Sunday, October 30, 2005

Road trip

They let me stop to catch a photo or two.

Here is a shot of the grape orchard.

This is the rockwall by the garden. Notice how it catches the heat in the late fall to hold the vegetable harvest.

There were a few grapes still on the vine.

Saturday was nice with cold winds occasionally moving gray clouds overhead causing cold shadows to cross our paths. My husband had to pick up the small outboard motor that had been repaired after taking a swim in the Great Dismal last weekend---another story. We (my daughter who has cabin fever and who's husband is in Vegas at a bachelor party for the weekend---another story and rude comment on my part) and I wanted to head out to the wineries north of us. We have never taken any wine tours or tastings and decided to hit three of the local places.

Between picking up the small outboard motor, and then having to find a grocery store to triple wrap the motor in heavy duty garbage bags because of the gas fumes (which oddly enough did not bother my husband, just my daughter and I) we ended up with a late day start. You would not believe how strange we looked by the side of a country road wrapping something the size of a small child in garbage bags. I am amazed that no one called Homeland Security and that we were not pulled over later. Several cars drove by as the drivers gave us odd glances.

The local wineries we visited are small places that have not yet developed a reputation. The character and flavor of the wines were as unpredictable as the weather. Sometimes we were cold and sometimes warm. The wines were sometimes fair and sometimes pretty mediocre, but we were having fun, so didn't really care. Everyone was patient and let me stop and take a few photos which I posted above.

Friday, October 28, 2005

I want to die.

(I have had a really shitty week at the office. That isn’t a four letter word, and I wish it was because that is how mad I am. If and when I cool down, I may blog about it. But today I need to write about something lighter.)

Like d-e-a-t-h.

I was reading “WIRED” magazine, which because of its scope, one would think is primarily for geeks. “WIRED delivers the intelligence readers need on the topics that matter most: Technology and innovation. Science and medicine. Business and global politics. Arts and culture. The best new products and more.” I mean, it does contain color pictures of Ashlee Simpson and Lindsey Lohan, BUT they are carrying Ipods or Blackberries or something like that. ANYWAY, I ramble. The article that caught my eye in the latest issue was about death. Actually not death, but what happens after death. The new technologies that have been developed are changing the way we die. I am not talking about cryopresevation. That is Old Hat.

The New Hat is getting cremated and becoming jewelry. I mean if the old man didn’t buy you something nice when he was alive, he can make up for it when he dies! A company called Life gem will turn your dear ones remains into something you can wear around your neck, or over your heart, or well, you know. Certainly more practical than sitting on a mantel in a jar which you have to dust!

If that seems too crass for your tastes, how about reincarnation? Sort of. You can return to earth as a tree. A group of enterprising young men are working on inserting your DNA into a live tree DNA and making magic happen. I think I would like to return as a giant sequoia or a giant banyan tree to shelter all the little critters. I do forsee issues if those that live on after you are not good plant people. I mean maybe the niece that hated you pours hot coffee on your trunk every morning. Of course, if your dog pees on you, that might be good. If you decide to be a fruit tree, would your relatives feel comfortable eating the fruit? This requires some thought.

And finally for the real nature lovers who read this blog, you can have a truly ecological burial. Promessa says they have been working on this process for years. They have been studying composting and cultivation. And you will be returned as “a valuable contribution to the living earth.”

Well, I couldn’t stop with just this information. I did some more Googling and found that you can give away rubber memorial bracelets at the funeral as well. (Everyone else seems to be into this rubber bracelet thing).

Enough food for thought? I feel better already.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Life Story #3

As I promised (threatened) a while back I would tell you how my first lengthy trip to Yap became dangerous.

First, let me tell you a little about the island and its culture when I visited there about 35 years ago---geeze am I THAT old? Anyway, the island of Yap is part of a group of loosely federated islands in the South Pacific. During the time I was there the islands were part of a Commonwealth and under the protection of the United States. They used our mail system, our judicial systems, our airlines, etc. Their primary product was copra which is dried coconut and used to make coconut oil. They also had smidgen of tourism, mostly SCUBA divers. Since that time some of the islands groups of Micronesia have gone ‘independent’ or to other forms of affiliation with the U.S. You can go here if you want more about that sort of thing.

