Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Bottoms Up!

This is from this morning’s news on AOL. It calls drinking the biggest drug problem in America.

Americans are drinking a lot – and it’s scaring researchers

 

If you’re an American and you drink alcohol, you’re not alone. In fact, there are more people like you now than in the past. But with increased drinking comes increased health consequences – so much so that researchers are calling it a public health crisis.

Specifically, the portion of Americans consuming alcohol during a year has increased 11.2 percent from 2001-2002 to 2012-2013 (65.4 percent to 72.7 percent, respectively). High-risk drinking ticked up from 20.2 million Americans to 29.6 million Americans during this period, and those diagnosed with alcohol use disorder rose from 17.6 million to 29.9 million Americans.

High-risk drinking was defined as four or more regular drinks on any day for women, five or more for men, and exceeding those limits at least weekly during the year. A person was considered to have alcohol use disorder if they met criteria for alcohol dependence or abuse in the past year.

The study took into account about 80,000 people’s individual interviews between several surveys, and was published earlier this week in JAMA Psychiatry.

Women, older adults, racial/ethnic minorities and people of lower income and education levels saw the largest increases, save for a few exceptions.

 

“These increases constitute a public health crisis that may have been overshadowed by increases in much less prevalent substance use (marijuana, opiates and heroin) during the same period. … Most important, the findings herein highlight the urgency of educating the public, policymakers and health care professionals about high-risk drinking and [alcohol use disorder], destigmatizing these conditions and encouraging those who cannot reduce their alcohol consumption on their own, despite substantial harm to themselves and others, to seek treatment,” according to the study.

And it’s not just the study authors who are concerned.

“This should be a big wake-up call,” David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Bloomberg. “Alcohol is our number one drug problem, and it’s not just a problem among kids.” He was not a part of the research.

It’s estimated that 88,000 people die every year due to alcohol-related causes, reports the Washington Examiner – and people can’t seem to agree on how to get a handle on them.

Why is this happening in the first place? There isn’t one root cause, Bloomberg reports. Researchers suggest economic stress post-Great Recession could play a role, in addition to the improved accessibility of alcohol at retailers and restaurants and weakened alcohol tax impact. Today, alcohol is cheaper than it’s ever been since at least 1950 in relation to average income.

August 11, 2017 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Cold Drinks, Community, Cultural, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

The Upgrade from Hell

Somehow, I have officially become a “million miler” although I have never kept track, and if I did, the total would probably be closer to three or four million, considering our trans-oceanic travels started when I was young, and were especially frequent in my college years.

Every now and then I really screw up. Does that surprise you? It surprises me; I tend to be careful about travel reservations to the point that you could accuse me of being meticulous, but this time, I had been looking and looking and finally I found something that was great! Super! Almost too good to be true!

When something seems too good to be true (my prejudice) you’d better watch out. When something is too good to be true, there is probably a flaw somewhere.

I thought I had booked a 10:30 departure, arriving in Pensacola at 8:57 the same day.  About a week after I had paid for it, and printed out the itinerary for AdventureMan, I saw, to my utter horror, I was departing at 10:30 AT NIGHT and arriving at 8:57 the following morning.

I hate Red-Eye flights.

When I was an undergrad in Seattle, my routine was to pack up as I studied for my finals, and after the last final (or after my sister’s last final when she joined me at university) we would head for the airport and sign up for space available to Philadelphia. We always got the red-eye out, arriving in Philly early in the morning, usually awake all night. We’d catch the military transport to McGuire, where military, state, and government dependents were gathering from all over the country to fly home to where our parents are.

(Let the wild rumpus begin!)

At McGuire AFB, it might be days before we would get out. We’d have to check in, get on the stand-by list, and show up for all possible flights. There were endless bridge games, guitar playing, partying in the airport, and, if we had enough time between flight calls, we could go to the pool. We’d see friends from high school, friends from other assignments, meet new friends and exchange addresses for “if you’re coming through” meet-ups.

Travel isn’t so much fun, now.

So I heard my name called as I was waiting to board, and they had given me an upgrade to “comfort” class.

AdventureMan and I have a rule – if a flight is longer than five hours, we book first or business class. I never book comfort class; it’s the same three-seat-across configuration, shoulder to shoulder and sharing armrests, for a couple more irrelevant inches in front of me, on a flight where I intend to be sleeping. But oh well, I take the new seat assignment.

When I get aboard, my heart sinks. My seat is right across from the lavatory. For the four hours to Atlanta, the door opens and closes and opens and closes. I am jostled. The smell of the disinfectants makes me sneeze. I manage to sleep through some of it, maybe an hour. It was purely the worst, and I regretted having accepted it. I think of it as the upgrade from Hell.

