An Alternative Universe

Drapetomania (n.) — An overwhelming urge to run away.

Photo by Pedro Figueras on Pexels.com

There is so much coming at us from every which way, it’s easy to imagine an alternative universe. I’m personally conjuring up a place where people respect one another, where one feels safe at all times, and where good health is more of a given than a wish.

I live in a city that is extremely safe, tranquil, and where COVID-19 is much less of a threat. One would think that I could just sit on my sofa and relish in gratitude; easier said than done I’m afraid. We are all a part of something bigger and greater than ourselves. If you care about your friends and family, your neighbors, your fellow citizens, people starving all over the world, social inequality, fiscal inequality, the planet . . . to name a few, it’s difficult to not be swimming in despair.

A Quiet Place

I learned how to use visual mediation many years ago when I was in college in North Carolina. It was a great tool for coping with peer pressure, term papers, exams, and the lack of funds. As I got older, those life problems were replaced by others such as mounting debt and relationship turmoil. The truth is, there will always be one hardship or another to cope with. Meditation is a life saver at times like this. People don’t realize you can meditate just about anywhere at anytime. Even Alexa can help now.

Allowing your mind to take you to a safe and quiet place is extremely effective. I usually invision water and an absence of people. The beauty of this method is that you have complete control — anytime, anyplace, and any visual you choose. It’s free and easy to call upon; at times it can save you from the worst anxiety producing situations. My alternative universe has become easier to access each time I employ visual meditation. Go on-line and read about various techniques and tools; meditation can become a positive addiction.

A World Only You Inhabit

Our imagination is vast. Children use their imagination quite often and most times to create a world totally unlike the one they inhabit. As we get older and become more serious and sadly, more jaded, our imagination becomes more inhibited and less colorful. Give yourself permission to visit a place in your mind not yet explored or unlocked.

Travel is a great way to escape; leave your environment, leave your head, leave your life. I do it quite often these days and I swear by it. It’s more effective as a way to clear your head when you are committed to it. Unfortunately, I have transported myself to another city or country and found myself even more concerned and vulnerable; you have to be able to turn it off and call upon your inner strength.

I love dreaming at night. Every so often I can recall a dream as I am walking up and less often, I can close my eyes and slip back into it. If you work at it, you can allow your mind to return to that dream while you’re awake during the day (daydreaming). It’s quite a gift, if you will allow yourself the pleasure.

An Altered State of Being

There are natural and synthetic substances that assist you in expanding your imagination. Some of these substances are widely used and accepted and others are more dangerous and often illegal. It is not my intention to promote or speak out against such substances. As with anything in life, the problem is often moderation. Drugs can be additive and destructive; one must be aware of the risk and dangers involved and make an informed decision. Everyone is different in terms of tolerance, genetics, and moral values. I can say that early use of several less harmful drugs did help me to cope with some fairly serious “life” issues (e.g., physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual identity). Again, a very personal matter one must carefully consider.

All of the Above

There is rarely one solution to a problem and so it is true for escape and mind relaxation. Whatever it takes to ease the burden of anxiety is probably better for you in the long run. The key is moderation; doing whatever it is you need to do often enough to make a difference, without allowing it to consume you and/or interfere with your “normal” obligations (i.e., work, childcare, partner).

Death

I honestly do not mean to be a downer or morbidly dark; however, the reality that at some point or another, you or I might say that we have had enough, is a possibility and understandable. I am not referring to suicide, another topic altogether.

A few days before my father passed he looked at me and said, “I’ve had enough Chris, I’m ready,” and a feeling of peace washed over us.

And then there is this:

“One of the best ways to get out of your own head is to help others.”

— Zack Efron, Down to Earth

The Pitfalls of Entitlement

The World Owes Me Nothing

I have to preface this blog with some very strong feelings: I write from a place of disgust. The number of wealthy Americans is greater now than it has ever been. I believe in capitalism and I think money is a legitimate incentive for working hard and being productive. My issue is with greed and what it does to people.

About 7,647,278 US households earn $2 million or more, covering about 6.07% of American households. 4,665,039 US households earn over $3 million or more, covering about 3.70% of all US households (Spendmenot).

We all view the world from a different lens. The haves and the haves not dilemma has been debated since the beginning of civilization. I have some very strong feelings about extreme wealth and what that means; however, the purpose of my rant this week is more about entitlement and how it plays out in society.

What is Entitlement

entitlement: the fact of having a right to something.

  1. the amount to which a person has a right.

2. the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.

It is #2 that I am addressing today.

What I Observe

As I navigate through life, I have observed entitlement at its ugliest. Unlike others who believe it is worse now than it ever was, I believe it has been a big part of American life for a long time. Because I’m traveling more now, I do witness it quite a bit. Fortunately, I live in a place where I see more equality than anything else (Faro, Portugal). The premise of social democracy is that all human beings have the right to fulfillment of their basic needs: food, shelter, and medical treatment to name a few. To me this translates to compassion, empathy, and the sharing of resources. The “every person for themselves” mentality is dangerous and divisive.

How Some People Live With Themselves Keeps Me Up at Night

Extreme greed and the thinking that one person somehow deserves special treatment over another, rattles my core. I understand the concept that money buys certain luxuries and I believe that hard work should enable a person to enjoy the good things life has to offer. However, that does not mean, for example, that the rich should have the first access to a COVID-19 vaccine or that they should go to the top of a list for an organ transplant.

What Can Be Done About It

This is obviously a very complicated problem because it involves human beings. People are not going to suddenly stop believing they are entitled to certain privileges and the businesses and corporations providing these privileges will continue to do so. Unfortunately, I don’t think this issue is going to go away, but we as individuals can do something about it. The every “man” for himself mentality does not sit well with me and I can’t help feeling badly for those who struggle to put food on the table while others worry about what’s in their goody bags.

What I’m Doing About It

Assessing who we are and how we interface with the world should be a constant consideration. You’d have to forgive yourself for being subjective, after all it is your life you’re judging. It is for this reason I occasionally check-in with people I trust. For example, after a night out with friends I might ask what they thought about my interaction with wait staff at the restaurant or what I was like with a new person who just joined the group. I preface the question by telling them that I am working on my communication skills. I think in this situation, most friends or close family members will be honest; sometimes brutally honest. I was once told that I was way too chatty with people I didn’t know. “They don’t have time for your banter Chris.” I wouldn’t call that entitlement and I don’t believe it’s something I can change (or want to change).

Another thing I’m doing that is somewhat more delicate: calling out people around me that are behaving as if they are entitled. I am going to generalize here: people who behave as if they have a God given right to special treatment or privilege are usually the very same people who blame everyone but themselves for all of the issues in their lives or often, people who cannot understand why they are not well liked or respected.

For My Part:

I can afford to do some things that would put me first in line, but because of what I stand for, it’s best for me to keep the money in my pocket:

  1. I do not pay to use the first class lounge at the airport (if it is given to me, I’d use it — does it make me a hypocrite?).
  2. I do not pay for Fast Track security or boarding at the airport.
  3. I do not try to jump the line no matter where I am.
  4. I make reservations whenever possible.
  5. When in line to exit a highway, I do my best not to allow others to exit before me. There are people who never wait in line, they attempt to muscle their way right to the front — drives me mad.
  6. If I see someone trying to jump the line, If I can, I speak up.
  7. I do not participate in entitlement programs.

There are some incentive or enticement programs that are harmless and legitimate; programs that do not impact other people.

This Happened Recently

I was staying at a hotel in Madeira this past week and this happened: At the hotel bar ordering a cocktail and the menu was open in front of me. I was asking the bar person if she made non-frozen Margaritas, because the menu only listed frozen Margarita. The bartender was about to answer my question and a gorilla stepped up:

“I know what I want, can I have a Shirley Temple?”

It’s five days later and I still cannot believe this happened. Even if I was taking time to make up my mind, which I wasn’t, I still cannot imagine someone having that much nerve. To the bartender’s credit, she told the guy to, “please wait.” Can you imagine what he is like everywhere else? I’m sure I was red in the face, but since the bartender set him straight, I kept my mouth shut. I decided then and there, that there was no helping this man.

Having scruples and doing “the right thing” is absolutely a good thing, but I find myself way too caught up in it — thinking about it way too much. It seems that being empowered to do what I can as a individual is my only recourse, but being righteous has its pitfalls too.

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My thoughts are with the family of Ruth Bader Ginsburg; a woman whom I and many admired and respected. May all that she fought for not be in vain. I’m hoping her passing inspires many of us to be our best selves. A toast to you Ruth: a truly magnificent human being.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Madeira, Portugal

If you’re thinking about flying into Madeira and you’re one of these people who gets all tense when it’s time to land, DO NOT WATCH THIS VIDEO: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/video/news/video-1130293/SCARY-plane-landing-caught-camera-Madeira-Airport.html.

The World's Most Dangerous Airports | WanderWisdom
Madeira Airport landing strip (Cristiano Ronaldo Airport)
The Island of Madeira, a hikers utopia

I was fortunate to have my entire row on the TAP flight coming into Madeira. I slid over from my aisle seat (I always sit in this seat so I can get up to pee without bothering anyone; I pee a lot), to get a good view of the landing. I had heard about the sometimes high winds and cancelled flights due to the aforementioned, but I stopped myself from watching videos or reading about my impending landing. Once it was happening in real time, I had to see it. We were approaching this magnificent island and the landing strip came into view. I had never seen it before and from a distance, it looked like columns on a huge palace. The whole experience was thrilling.

