I believe old demons have returned, but this time I’m more prepared
I’ve been struggling with a decision for a few months now and I’m hoping one of the following happens:
The answer suddenly comes to me with clarity and full resolve.
I decide to allow for an organic resolution; time sorts it out.
Something way bigger than me, decides.
This is one of those situations where anything is possible. I already went from A to B by running my situation by a friend. I carry shame with me on this one; not typical for me and very uncomfortable. I am usually quite clear in my thoughts when I have a personal dilemma. Not this time though, this time I haven’t a clue. In the past, my decisions may have been hasty; I cannot afford a hasty decision this time.
A recent example of hasty: I’m going to London at the end of the week and I have tickets for two plays — two plays that I know for certain I have not seen. I will only be in London for four days, therefore, my time there is precious and limited. I don’t get to see much theatre these days and the idea of getting a ticket for the third day seemed like a good one. I looked at all of the plays currently on the West End and didn’t see any that were appealing. Much like Broadway, unfortunately, the West End has become another home for flashy Disney productions, not my cup o’ tea. But two days ago I received an offer for Indecent, a Paula Vogel play. I got all excited because I’ve admired her work for thirty years. I purchased a ticket using a mobile phone app. I smiled all the way home thinking I’d scored something good . . . not. I got home and read about Indecent and realized I’d seen it in New York. If it was the best thing I’d ever seen I would have remained excited; however, if I recall correctly, it didn’t thrill me. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised and this performance will blow me away. I’ve also decided that if I have a lot going on, I’ll just skip the performance and accept the financial loss. Had I done a bit of research first, I wouldn’t be in this position.
I should state upfront that this issue I am grappling with is not a bad problem to have. I should also share that when I have been in a similar situation in the past, the direction I chose ended up coming out well for me. Unfortunately, every situation is different; therefore, what might have worked in the past may not work now.
I need to come clean with you: I wrote several paragraphs about my situation, went to bed and slept on it. When I woke up this morning, I walked Paco, brewed some coffee, opened my laptop and erased what I had written. For the first time since I started blogging almost four years ago, I decided that what I was sharing was too personal (if you’re curious, contact me privately).
The Real Issue
The problem, as I see it, is that I am often not happy with accepting the status quo. Things can be going well for me and for whatever reason, I seem to have this strange need to shake things up. I know that I can overanalyze, over simplify, and take far too many things for granted. What I have found helpful over the last few years, is patience is a good alternative. Sit tight for a while and whatever it is that is making me crazy, will sort itself out — of course this is only 95% true.
In the spirit of making life easier on myself, I am going to stop here. Rather then bore you with details and make myself cuckoo, I will leave it at this:
My goal this week is to leave this decision up to the universe. With enough time and patience, it will sort itself out. In the end I will be fine; no doubt I will also be better off financially and happier for having not rushed to a hasty decision.
Bond, James Bond
Yesterday I saw, No Time to Die, the new James Bond Film. I’m usually not a big fan, but I caved to peer pressure. It’s fabulous: the acting, the music, and the cinematography — all incredible. The bonus was that I had just firmed up my trip to Cuba in February and about 20 minutes of the film takes place in Havana. That made me feel so good about this long awaited adventure. I wish I was flying there today.
I recently read an interview with Gabriel Tallent who wrote, My Absolute Darling (an incredible must-read novel). He shares that a friend gave him the advice to write with unimpeachable integrity. I love this advice and will from this day forward try my best to write with unimpeachable integrity.
