Friday, April 29, 2016

Dream Deferred

I realize I deserve little sympathy for my first-world tale of woe, but . . .

We were supposed to leave for Florida today. My bags are packed, the refrigerator is empty, and the newspapers have been stopped.

Last winter, on vacation in the gentle twilight of our lives, we both lost our minds simultaneously and signed up to buy a second home. For more than 365 days I’ve been marking down the days on my calendar and dreaming of palm trees.

 Now thanks to builder delays and Byzantine insurance and mortgage rules, we’re in a holding pattern.

In an off-hand manner on Wednesday, I suggested to my fellow lunatic that, ha ha, perhaps we should just drop an email to the bank to see if everything is copacetic for the closing date everyone had assured us was locked in for Tuesday of next week.

It did seem a bit unnecessary – I mean, if there was a problem, at least one of the fleet of people we’ve been dealing with would have contacted us, right?
Still, we were about to rent a trailer, hitch it to the car, and drive for three days, so what the heck, why not?

A buzzing started up in my brain as soon as the bank lady began cataloguing the hoops remaining to be jumped through. Bottom line, we’re going nowhere anytime soon.

Apparently, it never occurred to the many builder reps or bank officers to let us in on this. Had we not contacted them, we would have merrily motored through 7 states only to sit in an expensive hotel room day after day while bureaucrats shuffled papers.

My coping skills kicked right into gear as soon as I got the news.
Gone now is a two-pack of Hostess Snowballs, the first third of a bottle of wine, and half a bag of potato chips.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rude Awakening

         I’ll admit I wasn’t at my best this morning when I stumbled downstairs to check my email.  We have an epic three-day drive to Florida on the horizon and unlike my usual night of at least 7 hours of sleep, I woke up at 3:30, 4:30, and then gave up at 6.

          I made a cup of tea and settled into my comfy computer chair. I clicked on the icon for my Gmail and was told:

 No – that password wouldn’t work.

Would I like to fix it through a message to my Yahoo email?

Nope – that password wasn’t recognized

I checked my email by way of my phone. A recovery code was indeed on my Yahoo account.

I tried to enter it into the Gmail request. No soap.

Not good.

I checked my email through my phone again. Now a different recovery code had been sent. Someone else was trying to get into my mail.

Why anyone would have a burning need to open sales reminders from L.L.Bean, Lands End, Kohls, and all the other messages I delete three times a day is beyond me. My email is resoundingly dull. Still, the whole thing creeped me out big time.

I packed up my violated laptop and hightailed it to our computer geeks. I arrived ten minutes before business hours, but if people are going to put an Open sign on their door, I’m going in. 

One of the owners immediately took me in hand (I’m sure my hyperventilating had nothing to do with that) and began walking me through my passwords, all of which apparently were too short and too obvious. She didn’t quite roll her eyes and sigh audibly, but “another dumb civilian” might as well have been Magic Markered across her forehead.

After facing the spectre of no access to either email or this blog, I have seen the light. Check your passwords, folks. There are computers out there right now twirling and beeping away in their efforts to get into our accounts. 

Go to How Secure is My Password? and you’ll become a convert. Passwords I thought were ingenious and inscrutable were basically the work of a not very bright pre-schooler.

As for me, I now have some fabulous passwords that supposedly will hold up against attack for thousands of years. Since there’s no way on the planet that I’ll remember any of them, I’ve cleverly written them down in a list that I keep near my computer. 
Don’t tell me I don’t know anything about security.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Report from the pool

 Jet lag is in the rear view mirror and I’m settling into my familiar routine, which means Monday morning at the Y. This was more critical than usual after ten days of croissants for breakfast, wine with lunch (another glass? why not?), and four course dinners with, of course, more wine. It’s hard to say which detoxing was more needed – from food or alcohol.  

          Water aerobics was especially beneficial today. Yeah, the range of motion and muscle strengthening and all that is fine, but the real pay-off was the networking.

1.     During the jumping jacks, upon learning that we’re heading soon to Florida (yes, I can’t believe it either) Renata recommended the Goodwill as a primo source of used furniture. With the, shall we say, turnover of residents there, it’s as good as any retail furniture store.

2.     We were into a round of high knee kicks when I was chatting with another lady who had just returned from a week in Boston and used Uber for the first time. Her son had the app on his phone and he called up an Uber driver who they paid $11 for a trip that would have cost $25. And even more incredibly, the driver knew where he was going, unlike her previous taxi encounters.

3.     Then I paddled over to Ruth, who looks like the last person in the world to need an exercise class. She was mid-way through a big Outlander discussion. I’ve been following the series on TV, but now I might take on the commitment of reading the seven volume series.

I call that a morning well spent.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


          I'm not the fan of the show that some people are, but the return from a distant land can leave me a dead ringer for a cast member of The Walking Dead.

On the last day of a long trip you pack, square your shoulders (or try to, since they’re bowed by your carry-on filled with souvenir olive oil, pottery, and beer steins) and face the Olympic event known as The Flight Home. 

First, however, you must pass the hurdles of bus to airport, plane to plane, time zone to time zone, and when you’re really little more than walking protoplasm, security line to customs line and yet again security line to customs line. And usually with access to a bathroom at unpredictable intervals at least five hours apart.

          Also, all this occurs with a six hour time difference, which means no matter how reasonable the hour of your flight, you will have been marching along for at least 22 hours straight. 

