An Inspirational Man

His GoFundMe page says COPD Can’t Beat Me! That’s Richard, grabbing life with both hands, no matter what.

We met Richard when he was living here in Panama and had a motorcycle for sale. We decided a motorcycle wasn’t the wisest thing for us, but we have been friends with Richard ever since.

He’s had an interesting life. Read a bit about it on his GoFundMe page. He’s never let what a person should do get in the way of living the life of his dreams, and I really admire that. He’s been a writer, a deck hand, and a licenced boat captain which allowed him a lot interesting travel. He lived in France for a while, on a boat in New Orleans, and who knows what all else over the decades. Eventually he ended up in a smaller town down the road from us in Panama where he learned Spanish, immersed himself in the culture, and hung out with his Panamanian neighbors.

But, COPD, a history of heart trouble, and arthritis made him think he’d be better in the US. He had been dreaming of living on a boat again for some time, so maybe it would work out – live on a boat within his limited budget, with medicare funded health care? Last April he went for it, bought a boat, went to the US, and starting traveling up the west coast of Florida. He survived hurricanes, illnesses, cold weather, and mechanical problems but never quit. When winter came, he decided to ride it out in Bradenton FL where he is currently anchored.

A beautiful picture of a fogging morning in Bradenton, FL.

His latest dream is to write another book so others can also follow their dreams of living on a boat. Who better to write it than an experienced writer and boat captain who has actually traveled the waters he plans to write about? Who better to inspire people than someone, in spite of his health and financial challenges, still insists on living life to the fullest?

I am excited to support my friend in his efforts. If you are too, send him a few dollars. Or, if you aren’t, send him a bit anyway because I’m asking you to help my friend. If all of you, all my readers even sent him $2 he would exceed his goal by a good margin.

Sunrise in Florida

It would be so easy to retreat to a rocking chair, but not Richard! He grabs life with both hands, and it is so inspiring. The pictures in this post have been blatantly stolen from his Facebook page. What’s the saying? Rather than ask for permission before, ask for forgiveness afterward. Forgive me Richard, and best of luck in your campaign!

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Social Isolation and Health

I ran across this article HERE. It’s about a town in England who filled the gaps in services between agencies and community groups, and employed “community connectors” to find ways to connect lonely people with others and get them the support they needed. In the three years after this started, emergency hospital admissions fell by 17%!

People are social animals. We don’t do well in isolation. Babies literally die without human contact, and we are adversely affected at all ages not only mentally and emotionally, but physically as well. Google “social isolation and health” and you will find many articles and studies to back this up.

I worked in home health for many years and saw many seniors living alone, and I worried about them. Yes, there was a senior center and other activities in town, but how do you get there if you are unable or unfit to drive? Public transportation had a low cost option to get you to the doctor, but not the supermarket or senior center and taxis are unaffordable for many. Families are often too far away, and some don’t get along. People don’t want to bother anyone by asking for help, and neighbors can be totally unaware that there is someone who needs help. People want to be able to live in their own homes and resist going to independent living or other facilities, and often couldn’t afford them even if they liked the idea. I know many people I saw went for days without seeing or talking with another person and that is not good, not good at all.

It’s also the culture in the US. We lived in the same Sarasota FL house for 17 years, and we didn’t even know everyone in our block. There were a few houses where the garage door would go up, the owner would drive in, the door would go down, and that’s all we ever saw. We walked the dog regularly but unless neighbors are outside and willing to chat for a moment, you didn’t get to know them. I also did some traveling on my bicycle which I blogged about here. I cut it short not from fatigue or danger or anything else, but because of loneliness. I was connected by phone and internet with my family every day, but to be out on the road feeling invisible day after day, it became too much.

One of the many reasons I love Panama and the culture here, is this isolation is much less likely to happen. I don’t think I’ve ever greeted anyone without a return greeting. There are buses everywhere, and I’ve seen them drive right up to the door of someone who couldn’t walk well. Neighbors are very aware of anyone living alone, especially a senior, and stop by to say hello and offer help if needed. Families are usually close knit and nearby, if not living under the same roof. I heard a story about a widowed Russian lady who didn’t speak Spanish, but the neighborhood worked together to visit her every day, bring her food, and take care of her. This is very much a culture of relationships, where friends and family are more important than anything else. I’ve had flat tires and other issues with my bicycle, and every single time multiple people, people I didn’t know, came to me to offer help. It’s a really nice feeling to know you aren’t alone. And, another plus is the great deal of respect for older people, especially now that I am becoming one.

