Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

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

Cooking Up That Angry Food

I have a friend that helps me keep my house clean. I started out as her employer, and now we have become friends. She lives a very different life from me, and I learn from her. Sometimes her perceptions will catch me by surprise.

As we were talking about volunteers and volunteering in churches, we found our churches to be very similar – and I am betting these experiences are universal.

“I’ve always liked washing dishes,” I tell her, “because nobody else wants the job, nobody is telling me how to do it, and I can just keep my head down and stay out of the uproars.”

“Yeh,” she says, “arguing over the little things, cooking up that angry food.”

“Angry food?” I ask.

“”Yeh, you know, you can taste it. When people are calm and happy, they cook differently, and the food comes out good, you can taste the love in it. When they in a hurry, or upset about something, food come out angry.”

Yep. I’ve cooked an angry meal or two myself. It’s a waste of good ingredients. You might as well just open a can of soup as cook angry food.

December 16, 2016 Posted by | Advent, Community, Cooking, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Food, Humor, Quality of Life Issues, Survival | Leave a comment

“Yes Ma’am, That Was For a Bus Ticket to Mexico”

“We see it all the time.”

As long as we lived overseas, AdventureMan and I never had a problem with our credit cards. I used ATM’s all over Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait to make cash withdrawals when I needed what my Mom calls “jingle money,” you know, walking-around money for lunch out, for fabrics in the souks, for whatever we needed cash for. It was easy, and it must have been safe. We never once had a problem.

 

nsa-spy-cartoon-2

Now, we’ve had to change our numbers several times.

This one was particularly odd, though. I got a second notice on a card I call my “hurricane” card. When you live in Florida, massive calamity can happen literally overnight. You may have to suddenly evacuate to a strange city and need funds for emergency housing, and housing the pets. No running to the bank for a withdrawal when an area has been destroyed by a tornado; it can take months for infrastructure to be back up and running normally.

The charge was made just after we returned from traveling, so my first instinct was to check my wallet, and the card was not there. Oddly, while it was my account, it was AdventureMan’s card, which has a different number. He assures me he never made the change. I believe him; I find both cards safely tucked away, unused, in a safe place.

I call the bank. I explain that we had been traveling, but neither of us think we made this charge, the only charge on this card, the card we not only never use, but don’t even keep in our wallets. The bank lady takes a look and laughs and says “Oh yes. That was a bus ticket to Mexico. We’ve seen that before.”

Long story short, this kind of fraud has become so routine that they have routine practices that go immediately into effect to protect us, to protect their other customers and to restore our hurricane card.

But when she said it was for a bus ticket to Mexico, I burst out laughing, and all my anxiety disappeared in a heartbeat. No. I did not charge a bus ticket to Mexico, and neither did AdventureMan.

It’s just so odd, to me. These are cards that have never even been in our wallets. They never leave their safe place. How was someone able to use them?

December 8, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Crime, Customer Service, Doha, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, fraud, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia, Scams, Survival, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Viking Sea Disembarcation

Somehow, we go to bed around 8:30 pm and actually sleep. At 0215 we get our wake-up call as requested, and, as ordered, a beautiful breakfast shows up with a cheerful room service waiter, and we have coffee, tea and croissants as we hurriedly dress. We are to be in the terminal by 0300.

We are there by 0245, us and just about everyone else in our timing – Viking seems to attract those sorts, people who show up where they are supposed to be at the time they are supposed to be there. We are astonished to learn that there was a group ahead of us, they are just finishing up, and yes, there are a few pieces of luggage not claimed, so I guess not quite everyone made it on time.

We identified our luggage, which had been picked up outside our rooms the night before, watched as it was loaded into our assigned bus, and drove for about an hour to the airport. At the airport, there were baggage carts waiting, and we were able to check in very quickly for our flight. We are amazed and delighted; Viking truly has this down to a science. That’s not easy with 900 people disembarking on the same day. Kudos to Viking, even the smallest details are thought through.

As we signed in to the lounge, I said “Kalimeri,” which means Good morning, and the lady said to me “You’re Greek!” and I said no, I am not, but I got that a lot in Greece, I must have a Greek look to me. In truth, there is no Southern Mediterranean blood in me; mostly Scandinavian, French and Irish, or so Ancestry.com tells me.

