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Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Coronavirus is the bug; and the boat, harbored in the Japanese port of Yokohoma, is the Diamond Princess. This would be my idea of a living hell.

I’ve already suffered from a mosquito bite that infected me with West Nile, another dainty little virus that blossomed into a severe case encephalitis. It was the worst headache I’d ever had, for a week, and it left me with a significant visual loss. Having to endure something similar, on a cruise ship, in a foreign country…

Also, Bob and I have never really wanted to set sail with thousands of strangers on one of those multi-level behemoths. Maybe it was that first outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease? I must admit I’ve become a bit hypochondriacal in my later years – if someone sneezes I will immediately turn and walk away, I’ll take the next elevator, I may even start wearing a mask!

Bob’s more about action and adventure, he told me that all you do on a cruise is “Eat,” but that was purely anecdotal. Maybe he’s afraid of gaining a pound or two? He’s certainly not afraid of a little virus, he loves to tell me how many teensy tiny organisms live on our bodies all the time! “It’s a cesspool!”

Yesterday, 99 new people have tested positive for the Coronavirus on the Diamond Princess, with nearly 400 Americans onboard. So far, only 46 Yanks have tested positive and they were promptly sent to a Tokyo hospital. I guess we should feel good that at least our government has started to evacuate its citizens back to the US, where they will have to be quarantined for another two weeks.

But what if your spouse tests positive? Would you return home without them?

There are now 542 sick patients on the boat because somehow or another their attempt at a quarantine failed miserably. Some blame it on the crew who ate together with their masks off. But really, no one knows. The Diamond Princess has the largest number of infected people outside of China.

Last week a pilot-friend of Bob’s called him from Colorado. He’d been at an IT conference in California with many Pan-Asian participants. After he returned home, he received a letter from the conference organizers saying an attendee traveling on his airline (though, luckily, not his flight) had tested positive, and if he exhibited any symptoms he should promptly go to the nearest ER. Since he didn’t want to be quarantined and wrapped up in a bubble, he thought he’d call my husband.

“Have you had any fever?” Bob said. Luckily the answer was no.

We are considering another river cruise. We really enjoyed our trip down the Danube on a Viking ship with slightly less than 200 passengers. The only bad thing that happened was a woman falling, she broke her leg on a slippery hill in a small town. Sadly, we had to leave her behind in an Austrian hospital.

Travel is risky. But now is the time to do it according to AARP, while we can still hike and change currency with the best of them. We need to keep expanding our minds, learning new things before the inevitable losses of old age. So we’re putting together another trip this year with our Italian chefs, Marco and Claudio for the Fall. This is my idea of heaven, laughing, trekking and cooking, absorbing a different culture, with a group of friends.

Next stop, Corsica!

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Yesterday, a crocus pushed its shiny, new green leaves up in our garden. I remember always being surprised to see the little flower in the midst of snow and ice in the Berkshire Mountains. It is the harbinger of spring, just as sure as a robin jumping around in the grass. But this time, it’s too early; the first week of a new year should find us deep into winter with hats and scarves and gloves. Instead, today it will be 60 degrees.

“In addition to Crocus’ merit as a beautiful and cheerful winter bloomer, one species, C. sativus, is the source of the spice saffron. Henry Beston describes C. sativus in Herbs and the Earth (1935, D.R. Godine, Publisher, Inc.): “An autumn Crocus with a long history as a drug, a flavoring powder, and a pigment, only the golden stigma of the flower being used… May not overwinter.”  True enough, although many Crocus are perennial in Tennessee, as a USDA Hardiness Zone 8 plant C. sativus may not overwinter for many Tennesseans. If that doesn’t deter you from growing your own saffron, Steven Still writes that “about 7000 flowers are required to produce 3 ounces of saffron.”  https://ag.tennessee.edu/news/Pages/POM-2016-02.aspx

I had no idea the costliest spice in the world comes from a crocus!

Makes me want to dig up my old, Julia Child paella recipe. I was thinking about my younger, newly married self in the car the other day; living in Cambridge, MA and spotting Julia herself at the small green grocers’.  NPR was interviewing a chef about his “…worst kitchen disasters.” Of course, it was slicing off the tip of a finger with a mandolin his first time on live TV!

I’ve managed to avoid the dreaded mandolin injury – I use mine to slice whisper thin vegetables into my veggie lasagna. But one of my very first attempts at the fine art of cuisine in Cambridge does come to mind. I almost torched my kitchen when I tried making Julia’s recipe for Coq au Vin! Since then, I’ve left anything flambeed to the experts. Even resisting the urge to buy a tiny blowtorch to crinkle-brown creme brulee – my favorite dessert!

I wish my keyboard did l’accent aigu“Getting your (French) accents right is the difference between being a pêcheur (fisherman) and a pécheur (sinner). Which one would you rather have on your résumé?”

