on trip # 3, I asked for the pump, and the clerk produced one that looked exactly like my old one, or so I thought.

This rebuilt one I had just purchased, had the top of it off by about 25 degrees. Rotated. So the hose coming out of it interfered with everything in sight.  I couldn’t get it in there properly. I had a defective part.

So I yanked it again, and this time compared it to my old one. It was plain as day, it would never work, the tops were at just enough of a different angle to make it a miserable defective part. I had bought a bad part. At least I knew I wasn’t crazy. Usually when a part doesn’t want to go in properly, it’s my fault. I usually come across new information and solve the problem on my own. This time it was actually the part.

Of course, this fuel pump was the last cheap one in East LA. I could buy a nice expensive one at a VW Specialty shop that will remain nameless, but I’m looking to sell this thing, so I’m bargain shopping. I might even just buy one online, and hope for the best, Amazon Prime might help there. They’ll take a return, unless I get gasoline on it, which is likely because it’s a fuel pump.

This time, when my replacement comes, you bet I’ll inspect every last millimeter of the damned thing. 

By the way, I’m still in shock from Auto Zone taking my return even though i’d tested it running gas through it. Those guys never allow straight refund returns 🙂  Got lucky there.

We were having an awesome time bringing home the bacon on this boat, until the deckhand cut off a big chunk of his finger bringing up the anchor!
Fishing is a dangerous pastime, but in all the trips I’ve been on, this was the first time the blood on the deck was not fish blood. (No blood in the video, I wouldn’t do that)

Still, we had a blast kicking off the 2015 Rockfishing season.

Andrew Jarecki is the new Vincent Bugliosi.

In the process of making a bit of journalism, “The Jinx”, some say HBO’s answer to the “Serial” podcast, Andrew Jarecki unravels a decades old murder case while producing a documentary.  His methodical investigation laid out all the facts that were known, and exposed a few that lay under the surface.

They remained under the surface for 15 years, vital writing and spelling samples that led directly to Robert Durst, and for the most part make a very strong case for arresting him for murder, which apparently happened today.

In Manson’s infamous case, Benedict Canyon was also a central location, being the site of the Cielo Drive house where the Manson Family members brutally murdered a pregnant Sharon Tate, among others. In HBO’s “The Jinx”, the address was written in an enormously revealing hand, the hand of the killer, and apparently the hand of Robert Durst who has been evading prosecution for a set of crimes spanning more than 30 years. Bugliosi was a district attorney, but Jarecki was a filmmaker, it’s true. Still, he found what the detectives and police could not, and now a man is sitting in jail for things he has denied taking part in for a very long time.

Jarecki’s crew uncovered clues that should have been obvious, in hindsight, to the investigative parties 15 years ago. The same investigative powers that failed to see the connections laid bare on the show, and allowed a man who is likely responsible for the murders of three people to walk free.

Bugliosi, as district attorney in the Mansion murder case, saw a film crew, this time for a local news station, finding key evidence scattered in the hills around the Canyon, leading to valuable clues that were overlooked by police in that historic case.

In the HBO documentary mini series, “The Jinx”, Andrew Jarecki uncovers a writing sample that exactly matches a note that tipped off Beverly Hills police to the location of a body. Even Durst himself acknowledged that “Only the killer” could have written the note, as only the killer would have known of the location and state of the deceased. In this case the deceased was Susan Berman, an acquaintance of Durst’s who seems to he known too much. Durst’s own writing samples, taken from a litany of documents was matched up by a professional writing analyst, and was found to contain some very strong similarities.

As I was watching the last episode of The Jinx today, I had the spoiler moment of a lifetime. I made an internet search for the Beverly Hills address involved, and noticed news stories saying Durst had been arrested. My jaw dropped.

Here was a man who had already admitted to dismembering a body, and walked out of a murder trial acquitted, getting arrested for crimes he just admitted to on camera. Also accused of making his wife disappear, he has thus far escaped any real prison time. He has served 5 and a half months on a gun charge, but this obviously pales in what the justice system likely has in store for him now, with this new arrest.

I suppose now his defense will say that was not an admission, but I cannot imagine how they could make that fly in court.

After an interview with Jarecki, Durst enters a restroom wearing a microphone he obviously did not know was still active. The mic captures a conversation he has with himself in the privacy of the bathroom:

“There it is. You’re caught. You’re right, of course. But, you can’t imagine. Arrest him. [sink sounds.] I don’t know what’s in the house. Oh, I want this. What a disaster. He was right. I was wrong. And the burping. [Restroom noises.] I’m having difficulty with the question.”

“What the hell did I do?  Killed them all of course.”

To me, this was a chilling piece of real journalism. It was called an answer to Serial, a popular podcast about an old Baltimore murder that already had someone behind bars. I think The Jinx was much better. Serial left with an inconclusive feeling, nothing new was learned, nothing was uncovered. In this HBO Series, there was definitely movement in the real world. Talk about making an impact, this show made one that the families of the victims, and Mr. Durst will definitely feel.

Barley tea!

The following is from an email I sent a couple of friends, that I thought might be handy information here: 

So I had a sneaking suspicion that it was nothing more than unfermented beer, and it appears I’m right. Japanese call it Muchiga, apparently.


It really is nothing more than beer malt, steeped in hot (or cold) water!

I don’t know how this never occurred to me before.

Amazon has the stuff for $12  a pound!!

Beer supply stores will sell a pound of grain, for what, $1.50? And with a focus on freshness, and in any shade, or roastiness you could like. You can go as light or dark as you like, and my guess based on my brewing experience, is that most restaurants serve us barley tea in a very light crystal malt range. The “lovibond” Scale is the scale of roastiness, and darkness of the grain is directly related. This is from my local shop site:

There are HUNDREDS of types of roasted barley. Some with Peat, some like Honey malt that impart a natural sweetness, and some like biscuit malt that impart a nuttiness, etc. This is what gives beer its character.

Here’s some info on Malted barley.

The ONLY difference with beer, is that the sugar has been fermented out with yeast.

So anyway, that’s what I figured out today. I’m going to buy a few extra ounces of different Malts next time I buy a beer recipe, and try this at home. Awesome stuff.