James Taylor Autobiography

Like most people my age, I’m a big fan of James Taylor.

My favourite is “Long Ago and Far Away“.

In 2020 he published an audio/music autobiography of his first 21 years:

Break Shot: My First 21 Years

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

In an era of many folk singer / songwriters, James got lucky when a friend gave a demo tape to Peter Asher, head for the Beatles‘ newly formed label Apple Records.

Paul McCartney and George Harrison liked his voice. Told Asher to sign him to the label.

James recorded his 1st album 1968 at Trident Studios, at the same time the Beatles were recording The White Album.

Though born into a privileged (dysfunctional) family, James struggled with depression and drug addiction.

The big breakthrough was 1970 with “Fire and Rain“.

Fire and Rain” was inspired by the suicide of Suzanne Schnerr, a childhood friend, and James’ experiences with drug addiction and fame:

I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again

Carole King wrote You’ve Got a Friend” as a reaction to that line. It was his first #1 hit 1971.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Click PLAY or watch You’ve Got A Friend on YouTube.

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich (age 68 as I post) is a much respected author.

In 2021, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel The Night Watchman.

She is also the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis that focuses on Native American literature.

In The Sentence, the narrator, Tookie, works in a bookstore in Minneapolis that carries Native American literature. Tookie, like the author, is a Native American.

As a young woman, Tookie was sentenced to 60 years in prison. But later had her crime reduced to some years time served. That part of the book I found fascinating.

She became a serious reader in prison, one reason she ended up working in a bookstore — haunted by the ghost of a former customer — before the pandemic broke in March 2020.

I’d forgotten how confusing it was mid-March when we had no masks or gel yet. And didn’t know how serious it would become.

The story in Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd was super interesting too. Her step daughter was out protesting. But Tookie was worried about looters burning down the bookstore.

Overall — however — I found the book too long and rambling.

It’s supposed to be mainly a ghost story. But I didn’t really buy the resolution of that.

This book should have been shorter.

Visiting León, Spain

I took the train to León where I’d be starting a week long cycling trip to Santiago de Compostela on the French Camino. A pilgrimage people have been doing for over 1000 years.

It’s very walkable, a small city with most of the attractions close together.

León’s Cathedral is one of the finest in Europe.

Panorama of Plaza de Regla and Leon Cathedral, Castile and Leon, Spain
Me and the cops.

My official start is this Cathedral. I’ll finish at the Cathedral in Santiago.

León is a great tourist town. I did a lot of cycling there testing the rental bike.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

10 Years a Nomad by Nomadic Matt

In the 1990s my main focus was travel. My recreational reading was mostly travel books.

On my year long trip to Asia, I emailed text and a few crappy photos to Warren who posted them to early blogging platforms.

I recall checking books like 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Travel for travel’s sake.

After hiking the West Coast Trail for the first time in 1999, I decide to switch to what I called destination travel. I’d travel to do something specific — a specific hike, for example. I’d travel less, but with a GOAL.

The first blogging I did was on WordPress.org, launched 2003. For a couple of years before that I hand coded HTML which was difficult.

Matthew Kepnes — Nomadic Matt — started traveling abroad in 2005 and quickly became one of the most popular on the web. The site is still going strong as Matt hired a team of 5 people to keep it going.

Matt traveled nearly non-stop for 10 years. And then wrote a memoir.

Ten Years a Nomad: A Traveler’s Journey Home

I found it surprisingly honest. Matt spends more time detailing the MANY things that went wrong than humble bragging his awesome accomplishments.

It would be a good book for 1st time backpackers to read on the way to the hostel.

Note — the guy famous for dancing around the world in the early days of YouTube was another Matt — Matt Harding. I confused the two for years.

Visiting Coimbra, Portugal

Coimbra is a popular stop for tourists coming to visit the archaeological structures dating back to the Roman era, especially the well-preserved aqueduct and cryptoporticus.

Monastery of Santa Cruz

It’s even more famous as the home of the University of Coimbra (1290), the oldest academic institution in the Portuguese-speaking world.  Its historical buildings were classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2013.

I bought a ticket to see the Joanine Library (Biblioteca Joanina), continuing my quest to visit all the most beautiful bookstores and libraries in the world.

It’s small, but well gilded. 😀

The most interesting part of the story is that this is one of the Portuguese libraries that encourages bats to make residence. The thinking is that they eat insects that might damage the ancient treasures.

Library on the left. By Dicklyon – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Biggest man on campus. King Joao III (John III) 1521 – 1557.

Though King John accomplished a lot, the Inquisition was introduced into Portugal in 1536. Just like in Spain, the Inquisition was placed under the authority of the king.