If you have a neighbor living alone, go make friends. Take your kids if you have them. Kids are wonderful medicine for older people! In these divisive times though, any connection and human touch is a nice thing.

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New Passports!

We renewed our passports by mail, and picked up our new ones today. Yay!

I wrote about the application process here. It was a bunch of various steps but we eventually got it all done. The next thing was to go to DHL to get it all shipped to the embassy. They were super professional and knew what exactly what was needed, like they do this every day. I appreciated the on line tracking so I knew the application arrived at the embassy as planned.

We got an email a few days later. What is your address in Panama? The application has blanks for address, city, state, and zip code so I put in our California address. The next day I got another email saying they got the address information and would add it to our application.

On Feb 20th, we got emails saying our passports were ready. (We sent applications on Jan 30) There we’re instructions for picking them up at the embassy, and also said if we were renewing by mail we needed to reply to the email telling them this, which I did. The next day DHL tracking said the package had left the embassy and was expected to arrive Fri, 23rd.

On Friday evening , tracking showed the package still in Panama City, but this morning, Sat 24th it arrived in David. I also got a WhatsApp message from the DHL office telling me the package has arrived, in both Spanish and English.

The package contained our new passports, our old passports with holes punched through the cover and first page, reciepts for the application fees, and a couple informational flyers about passport services and travel with your passport.

It feels odd to be our of your native country without a passport, so I’m glad to have this all done. Now I need to be sure my information is updated all over town. When you arrive your passport number is your ID. Once you get a cédula, a Panamanian ID card, that is your permanent ID. I’m sure I’ve forgotten to make the change here and there, but it will all get sorted out eventually.

I would say allow at least a month to renew a passport before any travel plans. It was a process getting the application, photos, bank check, etc but once the application was sent, I felt like both DHL and the embassy took very good care of us.

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Fat Athletes

You usually don’t think of those two words together. But, I recently came across this video of Mirna Valerio. She runs marathons and ultra marathons, and weighs 250 pounds. (

I’ve heard about her before and follow her blog.  What an inspiration!

Fat people are often blamed for their fatness by thinner people who don’t understand how it is. It isn’t as simple as eat less, move more. If it was, there wouldn’t be so many overweight people, so many unsuccessful diets, and so many frustrated people. The weight loss industry wouldn’t be worth billions of dollars.

Studies of participants in the TV show, The Biggest Loser were found to have damaged their metabolisms.

I know a  number of people who had the lap band procedure, others who had gastric bypass and only two I know have managed to keep the weight off, and that is by constant struggle and vigilance. I especially like this woman

Goodness knows, I can relate. I’m super careful about what I eat, and I’ve ridden my bike hundreds and hundreds of miles and still struggle daily to control my weight. I did the HCG thing 6-7 years ago, the only diet that worked for me without major suffering, and lost 90 pounds. It’s been so frustrating to watch the weight creep back up no matter what I do. But, when I see people like Mirna, it makes me beat myself up a bit less. I feel good, I am able to do what I want, and if my only complaint in life is my weight I’m pretty darn lucky, or so I keep telling myself.

We definitely don’t know how the whole weight thing works. Of course there are bad food choices and plenty of food available that isn’t good for you. But there is more too it than that. Why are some people so thin and can’t gain weight no matter what they do, others are so fat and can’t lose weight, or more important, keep it off no matter what they do? Maybe someday someone will figure this out.

</rant>  (code for end of rant)


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Yay Water!

There is nothing like doing without to make you appreciate something.

People in Panama don’t always have water. The government is addressing the problem and has allocated money to build and upgrade systems. But right now, it is summer when it doesn’t rain. There is building going on everywhere in the David area, but I don’t think they have thought about the increasing demands on the infrastructure.

No water has been a common problem even before I moved here, especially in the dry summer. My first day in the house, I went to refill my water bottle and nothing came out of the tap. The neighbors were totally unconcerned. I quickly learned to have water supplies on hand.

