Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christmas Decorations

There won’t be any long lines of cars wrapped around the block to see my Christmas decorations this year. This has never been the case anyway. My neighbor across the street is a big Christmas decorator with lots of lights, free standing Santas, reindeer, mangers and whatever. He IS missing a Menorah, though. My thoughts are that there should be something for everyone. Besides, anything I could display would easily be dwarfed by his JEA dream. This year I decided to “go green” and recycle my Halloween decorations. I hope the neighbors don’t think I'm strange, but then I wouldn’t have it any other way. Hope everyone enjoys Thanksgiving Day with little stress and great food. I have most of my Christmas shopping done, so I’m ready for the HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Bring 'em on!
Spooky Ravens Santa Crows

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The 2008 Election

Now that my stint as a "Poll Inspector" is over (for now), I feel a little freer to express myself and not jeopardize my valued position assisting people at the polls. I decided to apply for a job as Poll Inspector after I retired, for two reasons. I love to meet new people and the extra $10.00 an hour would give me a little mad money. Little did I know that the job (and this will sound really corny) would become much more to me than I thought. I have worked at four different polling places. Currently, the poll I am assigned to is at the Open Arms Baptist Church. The building doesn't have that warm, fuzzy churchy feeling since the building used to be the home of the General Motors Training Center at the corner of Beach and Southside Boulevards. The corridors of this church are painted fluorescent green and "highway worker" orange that send my brain off to Oz to see the Wizard, when I have to make the building length trek to the ladies room. The daycare that now occupies the building would probably have a calmer group of kids if the walls were painted a soothing blue or pale yellow (you’d think). The hallowed hallway still has ghosts of men learning about how to fix cars and counting the hours until 5 o'clock. I have two friends who had fathers who worked at this center. I can remember the building being on that corner most of my life. It's right across the street from the old Midway Drive-In where Cookie and I saw "Woodstock" and "Dawn of the Dead" way too many times. The training center in no way resembles a church, were it not for the images of Jesus all over the industrial concrete walls. Election Day was exciting to say the least. Voters were lined up when the poll opened and the voters trickled in steadily all day. I saw plenty of candidate’s tee-shirts, no drunks this time and plenty of babies and kids in tow to experience the voting ritual. It was great. I wasn't allowed to wear my Obama button on voting day, of course. Andy brought me a nice one from the Obama rally he attended. He said there was a big crowd that I probably would not have wanted to negotiate. I remember the day when I braved the crowd to hear Ronald Reagan speak at the Exhibition Hall at the Civic Auditorium. I was too young to hear John Kennedy speak in Hemming Park (my parents, who I depended on for transportation, said in no uncertain terms to, "Forget it". I only caught a glimpse of Gerald Ford's limo speeding down Baymeadows Road on his way to Epping Forest to meet with Anwar Sadat. The dark windows of his car in his small motorcade kept me from seeing him and also made me late for my evening shift at AT&T due the blocking off of all access to the two lane Baymeadows Road. No one was able to enter or exit the Wildwood Apartments for several hours. I was so glad Andy was able to see Obama and the button he brought me was a big surprise. That's my boy!
The polling place I work at is determined by either the Supervisor of Elections Office or asking to work at a poll of my own choosing. The Supervisor of Elections makes no promises. The result seems to hinge on who you know you’d like to work for and whether they want you to work for them. This method of assigning polling locations to workers works for me. I have been lucky enough to work for one of my best friends. For most, this might generate hard feelings at times, but my friend and I try to put on our former Bellsouth hats. In other words, she’s the boss. She tells me what to do…I try to shut-up and do what she says. I have a lot of respect for the good job she does and the way she manages our polling site. Everything is done according to the rules. No exceptions. This means no photos of “Flat Stanley” voting in one of the privacy booths. In case you don't know who "Flat Stanley is, you can read about him in this TU article:
We don't allow undocumented assistance for voters who need someone to help them vote. No hovering parents are allowed to oversee their eighteen year olds’ first experience at shading in black circles on the ballot (something they’ve been doing on standardized tests since the third grade) and no poll watchers are allowed to overstep their pre-determined boundaries. The biggest no-no of all is “talking politics” with other poll workers and especially with the voters. Everyone at my poll is adamant that this rule is followed. All who want a special dispensation from the rules are turned away, escorted out or put on the right track and that is the way it should be. I love my friend for holding steady and I admire her for the job she does and the standard she holds us to. Every poll needs a Shirley. My experience at “Early Voting” was a real eye-opener as far as the turn-out predictions. Since actual Election Day turnout was down, I believe the buzz about long lines on November 4th scared everyone into voting early. This was a good thing. It kept me constantly busy for the seven days I had committed to work and then Election Day was a breeze with the lower than expected turnout. At Early Voting I was pleased to see the blind, the deaf, people who could hardly walk (much less own a driver’s license) and people who were on their way from just having been in the hospital. People from all walks of life turned out for this important election. I felt this was a profound statement of the value of a vote. There were people who had already received their absentee ballots but instead wanted to cast their vote in person due to lack of trust that their absentee vote would be counted. I was dismayed to see a group of about eight or so indigent men herded in by one woman. They appeared to not really know what was going on and they all needed assistance to vote (at least according to their tour guide). Each agreed to and signed the affidavits that were required and they certainly did have the right to vote, but on the outside it appeared that they all were not really “with it”. This was a sad picture. On the bright side, I did get to see many familiar faces and a few friends who were happy for the convenience of Early Voting and the expressions of gratitude from many who thanked us for volunteering (apparently thinking we were there for free.) All poll workers are paid and I expect to reap a little over $700.00 for working a week of Early Voting and Election Day. Not enough to buy a Rolex, but I would have worked the polls for nothing. I enjoyed several Kodak moments with elderly voters who embraced us after assisting them to a comfortable seated voting station, but the most gracious voter I encountered was a non-English speaking woman from Cuba who was able to view a ballot in Spanish on the AutoMark screen and cast her ballot successfully. We were rewarded for doing our job with a kiss and a hug. And you know me. I’m always looking for someone to speak Spanish with. I did have problems coming up with the words I needed and should have known, but was able to tell her “No te preocupes, la votación con la máquina es muy fácil." y "¡Usted puede utilizar la computadora y Usted hizo un trabajo perfecto! ¡Congtaulations! I plan on being better prepared and knowing mas fraces y palabras en la futuro. Most of you won’t be surprised that my favorite candidate won. I’ve been as emotional as the next person this time around. The country has done the right thing. I really don’t care what anyone else has to say about this. I've heard enough of that on TV to last me a lifetime. The woman at the checkout at Publix volunteered to me that she watched her hero McCain’s concession speech to Obama and then “prayed for our nation” before going to sleep.