In Atlanta, I have a favorite coffee shop, out of the way, quiet, with fresh-made croissants and really good coffee, and a book store. I pass some time, then go to my gate, which is (a first in Atlanta) close by. Another upgrade. I’m almost afraid to take it, but these are small planes and I think I’ll be safe. This time, I have a whole very quiet row to myself, and I snooze all the way to Pensacola 🙂

You’d have to see the Pensacola Airport to know why I love it. It’s so small that Pensacolians can actually wait outside to pick up their arriving passengers, as long as they don’t leave their cars. AdventureMan actually parks (it’s nearby) and he and our grandson are waiting for me. It is a joyful reunion, and once home, I nap for a couple hours before unpacking and catching up.

It’s been a constant annoyance that some people started calling it Pensacola International Airport, so pretentious. Not a single international flight lands here, except one that one time landed here by accident. Now, I noted, the airport is called the Reubin O’Donovan Askew Airport, after one of the best governors of Florida. It just feels right. I wonder how that happened?

August 9, 2017 Posted by | Aging, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Survival, Travel | | 2 Comments

No Trips To Damascus This Week

AdventureMan and I are currently on an austerity program.

When we say that, we laugh. God blesses us abundantly. We have food to eat, we have a good roof over our head, “two cats in the yard” to quote Neil Young, life is good. We’ve had a full season of unexpected and thoroughly normal repairs, however, including replacing an air conditioning system (expensive) and replacing an irrigation system (expensive) and in our other house, replacing a roof and it’s supports in our other house (expensive.) We have “enough.” We are blessed.

We’ve always had a policy of living below our means, supporting the church, investing and saving, and it has served us well. Even in retirement, we are loathe to touch our savings, even though the savings are for our retirement. We don’t know how long we’re going to live, or what kind of health care system we are going to have, so we keep all those little nuts in case winter is coming :-).

Meanwhile, I wanted to go to Mobile for lunch to day at 7 Spices Mediterranean Grill, one of the most delicious places in this part of the world to eat, and when AdventureMan and I counted out our money, we found that we could – just. AdventureMan looked at me and said “How about we go in August, and I’ll take you over to the beach to eat today” and I said “OK” and he said “No Trips to Damascus this week.”

When we lived in Amman, Jordan, our favorite trip was up to Damascus. It was only about 3 1/2 hours, longer if there was a line at the border, or is someone wanted to screw with us, as they sometimes liked to do with embassy people. We had friends in Damascus; we stayed with them, they knew all the best restaurants, and all the best places in the souks. Damascus was still very French, so I could do just fine there, and it was also Arabic, so AdventureMan could also do just fine.

We were young, we didn’t have a lot of money, but Iranians were fleeing Iran, stopping in Damascus to sell their carpets, and carpet buying was our avid hobby. For all of us, we all loved the beauty of the carpets, and their stories. We learned quickly to buy the carpet, not the story. The carpet sellers knew us all by name, and the foreign population was so small that they took our checks and those checks would go over the border to Lebanon and were cashed quicker than our checks cashed at the embassy. The carpet souks, the gold souks, and the copper souks all welcomed us, and shopping was a leisurely thing, you’d sit and drink a little tea, the shopkeeper would tell you how business was going, and you’d swap stories as you haggled over whatever it was you were purchasing.

Or not. One of my friends, a very funny woman, took a carpet home on approval – it was done all the time. Every time I would visit her, the carpet vendor would remind her she needed to pay for it or bring it back, and they would negotiate. She was a shrewd woman, a devilish bargainer, and the vendor wouldn’t meet her price. At the end of her two year tour, after having the carpet in her house almost the entire time, she returned it because they couldn’t agree on a price! She was a legend in the embassy community.

The 7 Spices restaurant has food that seems very Syrian, and has tapestries with scenes from Damascus on the walls. Sigh. No trips to Damascus this week.

(The photos are from our last trip to Damascus in 2007. Sigh. Ten years ago. Yes, I am feeling nostalgic.)

July 16, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

In the Wadi

A lovely quiet Saturday morning; the cats let me sleep in a little bit, I rise relaxed and happy to feed them and to read The Lectionary before my day gets fully underway.

The Old Testament story is David and Goliath.

 

1 Samuel 17:31-49

31 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul; and he sent for him. 32David said to Saul, ‘Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’33Saul said to David, ‘You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.’ 34But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.’ 37David said, ‘The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.’ So Saul said to David, ‘Go, and may the Lord be with you!’

