Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – February 3 - 10, 2019

Theatrical shows registered on the Better Lemons calendar!
For more shows visit our Calendar.
For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.

Two Trains Running at Matrix

The team behind last year's acclaimed Ovation, LADCC, and Stage Raw award-nominated production of August Wilson's “King Hedley II” returns to the Matrix with another installment of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright's “American Century Cycle” the playwright's decade-by-decade exploration of the black experience in 20th century America. It's 1969 in Pittsburgh's Hill District, where the regulars of Memphis Lee's restaurant struggle to cope with the turbulence of a world that is rapidly changing around them.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: CHILDREN OF THE SUN

Maxim Gorky's darkly comic play is set in Russia on the eve of the revolution. The country's new middle class flounders about, philosophizing and flirting, blind to their impending annihilation. Protasov wants only to immerse himself in his experiments and is oblivious to the advances of the half-crazed widow and his best friend's pursuit of his wife, let alone the cholera epidemic and the starving mob.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: GNIT

Meet Peter Gnit, a recklessly aspiring, self-deluded anti-hero. This twisted adaption of Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt is a rollicking and cautionary tale that challenges what we think we know about this classic character. At this unique moment in U.S. history, the questions and problems raised are alive with relevance.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: SWIMMERS

Coyotes evading police. Billboards predicting the end of the world. It's been a strange day at the office, and it's only 9 a.m. Moving floor by floor from the basement to the roof, scenes between employees in a corporate office explore the angst-ridden relationships between those that people often take most advantage of: their coworkers.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA

Young Proteus only has eyes for his hometown sweetheart, Julia. But one look at the beautiful Silvia on a trip to Milan changes everything. Now he's smitten with his best friend's lover and his sweetheart has no intention of going away quietly. Events spin out of control as romantic rivals face off in this wild comic tale.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: HOLY GHOSTS

Coleman Shedman arrives at the rural meeting house of a southern Pentecostal sect with a lawyer in tow, seeking to retrieve his runaway wife (and the possessions she has taken with her). But his wife, Nancy, is unwilling to forsake the love and protection of her new “husband,” the Reverend Obediah Buckhorn, and return to the brutal, hard-drinking Coleman. Rich with atmosphere and the feel of Southern rural life, the play blends humor and poignancy as it probes into the circumstances and stories of the various cult members.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: THE BUSYBODY

First performed in 1709, this brilliantly witty and fast-paced comedy follows the characters Miranda and Isabinda as they attempt to arrange marriages to the men they love. Meanwhile, the hapless “busy body” Marplot tries to help his friends, but his valiant efforts only succeed in leading them closer towards disaster.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE

Inspired by the painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's stunning musical masterpiece, merges past and present into beautiful, poignant truths about life, love and the creation of art. One of the most acclaimed musicals of our time, this moving study of the enigmatic painter, Georges Seurat, won a Pulitzer Prize and was nominated for an astounding 10 Tony Awards, including best musical.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: ROUGH MAGIC

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's action-adventure-fantasy conjures a mythical, magical meta-universe in which evil sorcerer Prospero steps out of the pages of Shakespeare's The Tempest and threatens death and destruction in modern-day Manhattan. To combat this supernatural foe, a quartet of unlikely heroes (including a dramaturg with magical powers) will emerge from the ashes to save the city and its citizens from complete and utter destruction.

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USC School of Dramatic Arts presents: QUEEN MARGARET

Margaret of Anjou becomes the central character of her own story in this edit of William Shakespeare's first tetralogy of history plays (Henry VI, Parts 1 -3; and Richard III). Intrigue, betrayal, romance and revenge play out as Margaret evolves from daughter to bride to queen to avenging warrior and grieving widow. Our BFA sophomores tell her tale of resilience, resolve and charisma.

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James and the Giant Peach

Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach features a wickedly tuneful score by the Tony & Academy Award-winning team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dear Evan Hansen, La La Land, The Greatest Showman)and a curiously quirky book by Timothy Allen McDonald...When James is sent by his conniving aunts to chop down their old fruit tree, he discovers a magic potion that results in a tremendous peach and launches a journey of enormous proportions.

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Ada and the Engine

As the British Industrial Revolution dawns, young Ada Byron Lovelace (daughter of the flamboyant and notorious Lord Byron) sees the boundless creative potential in the “analytic engines” of her friend and soul-mate, Charles Babbage, inventor of the first mechanical computer. Ada envisions a whole new world where art and information converge – a world she might not live to see. A music-laced story of love, friendship, and the edgiest dreams of the future. Jane Austen meets Steve Jobs in this poignant pre-tech romance heralding the computer age.

