Saturday, October 14, 2017

Mistral . . . and a happy reunification

Pt 1 - The Summer Trip  see here    
Pt 2 - The Summer Trip  see here

Pt 3 - The Summer Trip, June 16 ***

Ah, lovely. The French hotels have returned to using duvets, covered in crisp white  duvet
covers, replacing a variety of unsatisfactory cotton and foam and dense wool blankets they've substituted for many years. Duvets have a way of comforting one in all weather.

It's a restless snooze, with upward adjustments in the thermostat failing to thaw the air conditioning until I untuck the duvet all around and slip under it. I might have stayed asleep for the night if the Jill-of-all-Trades hadn't knocked on my door to bring up my suitcase, which Air France had delivered in about two hours . . . as promised.

I fall back into bed, intending to skip dinner, but a hungry tummy protests. I feel like something light, not the full-fledged dinner. I try to negotiate a lesser price with Jill, but neglect to notice the next morning when I check out whether the negotiation has been successful.

There are salads, cheeses, crackers, sprigs of tomatoes. Lots of water. I love the starry shadows the tomato stem makes across the table from the slanted sun rays.

I eat in the dining room, but a man sits out by the pool, reading as the sun slides down and breezes ruffle the trees. It lures me outside.

As does the heat after the chill of the air conditioning.
The breeze turns into wind gusts, strong wind gusts. Mistral?

It's hard to take a photo that shows the wind, or that captures its sound. The little lollipop trees show only faint evidence with the leftward bend of the tiny shoots that poke out from the balls, by the ripple of the lavender . . .

. . . by the golden grasses whipping in the slanting rays of sunset.

My hair, short as it is from a fresh haircut, blows in the balmy winds but my eyelids are drifting down. Even thought it's still light out, it's time for bed. I hadn't expected Beth, my friend and tour leader, to pick me up tomorrow until around noon, but the new plan is for 9:00 or 9:30.

I open the window wide, which finally solves the too-chilly issue.

And I can peek out at the glow of the lights from Marseille all night long, and at the purple reflection of neon off the flowers of the oleander.

Morning comes too soon, since I have to repack my suitcase after scrambling everything for a change of wardrobe.

***  For security reasons, these trip posts are being made after my return.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hot when we leave, hot when we arrive . . . And where is my suitcase?

(This trip starts here: Pt 1 -

Pt 2 - The Summer Trip, June 15 **

There is a major San Francisco Bay area celebration on my Fly-to-France Day. The Golden State Warriors won the National Basketball Association Championship and there will be parades and partying during the day which multitudes will attend. Fans are urged to take Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains to celebration venues to ease traffic and parking problems. It's a weekday, so this will add to the general commute crowding. 

I'm accustomed to pulling my little "luggage train," a rolling backpack hitched to a rolling suitcase, through a crush of commuters, each lost in inner worlds of earbuds and screens, and even the very cool reading commuters, standing mid-car without tether, absorbed in a book. I have a hurry-up drill for boarding: a straight-ahead run into the train car so the wheels of the bags cross the threshold perpendicularly to avoid a tip-over.

Because of the expected crowds, Sister drops me off at the BART station earlier than normal. The airline already requests that I arrive at the airport three hours ahead of my scheduled flight. I pull my two bags smartly upright onto the station escalator.. All the benches are filled, so I wait in the blazing sun at the edge of the platform, ready to launch through a train door first.

I luck out getting a seat. I need one near the door where there's space in front of me for my bags. The train isn't completely crammed, but there's a goodly crowd of enthusiastic basketball fans, most of whom get off to transfer down the east side of San Francisco Bay to Oakland for the celebrations. (Yippee!)

As early as it is, passengers are already lining up at the check in counters at the airport. Some are at the do-it-yourself kiosks. I once printed my own luggage tag at home. It had precise instructions for folding and inserting the printout into the special holder. I don't have the special holder, and I'd rather wait in line and let them tag my bag and hand me my boarding pass than have to keep track of yet another special holder.

