Tuesday, March 19, 2019

El Calafate Day 1 part 2

We then hiked to the lake and a boat took us to the glacier. While gazing up at the seventy-meter-high ice cliffs, (2,100 feet) I enjoyed a glass of 12-yr-old scotch chilled by 400-yr-old ice. Yes, we got close enough to an iceberg to chip off some ice for our drinks. 

Luckily the sun came out and the temps rose for our tour of the glaciers. What can I say about that amazing wall of ice? Magnificent. Stunning. Awe inspiring. All that and more. We were up close and saw ice chunks much bigger than our house break off. The calving was spectacular. Each one sounded like a cannon going off. 
This picture was taken from several miles away. To give some perspective, that little speck of a boat down there holds two to three hundred people. 

One of the most striking features of the ice fields is the lovely blue color of the ice. Apparently the ice sheets absorb the sun’s rays and only refract the blue light waves. It’s amazingly beautiful.

Monday, March 18, 2019

El Calafate Day 1. part one

One of the best days of our trip so far. An okay breakfast followed by being picked up at 9am by a driver and guide. We were to have a private tour, unlike the hordes of other tourists sandwiched in big vans and buses. We first drove to a private ranch where we witnessed a sheep shearing. Very interesting. The ranch was once a huge sheep spread, but now only maintain enough sheep to do a brisk tourist trade.

We were then treated to a lunch of grilled lamb (killed on the ranch) and a whole bottle of lovely Malbec wine. A fantastic meal, and the lamb was some of the best tasting meat I’ve ever had. Of course, true to form, I got drunk on the wine and paid for it that night—sleepless with much tossing and turning. 

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Patagonia, Chile Day 3

A wonderful morning of horseback riding. We drove thirty minutes to an estancia (ranch) where H and I, two girls from Denmark, and two guides mounted sturdy little horses and rode through the hills to a lovely lagoon (lake) and back. We saw a variety of birds, including conddors, black-headed Swans, and woodpeckers. We also saw animals: rabbits, a fox, and plenty of cows.

The ride was tons of fun. The gauchos called my horse lazy and hard to get going, but I had no problem controlling her. When I wanted to run she was game and gave me a good fast romp a few times. Only once did I feel I might be thrown. Even then I just held on and let her run, We rode for three hours. After, once I was standing on my feet again,  I found it difficult to walk. 

Back at the ranch house, the gauchos cooked us a traditional lamb soup. Simple but very tasty. I loved eating with them. Then we spent a few hours in town—which is a typical tourist town—before walking back to the hotel.

good morning of horseback riding in the valley. 

Three hours on a horse can take a toll on your body.

Fly. A great worker at herding cows.

The gauchos shared their lunch of lamb soup with us after the ride.

Puerto Natales, the gateway to the Chilean Patagonia, where we end our visit to Chile.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

I am pleased to announce the release of my latest novel, Surviving Immortality. The story’s premise and its characters knocked about my head for three years before I ever put pen to paper. It started when I began studying what I believe are man’s most negative traits: lying, greed, and lust for violence. I wanted to explore these traits in story form, and I eventually got the idea of pitting these attributes against each other to see which is the most destructive.

The tale pits man’s greed against gun violence while wrapping the movement of the characters in a web of lies and half-truths hidden in chilling truths. By the time I finished I was surprised to find I had created an action thriller that pits innocence and integrity against unspeakable evil, all riding on the shoulders of a love story.

It’s the saga of a man who discovers the fountain of youth, a formula that will make old people decades younger and keep people youthful and healthy for several thousand years. But he tells the world he will not divulge his formula until every gun, tank, battleship and bomb has been destroyed. When the world is free of all weapons, then everyone will live forever. And then he goes into hiding. Before he disappears, his gay stepson (the protagonist) accidently exposes himself to the treatment, becoming immortal. The stepfather takes his son into hiding with him. They become fugitives, carrying the most priceless gift in history.

But of course, not everything about the miracle formula or its inventor is what it seems. The innocent protagonist quickly becomes ensnared in a web of lies and half-truths, and he doesn’t know who to trust or which way to turn. 