38 Saul clothed David with his armour; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39David strapped Saul’s sword over the armour, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, ‘I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.’ So David removed them. 40Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

41 The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43The Philistine said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44The Philistine said to David, ‘Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.’ 45But David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.46This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,47and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.’

48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly towards the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

 

So it’s an interesting story, and, as it turns out, plausible. When we lived in Tunis and in Amman, we often saw young men with slings, and they were amazingly proficient.

What caught my eye in this reading was that David picked up five smooth stones from the wadi, and that one work brought back so many associations. We often camped, in Tunis, and in Jordan, and from time to time we set up camp in a wadi. It always made me nervous, thinking that a sudden, unexpected, unseasonal, and, frankly, totally unlikely storm could come along and wash us to a tragic death. That kind of timidity came with motherhood, and an understanding of how little control I had as a mother, protecting children from all the possible ways children can be injured, sometimes fatally. Lucky for me (she says wryly) she was always outvoted by the testosterone in the family, and the dearth of likely camping spots.

In Tunisia, the Tunisia before Tunisia became developed, we would drive around to old ruins, Roman, pre-Roman, ancient ruins, and camp. There were no toilets, no showers. We had a Volkswagon bus. From time to time when nature called, I would turn to AdventureMan and say “I need a wadi.”

He knew what I meant. He would find a bridge over a wadi in a seemingly deserted place, and I would jump out, pee quickly, and run for the bus. I always wore a wrap skirt or a jean skirt, so much quicker.

“Why the hurry?” you might ask.

We learned, from the very beginning, that no matter how deserted a place might appear, that within two minutes of stopping curious children would begin to show up. Mostly they were just interested that something different was happening, sometimes they wanted “bonbon.” We always  carried a package of hard candy; anything else would melt in the heat, in these days before Volkswagen buses had air conditioning.

 

As for showering – we didn’t. At least most of the time, we didn’t. One time, one December, just after Christmas, there was a desert festival in Douz, and we went on a week-long camping trip. We camped in an oasis / field just outside of Douz, and right next to the Bedouin campers, who would come to sit with us around the campfire. During the day, there were parades of camels, and at night, huge bonfires and poetry contests.

The desert nights were cold, so bitterly cold I’ve never been colder, not even in Alaska. I zipped two sleeping bags together and had my son in mine with me; the cold was so intense it robbed the heat right out of our bodies, and I could protect him with mine. AdventureMan said it was the only time in his life that he considered peeing in his sleeping bag rather than leaving it’s small protection to walk outside the camp (he braved the walk!)

When the festival ended, we drove across the Chott al Jerid, a great salt flat, huge and empty, and then up into the mountains. I think we headed to Al Mitlawi, and from there, followed a crude map to a waterfall, near which we camped. On New Year’s Eve day, we got up early and headed to the waterfall, which we had all to ourselves, for a shower. It’s one of the most amazing memories I have, showering under that waterfall in a dry and arid part of the world. It was so early, and so remote, no children showed up. 🙂

Update: As I am reading the news, I see that in May the U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning for Tunisia, specifically the southeastern and mountainous parts, because of terrorism.

July 15, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Road Trips, Travel, Tunisia | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sweet Land of Liberty: Religious Rights and Jury Duty

 

Every now and then, God, in his infinite mercy, sends an abundance of blessings, covers us with blessings. In a time in which I have found myself uncharacteristically  depressed and anxious about the path our country is taking, for one brief moment, the last few days, all depression has lifted and all anxieties have calmed.

One source of anxiety has been a personal matter, a family matter, and that has resolved itself graciously, happily, with a great feeling of relief and gratitude.

For Sunday, July 2nd, our priest had prepared us for a new set of studies, kicked off by an examination of Democracy and Religion. There were rules – 1) Be nice (that’s what they say in the South for ‘be civil’) and 2) Try to see the issue through the eyes of someone with whom you disagree.

The church hall was set up with twenty-four chairs. A half hour before he was due to start, people started pouring in, and we started pulling out more chairs, and more chairs and more chairs. He actually started off early with a reflection on our Old Testament reading, the story of Abraham and the almost-sacrifice of Isaac. (My Moslem friends correct me; they tell me it was Isaac. Let’s just agree that it was Abraham and a son, and perhaps the details will come clear on the other side of the great divide.) More people arrived, more chairs put out until we were out of chairs. Toward the end of the discussion on Religious rights and Democracy, I did a quick count of chairs and people standing and figured we had over ninety people – and one of the best Sunday School classes ever.