Just before landing, an announcement was made about a COVID-19 test at the airport. I was unaware that the government, the day before, had instituted a new policy about testing at the airport. I must admit that even though I was fairly certain I’d be negative, there was that .5% chance that I could have had the virus and I was asymptomatic. I was glad I had paid a little extra for additional legroom because I was at the front of the plane and I would be tested quickly. I have to compliment the Portuguese for their organization skills; this process was exceptionally well orchestrated. I had registered on-line, how I was traveling and where I was staying, and that saved me a bit of time. Honestly, it might have been six minutes from start to finish. The test is a bit uncomfortable, but not as bad as I had anticipated — only a few seconds of poking and swabbing. I was told the results would be emailed to me within the next 12 hours. I confess I didn’t check until this morning; I knew that if I’d tested positive I wouldn’t sleep. Fortunately, I had a very pleasant eight hours and woke-up to negative test results. You can talk yourself into almost anything.

One of the reasons I decided to fly to Madeira, aside from the island being on my “must go” list, is that most of Europe is a bargain (if you can go) right now. I get all happy inside when I land on a great deal. My four star hotel is normally double the price this time of year and I flew round trip for less than $200. I am on an island off of the northwest coast of Africa; not sure how much more exotic and perfect you could get?

There is a Aerobus right outside the airport that will get you very close to most hotels in Funchal for 5 Euros (8 roundtrip). The bus driver announced my stop and the Hotel Allegro was right across the street — no dragging of luggage and searching for my hotel with Google Maps.

I woke up to this on my first morning

image
Junior Suite — view of the ocean from my bed (two balconies)

I spent quite a lot of time booking my hotel. I didn’t even consider Airbnb this time for three reasons:

  1. I wanted a room with a seaview
  2. I wanted a big breakfast in the morning
  3. It had to be an “adults only” hotel (love, love, love the little ones, but not on this trip)

They do breakfast at hotels really well in Portugal. It’s often included in the rate and it is quite a treat with omlets, fresh fruit, homemade jams, yogurt, granola and all sorts of delicious cakes. There is a photo below, but I don’t think you can tell that there is a mimosa in the photo; trust me, they had fresh orange juice and sparkling wine, I had two every morning.

The Hotel Allegro is in an area called Lido (allegro means: at a brisk speed and that sums me up) . The hotel is minutes from the beach, walking distance (or city bus) to Old Town, and surrounded by some very good restaurants. It’s a four star hotel, but I’d put it in the mid-range price group — important to have enough money to eat and drink while traveling. The room was spacious, comfortable, and had a Nespresso coffee maker. I was supplied with pods for the entire week. I bought some whole milk right next store and I had my 5:30 a.m. coffee in my room, every morning. You know by now how much the “little things” mean to me. The hotel also had a very nice gym overlooking the pool (used it four times) and a jacuzzi and sauna that were not in use due to the freakin’ virus. When you use the gym on vacation, you feel as if you can eat more pastry and so I did . . . eat more pastry.

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Rooftop Bar down the hall from my room

I spent my entire first day sitting by the pool with a Grisham novel. The pool bar served a variety of cocktails and the bar menu was adequate. I had a delicious Caesar salad with huge chunks of chicken and fresh parmesan. Happy thoughts, happy body, happy tummy. By the way, pretty spectacular weather in early September; some clouds, but mostly sunny with temps in the high 70s and low 80s. I was told the weather is always good in Madeira. You’d have to look that up.

The Prince Albert Pub, a British Pub with British eats, for my first dinner. I wasn’t very hungry, I had battered shrimp and a margarita. Lots of people from the UK come here on holiday; their presence can be felt everywhere — not a criticism, more an observation.

A Casa do Vizinho for a scrumptious dinner my second evening. I had settled on a nicely reviewed Italian restaurant, however, it was closed on Monday night. Casa do Vizinho was a lovely alternative. Very pleasant outdoor seating, a view of the Atlantic, and a quiet side street. I had pork, mashed potatoes, all smothered with a rich & creamy mushroom gravy; delicious, but it would not have photographed well.

Mostly just relaxed and figured out where everything was on my second day.

Day Three in the Old Town

I ain’t gonna lie, you’ve seen one Old Town in Portugal, you’ve seen them all. Always a pretty church, always lots of cafés, and most assuredly, old architecture. There was something in Funchal’s Old Town I wanted to see and that was Rua do Santa Maria, a street filled with art covered buildings:

I was not at all disappointed. Many other streets in the Old Town were crowded, however, Rua do Santa Maria was all mine to take-in and enjoy. Sorry, I was not focusing on my photography skills. I did not get to see all the artwork, but I have learned over time, to always leave a bit for another trip.

Next on my day of playing tourist, I took the Teleférico do Funchal (cable car) up to the top of the mountain overlooking the city. I paid 11 Euros for a one-way ticket thinking it would be nice to take a bus down and see Funchal from a different perspective — very bad idea. Sitting on a hot city bus with a mask on, going down some very curvy roads, stopping to pick people up way too often, made me sick to my stomach. One hour of this and I was done.

The last photo is of community garden plots. I kept thinking about my time in Maine and how great it was to have a garden plot to grow vegetables.

Cable car ride — I’m getting better at holding the camera steady

At Carreiros do Monte you can have two men run you down the mountain in a wicker basket. It cost 25 Euros for one person (add another 5 or 10 for a tip) and 30 for two. It’s a very unique Madeira experience I just wasn’t in the mood to partake. There was a time in my life I would not have missed this experience, but alas those days are over. My heart goes out to these men whom I’m certain would normally be making a decent living; now they’re mostly standing around waiting for tourists who may not come for quite some time.

I’m not kidding there were 50 of these men waiting to take you down in a basket
Carreiros do Monte - Monte Toboggan Wicker Sledges
As you can see, they’ve been doing this for a long time

After hours of sightseeing and exploring, all I wanted to do was take a dive into my hotel pool, cool off, nap, and enjoy a well deserved ice cold cocktail. There was a German couple staying at Allegro and I could not help noticing them; in their 60s and very much in love. They held each other in the water, looked into one another’s eyes for what seemed like hours, kissed a lot and generally behaved like teenagers. I was jealous and awestruck. I honestly hope to feel this way about someone once again; very sweet and heartwarming indeed.

Dinner my third night at a local Italian restaurant with a view of the sea and a very talented guitar player. I had a half-bottle of some very nice Douro red, melon and Portuguese ham (the melon wasn’t ripe), and some “just okay” seafood tagliatelle. I won’t mention the name because although it was fine for my purposes, I wouldn’t recommend it. There are times when I’m travelling when all I want is a simple hot meal and a short walk back to my hotel. This restaurant was was perfect for what I required that night.

Day 4 — Skywalk, Wine Tasting and the Bumpiest Ride of My Life

You cannot and should not go to Madeira without going to Skywalk. I booked a full day island tour through Airbnb. I usually find their tours to be smaller and friendlier.

Dinner at The Wanderer

I made this reservation about a month ago. The restaurant only opened in October, but the reviews were excellent. Crazy concept: one day a week, one time slot, one table, one price, and whatever the chef is serving. I love that. 125 Euros, however, by most standards, a cocktail, five courses, and wine pairings, all in — that’s pretty darn reasonable. This was my one big splurge in Madeira. Save for the AC being out, this was an experience worth waiting for. Good company at the table and impeccable service. All around a winner.

My review for the Fork:

Christopher P. September 8, 2020 •

We live in a world of uniformity; these days very few experiences stand out as unique and memorable. Chef Selim is engaging, intelligent and masterful. His dishes are difficult to describe because they’re unlike other dishes you have been served and that’s a good thing. He and his staff will make you feel “at home” from the moment you enter this thoughtfully designed, intimate space. Each bite was magic and every pairing, complimentary. I’ve been dining out for 50 years and I have never had an experience that compared to The Wanderer. Perhaps Chef Selim will inspire others to follow suit.

That’s not soil in the center of the second photo (top right); Chef Selim forages mushrooms and prepares them many different ways.

Day Five

Dolphin Watching and a swim in the Atlantic — I normally do not partake in large group activities, however, dolphin watching was included in my day four tour and I was able to push it off to the next day. I was welcomed aboard the Seaborn and I have to admit, it was an extremely pleasant three hours. The catamaran was not at all overcrowded and everyone was well-behaved. It was a gorgeous day and there were dolphins swimming alongside the boat a good part of the trip (there really are dolphins in the last photo below — they were black dolphins). We had a chance to take a dip and the water was delightful. Proving to myself, once again, that I need to keep an open mind; easier said than done when you think you’ve done it all.

Dinner at Asian Flavours (the Brits put a “u” in flavor; not a British island, but as I said, you see their influence everywhere); a nice 15 minute walk from the hotel. My sweet & sour chicken and egg fried rice was delicious and exactly what I wanted in my belly. I had a view of the sea, great service and I was showered and in my pjs by 9:30 p.m.

I must have been exhausted from sailing and walking for the better part of the day. I crawled into my comfy bed and slept 10 hours. I think the last time that happened, I was 15 years old. Honestly, when you’ve had a restful night like that, you wake up feeling like you could accomplish just about anything.

My Last Full Day (day six)

I was excited to get home to Paco in 24 hours. I couldn’t think of a better way to end my trip than a long workout at my hotel’s gym, followed by a return to the pool with Grisham’s novel (yes, same novel), The Rooster Bar. The Madeira Wine Festival was taking place and I admittedly was tempted, but sometimes you just have to be horizontal and relax.

Lunch at a local fresh fish restaurant that has been open for years and had good reviews. I’m not going to write about it. I have been eyeing a bakery near my hotel since my arrival and dessert was imperative and perfection. Lots of offerings and good coffee — Boutique Lido. Definitely worth the calories; pastry eye candy.

I can have my cake and eat it too.

