October 2008

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10/31/08: So I didn't do many other updates during the month of October. About a week after coming back from Mexico, my mother died. Me, my brother and sister were estranged from her and hadn't spoken to her in about 6 years. It's a complicated and long story, but suffice to say, that chapter is over. In a nutshell, she died of cancer, she did not suffer, and her children have vowed to always remember the best of who she was and let her memory be a positive one. I know that I will always carry around the best parts of her and am grateful for the lessons I learned from her in life. I sincerely pray that she is now at peace and in a better place. I love you Mom.

I will update the memorial section of my website in time.

Diane V. Ruggerio (Brolli) (Penziner)

Diane V. Ruggiero, 64

DANVERS — Diane Virginia (Brolli) Ruggiero, 64, of Danvers and formerly of West Peabody, died Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008 at the Beverly Hospital after a brief illness. She was the wife of Walter L. Ruggiero.

She was born in Glenridge, N.J. on March 27, 1944, the daughter of the late Edward and Virginia (Juliana) Brolli and was raised there before moving to the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts.

She was a graduate of the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. She later moved to Marshfield and then to Peabody for many years and resided in Danvers for the past four years. She was a special needs teacher with the North Shore ARC in Danvers for 25 years. She loved dolls and teddy bears and had a large doll collection.

Surviving her besides her husband of 19 years marriage are two sons, Scott Penziner of California and Timothy Penziner of Wakefield; a daughter, Virginia Penziner of Salem; a grandchild, Seth Penziner of Wakefield; her step children, John Ruggiero of Revere and Walter Ruggiero II of Peabody, and the late James Ruggiero; her step grandchildren, Lily, Joseph and John and Anthony Ruggiero all of Revere.

ARRANGEMENTS: A visitation will be held on Wednesday from 8 until 8:30 a.m. at the Conway, Cahill-Brodeur Funeral Home at the 82 Lynn St., Peabody facility followed by a funeral Mass in St. Agnes Church, Middleton at 9 a.m. Burial will be in Walnut Grove Cemetery, Danvers.

10/05/08: So, I'm back from my vacation to La Paz, Mexico with Kevin Barnes and yes, we had a great time!!! If you'd like to see more picts of the trip (We have a TON of 'em), please visit the photo album section of Kevin's Facebook page! Hehehe, OK, let's see what I can remember :)

So on Saturday morning I flew from SFO to LAX and then to La Paz. On my last leg of the journey out there, I sat next to a nice guy by the name of Scott Ohara. He was just returning from a trip out to Europe and was flying into La Paz where he and his wife have a place. We had a nice chat and he gave me some great tips on places to eat at and to check out. Once we touched down, I started chatting w/the people behind us and it turns out that Alan and Christine were also staying at the Hotel El Moro where I was staying. They had a car and offered me a ride there, which I gratefully accepted and soon after landing, off we went into town!

The drive from the airport to La Paz only takes about 20 minutes, which is nice. We drove through town, taking in some of the local sights on the Malecon (the main street that runs along the ocean and is the boardwalk of the town), before arriving at the hotel.

View from our hotel room

We quickly got checked in by the staff and after stowing our luggage in our respective rooms, met up again to head off to the grocery store to do a little shopping. Since each of the rooms has a full kitchen, we decided to stock up on some local provisions. I got some milk, sugar, coffee, rum, 7-up, cookies, chips, bananas, crackers and canned tuna. LOL their tuna is awesome, as you can buy it with jalapeno's already mixed in. Put that on a cracker and you have a tasty snack! (and I brought a dozen cans home w/me :) We then headed back to the hotel. A lil while later, I wandered next store to a very local restaurant Mayeo's. The place is outside under a tent w/a dirt floor and everything they serve is seafood based. It was definitely a local hangout and the entire menu was in spanish. LOL well my 5 years of French weren't doing me too well, so I picked out a couple of dishes (figured I'd take one back to the room for Kevin) and got them to go. Turns out, I picked well, and got to enjoy a really nice lunch! For the rest of the afternoon, I hung out by the pool and the bar (with the awesome bartender Sergio), until Kevin arrived around 9:00 PM. We would end up putting down a couple of Pina Colada's before turning in for the evening.

Penz enjoying his first (or was that 3rd beer?) in Mexico at the hotel bar by the pool
(pict taken with iPhone)

On Sunday morning, we got up and had breakfast at the hotel's little restaurant. The food was tasty (I had the divorced mexican eggs which was 2 eggs over easy served with red and green chile sauces) but the service was super slow. It took us 30 min just to get our food. But afterwards, we decided to walk into town and do some exploring.