Our priest took a Socratic approach, asking questions, bringing in current topics. In these times of divided opinions, there was, surprisingly, a lot of laughter. My favorite moment was when we were discussing limits on religious freedoms, and things that there are laws against – live animal sacrifices, bigamy, sale of alcohol on Sunday before 11 a.m. – then one of the lawyers added “How about serving liquor to minors without checking IDs every Sunday?” That got a big laugh. It’s what we do; we use real wine in the communion cup, it’s Anglican / Episcopalian tradition. And yep, even young children get to take a sip. Oops.

As divided as we are, as it turns out, we have a lot in common. It takes a lot of courage to open up such a topic to the congregation. We all behaved. I think we all came away thinking we need more of this.

The very next day, yesterday, I was at the County Courthouse for my first ever call to jury duty. Well, this was my first ever call where I actually was living in the United States and able to show up. While we lived overseas, I would have to get on my VOIP late at night when the Clerk’s office opened and tell them I was living in (Germany. Kuwait. Qatar. Saudi Arabia. Jordan. Tunis. Take your pick.)

Jury duty is an exercise in tedium. At one point when the large selection pool left a courtroom, one of the potential jurors was going “Baaaa baaaaa baaaaa; we are all like sheep.” You park in one place and get on a trolley to the courthouse, you line up to enter the courthouse, you gather in a room and you wait to be called. You get instructions, you watch instructive videos, you get pep talks on your civic duty.

I had my eyes opened in a lot of ways. First, that I would guess more than two hundred people showed up, and this was a Monday between the weekend and the Fourth of July holiday. Many had to take time off from work to show up. We were supposed to be in “business’ dress, but this is Florida, and I guess ‘business dress’ is a matter of interpretation.

Groups would be called to go before judges for jury selection. There were many cases, so almost all of us were a part of one group or another. From my group, juries were being chosen for three trials, so they asked a lot of questions up front that would pertain to all three trials, then the lawyers for the prosecution and the lawyers for the defense would ask questions.

The questions surprised me. They named the witnesses, and the defendants were there in the courtroom; they asked if anyone knew the defendant or any of the witnesses. They asked about our prejudices for or against law enforcement officials, and could we overcome our prejudice to listen to the evidence fairly. They asked about our own court experiences, and they asked about our convictions for drug use, and other things. Many of my pool had served many times on juries and knew how things went. Many were reluctant, yet, there they were. Serving. Doing their duty.

Here is what really surprised me – at least in Florida, the defendant, who is sitting there through all the questioning, gets a say in who will be on his jury. I had no idea! We don’t see a lot of jury selection on TV (although the lady sitting next to me said I need to watch a show called Bull, where jury selection is what the show is about.)

None of the defendants wanted me, and I can understand why. They want people on the juries to truly be as close to their peers as possible, people who can identify with being arrested, maybe even convicted of a crime. They want people who might give them the benefit of the reasonable doubt.

How often have you been arrested? My son, who has been a part of the system, once told me that there are Americans who never have a brush with The Law, other than maybe a traffic ticket or a DWI. Now and then, I ask my friends. None has ever been inside a jail, but these days, a friend or two has a child who has become involved with heavy drug use, and has spent some heart-breaking time in the system.

It was a long day, full of tedium. I thought about the judge, and the lawyers, who go through this day after day, asking the same questions, looking out at groups full of people who maybe don’t even want to be there, going through the process to insure that our system is as fair as possible, day after day, month after month. I had no idea that the wheel of justice ground so finely, so relentlessly, on and on. I had no idea what stoic determination it takes to be a part of that system, and trying to make sure that while the state makes the case, the defendants rights are protected.

I’ve lived, as you know, in countries where justice prevails – occasionally. I remember living in one country, which was peaceful, and thinking to myself that they were educating a lot of people for positions they will never be able to fill, because they are not in the elite.

We have all seen, in every country, that those with the money to buy the best legal protection can often escape the consequences of their crime, but there is hope, for me,  even in making them stand trial.

I had no idea how proud I would feel at the end of the day, being a part of this huge effort, seeing how many of my fellow citizens, at great sacrifice to themselves, showed up. I had no idea what an education it would be for me. I had no idea how often those who least want to serve are those chosen to serve – and they persist. They show up.

I was in a room with maybe two hundred people from all walks of life. We were really just numbers, there to fill a systemic need. Some may even be, like me, a little cynical about how much justice our system really delivers . . . and we show up.

One of the defense lawyers yesterday asked us “Do you know what we are here about today?” and while we were all thinking about the charges, she answered “we are here about this man’s liberty. We’ll be deciding where he will spend his time in the next weeks, and months and years. We’ll be deciding his liberty.”