It hasn’t been too bad, really. I think only once, maybe twice in our 5+ years here has the water been off for more than 24 hours, and then they sent water trucks around to refill any container you gave them. Yesterday it slowed to a trickle and then went off. It was on last night but really late, past midnight and I didn’t feel like washing dishes, hoping there would be water in the morning. There wasn’t.

We have plenty of water on hand for these times but it’s inconvient to wash dishes and bathe with gallon jugs. It can be done though, and it makes me think of all the people in the world who never have running water, who have to carry it in from somewhere, and who may not have access to any clean water at all.

Tonight we were out playing music and didn’t get home until almost midnight and there was water! Yay! Not much, but enough to shower. It must have just come on and was refilling the lines and neighborhood water tanks because the pressure has improved since then.  I showered, washed my hair, cleaned the bathroom and kitchen, refilled all containers, and now there is a load of laundry in progress.  Yes, I know it’s 1:15 AM, but I’m not going to count on having water tomorrow.

If anything goes out, I would rather it be water. We rarely have trouble with electricity and internet for which I’m thankful. And, I’m glad to be in David. I hear talk from Boquete people about water being out for days, electricity also going out, and a lot of frustration.

Panama is a lesson in not taking things for granted. Thank you for the water. Thank you for the clean water right in the house… most of the time. And if we have no water, there are three big supermarkets just minutes away and a river behind the house.

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Pricesmart Run Today

It’s Carnavales time in Panama now, a four day holiday involving loud music and water hoses in various towns, families hanging out together, maybe swimming in the nearest river, and people generally enjoying time off. The idea is to let off steam before the beginning of lent when you are supposed to be thoughtful and subdued.

The band played at the Boquete Brewing Company last night and it was a blast. The roads were fine in spite of festivities in Dolega and extra check points on Via Boquete. We started early, 5 pm, and the crowd kept growing every hour. Management asked us to play and extra hour, and it was close to 10 when we stopped and the place was still full and overflowing. It’s so fun to play to a crowd who is so enthusiastic!

But, a word about the weather. We left David – hot, dry, sunny, breezy, probably in the low 90’s. We spent the evening in Boquete – wet, rain, barareque (wet mist), cloudy, windy, and very chilly. I wore my sweater and sweatshirt for most of the evening. How can a place just a short drive away feel like a different world?

Today it’s the David world again for us – hot, clear, sunny, and lots of wind. We headed out to Pricesmart (a membership store like Costco) and it was very quiet around town, and also in Pricesmart which made shopping fast and easy.

Apparently they were very ready for Carnavales festivities and the necessary beer. That’s at least twice the amount of beer we usually see there.

Sushi?! I don’t think I’ve seen sushi in Panamanian before. It’s probably here somewhere, but not common. I couldn’t resist. It’s as good as any other grocery store sushi, if my distant memory serves. They also have a new spot for soft ice cream and frozen yogurt.

There always seems to be something new going on and it makes David feel very alive and thriving. Along the way an older building was gone, I imagine to make room for something new. There is a huge new supermarket that we haven’t checked out yet. There is obvious activity at the site of the new metropolitan park. In just the short drive across town it seems like half the businesses have been built in the 5 years since we arrived.

Speaking of the new metropolitan park, check out this 12 1/2 minute video showing what it’s going to be. It’s incredible! A lake, a model of the canal locks, planetarium, botanical garden, amphitheater, dog park, place for old people, a therapy area for people with disabilities, children’s playground, bike path, restaurant, more things than I can remember.

Yeah, we’ve got it going on around here!

Change subject – I found another picture in my collection. I love to putter around in the yard and grow things, and why not grow things that also produce food? I had yucca by the front door that was getting scraggly and tall, so I dug it up. And, the bunch of bananas out back were looking quite plump so Joel cut it down.

I gave away half the yucca but we still have three big bags in the freezer. In the yard I also have fruit trees (limón, oranges, guanábana, thanks to the neighbor who planted them for the owner when she lived here). I have planted plantains, pineapples, cashew trees, passion fruit, a tree that grows those huge yellow lemons, avacadoes, moringa, ginger, not sure what all else along with flowering plants. I’ve dug a million weeds to allow the grass to grow back in the front, and planted perennial peanut in back, an excellent and attractive ground cover.

