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.
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 us—pop 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 said “Let 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.
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…
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Life, in the end, is just a panoply of memories…and it’s good to have prompts.
AND GROCERY MONEY
I’m traveling on a different kind of quest this summer. To Norway to find…me? India and Greenland were physical challenges. Russia and South Africa literary, historical, and artistic adventures. Vietnam last year and Norway this year feel more like major life searches. In the case of Vietnam to see with my own eyes (and to offer mostly unspoken apologies) a place we Americans nearly destroyed in the name of false pride. In the case of Norway, it’s all about me. A search for all of the roots that went into the making of the scraggly bare-branch result that is me.
I’ve visited Norway several times and come to know the cousins of which I’ve written so proudly. This time though is special. The exploration is both farther and deeper. Farther because I intend to visit the country from its northernmost city (Longyearbyen) and fiords on the Arctic islands of Svalbard to its southern tip at Mandal near the city of Kristiansand. I will cross the border into Sweden not too many miles out of Trondheim, the place from whence my maternal grandfather set out for South Dakota. I’ve been reading fairly extensively about my country of origin over the last few years—from Viking literature to Karl Ove Knausgaard. Now it’s time for more of a geographic focus. On my first Norwegian trip in 1985, I took a train from Stockholm, Sweden to far northern Narvik, Norway. This time my itinerary takes me even further north, south and east. More about old trips and new routes to come.
It’s a deeper exploration because I intend to visit each of the locations that were the centuries-long homes of my ancestor and from which those who migrated to the US began their journey. And possibly, thanks to Ancestry.com, meet even a few new cousins. Home base for my dad’s parents was the Setesdal Valley which runs north from Kristiansand, the city in the south of the country from which my seven-year-old father left for America. My maternal grandfather came from coastal Trondheim in south central Norway and my maternal grandmother from across the border in rural Tannas, Sweden. Supposedly Grandmother Magnhild was half Norwegian, half Swedish (making me 1/8 Swede) but it’s looking more and more like she was mostly Swedish—a mystery to solve this summer if I’m lucky.
My next post will talk more about my Ancestry.com searches—a pastime that could consume one’s whole life if activities like work, home, family, health, and streaming Scandinavian murder mysteries didn’t get in the way. On second thought I think the latter might count in the overall cultural research picture. I did spend some weekend time with two excellent Norwegian detective/murder/mystery dramas and feel better informed regarding dastardly deeds in dark forests because of that. I recommend Borderliner and Occupied both on Netflix.…
I have stopped posting on In New Mexico. There’s no time in my slightly too-busy life to maintain more than two blogs (Time and Place and 79) so I will include a few photos and comments about my everyday family/friend life here amidst the travel talk. Actually nearly everything in my life involves travel to some degree now that I think of it.
We are all part of one or more social groups/communities. Mine include family, work/art/old friends, and book club and gym buddies. The latter gym category having much to do with travel since it’s part of my desperate attempt to keep fit enough for hoisting up luggage, squatting down to pee (in Asian toilets or on Arctic hikes), trying to sleep on a bouncing seat as the slow/fast train rocks its way to the next destination. This summer, the rutted roads and streets of India and Nepal won’t be there to challenge me, but Norwegian mountainside trails and seaside rocks will demand ever more walking/abs prep.
My charming, funny (and healthy) gym friends had a birthday party for Ian and me last night. Interesting people, stories and laughter and excellent food. And, just to show off our super-fitness, here are the birthday celebrants doing a three minute plank—wait wait, I meant three second plank.
Back next week to talk about Ancestry.com and discovering I might be a quarter Swedish! Dad might have been right…he always claimed the reason mom was so stubborn (and indeed she was—but usually for good causes) was her Swedish blood. I suppose I might be called stubborn.
On MY summer vacation I will be… sailing through the Arctic Ocean, immersed in the majestic polar landscape with wind in the sails and the sleepy sounds of a creaking wooden ship? Just around the corner from the North Pole lies the special gathering of Arctic islands – the Svalbard Archipelago. The only way to move around these icy islands in summer is by sea – just like the ancient explorers did. (Base Camp Explorer)
Time and Pace is finally prepared to welcome (tolerate) 2018. Sleazy-T (alias Spanky) has not gone away and manages to add new levels of humiliation, angst, and actual damage to our lives on a daily basis but, so far, life goes on.
Since returning from SE Asia, India, and Nepal at the end of November, I have sustained a bad case of writer’s block, including my book, journals, facebook, emails, cards, and blogging. I attribute this to some of the following facts: I haven’t been traveling, making it hard to write clever pieces about the world’s wonders or that latest bumpy ride in whatever to wherever. Also, I clearly commit too much of my time to mildly intriguing pastimes and projects that keep me from writing…when writing is what usually makes me happiest. And last, but most definitely not least, I (along with countless of my fellow concerned human beings), am suffering what might be called a low-grade, but nevertheless too-real, depression stemming from a sense that the world is in serious trouble at every economic/political/environmental/ humanitarian level. ‘Big surprise,’ you say, ‘we’ve been heading in this direction for such a long time’. Yes, but you see I never, at the bottom of my heart or the top of my brain, believed it…and now I do.
NEVER MIND ALL THAT…These first three months of 2018 have flown by (albeit with a sprained wing), mostly occupied with family, work, and stories that come to me the easy way via books, films and streaming—now I must write some of my own again.
And, today, because I’ve convinced myself that ‘new years’ do not officially begin until my birthday, here commences my very good year. California, South Dakota and Norway. Doesn’t get any better than that….
Happy New Year.
Here’s a small photo album of three months with my wonderful Albuquerque family; Robert and Marsha get to be included because they became New Mexicans for five months, escaping the Minnesota winter:
Schooner photo from Basecamp Explorer website.