We depart as the sun rises:

p1130502

 

p1130503

Everything is smooth until we get to Paris. We have to get to 2E, hall M. We know this drill; it’s the same as last year. “Oh no problem,” the “helper” tells us and hands us this paper with a map and directions:

p1130507

 

p1130508

You know what? I’m a map reader. I am really good at it. I navigate. We look closely; this map is useless. We start looking for signs and asking as we go, and we go quickly until we find the inner circle of hell, which is the passport line. We have priority passes, so we head to the priority line, but there isn’t even a line, and the real priority line is only for French citizens.

There is one huge shoving, desperate mass of people, all nationalities (except French) and then we find a secondary priority line, and every wheelchair goes to the front, and desperate passengers afraid they are missing their flight go ahead, and those who think they have the right push through, pushing their way in front of others. We are feeling desperate, too, our flight is in a very short time, but we don’t think the scramble to get in front of others is worth the price you pay in karma points.

I will tell you honestly, I have seen similar lines. Laborers in Kuwait lined up to get processed for residence visas. Refugees, desperate to escape violence and poverty, and afraid the gates will close before they get through. It is truly humbling to be a part of this line. Bread lines in which food is running out.

There is no one keeping order. The line inches slowly forward. It is like the end of times, everyone looking after his or her own needs regardless of others. There is little kindness to be seen in this line.

This is shameful. It’s not like this is unexpected. CDG needs to man their passport stations with enough personnel to allow these lines to flow quickly. It’s not rocket science, but it does take a bureaucracy which takes pride in their work.

This is not new; the planes wait, they take off a little later. We make our flight. As much as we love flying Air France, this experience is enough to make us re-think traveling through Paris.

Atlanta is straightforward. Our luggage, by the grace of God, is with us. We fly into Pensacola, and our son is there to meet us and take us home. All is well that ends well.

November 18, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Interconnected, Paris, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, sunrise series, Survival, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leaving Sidney on the Anacortes Ferry, Return to Pensacola

Life isn’t fair. Ferry lines are just one of those things. First there are not necessarily first boarded or first unloaded, or first through the lengthy customs lines coming back into the United States. We have a saying “Every monkey gets his turn in the barrel.” This ferry ride was our turn. It wasn’t bad, it’s just after all the thrills of this vacation, this was an unwelcome hit of reality. We had a special vacation, but that doesn’t mean we are special, LOL.

Leaving Sidney:

LeavingSidney

 

FromFerry

 

The weather has changed. It is heavy overcast. We don’t see any whales, not a single sea otter. It is a great morning for catching up on our reading.

We arrive in Anacortes and the customs line crawls.

We need to stop at the Marina motel and pick up the skirt and shirt and scarf I left hanging in the closet which they have bagged and tagged “customer will pick up”. I had packed lightly, and it didn’t take me long to figure out where I left my clothes; we had been in a hurry to be on time for the ferry to Sidney. But this is a great stop, next door is Bob’s Chowder House and Salmon BBQ and we are starving.

 

BobsAnacortes

 

BobsInterior

Bob’s Salmon Chowder is out of this world. SO good.

BobsSalmonChowder

 

Bob’s BBQ Salmon burger is also fabulous. AdventureMan ate every bite and said the salmon was perfect. It had a lemon sauce that was a surprise and a delight.

BobsSalmonBurger

My halibut tacos were the special dish of the day. My bad; I like lettuce in my tacos, not cabbage. I only ate the halibut, but I had also had the chowder, so I was OK. Oh, yes, they also have great big home baked chocolate chip cookies, maybe that is also why I was filled up 🙂 but I split it with AdventureMan.

BobsHalibutTacos

AdventureMan spotted this sign, and took this photo. Whoda thunk that we would find a sign to Pensacola in the parking lot?

