Day 599 OUT OF Beijing: Pier 24 Photography


PIer 24 and traintracks.

Pier 24 and long unused train tracks.


Jill and I headed to our 1 pm appointment at Pier 24 to get more information for SF Tourism Tips.

We arrived a bit early and hung around outside and enjoyed the gorgeous sunshine.

We are still getting used to having sunshine and fresh air every single day and being able to go out of the house whenever we want without fear of getting sick and having to wear a M95 mask to breathe safely.

It is a joy that we will never forget or take for granted.  Sadly, the first thing we would do when we woke up was look at my phone, check the Air Quality App and decide whether we would go outside or not.  It truly controlled that much of our daily lives.

I suggest you think a bit on your ability to breathe freely and not have to wear masks, drink bottled water, or worry about where your meat came from a few times today.

We had to do that for 1.5 years.

It gives us more to love and enjoy whatever we are doing in the SF Bay Area.

As the clock ticked down to 1 pm, we walked back to the gallery and pushed the “click to talk” button beside the door.

They told us to come inside and we entered.

There were four very nice people behind the desk and they told us about the show, called Secondhand, about re-attributed photographs, and a book that explained how to enjoy the gallery and not get lost.

The reason I mention not getting lost is that it is a huge gallery and it has about 20 or so rooms.  Some are tiny little alcoves but it could take a long time if someone got lost and confused and wanted to leave quickly.

I am not sure I like re-attributed photographs but I understand the idea: someone (not sure I can call them artists at this point) takes someone else’s photographs, manipulates them in some way, and then calls it their own.

I guess, in a way, this is sort of like “sampling” in music but there may be almost no difference at all.

In fact, say you found my family album at Goodwill and decided to buy it.  You could them frame my pictures and sell them as your own because you framed them and made them yours.  This is a simplistic example but there was work there that was basically just that: someone had found a person’s family album, bought it, and then took the pictures they liked, photographed them again, printed them out and adjusted the colors, and then it became, “their art.”

As a budding artist/photographer, and a person who has a mom who is definitely an artist, I have some issues with this.  I’d hate for someone to take my photographs, change a few things like color or brightness, and then sell them as their own art.  It seems somewhat unethical and immoral but maybe that is just me.

There was one specific part of the exhibition that I truly enjoyed: Eric Kessel’s 24 Hours.  It is a room full of photographs that he asked to have downloaded, and then printed, of everyone single person that posted their photographs to Flikr within a single 24 hour period.  I believe there were over 1,000,000 photos all laid out on the floor, and up the walls, and it was very powerful to stand in the middle of all those memories.

Eric Kessels 24 Hours.

Eric Kessels’ 24 Hours.

As we walked up to the exhibit room, one of the staff told us we were welcome to walk inside it and view it from the center of the room and see how we liked it.  We both picked up some photographs and looked at them.  Many were very disparate but there were still some that were obviously of the same kid or baby and had not been scattered yet.

Interesting enough, I really didn’t like any of the other parts of the exhibition by Eric Kessels as they seemed to be more like the ones I wrote about above and made me feel very uneasy regarding who is the artist and who deserves credit for these photographs.  I liked seeing other peoples’ histories and stories, but I’m not sure it quite sat correctly with me and that he would be getting credit for what they’ve actually done in the past.  Then again, Eric Kessels did manipulate the photographs and, if he hadn’t make these exhibits, they’d be lost to space and time.  Again, a tough question to figure out regarding right and wrong.

The different photographs that have been re-attributed.

The different photographs that have been re-attributed.


We also saw a photograph of the famous 1911 Hebron, Nebraska tornado that someone had taken.  Jill is from Nebraska so she knew of it immediately and it is a beautiful photograph.  Just utter desolation and very powerful.

As we left the exhibition, we were a little unsure whether we liked it or not.  We both feel strongly about artists doing their own art and having credit given to them.  However, a lot of this art would have been lost to the dump if not for these artist that found them, changed them, and kept them alive.

Is this really art?

Questions without answers.

