ANCESTRY 101

 

TERESA AND I WITH GREAT (X 10 OR 20) GRANDFATHER LEIF IN GREENLAND.

“Ancestry” has been referenced in many of my posts. Here’s the quick and simple version of exactly what it is and how I’m using it to add both breadth and depth to my summer trip to Norway.

Ancestry.com is a website that connects us with our extended—multiple generations extended —families. This is how it works for me. I first joined in order to access their family tree maker and start the process of building my own family tree with me at the center, all my forefathers and mothers branching out above.

It all begins by plugging in information you have about any relatives, as close as your parents to as far back as you can go. As you enter the names, birthdates and places, and any other information available into the ‘tree’ format provided, hints will come from other trees also registered on Ancestry which have the same names/birthdates and so forth in their trees. Sometimes the hints are relevant, sometimes not, but as you enter the new information into your tree, it grows, each new hint something to build upon.

Family trees are an interesting visual although, in a way, an upside-down concept. They build upon me, the tree maker, with branches sprouting as more and more ancestors are identified—making the greenest of new branches older than the trunk. See what I mean—upside down.

My next step was doing the DNA testing which consists of sending some spit off in the mail and waiting for an email confirming who thought you were—or, in some cases,  surprising you with who you are not. At first it was only to see if any unexpected ancestors showed up in the bloodlines since I believed myself to be 100% Scandinavian. Well yes and no. Ninety-three percent Scandinavian indeed, but those Viking forays around the neighborhood showed up as well in 3% Russian, 2% Irish, and a couple of percentage points for Britain and Northern Europe. Although I am extremely proud of and fascinated by my Norwegianness, it might have been fun to have a sprinkling of some darker (or at least rarer…) genes coursing through my bloodstream,  but I’ll happily settle for representing almost the whole of Viking territory to some small degree.    .

An amazing thing happened when the results of the test came back. In my Ancestry account a list of cousins appeared…many cousins…cousins galore. There were a few second-third cousins but mostly fourth-sixth cousins. My sixth cousin and I would related through the generation of our great-great-great-great grandparents (I think!). It’s complicated. Here all these years my impression has been that I’m from a fairly small family. Now, it turns out I’m from the most extended of families; we all are if we just go back a few generations.

I wonder why this pleases me so. Did I feel deprived of cousins? True, I’m only close to a few of them, and that does not include the beautiful talented mean one who was a pathological liar—but I digress. Anyway that seemed sufficient until now…when I just want to know more and more about the tracks and trails of my DNA.

The story will continue as I share, in future posts, the bits and pieces of ancestral family lives and lore I already knew or have newly discovered.

I highly recommend Ancestry.com. What fun it is…and who knows when the odd genius, the cranky billionaire, or perhaps the criminal mastermind, will show up.

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IN CELEBRATION OF RAIN

MISSED THE GOOD RAIN SHOTS BUT YOU GET THE IDEA.

I’m singin’ in the rain
Just singin’ in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I’m happy again

I walk down the lane
With a happy refrain
And singing
Singing in the rain
In the rain, in the rain, in the rain

…Sang Gene Kelly.

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain. I wanted to cling to it, keep it from being beamed away by sun. I wanted to lie in bed with a book all day. After making coffee I walked into it to take a picture—it was not a heavy downpour but nevertheless a proper rain, my gnarly dried feet are wet, hair damp.

I have always preferred rainy days. When I was a kid with a birthday in April-showers month, the first spring rains were barely warm enough to begin melting tired dirty accumulation of snow, but they signaled the Minnesota winter drawing to a close. They gave the outdoors back its earth, grass, leaf, needle, sap, swamp, lake smells. They promised May flowers and summertime and school out and hiding out in our user-friendly woods with a book fresh from the Blackduck library. Summer rains were a physical, visceral experience because we ran out into them when the thunder and lightning grew distant. Up in the pastures there were indented squares from where logging camp buildings had been, they filled with water and created a personal wading pond or two for each of us. We ran indoors bedraggly-wet and wrapped ourselves in sweaters and ate warm bread from the oven. Perhaps my favorite rains came in the fall when I could experience them tucked into a quilt reading away the cold gray day. And then the Minnesota winter when it was too cold to rain so we had to experience weather through…snow. That worked just fine. Except for the barefoot running part of course.

I could offer an apology for what might be considered an overly-sentimentalized look back at a time and place that also included blizzards, mosquitoes, wolf-killed sheep, and not much money but it was so long ago and far away that it’s permissible to focus on the joy of it all I think.

