Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Beryl Markham and the EPIC Book Club

When the EPIC Book Club met this month, we were discussing Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun.  Several of us had enjoyed her book about Ernest Hemingway, The Paris Wife, and had thought this one, about the famous early aviator, would be another great book. I was so impressed with The Paris Wife that I immediately read Hemingway’s The Movable Feast, his novel about the same period of time, and loved the way the books “danced together”. I think good historical fiction needs to stick to known facts.

It was a lively discussion; Beryl Markham was an unusual woman in an unusual culture in a time of transition. She grew up in Kenya as the British were beginning to colonize just after the first world war. Her mother abandoned the family, taking her frailer younger brother and leaving her, with no explanation. Some other woman moved in with her father; Beryl greatly raised herself with the indigenous people. Her father loved her, but was distant. He was first and foremost a horse breeder, and Beryl worked closely with him in breeding and training the horses.

She made a disastrous first marriage, leaving it to pursue a certificate – the first ever for a woman – as a horse trainer. She was spectacularly good at it, and worse (when it comes to the opinion of other women) she looked terrific in riding breeches. Men liked her. She liked men. She was not particular about boundaries, like marriage to other people or being the consort of her good friend, Karen Blixen. Later, she set records as one of the earliest female aviators.

It was also a time when women had few options, and most of the options required a man to take care of her. Beryl Markham had skills, and had more options.

So as we are discussing her behavior, which could be self-defeating and self-destructive, we discussed it in the context of Kenyan colonial society. Then one of the EPIC members mentioned that the same behaviors in the very church where we meet have been the spice of Pensacola gossip for more than a couple centuries; that people don’t change much. We were laughing, and another member mentioned being forbidden to read Peyton Place, many years ago when it was a banned book, and his wrestling coach told him “All the world is Peyton Place.”

I think of all the places I’ve lived and I am inclined to agree.

 

January 10, 2016 Posted by | Africa, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, EPIC Book Club, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Humor, Interconnected, Kenya, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Pensacola, Relationships, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Cold Enough

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Poor AdventureMan, I’ve whined and complained through the unusual heat of November and December, when I usually get really happy. Fortunately, we had one good cold snap in October, and I got my Christmas shopping done, and another very short cool time early in December, so I could get the house decorated. If it’s hot and humid, it’s just really hard for me to get motivated. I also hate having to use the air conditioning in December; “it’s just not right!”

AdventureMan laughs and tells me that in the South,  you crank the air conditioning up so you can build a big fire in your fireplace. It’s true! Especially on Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can walk the neighborhood and smell the lovely smell of firewood, but it’s a little jarring when the temperatures are close to the eighties (F).

This week has been cold. It’s been wonderful; I can wear my Levis, I can wear a sweater, I can wear silk scarves – all things that can make you sweat at any temperature above 70 (F)

But today, it is a little warmer, maybe hitting 70, and we have a huge storm moving in, which hopefully will expend itself and move on, clearing up and cooling off for the big Mardi Gras parades starting today. AdventueMan is starting his day with a bowl of hot cereal. “It’s down in the 60’s (F) you know” he says, and I grin.

January 9, 2016 Posted by | Humor, Mardi Gras, Pensacola, Weather | 2 Comments

When The Waiter Really Screwed Up

Today AdventueMan and I went out for a quick lunch at a local Chinese buffet restaurant, a larger restaurant that has a lot of selection and several rooms. We asked for a booth. I got a bowl of soup and came back to the table. The waiter had gotten everything wrong!

We had asked for a pot of hot tea and water, but there was no hot tea there, and when I put went to drink the ice water, the waiter had given me sweet iced tea, not ice water! I saw the waiter hurrying toward me with an odd look on his face, but before he could get there, some other guy was standing next to me grinning and saying “they sat you at our table?”

All of a sudden, it all fell into place and I realized no, I hadn’t been seated at the wrong table, I was in the wrong room, at the wrong table. I was SO embarrassed, but the other guy and the waiter just laughed.

I wasn’t laughing then, but I think it’s kind of funny now.

I left so quickly, I didn’t even apologize for having drunk out of the other guys iced tea!

January 6, 2016 Posted by | Cold Drinks, Eating Out, Humor, Pensacola | Leave a comment

Love the Cockroach

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Happy New Year! Thank you for continuing to visit and read here all these years, and thank you for your comments and e-mails.

Today, reading my morning meditations, the Lectionary and my daily e-mail from Dr. Richard Rohr, I come across this paragraph in Father Rohr’s message:

The Christian vision is that the world is a temple. If that is true, then our enemies are sacred, too. Who else created them but God? The ability to respect the outsider is probably the litmus test of true seeing. And it doesn’t stop with human beings and enemies and the least of the brothers and sisters. It moves to frogs and pansies and weeds. Everything becomes enchanting with true sight. One God, one world, one truth, one suffering, and one love. All we can do is participate. I hope you enter the New Year with this awareness and an intention to join in with all your heart, mind, and body!

