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How the Rich Get Richer

starbucksI saw a tastefully turned-out woman with a Prada handbag and perfect hair at Starbucks.

I wasn’t trying to ‘see’ her but she was lingering at my elbow as we both stood at the small station all Starbucks storefronts have. This is the place where management provides straws and swizzle sticks, napkins and a modest range of ‘enhancers’, from cinnamon to cocoa powder, as well as the usual range of choices in the general cream and sugar category.

 I felt I was holding her up, the way she lingered idly beside me and so I muttered an apology for not doing a speedier job of dribbling cream into my coffee from the tall cool carafe that stands beside the other tall cool carafes that hold the lowfat milk and the regular milk. I thought probably she needed access to the cream too.

But when I stepped back, my own iced coffee enhanced to my liking, I saw more: She did treat her own coffee with cream, and Splenda, too; but then she reached into the mini-bin that held the sweetener in the familiar pale-yellow packets, closed her fingers around a good dozen of them and slipped them quick into that slim Prada purse.

Maybe Starbucks can handle this kind of ‘shrinkage’ as they call stealing in the retail world, but it still made me shake my head.

It also made me think I maybe don’t belong in a coffee shop where the customers have Prada purses. It made me think I should maybe dump that high-priced decaf espresso and walk right over to my old haunt Dunkin’ Donuts up Main Street a ways.

Sure, they keep the Splenda behind the counter so you have to ask for it a packet at a time, but things just feel more HONEST there. Plus at Dunkin’ you’re far more likely to be greeted with a “Hey, how’s it goin’?”  which I, for one, will take any day over a “What may I serve you?” 

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2016 in excess, humans!

 

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Napolee-o-leon (& Others)

homer in his underpantsIt’s two weeks now since my man and I got back from France, where the number of pictures I took as compared to the amount of food and drink I consumed stands in a ration of 1 to 1000 – and now here I am with little more to remind me of the experience but my new fat tummy. 

Lucky for us , we took this Viking Longboat cruise with two close friends who took tons of pictures. Even better, ‘she’ has written the whole trip up on her travel blog, a site which in my greedy way,  I have boarded as a pirate boards some poor sitting duck of a vessel, and helped myself to the photo booty. ‘He’ was my first friend when I moved at age 9 to our new house and found myself caught up in endless rounds of kickball and the chase-hide-and wallop game we called  “the Commies vs. the Americans. Good times.

We two couples had also gone, via this same Viking cruise company, from Budapest to Nuremberg back in 2014, when the world felt to be in far less trouble than it feels to be today. That was a dream of a trip on which I got to hang out for a while with actual Mozart, or anyway an official Mozart impersonator.  He spoke about the hard life of a professional musician which he actually is. He’s a serious guy.

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This time though it was not Vienna but Paris, a city which appears to do a lot of looking back. We passed the place to which poor Marie Antoinette was brought to meet Madame La Guillotine, she  paraded for mockery’s sake in a crude wooden cart, her hair shorn and her wrists bound behind her back. We saw the monuments Napoleon brought back from Egypt where he went to further foil the British by messing up their trade routes. And, in our fancy tour bus as wide and serene as a clipper ship full-bellied with the breeze, we billowed along down the very route the Allies took after the brutal 100-day Battle of Normandy to at last reach and liberate this famous City of Lights.

On other days we went to Giverny, the estate and gardens established by the Impressionist god Claude Monet who smoked 60 cigarettes a day, slept with his best friend’s wife, and quarrelled sfrequently  with his one surviving son that the son wanted nothing to do with the place after the old man died at 86.

We saw castles and clambered over their ruined stones. We marched up and down streets with ancient stone and timber houses and even a few thatched roofs. And finally we went to Napoleon’s country house, where we saw with our own eyes how small of stature the man  really was. This is his bed, which, in the flesh looks like the the popsicle stick nest you might build for your pet hamster. Poor Josephine lived there as well until he divorced her for failing to give him a son.  

MalmaisonNapBed

We walked in the gardens of this estate, known as Malmaison, but the tour guide apparently ran out of steam because with an hour to go before we could board the bus and go back to our cozy longboat, she told us to enjoy the gardens and disappeared .

It was 55 degrees,  the hospitality center/gift shop was closed and a layer of low grey clouds hovered above us like an omen of old.

Our two pals duly circled the large garden, admiring the roses and chatting up the other members of our expedition.  