An Aging Man’s Rant
I hate that it’s so hard to pee in the middle of the night. I hate waking up at 2:00 a.m. and feeling wide awake. I hate the achiness I feel most of the time. I hate the that the indentation under my eyes is more pronounced than it was two weeks ago. I hate that when my cell phone rings, I wonder if someone died. I detest strong odors and people who create them. I’m tired of listening to everyone’s opinions about everything. I deplore my own reflection. I abhor people who use Christianity as a rationale for hate and lies. I long for intimacy without feeling self-conscious. I want to live in a world where people care more about the planet than their miles per gallon. I want to hear more talk of love, cooperation, and the power of education. I want to see and feel compassion and care. I want women to feel safe. I want women to be equal. I want women to feel that they can choose what they do with their bodies. I want women to enter a true partnership with men and for men to see women. I need to celebrate and be celebrated. I admire and respect the young and I want the young to admire and respect me. I don’t want to be blamed for the mistakes others made or make. I want to be visible. I want to be seen as authentic, not congratulated for it. I want to shower without fear of breaking a hip. I want to eat without worrying about gas or obesity and the toxins added to my food. I want to be seen as sensitive and empathetic, not weak and pathetic. I want someone to listen to my words and respond to them with their truth. I need to choose my leaders wisely and I need for them to lead with strength, truth, and grace. I want to know that death with dignity is an option I can call upon if I need to do so. I want to dance in the rain and not be judged. I want to laugh more, cry more, and embrace the man I face in the mirror each day. I want to want.
It’s not a lot to ask of myself or others. I posted this on Facebook yesterday and got a ton of sympathy.
Have you ever heard anything that even remotely resembleds the following?
You’re as old as you feel?
You certainly don’t look your age.
Age is a state of mind.
Aging means the loss of a number of skills over time. Julie Bishop
Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.
We age not by years, but by stories.
Aging has a wonderful beauty and we should have respect for that. Ertha Kitt
Aging is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.
Young at heart, slightly older in other places.
Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength. Betty Friedan
You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old. George Burns
I don’t know about you, but to me, this is all wordsmithing, mumbo jumbo bullshit meant to inspire you or make you feel better. I am somewhat cynical, it’s true; however, I also know enough people who are struggling with aches and pains, loss of flexibility, invisibility, and the wretched indecency of misplaced judgment. And of course, one or two of these quotes makes sense to me as well.
They Say Accepting Getting Older is a Process
I accept this as truth and I’m sure that at some point I will accept old age, but what happens in the meantime? Is this emotional and psychological pain really good for me in the long run?
I will continue to explore these questions as I grow older. I’m certain that I will have good days and bad days. I know that the good days make it worthwhile. I believe there is a reason we start out young, knowing little to nothing. I also believe that wisdom brings freedom and revelations. There are people around me who have found peace in their situation. They sort of glide through life with ease and grace. I want to be there, but I want to get there with little effort or pain — that isn’t likely.
I recently did some damage to the top of my head; as usual, I wasn’t paying attention. It made me think it was time to revisit some thoughts concerning the distractions of the mind.
Here’s how the conversation in my head might go on any given day:
5:15 a.m.: Good morning! Where’s Paco (my dog)? Paco! Paco(out loud)! Come and say good morning because I have to get up to pee. Did I set up the coffee last night? You need to brush your teeth. Hey Paco, good morning, what a good boy, yes, yes, yes, yes (out loud). No tongue, I told you no tongue (out loud). Okay let’s get up. What are you going to do today? I need to blog. It’s Monday, I need to start my blog, but what the fuck do I write about (I have a potty mouth when I talk to myself)? Call Angie to wish her a happy birthday. Oh shit, my back hurts. Stretch stupid, stretch! Paco are you hungry? Shit, I forgot to set up the coffee maker.
Later the same morning. Observations as I look back: I don’t stop. I move around a lot. Sometimes I think I’ve done a lot and other times I’m pretty sure that I’ve done nothing.
6:00 p.m.: You didn’t get everything you wanted to get done, done, but it’s 6:00 p.m. and time for a cocktail. The good stuff? Cheap stuff? Oh what the hell, go for the good stuff. Self-denial of indulgences is not one of my issues.
9:30 p.m.: Did you floss? I don’t remember flossing? I should floss. I should go to bed. Come on Paco, let’s go to bed.
2:00 a.m.: get up to pee and try not to wake up. Crap you’re up. Careful not to hit the bowl; aim Chris, aim.
[Talking to your pet is more like talking to yourself and that’s a good thing. This is my way of justifying odd behavior.]