In Portugal the first Grand Inquisitor was Cardinal Henry, the king’s brother

If Belgium was the most horrific European nation for brutalizing people in their colonies, Portugal and Spain were next worst. I blame the Catholic Church out of Italy equally.

Dark Horse by Gregg Hurwitz

I don’t read many thrillers.

Too over the top. End of the world drama.

But I tried the most recent book in the Orphan X series.

… at the age of 12, Evan Smoak was enrolled in a top-secret operation known as the “Orphan Program.”

He is the 24th recruit in the program and is known only as Orphan X.

The goal of the program is to train orphans so they can be assassins for government agencies. The program is shut down but Orphan X maintains access to the program’s funding and weapons.

In his 30s, Smoak begins freelancing as an assassin, using his skills to fight corruption in the form of vigilante justice

There were a few things I enjoyed in this story.

Joey, his hilarious and sassy teenage techie assistant.

OK. … That’s my only highlight.

I won’t be reading more Orphan X.

I quit this one at 66%.

Lisbon photos 2022

BACK in Lisbon to have a tooth implant installed, I posted some Instagrammy pics on Instagram.

Having visited most of the major tourist sites last year, I looked for less visited photo ops this time.

For example, I caught the ferry over to the former industrial suburb city Barreiro. I saw no other tourists wandering the streets that day. Augusto Cabrita, local photographer, cinematographer and film director is celebrated with this massive wall portrait.

Like last year, I took most of my larger meals at Time Out Market.

Many of my photos are of street art. I tried an experiment taking pictures of street art alongside REAL LIFE. One example.

The installation of my tooth implant was delayed by a couple of weeks. So I’m still not smiling in any photos prior to June 9th.

World’s oldest bookstore – Livraria Bertrand – Chiado, Lisbon

I finally got out to the Cascais beach area, about 45 minutes by train from the city centre.

Last night in Lisbon.

I feel more like a local than tourist.

Here are my Lisbon photos and video from November 2021.

My Dental Vacation in Portugal


I can smile again.

After 9 months with a missing upper tooth, I finally got the implant installed June 2022.

Can you tell which upper tooth was replaced?

I never want to get another implant. WAY too expensive. WAY too time consuming.

But I believe they did an excellent job. This tooth should see me out. 😀

I got implant dental surgery November 11th at 11am. #NotChicken

I’ll update this post with details on how it went.

Canadian dentists are WAY too expen$ive.

Nations around the world that cater to “dental tourists” include:

Not Portugal. BUT I wanted to travel to Portugal for hiking and cycling in November. Also, it’s one of the most vaccinated large nations in the world during a pandemic.

Of dentists in Lisbon I looked at online, most impressive was the Institute of Implantology.

Here’s their Dental Tourism page.

I booked a FREE assessment appointment on my birthday:

  • November 2 ~ free assessment
  • November 4 ~ cleaning and measurement for ‘flipper‘ (temporary replacement tooth)
  • November 11 ~ implant surgery and placement of the flipper
  • November 15 ~ final checkout

The last 4 days in Lisbon were in case of complications. And that allows time to adjust the flipper, if needed.

Happily I had no infection nor swelling. And the flipper looks pretty good. Can you tell which top front tooth is now removable?

In fact, I’m as good looking as ever. … Ladies? 😀

I’ll return to Lisbon in 4-6 months to have the permanent fake screwed in.

The Institute of Implantology is not cheap. Price everything included for me will be about CAD $5000 (US$4000, EUR3490). Here are some of the major costs:

  • €160 CT Scan
  • € 160 Extraction
  • € 890 Implant placement
  • € 650 Bone Graft
  • € 280 Flipper
  • € 695 Instillation of implant

The bone graft encourages regeneration of bone and increases the odds that the tooth will stay in my skull for life.

The Institute of Implantology is the second private hospital I’ve used. The other was Shouldice Hernia Hospital in Toronto. Both are excellent. I wish I was rich enough to use more private clinics.

My surgeon was Dr. Gonçalo Caramês. Trained in Los Angeles, he married another dentist. They planned to set up practice in Seattle but he opted instead to return to Portugal because of the pandemic.

The facility itself is impressive. Chic. Very modern technology.

Visiting Valencia, Spain

I’d never been to Spain’s 3rd largest city, so jumped on the chance to catch a cheap flight down to the sunny Mediterranean coast.

The historic centre is great.

But the highlight for me was walking and cycle the huge green space that runs through the city.

It was once the river Turia, drained and rerouted after a catastrophic flood in 1957. The old riverbed turned into a picturesque sunken park.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

I did make it out to the beach.

But best was exploring the City of Arts and Sciences.

Click PLAY or watch highlights on YouTube.