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Man Of God

A hidden discovery in a hotel bathroom changes the lives of four Korean American Christian girls on a mission trip to Thailand. Samantha is hurt that someone she trusted could betray her. Jen is worried about how this might affect her college applications. Kyung-Hwa thinks everyone should adjust their expectations. Mimi's out for blood. Amid the neon lights and go-go bars in Bangkok, the girls plot revenge in this funny, feminist thriller.

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Venus in Fur

Thomas Novachek is a playwright/director looking for the perfect actress to play the lead in his adaptation of Leopold Sacher Mashoch's novella, Venus in Furs. He hasn't had much luck and is ready to call it a day when a very late arrival bursts into the room in a wave of chaos. This actress appears to be the worst of a bad lot. Despite his protestations, she manages to cajole him into letting her read and from that point on the night veers into titillating and uncharted territory where Thomas' biases and desires are laid bare. Venus in Fur is about human relationships, gender power dynamics and the matrix of stereotypes and assumptions that root seeming subversions. Its dark comedy and sexually charged scenarios provide fertile soil for exploration of subconscious and culturally mired desires, motivations, and expectations.

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Othello

The Bard's most intimate of family tragedies about the terrible force of love and the breakdown of a man who has everything—power, position, and passion—only to find his world decimated through intense mind games with his ensign. Prescient in its searing social commentary of prejudice, betrayal, and thwarted ambition, Shakespeare's thunderous drama examines who we trust and the price we pay for choosing wrong.

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The Twins of GillyGate

We find our twins on the eve of their 18th birthday in the kingdom of GillyGate. One is set to take the throne while the other sits in her tower with only a dragon to keep her company. Unbeknownst to both, a prophecy is about to unfold much to the dismay of their uncle, Lord Grimbert, who will do anything to stop a woman from taking the throne with the help of his trusty talking high horse. A musical tale woven together by a misfit traveling ensemble, this show will take you back to the Ren Faire. Full of bawdy, drunken fun mixed with some good ol' audience interaction, this show is fun for your whole family!…well maybe not your kids.

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The Chekhov Comedies

See Chekhov as you have never seen him before! Combine 5 short comedies, 25 characters, and 4 female actors, and you get 1 night of hilarity!

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Little Shop of Horror

For the misfits of Skid Row, life is full of broken dreams and dead ends. Seymour Krelborn is a meek and dejected assistant at a floral shop who happens upon a strange plant, which he affectionately names “Audrey II” after his crush at the shop. Little does he know that this strange and unusual plant will develop a soulful R&B voice, a potty mouth, and an unquenchable thirst for human blood. As Audrey II grows bigger and meaner, the carnivorous plant promises limitless fame and fortune to Seymour, as long as he continues providing a fresh supply of blood ... Featuring an electrifying early 1960s-style score from Alan Menken and book and lyrics by Howard Ashman.

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Canyon

In a backyard deep within a canyon during Labor Day weekend 2016 — before everything in America changed — we meet a newlywed couple and a Mexican father and son as they all try their best to find a better view. IAMA Theatre Company partners with the Latino Theater Company to present an immersive staging of this driving new play that takes a look at what happens when two families are rocked by an unpredictable accident that changes their lives forever. A look at gender, citizenship, and the costs of trying to live a conventional American life

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Too Much Sun

The West Coast premiere of the acclaimed off-Broadway hit by Nicky Silver (Broadway's The Lyons). Celebrated actress Audrey Langham reaches her breaking point while rehearsing Medea in Chicago — walking off the stage, out of the production and into her married daughter's summer house in Cape Cod, where her unexpected and unwelcome arrival sets off a chain of events alternately hilarious and harrowing.

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Phalaris's Bull: Solving the Riddle of the Great Big World

Harvard-educated molecular biologist, visual artist and provocative visionary philosopher, Steven Friedman has the answers to life's big questions. Using personal narrative, poetry, art, and science, he delivers a spell-binding performance reflecting his prismatic, transformative and deeply consoling vision of the world. Friedman offers a solution to the worlds pain based not on belief or faith but on logical rigor a philosophy starting from Kierkegaards story of an ancient torture device, Phalariss bull, that turns the terrible sounds of pain into music. To create is to enter Phalariss bull, and our pain becomes beauty.

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On Retiring from a Life in the Theater

Tomorrow I'll pick up my final pay check. It's my “last day of service” at the great University of Southern California, where I've taught in the School of Dramatic Arts for 31 years.