Final Words

I got to have a bonus day in Madeira. TAP changed my original flight about a week prior to my trip and pushed it back eight hours, which would have had me returning to Faro at midnight. I called the airline (got them on the phone right away) and told them it was unacceptable to have me sit in the airport in Madeira for eight hours due to a noon hotel checkout. The very agreeable operator said he’d be happy to book me on another flight. I asked if I could return the next day; he quickly booked me on a flight the following morning. Apparently, they have this policy that if the change is 5 hours or more, you can make a flight change without a fee; good policy. I called my hotel and added a day. Whenever I have been able to add a day to a vacation, my “bonus day” has always been special. Making lemonade out of lemons.

There was so much to see and do on the island of Madeira, I believe I must return. When I lived in the States, the Caribbean was a quick and reasonable getaway, now I have Madeira. It is perhaps one of the most beautiful places I have ever been; the people are lovely, the accommodations superb, it’s safe, it’s affordable, and it’s Portuguese. I hit a home run choosing to travel to Madeira during the time of COVID-19 and I look forward to returning sometime soon. Six full days on the island was perfect; good to know for the next time.

Praia do Seixal
This is Sexial Port on the north coast of the island. Black sand beach and my next Madeira destination.
Seixal On The North Coast Of The Island Madeira, Portugal Stock Photo -  Image of buildings, madeira: 106630478
Next time

Stole this from a friend

Yes, I do spoil myself. Admittedly, taking care of myself and attending to mind, body and spirit, has been the greatest lesson of my life so far. I dare say, it may end up being the greatest lesson of my life period. Well, that and knowing when to say, I have had enough.

Looks like Bristol, England, September 30 is off. The UK is bringing back the quarantine regulation for travellers from Portugal due to increased COVID-19 cases. EasyJet made it easy to change my flights and the hotel had a free cancellation policy — the only way to book these days. I’m learning to live with these daily changes and minore upsets.

Friendship

VACATION REBLOG (worth revisiting)

Who are your true friends and why are these friendships so important?

Friendships come in all shapes and sizes and it would be difficult to share my thoughts on all of them; therefore I will focus on just a few for this blog. I will cover these five:

  • Friendship with a life partner
  • A close friend
  • A sibling who is also a friend
  • Your parent as friend (I do not feel equipped to write about this matter from the parent’s point of view)
  • A co-worker who is a friend

My friends are extremely important to me. I hold my true friends near and dear and would do just about anything for them. The friendships I cherish the most were established many years ago, but having said that, I do have several friends that I only met recently. Six months ago I left a city I resided in for less than five years; yet several of my close friends live in Maine. You can gauge some friendships by communication (although some friends are better than others at this). When I moved overseas, there were individuals I expected to never hear from again and some that I thought would communicate regularly. As with many things in life, what I expected, has not panned out. Several people I thought would reach out, never have and others I that I thought were acquaintances have been great about staying in touch. Some people work hard at developing friendships and their persistence can pay off. These days you have to factor in social media, because it doesn’t take much effort to drop a line or two. I truly miss the days of letter writing; writing a letter took time and thought.

To be clear I am not writing about acquaintances (see 2.2 below): acquaintance əˈkweɪnt(ə)ns/ noun

  1. 1. knowledge or experience of something. “the pupils had little acquaintance with the language” synonyms: familiarity, conversance, conversancy, contact, acquaintanceship; More            
  2. 2. a person one knows slightly, but who is not a close friend. “a wide circle of friends and acquaintances” synonyms: contact, associate, connection, ally, colleague;   confrère “Mr Barnet was no more than a business acquaintance”

I am certain you all have many acquaintances; if you had an expectation that they would all be friends, you’d be in big trouble and extremely disappointed.

Friends With a Life Partner

This type of friend is quite unique due to the intimacy factor. Once you have been intimate with someone (and I don’t mean sex), it’s a game changer. I’m talking about a deeper emotional commitment where there is love and affection. Hopefully, because it matters if it’s true or not, you and your partner have shared moments, where at the time, you cannot imagine a deeper connection. Whether it’s a secret or a thought or a revelation, this kind of sharing creates a bond that can and often does, last a lifetime.

Even when there is a breakup, this close bond will ensure a lasting friendship — if you allow it to happen. Unfortunately, new partners are often intimidated by this kind of friendship and will not allow it. If you’re able to see past the jealousy, permitting your partner to be friends with ex-partners can enhance a current relationship. Your partner will see you as open and caring and trusting — all wonderful beliefs about your partner.

Keep in mind that none of us can be all things to all people. Your partner has limitations and expecting this individual to meet all of your needs is unfair and impossible. This is why it is dangerous not to have close friends outside of your relationship. Lean on others occasionally, it will make your relationship lighter, freer, and healthier.

Keep in mind that if you are outside of a relationship looking in, what you see from the outside is not always a complete picture. Couples have their own way of loving one another. Aside from physical and emotional abuse, which is never good, disagreeing and gentle prodding can be the sign of a healthy partnership.

A Close Friend

Your best friends (yes I believe you can have more than one) deserve a category all their own. Because we all know that if you have a life partner, that individual cannot and should not be able to fulfill all of your needs, emotional or otherwise. A close friend can provide an outlet for sharing and a different kind of important intimacy. It can be someone to talk to about your life partner or boyfriend/girlfriend (finding the right pronouns isn’t easy). With a close friend, no topic is out-of-bounds.

We all go through difficult periods in our lives (having just lost a dear pet, I’m feeling deep loss right now). A close friend will sometimes know you are in distress even before you know it. This person will be there to help you get through whatever difficulty you are experiencing. Refusing the help of a friend or pushing a friend away is never a good thing. A true friend is a beautiful gift and you can be sure that this person sincerely wants to help. Let this individual know that you appreciate that they are there for you and that you need them and want their love.

I like my privacy and I tend to grieve when I am by myself. A good friend will always allow you “alone” time. If you gently let your friend know that you just need a little time, they will give you what you need.

Caution:  Be careful to make sure that  sharing is reciprocated. There is nothing more annoying than a friend who only wants to discuss his or her own woes. Ask questions; show genuine interest and it will elevate the friendship.

Also, do not abuse the generosity of a close friend. Leaning on someone in a time of need is fine, but pick and choose when to lean. Being a constant burden will make a friend second guess the sincerity and value of the relationship. We are only human and all of us has a threshold. Keep your relationships strong by being considerate, nurturing and compassionate. Communicate your needs; assuming your friend knows, is an unfair assumption.

A Sibling

Who knows and understands you better than a brother or sister? Unless you were raised in a different household or there are many years between you and your sibling, this person can be a very close friend. I should not rule out a half-brother or sister who is a great deal older or younger. I had a half-brother who was 20 years older and before he passed away, we became very close. He was actually as much a mentor as a friend. I could share anything with him and he “got” me. The relationship was different from that of a parent because he didn’t feel the need to discipline or direct my behavior; it was all about the freedom to be who we were.

A sibling who doesn’t judge you, who accepts you for who you are and who provides a level of trust that is achieved in no other relationship, is a treasure to hold dear. I’m a lucky guy because I have a number of siblings I consider close friends. Unfortunately, I have also lost several siblings; these individuals have provided strength and love well beyond their passing.

Your Parent as Friend

It’s not easy being friends with a parent. Very few people I know are friends with their mother or father. When you are young, your parents are disciplinarians and when you get older they want what’s best for you and that often causes conflict. Being friends with your parents can be fulfilling. Practicing patience and forgiveness is key. If you keep in mind that your parents want what is best for you because their love for you is strong, you can be very close friends. You can confide in your parents, you can lean on your parents and you can usually trust your parents. Having a sit down after a disagreement can help both parties achieve a higher level of trust and understanding.

Of course there are always exceptions. My mother always told me that everything was her fault. She’d say this with a half-smile,

“Chris, save yourself money on therapy. I am to blame for all of your issues. Yell at me, lash out, be mad; then think about how much I love you and move on.”

She was a smart lady, my mom.

Friendship with a parent can go through stages of strength and at times this strength may waiver and that’s okay. Keep in mind that your parents won’t always be around. Bringing you into this world and keeping you safe are not easy tasks to manage. They want your friendship and they deserve it.

“My childhood was very colorful, and I am close friends with both my parents. We have no secrets.”

Rebecca Hall

A Co-Worker Who is Also a Friend

This can be an incredibly satisfying relationship because you often share so much in common with a co-worker. When you’re together socially it can be fun to gripe about your hours or your boss or your salary or your work environment or your benefits or your co-workers or all of the above.

Careful what you say and to whom at work; a true friend will be discreet and he or she will keep what you tell them to themselves. Such a friend is not easy to find; when you do, try your best to hold on to them.

There are those who believe you should not become friendly or be friends with someone who is higher up or subordinate. I have never felt that way. I think as with most things in life, it depends on the person. If your friend is mature and trustworthy, you’ll have nothing to worry about. If others at work have an issue with who your friends are, let them know (in a kind way of course), that it is not really their business. Still, perception and appearance are both important considerations. Managing all of this at work can be challenging. I believe it all boils down to personal integrity. You know who you are. If you are honest, thoughtful and appropriate, you should have nothing to worry about. Always remember that at the end of the day, the only person you truly have to answer to is yourself.

Separation from a Friend

As it goes with relationships, sometimes they go south. Of course it’s always better if you can repair the damage; however, that is not always possible. Some friendships grow toxic and if that becomes the case, I think it’s better to walk away. If you make that decision for yourself, it’s best to come clean with the individual. This business of just disappearing isn’t very fair to the other person and often, closure is necessary. Otherwise, you have this unpleasant, unfinished business hanging over you.

Call me a coward, but I often put my thoughts into writing and send an email or letter. This way I can be clear and provide the other person an opportunity to think about what I shared and respond. You can tell a great deal about a person by the way they reply. If they become very defensive, angry, and lash out at you, it validates your decision. If the person sincerely apologizes or asks to see you, it shows that they value your relationship and that they would like to patch things up. I find that the other person often feels the way you do and the friendship will come to an end. If you can work through it as mature adults, you’ll be happy you did the work.

