LAST VISITS TO HOME AND MOM




Hey, I think we have something in common said the gentleman on the transfer bus
to the Airport.  Looking at him, I noticed he was carrying a computer like me , and
asked what we had in common.  You and I were in Vietnam.  Then I remembered I had
my  Army fatigue jacket with the Vietnam Emblems on it….it’s cold in Buffalo in
November.
After changing planes in Detroit I arrived in Buffalo, claimed my bag, and was
waiting for Bill, my ride.   An oriental man dressed in a Black suit with a Black shirt,
approached me.  When I looked up inquisitively, he saluted and introduced himself as
a Captain in the ARVN forces assigned to the 101 St Infantry. He served from his 18th
Birthday in 1968  until we abandoned him and his comrades in 1975.  He fled to Canada
as he was bitter against the US but 30 years later got over it.  He moved to Houston
from Toronto where his son enlisted in the Marines on his 18th Birthday.  He said
“America” fought for Vietnam and now my Son fights for America.”  He met up with
his old platoon from Vietnam in Houston after 30 years.  Not his Company but his
Platoon of brothers.  I introduced him to Bill , who just arrived and we saluted each
other and parted.
    Bill and I stopped at Alexis’s in Batavia to have a drink and some food.  I knew I was
in Western NY when Bill ordered a Jameson’s on the rock and the bartender poured
him a three for one shot!  Two of those, the best Beef on Wick ever and we arrived in
Attica.  The house was left the way it was when Mom left it in an ambulance.  Bill
wanted me to see the urine soaked bathroom.  Everything smelled of urine in the
bathroom.  In her bedroom was a gallon container of urine that she used at night
rather than struggle to get to the bathroom. 
I cleaned it all up a bit and decided to sleep in her bed.  I kept tossing and turning
all night.  If I awoke I couldn’t tell what time it was because the street lights lit up the
room so much.  At around 5 am the neighbor let her dog out and he started barking
right next to my bedroom window. Needless to say I did not get much sleep.  The next
morning I went up to shower and peeked in my old room where I would have stayed
if Mom had been home.  She had it all decorated with 4 cute Christmas dolls for me.
  The first visit was depressing.  Attica countryside in the Fall is bleak, dismay, gray,
and COLD.  I stopped at the local Silver Lake restaurant in Warsaw for a $5.89
Breakfast that consisted of two eggs, 5 slices of bacon, toast, country fries and a big
glass of orange juice!  When I arrived she was in the dining room.  It took me a while to
locate which wheelchair my Mother occupied.  They all looked like Zombies. It took her a short
time to recognize me then we talked while waiting for the food.  She complained that
her bladder was going to burst.  I called an attendant over but she had just brought
her from the bathroom less than an hour ago.  My mother had pulled out her Catheter
the evening before, so they moved her close to the desk so her aggressive behavior
could be more closely monitored.  Now she had a bedpan but is real uncomfortable.
 She wants to sit on the toilet but instead they bring a Crane in and hoist her up on
over the toilet when she refuses the bedpan deal.  I try to get her to eat when the food
finally arrives.  I ate some and it wasn’t bad or good.  She had a Hot Chocolate and
some milk then insisted on going to the bathroom .  They gave her a bib which she
promptly stuffed down her pants to use as a diaper.  She insisted she had to go back
to the room and was now feeling sick to her stomach.  I wheeled her in just as she
threw up over her self.  The attendants then took over, put her in the Crane and
allowed her to go the bathroom.  I returned to the room to find her back in bed and
moaning so I took her clothes and left.  I really felt helpless to do anything for her.  
I took her clothes home and washed them but before leaving I insisted they change
her drugs and stop giving her the anxiety pills.   
When I returned to Attica that evening I bought a pint of Vodka, a pack of Cigarettes
and went to the Attica Hotel and ordered a Cheeseburger to go with a Manhattan and
a Cup of Chowder while waiting.  I next stopped at Louie’s Lounge for a beer.  Louie
bought me another and asked about Mom.  I told him the situation and he commented
that that was bad for me and Mom but good for him as I would be giving him some
business this Winter.  I ordered a Manhattan then left for the Legion.  I came in on
GI Joe and his wife Red.

  They own the Stage House where my old friend Woody lives.
 I heard he had been sent to the VA with an illness and after inquiring I found he is in
a VA Nursing Care facility and not able to return.  We chatted and GI Joe bought me
a beer while I was in the bathroom.  Now I had to get home.  Bill arrived from his 18
hour shift just after me and we both sat up and polished off a few Labbat’s Canadian
Beer I had bought.  2:30 AM we retired.  I awoke to a phone call around 11 am for him
but he had been called into work at 7am that morning to guard a prisoner that had
been taken to the same hospital next to the care facility that Mom was at.  I did some
laundry then stopped at the Silver Lake again for lunch before visiting Mom.  This
time I had a nice homemade Broccoli and Cheese soup with a Ham Sandwich Chips
and Pickle for $4.89.  Deer season started today and on the trip over, pickups were all
over the woods while hunters built their blinds and searched for Deer to bag.  It was
another bleak day.

 When I arrived  she was much better and after checking with the nurse I discovered
they did stop the anxiety pills and the Darvon pain pills were replaced with Tylenol .
Mom was smiling and joking a bit and while there they served her lunch in bed .  She
ate a muffin and drank two cartons of milk.  Her and her roommate were plotting to
escape in their wheelchairs.  Carmella Foster was only 61 and had Bipolar disease
since she was 12.  She had fallen and broke her hip like Mom but looked close to 70
instead of being two years younger than me!
I recall little of the weeks that followed…I remember visiting her one evening…she kept
talking about they were going to take her to the basementwhere the “others” are kept. She said
she heard the “others” through the wall at night.
One afternoon, Rose, my eldest granddaughter, was driving down from Buffalo so
we met there. I found Mom out in the hall in a comfortable stuffed chair and Rose sitting
next to her holding her hand and chatting. When our visit was over, Rose and I went into
town for breakfast. I remember that as very special.

I ran to Dr Dar’s office where his Nurse Pattie Walsh (she had a crush on me when she
was 12 and I was 16…her sister was my babysitter and I knew the whole family well). Pattie
I need to speak to Dr Dar. He is not in. Tell him the night nurse gave my Mother Adavin
against my strict wishes! She is incoherent again and not eating. I will David.
My cousin Susie, who had been visiting and checking up on her for me, said…get her out
of this hospital. I wanted to but felt her broken hip should heal before I did that but was
looking into a good nursing home in Warsaw and had visited them and put her on the waiting
list.
My last visit before I returned to Arizona, Mom and I had a conference with her medical
“team”. They babbled on about how they might do this or that and the term C-Def kept coming
up. I asked what that was and they said it was a bacterial infection that they were treating with
antibiotics. I wasn’t reassured they were doing what they could.

When I got back to Attica I researched C-Def at the library internet. It was a MAJOR infection
that many have died of. I called the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and asked for a
qualified Doctor in Buffalo that dealt in infections of this sort. I then called him and
told him the situation and without calling Mom’s Doctor he felt 
they were doing what they could.  I returned to Phoenix.
     A few days later Susie called to let me know they admitted her in
to intensive care and were treating her with massive doses of 
antibiotics so I booked a flight back to stay until this was resolved. 
     I week later I arrived, she was still in ICU.  After 2 weeks they 
returned her to a private room and her brother and his wife arrived
to visit for a few days.  They left but her condition worsened.  I had 
made arrangements to get her into the nearby Nursing Home but 
before they said they could take her, the Dr called to tell me they 
were discharging her that day and that we should meet her at the
home.  I explained the home didn’t have her room ready yet but 
the Dr told me he called and there was a room for her.  Bill and I
took as much of what we could from her room in the house to 
make her room at the Nursing Home familiar and comfortable.
She arrived there just as we had it ready for her.  They wheeled her
in on a bed and Bill combed her hair (he had been a male nurse 
before becoming a Correctional Officer) while we chatted a bit. She
asked what day it was and I replied Wednesday and she said NO, 
what is the date, which I thought odd but told her December 17th.
The nurse came in and said we could return in the morning to visit
        Bill woke me around 4:30 am to inform me she passed away in
her sleep.  It was her wedding anniversary and the day she died.
It was also the saddest day of my life.
        The funeral was in April when we could bury her at the family site.























feltthey were d

   Christmas Bleak Crafts   Dale Mom Dr Dar Pattie,



ANNUAL SUMMER VISIT TO ATTICA PART 3 NEW ENGLAND, CAPE COD, BERKSHIRES, CATSKILLS…ATTICA

My return to Attica from Canada was a nice relaxing rest.  I arrived on Thursday evening
after 10 hours of driving from Montreal.  Mom and I did have another Fish Fry at the Attica
Hotel. That evening was the American Legion Lawn Fete. I left Mom and went to visit my
friends at the Legion.   I gambled on the Wheel of Luck and the “Over and Under” Dice game
with a group of 10-16 year old boys.  That is where I got my habit from when I was their age,
over 46 years ago. 
I love Attica’s traditions.  I visited with my old babysitter and the woman, who my mother
used to babysit her children for 3 years, 5 days a week.  I got to visit with the children, now
adults, Terry and Paula Harding, as well the some of my old paper route customers that still
remembered me.  I shared a few beers with my old classmates and saw some I hadn’t seen
since I left High School. 

 

    Saturday I did some Garage Sales with Mom and then I returned to the Lawn Fete for the
Chicken BBQ but didn’t see anyone I knew so took it home to eat.
Sunday Mom and I visited my other Grandchildren, Taja and Alexis and my Great
Grandson Dion.  I stopped at the Stage House and visited Woody, Red and Alexander. Then
stopped at Louie’s Bar and ran into Fred.   We had a few and because his car wouldn’t start,
needed a ride.  We shared a bowl in his garage and I returned home. 


Wednesday I left for White River Junction Vermont.  I stayed at the Hotel Coolidge
(Est 1834)which is also a Youth and Elder Hostel.  Rooms are $35 a night and it is close to
Dartmouth University in Hanover as well as a lot of major New England attractions.  One is
the TracT Tavern in the basement of the neighboring building.  I knew I was in New England
when I walking in to see customers sitting around playing Cribbage.  I learned the game from
my Grandfather at his house in Gilman, Vermont.  The other local attraction was the Filling
Station.  That turned out to be a NASCAR bar.  Everything in it was NASCAR.  I expected to
see Dale Earnhardt Jr sitting at the bar. I refer to these two places as attractions when in fact
they were the only businesses open after 7 pm and they closed at 11 pm.

    Thursday I went to the Train Museum and a river walk across the street.  Amtrak has a train
that goes from White River Junction to NYC and Washington, DC  and returns every night.
There was a train that ran from Attica to White River Junction in the 50’s. Mom and I took it
and I remember waiting in that same train station for the bus North to St Johnsbury to visit
Grandpa.
  Later that afternoon I drove to Lebanon N.H. nearby for a Farmer’s Market and Music
Festival. It was a small affair but really nice.  A band was setting up in the Gazebo and a Folk
Singer was playing in a tent.  There was Pakistani , Jamaican, and Samoan food available as
well as Elk Burgers and Hot Dogs.  The Farmers had a large selection of home grown produce
to select from.  The was the local Pie maker , cookie maker, jams, jellies, honey, and of course
Maple Syrup Products. I bought some Jerk Chicken and took it back to the room to eat.

            This morning I had a Peanut Butter and Bacon Sandwich that was delicious.  I had to
order it. I drove up to Hanover, New Hampshire, the home of Dartmouth University and
until just a few years ago, Bill Bryson the travel writer.  I am one of his biggest fans and
actually entertained the thought of having coffee with him until I discovered he moved back to
England with his English wife. Hanover is a beautiful town and busy in the summer.  I
couldn’t find a parking space so toured the countryside before heading North to Littleton,
New Hampshire and my Uncles home. 


Johnny and Jeanette left the door unlocked so I just walked in on them.  I got settled and
they suggested going out to a really nice place for dinner. I was expecting a family style place
with home cooking but was surprised to find candlelit tables, a professional wait staff and a
gourmet menu.  We ordered wine and were perusing the menu when Jeanette announced it
was there 21st wedding anniversary.  Wow, I felt a little out of place but I know for Uncle
Johnny, it was just another day.  New Englanders are like that. Jeanette is from Iowa and met
Uncle John after his wife, my Aunt Pauline, passed away.  He was a Knights of Columbus
member and she was a Nun at the time, I think.  It was a church dance and after the marriage,
they Square danced all over New England and the USA . He doesn’t dance much at 82
anymore but still gets out and is very active.  We enjoying a nice evening and the next day I
drove around visiting Antique shops while trying to find out if the Rocking Horse I had
brought from Mom’s was worth anything.  No one recognized it or could tell me anything
about it.

    I stopped in my cousin Dennis’s Gramma’s Restaurant in Whitefield New Hampshire for
a great “Chowda” and sandwich for lunch.  He was napping across the street where he lived
so I left to visit a local fair in the town square of Whitefield. 
       There was an old man acting like a DJ and playing 50’s music to 6-10 year olds.  A Bounce
Castle for the children.  A few tents set up with people trying to sell their crafts, none of which
were of any exceptional quality.  One tent, a man and a women were selling AVON products
and had a little handwritten piece of cardboard hanging on the side of the tent simply saying
AVON.  The Gazebo is the same one that was there over 55 years ago when I met my Great
Uncle here listening to a concert.
       Driving back to Uncle John’s, I took a trip down memory lane to visit Forest Lake.  This is
where I spent an entire summer once when I was around 14 getting over puberty, I think I got
over it.  The road was all broken up with weeds growing in it. The parking lot wasn’t very busy
and not maintained.  This used to be one of the liveliest  beaches in the area at this time of
year…things change.
    That evening Danny, my cousin and John’s son, stopped by to visit with his wife Priscilla
and two of their grandchildren.  They had just come from camping with the kids and was
telling me about their 15000 mile trip this summer to Alaska.  He has only left New England
once that I know of so this was a great venture for both of them.  They pulled a trailer they
bought and camped in parks along the way across Canada.

    I had a nice time visiting everyone and bid goodbye the next morning on the way to my
cousin Helen and her husband’s farmhouse near the Hudson river in the Catskill Mountains
of New York.  I stopped in Brattleboro, Vermont for lunch at the Lotus Cafe.  The sign said
Closed Sunday then Sunday Cafe Closes 5 pm then Sorry Private Party. I crossed over to the
Maharishi Mall.  It had a Health Spa, Yoga Center, and the Back Side Cafe where I decided to
have breakfast. 

I should have paid attention to the name but it was quaint and lots of people
so figured it had to be good. I ordered a fresh orange juice , omelet  and salad.  I called the
Hostess over after waiting an hour playing SUDUKO.  She brought me another juice “on the
house” and explained my order was next.  I arrived at  10:30 and left at noon.  I imagined the
Chef in a Lotus position meditating on my eggs trying to turn them into an omelet.  Then
again maybe he ventured off into the Vermont woods to pick the mushrooms for the omelet. 
Everything was advertised to be fresh?

    I stopped along the New York State Thruway and telephoned David, Helen’s husband for
last minute instructions.  I listened but missed a turn somewhere and the 10 minute drive
ended up to be a half hour.  Barbara, Helen’s sister and my other cousin had stopped along
the way up from Warwick, New York to pick up my 91 year old Auntie Char. Barbara brought
her son Arjay, who is about 18, so it was another mini family reunion. 

    We went to a restaurant along the Hudson river and sat on the Patio.  My cousin Helen
ordered a Raspberry Rum drink that the bartender said she wasn’t familiar with. Helen told
her to call their sister restaurant and the bartender there would tell her.  She did and everyone
was happy.

    The next day I visited my Aunt at her house and we went out for lunch. After I returned we
got sub sandwiches and watched the Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nickelson. 
Barbara came up that evening after work to spend the night.  We all went to Hudson New
York for lunch and Antique browsing.  A very knowledgeable dealer told me my horse was
from England and could be as old as 1920 but didn’t know the value.  We had dinner that
evening at the Sister Restaurant on the Hudson nearby. 

    Helen fixed me some scrambled eggs for breakfast and I left for Cape Cod .

     I lost Franks address but called when I arrived and got directions.  We had dinner and sat
on the porch watching a Boston Red Sox game with his brother Dick and his girlfriend Kathy.
  Had Lobster Rolls from the Raw Bar in New Seabury…2 pounders…we split one with
Chowder.  Took the boat to Falmouth and had a drink with Stuffed Scallops. 
    The next afternoon, I played 9 holes of Golf with Frank, Dick and their Periodontist friend
Dan.  Dan provides Vicodin, which I did try.  Secrets make you lonely…have to tell someone. I
used Dick’s clubs and he took me over to the Range first to warm up. I’m afraid it was
helpless. Dick had a Full Moon Beach party that  evening on Naucet Beach. 

  Did nothing on
Saturday while Frank took Kathy out to see a comedian at the Melody Tent.  Left for Bristol
the next morning and hoping to see more.


    The street plan of Bristol was laid out in 1680.  It is called America’s most patriotic town. It
is home the country’s oldest Fourth of July parade.  Every summer, this event draws
participants and spectators from across the country and the world.  The center line through
the main Street of Bristol in not white but Red, White and Blue…always. I visited the Tourist
center and picked up a few maps, restaurant recommendations, and possible attractions to
see.  I walked to the Harbor and throughout the town.  I had lunch in the Bee Hive Cafe then
was going to tour the Colt house.  He was one of the  descendants of the town fathers and
married Ethyl Barrymore.  It was a beautiful mansion but closed for a Wedding so I left for
Jamestown.  The town harbor was beautiful.  I did a short walk around town , had an ice
cream and left for Providence. 

    The state of Rhode Island has an amazing history and a lot to see.  I could have spent a
whole day in Providence but got lost then ended up at the Pier in the middle of a huge Concert
on the water.  It would have been fun if I could find a parking space.

I decided it’s best to take
a day and return to Providence and headed for Liam McGuires Irish Pub in Falmouth Mass.
for dinner.  A few wee Pints of Guinness and a huge bucket of steamed Mussels ended a good
day.  I met an Englishman at the bar that was working at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
developing a new research submarine.  He contracts with the U.S. Navy, the British, anyone
that has Submarines.  Quite interesting. Frank and Kathy spent the day sailing with friends.

    Today I’m off to have lunch with my good friend Steve Loring.  It will be great to see him
again.  I invited Frank along and am treating all to Lobster Rolls. We ate at East Bay or
something like that.  It used to be McGraths, an old institution on the wharf in Plymouth
Harbor.  All the tourist were out trying to get a look at “Plymouth Rock” where the Mayflower
landed…supposedly.  The replica of the Mayflower was full of tourists also. It is amazing to
tour it with a guide.  The stories they tell.  They ended in Plymouth because they were out of
beer and rum.  The crew survived because they were in the hold with the booze.  The alcohol
kept them fit while the Pilgrims were sick and dying.  The crew went on land and built the
homes for the Pilgrims…anyway. 
    Steve was waiting at the bar where we sat the last time I met him there.  He looked great like
any old friend you haven’t seen for a long time.  The East Bay or whatever it was now called
had gutted the old McGraths and replaced it with a beautiful restaurant and a large patio
overlooking the harbor.  Frank and Steve seemed to hit it off right away.  Both are old friends
but neither knew the other only through stories of mine.  Steve and I ended up having the
Fried Clam Roll while Frank opted for the King Crab Roll.  We shared some stories and caught
up on what was going on in our lives over a few drinks served by our bartender from Krakow,
Poland.  She had been in the states four years and was a stunning blonde that we all ranked a
10!  The day was beautiful.  We bid our goodbyes and Frank and I returned to the house to get
provisions for an afternoon swim in the Ocean.
    We met his brother Dick, a CIA (Culinary Institute of America) Graduate and accomplished
Chef with his son.  It was a short boat ride to the beach area.  The four of us just hung out
swam (not me) listened to music and watched the boats go by.  A perfect ending to my stay
with Frank.  Upon returning home, we watched some of the Olympics and retired. 
   

I woke and caught Frank coming in just as I was headed out.  The ride to the Berkshires
took a turn for the worse just before I got to the Mass Turnpike. A huge thunderstorm struck.
  Cars were off both sides of the road and everyone had on their emergency lights.  There was
very little visibility and it was hard to tell if it was daylight.  Trees were down in the road
which had become a river with so much rain.  A half hour later the storm lifted and I was on
the Turnpike headed West.  I took the last exit and was in the Berkshire Mountains of Western
Massachusetts.  The day had some sunshine left when I arrived at Berkshire Vista Clothing
Optional Resort.  I was going to stay for three days but began to rethink it when I found out
any decent accommodations were over $120 a night.  I stayed anyway and was given a Park
Model mobile home with kitchen and everything.  That night I just relaxed and got to bed
early.

The next day I visited the Clark Gallery in Williamson.  Beautiful location and built a
famous Japanese architect.  There were two buildings that house the galleries.  I toured the
one collection of late 19th and early 20th century paintings from all over the world.  Some I
had seen in the Gardner Museum in Boston, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Louvre in Paris,
and the Prado in Madrid.  I had a nice lunch and hiked the trail through the beautiful woods to
the other Gallery on the hill.  The walk was inspirational with beautiful vistas of pastures and
woods.  I realized how long it had been since I have been out walking in nature. 