Oh gees. I was disappointed that Jacksonville went for McCain. Jacksonville is a military town where First Baptist Church owns practically all of the real estate downtown not to mention the true to size parking lot lighthouse on the corner of Union and Pearl Streets complete with a beacon that they managed to impose upon the people of Springfield. I won’t get started on that. The parts of Florida that went for Obama were all of the state university towns like Tallahassee, Gainesville, Tampa, The Mouse and Daytona. The entire Gold Coast and The Keys went for Obama too. The student vote made the huge difference all over Florida eeking the state towards Obama. A lot of people believe it was the black for black vote that pulled it off but in Duval County it wasn't enough. It was close, but not enough to call Jacksonville Obama country. I believe it was because of the youth (and that includes my baby-bunkins, I'm proud to say) that Florida went for Obama. Here in Jacksonville, the black voters weren't quite able to pull it off from their neighborhoods on the north side and west side of Jacksonville. Unfortunately, my stomping grounds went the other way with the exception of a few pockets here and there of the enlightened. The precinct where I worked on Election Day went with Obama after their Early Voting and Absentee ballots were added to the Election day total. Click on the maps to enlarge them. The blue areas are the Northside and Westside.
I was so disappointed that the majority of people believe that the definition of a marriage should only be defined as a union between a man and a woman. What kind of problem is this going to cause anyone, anyway? It was of course a gay rights issue and I feel nothing but pity for those who want to run other peoples’ lives by getting the government involved in the bedroom or any room for that matter. (Brown area For Ammendment 2, Purple Against) .
Those living in the Riverside-Avondale, San Marco and Springfield areas were probably the only ones to fully understand the difficult, if not impossible wording of the amendment. I hope that’s the reason anyway. ‘No’ meant For and ‘Yes’ meant Against letting anyone marry who wants to be that dumb. (To get married, that is.)
Another "only you, Claire" encounter happened the day after the election after Joyce had already tried unsuccessfully tried to find the two of us some extra newspapers. The only papers she found in our neighborhood were located in a vending machine outside the door of Larry’s Giant Subs. The only problem was that no one had been able to retrieve the newspapers because the machine door wouldn’t open after depositing the required $.75. I've learned two things: 1) If you stand around long enough, someone will come along and ask if you are having a problem and 2) if you need to break into something, you need a kid. The woman who asked if I was having a problem was an employee in the salon next to Larry’s. She had also tried to get a newspaper out of the broken machine. After we both shimmied and shook the machine unsuccessfully together, we satisfied ourselves it was really broken she shared with me her amazement, gratitude and elation about the outcome of the election. I gave her an extra Obama button I had in the car that she said she would cherish forever. After blowing our noses and drying our eyes, a kid with particularly good newspaper machine entry skills and newspaper acquisition determination drove up and managed to have the entire cover off of the TU owned vending machine in less than 30 seconds exposing the coin box and door opening mechanism. Did you know that there is a 9-volt battery in these things? I didn’t. Thinking this was why the door wouldn’t open, he took the battery back to his car to coax his buddy into testing the battery by touching the terminals to his tongue. Some kids can be stupid and will do this for a friend…so no, the battery wasn’t the problem…. The “Ouch, why’d you do that to me?” coming from the passenger seat of the small beat up car indicated that we had a good battery. The kid and I pooled our quarters together and deposited $1.50 and then $1.75 just to make sure the TU wasn’t treating the post election paper as a collector’s edition. This didn’t work either. The kid was disappointed a lot more than I was (I still had a copy at home) because he had been driving around for more than an hour trying to score a paper. Not only was this the first election he had voted in, but his dream of an Obama win was beyond his belief. His mother had been skeptical, but he held hope and wanted to give her the paper as a gift. I told the kid I was not prepared to go to jail for vandalism, so he put the cover back on and we tried one more time to deposit coins and pull open the door. This time, with four hands pulling and jiggling the handle, the door opened. He deposited his $.75 and mine was already in the machine. The salon woman didn’t have $.75 for the third paper, and wanting to be a good “role model” (oh, gees) for the kid, I said we didn’t want to steal the third paper, so he went back to his car, dug under the seat and came up with another $.75 while I held the door open. He then gave it to the woman from the salon as a gift. After thanking us, he jumped off the curb heading for his car with the hard earned newspaper in his arms yelling, “YES WE CAN”.
I kid you not. -------------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------- My Favorite Obamanyms:
OBAMAPHORIA: The postelection rapture that swept over Obama's supporters worldwide.
OBAMARAMA: The celebrations around the Jan. 20, 2009, inauguration. OBAMANOS: A play on "Vamonos," or "Let's go," among Latino Obama fans. OBAMATOPIA: The political paradise that Obama's staunchest supporters hope he'll usher in. OBAMALUJAH: Exultation shouted by his fans. OBAMATRONS: The policy wonks who will occupy the West Wing of his White House.
OBAMANATOR: Hollywood-inspired nickname for the new president -- even if he's got what California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger contends are "skinny legs"
and "scrawny little arms." OBAMALICIOUS: Complimentary term used by those who like Obama's looks. OBAMALOHA: Goodbye, Obama-style, with a nod to Hawaii, his birthplace. OH-BAMA: Joyful exclamation, via headlines in the Kennebec, Maine, Journal, The Regisister Guard in Eugene, Ore., and The Namibian, from the southern African country of Namibia. BAMELOT: Description of his presidency, from a New York Post headline that played on the youth and freshness of John F. Kennedy's administration that came to be known as "Camelot." OBAMAMERIKA: Headline from the Croatian newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija. BARACKSTAR: Description from those who believe Obama is "the Mick Jagger of politics" (from

Friday, August 8, 2008

Hey Girls! Let's Go Watch Some Paint Dry!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Ah! I had my two nieces all to myself (what fun!) today and I decided to take them on a short road trip to one of my favorites places to Museum hop – Gainesville, Florida. My family lived in Gainesville for three years in the late 50’s and I still vividly remember the day we moved back to Jacksonville. I was crying, our cat was hiding under the driver’s seat and we were concerned he would fall through the rusted out floor board of my Mother’s car, a brown ’51 Ford. It was always a challenge for me mentally when we reached the Shands Bridge in this car because you could see the planks of the two lane wooden bridge if you lifted the rubber floor mats up. This was also the car that my Mother drove me back and forth to Jacksonville monthly to visit a psychiatrist in Riverside to try and figure out what my "problem" was. I have since self diagnosed myself as having suffered from Mercury poisoning from breaking and then playing with my father's refrigeration equipment thermometers (he worked for a dairy) and poisoning from the the carbon monoxide that more than likely came up through the floorboards leaving me in a stupor after long trips to Jacksonville (or maybe that was from dehydration). My Mother always blamed my problems on my having had polio. Back then when it was okay to play happily with brain damaging and carcinogenic fun things like lawn pesticide sprayers, spearmint scented bug spray and the most efficient poison delivery system - the mosquito spray car at the drive-in. "Be sure to roll the windows down, so he can get the mosquitos that are in the car." All this, followed by my own efficient hand to mouth substance delivery system to make sure the job was done right.