For some, my desire to shed toxic individuals will come across as cold and dismissive. I have decided that I only have time for friends who are loving, forgiving, true, and real. I value my time on our planet and I’d prefer that my relationships be authentic and fulfilling. Divorce, partner or friend, is never easy, but sometimes it’s the only healthy solution. Don’t judge others or yourself, judging makes life burdensome.

Reconnecting

Sometimes years go by and you do not hear anything at all from an old friend and then suddenly, there they are sending you an email or calling you on the phone (a call is less likely these days; texting is safer). You wonder of course:  1) why you are hearing from them now? 2) should you respond? and 3) if you don’t respond will you wonder what it was he or she wanted?

People lose touch with one another for all sorts of reasons. Often, time goes by and one feels reaching out would be awkward and often it is. Be open-minded; reconnecting may be the best thing that ever happened to you. I have had former friends I was upset with contact me and frankly, I couldn’t recall why I was angry with them in the first place. That tells me something: it might have been something very small and petty and perhaps it’s time to get past it. Forgiveness has enhanced my life in so many ways.

I am not claiming to be a “friendship expert.” What I do know is that I have had a lifetime of meaningful friendships and without my friends, I would be a lesser person.

“No better relation than a prudent and faithful friend.”      

Ben Franklin 

“The best mirror is an old friend.”     

George Herbert 

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”     

Thomas Aquinas

Next week: Medeira, Portugal. I am excited to share this travel experience.

Do you have a story to tell or would you like to share some advice? Please add your thoughts in the comments section. Thank you.

What I’m Really Thinking

You Don’t Want to Know

Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

I vaguely recall a Jim Carey film where he actually says what he is thinking everytime he opens his mouth. I can’t tell you the title of the film or the outcome, however, what I do know is that it was a disaster. We live in a society where many people choose to stay in the dark because the truth is just too painful and that’s fair.

This isn’t the first time I am writing about truth and it won’t be the last. It’s front and center in my life and I grapple with it on a daily basis. I feel terribly self-righteous and I don’t like it. I’m finding middle ground through discussion and writing. The political untruths hurled at us on a daily basis are disgusting and getting worse. As an individual I feel powerless to change the direction humanity seems to be going in. The best I can do and will do, is allow truth to lead the way in my own life and to be truthful with others.

When People Say, “Tell Me The Truth,” Beware

I’m often asked what I think about this or that. Having had all kinds of different reactions to my candor, I find myself choosing my words very carefully. I’ve noticed that people say they want to hear the truth, what they really mean is: “Tell me the truth-light, water it down a bit, sugar coat it, couch it in praise, make it so it doesn’t hurt, tell me a white lie, don’t damage my ego, and what I don’t know won’t hurt me.” That’s a lot to sift through.

For example, I recently had a friend speak to me about a girl he’s seeing from overseas. He wanted my approval. Sometimes I want to crawl into a hole and put up a sign that says, “Leave me the fuck alone. What I think doesn’t matter and even if it did, you don’t really want to know.” The truth is, in this case I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep seeing this girl. I see a my friend as a ticket out of her country, a golden ticket. Trust me, he doesn’t want to hear what I think and I don’t want to lose a friend.

Here’s what I said, “How do you feel about the relationship? If you’re enjoying seeing this woman and she makes you happy, how can anyone tell you to stop seeing her.”

Fortunately, that satisfied him and I came away unharmed; eardrums and peaceful day still intact.

I once introduced a friend to a boyfriend of mine who was 20 years my junior. I asked her what she thought of him. She politely suggested that he might be a little young for me. This happened over 20 years ago and I’m still angry with her. The truth is, that is what she believed and she thought it might cause a problem in my relationship with him. She was right, it did cause a problem. At the time I knew she was right, but I never expected her to share her truth. I wanted her to tell me he was handsome and exotic and smart and that we were perfect for one another and that she was happy for me. In reality, she might have believed some of those things to be true, but she cared about me and thought that somebody had to tell me the obvious truth. The problem is that the truth seldom initiates a change. Instead, it causes resentment and sometimes pain. So why do we keep asking for it? Are human beings truth seekers?

I love the Housewives of (fill in the blank) franchise for so many reasons. I believe the producers tell the reality stars to share their truth as much as possible. That’s all we need for good, honest entertainment. Watch people get hurt and angry because they are being told things they don’t want to hear. And it’s their supposed friends telling them these things.

“I can’t believe you shared that with Betthany.”

“Who are you to go around telling people things I’ve shared with you in confidence.”

“What makes you think you know what really happened?”

“You’re doing this to destroy me because your jealous of my life.”

The beauty of it is that it’s all real. They are shedding real tears. These women are truly angry, feeling betrayed, and honestly scorned. I’m always surprised when any of them kiss and make up. How do you ever forgive some of what’s been put out there for all the world to hear?

Image may contain: text that says 'YOU KNOW THAT THING INSIDE YOUR HEAD THAT KEEPS YOU FROM SAYING STUFF YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN'T? YEAH, MINE'S BROKEN. fb/ Gotta Love It'

Ask Yourself Whether or Not You Want the Truth

Just because I believe it to be true, does not actually make it true. That is my barometer; it’s a mantra I repeat over and over again.

I only ask for a person’s opinion or thoughts when I know I can handle what they have to say. There are a handful of people in my life that I can count on to be real and honest: really honest. I know that when I ask these people to share their thoughts, their response will come from love and kindness. It may be difficult to process, but it will be honest and said in the most compassionate way; empathy and sympathy are so important when a person is in this position. We’ve all been there; don’t beat me up when I’m already broken. Don’t say it in a way that will sting worse than the actual truth. Always be kind and save the painful stuff for when the person is in a good place and they can handle it.

If you’re one of these people that says, “You can’t be angry with me because you asked for the truth,” you are not a nice person. Consider the reason you choose to suddenly be 100% honest; whom did it benefit.

Who Can You Really Trust?

This is so important. Take an inventory of the people you know and decide who among your friends and family you can go to for the absolute truth. These are people who care about you, your feelings, your well-being, your best interest. They will be thoughtful about what they say without hurting you. These cherished few will find a way to get the message across without sending you to therapy or to a medical doctor for Xanax.

No doubt most people in your life would like to think that they are “that” person — the one you can confide in. In truth, it’s not an easy position to be in. It’s like walking a tightrope without holding a pole for balance. If and when it’s done correctly and with compassion, it can change a life forever. I can count on one hand, the number of times this kind of honesty has come my way. I remember the time, the place, and every word said to me. I love and respect the person who delivered those words and I repeat those words whenever possible. The impact cannot be measured. Consider the weight of this role.

A Difficult Challenge, but worth the effort

Half-Truth

Leaving out some of the details, can be just as effective when you are providing feedback. It doesn’t make you a liar, it makes you a compassionate person.

If someone you care about asks you if you love them, why not just say, “yes I do.” Saying, “Yes, but you make me angry when you . . ., or I have been questioning my love lately,” is unnecessary. There is a time and place for absolute candor, never when a person is vulnerable or in pain.

Growing Up & Growing Wiser

Just because we get older, doesn’t necessarily mean we become wiser; like anything in life you have to work at it. We also have to accept that because we are human, we might occasionally mess up. For me it’s all about intention. If someone intentionally lies to me, I have little or no tolerance. Tell me a white lie to protect me from the truth, and I am a whole lot more forgiving.

Knowing when to share the truth, how much truth to share, and with whom you can be truthful, is all part of maturing and knowing yourself and others better. “The truth will set you free,” because truth liberates your heart and mind. You learn to trust what’s in your heart when your thoughts have been validated. It feels great when the heart and mind are in sync. The strength and confidence that comes from truth cannot be underestimated. So why do people lie?

There is so much lying these days, sometimes it’s difficult to sort through it all. Consider the source, consider the intention, and consider the weight of the truth. No lie is a good lie and most liars are not worth your time or energy. It’s okay to rely on your gut because your instincts are so often correct, when when there is a lot at stake, it’s better to check the facts and side with truth.

I have spend the last few years sorting considering how and with whom I spend my time. I made the conscious decision to rid my life of toxic liars and people who bring me pain. The result has validated the process; the friends and family I currently hold dear enrich my life. I have a whole lot less drama to deal with and life is fulfilling. Trusting yourself, treating yourself with love and respect, are all keys to honest exchanges with others. Two steps forward, one step back, the dance of life.

92 Quotes About Justice (To Make You Question What Is Fair)
Keep this in mind when you vote

Headed to Madeira next Saturday (5th). Will be reposting a blog before I leave and then the following Blog, September 12 will be about Madeira. With all that is going on with the virus and travel changes, I won’t believe it until I’m on the plane. Adults-only hotel with a seaview room; very excited.

Madeira Island News - maps of Madeira islands and Funchal
I’ll be in Funchal. Madeira is an island off of the Northwest coast of Africa

Consumer Frustration

You Can Either Win or Give-in: Choosing Win

Always remember that your present situation is not your final destination. The best is yet to come.

Anonymous

At first I thought: are you really going to start pissing and moaning about anything other than our collective health and well-being? The answer is: yes I am. Keep reading if you are a frustrated consumer:

I consider myself a demanding consumer. I worked hard for what I was able to put away and when I’m spending money, I deserve nothing less than what I am paying for — whatever that may be. I’m going to address the way companies are handling customer service during the COVID-19 crisis. What was it like pre-virus and what is it like now? How are small businesses handling customer service? What has changed for consumers? What will this lead to? Who will be the winners and who will be the losers? How you can come out on top.