BobsMilesPensacola

This is the rest of the vacation. Really the “vacation” part is over, and this is all business. Driving through Seattle on I-5, thank God it’s Sunday, no big trucks but heavy traffic. It’s always heavy, unless maybe it’s 0430. Checking in to our hotel where there are a huge bunch of people about to debark on a cruise. Dropping our bags and heading to the Car Rental place to return our car. Taking the shuttle to the airport, calling the hotel shuttle to come pick us up. Back at the hotel, packing our bags in a hurry so we will be able to watch Game of Thrones. Actually, to our surprise, a good night’s sleep. Up way too early to catch the shuttle to the airport, a surprisingly easy time through security, and the long flight to Atlanta and the shorter flight to Pensacola. The taxi home. Sigh. The unpacking. The laundry. Every day demands. . . .

But God is good. My first night back a good friend greeted me and said “are you depressed?” I was so taken by surprise that I said “Yes!” and she said she always is too, coming home after a great vacation. It just felt good, my guilt at feeling depressed was taken away.

Our grandson has a cold and has been with us the last two days, to our total delight. His mother and sister came by last night to visit and to celebrate another stoke of good fortune which has struck our family. God is good. Thanks be to God.

May 20, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Food, Living Conditions, Parenting, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Road Trips, Seattle, Survival, Travel | Leave a comment

Campbell River, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and Quay West

“What brought you here?” our waitress, Robin, asked as we sat in one of the most glorious restaurants in Campbell River.

“My wife,” said AdventureMan.

“I don’t know why,” I started, “I just felt drawn here. I needed to see it. I like hunting and fishing, and I knew this was hunting and fishing country, and the gateway to the north of Vancouver Island.”

It’s true. I like remote places, and I like hunting cultures. I grew up among people who fished for a living and hunted for food to eat through the winter. You respect food more when you have to grow it or hunt it.

Campbell River is beautiful. You could live anywhere, and wake up every morning to water and mountains and 180 degrees – or more – of sky.

Our room is in a brand new hotel, it is clean and beautiful as only a new hotel can be. We have a balcony overlooking the BC Ferry as it shuttles cars and trucks back and forth across to the islands.

ViewBCFerryFmComvort

 

We are trying to decide where to go for dinner, and I am reading to AdventureMan from Trip Advisor. The first review at Quay West features a couple who split a Ceasar Salad and a Pork Schnitzle with a Mushroom Peppercorn Sauce. I didn’t even get to finish reading; AdventureMan said “That’s where we are going!” and five minutes later we were out the door.

 

QuayWest

Quay West has more than great food going for it. It also has location, location, location. Here are the views:

QuayWestView

 

QuayWestView2

 

QWView3

 

Our waitress was fantastic, and fun to talk with. She brought us a Ceasar Salad to split, then a huge plate of Pork Schnitzle (remember, we have lived almost 20 years in Germany, not continuously, but in segments) with the mushroom peppercorn sauce. It was everything the reviewer had said it was, and we relished the meal, every bite, even the beautifully cooked vegetables, surrounded by natural beauty. AdventureMan had a Steam Whistle IPA which had the crisp pilsner taste, and I had a Pinot Blanc, dry, flinty, just the way I like it.

QWOnionRings

 

PorkSchnitzlePeppercornMushroomSauce

 

HalfPorkSchnitzle

 

We passed on dessert, but Robin brought us two huge strawberries, coated in chocolate, and we did not resist.

Back at the hotel, I discover that I can pick up texts and messages as long as I am connected via the hotel Wifi. Woo HOOOOO! We are not totally out of communication!

A perfect ending to a great day.

May 11, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Communication, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Survival, Technical Issue | , , | Leave a comment

Cordoba, The Mezquita, and Sharing Sacred Spaces

(Yes, it is Christmas Eve, and my part of the preparations are all done. AdventureMan is cooking a duck for the family dinner tonight, the Gulf Coast jumbo shrimp is all cooked and shelled and de-veined, the Rotkohl spicing up the kitchen, the salads and side dishes ready to go. 🙂  I have time, oh, the great luxury of time, to write . . . )

When we lived in Amman, we often went to Syria. I went once with an archaeological group, visiting several sites in the bleak cold of the Syrian winter. One site I didn’t see a lot of hope for, the site of St. Simon the Stylite, a hermit who sat atop a pillar and was considered holy. In truth . . . I scoffed.