My dad always had a spiffy new Dodge since he traveled for a living and Mom had a car of questionable condition to get her to the grocery store and get us kids to the movies and to the doctor. She didn’t seem to mind. It had a radio and she could roll her wondow down to hand signal...what more did she need? I do remember her having to cut the engine off as we drove very slowly into the yard and took advantage of a spindly dogwood tree to bring the car to a stop. I think the car had some brake problems. But the car was transportation and that’s what counted.
In Gainesville, we lived in a nice house in a nice neighborhood and went to great schools. We had great neighbors, great kids to play with, and the pristine Hogtown Creek to play in surrounded by plenty of woods to explore in. The creek was chock full of fallen trees which served as bridges across the creek. Unfortunately, finding arrowheads and pieces of Indian pottery was taken for granted. The lush ground around the creek was a thick bed of fallen magnolia and oak leaves. There were plenty of sticks and stones to take home and fossils and animal bones to take to school and scouts for show and tell. We were always on the lookout for snakes and tigers. I was not able to show my nieces the Hogtown Creek of the 50’s, but I managed to point out the drainage ditch that it resembles today and the house we used to live in. My father always planted a Magnolia tree in every front yard we ever had. The shade the huge tree provides keeps any grass from growing under the tree and I imagine that was part of his motivation. We never stayed in these houses with Magnolia trees long enough for him to reap the benefits of the huge shady trees. In fact, on one of my previous treks to visit my old house in Gainesville, the current owner was standing in the drive-way and inquired if he could “help” me. I explained I used to live in the house and my father and I planted the Magnolia. He said he hated that tree. The roots were a nuisance and no grass would grow under it. Oh well, to each his own.
Okay, so that’s why I wanted to go to Gainesville again. It reminds me of happy times, seizures included. We had a nice trip on the way down to Gainesville. Kind of a captive audience if you will. VA seemed surprised at my diligent speed limit observance through Waldo and Kat kept herself busy talking to some puppies on a four inch screen. VA warned me that Kat would be blurting out commands like “SIT” and “STAY” throughout the day. Even with the warning, I kept asking VA who Kat was talking to. Earlier in the morning, I was trying to give the girls a few options for the day’s entertainment. They turned down my offer to take them down to the Jacksonville Shipyards to watch the paint dry on the ships in dry-dock. After Lon told them we would have to watch them sand the ships first, they seemed even less enthusiastic. I also gave them the option of watching the guys down the street paint the yellow stripes on the highway or even better, watch the guys out at Sawgrass mow those patterns in the grass on the fairways. It’s the wait for them to return that’s a little boring. I also offered them a trip up to Lowe's before they opened (I have connections) to watch them mop the floors with these really neat mops. Eventually, they caught on, so the trip to Gainesville sounded pretty good. No Adventure Landing with Auntie Claire. There has to be sewing, fabric, art or air conditioning for me to venture out for the day.
For Kat and VA, we visited the Florida Museum of Natural History on the campus of The University of Florida and our destination was the Butterfly Rainforest! I knew they would love this! Called a vivarium, this small butterfly friendly habitat was a delight. Butterflies everywhere…some elusive…some camera shy….some begging you to take their picture. Kat and VA seemed to be enjoying themselves. I certainly was. No rushing around, just walking slowly through the moist air looking for butterflies. The vivarium was open to the outside, yet enclosed to keep the butterflies from wandering off to the Swamp. Since there was a slight drizzle, we visited there first to avoid an afternoon downpour, but that never happened. After we spotted all the different butterflies we could, we headed for (where else??) THE GIFT SHOP. They are MY nieces after all. After visiting the powerful and compelling African Exhibit in another section of the museum, we exited and headed next door for our visit to the Harn Musuem of Art. At first, we were excited to discover that the current exhibit by Maggie Taylor was called "Almost Alice: New Illustrations of Wonderland". Kat had worn her Alice in Wonderland shirt and
took delight in the coincidence, but the exhibit was much like The Tales of Alice…dark, grim, moody, unhappy digital ink jet prints. I have to
say they were beautiful and imaginative, but Kat and VA are probably most familiar with Disney’s Alice and commented that the only thing wrong with the pictures was that no one was smiling. This was true.
Visit the Maggie Taylor Gallery to see for yourself this new and
innovative medium:
We were fortunate enough to find a Monet entitled "Champ d’avoine: (Oat Field - 1890) and I was right there in it’s face to study the individual brush strokes that melt together to make a Monet. Alarms were going off, lights were flashing and I was oblivious to the fact that it was VA and I who were the reason for these alarms until the museum guard asked us “step away from the Monet". "What is this? The Thomas Crown Affair," I mumbled to myself, thinking that there should have been a velvet rope or sneeze guard installed if one was not allowed to get up close and personal with the gazillion dollar masterpiece. We knew better than to touch or photograph it, so I was a bit embarrassed. I of all people have the utmost respect for great masterpieces. But the guard chastised me a second time for touching the side of a free standing Formica display case while pointing something out to the girls that I did not want them to miss. I was mortified to say the least, but managed to exit the museum without knocking over the Rodin sculpture. I found refuge in the gift shop where I belonged. After a joint decision on Italian for dinner, we found a “Leonardo’s” and had a leisurely meal to wait out the 5 o’clock rush hour in Gainesville. To distract is while waiting for our meal, a word search complete with an erasable marker was mounted on the wall in our booth.