    The other gallery was an exhibit of Whistler,  Rockwell , and other painters that believed the
less paint you put on the canvass the better.  It was called Breath on Glass. You would gaze on
them and see things but when you looked back the “things” were gone…like apparitions. 
    I shopped for some food after going to the Shaker Village in Hancock.  I realized it wasn’t the
one I visited before so left.  The one before was in N.H. and had a restaurant that served fresh
everything from the farm.  Nothing was brought in from the outside and it was fabulous.  I had
hoped to do that again but their restaurant was catered from the outside.  I stayed up and
watched Key Largo with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall before retiring.
    This morning I sat by the pool and got sunburned on both sides.  I did see the maid go by in
the golf cart.  I would live here if she cleaned my room everyday.  Off to Mikes Mediterranean
Restaurant.
        Well on the way I noticed Coyote Flaco. It was advertised as a Spanish Mexican restaurant
but when I pulled up the web site it gave me no info but I stopped anyway.  While entering I
noticed Zagat’s Restaurant Guide listed them.  That doesn’t mean a lot but gave me some
expectation that this might be a joy.   I noted only three people were working the dining room
of almost 100 seats but I was seated promptly but hurriedly.  All three served me.  One being
the owner from Ecuador.  My waiter was from El Salvador as was the barmaid that had only
been here one month.  She sure knew how to run the computerized cash register and was very
friendly.  I had a Margarita but quickly changed over to Coyote Sangria when I notice they
fortify it with Tequila.  I enjoyed the Oaxaca Chicken Enchiladas covered in a Mole sauce that
was more Chocolate than Red Peppers.  I liked it as well as the Beans and Avocado they served
with it.  All and all it was very pleasant. I made it back home before dark.  It is Thursday and
more people are arriving to enjoy the warm and sunny forecast for the weekend.  I’ll retire
early again and hope the restaurant is open at the club house for breakfast and leave for the
Norman Rockwell museum in the morning. 

    I got on the internet today and contacted a CouchSurfer in Saratoga that had traveled 58
country’s, climbed the highest mountain in each of the 50 states, speaks two languages, has
two degrees and is a nurse.   He promptly answered my request to stay over tomorrow with a
” Sure why not”.  He has two Latvians staying with him that are interested in hearing about
Arizona.  When I told him when I would be arriving, he replied…if I’m not there, just go
around back behind the Hot Tub and come on in.
    This is why I travel and one of the first meetings I’ve had with a stranger inviting me in. 
Now I get to watch Pirates of the Caribbean Part 3.

That morning I visited The Norman
Rockwell Museum in the town of Sturbridge Massachusetts where he had his last studio and
spent the end of his life.  Sturbridge is a “Norman Rockwell” kind of town.  Well it really is a
Rockwell town! McCall’s magazine commissioned Rockwell to paint an American town at
Christmas time.  17 years later and after many inquiries, he gave them a painting of Sturbridge
at Christmas time.  Since he started the painting the cars had changed but the village hadn’t. 
He had to paint in a couple more cars representing the sixties to make the painting believable.
  The first Sunday of every December, the Village of Sturbridge closes off the main street and
brings in the identical cars, color, year, make and model.  They are parked as in the painting
and the local Red Lion Inn, also depicted in the painting, serves Hot Cider and Chocolate to
the people that come from all over to live the picture. 

     He also has a painting called Wedding Day that shows a young couple filing out the forms at
the Justice of the Peace office.  The couple that posed, did get married and though they have
passed away their children and grandchildren come to the museum to view the Wedding Day.
    Sitting on a park bench in downtown Sturbridge, eating an Ice Cream cone on a beautiful
summer’s day couldn’t be duplicated.  The smell of summer with a cool breeze and the warm
sunshine.  Everybody has a smile and a greeting. It is like a dream from the past, a kind of
Twilight Zone experience…nice one …a Norman Rockwell one.  I remember the hard Eastern
winters and all the bad weather Easterners have to endure.  I just experienced two and three
weeks of bleak rainy days that were miserable but it makes you value a beautiful day on the
ocean or a day like today.  Arizonans tend to take their beautiful days for granted because
they are so common but never evoke the feelings like what I have now.
        It is like a vague pleasant and distant memory that fades the more you try and capture it.
The emotions must be different for everybody depending on the memories…all of those
summer memories from a child to here.  I see a ’63 Chevy Impala drive by and I think Sunday
sunny summer day with a Sophomore college girl from Geneseo on a lone country road.  I
remember her beauty and her alluring scent.   Wake up David…there will be more of those
memories to cherish in the future. 

One is visiting the Naumweag House and Gardens.  I drove
up in time to catch the last tour by a very good guide.  Some I can’t hear and are boring and
others are eloquent and very entertaining. He was the later.  The tour took you though the
entire history of the house and the family that lived in it.  The patriarch Chas Choate was a
lawyer that made his money sueing Robber Barons like the Vanderbilt’s and Carnegie’s.  He
also took the government to task in 1894 and got the Supreme Court to rule that income tax
was illegal and for 20 years no one paid income tax until 1916 I think when that was
overturned.

    The gardens were next with an audio tour.  It was very hard to listen to it and take photos at
the same time.  The Berkshires provided a magnificent backdrop for the sculpted gardens.  I
left and drove to Tucson, restaurant that is, for dinner before meeting my Host Neil Andrews
at his home outside of Saratoga.  While having dinner the next attractive waitress walked by
and said ,”Hello young man!”.  They must have a new training program to make single old
men feel at home.  I was feeling old.  My back was killing me after trying to lie on my stomach
at the resort to get a tan.  Now I know the meaning of old.
   
I arrived at Neil’s to a plate of freshly roasted corn from the local Farmer’s Market and a
friendly welcome from Neil, Imis and Lenina.  Imis and Lenina were his Latvian guests.
Imis just got back from the Saratoga Race track.   Earlier they were all at beach with three
Burmese refuges.  He goes to the track every day during the last race when you can get in for
nothing.  He collects tickets that people throw on the ground in his backpack and then
reviews them that night with the results of the races to see if he won anything.  This was his
second or third trip to Neil’s where he travels around the area in his rented car visiting Niagara
Falls, Canada and New England.  He is not the only person that does this.  They compete to
see who can collect the most tickets the fastest.  His bag was full because he is younger and
quicker than the other ones.  It pays too.  Last time he returned to Latvia he discovered a
bunch of winners, sent them to NY State Racing commission and they sent him a paycheck
(he calls it) to Latvia. 

    Neil and I started comparing travel notes.  He has climbed the tallest peaks in 50 states and
been to 58 countries.  He plays the Frequent Flyer game and travels on cheap last minute
tickets to obscure places to collect miles and to see the country.  His trips are usually only a
week or two but he loves it.  His travels have taken him to remote third world countries where
he also tries to help the people with his knowledge as a Registered Nurse.  He works on his
own time at a hospital in Schenectady.  He shared some web sites to assist me on my future trip
to S.E. Asia this winter and showed me some of his pictures. 
    Neil related a story about a recent trip to Chang Dai , Thailand with an older gentleman
who had never been out of country and had requested to join him on a trip.  Neil suggested to
his friend that they hitchhike from Chang Dai to the end of the longest dirt road in Thailand.
  They did but there luck wasn’t that good and no one was stopping for them. It was getting
dark and they were a long distance from Chang Dai and their destination, which was an
obscure village at the end of the road next to the Burmese border.  Neil got out in the middle
of the road and stopped the next vehicle instructing his friend to load there backpacks in the
back while he talked to the driver.  It worked but they arrived at the village after dark and
there was no electricity and no moon.  He said there were dark shadows walking around and
animals running freely in the village.  He kept stopping everyone to inquire about a room to
let or a hotel, maybe a restaurant to eat at.  No one spoke English but finally a man motioned
him to follow and he directed him to the only person in town that spoke English.  He
explained their dilema to her and she suggested they stay in a hut behind her home on some
mats on the floor.  They humbly accepted but the woman explained she would not be staying
in her home that night as it would be inappropriate for a single woman to be staying near to
strange men and people would talk.  She would go stay with a friend. 
    Later she returned and asked if they had eaten but they had no food.  They offered her
money to purchase food so she woke the local shopkeeper and bought some food then
returned and cooked it for them in her kitchen.  She ended up staying in her home that night
as she felt more reassured after having spent some time with them . She later related to them
in a letter, that she wanted to ask them if they would buy a Coke that evening when she went
to the store but thought a dollar for a Coke would be too much for them as they looked so
poor.  He sent her a six pack that cost him a few dollar and sixty dollar to mail.  They made
friends in the village and stayed a few days while visiting the nearby villages and taking a day
to visit Burma.  He continued to return to this village on subsequent visits.
    The next day I had breakfast in a nice coffee shop in Balston Spa not far away.  I was very
popular…especially with people that had to go to the bathroom.  I sat near by and watched a
constant flow of traffic back and forth to the bathroom.  Either there is something in their
drinking water or no one has a bathroom in their home?  There were four ladies that sat for
their morning coffee with their knitting.  They were very theatric and dramatic with their
expressions and exclamations while they gossiped and knitted away.   One rose and took her
knitting to the bathroom  with her.  I went after that determined to find out what the attraction
was but I never discovered anything special that would attract me, except the toilet.

        I walked up to the local Farmer’s Market and indulged in a Apple Cider Donuts while
being impressed by the variety of produce and goods to choose from.  At the olive oil stand a
stately gentleman from Spain befriended me while trying to impress upon me the special
qualities of his Olive oil.  The only thing special was the price of $30 for 16 oz.   He was
amicable and we talked about his youth and growing up in San Sabastion along the Ocean in
Northern Spain.  He and a couple of his friends used to Sea Kayak along the coast in  a race
every week to test their abilities.  He was always worried his mother would discover their little
venture and punish him.  He would never try something that foolish today. He is living in
Saratoga Springs today. 

      I then drove over to Saratoga Raceway for the oldest Thoroughbred Race in the US…The
Travers.  It is the biggest event at the Race Track.  Saratoga , a village of 25,000 takes in
65,000 people that come for the weekend festival.  I had to park a mile away and walk over to
the Track.  It was packed with traffic and people but everything went smoothly.  People were
bringing in tents and lawn chair along with coolers full of beer and BBQ’s  The coolers were
stacked three high on wagons as the entourage followed me along the road.  Children and
baby carriages.  People dressed to the hilt with fancy suits and hats.  It was an affair to
remember.  Lots of cigar smokers and handicappers.  I stayed until the 5th race then decided
to leave to avoid the traffic and watch the results in Saratoga while having a late lunch.  I did
make some last minute bets that my handicapper friend Steve back on the Cape
recommended.  Thank God I won back most of the money that I lost.  I did find out that I had
to return to the track or mail in the ticket but Inis cashed it for me the next day as he was
returning again to cash in $176 dollars worth of found tickets he got the same day.  I should
have went with him to the Travers. 

        I ate at Circus Cafe in Saratoga then ventured around the town exploring all the stores
and bustling activity.  Twice I passed the Wine Bar which had a certain allure about it.  I
finally decided to treat myself and sat at the bar in a very elegant but unpretentious
atmosphere.  There was a side room next to the bar that was all glassed in with living room
chairs and a fireplace.  It was for cigarette or cigar smokers, something I didn’t think was
allowed in NYS.  I ordered a Pinot Noir from LONG ISLAND.  It was great so decided to order
some local cheese from just across the state border in Vermont and another glass of the wine. 
        I returned that evening to freshen up and decided to drive around Saratoga lake. It was
beautiful but I couldn’t find a spot to stop and take a photo.  The road was narrow and busy
with traffic.  I ended up back to Balston Spa at a place called Augie’s Italian Family Style
restaurant for another glass of wine. 

     The next day, Neil was planning on taking the Latvians along with the Burmese to the Lake
with his boat for water skiing.  We took some pictures and I took off.

When I exited the Thruway in Batavia, New York the weather has turned ominous. I was
hungry. Alex’s Place was close and good. It was also packed. I managed a seat at the bar and
promptly ordered a Pinot Noir while checking out the Twilight Specials. I ordered while
nibbling on the bar cheese and crackers. That seems to be a staple offering in most dinner
houses around New England and New York.

        I switched to Sangria while engaging the couple next to me in conversation about our
travels. They were on their way to Sedona, Arizona next week for another holiday. They have
been retired a while and just returned from a trip to Canada. I had an excellent dinner and
departed for Attica. When I came out the rain had stopped , the sunshine was out and the air
was fresh and warm.

         I thought it best to check out Louie’s when I saw a number of cars there as I was passing.
The usual suspects. I bought Beverly, an old acquaintance of my Mother’s a beer and tried to
leave when someone sent a chit over for a beer. I pocketed it and thanked them.
         I arrived at home to an empty living room with the TV on.  Mom came out of her room
with a scowl, never a smile, to greet me. Where were you! You said you would be home the
16th!   You pointed to the calendar to show me!  None of this I remembered.
         I lost the key to my safe!  I can’t find it anywhere!  When did this happen?  Just now!
  …I punctuate everything with an exclamation point because she yells it like you are supposed
to know all this.  She yells a lot but her blood pressure is low.  The body must adjust after all
those years of yelling.
         Bill said you have to take the car in for an oil change!  I missed a big estate auction down
the street because you were not here!  Why didn’t you just walk over?   BECAUSE I
COULDN’T!   You could have tried to use the walker with wheels, brakes and a basket that I
bought you a year ago .  I COULDN’T WALK!   Well then it wouldn’t have
done any good if I took you and you couldn’t get out of the car?  NEVER MIND!
       You have a Doctor’s appointment tomorrow!  I know, that is why I came home today. 
Well he wants you to fill out a Medical Proxy for me in case I can’t breath!  I can’t find the
paper he gave to me!   I’ll get another tomorrow when I see him and take care of it before I
leave next week.
      Mom, Auntie Char, your nieces Helen and Barb, your brother Johnny and his wife Jeanette,
and your nephew Danny all said to say hello! 
      Took some pill…Milvil, or something, to go the bathroom.  Ended up throwing up three
times!  I’m not taking those pills!  The Milvil?  NO!  The one you take once a week!  Oh the one
to strengthen your bones and prevent fractures?  YES!  Do you think that is wise as you
already are suffering from Osteoporosis and they act as a little insurance to protect you? No
pill that you only take once a week can do any good!  Mom, they have another you only take
once a month.  This is for your convenience.  I am NOT taking them!
If you break a bone and end up in a wheelchair you will have to stay in a Nursing Home to
recover.  I’m not taking those pills!  OK!
     Do you want to know how much that toy “Bronking” Horse I took with me to have
appraised is worth?  No! I don’t care!  OK.  
      Now she was sitting down with me while I watched the Olympics and she looked off into
space jabbering on about life history like it was just yesterday.  I just kept nodding and
yeahing.  Then;  “How much is it worth?”.   What Mom?   The horse, the horse!   She finally
left to search for her key to the safe after I told her.  An hour and a half later I disturbed her
search to kiss her goodnight. 
    Bill was baking Cinnamon Rolls and the aroma woke me right up.  I gobbled three with
coffee then left for the Post Office to send a self addressed envelope to Neil to return the
Testosterone Cream I left behind.  I drove over to where I had the car inspected to get an oil
change but that wasn’t possible until Thursday.  I drove 11 miles to Batavia to John’ Repair to
be told I could come back at 1 pm but that conflicted with my Doctor’s appointment at 1:15. 
I stopped at another station to inquire and the lady laughed at me.  No way until after the
end of the month.

     It seems the N.Y. State requirement to have a safety inspection on your car every year is
why there are 10 auto repair shops for every 100 people in the state.  My Mother’s last car was
taken off the road when she went in for inspection.  They said if she his a bump or stepped on
the brakes hard, the engine might fall out.  The salt in the winter erodes cars.  Her car only
had 20,000 miles on it but was 5 years old.   That is why everyone here changes their own oil,
even the women.  It takes too long to get an appointment.   My friends would laugh and call
me a sissy if I told them I was having a garage change my oil.  I asked one if there was a Jiffy
Lube around Western New York.  He looked at my cross eyed like I was talking about a
Proctology Clinic…and said ” a what?”  I returned to John’s and made a 2 pm appointment.  I
made a note to get gas tomorrow with all this running around I’ll need another fill up.
    I hadn’t had a real breakfast so entered ” Coffee House “into my GPS.  One in Batavia and
the next one is 23 miles into Buffalo.  I am spoiled living in a 24/7 anything you want
environment.  There are disadvantages to living in the boonies. I wanted to get a haircut today
but ALL hair salons and barbershops in Western New York are closed on Sunday and
Monday.  It is a tradition not a law…I think.You have to learn these things and schedule
around them.  Tuesday is the Farmer’s Market in Attica from 1-5 pm.  Wednesdays it is in
Warsaw from Noon to 4 pm then Thurs in Batavia….you get the point. I had a really nice
breakfast for $5.35.  There are also advantages to living in the boonies. On the way to the
Doc’s office a truck pulled along side to tell me my rear tire was flat.   It had enough air to get
me to the tire repair shop which is coincidentally where the man in the truck was going?! 
That was strange.  I got the tire fixed for $15 in 5 minutes and tipped the man then left.
    I arrived at 1 pm at the Doc’s office to fill out the Medical Proxy my mother is still looking
for.  There was no one in the Clinic.  The nurse called me into a little room at 1:15 after
weighing in at 215!  Five pounds more that last month…no more cinnamon rolls.  1:30 no
Doctor and the place was packed. I left after canceling and made a 3pm appointment to return
drove back to Batavia to get my oil change.  Oil was changed and I am back in the Doctor’s
little room.  This time the Doctor followed me in.  Oh you left?  Yes, my time is important too! 
We chatted and I told him the Nose spray was too much money even with his $20 off coupon
He suggested the generic.  I suggested he suggest a choice the first time around.  He gave me
a script for my Mother to strengthen her bones that she could take once a day and I assured
him I would try to get her to take them.  I would get her to sign the Proxy and return it
tomorrow.  Good day!
    The Doctors that serve this rural area never made a lot of money.  My Uncle was one of the
first in Attica in the ’30 just after graduating from University of Buffalo. He delivered me into
this world.  He came to my house with his black bag in the middle of the night when I was
sick.  His office was in the basement of his house and it was always full in the evening when
he would open shop after working at the local hospital all day.  He was comfortable and sent
s children to college but never rich.  He went hunting and fishing a lot.  Today we have two
Indian Doctors who try and supplement their poor pay by pushing hi end drugs rather than
generic and take “rewards” from the drug manufactures for giving out the highest amount of
prescriptions like a quota.  The Pharmaceutical Sales Reps take up his lunch time with
samples they supply him to pass out to patients and posters he can put up in all his little
rooms that push their brand of drug.  They also shorten their day by scheduling everyone for
nearly the same time then making them wait while they rush them through rather than
schedule them with some time in between that the Doctor might have to wait.  This way he
starts his day late and is done by 3pm and go play golf .  I can’t blame them as I know they
receive a lot of pay but the ones in the city that do good business and get paid highly but still
push a certain pill…PISS ME OFF.
        Today I promised Mom I would take her to Senior Citizen’s luncheon. The menu is
usually a bland and cheap luncheon that satisfies the appetite. Today was Chicken stuffing
with some Chicken meat and corn. They did have some semi fresh veggies with lo cal ranch
dressing and a very good fruit salad with lots of cookies. When you leave you get your pick
and choose of 3 day old bakery products like Angel Food Cake (which I took), whole grain
bread (which I took) and packs of 6 biscuits (that my Mother took). The group was over 23
oldies. A real look into the future. Only four volunteers that managed to serve these
luncheons once a week. The cook, two drivers and helpers that made sure nobody was left at
home or went without a little personal attention. One lady that just floated around to assist
with “Would you like some more coffee?” and that sort of thing. The minister of the local
church was there to say grace. He also got a free meal in return for listening to 23 home bound
, lonely people talk and talk and talk about everything…like the new three wheel battery
operated vehicle that they bought in a used ( patients died) mobile cart place. Never pay more
than $1800 and never get those “Wrap around deals” get the three wheeler. Hell, I drive
through snow with that. They all start talking at once. They probably hadn’t talked to anyone
since the last dinner. Mom introduced me to everyone. She even dragged me in to the kitchen
to meet the cook. That evening I stopped in the Hotel for their $3.50 Taco. It is really a
Burrito and a big one. Fred showed up and we had a few while making plans to travel to Avon
tomorrow and visit some of his old fans when he coached his winning football team
in the nearby town of Caledonia to become the State Champions. Then his wife died.

I over slept and was rushing out the door when Mom wanted to know what happened to the

plastic plates and silverware we took to Senior Citizens? I thought we brought it home but
she couldn’t find her cup. I assured her I would stop back and have a look around to see if we
left it behind. I did and we didn’t. Then I remember I unloaded it all into the new
dishwasher she never uses. I was over 45 minutes late to meet Fred when I stopped for gas.
Then I stopped to get some breakfast and realized that I had just enough money to pay for
breakfast. When I arrived in Avon I drove until I found an ATM then pulled into Fat Sam’s to
meet Fred. Fat Sam’s is a local Dive Bar that older locals hang out. It serves Hamburger,
Ham, Roast Beef, Hot Dog Sandwiches with nothing over $3.50. He introduced me to his
Fishing buddies and after a few beers I returned home. Gary reminded me of “$1.50 Night”.
$1.50 Night is every Wednesday at Louie’s and Alabama Slammer is the bartender.
Everyone goes to get a cheap high and gawk at her. I did too. Then departed Attica and
returned to Phoenix.


Little did I know that Mom would fall that winter and break her hip, end up in the hospital
where she would get a C-Def infection. Then spend two weeks in intensive care before being
discharged to a Nursing Home that she died at the first night.
We had the funeral in April as the ground was to frozen for burial…she had been
cremated and her brother Uncle Johnny spoke at her funeral. He died a few years after. Neil
Andrews contacted me after I had been living in Oaxaca and was planning a visit to Pueblo.
He was in Oaxaca at Christmas but I didn’t arrive until January to find out he never returned
home. Mexican government said he committed suicide but we know better.