In a world where humans must choose between security and immortality, which one will they collectively choose? The choice is not as simple as one would think. Which government will risk putting themselves at the mercy of all the other superpowers by abandoning their military might? Destroying nuclear war heads is one thing. Destroying all forms of defense is a whole different ballgame. And how many gun zealots would hand over their stash of AR-15s? And if not, would they organize and fight back in order to keep them? It’s a choice that could easily splinter our country and the entire world. 

On top of a planet torn apart by different factions, a chilling truth is uncovered… We are a species on the brink of an unprecedented environmental crisis. Climates are radically changing, forests are disappearing, lakes and rivers are being poisoned by pollution, our food is contaminated with lethal pesticides, and forty thousand species of plants and animals go extinct every year. That’s roughly one species every twelve minutes. And the worst case is the submarine disaster of oxygen-making plankton perishing in fouled seas. With current manufacturing and farming technologies, scientists agree this planet can comfortably support roughly four billion humans. We’ve now surpassed eight billion, and that number will skyrocket to twenty-one billion souls in the next twenty years. When that happens, famines will breed plagues to level the entire population. Wars over food and water will be the order of the day. Insects might survive, but not mammals, birds, fish, or amphibians. And certainly not humans. 

Our species is already racing toward annihilation due to over population. And to introduce immortality to eight billion souls at the current birth rate—with nobody dying to make room for new souls—would bring an end to civilization in the next few generations. Unless man changes his breeding habits, people living now could see the end of our civilization.

Surviving Immortality is a poignant commentary on human greed, mans’ lust for violence, and the effects our species is having on our environment. It’s a tale of a world gone crazy, driven to the brink of destruction by the promise of immortality, and of a gay man who realizes the courage, the will, and the compassion to combat the insanity, both within himself and outwardly. And as with all Alan Chin novels, there is a love interest. Along the protagonist’s journey, he finds more than he bargained for—a deep and abiding love that gives him strength during his darkest trials.

I’m very pleased to announce that my latest novel, Surviving Immortality, is now available in paperback and all eBook formats, at

Dreamspinner Press Publications https://tinyurl.com/y7kffs4a

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Patagonia, Chile Day 2

A great day of hiking. I was afraid that after two days of constipation and not much walking in the few months that I wouldn’t be able to complete a five-hour hike in this rugged terrain. But we both did wonderfully. I’m so proud of H., and of me as well. We started at 9am driving to a cave where the mylodon was discovered. It was a massive cave right out of my dreams. Then the hike began. Our guide Filipe didn’t have much faith in us, but he set a fast pace going up up the mountain and we hung with him step for step. U and up and up we hiked until my shirt and vest were literally wringing wet. We had a thirty minute lunch and then continued up to the top of a cliff were we got down on our bellies and peeked over the edge to see nesting condors below us. 
The view from the top was one of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen. Well worth the three-hour climb. The walk down was quick and we got to the car rendezvous forty minutes ahead of the car, telling us we hiked much faster than they guide thought we could manage. We rock.

We capped the night off by having rabbit for dinner. My god it was soooo good.  A good day.

View of the Mylodon Cave, where European settlers discovered the skin of a Mylodon in 1895.Also discovered in the cave were remnants of the saber tooth tiger, Macrauchenia, and an ancient horse.

The Mylodon Darwini was a large mammal that lived in this area of Magallanes between 14,500 and 10,000 years ago. An ancient relative of the modern day sloth that moved on all fours and weighed about a ton. 

This large coral like plant grows a millimeter a year.

Hiking through ancient caves formed by the melting of glaciers. 

We hiked about five hours, almost straight up at times, then a very steep hike down.This is us looking over a sheer cliff at the top. The drop is about fifteen hundred feet straight down.
Sometimes you can see condors nesting on the side of the cliff.  

Don’t get too close to the edge of you have the slightest bit of vertigo.

We hiked back down to a lake to wait for our ride back to the hotel.