Kat and VA found a lot more words than I did, but by the time our food arrived we forgot to count to see if we had found all of the forty-six words that were supposedly in the puzzle. A bead shop next door was an added surprise for me and some cookies from the Fresh Market across the street for dessert ended our outing. We headed back to Jacksonville and arrived at their house just after dark. I had a great day and hope the girls did too. They are growing up and a pleasure to be with. I’m so lucky to have them.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Great Horse Tale

Once again, I have another spine tingling blog for you...No trip to Paris...No broken body parts...Just a fun little tale of my past life as a horseback riding Girl Scout. Dorothy Fletcher, author, retired teacher and dear friend of mine wanted to include my "horse tale" in her Times-Union column which can be read on the Times-Union website at: Visit Dottie’s web site which includes many of her short stories and info on her books. You won’t be disappointed. Her writing is easygoing, thoughtful and always hits close to home. Dottie has been a friend since we were kids and we both knew each other’s parents. Since our parents are gone, I feel a special closeness to my friends who knew my Mom & Dad. When I speak about my mother to Dottie, I know she recalls my mother's face. It’s the same when Dottie talks to me about her parents. They will always remain in my heart. Getting back to our horse tale, Dottie eliminated what I believe to be the most interesting part of my story due to “space”, I’m sure. It's one of those freakish, rambling on forever "Claire stories" that seem to happen only to me. That damn horse only traumatized me for the afternoon, but what bothered me more were the girls in that Girl Scout troop who I was trying my hardest to fit in with. Well, it just wasn't happening. I remained in the troop for the remainder of that 6th grade school year and then gave up on Girl Scouting entirely. At that age and attending a different school than these girls it was impossible for me to break into the clique. Oh well. That was around 1961. Trust me… I AM OVER any trauma suffered during my experience stuck out in the woods on the horse. I can’t say the same for my feelings for the girls in the troop. Being left on the outside looking in, I really can say that I’ve never forgiven those girls even though I have no recollection now of actually who was in the troop. Until, one afternoon, while ringing up a sale at my beloved former job at Joyce's Quilt Shop, I noticed my customer's last name was that of a well-known local UNF Professor and Pianist…… someone whom I had heard perform and admired years ago. I introduced myself to his wife and inquired about him and one thing led to another. You know me….she asked where I was from….I said here…I said I went to Wolfson….she said her daughter graduated from the second year it was open….I did too….she said she knew many of the girls in that class…..and why? BECAUSE, she was the leader of that Girl Scout troop. Okay, so it’s been forty three years ago, but I told her my “horse tale” anyway. She looked puzzled and did not remember me. Well, duh! I didn’t own a horse. Back then, many Girl Scout troops had a focus. One thing all the girls in that troop had in common…wasn’t sailing….or expanding interests through merit badges….it was HORSES…My former scout leader now is explaining (and unfortunately feeling the need to apologize, although not remembering) that all the girls in her troop OWNED horses and rode together frequently. It was a “great group of girls”, she said. And they all loved those horses. Regretfully, I was not privy to this important bit of Girl Scout information and here it is, making sense now why I didn’t fit in with these girls and why they made no effort to welcome me into the “fold”. Too bad I carried that grudge for so long when all really needed was a horse. It now makes perfectly good sense. Regretfully, my former scout leader probably went home and telephoned her daughter to discuss said incident and she probably thinks now that I was a little insensitive to have even brought the subject up with her 85 year old mother (which might be true). But sometimes you need to get some things off your chest and this opportunity didn’t present itself for some number of years. Throughout the rest of my school years, I never had much to do with those girls or any horses for that matter. Or, maybe it was the other way around. I found my niche at school in music and of course sewing. These things have enriched my life beyond words, but I always missed not being a First Class Girl Scout. (That’s the equivalent of being an Eagle Scout). I missed Girl Scouting so much so, that in the late 70’s, I found a troop sponsored by the Telephone Pioneers and became an assistant leader to a great group of girls who allowed me to finish my scouting dreams in other ways. I’m happy now to have a nice collection of Girl Scout memorabilia and of course, I’m always prepared. If you need it, it’s probably in my purse. That’s the end of the story and I’m putting it to rest. One stunned stranger, one puzzled former Girl Scout……one life experience explained. I’m ready to head for the barn.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tales From The Recliner

Thank you to my blog readers who supplied me with some welcome constructive criticism and accolades, even if muffled while in a full yawn. Being a first time blogger, I was a little nervous. As always, I’ve already learned a few new things from the experience.....1)that it’s difficult to read hot pink text on black background and ....2) it was a long blog. Who would guess that it took me longer to write my blog on Paris than the time I was actually in Paris. I’ll try to be less verbose in the future. Sure. I’m heading into what I hope is the last week in my air Jordan cast, having broken my ankle on March 12th. You never know what the doc may say this Friday. I’ve never broken an ankle before. I hope I’ll be able to ditch this cast as I have heard enough of the ripping sound of Velcro to last me a lifetime. I had to go back to the doctor’s office to get a replacement boot after mine developed a slow leak. After a debate whether to plug it or patch it, the technician implied that I must have done something to it for it to leak air….like “some people pump it up too much”…(I did try to see how much air I could pump into it) and “you didn’t have it around any pins or anything, did you?”…...nawwwww…..pins?? He missed that sloshing water sound inside the air baffles you could hear after I threw it in the washer. The Lazy-Girl Recliner has been my bed, sewing and command center since the night of the break having been told to wear the cast 24x7. It has not been as difficult as I thought it would be. Lon has gone way above the call of duty with a few exceptions and has even helped me lose a little weight while I have remained completely sedentary just by eliminating any and all snacks after dinner. Every night is like a fast before blood work. I’ve been calling it the “Nutri-Lon System” and as much as I hate to say, it has worked. Aunt Marian smuggled in some Peeps at Easter along with two rolls of paper towels (not green according to Lon) and Shirley came through for me with a large bag of oversized m&m’s. I myself rank paper towels right up there with antibiotics and television. I’m down past my post-Peru weight. Lon did break down and buy a commemorative antique reproduction 4-bottle carton of Coca-Cola, knowing that I’d think they were too cute to drink. My biggest quilting for hire fear had come true. Quilt needs to be finished and Claire can’t sew. My sophisticated sewing machine is completely controlled by tapping on the foot pedal and of course, I’m as right footed as I am right handed. You tap to raise and lower the presser foot and you tap it to stop and start the machine. The finesse needed to control my machine was not possible with a foot wrapped in pre-surgery swaddling clothes nor the post surgery boot I could re-use when I land on the moon. All I needed to do was lay twenty or so blocks out, arrange and sew them together. My dear sewing, quilting, Jill of all needle skills friend Gail, came to my rescue. She arrived around nine o’clock one Vicodin blurred morning and we arranged the blocks that needed to be completed and sewed them all together. By 2 o’clock, after breaking midday for scrumptious Weight-Watchers frozen entrée, the quilt top was completed. My first broken ankle hurdle was behind me. When they feature one of those crazy women on The Oprah Winfrey Show whose house has one small path by which to walk, I’m thinking…. I’m not ready for the crisis center yet….. my room isn’t that bad….