“We actually talk to ourselves silently all the time. I don’t just mean the odd “where are my keys?” comment – we actually often engage in deep, transcendental conversations at 3am with nobody else but our own thoughts to answer back. This inner talk is very healthy indeed, having a special role in keeping our minds fit. It helps us organise our thoughts, plan actions, consolidate memory and modulate emotions.” (The Conversation, May 3, 2017)
It’s not like people have not written about this topic before, it’s just that it’s very personal and I want to add my two cents. We all process these kinds of things differently. Some people have always talked to themselves and couldn’t imagine any other way of life. The other end of the spectrum is those who believe you have to be clinically insane to carry on a conversation with yourself. Like most things, most of us are somewhere in the middle. In order to prepare yourself for this behavior, you have to be:
willing to accept that it’s okay; normal even.
open to whatever comes to mind and pour out of your mouth.
prepared to answer back.
present (I added this one because I’ve noticed that when you’re present, you’re also listening).
Give it a try, what have you got to lose.
Out Loud Conversations
There was a time when I would not have considered having an out loud conversation with myself. I would have been way too self-conscious and afraid that I might do it in public. Now, I couldn’t care less. I’m fairly certain that at this stage in my life I’m not going to humiliate myself. But if I’m in a car and I’m by myself, I’ll probably have a little talk. Things like, be careful, don’t go too fast, what are you forgetting — you see where this is going.
When you live with other people and you’re unsure about something, you can just casually mention stuff in passing. When you live alone there is no one around to run things by. So why not ask yourself? The answer is more than likely inside that brain somewhere. When you’re bold enough to practice this behavior, you’ll notice a higher level of self-esteem and a certain pride in your own independence.
Trusting yourself is important for this practice. Do you believe your own words? Do you practice what you preach? Do you follow your own advice?
Singing to yourself can be very calming. I had a boss who sang gospel songs to herself all day long and she was very centered. So much so that I resented it. I honestly didn’t realize she was doing something healthy for herself. Don’t be your own worst critic — this isn’t a live concert with a sophisticated sound system, belt it out.
Have you noticed that people on the street and in their cars all seem to be talking to themselves these days? Most of them are on their cell phones. Bluetooth devices have made it easy to speak hands free. Now it looks like we’re all talking to ourselves, making it easy to do so with judgment from most.
What People Might Think
We humans care way too much about what people think of us. It’s not an easy thing to dismiss or ignore. Have you noticed how many older folks just don’t care? It seems to be something we learn to do over time. When you’re working on providing for your family or building a career, it has to matter. Still, there are things you can do that make little difference to anyone else; talking to yourself might be one of those things. When you come to the realization that what others think no longer matters, it is extremely liberating. I’m getting there . . .
A good exercise might be to give it a try. Talk to yourself out loud for a solid week and see how it feels. Are you able to respond? Have you worked out any unresolved issues? Do you feel better? I’ve never been one to feel lonely, but my guess is that if you acknowledge what great company you’re in when you’re in your own company, you’ll feel better and make better decisions. Gaining more self-esteem and holding your head high only makes you more attractive to the world. Tell yourself, “Shoulders back, chest out, stand tall and be proud. Show the world who you are.”
When Something Good Becomes a Habit
Humans have a lot of bad habits; I won’t name mine here, but if you’re curious, most blog posts reveal a few. The thing is, we can have good habits too. Do it once and it’s just a one-off, do it twice and it’s a repeat, do it many times and it becomes a habit. Make talking to yourself a positive habit (like going to the gym, dressing up and eating superfoods).
A StoryAbout Mindfulness
I like trying out new ways of being; let’s call it experimenting with life.
I woke up in a loathsome mood not too long ago. It’s actually not my way; I’m usually cheerful in the morning. It might have been the number of flights and holidays that had been kiboshed that week — none of them my choice. I had one of those affirmation moments and I actually thought that perhaps my mindset could change the course of my day and thus, put me in a better frame of mind.
From this moment forward, all of your thoughts will be positive. I know it’s seems trite and ridiculous, but I actually looked at myself in the mirror and said it out loud. This is one of those new agie tricks that actually works. Tell yourself it’s going to be a good day and it will be a good day. Manifesting what you hope for and what you know is good for you, works more often than not.