I scoffed until I reached that isolated hilltop, and saw the giant pillar, and felt how very cold it was as the icy wind blew. We were there two or three hours. I had to confront my unwillingness to believe and the fact that with every zinging atom in my body, I could feel that this was a sacred place. Saint Simon chose a weird sort of sacrificial life, but in God’s eyes, I suspect it mattered. I know visiting that site changed me, and changed my ideas about sacred spaces.

Today, I get to write about a visit to another sacred space, a space you can feel resonating from the moment you enter, the Mezquita.

*        *             *              *                *                   *                       *                    *                     *

It’s early breakfast for the Smithsonian group, and then we check our whisper guides and board our bus en route to Cordoba.

Traveling with a group is a novelty for us. It means using an alarm clock to be at scheduled breakfast and getting on a bus for a 2 hour drive. On our own, we wake when we wish – usually early, but not so early as with this group. We are not usually at a breakfast with a lot of people looking for food at the same time. We are not used to coffee makers that make one cup of coffee at a time while a 100 people line up for coffee. These are things that are not normal in our experience. We might find a local small store, pick up some water and some small snacks, and hit the road, stopping here and there to take a photo or just savor a view, have some water, soak in the fresh air. On the other hand, these bus drivers know where to go and there is no getting lost trying to find the right route out of town.

 

En route to Cordoba, most of the jet lagged Smithsonian group slept. Wide awake, I watched as acres and acres of olive groves and wind farms passed by. We saw an ancient fortification on the side of a hill that had a view to die for – 270 degrees plus of visibility.

It is raining once again as we arrive in Cordoba, but almost immediately it stops, and by the time our group has walked up the hill by the Mezquita, the sun is out and the day shows great promise. Cordoba is beautiful. Everywhere you look is some exquisite detail. Cordoba is a treat for the eyes.

 

Even the police are polite and helpful, directing tourists to where they need to go:

PoliceGiveDirectionsAtThe Mezquita

Art Nouveau bench:

CordobaArtNouveauBench

 

Flower pots on the stucco walls:

 

CordobaFlowerPots

 

Tourists coming up to The Mezquita:

P1110043

Masques in a local art shop:

 

CordobaMasks

 

Finely wrought silver filigree jewelry:

CordobaSilverJeweler

At one point, we had a choice: Do we go shopping or do we have lunch in a highly rated local place? I bet we could do both, and we opted for lunch – more on that to come. At the end of lunch, we had only ten minutes to shop and not enough time to get back to this wonderful shop. I won’t call it a regret; lunch was a wonderful experience . . . and I do love filigree, and this artisan had beautiful silver filigree . . .

CordobaSilverFiligreeEarrings

 

Ben Maimonaides, a Jewish scholar and ethicist, with wide influence. This was a continuing theme on the entire trip, that the interaction between Jew, Christian and Moslem in this period led to a great leap in ideas and artistry. The interaction was like pollination; science and the arts and mathematics and medicine bloomed.

I wonder if this is happening today, as Moslems, Jews and Christians study together in universities, to they interact and inspire one another? Is it possible that in spite of dire political headlines, under the radar, people are learning to cooperate and collaborate in the interest of a better world?

(Wikipedia: Aside from being revered by Jewish historians, Maimonides also figures very prominently in the history of Islamic and Arab sciences and is mentioned extensively in studies. Influenced by Avicenna (c. 980 – 1037), Averroes (1126–1198) and Al-Farabi (ca. 872–950/951), he in his turn influenced other prominent Arab and Muslim philosophers and scientists. He became a prominent philosopher and polymath in both the Jewish and Islamic worlds.

CordobaBenMaimonaides

Bulls everywhere, LOL

CordobaBull

An artistic courtyard

CordobaCourtyard

 

Love the little blue pots, and love the people who take care of them!

CordobaBluePot

After our walking tour of Cordoba central, we gather in the gardens while our guide goes to pick up our tickets to take us inside the Mezquita, built as a mosque, becoming a cathedral after 1492.

Did I mention we learned two major dates on this trip: 711, when Tariq crosses into Spain (Jebal Tariq . . . Gibraltar) and 1492? Americans know 1492 as the year “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred ninety two, but 1492 is the year that the Moslems were driven out of Spain, weeping at the loss of Andalusia, Al-Andalus.