          On the long trek home some of my fellow travelers and I traded re-packing urban myths. There’s the person someone knew who packed old clothes with the plan to abandon them and buy a new, snazzy European wardrobe. Somehow I can’t see myself choosing my touring outfits from my Goodwill bag, and I wonder if that person in his high-water paint-stained cargo pants had any difficulty being admitted to the stores selling all those snazzy European numbers.

          Someone else swore they knew of a person who packed old underwear to be discarded as it was worn, and thus make room for that pottery and those beer steins. I’m no thong wearer, but that person must have possessed truly epic Granny panties to gain that much suitcase space by chucking her undies. 

          In the process of our bus to Budapest airport, and our plane to Munich, and our plane to Boston, we did discuss the possibility of missing suitcases. But lost luggage was the least of my worries.

          I’d been getting two days out of each pair of pants, and finding creative ways to shuffle my few tops. By the time I hit my front door, it was a toss up whether to do a wash or simply set fire to everything on the front lawn.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Home on the (Hungarian) range

     Today we traveled to a farm of some of the famous Lippanzaner horses outside of Budapest.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Fly in the Ointment

Two days remain of our trip, filled with breathtaking scenery, quaint villages, staff so helpful you wish they were relatives, and obscenely wonderful food.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Eat Up!

     For our first day in Strasbourg, out of experience from past trips, we went into tourist survival mode.   Some of our past trips have been in a group with a determined guide and an ambitious agenda, and if we were going to get to whatever abbey or famous birthplace was on that agenda, meals could be delayed. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

The first flush of arrival.

      It's a truth universally acknowledged that travel expands our knowledge of the world and the people who share our planet. We gaze up at awe-inspiring cathedrals and admire heroic sculptures, but at the end of the day it's the homely elements of another nation's life that can feel the most foreign. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Crucible of Travel

      Never mind water boarding. If Donald Trump wants to extract information from all those sketchy refugees, all he needs to do is put them on a trans-continental jet for eight hours.  

       The first level of torture is the slow march during boarding, past all the first class seats, aka Shang-ri-la.  We economy class peasants are subjected to visions of What Will Never Be. Seats that convert into homes-away-from-home, recliners that I'm sure offer massages, pedicures, and virtual reality entertainment, with football fields of distance between you and the nearest passenger. 

         Next, we passed business class, where you might have to speak to your neighbor, if only to ask him to pass the martini shaker. Right behind these are the comfort seats, where you pay an extra $100 for enough room so you're not traveling with a knee folded up beside each ear.  

         And then you walk through the portal of 4 paltry bathrooms for the remaining legions of passengers and you have entered into the dark land known as Economy. The only way to duplicate the experience would be to fold yourself into your eighth grade hall locker.

       Against all odds, Lufthansa has managed to take the intolerable amount of space offered on airlines in the US and made it smaller.  I was also lucky enough to draw a seat with a box housing mechanicals where foot room should have been. Thus, my carry-on full of water, magazines, neck pillow, and every other thing to save my sanity had to be unloaded and jammed into the tiny pocket in front of me. I tried conserving real estate by tossing the tiny useless pillow and airline blanket in the overhead compartment, but they were immediately handed back to me by an unsympathetic steward who was heaving suitcases into the same spot. 
     The man in front spent the whole trip in full recline,  his head practically on my thighs. Thank heaven I can still touch my foot to my brow or I never would have be able to swivel through the eight inch gap that remained and over the arm rest so I could stagger to the loo. 

     Add lack of sleep, inaudible announcements, and a dash of wailing infants, and it explains why we were allowed all the wine we wanted, whenever we wanted it.  Travel is not for the faint of heart. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

     A black crow sat in the bare tree outside the bedroom window this morning and cawed its dark opinion of the world. Rain is spitting against the glass and the temperature is a grungy fifty-two degrees. And my perfectly balanced washer decided it would be hilarious to cha-cha this morning’s load of wash around the basement. 
 Not the most auspicious beginning for a Big Trip. 

At this rate, it makes me wonder if a tasseographist might find in my tea leaves the shape of a mountain (a signal of a journey marred by hindrance), or if a Babylonian haruspex (thank you, Google) would be likely to discover something hinky in the liver of that day’s unlucky sheep.

Still, I’m all packed, the timers are on the lamps, the neighbor’s picking up the mail, and the newspaper’s been stopped so I guess there’s no backing down now.
We’re off to Yurp, refugees and terrorists be darned. We’ll be floating down the Danube some of the time and hiking around over cobblestones the rest. If nothing else, judging by the stern requests for contact numbers, this trip has proven that my kids are officially adults and I need to stop thinking of them as perennially 12 years old with scrapes on their knees. 

 I’m not sure whether or not I should instruct you to watch this space. My blogging ability and/or motivation is hard to predict at this point. A lot will ride on a delicate balance between the availability of wine and Wi-Fi.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Righting my writing wrongs

           One of those refreshing things about retirement is that now you can just enjoy learning for learning’s sake.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Me and Mr. Bell

As someone who's a member of the legion of dedicated phone toters, you'd think I'd be in a state of constant conversation. And yet I rarely use it for its original purpose. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

April Showers

      In that old rhyme about April and 

the resulting May flowers, I don't think 

they had today's kind of showers in


Friday, April 1, 2016