When we lived in Micronesia the people held some resentment toward Americans, they probably still do. There was the feeling that America was trying to be a ‘parent’ to full grown children. This resentment varied in intensity from island to island as the people were slightly different in culture and very different in language. Back in the 1970s there was only one small hotel in each of the district centers; the roads were unpaved coral fill and rutted from the increase of automobiles on the islands; there were no food stores as we know them--maybe a bread bakery; and only an open market with a small variety of vegetables being sold. The expatriates that lived on the islands imported their exotic foods from Guam. This might have added to the island resentment.

Our project involved accompanying a marine biologist to the island of Yap to implement a reef survey. The growth of interest in Yap, primarily as a transit port, brought about interest in building a larger airport on the island. The island, while small, had a shallow reef area near one end that could be filled and paved for jet traffic. Yes, I know, today that sounds like using your backyard for a bathroom. But, at that time, people did not understand the rareness of these ecosystems and the importance of protecting a society’s culture. The islands were viewed as possible resources by the U.S.

Our marine biologist was a 6’2” good looking hunk from the University of Hawaii. He could have been a lead in a movie. He was charming and smart. My husband, I and Leading Man landed on the island and went to the village of Colonia. We checked into the tiny hotel, changed clothes, got our snorkel gear and procured a dusty and sad-looking rental jeep. We headed out to the other side of the island to look at the reef. I was along for the ride, since I know nothing about airport engineering, marine biology or anthropology. It took us some effort to find the place as we got lost in a few villages along the way and had to ask for directions. Clearly we were a rare site as most of the locals stared at us. I have no idea if they knew why we were there or not. My husband and I were fairly new to the islands and realized later that we would have been much better off taking an elder with us on this jaunt.

We had to park the jeep on the other side of a small village of about 6 grass huts and cut around the jungle to the coastal side. It was a lovely open coast and you could see the reef extend for a long way out to the ocean. We didn’t really need the snorkel gear because the water was so shallow for such a long way. I can’t remember what notes and photos Leading Man took because I was poking along the deeper side of the reef, which has always been a love of mine. After a little over an hour, our researcher was ready and we headed back to the jeep. As we crossed through the jungle and approached the grass huts a native in traditional thong and with a 6 foot fishing spear in his hand started talking loudly to us. His eyes were red and his gate with a little unsteady. We realized he was probably drunk and hurried to the jeep to avoid any confrontation. Another native approached him and appeared to be trying to calm him down. We didn’t know what they were saying, but the body language was clear. A third man joined them.

We got in the open jeep, hubby in the back seat and me in the front next to Leading Man. Unfortunately we had to back up to turn into the open area leading to the rutted road. This gave the angry native time to catch up to us. As Leading Man stopped backing and turned the wheels, the man with the spear ended up within arms-length of my side of the jeep. He continued the lecturing and was working himself up into a good anger finally talking in a broken-English. He was mad we were there and clearly felt as if we had trespassed in his living room. Leading Man talked to him in English and tried apologetically to get him to calm down. Within seconds of this exchange Leading Man was reading the native’s body language expertly and managed to place his hands over the keys in the jeep ignition just as the native lunged for them across my knees. My heart was in my throat as this angry character was inches from my face. The native got the rental’s logo key chain, but not the keys, thank goodness. The situation immediately escalated and Leading Man gunned the jeep as we spun sand and headed to the road at full speed. I looked back as we hit the road and saw the native throwing his spear and missing the back of the jeep by only a few feet. Whew!

Talk about needing a drink when we got back to Colonia!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Anything I Can Add to This Is Trivial

I have not blogged for a few days since I have been in a slump.

