A Tale of Two Pizza’s

The choice is thick or thin. Families have been at stalemate for centuries with knife and fork in hand.

The thing to know about pizza is that there is no middle ground for thick or thin. As you read this, you already know your favorite style. Unless God forbid, you are a carb counting, card-carrying, cauliflower crust loving Karen! If that’s you, go ahead and stop reading now.


For the rest of us, we want flavor. We like cheese, especially for Americans; we want every topping, including the kitchen sink on our pizza. I mean, can you really be a Fun-guy without mushrooms?
For me, I’ve always favored thick crust, double mozzarella, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, and dare I say it… pineapple. Yep there it is. Perfection.


During a recent trip up North, I started daydreaming about pizza. I messaged friends who I know live or have lived in Chicago, asking for authentic deep-dish pizza location recommendations. They all messaged back with the name Lou Malnati’s. With an honorable mention, they named Giordanos as their second choice.
From where I was in Michigan, I charted my course to the Windy City. It was three states and two hours away. With a full tank of gas and an address plugged into my GPS, I was on my way.

Peroni Italian Beer


Chicago signage has a sense of nostalgia. Maybe it reminded me of the way Hollywood portrays the strong economic era before the 2nd World War. Strong, confident, and welcoming. The sign to Malnati’s is no different. It beckoned me from across the street as soon as I saw it.


I was that guy. I was the hungry guy who followed my nose through the front door. My timing was perfect. It was that sweet spot between lunch and dinner. Lucky me, they had a table at their rollup glass garage door. On a 1-10 level of food excitement, I was a 10. So excited that I ordered two pizzas. I wanted to experience all of it.

Two authentic Chicago Deep Dish pizzas


The uniqueness of Lou’s is the Butter Crust. It coats your fingers and prepares your tastebuds for the boldness of the pie. I chose “The Malnati.” The sausage had a little kick that made my nose run before I finished my first slice; thats a good thing. Along with the vine tomato sauce and extra cheese, it would be hard to beat. My second pizza choice was “The Lou,” named after the founder. In my opinion, this is an excellent complement to the first pie. The three kinds of cheese bridged the void from the plate to my mouth. Add the flavor of spinach, garlic, basil, onion, mushrooms, and sliced tomatoes!!! Yes, please.
I washed everything down with an Italian beer and took in the moment. I was sitting in Chicago and happy in a food coma on deep-dish pizza.

Your turn, what and where is your favorite pizza?

Hola Chica

Songs to Strip By, Part 2, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Making new friends with guns. I woke rested and eager to get to the boat, but first thing first, breakfast!

Songs to Strip By, Part 2, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Making new friends with guns.

I woke rested and eager to get to the boat, but first thing first, breakfast! The hotel provided a traditional Caribbean breakfast with lots of fruits and juices, and I was in heaven. Looking like a Hollywood American, I rushed into the lobby. With my aviator sunglasses covering my eyes and a piece of toast hanging out of my mouth, I darted for the main entrance to grab a taxi. Steps away from the door, I hear the concierge call out, “Capitan!”, “a message!”

Day Two, Track Four: 2018’s song, Nice For What by Drake

Waiting outside was my driver in what looked like a very well kept Louis Vuitton hat and a big smile from ear to ear. His task was to spend the day showing me the city of Santo Domingo until we were called to the marina.
Our first stop was the Amber Museum, an educational location with lots of cool pieces of… amber. It was wild to see historic insects and critters frozen in this hard sap.

Day Two, Track Five: 1996’s song Pony by Ginuwine

The second stop was at the county’s capital building. It seemed my driver knew everyone in the city. We found a restaurant across the street and had lunch with a few of the guards.
With a full belly of Locrio de Pollo and a few Presidente cerveza’s to wash it down, we headed onward. Then the next stop was something I would never have imagined and honestly didn’t know in the Dominican Republic.

Columbus’s ashes

The Faro a Colon, Christopher Columbus Lighthouse. It could be the famous or infamous explorers’ final resting place. A tomb with what I can describe as a seafarer’s chest sits encircled at the intersection of a massive cruciform. Inside the chest are the ashes that some say are ol’ Chris. Each October, the chest is opened for a few moments to reveal the contents.

Day Two, Track Six: 2019’s song La Romana by Bad Bunny feat. El Alfa

As the sun was setting, I was under the impression that the boat would once again not be arriving, if there was even a boat at all.