ANNUAL SUMMER VISIT TO ATTICA PART 2 1000 ISLANDS & QUEBEC

  It was a fantastic Thunderstorm that launched me out of Attica toward Rochester for
another venture.  I always feel melancholy when I arrive in the Park Ave. District of Rochester.
  My first apartment away from home at 17 years of age was at 45 Vick Park B and Helen lives
at 45 Vick Park A.  My memories of coming of age took place there.  I lived all over that
beautiful neighborhood then and after my return from Vietnam and my first divorce.  I had a
lot of friends both from work and social friends that I will never forget. 
    I arrived at Helen’s house at at 3:30.  We were to go to a Lake Ontario Seafood Restaurant
for dinner but it was still raining so we flipped a coin and ended up eating a wonderful dish of
homemade Musaka.  That was appropriate considering the Eggplant came from her Son’s
garden in Webster,N.Y.  Did I tell you that she is also a great cook?  We shared a bottle of wine.
We finished our reminiscing then left to have another drink at the local Park Avenue Grill up
the street.
       Things have changed since my last visit with Helen in 2007.  Jine’s -a neighborhood
breakfast lunch and dinner institution had expanded and now served food on a street patio. 
Magpie, another Guinness bar, opened across the street and next to it the Deli had converted
to a Juice and Coffee bar.  We started by going in the other direction to Magnolia’s , a wine and
light lunch place with an outdoor patio also.  It was good but loud inside and the rain didn’t
leave us any choice.  When we departed the rain had cleared and it was a nice warm evening
on Park Avenue.  On the way to the Park Avenue Grill we passed a small park and noticed a
Tent was up and a lot of people were just pulling up there folding chairs and leaving.  It had
been a free Chamber Quartet concert. This was not unusual in a city that is home to the
Eastman School of Music…just down the street.
    We decided to sit outside in a cafe next to Jine’s restaurant and have a drink.  I ordered
wine but Helen wanted a Scotch.  They didn’t serve liquor but the Park Avenue Grill next door
did.  The waitress said she would go next door, buy the Scotch and add it to our bill then pay
them out of her pocket.  We were impressed with her desire to serve us.  She returned to
inform us that according to the law, we would have to slide our table down in front of their bar
in order to receive the drink from them.  Never mind that we were violating the law by getting
a drink from Charlie’s Frog Bar and then moving away.  She was trying to make us happy and
as an ex restaurant and bar owner I was extremely impressed with her service. Helen decided
to have a wine along with me then after we settled our bill….with a BIG tip for such a pleasant
waitress we crossed over to check out the new Magpie Guinness Bar.  We sat outside but I had
to go in to get the attention of the waitress.  She first told me that I had to see the bartender 
before hearing that I just wanted some service outside.  Helen ordered a Drambuie and Brandy
and I a glass of wine.  She got a shot glass with half and half.  She sent it back and asked if they
could possibly put it in a Brandy Glass.  Our waitress was totally opposite of the one we just
left.  She did return with what looked like an almost empty glass for Helen.  I broke down and
tried it one more time and the bartender finally gave her a real drink.   We both had a great
evening.  I passed right out and woke to Cashew, her Cocker Spaniel , barking. 
He wanted to play and started by humping one leg then the other.  I might have taken that as
a compliment but I believe she was a he.  I finally gave him his stuffed bunny to hump and he
was in heaven. 


    Helen had baked a nice Blueberry Tart with Coffee for Breakfast.  I departed in a rain storm
for Sodus Point
Sodus Point Light
House and on to Alexandria Bay
along Lake Ontario in the Thousand Islands on the St Lawrence Seaway.  Listening to the
radio, I ran across and incredible station called Different Radio.  It was 88.5 FM from
Rochester N.Y. and played some of the best mix of music I had heard since I discovered Lake
Radio from Buffalo at 107.7 FM.   I listen to Lake on my computer in Phoenix and made a note
to do the same with Different.  Meanwhile the signal was fading and I felt like stopping just to
listen to the radio longer.  
    I had lunch at Alex. Bay and it was still raining when I returned to my car.  I had hoped to
book a room in Ottawa Youth Hostel that was a old Victorian Jail but it was booked. I drove to
Clayton and booked a room at P.J.’s River Rat Motel for $36.  It was great. I met the
owner/couple that ran the place.  They had a great restaurant, so I had some food and , of
course , some wine but retired early.  As I approached the room, I noticed my neighbor was
outside smoking a cigarrette so I bummed one and talked to her.  She grew up in the
Adirondacks and ran a road construction crew that was staying at P.J’s in the adjacent rooms.
  She was friendly and we shared some stories before I finally entered the room to record this
and eat my fried Mushroom take out.  I hope to do a cruise on the St Lawrence tomorrow.
    I checked out and drove to the docks, bought my ticket, grabbed a breakfast sandwich
and was aboard
for a scenic two and a half hour cruise on both the American and Canadian side of the Seaway.
The Thousand Islands are actually 1874 islands.  Some are man made and most are occupied
by some of the richest families in the U.S. and Canada.
All seem to have a story about them. 
    One such story was about the owner of the Waldorf Astoria.  When he married he bought
Hart Island.  Then he had the island sculpted into the shape of a heart and renamed it Heart
Island. 
He then proceeded in building a beautiful Castle on the Island for his wife.  While it was being
constructed, he would bring his wife up in the summers and they would stay in what was to be
the children’s play house.  Three years and 90% complete…she passed away.  A victim of the
flu pandemic.  He ordered all work to stop and everyone off the Island.  No one was allowed
back on the Island if his Queen couldn’t live in her castle. It was sold to the State of N.Y. for
one dollar when he passed away and even after millions to renovate and restore the castle, it
was not allowed to be completed nor could anyone live in it.  The money charged to visit only
goes for the upkeep and no profit is allowed to be made from it.
        Another interesting story was about a recently married man who took his wife to the Island
s and asked her to pick out any Island for sale and he would build her a mansion there.  When
she didn’t like any of the Islands she saw, he built an Island and a house but it was to be a
surprise.  The surprise was his when he presented her with the Island and the mansion she
didn’t like either and decided she didn’t like him and got divorced. 
        One last story was of a rich millionaire whose daughter was to be married.  He bought her
a beautiful mansion including the Island for her wedding gift.  The groom backed out of the
wedding but she still took the Island and the house.  
        When the boat docked I returned to my car and headed for Saranac Lake.  The
Adirondacks  Park is one of the largest in the United States. 
It was a sunshiny  day and people were swimming and boating on the Lake. 
The  community has a lot of history and is quaint. 
I preferred to spend my time at Lake Placid down the road. 
Here they held two Olympic  Winter Games.  One in the thirties and the other in 1980. 
        My mother was a waitress at the resort here in 1945 when she met my father who was on
R & R from the Army.  He just returned from 6 years in Panama and 4 years in  New Guinea.
  He proposed within the week and she accepted!  I asked her why she accepted without really
knowing him?  She replied, that he bought her a diamond ring.  So there you go guys! 
        Most of where she worked  had been destroyed in a fire and I didn’t recognize anything
from the pictures I saw from 1945.  I walked around a very lovely town
Lake Placid
then headed out to visit my cousin Ron and his lady Diane.
     They bought a home in Redford, N.Y. on the Northwest corner of the Park.  The address I
had was wrong and I stopped by the only store there to inquire about them but nobody knew
them.  The phone number was on my computer and I had no access to the internet so ended up
in Plattsburg, N.Y. at a ridiculously priced Day’s Inn.   After calling them to get the correct
address (which was across the street from the store I inquired at) and make arrangements to
stay over the next day, I retired.
    I did sleep in, missed my breakfast, and took off for Burlington , Vt on the other side of Lake
Champlain. 
Home of the U.S.NAVY
I drove North to the Canadian border then traversed a series of bridges on Islands in Lake
Champlain that took me to the state of Vermont and Burlington.  The town is the home of the
University of Vermont and was celebrating Festival of Fools. 
There were streets closed to traffic and all the restaurants had outdoor patio tables set up. 
The weather was nice and the place was packed with people having a good time.  I treated
myself to a Homemade Root Beer then after going through the Farmer’s Market with the
organic Blueberries, and all the great selections of a summer harvest, I bought some Amish
made Vermont Cheddar for Ron and Diane. 
    It was such a nice day, I decided to drive down to the Wharf and walk along the Lake area. 
I stopped in a Fish Market and Restaurant that my Restaurant Manager of  3 years used to
work.  I hired Roxanne when she arrived in Phoenix from Burlington back in the late ’80.  The
Chowda was good.  I took some photos of the area

Barber Shop Singers under a Tree.

The name of my old Restaurant!
then headed back to Ron’s house arriving around 6 pm after driving through a BLINDING
rainstorm. 
We chatted until 10:30 on his back porch overlooking the Saranac River.  It was nice to see
him and spend some time with him catching up on old news.
    Today I drove to Quebec. Driving through the N.Y. countryside I noticed some signs set out
like the old Burma Shave commercials.  WMD?   Wake Up      America  Impeach
Bush & Cheney.  It won’t be long now.  My cousin said he didn’t think America was ready for a
nigga president.  I know he isn’t.
                It was a good 4 hour drive. I passed through Mexico.
I stopped at the tourist bureau by the border to pickup a map and some brochures on what to
see in Quebec.  While I was there I asked them to check the computers for a room in Montreal.
  Voila!  A room in the Old City for $80.   Thirty more than I like to pay but only $4 more than
what I’m already paying for a “cheap” room at the Motel Spring 20 miles outside of Quebec
City! I checked in around 3 pm and there were no cars or people around. 
Route 138 is like Motel Row with lots of touristy joints.  The Desk Clerk sold me a tour of the
City for tomorrow and recommended I drive into the local town and beyond to see the Falls,
architecture, Church of St Anne (to whom this highway is named after) etc.  The only thing I
wanted to see was some food.  I was starved.
    I found a “French Gourmet” type restaurant that looked cheap and inviting. It was neither. 
More like a gourmet Denny’s. Parle vous Anglis?  Yes a little.  I would like the Lasagna Special
I saw on the board at the entrance.  Sorry we have the Lasagna but it is not on a Special, but
only a recommended dish of the day.  OK I ordered a Monti Cristo sandwich with a Caesar
Salad which she brought right out.  Never saw her again.  No water, napkin, coffee refill, etc. 
I finally went looking for her to pay the bill and left.
     Perhaps if I had spoke French…but I don’t and need not apologize for it since Barack already
apologized to the world for us.  Of course it is only natural that a family , taking it’s first
vacation in 10 years should learn French, Spanish, Italian and German so they can speak it on
their 3 week trip to Europe. 
    I saw a huge church in the village and pulled in to see why the crowds? 
It appears that thousands of pilgrims come here to pay homage to St Anne in hopes they will
cure their arthritis , impotence, ED, pay their mortgage and fill up their gas tank.
     When I returned to the Motel Spring, the parking lot was filling up with these pilgrims as
was the Motel.  I started doing some research in preparation for my tour the next day.  Quebec
is celebrating their 400 year Anniversary…lucky me.  Seriously, they have lots of festivals and
events going on throughout the province. 
    I anxiously awoke the next morning to start my day.  It was overcast , cold and threatening
rain.  My free breakfast was two eggs, toast, coffee, and bacon accompanied by a screaming
little girl that had a high pitch and unlimited determination.  Determined to drive everyone in
the dining room out the door.  I couldn’t concentrate on my guide book and returned to the
room with a headache.
        The tour “Van” picked me up and was about half full with American tourist from Arkansas,
Jersey, North Carolina, and Arizona.  They were all dressed in shorts, baseball caps,
overweight, and balding.  Not too much different than me…except the baseball cap.  I was
tempted to get into the conversation about their two weeks in Europe last year and the
difference between France and Italy but declined. 
        The tour was done by our driver Mario.  He did the Old Town
only and in two hours we pretty much covered the sites.  He even let us out twice for the
changing of the guard at the Citadel and the view of the seaway from the highest point in
Quebec City. 
        I was taking a photo of one of the guards dressed like they do in England at the Queen’s
castle. 
Quebec’s language is French and 90% spoken by everyone but it is still a Commonwealth of
the UK.  The guards hat was made up of Beaver pelts and weighed 70 pounds.  Yes, I had to ask
if I heard that right.  I don’t think the guard weighed 70 pounds!  I have never seen a beaver
that weighed that much and if I did I would run the other direction.  Anyway, I’m taking a
photo of the guard just before the new guard takes his place.  I swear he was wavering and
looked like he either had to pee bad or he was going to faint.  I would drop over after 10
minutes not moving and wearing a 70 pound beaver hat on my head.
    The tour ended in the main part of Old Town where we were given 2 hours of free time to
shop for souvenirs. Quebec City is a world Heritage site because it has the only walled fortress
left standing in North America except for one in Mexico.  It is also given that status because
they preserve the French language and culture.  Now because it is a fortress, it is on top of a
mountain and everywhere you go involves climbing.  This is no easy task for a man with one
lung and a beach ball for a stomach.  I was going downhill to restaurant row, knowing I would
have to climb back to catch the shuttle home on a full stomach. 
    I saw a sandwich sign advertising one of those three course special meals for $12.  That was
about $12 cheaper than most and sounded enticing until I looked to see where it was pointing.
  The restaurant was located up this very , very steep side street that resembled Mt Everest. 
I had came down this far and would eventually have to return so I braved the climb and arrived
at a beautiful indoor patio with friendly service and a tantalizing menu selection.  I eventually
opted for the Lamb with  Mestizo Sausage on Couscous with fresh Vegetables and Chick Peas. 
I ordered my Espresso first…a real no no in France.  I was tired and needed a jolt.  It was the
best, as was the Vegetable soup and the Lamb Plate.  I washed it down with a glass of wine then
bolted to return before the threatening downpour.  One hundred yards out and it started.  I
hopped between doorways until I reached an outdoor covered cafe near the pick up point.  I’m
sorry sir, if your not going to eat you can’t sit there!
     I finally found another where the waiter was not only obliging, he went out of his way to be
friendly and nice.  I decided I still had room for a Quebec dessert….Maple Pie.  Quebec makes
80% of all the Maple syrup in the world. I happen to be a lover of Maple syrup.  I had never
heard of Maple Pie and imagined it to be like a Pecan Pie with Walnuts and some Maple
concoction to replace the corn syrup.  It turned out to be like a thin cheesecake without the
cheese on a short bread crust.  The waiter stopped back and said something to me in what I
thought was French that I assumed was…is every OK.   I nodded and smiled as if I understood
even though he could have been saying “It’s really crap isn’t it”.  Very good Cafe Au’Lait to wash
it down and a nice French Syrah to top off the end of a nice day.   
        I was to pick up the shuttle at the Square near by at 3 pm.  28 Buses and vans arrived with
no signs to tell where they were going so I hopped on a bus after showing my pass to the driver.
  A few minutes later he boarded the bus and announced, “Would the man that is going to the
Motel Six please identify himself.”.  Everyone remained silent and I kept wondering why the
person didn’t hear him or stand up.  Then he announced it again twice and I realized he was
saying the Motel Spring…ME!  I was about to take off on another tour!  He finally showed me
my shuttle and everyone was there patiently awaiting my arrival. 
  I’m now relaxing and preparing for my next excursion to Montreal in the morning and
washing out my underwear and socks.  That morning I came out to give my key to the office,
not realizing I just came out of the shower and looked like Einstein.  Everyone was looking at
me strange…I wondered why.
   
      I set my GPS and left around 10:30 am. I stopped along the way to fill up on Petrol.
44.5 Liters for $60. That was my first fill up in Canada and hopefully my last. Listening to the
radio along the way, I picked up a few interesting facts:

  Montreal is named after the island and Mountain it is located on…Mount Royal.
It is the second largest French speaking city in the world with a population of about 3.8 million.
87 ethnic cultures thrive in Montreal.
60% of the population is Roman Catholic with over 300 churches within the city of Montreal. 
  Some have been sold and converted to condos.  There are some still for sale? 
There are more churches than in the city of Rome. 
Canadians call there Native Americans, First Nation people.
Canadians like to drive fast and tail gate.
They also ride a lot of bicycles as if there is a Tour de Quebec coming up.
Last but not least…gas is expensive.

       My GPS directed me to the front door of the Hotel Champ-De-Mars
and I found a parking space close by. I checked in, then moved my car to a parking garage to
secured it for two days. I was exiting the lot when I noticed a machine to pay for your parking.
It was all in French which poses a daunting task of paying for 2 days . I asked a passer by but
they weren’t sure so after returned down two flights of stairs to retrieve my ticket, I inserted it
in the slot and was prompted to pay $3.75. I couldn’t find anywhere to request payment for
two days. Then another passer-by approached to assist me. She said I could press the
intercom and speak to the attendant. She instructed me to cancel the transaction and simply
put it in when I pick up the car.


         I booked a tour for 8:30 am and returned to my room to freshen up before venturing out
to explore the neighborhood.   I walked down to the Pier
and along the St. Lawrence River 
to the Ferry station then up a wide boulevard lined with crowds of people , restaurants, street
entertainers, cafes, fountains, and historic points of interest.  This was Old Montreal. 
I returned later that evening and had dinner at the St Paul Pub overlooking the harbor.  I
stopped to get a Baguette and juice to snack on before returning and retiring. I’ve traveled a lot
and stayed in many a hotel.  Some nights the street life keeps me up or the bells from the
church wake me, once Pigeons on my window sill kept me up with their cooing…this is the
first hotel that the flags outside my window kept me up.  The wind was blowing so hard the
flutter of the flags made such a noise I had a hard time sleeping.
and the decor was cheap owner painted flowers with some real foliage “stapled” to the wall as an accent!


I had a nice breakfast before the tour bus picked me up.  I noticed an article in the
Montreal newspaper about a lady that moved to the U.S. to live but after two years, she missed
her national health care in Canada so returned to Montreal.    She has been back for two years
now and can not find a Doctor that is accepting new patients!  Her only access to “health care”
is at a Clinic.  The Clinic is only open on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings and she
must arrive an hour before opening to register before being allowed to use the Clinic. 
Tuesday’s she works in the evening and can’t get off unless she can schedule the time and on
Saturdays she had to open the store she works at 9am.  I used to think we should have this
service available until I heard this and other horror stories from Canada as well as the UK.
    The tour lasted three hours and covered the whole city of Montreal. 

Miniture Empire State Bldg Designed by the same Architect.
We stopped at Notre Dame Cathedral
and St Joseph’s Shrine as well as other sites. 
St Joseph’s Shrine is one of the world’s most visited.  It is second in size only to St Peter’s
Basilica in Vatican City. They have 99 “Special” steps leading up to the entrance.
These steps are for pilgrims that climb up on their knees while stopping at each step to pray. 
It must take hours to get to the top.  I did it in 10 minutes because the bus was leaving.


    I returned to nap at the Champ-de-Mar in preparation for my last evening out on the town.
I picked a restaurant highly recommended by chowhound.com .  It is a web site composed of
“foodies” that love to eat out and covers the world.  You can find a good inexpensive or
expensive restaurant.  This was to be my last night in a city noted for its great food so I choose
the later.  The restaurant didn’t open until 6 pm and was called the Garde Manager. 
        When there were Grand Hotels and dining a the Waldorf was the norm, an apprenticeship
at a large Hotel or 4 star restaurant would easily take 7 years just to be the Salad Chef or in
those days, the Vegetable Chef, Sous Chef, Pastry Chef or even a Garde Manger.  He was like
the butcher.  He took in all the fresh Meats and Seafood and prepared them for the Chef’s
menu.  This was an art.  All the meat and seafood arrived fresh and had to be filleted or
butchered and sometimes treated in a special way.  Fat was inserted into certain cuts of meat
to give it flavor depending on the dish.  The Garde Manger was in charge of all of this. 
    I left the hotel at a little after 6pm and was almost at the restaurant when I noticed a clock
say it was 5:20.  Then I noticed the parking signs that stated NO Parking after 6 pm and the
cars were all lined up in those spaces.  Wow, my alarm clock must be off or I forgot to move it
back an hour?  Well I thought I would spend an hour browsing the shops but first wanted to
locate the restaurant to see if I could get in without reservations.  I walked up and down the
whole length of the street but didn’t see it.  Finally I stopped in a local Circle K type of place
and inquired.  She pointed to a building just down the street that I had passed three times!  No
sign she said. 
Turned out it was after 6pm when I arrived and sat at the bar without a reservation.   There is
no printed menu either.  The appetizers and entrees are listed on a blackboard on the wall.  I
ordered the Seafood Combination Appetizer and got a huge bucket of ice with seaweed and 6
beautiful Oysters, 5 Jumbo fresh shrimp, 2 Raw Scallops in the shells, a large cluster of Crab
Legs, two Lemon halves and two Souffle cups with different Cocktail sauces in each. 
It was all very good except wrestling with the Crab Cluster.  One Cocktail Sauce was topped
with freshly grated Horseradish and the other was like a Salsa with fruit in it.  I washed this
down with a nice Merlot.   Then I ordered the Braised Pork with Panccini and Arugula and
another Merlot.  Now the Seafood appetizer at my restaurant would have cost around $30. 
The Pork dish around $15 and the Merlot around $12.  For a total of $52.  My bill came to $81
which I didn’t really think was all that bad.  The two Merlots were $20 the Seafood $35 and
the Pork $26.  Now with the TAXES of $10.43 and the $15 tip it ended up to be $106.43. 
Money well spent as I like to treat myself on occasion.

I did notice a I Love (Heart Sign) Barack Obama bumper sticker behind the bar but then
again there was an I Love Hooters sticker too.  I did ask the bartenders about Obama and what
they thought.  They all agreed he was the man to lead and change the USA for the better.  They
had listened to the speech he gave in Berlin.

    I was strolling, something everyone does in Montreal, home and I noted the clock still said
5:20 and the cars had special stickers that allowed them to park there.  The streets are really
clean in Montreal except for the occasional horse dropping from all the Horse drawn Carriages
Montreal residents pride themselves in the fact that the streets are cleaned twice a day!  They
really are clean. They also have art around every corner.