Trying to be a Christian is so hard. To learn to love the stranger, I was sent to strange countries. Many countries. Many years. Until I could see that the commonality of humanity was greater than the differences in our dogma, I was sent. It didn’t have to do with carrying a message. It had to do with keeping my eyes and ears open, and most of all, keeping my heart open, to learn what I was meant to learn.

When I finally “got” it, our years of living overseas stopped. Now I have a new challenge, living in my own culture and feeling like “the other.”

I get the part about seeing God in all humanity. It’s not like I can do it, but it is important to God that I try. Today Father Rohr has also mentioned frogs and pansies and seeds, and then he says EVERYTHING. Ummm. Everything includes cockroaches.

I have no control over my reaction to cockroaches. They are dirty, and they skitter. One time, we had one in the house that flew – and HISSED! (I disabled him with a spray of Pledge, then disposed). We have a pest control man who makes sure my visitors are far and few between, but . . . this is Florida. Florida has cockroaches. The secret is to keep them to a minimum. Unfortunately, they just give me the creeps, and I can’t rest comfortably until the world has one less cockroach.

My first thought when I read today’s message, seeing God in his infinite glory in EVERYTHING, is that I have a huge challenge. The cockroach. The slug. The mosquito. The snake. There are so many creations that give me the creeps. How am I going to practice this? Is giving them space enough?

January 1, 2016 Posted by | Character, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Lectionary Readings, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Spiritual | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Eighty degrees on December 27th

(Intermission from the Morocco Trip)

 

It’s two days after Christmas and on my way home from church this morning, my temperature guage showed 80 degrees F. My roses are blooming.

 

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Please, winter, please come. This Alaska girl is eager for a little winter.

December 27, 2015 Posted by | Alaska, Pensacola, Weather | 3 Comments

Bureaucracy With a Heart

Did I tell you we’ve been stationed with two embassies, and at the second, I worked as a Foreign Service Officer? I know how busy and how harried the diplomats are, and I know how beleaguered the consular offices are with requests for visas and tourists who have lost their passports. They see it every day.

I lost my passport. My bad. Totally on me. I can’t expect anyone to feel obligated to help me out, but fortunately, there are mechanisms in place to expedite. You have to pay extra, but it’s worth it when you have a trip booked.

I told you about our run to New Orleans to submit paperwork and my delight to learn I would have a new passport soon.

I told you about the phone call telling me they needed a RECENT photo, not the same one that was on my last (never used, bright shiny new never used) passport.

I’ve been on edge all day. I’m away this weekend on a religious retreat, and I wasn’t feeling very religious. I was feeling nervous. I wonder if my passport reached New Orleans, or did it fall somewhere between the cracks? I wonder if Fridays are even work days at the passport center? What if it doesn’t get there and I don’t even know?

A short time ago, I got a phone call, from the same bureaucrat who called me about the photo. She was just calling to tell me that the passport is ready and will go out expedited this afternoon. She knew I would be concerned, and just wanted me not to worry.

I almost cried in gratitude. Who thinks of compassion when dealing with a bureaucracy? It was pure grace.

In the lifetime of our nation, we have elected some real doozies in high public office. Presidents, Senators, Representatives, Governors – some real characters. I don’t worry too much when lunatics run for high office, I thank God we have a solid bureaucracy, rarely corrupted; a bureaucracy that keeps plugging along when things get crazy. And thank God for this one particular officer who had a heart to reassure me that my passport is on the way. God bless her mightily.

October 16, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Character, Charity, Civility, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Faith, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Technical Issue | , | 2 Comments

Pensacola’s Pelican Tribute to Native Americans

We’re on our way to lunch at Portobello, the restaurant in the old jail, when AdventureMan says “Look at that Pelican!” and I had just spotted it at the same time. It is fabulous. It is on the corner at the Wentworth Museum and is a tribute to our First Nation inhabitants. It reminds me of Alaska, where the Haida art was mostly black and white, with just a tiny accent of red here and there, or occasionally a tiny bit of blue. I love this Pelican:-)

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Different businesses and organizations in Pensacola sponsor Pelicans, and each one is different. At the main intersection at Garden and Palafox, the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines have Pelicans stationed. Local artists make the pelicans vibrant and unique. Love the pelicans, but I love this one at the Wentworth most of all.

October 16, 2015 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Fund Raising, Pensacola, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues | 2 Comments

Quick trip to The Big Easy

On the road by six to make our appointment, every now and then things go just right and you can’t forget to be thankful. The process worked, and I should have my new passport . . . tomorrow! It is such good news I can hardly believe that things could go so smoothly.

And we have time for a really fun stroll through the nearby French Quarter, a drive through the Garden District and lunch at the Abyssinian Cafe; New Orleans has the nearest Ethiopian food to Pensacola.

One Cable Place, where the Westin Hotel shares space with offices in the tower, including the Passport Agency:-)
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One of the Bevolo custom gaslight making workshops:
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I was tempted, but where would I wear it?
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The Cafe Abyssinia at 3511 Magazine, tucked back behind a shoe repair shop. It has a parking lot for outdoor parking, and outdoor seating for this most comfortable time of the year . . .