But, yes, I am one of those dorks who carries my ticket, passport and BART pass in one of those neck dangle things, and I let the little red PRIORITY logo on the corner of my online flight sign-in peek out visibly. It gets me steered into a short line.

I arrive plenty early. I kill some time finding lunch. I'm looking forward to one of the deli sandwiches or salads from the kiosk in the north lunchroom. Except that they've demolished that kiosk and the rest, and replaced them with a plethora of fast food take-out counters lining the walls. I hate it. I hate the food choices and the layout of the food places and the layout of the tables. I want a cool chef's salad, which would have already been prepared and iced at the old place. I order one at one of the stores. The salad is assembled piece by piece down the line and delivered in exact numerical order with people waiting for things that must be cooked. There are no instructions on what to do once you've handed over your money, so I wander back and forth on the line for 45 minutes before my one little salad is delivered. HELLO, SFO AIRPORT CONCESSIONS. I HATE THIS ARRANGEMENT.

There's lots of time to look at the various exhibits displayed in the connecting hallway between the gates in the International Terminal. Don't ask me what this is. I'm not even thinking about that. All I'm seeing is the shiny and reflections and the interplay of light and how to turn it into a sparkly photo.

San Francisco International Airport

Between one exhibit and the next, I pass the ladies' toilettes (it sounds so much fancier in French) and dodge in to get security-screening-ready. I wear a tourist vest, full of zippered pockets, in which I'll stash most of the stuff they'll want to scan: my watch, ring, change, neck dangle, my under-clothing money belt that has my euro change in it, and, don't forget, my little box of No-Jet-Lag, which once almost led to a strip search. Did you know that tablets packaged with little plastic bubbles, on a card that push through a shiny backing to be liberated, set off the scanner? We puzzled at length until the box in the lower pocket on my cargo pants was discovered.

A long wall of painted tiles, each unique.
(I made that up. I have not really
looked at all of them)

San Francisco International Airport

A section of the tile wall
San Francisco International Airport

I've finally earned enough travel miles that this is an Awards flight. My priority boarding pass gets me in a short line through security screening. But it doesn't seem like my special line is moving very fast. In fact, it's not moving at all. There's a big gap in the line and we're almost leaning forward into each other as if that will press us along.

Finally, a rope barrier across our aisle is removed and we race through several empty turns of the aisle and get stopped again just before we reach the conveyor belt. We've seen a security officer wandering around with his dog, but suddenly Man and Dog are all business, running up and down our line. The dog's tongue flops as he races happily back and forth, sniffing us. I'm normally afraid of dogs, but I have to restrain myself from reaching out to pat him with a "Hi, Doggy." I even have to resist making a smart remark to his handler.

And then they send us on, past the conveyor belt and baggage scanner, past the people x-ray, right on through.

"Aren't we going to be screened?" I ask one of the guards.

"You've been screened," he tells me.


(All that repacking myself into the vest ... unneeded.)

There's our plane! In all my earlier trips on this aircraft I had to walk to the end of the terminal to the final gates The big A-380s have multiple boarding entrances which need special gate configurations. This year its gate has been moved to the front end of the terminal. It saves a big walk.

But I do miss the ride on the moving sidewalk that speeds you to the farther gates. I walk so slowly these days. I feel like I'm flying when I walk on the moving sidewalk. Transcendental.

My requirements from the on board entertainment system are minimal. The A-380 has a forward facing tail camera, a forward facing nose camera, and a downward facing camera on the bottom of the plane, all available on-screen.  I love watching the tail camera as we move around on the ground and during take off. There are moving maps, showing our flight location. And flight stats. I eavesdrop on movies on other people's screens so I can keep track of where we are on my own screen.

Left to my own devices, I'll also stare out the window an entire trip, but over the years, there has been stronger and stronger pressure from cabin crew to keep the window shades down, even during daylight. Sure, people either want to try to sleep or look at their entertainment systems without glare. But I can't avoid a peek, and taking a few photos along the terminator. My phone camera doesn't do justice to the amazing clear colors.

Moving toward sunrise . . .