I started as a simple adjunct instructor with a single improv class, and I ended up improvising my way to becoming a full-time “Associate Professor of Theater Practice”. Non- tenured… but still impressive in my parents' eyes, and not anything I could have anticipated or imagined when I graduated college in 1969 with a degree in Frisbee.

That's almost 50 years ago… during which time I grew up, became an adult, became an artist, a modern dancer, a poet, a documentary filmmaker, a director and producer, a story teller, an educator, and most surprisingly… a professional clown. I hustled, hassled, worried, and fought my way to a career in the arts, in Chicago, in New York, and for the last 35 years, in Los Angeles. During that last…. almost half century, I've had my share of successes and disappointments. I've won some awards and been ignored many times. I've had cancer and been lucky enough to survive it, along with many other, near-brushes with death. Fifteen years ago, I got married for the first time to an Indonesian woman 31 years younger than myself (anything magical about the number 31?). And even more recently, I adopted a son at age 68. Me, 68, not the son.

But tomorrow is my “termination date”, after which I will no longer receive a salary, health care, life insurance, or any of the many other benefits I've taken for granted these last many decades. I'm throwing myself out of the academic nest, off the retirement cliff, to see if I have any wings left to fly. To see if I can create a “third act”, you know, the last act of a contemporary play, after which the curtain comes down and the stage goes dark. I wonder how many more years I have left to live, and if I'll have enough money and ingenuity to thrive, to still live with some creativity, risk-taking, comfort, and grace. They didn't teach us about the “third act” in school. And by that, I don't mean the “third act” of a play.

“Life is what happens while you're waiting for your plans to work out.” John Lennon, the iconoclastic Beatle and one of my childhood heroes, supposedly said that, but I'm convinced that he overheard it from a little old lady in Liverpool. In any event, I've certainly found it to be true. Because any plans I ever made… never really materialized. Yet along the way, by saying yes to the opportunities that came my way, by following my gut, my needs, and my instincts, somehow… life has “worked out”. Then again, life has a way of doing that… “working out”…. one way or another. Some times better than others. But almost always in ways you can never have predicted.

I'd like now to take a look back… on my unpredictable life, not via the full blown memoir route, but via the short-order “retirement” version… to make some sense out of it all… to thank some people and some circumstances… to give some context to this so-called “third act”. And to hopefully, do so in a way… that is not all about… myself.

I was born in “New Yawk” in the late, post-WW2, Baby Boom 1940s.

Me and my generation grew up in the Ike Eisenhower, buttoned-down 1950s, until we collectively erupted in the mid 1960s, into sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. The word “erupted” perfectly fits the needs of my childhood- adolescence personality, as I was too self-conscious and too repressed to ever take a dance step, sing a note, or do anything that I didn't think would please my parents and make them proud. That's why I think it's ironic that I first became a modern dancer and a clown, two the most far-fetched and unimaginable careers this straight-laced, well-behaved young man could ever have stumbled into. But as I said, life has a sense of humor, and I had… the need. As apparently did…. my whole generation.

I was supposed to become a New Yawk Jewish, “my son, the doctuh”. Unfortunately, along the way to that expectation, I dropped calculus 3 times in college at the University of Buffalo, and physics twice. Amidst the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll of the late 60s (or at least the drugs and rock ‘n roll; as I was abysmally late to the sex part), I discovered that I didn't want to become a doctor, that was someone else's idea, and that I wanted instead to discover who the hell I was. The drugs helped, expanding my mind and perhaps setting me free; then one bright, icy-clear day in the windy City of Chicago, I climbed an old wooden staircase… into my future. (https://www.culturalweekly.com/finding-new-voice-windy-city/)

I became a modern dancer and I didn't open another book for the next seven years.

I discovered my body, the 95% of me that existed below my head and over-stuffed brain. I discovered movement, freedom, self expression, instinct, improvisation, and… a part of myself that my 22 years of formal education had completely neglected. I discovered… my “self”. And as I said, I think that's what happened to “all of us”, to the youth movement of the era, to the kids who rebelled against conformity, materialism, and convention, who became “hippies”, artists, and part of the “alternative culture”. Bob Dylan and the Beatles led the way – into politics, protest, Eastern religion, peace, love, and the erstwhile “sex, drugs, and rock ‘roll”.

But of course, it was hard to hold onto these values, activities, and ideals as we grew up and aged, long after we helped end the Vietnam War and pass civil rights legislation; long after Richard Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal. Some of us became parents, had to hold down reliable jobs, became “yuppies”. The ideals faded as many of us had to button down ourselves, just like our parents before us, and our children no longer wanted to celebrate and preserve our “hippie” ideals, but instead dismissed them as silly and unrealistic. They wanted instead to become successful business men and women, to become rich and famous, to own start ups, dot coms, and brimming 401(k)s.