 “The richness of the rain made me feel safe and protected; I have always considered the rain to be healing — a blanket — the comfort of a friend. Without at least some rain in any given day, or at least a cloud or two on the horizon, I feel overwhelmed by the information of sunlight and yearn for the vital, muffling gift of falling water.” Douglas Coupland

Why have I always loved rain so much?  Did I mention…Today, the rarest of Albuquerque weather phenomena—rain—has fallen all morning. I awoke to it and didn’t believe my ears for awhile. Happiness and contentment were poised to jump into my brain and my heart but I needed to listen to be sure. Yes, it was raining. Why has rain always made me so pleased with myself, with life, with the world? For now, shall I just propose it’s an introvert’s best environmental friend, keeping her  inside in a small cozy personal space. My apartment is small and when I travel I’m always in small (and, yes—usually cozy—otherwise known as ‘budget’) hotel rooms. I especially like train compartments though, curled up in my corner for reading and writing and dreaming, my stuff nicely arranged at the bottom of the berth; in fact trains could be my favorite rainy day spaces. The passing countryside of soaked earth, drops of water adding  small glimmers to leaves and flowers, the sky heavy, gray, no sun attacking your eyes with too much light, too much bright. On that train, my compartment may or may not include a roommate, but my berth is my own, with blanket and pillow, my books and Surface, and snacks and wool socks—and if one is passing through the taiga perhaps there’s hot borscht next door in the dining car—with a shot of vodka—in the rain?

“Some of my pleasantest hours were during the long rain-storms in the spring or fall, which confined me to the house for the afternoon as well as the forenoon, soothed by their ceaseless roar and pelting; when an early twilight ushered in a long evening in which many thoughts had time to take root and unfold themselves.” —Henry David Thoreau

My Unhappy Reality

The rainiest places on earth are India, New Zealand, Columbia, Equatorial Guinea and Hawaii. Far from me.

Over half of the sunniest top ten are right here in my very neighborhood: Arizona, Nevada and Texas.

 

Song For The Rainy Season 

Hidden, oh hidden

in the high fog

the house we live in,

beneath the magnetic rock,

rain-, rainbow-ridden,

where blood-black

bromelias, lichens,

owls, and the lint

of the waterfalls cling,

familiar, unbidden.
In a dim age

of water

the brook sings loud

from a rib cage

of giant fern; vapor

climbs up the thick growth

effortlessly, turns back,

holding them both,

house and rock,

in a private cloud.
At night, on the roof,

blind drops crawl

and the ordinary brown

owl gives us proof

he can count:

five times–always five–

he stamps and takes off

after the fat frogs that,

shrilling for love,

clamber and mount.
House, open house

to the white dew

and the milk-white sunrise

kind to the eyes,

to membership

of silver fish, mouse,

bookworms,

big moths; with a wall

for the mildew’s

ignorant map;

darkened and tarnished

by the warm touch

of the warm breath,

maculate, cherished;

rejoice! For a later

era will differ.

(O difference that kills

or intimidates, much

of all our small shadowy

life!) Without water

the great rock will stare

unmagnetized, bare,

no longer wearing

rainbows or rain,

the forgiving air

and the high fog gone;

the owls will move on

and the several

waterfalls shrivel

in the steady sun

By Elizabeth Bishop

THE RAIN HAS PASSED BUT I PRAYED TO DUDUMITSA, THE BULGARIAN GODDESS OF RAIN, TO KEEP IT CLOUDY A LITTLE LONGER. THANK YOU, DUD.

 

A DAY BY THE BAY

BACK WHEN COMPUTERS WERE OUR FRIENDS.

This will only be peripherally a travel post—it’s really about friends and family. However, since ‘who doesn’t love Bay Area’, and it all happened there—it’s a travel post. Three or so weeks ago I went to Oakland to visit granddaughter Teresa and revisit Old Friend[s] Paul Simon. AND to spend a most lovely day with some of my Norwegian cousins visiting from Kristiansand. May I just say that they are an exceptionally nice family. It can’t be just because they are Norwegian, after all there is the occasional bad Norwegian, for example the two right-wing politicians (yeah, Norway has them too) wanting to nominate Sleazy T. for the Nobel Peace Prize. My Norwegians, I say proudly, are the intelligent, humane, interesting kind.

We started our exceptionally nice Saturday with lunch at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, my idea of the world’s best restaurant. I’ve eaten there a few times and every single thing I’ve tasted has been simple and delicious. Perfect actually. Yes, perfect. Then on the Silicon Valley to see…? Well, Facebook and Google campuses and the computer museum…finished off with wine in the sun at a Mountain View sidewalk café.

So, next time you visit the Bay Area, if you’re tired of the Golden Gate Bridge and Union Square and other famous sites, try the Valley…see pretty suburbia, geeks galore, money oozing from zinnias in front of Facebook, the good life for all—well for some anyway.

Pretty Pictures:

GOOGLE CAMPUS. EVERYONE’S FAVORITE SEARCH ENGINE OR THE EVIL EMPIRE? BUT IT CAN’T BE ALL BAD, RIGHT. SO GREEN AND PLAYFUL.