Day 588 OUT OF Beijing: Xinhua has Decided that Bacon is the Cause of China’s Pollution!



Hazardous to all living creatures.

Hazardous to all living creatures.  From the app “Airpocalypse.”


Jill and I still have our WeChat accounts and are in contact with our friends back in Beijing.

One of them, Moeava, posted a wonderful article about the pollution in Beijing a day or two ago on WeChat Moments.  I’ve posted the article at the end of this blog.  For those that don’t know, WeChat Moments is sort of like Facebook’s Wall.  However, you can only see what your friends have posted and you can’t see other people’s posts or responses, if they aren’t your friends.   We wouldn’t want too much free speech or chance of an actual conversations between people, now would we?  This might lead to something called a more free society.

Perish the thought!

A side point: They’ve made it a felony, punishable with up to 3 years in jail, to have something you’ve posted re-posted 500 times or more.  This means, if something you post gets enough attention, you can go to jail.  Thankfully, I didn’t have enough readers or reposters of my blog or who knows what might have happened.

As you will see, the Xinhua News Agency, otherwise known as the mouthpiece for the government, stated that people smoking bacon is the actual cause of pollution in China.  Xinhua is famous for putting out false claims and absurd facts.  If anyone should be in jail for lying in a public forum, it is the people that own Xinhua and China Daily.

So, just imagine that smoking causes the insane amount of pollution in China.  Maybe it is just me but almost everyone in the rational world would have guessed it is because of too many cars, too much coal burning power plants, or because they keep using dynamite to blow apart mountain tops.  Why, you ask, do they blow apart these mountains?  So they can have more flat land to build apartment complexes that no one will ever live in.  Not that building massive apartments, all over China, might cause pollution from all the equipment used or the cement made to build the apartments?  Nah.  Nope.  Xinhua News Agency has declared it is because of people smoking bacon.

Another aside: China has over 64 million empty apartments, condos and houses right now.


If you think the housing market collapse of 2008 was bad, just wait about 3-5 years from now. and see what happens.  I’m not a Negative Nelly but I have a feeling there will be a housing collapse like no one has ever seen.

There is also massive real estate speculation overseas by Chinese investors.  Take a gander around San Francisco and look at the houses that are being bought, in cash, and you will see what I’m talking about.  One of our friends says a house, on her block in SF, just went for 3.2 million dollars a few months ago to a Chinese buyer.  This house is probably about 2,000 square feet and in a nice district but not worth 3.2 million dollars.

The house has sat dead empty with no renters or inhabitants since the investors bought it.

Of course, the tech money that is moving into SF is part of this but it isn’t enough to fuel it to the degree that it is raising prices.  This is also happening in NYC, Boston and Vancouver, Canada.

Back in China, the extreme wealthy, and the developers are building apartment complexes and no one is renting them out.  The owners and developers seem to believe that somehow, miraculously, the apartment prices will continue to rise and then people will rent them out when they are more expensive.

Being that 70 million apartments are empty and no one is even interested in renting them, I can’t imagine these immediately being full in a few years.

I also worry about the quality of these places.  Apartments that are just a few years old tend to look like they are 20 years old already.  I’ve been in some of the more expensive apartments (including ones that cost more than $9,000 USD a month) and they already look like they need repairs.  They have problems with hot and cold running water, drainage, and fixtures breaking.  I’m glad I didn’t live in a high rise as I’d be worried about them if an earthquake hits in Beijing.  And earthquakes do hit in Beijing.

There are also malls that sit empty, like the New South China Mall and whole cities that are dead quiet, other than a few thousand people, because there is no need for them.

However, the economic needs of the Chinese government push people to move into cities, to buy things they don’t need, and to spend money they don’t have.

Again, it sounds a lot like what happened in 2008 and I’m thinking that history is going to repeat.  I honestly don’t care who buys what, but I’d like to know that whomever is buying actually has sound currency that won’t evaporate the second it is questioned.  Heck, during our goodbye party, one of our friends couldn’t pay for his drinks because the ATM gave him counterfeit bills.  This was directly out of a Bank of China ATM.  And there is nothing he can do about it.