We got a call from a colleague of ours in Florida. He is a PhD researcher who is dedicated and hard working. He is also very quiet in personality. He is small in stature but has a gentleness about him that makes you think of the old fashioned word "gentleman." His wife is a veterinarian and tall and statuesque. They have one of the sweetest little guys for a son. Actually, since we had dinner with them almost five years ago, this little guy is no longer a baby, but probably a schooler. I have never seen such a transformation in this quiet researcher. He actually smiles and gets excited about this son of his. Here is the news...they are still working on fixing the damage to their home from the devastating hurricane season in Florida last year. He has now lost his job. It is not clear what the issue was, because he had a 9 million dollar investor ready to put forward some research money a few years ago. Jobs for researchers at private institutions are tenuous at best. He worked there for almost 10 years. He now has a job at a local community college and is working about 50 hours a week for about $200 take home each week! This is not enough bad luck for them it appears. His wife's partner in their verterinary business has left the state after embezzling everything. The wife is being forced to sell her business to pay the remaining debt! I am sick to the pit of my stomach and keep trying to think of ways to help. I wish I had won the lottery this week.

Then a few days ago L., who is the cleaning woman who works in my office, came to me with the good news that after 10 years of work and thousands of dollars in paper processing (some of which I have helped her with over time), her daughter is going to get a 6-month visa to visit the U.S. L. has not seen her daughter since she left El Salvador when her daughter was only 4 or 5. The girl is now 18! L. is so excited about this and plans to save and send her to a private school to learn English and then to college here. Such enterprising and hard working parents this young woman has. Well, with the good always comes the bad it seems. The daughter has been living with her grandmother all this time. The grandmother has all of her children here in the U.S. A few days ago (probably due to the stress of her grandchild leaving) the grandmother appears to have had a stroke and is now in the hospital. The young girl is, of course, begging her mother to let her stay in El Salvador longer so that she can take care of her grandmother. And L. is so sad that she cannot take time from work to go see her mother in the hospital. Again I wish I had won the lottery.

And you think you have problems. Sorry, better blogging next time.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Reward

I made a deal with hubby that if he helped vacuum and make the bed while I cleaned the kitchen, I would reward him with a canoe trip. I tell you, one would think I had promised an afternoon of wanton sex. He was on that vacuum cleaner like a snail on lettuce and zooming around our apartment. We were spanking clean in no time and took off down one of our nearby rivers by noon. The photo above is deceptive. There were some strong gusts at times almost blowing the canoe into the weeds. We had to keep our paddles in the water much of the time, but when we were going downwind, it was a most rewarding day.

Due to bird migration, many of the birds were gathering and endlessly chattering. They roosted in the trees and also on the grasses in the marsh. They were mostly redwing blackbirds shown in the first photo. They would fly overhead in the hundreds (thousands?) exploding like a fireworks display in circles or at other times undulating like a rollercoaster wave of fish schooling. We also saw a red tail hawk (I think) fly over our canoe and as you can see, I also caught an airplane. I actually didn't see the plane when I took the photo. We saw ducks, and of course, high above us, noisy geese honking.

This last photo was taken as we got to the dock and were unloading the gear. It is a man and his two dogs, looking like they were having a wonderful time. Unfortunately, I think he was hunting birds since we had heard shotgun fire a little earlier in the day.. The dogs were wet -- probably from retrieving. But it was picturesque anyway and the dogs were clearly in heaven.

We had company for part of the weekend

When the "youngins" were childless, they rarely spent any time at the big house. We would see them every few months. But remember I said that when your kids have kids, they sometimes become your new best don't move too far away. Here they are crammed into the small living room of the apartment. But they ARE precious.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Pay Your Rent!

Living in an apartment building requires some moments of compromise. One has to accept the fact that meatloaf smells at ten in the morning can be jarring. Popcorn smells from across the hall at 10:00 in the evening require tremendous self-control as you sit watching television just before you head to bed.

You have to accept the fact that you should not try to carry a huge basket of dirty laundry out into the hallway without checking the status of the one washer and dryer available on your floor.

And finally, you must be patient with the next door neighbor whose phone ringer is set a little shrill and which seems to ring off the wall day after day. Just because she has more friends than you is not a reason to hate her.

At the end of September there were a number of yellow forms taped to the inside windows of the entry way to the foyers of the various apartment buildings. When I went to read them, I noticed that they were eviction notices. A few weeks later, furniture and personal belongings were placed near the street for some of these evictions.