But now here's the rub, as I, as we, retire 50 years later. Were they right? Our kids? And their kids? Was I, were we, wrong? Were freedom and transcendence superfluous? I mean, for me, “art” was my god, my way to “transcend” myself. To be bigger than myself. To connect with and touch others. To be part of the whole. I rejected the idea that it was only money, wealth, accumulation, and security that mattered. While now I wonder: are those the very prerequisites, and lessons of, old age, contentment, and retirement?

I certainly didn't think so, or care, as I outgrew my black tights and dancing days, became a crazy clown in my 30s, founded and directed NYC's Resident Clown Troupe, the Cumeezi Bozo Ensemble, ran for Mayor of New York City as clown Gino Cumeezi in 1977 and finished 5th out of 4 candidates.

I held onto my artist identity with all my might. I didn't want to let it go, to compromise it. I was an artist, a clown; I spoke truth to power. I would find a way to make a living… which I did… while the NEA was still generous with grants to small non-profit arts companies. When there was a will, there was always a way. Even if we clowns had to do corporate parties for the likes of Macy's, Cunard, and George Steinbrenner, the owner of the NY Yankees and the Donald Trump of his day, we did it. Happily. We traveled to Holland, Switzerland, and France… as clowns! We were celebrated, feted, and well-paid. At least… well enough.

Then I simply got tired of being the clown king of New Yawk, of running non-profit arts companies, with too many legs and too many mouths to feed. I took a leap out on my own, trying just two legs, as I assaulted the Hollywood TV and film industry by moving from New Yawk to LA in late 1982.

I failed… miserably.

Partially because I wasn't a very good actor…. becoming someone else; I was always better at being myself. Furthermore, I just didn't like the life of an unemployed Hollywood wannabe – actor, writer, director, producer. Pitching myself to agents, taking meetings, doing auditions… I just didn't have the thick skin or stomach for it. It seemed like “the work” was always trying to “get work”. Whereas I was used to “working” as an artist… taking dance classes daily, rehearsing daily, teaching daily, clowning daily. I simply didn't like the beggared life of the aspiring, but mostly unemployed, Hollywood actor… whatever.

Fortunately, I was offered a job to teach that single improv class at USC's School of Theatre in 1986, by newly-appointed Dean Ric Toscan, whose play I had directed with offbeat, enthusiastic, and apparently, improvisational aplomb. And before I knew it, I was out of the Hollywood wannabe business, and into both my long teaching career in academia, and back into my self-motivated, self-producing  career as a multi-disciplined artist.

First I directed friends' one person shows, then I did the first one myself in 1988, taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where it was “short-listed” for “Best Show of the Fringe”.

Then in 1989 I was diagnosed with Hodgkin 's disease, cancer of the lymphatic system. I was shocked. Dismayed. Scared. “Why me?” Was I going to die at age 42? But… after 6 months of chemo therapy under the good care of Dr. Daniel Lieber, I was pronounced to be in remission, and soon found myself back on the carousel of life. A little wiser and less angry, I hoped, but by 1990 I had begun a documentary film, “The Poet and the Con”, about my relationship with my criminal uncle, Harvey Rosenberg, trying to figure out why I identified more with my outlaw uncle than I did with the middle class, conservative part of my family. How was an artist like a criminal, both living outside the law, by their own rules? Seven years later, the film premiered at the International Documentary Film Festival in Nyon, Switzerland, and then it ran theatrically for four months at three different Laemmle Theatres in LA, due to the support and enthusiasm of Greg Laemmle, the current namesake of the LA art house movie theater “chain”.

Right after my recovery from cancer, I also started producing City-wide arts festivals: the poetry segment for Peter Sellars in the 1990 Los Angeles Festival, then the Santa Monica Festival '91, WORD/LA, an Oral Response to the Rodney King Verdict in 1993, and Solo/LA in 1995 at CBS Radford Studio.