    When I arrived, I commented to the clerk that I was at fault when I arrived and inquired
about getting on the internet.  She kept saying just pull it up but it wasn’t coming up because I
never tried to open my browser.  When I mentioned this, it was the only time in two days I
ever saw her with a smile.  Women like to be told they are right and you were wrong.  I return
to Attica and leave Montreal, Quebec tomorrow.  I really have been impressed with the
incredible friendliness of the people of Quebec.  They went out of their way to assist you with
a genuine concern and interest.  I will someday return but with a lady and plenty of money.  I
spent an hour trying to set my GPS and riding around in circles before finding the road out of
Montreal.  Then I spent an hour in line at the border.  I arrived back in Attica around 10 pm
after a good 10 hours in the car.  Till next time…David.
A little note from a Canadian:
I  AM CANADIAN
I am in the minority in Calgary ,  Edmonton,  Vancouver
Toronto and every casino in this  country. I  was born
in the sixties, yet I am somehow  responsible for some
First Nations people  being screwed out of their land in
the  1700’s! I  pay import tax on cars made in Ontario.
I  am allowed to skydive and smoke, but not allowed  
to drive without a seat  belt. All  the money I make
until mid July must go to  paying taxes. I  live and work
among people who believe Americans  are Ignorant….
These same people cannot  name this country’s new  
territory. On  April 1st, 1999, the map of Canada
changed for  the first time in 50 years with the creation
of  Nunavut Territory .  The Northwest  Territories was
split and approximately 2  million square kilometers of
the central and  eastern arctic became ‘ Nunavut  ‘.  
Although  I am sometimes forced to live on
hamburgers and  don’t have a pot to piss in,  I sleep  
well knowing that my taxes helped purchase a  nice
six-figure home in Vancouver for some  unskilled
refugee. Although  they are unpatriotic and constantly
try to  separate…Quebec still provides most of my  
nation’s prime ministers. 95% of my nation’s
international conflicts are over fish. I’m  supposed to
call black people African Canadians,  although I’m
sure none of them have ever been  to Africa for that
matter. I  am being told that paying a 200% tax on
alcohol  is fair. I am also being told that  the  same tax
on gasoline is also fair. Even if I  have no idea what
happened to that old rifle my Grandfather gave me
when I was 14, I will  be considered a criminal if I
don’t register  it. I  am being told that spending $15
billion to  promote the French language in the rest of  
Canada is fair when the province of Quebec  doesn’t
support or recognize the English  language. I  am being
told that  paying $1 million for 3  Stripes (‘The Voice of
Fire painting in Ottawa  )by the National Art Gallery
was a good  purchase, even  though 99% of this  
country didn’t want it or will ever see  it.

When I look at my pension  and realize that I take
home a third of what I  actually make, I say ‘Oh well,
at least we  have better health care than the Americans
.’ I  must bail out big corporations who drive their  
business into the ground and say yeah that’s OK when
they move all their manufacturing  plants and jobs to
a third world country and  say no problem.
My  National Anthem has versions in both official
languages. Canada  is the highest taxed nation in
North America,  the biggest military buffer for  
the  United States, and the number one destination
for fleeing  terrorists. I  am not an angry white male.
I am an  angry taxpayer who is broke.

I am Canadian  !!!

ANNUAL SUMMER VISIT TO ATTICA PART 1 TORONTO

It is summer and my plans to drive from Phoenix to Attica, N.Y. got put on hold with
gas at $4.25+ a gallon.  I was late getting the car aligned and after paying $500 to replace the
undercarriage, I decided to fly.  It was already the end of June and ticket prices were up to
$600 plus so I used 32500 frequent flyer points and booked a connecting flight on Delta
through Atlanta.  I was returning on August 31st to Phoenix but then going back for my 45th
class reunion on Delta again.  This should put me over the limit on miles so Delta would have
to pay for my next trip.  Once I got my free flight  I would never fly Delta again.
    Peggy , Chris’s sister and a neighbor, bless her soul, picked me up at 7:30 Wednesday
morning the 9th of July and dropped me at the terminal 2 hours early.  I boarded then
arrived at Atlanta airport terminal B Gate 4 at around 5pm with a connecting flight departing
at 6:40pm at the same terminal Gate 29.  Gate 29 was at the same terminal but what seemed
like 5 miles away.  I raced down to Gate 29 to find the next flight departed to Alaska.  Excuse
me sir…what happened to the flight to Buffalo?  Yes well you have to go to Gate 27…no
problem…at Terminal A.  PROBLEM.  Now I return back to the lobby area then go to the
lower level to catch a train to Terminal A only to discover Gate 27 is also about 5 miles away. 
I huffed and puffed my way just in time to be told the plane hadn’t arrived yet so we couldn’t
be it would be in around 7 pm.  That put me in Buffalo at 9 pm.  That was 20 minutes late so I
thought my ride would still be there and no need to try and contact him.  We boarded around
7:10 and then sat on the runway for   30 minutes before the pilot announced that our runway
was too windy.  A previous plane almost crashed on take off so the control tower was sending
all the planes to another runway that faced away from the wind.  “All the planes” was like 100!
  Looking out my window, they all looked like a swarm of bees with no place to go.  We finally
took off then arrived in Buffalo at around 10:30 in the evening or almost 2 hours later then
what I had told my ride.   He was at Wegmans supermarket shopping.  He didn’t want to waste
the time sitting in the parking lot.  I ran out front ,while waiting for my bags, and saw him
driving by while I motioned that the bags haven’t arrived…he motioned back with the “finger”.
  Gary circled the parking lot four times, being motioned on by the police until I finally showed
at the curb with my bags.  I tried to explain we had a bomb threat and had to evacuate the
plane, then they left our baggage behind in a hurry to get us to Buffalo but Gary didn’t buy it. 
    Mom was patiently waiting at the front door when we showed up around 11:30 having hit a
traffic jam at Darien Lake Amusement Park when it closed.  After unpacking I headed for the
refrigerator to get the meal they no longer offer on the airplane.  The refrigerator was empty!
  Apparently Bill, Mom’s roomer who does most of the shopping now that he is the only mobile
person available, thought that with the tomato scare all food should only be purchased the
day you eat it.  I did discover some peanut butter in the cupboard and lots of cheap white
bread. 
     The weather was great the next day, so I drove Mom to Twilight Meadows (an Attica
institution that started as a Charcoal Hot Dog highway joint) for a nice lunch.  The restaurant
was packed when we were seated.  Mom likes to check out everyone and while looking around she suddenly stopped to stare at another elderly lady like  herself.  Small, shrunken, crippled hands, thin sparse gray-yellow hair, child like sitting in a booth and barely able to see over the table let alone eat her meal.  It was like an infant in a high chair looks around and sees another for the first time realizing there is someone out there that is like them!  I finally had to catch her attention. Mom ordered the Liver and Onions with Bacon Dinner.  She must have skipped breakfast.  I had a cup of homemade Bean and Sausage soup with a Reuben Sandwich and a side of Macaroni Salad with Tuna Fish.  Neither of us could finish our meals.  I took home a half a sandwich and Mom took home Liver and Onions with Bacon Dinner, which she ate for three days.    
    That evening, I went over to the  other Attica institution…the Attica Hotel and had a Roast Beef on Kimmelweck, two Labatt’s Blue Lite Lagers and a dozen steamed fresh Little Neck Clams…all for $12 and it was excellent.
    Friday night I took Mom to the Attica Hotel.  Built in 1895 it was in remarkable condition, served a good drink and had fantastic Beef on Wicks, Chicken Wings, and the famous Friday Fish Fry for $7.95.  My babysitter was there with her husband when we arrived.  She is 67 now and still works as a full time nurse after all these years.  She loves it and I think Jack, her husband does too.  We chatted while browsing the menu.  Mom and I ordered a glass of red wine and a fish fry. Then I ordered another glass of wine and when the Fish Fry arrived, ordered another!  Now I could relax and enjoy.  I took Mom home and decided to return to do the Friday in Attica bar scene starting with Louie’s.  Louie was playing Attica’s favorite card game, Euchre,  at a table with three other patrons.  I sat at the bar and chatted with a few locals before taking off for the American Legion post.  I bought a few lottery tickets, had a beer then returned to the Attica Hotel.  I met a lady in a wheelchair about the same age as Mom who used to work with her at the Attica Knitting Mill.  As we were leaving, I noticed her daughter had cigarettes.  Having had a few beers I bummed my first cigarette in 4 days.  
    Another Blue Lite Labatt’s Lager later I was at the Stage House.  This was built in 1840 before the railroad arrived as an overnight stop for the Carriage trade.  The builder knew the  railroad would end up going right by his place and a few years later. He made a fortune when the first railroad depot went up across the street.  The Stage House should have fallen down about 35 years ago but through some miracle, still stands.  I bought Woody, an old Attica town philosopher and drunk, a beer.  I asked if he had been over to the Hotel lately and he proceeded to tell me they threw him out.  It appears that he had one too many and went to the bathroom there but the urinal was out of order.  The management had put saran wrap around the urinal so no one would use it and a sign above stating it was out of order.  Woody didn’t notice the sign and apprently the saran wrap either until he discovered he was pissing all over his shoes and the floor.  He argued it was the managements fault and the management threw him out.
    The next day we went to shop the yard sales.  That is Mom’s favorite past time.  We only found one in the country and they were just cleaning out their junk.  I spent about 10 minutes then sat in the air conditioned car.  Mom came over and pounded on the window…I need your help,  there is something for a TV but I’m not sure what it is.  I trudged back out of my comfort zone to assist her.  It was a Nintendo game!  Then she picked up a Polaroid Camera that the women talked her into buying.  Polaroid discontinued making them this year and in 83 years, I never saw my mother take one picture!  I returned to the car with three bags of books and junk to resume my relaxation when another pound on the door came.  I think I want that bike.  That bike is a training bike for 6 year olds.  Yes but it has training wheels and I could ride it around Attica to go shopping.  I really don’t think it would hold a 150 pound person.  Well I do and it is brand new!  She bought a walker instead.  Never mind that I bought her two much nicer ones because this one was only a dollar.
    After three hours of running around looking for and shopping at the yard sale, I returned home and relaxed to play Sudoku.  Mom came in within an hour to inform me that Carol was across the street on her porch and I should go visit her.  I declined.  Well after all she has done for you with your messages on the internet and bringing me leftover soup it is the least you could do!  When are you going to call your Granddaughter!  Mary would like to see you too.   Edith said she had hoped you were going to visit her!  Now her voice was raised and she had a scowl and was stamping her feet.  I was wishing I had stayed in Phoenix but decided it is best to get out of the house and away before I did something I would regret.  I found Carol with a cell phone stuck in her ear so just waved and decided to visit Edith who I always enjoy.  Edith is over 90 and hopes to make a hundred as an example to her grandchildren.  She is still sharp but doesn’t see or hear so well.  We sat on her front porch to visit.  I had to raise my voice so the whole neighborhood including Carol and my mother could hear everything from three house down.  I had a pleasant conversation and decided to go out and sneak in a bottle of Vodka to  make it through the night.
    We had arranged to meet my Granddaughter Rose Sunday to take her and Mom to
Strykersville for the Fireman’s Chicken BBQ that afternoon.  When we arrived at the Burger
King to meet her, it was raining and miserable.  I took her and Mom to Anderson’s Roast Beef
for a Roast Beef and Ice Cream…their two biggest sellers. 
It was still raining when we left and Rose wanted money to repair her car.  She already asked
Mom, David and Kathy (her adoptive parents) and me.  Mom was going to give it to her but
had given her over $2000 last year so I told her I would loan her the money.  She didn’t have
to pay me back until she could afford to and I would still remember her birthday…BUT if she
ever asked me for emergency money again, she couldn’t get it until she has paid me back the
first loan.  We had a nice visit and after giving her the money, we agreed to meet again
August 2.  I would bring her to Attica to visit Mom and attend the Lawn Fete with me at the
American Legion.
    Bill bought us a Pizza that night and I left the next morning for Toronto.  I wanted to get on
the internet at the library to load my Magellan GPS with a subscription from AAA that kept
you informed of all the traffic information.  I also needed to get Canada loaded into it.  When
I punched in Toronto, it didn’t recognize Ontario Canada but did come up with 4 or 5
Toronto’s in the US.  The library was closed so I punched in the AAA office in Lockport and
decided to stop on the way so they could do all that for me.  When I arrived, the lady explained
they didn’t know how and only the AAA branch in Williamsville sold the GPS units.  They
could do it for me.  So I backtracked to Williamsville and the women explained they didn’t sell
that model yet so couldn’t program the traffic but if I looked under options on the GPS unit, I
could select Canada as the region I wanted.  I guess I should have read the manual. 
I left Attica three hours, 82.5 gallons of gas and two AAA branches ago before arriving at the
Border Crossing.  I forgot my passport that was packed away in my suitcase in the trunk.  No
bother, my Arizona driver’s license got me through.  I crossed the Peace Bridge
and my GPS guided me to the front door of my downtown Victorian B & B in Toronto at
around 3 pm. 
Unal Bargu met me at the door and helped me with my bags.  Yes, Unal Bargu!  It could have
been Barack Obama except he was gay.  I like that.  Gay people pay attention to detail .  The
Victorian Garden B & B was very clean , air conditioned, served a great breakfast, had free
WiFi and it only cost $16 extra to be able to park my car right out front. The permit Unal
provided was good for the week.
    That afternoon I walked over to a Vietnamese restaurant that Unal recommended in the
Cabbage Town District. 
I ordered and went to pay with what I thought was Canadian money I found before leaving
Arizona.  It was English Pounds from Britain.  The lady kept looking at the picture of Queen
Elizabeth but couldn’t find anything that said Canada on it.  I realized my mistake but hadn’t
been to the ATM machine and left my dollars back in the room.  She took my credit card then
after Chicken Curry and Vietnamese coffee I ran to the bank and drew out $200 Canadian
dollars which is now worth the same as American for the first time ever. I walked over to
McVeigh’s Irish Pub and said hello to Paul the proprietor then returned to get an early sleep. 
    Breakfast was an international affair with 2 people from Belgium, one from France, a
couple from Boston and a young man from Finland.  There were a couple of young girls from
the States and I inquired as to their recommendations for Toronto.  She suggested the Islands
just in the bay of Lake Ontario. It was a short ferry ride from Toronto.  I had purchased a tour
bus pass the day before so walked through my neighborhood
to Yonge St
(the longest in the world…1179 miles to be exact) and boarded the tour bus
with the idea of getting off at the ferry station. When we arrived , they explained I could
purchase their tour pass to the Islands for $10 more but it included a tour of the Harbor. 
I did and was off to the Islands for the rest of the afternoon.  The weather was great. 
I walked quite a bit and noticed a sign for Hanlon Beach…the only clothing optional beach
around. “Notice the sign…never in the U.S.”
It was too far to walk and it was late so I decided to return on another sunny day and rent a
bike to do the whole Island.  The gardens there reminded me of the Toulieries in Paris. 
Everyone was speaking different languages from Polish , French, Arabic, and some I didn’t
couldn’t recognize at all.  I sat on a park bench to relax and do a Sudoku puzzle.  Ten minutes
later, I looked over and saw another older gentleman doing the same thing.  Is this what I have
to look forward to? 
Swans with two babies on her back.
I returned to the dock and boarded the return trip back,
then hopped the bus tour again.  When I returned to my original starting point
I wanted a beer and had the urge for a cigarette. 
    I knew of a place that was supposed to have good food so decided to visit it.  I walked
through Eaton plaza and as I was exiting to go around the corner to the Duke of Richmond
restaurant, I noticed a lady having a cigarette.  I approached her and asked where I might buy
some cigarettes.  She directed me back into Eaton Plaza down the escalator to the bottom
floor, then make a right and follow the alley around the corner and through the double doors.
  Then at the end of the hall there is a News stand and the clerk and help you. When I arrived,
I didn’t see any cigarettes in sight but inquired as to where I might find some.  He asked me
to wait, then after taking care of a few customers he reached under the counter and pulled out
a pack of Marlboro Lights.  Ten dollars please.  I thought I misunderstood him but didn’t. 
The cigarettes here have all the poison chemicals listed on the pack…formaldehyde, benzine,
carbon monoxide, nicotine and a lot more along with warnings about nicotine being as
addictive as heroin and cocaine.  Inside the pack was another warning.  I was afraid to light
one up but after getting my $7 pint of Steam Beer at the Dukes place, I did.  They have a sales
tax that is added to the beer and an Alcohol Tax of 10%, then the tip and it was a $10 drink
with a $10 cigarette.  I’m surprised anyone smokes or drinks in Toronto. The cheapest , I
mean most inexpensive item on the Dukes menu was a Cheese Quesadilla for $13.
    I returned to the Irish Pub
to eat as the prices at the Dukes place seemed to high.  I ordered another $7 pint of Guinness
then Lamb Curry.  Curry seems to be popular here.  There are a lot of Indians, Pakistanis,
Blacks, Carribeans, Irish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic, Portuguese, and oh some Canadians
thrown in for good measure.  The population, at around Toronto (means Meeting place in
Native American Indian)  is over 50% from countries other than Canada.  It is the most
Multinational City in the world.  Everyone seems to get along.  I was told that is because the
police have surveillance cameras on every corner.   I finished the delicious Curry and took
another Guinness to the patio for a smoke.  Seamus came out and introduced himself as a 64
year old Irishman that played a Squeeze Box.  He knew Bill Craig, the musician friend of mine
I met in Phoenix who is playing this weekend at McVeigh’s.  Bill has played here for over 20
years.  Seamus drew up a chair, bummed a smoke and proceeded to rattle off Irish joke after
joke the likes of were a little off color.  What do you call an Irish Queer?  A man that prefers
women over the drink.  You get the point.  We chatted until my drink was almost done and it
was getting dark and chilly.  He asked if I might have another Pint and I replied “If he did”…
well that can be arranged he said.  Now I was hoping I could find my way back.  I did and fell
right asleep.
 Today I took the tour bus (pass is good for 7 days) and got off downtown for lunch.  Toronto
has a Summerlicious Special deal in about 60 of the top restaurants.  You can buy a lunch for
$15-25 and a dinner for $30-35 that includes an Appetizer,Main Course and Dessert.  I
stopped at the Urban and paid $20 for Gazpacho, Pulled Pork BBQ sandwich with Salad and
Fresh Fruit salad to dip in a Chocolate Grand Mariner Sauce.  I also ordered an  Ice Tea. 
Now Iced Tea is not the same as in the U.S.  They don’t put Ice in it!    Canada as in Europe
and the rest of the world, no one give you more than three ice cubes if your lucky…only in the
USA.  Canada has lots of different taxes.  My bill was $20 plus $4 for a glass of Iced Tea
(there are no refills on tea, soda or coffee…like in the USA…here you pay per glass) and $1.92
for a PST tax and $1.20 for a GST tax which brought my $20 lunch to $27.12 and with a 15%
gratuity came to $31 for lunch. I was surprised the use of silverware was free.
I skipped the happy hour beer and returned home to play Texas Holdem on my computer…
FREE.  The sunsets are around 9 pm so I took a nice stroll around the neighborhood before
returning to watch some TV and bed down.
I awoke feeling terribly guilty and weak at having broken down and bought cigarettes so took
them with me to find someone that would want them.  On the way to the bus I noticed two
people walking by that were both smoking cigarettes but they were so overweight I didn’t
want to encourage them to smoke anymore.  Then I noticed a girl on a bicycle that stopped
and bummed a cigarette from someone waiting for the bus.  She rode my me so fast I didn’t
have a chance to give them to her.  Then a bum reached out with a lighter in his hand asking
if I would put some money in it.  I thought if he had a lighter, he must smoke so offered him
the cigarettes.  He took them but explained he gave up a long time ago.  The lighter was for
the “crack” he smoked!  Go figure. 
    Each morning, on the way to the kitchen for breakfast, I kept hearing this loud noise outside
for about 5 minutes.  It sounded like a garbage truck compactor.  I finally saw what it was
while walking to the Tour Bus.  The City of Toronto vacuums up the trash!  Seriously!  They
have a guy riding a small vehicle with a large hose attached to a swivel hook.  He rides down
the sidewalk and sucks up all the trash in the gutter of the street as well as on and around the
sidewalk.  It beats a blower. Noisy but no dust.
    I arrived at the Bus Tour around 10:30 and got off at Spadina Museum at 11:30.  The
Spadina Museum
was the home of the Austin family for 7 generations and each room is decorated with original
furniture of the period.  Each room on the tour represents each generation.
    A little about Toronto’s preservation of it’s architecture:  Toronto passed a law that no
commercial building built before 1940 could be altered in any way.  Union Train Station was
built almost 100 years ago and is not allowed any air conditioning even though thousands of
commuters as well as travelers from Montreal , Vancouver and all over Canada come in every
day.  The station where the Porters work is the same as when Union Station was built.  The
area they sit and wait for the business is the same they sat at 100 years ago.  The wall they
leaned their heads on has circles of oil from the hair of every Porter that worked there and
they are not allowed to remove or clean it off!   The residential homes are different.  No one
can alter the facade of the home but they can remodel the interior.
    Meanwhile back at the Spadina Museum:  The  bus guide never told me the museum didn’t
open until 12 Noon and the tour lasted until after 1pm.  That blew my plans for a cheap lunch
with live music at another festival in Nathan Square at City Hall.  I spent a half hour touring
the beautiful gardens
that are maintained by the Toronto Garden Society.   The tour was done by a very
knowledgeable man and consisted of just me and a lady from New Jersey.  Afterwards I got
back on the bus then off in Chinatown
and decided to walk around.  It was much bigger than I expected and merged with Kensington
Market which was almost as big as Chinatown. Kensington Market merged with Little Italy.
    Chinatown was very impressive with all kinds of vegetables, herbs, trinkets, incense, food
stalls, and of course Chinamen.  I was gaining stride and decided to keep walking on to
Kensington Market. 
This was a cross between a flea market, hippy haven, Mom and Pop stores, Palm readers,
with  an international row of food markets, sidewalk cafes, and restaurants.  I went into at
least three cheese stores that astounded me with a selection of cheeses
I had never seen anywhere.  They kept giving me samples so I had a light lunch then decided
to wash it down at the Kensington Coffee House with a fantastic Cappuccino.  I later passed a
place called Roach A Rama.  It was not an exterminator but a head shop with bongs and pipes
and assorted stuff for those who enjoy an occasional joint.  I stopped in to compare prices.  It
looked like a regular “High Times” you would see in Phoenix, until I noticed what appeared to
be a Vaporizer.  Let me explain.  I have seen these in magazines and in coffee shops in
Amsterdam but they can be very expensive…$300 to $400.  What a Vaporizer does is heat
your marijuana in a sealed container to an intense heat so it is actually vaporized.  Hardly
even an ash left.  The high tech ones have a fan that when you press a button, expels the
vapors into a plastic bag that you then seal with a mouthpiece.  Then you can separate the
bag from the vaporizer and  inhale the vapors as you wish. No fuss no muss and NO WASTE
or residue, etc.  Just a nice buzz.  He explained that one model was $175 and the other about
$350.  I thanked him then went back to see if he had a card or a website where one might be
able to purchase a Vaporizor at that price.  He asked if I would like to try it first!  Excuse me?
      Yes for $20 refundable deposit, I could bring my own Marijuana into his shop and sit at
the table in the back (in plain sight mind you) and use it until my heart was content. You
would have to pay an additional charge of $4 for wear and tear, then the $20 would be
refunded when you were finished.  Wow, I like Canada.  Last week, for $250, you would be
given a gram of 5 different strains of Marijuana to judge for the Cannabis Cup of Canada. 
Two grams on Saturday then the other 3 on Sunday when you would take a boat trip in the
Harbour and then vote on which of the 5 submissions win the prize.  People were complaining
that the 5 grams wasn’t adaquate to even get a buzz but others brought there own and shared
so no one really complained.  They even had a machine that would pulverize your Marijuana
with water and produce a block of hash when done. 
    I continued my journey through Kensington Market then decided to branch out into Little
Italy.  I walked and walked (about an hour and a half now) until I saw all the street signs
turned into Green, Red and White to look like the Italian flag and were marked “Little Italy”
with the Street listed under.  I didn’t see any markets or street cafes.  I did see a bunch of
Guinness Bars and finally Joe’s Italian Pizza.  Now I was 2 hours and about 42 miles into my
walk. I starting to feel light headed and high. 
That could have been from my visit to Roach A Rama but I began to think I was getting
dehydrated so started to look for a place to have a beer.  I did see some businesses with an I
on the end …like Ricci but it turned out to be Martini Bars.  No Catanias, Mancuso’s, Puccio’s
but a few empty Cafes with olive oil on the tables…could have been Italian but I needed to
return before I collapsed.  I had a stride going and was afraid if I stopped that I would never
start again.  I saw all these college students or prostitutes walking along and chatting away
with their cell phones glued to their ears.  I could never walk and talk at the same time. Hell I
can hardly breath.  I made it back to Chinatown and noticed a sign for Bubbly Tea with picture
s of these different colored concoctions that had what looked like blueberries in the bottom of
the glass.  I saw some Chinese girls walking by sipping them from straws so stopped in what
looked like a Chinese Starbucks or Bubbly Tea place.  They had 39 different flavors.  When I
told him I wanted Iced Tea and pointed to the board, he said this is not like the Tea you drink
in the U.S.  I explained that I wanted one with the Lemon flavor, thinking that would taste
something like the tea I drink. Then he asked if I wanted it with the Tapioca or not.  I assumed
that was those balls in the bottom of the glass that looked like blueberries.  I said , of course ,
trying to sound like I order this everyday.  $5 later , I’m out the door with my Bubbly Tea. 
There was nothing bubbly about it and I was beginning to think he pulled a fast one on this
Rube.  It did look like the picture in the window and tasted pretty good except when you
sucked it through the extra large straw, about 5 of the little black”tapioca” balls, the size of a
blueberry would pop into your mouth with the tea. 
If you bite them in half, then you have two little balls.  They are like gum candy but you can’t
chew them.  It’s like chewing a small rubber ball with a sweet flavor and slightly sticky. 
I discovered that if I swish them around I could get one in the hole where my tooth used to be.
  Mouth Pool using my tongue as the Q Stick.  Then when I finished drinking the tea, the
straw acted like a pea shooter.  The balls shot up so fast, they slid right down your throat
without stopping.  If you did manage to stop one, then you could shoot them against the Bus
Stop sign.  They stuck too!  This was starting to be entertaining when my bus pulled up and I
returned to the real world.  I was enjoying the view from the top of the bus when I heard
shouting and a large bicycle passed us.