LOL rule #1 when on vacation, put on sunscreen and wear comfortable shoes. Hehehe, we both wore flip flops and forgot to put on sunscreen and after 3+ hours of walking, we regretted that :P But all that aside, we had a fun time walking about 5 miles in 97' 70% humidity weather (LOL yes, I was drenched by the end of it). The Malecon is the main boardwalk that runs along the water and it seems to be a fairly recent project for the city. It's very well lit during the evening and is lined with sculptures and plenty of benches for seating. It makes for a wonderful place to take a morning or evening stroll and many of the locals enjoy it just as much as us tourists do.

Kevin on the Malecon, heading downtown into La Paz

View of the Malecon strip from the South end (not too far from our hotel)

"Mujer en Nautilus" (Woman in Shell)

One of the many nice places to take a siesta along the Malecon

After our initial exploration of the city, we'd head back to the hotel, freshen up (a dip in the pool and then a shower) and then we went next door for lunch. LOL having Kevin with me this time, we were able to navigate the menu a little easier and we enjoyed a tasty lunch. LOL we even ran into Scott Ohara of whom I sat next to on the plane :) That evening, under the recommendation of our local hotel bartender Sergio, we went to dinner at Las Brisas Del Mar, which was about 3 blocks away from the hotel. We'd end up having a wonderful dinner there. I had a very tasty steak while Kevin enjoyed a grilled fish in garlic that was simply delicious! This was definitely a bit more of an upscale restaurant with more American style prices and service, but it was well worth it and a great way to end up the day.

On Monday morning at 8:15, we were picked up out front of the hotel by a taxi and about 8 minutes later, we pulled into La Concha Resort where at the back of it we were dropped off at the Cortez Dive Shop. We were met by Ricardo who got our paper work finished and then we met Carlos and Nelsen, who would be our captain and dive master for the rest of the week. This lil operation was wonderful to deal with and certainly helped make our stay that much more fun. Kevin and I were very grateful to have stumbled across these guys!

On our first day out, we'd meet Gail and Suzy Good from Steamboat Springs, CO, Jane and Gary Hansom (Scotlander's who now live in London), and crew of 4 from Sweden. We would end diving with this crew for the remainder of the week, and they were all terrific! That is a HUGE deal when you are 'stuck' on a boat with a bunch of people for about 7 hours because just 1 annoying person and ruin/take away from the experience. Happily, they all rocked! On this day, we'd dive the entire day at La Reina (means The Queen), where we'd dive with the Sea Lions (awesome) and get to see dolphins on the way back!

The crest of the reef which marks La Reina, home of many sea lions :)

iPhone capture of the pod dolphins which swam alongside the boat for a few minutes :)

After our dive, it was back to the dock around 2:30 PM where we'd make friends with our two local bartenders. LOL it would end up being a pretty funny evening as we all got pretty damn hammered drinking margaritas, pina colada's, beer and eating some tasty burgers and wings. Towards the end of the night I even almost started a bar fight with some douche bag named Josh (an expatriated American who moved to La Paz and is trying to compensate for his tiny penis by buying property, talking about the many girls he has, and trying to sell real estate to tourists). LOL I got so fed up with him that I asked him to leave our group along and that turned into short conversation where he threatened to call the local police. Kevin got up and tried to talk some sense into him before I kicked his ass, and happily after feigning a call to the police, he tucked tail and left. ROFL, have to have a lil drama in paradise eh? To end up this fun evening, Gail ended up driving me and Kevin back to our hotel, which was awesome :)

Kevin and Gary at the bar by the dock where we ended up each day diving!
(pict taken with iPhone)

The next morning, the gods smiled upon us and blessed us with no hangover, so off to day 2 of diving. We'd dive Los Ishotes which is a sea lion sanctuary and that was freaking amazing. Afterwards, it was off to dive the wreck of Fain Ming, where I got play with a baby octopus during the last few minutes of the dive and that was awesome! That evening, Gail, Suzy, Gary, Kevin and I would all meet up for dinner at La Patron restaurant. We'd share a tasty meal together and just have a fun time swapping stories of our life's adventures. I tell you, we had a very well traveled group of people at that table and the stories that Gail and Suzy shared with us were just awesome. They are a wonderful couple of whom I hope we cross paths with again :)

Penz having another awesome moment blowing bubbles!