PAUL

Paul Simon’s Homeward Bound/Final Tour came to Oakland Friday night, May 25th. I was there, fifty plus years after my first Simon and Garfunkel concert in North Carolina. My almost 28-year-old granddaughter Teresa was with me and a little surprised when I leaned over and whispered that the first time I saw Paul Simon her father was a little boy home with a baby-sitter. I just finished the newest biography of Paul and, can I just say, it’s been an exciting fifty plus years for both of us.

Paul Simon (and Art Garfunkel) and Bob Dylan truly provide the soundtrack of my life. Oh sure, lots of other folk/protest music is in there and a pop hit now and then, but for a tug on my heart strings or a powerful jolt of memory it’s first of all Paul, with Bob for the war years.

Sitting in Oakland’s Oracle Stadium last week with Bob and Teresa…sitting there in a reverie of memory.

A week later. It’s the rarest of occurrences. A rainy day in Albuquerque…feeding my soul…along with some songs of Simon softly…creeping into my brain. The intent is to blend Paul’s poetry with snapshots from my life, the life for which he set much of the playlist, but only including songs from the Oakland concert. It doesn’t work; he wrote too many songs that speak to me, that ignite big and small memories of moments in time. So instead of order, here’s the chaos of  random favorite Simon lines jumbled in with scenery offered up in my mind’s eye.

Sail on, silver girl/Sail on by/Your time has come to shine/All your dreams are on their way/See how they shine. East Carolina University. I had a raspberry colored dress and a right-wing professor and an-almost lover named Marshall.

I’m sitting in the railway station/Got a ticket for my destination/On a tour of one-night stands/my suitcase and guitar in hand/And every stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one-man band. Always restless. Back and forth to Minnesota with my little boys and dogs and a cat in a bird cage, air force husband overseas. Paul wrote “Homeward Bound” for me, tongue in cheek, because for awhile we lived in the Philippines and I loved it and did not want to be ‘homeward bound’ ever.

The Mississippi Delta was shining/Like a National guitar/I am following the river/Down the highway/Through the cradle of the civil war/I’m going to Graceland/In Graceland, in Graceland/I’m going to Graceland. I loved the sound and rhythm before I had even been to Africa. And a best friend was from the Delta and there’s the river and there’s history. All my favorite things in one small song.

Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon/Going to the candidates’ debate/Laugh about it, shout about it/When you’ve got to choose/ Every way you look at this you lose. I was happier than I should have been, husband overseas, Vietnam war, not much money…but my kids were fine, the car ran, I had a student life and looking back it seems like Paul Simon was in “Mrs. Robinson,” not Dustin Hoffman and we watched it and played it and sang it and hummed it. Were we just ever so slightly shocked by the film or am I imagining that?

Will I wake up from these violent dreams? With my hair as white as the morning moon? I can’t remember which song these lines are from but they’re too beautiful to delete.  And besides my hair is now as white as the morning moon.

If every human on the planet/And all the buildings on it/Should disappear/Would a zebra grazing in the African Savannah/Care enough to share one zebra tear? I only really listened to “Questions for the Angels” when I started reading and studying Paul Simon’s life and songs before this concert. I couldn’t imagine why…until remembering that I had stopped listening to music and was out of this country as much as possible booking artists for Global DanceFest. I’ve missed important songs. Now I have a new CD player in my house…I’ll be on Amazon as soon as I finish this post….

They give us those nice bright colors/They give us the greens of summers/Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day/I got a Nikon camera/I love to take a photograph/So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away. Sing along. What’s not to love? Especially if you’re an obsessive taker-of-pictures.

Joseph’s face was black as night/The pale yellow moon shone in his eyes/His path was marked/By the stars in the Southern Hemisphere/And he walked his days/Under African skies…This is the story of how we begin to remember/This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein/After the dream of falling and calling your name out/These are the roots of rhythm/And the roots of rhythm remain. One of the best of the best. From his time in South Africa. It’s a poem and a dance, an African story. I was in love with Africa before my first visit.

I met my old lover/On the street last night/[He] seemed so glad to see me/I just smiled/And we talked about some old times/And we drank ourselves some beers/Still crazy after all these years/Oh Still crazy after all these years. Who doesn’t want to meet the best of the old lovers…on a street in a town just south of London…but what can you do if he’s not on Facebook…or possibly even alive?

Just slip out the back, Jack, make a new plan, Stan/Don’t need to be coy, Roy, just listen to me/Hop on the bus, Gus, don’t need to discuss much/Just drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free. About those old lovers…

I hear the drizzle of the rain/Like a memory it falls/Soft and warm continuing/
Tapping on my roof and walls
. “Kathy’s Song.” Written for/about his English girlfriend I think. And they still are friends ‘after all these years.’ I’m dedicating this to the one serious rainy day in Albuquerque so far this year.