Life in Panama. How are we so fortunate?

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Great Birthday!

Yesterday was Joel’s birthday and we both had a great time. In the afternoon we headed to Boquete for practice with Chris, the drummer in our band. We have an unusual Monday booking because of the Carnavales holiday in progress, so Saturday was a good time to prepare, and then we could go out and hear other music which is a real treat for us.

There is such a wonderful community of excellent musicians in the Boquete area. Everyone gets along, is super supportive and friendly with each other, and it’s a great feeling. We have also been here long enough to watch many of them grow and evolve as musicians and performers.

We started at Mike’s Global Grill. Saturday is Asian food night and Mike makes some great meals. Their regular menu is always good too but I especially enjoy their Asian food.

Power Trius was the band. I first heard them so long ago I don’t remember when it was. They are three Panamanian guys, Eduardo on bass who I know from when he and Joel were in Yella Fever, a drummer I don’t know, and Julian on guitar and vocals, a flamboyant and creative performer. They have improved a lot and also changed their music selection to please dancing gringos, and the dance floor was busy most of the time. What fun for Joel and I to be able to dance together! There were a couple other Panamanian guys who sat in. I talked with one who lives in Mexico City but was back visiting his family. Lee, a Boquete guy, also sat in on saxophone.

We had a lot of fun and could have stayed there all evening but we were curious to see what was going on at the Boquete Brewing Company, so after a couple sets we moved on. Hashtag was at the Brewery. I first heard them at Mike’s quite some time ago and they sounded promising but now, my goodness! They are on fire! We heard them a few weeks ago at the Brewery when there was a wedding party in addition to the regular crowd and the place was nuts, people dancing on tables, jumping up and down and having a wonderful time. Last night also had a large and enthusiastic audience which is very fun.

And, as I said about the supportive music community, we were invited to sit in with the band. I didn’t feel comfortable picking up an unfamiliar instrument to play music I wasn’t 100% confident about, but Joel and Chris participated.

From the left, Lucho on guitar, a quiet, shy guy and excellent musician. Then, Joel, behind him Chris our drummer, then Lee on Sax (he’d come over from Mike’s), the guy in the gray t-shirt is their lead singer, Arya on bass (super amazing musician on both bass and guitar, beyond amazing!) and in the black shirt Mike, Hashtag’s drummer. Joel had sang Breaking the Law with very enthusiastic audience reaction, and now they were getting ready to play the Thrill is Gone.

From the left again, Lucho, Joel, Chris hidden behind on drums, then Hashtag’s lead singer, Arya, and Lee. The song went on, morphed into a total jam session that went other places, and everyone was really excited playing together.

After the jam session Hashtag took to the stage again to play some more. On the right is another excellent singer who had sat in earlier.

I wish I also had pictures from Mike’s but the lighting was low, except for a bright light outside so they didn’t come out well.

As I participate more in the making of the music, I am appreciating the whole process more and more. You have this instrument and if you are fortunate, a good voice, and these boxes with knobs and connections and speakers, and then as if out of thin air, you use them to create this magic. It’s not like photography or painting which can hang on the wall for decades. It’s so fleeting. It happens and then it’s gone. But it can be such an experience on some emotional level I can’t explain. But, when you are still filled with happiness and gratitude for the experience the next day, maybe it isn’t exactly gone after all.

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Windy Times

Come to Boquete, land of eternal spring. Umm… sometimes. It is easy for some businesses to mislead people. Come live in paradise! When you see that word paradise, immediately treat the whole thing with a large dose of skepticism. There are great places to live but nothing is paradise all the time.

We had rain in January which is very unusual, but now we are in full blown summer when the trade winds blow. We have had three days of strong winds down here in David. A banana tree and some of my sugar cane was blown over and the yard is full of leaves. When leaves and twigs hit the metal roof it makes a lot of noise. The sun is hot and strong. Daytime temperatures are in the 90’s (but without the green season humidity) but nights are cooler. Last night it dipped below 70 which for us is cool.