Day 3 of diving took us out to Bajo where we'd get our first glimpse of the hammer head sharks.. This time of year marks the very beginning of the season of when you can hope/expect to see the sharks, so we were hopeful to get to see them. Well, mother nature didn't disappoint, and after diving down to about 110' and then slowly coming back up, we all got to see a group of 5 hammerhead sharks on this dive into the big blue waters. Even though it was only for a few seconds, it was nice. After that dive, it was off to do another wreck dove on the Salvatierra. After the dive, we had a few drinks and bid farewell to Gail and Suzy as their holiday was over :( We had a great time with them, but happily, we still had Jane and Geary to hand out with :)

Penz and Kevin on the boat after a dive

A group of playful sea lions waving hello!

Kevin back on board after a dive
(pict taken with iPhone)

Heheeh, for dinner that night, Jane, Gary, Kevin and I all went to Bandito's where we enjoyed some tasty cocktails, wings, and ended up eating each others hamburgers (LOL our very cute waiter Rueben ended up mixing up our orders!). It made for a fun night.

Jane and Gary Hansom, our Scottish friends from London!

Kevin and Penz enjoying the sunset

Day 4 of diving took us back to Bajo for another shot at seeing the hammerhead sharks. Some got to see 5, I only got to see one, and we cut that dive pretty short since there wasn't much to see. What would be our last dive for me and Kevin was an awesome reef dive. We were swimming through some HUGE schools of fish which was a lot of fun and even found a small group of sea lions who wanted to play with us. It was a great last dive.

Penz and Kevin on their last dive in La Paz. Look at all the fishes!

That night, Gary & Jane met up with us and we went for dinner at a little local restaurant called Rancho Viejo. This cantina was a wonderful recommendation for dinner and we have a great meal, including some very strong margaritas, some delicious pork and beef tacos and our favorite which was a potato stuffed with cheese, mushrooms and topped with pork or beef. YUMMY!

Friday was our last full day in La Paz, so after a lazy start to the morning, Kevin and I headed into town and rented a car for the day from Alamo ($48, all insurance/taxes included). We cruised around town for a wee bit and then headed North. We drove through Ichilingue, Balandra and Tecolote.

Under the recommendation of Canadian guy who Kevin met on his flight out, we stopped at a little beach side restaurant called Playa Pichilingue for lunch. We were the first ones there (it was only 11 AM) and I think they opened the kitchen for us and cooked us up 2 orders of "happy shrimp'. Basically, take 5 jumbo shrimp, butterfly them, stuff them with cheese, wrap them in bacon and then grill 'elm up. Hehehehe, yeah, damn tasty.

After lunch, we continued up the road, heading towards Tecolate. The terrain around us reminded me of driving through Arizona, very rocky, dry and full of cactus, but unlike AZ, this road dead ended at the ocean :) We made a stop a this little beach first and it was pretty sweet. A small inlet just off the Sea of Cortez

We'd end up skinny dipping here under the stars on our last night in town!

and after that, we'd drive a few more minutes to where the road dead ended at the ocean! There we found a couple of bars and a little restaurant and we decided that this is where we'd spend our last night! We then slowly made our way back to the hotel for a little siesta before heading out for the night.

Penz at the Tecolote beach!

Around 5:30, we picked up Gary and Jane from their condo and we started North towards Tecolate. We pulled over to the side of the road and climbed a small cactus filled hill to snap a few shots of the sunset. Not too shabyy, eh?

After that, we continued on down the road, ended up at the beach where we'd have a fantastic dinner together. Great drinks, wonderfully fresh and tastily prepared fish, and fantastic company were then enhanced by sitting by the ocean under a sky full of stars. After dinner, we took a nice little swim in the ocean before packing up and heading back down the road to that little lagoon mentioned earlier. There, we found an even better atmosphere, because there were no lights from the restaurant. Just a star filled sky with a beautiful moon, eighty degree water filled with phosphorescent plankton/bacteria that sparkled like fireflies when you moved through it. LOL I said, screw this, I'm going skinny dipping and took off my trunks. Heheh, Jane and Kevin followed suit, and so there we were, skinny dipping in the Sea of Cortez for about an hour. What a fantastic way to end up our trip!

Penz, Kevin, Gary and Jane enjoying their last dinner together in Mexico

And on Saturday, the vacation ended. I dropped Kevin off at the airport around 7:30 AM and was really sad to see him go. I then drove back into town, returned the rental car and walked back to the hotel. I took a nap for a bit, packed up and a few hours later, headed out. It was a fantastic trip, and one that I shall not soon forget!

If you'd like to see more picts of the trip (We have a TON of 'em), please visit the photo album section of Kevin's Facebook page!


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