I am a read-a-holic. I will stand in grocery store lines and read anything I can lay my eyes on: bubble gum wrappers, gossip rags, cooking instructions (“Open can before eating” is one of my favourites, but I digress). I was fortunate to grow up without television, with a mom who opened her entire library to me. (Questions I posed while reading “Fear of Flying” at age 11 were probably more than my mom bargained for, but the woman is a trooper!) I have bought, loaned, lost, and re-bought more books than I can count.

As a prolific reader, I am privileged to meet many talented artists, including authors.

On this page, I will share works that have particularly touched me. I hope that you enjoy them, but regardless, I hope that you will join me in a dialogue about them.

Leaked NRA memo: boilerplate mass-shooting press response

February 26, 2016

Sources at Kaffeeklatsch News(ish) have today obtained a copy of a memo circulating from the headquarters of the National Rifle Association (NRA) to conservative news sources. In the aftermath of the United States’ most recent mass shooting, the NRA sought to remind these news sources of their prime directive of obfuscation. Below is the text […] Read more

Tweens in charge of Defense

February 12, 2016

Sources inside both the United States’ Pentagon and the Russian Ministry of Defence today confirmed that two 12-year old #TwitterKind have been in charge of foreign and military policy for the past eight months. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared having their allowances cut if they spoke on the record. The […] Read more

Favourites-Thép Thavonsouk

December 11, 2015

My paintings grow out of silence; a dreamlike morphology suggesting tranquility and a sense of spirituality as figures dissolve into landscape. The fleeting passage of their quiet moments seen on my canvas and rice paper shines the light on the immensity of our universe and the insignificance of human beings. Thép Thavonsouk’s work takes me […] Read more

The Onion abandoning satire

December 11, 2015

The Onion announced today that, effective immediately, it will cease its publication of satirical news for the foreseeable future. Jane Fischer, Associate Editor In Chief, said in a telephone interview yesterday, “We just can not make up sh*t that is more entertaining than reality! When the entire news cycle sounds like a direct f**king hit from […] Read more

Thanksgiving, revisited

November 27, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!! I see from my Facebook feed that I am a member of a large group of people who consider Thanksgiving to be their favourite holiday! I enjoy it for so many reasons, not least of which is that it’s the start of a fabulous season, where even Ol’ Grumps can find a […] Read more

Perfect New York Trip

August 8, 2015

New York City with M. et Mme Ghazi This is a post that I actually wrote a year ago. In the madness of getting back from NY and dealing with a recalcitrant client, I lost track of it and thought that I’d posted it. I had not, it turns out; and in so not doing, I did M. […] Read more

Sean thinking

The gift from Laos

June 23, 2015

I have a brother, Sean Doron Westlake. Most siblings get a few months head’s up about impending newcomers, but we’ve always done things a little differently in our family, so Sean just kind of popped in one day: two weeks old and the cutest baby in the universe! We arrived in Laos in the mid-1960s, […] Read more

Nguyen Hue 1950s

Saigon Reunification Party!

May 5, 2015

Saigon. I’m back in Saigon. {well, I was last week; I’m catching up here, so the tenses get a little weird!} There’s a personal history to Saigon that brings out the drama queen in me. I get here and I start channeling Sheen and Hopper in some really tripping ways, maaaannn! (See what I mean?) […] Read more

Monks at Buddha Park, Vientiane, Laos

The Great Pumpkin in Buddha Park

April 4, 2015

Vientiane is special to me and many of my schoolmates because, well, we lived there. But let’s face it: most tourists hit Vientiane solely as a jump-off point to Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, or other more touristy spots in Laos. But if you’re not just passing through, or if you have a few hours to kill, […] Read more

Art-Grilled frog

Five things Laos (5): Useful phrases

March 19, 2015

It’s always helpful to have some useful phrases down pat when you’re traveling. When people ask me how many languages I speak, I usually ‘fess up to “market language” in a number of languages. This usually involves helpful phrases like: One through ten How much? Too much! Are you nuts?! No, I cannot take you to America. […] Read more