    I got off near my Irish Pub and stopped in for a wee pint.  The bartender remembered my
Guinness and I ordered the Beef Burrito Canadian Style.  It came with Sour Cream and a
salsa that was HOT like you would get in the Caribbean. The Burrito was grilled not Fried and
had rice, beans, and corn in with the beef.  Very tasty but nothing like Phoenix.  $32 for two
Guinness and a Burrito.  While finishing my last pint I met Jerry North ,from Denver, sitting
next to me.  He flies here for 3 days a week and his partner the other 3 days.  They build hi
rises in Denver and a few months ago were approached by some investors in Toronto that
wanted them to build in Toronto. He has never done a job out of Denver and their company
has …I think he said build 5 high rises in Denver.  He was born and raised there but came to
Toronto to discuss it with the investors.  They are paying him 5 times what he gets for the
same Hi Rise in Denver so he took the job.  Its been over 5 months now and he said he has to
pinch himself everyday when he gets up.  The job is scheduled for 5 years and they already are
suggesting another one that would add on 5 more years. They take care of all the legalities and
have moved his supervisory crew up with their family on 2 year work visas, pay all their
expenses and unbelievable wages.  It was neat to see this happen.  He said in his 30 years of
construction this , at 55 years old, is a dream come true.  His crew is even asking how they
become Canadian Citizens.  He said when he started the project , which is the Trump Towers,
he was scraping the barrel to get his people to come up and now he has a waiting line and is
recruiting from NY State.  The union here got all his people on board with a big welcome.
    I walked back to my room.  The walk is a mile and when I arrived it seemed a major chore
but now it was like a walk in the park. I retired and rose early to see the Royal Ontario
Museum with lunch at the Lawrence Market and finish the day with a Pint at the Historic
Distillery District where I might ride a Segway.
     Well I did get up early but the Tour Bus changed it’s route and we by passed my stop before
I realized it.  I had to wait a little longer and arrived at the Museum
around 11am. It was well worth it but much larger than I anticipated. It took a good 3.5 hours
and I still didn’t see it all.  I went up the street after to have a coffee at a unique shop called
“L’Expresso”  The L in front meant $8 for a Cappuccino!  It was the best I had and the place
was the classiest Coffee Shop since the Cafe Central in Vienna.  I then hopped the bus for the
Market
to try the famous PeaMeal Bacon Sandwich that Emeril Lagasse recommends and eats when
he is in Toronto instead of New Orleans.  That was worth all $5.99 but now it was later than
anticipated, I went next door to one of only two liquor stores that I knew of in Toronto and
decided to buy a pint of Vodka for the room.  Well they only sell 375 ml or 750 ml bottles.  I
bought the cheapest 375 ml bottle for $13.  I passed the duty free coming through the border
…big mistake.  I could have bootlegged liquor in Toronto and paid for my trip.  I walked home
from there and arrived to be greeted by a German family of 5.  They got in somehow and was
waiting for Unal.  I went to my room to play Texas Holdem. 
      Saturday I slept in and again played Texas Holdem, read, and basically sat around enjoying
doing nothing.  That evening I strolled out in the rain and found a dollar store to purchase
expensive souvenirs for all my friends back home.  I also got an umbrella, so of course it
stopped raining as I came out.  I noticed the Alibaba fast food type place that looked inviting. 
I ordered a Swarmi Chicken Pita Sandwich.  They use all fresh , fresh ingredients and the
sandwich was fabulous.  They had fish platters, and lamb shank, different falafel, and gyros
sandwiches, fresh humus, balaclava,etc….too many to mention and I can’t spell them anyway. 
I arrived at McVeigh’s to listen to Bill Craig.  He didn’t start till 10 pm and it was 7:30 so after
two pints and two cigarettes, thanks to an obliging Canadian lady on the patio, I left for
P.J. O’Brien’s Irish Pub down the street.  They had entertainment there also but it was so
crowded I could only find a seat in the back dining room so returned just as Bill arrived. 
We chatted and then he took the stage before a group of ladies from Glasgow, Scotland and
Torino, Italy.  There was a small group from Ireland and some folks from Milano Italy.  I met
a man from West Cork , Ireland who proudly announced he was a Republican and showed
me a commemorative medallion with Bobby Sands picture painted on the front and the list
of all who died in prison on the back.  I told him I was Republican too but I think he was
skeptical. Bill played lots of requests, made some good jokes, and was chatting it up with
everyone.  It was very enjoyable but I left at a little after Midnight and went right to bed.
    Sunday morning I was welcomed by rain that put a damper on my plans to visit the Brazilian
Festival on the Island.  I hung out then went out to visit Alibaba’s then have a drink at
P.J. O’Brien’s.  Home early and back to Attica tomorrow. 
     I did decide to visit Bill one more time.   I stopped at Ali Babbas for another great Pita
sandwich then walked down to P J O’Brien’s but they were closed on Sunday.  I returned to
McVeigh’s for a Molson’s Canadian.  When in Rome.  After about 15 Canadians and a new
found friend from Adelaide Australia I was on a roll and so was Bill.  The place was packed. 
I mean PACKED.  They were all Irish , except for a few Germans from Frankfort and it was
dancing on the tables.  I couldn’t leave.  It was great fun but I was the oldest in the group.  My
Australian friend was the second oldest.  He had a beautiful girl with him that he had met
from Toronto and he mentioned that he had a room at the hotel by himself.  She said, “If you
think I’m going to fuck you, your crazy!”  He replied , that he never said anything of the sort
and could care less as she left her Guinness and him behind.  He ended up with me…drinking
a few (15) beers then I booked it outside to sneak a cigarette from my Frankfurt friend.  He
was supposed to watch my seat while I discussed her bicycle trip from Frankfurt to Barcelona
and then another from Frankfurt to Estonia.  We never imagined doing that when I was a
youth.  We fantasized about hitchhiking around Europe but never on a bicycle!  When I came
back it was wall to wall Irish that were on work visas to Toronto.  You couldn’t move and it
was now 2am and my
Australian friend had abandon me so I snuck out back on the patio to bum another cigarette
from a crack dealer in Toronto when I met a vagrant bumming money from Grenada.  I told
him I gave the last to the bartender and shared my been with him.  The Crack dealer told me
all the crime in Toronto was because of Americans dealing guns for Coke.  The man from
Grenada said it was because of him dealing Coke for money.  I gave the street man $20 and
told the crack dealer he was partially right but the shootings in Toronto aren’t anything
compared to N.Y.C. or Phoenix. The Aussie passed by in the street and I complained he
never watched my seat like he said.  He said I’m still welcome in Adelaide to visit in 2010
when I told him I would be there.  We will hunt Roos.   I returned to say goodbye to Bill but
after such a great performance he booked it back to Hamilton…God Bless Him.   The Crack
dealer offered me a cigarette on the way out.  I took it.  I hailed a cab and $6 later I was home
and threw out the cigarette and went to bed.  Until the next trip…see the world before you
leave it…David in Toronto.

2007 AMSTERDAM LARRY’S VISIT -USA 1ST VISIT TO HELEN’S IN ROCHESTER

          The VVV in Holland is a service to newly arrived tourist that need information and their offices are located in every train station ,or nearby,  in just about every city .  I used them to book a room for the night at a hotel near the Central Square.  I carried my bags up 3 flights of narrow, steep stairs after checking in.  I then walked around this beautiful village for quite some time before trying out a kebab sandwich plate.  It was worse than McDonalds. I sat out in a Café, took some photos then read that they have a “Night Skate” that evening at 20:00 hours.  I read that as 10pm instead of 8 pm so decided to take a siesta then return to photograph the Night Skate.  This happens in different cities where 100’s of people of all ages, put on skates and hook themselves up with battery powered lights then skate all over the city in a big line that stretches out for kilometers.  It is really something to see but as it turned out, when I returned at 10pm, I discovered I had missed the whole thing.  I walked down by the river and had a real dinner at the hotel then retired for the evening.
I arrived at Peter and Jeannette’s the next day with the usual “Hi I’m Home Honey!”.  They in turn greeted me with all the things I left from the last visit for safe keeping and showed me my new room. 

My room was turned over to Larry, my friend from Denver, who was arriving the next day.  I went out and dropped my clothes at the cleaners, picked up some wine and returned to spend the afternoon reading. We spent a nice quiet day together, had a visit from Rudd , an old friend, and ended with a beautiful dinner and wine before going to sleep.

I decided to meet Larry at the airport and was anxious to take him by train and the tram to Peter and Jeannette’s. I arrived 10 minutes late and waited for over a half hour but figured he took a cab.  I looked everywhere but apparently missed him so returned to Rooseveltlaan to find he did take a cab.  He was jet lagged and tired but I dragged him out in the neighborhood while I got some herring and we had a quiet drink in a café. Jeannette was preparing dinner so we took the tram to Rembrandtplein to enjoy the parade in front of the Café there.  When we returned, Jeannette had a beautiful dinner waiting for us, some wine and bed for us.  Larry was really jetlagged.

The next day we went to Leidseplein and also watched the parade go by.


Then Larry went shopping for souvenirs. That evening Larry and I took our hosts out for dinner at an Indonesian restaurant and had a Rice Tafel that consisted of 23 dishes to share.  We ate and ate…it was all very good so we decided to do this again before we leave.  


Sunday, Jeannette had prepared a nice Brunch for us with Champagne, omelets, pate, cheeses, fruit, etc. 

 After, Larry and I went to Vondelpark for the afternoon.  We walked one end of the park to the other.   The weather was beautiful  and all of Amsterdam was there.  We met a nice couple from England that had been in Amsterdam more than 10 years.  Everyone was out to have a nice relaxing day of bicycling, skating, walking, or just sunning themselves.  Late in the afternoon, it started to rain so we walked over to an Irish Pub on the Canal and watched the boats go by for an hour or so.  Upon returning, Jeannette had another nice meal for us with wine and to bed early.

Monday we took off for downtown Amsterdam then took the train to Haarlem, a small village outside of Amsterdam.  We walked from the train station down by the Riverside then to the center of Haarlem. We sat in a Café for an hour before finding a great restaurant to have dinner. 

When we returned to Amsterdam we visited the Red Light district and met a nice couple from France.  He was American from Florida and she was French.  They had been married quite a few years and have lived in Brittany for the last 6 years.  We stopped at the neighborhood bar on the way home to say hello to Rim. 

She was a friend I missed the other night as she was off work.  She had been working there for 9 years.  We had a good time, met some new people then retired for the night.  

Today is Tuesday and we had breakfast across the street and was going to the Dutch Parada but Larry didn’t feel like walking so we are headed for the Red Light district so Larry can see the live Sex show.  He did and I waited in a bar across the way then we stopped for a beer and returned home to take Peter and Jeannette out for a Malaysian Rice Table again tonight.  We went back to the same place as before and enjoyed the feast. They had a vegetable melody of carrots, cucumbers, green beans, cauliflower all marinated in vinegar , sugar and turmeric. 

There was something Goreng with peanut sauce.  Toasted coconut with peanuts.  A curried vegetable dish with hearts of palm or marinated jicama with a coconut milk.  Larry And I stopped at the local bar for a drink before going to bed early that night.  
Wednesday was my last Day in Amsterdam.  Larry and I visited the local market,

stopped at the Greenhouse Coffee Shop then returned for another great meal of Jeannette’s.  Peter was nice enough to take me to the  airport the next day where I boarded the plane for Heathrow airport then on to Boston.
I left my driver’s license at my Mother’s house before leaving.  I had an international license for Europe but forgot that I needed my Arizona license to rent a car in Boston.  I had to cancel and email my friends Steve and Carmella, Frank and Dedia, to help me.  Steve sent a limo service to pick me up and Frank said to check the Plymouth – Brockton Bus and Train service.  I took the limo for $95 as it was well over an hour and the Shuttle was over $135.  The bus was my way back for $20 but didn’t run late in the evening when my plane arrived. I was dropped right at Steve’s Complex in Duxbury and found a note to buzz the neighbor to let me in.  A nice couple came out and unlocked the apartment then invited me over for a beer but I was jet lagged.  Steve arrived shortly after from a concert they had attended. I settled in and went right to bed. The next morning we had a nice breakfast and visit. Carmella took me over to meet her 102 year old mother who was dressed very nice.  I thought she was going out to lunch or something but that is how she always dresses.  She is a real classy, well traveled lady with lots of stories to tell.  It was a really nice visit.  She lives right down the hall in the same complex so Carmella can help her out with any needs she might have.  Steve and I left a little later to  run some errands, have lunch and drop me at Frank and Didia’s for the rest of my 3 day stay.  

Steve’s errand was to stop at the race track and make a few bets.  We then headed for the Chart Room on the water to have lobster rolls and drinks.  It was a pleasant place and the food was great.  Lobster meat that was fresh and at least a half a pound of flavorful tender lobster to eat.  We had a nice chat, took a few photos then he dropped me at Frank’s. 
Frank greeted me at the door and asked if I got his last email about Didia?  She has been fighting lung and brain cancer for over 5 years with operations , chemo, and radiation treatments.  It appears she had taken a turn for the worse and was now under hospice care.  She had a hospital bed in her room and was on oxygen.  She looked pretty bad and was sleeping most of the time.  Once when she woke I said hello and she recognized me and smiled but couldn’t talk.  I never saw her awake again until the night I was leaving when I sat and talked to her for a while.  The day I left she gave me a kiss goodbye.  So sad.  She was a very vibrant , optimist who was always cheerful and fun to be around.  Frank will have some adjustments after 19 years with her.
Relatives , friends, the Chaplain, the Priest, the Hospice nurse, the Funeral director, and neighbors came and went in a constant stream. The phone rang constantly.  Frank wanted someone to come in so we could get away for a little bit to take a break.  One of their friends stopped in for a couple hours so we went to an Irish Pub for Fish and Chips and …another Lobster Roll. 

This one wasn’t as good as the last but Lobster is never bad.  The day before I left, Frank got someone to come over for the day and we headed for the Marina and took the boat to Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard to eat and visit with a couple that Frank and Didia had know for a long time.  They had two guests houses they rented rooms out of and then two more back in Yarmouth.  In the winter they closed them down and played golf in North Carolina.  They and Frank and Dedia each have a town home in the same complex there. 




The trip across the water was hurried.  He wanted to get there quick so we could relax and enjoy the little time we had before returning.  He opened up the boat and I felt like I was riding a bucking bronco.  They really should have seatbelts in boats!  It was Sunday and the waterway was busy with people and boats enjoying the last of the summer.  The beaches were crowded and when we arrived at the Marina we couldn’t find a space for quite some time.  When we did, Frank had me climb out on the bow to tie up to another boat.  Me an army man couldn’t even tie a knot.  While I was struggling not to fall overboard the harbor patrol told us we could only have four boats on a mooring and ours made five.  Frank decided to tie up in a open slip by the docks and pay the parking fee.  After the comedy of me out trying to hook a rope over the post without falling off and finally securing everything, we settled down for a drink before going ashore.  Then the man who ran the slips came over to tell us that slip was reserved and a boat was on it’s way in to park there.  We went back into the harbor and found a mooring that only had three boats and tied ours up.  I had to board the other boat and tie up to the bow of the other boat.  We called the water taxi and went ashore.  The whole area was full of people having a great time. 

Lots of restaurants and bars on the water.  We sat in an outdoor bar and ordered…no lobster.  I had a shrimp cocktail and chowda.  Our barmaid was great and Frank’s friends came down and joined us.  We left after that and had another bone jarring ride back to the Cape .  We got home and were welcomed by a group of friends with pizza’s so stayed up late. …2am when I retired.  I arose the next day at 7am, packed and Frank stopped at Dunkin for coffee before dropping me at the bus terminal.  The bus dropped me at Logan Airport, I boarded Air Tran and flew to Baltimore for my connection to Rochester where I will meet Helen.  

FIRST PLACE ON MY OWN…ROOM IN BOARDING HOUSE


FIRST LEGAL PURCHASE IN LIQUOR STORE


She was a teacher with me in Spain two years ago and we have kept in touch. It is the season for Peaches in Western New York and we stopped at a local Farmer’s Market to get a basket for Cobbler.  Helen, being the great cook she is, prepared some really good spaghetti with a fresh tomato and basil sauce, Italian bread and a nice Italian white wine. We had a whiskey after and I retired on the fold out couch in the parlor.  The house is one of those large Victorian homes that fill the Park Avenue area of Rochester.  This was Helen’s third.  
We had Peach Cobbler for breakfast the next day and after I spent some time catching up on email only to find that Didea had passed away after Frank called 911 the night I left to have her put in the hospital.  She was getting very aggressive and was difficult to administer her meds to.  Frank was with her when she passed away.  
Helen fixed a nice lunch of Grilled Chicken, Pasta, and salad then I took a nap. After, I took a long walk through the Park Avenue area, retracing my past formative years coming on to my own. 
I moved to Rochester in 1963 after quitting my summer job in Attica as a apprentice cabinet maker.  It was a hot summer afternoon and I walked home, left a note for my parents and hitch-hiked to Rochester, a city I had never set eyes on before.  There I bought a newspaper, found an ad for a short order cook at a pancake house in Pittsford, took the bus there and applied.  I had lots of experience assisting the Chef and running the grill at the Bowling Alleys in Attica so was hired.  I believe the pay was $1.63 and hour with all the hours you wanted (usual 60) with no overtime back then.  Filling out the application, I told them I didn’t have an address so Carl, one of the cooks said he had and extra twin bed in the room he was renting and we could split the cost until I got settled.  I did that for a night but moved into my own place the next day after Carl made advances that morning.
     My first home away from home was a room at 45 Vick Park A on the second floor.  A real flop house that hasn‘t changed a bit in 43 years except for the rent of $15 a week back then.  There I met Diane, who just left her home in Brockport to strike out in the big city.  We have been friends ever since.  I haven’t seen or heard from her since she moved to Charleston over 5 years ago.  It is ironic that my first place was 45 Vick Park A and I’m staying with Helen in her house at 45 Vick Park B.  I took a photo  of it then started taking photos of all the businesses I remembered and the houses I lived at…on Oxford, Park Ave, Argyle, Monroe, Girton, Sibley Place, Alexander….I covered the neighborhood and ended up buying a bottle of Pinot Noir at the same liquor store I bought my first bottle of Pinot Noir at 43 years ago at 18 years old (that was the legal age then).  This time I bought it from the son as the owner had long since passed away. 
That evening we walked to the Park Avenue Pub and had a nice dinner with wine.  When we returned home, we talked about travel over a whiskey and retired.  The following morning we had our peach cobbler and went for another walk.  Helen showed me the other two homes she owned before this one.  Both were huge and beautiful well maintained homes in beautiful areas.  Most all of Park Avenue is beautiful.  Helen drove me to Attica with a detour in Churchville in hopes of visiting Ramon, another old friend, but he had moved back to Rochester.  I took her to the Wyoming County Coffee Company for lunch then up to see our famous Attica Prison , sorry…Correctional Facility…before taking her to visit Mom.  Ollie, my Mother, was glad to see us but was washing her hair.  She came down to meet Helen, who brought her some Peach Cobbler, and visited a bit before departing. 
Well you would think this story is over 10 weeks after it began, June 10th when I left Attica for my journey?  That day I couldn’t find my Europe Rail Pass or air ticket to Rome from Madrid.  Gary Fredricks, one of the “gang” I grew up with, was outside to take me to the airport so I left without the tickets or pass.  I had searched everything and so did Mom.  Upon my return, I still felt the $600 worth of tickets that I had to buy over again in Europe were somewhere in the house.  My first night I awoke to go to the bathroom, turned on the light and they were on the floor in front of me…????