One and one-half wandering Jews/Free to wander wherever they choose/Are traveling together/In the Sangre de Christo/The Blood of Christ Mountains/Of New Mexico/On the last leg of a journey/They started a long time ago/The arc of a love affair/Rainbows in the high desert air/Mountain passes/Slipping into stone/Hearts and bones. A lush story-poem about traveling with Carrie Fisher I believe. It was missing from my Paul Simon internal playlist…which makes me feel quite disloyal.

It’s a turn-around jump shot/It’s everybody jump start/It’s every generation throws a hero up the pop charts/Medicine is magical and magical is art/The boy in the bubble/And the baby with the baboon heart…And I believe/These are the days of lasers in the jungle/Lasers in the jungle somewhere/Staccato signals of constant information/A loose affiliation of millionaires/And billionaires and baby. Paul Simon’s songs are rarely overtly political…though full of social commentary. “Boy in a Bubble” is as full of the angst of living in a world out of control as most of his music seems to get. .

Time it was/And what a time it was/It was . . ./A time of innocence/A time of confidences…Long ago . . . it must be . . ./I have a photograph/Preserve your memories/They’re all that’s left you. OMG, they sound such innocents. Those two young guys. I went to a Minneapolis S&G concert, “Old Friends” in 2003. By then, that partnership along with most of the world’s better assumptions was coming to an end.

It’s a still life watercolor/Of a now-late afternoon/As the sun shines through the curtained lace/And shadows wash the room…And you read your Emily Dickinson/And I my Robert Frost/And we note our place with book markers/That measure what we’ve lost…Like a poem poorly written/We are verses out of rhythm/Couplets out of rhyme/In syncopated time…And the dangled conversation/And the superficial sighs/Are the borders of our lives. As our glorious leader might put it…Paul Simon has the BEST words. And obviously written by an English major. Who says you have to study IT or medicine  to get by in the world.

I’ve gone to look for America…
Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces/She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy/I said, be careful, his bowtie is really a camera/Toss me a cigarette, I think there’s one in my raincoat/We smoked the last one an hour ago/So I looked at the scenery/She read her magazine/And the moon rose over an open field.
I was once on a bus to Bujumbura and met a Russian spy who gave me IT advice and said ‘stick to PCs, Apple is going to fail’ and I’m anxiously awaiting that day.

Hello darkness, my old friend/I’ve come to talk with you again/Because a vision softly creeping/Left its seeds while I was sleeping/And the vision that was planted in my brain/Still remains/Within the sound of silence. The Oakland concert ended appropriately with “Sounds of Silence”…because realistically people anywhere near ‘old’ will never experience the likes of Poet Simon again. A guy who let his personal loves and fears enter his music, as well as commentary on the whole damn world, but he rarely if ever sentimentalized, and his lyrics were never ever boring or dumb. I’m sad for the sound of silence, the void that Paul Simon will leave.

Finally however…I discovered a Simon song I had never heard, never knew existed. There were others unfamiliar as I’ve mentioned but “Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War” was the best surprise of the new biography Paul Simon: The Life which I just read and of the evening in Oakland. Go to YouTube right away if you don’t know this song. It’s another The Best.

René and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war
Returned to their hotel suite
And they unlocked the door

Easily losing their evening clothes
They dance by the light of the moon
To the Penguins
The Moonglows
The Orioles
And The Five Satins
The deep, forbidden music
They’d been longing for
René and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war

René and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war
Were strolling down Christopher Street
When they stopped in a men’s store
With all the mannequins
Dressed in style
That brought tears to their
Immigrant eyes

Just like The Penguins
The Moonglows
The Orioles
And The Five Satins
The easy stream of laughter
Flowing through the air
René and Georgette Magritte
With their dog après la guerre

Side by side
They fell asleep
Decades gliding by like Indians
Time is cheap
When they wake up they will find
All their personal belongings
Have intertwined

René and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war
Were dining with the power èlite
And they looked in their bedroom drawer
And what do you think
They have hidden away
In the cabinet cold of their hearts?

The Penguins
The Moonglows
The Orioles
and The Five Satins
For now and ever after
As it was before
René and Georgette Magritte
With their dog
After the war

 My paean to Paul…(So the photos aren’t Kodachrome-bright and they’re a little mixed up and I didn’t have a picture of me in the pink dress or Paul and Carrie in the New Mexico mountains but my intent is pure and loving.)

A COOL GRAY DAY

Cool? Gray? Dorothy, you are not in Albuquerque anymore. Well then, I must be in Oakland or, to be exact, San Leandro. Lace (also known as Teresa) is off to work and I’m still in bed with purple Surfy (also known as my beloved Surface) and a cuppa (Nescafe), my reliable on-the-road drink.