I wore brighter, more vibrant colors, I held my head up, when asked about how I was, I was upbeat and positive. The decisions I made that day were made with a positive outcome in mind. I took care of myself, looked out for my own well-being. I treated myself the way I like to be treated.
I went on-line and booked a week overseas. I picked seats on the plane with more leg room. I chose hotels that were not three stars, but four. I made a couple of high-end dinner reservations. I felt great about what I had done for myself and I spent the next couple of weeks anticipating a luxury vacation. From start to finish, this was one of the best experiences I’ve had since the start of the pandemic. The moral of the story for me, was simply: no matter what your mood, if your mindful and good to yourself, things will turn out better for you. I can’t say it will work every time; however, I know from experience, my success rate is better than average — no harm done.
Is talking to yourself ever harmful?
Talking to yourself is often associated with mental illness, but that is rarely the reason for or cause of self-talk. However, there are some situations where self-talk may be an indication of a psychological problem.
When self-talk is accompanied by self-harm — for example, striking yourself or cutting — then it’s a sign of an emotional problem, Dabney said. As well, if you are engaging in self-talk that involves repetitive phrases, mantras or numbers, and this type of self-talk is disruptive to you or difficult to stop, that can also be an indicator of an emotional problem. In either case, speak to a qualified medical professional for a proper assessment. (Huffington Post, Is it Normal to Talk to Yourself, August 23, 2019
Finally made it to Lyon after three attempts — thank you COVID-19. EasyJet decided to change my return flight prior to leaving Faro, enabling me to extend my adventure several days and take a trip to Grenoble.
I’m going to mostly write in real time; it’s easier on the ol’ noggin and I can post it as soon as I edit and return. Tenses may vary due to blogging style.
Summer has not been easy on my psyche; COVID, Portuguese red tape, failed friendships; to name a few. This trip would hopefully be the start of some exciting, long overdue, travels.
Faro airport was a breeze. I printed out my boarding pass and I didn’t have to show my EU vaccination certificate until I reached the gate. The flight was uneventful, except that EasyJet tries to sell you everything including the airplane, making closing your eyes for a few minutes impossible. It was a fairly easy two hours; add 30 minutes on the return.
Upon landing, everyone, and I mean everyone, got up to grab their bags. I always choose an aisle seat, making it easy to pop-up when I need to. I was in aisle three; a fella in aisle one had to put his luggage in an overhead bin in the middle of the plane. There was no way this guy was going to wait until everyone deplaned, so he insisted on muscling his way to retrieve his bags — I was somewhat sympathetic. He stalled next to me and pinned me against another passenger and an aisle seat. I waited a minute thinking he’d move, but the passengers behind me were not going to allow him through. He even tried yelling to the back passengers to grab his bag; however, no cooperation. After being pinned for several minutes I asked him to please give me a bit of breathing room. He tried to justify staying put.
“Please give me a little space,” I said.
“Don’t you speak French,” was his reply.
I admittedly told him to shut up. Yes, it was late and I was travel weary, sweating, and fed up. The plane was completely full of vacationers returning to France, so my frustrated response didn’t land well. The seas parted and I moved away from him. It was over in a flash, but I’m certain my angry American persona was duly noted by my fellow travellers. Drama seems to follow me wherever I go . . . or perhaps, I create the drama?
I had researched getting to Lyon Centre where I had an Airbnb reserved. I had to take a train which was not right outside the terminal, but the signage to get there was good (about a six minute walk). I arrived at a massive train station where there were no people. It was like the twilight zone, except it was only 10:00 p.m. There were machines for tickets everywhere, but I had no idea which one to use. A stranger entered the vast rotunda; fortunately for me he refused to leave me until we found someone who could help. He looked around and located someone who was going my way, he was not only going to the same train, but he was from Grenoble where I was off to in a few days. He offered restaurant advice and told me about some hiking trails I will explore. There are no accidents.
