Fabulous!

There’s an aspect of our catamaran/snorkeling adventure in St. Maarten that I forgot to include in my last recap. Barb and I were talking about it this morning while we were having coffee and watching the sky begin to glow with the threat of another dawn at sea.

As we prepared to board the cat, one of the deck hands had us remove our footwear and place them in bins on the dock. Then, as we climbed aboard, we passed the containers with snorkeling gear and made our selections and moved to our chosen places on the boat. Most of our fellow travelers went into the cabin but Barb and I went forward toward the trampoline-like spots (I’m sure there is an actual name for them) between the two hulls. There were 4 or 5 30-something young men in speedos (clue #1 that they were European) who enthusiastically greeted us (their accents were clue #2) and advised that this was the best place on the boat – if you don’t mind getting wet. Perfect!

Hearty handshakes all around as they introduced themselves. I only remember two of their names: Jost, because that name reminded me of one of the characters in the film “The Way” and David, because he joked that his parents couldn’t afford a real Dutch name.

Possessed of wonderful individual and group energy, they explained that they are currently living on St. Maarten.

It seems that they had lived here previously, from 2010-2013, and had returned to help with the reconstruction after the hurricane, having friends who still live here. At present they were at the end of a 2 week holiday (clue #3 – they didn’t say ‘vacation’).

Their joi de vie was nearly infectious and we laughed together, swam & snorkeled, sang show tunes & sang along with the radio when familiar songs played and were grateful for their kind assistance a couple times.

Like when Jost helped me to help Barb while trying to get on the bottom of the “chicken stairs” at the end of the snorkeling adventure as we, the boat, and the stairs pitched in the swells (“just relax and go with the rocking”). Sound advise, Jost.

And when we were back on the boat after the beach swim. Barb had gotten rolled in the sand by the swells that knocked her down – and she’d relaxed and laughed like it was the best thing ever – as it happened over and over. As Barb and I swam back to the boat from the beach, Barb quoted a Lily Tomlin line from an episode of “Grace and Frankie” we’d watched last week: “I think I have half the beach in my vagina.”

There she stood on the back of the catamaran, trying to hose off/out some of the sand from her swimsuit. Jost (or maybe one of his fabulous friends?) offered to assist – and held the hose for her, spraying it down the top of her swimsuit while she held it out for the water. What fun! It looked like nearly half the beach was on the deck. (Later, the rest found its way to the floor of the shower in our cabin. But Jost wasn’t around for that fun.)

Through our giggling I heard Jost say “I’ve never done this for a woman before!” We laughed even harder.

The cruise back to the port was, as I mentioned elsewhere, a fun roller-coaster ride and we rode it con gusto, holding on to the rail up front while we stood on the “trampoline” and bounced – laughing and singing and, as warned earlier, getting wet. Other than a nice Norwegian couple (he wore a speedo, naturally, and she a two-piece), most of the rest of the passengers remained in the salon. I really don’t think they had as much fun as we and our fabulous new friends had.

Talking about it this morning, Barb observed “It’s really a shame that Americans don’t seem to be able to have as much fun as… those Dutch boys.”

Smart woman. And fun.

And not Dutch, but definitely fabulous!

Carpe Diem.

B&B

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British Humor?

You either “get it” or you don’t.

And sometimes, for folks who “get it”, you either laugh or you find that (to quote a British Queen) “we are not amused”.

My understanding of that broad thing called British humor ranges from Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and Bertrand Russel to Monte Python and Benny Hill. (Admittedly, the latter is just too silly for my taste.) From ironic, sardonic, and highbrow to maudlin, dark or lowbrow, Brit humor has a flavor that is far different from its American Cousin. (Apologies to President & Mrs. Lincoln).

I’ve generally thought myself to have an understanding of and appreciation for Brit humor. Until yesterday.

We went to lunch in the dining room of the cruise ship were calling home for 3+ weeks. While standing in line, I overheard the woman in front of us explaining to the woman in front of her (with an accent not quite as distinct as Eliza Doolittle’s before she met Henry Higgins) “…my daughter was in the Royal Navy and she was posted all over the world – and she always came home speaking with a funny accent…” Really? Compared to what?

Now that’s what I call British Humor! (I tried not to laugh out loud on the off chance that she wasn’t joking. Besides, maybe she thinks Californians have a funny accent.

Now that’s funny!

When Barb and I reached the desk, the hostess asked if we’d like to share a table. We’ve met some really interesting people sharing tables so we said “Sure.” We sat for a moment in the waiting area and were then ushered to our table where we greeted our new friends.