….but, sadly it was. The fireman who came to my house to assess my broken ankle before the rescue squad with the hunky guys came to take me to the ER (billed at $530.00, I might add) was a little more than apprehensive about entering the great abyss known as my bedroom to get my purse that held the key to smooth hospital access and medical attention: The Insurance Card. I was surprised that the fireman didn’t nail some kind of sign on the door that read CONDEMNED or HAZARDOUS AREA-DO NOT ENTER. The point of my even mentioning this dilemma is that I have two incredible friends who have for several years offered to help me clear out this room in my house from junk, overwhelming clutter, dust, shoes, clothes and trash (I’m ashamed to say). I have always been too embarrassed to let them. I mean why can’t a woman like me, with all the time in the world tackle one cluttered room? That is one question I have not been able to answer. I know how the Incans could have avoided being slaughtered in Peru and more often than not, I know Final Jeopardy…..but, why I could not handle the deforestation of the one room in my house that has been a monkey on my back for more years than I care to admit is a mystery to me. My friends did what I could not. They cleaned up my room. While stuck in my recliner in another room, I heard occasional bursts of laughter and comments like “Nah, she doesn’t need that.” My friends even went through my drawers…….the spandex kind. There was a box for Goodwill, a box for Ebay, boxes I would have to further assess (while sitting in my recliner on my assess) and many of those black you know what bags on which Shirley and Joyce made joint executive decisions. I was instructed to go through a box of sox and keep one in my mouth while at it. Shirley did my laundry, ironed my clothes, set some clothes out for me to wear to visit the doc. She also introduced me to the Swiffer Duster after sending Lon to the store to buy one along with an extra box of refills. Joyce took on one side of the room and Shirley took on the other. They picked through collections of things I thought I could not live without and were mumbling things like “now that damn drawer will at least close.” Joyce also did some quilting for me so as not to disappoint my quilt customer whose quilt was now ready to be quilted. My May 30th deadline was met early. Could anyone have any better or sweeter friends? As I type this blog I am surrounded by uncluttered well vacuumed carpet, a clean sparkling area around my keyboard, a beautifully neat dresser with all drawers closed minus thirty or so unmentionables, six slips, a few dozen pairs of brand new mail-order panty hose pre-dating 2002, fifteen bottles of nail polish, several odd perfumes and umpteen pairs of ladies athletic socks whose elastic probably disolved in the rain at the 1996 Olympics. Shirley made me dispose of a lot of other things I've been saving for that rainy day that just never came. And the strange thing about being without all my stuff I thought I absolutely had to have is that my heart (with it’s very own little murmur) is still beating just fine.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Three Days In France

On January 25th, I flew to Paris. I've always dreamed of seeing Paris, staying in a quaint hotel in the heart of the city spending days and days roaming through the Louvre, wandering amongst the dead buried at Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise, seeing the Eiffel Tower and commiserating with the ghosts of war at the Arc de Triumph. I imagined flying the Concord to London out of New York, resting with Diana and Charles and then flying to Paris. I would then take a limousine to the quaint hotel to find a big, huge bed with chocolates and champagne awaiting me upon my arrival.
Rewind I was teasing my sister-in-law Laurie that it might be nice if I could accompany her to Paris and carry her baggage. Her response, "Hey, would you seriously like to go?" I failed to check the balance in my checking account and said not yes, but hell yes. Her wonderful husband had me signed, booked and obligated me within the hour. I told Lon, "I'm going to France with your sister." He replied, "Oh?" and that was the end of that. He was very happy for me, unlike my trip to Cusco, Peru for 30 days. I am happy. I did a little planning (not much), packed my bags early this time and waited....and waited until the 25th....I headed for the airport, parked my car at the budget lot and flew to Cincinnati where I met Laurie and we sat together in some great coach seats that had a lot of extra leg room to compensate us for agreeing to be responsible for the safety of the entire passenger list should there be a need to evacuate the plane using the exit door we were sitting next to. I have Laurie's husband Dan and his travel savvy knowledge of airline seating to thank for this extra leg room and responsibility over the Atlantic Ocean. Off we went. We snoozed, we talked, we ate, we snacked, I gave up on my IPOD French lessons that I had gotten off to such a great start with and before you knew it, we arrived in the pristine and modern Charles de Gaulle Airport Paris and waited patiently for our shuttle to the hotel. Drugs will put you to sleep and calm restless legs even if it means sacrificing the safety of the passengers entrusted to my care. I still have my doubts that two 200 pound women (one wearing slippers) could possibly pull out the door latch on a jet seating eight passengers across, lift the door, pull a cord on the right that was hidden behind a panel to release the door's hinges and thrust the door into the night. But then, that's just me. As you can see, I did familiarize myself with my duties by reading the instructions located in the seat pocket in front of me.
Le jour 1 (Day 1) Our hotel was great, but VERY FAR AWAY from Paris. It was a very American Radisson near the airport. It was very clean, had great beds and a helpful staff. It was 60+ Euros away from Paris to be exact. Not that I'm complaining, but our travel time into Paris was long and expensive. Time was running out on our first day in Paris but with the help of a young woman in the helicopter business named Romy (who was in Paris for the day just to see the Eiffel Tower) we received our instructions on where to go for some good shopping fun, where to make the transfer at Gare du Nord to reach the Haussmann St. Lazare Station. Romy was a beautiful, tri-lingual, friendly young Texan we met at our hotel who took us under her wing and directed us to our shopping destination perfectly. She did explain it six times though.