I hope I’m wrong but I’ve seen too many signs that point to this occurring and relatively soon.  Just be careful with your investments and what you are planning.  We could be in for some tough times ahead.


Smoking bacon is the cause of pollution in China.

Smoking bacon is the cause of pollution in China.


Day 584 OUT OF Beijing: Moving Around.


A view of downtown San Francisco from the deck from where we stayed one weekend.

A view of downtown San Francisco from the deck from where we stayed one weekend.


Since Jill and I have started to live the “vagabond” life, we’ve had to adjust to moving around already.

We’ve house sat for two different people, stayed in 4 different houses, and taken care of 4 different cats or dogs.

We will be heading back up to Petaluma, to stay with our friends, Randy and Alethea, and their son, Cyrus, for the next month or so.

It will be great to be able to relax and settle in more, go for runs in the morning, and just be in nature for a little bit.

We are giving a huge, “THANK YOU” to everyone that has allowed to us to stay at their place and will allow us to stay at their place.  It makes our life so much easier and hopefully we can repay you in some way.

We love staying in San Francisco, as it allowed us to get a lot of work done for Jill’s site, SF Tourism Tips, but it is also very stressful and hectic as she is on 24 hours a day since there there is always something more she can research, see or do while she is in SF.

We are planning on coming into SF about once a week, and if needed twice a week, so that we can continue to build the website but it won’t be as stressful or as hectic.

It will be a fantastic little break as we are still finding our way, and going through re-entry into the USA after being in China for the last 1.5 years.

It has been challenging, and yet great, to be back home especially without a car and without a home since we have so much freedom.

We didn’t realize how having this much freedom, mentally and physically, would be challenging and difficult.

It seems like it would be so simple but it isn’t.

Having to be your own boss can be very difficult and very freeing.

There are many options available to us and that can be confusing and frustrating.

Luckily, we work together to figure out what is best and when we start getting burnt out or feeling lost, the other brings us back into balance.

Off to catch the bus to Petaluma.

Have a wonderful Monday!

Day 583 OUT OF Beijing: The Beauty of Ocean Beach: Video.


A view from Ocean Beach towards the Farallon Islands.

A view from Ocean Beach towards the Farallon Islands.


Ocean Beach was truly gorgeous and a video seems to bring it all into light.

I hope you enjoy the peace, serenity and quiet that we enjoyed on Ocean Beach.

We also will never take for granted clean air, clean water, and a clean city with people that aren’t spitting all over the ground.

It is so nice to be able to walk around, have silence, and not hear people hacking up huge amounts of spit, and other stuff in their lungs, and then seeing them spit it out right in front of us.

It became a chore to walk outside as we had to ready ourselves for this constant onslaught of disgusting act happening wherever we went.

There were times when we just decided to stay inside our little apartment, hide from the horror of Beijing, and take solace.

Just one more freedom we have here that we didn’t have there.

And another reason we will never go back.



Day in 573 OUT OF Beijing: NSFWCF: Not Safe For Work Chinese Fashion.


Is this really what you want to wear out in public?  I guess so.

Is this really what you want to wear out in public? I guess so.


Happy New Year’s Day and I thought I’d start the year off with a laugh for everyone.

As you all know, a lot of people get tattoos with Chinese, or Japanese, characters on their bodies.

Most think they know what they are saying and think they are probably pretty macho or existential.

I refuse to ever get one since it isn’t my culture and it doesn’t really seem appropriate.

To each their own.

Also, I know people who have gotten script tattoos and then found out they don’t mean what they thought they meant.

There is way too much of a chance for that to happen and be stuck with something on your body that it incredibly painful to remove.

In China, from what I’ve seen, they tend to wear shirts that proclaim their inability to understand English and what is appropriate.

Now, I’m just guessing that these people, in general, have no clue what their clothes are trying to state.

I’ve also noticed it is almost always women wearing clothes with swear words.