I write this piece as an older (not old), middle income consumer. I do not have the luxury of spending without giving thought to value and price. I’m not sure all that really matters; when you’re purchasing, you deserve a fair and reasonable response from the merchant or business you are dealing with, when something goes wrong.

Corporate Customer Service

Corporate culture in the U.S. centers around entitlement and political favoritism. If you follow the money, you’ll easily determine why they’ve been getting a pass and who gave it to them. Tax breaks, deregulation, Super Pac money, and corporate donations, all point to greed and screwing the consumer. How do you fight the big guys (yes, they’re mostly men)? All we have today is social media. Mainstream media is in the pockets of big business, making it difficult to rely on calling them or holding them accountable in the news. In truth, big business knows that they can lose millions in a 24 hour period if an embarrassing misstep were to occur. Consider posted videos in Walmart, Target or KFC, for example. Use social media to your advantage. I’ve gone so far as to send corporations a draft of what I might post or blog. It doesn’t always work, but it can be very effective.

Two short stories:

  • First: EasyJet cancels my flight and offers either a refund that you have to formally request or you can take a full credit voucher and an in-flight Bistro voucher (value $5) as a “thank you” for choosing the voucher. You get the credit voucher and you cannot book on-line, you must speak to a representative. You get the in-flight voucher; however, in order to redeem it for actually in-flight Bistro credit, you have to print out a form, complete it and then wait 30 days for the in-flight Bistro credit. I’m sorry but this is bullshit. When the airline cancels a flight, you should get an automatic refund and . . . if you get a thank you for taking a credit voucher, you shouldn’t have to fill out a form. Taking a voucher keeps the cash in the companies coffers. You should get the bleepin’ in-flight Bistro credit as soon as you use your credit voucher. I assume EasyJet expects most people to look at the form and delete it. Why would anyone want to fly with EasyJet again. After all this ranting, I have to say they’re still better than RyanAir. I may or may not complete the form for the inflight credit, I go back and forth; after all, it is my money.
  • Second: I contact Hotels.com because an IBIS Hotel in France cancels my reservation due to COVID and then IBIS informs me that I can only get a credit for future nights or wait for a refund (see below). Hotels.com tells me they cannot help me. I try to re-book my nights through IBIS and they are now up 40%. I don’t know why, but I thought they’d honor the original price I’d paid. They refuse to do just that, so I tell them I want a refund. They send me a regulation from the French government which dictates that they can refund me my money within 18 months of the booking; yes you read it correctly 18 months. Who the #@&*%! cares what the French government dictates, I want my money now. Companies demand to be paid at the booking to hold a reservation, however, you’ll take 18 months to return my money to me? I guess they’re hoping I die before the 18 months are up and the credit card I used to book is no longer valid. Why would I ever book IBIS again? As a side note: Hotels.com chat line is a quick and easy way to resolve issues and their reps are very understanding . . . for the most part.
From IBIS:

With reference to the French government order 2020-315, known as the “heritage order”. We must offer a voucher for all reservations canceled between March 1 and September 15, 2020. This voucher can be used for 18 months. At the end of these 18 months, we will refund you if it has not been used. We cannot refund you now.

I have many, many examples of ridiculous corporate shenanigans; I’m certain you do as well.

Small Business Customer Service

There is a special place in my heart for small businesses. Many are struggling these days and most have struggled in the past. Getting a business going is a huge risk and the hours one must put in are anywhere from 60 to 100 hours per week (firsthand information). I do whatever I can to support small businesses if and when I can. There are small businesses working hard to cash out and sell to large businesses; these businesses are less appealing to me. It’s usually the founders hoping to get rich and leave their employees fending for themselves.

Pricing is currently out of control in the States due to less competition in the marketplace. Consumers have fewer choices and they are forced to either pay more for less or get less for more.

I find customer service friendly and more accomodating with small business. There is more at stake and you’re usually not too many degrees away from the owner of the company. Often, if you can get to the owner, you’re more likely to resolve your issue. I don’t want more than I paid for, I want exactly what I paid for.

The risk of the company going out of business, is greater for small companies. Before you make a purchase, review their track record and read what other buyers have to say. The same is true for the hiring of small business professionals (e.g., accountants, lawyers, doctors). The more you take control and the more research you do, the more likely you are to come out a winner. I hired an attorney here in Portugal a few years ago who charged me five times the going rate for his services. It’s my fault because I paid it, but I will never refer him to anyone.

Frustration and Reaction

As you know I travel quite a bit. Years ago when I was in my twenties traveling to Europe (pre-Hotels.com) I noticed that a majority of the hotels I stayed in had twin beds. Sometimes they’d push them together for you and sometimes they would tell you they could not; sometimes they’d even make them up as a king (here they call this a double bed, in the U.S. a double bed is smaller than a queen, 54×75 to be exact). The truth is I hate twin beds. I’m 6′ tall and I weigh 200 lbs., a twin bed is much too small. When I sleep in one I feel like I’m 10 years old again. The first thing I do when I book is look to see if they have queen beds; fortunately more and more hotels are offering a queen. When I book a double bed, I often write the hotel to confirm. The following are the replies I usually receive:

  1. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to honor your request. When you check-in we will check availability.
  2. All special requests are subject to availability.
  3. You are confirmed for a double bed.

#1 & #2 are ridiculous. How do you put a man my size in a twin bed, especially when I am paying the same price for the room that a couple is paying. I noticed that boutique hotels are much better about either offering a queen bed or confirming a double. The point I’m making is that in 2020 with Airbnbs and other types of accomodations doing so well, hotels need to be stepping it up and offering excellent mattresses in the right size. And what’s with the crappy pillows?

I was with friends at a hotel is Vila Viçosa last week. They upgraded to a suite and their bed was so squeaky they had to move it onto the floor the second night — that’s just not right.

Choosing Win

It’s not rocket science; we all want to come out on top. In today’s world, if you do not speak up for yourself and demand excellence, you will be forced to settle for less. You have to go into every consumer situation with the knowledge that you may have to fight for what you’re paying for. This seems counterintuitive doesn’t it? We should always assume that will be be getting a quality product, excellent service, and the desire to keep a customer (loyalty). I’m afraid, for the most part, those days are over. There is so much competition for your dollar, you have to be at the top of your game. I always find it empowering to take on the big guns and win. Good luck and stay strong.

Portuguese Wine Country: Alentejo in All Its Splendor

I was discussing Portugal and all there is to discover with some friends recently. We decided that this is a good time to explore some of the places we have not yet visited. COVID-19 cases are way down in Portugal. This was a fairly impulsive trip with very little planning, save for the hotel in Vila Viçosa (booked on Hotel.com) and one restaurant reservation (see below). I was with friends that are adventurous, flexible, and enjoy a good gin & tonic now and then. Traveling with others is not always easy, therefore, it’s a pleasure to be with friends who enjoy similar experiences. Meet Richard and Tina from the UK.

Keep reading, they’re pretty, but what’s to come is prettier.

[As always, I will only mention restaurants and experiences worth noting.]

Alentejo is 12,182 sq. miles (see map below). It can be hilly in some places and then fairly flat in others, but the roads are excellent and for the most part, your GPS system will help get you to where you want to go. Many of the vineyards were closed to the public. It’s harvest time for white wine; my guess is that they do not want to expose their staff to the virus. I would imagine COVID-19 could ruin the harvest. We managed to find two vineyards that were open to the public. Both were exceptional and had safe practices.

The Alentejo includes the regions of Alto Alentejo and Baixo Alentejo. It corresponds to the districts of BejaÉvoraPortalegre and the Alentejo Litoral. The main cities are: ÉvoraBejaSinesSerpaEstremozElvas and Portalegre.

It has borders with Beira Baixa in the North, with Spain (Andalucia and Extremadura) in the east, with the Algarve in the South and with the Atlantic OceanRibatejo and Estremadura in the West. (Wikipedia)

Map of Portugal

Note: I live all the way down south in the middle of the Algarve. That’s the Atlantic Ocean in blue. Nothing like pointing out the obvious.

Our first stop on our three day road trip was Beja. Beja is a pretty little town, not that different from any other small Portuguese town; an old town area you need to walk into. We had a coffee at a café and strolled for a bit. Nothing special, but we only visited as a quick stop so that we would not arrive too early for our lunch reservation. Tina made us a reservation at a vineyard restaurant: Quinta do Quetzal (click for website) is the name of the winery. Quetzal Restaurant served up a memorable meal. Once again I did not take a lot of pictures because I truly wanted to savor the moment with my friends. We all had dishes we thoroughly enjoyed and wine was outstanding.

Lamb, sweet potato, and spinach

Honestly, COVID-19 has truly had me down in the dumps, but sitting at an outside table enjoying this food, lifted my spirits and returned me to a time before this virus when the splendor of the world could be fully enjoyed. We will get back there soon I hope.

We arrived at our hotel later in the afternoon.

Hotel Solar Dos Mascarenhas

Vila Vicosa

I booked through Hotels.com. I would have gotten the same great rate through Booking.com, but I get rewards through Hotels.com and a free night after 10 nights is very attractive. The hotel is nothing fancy, however, very comfortable (save for Tina and Richard’s squeaky bed. I only know this because they told me). A delightful pool and a pretty view from my room make it all worthwhile. Tina’s opinion of the hotel: “It was fine.” I give it a 7 out of 10.

Hotel Solar Dos Mascarenhas, Vila Vicosa, Outdoor Pool
Hotel Solar Dos Mascarenhas
Hotel Solar Dos Mascarenhas, Vila Vicosa, Hotel Interior

Vila Vaçosa

Two days in this beautiful and welcoming town is more than enough. The historical significance of the area will astound and delight. We got lucky with the mildest August weather imaginable. I must have down something good . . .