Lyon is known for being the original culinary capital of the world. Many say haute cuisine started here. For this reason (and because I love food), I am going to mention eateries throughout this blog. As always I will only post names of restaurants or cafés if they are exceptional — why bother with mediocrity when you can have sublime.
When I arrived close to midnight, many restaurants were still open in Bellecour (my Airbnb neighborhood). I was tired and hungry, so I gave in to the hunger before bed. There was a sweet little French tapas restaurant at the base of my building. It was quiet, open to the outdoors and that was just about all I needed. I had a slice of country terrine that looked a lot like the one pictured here. Accompanied by a glass of French Bordeaux and some toast points, I was fairly satisfied.
A terrine, in traditional French cuisine, is a loaf of forcemeat or aspic, similar to a pâté, that is cooked in a covered pottery mold (also called a terrine) in a bain-marie. If I’m going to be honest, it reminds me too much of my French Culinary Institute days. It’s a lot of meat and it looks and tastes way too fatty for my liking. I do love pistachio nuts and this time, the combination of the fat and a bold French red was sublime.
Vieux Lyon sits on the River Saône quayside, overlooked by Renaissance-era mansions with hidden courtyards and terracotta-tiled roofs. The medieval Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste is noted for its ornate astronomical clock, while the Movies & Miniature Museum showcases scale models by miniaturist Dan Ohlmann. Hilly, medieval streets lead to fine-dining restaurants and stylish bars selling Beaujolais wines (Google).
I often choose the “Old Town” in European cities; it’s where you’ll experience the rich history and traditional foods of the region — Vieux Lyon was no exception.
As I said before, this trip has been rescheduled numerous times, but this AIrbnb is the one that I chose over a year ago. Delphine, my host has been patient and kind, as I shifted around dates and number of nights.
I’m providing the URL (see above) because I found this accomodation to be one of the best I’ve ever stayed in. Stylish, cozy, comfortable, quiet, and nicely situated in the very heart of the old town. I think if it was chilly outside and had a fireplace, I would have squatted (unlawfully occupying an uninhabited building or unused land).
The building is probably close to two hundred years old. The apartment is on the second floor facing a small courtyard. To say that it’s quiet is to understate the silence. I don’t remember the last time the only thing I could hear was the hum of the refrigerator. Between the peaceful quiet and the cave like atmosphere, I am sleeping soundly.
That machine pictured above is the smallest washing machine I have ever seen or used. It is perfect for three or four garments and since I pack light, I was happy to take advantage of it.
Honestly, you cannot find anything like this in a hotel. Delphine provided a Nespresso coffee maker with pods, a cabinet full of staples and she told me about a restaurant in the neighborhood that I will mention later. I am pleased to share that this gem was just over $130 per night. Anything close to this at a hotel would be four star and easily $500 a night. Airbnbs are not always the way to go, but this one was the right choice.
I asked the owner of the restaurant where I enjoyed my snack on my first night, where I should go for coffee in the morning; without hesitation, he pointed to Slake. Fortunately, it is very close to where I am staying. My apartment is surrounded by quaint cafés; no doubt they are all good (I got to try several).
Slake Coffee House is warm, inviting, and the coffee is powerful reminder of how a good cup of coffee should taste. I could have sat there all day with my laptop and this view.
Although I love Portuguese cafés, I have nothing even close to what you see here, in Faro. I paid three times what I usually pay for a cup of Joe back home, but hey, I’m on vacation and this is paradise. I didn’t try all the baked goods, however, what I did taste had me wanting more.
My First Lunch
Café Terroir, recommended by my Airbnb host, is steps away from my apartment. I had the menu of the day. I ate well and I did not blow away my budget. All fresh, all local, and all good. I provided the menu if you care to see what I devoured.
Philosophical Thoughts for the Day
My idea of a good day on holiday is good coffee in the morning, a walk around the city, trying out the local cuisine, and a restful night’s sleep. My first day in Lyon offered all of that and then some.
Skipping the gym and walking for hours instead, is a great way to burn off calories and discover or rediscover, a city.