The two of us did not. We went and sat on a stone bench – until  another Viking cruiser, from the American  South to judge by her accent, came by, declared us ‘cute’, and snapped this picture.

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Then she made us get up and walk to a spot 100 feet away  where she snapped another.

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The lesson of that moment? Stick around long enough and you too can become a monument. 😛

 

 
6 Comments

Posted by on June 13, 2016 in Foreign Travel, gittin' old, humor

 

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A Rose by Any Other Name?

circus monkeyHere’s a thing you’re not ready for in life: The day when all of a sudden you’ll get a new name.  I think of the way, for decades, my kids called me ‘mom’ and they called their father ‘dad.’ But then we became grandparents and got issued new names, that now feel so permanent they might as well be on our passports.These days he’s “Papa,” a name that for me recalls the swaggering older Hemingway with his white beard and his blather, and I’m “TT,” a circus monkey of a name if ever there was one.

Of course, name changes happen in other ways too and certainly some people bring on the change themselves. The singer songwriter Car Seat Headrest certainly wasn’t given THAT handle at birth. Those in religious life also come to mind in this connection. A girl  could spend years thinking of herself as Eileen Casey, until the day she took the vows and became forever after Sister Sebastian, after the Christian martyr who got himself so thoroughly shot through with arrows that in all the art he looks like a human pincushion.

st. sebastian

Not so long ago, a woman, upon tying the knot, was simply expected to hand in her maiden name like a set of expired license plates. I began teaching school mere weeks after processing down two aisles, one to get my diploma and the other to be wed, and for that whole first school year every time anyone called “Mrs. Marotta!” I’d be looking around wondering what my mother-in-law was doing at my workplace.

But! There can also be an upside to the name-change-upon-marrying thing.

If, like me, you had a surname people mocked, you might almost welcome a change. I used to be Terry Sheehy and believe me when I say that was one hard moniker to carry around. The boys called me “Terry Sherry” or “Tee-Hee Sheehy.” Or sometimes they’d just yell, “Hey, HE-She!”

I think of that girl who gave up her name at 21. I think of her as she looked in her 5th-grade school picture with her tragically flipped-up bangs and the cold sore on one side of her mouth and how oblivious to her imperfections she remained as she, say, affixed baseball cards to the spokes of her bike to get that nice putt-putt sound.

I think of her eight years later, happily dressing for her senior prom, which she attended all unselfconsciously in a gown her family rented for $15.

Sometimes I even visit the old me on the top shelf of the linen closet where a version of me slumbers in my white heirloom-pack wedding dress box. I pry open the cardboard lid and peer through the plastic window to see a version of the young woman I was once was, lacy sleeves folded over beaded satin bodice, a Sleeping Beauty of an image if ever there was one.

So is Terry Sheehy gone forever then? I hope not. I think of old St. Sebastian, who survived his attack and kept on keepin’ on, as the saying goes. I think of the former Eileen Casey who lives happily on in the nun who took his name for her own.  We are who we always were, only kinder as the years pass, let us hope, and more forgiving of both of ourselves and of others.

 

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Visiting the Graves

 


prayers at the graveWhen we were kids, my sister and I went to the cemetery with our mother and aunt every Memorial Day, though it didn’t mean much to us, young as we were. We mostly danced among the graves, and dashed happily off to fill the dented metal watering can at the leaky old faucet. And anyway our dead had been dead for so long, the mother of our mom only 31 when she was buried there in 1910, her unborn baby in her arms.

 

Then time passed as time will do and I guess I was almost grown when I noticed that we weren’t going to the cemetery so much anymore, even though our mother and aunt’s own dad now also lay beside his dead young wife.  “Is it because we moved an hour north of Boston and Holyhood is too hard to get to?” I asked Aunt Grace one day as we stood in the dining room of our childhood home.

“That’s not it,” she replied. “It’s because they aren’t there,” she said, and then repeated the declaration with a strange passion I had never before seen in her: “They aren’t THERE!” she said again, as if to suggest that any fool knows the dead travel to a place infinitely farther than we humans can conceive of in our poor imaginings.

Was that why we weren’t going to the graves so much anymore? Because nothing was really down there but clay? Or dust? Or whatever remains behind aside from the metal hasps of the coffin? And if that is the case, then why, all these years later, do I still stand again at that grave and picture them all just a few feet below me? 