   *           *           *   

Our big plane is boarded and buttoned up in San Francisco on time. Then we sit, and sit, and sit. An excuse is announced.  Still fueling, I think they say at first. Then, we hear a passenger has fallen ill and awaits a medical evaluation. The ill passenger is removed. The passenger's luggage must be retrieved from the baggage hold.

With 500 or so people and their luggage aboard, we won't be leaving any time soon.  I start to calculate what this will do to my connection in Paris to Marseille. I need an hour moving at full speed (slow) to debark, clear customs/border control, go through a new security check, and walk a hundred miles to a gate in the domestic terminal (excluding a stop at a restroom).

By the time we're buttoned down in San Francisco, we are late leaving for Paris by an hour and a half. We arrive in Paris a little over an hour late, giving those of us transferring to the Marseille flight less than an hour to make it.

Subliminally, I guess, I incorrectly to assume that the dog security check, or something similar, will cover me here too. She who assumes ....  We line up by the conveyor belt for our new scan. I'm wearing my vest with many of the dingable items still in the pockets  and keep flunking the X-ray machine. I pull a suspicious item out of a pocket and toss it in a tray. Flunk again. I throw my ring loose into a tray. I worry that it will go astray. It's a ring my late husband gave me many years ago to wear instead of my engagement ring with a diamond that was mounted so high that was always hanging up on my clothing.

I race into the domestic terminal. It's big. It's Air France and this is France. I arrive before the huge lineup at the gate for my flight has started to board and I resign myself to being last to board. Until I  glimpse the red Priority sign, on the far side of the crowd. I push my way through, trailing my rolling back pack and dangling my too large red purse.

I wait at baggage collection in Marseille.  Suitcases appear on the belt, and are taken. Mine doesn't. The crowd dwindles. Did you come from San Francisco? I cast out to the lingerers. My guess is that the big plane arrived in Paris too late to make the luggage transfer for this short flight.

Someone shuts down the luggage belt, no longer producing the occasional lone suitcase. "Come with me," she says, delivering the lingerers to the lost baggage claim office. She starts helping a few with computer claims kiosks. There's a big line leading into the glass-enclosed office, waiting to talk to an agent. I start to join the line, see a red Priority sign at the back end of the office. I see a back door. I walk down uncertainly, getting the evil eye from my fellow luggageless passengers. Maybe I'm supposed to wait my turn at the front door. There's another passenger in there sitting at the desk with an agent. (The people at the other end of the counter are standing.) I poke my head in. The agent indicates I should wait outside until the customer is finished. It seems I am at least at the correct place. 

"Your bag will be delivered to your hotel in two hours," he tells me after I provide him with my forwarding information.

I call my hotel to send its shuttle, and walk back and forth in the confusion of traffic (is construction still going on here?) between the two terminals that are being served here by buses, taxis and shuttles.  It's hot and I wander a while before we connect. The young woman who drives the van also checks me in at the desk. I have my rolling back pack, which she insists on carrying up the stairs to my room on the first floor. (The place we start at is called the ground floor.) She'll watch for the arrival of my suitcase.

How many hours have I been awake? My brain is too fuzzy to do the calculations and my phone resets its time automatically. The room is icy cold. I fiddle with the thermostat to make it less cold and flop face down onto the white duvet cover for a little nap.

**  For security reasons, these trip posts are being made after my return.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

It's a chaotic roll out, but I'm on the road

Pt 1 - The Summer Trip, June 13 *

You've seen them here, the little Pocket Itineraries I make for the trips I go on. They include itinerary info in the first section, followed by critical miscellaneous info, all in one handy little booklet. I use the previous trip's book as a template for the next one, with appropriate adjustments for any differences in trip length. The info pages have been added a bit randomly over the years, so for this trip, I have a grand plan to rearrange the informational pages into a more logical order.

When I make enough little books for a tour group, I start the task appropriately in advance. This time, planning to make only one, I get cocky. I procrastinate. I've done nothing in advance. After all, how hard can it be to make only one? So here I am, jammed up at the last minute. For the two nights before departure, I stay up nearly all night enjoying an illusion of progress. Typing is interspersed with packing. You'd think I'd have the packing process down, too, but there is always an enormous number of "little things" that need to be sorted: take it or don't take it. This is a trip encompassing two tours, befuddling my brain somewhat. "Minimize" struggles with "I may need this."