I have friends who have travelled the world and offer great recommendations. I think it’s important to listen to the people you trust; however, doing your own research and making your own choices is essential for making a vacation your own. I’m trying to be diplomatic here.
Fall weather anywhere can be tricky. What I like about traveling in September and early October, is two things: 1) kids are back to school and not on holiday (sorry parents), and 2) it’s not as hot as summer can be. Lyon gets a lot of rain in the fall and I knew that I would experience rainy weather on this trip. Still, the temp is in the high 70s and thunderstorms are one of my favorite things — another thing I don’t get a lot of in Faro (300 sunny days a year). For the most part it’s been partly cloudy and pleasant. The weather, is what it will be, as they say.
The weather my second full day in Lyon is absolument parfait. I’m headed to the train station to get tickets for Grenoble (the French Alps), where I head tomorrow. How could I be only two hours away from the Alps and not take a trip? A train to the station and a bus back. Public transportation is amazing in Lyon; easy to navigate and it takes you very close to where you want to go. Ticketing on buses is sort of on the honor system.
So far I have covered about half the city on foot and by train and bus. I return in a few days, so I thought I’d see as much as possible and get an idea for where I want to return.
I have a friend in Portland, Maine that has lived all over the world, travelled extensively, and she knows good food. When she told me about this restaurant in Lyon, I made a reservation immediately. Fortunately, unlike a couple of others I also wanted to try, it remains open.
The food was delicious and the service was outstanding. I had dishes I don’t cook and cannot get cooked this way back home. Escargot and magret, cooked to perfection; just enough on the plate to satisfy. I’m no longer in the business, so describing each dish is not going to happen.
It’s a good thing I brought my EU vaccine certificate; I’ve had to show it just about everywhere in France.
The restaurant was about a 15 minute walk from my apartment — providing a bit of exercise to ward off the guilt.
I know, I know, don’t give me a hard time. When I travel and I have the time, I see a film on the big screen I’m not sure will come to Faro (one multiplex theatre, however, not every film I want to see is shown there and sometimes, it’s only showing for a few days).
Tonight, instead of a big meal, I’m going to the movies to see Dune. I love space films and the trailer on this one looks pretty good. There are some films that are just better when they are bigger and louder, especially when they’re intergalactic.
Dune review — I think this Vulture review sums it up well. I will say that I enjoyed the film, even though it was dark and confusing at times. You’re told that it was only Part I from the get go; it will be interesting to see how far they go with the Dune series. I know that I’m spoiled in Faro where the price of admission is five euros and change, 13.50 euros was steep, but I am on vacation.
Moments to Share
Don’t you hate it when you see something and you can’t have it. Here’s what happened:
I have never gone wild for mussels. I’m not sure why; I love shellfish, always have. On my way back from dinner a few nights ago I passed a mussel restaurant in Lyon’s Old Town. Can’t explain why, but I wanted those mussels. For whatever reason it just didn’t work out. A couple of days later I’m doing a 45 minute walk to the Part Dieu train station. I had purchased a ticket for after lunchtime so that I could eat before boarding. I also wanted to arrive in Grenoble close to 3:00 p.m. for my Airbnb check-in.
I found Hippopotamus Steak House near the train station. I think it’s a chain, but none of the other places I passed were appealing; this place had a nice vibe. I look at the menu and right there, three down in the fish column, chorizo mussels — voila! Waiter comes over and I point to it on the menu. He quickly shares that they do not have the mussels. I may have wept loudly, I don’t recall. Instead I chose the fish & chips. But suddenly, divine intervention:
“I’m sorry sir, I misunderstood, oui, we have les moules.”
Again, I may have wept. Perhaps it was the size of the mussels or maybe it was the circumstances, but I know now, without a doubt, that I love mussels when they are small and happen to be in Lyon on a perfect day.
The waiter felt so bad for telling me they did not have mussels, that he showered me with extra dishes. I was happy to accept what was offered.
First let me say that I’m glad I will be returning to Lyon on Monday. I held back a bit on the tourist stuff knowing I would be returning. There are several restaurants in Lyon I’d like to try and I will get to do just that. I’m also looking forward to a hotel I booked in a different part of Lyon.