Presidente Cerveza

Intermission… enjoy the track Unforgettable from French Montana featuring Swae Lee.

The sun dipped behind the mountains, and Leo, the driver, had an outdoor sports bar in mind for a few cold beers off the clock. Thunder rumbled in the distance as we walked up and grabbed a picnic table outside. This storm plays a vital role later in the night. The smell of food grilling nearby teases my appetite. Halfway through the first beer is when the rain hit, and we ran for the Escalade! “I know where we’ll go,” Leo said as we pulled out of the parking lot.

Track Ocho: 2017’s Swalla by Jason Derulo feat. Nicki Minaj

To be continued… next, the Brazilian woman who stole my heart but not my wallet in the brothel.

Music to Strip by

There I was, minding my own company when I found myself in the middle of an electrical storm in the Dominican Republic, sitting in a brothel.

There I was, minding my own company when I found myself in the middle of an electrical storm in the Dominican Republic, sitting in a brothel. Not by choice, but that’s where business was taking place. Let me explain the events that lead me here, and the lady over my right shoulder playing Angry Birds on her mobile phone.

DAY 1– Track one: 1989’s Wicked Game by Chris Isaak


Twice in my Captain’s career, I have been asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. One was for a boat out of Hilton Head, South Carolina. The other was for a yacht and owner that I never saw.

A yacht representative contacted me to discuss a short term contract as a fill-in Captain. My duties would be to babysit a new pleasure yacht and the crew for a long weekend in the Caribbean. We agreed on terms, and I was scheduled to fly out of Miami and into Santo Domingo in two weeks.


Track Two: 1978’s Roxanne by The Police


The day of the flight felt stressfree, and I was lucky enough to find an attractive Russian ballerina in the seat beside me for the flight. We chatted, and I tried to impress her with the few Russian words that I have picked up on trips to Moscow years pasted. During deboarding the plane and going through customs, she walked with me and chatted until we grabbed our bags, said our goodbyes, and went looking for our rides. My driver could not hide even if he tried. He was the tallest guy in the waiting area and had a printed sign which said, ” CAPTAIN G.”

Track Three: 1990’s Cherry Pie by Warrant


Once in the vehicle, which was a new blacked-out Escalade, he notified me that there was a change in the plan due to the Yacht not being in port yet, and arrangments had been made for me at a hotel downtown.
At the hotel, he shared with me that the owner said to enjoy my night, and we would see how tomorrow morning goes. As he was handing me my duffel bag, I noticed he was packing a pistol. I have been around enough to know that I was still on the good side of his hand cannon. Hands were shaken, and into the hotel, I went.

Next week I will explain how, on Day 2, Amber jewelry and Columbus’s ashes were within my reach.

Rosslyn

Not far outside of Edinburgh, Scottland is the historic Rosslyn Chapel. This beautiful chapel was built in the 1400s and had craftsmen and artisans working long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Admission for one

In 2016 I visited Scottland for the first time and had Rosslyn Chapel as one of the must-see locations on my list. The Tom Hanks movie, The Da Vinci Code, brought a wave of interest to the area. However, the reason I wanted to visit the location was different. My fraternity has long-standing ties to this remarkable building. So long in fact that they were there helping to build it.

After the general tour, I had the honor of receiving a private tour around the grounds and through the chapel. It is tough to put into words the feeling that day as I walked around and saw the marks of my brothers. Men who I do not know but share a bond.

Always watching.

The day was perfect. The crowd was lite. And I tried to breathe in all that I possibly could. To imagine skilled persons using their hands to craft those beautiful components without the tools that we use today blows my mind. No computers were used, no calculators, no Monster energy drinks, no Amazon Prime delivering parts, not even drones to take selfies!

Anytime I get the chance to visit a historic location of architecture I’ll take it. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing. Do you have any locations that mesmerized you?

The Power of Sharing

This project is giving me purpose. I didn’t realize how sharing could mean so much to so many.

This is the second year of opening the catamaran up for fellow travelers to visit and stay. Sapphire Catamaran has welcomed people from 9 countries and counting. Each guest has brought a little piece of warmth and life to this floating abode.
When the concept of sharing my space to strangers took a foothold in my mind, I honestly had mixed feelings about the “what if’s.” Eventually, the pros outweighed the cons, and I pulled the trigger.

The first step was to create an account on CouchSurfing. That one little bitty click on the word, SAVE, changed everything. It wasn’t long before I was receiving messages from strangers looking for a host. Bouncing calendar dates and geographic locations via the CS app, emails, and Whatsapp was part of the fun.