Till next time

Love

David

2007 AUGUST BRUSSELS

  The Brussels Gare Midi was one of the nicest train stations I have been in.  It is not cavernous but clean, efficient, easy to get around, and they have clean bathrooms for only .5 Euro.  Everything is priced fairly.  If you have spent so long in Italy and France, anything seems cheap.  I bought a Metro pass for two days and took the subway (the right one, the wrong direction) to the hotel Opera.  It was a shabby but clean hotel that had an excellent location near the Grand Place in the center.  My room was not air-conditioned and was hot.  I called Gene, my Couchsurfing contact,  to confirm she would pick me up in front of the hotel at 10:30 to show me Belgium. I was about to back down as I didn’t feel she was enthusiastic about taking the day off and driving all over.  I thought of excuses but had gone to far to turn back. 
        I had dinner at a nice Chinese sidewalk Café on the Rue du Restaurants.  This street wound its way around the alley in back of the Grand Place and was famous for all kinds of good restaurants with excellent food.  The Belgium dish…Moules and Frites was advertised everywhere.  I had Chicken stuffed Egg Rolls, Beef with Mushroom sauce and rice, with coffee and a  half liter of wine. It was very good and costs $26.  I walked around the crowded streets, took a few photos, and settled in for the night.  I was high enough up that I could open the window and get some cool air without the noise.

The Opera, served a good Continental Breakfast plus I had free internet access to catch up on emails. 

Gene showed up at 10:30 sharp and we were off for Gent.  This was to be our first stop. Gene was very pleasant and spoke good English though I had a little difficulty understanding her with my bad hearing and her accent.  She had working at a University doing Laboratory scientific research most of her life.  She traveled with her work to Hong Kong, Denver, Vancouver, Europe, Philadelphia, etc.  She liked Scuba Diving for wrecks in the North Sea as well as just for the beauty of it.  She had participated in Car Rallies with her friends in France for a day and some for a week.  She was born in Belgium and was from an Old family with a fallen down castle and a family crest. The crest was emblazoned on a ring she wore.  Her son went to an exchange program in Denver.  They both met there and went skiing. Her daughter I think was in school in British Columbia.  She divorced some time ago and lived in a very nice home in the country about a half hour from Brussels.  I never did get invited to stay there so I put my bags in storage at the Opera with the option of staying another night.  She had nice tastes and was a very classy, yet open and down to earth person.  I met her through Couchsurfing and was pleasantly surprised to be treated like I was with a SERVAS member.  SERVAS is the organization that I have been a Host and Traveler for over 15 years.  This is my first travel experience with Couchsurfing.  She had packed a picnic for us later that afternoon.  We arrived in Gent,  parked and walked around the lovely city taking pictures and seeing the sights.  We stopped at an outdoor Café for coffee and she showed me a beautiful book she had brought that showed photos of the different regions of Belgium in all four seasons. 


I had emailed the two friends I made from Gent while in San Zoilo Spain.  They had decided ,at a college class reunion, to do the pilgrimage trail in Spain and I met them at the Monastery where we were teaching.  I invited them to our dance one night and they met some of the group.  We exchanged photos and I invited them to meet in Gent but really wasn’t sure Gene was going to take me there.
The weather was great and Gene was determined to show me as much of Belgium as possible in a day.  She had planned an itinerary and laid it out in a folder.  It was over 20 pages of internet places to see in Gent, maps of our route, interesting points not to miss and all in plastic protectors like a book.  I’m glad I didn’t back down from this.  
We drove mostly back roads and it was breathtaking.  We actually entered into Holland and stopped in a village close to the sea where the Dutch were vacationing with there families or retired people spent a few weeks each year. 

Everyone was on bicycles and riding around the countryside and along the canals. We stopped in a quaint village that was out of a picture book and bought some bread for the picnic.  After spotting a nice bench in a quiet little park we parked and had our picnic of salad with sandwiches of turkey and cheese accompanied by Belgium Beer, water and of course…Belgium Chocolate! A walk on the beach nearby was a perfect end to our excursion.  The beach, on the North Sea was crowded with sunbathers and well to do people strutting their stuff. 


I wanted to be back by 6pm to a monthly get together of Belgium SERVAS people at a bar near the hotel.  I imagined a friendly group I could introduce myself and Gene to for a nice Happy Hour.  
She drove directly back and I napped.  Le Circ was an old pub that Gene knew so we had no problem finding it but I think we missed the get together by a week.  It was my turn to treat and a nice Vietnamese dinner in a nearby sidewalk Café was the perfect end to a wonderful day.  I bid her goodbye and walked back to get settled back in for the evening. 

 
Gene had to work Wednesday but had an invitation after to attend another picnic with friends and invited me.  I was to call her the next day but after getting back I decided I really wanted to move on and get to Holland.  Guido, one of the men from Gent had emailed me to meet by the Cathedral in Gent the next day and I sent him our photos of Gent and declined.  I emailed Gene, rather than spend $5 to call her from the hotel,  to also decline and thank her. That night I went out for a beer then went to bed early.

The morning was cold and rainy so the cancelled plans turned out for the best.  It is a great day for travel and I am now on my way to Haarlem to spend a relaxing evening in a Dutch Coffee shop!  I’ll be in Amsterdam tomorrow and already wrote Jeannette to let her know I would be early a day.  This gives me a chance to say hello and spend a little time catching up before Larry arrives on Friday.  I might even greet him at the train station.  The conductor has been trying to get my attention for the last few minutes to punch my ticket but I’m so absorbed in telling my tale I didn’t hear him.   

2007 AUG PARIS

             I had contacted Jim Hayes in Paris and made a reservation to join his “travel” dinner party at his gallery in Paris on Sunday.  There could be up to 65 strangers from all over the world who pop in while passing through Paris to meet each other and share his hospitality at 25 Euros a piece.  That is about 1650 Euros for one night’s hospitality.  Not bad Jim.  He is semi retired and why not when he takes in around 6000 Euros a month in “donations” to prepare four meals with wine and conversation. Louisiana born, traveler, teacher, actor, etc.  His gallery is featuring a popular cartoonist, Peter van Stratten, for the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool.  I have enjoyed this man’s cartoons and sense of humor for years and look forward to seeing the exhibition as well as meeting Jim and his guests.

The train pulled into the Gare de Lyon in Paris on time at 5pm. I don’t know why the Paris station is called Lyon…I just left Lyon but there are lots of idiosyncrasies the French have.  I got up with my computer bag and went to get my suitcase but couldn’t find it!  When I boarded the train I got on Coach 8 and placed my bag nearest to the seat next to the door so I could watch it.  Then I realized I was in the wrong seat and the wrong Coach so moved down one to Coach 7 and the proper seat.  Now I swear I took that bag but it was no where to be found and people were getting off the train ahead of me possibly with MY bag.  I charged ahead of the line and watched for someone carrying my bag but didn’t see anyone.  I ran down to the other Coach, thinking I may have not moved the bag from where I originally put it.  There was a bag, just like mine and as I went for it, someone started yelling in French…NO!  I took a second look and he was right, it was not my bag.  Now I’m starting to think of all the things of value in that bag…my camera, my medicine, my camera, my medicine…shit.  I have to find that bag before the train takes off.  I jumped off the train looking for a conductor but there were none so jumped back on and started frantically running back and forth through the empty cars when I encountered a porter checking for any things left.  I told him about the bag but he only spoke Swahili.  Then he started yelling at me as if to say, you have to get off the train.  I refused and kept looking and then I heard him yelling and pointing so I ran back and sure enough, there was the bag, right where I left it and ran by it two or three times.  I almost kissed him.

There are four or five train stations in Paris and one of them, the Gare du Nord is the one nearest my hotel according to the directions.  I have to catch a Metro after a badly, now needed, trip to the loo. Thank God I had change. 
I bought a 2 day Metro pass and after looking over the Metro Map, I found the train and made it to Gare du Nord.  The directions said the Hotel Prelude was about 1.5 kilometers from the station…that is a mile.  The directions said go East until such and such a Rue.  I noted the sun and headed East.  The “brochure” on the internet about the Prelude, said it was in a multi-cultural neighborhood.  This was like Calcutta!  I pulled my 70 pounds of souvenirs ( just kidding folks…the last thing I want to be hauling around is souvenirs) East down the street I noted I should be on.  All the while dodging dog shit and looking over my shoulder.  After a mile  and a quart of sweat the Boulevard du Chappelle  turned into a street that I wasn’t supposed to.  I realized East was not where I was supposed to be going but WEST.  Two miles of backtracking brought me to a street I was to turn on.  It was downhill thank goodness.  Walking into the Sun on a hot day in Paris toting luggage is not fun.  The directions said turn left on Rue du Geronimo but there was no Rue du Geronimo and when I asked some drunk Frenchmen hanging out on the street corner they started discussing it but after 10 minutes I thanked them and walked UPHILL to where I began.  Meandering around the neighborhood I actually came the to street the Hotel Prelude was on.  I hope this is not a prelude to the next few days.  I checked in and they informed me that even though I called and cancelled my first day’s stay yesterday, I didn’t inform the booking agent and therefore was charged anyway.  Something I already knew and could give a shit about at this point.  Judging from the looks of this place, I did well to pay not to stay here.
She checked me into room 106 on the first floor.  We were on the ground floor.  I asked if there was an elevator as climbing another set of stairs didn’t excite me.  She said yes but it too is on the first floor!  I climbed the stairs to find my room was not Air Conditioned, no fan and was located with the window, on the first floor, overlooking the street below.  It was great.  I could ease drop on passing pedestrians and still see and hear every passing car. They even supplied instant coffee for in the morning.  Not bad for $85 a night.  Well I got naked and paraded around unpacking with the window wide open, took a shower and now am going to try and find a place to eat.  The one saving grace about the location is there is a major hospital right down the street.  If I get knifed, I don’t have far to crawl for help.  I’m off!
The first place I find is a French Café with tables on the sidewalk so I sit down to a table clothed, candle lit table to read a menu all in French and starting at 25 Euros.  I leave and walk to the next Pizza Café and sat next to two Australians from Sydney.  Surprise.  They recommended the Pasta and I bought it with a well needed carafe of red wine. I finished the meal with a Patisse  because they accepted Visa. 


I then stopped at the local bar on the way back where I met Joseph.  He was from some Island 500 miles from Senegal and had worked ships to Venezuela as well as Mexico and most of the world for 8 years of his life. We played a game to pick up an upside down ashtray without touching the sides. Nobody could do it until I did. I explained to Joseph that he had to wipe his fingertips on his pants first and he succeeded. Everyone was impressed. Joseph was the only one that understood English and spoke it fairly well. There was a Foosball game going on that everyone was serious about. I watched that  a while before trying to strike up a conversation with some of the others.  Did I mention that this was an all black bar.  I was the only white person in there but it was only a block from where I was staying so felt safe as long as I stayed sober. I offered Joseph a beer but he declined.  He had two female children…one born here in France a month ago and another 11 year old daughter back home with his wife.

I returned to the hotel and requested a room higher up away from the traffic.  The new night desk clerk nodded and smiled then mumbled something. I went to the room thinking I am stuck here for another night.
Today I wanted to visit the Museum D’Orsay but the subway that I had to transfer to was closed.  It gave me an excuse to walk Paris.  Paris is a nice walking city.  I got off at

Notre Dame the walked down the Seine to the Louvre and on through the Tuileries Gardens to the Place du Concord.  I had a picnic lunch in the gardens then crossed the bridge to the Museum D’Orsay but it was a serpentine queue that was at least an hour or more just to get in.  Everything except restaurants and museums are closed on Sunday so everyone goes to the Museums.  I was HOT and tired to took the subway home for a siesta before embarking out for the dinner party at Jim Hayne’s place.  


It was on the end of the subway line that starts near my hotel .  I got off a little too soon so had to walk a distance to arrive there. Quite a crowd had already gathered in the courtyard and were having drinks.  I stood in line to greet Jim and give him my envelope with 25 Euros for the dinner.  He gave me a warm greeting and introduced me to another David T from the States.  His name was David Turner and then he directed us to go get a drink at the self service bar across the courtyard.  I took a few pictures then started meeting people.  
There was a businessman from Paris that is going Scuba Diving in Madagascar next week.
A man from NYC that lives in Paris and has a friend the owns a ballet dance school in Scottsdale.  He visited her once but seldom goes to the states. She is involved in some “good Samaritan” program to assist illegal immigrants in Arizona.   He is on his way to visit a city in Northern Africa that was built by the Italians and is all Art Nouveau.  His Dad was there in World War II.  He needs a Visa to get in but I don’t remember the name or the country where it is located.  He visits NYC occasionally and Quebec region of Canada.

I sat with two French people eating with our plates in our laps. One man commented that though he comes here often, he has never got used of eating in this manner.  The French dine at tables!  He eat everything on his plate. When I was bidding goodbye to Jim Haynes, he was also there and mentioned the food was very good.  I mentioned that he ate everything including the last piece of rice so I can attest to him enjoying the food. He said when he was young his father wouldn’t let him leave the table until he cleaned his plate.  We were about the same age and I too had the same upbringing.
Then there was David a bar owner from the lower East side of NYC.  He and his partner just opened a place 6 months ago after working on it for over a year.  He is visiting another black friend of his from NYC that is a travel writer and has been living in Paris for over a year.  I met him. His name is Eliot and he said he loves Paris but can’t afford to live here anymore.  He took his visiting Mother out to dinner at a fairly nice French Restaurant and without being extravagant spent 280 Euros.  He said he had to pay 8 Euros for a Coke that would cost .50 in the states. He is moving to Buenos Aires this year and is a big fan of Bill Bryson, the travel writer.  He takes a lot of his style in writing from Bryson.  
I later met another Frenchman that went to school at Berkley and loved the States.  He asked if the Americans still have animosity toward the French and I admitted they still did.  There was a week long music festival in honor of the late Billie Holiday.  The musicians came from all over the world to celebrate it.  A large number were from New Orleans and while they played, the screen behind them projected pictures of New Orleans street scenes from the past to the present after Katrina.  The musicians asked the crowd if France would consider taking back New Orleans because America wasn’t much help to them and they all cheered YES. He introduced me to his friend from Brussels who is has been in business for himself as a caterer for 20 years .  We had a nice talk about the business and seafood.  He used to run a restaurant in Beirut that served Maine Lobster.  He said it cost an arm and a leg here  but to have it shipped live to Beirut made the cost there outrageous. I carried on with a lady and her husband from Chicago that travel quite a bit.  He brought 20 American college students to this dinner party as part of a travel program from Chicago.
There was ample beer, boxed wine , bottled wine and later I saw a bottle of Brandy floating around.  Our dinner was Moroccan lamb with mushrooms, rice, lentils, cucumbers with yogurt, spinach, chutney and carrot cake for dessert.  Most ate standing up but it was served on plates not paper.  
I met a man from San Diego that now lived in San Francisco.  He has been to these dinners 9 times.  His mother lives in Paris and he was with friend from Paris.  Another man from Washington, D.C. lives in Paris and his ex-wife lives in Geneva, Switzerland.  I could go on and on with the American students, and others that I met but lost track.  There were over 60 people from all over the world. Blacks, Asians, French, English, American, etc.  I bid goodbye to Jim.  He is leaving form Edinburgh next week on holiday.  He was born in Louisiana then moved to Venezuela before coming to Scotland and Europe.  He hasn’t visited the states since. 
          I took the subway home and think I will return on my next stop over in Paris, if I return. It was so hot that the man next to me on the subway, took his shirt off then pretended he was going to take his pants off.  I hope to be on the train tomorrow with the caterer from Brussels. We are leaving on the same train.  

Thunder woke me in the night and I opened the curtains today to discover rain and wet streets.  It is cool and after over two months of sunshine, I welcome walking in the rain. 
I’m off for Belgium. The light rain was enough to warrant the use of my umbrella. My 48 hour pass that I purchased at 5 pm two days ago was supposed to be good for another 6 hours since it was only 11am , but it wasn’t .  It says forty eight hours but I bought it Saturday evening and Sunday at midnight it expired.  Thank God I left the party before Midnight. 

The Gare Nord has ticket machines for convenience but not mine.  If you are leaving the country you have to purchase your ticket from an agent.  I stood in line for about 15 minutes only to be told I had to carry my luggage upstairs to purchase a ticket.  I did and waited 30 minutes to be told the place is down the hall and not here.  The line down the hall was over an hour and none of the ticket sales places made it clear what tickets they sold.  There were 4 agents with ten registers.  The others were closed of course.  That would be to convenient for the tourist and we don’t want to make things convenient for those foreigners!  Make them stand in line next  to the worst smelling person in the Gare Nord and then when he buys his ticket charge him 74 Euros for a second class ticket on an hour long train to the next city!  I couldn’t believe it.  I asked about the bus or for that matter you would think I could find a taxi for over $100 to take me on an hours drive?  He did say that if I was willing to forgo the next train and wait two hours for the 2:30 train he could get me a Senior’s discount on that and the ticket would only cost me 54 Euros.  I took it then went up to the balcony to get a coffee.  The service person told me I had to sit down and the waiter would take my order.  45 minutes later the waiter showed up and charged me $4 for a cup of coffee but couldn’t give me change for a $20.  They act like your crazy or insulting them by asking them to make change. That was the last straw.  I will not come back to France. 
          This is a beautiful country and Paris is special but not for these prices and the all the barriers they create to make your stay so unpleasant.  I have to say I was treated very politely by most everyone and felt welcomed but the facilities available are not comfortable.  Expensive Hotels with no air conditioned rooms but hair dryers. Beautiful Boulevards but your dodging dog and horse shit all the way.  A great subway system full of people that don’t wear deodorant.  Great train system that makes you wait two hours in line to get a ticket on a high speed train that only takes ½ hour or so to reach it’s destination. A massive train station that is packed and no where to sit.  Roving Black Berets with automatic weapons and hand at the ready.  They march in formation like on a jungle patrol.  The point man, one in between and one facing the rear with there eyes darts over the crowd.  Going up an escalator with one facing the top, one looking over both sides and one behind facing the bottom.  They walk a few feet then stop and look around then walk a few feet more and do the same.  There are teams of them combing the station along with teams of police doing the same without the automatic weapons. 
          I don’t even want to go to Belgium now.  I should have got the ticket for Amsterdam…the  Capitol of Freedom…my second home.  Well I can’t say it hasn’t been interesting.

….to be continued

2007 JULY…ANDREE IN MORANCE FRANCE…LYON

             The Milano Train station is huge and under construction to modernize this 1931 structure.  I saw a sign for Mini Hotel across the street. I had to stay over before traveling on to Lyon.  It was around 5pm and I had just bought a ticket (after standing in three different lines) to Lyon for the next day.  I checked in to the Mini and paid Maxi.  Stopped to have a beer at a local Café.  $10 with an attitude for a pint of beer.  

I went to the next Café where a very entertaining and friendly waiter charged the same but with a smile.  I stayed there until way after sunset and spent over $70 but had a great time.  There was a New Zealand couple next to me that started off with a beer and a half bottle of wine.  The woman said she just wanted a glass but the waiter, after escorting her into the bar to show her the wines , talked her into the half bottle but with a bottle of water she would mix with it. 4 Bottles and I lost count of the beer, we were all sitting together with two gentlemen from Lebanon and having a great time sharing travel stories.  They had spent a fortune touring Europe on Cruise ships, starting with three days in Dubai.  Then England, Ireland, Italy, Greece, until ending in Milano for the return trip. She was a school teacher/administrator in New Zealand and figured it would take them 3 years to pay off this vacation but they didn’t care. Nobody cared at that point.  We parted and I went to the internet café, $10 an hour, to email Andree that I was coming and when I would arrive. 
The next morning, I ran into the Lebanese man at the roof top restaurant having breakfast.  I checked out and returned to the internet to see if Andree was going to pick me up but my time had expired and it would cost another $10 to find out so I thought I would take my chances.  
I was seated in a assigned seat on the train next to a Black lady that had to call everyone to tell them she was whatever in some language I didn’t understand.  She would get on the phone then start laughing and talking but never paused so I wasn’t even sure anyone was on the other end except that she said hello and goodbye.  She called everyone on her call list.  She got off in Torino thank God. O.K. I am to get off the train in Chambery and take a connecting train to Lyon with my other ticket but can’t figure out where to pick this other train up.  I asked the attendant and he informed me it is a bus transfer not a train and everyone was boarding around the corner.  I gave the bus driver my train ticket and he stamped it and loaded my luggage.