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We would drive to New Orleans just to eat this feast – Doro Wat, a Vegetarian assortment, Lamb Tibs and a basked of freshly made injera. Heaven on earth.
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And back in Pensacola in time to make my late afternoon meeting! Life is sweet!

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Local Lore, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Drunk Drivers on the Road

Looks pretty dark blue from Pensacola across to Austin, all the way on I-10. Hmmm, used to be one of my favorite roads . . .

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Drunk driving is always dangerous and a problem across the country and the world, but certain places have a knack for attracting drunk drivers. In the US, those places tend to be rural western states.

Avvo, a legal services company, crunched the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s road fatalities stats for an in-depth look at drunk driving across the country. The company sifted through the data and found that between 2004 and 2013 there were a total of 94,550 drunk driving deaths in the US. A deeper dive revealed which roads are the most dangerous for drivers.

The findings indicated that the most dangerous roads for drunk driving crashes tend to be in mountainous states out west. These roads cut through vast stretches of nearly empty territory to connect a few smaller towns and cities. There’s no one clear reason for the increase in drunk driving deaths in these states, but the study does offer some possibilities. The roads in question have high speed limits with few side streets, and in areas with little to no public transportation, increasing the likelihood of partiers driving home after a few too many. The study also says that the variable terrain and drivers unfamiliar with the winding roads and sudden weather shifts might contribute to the high rate of crashes.

Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and South Dakota all top the list. Interstate 90 in Montana is the most dangerous road in America, with 6.4 drunk driving deaths per 100,000 people. However, Wyoming appears three times in the top ten, making it the most dangerous state. New Mexico and South Dakota also appear twice in the top ten. The only area in the top ten that isn’t a rural Western state is Washington DC, which often finds its way on to any list of worst car accidents, congestion and road deaths. To see more information about the deadliest roads in America check out the full study here.

August 28, 2015 Posted by | Crime, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Safety, Social Issues, Statistics | 2 Comments

Breakfast at the Ruby Slipper in Pensacola

When you are heading for the early service (AdventureMan calls it Episcopal Church Express) a lot can happen at the last minute. Write the check for stewardship. OOps, it’s raining, where is the umbrella? But it might not last long, where are my sunglasses?

We hurried, hoping to slide in under the wire, before the procession, when my friend stopped me at the door.

“There’s a new restaurant you will love! It opens early!”

“Where is it?” Restaurants that are open early on Sunday mornings are sparse. They exist, and they are full.

“It’s called Ruby Slipper, and it’s just down the street at Palafox and Main” she told me, and we scrambled to our pew before the procession started.

After church, we thought we’d give it a try. Was not hard to find – the streets are empty, and then there are all these cars parked, and there is Ruby Slipper.

I love the name. When I see sparkly shoes, I smile. Judy Garland searched for those shoes to take her back home to Kansas when she was eager to leave Oz. The name reflects how happy the restaurant was to re-open in New Orleans after the great flood and devastation following Hurricane Katrina. Ruby Slipper has four restaurants in New Orleans, and now this one in Pensacola. We are arriving on Day 2 of it’s opening.

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I’m surprised – and delighted – to see how big it is, how spacious. For all the cars, there are four separate seating areas, one outside, one just inside where the coffee bar is, one large seating area and then one more private area in the back. We are greeted at the door, and shown to a table. Service is cheerful, and enthusiastic, and everyone looks very happy to be working at the Ruby Slipper.

The menu is extensive. It’s just two sides of one sheet of paper, but so many choices that sound SO good. We know we will have to come back several times. It takes us a while to choose what we want today. I had thought to go with the ‘signature dish’ Eggs Cochon, but it seemed so rich.

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AdventureMan ordered the Costa Rican breakfast, which he loved. Eggs on beans and rice, and very tasty. Enough for two people. Easily.

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I ordered the Smoked Salmon Bennie, and it, too, was enough for two people. It also had very good smoked salmon, the hearty kind, like you can sometimes find canned in Alaska at the specialty stores. Oh YUMMM.

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We are greatly impressed. When we arrived here, Palafox was quiet. Not much was going on, and when night fell, nothing was going on. An amazingly generous couple ‘not from around here’ has made an enormous difference, investing in downtown Pensacola, buying derelict buildings and polishing them up, putting in cute little restaurants and boutiques and specialty stores. Someone put in an Al Fresco dining area. Someone else started up a monthly Gallery Night, which brings huge crowds to downtown one Friday night each month. All it took was a little vision, and soon Palafox, the main artery in downtown Pensacola, was voted one of the best main streets in the United States. Woooo HOOOO on generosity, and a little vision and investment.

Ruby Slipper has a great location and a varied menu. We wish them well, and welcome them to downtown Pensacola, where they brightened a rainy, dark and dreary Sunday morning.

July 5, 2015 Posted by | Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Restaurant | 1 Comment

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