Arrived last night in time for Lace and me to have bread and cheese and coffee and wine and a Paul Simon lesson. She’s only 28 so, unlike what my friend Bob’s t-shirt claims on his behalf, she did not get to hear all of the ‘best bands’ and needs tutoring. I love this girl, she’s a true shape-shifter adapting to my basic uninteresting food likes as easily as to her family’s foodie inclinations. Lace does have a habit of eating a lot of vegetables but as long as she’s equally happy with just bread and olive oil when with me that’s okay.

This being America, as in “This is America” (Childish Gambino version) Lace was held up at gunpoint a few months ago and has moved from Oakland to the presumably safer, but slightly less interesting, environs of San Leandro. Although when a Pakistani child is getting shot down in her Texas school we are pretty much guaranteed that no place, however dull, is safe from American gunslingers. The girl’s unwary parents undoubtedly  thought they were keeping her out of harm’s way by getting her out of Pakistan; unknowingly sending her to Gunistan.

So I’m ranting. Can’t help it. I’m am so extremely pissed off by us. Americans. Mostly by white Americans. Like me. Ugh.

This is a travel blog however and, the good news is, I’m traveling. A Bay Area long weekend with my best travel buddy ever. After big trips like last fall my travel juices were dormant for awhile. Relatively dormant. Everything being relative. Including travel dormancy—I mean it’s not like I wasn’t reading about or planning for future travel.

It seems San Diego a couple of weeks ago brought my ‘road warrior’ (warrior has different meanings for different age cohorts—for me it means keeping upright, moving forward, not fearful, still curious) genes back to life. Now the Bay Area, Paul Simon, Norwegian cousins, Lace’s funny smart boyfriend, Silicon Valley, Magritte exhibit, maybe another Russian restaurant, all make me excited, eager; make me forget aches and budgets; put me in full travel mode for a fairly immediate future of South Dakota, Norway, Minnesota, California wedding, the Silk Route. Maybe I should sign off while I love my life and am not getting shot at—yet today.

Excuse the tirade. Next post will be all Paul Simon.

Last week in Albuquerque, I partook of the WEDDING. With Pimms. AND it rained.

MOTHER ENGLAND

All the world‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts. Shakespeare

England and America are two countries separated by the same language. George Bernard Shaw

Y’all are so cute and y’all talk so proper over here. I love England. Beyonce Knowles

England, one of my favorite countries (let me keep saying England instead of UK please). During all those English history classes, and gazing at multiple Life Magazine photos of the Queen, and sitting up all night with a friend in a dark cabin in the north woods weeping through Diana’s funeral, it’s always been England. I’ve visited a few times, the first with my friend Sue in 1984, the last with granddaughter Teresa in 2016. In between there was a road trip from Farnborough near London up into Scotland with my British lover and several visits to dance festivals and gatherings. All good…and now as a bonus there are the pretty young royals…and Netflix and Acorn to share The Crown and the best, or is that the worst, of crime from all over the UK. Not to mention a number of good histories and novels of British origin.

And for this splendid moment in time—there’s Harry and Meghan, the handsome prince and the beautiful princess, just as life was intended to be—and I’ll be there through it all, loyal royal groupie that I am. I’m prepared for the wedding: Signed onto Hulu Live so I can access CNN International; purchased the Pimms (still need the ginger ale, strawberries and cucumbers); found that tin of stale Fortnum and Mason lemon biscuits in the back of the cupboard; and discovered there’s a bit of lemon curd left in the back of the frig. I’ll be up most of Friday night so as not to miss any gushingly silly comments from the media or a single wave of Princess Charlotte’s chubby baby-queen hand.

Last weekend I was introduced to Childish Gambino’s  “This is America,” next week it’s Paul Simon’s farewell tour—in other words the sad present here in Gunistan juxtaposed with a musical album of my life from Bridge Over Troubled Waters through Graceland and beyond.

THIS WEEK however it’s all England, all royalty, all of the time. I don’t actually have anything new to write that a few thousand people haven’t already shared these past weeks so, instead, I’m going to post some bits and pieces of essays from the last few years.  I’ll start at the beginning…that first life-changing trip.

Part 1: The Mother

England was, for a few hundred years, the most studied foreign country in American high schools and even in colleges if poetry and literature are included. It’s the source of my language and many of my governing institutions and, more importantly  Shakespeare, the Beatles, and Downton Abbey. And all those Englishy things like beans on toast and warm beer and damp greenness.  My England of several visits is like those photos from that trip you just never got sorted; there they are, still in a heap in the shoe box; a heap I’m about to paw through.