The bus pulled into the Station Part Dieu Lyon and I had to get to an Internet connection to find out what Andree wanted me to do. I had told her when I was to arrive but never got her return message as I had to leave early and didn’t have time to get on the internet.  She wanted me to arrive at Station Perrache Lyon as it was easy to pick me up.  I tried to book the ticket in Milano for that station but they didn’t know what I was talking about.
I didn’t see any departure signs for Perrache so inquired about any internet connections.  It turns out that the station is Wi-Fi connected but you have to pay for it.  I got on and for 15 minutes tried to get connected. I gave them my credit card number and they gave me a password but it wouldn’t work.  I finally gave up and decided Andree is at Perrache waiting since she was here when I arrived so better find a Internet Café.  The lady at the counter said there was one downtown and gave me the Main St of Lyon but couldn’t tell me the name or cross streets.  She was giving me the Metro stops to take and I finally decided to take a cab but wanted to dump my luggage in a locker first.  The locker attendant explained I needed 4 Euros and when I asked for change he didn’t have it.  I finally got change and stored the bags.
I then took the cab but he didn’t know any internet café so the both of us were driving all around the main part of town looking for a sign.  I finally spotted it and finally got into the Internet.  The message was to take any train from the station Part Dieu to Perrache and I’ll be waiting. They run every 8 minutes.  
I took a cab back but the taxi didn’t have change for a 20 and it took a while.  I refused to give him a tip.   In the station, I finally noticed a departure for Perrache at 4:50 and it was 4:43 but another was leaving at 5:21 so figured I could make that one.  I had to get my luggage, and buy a ticket.  I fooled around with the ticket machine again but couldn’t find the destination so went to the ticket office and saw 40 people standing in this long line which wasn’t moving because there was only 4 ticket agents.  I couldn’t do anything but get in line.  Twenty minutes later, the train had departed and the next train wasn’t until 6:05.  I was only half through the line and the ticket agents were down to three.  I found out I could have taken a cab without going to the internet downtown and saved money. The ticket was only 1 Euro and if I had saved my tickets from the trip instead of throwing them in the trash when I arrived, I could have gotten the ticket free.  
  While waiting for the train, a women was out on the tracks moving her luggage to the other side.  She made about three trips back and forth and was now being assisted by someone helping her carry her baby in the carriage across the train tracks when whistles started blowing everywhere and three police came on one side and another on the other.  They just got her up to the platform when a freight train came barreling through the station.  Almost exciting as my day. 
I made the train and arrived hoping Andree was still waiting but after 3 hours she left.  I checked out a map to see how far away she was and it was around an hour’s drive one way.  I figured she waited until 5 or 6 at the most then went home.  She then would have got my message that I should be at Perrache after 5:30 and if she was coming back, should be here around 8pm.  I waited until 8:30 then left to find a hotel and something to eat before everything closed.  There was one next to the train station for 56 Euros and another around the corner for 46 Euros.  I took the cheap one and bought breakfast in the morning plus an internet card I could use in my room to email Andree and let her know.  
I checked into the room and got on the internet immediately to find a message from Andree with her phone number telling me to wait and she would be there in 30 minutes.  The message was at 8pm, I left at 8:30pm .  It was now 8:45 so I ran back to the station and had her paged when I didn’t see her but she was gone.  Returning to the hotel I called her and left a message.  Apparently she was on her way back home.  I then went back to the station to double check and leave a message with the hotel I was staying at just in case she arrived late for me. When I got back to the hotel, she was on the phone waiting for me. 
           She had been to the station while I was checking in the hotel, then on the way out of the parking lot she saw the hotel and stopped to see if I had checked in.  It was the more expensive one that I rejected.  She would have caught me there if I had decided on that one. Her daughter will pick me up tomorrow at 10 am and we will come back to Lyon on Wednesday.  I need a day of rest.

Tuesday at 10am her lovely daughter showed up and drove me to Morance and their home.  She ran a B & B out of it.  Very small but lovely home they (her and her husband who don’t live together) have owned for 24 years. We went shopping at the local Carrefour …rather like a Wal-Mart but a great selection of Terrines, Pates, Wines, Breads, Cheeses, well you get the point. She gave me the scenic tour, stopping to chat with around 8 older men playing Boules, then on to fixed a nice lunch on returning.  It was a nice relaxing day.  

       We had a late breakfast and it is a beautiful day so we decided to spend it touring the countryside of Beaujolais after lunch.

          My diet new consists of different cheeses, croissants, Pate, salads, casseroles, wine and water.  Andree gave me the Grand Tour of the vineyards and villages of the region.  It was beautiful and spectacular.  No billboards or superhighways with fast food rest stops.  It was very peaceful and pastoral. We stopped at different photo opportunities and for little walks in interesting villages. 

          She recommended we visit a friend of hers on a mountain top for an aperitif.  She parked on the side of a road then started hiking down this hillside with me following.  We came to a small hut of sorts surrounded by these beautiful flower and vegetable gardens on the side of the hill with an incredible view of the valley below. 

She yelled and Bernard came to the gate to great us.  We walked down the path through the garden to a mud and straw hut with an outside grape arbor with a table and some chairs under it.  A friend was visiting and we joined them.  The friend politely excused himself and departed. 


Andree was anxious to see his new dry toilet.  Bernard and his wife Lille have no running water, or electricity and built this 800 sq foot home themselves.  It consists of a bathroom (before they had an outhouse) a kitchen and a small living room/bedroom.  They read a lot and everything was in its place.  You almost wondered if this was just for show or did someone actually live here?  Bernard broke out a bottle of sparkling sweet wine that was like Asti Spumante and Lille arrived down the path to join us for conversation while we sat under the arbor.  They spoke French after asking my permission.  Bernard spoke a little English and was very tolerant of my bad French.  We had an enjoyable one hour stay then departed for a Chateau and vineyard that had been run by the same family since the French Revolution.


We arrived while the owners were sitting around drinking Ricard Patisse.
It is like Ouzo or Sambucco and the French drink it with their morning Espresso before starting work.  She introduced me to the son Jean Pierre and we did a tour of the winery.  He explained everything as we sipped Chardonnay, Rose, and Beaujolais.  We talked about his travels to Puerto Rico and his stint in the Army when he was sent to Algiers.  He has 3 daughters, all under 10 and seldom vacations as this is a family run winery and all the grapes are cut by hand then fermented , after pressing, in 100 year old casks.

I took some photos and we returned to a lovely dinner that Tasmin, Andree’s daughter,  prepared for us. I retired early and awoke to a thunder storm in the night and overcast wet morning.
We are now leaving for a tour of Lyon then lunch at a restaurant and return.  Andree tried to cancel one of my days in Paris so I can stay over another day but we have to go through the on line booking agent and that is proving impossible.  I decided to just not go until Saturday.  I’m paying either way and just as soon stay here an extra day than in a Paris hotel.  We started with a fantastic lunch at this small forty two seat restaurant in the basement of  a small building on a side street of downtown Lyon near the Rhone river. 

It had a stone ceiling being in the basement with lots of unique windows around the sides and modern art work on the stone walls.  Flowers on the tables and chic customers enjoying conversation and food.  We ordered salads.  Mine was a salad with duck, bacon, raisons, and nice fresh greens and vegetables. The restaurant served a “house dressing” that was very good.  I enjoyed a small carafe of wine and we shared a bottle of water.  Then came some raviolis with crème and fresh cheese grated into the sauce.  Tiramisu and Café au lait finished off a wonderful lunch. Now it was time to work it off.



Andree gave me a brief road tour of the sites from the Soane and the Rhone to the Roman ruins, little know Lyon neighborhoods and then to the Touboules…old Lyons narrow backstreets.  We parked the car for that then walked cobblestone streets and back alleys.  Visited churches and shops.  We were to ride the funicular to the top of the hill to visit a famous cathedral and see the view of Lyon from the mountain but you had to pay 4.40 Euro and I was trying but didn’t have change.  Andree got so pissed that they didn’t provide proper service for those that wanted to use it, that she insisted we give up the parking space and take the car up then find another space.  We did. We walked around the Cathedral and the Roman amphitheater.  There was a concert in the theater that evening …Yanni or Pavarotti or Paul Potts…I don’t know it could have been Pink Floyd.  We decided to spend a fortune and get a drink at the local tourist café overlooking the city.  After waiting for the one waiter who was serving 80 people to come around, we ordered a Coke and a Wine Spritzer (a sacrilege in France). The waiter wouldn’t make a Spritzer but brought a soda water in a bottle, a glass of wine and another glass to make my own Spritzer , all for only $10.  He was out of Coke.  Andree had some of my soda and we left after to return for dinner that evening.  

  When I awoke, I had three bite marks on my arm that were oozing fluid and itched like hell.  My arm  was swollen so Andree put some salve on it and it stopped itching but stayed swollen.  When in Italy I was eaten alive by ants, mosquitoes and spiders.  Also a few bed bugs bit me on the way there.  I was bleeding, scratching and swollen in places that you couldn’t reach. I never had been bitten in years. Must be that I lost my immunity and now the bugs are making up for it.   
We had a quiet dinner that night and retired early.  The next day a couple from Belgium was to arrive with their child for a last minute reservation for the B & B.  I moved to Tasman’s room, she went to stay in Lyon with her boyfriend and both Andree and I cleaned the house, did the laundry and went to the local town for some last minute shopping at a Arab market, a farmer’s market, and a store quite like Trader Joes. 

She stopped at the train station for me to pick up my ticket for departure tomorrow.  When we returned we unloaded the Van and I read Bill Bryson’s “Down Under” while she readied things for her 7:30 guests.  8;30 rolled around and we had aperitifs and snacks while waiting for a phone call or something.  They stood her up so we had soup then rice with vegetables and cheese and wine.  Now it’s time to kick the cats out of my new room and retire with “Down Under”. 
The next morning Andree was busy preparing a lunch for Andrew, her husband from Marseilles, her son Theo from Lyon, his girlfriend Nora, myself and Andree.  She sent me outside to weed the patio and get dirt under my fingernails.  That was a nice experience except that I couldn’t bend over to remove the weeds.  I devised a method of sitting in the chair then moving the chair around while I weeded.  We welcomed the entourage and exchanged introductions.  Andrew and I sat in the sitting room discussing travel and Bob Bryson, careful to stay out of Andree’s way.  We had a lovely meal of baked fresh vegetables with couscous and a homemade spicy, but delicious curry sauce.  We had bread and a nice salad then Andrew was talking about some Arabic sausages from North Africa that Andree promptly took out of the refrigerator and fried up for us. 

I was anxious about missing my train so excused myself to load the car but Andree insisted I still had time for cheese she had sat out for me.  I was full and nervous about the trip so begged to leave.  She said she liked to arrive just in time to catch the train.  I suspect that is how Andree does everything in her busy life. I bid all good by and can honestly say that my stay in Morance was one of the best experiences of my travels in Europe this summer.  Andrew and I exchanged travel stories on the way to the station.  He works in International Relations and travels quite extensively from Iran to Russia and other parts of the world.  We both agreed about the magic of SERVAS and the wonderful experiences it offers.  He walked me to the track and waited until my train arrived before bidding me goodbye. 
I transferred trains in Lyon and am now on my way to Paris.

VENICE.FLORENCE.BOLOGNA TRIESTE SLOVANIA

          The next morning we all took photos and exchanged hugs.  Our Taxi showed on time and we were the first to part.  There was Steve, Jody, Ann and myself.  Ann went to the train station to catch the train south.  She had to meet her future Italian in laws and was dreading it.  Steve and Jody had booked a Hostel in Florence and I was going to Bologna.  We had to take a bus from Castillo to Arezzo and then the train to our destinations.  The bus left at 12:10 and arrived at 1:50.  It was a local bus that stopped in all the towns on the way.  We enjoyed the scenery in between naps.  

The mountains , woods and countryside of Tuscany are beautiful.  We even passed through a medieval village that we would have not seen otherwise.  Arriving in Arezzo, Steve and Jody booked the local train to Florence for 5 Euros.  I used a machine and booked mine with reserved seat to Bologna for 16.50 Euros.  If I had gone with them, I would have had  to get off in Florence then book another train to Bologna…I wish I had.  My train left 8 minutes after them but was delayed by a half hour, which turned out to be over 40 minutes.  That brought me into Bologna 20 minutes after my bus left for the B & B that I was staying at.  The bus only ran every two hours.  I slept a little on the way but the air conditioning broke down and the train was full and hot so it was difficult to sleep. 
       

 When I arrived, I dragged my suitcases through the streets stopping at each bus stop and trying to get directions to purchase a bus ticket for my #68 bus to the B & B but either they weren’t Italian or didn’t want to try and understand.  It would have helped if I learned some basic Italian. Finally I found what I thought was the stop but still have an hour or more wait in the heat.  I went back to the train station to Mc D’s for a Big and Tasty and a toilette.  The Big and Tasty was Big and loaded with Mayonnaise I had never seen before.  The toilette was up two flights of stairs and I was not about to leave my bags with these strange mean looking beggars that approached you and demanded money while eating leftovers off the tables in Mc D’s.  I got a cab for 10 Euros, checked in and after a beer, I died until 7 am the next day.  
I just had some great Cappuccino and am ready to catch the bus to the train station to meet Steve and Jody at the Republic Plaza in Firenze. Wish me luck.  Tomorrow, I will visit Bologna for an afternoon and catch up on my email in my room.  This is a park for families. They have a pool , snack bar, convenience store, a bar and games for families.  My Chalet is quite nice for 40 Euros a night…would be twenty Euros with another person sharing.  
The bus for Bologna picked us up promptly after breakfast and I arrived at the train station to purchase my tickets for Firenze at a machine.  Their were real long lines everywhere and no ticket counters open.  I decided to try to purchase a round trip so I wouldn’t have to stand in line in Firenze. I misread 15:14 to mean 5:14 pm and bought a ticket to return at 3:14…too early. 
         

 I got a tourist map and some money when I arrived around 10:30 am and headed for the Duomo. I didn’t have time to go inside but it was truly magnificent. I walked all around it and took photos of the Gates of Paradise as well as a few buildings around the area.  It was around Noon so I headed for the Piazza Republic to meet Steve and Jody at 12:30.  I stopped to get a great sandwich in a take away restaurant then ate it in the Piazza.  Steve and Jody showed up on time and we decided to go to the Pont Veccicho near their hostel.  We walked over it, took some photos then on to the Pitti Palacio and the Gardens. 





I thought I had just enough time to see that  and they had other things on their agenda so we parted and said our goodbyes.  I went to purchase the admittance ticket and the line was over a half hour long.  That left me an hour and a half to see the whole thing and still be back at the train station.  I was already exhausted from the heat and walking so decided to take a different route back. 
       I crossed a different bridge, went through another neighborhood and arrived at the station a little early.  Mc Café was calling.  I swear they got the best cappuccino in all of Italy for the price.  This time it was served in a real cup and they had a lounge like Starbucks, but better.  I’ll never bad mouth McDonald’s again.  It was so good I had another cup and almost bought a pastry from their amazing selection. I returned to Gate 9.  That is where all the schedules said the train was departing from.  After waiting until 15:25, I was beginning to worry so ran back to check the sign but it said nothing.  I noticed  a train getting ready to depart for Bologna on Gate 3 so ran over to the conductor and verified that it was the train I was to board.  I have to learn Italian.  I guess they announced the change over the loud speaker?  While aboard the train, the conductor came around to punch your ticket.  One women said she wished to purchase hers but the conductor didn’t have change for a $50.  The passenger next to her made change with two twenties and a ten.  Then the conductor said he didn’t have change for that and she needed $3.20 Euros and a twenty.  No one had change but everyone chipped in a little of what they had so she could complete the transaction.  Just made it back in time to catch my bus and return to the B & B.

        I discovered they have over 40 of these state sponsored B&B’s in Italy.  It would be great to rent a car and travel around the summer staying in them and visiting the local sites. You can get discounts each time you travel from one to another.  A frequent user program like some of the Hostels.  I’m going to try and do laundry and get out some email.  I haven’t been on the internet in over 10 days!   Well it appears the B & B’s laundry only runs with tokens you purchase for 3 Euros from a machine that is broken and the front desk only has one left.  That is also the same for the dryer. I said I would wait to get two tokens the next day when the machine is fixed but the clerk told me there will be a huge line as it has been broken for days and many people plan to use the laundry tomorrow.  I used the Bidet again to do laundry.

I  boarded the bus along with a dog smuggler. His wife wouldn’t go anywhere without the dog so they smuggled it in a bag with a towel over the top.  I visited Bologna for the afternoon on my last day and was elated to find such a beautiful , well preserved Medieval city.  I took 42 photos, walked all over, finally got on the internet for 2 hours. I had a message from the SERVAS host wanting to know what  happened and where was I?  Apparently I misread a refusal and thought it was from her.  Both were under the Subject SERVAS and I thought it was a reply from her.  I felt so bad for her and also for me because it was my only opportunity so far to stay with a SERVAS host.  She had been waiting for me…I felt terrible.  I then had lunch with two guys from Chicago that were traveling Europe for the first time.  They were staying in Bologna with his father who lived here. I was running late and didn’t want to wait two hours for the next bus so caught a city bus to near the stop and got out at the same time the B&B bus was arriving at it’s stop behind me.  I actually jogged from one stop to the other and made it.  I guess I am in better shape after the last few weeks of walking. 

While on the internet, I booked a room in Venice for two days.  I hope to get on the internet with MY computer today.  I went to download my photos of  Bologna and discovered the second drop of the camera had caused it to malfunction and over 35% of all the photos I took that day were ruined.  The first drop of the camera ruined the LCD window so I didn’t know the photos weren’t coming out and now have a broken camera for the duration of my trip!! 
I was up early so decided to pack and leave for Venice at 10am instead of 11am.  A regular ticket cost 8.5 Euro vs. the “fast train” at 20 Euro.  I finally found that out after a nice young lady gave me her place in line…I need a face lift!
The train ride afforded me some time to catch up on my boring, detailed
Journal.  We stopped and according to my map, this was the last stop before Venice so I got off at the next stop.  I forgot this was a regional train that stopped everywhere .  I saw a sign that said Venice and assumed this was it.  The sign was the train’s next destination. This is the last stop before Venice.  I found this out after I bought a map of the city of Venice but the lady told me to take bus 2 to get into the city.  I didn’t see bus 2 listed on the map with the other buses so inquired as to why when she finally stopped talking on the phone to inform me because this was not Venice.
            I took the bus the rest of the way to Venice and bought a pass for 48 hours to take the water taxi to the Island of Lido which I failed to notice Lido Venice was not Venice when I booked the hotel. OK time for an adventure, as if I hadn’t already had one.  I found taxi 51 and boarded for Lido. A half hour and 5 or 6 stops later, we arrive in Lido.  I did get to see some sites and know where the St Marcus Square is.
          Now, the way I interpreted the map, my hotel was on the other side of Lido where the water taxi didn’t go.  I had to take the only bus listed on the map…#11.  I got on the bus and off we went.  I noticed it wasn’t making very few stops but thought that no one wanted to get off right away.  Then we passed my hotel so I pressed the stop button but the bus went on and on. 

I realized the button worked fine because I noticed the bus driver kept looking up at me.  This was an express bus so I figured I would have to get off and take a taxi back but there wasn’t any business center or traffic.  We arrived in Malacocco, the nearest thing to a city on my map, but it was in the middle of no where. I thought with all these people still on the bus, they must be going to somewhere resembling a town.  They were.  The bus drove right on to a ferry boat and before I could get to the door, I noticed the gang plank went up and the boat was moving.  I looked on the map and it had an arrow pointing to St. Maria del Mar.  I looked into my guide book with a larger map but it was not on there.  Soon the boat docked and the bus drove off along a road with seawall on both sides.  We arrived in a small fishing village and everyone got off while the driver started to read his newspaper.  I finally approached him and showed him my map while explaining what happened.  He said I have to  return to Malacocco and get off at the stop to wait for bus A or B to take me to a stop near the hotel.  I never knew there was a bus A or B. 

  I returned and got on B at the stop and off just past my hotel.  It was 4pm when I arrived to this 3 star hotel in the middle of no where.  There were no cars in the lot and I was the only person in the lobby except for the hotel clerk.  He promptly took care of me and informed me that bus A or B run every 10 minutes 24 hours a day and so does the water taxi 51. Wow…I was getting ready to check out for another hotel in Venice…if I could find one. I decided that I came to far and went through too much to give up at this point. I’m off for Venice.

Bus to boat to San Marco Square, the Basilica San Marco, the Doge Palace, the Rialto Bridge….etc…etc.  Everything went fine.  I just hope the photos turn out.  I left around 4:15 and after fighting the heat and the crowds I returned to Lido and St. Maria Elizabetta, the local beach town. 

I really liked what I saw when I was leaving to catch the boat so decided to eat in the village rather than the tourist crap in Venice.  I started with a Campari Spritzer…Campari, Vermouth, soda water, lemon and an olive.  Then I went to a Apple Spritzer with Apple Snap’s, Campari, Vermouth, soda water, orange and an olive. We fought off the aggressive Pigeons for the peanuts and chips.  When a party would leave the table, ten pigeons would descend, knock over the chips and peanuts before the wait staff could get to it then fly away and come back and eat the dropped food.  They were like a gang of marauders that sat in wait then attacked all at once.  I had a great server and enjoyed the evening with a great crowd of Italians, Chinese, and English.  I then went wandering with the camera for photos and shopped for dinner.  

I finally found a real nice Italian Café with outside seating under a grape arbor. I asked if I ordered a Pizza and couldn’t finish it if he could give the remainder to me in a take away.  He said he would wrap it in foil so I ordered a Brie and Tomato Pizza that was outstanding.  The tomatoes were Roma Tomatoes but nothing like what we sell in Albertsons.  They were really flavorful.  I had a half carafe of white wine and before settling the bill, I noticed some Chinese* smoking out on the sidewalk so joined them and bummed a cigarette.  I’m back to OP’s now.  It was my second in 4 days.  They were from Hong Kong and had visited Vegas.  One loved to gamble in Macao and the horse races in Hong Kong.  The other did none of that.  We had a really nice conversation and the man said I looked too young to be a grandfather.  The Orientals and Italians respect older people.  I told him I thought he was full of it but thanked him anyway. On the returning bus I explained to some young teens that I didn’t understand Italian and needed to know where to get off.  No problem…they spoke very good English and directed me to the correct stop.  It is 10:30pm and I am tired. Good night.
After sleeping late, having breakfast and playing catch up on my computer for 2 hours, I took the bus to Venice and a water taxi up and down the Grand Canal for 2 hours.  Trieste was calling so thinking this was to be a short one hour ride by train, I bought my roundtrip ticket at the kiosk machine with my credit card.  I saw the train was departing in 4 minutes. Perfect, I grabbed the ticket and was on my way to the gate.  I boarded, then realized this was not a round trip ticket and I hadn’t waited for the machine to finish printing out the return trip which was now in the hands of someone else who probably thinks it is his ticket to Roma.  Hopefully he was smarter than me and looked at it before running off. Well the train is off and I will just have to buy another return and eat 8.5 Euros. Now to plan my excursion around Trieste.  First, how much time before I have to return…maybe 3 hours.  If the train is there in an hour or an hour and a half , I should be able to get a return ticket departing around 6:30 pm and be back in Venice by 8pm giving me a good 2 hours to take photos of the harbor, have lunch, and walk around.  