Parsley and rosemary are still growing in the garden, even some of Bob’s winter kale seems hardy and ready to be harvested. The Bride and her family are returning soon from Hawaii and I’d like to cook them something for their first night back. Maybe I’ll buy some red wine and make a big pot of Boeuf Bourguignon! Like every good semi-Southern cook I’ve got some bacon in the fridge and I know the L’il Pumpkin loves this dish.

Although, after hearing about their first Kalua Pig in a Pit, where the Love Bug definitely did not like the idea of unearthing the body of a full-on, dead, roasted pig, I may have to get creative with vegetables and her old stand-by, pasta. Maybe we’ll roast some marshmallows on the fire pit, and pretend it’s still winter! Here they are on a lava rock.

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Since Bob has retired, I’ve found our roles have reversed. I was always the one in the know, collecting local news and crafting interesting stories that would eventually help light up the wood stove. Newspapers still sell, but mostly online today. Without my deadline, I write whenever I please about whatever I want, and I’m no longer constantly on the hunt for tidbits of local lore.

Bob, on the other hand, has been picking up garbage once a month with a dedicated group of neighbors, and has joined a few Nashville associations; he’s become a regular social activist!

Aside from catching up on all the development going on in North Nashville, including going to those dreaded zoning committee meetings, he’s signed us up for something called “The Villages.” And no, it’s not that place in Florida.  https://www.aarp.org/home-garden/livable-communities/info-04-2011/villages-real-social-network.html

This is a national aging-in-place movement that started in the Back Bay area of Boston – which is strangely enough where I started my college career at Emerson in 1966. We have a core group of people dedicated to keeping our community informed and helping our neighbors; almost like co-housing. Our weekly ride to T’ai Chi with a 93 year old friend, who stopped driving at 90, is one small part of this plan, which also includes pot-luck suppers. Mostly, it’s a way to stay connected, stay in our homes, and combat loneliness.

I’ve mentioned many times that our generation was going to age differently. After all, we brought you the Women’s Movement and the Civil Right’s Movement, so it’s only fair we bring you the Old Geezer Movement too.

Anyway, our Village has organized a day trip this weekend to Alabama. Why, one might ask would I want to go to Alabama just when the weather has dipped below freezing? The state that just might elect Jeff Sessions again to the Senate. The state with probably more Confederate flags flying than any other state in the union.

Because it’s the site of one of the prettiest Frank Lloyd Wright houses in the country and I LOVE Frank Lloyd Wright – and it’s in FLORENCE, AL! https://www.wrightinalabama.com/

“A genuine work of art—from the floors to the furnishings to the faucets—the Rosenbaum House grows naturally from its surroundings, cascading down a 2-acre lot facing the Tennessee River. It is one of the purest examples of Usonian design (named for the USA) with open floor plans and rooms that naturally flow from one to another. Built in 1939, the same year Wright delivered his treatise on organic architecture, this significant structure is cypress, glass, and brick and still has original hardware and furnishings designed by Wright.

Frank Lloyd Wright freed Americans from Victorian “boxes” and revolutionized art and architecture. He was born just two years after the Civil War and died two years after the launching of the satellite Sputnik and is considered to be America’s greatest architect. Originally built for $12,000 as an affordable, middle-class home, the house is the only Wright design open to the public in the southeastern United States.”

Call me excited! People fly in from all over the world to see this house! Our Rumson house had his Usonian style, and our home on a mountain in the Blue Ridge was designed with clean white oak floors and trim with lots of windows. I’ve been an Art Deco fan girl since forever and yet only managed to look from the outside at one of Wright’s homes in Minnesota once. Or was that St Louis?

Somehow, in all my trips from VA to TN, I never stopped at Falling Water in PA, and that’s something I’ll have to add to my bucket list now.

Note to self, don’t forget to Facetime with Aunt KiKi (my Daughter-in-Love) from Alabama since she is one super talented designer in California and working on many renovations of this vintage.

Happy Weekend Y’All! Oh and here’s an old pic of our VA not/so/big house. I do miss my little 3rd floor aviary.

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The big move was done in little pieces. We ferried small things over in our car piece by piece, the ubiquitous Pod was delivered and emptied by a team of BellHops, then finally Music City Movers emptied our townhouse. Ten days later I threw a Seder for family and friends – 17 altogether. To say I’m exhausted would be missing the point; I’m feeling like I got hit by a truck and I don’t have the flu….

Remember that book we all read years ago, required reading in every high school English class, “The Things They Carried.”