I’m glad I showed up.

Happy Fourth of July 🙂

 

July 4, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Transparency | , , , , | Leave a comment

New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company, New Orleans

What did we do before Google?

We have finished at the World War II Museum and are about to head back to Pensacola. We have a big party to attend tonight, and I promised I would bring beignets. I need a LOT of beignets. While AdventureMan is pursuing his bliss at the museum, I see if I can find a source of beignets nearby.

I love Google. I find the New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Factory close by, and in a place I am really comfortable with, on Saint Charles, and very near to the Creole Creamery, with it’s truly divine ice cream. All I have to do is plug in the address and Google Maps takes us there, follow the little blue dot.

Sometimes, when we are entering a new city, and I am navigating, things can get a little tense. You know like “Oops, we were supposed to turn left there,” that sort of thing. I have discovered I can turn on the voice, and the voice can guide AdventureMan, and if she screws up, oh well, not MY fault. We both get a good laugh at that.

Having said that, the one we are going to at 4141 Saint Charles is not exactly on Saint Charles, but AdventureMan is wise to the ways of New Orleans, and when I look in despair at where the New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company is supposed to be – and isn’t – he suggests it might be just around the corner, and I breathe with relief, there it is. Even better, there is a parking lot! Parking for a shop on Saint Charles street! There is a free parking space!

Inside, we know we are home free. I order beaucoup beignets, a lot, and it is going to take a while, so we order a small order for ourselves, with coffee, and as it drizzles outside, we are safe and warm inside, smelling wondrous smells, drinking coffee, eating beignets. You have to grab these small perfect moments and treasure them.

Moments like this, we wish we were living in New Orleans.

When the beignets are finished, they are huge, and pillow-y, about 4 inches by 6 inches, the biggest, softest beignets I have ever seen. They are boxed so perfectly that when we get to the party, they are still warm. We drive all the way from New Orleans to Pensacola with the smell of freshly cooked beignet in the car; the smell is mouth watering, even though we have just eaten fresh beignets. The New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company gave me two huge glasses full of powdered sugar to insure that everyone had a huge splash of sugar on each beignet. They were still warm! I can hardly believe it.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Hot drinks, Living Conditions, New Orleans, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

The Algiers Point Ferry

I have a friend that is in and out of New Orleans frequently, and knows we also go. He said we really needed to take the ferry at the end of canal street. ‘It’s a short ride,” he said, “and you can see New Orleans from the water and it’s free.”

Well friend, it is not free. It now costs $2. unless you are over 60, and then it is $1. each way. You must get off the ferry. You must have the exact amount you will need, each way, because if you give the money-taker a $5 bill, you don’t get any change back.

The ferry is small, but it takes a large number of people over to Point Algiers. We had lots of shoppers with their bags from the Riverfront Outlet Malls, and lots of people with bikes. Maybe a few others were like us, just curious, but we had the impression that most of the people were local.

The ride takes like two minutes. You think I am exaggerating, but I am not. You wait longer in line and you wait longer to get off than the ride takes. The terminals are filthy. Oh well. None of that matters, it’s New Orleans. And it is a great, if brief, getaway.

It is really fun seeing New Orleans from the river, and there is a wonderful breeze, important on these summer days when New Orleans both sizzles and drips with humidity. We stood in the bow of the ferry and just relished the breeze. We also discovered that while the upper level of the ferry is open, the lower area has some air-conditioning. There is no bathroom, not on the ferry, not in the New Orleans terminal, not in the Point Algiers terminal. No bathroom, none.

 

At the Point Algiers side, you must get off. You can go look around, which we did, and then we ended up going back on the very same ferry. Here is a large statue of Louis Armstrong on the Algiers side.

Did you ever watch Treme, the HBO series on the survival of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the corruption, the collapse of the police force, the invasion of the developers pushing out the poor of New Orleans? John Goodman, who was YouTubing journalistic broadcasts as a Tulane professor/New Orleans resident commits suicide by jumping off a ferry, and I imagine it must have been this one.

 

You can see the water level is high; these trees are drowning!

 

What is also not free is the parking, which is really expensive. We paid almost as much for parking for one day as we spent on our hotel room. When we got back from our ferry trip, the car temperature gauge told us how hot we were. Hot and humid!

Time to hit the Creole Creamery.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Customer Service, Entertainment, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , | 3 Comments

Herbsaint in New Orleans

One thing leads to another, and while we just finished a large adventure to the glories of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, we also need to get to New Orleans before the Nazi Propaganda exhibit at the World War II Museum finishes. Fortunately for us, there is a three day weekend, New Orleans is a close drive, and there is a new hotel we are eager to try.