           Opps….what’s that, the train doesn’t arrive in Trieste until 6 pm!  Three hours from now!  Well sit back and enjoy because this is it.  Look at the scenery and relax.  I arrived in time to buy a ticket back, take a photo of the train station, have a coffee, buy a postcard photo of Trieste, and am now back on the train and it is 6:45pm.  The train started and we are ready but an announcement comes over the speaker. Everyone gets off the train and scurries away .  I’m trying to figure out what happened and figured I better do that fast or may end up spending the night in the train station.  The train had been changed over to another at another track for departure to Venice via 28 other cities in the middle.  We arrived in Venice at 10 pm at night.  I was in such a hurry to see everything that I saw nothing.  First rule of travel…take it easy. I returned to Elizebetta,  had some wine and lasagna then took the bus back to the hotel. The bus looped around Elizebetta then returned to where it started.  I discovered (this trip is full of discoveries) that the Bus A has two routes and finally reached the hotel. It was after midnight when I retired.  
I was hoping to catch the ferry to Pula, Croatia today but found out it doesn’t go until Friday so will have to take the train to Slovenia, arrive late, spend the night or two then continue to Zagreb, Croatia before taking the bus to Pula.  I wanted to take the ferry from Pula down the Dalmatia Coast to Split.  
I  booked a hotel in Slovenia for two nights and took the water taxi around the other side of Venice to the train station.  The attendant checked my ticket and explained I didn’t validate it like I was supposed to.  I showed him the date and time of purchase on the ticket and where it stated …good for 48 hours…I had 10 minutes left!  He had to check with his boss and returned with an apology.
         I have traveled the major canals, all around the Island of Venice, Lido and whatever the other Island was all on my 48 hour pass. 
The machine at the train station didn’t show my departure so after standing in a very long line I managed to purchase the ticket at the counter. My train consists of three cars…the engine, caboose and mine. I am now waiting on the train (few train stations offer a place to sit and if they do it is not air conditioned). Some trains have electrical plugs in the table separating the seats. This one does not and I will close my computer before my battery dies.  Goodbye Venezia! Hello Ljubljana, Slovenia! Try pronouncing that! Try spelling that.
Well I got to see Trieste again as we passed it in the distance on the way to Slovenia.  Now we are at the border crossing.  Like Mexico…the train was boarded and everyone had to produce their passport.  Some were stamped and mine wasn’t.  I got my new passport last February and have been to five countries and still don’t have a stamp!
I got to try Lasko Pivo since 1825 .  It is Lager Beer called Zlotozog and cost $2.80 for .5 Liter with 5% alcohol….info for Joe Duffy.  It is made in Lasko, Slovenia.  Now I’m trying Union Pivo. It’s the same except since 1865. The express train , called the Casanova, has a Bistro, a Casino with slots, and internet plug ins for us techies. I guess I’m in Slovenia.  It looks like they actually hire graffiti artists here to spray paint the trains so they look good…I’m in Sezana now. 
I guess that last stop was the Italian border police…now we got the Slovenia police and they didn’t stamp my passport either. They wanted to throw this nice man next to me off the train.  He argued with them and they allowed him to stay.  He said he is Albanian and they give him a hard time because his passport has Cambodia, Thailand, and a whole slew of Eastern European countries.  He was wearing a ring with a marijuana leaf on it and I questioned that.  He said that the Netherlands and Albania are the only places where it is legal.  He travels to the Orient on business and is married to a lady that lives in NYC.  He has a son that is American and worked for a time in Tampa, Florida.  He doesn’t have money to travel for pleasure so had to budget his trips. He carries American dollars with him. He showed me. He likes all the European countries because though they are small by comparison to Australia or the US, they all have completely different cultures and the people look different.  You can tell a Romanian from a Czech Republic person. Not only the language but the body language.  He asked if I knew Anthony of Pier 4 in Boston.  I said I knew of him and said he was Greek.  The man promptly corrected me and said he was Albanian and that he knew Anthony’s Nephew.  When G. W. Bush visited Albania, they gave him a big welcome not because he was G. Bush, but because it was the first time an American President, the most powerful country in the world came to Albania.  If Hillary was Pres, she would have got the same treatment.  The last time the Albanians were so excited was when the Blues Brothers did a concert in Albania. He spoke Slovenian, English, Spanish and a whole bunch of other languages.  It was a very interesting trip. He said the train slows down after entering Slovenia.  I looked at his map and though we crossed the border and Ljubljana was only a short distance away, we had been traveling for over an hour and were only half way.  He said if they say they will arrive at 8:45, they will slow the train down rather then be early.  They don’t do that in other major countries but only the small ones?                 We arrived and he tried to help me with directions but no one new the street I wanted.  It was only 70 meters from the bus station, which is right there next to the train station.  I walked all over a 70 meter area surrounding the station and even asked a Slovenian with a map to help me.  He couldn’t find it so I took a taxi.  He drove me right there but it was maybe two miles.  The brochures said bus station and meant bus stop.  The taxi was 1125 on the meter so I assumed 12 Euros and gave it to him. The cabbie didn’t argue and I just wanted to check in and unpack. It turns out that Slovenia has been accepted into the EU but hasn’t gone on the Euro. The Tovar is 240 to one Euro so I paid the man more than double for the fare! 
          Now I check in to this three star air conditioned 330 room hotel to find the hall and lobby is air conditioned but not the rooms.  I came down to eat at the restaurant before the 10pm closing but the chef said no menu was available as it was too late.  You had to take the 10 Euro buffet which was all picked over and ready to close.  I was too hungry to go out looking so took a dried out piece of chicken, a fatty piece of pork, two greasy pieces of potatoes, dried out rice and passed on the soggy vegetables.  A glass of wine and 12 Euros later I returned to the room hoping I won’t get sick.  They have a free laundry on my floor so I got the key to the laundry thinking I would wash a small load that was beginning to stand up on it’s own.  There was one small machine and one small dryer.  The washer was full and operating so I returned an hour later to find it full and not operating.  I thought a drink was in order so went down to the bar to find it closed at 10pm along with the restaurant but I could walk a few miles to the local bar.  I had already walked around back of the hotel to get an ATM machine and passed a few homeless or druggies in the graffiti alley on the way.  This reminds me of Slovakia…dark, dirty streets out of a Kafka novel.  I decided to use the expensive mini bar instead.  The TV was mostly Pay for View and nothing but erotic movies.  The free part consisted of three boring stations that ran American rejects dubbed in Slovenian. I’m going to try this tomorrow after some sleep.  The cheap internet access is taking forever to download a email, so maybe if I leave it on all night I may have some emails to read in the morning.

Ljubljana is a very nice city.  The bus took me to downtown where three rivers meet.  This is way better than San Antonio.  Most of the area is blocked to traffic and the restaurants and bars serve good cheap food.  I walked all over then went to the train station to take a bus to Bled and buy a ticket for Zagreb when I leave tomorrow.  I ran into my Albanian friend who had been touring the downtown also.  He concurred that it was lovely and the people were friendly. He is on his way to Budapest. I am off to Bled.  After a nap I awoke as the Bus arrived in Bled.  There I took a nice boat ride around a lake in the center then boarded the bus back to the hotel to do my laundry and pack for tomorrow.  I’m on a new “EURO” diet.  The Euro is High….I Don’t Buy.  So far its working and I’m starting to lose all that I gained with the free food at school.
Finally got a load of laundry done.  I’ve been trying for two days but with only one Washer and Dryer, there has always been someone using it.  I finally left it with a note to please throw in washer when finished.  Somebody did so I have some clean clothes.  I had my favorite Ham and Cheese on white bread with a beer before retiring last night.  They put sliced dill pickle on it this time.  
This morning I had that same crappy instant coffee I’ve been fed for the last three weeks.  Even at the school.  I decided to pay for a cup of real coffee at the hotel but it tasted like they used the same grinds twice…mine was the second. I needed to book my flight to Lyon before checking out.  I discovered the cheapest was $400 so I decided to cancel the ferry to Split and take the ferry from Pula to Venice.  It only runs tomorrow or I have to wait two days.  I took tomorrow but now have to figure out how to get to Pula by 8 am tomorrow.  I have the ticket to Zagreb for this afternoon so will head out to trade in for hopefully another ticket leaving here for Pula or may have to go to Zagreb to catch the bus to Pula?? There is no bus to Pula and the train left at 7:30am and there are no more until 7:30 am tomorrow but my only ferry to Venice leaves at 8am from Pula. Now I have to take a bus to Rijeka, which is just an hour away from Pula.  The bus doesn’t leave until 3:30pm and arrives at 6:30pm….then, hopefully I can get a bus to Pula, spend the night and rise early to catch the ferry?  No one knows if I can get a bus from Rijeka because I am in Slovenia not Croatia and they are separate countries even though I’m close to the border.  I had hoped to check the Croatian Railway or Bus system on the internet to confirm there is a bus but even though the sign said…Just ask information for the free WiFi password and use our network, no body knows the password or anything about it.  After being passed back and forth three times I gave up.  The nearest internet café was over a mile with luggage in the heat of the day.  I decided to wait and hope Rijeka had an internet connection.  I will know by then if there is a bus but need to know about a plane out of Marco Polo airport in Venice to Lyon…if I get to Venice. 
           I did manage to get my ticket to Zagreb refunded.  First she told me I had to go to the tourist office to have the ticket stamped and then return.  I got in line at the tourist office, the clerk stamped it twice on one side, once on the other then signed it, then made me sign it and returned it to take back to the ticket office for a refund. When I returned, there was another line and after 15 minutes I gave the ticket , all stamped and signed to the agent.  She pulled out a big book and wrote some information into it, then stamped the book and had me sign then book.  I then got my refund of 10 Euros.
           I had a few hours to kill and was getting restless so decided to rent a locker for my bags for 2 Euro and go to that Internet Café in town.  To secure your bags, you put them in the locker, then close it and deposit the money , then take your key.  Mine wouldn’t take the money.  The attendant came over to help but no luck.  There was ONE locker left that wasn’t occupied and it had my name on it. It is around 1pm and hot outside as I stroll into the center.  I found the Café with no problem but it was closed and didn’t open until 2:30pm on Saturdays.  I checked at a Kiosk to see if the man knew of others close by.  He said there was a bar next door that had a computer and they might let me borrow it. I inquired with the barmaid but someone was already on it and she directed me to the tourist office where they had a free one.  That turned out to be only information on Slovenia so I returned and asked to use her computer.  The guys that were on it, finished up and I took over only to find out there may or may not be a bus from Rijeka to Pula.  I may have to hitch hike.  The cheapest plane from Venice to Lyon was $310 so I may be taking the train to Lyon from Venice.  
I arrived back at the train station and noticed a train leaving for Rijeka in 20 minutes.  That is what the information desk was trying to tell me.  I thought it was funny when purchasing the bus ticket that the bus didn’t leave until 3:30pm when I remember the man telling me 2:50pm.  I returned my ticket for a refund but the bus station takes 10% plus reservation fees.  I didn’t care.  I purchased my train ticket, boarded the train and am on my way to Rijeka and hopefully to Pula.
I got off the train at 5:45 pm and headed for Tourist information.  Closed at 5:30pm so asked a nice young couple that directed me to the Bus station down the street.  I went as fast as I could so I wouldn’t chance missing the last bus out of town for Pula.  I could see Pula painted on the side of a bus in the distance with a line to board.  I jaywalked a 6 lane super highway to get to the line.  I asked if I could pay rather than get a ticket in the station and he agreed as he took my bag to load in cargo.  I asked how much and he asked if I had Kruner.  I’m not in Kansas anymore…only Euro I replied to which he asked for 1 Euro and I boarded. Then he approached me on the bus for the 69 Kroners for the ticket.  That  first Euro was for the bag.  A common practice some places.  Taxis sometimes charge for more than one bag. I paid him 10 Euros so assume a Euro is equal to 6.9Kroners.  
This country is beautiful.  Rijeka was a very large port city on the Adriatic.  The bus followed the coast to Pula through seaside resorts with concrete beaches.  There seems not to be any sandy beaches but mostly rock with large forests coming right down to the clear, blue , calm water.  This is a very expensive looking area and full of tourists.  The weather has been sunshine and clear skies for days.  The afternoons have been hot but not like Phoenix.
This road is becoming steeper and narrower.  I can feel the blood rushing out of me.  I am white and scared.  These mountain roads at 50-60 with no guard rails make me think of what those Polish tourists saw before their bus went over the side in the Italian Alps last week.  We will never know. It has been 2 ½ hours now and we are approaching Pula.  I have only to find a room on a Saturday night in a resort town on the sea.
Well that was easy.  I got off at the terminal, ATM’s some Kruners, bought a map of Pula, walked downtown to the waterfront, checked in to the Grand Rivera, got a wake up call, and paid 42 Euros for the room. The same room was 72 Euros when I looked it up on the internet.
  I went out for a seafood dinner (Fish Fry) on the wharf in a restaurant called the Adriatic. It had a veranda overlooking the port.  There was a  two story yacht tied up to the restaurant ,next to my table, with a couple having a candle light dinner aboard.  I asked the waitress if she could bring me my dessert on that boat.  She thought I owned it and was thinking about it.

  I stopped at a “Flair” bar on the way home for some fancy expensive drinks then retired for the night in my hot room with no fan or A/C.  I took a shower, went to bed wet with a wet sheet over me and fell right to sleep. 
I woke and had breakfast on the rooftop restaurant, walked to the ferry and boarded.  We flew over the Adriatic in a hovercraft and arrived in Venice in three hours.  I slept most of the way.  We had to go through passport control and I thought they said people just visiting Venice for the day without luggage wait while the others get off.  It was the other way around.  I found that out after going through customs and then they wouldn’t let me back to get my bags.  He wanted to know the name of the boat as there were three and he had to get a boat official to come and escort me.  I didn’t know the name but after some discussion he figured it out, got the boat master and I got my bag. 
I went back through customs, bought a water taxi ticket even though the train station was only 5 stops away and they seldom check tickets. They didn’t check mine either…6 more Euros. Then the taxi stopped at the station before mine and told everyone to get off?  I thought I had gotten on the wrong taxi so armed with a ticket I tried to board the next taxi but it was closed. The Grand Canal was closed down for construction and I had to walk up and down over 5 bridges to arrive in time to purchase my ticket to Milano
Well I had to go the bathroom and had just enough time but it requires 0.7Euro and correct change which I did not have.  You can not just go up to a kiosk and ask for change…they don’t give it and usually ask you for change.  I decided to buy some water 1.20 Euro for the train but they only have one cashier that services the bar, restaurant, ice cream shop, grocery store and cafeteria.  You have to go to her, tell her what you are ordering then go to the place and give them a receipt to get what you want.  The line was out the door and I waited. After receiving my change I ran to the bathroom and found all the stalls occupied except the one with the broken lock.  I took it and put my suitcase against the door. I made the train in time to board.  It took off just as I found a seat.  I’m running out of  hemorrhoid ointment!! 

 …to be continued…photos to follow.



A WONDERFUL WEEK TEACHING IN UMBRIA

      Sunday morning we ate on the patio overlooking the valley. 

Incredible is the only word to describe it….the view… the breakfast was better than  most buffets I’ve had this trip.  I did two one on ones. Maria was my first.  She travels with her husband, an architect to all over the world including Chicago, Boston, and N.Y.  She works for the City of Madrid , Cultural Center to include the  American Museum in Madrid.


When the Conquistadors first arrived in the American Southwest, they took artifacts of the Anastasia’s and Pueblo Indians in 1500…some of the earliest existing artifacts of the American Indian…and took them to Spain.  The exhibit is at the American Museum but travels because of it being the only one of it’s kind.  Maria travels to the U.S. to facilitate the transfer of acquisitions to add to the museum collection.  She would assist in crating the artifact or painting then transferring it to the JFK transport with the documents and be in Madrid when it arrives. Maria also has restarted taking dance lessons to learn the Flamenco all over again.  She had been classically trained in Ballet and Spanish Dance years ago.
My other one on one, Maria Angeles, was also an employee of the City of Madrid and enjoys travel as well as cooking.  She likes Mexican food and watches a lot of American Movies in order to learn better English.  Both these Marias spoke excellent English and I had no problem understanding them so the hours went by fast. 

        I was hoping to check my email but have been unable to get on the internet for the last 24 hours and am having withdrawal.  I need to make reservations in Venice soon or I will lose out.  I did get a SERVAS home to stay in while in Florence for Saturday and Sunday after I leave. Now I have to figure out how to get there from this wilderness area.  A Spaniard recommended I take a Taxi for only 80 Euros, then I have to take a train.  The Front desk will check it and let me know tomorrow. The maid threw out my Gatorade bottle I’ve been carrying for over a month from Attica, N.Y.  It saved me so many trips down the hall in the middle of the night…I asked the maid but she didn’t understand so she got the desk clerk but I told her it was my water bottle so she gave me another small water bottle but it doesn’t do the job. Nice gesture.
This afternoon we had a nice lunch on the veranda.  The salad in Italy is similar to Spain.  Some fresh greens, with olive oil, vinegar (balsamic), salt and pepper…never any other dressing. Great lunch. 

         Siesta, then one to one with Carlos A and Javier. Carlos A is a lawyer specializing in Family Businesses and travels to Chiles and other countries to give presentations on protecting your assets.  He took a cab here from the Rome airport….2 hour trip.  He is 38 and dates a 16 year old. Later I found out that was his humor.

       Javier lives at home and is an accountant for the Community of Madrid overseeing 16 department budgets and allocating the money according to their needs.  He has run 15 Madrid Marathons and very seldom every leaves his beloved city of Madrid.
Ann Black worked for CBS for years traveling all over the world with crews doing interviews with Barbara Walters.  She has had two husbands and is a widower.  Her last was twenty years older than her and she is a little older than me.  She smokes Indian cigarettes and has done this program twice.  When she leaves, she is a guest of her daughter’s fiancé’s family in Italy. She was born and grew up in New Jersey but doesn’t like to admit it.  She lives on the upper East Side of NYC.

Elle is a writer  and teaches journalism. She is from London and just did a presentation in Pakistan about the treatment of women by the press.  She won a round the world trip for writing an essay on why she wanted to travel around the world.  She was 23 at the time and while traveling, wrote reviews on the kebobs she ate in the countries she visited and on the sex she had.

Tricia, Allen’s daughter, is a Special Education teacher from Winnipeg.  Allen is a herbalist and has traveled the world but lives in Winnipeg.  

        Marie is a Special Ed teacher in Toronto.
         Christine our Master of Ceremonies is from Vancouver Island and grew up speaking English and German.  Now she speaks Spanish and Italian and has a degree in tourism.  She related a story about swimming in a pool at an exclusive posh resort in Scotland when she was around 12 or 13 years old.  She noticed a lady in the changing room with a leopard patterned swim suit then later while swimming in the pool ran into her. While she was apologizing she noticed four black suited men rushed over to see if Princess Diana was OK. 

           Later in life, when she was traveling Europe with a friend they rented a car for the first time.  While wading through traffic, she noticed the car was wobbling and a motorcycle pulled along side to motion that she had a flat. She pulled over and called assistance but they just told her to change it.  While they  were debating on how to do this, another motorcycle pulled up a short distance away and motioned for her to come over.  She and her friend went over and while the man was telling her he could drive on ahead to a station and get assistance if she would like, another man stole their bags out of the car and drove off on his motorcycle.  They never knew until they returned to the car.  All their credit cards, passports, clothes and money were gone.  It took them 8 hours to file the reports.
Michael  is from London and has been living in Madrid for 5 years.
        David and Jo Ann are from Huntsville Alabama , are retired and have done this course before.  David does a great Elvis impersonation.

Franz Josef is from Germany near the Dutch border outside of Koln and has 3 children that are all grown up and out of college.  He works for a company that does software for IBM, his wife has never worked and they travel but have never been to the US.

Paulo is from Lisboa Portugal and is a bit reserved.  Most Spanish aren’t outgoing until they have a few drinks.  They will sing and dance but hate getting up to do a speech or to address a crowd.  They are very conservative by nature and though very hospitable, usually invite only close friends and family into their home .  
         Steve is a project manager near York England and is a big traveler. 

           Bob Jerome lives in Tampa and is from Boston.  His father was a Boston Policeman.              Jody is from Australia and has lived the last two years in England.  She has taught this course more than once, as have Steve and Bob, and is slowly traveling her way back to Australia.  


This week has been non stop from 8 am wakeup call to 1am bedtime.  We have had a fiesta, a Camata party, late night bar sessions and yesterday for the first time we took an excursion. 

            We all took the bus after breakfast to the capital of Umbria…Perugia.  It was lovely hillside ancient city that still has a lot of it’s medieval charm.  I went to the National Gallery of Umbria and saw both a contemporary graphic art exhibit as well as 11th-14th Century Monastic Religious art that was really great.  I don’t care for religion but the art by these monks was fantastic.  I then visited an Etruscan Well from before the birth of Christ, had some Gelato and Perugian Chocolate.

           I did check my email at a Café to find my SERVAS host in Florence reneged on me and was being forced out of their home.  My requested reservation in Venice had been denied so I had no where to go after school.  I quickly booked a room for 3 days in Bologna.  This was my original plan to stay there and travel to Florence and Venice on day trips.
We are back to work today, Thursday, and leave Saturday after breakfast.  This week went fast and was so tiring that it was hard to keep a journal. I remember giving a well received Servas presentation as well as lots of one on ones. 
The night before we left, Pablo gave me his report of my broken camera for insurance and informed me that the bus couldn’t drop us off in the village so he called a cab to pick us up after graduation ceremonies.  The last day, we had our group photo taken though most of us could barely keep out eyes open.  The party went until 3:30 or 4 am with Tequila being freely poured.  I retired at 2am.