And a last, well deserved rest with this spectacular view.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Patagonia, Chile

A great day of hiking and sightseeing in Patagonia. The country—mountains, lakes, planes, fjords—is both rugged and supremely beautiful. We did a two-hour hike looking for puma, and found only Guanacos (llamas) and condors and eagles. All lovely. The guide set a fast pace so we covered five or six miles. My legs were feeling the burn by the end, but not bad. But now my back is sore.

Our view of the peaks was limited by low cloud cover, but that was the only minor disappointment. It was very windy in a couple of areas but we didn’t let that slow us down. We also got rained on briefly but we hardly noticed because there was so much to see and experience. Highlights were the cloud-shrouded peaks, the glacier, the waterfall, and a lunch served picnic style. We had a ball and it was more than partly because our guide Jamie, a real cutie, was so damn nice.

We spotted a small eruption on one of the many active volcanos here in Chile.

And some unusual ice formations on the flight down.

We’re staying at a great all-inclusive property with great views of the mountains of Torres del Paine.Evening: First night here the food was fantastic: pulpo appetizer with lamb shank. Tonight, in lue of St. Valentines Day, they had a buffet. It was fucking mediocre buffet food. I’m paying $600 per night and they have the gall to serve me fucking buffet food! 

Lots of guancos here.

Very windy hike to a waterfall connecting two large lakes in Torres del Paine.

Small drifting icebergs that broke from the glacier.

Our guide leading us towards the cold wind.

The Magallanes. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

An Excerpt from Buddha's Bad Boys.

I’m very pleased to announce that my book, Buddha’s Bad Boys, an anthology of six short works, is available in paperback or any eBook format, at:

Bold Strokes Books http://tinyurl.com/pfe7dnl

Some of these stories are purely fictional, while others are based on real people and true events.

Blurb:There are many reason why Western men turn to Eastern religion—searching for inner truth, lost love, loneliness, fleeing the law, hopelessness, alcoholism. Some travel halfway around the world in an attempt to overcome their particular dissoluteness, only to realize that improving yourself is like polishing air. What they eventually discover, nevertheless, is one of the Buddha’s most significant lessons: enlightenment comes to those whose singular focus is on helping others less fortunate. 

Six stories, six troubled gay men trudging down the road to enlightenment. What they each find is that last thing in the world they expected.

The first story in this anthology is called Monk For A Monthand is about two men, Reece and Doug, are almost done with the “Monk for a Month” program at the temple in Chiang Mai, where they have been living like Buddhist monks. But on the same night that Reece finds that Doug is having an affair with another Thai monk, there is a murder lose in the town. Reece sees the killer hiding in the temple and goes about trying to help him escape the police. In the process, a love affair begins.

I sat at the bar sporting saffron robes and a shaved head, sipping a Singha beer and listening to the bartender, who was clearly agitated. I couldn’t tell whether the man was upset over the recent murders, or because the hard rain was hurting his business, or if he simply didn’t like serving alcohol to a monk, even a Caucasian one.

“His name Somchai,” the bartender said. He spoke English, but with the usual Thai singsong clip that I had come to adore. “He kill American expatriate named Warren. Tony Warren.”

I had seen a dead body only once, a gruesome spectacle. It took an effort to settle my nerves as the bartender glared at me, as if, also being an American, made me an accomplice. I had never learned the invaluable art of staying detached in the face of tragedy, of not identifying with the victim. I had no way to shield myself from the reality of how brutal humans can be to each other, what ruthless lengths they will go, and the pain they are capable of inflicting on each other.

Across the street, four soldiers trudged along in the rain.

“When did Somchai kill Warren?” I asked, my voice scarcely a whisper.

The bartender didn’t know exactly, sometime at the beginning of the afternoon that had now come to an end. At the same time that he killed Warren, Somchai had also slain Warren’s Thai girlfriend. Both victims had been found two hours earlier at the apartment belonging to Warren.

The barroom was already dark, due to the lateness of the hour and another power outage. Candles flickered on the bar and at each table; their yellow light mingled with the blueness of the dying day.

The shower stopped as suddenly as it had started, as it often does in Thailand.

“How old was she? The girlfriend I mean,” I asked.

“Very young. Nineteen.” Regret passed over the bartender’s face. “A real beauty.”