Yup. The same couple we’d overheard in line.

While her husband and I chatted on and off through lunch, Mrs. Hill entertained my darling bride with tales of travels (and family) which seemed to share a common theme: her dissatisfaction. And of her complaints to the appropriate parties (when traveling) and of their feeble attempts to apologize, which apologies barely sufficed.

“They always send bottles of wine to my room, and I can’t drink it all and end up packing them in my suitcases and go home with bottles clanging in my luggage.”

Okay. Cause and effect: Dissatisfaction—>Complaint—>Bottle of wine—>suitcases full of wine—>complain….

Here is where my understanding of Brit Humor fails.

She summed it up with….

“But I don’t complain that much.”

Maybe it gets lost in Translation: I speak Californian.

Corinthian Dreams

I’ll never forget the strange sense of wonder I experienced the first time we were in Prague. It was the first location we’d ever visited which was formerly “behind the Iron Curtain” and I was shocked to find that the sky was blue, the trees green, and flowers were, well, colorful.
I attribute my surprise to the effects excellent propaganda. You see, having grown up during the Cold War the photos I’d seen during my formative years were 1) black and white, 2) of bleak scenes, and 3) calculated to show how barren and cold life was for those living under the heel of communist atheistic regimes.

On that trip we were enjoying a Danube River cruise with a group of Tandem bicyclists. We pedaled & floated through Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. From the start in Prague my senses were treated to scenes & sounds & smells of Real Life in places where I might have expected, based upon my upbringing, to find only cold, dark misery. Instead, the smell of freshly baking bread was delicious no matter where the bakery was located and the fields of sunflowers were no less brilliant on one side of a border or the other. As a guide in Egypt once observed, “most people, everywhere, want the same things: shelter and a couple meals a day. Happiness follows.”
I know this. I’ve been constantly reminded of it in travels through 40+ countries: most people could get along with each other in most places. But greedy, power-hungry politicians cultivate fear, suspicion, and hate… oh, don’t get me started.

Our guide in Santorini yesterday, Katarina, has lived and worked there for twenty years. She was born in the former East Germany and describes an idyllic childhood in the socialist state where children played (imagine that!) and attended schools and summer camps where they grew and laughed and loved. The Wall came down when she was fourteen, she finished high school and moved on to new opportunities. She is married to a native Greek from Santorini and has three children. “I had to be baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church before we could be married, which was fine with me. I was raised an atheist, naturally, and still find the religious stories to be only interesting – like the stories from Greek mythology – but respecting other people’s beliefs is not difficult.”

Earlier this week we visited Corinth. Our wonderful Greek guide, Helen, wove a beautiful tapestry of historical, geographical, cultural, political, and religious stories, helping the ruins of both the ancient and classic cities come alive. She spoke of the Greek gods, the Roman ones, and the ways in which the myths varied from region to region and even village to village or time to time. She even read he words of Paul, found in he Book of the Acts – spoken while we stood just a few yards from the podium where he stood nearly two thousand years before.

Like my Prague surprise years before, visiting Corinth with our guide was another experience of a new reality. My childhood imaginations of that city were informed only by stories of Paul’s visit and subsequent letter to early christians who lived there. Those mental images lacked any historical context or depth – or life.

Black and white is useful for some purposes, such as dramatic effect.
I appreciate the colors of life. Even if the life was long ago.

The ‘bios’ of ancient Corinth may have passed away, but the ‘kosmos’ comes alive as we open the windows of our minds and let the colors begin to flood in.

We’re not in Kansas anymore….

“Upon Further Review”

Fake News.

Apparently it isn’t the Romans who have a good sense of humor. It’s Barb.

Starting over. The Romans may indeed have a sense of humor, but one shouldn’t conclude that based solely upon the placement of packets of Nescafé instant coffee in a hotel room with no means of boiling water. They didn’t do that.

It was Barb.

It was she who pointed out the packets “over on the desk”. It was she who mentioned that there was no way of boiling water. It was she who observed that “it’s not so bad” (Rainman reference) when it’s made with cold tap water.

Just the facts.

It wasn’t until I was reading to her that last work of fiction I’d posted that she said “oh, no. I brought the coffee.”

Of course she did. She’s a smart cookie and hates leaving to chance the supply of caffeine. True, there is a Roman transit strike today. But we didn’t know that until this morning. There could have been a dozen other reasons why the drug (caffeine) dealer’s might not be on the corner when Barb needed an early morning fix – so she’s prepared! BYOC.