The one guy I photographed spoke perfect English and knew exactly what his shirt had written on it.

Same with the woman wearing the, “Gay Okay!” shirt.  I told her I’d be putting in on social media and she said, “No problem!” I was pretty impressed with her speaking out and willingness to be heard.

Jill and I loved wandering around, seeing shirts like these, and just laughing at the absurdity of it all.  No matter how bad of a day we were having, little things like this made us smile and forget our troubles.




Day 572 OUT OF Beijing: Happy New Year’s Eve!


Goodbye Airpocalypse!

Goodbye Airpocalypse!


Jill and I have started our new life and are moving along swimmingly.

Today is New Year’s Eve and we are going to be celebrating with friends and doing a little salsa dancing.

We will probably drink a lot of champagne, eat amazing food, and have a truly incredible time since we are back home and things just feel “right” again.

We are definitely missing our friends back in Beijing and wishing them a wonderful New Year’s Day since they will have crossed the New Year’s Eve dateline before we do here.  We love you all and wish you were here to celebrate with us.

I have posted before about the Airpocalpyse app on my iPhone.

This will be the last time you, or I, see it since I deleted it.

I don’t plan on ever going back to Beijing, and I don’t want to be reminded of the pollution and conditions of living there, anymore.

Neither does Jill.

We are moving on to bigger and better things and want to focus on that.

I will be, however, writing a book about our experiences so we will be looking back at it.

But not right now.  Today is for the future and for enjoyment.

The air is clean in San Francisco and not a cloud in the sky.

Our website SF Tourism Tips is doing incredibly and we are working on our new site to help others live the life they want and figure out how to change what is in their way to being more content.

So, say goodbye to the Airpocalypse App.

Give it a good send off and a huge, “Thank you” for the laughs and the information that allowed Jill and me to figure out if we would leave our apartment on certain days or just stay home, order in, and watch Breaking Bad, 30 Rock or some movie that we’d have downloaded.

Happy New Years to all and I hope 2015 is the best year of your life so far.

I am sure it will be for Jill and me.


Day 560 OUT OF Beijing: Back in San Francisco!


The rainbow crosswalk in the Castro District.

The rainbow crosswalk in the Castro District.


Jill and I were supposed to fly into San Francisco on December 15th.

However, our flight was diverted to Oakland because of the storms and we weren’t able to land back in our “home” town.  We had some turbulence on the way down and yet the overall flight was fine.

This was actually a fitting end to our travels in, and out of, China as it has been an incredibly bumpy ride for the last 1.5 years.

Some of the high points:

Jill and I are engaged.   Hell, we met only 8 days before I moved to China so the fact that we even made it there is amazing enough.  But engaged?  Truly incredible.

I was able to help a lot of people in need of therapy and coaching.  I worked on some of the most high profile cases in Beijing.  If you look at the news of what happened, with expatriates living in China during the past 1.5 years, there is a decent chance I worked on the disaster and tragedies as a psychotherapist and a trauma specialist.

I worked with the most amazing co-workers and staff.  I was able, at any moment, to get support, knowledge, and whatever my clients, or I, needed to make sure the client had the best care possible.  The knowledge level at my company is amazing and the professionalism is beyond compare.  I’m honored to have spent 1.5 years with them and could not have wished for a better group of people to work for and with.

We made an amazing amount of friends and connections.  People inspired us to dream bigger and not settle for the norm.  It takes a special kind of person to survive, and thrive, in Beijing and our friends do that.

We were able to save a nice little nest egg for our future plans to travel around the USA and build our business at San Francisco Tourism Tips over the next year or so.  We are also going to be building a new website to help people live their dreams and take the road less traveled.

We were able to visit parts of China including Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Tianjin and see places out of history like The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, and The Terracotta Warriors.  These and many others will live on in our pictures, this blog, and our memories for the rest of our lives.

We also were able to visit Singapore, Malaysia, Mongolia, Turkey, and Greece.  Not a bad way to spend a year and a half.