Up in the mountains like in Boquete, the winds tend to be quite a bit stronger. I have heard people say the winds are howling around their houses when there is only a light breeze down here. It’s also colder and wetter a lot of the time. The bajareque (foggy misty air) rolls in frequently and makes beautiful rainbows but also leaves everything wet.

I took this photo on our way to Boquete Saturday in the late afternoon. By the time we got to town we were IN those clouds you see in the distance. We have learned to  always bring extra clothes even if it’s hot at home. I have a sweater, sweatshirt, and rain jacket in the car and they get used almost every time. One day I sent a photo to a friend in Boquete. “Joel has no shirt on ?! It’s freezing up here!” It’s amazing how different it is just a short drive away.

We have to drive to Boquete a lot for band gigs but we get to enjoy the gorgeous scenery every time. Volcan Baru is on one side, always impressive, and the beautiful green mountains are on the other side. Every time it makes me think how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful country.

But, if you are thinking of living in this beautiful country, be sure you know what you are getting in to. For me, Boquete is too cold, wet, and windy much of the time and I would not be happy there. Others love it and find David impossibly hot. Some choose a middle ground part way up the mountain. Others move to the beach which has its own challenges with the heat and salt air. It’s really good though that there are so many options even just here in Chiriqui Province.

Hmmm, I hear the wind picking up again…


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What will you DO all day??

I think we’ve all been asked this. Before retirement, most of your days were filled with work but what now? What will you do with all this free time? I suppose this is a question for any retiree whether in Panama, half way around the world, or the house you lived in for 50 years.

This hasn’t been a problem for us. In fact, this came to mind because the last week has been super busy. But, I know others who have had problems adjusting to retired life. Maybe when work was a huge part of your identity you feel lost without it? Maybe if you don’t have interests and activities outside of work, it’s hard to see where to go next?

Add a move outside the country and it can get even more complicated. You probably left friends and family behind. Many things are unfamiliar and confusing which is an adventure for some, and a challenge for others. A language barrier can make you feel alone and isolated.

Also consider if you are in a relationship, will you enjoy all this time together or will you drive each other crazy? How will you find a balance of shared and separate time and activities that work for you both?

For me, the last months have been full of music. It has taken an enormous amount of time to get up to speed on the bass, but it is working wonderfully now. We played a private party on Wednesday. We were outdoors on a spacious terrace, warm breezy evening, lots of happy dancing gringos, while watching the full moon rise behind us and light up the clouds and distant mountains. It was magical!

Thursday we played at the Boquete Brewing Company to a mostly Panamanian crowd. They tend to stay out later than the gringos so the crowd grew as the evening went on and by 11, quitting time, people were having so much fun we played on until almost 11:30. We have learned that Panamanians don’t dance. It’s just not their thing but that night there was some Dutch tourists who instigated things and in the last set, a whole lot of Panamanians were also dancing!! It was SO much fun!

Then Saturday, last night, we played at Mike’s Global Grill to a gringo crowd. They tend to fade by 9:30 but there was a small group who stayed. I spent most of the last set playing bass on the dance floor with my friends which was totally fun! And we sounded so good! After playing so much we were tight and really had our act together. I don’t think we have ever played so well.

That’s probably more than you all want to know about band business. 😁 But as you also know, that’s hardly all I do. Painting and photography have gone by the wayside for now but I’m still on the bike sometimes, and working in the yard, and hanging out with friends, and blogging, and listening to books. Of course there are always the usual chores and errands but we seem to spend less and less time on them. This house is super easy to maintain and thanks to a freezer, shopping is much less frequent.

I’ve also been working on band promotions, as I think I mentioned before. I don’t want to hear again “I never know when you guys are playing”. Now we have business cards, a mailing list, and

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Retirement can be a total blast! It’s definitely worth giving a good amount of thought to what you will do. This time is an opportunity to do the things you never had time for before, or to go in new directions, pursue new interests, or spend more time on things you already enjoy. When the need to make money is taken off the table it changes everything. You can do things for only the enjoyment and satisfaction which is a beautiful thing.

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Renewing Passports

There is a process for renewing your passport if you are outside the US. Here in Panama you can either go to the US embassy in Panama City or DHL your documents there. Since we are on the other side of the country we chose the latter.