I understand that the landlord has to meet expenses and canĂ‚’t provide free housing for people, but why are they not evicting all the tenants that don'’t pay? For instance, we have a tenant that lives above us. A noisy tenant. They (he/she) seem(s) to be moving furniture at the end of every day, are always jumping and running around, and really disturbing when eating since they eat just above our dining table. They are pretty quiet in the daytime, but keep very late hours. I have called the business office about this tenant months ago---and they said they would get right on it. Well, the noise continues. How do I know the tenant isn'’t paying? One reason is that they sneak in and out instead of using the elevator. I have never seen them. Second reason, is that there is no apartment above our apartment. This is the space beneath the roof of the building. They must be very small in order to live in that three foot high space. I want them out of here! Dump all their nuts out on the street like they do with everyone else!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Stream of Consciousness Sleeplessness

I hit the top button on the alarm clock and the sickly blue light permeates the bedroom. If I sit up on one elbow I can see that the current time is 2:10 A.M.

Damn! Why did I wake up? I thought I was having a nice dream.

Pillow is too warm so I turn it over to the cool side and lay back down.

Darn, now it will take me forever to fall asleep again. I have that committee meeting in the afternoon. I hate that meeting. I should wear something nice and professional so I look on top of things. I’ll probably fall asleep in the middle of it. Go to sleep…go to sleep….

Nice talking to Son after dinner. Wonder why he finds it so hard to call us? That cold of his doesn’t sound good. Hope it isn’t something more serious. I should have reminded him to use antibacterial hand cream. He looked heavy last time I saw him. He needs to get more exercise. I hope he has some kind of social life with that horrible work schedule of his. I wonder if he is dating anyone.

Did I flip the deadbolt on the front door? I should get up and check it, but then I will really be awake. Go to sleep…

I’ve got to remember to get a new pot for the plant at work. Must do that on Saturday, but I also need potting soil. Where will I transplant it? In front of the apartment building?

Must remember to call or email to coordinate builder and inspection guy…I’ll ask hubby to do that tomorrow.

We’ve got to finalize the kitchen cabinets. Why doesn’t that kitchen guy call us for another meeting? He should be back from his honeymoon by now. I still want to talk to a kitchen designer. I am not comfortable in having a 30-something newly wed ex-marine planning my kitchen cabinets. Damn. …Calm down now. GO TO SLEEP!!!

How can he sleep like that? He is dead to the world. I want that kind of sleep.

Is that rain I hear? What will I wear tomorrow? Has to be something that I can wear in the rain I guess. Maybe I should get up and blog…like that would help me sleep. Ha.

“Take a deep breath and release it slowly. Totally relax all your muscles. Start counting backwards from 100. …………….2-1-0”

Geese, I’m still awake. Now I have to pee and I also am getting thirsty.

I throw back the covers and surrender to the gods of destiny as I head first to the bathroom and then to the kitchen.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Daughter and I spent the day shopping for some fall clothes. We both needed winter coats so went to a nearby outlet mall that had lots of choices. We brought along Xman to provide comment as well.

Daughter was trying on a black wool coat and was looking in front of a full length mirror that was across the aisle from all the coats. When she went back to get another coat, I picked up Xman from the stroller and took him in front of the mirror to entertain him. I looked at him in the mirror and noticed something odd, but thought maybe it was just my old age vision. I called my daughter over and told her to look at Xman's face in the mirror and she noticed it too.

His chubby round baby face looked oval and definately less chubby in the mirror. That was when we realized that we both looked so much thinner in these new winter styles than last year. We just needed to bring this mirror home with us. Sneaky store.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Tonight's Dinner

since you asked.

I bought a selection of lamb loin. It was already sliced very thin and elegantly as the Asians do so well. I marinated it in a Korean barbeque marinade. This comes in a package which I mix with water and has LOTS of garlic. It would taste the best over a grill, but we are grill-deprived these days. Then we are cooking some oriental egg noodles in salted water.

I also purchased those lovely small eggplants that are always better when purchased at the Korean market for some reason. They get sliced and pealed and then fried lightly in a corn oil with sesame oil and I make a sauce of soy, water, sugar, sesame seeds, and kaffir lime leaves chopped which I pour over the eggplant.