I’m going to stop in the middle of this blog to make a very big statement: Portugal is one of the world’s best kept secrets. I think it’s intentional. The Portuguese people would prefer to keep it all to themselves. Seriously, every part of this country that I visit is special for a different reason. The beauty of Alentejo is unmatched and fortunately for me, it’s only a few hours from home. [It should be noted that you cannot explore this part of Portugal without a car. Unfortunately, this is true for most of Portugal. You will find car rentals to be fairly reasonable.]

I was unaware of the famous marble quarries throughout the area we visited. The pink marble is what they appear to be best known for. We were struck by the amount of marble everywhere; even the sidewalks were lined in marble. On one of our gin & tonic stops, we learned that one of the quarries was shipping to New York City for a Sixth Avenue skyscraper. Apparently, much of the marble from this Alentejo is exported to the U.S.

The 14th century Vila Viçosa Castle was worth visiting and the Palace was beautiful, but the Palace did not open during our visit — the hours on the door said otherwise. Unfortunately, this is a frequent occurrence in Portugal and nothing can be done about it. A small price to pay for splendor.

Vila Viçosa September 2013-15a.jpg
Ducal Palace of Vila Viçosa

We had cocktails and tapas at several cafés in Vila Vaçosa and found friendly staff, a nice variety of cocktails and good food. There was a sophistication that I do not always see in the Algarve; I was pleasantly surprised.

J. Portugal Ramos Wines, Estremoz

We were fortunate to book a tour and tasting with Lúcia Coimbra at João Portugal Ramos Wines. The tour and tasting was 14.23 Euros (discounted after purchase) and lasted a couple of hours. We were able to see most spaces (not all because of COVID) and ended the tour with the tasting. Lúcia was a delightful and knowledgeable guide. J. Ramos is a family business; their history is rich and interesting. What has been created from nothing but land, since only the late 80s, is very impressive. They have vineyards in several parts of Portugal and partner with one other winery in the north of Portugal. Most J. Ramos wines were a treat to taste. I asked about wine awards and was impressed to learn Robert Parker scored most of their wines in the 90s (out of 100) and many have won many top awards. I was surprised to learn that the U.S. is one of their largest customers. They also export to several other countries. They make a delicious olive oil as well (sampled at the tasting and purchased).

The Estremoz location (the one we visited) is where all the wine ends up for bottling and quality control. I believe Lúcia told us that they can bottle 6,000 bottles an hour. The numbers of bottles produced for each label depends a lot on the harvest and some labels are intentionally small batch. I stood close to João Ramos’ private collection with awe and envy.

I’ll let you read about them here: https://www.jportugalramos.com/en/homepage/

At the end of the tour you can purchase wine, fire water (similar to cognac), olive oil; all at a 10% discount. I won’t say I got any bargains, however, I walked away with two large shopping bags and a big smile.

Lúcia made a reservation for lunch for us at Gradanha, Mercearia and Restaurant in the center of Estremoz, only a few minutes driving from the vineyard. We were fortunate to secure an outside table (the weather was perfect for al fresco dining). The restaurant and shop were beautiful. We enjoyed the food very much; however, our initial greeting was less than cordial. They were bombarded by new customers at 1:00 p.m. and they were clearly flustered and not very friendly. The food did not come quickly, but it was excellent. Tina and I had a shrimp and clam risotto and Richard’s black pork steak was outstanding. After a taste of his pork, I regretted my order — black Iberian Pork in Portugal is usually a sure bet. We had exceptional Portuguese pork more than once on this trip.

Évora

Tina suggested we stop in Évora for sightseeing and a coffee on the way home. It was about 30 minutes southwest of Vila Vaçosa and it is the center of Alentejo and its largest city.

Évora is the capital of Portugal’s south-central Alentejo region. In the city’s historic center stands the ancient Roman Temple of Évora (also called the Temple of Diana). Nearby, whitewashed houses surround the Cathedral of Évora, a massive Gothic structure begun in the 12th century. The Igreja de São Francisco features Gothic and baroque architecture along with the skeleton-adorned Chapel of Bones (Wikipedia).

Evora was considered a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1986. According to this organisation, Evora is a museum-city with roots dating back to roman times. The golden age happened in the 16th century, when the portuguese kings lived here.

What There is to See

The Top Ten Places to Visit in Alentejo — we only got to see a small part of this beautiful, culturally rich, historical region. The Pousadas (government owned and operated hotels — usually beautiful and worthy of a visit). They might all be closed because of COVID; I couldn’t tell from the site. We were disappointed that we didn’t think to check them out for availability.

I am looking forward to returning to this region often; certain to see and experience something new each time I visit.

Two things I see wherever I travel in Portugal:

  1. The Portuguese love to smoke. They can be steps away from you while you are eating outdoors and light up without any consideration. I find this all over Portugal and it makes me crazy.
  2. Dog poop is everywhere; all over the sidewalks, wherever you walk. I will never ever understand why these very polite, very reasonable, usually very considerate people, leave dog shit on the ground so that others accidently step in it. I sometimes confront people when I see it happening in front of me. A few have become very angry and tell me that there are people who are paid to clean it up. I assume they are talking about the street cleaners and to that I say, bullshit! They should not have to clean-up your dogs crap and besides, it might be hours or days before they get around to doing it. I remember this was the case in Brooklyn when I was a child, however, new news and fines have made this practice a thing of the past (for the most part). I wish this would change here. I’m tired of having to look down at the ground when there is so much beauty all around me. Okay, I feel a bit better now. If you live in a Portuguese town that doesn’t have this issue, let me know.
Venting Quotes Funny. QuotesGram
I’m sure this also applies to YOU

Simplicity vs. Excess

No Judgment, But Why All The Bling?

I’d like to discuss this photograph: Is it minimalism? Is it staged? Is it attractive? Does it matter? But first . . .

Photo by Jeffrey Czum on Pexels.com

This is one of those blogs where what I have to say is purely a matter of taste and opinion. In fact, aren’t they all? The word excess in the title certainly has a negative connotation. You have your taste, I have my taste, and my taste is the right taste — I kid.

I Will Get to That Photo in a Moment

Let me be clear that this is coming from an average Joe. I do not have a design degree, I do not get paid to do design work, and I do not know very much about design. Now some would say that gays have a design gene; I’d like to think that was true, however, we know it’s false. There is one small thing that leads me to believe that I have a good sense of color, light, and “tasteful” design. I worked for Dorothy Hamilton who owned The French Culinary Institute in New York City. My job description did not include interior design, but . . . I was in fact the lead person on several expansion projects. In that role I got to choose furnishings, wall color, and finishes. I would have to run my ideas by Dorothy, but I would say 90% of the time she liked what I showed her. After a number of years of successful project management, Dorothy told her staff that I was to be the “go to” person for the look and feel of the facilities (70,000 sq. ft.) and a campus in California (don’t recall, but at least 30,000 sq. ft.). I do not like to toot my own horn, ergo, I have to say, this particular distinction made me very proud. Obviously, I do not need to justify having an opinion, but there you go. Also, see link to profile article on me at the end of this piece.

The Photograph: In my humble opinion the only reason what you see in the above photograph could be considered minimalism, is all of the blank space around the window. It draws your eyes to the center of the photograph — the focal point. It makes you feel good. It’s pretty and takes you to Europe. Not a lot of clutter or color. It transports you back to simpler times. The building might be old and possibly historical or it might be a fairly new building made to look older. I like the shutters and I love the flower boxes. My criticism is that it looks a bit staged and a bit too feminine. But all that empty space around the windows, the muted colors, and the rust streaks in a couple of places, make it a very attractive photograph; a place I’d like to be.

Minimalism

Definition of minimalism: a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.

Minimalism is all about living with less. This includes less financial burdens such as debt and unnecessary expenses. … For many minimalists, the philosophy is about getting rid of excess stuff and living life based on experiences rather than worldly possessions.

I hate clutter, I hate dust, I hate waste, I hate having “things” in drawers and closets that I will never use, I hate thinking about all this stuff; too much stuff jams up your brain. This hatred does not drive my stylistic preferences. If you normally have a maximum of three people sitting in and using a living room, why do you need two big sofas? If once a month or twice a year you have eight people sitting in the living room, add chairs when you need them. Excess furniture makes a space feel smaller and more cramped. This has an impact on how you feel in the space; meaning that you consciously or unconsciously feel that the world is closing in on you — you feel anxious.I’m not fond of feeling anxious.

The same is true for knick-knacks, small objects that have no real functional use. These items tend to collect dust and take up space. When I look at the photograph below, this is what comes to mind: open, clean, fresh, stunning, inviting, and peaceful.

Photo by Patryk Kamenczak on Pexels.com

Some of you may look at the same photograph and think: bare, empty, sparse, over-designed and cold. Admittedly, I would add a couple of nightstands, some books, and a simple side chair. I especially love the wood floor and the floor to ceiling windows. It feels like there is no barrier between the inside and outside, making the room seem even larger than it actually is. You are made to feel as if you are living in nature; magnificent and powerful.

Advantages to minimal design:

  • fewer objects to clean
  • you can budget less for furniture
  • option to add chairs for seating if you need to
  • easier to make changes
  • a splash of color can brighten things up (pop)

Whatever Makes You Comfortable

One thing that that I find troubling about design is how snooty the industry can be. Interior design professionals are for the most part well paid, and they should be. To be a good designer you have to know your stuff and it’s obviously hard work. I had clients in my consulting business who were: indecisive, picky, entitled, angry, know-it-alls — and this is when they were being cooperative. Having stated this, when it comes to designers, I still believe there is an air of they know better than you. I would argue that no one knows better than you. You know what you like, you know what makes you comfortable, and you know what you want. You are the boss in this scenario.