When the Moslems were driven out of Cordoba, the huge, beautiful mosque, Al Mesquite, was not destroyed, but recycled, repurposed, space holy to one faith became holy to another. I love it that the original mosque, with its spectacular soaring arches and inspirational proportions, was recognized, and re-utilized. Holy space is holy space. We worship the same God. We saw the shrine to John the Baptist in the Grand Ummayad Mosque in Damascus; why should we not share holy spaces?

 

CordobaChurch

Cathedral Cordoba

This is what you see immediately upon entering the Mezquita – a gorgeous kind of meshrabiyya covering the windows, patterning the light as it enters, keeping the harsh heat out and shrinking light in star like patterns across the floor.

CordobaMezquiteMeshrabiyya

 

The interior of this mosque/cathedral takes my breath away. It was crowded with tourists, but it just swallowed them up and maintained its sacred integrity. We could wander off and still hear our guide, thanks to this whisper-technology, where we all had headphones and our guide could broadcast. This was a place where I needed to wander off and experience it on my own, but felt some responsibility not to get too far afield from the group. I didn’t want to be a pain in the neck for the guide. And I also didn’t want to be a part of the group within this structure. It’s a problem.

Just look at these spaces:

CordobaMezquiteInterior

I’ve always had a thing about light fixtures, LOL, I probably should own a lamp show except I would only stock what I like and I would have a hard time selling anything in the shop. Guess it’s just a good thing for me to admire light fixtures and not to have to manage them.

CordobaMezquiteLightFixture

The beautiful Mihrab (points you in the direction of worship in a mosque) from the original mosque:

CordobaMezquiteMihrab

The Christian altar built in a structure added to the original mosque:

CordobaAltar

With a piece depicting King Ferdinand holding a globe:

CordobaMezquiteFerdinand

CordobaMezquiteTower

 

As the tour ended, our tour guide warned us that we had only an hour and a half for lunch, so not to go to a restaurant, just find something quick, or shop, and BE BACK ON THE MEETING PLACE AT TWO!

We had seen a restaurant we wanted to try, so raced to it. We hate being rushed, and part of the fun of traveling is trying new kinds of food in new places!

 

P1110106

 

P1110099

 

SanRafael

 

P1110104

December 24, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Blogging, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Survival, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Called by Name

I’ve always loved this story. Imagine, being a hated tax collector, and probably taking your cut. Imagine, a famous person coming to town, and being short, you climb a tree so you can see him pass by. And imagine that as he is passing, he notices you, he really sees you, he calls you by name and asks to stay at your place (how did he even know my name, I might wonder)?

The Lord Jesus turns everything upside down. He says we do wrong, and if we follow him (which I understand means that we do as he says and does) that the price for our sins is paid by him. He says the rules on earth are not the rules in the heavenly kingdom, and he calls Zacchaeus, as he calls you and me.

Luke 19:1-10

19He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycomore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ 6So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ 8Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ 9Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’

November 26, 2014 Posted by | Events, Faith, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Survival | | Leave a comment

Serious Heat Coming In

00BigHotSun

I’m almost embarrassed to post this !Alert from the WeatherUnderground people about the Heat wave hitting the Gulf, only because I see the temperatures in Kuwait have been hitting in the 113 – 115°F range and a part of me feels like I missed a speeding bullet.

On the other hand, these three days I have a group of delightful women in town and I am shepherding them from place to place, and they are all air-conditioned to the freezing ice-box stage, which being an Alaska girl I actually kinda like, but . . . then you open the door into summer and it just about knocks me over.

Although, I will admit, there was one place, along Palafox, where when I sat on a bench around 2:00 pm, there was a breeze and it wasn’t at all bad.

But as hot as it is, the real hot is coming, or so the alert tells us:

Screen shot 2014-08-20 at 7.41.43 PM Coastal Escambia Severe Watches & Warnings NOAA Weather Radio
Special Statement
Statement as of 1:40 PM CDT on August 20, 2014
…Potentially dangerous heat conditions through the weekend…

High pressure over the region will allow for progressively hotter temperatures through Friday with no relief expected over the weekend. High temperatures on Thursday will range from around 97 over inland areas to 92 near the immediate coast. Hotter temperatures are expected on Friday with highs ranging from around 99 inland to around 95 at the immediate coast. Highs on Saturday and Sunday will be similar and range from around 98 inland to 94 at the coast.