Our trip is short, peaceful and GoogleMaps gets us where we need to be, and there is even a parking space. We start to pay the meter, but friendly New Orleans types passing by say “You don’t have to pay today! It’s a holiday!” We have a restaurant all picked out, Marcello’s, Italian, and the web page says it is open, but when we get there, it is closed.

Right next door to it, however, is Herbsaint, and we had just passed to to get to Marcello’s. We really like the look of Herbsaint; it looks French, it looks casual-elegant. As we go in we are greeted and seated quickly, and our waitress shows up with menus. Sometimes, it’s hard to explain, but you just like the FEEL of a place. Herbsaint was a place we liked the feel of.


 

We used to know a lot about wine, but now there is so much wine, so many labels, we don’t know anything anymore. We do know what we like – dry, red and complicated. The waitress recommends a wine, when it comes, it is exactly right, a red Zinfandel from California.

The menu has soups, salads, small plates and entrees. We grinned. We could eat at this restaurant many times; there are so many options we like!

I started with a roasted beet salad; it was marvelous.

 

AdventureMan had the spring green salad, and he said it was equally satisfying.

He then had the Homemade Spaghetti with guanciale and a deep fried farm egg, which he said was awesome. The guanciale is a thin slice of pork; you can see it at the right, and the mass in the middle is the deep fried farm egg. We tried to figure out how they did that – they must have poached the egg, then breaded and fried it. It was interesting, but my husband says the best part of this dish was the sauce, which was delicious.

I had the Sicilian beef with capers and anchovies. I know, I know, some of you are retching, but I am odd, and while I don’t care so much for beef, I adore capers and anchovies, and with that and all the dill, I even loved the beef. This is what a small plate is all about to me; you don’t need a lot of food when the flavors are so tasty and they dance together.

We can’t wait to revisit this restaurant. Every single thing about it was to our delight. The service was cordial and informed, there was a home-baked crusty French bread on the table with great butter (yes, it matters). We loved the high ceilings and the subdued decor, the artful simplicity in the presentation of the dishes, and the excellence of the wines. Stumbling across this restaurant was a highlight of this trip.

Herbsaint is near the World War II Museum. You can find it here:

Herbsaint

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Denver, Damascus and Pensacola

We are leaving Santa Fe, but we have time for one more Santa Fe experience: Harry’s Roadhouse. It’s on the road out of Santa Fe, and hey, we have to have breakfast anyway. We are so glad we stopped here. This is a very cool place.

 

There are lots of rooms. This is the room we ate in, below. They have all kinds of wonderful breakfast foods, and the furnishings are all different colors. It is a colorful restaurant, sort of like it breaks the rules of taste and it doesn’t care. It’s kind of freeing 🙂

We are making really good time on the way to Denver when all of a sudden, on a not so busy freeway to this point, everything stops. “What on earth???” AdventureMan asks, and I have no clue. “Probably rockfall,” I say. It’s happened to me before on Colorado roads. Sometimes a huge boulder will just dislodge and fall on the highway. It can really hurt somebody if it hits them – of if they don’t expect a big boulder in the middle of the road and they hit it.

We are stuck for around 30 minutes. When we drive by the bottleneck, one lane, the rockfall has been mostly cleared. It takes massive equipment to get the rock off the road.

 

We pass Trinidad, a town we’ve stopped in before, but we aren’t hungry yet. An hour later, we need gas and we need to eat, but there is a whole lot of nothing near the road. As soon as we see anything, we head for it.

 

First gas. Then – another Barbecue. LOL, it’s not as if we don’t get BBQ in Pensacola, but as it turns out, this is pretty good barbecue.

 

We hit Denver just about prime traffic time, and worse, Denver has just been hit by a heavy rain and sleet storm. We recognize a street name we know, exit the interstate and in very short time find my sister and her husband and happily settle in. Tonight we are all having dinner together over at Little Diamonds, with the kids; AdventureMan and I still have the remains of our BBQ, and we split a salad. Dinner is great, the conversation is even better, and the children are delightful.

The next day is so much fun, my sister has tickets for the Viking exhibit AdventureMan has wanted to see at the beautiful Denver Museum of Natural Sciences. This is a great exhibit, full of treasures and wonders, beautifully exhibited. We have such a great time.

This is my very favorite part of the entire exhibit, and I am sorry my photos are blurry but we can only take photos with no flash, and the light is very low in the exhibit to protect the artifacts.