If you’re like me, you prefer certain colors to others. You might like big and bold furniture or you might want to go in the opposite direction. You might prefer your walls to be bright and filled with artwork from top to bottom. I love white walls in an open space; it provides a blank canvas. Sometimes people go overboard with accent colors and they end up dominating a space. Again, it should be whatever you like.

I find that keeping my bedroom simple and uncluttered, helps me sleep better. White, crisp cotton sheets, a subtle color on the walls, clean lines, and a minimal amount of furniture (I like built-ins); these things make me happy. I don’t spend much time in my bedroom, but the time I spend there should be restful. I no longer sleep like I slept when I was a teenager.

Excess

Fifteen years ago I was fortunate enough to purchase a little country house in Pennsylvania (PA). I was thinking about how I might furnish the house and equip the kitchen. I pondered: before I go out and buy more “stuff,” let me see what I have in my apartment that I could take to PA. Three car loads later, my kitchen was completely outfitted; no lie I had two of everything in Brooklyn, and all I had to purchase was a couple of beds and a few other pieces of furniture to make the house in PA comfortable and functional. You might ask what I was doing with all of that excess stuff in Brooklyn? Darned if I know. I learned a great lesson about accumulating things and why it would be prudent to try and avoid that in the future . . . and for the most part, I have.

I find that friends are great for helping you edit. I have a number of friends who have no problem telling me what they think.

I will not be writing about hoarding, that’s a whole other issue. All I can say is I feel sorry for people who cannot part with things. I find tossing out or giving away stuff I don’t need, to be cleansing and gratifying.

Minimalism when dressing and wearing jewelry is usually also more attractive. Sometimes people wear six bracelets, three wrist watches, five necklaces, and nine lapel pins; what am I supposed to look at? Several belts, t-shirts over t-shirts, and so on, make up your mind. Edit yourself people. Simplicity and restraint will win the day. Again, just my opinion.

The House Special: Christopher Papagni Elevates Portland’s Restaurant Scene

Click on title above and it will take you to a profile piece about me done in Old Port Magazine, Portland, Maine.

Minimalist Typography Poster - FREE DOWNLOAD | Frases minimalistas ...

To Thy Known [sic] Self Be True and/or Big Fat Lies

Be the real you | Quotes & Writings by porijai pakhi | YourQuote

Disclaimer: I want to start by stating that my blog is not meant to be the answer to all of your problems or the world’s problems for that matter. I’ve been around the block a few times and I’ve learned some things and accumulated a few stories. Sharing with my readers is my way of letting you in and hopefully, allowing for some thoughtful contemplation. Needless to say, if you do not agree with my point of view, it might be better just to click delete or move on.

This Week

I’m on retreat in Estoi, Portugal for a few days. Estoi is a beautiful, historically rich town in the hills not far from my home. My stomach has been a bit jittery because of COVID-19, uncertain times, economic upheaval, to name a few things, and I thought it would do Paco and I some good to spend time in the country where there is little distraction. I’m surrounded by orchards, beautiful hills, and the Algarve sun. It’s a time for reflection and calming the nerves.

I can’t get my arms around this virus. Hearing about death and the destruction of lives on a daily basis is a lot to take in. I don’t want to turn it off and become detached — I don’t want to plunge into a deep depression either. Again, it’s about balance. Balance seems to be the most important lesson I have learned as I get older. Empathy is an essential part of being human; however, too much empathy for me, means anxiety. Like everyone else, I’m afraid of getting or spreading the virus. They say this is the new normal. Well I say, I don’t care for it.

What You See

A recent photograph of Paco & me

Posting this photograph of myself is a bold move. When my friend Patricia took it a few weeks ago, I recoiled with disgust. She liked it, so she sent it to me even though I didn’t. I don’t like what I see at all. I know that I am 61 years old and no longer in shape, but honestly, I’d rather not look at it. I see someone who ate too much during quarantine and whose face is revealing far too much of just about everything I’m not too fond of. In my delusional mind, I’m young and still fetching. So here’s the dilemma: do I embrace the man you see in the photograph or do I continue to go along with what’s inside my head?

The answer for me is a little bit of both. I need to be grounded and aware of aging and be confident enough in my physical appearance to be comfortable presenting myself to the world. I certainly don’t want to look at a photograph of myself and give up. The good news is that after seeing this picture I decided to get rid of most of the sugar (the true killer) around my house and spend more time on the elliptical machine; fortunately, the pounds are starting to slowly disappear. There are so many things you can do to make yourself more attractive:

  • smile
  • dress well (even if you’re just going to the market)
  • go to the gym, walk, swim, run, hike, bike . . .
  • get a facial, haircut, massage — for yourself
  • have work done if it makes you feel better, but don’t over do it. Have you been to the upper east side in Manhattan lately? It’s a shit show of plastic surgery gone wild.
  • get a tan. Believe it or not, you can get a great tan with SPF 30
  • eat healthy foods
  • be with people who appreciate you for who you are
  • be around people who let you know when you are at your best
  • pay attention to your posture
  • remind yourself that earned every line on your face
  • take stock of the simple things
  • meditate
  • sleep and take an afternoon nap if you can
Photo by Lukas Rodriguez on Pexels.com
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Okay enough of this bullshit about me and my body. The bottom line is honesty with yourself and acceptance. Funny how those two things can change sometimes after a good night’s sleep or even better, after someone flirts with you a bit.

Please do not send me comments about how I look good in the above photograph. I hate the picture and no matter what you say, I will believe you are just trying to make me feel better. Either that or you love me so much when you look at me you only see a handsome guy. That’s all well and good, but it’s not what I believe to be true at the moment. Don’t worry, this too shall pass. Everyone gets a free pass on self-pity right now.

Being Less Than Honest With Myself and Others

Some would say that it’s healthy or natural to tell yourself little white lies — self-preservation. Like when you look in the mirror and you think, “You look good in these jeans.” That’s not a bad thing is it? I think it’s only bad if your lie hurts someone else. For example, a friend asks you what you think of her make-up after she does her face. You know in your heart she has put on too much and she looks like a clown and you don’t want to hurt her feelings, so you say, “You look perfect.” She walks around the entire day with people staring at her and even sometimes laughing under their breath. She might even do it the same way the next day thinking it looks good. In this case I believe gentle truth is the way to go.

“A little less eyeliner and not-so-much foundation might highlight your beautiful features.” Or

“Take a look in the mirror and tell me what you really think of your make-up?”

Let them see where they might have gone wrong. They might not always thank you at the moment, but that’s not what friendship is about.

On the other hand, if a friend says, “Do I look fat?”

No matter what you think, the answer is, “No, you look great.”

Two very different situations; one can be fixed, the other is much more complicated. There are nice/delicate ways to let someone know that they have put on a few pounds.

“Hey Sue, I have these COVID-19 pounds I need to shed and I was thinking of doing a long in the morning, want to join me? It would do us both some good.”

“Roger, if I recall your heart has been giving you some trouble lately; remember the slimmer you are, the better it is for your heart.”

“Hey sis, mom struggled with her weight once she hit 50; we have to be careful in our family.”

It’s all about a healthy balance, good mental and emotional health, and living with yourself.

The Problem with Denial

I know a lot of people who lie to themselves by denying the truth. The shaking your head constantly does make non-truth true, it only gives you a headache. I have found that facing the truth is often difficult for a short while, however, in the long run, you save a lot of worry and angst. For example, a few years ago I had a spot of my face that looked like a pimple, but it wouldn’t heal. I looked for pictures of it on the internet and what I saw and read frightened me. Pictures showed something similar to what I had on my face and the prognosis might be skin cancer. I put the thought out of my head immediately. Not possible with the type of skin I have, Mediterranean complexion after all.

When I was willing to look closely at the growth, I didn’t like what I was seeing. The spot was getting larger and darker and it was way too close to my right eye. After more than a year, I had it checked. Sure enough it was skin cancer. Fortunately it was basal cell carcinoma, easier to treat and less dangerous than melanoma. I had surgery to cut it; scarring was minimal and it hasn’t returned. Not taking care of it for so long made me anxious. I was worrying far too much about what it could be instead of just taking care of it. A situation where being honest with myself and having it checked right away would have saved me a whole lot of worry. I learned a big life lesson from this.

Human beings are very good about lying to themselves. We do it with big things and little things. Sometimes admitting the truth, although better in the long run, can happen too late. I don’t need to outline here what I mean. Let’s just say, be honest with yourself right from the start and you’ll be a great deal better off in the short and long run.

Quotes about Denying oneself (16 quotes)

What We Often Lie to Ourselves About

  • Alcohol abuse and alcoholism
  • Health
  • Extra weight
  • A relationship(s) that is unhealthy
  • Hating our jobs
  • Hating where we live
  • Our disposition
  • The company we keep
  • Finances

Is There a Solution?

I think there is: it’s called a tool box. We all need one at the ready; to tweak, fix, and overhaul. You need to yank it out whenever you start to doubt yourself or feel weak. Being human means being imperfect (sorry) and making mistakes. Knowing you have the ability to make an adjustment and move on, helps you to know things can and will improve. So if you begin to notice that you are having one or two more cocktails than you probably should, there are a few

tools you can use to get you to a better place (you can apply this tactic to many issues in your life):

  1. Admission is essential. You need to say out loud, “My drinking is a problem.”
  2. Come up with a plan to deal with the problem.
  3. Get some sort of help to insure that you stay on track.
  4. Monitor your progress daily.
  5. Enlist the help of a friend or expert.
  6. Take inventory of how addressing the problem has had a positive impact on your life.

The great thing about telling yourself the truth, is that you will begin to trust yourself. As in all relationships, trust is essential and necessary for success. If you want to love yourself, be true to yourself, and believe in yourself, you have to trust yourself; telling yourself lies will only lead to self-loathing and a downward spiral. Unfortunately, the further down that rabbit hole you fall, the more difficult it will be climb out and recover.