Best toilet in Laos

Five things Laos: Lao bathrooms

March 18, 2015

If you’ve read my mom’s piece on the toilet at the Green Latrine, you’ll know that Lao bathrooms can be, um, challenging. Note: I’m not really speaking to the men, here. I’ll use whomever’s toilet is most expedient—men, women, or unisex—so I have some perspective, and dudes: really?! YIKES! So I’m not that concerned about the niceties of […] Read more

Laos-Cold lady

Five things-Laos (3): Hot. Damned hot

March 17, 2015

How do you say “Holy crap, it’s hot out!” in Lao? So! New Orleans summers too warm for you? Think DC is nothing but a hot-air swamp? Find Minnesota summers insufferable? Heh! Welcome to Southeast Asia. Two seasons I took this photo of a poor shivering soul at about 10:00 am on January 26. The weather for that particular day—broken […] Read more

Be nice-girls

Five things Laos (2): Be nice!

March 16, 2015

I’ve traveled a lot. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I’ve said that before, but to be clear: I’ve lived in a lot of places. So I’ve had the good fortune to get to know something of the people amongst whom I’ve lived. Well, on a superficial farang level, at least. My point is: I knows of what I speaks […] Read more

Piles of Kip

Five things Laos (1): Counting Kip

March 15, 2015

If you’re traveling to Laos, leave your wallet at home. No, not your cash. Just the wallet. Because it’s not going to fit your cash. A large sunglasses case, on the other hand, is just the ticket! Given the exchange rate, which seems to be fairly stable at around 8,000 Kip (₭) to US$1, Lao […] Read more


Coming home to Vientiane

March 9, 2015

As I noted in my last posting, I am skipping the rest of my Vietnam trip for the nonce. I’ll be back there soon (blog-wise and travel-wise). Instead, I want to get my thoughts on Laos down while they’re still relatively fresh. So here’s the first installment: Coming home to Vientiane.  

Post Report

1966 Embassy Post Report–Vientiane

March 2, 2015

As I get my stuff together (and studiously avoid having to deal with iMovie this evening!), I thought I would start out our trip back to Laos with the 1966 U.S. Embassy Post Report for Vientiane, Laos. The times they have a’changed a tad, so those of you from an earlier generation will probably be even […] Read more

Five things I would tell first-time visitors to… Saigon. Ho Chi Minh City. No, Saigon. No…

February 28, 2015

My first trip back to Saigon since 1975 revived old memories (phở, xe ôm) and created new ones (Cu Chi tunnels being the most obvious). Here are five things to note for your first or return visit.

Sneak preview

February 14, 2015

Alan Craig, my schoolmate from Laos and Taiwan, has started a video project about our recent reunion trip. With his permission, I share the teaser that he sent to us–it’s a blast, and I can’t wait to see what comes next! Thanks, Alan!   2015 ASV Reunion Trailer from Alan Craig on Vimeo.

If it’s Tuesday…

February 12, 2015

I am so behind on my writing, but I do have a great excuse: I spent the last month breathing Southeast Asia back into my blood. Man, what a trip. I’m back now. Back in “the world,” that is. I’m already experiencing a hint of the re-entry trauma that hit me when I first moved […] Read more

Please allow me to introduce myself

February 11, 2015

Please allow me to introduce myself; my name is Kim Westlake-Life, and I’m a Global Nomad. I’m 54 at this writing, happy, healthy, and living in San Diego. I was born in Newport Beach, California, but I know bupkis about my hometown. I know grandma’s house → beach → grandma’s house. I left California when I was […] Read more

Photo interlude

February 1, 2015

A random thought as we meander our way through Lao history. More in-depth stories and photos will have to wait until I get back to constant WiFi and a break from having so many wonderful things to see and do. Throughout this trip, I have found so many emotions flowing through me, too often resulting […] Read more

Vientiane: Folie à Deux

January 27, 2015

For reasons probably dictated by watching too many movies about the war in Southeast Asia and having lived here during the 60s and 70s, I have a continuous stream of Credence, Stones, and Hendrix running through my head. Fortunate Son, indeed. We arrived in Vientiane on Saturday, January 24, 2015. Almost 48 years since I […] Read more

Crossing flat notes

Good lord, is that a D double sharp?