The photos from that first visit in 1984 are at the bottom looking a little faded compared to my bright digitized pictures from these later years. But here we are; 1984 and Sue and I all bright-eyed, curly-haired and eager. What was playing in the background as we boarded out plane in NYC and deplaned at Heathrow? Probably, in both cases, Phil Collins inviting us to take a look at him now or Stevie Wonder calling to tell us he loved uspop culture criss-crossing the Atlantic with the speed of light it seemed.

Look away from the photos for a minute, Marjorie—remember how heart-stoppingly excited you were to be landing in England! More than crossing into Mexico; stepping out of the plane into the Philippines; more than getting married or starting a new job; in fact damn close to bearing children but much less painful. Gertrude Stein saidLet me recite what history teaches. History teaches.” Maybe history had taught me, more thoroughly than I realized that England was the mother ship.

Sue and I proceeded to a proper sight-seeing of our Merry Old Heritage: Buckingham Palace and that grand array of beautiful buildings all about; Stonehenge, Brighton with its kipper breakfasts and colorful beach huts; even spending a scandalous few hours with two ex-military Brits we met at Shakespeare’s Pub who took us to the Royal Tournament where, it was announced, Princess Anne was in the audience. Our brush with Royalty. Well there was one more. Here’s Sue standing next to the Royal Guard at the Queen Mother’s residence; she looks so surprised because he had just ever so politely pinched her butt.

SUE HAVING A ROYAL PINCHING EXPERIENCE.

 

Here we are posed in front of Fleming’s Hotel on Half Moon Street in London.

On the beach in Brighton.

Of course, in all of the pictures we’re both smoking, me Marlboros, Sue? Salems I think. Yeah, well, back in the day we were bad…

 

THE ENGAGED COUPLE, ASHLEY AND STEVEN.

THE MOTHERS

A good time was had by all. Especially me. I do love my little escapes to San Diego where there are Russian restaurants and IKEA and, sometimes, big family events. This was one of those times for all of the above. Here’s the album.

I tend to feel something is lacking in my life if I cannot have an annual IKEA visit. But no meat balls Saturday (which we’re now told originated in Italy anyway) because the next stop was to be my second Russian restaurant of the trip, Kafe Sobaka, where the borscht was the brightest of reds and the vodka and salted water drink! was just right.

I FORGOT TO TAKE A PICTURE BEFORE IT WAS FULL OF SOUR CREAM AND HALF EATEN…NEVERTHELESS WHENEVER BORSCHT IS AVAILABLE IT MUST BE PROPERLY DOCUMENTED.

Sunday was Mother’s Day so we did what I wanted to do since daughter-in-law Sandra went up to LA to meet Teresa and enjoy a spa day courtesy of her kids. Me not being a fan of noisy Sunday brunch places, we stayed home and had super-strength BLTs, limoncello, Kvaefjordkake, “The World’s Best Cake (according to Norwegians) and lots of coffee. Steven and I baked the cake which is quite a complicated affair with alternating  cake, meringue/almonds, and custard/whipped cream layers. Actually Steven did all of the serious work while I served as the sous chef/baker/cleaner-upper.

The best part of the day was spending time with Ashley and Steven who got engaged a short while ago and are busy planning a major wedding event for September 2019. Ashley will just have finished PA school and Steve will just be starting graduate school so they’ve decided this is the propitious moment. This wedding will definitely be the biggest blow-out our side of the family has ever witnessed, featuring Taiwanese, Arabic, Filipino and Norwegian components. I think the Norwegian input will come in the form of cakes or bread or pickled herring! I’ve offered to host a Viking breakfast where we gnaw on reindeer legs, drink a lot of mead, recite some of Odin’s poetry, bludgeon each other awhile, and possibly offer up a sacrifice or two (only Republicans though). It doesn’t look like we’re going to do any of that; kids these days lack a true sense of adventure.

Ashley and Steven have been together a long time and we all love Ashley dearly so it’s quite exciting to look forward to this first grandchild wedding in the family.

And just for me it was cloudy two days and almost rained once.

DID I MENTION IKEA…

 

 

Saturday morning. The annual pilgrimage up Black Mountain to prove I haven’t  yet reached that dreaded old-old category and, furthermore, do not intend to permit myself to be so labeled until I am 95. Black Mountain. My benchmark…totem…20-year-goalpost. Black Mountain, so not-Everest, so just right for me. (4.33 miles/16% incline)

I AM A NON-FICTION WRITER

Therefore to write about non-fiction things I must see them, do them, smell them, taste them, verify them…or at least have done so at some point in time. And I’m a travel blogger so I must experience a travel adventure, large or small, before posting about it. Good rules except for those lazy days out there in the world when you simply do nothing worthy of sharing. Like yesterday. Slept late, wrote a small post, ate a lot of a pretty good baguette with excellent butter, drank coffee, gazed out Scott’s big windows…went to Nordstrom’s, had lunch, napped, ate something again, went to Barnes and Noble, and then to bed about 8:30pm to start reading my new Paul Simon bio before his Oakland farewell tour concert in two weeks—which I will be at…No no, don’t leave us Paul.