A previous version...
What's with the ugly background?
Oh. I took the photo on my walnut dining table.
I'm down to the night before I leave for my sister's house, the launch pad to the airport, way closer to SFO.  I still have a motley array of papers to sort and select. I'm doing this PI on a new computer for the first time, in Win 10 Creators Edition, using my Win 98 Lotus software. (Yes, Win 10 takes it on like a champ but a lot of data and formatting have to be transferred from older computers.) I'm in a haze, dozing off at my desk, sporadically waking to work on packing. I've lost track of what the day is, the one I leave for Sister's, or is that tomorrow?

Eventually -- whether it's this day or a dreamscape -- the newscasts rattling on on the TV in the background have brought me Jeff Sessions being grilled by a Senate Committee, talking heads analyzing into the night; breaking news about a devastating London apartment fire. I'm horrified. It's a visual reminiscent of 9/11. I type on.

I realize I'm hearing George Stephanopoulous in the background with more breaking news about a shooting in DC, something related to Congress. I open my eyes, feeling warm and cozy in the big desk chair, aware of light outside filtering in through the shades. It's five o'clock, time for dinner. Until I realize it's 5 a.m. Time to go to bed for a short sleep.

"Please, Mama, you can't go.
I won't let you pack."

"We're not moving."
(Yes. There are two cats in this picture.)

I wake up, without much difficulty, thinking about what I need to do to finish it up. My suitcase and backpack are packed and zipped. My Pocket Itinerary isn't. I poke and rearrange, but after awhile, I realize I can't finish it in time to make my Sister's for dinner. I shove the fistful of printed-but-uncut pages and my laptop into a tote. I'll spend the night at my sister's, cutting and assembling. We plan to swing by Staples in the morning to have it spiral bound on the way to the BART for the trip to the airport.

I'm still printing, even as I eat my breakfast on Fly Day. Sister helps with cutting and stacking finished pages. The impossibility of finishing in time for spiral binding is upon us.

I'm rushing, I'm tired, and I'm making mistakes that take too much time to correct.

"I surrender."

I call a halt to all that stuff and Sister finishes up by punching holes in the upper left corner of the pages. We hook together what is done with a metal ring, and stuff it into a little zip purse to keep it from fanning out. I put unfinished pages my tote, with the fantasy that I'll somehow add the remaining info while traveling.

*  For security reasons, these trip posts are being made after my return.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Yikes ... for the moment ... And the pre-trip trip

Can I really do it? Do I have the nerve to sport the red hat for the travel season? Is red wool too hot to wear in summer? Will rolling the hat for packing crush the spirit out of it?

And the red purse. It's too big to put in a back pack for consolidating carry-on, but too small to carry all. I've never been a particular fan of red, but this year it livens my spirit somehow. I want splashes of colors in my photos and splashes of color in blogs of my travels.

"A proposal is being considered to ban laptops in the cabins on flights originating from Muslim majority countries ."

"Terrorists can use laptops in making bombs to bring down airplanes."

"Consideration is being given to extend the laptop ban to flights from several European airports."

"Anything bigger than a Smartphone will be banned aboard all flights."

"Lithium batteries can catch fire in the cabin."

"Laptops would be placed in checked baggage."

"Do not put laptops in checked baggage because ... could be broken in baggage handling ... easily stolen from checked luggage ... a lithium battery fire would be worse in the hold than in the cabin."

There looms this cloud of uncertainty over my bright splashes, a buzz that's going among travelers. What if they decide to bar our laptops on planes? I imagine the buzz is even louder among the business travelers. What if I take my laptop to France to blog and they ban Paris while I'm there?