There are people associated with the exhibit who are character actors. This is Tova, an older, still beautiful, much married woman, who tells us about her three marriages, her husbands, her life, her wealth and property, all the while holding a spindle with which she spins thread while she talks to us. She interacts with her audience, asking questions, but never straying from her character. She was enchanting, and even better, she was convincing. We learned so much from her.

I wish you could see how beautifully made so many of these articles are, and read all the descriptions. This was well curated.

Another of my favorite exhibit, and almost impossible to photograph. These are nails, exactly in the positions they were found. An entire Viking ship had been found, buried in dirt and mud. The wood all rotted away, and disappeared, but the nails stayed exactly where they had been, and in the exhibit, thin, nearly invisible lines hold each nail in its place. Together, the nails form the shape of a ship, but you have to find the right perspective to see it. I tried, this was the best I could get.

A tombstone put up by a wife to honor her dead husband – and to determine, also, her property lines 🙂

 

Another character actor helping the students find the answers to their worksheets.

 

 

 

The exhibit was full of school groups, with booklets to find the answers to. These kids were having so much fun, and learning so much. This group donned Viking helmets for a photo, but were in constant motion (sigh) in the low light.

Probably the very best gift (from his perspective) our grandson got was one of these paper Viking helmets; our grandson wore it all the next day, after we got home, even to choir practice!

We had lunch at Sams #3, wow, so much selection and every dish was wonderful. Then, home to pack up and have a rest before we all meet up again for dinner. Dinner is a lot of fun, we’ve all been to Damascus, so we are eating at a restaurant near Denver University called . . . Damascus!

Things did not start well. “Mike” greeted us and told us he was not really the waiter, but the waitress had quit and he was the dishwasher, but tonight he would try to be the waiter while the owner trained a new cook. They couldn’t promise that everything on the menu would be available, but . . .

The good news was that as much as we all love Middle Eastern, particularly Damascus, cuisine, more than anything we wanted time together, sitting, talking, laughing, telling stories, so we just rolled with it. We ordered and it seemed nothing was not going to be served.

First out was hummus, and mohammara, and a big basket of hot hot hot fresh pita bread. Oh! I had forgotten how good it tastes, fresh out of the oven, and so plentiful. We were so happy, we stopped even thinking about the rest of dinner.

A while later, our dinners appeared, and they were each wonderful. AdventureMan had a felafel sandwich, which I failed to photograph. I had ordered this wonderful vegetarian platter, which I was happy to share with everyone.

My brother-in-law had chicken on the bone, with rice and salad. Perfect!

Little diamond had fattoush and grilled mushrooms.

My sister had a cucumber soup. We all had lots of mohammara and bread. As we ate, the restaurant filled. Mike explained to each table that things might not go well, but every table seemed to get a great dinner. It’s the old adage, Under Promise and Over Deliver. Makes customers happy every time. 🙂

 

 

This was the BEST way to leave Denver, full, happy, having time with family.

We leave early the next morning for Pensacola. Not everything goes smoothly, but we arrive in Pensacola little worse for wear. It’s been a great trip.

And we’re off on our next adventure! 🙂

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Education, Entertainment, Family Issues, Food, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Zion National Park to Monument Valley: AZ or UT?

“Look! Look! Grab your camera! Grab your camera!”

“It’s just turkeys,” I grumble to myself, I’m not even settled in the car, I don’t even have my seat belt on and AdventureMan wants me to take photos of turkeys? I take a couple shots, then we head to the lodge and check out.

This time, the camera is in my hands. This time, when we see three turkeys, and two of them are male, trying desperately to get the turkey chick to give them the time of day, so to speak.

 

This was actually a great way to start a day which will have a lot of driving before we reach our goal, Monument Valley, which is sort of in Utah and Sort of in Arizona, or at least the hotel where we are staying is in Arizona, but the road to get to it starts in Utah. Because it is Navaho Nation, they have gone on Daylight Savings Time, in spite of the technicality that they are in Arizona, a peculiar state who does not go on Daylight Savings Time.

Farewell, beautiful Zion.

 

This is the route we will be taking today. Our maps tell us it has some scenic routes. Remember, cell phone coverage is spotty in this area, and physical maps are a really, really good idea.

 

We know where we will stop for breakfast – The Thunderbird, In Mt. Carmel Junction, where we had lunch the day before. It is right on our way. Actually, I had a healthy breakfast, but I had to order this cinnamon roll, which AdventureMan and I nibbled on, and then took the rest with us in case we were stuck somewhere in a remote place and needed some sugar-energy. This roll had a lot of sugar-energy.