Should I write about the baguette—no, it was only pretty good. Already taken way too many photos of Southwest planes on what seems like Scott’s personal runway. Anything to say about Nordstrom’s? Did get a couple of things but mostly  wandered back and forth by the Burberry section gazing longingly at the $450 sweatshirt and the $875 silk blouse because I imagine myself wearing all Burberry all of the time (and having a 30-year-younger body upon which to drape those lovely things). Time to move on, with my new not-Burberry things, to lunch.

Yes I can write about lunch. Because it was at the Pushkin Russian Restaurant downtown—which will serve as yesterday’s travel highlight. We went about 2pm so it was empty…it’s not really a quickie lunch kind of place and not in the heart of the touristy area. I imagine it much livelier on evenings and weekends. At least I hope so since it’s quite a charming place. As you can see from the photos it’s a dark wood and linen napkins kind of mid-day sanctuary. Perfect. I have come to loath noisy packed restaurants. But, you say, they’re noisy and packed because the food is so good. Not necessarily—more likely six twenty-seven year olds wrote glowing Yelp reviews or word spread, through whatever constitutes the ‘grapevine’ of the moment, that the place is cool, hot, hip, in, snatched (which I just found when I googled, ‘the latest slang for “cool”). I prefer my lunch places to be faux(ish)-grand and quiet.

For whatever reason I love Russian food. It’s the borscht, that ruby red, lightly-seasoned, feel-good soup with a nice mound of sour cream melting into its heat. And all manner of dumplings are on my favorite comfort food list. I also like that it’s the only food group where it feels right to have a shot of horseradish and honey infused vodka with your meal. A lovely lunch it was. Scott’s trout was just right, though he skipped eating its tiny charred head—giving Sandra cause to berate him later for not bringing it home for her—Filipinas are all about fish heads and other tasty but usually discarded fish parts. I loved my borscht, dumplings and the honey cake and dark Russian beer for dessert. It was all just right for a vacation/travel lunch.

Scott and I had a passionate lunch argument about the MeToo movement. While we agree that Harvey Weinstein and Al Franken aren’t in the same category of humans, we do not agree about the practice of outing every single male that’s behaved stupidly in the sexual arena over the last forty years. Scott says let it all out there and the rest of us will decide what’s just dumb and what’s criminal. I say if every instance of less-than-gentlemanly sexual actions is thrown into the ring it lessens the impact of the whole movement. Tom Brokaw’s unwanted kissing and touching in three or four incidents (if true) constitutes dumb unwanted guy stuff and it needs to stop; Harvey and Charlie and Bill, on the other hand raped and drugged and threatened and paraded around revoltingly naked and they should be ostracized and fined at the very least, possibly imprisoned for some time.

So my point is this: if every accusation is treated equally it just puts them all in one big jumble of bad boys. Which, I read somewhere, is the reason for women to be covered in Islamic cultures—men are uncontrollable, all men. Not sure if that’s fake news but I suspect there’s some truth in it.  Let’s be a little restrained in our reporting…save it for the actions that maim minds or bodies or life possibilities. Not that sloppy kissy-face crap.

So I am not known for being a great admirer of the male half of the human race in general (most family and friends excepted of course) so my son is astounded to find himself wholly in support of every aspect of MeToo and his ‘liberated’ mother talking about the danger of tarring all offenders with the same brush. It does make for great semi-friendly arguments.

Bottom line though. Scott, this is my blog and therefore I am right. Now that is power.

HAZY MORNING, HAZY PHOTO…BUT VISITS TO SCOTT IN SAN DIEGO MUST BEING WITH A VIEW OF A SW AIRLINES LANDING FROM HIS WINDOW. MAYBE I’LL DO BETTER IN THE NEXT DAY OR TWO. OR NOT.

This is my first foray out into the wide world after returning in an exhausted skinny bronchial-plagued heap from India at the end of November 2017. The entire SE Asia/India adventure was stupendous (sorry for the superlative–they sound rather Sleazy-T like these days), one of my best journeys ever, but it was also about as demanding as little old ladies in tennis shoes can take on…  I hope switching to California, South Dakota and Norway for a rest year is permissible before tackling the Silk Route.

About travel skills. First of all, eating and drinking carefully. And/or getting the right drugs to make my stomach behave so my diet doesn’t consist of protein bars, crackers and Nescafe in a water bottle. Went to my arthritis doc yesterday and he gave me a new stomach-soothing prescription to try out. Took one. We then went to Shakespeare’s pub near Scott’s house at 6pm, and I had a bitter beer and small serving of bangers and mash (beginning of my British-themed pre-wedding prep), I did NOT go to a gym, I slept about ten hours…and this morning I feel in perfect health. This is after doing everything—food, gym—right the day before yesterday and being sick all day yesterday. So there, healthy living! It’s all about beer and mashed potatoes.