“I would like another Singha,” I said, “but I have no more money. Can I buy on credit?”

The bartender’s look of regret turned to disgust. As he walked away, a customer two stools over ordered beers for me and himself, and also shots of cheap Thai whiskey.

The bartender prepared our drinks while the customer moved to the stool beside mine. He introduced himself as Ty Poe, and did not shake my hand, as it is considered disrespectful to touch a monk. Poe was courteous, offering the customary waigesture of respect. He was somewhere in his forties, and had a smoking-induced cough. The polluted streets of Chiang Mai didn’t help his lungs any more than his chain-smoking, I thought. I gave him my name, Reece Jackson, and told him I was from America, San Francisco in fact.

“I overheard your talk about the murders.”

“Why haven’t they caught him yet?” I asked. “Chiang Mai’s a small town.”

“They have him trapped within the walls of the old city, but you should know how it is,” Poe grunted. “We’re talking about an American expatriate and his whore who got themselves killed by a homeless gay kid. I mean, there are limited resources available to the police department. The police force, as a rule, is not well trained. Officers have to buy their own uniforms, their own guns. They are poorly paid. Not much would be happening now except that this dead girl happens to be the daughter of an army major. The army is doing what they can but they do not know the town as well as Somchai.”

Poe was right, I thought. What could anyone reasonably expect of this situation? The unvarnished fact was that in this country, any given police station’s cases were ranked according to priority. And priority in Thailand had to do with wealth and status. Those on the low end of the spectrum were unlikely to receive much attention. And for a homeless gay kid with no family who happened to murder a bit of riff-raff, then it was probably the victim’s fault. Why bother figuring out all the sordid details?

I felt thankful that I came from a country where every death warranted respect, every victim merited justice, no matter how far down the social and economic ladder that victim might fall. At least I liked to believe that bit of hype.

The bartender placed the beers and shots before us. I lifted my shot in a toast to Poe and knocked my head back, taking the drink in one hot swallow. Poe stared at me in obvious surprise.

“I’ve never seen a monk do that,” Poe said.

“I’m not really a monk. My partner and I paid good money to enroll in the Monk-For-A-Month program here at Wat Phra Singh. He’s on some damned spiritual quest that I, frankly, don’t understand. Me, I’m just an IT geek along for the ride.”

“So you’re not alone,” Poe asked, exhaling a stream of smoke.

“Technically, no. But it often feels like I am.”

The bar stood only a few doors down from Tha Phae Square, which spread before one of the four main gates of the old city, and where two of the town’s chief avenues collided. The square was bordered by the city wall, built of ancient brick, and butted against by the city moat on the north and south sides. The top of the wall was wide enough to walk on, and just then a flock of children scampered along the wet brick, heedless of the danger of slipping. Among them ran Archer, my adopted son, also sporting a shaved head and wearing the saffron robes. The children looked down on the tourists who gathered in the square, clutching their umbrellas in case the rains returned.

It must be between six and seven in the evening, I thought.

Another shower started and people in the square ran for cover.

Archer hopped down the wall steps and dashed across the road like a fleeing deer. He entered the bar and huddled against me, giving Poe a cautious glance. Archer was a handsome seven-year-old with a round face that gave way to a large jaw and a brilliant set of teeth. He had an impishness and good humor in his eyes, and was strong for so young a boy. But what I admired most about him was his gentle and trusting disposition. Unlike most boys, he was incapable of hurting anything. His only flaw was that he was fathered by two gay men, which made him an outcast back home, someone to be pitied, stared at, whispered about, laughed at, and occasionally beaten up by his peers.

Strokes of lightning lit the sky, coming so close together that they seemed like a ceaseless illumination. The thunder was continuous. The noise burst like metal fireworks, and then would immediately rise again; its modulations grew less and less defined as the shower let up, until there was only the sound of rain striking paving stones.

“This rain will last all night,” Poe said, lighting another cigarette from the butt of his previous one.

Moments later, the shower stopped. Poe left his stool and pointed at the leaden sky, patched with massive blotches of somber gray so low that it seemed to brush the rooftops. “Don’t let that fool you.”