January 25, 2015

Okay, I know I’m getting a tad behind here, and I rather figured that would happen. But before I do anything else (you know, like just Beer-Lao out with a diverse and fun group of TCKs) I have to share two things from dinner last night. First, dinner was excellent and the company superb. Wine selection: not so […] Read more

Post-Graphics-Kilroy just landed

Kilroy just landed: Saigon, Day 4

January 22, 2015

I awoke on Friday in Manila with a sort of joyful anticipation akin to that little kid in A Christmas Story—today’s the big day. Then it hit me: today’s the big day! Yikes!!! I’m going back. That’s when my throat got all lumpy. Could have been a touch of PMS, and since my hormones are […] Read more

Sylvia and Roland

Re-visiting old friends in Manila

January 19, 2015

This trip back to Asia offered the most delightful perk: finally, I got to see two old friends I have not seen in 23 years. Sylvia Tay and her husband, His Excellency Roland van Remoortele, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Belgium to the Philippines, were cohorts in crime in Kinshasa.1)How cool […] Read more

Ahhh trees

Disengagement disorder

January 15, 2015

(I’m prone to alliteration. I won’t apologise—it’s a mindless form of entertainment and relatively harmless if taken in limited doses). My first full day in Manila finds me fully rested and up at a relatively normal time. Trips flying west are typically not as bad as those heading east, but I tried to reduce residual […] Read more

Rex Hotel Rooftop Bar

Thoughts on returning to Saigon

January 14, 2015

I’m wide awake at 03:30. After bragging yesterday about how I’d beat jet-lag through careful planning and some really expensive socks, I’m wide awake at 03:30. That said, I don’t really think it’s the jet-lag. I woke up thinking about Saigon. And Laos. Not so much about Taiwan and Thailand, the two other countries I […] Read more

Compression Socks

A $50 pair of socks?!

January 14, 2015

Your first thought on seeing this post is probably: Really? The first photo she posts from this magnificent journey into her Southeast Asian past is a pair of freaking SOCKS?! To which I must respond: Why, yes. Yes, it is. Because if a journey begins with a single step, then truly that first step should […] Read more

Getting there

January 12, 2015

I just arrived in Taipei, my transit point for the first leg. Tomorrow morning (ohhhhh, dark-thirty), I fly to Manila to visit friends. China Airlines, LAX to Taipei. Pleasantly, China Airlines did not live up to the negative comments on the web–we flew a very comfortable (and either new or newly renovated) 777 (seats configured for 3-5-3). […] Read more

“Bathroom Incident” at the Green Latrine

January 5, 2015

It was Paris and we were sitting outside a café, blissfully sipping wine and studying the backside of Notre Dame de Paris. A friend had just returned from the bathroom. “Ah,” she sighed, settling into her chair. “The French are soooo civilized.” One or two of us twitched an inquisitive eyebrow. “Unisex bathrooms, of course.” […] Read more

Going “home”

January 2, 2015

At some point in one’s I-Shall-Write-A-Blog madness, it will occur to the discerning author that one must actually start writing. I have hit that point. This evening, I received part of my itinerary for a trip I have wanted to take for a very long time. I started planning this blog only a few days ago, and whether […] Read more

Random thoughts on post-evacuation from Saigon: Mumps in Hong Kong

January 2, 2015

Then there was the time I got the mumps. Yes, yes, I know, everyone get mumps, even kids from Wichita! But not everyone gets the mumps in the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong! Today, this is one of the places to stay in Hong Kong, and frankly, it was in 1975, too, but we could […] Read more


January 2, 2015

As an adult, I can go anywhere and eat anything without getting sick. This stems, I believe, from the amazing immune system I had to have picked up along my travels. Granted, the State Department made damned sure we were immunized against absolutely every possibility out there, and I have the shot record to prove […] Read more