I see my mother and aunt in their favorite Sunday outfits. I see my grandfather with his dark eyebrows. I see the young woman whom I should have known as my grandmother lying in the high-necked Gibson-Girl-style dress they would have chosen for her back at the start of the last century. But what good comes of these vigils? I wondered at the time.

And then one day I saw a young woman sitting on the grass of a soldier’s fresh and flag-decked grave. She was there when I came by at noon and she was there when I came again at 6:00. This was one month after we buried our last remaining elder who over the last six years of his life became in many ways my closest friend. In the long quiet days since that passing I studied countless snapshots of him – as a schoolboy in the 1920s, as a young man starting out in life and then suddenly in the South Pacific during the worst of the fighting there in World War II. I hadn’t even understood his part in that war until the day, almost 70 years later when he shyly handed me a notebook of poems and sketches he wrote from the front.

Then another day, which was a day just last week, I visited the place here pictured overlooking Omaha Beach where lie 9,387 of the fallen, almost all of whom died on June 6, 1944 and in the 100 days after as part of the Allied invasion of Normandy:

amercian cemetery normandy

I was with a group of about 80 people. In the impromptu ceremony  held for us, an offcial of the park asked any veterans among us to come up front and join her. About 15 people did and when she then read the poem written by a young man in combat just before his own death in Lebanon, one of our veterans wept openly.

That might have been the moment I first really understood what Memorial Day is and why we mark it.

Here then to “the lost” as they were called in that first awful World War, and to the man with the tears running down his  face and to  my own family’s veteran, gone now too under the earth young as he once was and full of life.

ed in the jungle heat  

 

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Musings at the Museum

the-david1Seeing France by cruising alone the Seine is amazing enough but then when you disembark and wander on your own, the wonders just multiply. The Museé d’Orsay in Paris which I spent three hours in was by far the most instructive and inviting museum I have ever visited, shocking as it was to see how laid-back the staff is. Dozens of people snap away with their cameras and camera apps with nary a word of admonishment from the guards. In fact, in the many small galleries, they don’t even have guards. It’s true that a thin wire at about shin level walls each pictures off from the public but I felt sure that if I’d really wanted to I could have leaned in and licked the very paint on any number of them.

I loved the sculptures too. The young David who slew Goliath is there. Not Michelangelo’s David in his famous beefcake iteration,which you see above, nor Donatello’s David either who looks like a sweet fey youth in his mother’s Easter bonnet.donatello

These are both in Florence.

Here at the Museé  D’Orsay, you see the Antonin Mercié David who looks like this: 

david by Antonin Mercié

But really the  place is most known for its 19th century stuff, works by artists who looked not toward Biblical or Classical themes but more toward landscapes and still lifes and intimate ‘candid’ portraits, of ladies, say, undressing for the bath.

Here inside these walls is Van Gogh, not dead by his own hand at 36, but alive, his spirit shimmering away in the lines of this cathedral he captured in paint.

Van Gogh church Auvers-sur-Oise

Manet lives at this museum too as I said here the other day and Gauguin with his island Edens,and  Cezanne, and of course that long-lived patriarch Claude Monet who could make the same haystack, the same cathedral front at Rouen look a hundred different ways by painting them at different times of the day in a variety of different lights.   

The visit was just thrilling to me. I sat looking at the works as much as I walked those halls and chambers, all oblivious to the fact that inches away on the other side of the wall Time was also ticking away my own life as this video I took will show. I suspect it was a stiff wind and the limber shafts of the clock’s two hands that did it but still, that minute hand is really moving. Signs and reminders all around us, folks, signs and reminders.

 

 

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on May 28, 2016 in Foreign Travel

 

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Another Fun Couple Takes a Trip

happy airplaneYou get to the airport and find that your flight has been cancelled.

It’s a flight to Iceland. And it’s cancelled.

So much for the strange beauty of wide skies, and treeless plains!

You wait an eternity to be told that now you will instead be flying to Frankfurt. Bring out the ketchup and mustard!

Still, you know you can’t be TOO mad since your final destination is Paris and sure enough you do get to Paris eventually where, you are interested to see, the old sidewalk pissoirs have long since been replaced by wondrous new unisex sidewalks booths called Sanisettes, in which, when you touch a final button, cascades of water swirl in, washing everything in sight clean, clean, clean and disinfecting it all too. And the pissoir, in case you don’t know was for over 350 years the standard Parisian accommodation for any man who felt the need to make water. It featured a panel from knees to shoulders that blocked out the key parts of his anatomy while still allowing him to stand and chat companionably with his pals.

classic Paris pissoir

Hard to believe, right?