Speaking only for myself, I lay the blame for this misunderstanding – and myriad others – upon my personal Babelfish. (Those of you who are familiar with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will get my reference. The rest of you: get familiar! I started with the fourth book of the trilogy, but you can begin with the first to save time.)

Barb speaks Spaghetti, with a slight Blonde Inflection. My brain is hardwired for Waffle, weighted for Obvious Inference. You know, the Venus/Mars thing.

So when one is in a hotel room, where one often finds hotel-supplied instant coffee & tea, and one awakens in the morning – the customary time of day for consuming said hotel-supplied Instant coffee – and one is informed that there are instant coffee packets “over on the desk” – where one generally finds the hotel-supplied instant coffee packets, one whose OS is Waffle/OI might conclude that the presence of hotel-supplied instant coffee packets is typical and that, perhaps, the housekeeping staff removed the electric water boiling device for cleaning/repair/replacement and neglected to return it. So one might make a joke about such an oversight.

Especially when ones Babelfish neglected to point out that some things get Lost In Translation, and a fuller rendition of the Blondespeak Utterance might have been “there wasn’t any coffee in the room, but I brought some so, you’re welcome.”

Thus spake Barbathustra, upon hearing my recitation of the aforementioned Roman sense of humor.

Stupid Babelfish.

——–

“This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.”

“We Apologize For The Inconvenience”

(See disclaimers below)

——

Yeah, we’re here. In the hotel. In Rome.

It’s early Thursday morning and we’ve been awake for a couple hours. We’ve been reading and waiting for:

1) the Red Sox to beat the Dodgers (again)

Check.

2) breakfast to open (at 0700)

Not yet.

It is nice that Romans have a sense of humor.  Included in the goodies in the room is a box of Nescafé instant coffee packets. As instant coffee goes, it’s not bad. However it would be unscientific to do a comparison without other brands being tested alongside, at the same time. AND, I suspect, a true scientific test of any coffee – instant or otherwise – would include a device for boiling water?

Those darn Romans, always with the jokes.

Though I cultivated a taste for British humor many years ago, my Roman is a bit rusty. So I just played along with the joke and mixed my Nescafé with cold tap water.

After my second cup I realized that I don’t want to spoil my appetite for the coffees available at breakfast: Espresso, Cappuccino, etc. so I moved on to cold tap water sans Nescafé.

After our long flight(s) we were pretty trashed. We got checked in to our hotel, scattered our belongings around the room, and proceeded to recline on the bed. I made a joke about the phasers on Star Trek and set the bed to ‘head up, feet up, massage for 10 minutes’.

Barb had taken her thyroid medication (empty stomach, one hour before meal) so we had to wait before crossing the street to our favorite restaurant for dinner. I told my VERY empty and loudly protesting stomach that it would be worth the wait.

I imagine that you’re thinking “oh, they probably fell asleep and missed dinner,” and you’re on the right track. Right turn, Clyde.

We awoke about 90 minutes later. My dreams had been about Caprese, Al Olio, Tiramisu, and espresso. Five more minutes! I could hear the music of the accordion player, serenading the people eating on the sidewalk below our window. My heart soared like the eagle and my stomach went along for the ride! Whee!

My bride spoke. The eagle crashed, taking my stomach along for the ride.

“I can’t eat this close to bed….” Acid reflux/GERD/reality and all that.

I returned the bed to its factory settings and contemplated suicide. “Repatriation of remains” might be a problem best addressed by a recent widow without Acid reflux/GERD/reality, so I tried to be empathetic. I rolled over and attempted to retrieve those nap-dreams of Caprese, Al Olio, Tiramisu, and espresso. I failed. Instead I got dreams of trimming cabbage in 1970 and awoke early with the taste of disappointment in my mouth.

As it turns out, Nescafé instant coffee, mixed with cold tap water has a use beyond making Roman hoteliers giggle. It rekindles the desire for Italian food.

Time for a shower (my darling bride had one while I was trimming cabbage) and Breakfast.

Film at eleven.

——–

Disclaimer: that pesky Y chromosome has the predictable effect of conferring upon its possessor the unavoidable tendency to be a big, dumb, insensitive male. In my defense, the preceding account had been intended as a humorous perspective on events. In my bride’s defense, her various medical conditions, pains and maladies are well known to many readers, NOT funny, and well documented by her various physicians. They are also covered by HIPPA and should not be displayed in public. Therefore, the standard disclaimer applies:

“This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.”

Barb is feeling better this morning. Therefore, so am I.

“Are you not amused?” (“Gladiator” reference. We are, after all, just a few blocks from the Coliseum.) And we are BOTH hungry.