Twenty years ago, writer Tim O’Brien released a book of stories about young men and war, his war, Vietnam. Among many other things, he listed the weight of each soldier’s clothes, canteens and can openers. From the book: Every third or fourth man carried a claymore antipersonnel mine, 3.5 pounds with its firing device. They all carried fragmentation grenades, 14 ounces each. They all carried at least one M-18 colored smoke grenade, 24 ounces. Some carried CS or tear gas grenades. Some carried white phosphorous grenades. They carried all they could bear and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125128156

I’ve been reevaluating all the things I’ve carried around with me from my glory days as a new wife and mother in Massachusetts, to moving back to NJ when the Rocker was just 2 and unpacking was almost impossible, to building our small house overlooking the Blue Ridge in Virginia. Then finally the fantastical move to Nashville, leaving Bob to sell most of our furniture to the new owners of our house, while I stayed here on Nana duty.

Unlike Great Grandma Ada, who cocooned in her home for fifty years collecting the things her two sisters left behind, I’ve had ample opportunity to prune and shed the things that were weighing me down.

I still carry: some of the school papers from my children; the Bride’s baby dresses; a big, antique French cupboard; the heron and guinea hen prints, the kilt I was wearing when I first met Bob; my 1960s avocado green mixer; my 60s blue Dutch oven, the one I found in a store in Cambridge, MA, the same store I’d see Julia Child shopping in from time to time, it’s a heavy workhouse of a pot that found its way back into my heart during Seder prep; the oil painting the Bride did of us on Windsor Pond; the Rocker’s self-portrait from high school. All the old photographs.

And my beautiful desk, the one I’m writing on just now. I’ve missed it for 2 years.

I’ve carried all I can bear, but still the Bride insisted on “Marie Kondoizing” me. She dumped piles of clothes on my bed and asked me, one by one, if they sparked joy?! “Mom, you have two similar black Eileen Fisher dresses, which ONE do you want?”

I was resistant at first, but then I saw how my style, me weight, my essence had changed over the years. No woman wants to be stuck in the same hair style their whole life, and I could finally see that “Pittsfield-me” was too Laura Ashley, “Rumson-me” was too Lilly Pulitzer, and “Nashville-me” is something entirely different. I thanked my dated clothes for their faithful service and bid them farewell.

Bob has always traveled light, and so he was happy to see the Big Purge, but to my surprise he kept a few sentimental things of his own.

We are ready to tackle the garden now, to plant and transplant, to install the fairy house. I hope y’all had a wonderful Passover and Easter weekend and you’re looking ahead to blue skies and warmer days. Ms Bean has her favorite sunny spot on the porch, and I just might join her!

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It doesn’t matter who designs a border: Russia divided Berlin; the British carved up the Middle East and India; and we Americans decided that Texas would not become part of Mexico. Imperial powers have drawn lines based on ethnicity and/or religion for centuries, and bloodshed is the usual outcome. This past weekend, as we caught up with post-Thanksgiving errands and pre-Holiday shopping, migrants were tear gassed on our California border.

My immediate thought was “Kent State.”

And inbetween cyber-shopping with a bad head cold, I read that Russia thought this would be the perfect time to seize three Ukrainian ships! It seems that the ships were headed down the Kerch Strait, minding their own business, near the Russian-annexed waters of Crimea…ie Moscow crossed that border awhile ago. Vlad figures Nikki Haley has one foot out the door at the United Nations, and Mr T has his hands full with his paranoia and his “caravan,” so why not now?

I will often turn to poetry when the world is too much with me, and right now “The Waking” by Theodore Roethke fills the bill:

“I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.   
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.   
I learn by going where I have to go.”

And I look at the travel section of the BBC and dream about a great escape. My whole family would like to visit Iceland and I’m not sure why; certainly the stark, brilliant scenery is one thing, but like traveling itself, it’s the people who can delight and inspire you.

There is a certain philosophy in Iceland that is similar to Great Grandma Ada’s mantra, “It will all press out.” Of course you must say this in Yiddish, and since her father was a tailor from Minsk, it makes sense. Icelanders call this , “Betta Reddast” which means basically that everything will work out alright in the end! For a very cold nation, they are an optimistic bunch. http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20180603-the-unexpected-philosophy-icelanders-live-by

And although Iceland is not likely to start a war over a borderline, they do have a natural, geographical phenomenon that is pushing the country apart ever so slowly. Climate change is threatening to submerse major cities around the world, but the good news is that Iceland is growing… if you don’t mind a little earthquake here and there.

The country sits on the rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, and those plates are slowly moving apart, widening Iceland by about 3cm per year and causing an average of 500 small earthquakes every week.

Our beautiful new niece and her family crossed the North Carolina border to visit us Thanksgiving weekend, and I’m hoping my virus didn’t return the favor when they traveled back over the mountains. Can you see the Bat Building in the reflection?