Meanwhile, I have another short trip to take. I'll join the ladies of the family (my late husband's family) for the Annual Ladies Tea, hosted by my sisters-in-law. I've begged off in the past because it's so close to the big (i.e., long, in distance and time) summer trip, and the trip to San Diego via auto is tiring and time consuming. I've given up driving that one, being too inclined to fall asleep at the wheel. I bite the bullet and make the last minute airline reservation, even though it costs almost as much as a super cutthroat round trip ticket I have to Paris in the Fall.

I get myself an overnighter case that holds my laptop and my stuff instead of wrangling my regular suitcase and my carry-on which includes the laptop.  The trip from Fresno to LAX to San Diego and return is an adventure in itself but I get there and back intact, so that's to the good.

Arrives in a box

It's cute

I'm in the last row.
You can see it's a big airplane!
Or, in case you can't see, it's tiny.

Bouncing a little over the mountains,
descending into Los Angeles

Rain drops on the window
create a sun flair

Descent into San Diego

The tea table is set
The view from each end to catch the light

What looks like a big yellow sugar rose is actually a furled napkin.
Several try to recreate this after unfurling.

Niece is either wrangling the many flavors of tea
or secretly washing dishes back there

One each, please

Daughter and I

The assembled ladies of the family

Okay, this is breakfast out the day after,
 grilled French Toast in a skillet

Henley and Jean-Luc are not budging
from Mommy's lap although they may
fight for position

Time to get packing for the big trip. The laptop has to go along. Surely they won't ban an American old lady and her laptop at the Paris airport?


Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Great Toilet Flapper Caper

I blame the election. Instead of blogging, I've been lured into following
all the post election clatter on Facebook and in other venues.
I have my own strong opinions, but I don't want to do research
to support those opinions. I have retired from research!

The travel season is on its way, and there'll be lots of pictures 
to take and things to talk about.

The phone is ringing on Thursday afternoon when I unlock the back door and race into the house. Too late, I locate a handset. I say "hello" but the caller is already recording her message.

Paraphrasing: "This is the water district. You've used 8600 gallons of water so far this month. Normal for you by now is about 530 gallons. You have a very expensive leak. You need to call a plumber right away."

Yikes! I go into brain freeze for a moment as I probe around it for my plumber's name. It eludes me as names do more often these days. I remember from the last time I needed him that none of the phone numbers I found for him were correct. (Damn, but I miss the old White Pages.) Thank goodness I seem to have entered a number that works into my phone. I leave him a message.

A Faux Flapper to add a little color
(The title will be clearer later on)

He's back on the phone with me quickly. He has four calls ahead of mine to take care of but he will be out.  (He takes good care of us old ladies in our little community.) Before he lands on my doorstep, he has checked my meter and turned off the water. There is no water leaking through that point in the plumbing, nor out of hose bibs around the perimeter of the house. He knocks and picks up the key to the basement to check out hose bibs and water connections down there.

He tours faucets and toilets in the house, finding no readily apparent leaks. Some kind of dye agent goes into toilet tanks. Two of three toilets are newish, put in when I did the room addition, the taller ones, more suitable for easy rising for old ladies.

"Lee, come see this," he hollars from the bathroom off the laundry room past the kitchen.

He's seated backwards on the closed toilet seat, his hands plunged into the open tank. He pulls one hand up, with black slime oozing down his upraised hand.

"The flapper is disintegrating."

He changes all the guts. This is likely for the first time in the 28 years I've had the toilet.

I've also wanted to put a tall toilet in that bathroom for some time, but would the door clear a new bowl with its tight fit?  Indecision.  I ask.  He assures me it's no problem, as long as we put in a round bowl and not an oval one.

He appears at the door a few days later, the toilet wrapped in his arms. I'm sure this must be wrong. I'm sure things occurred in a more logical order, but that vision is what lingers!

"Lee, I have to show you something," comes a call again from the bathroom. He stands inside the tiny room, with me on the outside, the toilet between us. He reaches across to shut the door. He opens the door. I hear a slight drag as the door passes. The edge of the toilet seat scribes a pencil-like mark across the edge of the door. He repeats the motion. "I need to get another seat." He explains this is an upgraded seat he prefers. It's sturdy. It feels like wood. He'll have to get the standard one from the maker of the toilet.