Le Metro A ride on the Metro is an adventure in itself. You watch, you wait for your stop. The Paris Metro was packed with people in the early afternoon: young and old, rich and poor, lovers, students, Spanish speakers (¡muy bien!) and us. My impression on the way into Paris proper was that they need to appoint an Interior Graffiti Minister. It was ugly, quasi-artistic and yet horrific commentary. I was in awe of the very American business advertisements and the endless grim graffiti covering the backs of buildings and spent the trip studying both along with the other passengers crowded around me. You grab bits and pieces of other conversations in languages familiar and not. The industrial buildings in the outlying parts of the Metro route are familiar with billboards of a really small world: Saab, at&t, Comfort Inn, Clinique, Estee Lauder, Coach and Hello Kitty. Standing by the window, looking out and thinking where am I? Are we there YET? I look for Laurie to make sure she’s still there. Actually, it was a wonderful adventure, the Metro. The only shop I had in mind to find was my precious Guerlain Perfumier. I’m still in love with Shalimar and always will be (whether your nose knows it or not). I finally spotted one of their boutiques. The smell of a room filled with a dozen or so Guerlain perfume testers isn’t unlike the three foot radius surrounding the TJMaxx perfume floating display counter (sans broken bottles), but to me it was heaven. I sniffed perfumes I have smelled a thousand times and even some that I already own that are collecting dust on my dresser, but testing perfumes in Paris made them brand new again. Really. I’m thinking that they are fresher over there not having to cross the ocean, right?? I mean, doesn’t that make scents? (I’m sorry.) The only thing I really wanted to buy in Paris was perfume and maybe some gloves. The fact that I did not make it to their famed La Maison Guerlain located at 68 des Avenue Champs-Elysée.
After leaving the famed perfumier, we wondered a little and discovered the street vendors selling shoes, scarves, junk and makeup. I wanted to go to Printemps after seeing their beautiful Domed Building. Printemps is a historic monument of three buildings, joined by a walkway, La Mode (women’s fashion), La Maison (for the home) and Brummel (men’s fashion). The building dates from 1865 and also has a stained glass dome (1923) above the Café Flo. I almost bought a beautiful pair of red gloves that fit perfectly on my size 8.5 hands, but finally reality set in. They were on sale for around 80 Euro x 1.65= $132.00. Oh well. I have since managed to find some great leather gloves on sale for half price at Dillard’s. I’ll pretend I bought them in Paris. Laurie and I had a nice dinner of Quiche (what else?) and Salad and sampled the Crème Brule (of course?) for dessert. We were huddled in a small window space of the very busy Café Haussman located on Boulevard Hausmann near Printemps. After dinner, we returned to the street vendors to see if we could find anything unusual and cheap, but no luck. Our return to the hotel proved to be more difficult. A wrong stop here, a wrong level there and so we asked a stranger for help. She was a beautiful woman who spoke no English and after conferring with another woman on the Metro platform, her advice was to “go with the sister”. Sister appeared to be headed for the airport….she HAD suitcases….so we followed her. She was going to the airport platform.…only just for us…she dropped us off right where we needed to be and said, “Au revoir.” We were touched that she went out of her way to see that we got to the correct platform and then proceeded on to her own stop. We decided that the French do not hate Americans. They were friendly, more than kind and seemed to delight in helping us. What more could a traveler ask for? Our future trips into the city would be by taxi.
La sale de bain ( The Bathroom) WARNNG: Might be TMI Beside the clean linens and attractive furniture, my room was small and perfect for my needs. The best thing about the room was of course la sale de bain, specifically the bathtub. I’d been thinking about a good soak most of the day, but discovered that the tub was a tad short on width for my wide American ass. I knew I could do it. And besides, Laurie wasn’t that far away to hoist me out if necessary. She fell asleep fast. I headed for the tub. Setting in snugly, I studied the buttons and shower heads while the tub filled with perfumed bubbles and wonderfully relaxing hot water. The sparkling clean tub had rests for your arms (something I wasn’t able to take advantage of in Peru) and a sloped back to lean back on and relax without fear of drowning if I fell asleep. The water rose quickly until I realized I had created a “sort of” dam mid-tub (merde!) with my non-French rear and only the front half of the bath was filling up. I was unable to turn around to assess the situation, so I had to eek a little water-way next to my hip to allow the flood gates to open, merci! Ahh..the pain of the day gone. I had a wonderful night’s sleep.
Le jour 2 Laurie and I as roommates came to an end as Dan arrived from England with his customer Nigel. Dan had arrived from Germany ready to put in a full days work and Laurie planned to spend the day with him. Laurie and I overslept by accident, (being good sisters-in-law), each waiting for the other to wake up. We got a late start sadly, but Dan, Laurie, Nigel and I headed to town by taxi. My plans were in place, written down for me to hand to the taxi driver when I was ready to meet up with everyone for our planned Croisiere Diner sur la Seine in the evening. My afternoon was reserved for The Louvre. The others had business plans to attend to.
Arriving at The Louvre After being let out of the cab at 99 rue de Rivoli, I just stood at the curb to take in one of the most stunning sights I’d only dreamed of ever seeing…the controversial Pyramids above Napoleon Hall which serve as the main entrance to the Louvre. They marked the spot. There was no doubt. I was there. Before heading for the entrance, with my camera, I zoomed in to get a closer look at the Carrousel Arch that celebrated Napoleons’ Victories in 1805 and tried to fend off the many photographers wanting to sell me a photograph of me - THERE.
L’histoire la Louvre “Since August 10th, 1793 the Central Museum of Arts, a former palace of kings, had housed drawings, sculptures acquired by Louis XIV as well as antiques held dear to Henry IV. The opulence increased by the addition of property from émigrés and the Church seized by the Revolution, followed by the spoils of war and soon afterward by the Empire. In 1815, the fall of the Empire brought with it the end of the Louvre as it was then, and it’s collections were returned to defeated nations. A few exceptions: for example, The Wedding Feast at Cana (22ft x 32 ft.), too cumbersome and fragile, remained in Paris in an exchange deal. Over the next century, the history of the Louvre reflected the political changes of it’s time. New rooms, wings, decors and collections were added through donations and legacies creating very cramped conditions. 1981 saw the beginning of the Grand Louvre project driven by Francois Mitterrand. The museum spread into sections of the property previous occupied by the Ministry of Finance. It was redesigned, re-worked, restored, extended and work is still in progress today.”
The huge main entrance glass pyramids (3) designed by Leoh Ming Pei guide you to automated and wo-manned ticket booths that for the price of $14.85 you can stroll unbothered through just about anything anyone would ever hope to see in their lifetime, should that be one of your desires.
My Three Hours You have to have a plan. With the help of a museum docent, a map and my cane the two of us worked out a plan designed just for me that would give me the most bang for my buck on my three hour limited tour. She circled and noted a route for me that included accessible elevators, short staircases, restroom stops and all the special things I wanted to see. I headed for the Italian paintings and Michelangelo’s sculptures to begin with and hoping to, of course, see the Mona Lisa smile at me.
She did.
I wanted to re-visit the Etruscans, remind myself that Rubenesque women were incredibly beautiful when not seated naked in front of their computers and gaze at the indescribable beauty of Psyché revived by Cupid’s Kiss, Winged Victory and Venus de Milo. I marveled looking out the windows overlooking courtyards and had bird’s eye views of the outer façade of the building that couldn’t be seen from the grounds outside.
I was sadly aware of the time, reluctantly left the museum proper and stopped for a coffee and cookie before heading to the vast maze of gift shops (of course) to find a book for Lon. I would have loved to have returned to Jacksonville with a one of a kind “Scrapbook” of photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson, but it weighed more than I could handle and I was reminded by another Cartier-Bresson admirer that we could probably find the same book on Amazon. True…and for much less delivered to my door. I opted for a purse sized book that actually had photos in it that Lon had not seen.
The Taxi Circle I headed for a taxi circle to catch a cab to be at the pier by 7pm where we were to embark on our Croisiere Diner sur la Seine (Dinner Cruise down the Seine). By now it was dark, but the Paris streets were filled with young working men and women in a hurry to get home, lots of cyclists, police and tourists. A taxi circle is a large cement circular sidewalk in the middle of a busy intersection where one goes to catch a taxi. In order to catch a taxi in Paris without actually calling one by phone, one must stand and wait at the stops marked “Taxi Circle”. It took me awhile to find this out since I was unable to get an empty taxi to stop and pick me up in front of the Louvre. The taxi circle is a great idea in theory, but you are in all probability labeled as a tourist by standing at one. With this in mind, there is an undefined, yet definite line to honor and the taxi drivers won’t take more than three people at a time for some reason. This is upsetting for the party of four ahead of you, so I had to move fast to grab the cab before he drove away. The party of four had no clue why the cab driver removed himself from the driver’s seat clearly holding up three fingers to get his point across. I was finally out of the weather and on my way.
La Croisiere Diner sur la Seine The pier was at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and as the taxi I accidentally managed to catch in time approached the area near the pier, I began to cry uncontrollably at the lights of the city and the Eiffel tower all lit up. The taxi driver announced the tower ahead (duh?) and my only response was silence at that point. Where did he imagine I was from? A State Hospital?
Poor l’homme. I was anxious but confident now that I would make it to the pier on time for our cruise. Little did I know, Laurie told me to be at the pier two hours earlier than necessary….a cruel, but smart move. I finally met Laurie, Dan and Nigel at the pier and we waited for our cruise to begin. Dan was having fun teasing Laurie and I….sharing with us how they met and other exciting tales. Nigel and I were swapping family facts, drinking wine, sharing facts and figures that total strangers do, drinking wine, talking about our father’s WWII experience, drinking wine and comparing our iTunes libraries. While drinking wine and perusing the dinner menu deciding how adventurous we would be, we drank wine. Once the music began, we debated on whether the fashionable French singer owned her real teeth while waiting eagerly for our waiter to arrive at our table. Of course, our waiter was saving the best for last. But, I was pleased having a late meal. I enjoyed the wine, being with Laurie, Dan and Nigel, the lively conversation, and the thrill of plopping myself down in a far away place, legs tired, drunk by now and the anticipation of walking to the Eiffel Tower after dinner for a closer look. I tried to acquire the popular “cut crystal” (glass) souvenir of the Eiffel Tower from a persistent street vendor with only the Euros I had in my pocket, but Dan and Nigel offered up the balance the vendor demanded. It has a sparkling battery operated light up base. Tacky and at the same time, beautiful. My dinner selection would be:
Bateaux Parisiens Dinner Menu Scallops, cooked and raw chicory, truffle gravy Griddled Loin of Veal, salsify with a touch of cream, velvet sauce Citrus fruit tartlet, orange zest syrup, blood orange sorbet Kir Blanc de Blancs (Sparkling) & Chardonnay Vin de pays d’Oc, Médoc
Between the company, the wine, the food and the entertainment, I had a great evening. Along the Seine, the twelve buildings and monuments on the tour were illuminated and somewhat visible only enough to say that I had seen them. From the river, I was actually able to get a good look at The Eiffel Tower, The Museum d’Orsay, Notre-Dame Cathedral, The Louvre, The Statue of Liberty and Pointe Alexander III Bridge. On the taxi ride home, we passed the Arch de Triumph and rode down the Champs-Elysées. We also caught a glimpse of The Opéra and La Madeleine thanks to Antonio, our taxi driver from Lisbon. Reflecting on my limited time at the museum, nervously finding my own taxi in Paris, my breakdown at the sight of the Eiffel Tower, cruising down the Seine, enjoying a wonderful meal with great friends I can say I enjoyed every single second.
Taxi Drivers Our various taxi drivers hailed from Lisbon, Algeria and Lebanon and Asia. Some were young, some were old. All were talkative, inquisitive, fun, and loved tourists. They appeared to be honest except for one who talked and dickered with us at length at the hotel while we were trying to organize a four way split into town to save some money. He left the meter running while our French friend organized the excursion. One fellow was headed for the Louvre, we were headed for Notre-Dame Cathedral and our French friend, who protected our interests, was just trying to avoid the hassle of the Metro. So one by one, we exited the taxi at our destinations, paying the last tourist standing our portion of the fare. My favorite driver was a young man who loved American soul music and did his best to sing a few bars of every Motown hit to make it out of Detroit. I think he may have had a few too many espressos or been on meth. He covered the best of Motown and Las Vegas in thirty minutes…..A little Smokey Robinson…some James Brown…The Supremes…He named the members of the Rat Pack except for Joey Bishop who none of us could remember at the time and tried to do a few impressions for us. I told him he could turn the soccer championship game back on the radio, but he was persistent that we knew he knew the important facts of American music. He was a sweetheart. He didn’t understand my attempt to explain to him that Otis Reading was from South Georgia…not Michigan. I’m not sure why I thought he needed to know this. It’s the Lon King in me, I guess. You’ve got to get the facts straight.