Since then, the new millennium has found me reading my own work regularly at spoken word and poetry events at Beyond Baroque, usually under the aegis of Eve Brandstein's “Poetry in Motion”. I've developed and produced many solo shows of new artists at many of the Hollywood Fringe Festivals that have won “Best of the Fringe” awards. I've traveled the world on several Fulbright grants, and created Word Press blogs of my own: “Trules Rules”  and “e-travels with e. trules”, as well as blogged for the Huffington Post  and the Cultural Weekly. And most recently, I've done a TEDx Talk, and now I seem to be spending most of my creative time working on, and promoting, a new travel podcast, also called “e-travels with e. trules”

For all the years that I've taught at USC (1986 – 2017), both as an adjunct and then as a full time member of the faculty, the job and the institution have supported my life choice of being an artist. I was one of the lucky artist-dinosaurs who got a job at a university, through no effort of my own, teaching something I love, while at the same time, being able to have an income, health care, a retirement account, and maybe best of all… 3 and a half months off every summer, and almost a month off over the winter holidays. I was fortunate enough to work with Gordon Davidson, the godfather of LA theater and founder of the Mark Taper Forum, when I brought him to USC near the end of his life and we co-taught classes for a couple of years together, inspiring and instructing a new generation of hopeful theater artists.

On paper, it sounds like “a wonderful life”, right?

Wonderful Life

In reality though, and in my own experience, it hasn't been easy, not without its many challenges, confrontations, and life-changing choices. No life is… very simple at all.

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But now… three days into this story… I'm officially “retired”. I have already picked up that final pay check and paid for the first month of my wife's and son's new Kaiser Individual and Family health plan. It's not cheap. And I don't qualify for the Affordable Health Care Act, desperately fighting for its life in Congress, not to become Trump's “American Health Care Act” of 2017.

Our country is not kind to its poor or middle classes. Or to its aging population. To those without power or wealth. Why no one has to pay Social Security taxes when they earn more than $118,000 a year… is an unanswerable abomination of a question. Why health care is not a right of all American citizens and residents, like it is in the rest of the civilized world, can only be answered by the humongous greed of our insurance companies and the insatiable appetite of the capitalistic system.

Our country is not set up for a comfortable “Act Three”. And what I think is a real oversight, even an educational crime, is that we Americans haven't been educated or prepared for retirement or a “third act”. I mean, why didn't Ike Eisenhower and his School Board require all us Baby Boomers to take a class in economics? In real estate? In investment? In health care? In retirement? In aging and dying? Because… as we're quickly finding out, and we should have been forewarned, aging isn't for the weak of heart, or… as our great American novelist, Philip Roth, says, “Old age isn't a battle, it's a massacre.”

Shut up, Trules! You still have the rest of your life in front of you. Why don't you see it as an opportunity? As the glass being half full instead of half empty? Who knows what you can create in these next many years, for as many as those may be? Why don't you just keep saying “yes”, like you've done for all these years; that's what the improvisational rules of life demand?

Because… there's good part of me (or maybe not so “good”) that is scared to death. What an idiom! “Scared to death”. What exactly does that mean? We all know death is coming, right? Even though our society and culture try to avoid and escape the reality at all cost. Instead we try to preserve life with medical, technological wizardry as long as scientifically possible… even long after the quality of life is gone. In contrast – to other countries and cultures – who accept death… as part of life. Who push their aged off into the frigid sea – on icebergs – when it's time to let go and die. Who respect and care for their elders. Who worship their ancestors and expect them to come back for an annual visit on the Day of the Dead. Mexico. My wife's Indonesia. Most simpler and more “primitive” cultures. But… who has it right? And who has it wrong?

So yeah… I'm scared… not so much of dying… but more of running out of money. Of losing health care. My Social Security. My Medicare. Of facing the “massacre” unprotected by the society and country I trusted and believed in.

I don't know what more to say about “retirement”. Other than perhaps… “I used to be a Theater Prof at USC for a while. It was one of my many careers in the arts. Sure, it was for a long time, 31 years, and I was a lucky man, but that was Act 2. Now it's time for the leap into Act 3… my last.”

Do I still yearn to go into an empty theater, to create theatrical magic out of a simple black box? To tell stories? To see other peoples' shows? To live a “life in the theater”? Honestly, I just… don't know. I'll have to see.

For now… I just want to stay healthy. Play tennis a few times a week. Help raise my 10 year old son. Teach him well. Do simple things. Take care of the garden. Walk the dog. Not plan too much. Enjoy the day. Walk around, re-seeing my city, Los Angeles, anew. Live life… one day at a time. Since none of us have figured out how to predict the future… or know when our run will be over…. then I figure… I might as well try to enjoy the time I have left.

I'm sure the rest of my life will be revealed to me, just as my life, until now, has been revealed… created… one day… one year at a time.

What more can I ask? What more can we know?

Happy retirement, Trules.

Happy retirement, my friends……..

See more on my home page.

And my travel podcast, “e-travels with e. trules” HERE