My nightmare scenario

I make a suggestion. "Just give the door edge a few swipes on the line with a rat tail file and a touch of paint and it'll clear." I'm serious, but he'll have none of it. The seat must be replaced.

A couple of days later, he arrives with a same-branded seat as the toilet. It does feel flimsier. But it's comfortable and it has that slow self-lowering feature like that high priced brand.

Success is celebrated with a parade
(Not really, but it gives me a chance
to use the photo)

Now at this point, I think my problems are solved and the story is over. I have only to worry about the water bill. I've visited the water company and she allowed me onto a forgiveness program for water charges for people with undetected leaks. She could not, however, forgive sewer charges, since the leaked water was processed through the district sewer system. My water/sewer bill is a mammoth conglomeration of water charges, sewage charges, water bonds (several, I'm sure), sewer bonds, all compounded. I'm pretty thrilled when my 8100 extra gallons only result in an extra $100 or so on the next bill.

Well, time has passed since I started this sad tale (owing to the distractions mentioned in the header) and another month's bill has arrived. Rather than the anticipated reduction in price and quantity, it is up, with more like $150 over normal. The billing periods lag way behind the bills themselves, but I can't figure out whether it's a timing thing that  throws me off here.

It's time for another talk with the water district. Do I still have a leak, or do I have a meter reader who just enters the same use quantity as the month before?


Friday, March 17, 2017

Serious Matters. A conversation between two old ladies

I don’t remember what initially happened that opened up the topic. It’s something that our generation – whose kid-hood was 70 years ago – never discussed or acknowledged. Not in our whole lives. I even hesitate to do it here. And now.

Maybe it was one of those Facebook posts that extol the carefree innocence of the good old days, when kids were sent out in the morning to play and didn’t come home until dark.

“It wasn’t all sunshine and roses,” she casually commented.

I only lifted an eyebrow.

“You know what I mean?”

“Well, not specifically. There are things I did as a kid that I wouldn’t want to tell my parents. But it’s not that so much ….  I do wonder about things that happened to me sometimes.”


She spoke first. “Did someone do something bad to you?”

“I’m not sure . . . "

“It’s okay,” she reassured. “Spit it out,”

“Well, I remember being at friends’ house with my husband one afternoon – he was a cop, you remember – and the couple were both social workers. They were discussing a case in the news about a child molestation, and I started to ask about something that happened to me when I was little. My husband shooshed me, I guess afraid I was going to make some embarrassing accusation against my parents. So I shut up and kept wondering. It wasn't at all about them. It was something else, so I still don't know what constitutes molestation but think it includes more than I thought.”

“I’m still in the dark." She shrugged. "Nobody ever talked to me about sex or molestation, although I sense that I've been warned about unknown bad things. I always thought molestation meant adults having actual sex with a child. But no one actually said that to me. That would be 'nasty talk.' These days everybody shares every intimate detail of their lives, but it just didn't happen in our generation. Still pretty much doesn't." 

She smiled weakly and continued. “Okay, you tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine, Sounds like when we used to say 'if you'll show me yours, I’ll show you mine.'”

We both laughed. “You first,” we said in unison.

She started. “When I was four or five years old, I played with two little boys around my age who lived a couple of doors down the street. On hot summer days, we all, boys and girls, ran around in shorts or sunsuits all day long. 

“Their grandpa lived in a little grandpa house in their back yard and he’d give the kids candy and cookies and invite us in to listen to his radio or Victrola.”

“Children these days would be warned about that,” I told her, anticipating that no good could come from this, given our conversation. 

"Yeah. Well, we weren't. It was strangers we were supposed to look out for in case they might kidnap us."

"Yeah, my constant fear, even about the teenage boys in the neighborhood."

“One day I went looking for the boys and knocked on the grandpa's door. The boys weren’t there, but he asked me in for a cookie and to listen to the radio while we waited for them to come. I didn’t like that he hooked the screen door higher than I could reach, but I didn’t say anything. He sat down in his chair by the radio and coaxed me over to sit in his lap.