Anyway, now here you are wearin’ out your Nikes and seein’ the sights, and then at night inhaling the great food and tossing back the complimentary mealtime beers and wines on a riverboat that will take you, via the Seine, from Paris the City of Lights to Normandy and back with several bracing stops along the way.

The ship’s windows are wide and the sights are lovely. (Here now: A man who looks to be straight out of a Van Gogh watercolor standing in the water and fishing! Here now: A windmill that goes back to the time of Marie Antoinette and her Marge Simpson hairdo!) And the rolling waters! The waters alone!

You feel like a baby, and a fat happy baby at that. You turn to your travel buddies while dunking your face into your second glass of the good red wine.

“What could go wrong from here?” you burble, “unless we break a tooth and see a giant jagged crater open up in our mouth.”

You laugh hilariously at your own joke, and then, not 12 hours later, while eating the good French bread, exactly that happens, and it happens to you.

But hey, it’s your all-too-short visit to this place. Your dentist will be there when you get back, and for now you’re just another stylish couple having fun in France. :-) 

Fun couple goes to France

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on May 24, 2016 in Foreign Travel, humor

 

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Let’s Go Get Shocked

risque ad Maison St. GermainI’m going soon on a trip to France, via a Viking Riverboat Longship, secure in the knowledge that my house is safe with several family members staying there.

I’ll see Notre Dame, and the many monuments to that rampaging thief Napoleon. I will go the Musée D’Orsay and stun myself with the beauty of all that gorgeous art by Monet and Manet, Cézanne and Seurat and Gauguin and the others.

I’ll drink the red wine at lunch and at breakfast eat the croissant, a word which when pronounced right sounds like you’re trying to clear out some serious post-nasal drip.

I’ve also been busy trying to retrieve the exact right phrases from my four years of teenage French so I can tell the waiter what I would like to eat without having him think I’m saying that I desire him, because who knows what construction might be put on things in the land of oo-la-la?

I really can’t wait to go that Musée D’Orsay where the paintings by so many 19th century artists shocked! – just shocked the bourgeoisie in La Belle France – and none more than this guy Manet in his Le Déjeuner sur L’Herbe, or ‘lunch on the grass,’ with two fully dressed guys enjoying the picnic together with one entirely UNDRESSED lady who has the guts to stare right back at us even as we stand staring at her.

“Oo-la-la!”  is the last thing I think studying this very large painting.  For me “You go, girl!” is a lot more like it. 

dejeuner sur l'herbe.jpeg

 

 

 
6 Comments

Posted by on May 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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donkeybytes

Tales from the Barn door

Notes from the U.K.

Exploring the spidery corners of a culture and the weird stuff that tourist brochures ignore.

All Thoughts Work™ Outdoors

Hiking the beautiful American Pacific Northwest wilderness 2011-13

The Journey of My Left Foot (whilst remembering my son)

I have Malignant Melanoma, my son had Testicular Cancer

Exit Only

Because one minute you're a baby and the next you're getting the senior discount - and there's no reversing direction!

Days Like What

There are 24hrs in a day, here are mine.

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

The Freelance Retort

Because one minute you're a baby and the next you're getting the senior discount - and there's no reversing direction!

uppervalleygirl

Another Good Day in Rural America © 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 Ann Aikens ~ all rights reserved

Eating The Week

Week-size morsels of the stuff we eat

donkeybytes

Tales from the Barn door

Notes from the U.K.

Exploring the spidery corners of a culture and the weird stuff that tourist brochures ignore.

All Thoughts Work™ Outdoors

Hiking the beautiful American Pacific Northwest wilderness 2011-13

The Journey of My Left Foot (whilst remembering my son)

I have Malignant Melanoma, my son had Testicular Cancer

Exit Only

Because one minute you're a baby and the next you're getting the senior discount - and there's no reversing direction!

Days Like What

There are 24hrs in a day, here are mine.

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.

The Freelance Retort

Because one minute you're a baby and the next you're getting the senior discount - and there's no reversing direction!

uppervalleygirl

Another Good Day in Rural America © 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 Ann Aikens ~ all rights reserved

Eating The Week

Week-size morsels of the stuff we eat

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