With plenty of Gulf moisture still over the region…heat index values will be at least 102 to 107 each afternoon…and areas closer to the coast will have locations around 108…possibly around 110 on Friday when the hottest temperatures are expected.

Children…the elderly…and people with chronic ailments are usually the first to suffer from the heat. Heat exhaustion…cramps or in extreme cases heat stroke can result from prolonged exposure to these conditions.

Persons working or playing sports outdoors from late morning through this afternoon are urged to drink plenty of water and sport drinks…taking frequent breaks to prevent overheating. Refrain from the Intake of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. Remember to check on relatives and neighbors…especially the elderly to make sure they have adequate air conditioning.

Also…do not Forget about your pets. Pets should be brought indoors…especially during the heat of the day. If pets must be kept outdoors…provide shade and plenty of fresh water. Livestock are also vulnerable.

We miss the Qatari Cat. AdventureMan takes it harder than I do; I’ve had two dreams in which he is happy, and FREE. I heard him thinking that life with us was good, but he was born to be a cat and now he is FREE. He was the sweetest little cat, and I live in horror that the operation we chose to have so that his quality of life would be better killed him and that his last week was horrible for him. I track the alternatives. None of them were good. I just hate that it ended in a hospital situation instead of in the quiet haven of our home. We still grieve, we miss his presence.

August 20, 2014 Posted by | Pensacola, Qatteri Cat, Survival, Weather | Leave a comment

Wayfaring Stranger and James Lee Burke in the Heat of August

Just in time to save August from being my most hated month EVER, a new James Lee Burke novel, Wayfaring Stranger.

Screen shot 2014-08-08 at 8.57.52 PM

LOL, escaping from the relentless heat and humidity of Pensacola, I enter the heat and humidity of Burke country, ranging from the oil fields in Louisiana to the desolate social scene of Houston in the 1950’s.

I got hooked on James Lee Burke in a very cold winter February in Wiesbaden, Germany, when I came across a book called A Morning for Flamingos. I like mysteries, but this was a mystery by a poet! When I read about the what an approaching thunderstorm looks like when you live in a little cabin in New Iberia on Bayou Teche, I was lost. I-don’t-know-how-many books later, I’ve been to New Iberia, had lunch by the Bayou Teche and explored Burke country.

Louisiana is soulful, all those little roads, and sugar cane factories (think True Detective, here) but, (sigh) no matter how colorful, no matter how beautiful, the Louisiana in James Lee Burke’s books is better. He’s been there longer, he has the eye to see that heron, that shiver of wind over the water, that glint of pure evil in a bad guy’s eye. I know you think I am blathering on, but kinda-sorta the Dave Robicheaux detective series are all pretty similar, what changes is the particular social injustice. So this is what hooks me – Burke’s relentless battle against injustice, by writing powerful books that get read by a lot of people, and the elegant prose and philosophy he inserts to lift it way beyond the run of the mill mystery book.

The Wayfaring Stranger is the best yet. It’s not one of the Robicheaux series, it’s part of a Holland series, lawmen whose Texas lives and challenges we’ve read about in previous books. Wayfaring Stranger is the story of Weldon Holland (Burke tells us in an after word that Hollan – no D – is an old Texas family name in his line) who lives with his grandfather and runs into the real Bonnie and Clyde. Fast forward and he is fighting in the Ardennes, and the only reason you have faith he will survive is that there are so many pages ahead of you . . . he and one of his men trek, hop a train, and end up in a deserted death camp, where they find one survivor – a woman. The three of them are surrounded by fighting armies and find safety in a local farm’s cellar.

Oops. I’ve already given away that Weldon survives the battle. It’s hard to write much more without giving too much away. It’s a powerful story, powerfully written. It’s about good men and women and weak men and women and how sometimes an evil person can surprise you with a goodness.

Warning. Once you pick up Wayfaring Stranger, you’ll need a block of time so you can just go ahead and finish it. You won’t be putting it down.

August 8, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Social Issues, Survival, Technical Issue, Values, Work Related Issues | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment