Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Dealing with love.

September 25th, 2010 Comments off

Love isn’t always convenient.

It’s nice when it is, when falling in love doesn’t seem to have any downside, such as taking you away from family and friends.

Tom's parents, Betty Lou and Howard, on their honeymoon in 1937. My parents met in Chicago.  Dad worked for my Mom’s father, which is how they met. And Jeanne’s parents met in high school in Long Beach, and when Paul went off to the Pacific in World War II, Mary — with a newborn — lived with her parents.

Jeanne and I met in college,  fell in love in coJeanne and Tom, dating in 1970llege, and got married while in college (Cal State Fullerton), in the same county where we had lived with our parents.  Dating was just a matter of jumping in my white ’65 Mustang and driving from Fullerton to Garden Grove, or for Jeanne to drive her teal Cougar the other direction. After marriage, we lived within minutes of Jeanne’s parents, and my parents were but a 90-minute drive away, in northern San DiPaul and Sarahego County.

Our son, Paul, met Sarah in 1992 while they both were in high school in Escondido. They dated for eight years before getting married in 2000, and3-pack.jpg they lived just minutes from us. Today they still  live just minutes from us — in Las Vegas, and we are blessed to have been with them when their son (and our first grandson), Kieran, was born on June 29.

And then, well, there’s Cassie.

Cassie seemed destined to fall in love with someone far from home. During and after college she worked in Washington, D.C.  She lived for a few months in Florence, Italy to learn Italian. She was hired by a cruise ship and crossed the Atlantic on its maiden voyage to the Caribbean.  She worked at Club Med in Florida and then at its resort at Turks and  Caicos Island in the Caribbean.

So we rather assumed she would fall in love one day with a young man who didn’t live down the street from us.

The phone rang one evening. Cassie, calling from the Caribbean, was nearly breathless. “Mom. Dad. I’ve met the man who will be the father of my children.”

“When did you meet him?”

“Last night.”

“What’s his name?”


“Where’s he from?”


Belgium. As in the other-side-of-the-Atlantic Belgium.

“I love him,” she said

Ten days later we were on an airplane to the Caribbean — for a hastily arranged 10-day vacation at Club Med — to check this guy out.

He was handsome. He had a thick accent. He clutched our daughter like some prize. Cassie beamed. We thought he was arrogant. Damn Belgians, an arrogant bunch if ever there was one.

He grew on us a bit.

When Cassie returned home to Las Vegas — check that, she really didn’t have a home, just some well-traveled oversize duffel bags, a handful of framed photos and a laptop — he came, too.

He proved charming. And he could cook. They clutched each other. They fought, too —  each is very stubborn and they don’t fight well. But they worked through the arguments.

Kurt, who had managed the scuba diving department at the resort where he worked, was checking out okay.

Then he shared his plans: He was going to return home to Belgium.  Cassie followed him there for a few weeks to check it out. She returned to Las Vegas but decided she could not live without him.

We helped her pack her duffels. We squeezed 70 pounds into each of three of them, knowing we’d have to pay overage fees. But she was moving to Belgium — for how long was unclear — and 210 pounds of stuff didn’t seem exorbitant.Daughter and Belgian Boyfriend

That was about three years ago, and my, the tears we have shed.

We miss each other terribly. Skype is good, e-mail is OK, but we miss the intimacy we once had, the long, rambling talks late into the evening, the giggling, the philosophical discourses, and the sheer enjoyment of each other’s presence.

Cassie would come home at least once a year, and we would visit CaKurt proposing to Cassie in July 2009, in Vienna, Austria, during our RV trip across Europe.ssie at least once a year (Jeanne, more often). We even shared last summer’s vacation together — the four of us, in a small RV, careening across Europe in 18 days.  (That’s the experience that launched this blog a year ago.  The post from Viennta tells of when Kurt proposed to Cassie, an event I photographed from inside the RV.)

But this trans-Atlantic relationship between child and parents sucks. Cassie and Kurt will fight, and we’re not there to hug and hold her. Jeanne has a bad day, and Cassie’s not here to hug and hold her. They are best friends, painfully apart.

There is no answer to this sadness. Jeanne and I rationalize that we are just being selfish, that Cassie is deeply in love with her Kurt, and that’s what really matters, her happiness. We’ve told her that, and that we will always support her in her life’s decisions. But when we said that the first time, we didn’t anticipate that we, and our son and his wife, and Jeanne’s mother, would all be living within milCassie stealing a kiss before Kurt referees a football of one another and that our little girl would be living with a man in Europe.  A man who we’ve come to love, too.

Someday they may move to America. If you would like to offer a job to a man who is an expert in commercial diving and knows all about business marketing and logos and how to design dry suits, we’d love to pass it on. We would love for them to live dKurt and Cassieown the street — or, at least, on the same continent.

But in the meantime, Cassie has her Belgian residency card and is learning Dutch. And we are resigned that, except for vacations like this or when she comes home to visit, we will have to love her, and the man who has become the father of her child,  from afar.

Waking up in Vegas

August 4th, 2009 Comments off

It’s almost impossible to travel to Europe and leave behind the trappings of the United States.

We’ve already remarked about how McDonald’s, KFC and Subway are very common – especially, for whatever reasons, in the Eastern European countries.

We ate at a Hooter’s in Switzerland (and I’ve got the T-shirt to prove it), and there was a Hard Rock at the plaza in Krakow, 50 feet from St. Mary’s Cathedral where the bishop of Krakow celebrated mass before he became better known worldwide as Pope John Paul II. (We didn’t buy a Hard Rock T-shirt but if St. Mary’s had one, you bet.)

There was this billboard for a Holiday Inn in the Czech Republic. 

Las Vegas was big everywhere, too We ran into bars called “Las Vegas” and in Switzerland, scratch-off lottery tickets played on the Vegas name.

But I think what really drove home the pervasiveness of American culture in Europe was when we were eating lunch at a sidewalk cafe in Bratislava, Slovakia, and we heard a distinctly American song playing in the restaurant”s kitchen — Katy Perry singing  “Waking up in Vegas.”

Petal pushing

August 2nd, 2009 Comments off

In the course of trying to organize several thousand vacation photos of our RV trip through Europe, I’ve set up a flowers folder. For all I know, these flowers are common and can be seen in your own back yard (though I did not see a single cactus in Europe).  A couple of flowers were clearly at home in the Alps.

These photos were taken by Jeanne, Daughter, Fiance’ and me.  The most amazing one so far is this bee photograph that Jeanne took with the little Canon sure-shot that she loves so much. (You can see the various attributes of the image and the camera when you click on it and view the photo data.)

On the left, the photo in the original size, and on the right, an enlargement of it.

Walking in Prague

July 31st, 2009 Comments off

Tom has been poring over the still photographs of our vacation in Europe, and today I started looking through my movie collection.

I had to stop at this one and share a snippet with you. The scenery isn’t so great. In fact all you can see is feet walking. My feet are walking across cobblestones and pavement, and other people’s feet are walking. I have a great pedicure, thank God, but others do not. Sometimes you can also see our daughter’s feet walking beside mine. And sometimes the feet are walking sideways as if on the walls of buildings. It is an interesting but unexpected study of feet walking on a castle tour in Prague.

I have other interesting studies: Movies of trees standing alongside the road. Movies taken of my denim jeans inside a moving bus. Strange bouncing images of people moving along beside me on streets have revealed themselves to me as I watched my movies.

I wish I could say that I am an avant-garde film maker. I am not. I am an inept movie maker. I wonder what pictures I missed that I thought I was taking when the camera was not on. Yes, you have guessed my secret — I confused the “on” beep for the “off” beep.

Don’t get me wrong, I really love this little camcorder that is 4 inches by 31/2 inches with great sound. You can hear the footsteps on the pavement. So many in fact that I can supply a soundman with great sounds of walking feet. And most of my movies turned out surprisingly well considering they were being taken by an idiot.

Yes, I have memories that were a surprise and kind of nice actually. Because we did do a lot of walking on cobblestone streets with each other and other people. And those are good memories. I’m glad I’m not so swift with technology or I would have missed capturing these moments.

Every moment of this wonderful trip was worth recording. If only I had left the camera on more times accidentally or on purpose.

Ah, the smells of fresh bread in neighborhood bakeries

July 30th, 2009 Comments off

Every city we visited had its own wonderful smells of freshly baked goods, and I remember the ones that tantalized me the morning  Daughter and I were finishing up at an Internet cafe in Krakow, Poland.

We walked out the door, smelled the overpowering aroma of fresh baked bread, and wondered what would be in store for us as we rounded the corner.

And we wouldn’t be disappointed. There it was, in all its familiar glory.

Subway, the American sandwich shop, has franchises all over the place!

Why you better not run a red light in Europe

July 29th, 2009 Comments off

My high school years were spent in Laguna Beach, Calif., where, after school, I worked for the local newspaper as editor of its “Teenpage.” It was a great job. Interviewed Timothy Leary, Grace Slick and a whole bunch of other 60s icons who visited Laguna.

Back in those days, unlike today, we could accept freebies, and they included free passes to Orange County International Raceway, a fancy drag strip about 10 miles away, alongside the El Toro Marine Corps air base. (The base was closed years ago and is being turned into a regional park and the raceway site is filled with office buildings, nice apartments and the Spectrum shopping center with a Nordstrom’s, a huge Target, boutique retailers, some nice restaurants and a thousand-plex movie theater.)

On occasion, back in the late 1960s, I would take a date to the Saturday night drag races and sit in the VIP viewing tower (free sodas!), but usually I went alone, and with my press pass stood down at the starting line, taking pictures of the growling dragsters’ fire-spittin’, tire-smokin’ duels. At the starting line, the drivers focused all their attention on the “Christmas tree” starting lights. There were white lights on top that would glow when the dragster’s front tires had found the starting line, and then a vertical three-pack of yellow lights, with a green light on the bottom.  When both dragsters were set, the starter would begin the light sequence that, altogether, lasted maybe a second: yellow yellow yellow GREEN! (Below it was the red light, which would shine if a driver jumped the gun.)

That’s almost how it works in Europe. If you’ve already got the green light, it will turn to a flashing green, then yellow, then red.  If it’s flashing green, you’ve got a few more seconds to make it across the  intersection. If it’s yellow, you slow down so when it turns red, you are stopped. And you’d better stop, because the cross-traffic motorists will be raring to go. And here’s why: The red light will be joined by a yellow light before going green. Yellow tells the driver to engage the clutch because it’s almost show time. No one wants to sit at a green light while the fellow in front of you is trying to shift into first.

The moment the European traffic signal turns green, motorists fly into the intersection, confident that the cross traffic will already have stopped.  Nobody in Europe, as far as I can tell, runs a red light.

Las Vegans would not last long in Europe. They’d run red lights and get T-boned by some guy in a Smart car.


July 28th, 2009 Comments off

When we got home, we realized we were essentially one day behind in our sleep: From the time we woke up in Antwerp, Belgium on Saturday morning (Belgian time) to the time we went to bed back in Las Vegas Saturday night (Pacific Daylight time), we had been up 24 hours without sleeping except for some lousy cat naps during 13 hours in the air. 

We got through Sunday OK but the sleep deficit hit us Monday.  I got home from work Monday about 7 p.m. and found Jeanne napping in bed. Without taking my shoes or tie off, I laid down beside her and promptly fell asleep. I woke up 90 minutes later. Guess I was tired.  We didn’t have dinner until around 9.

A high school friend of mine – we’ve reconnected 40 years later on Facebook – remarked that it takes a day to recover for each time zone we traveled.   Vegas to Antwerp: Nine time zones.  So, nine days.

There is so much I want and need to do, not the least of which is to edit the thousands of photos, create an accurate map of our route, start writing the travel story I promised a favorite newspaper of mine, and figure out the costs of the trip.  And Son tells me that I need to keep the blog active.

But all that I really want to do is sleep for a few more days.

I think companies should let you slip back to work more slowly. You know, just work a couple of hours the first day, maybe a half-day the next, that kind of thing. Maybe I just need a vacation.

Back home

July 26th, 2009 Comments off

We returned home about 10:30 p.m. Saturday from Belgium, 24 hours after we woke up in Antwerp, and following two flights totaling 13 hours in the air.

The goodbyes were as difficult as I anticipated. They always are. 

On our way to the gate I bought some duty-free alcohol, which was allowed as a carry-on onto the airplane.  And it was a good thing that we had an unused suitcase (we had consolidated our stuff and so we nested two suitcases into one).  Even though the bottles were allowed, in their sealed packages, as liquid carry-on for the first flight across the Atlantic, we had to pack them in a suitcase at Dulles in  order to get past security for our second leg home. That nested suitcase came in mighty handy at the last moment.  (I don’t know what happens to travelers who don’t allow space for liquid  purchases if they have to change planes after Customs.)

At home, our loquacious Bichon, Willy, spent 30 minutes telling us about how two big strangers and a real tiny one, and their two dogs, had coincidentally invaded our home hours after we left for our RV trip through Europe, and that they had fled the house just hours before our return because they were headed off to their own vacation. Willy wasn’t complaining, I don’t think, but just confused as hell.

Home looked good. The house sitters went through a lot of Diet Cokes with lime, red wine and diet Snapple, based on the contents of our overflowing recycling bins.  There was also a gallon-size jar of mostly consumed Vlasic pickles still in the fridge. Dill.

The sitters probably don’t fully realize how much we appreciate their taking care of the place and the two dogs.

Sleeping in our own bed was a bit weird last night. I woke up once and was disoriented, thinking I was still in the Mobi. I headed for the toilet and collided with my night stand.

I woke up early and my mind started spinning with images. I was at the computer by 7:30, poring over pictures and wondering how I will edit them down to a manageable few thousand.

And after Jeanne woke up, we were on Skype, talking to Daughter and Fiance about the grand time we had.  Would we do it again? Yes.

We’ve still got more stories to tell, about the people we met, the sights we saw and our impressions of Europe. They are mostly very good but why don’t they like ice in their drinks?

Tomorrow, back to work at the newspaper.  Which reminds me to tell you later about the salt mines in Poland…

The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat

July 19th, 2009 Comments off

Because we love the Olympic Winter Games, it was a thrill for us to wake up Sunday morning in Innsbruck, Austria, where  our first destination was the ski-jumping stadium that was used for both the 1964 and 1976 games. “I can hear Jim McKay’s voice,” Jeanne said. “I can see him, I can hear him.”

The stadium was surprisingly close, and low, to the city, and maybe its location a bit unsettling for jumpers. If they look up during their jump, instead of focusing on the tips of their skis and their landing target, they’ll see a cemetery filled with tombstones just beyond the stadium. Lovely.

The stadium is used year-round and in the summer, jumpers fly down onto a kind of a plastic, grassy material. If you click onto the photo below to the left in order to see the enlargement, you’ll spot the cemetery in front of him.

At the top of the ski-jump tower is an observation terrace and restaurant. It’s a tad pricey but we rationalized we won’t be back for a few weeks so we’d live it up. You can imagine the view.

We left Innsbruck for Zurich in the early afternoon, knowing we were behind schedule in getting to our planned camping site in Lucerne, Switzerland. But hey, no worry, we would not let ourselves be rushed! The scenery was remarkable and now I know why ice-skating and gymnastics judges are reluctant to give 6.0’s or 10.0’s to the first competitors to perform: there is nothing better to give if better performances are turned in by later competitors.  So true with scenery, too: we were baffled by the forests, the mountains, the lakes, the Alpine villages and as we drove, we exhausted our adjectives. We didn’t grow numb, mind you, but we just had nothing more to say.

Zurich was our dinner stop. Daughter had visited it before and wanted us to have dinner at a restaurant she discovered.  The tables are shared among parties and next to us was an elderly couple from Japan. The most I could figure out from talking to them was that they were on a 19-day tour of Europe and had just spent 4 days in France. I liked them, though, because as I told a few jokes, they laughed loudly. I guess the understood English better than I had realized.

After dinner we drove for Lucerne, targeting a camp site that had good reviews.  We pulled up at 10:20. It was closed.  And it was, we think, the only campsite in town. The agony of defeat. So we did what the camping books advise: “free camp” — find a place to park where nobody will object, close the curtains and call it a night.

We found a public parking lot just down the street, where a tour bus was parked. We pulled in  behind him, hoping he would provide cover for us if police drove by.  But we wouldn’t be secret for long. By the time we were asleep, no less than nine other campers had pulled in alongside of us, all having found themselves with no where else to park.

Lucerne’s lake was just 200 yards away, with members of the Lucerne Yacht Club having access to their private docks. Us, we parked next to a weedy lot where little dinghies are stored.  Maybe I can do some Photoshopping.

We’re leaving home…bye, bye

July 3rd, 2009 Comments off

We have packed, we have had the house cleaned and we have eaten! Son and daughter-in-law have been hugged and my mother has been tucked into her apartment. There are only little things left to do like make a phone list to carry, since our cell phones are not international and will remain home. One final wash is needed to freshen the towels. We argued about this. No clothing left in the hampers or leave a little for later? I won.

Tom keeps adding little things like a soap box to the suitcases. But he refuses to re-weigh them, telling me that it’s only a half-ounce here and one there. We’ll see when they weigh them at the airport…

The “boys” are looking at us with pouting eyes, trying to make us feel guilty enough to stay home. It’s not working, but it’s a good try for two dogs. They will be missed. Someday when we retire and go on trips they will go with us….if they’re still alive. It may take that long to retire in this economy.

I will miss my home and doggies and stuff…..but a great adventure awaits. I won’t even chance to say that we’ll have a terrific time or a horrific time. But it will be an adventure, I’m sure of that!!!!

Wish us luck ‘cuz we’re leaving on a jet plane!!!!