On June the 1st, the first real traveler arrived on the catamaran. She was this big smile in front of an Australian accent. By now, we all know how that turned out. Natalie has become a permanent fixture in regards to growing Aquatramp.com.

Natalie’s favorite place is the trampoline.

She hasn’t been the only person to bring encouragement. Lots of people are in awe that there are communities around the world that live on boats. One of the funniest questions I get is, “but where do you really live?” Questions aren’t the only thing friends bring to the boat; they bring food recipes! We have had culinary moments of enlightenment when people from around the world taste a food for the first time right here. On a side note, that gave me the idea to paint the galley countertops with chalkboard paint. Now, when a dish is served from the counter, we can write the proper and slang name of what the food is called in their native tongue.

Jenniffer from Ecuador cutting toppings for pizza night.

We are all looking for something, myself included. Maybe I’m seeking a big family that I never had. A benefit that I have noticed is the sense of peace. A few people have found the comfort of spending time sitting up on the bow with the fresh air and stars overhead to resolve questions from their own life journey. I can respect that personal time to the fullest. The best compliments I’ve received are from the messages I get from guests who made life-changing decisions while here.

Pierre from France, wondering why we won’t let him play music on the boat stereo.

Traveling has changed me as a person over the years. I was 17 years old when I joined the US Navy. The opportunities I had to visit countries like Iceland, Spain, Italy, Puerto Rico, will continue to be worth their weight in gold. Now I’m learning the other side of travel and of being a host. I’m hoping friends will look back in 20 years from now and remember the catamaran and the Captain who said the word “because” in a funny accent.

The choice was made, and I’m glad I did for many reasons. This year is looking like it will be even busier for welcoming travelers. I can’t change the world, but I can change the way I look at it.

Here is your invitation to join us!

Iceberg Dead Ahead!

My original feelings for Northern Ireland changed the moment I stepped off the train.

Like most travelers, I suppose my ideas of Belfast were from the movies and television. I really didn’t know what to expect as my train crossed the border from Ireland to Northern Ireland. This article isn’t about politics, religion, or other troubles that may be woven through the soil from history, but of the great people and food, I found while on my short trip.

On a train from Dublin, Ireland to Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.

What I did know before my arrival in Belfast was that I had made reservations at the most bombed hotel in the world! Yeah, you read that correctly. The Europa Hotel in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is said to be the most bombed hotel in the world, and I had a room facing the street.
As I walked through the front door, the elegance of the grand room surprised me. I’m not sure what’s in the water there, but every single person in that city was attractive. However, I do know what was in the water there many years ago.

The Europa Belfast Hotel.


The RMS Titanic was built here for the famous White Star Line Company. We all know how this luxurious British passenger ship allegedly met her doom in the North Atlantic, Iceberg 1 – Titanic 0.
Still partly hungover from my stay in Dublin, I asked the knockout who checked me in where I could find dinner and a pub afterward. She directed me to the Flame restaurant. There I murdered a three-course meal like it was my last supper.

First of a three-course dinner at Flame Restaurant.


At that time of year, the sun sets late in the evening and gave me plenty of time to walk to a Pub named Kelly’s Cellars.
A person never knows when they are going to make friends. Before my first pint arrived, I was asked to join strangers at their table. Aisling and her husband told me stories of their beautiful city and what it was like growing up in Northern Ireland. One pint led to another, and more friends were made and joined the table. I couldn’t have planned a better night. We kept the bartenders busy at Kelly’s that night, up until they closed and ran us out.

New friends in Belfast. We drank enough to float RMS Titanic back to the surface.


The next day brought rain and a slightly uneasy feeling seeing military-style vehicles in the city gathering. The locals said not to worry and to stay away from places I shouldn’t go. Wait… what? I opted for a Black Cab tour of the city. It seems safe, right?
The hotel arranged the tour. As the registered Famous Black Cab arrived, the hotel doorman wished me a good day. In the cab, the driver took me around the city, showing me points of historical interest. He seemed neutral and didn’t tell story’s favoring one side or the other. I noticed a huge pile of fresh wood built into what would be a public bonfire. Asking the driver, he told the reason, and I quickly understood why the military-style enforcements were gathering. None of my business I told myself.
All in all, it was a great trip. I didn’t see Senad O’conner or the sets for Game of Thrones, not even Liam Neeson. But it was still a place that I will cherish memories from.