Le jour 3 During last night’s cruise, I was hoping to see something so impressive, that my decision of what to do on my last day in Paris would be easy. I did. Seeing Notre-Dame lit up at night was breathtaking. To walk down it’s aisles during the day and see the light shining through the mother of all stained glass windows was a perfect choice for my last day of sight-seeing. Many school children, tour groups with guides were in front of the cathedral. Two shabby Christmas trees still remained outside and inside the Cathedral. We entered the cathedral and purchased a tour book to begin the slow walk looking through all the nooks and crannies visible to the public. My impression of its upkeep was that it needed a good dusting. For me to think something needs dusting is well, pretty funny….especially if you’ve been in my house recently. It appeared that many small restoration projects were in the works, but had not been worked on recently. There were plenty of candles lit and I thought about stopping to remember my mother-in-law, Georgia, but was distracted when I saw the strength and beauty in the statue of Saint Joan d’Arc and stopped to remember her horrible death and a report I had written about her in elementary school. I also remembered the strength and beauty of Georgia. Although Georgia was in no way Joan d’Arc, she had been on my mind each day since her passing. I have not reached that point in time where she has left me. How pleased I’m sure she would have been to know that Laurie and I were traveling together and experiencing each other at our best. The cathedral was dimly lit, crowded and still had that magical power of the ages that mystifies me. The prayers said, the tears shed, the wars pondered, the problems resolved and sins forgiven…. over the eight hundred plus years I can only imagine whose path I’m walking next to. What architect or king stood here to contemplate one of the innumerable changes the cathedral had lived through? The millions of people whose hands had touched the walls leaving the oils from their bodies behind to darken a spot on the wall or polish a part of the Virgin and Child now roped off out of reach of the public.
L’histoire la Notre-Dame “The construction of Notre-Dame began in 1163 on the site of a Christian basilica which had been occupied by a Roman temple. As time passed slowly, the façade was completed around 1200 and forty-five years later the massive towers were completed. The ravages of time and tragic wars have changed the cathedral’s original appearance over the centuries. It even faced demolition in 1793, but was reconsecrated in 1802 in time for the coronation of Napoleon I in 1804.
The façade of Notre-Dame is divided vertically by pilasters into three parts and horizontally by galleries into three sections, the lowest which has three deep portals. Above the Portals is the Gallery of Kings with twenty-eight statues of the kings of Israel and Judaea. The Parisian people who saw in them images of hated French kings pulled down the statues in 1793, but during restoration at a later stage they were returned to their original place. The central section has two grandiose mullioned windows, on each side of the rose-window, which dates from 1220 to 1225 and is nearly 33 feet in diameter. There are imaginary birds, grotesque leering monsters hanging from unlikely points of the cathedral. These immobile, petrified figures that have been here for centuries seem to be meditating on the destiny of the human race which swarms below them. Inside, at each end of the transept are the two 42 feet wide rose windows containing splendid stained-glass pieces from the 13th century. Particularly outstanding is the north window dating from about 1250 with scenes from the Old Testament and a Madonna and Child in the center. It is noted for it’s blue radiant tones. There are numerous tombs inside the cathedral and the beautiful Pietá by Nicholas Coustou at the high alter. Inside the Treasury are the most important relics not ordinarily exposed: fragments of the True Cross, The Crown of Thorns and The Sacred Nail.
The brighter south rose-window depicts Christ in the act of benediction surrounded by the apostles and the wise and foolish virgins. The placing and bright colors of this window throw light off in every direction. And lastly, upon leaving the cathedral you see the 32 feet wide great rose-window set above the 18th century organ. The organ is one of the biggest in the world with 113 stops and 7800 pipes. Each Sunday a guest organist coming from far away gives a free recital, in the spirit of God’s calling, in this place which would like to give , even to those not of Christian faith, a little peace, beauty and light.” After we left Notre-Dame my quest for a rest room was the only thing on my mind. I had not encountered a pay toilet since Jim Crow shopped at Cohen Brother’s in downtown Jacksonville. We found a restaurant near the cathedral for lunch and I descended down a staircase only to find I needed Euros to urinate. Back up to get a coin wasn’t easy, but I made it back down stairs to the clean, ice cold porcelain resting spot I had reached just in time. After a so-so lunch of salad, quiche and Coca-Cola (of course!), we headed for the tacky gift shop strip to search for a few gifts
for the kids. I decided on a nice XL pair of boxer shorts for Andy with a map of the Paris Metro printed on them. I knew he’d love them, which he did. Unfortunately, I forgot about that European “cut” and he could barely get them up past his thighs. We were both disappointed. We walked the block looking for what, I’m not sure, but the payoff came when I treated myself to a delightful meringue the size of a Double Whopper. It was airy, sweet and heavenly with just a hint of vanilla. Laurie opted for a banana-chocolate crepe from a street vendor. It looked more than just inviting.
By now, it was after 3pm and the temperature was dropping by the minute. The warmth of the morning had me leaving my wool jacket at the hotel and my linen jacket just wasn’t doing the trick. I put on my red gloves, lost the feeling in my toes and kept thinking about warming up in that wonderful relaxing hotel bath again- floodgates ready. We met Dan and Nigel back at the hotel after a long wait at the taxi circle in front of the Paris Correctional Facility and a “you provide the directions” taxi excursion with a seemingly earnest driver who had no idea where our hotel was located even when given the very specific address. I wasn’t worried, we were heading in the right direction and if all else failed, he could simply drop us off at the airport where we could have caught the shuttle to the hotel easily enough. At least he wasn’t doing Ray Charles. The airport was in sight, but he couldn’t decide how to get us to the correct gate. Finally, he broke down and called the hotel. Dan and Nigel had a hard day at work and we had a busy day, so we had an easy dinner at the Radisson. It was good. I was beat and my tub was waiting for me.
Laurie has been a great travel companion. Not too fast, not to slow. She has been there to help me when needed, but allowed me to do for myself too. She can be silly, she’s smart, likes to listen and likes to talk. I was very happy being with her. Her husband Dan is a caring, thoughtful and gentle person with a devilish sense of humor and a savvy traveler and businessman. I feel that we are all very fortunate to have him in our lives. If Dan has a plan, I will follow it. I’m proud to have him in my family and he was very gracious and generous, as was Laurie, on my trip. They both helped make my trip to Paris very special, comfortable and the arrangements made on my behalf were perfect.
How lucky was I?