“I was eating my cookie when I felt his fingers touching my sunsuit, down there. Then he snuck a finger into the sunsuit and wiggled them on my little bare pussy. I'm not sure now, but that may not have been the only time that happened.”

I could feel heat rising in my face. “What did you do?”

“I ran to the screen door and yelled for his granddaughter, the boys' big sister.”

She took a deep breath, then released it explosively “I’ve never told that to anyone in the world, but awhile later my Mom told me I could never play with the boys again. She must have heard something from someone.” She teared up, with both relief and apprehension. “Is that molestation?”

I leaned across to give her a hug. “Damned if I know for sure, but I think it might be.”

“Your turn,” she said.

“Mine was a neighbor, too, a young army guy. He and his 17-year-old wife and new baby, lived in a granny apartment next door. The owner of the house, a  blind old lady, lived in the main part of the house.”

“The old lady part sounds like us,” she said with a crooked smile.

“She probably wasn’t as old as us, but what does a little squirt know...."

“I liked to visit the old lady to ask her about what it was like to be blind, and I liked to visit the very young bride to see the baby, because I didn't understand how someone so young could be a mother. The husband was usually away doing whatever young army guys do in the daytime when they aren’t fighting the war."

My friend was waiting for the reveal.

“One day when I went over, the ladies and baby were away. The cute young army guy invited me in – I don’t remember why – but I went in and perched on the edge of the bed, which practically filled the tiny room.

“I launched into asking my usual questions about the war.”

“You were a war buff?” she asked.

“The war was on full blast. Papa was a block warden at home and worked at a defense plant a long ways away. My grandpa was an air raid warden. Somewhere I've got the greatest photo of a neighbor woman -- built like an opera diva -- lying on the lawn, and grandpa standing behind her decked out in his helmet and gas mask.  My uncles were in the navy and marines, and my youngest aunt was a hostess at the USO. We had black tar paper over our windows so enemy bombers couldn't see light from the houses at night.  We'd follow the war in newsreels at the movies and read about it in our papers and hear about it on the radio. Fifteen minute radio serials (along with the soaps) featured war plots. And there were the air raid blackouts. Mom made me a little Marine outfit and I tried to dig a foxhole in the garden. (Alas, I would never win the war that way.) Everybody was heavily involved with wartime.”

“Hmm,” she pondered. “I don’t think I ever gave it much thought. So what happened there with the cute Army guy'?”

“After awhile, he went into the bathroom, and I thought he forgot to close the door, because I could see him standing in front of the toilet and hear the clatter of his pee into the water.

“I was soooo embarrassed. I went over to the exit door and developed a major fascination looking out the window at all the activity -- none-- on the old lady’s back terrace.”

Her face reflected my embarrassment. “Jeez, did you leave?”

“No, I just thought he was forgetful until he came up behind me and I could feel this big hard lump pressing into my back. He took my hand and led me around to the other side of the bed, away from the door, and sat me down. He stood there displaying all his glory.

“’Have you ever seen one of these?’ he asked me. I said ‘Of course. My Dad.’ Dad had never presented a display like this, but he neither did he do the embarrassed cover-up if I walked in on him either.”

“Oh, you poor thing,” she exclaimed, “I mean about your neighbor, not your dad.”

“Yeah, then he asked if I wanted to play with it. No way! I made a cautious retreat, past him, not turning my back on him, and out the door. I had no idea why he thought I might want to play with it. I wonder if young bride wondered why I never came back, and I only visited the old lady when they weren’t home. Like you, I have never told anyone at all.”

This time, I received the hug.

“So I’ve wondered, too, whether that’s considered molestation.”

“Ah, for the good old days, where you could stay out all day and seek refuge with a caring neighbor if you’re in trouble.”

We exchanged wry grins.  “Fuck!” we said simultaneously.


1.  Original blog post concept noted 6/21/15: no content. Title idea: She Never Told A Soul
2.  A number of women made accusations of sexual impropriety against Trump.
    "Why didn't she report it twelve years ago?" (or twenty. or thirty)
3. 1st draft 10/17/15, 2nd day at Essoyes, Writing from the Heart  
    Consider "Ice breaker" as title or part of title
4.  Fleshed it out when a class assignment was to write freely; read aloud in class in 10/20/15.