Living Life Without A User Manual : Be Honest With Yourself

A Blind Date I’d Rather Forget

Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com

There were so many things that drove me crazy about my mother; wanting me to be partnered was one of the big ones. She would constantly nag me about finding the “right guy.” One day, some thirty odd years ago, I gave in to her constant badgering.

Blind dates

I was in my late 20s, visiting my family in Salisbury, North Carolina. If you have never been to Salisbury, you’ve no reason to go. I lived there in my late teens for a couple of years, and visited family after I’d moved away. I have blocked most of my time there from my memory. This memory I cannot shake.

I was sitting at the kitchen table with my relocated northern momma. It was 110 degrees with 100% humidity and my guard was down. Mom was describing her gay hairdresser and insisted that he would show me a good time. Mind you this is before camera phones; actually most telephones had a 30 foot stretchable cord. She didn’t have a photo and I had an idea that Lou (mom) was overselling. I was beaten down by the heat and mom’s insistence and finally agreed to a blind date with Beau, the hairdresser. His name made him sound sexy. Careful not to fall into that trap.

Mom made all of the arrangements . . . I dreaded night fall. She assured me that Beau had fun plans and that I was in good hands. I couldn’t imagine which Waffle House he would choose or if the local drive-in allowed Yankees in — oh yes, in the south, in the 80s, I was a Yankee. I’m cynical now, but in my 20s I was much more so and a bit rebellious.

If you know anything about my mother, you will know that she always had an ulterior motive. Sure she wanted me to be happy, but she also knew that if this set-up worked out, she’d have free dye jobs for life. Mom had four daughters who went to beauty school (that’s what they called them back then); at the time one lived in New York, another lived in Tennessee, one was estranged, and the last didn’t do the kind of dye job my mother appreciated; I’m being kind. I was fairly outspoken back then and I almost shared my suspicions about her motives. She would have just laughed and said I was right.

Beau showed up right on time. You would have thought he was my mother’s long lost son the way they gushed over one another. I won’t lie, he was handsome. He was also smelled of cigarette smoke and if I’m going to be honest, that just didn’t sit well with me. Admittedly, I came really close to claiming to have suddenly fallen ill. I even thought about sending my mother in my place.

We said our goodbyes to mom. She insisted we drive carefully and she even said, “Y’all don’t run off and get married.”

I almost had to remind her that she was born in Brooklyn, not the deep south. Why couldn’t I have had a mother who rejected my homosexuality. But seriously, I jest. I was tickled that she cared enough to set me up with her favorite gay in Salisbury. Beau hugged and kissed her and promised to get me home safely. All the while I’m thinking, two hours tops.

Beau was peppier and more southern than I would have liked. By “more southern,” I mean that he truly worked his drawl. He told me that we were going to a barbeque and that I was going to meet some of his redneck friends; he didn’t actually say “redneck.” I didn’t get the sense that he was interested in me; however, he was friendly and seemed harmless. I looked forward to meeting other gay people — Salisbury is a small town and the gay boys had been elusive.

For me, a barbeque means hot dogs, hamburgers and outdoor picnic tables; this barbeque, not-so-much. We got to this double-wide mobile home and there were three guys slouched on a torn-up sofa. They were either high or drunk and hardly noticed that people had joined them; southern hospitality my ass. I waited to be introduced, but clearly I could tell Beau’s manners were nowhere to be found. I walked over to the sofa and extended a hand. Only one of the three acknowledged my introduction; the other two were indifferent. Beau left the room to put the beer he’d brought into the refrigerator.

Have you ever been somewhere where you wanted to leave the moment you arrived? I was uncomfortable and uneasy. This wasn’t New York City where I could just make excuses and hop on the subway. I was in the middle of nowhere, before cell phones and Uber. I looked for a clean spot to sit down and I tried my best to blend in with the furniture. Beau had either forgotten that he brought me to the party or he had begun partying without me. He finally did walk into the living room with two beers. He offered me one and made no apologies for his rude friends.

I stayed seated hoping that people would arrive and liven up the party. At one point, I leaned over to ask Tim, the one who had spoken to me when I introduced myself, if he was from Salisbury.

“Yes, we’re all from here; we went to high school together.”

I wondered if he was going to inquire about where I was from, but he didn’t. In fact, the conversation ended there. I patiently sat on that disgusting sofa waiting for the party to get started . . . it never did. At one point it became clear that Beau wanted nothing to do with me and his friends were indifferent. I stopped wondering about their sexuality two minutes after arriving; there was nothing appealing about this crew. The anger I felt toward my mother for putting me in this situation still resonates. Someone had to take the blame for this.

An hour in, I decided enough was enough. I had not seen so much as a potato chip, the music was a cross between heavy metal and pots and pans clanging, and the smell had me gasping for fresh air. I walked around the house searching for Beau. I finally found him outside smoking. I approached him with a smile, hoping to disarm any resentment he may have felt for having had to drag me along.

“Would you mind taking me home?” I asked.

“What? We just got here. Relax man.”

To be honest, I didn’t expect him to instantly agree to cart me back from wherever the hell I was. I asked if there was any food and he said another friend would be there with pizza soon. Although by this point I was starving, pizza in Salisbury was inedible and there was no way I’d eat it. I started feeling anxious and self-conscious. Perhaps I was the problem; entitled, stuck-up snob that I was. I decided to try to make the best of it and use my Sociology degree to study this group of four southern men — I just observed.

It was oppressively hot and humid outside, so I decided to go back into the house where it wasn’t much better; a little less buggy if I recall. I negotiated a time limit in my head. Another hour and I was calling a taxi; that’s if I could get one to pick me up in bum-fuck nowheresville. I considered calling mom, but that would have been way too comical for this party crowd and my brother worked the night shift at the cotton mill,so he was unavailable. Perhaps Beau would start to feel sorry for me as the night wore on. I sat with a second beer and prayed for a reprieve. A reprieve never came.

I can’t say if it was close to midnight or after midnight when I had finally had enough. Food never arrived, Beau’s friends never warmed up to me, and the party goers were all baked and enjoying a different stratosphere. I asked Beau about a taxi, but he shrugged me off. It was clear he was not going to take me home or help me get home. I saw a phone on the wall, however, the address where we were was still unknown to me. I approached Tim, the one guy who would speak to me, and asked if he knew the address. He told me we were on Deer Run Road, but he didn’t know the house number. I walked outside and saw the number on the house and decided to call a taxi. I dialed information (remember when that was a thing) and got the telephone for the only cab company in town. I had to memorize the number because there were no pencils or paper, within plain view.

I miraculously got the taxi company on the phone. The dispatcher was nice enough, but he said he only had one driver that night and that he was on his way to Charlotte airport and it would be an hour or more before he could get to me. It was one of those this can’t be happening to me moments. I again thought about calling mom, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I knew Deer Run Road led into town and I knew we couldn’t be more than a couple of miles outside of town because of how long it took us to get there. I decided to walk; a decision I will always regret.

I left without saying a word to anyone. They didn’t deserve a goodbye and I knew a confrontation would be fruitless. I began walking in what I thought was the right direction. I walked for a long time without a single car passing me. After a while, I knew that I was headed in the wrong direction. I looked at my watch and it was after 2:00 a.m. I turned around and headed the other way. The road was dark, but the stars offered enough light so that I could see a few feet ahead . I stayed close to the edge just in case a car were to come by. I feared a car might plow me down, but I also hoped one would come and stop for me. It was hot and sticky and I walked for hours until I reached town. Downtown Salisbury is not that big and I knew where the taxi office would probably be.

First a stop at the Waffle House for a cold drink. I was hungry, but food would not have stayed down. By this point I was beyond exhausted and sort of in a state of disbelief; relieved to be out of that horrible situation and knowing I would soon be in my bed. After rehydrating and a few minutes of rest, I found the taxi companies base and had their lone driver take me to my mother’s house.

She wasn’t waiting up and I wasn’t surprised. I showered and crawled into bed. As I pulled the sheet up to cover my head, dawn was breaking. Fortunately, my mother had a loud window unit in the spare bedroom and I knew it would drown out any noise my mom would make. For a brief moment I wondered if the rednecks I left, had noticed I was gone. I vowed to myself that I would never again go on a blind date and that I would take note of where I was going when headed to a new location. This was never going to happen to me again, but cell phones have taken care of that.

I walked into Lou’s kitchen sometime after noon; she had that Cheshire cat smile she often wore. I’m not sure why I had made this decision, but I told myself that nothing good would come from telling her my date story. I waited until she was in her early 70s to share what happened. By then we had dealt with any issues that came between us throughout our lives. She was of course shocked and angry with me for not telling her back then. She told me that she would have given Beau what for.

I said, “That’s exactly why I didn’t tell you.”

We laughed and she actually asked me if I’d been attracted to him. I guess if I’m going to be honest, it was one of the things I loved about Lou; she genuinely would have been happy if it had worked out. My sexuality was not a problem for her, but being alone was.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and outdoor
Mom (Lou) with my stepfather Frank, about a year before she passed

Paco Update:

My adopted pooch has been with me for six months now. He is healthy and happy, save for a strange skin issue. As you know, I have no idea how long he lived in the woods before he was found. I know that he had numerous bug bites that pestered him long after he was rescued. I think that even though these bites have healed and he no longer has any skin issues that I can detect, he still believes something is there or biting him. He doesn’t casually itch a spot, he jumps up and attacks the area. It seems to be getting a little better as time goes by. When I see him irritated this way, I usually rub the area and reassure him that there’s nothing there. The vet tells me that Yorkie’s are prone to phantom skin irritations. Our bond is strong and the love we feel for one another is deep. I am grateful to have had a quarantine companion and a furry friend for life.

Paco the hipster