As with most things here, it’s a process with steps, some forward, some backward, but it all gets done eventually.

First there is a form to fill out on the embassy website which you then print, attach your picture, sign, and date. Of course to print something you need a printer with ink. One day we were at Pricesmart and voila! The printer cartridges we needed. Sometimes this simple quest involves multiple stores so finding them quickly and unexpectedly was a good start.

Next, pictures. We went to Arrocha, got the pictures taken, went downstairs to the cashier to pay for them, and back up to pick them up. This is typical in Panama. All the money is handled in one spot so you pay there and then go back to pick up your item (which is often unboxed, inspected, and tested before it’s handed to you. No returns wanted.)

We go home to attach the 2”x2” pictures to find they are 1/2 inch too narrow. *sigh*. I don’t want to risk our applications being rejected so we go back the next day for more pictures, carefully explaining the requirements and leave with the right size pictures. Thank goodness I carefully reread the requirements because Joel needed to remove his glasses, which he hadn’t done in the first picture because his current passport has a photo of him with glasses.

Ok, pictures done, stapled to the form as instructed. Next step, cashiers checks for $110. The website says you need a “cheque certificado”. Our bank (Scotiabank) offers “cheque de gerencia”. Is this the same? Who knows and I didn’t want to risk sending the wrong thing. It’s about 12:15 Friday when I call the embassy to learn they close at noon on Fridays *sigh*.

Monday I call the embassy again to learn they only talk to people Mon-Thurs, 3-4:30, and Fridays 10:30-12. I call after 3, use the menu to get to citizen services, use that menu to get to what I think is the right thing but it takes me back to the menu and ends the call after going through it again. There are detailed instructions for various things throughout the call, recommendations to go to the website for info, etc so this whole process took about 10 minutes. I try again ignoring the second menu and at the end is a ringing phone! The guy who answered connected me with passport services, and that lady told me the cheque de gerencia is the same thing and will do just fine.

This morning we went back to the bank, waited in line, made it to the teller who spoke English. When you are trying to do something you don’t do every day and don’t have all the necessary vocabulary, this is so nice. I have much empathy for people in the US struggling to learn English, and know the pleasure you feel when someone speaks your language. I will never ever resent “push 2 for Spanish”.

Anyway, I digress. I had already found the necessary forms and filled them out, and approached the teller with forms and cash in hand. Cash will not do. I had to deposit the cash in my account and then he wrote the checks on the account. He said you can’t get these checks without having an account. I wonder what people do who don’t have a Panamanian bank account.

Anyway, there was a fair amount of standing around, him typing and checking things on his screen, and finally unlocking a drawer that had the locked box that contained the blank checks ready for the printer. He printed the checks, had me look at them to be sure all was correct, and then sent me to sit and wait until a supervisor was available to sign them. Then I was called back to the teller where I had to sign, date and put my cédula number (Panamanian ID) on copies of the checks. Then finally I was given the checks and all was finished.

All right! Making progress! Now it’s time to find DHL. Thank goodness for google maps which navigated us through downtown traffic and to the office. The gal there had obviously done this many times and was super professional. Ahh, embassy, and they need to be sent back, right? Ok, $24.40, $12.20 to send, $12.20 to return. She must have had the address on file all ready to print, and processed all the forms and labels and packaging like she had done it a hundred times. We left with instructions and tracking numbers in hand.

Yay! Done! We came home, I visit my neighbor… tell her we did the passport thing, the forms, the pictures, the checks, sent them.., OMG OMG we didn’t SIGN the forms!!! We need to go back RIGHT NOW! What was I thinking, or not thinking. I called DHL, no problems,  nothing had been sent, she will wait for us. We go back, she open the package, we get our documents out, SIGN them, and NOW it is done! Whew

If all goes according to plan we should have our new passports in 2-3 weeks. This should be plenty of time for my planned late March trip to the US. I’ll be glad when they get here though. You have to send your old passport in with your application and it feels strange not to have a passport.

Meanwhile the printer has ink so I can make business cards for the band and for myself. Yay 😁 I have also been busy setting up a band mailing list and presence on twitter and Instagram. No more “I didn’t know you were playing”!

No excuses now. Come out and we will wake up that monkey nerve that makes you get up and dance!

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