This is dinner with a nice white wine. It stinks up the kitchen big time, but tastes good.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Sex in the city

It was a long late afternoon after work on Thursday that we had dedicated to food shopping. We went to the Korean Supermarket first. We hadn’t been there in months and bought such luxuries as curry mixes, kefir lime leaves and rambutan. Then we headed to the local little market closer to the apartment that still is grandfathered to sell wine with their food in this Puritanical state. Upon our return to the apartment we had a dozen bags to haul up to the fifth floor, and we used my former MIL’s carry basket on wheels which I store in the trunk of the car—we are now officially old people as a result of this.

We put all the good new food away and then decided to walk to the nearby Chinese restaurant for dinner even though astonishingly angry gray clouds were racing across the sky above. If you remember this is one of the best Chinese restaurants I have ever eaten in and it is in WALKING distance of where I now live. After our delicious meal (mine Ginger, chicken and scallions and hubby something really unhealthy and fried) we asked for a doggy box and carried the leftovers back to the apartment.

Upon approaching the building from across the parking lot we heard an alarm bell. When we reached the back door of the lobby the alarm was clearly a fire alarm and we saw about 20 people standing in the driveway outside the front door of the lobby. (We had seen two police cars parked there when we arrived to take up groceries earlier and ignored them.)

After talking to our apartment neighbors out the front, the result of all this activity was 1) a domestic dispute (thus the police cars) and 2) someone on the first floor baking bread and then burning it and setting off the fire alarm. The possible fire is a real issue among those who have lived here since last year, because an elderly couple died last year due to a fire in another building on this complex. Still, there are a lot more than 20 people that live in our building, so, some folks were willing to chance being fried, I guess.

It was an interesting watching my husband operate as we headed through the lobby and to the outside at the front of the building. My hubby immediately chatted up the two chickies that live on our floor. One a blue-eyed blonde from Ohio and one a Philipino Hawaiian from Hawaii. They are both law students at one of the nearby colleges and really sweet girls. He now knows at least 12 people that live in our building and I must admit that I know no one. I smile and chat briefly on the elevator, but never to the point of actually getting to know names and lives. Good thing I married him or I would be the loneliest person on the planet.

Anyway, all the tired, dirty and equipment laden firefighters from the TWO engines that showed up let us back in after about 30 minutes as they returned to the street—(No, not one of them looked like the guys on those calendars, and that was a disappointment on my part. God gives hubby the chickies and I get dumpy men and women in baggy gear.)

Living in the city is pretty interesting sometimes for some of us.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Don't Hate Me Just Because I'm Beautiful

Well, Hubby talked me into following him on his next business trip. I really didn't want to go. When I tell you where, you will hate me. But, I have been there so many times as well as lived there for a year and at least one of the weeks of the trip is totally business for hubby so, I will be spending most of my time reading books on a beach--egad. Yet, again as my daughter reminded me, this is where we met and fell in love. What kind of a cold fish am I anyway? Certainly not a romantic, am I.

OK, enough suspense. The first two weeks in December, I will be heading out to the Hawaiian Islands of Maui, Kauai, the big Island and Hawaii.

But, guess what? If you promise not to be jealous, I will take you with me. I will journal entry each stop and take lots of photos. I will look for Internet cafes, but don't really have a laptop to take, so maybe have to write a journal and send it all later.

At least my blog mates in Japan and Germany may enjoy this. I hope.

Monday, October 03, 2005

In Honor of the Gentle People

I was looking for my Bali trip photos during the time we lived in those islands, but I think they are probably in slide format and in storage. Balinese people are a gentle and artistic society and a small corner of the world that deserves this violence the very least of ALL of us. They absorb cultures as they move through and adapt. This photo is the only one I could find from that time and is my baby girl taking Balinese dancing lessons.

Guess what we did this weekend?

Babysat on Friday so that the married couple could visit their friend who just has a little baby. Babysat on Saturday night so that the married couple could take an old friend out to dinner. Then Sunday went with daughter to the pumpkin fields!