The real reveal: Both sides of conversation are me. I finally have explained to myself, admitted to myself, that some things that happened to me that shouldn't have. Yes. That was molestation. Did it affect me? Hard to say but it's too late to be relevant.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Rest of the Big Day in Basque Country

It's been a long time --  a long long time -- since I've posted here in Traveling Sardine Class. It's not that I haven't thought about posting. I've had  blog ideas, and even gathered photos for two or three of them. Some are "promised" as follows-up when I have too many photos for one blog. These are bottlenecks, so to speak, in that I feel compelled finish them before I set forth with current stuff.

I've got to get over that.

We set out with our Basque guide, Iban, and bus driver, Denis, for the centerpiece of the very long day, a cogwheel train ride up Mt. Rhune. I cover our visit that May day to the mountain on the border of France and Spain, within view of the Atlantic Coast, here.  This flashback includes the rest of the day, before and after the marvelous train ride

On one of our earlier days in St. Jean de Luz, I bought a pattern for a quilted wall-hanging, which is likely this view of Ciboure from our side of the river Nivelle; it flows into the Bay of St. Jean de Luz. 


Our bus crosses the river and heads in a southeasterly direction, stopping in Ascain, where we take a few glimpses around the town center, then go into the Église Notre-Dame- de-l'Assomption.

Iban tells us about this church

We move on to our cogwheel train ride up La Rhune, and return to continue on to the Basque Village of Sare for lunch.

Basque Pelota court

There is some kind of mix up about our reservations for lunch that had been made way in advance. I did not note in my itinerary whether the original venue improvised, or whether it was another restaurant that jumped in. Whichever  situation, Hotel Lastiry springs into action and we don't have to wait terribly long to be seated, but we have a long meal, as is the custom, with visually fanciful food creations.

Returning to our bus, we stop briefly for photos at la cimetière de Sare with its variety of monuments, old and new graves intermingled. So many are family plots in these French cemeteries, with generations resting together. Some are kept up; some not. Plastic flowers and real flowers. Strange artificial creations, weather-worn. Faded photos of the loved one. Lengthy tributes. Often on a cool, breezy hill, I am told, because it blows away the odors of the dead.

In 1950, I fell in love with the poetic words of Cyrano de Bergerac, as portrayed by José Ferrer, in the movie based on a play from the late-19th/early-20th century poet-dramatist Edmond Rostand. Needless to say, I'm thrilled that Rostand's Villa Arnaga in Cambo-les-Bains is on the itinerary, although fatigue is setting in from the long day.

It's a 17 hectare property, or around 42 acres, with gardens and a villa. We walk the distance from the entrance of the property to the villa at the far end.

I'm upstairs now, in the villa, looking down at another tourist group having its group photo taken. The photographer looks a little put out, waiting for his subjects to get organized. I got impatient waiting for them. Reminds me of our group, always looking for the opportunity for the official group trip photo. (We would never be disorderly lining up.)


We aren't done yet. Our bus turns into another parking spot in another village. I write down several possible names in my itinerary for this village, but none pans out in a Google search as being anywhere near this area. I zoom into the possible routes from Cambo-les-Bains to St. Jean de Luz on Google Earth and happen upon Espelette, which at least sounds close. The first things up are for tourists -- galleries and gift shops. They are nice, but after a quick look in the first two, I'm still tired and go back to sit on the curb near the bus pickup. It's a very clean and orderly-looking village, and the air is a little too cool at the curb.

Back in St. Jean de Luz, we make the walk back into our hotel from the bus stop; the city along the shore is vehicle-free. I stumble into my room and flop down on my bed. I'm still full from that late lunch. I find a nougat bar in my bag in lieu of dinner.

But I stir enough to go to my window for this post-sunset shot at 9:30, water turned to silver.

And this post sunset shot with an afterglow still at the horizon at 10:20.

That is all for today.