Fleeing Paradise

“This other Eden, demi-paradise,

This precious stone set in the silver sea,

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm,

This… Los Angeles.”

~ Harris K. Telemacher

Timothy Leary used to emphasize the importance of “set and setting” when embarking on a Trip: your mindset and your location & surroundings when tripping will greatly flavor your travel experience.

About thirty years ago I had jury duty in Federal Court in downtown Los Angeles. Since we live about sixty miles away, I rode the train – four days a week for nearly three months – and walked from Union Station to the Federal Building each morning and back again in the evening.

What a trip!

My mind and my feet traveled through time, wondering what it might have looked like when

-my mother used her now-forgotten mnemonic to recite the names of the streets as she and her friends went shopping “downtown”;

trying to imagine

-her father (my grandfather) and his experiences on those streets – a difficult and formative escape from his drunken and abusive father;

and how unrecognizable it would be to

-his grandmother (my great, great grandmother) who, in the last decade of the 19th century, referred to it as

“…Los Angeles which is, to me, the Paradise of Earth.”

She wrote these words many years before the current City Hall was erected in 1928.

Modeled after the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the concrete in its tower was made with sand from each of California’s 58 counties and water from its 21 historical Missions.

Walking from Union Station each morning, the morning sunlight reflecting off City Hall, I’d smile to myself as I pondered my good fortune: I was only required to spend a few hours in “this demi-paradise” returning to the real paradise each evening. My daily “trip” was manageable from this perspective. The traffic noise, the homeless/beggars/winos, the smell of stale urine and the ubiquitous graffiti – all reminders that everyone’s “reality” is different.

One evening as I walked back to the train I noticed a hawk, riding the thermals above the Los Angeles River. His life inspired a Haiku:

Red-tail at sunset

Seeking life amid concrete

Exterminator!

1928 saw the dedication of City Hall in Los Angeles and, 60 miles down the coast, the incorporation of a new city, which I’ve called home for nearly 55 years. As they say in the Marine Corps, “tough duty!”

Last night I went to feed our neighbors’ dogs and glanced up at the sunset (pictured above). Why on earth would anyone leave this, even for a cruise?

Must be sinister forces at work to motivate such a flight.

It’s Obama’s Fault!

We’ll try to write from the road, Muses willing.

Khashoggi Died In Car Accident

It has been fifteen years since the death of Idi Amin, the former dictator of Uganda. His last decade or so was spent living in exile in… [quickly burying the lead, see below for details]

For much of the 1970’s, the beefy, sadistic and telegenic despot had reveled in the spotlight of world attention as he flaunted his tyrannical power, hurled outlandish insults at world leaders and staged pompous displays of majesty.

While I don’t recall ever reading about the size of his hands, I remember a different “joke” from his reign of terror.

When the political, religious, and civil opponents disappeared and were later reported to have been found dead – their corpses so brutally beaten and/or dismembered that they were barely recognizable – Idi Amin announced that the alleged murders were Fake News. Somehow there were a lot of coincidences: each had “died in a car accident.” The ’70s were such humorous times. Remember Pol Pot?

After about 300,000 similarly grisly “car accidents”, the Last King of Scotland finally left Uganda. He’d managed to enrich himself – at the expense of his country – and left with his wives, children, and money. After a stop in Libya where he tutored its leader in Crazy, he finally found a home in…

Saudi Arabia.

“Where’s Waldo?” was temporarily renamed “Where’s Khashoggi?” for a couple weeks as folks began to come up with a story to explain his absence.

Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018 in order to obtain documents related to his planned marriage. As no CCTV recorded him exiting the consulate, he was declared a missing person amid news reports claiming that he had been killed and dismembered inside the consulate. An inspection of the consulate, by both Saudi Arabian and Turkish officials, took place on 15 October. Turkish officials found evidence of “tampering” during the inspection and evidence that supported the belief that Khashoggi had been killed. Initially, the Saudi Arabian government denied the death and claimed that Khashoggi had left the consulate alive but 18 days later admitted he had died inside, claiming a fistfight had led to Khashoggi being strangled. Eighteen Saudis were arrested, including the team of 15 who had been sent to “confront him”. Immediately after the release of the Saudi statement, Khashoggi’s editor at the Washington Post Karen Attiah called it “utter bullshit.” ~ Wikipedia

Somewhere in a palace in Riyadh someone is saying “Hey, remember that guy who got away with all that shit in Africa and then moved here?”

Any moment I expect Sarah Huckabee Sanders (or her boss) to report the Alternative Facts:

Khashoggi died in car accident.

Another coincidence?