Some of the bad points:

RAB (Richard Arden Bermudes) passed away while we were gone and we were not able to say goodbye in person. This will haunt me.

Jill’s grandmother passed away while we were gone and she wasn’t able to be there for the funeral and memorial.  She seems to be doing fine with it and was able to say her goodbyes before we left but I’m sure this still is upsetting to some degree.

As mentioned above, I worked on a lot of the major disasters that happened in Beijing during my stay.  This was incredibly positive because I could help a lot of people but it was also difficult because I saw so much grief and death in my 1.5 years.  From what I’ve been told, the 1.5 years I worked at my company saw as much emergency situations as anyone can remember.  And I always volunteered to help because I enjoyed doing it but it did wear me down.  However, I don’t regret one second of it.  I know I helped save peoples’ lives and helped them find a way out of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, psychosis and other very painful places.

Jill had a breast cancer scare and needed to get a biopsy.  This can be scary enough, living in the USA, but living in a foreign country makes it 10x worse. Everything turned out fine but it was still not an enjoyable experience.

Jill fell and hit her head and had a huge bruise for quite a while.  The amazing thing about Jill is that almost nothing gets her down.  She was able to laugh about what happened and let me write a few blogs and post pictures.  She is truly amazing.

This is just a short list of things that happened and I’m going to be writing a travelogue about them and others in the next year.

Jill and I sort of forgot all of these events as we drove into San Francisco with our dear friend, Alethea Bermudes and saw the Golden Gate Bridge rise out of the fog and clouds.

The Grateful Dead once sang, “What a long strange trip its been” and they were partially right because our long strange AND AMAZING trip has just begun.   It is past, present and future tense.

We both hope you continue along with us as we travel around the USA and then off to some foreign country to see what the future brings us next.


Day 559 OUT OF Beijing: The Flight Home.


The clouds above Seattle.

The clouds above Seattle.


Jill and I finished up saying goodbye to our friends and did the last bit of packing up.

We ended up giving away a lot of stuff and have decided to be as minimalist as possible.

We never really had much so it was a pretty easy decision.

We both came here with 2 check ins and our 2 carry on.

We are leaving with 1 check in and our 2 carry on.

Yep, after 1.5 years we only have 1 check in bag (less than 50 lbs) and one carry on.

I’m actually writing an ebook on how to minimize what you own and maximize your life and it should be out within the next two months.

It will be self-published and our the new site we are working on currently.

However, at this moment, we were focusing on getting to the airport, checking in, flying home, and starting our new life.

Our friend, Sarah Ting Ting Hou, set up a driver for us and it cost about $32 USD to drive us to the airport in a van door to door.  It takes about 45 minutes to get there so it was a great deal.

We then checked our bags, went through customs, and immigration and had our bags searched at three different locations (hey, I guess it is a good way to keep employment high in China if you have 10 people to do one person’s job).

After all that, we went to the vending machines and bought a few semi-cold beers.

We brought along our new gift from Peter and Gabrielle.  He is a statue that they bought us and we decided he would be out “gnome” that we’d go everywhere with and photograph him as if he is a real person. We decided to name him “Niubi Geme’r” (which means “Awesome Homey” in Chinese), and our two teddy bears, who were a wonderful surprise gift that the administrative assistant at my company, Emily, gave to us when we flew to Singapore.  We’ve named them “Pijiu” (which means “beer”) and “Bing” (which means “cold”) so we always have a “Cold beer” with us when we travel!


As you can see, Niubi Geme’r also likes cold beer so it is a perfect fit.

The flight took about 11 hours and it was a short lay over in Seattle.

Well, it was supposed to be a short lay over in Seattle.

However, the storms that have been pounding the West Coast made sure that our lay over was longer than anticipated.

It ended up being a 4.5 hour lay over and we had time to grab some nachos and beer.  It was perfect actually.

Our flight was then diverted into Oakland, into of San Francisco, because of the storms.

Our friend, Alethea, said she didn’t mind and would pick us up there instead of SFO and we just relaxed and flew on down.  We happened to sit by a very nice young man named Rafael who had just spent 6 months in China and had flown on the same flight as we did from Beijing.  We had a bit of conversation and then we all passed out for a a bit.