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I always worry a little when people describe their child as being “shy.” I’m a big believer in NOT labeling your kid, because once you tell them they are bad at math, that child will become math-challenged. Still, the nature/nurture conundrum does exist, and there’s a new mega-data study that ties up all our personality types into four simple categories! Turns out, being “reserved” is a thing.

“In a report published Monday in the journal ‘Nature Human Behavior,’ researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois identify four personality types: reserved, role models, average and self-centered.”  

https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2018/09/17/scientists-identify-four-personality-types/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.f466d00f6e5f

Now I may want to ask my brother, Dr Jim, what he thinks of this, since he’s been administering the Myers-Briggs personality test for decades. But that test was developed in the 1940s using Jungian archetypes; this time a group of researchers simply plugged in an algorithm to a questionnaire for 1.5 million people in the US and Great Britain.

People who scored very high in extroversion but were below average in agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness were “self-centered.” Amaral put it in a “nontechnical way”: Some people are “jerks.” Teenage males were more likely than average to be self-centered, but this proportion decreased with age.

“These 18-year-olds are going to grow up,” Revelle said. “Except some people don’t grow up, and they become senior political statesmen.”

So a large number of narcissistic “jerks” choose a career in politics? I’m astonished!

Yesterday, to counter my increasing fury at men behaving badly, the Bride sent me a podcast. I’ve just listened to the first one, but I intend to listen to the whole series; written by an Obama speech-writer and Pod Save America contributor, Jon Favreau endeavors to explain the downfall of the Democratic Party and how we can fix it. It’s totally worth a listen: https://crooked.com/podcast-series/thewilderness/

I’ve read that activists actually confronted Sen Ted Cruz, a fine example of the self-centered type, at an Italian restaurant last night in DC, creating quite the stir chanting “We believe survivors.” He and his wife said “God bless you,” and left the restaurant after being seated but before ordering. I might have waited for them to finish the pasta course myself.

I’m slowly returning to my “average” state of affairs, feeling slightly rushed and overwhelmed by choices in the grocery store. At least the laundry is done. Just hoping our dear legislators do NOT rush this Kavanaugh nomination, and focus instead on rushing a bill to protect the Mueller investigation. Let’s keep our eyes on Russia and our feet to the fire (for my new Italian readers, it’s just an idiom).

Oh how I miss my friends and the sheep bells that would accompany this lovely breakfast table, and its wasps!

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This morning the Bride asked me if I’d heard any news yet today, or was I still blissfully unaware of American politics? Instead of sitting under the Tuscan sun, listening to sheep bells and sipping cappuccino, I was trying to get my Keurig to work while realizing we had no milk in the refrigerator. I know, poor me.

But I had powered up the NYT website on my phone last night and knew that the highly controversial SCOTUS nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, was in trouble for sexually assaulting a 15 year old when he was 17. At first I was confused; how would they delay his hearing until Monday when his accuser would speak? Wasn’t yesterday Monday? Jet lag can be a real problem when you’re on an Air France flight just a short hop from Florence to Paris, and then on to Atlanta for nine hours.

We arrived home in Nashville around 3 am this morning, Italian time. And “Scusa” for a minute, I’ve just returned from T’ai Chi!

But from what I’ve read about this predicament so far, the Republicans are in trouble. Do you remember the woman, Liz Seccuro, who received an apology letter from her rapist 20 years after the fact? It was 2006 and he was a new AA member and was making his amends to people, except this woman had him arrested, and they went to trial in Charlottesville. It was very big UVA news – the rapist went to jail. Fraternity hi-jinks, boys being boys? The victim later told a Cville reporter about that night when she was just 17 in 1984:

“This is what it feels like to die. I’m going to die here, and no one’s going to find me.”

Twenty-one years later, Seccuro tearfully says she knows the truth: “Part of you does die.”

http://www.readthehook.com/98246/cover-i-harmed-you-21-years-12-steps-later-rape-apology-backfires

I remember distinctly the first time I heard that phrase about boys. Some bully had pushed me off my bike In Victory Gardens, I was probably 7 or 8 years old. I broke my leg and spent the summer in a cast. It was the only time Nelly called another mom on the phone and told her “what for,” explaining what had happened.

“Boys will be boys,” the bully’s mother said, and the instant flash of anger I felt, at that moment, is still fresh. My budding realization that life wouldn’t always be fair for girls. The total ignorance, the indecency and hypocrisy of the GOP is mind-numbing today. #MeToo has seen more women than ever running for Congress, and if only Kavanugh withdraws, which I believe he will do before Monday, November is coming…we do NOT need another Anita Hill excoriation next week, nor will we stand for one.

Here is Saint Barbara standing on some guy’s head flanked by John the Baptist and some other dude! On a kinder and gentler note, do we purchase a Keurig or a Nespresso? Ciao!

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