 

On the road, after the glory or Arches, and Bryce Canyon, and Zion, we are spoiled. It is harder to appreciate normal beautiful vistas. As we drove through a forest, however, AdventureMan spotted a deer running, not a pronghorn, not a mule deer, we don’t know what it was. I am sorry it is fuzzy; he was running!

Maybe it was a mule deer, now that I see the ears. I am not sure.

We stopped to look at this vast overlook, and I was sort of thinking “ho-hum” when an Asian family drove up, a dad and his three daughters, and the daughters all had iPads and were taking photos and one of them said to me “Just look! This is right out of the old West! Can’t you just see an enormous herd of buffalo stretching all the way to the horizon, and what if they get spooked and stampede??”

And then, I saw them, thousands of buffalo in the valley below, nibbling on the new green grass, stretching to the horizon. I owe that girl. She gave me a great gift, a major shift in perspective.


AdventureMan said “Why are there so many contrails?” and he was right, there were contrail everywhere. We were close to the Northern side of Grand Canyon, which is still closed at this time of year, so maybe they were planes coming and going out of Phoenix? Maybe the air is so cold that the contrails form more easily? I don’t know, but he is right, the sky is streaked with them.

I think these are the Vermillion Cliffs, fabulous, but . . . we are jaded after the glories we have seen. We drive on.

 

 

We stop for gas in Kayenta, and we go into the Basha Market to buy water. Two things, one is that we have this totally deja vu feeling, like we have been in this shopping area before. AdventureMan says we had lunch at that Subway store, and I kind of remember. Second, all the people in the market, mostly local Navaho, have carts full of sugary foods, sodas, sugary cereals, snacks and candy. It’s like the don’t know that sugar is the new poison, that it leads to obesity, that it rots your teeth and inflames your gums. Or they know, and they don’t care.

But we are starving. We see Amigos on the side of the road as we are heading to Monument Valley, and decide to give it a try. As soon as we get inside, we know we are in the right place. There are local people. There is a lunch special up on the blackboard. The smells are wonderful.

AdventureMan had Tostada and Enchilada. See that salsa? That salsa is one of the best salsas we have ever eaten. In the photo it looks red, but it actually was very green.

I had two tacos. The tacos were enough, I didn’t need the rice and beans and I left them, but I did ask for another salsa, it was so good.

We liked Amigos so much that we came back here again for dinner the night after we had been out all day in Monument Valley.

 

The name of our hotel is The View. It is a Navaho owned and operated hotel in Monument Valley proper, where all the tours start. We chose it for so many reasons, for one, because every room has a view, for another, that it is Navaho owned and operated, and last but not least, they advertise that they have some of the best star-gazing because there is no light from nearby cities; there are no nearby cities (Kayenta is about 30 miles away.)

At check-in, we are delighted; the lobby is lovely! It is light and bright and full of art works. We are also chagrined, the receptionist is rude to the people in front of us, and not at all welcoming to us. She wasn’t rude to us, just very businesslike and unsmiling. Maybe she was just having a bad day.

 

This is the area where people met up with their tour guides for the morning, afternoon and evening tours.

 

This is our room. It was lovely. We loved the art work, we loved the very spacious bathroom, and oh my, we loved the view.

 

 

The view, straight out:

 

The view to the right

The view to the left

 

As the late-afternoon sun begins to mellow, the colors morph and darken

 

 

Staying in this hotel is SO worth it.

 

The hotel has a fabulous gift shop, full of lovely jewelry, art items, artifacts. AdventureMan looked at a beautiful knife for our son; the cost was over $500. Oops! They also had more affordable things, one of our grand children’s favorite gifts was a bag of colored rocks, LOL. They had some good books, with Indian legends, written for children, and of course, T-shirts.

 

We ate dinner in The View restaurant, it was packed, full, with lots of families with young children and lots of tourists, some in groups. The servers did their best, but it was chaotic. AdventureMan had the “famous” green chili stew, which he said was not very interesting, and I had a taco salad, which was equally not very interesting. Our breakfast there, the next morning, was equally not very interesting. It was a breakfast buffet with a very limited selection.

There is another downside. During the day, the hotel facilities are dominated by the day-trippers. The hotel area is sort-of separated from the more public areas, but the feeling is chaotic. It all calms down dramatically when the last bus leaves. Wait to visit the gift shop after the teeming hoards have departed.

The upside of The View is the view. The upside is that the view at sunset is gorgeous. The upside is that it truly is magnificent star gazing. The upside is that the sunrise is beyond magnificent.

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , , , , | Leave a comment