It’s 7:20 am Cal-time. Family all at work already. Healthcare, drug-testing, marketing businesses. Not a poet nor beach bum among them—so what’s the use of living in California—other than it being the natural habitat of liberal Democrats. I’m practicing blogging in bed which I’ve not done since that smog-blocked room in Delhi. Okay, good, still know how to do this.

I might be bored. No work. No agonizing about my unwritten book (all my notes and thoughts stayed in New Mexico). Nothing to clean or water. No errands to run or groceries to buy. Need a break from the book I’m reading and tried Scott’s new Nesbo, only to confirm that Nesbo is the most overrated mystery/detective writer on the planet.

Perhaps I’ll post something a bit more engaging after being out and about this afternoon. Let’s see…Nordstrom’s, a pot store, Russian food, and a walk on the beach. Which can all be only approximated in Albuquerque. Yay for travel.

 

MUSING WHILE TIRED

I wish I could/would have begun these big fat six-week trips earlier in life. Sometimes focusing on a world ‘neighborhood’ of multiple countries, sometimes one country in greater depth…like I’m doing these last years.

Not that I regret the many dance festival jaunts or art/dance focused meetings, conferences, gatherings, viewings in so many intriguing locations all around the world. Grants often covered much of the cost, I was usually surrounded by lively and lovely friends, and I gained an appreciation of new places and insight into new (to me) cultures.

Now is a different time in my life though. I have a deep desire to get to know the rest of the global ‘neighborhoods’ and limited time in which to do so. More up-close-and-personal. More deeply. More appreciatively (before we humans manage to destroy them all). Last year, 2017, I explored a neighborhood called Southeast Asia/Nepal/India. Walking in the advance rain of an approaching typhoon along the banks of the Thu Bon River in Hoi An, Vietnam after breakfast baguettes and that thickly sweetened coffee beloved of the Vietnamese—and me…or barreling through the night on Indian Rail, sharing a cold and grimy sleeping compartment with three burly men, taciturn when awake, snoring when asleep, tend to make a neighborhood, large or small, feel truly ‘visited.’

This year I’m going to Norway for six weeks to revel in being part of a smart, practical, hardy, and adventurous band of Northerners. I will have Ancestry.com as a guide to heretofore unknown branches of the family tree, friendly cousins with whom to hang out, local lodging booked through AirB&B (cozy apartments are, strangely enough, quite reasonably priced in Norway), fresh cool air with perhaps a rainy day now and then, bookstores and coffee houses galore, and, last but definitely not least, extraordinary butter. Since transportation, services and the environment are pretty much top-notch I will actually have time to vacation…down time, free time, lazy walking in the woods time, hanging out at the café time, writing time (please god of scribblers…). This year in fact the ‘exploring’ will be almost like going home to relax. It would not please me to have every trip I take feel this safe, this efficiently structured, this comfortable, but once in awhile it is a joy to anticipate some ease in the journey.

The Danish word for cozy is hyggelig, a trendy concept at the moment; in Norwegian it’s koselig but I’m not sure the word or the concept have reached quite the same level of popularity there. In any case, I looked for some photos from the 2016 time in Norway to see what looked cozy–because I am exhausted right this minute and could use some coziness.

THE TRAVEL LIFE

The very notion of travel obsesses me. The literature of travel fills my bookshelves; the work of travel alternately stimulates and exhausts me; the cost of travel keeps me on a paycheck to paycheck budget.

I’ve had other passions: books, dance, school, but travel has subsumed them all and, actually, owes a large debt to each of them (without books how would I know where I wanted to go and what was awaiting me; dance drew me ever more deeply into the places and cultures that grew the work that fascinated me; school…well without all of those classes all of those years, how would I even know a big wide world existed?).

The big 2018 journey to Norway is coming up with small pre-August forays out into the immediate world (California and South Dakota). However I cannot seem to start writing about it…real writing that requires thought…and editing. So. Just. Do. It. I said.

Today’s the day then. Writing commences. Again. Saturday, April 28, 2018

Picture me at my desk in my travel-writing cocoon. With all of the accoutrements thereof.

BOOKS

Always prepping for being truly Norwegian. And evaluating whether Grandpa Torgus (apparently the black sheep of the family) should have stayed home in the Setesdal Valley or whether my life is better/more exciting/more stressful…even exists…because he sailed away.

Of course there’s next year. One should never be without more than one journey in the works.

PHOTOS

Life, in the end, is just a panoply of memories…and it’s good to have prompts.

AND GROCERY MONEY