We landed without event and grabbed our baggage.  Alethea picked us up and we bought some wine, and a fantastic carnitas burrito at El Pueblo in Petaluma (where they live) and celebrated with her, her husband and my dear friend, Randy and their son, Cyrus.

It was, in my humble opinion, a perfect way to end our time in China and start our new lives here in SF.

Soon we are onto the rest of the USA, and after that, the rest of the world.



Day 558 OUT OF Beijing: The Last Supper (and breakfast).


Austin, Alex and Patrick and the rest of us doing a final cheers at Jing A Taproom.

Austin, Alex and Patrick and the rest of us doing a final cheers at Jing A Taproom.


Jill and I made so many friends during our 1.5 years in China that it is still hard for us to fathom it.

We were really lucky to be around such amazing people and have such a fantastic support system.

Living in Beijing is really difficult and it can be quite overwhelming.

The company I worked for has one psychotherapy department and it is in Beijing.

That says it all for me and Jill.

We were able to have a few goodbye dinners, and parties, and I am grateful for everyone that came.

I’ve decided to post a few pictures of them and our friends.

FYI, I gained about 20 lbs in the 1.5 years were we there.  I believe this happened because we ate and drank, a lot, with a lot of friends.  We also chose not to join a gym because we didn’t want to deal with going through the pollution to workout and then have to deal with it again to get home.  I stopped running because, after a day or two of nice weather, we’d have horrible pollution and it would basically set me back to the beginning and I just gave up.  These were our choices, and we own that, but it was a very difficult place to live.  If not for our friends, both at work and outside of work, it would have been even tougher and I doubt we would have stayed as long as we did.


Day 557 OUT OF Beijing: Precis Synchronicity.



Jill and I both grew up listening to The Police.

They had a fantastic album called Synchronicity.

Yes, I’m old, we had albums back then.

And cassette tapes.

And we had to walk up hill to school.

Both ways.

Without shoes.

Or with shoes made of cardboard.

And kids today just don’t understand how tough we had it.

But I digress.

As you all know, we left Beijing yesterday.

However, my friend, and amazingly talented person, Chris Stecher, just published Issue #5 of his online magazine, Precis.  His fantastic wife, Kat Tosi, encouraged him to start an online magazine and use his talents to make some thing very special.  He has accomplished that with style, grace and pure determination.

He used 3 of my blog posts in it and it actually was published the day we were leaving at 3 am.

The three posts are all from BEFORE I left the USA and were the “countdown” posts about moving to China.

They deal with saying goodbye, my dad’s growing dementia, and Leslie Mesones‘ doggies who I’ll also miss.

I have now said goodbye to everyone in China, landed in the USA, and am probably incredibly jet-lagged but happy beyond belief.

I write my blog posts in advance because I want to make sure I don’t miss any days.  So, I’ve now been home for a full day before this even goes out but I’m writing it on my last day, at 3 am, here in Beijing because I can’t sleep.

We will have left Beijing at 4 pm on Monday, December 15th.  We will have arrived in San Francisco at 5 pm on Monday, December 15th because of the time zone difference.  Synchronicity.

We’ll have traveled almost exactly the correct amount of time to take off and land at the same time on the same day.

It is almost like traveling in a time machine.

I’ll be posting about the flight and the landing soon enough.

For now, please do me a favor and read PRECIS and then go to the Facebook page and “like” it.  My posts are on page 19 and 20 but read it all.

Chris has done an amazing job with it and it his labor of love.

Please reward him and also comment about what you like.

His computer crashed 3 different times and he almost lost everything.  It was delayed for a week or so and he barely was able to get it all done.  I can’t believe how hard he worked and am so proud to be a part of this amazing magazine and to be his and Kat’s friend.

I’m blown away that I have an article published about my first getting ready to leave the USA and move to China on the exact day we are leaving China to come to the USA.

Precis Synchronicity.