Grenoble was planned because I love mountains and I have never been to the Alpes. I took a train through the Swiss Alps a number of years ago, but it was just a pass through. The Airbnb I choose is actually on the side of a mountain with a private terrace and a view (middle photo). I’m looking forward to a relaxing 90 minute train ride (I got a senior ticket, oy vey) and highly anticipated Grenoble. I should have plenty of time to take a walk and relax before dinner this evening. I made a reservation for dinner; if it’s good, you’ll hear more about it.
As I mentioned earlier, the airline changed my flight, I was able to add a few days to my trip, hence Grenoble. I honestly did not do a ton of research, but here I am. The weather forecast was for two days of rain and my expectations were low. I did make a restaurant reservation I was excited about (the one thing I did research). To my delight I exited the train and the sun was shining high in the clear blue sky and it was about 80 degrees; fortunately I had worn my shorts. I walked and hiked to my very secluded Airbnb, nestled into the Alpes (how the French spell it).
There were many people walking around visiting a multitude of art galleries and museums. I discovered that the Biennale Saint Laurent 2021 was in progress. These are the times when I remind myself just how fortunate I am.
I climbed the mountain (seriously) to my Airbnb, sat on my terrace (middle photo above), to marvel at my view and then I left to join the Biennale goers and find a bakery. I had a French press in my studio; morning coffee on the terrace would require the accompaniment of some French pastry (bread would be stale by morning). I visited a dozen galleries, saw some artwork I really liked, but not enough to schlep it home. I then walked into the centre of Grenoble where I found a marvelous bakery, a shoppers paradise (specialty foods, clothing, books, etc.), the Old Town. I wasn’t into shopping at that point and I had a bottle of French white chilling in my little refrigerator. My private terrace was calling my name and I was badly in need of a shower before dinner.
Chez Marius might have been my favorite meal on this trip to date. I had flank steak in a porcini mushroom sauce and traditional potatoes baked in a light cream sauce; accompanied by a beautiful salad (fresh greens with a vinaigrette). An excellent organic Cote du Rhone, a beautiful clear night, and a table on the edge of an open doorway. I was in the most Zen state I have been in, in a very long time.
The End of a Magnificent Day
A seven minute climb to my mountain retreat, a sweet night’s sleep; window open, a slight cool breeze and rainfall as I dreamt of what the next day in Grenoble might bring.
My Second Day In Grenoble
It’s day five of my trip and I can’t help missing Paco and my own bed. This happens everytime I go anywhere, but I push myself because I am compelled to see as much of our amazing planet before I die.
Side note: Celebrity just cancelled my cruise in Asia (five countries) scheduled in January ’22. I’m rescheduling it for January ’23 with a big cancellation credit. Plenty of time for COVID to play out and for a nice cabin selection. I’m learning patience — shhhhh!
The Esère River and the road I walked along side it:
A fabulous female vocal trio, Trio Nazani. They sang acapella — mostly chanting and chamber music, astoundingly beautiful.
Remember I told you about the guy who helped me find my way to Lyon from the airport. He was coincidentally from Grenoble. When I told him I was going, he shared this little gem. Grenoble is not far from Italy and there were many Italian restaurants. La Toscana was the real deal. I had orecchiette with eggplant, onions, and tomatoes and it was perfection. Good Italian wine from Abruzzo and the best Italian bread. I was so pleased.
Tonight a cocktail before dinner and then a local Thai restaurant. My Airbnb is so comfortable, I don’t want to leave. Since I have to hike up a mountain to get to it, I can’t drink too much or get home too late.
This is a good time to mention that although I love good company, I have been meeting many wonderful, interesting, kind, people all week. I bought a small piece of artwork today (see below) from the artist and truly enjoyed our conversation.
By the way the night did not go as played; see below:
The Sixth Day
This is when I start to wonder if I made my vacation a bit longer than I should have. I didn’t have much of a choice this time because EasyJet only flies in and out of Faro twice a week — four days or eight days, those were my choices. And so it goes, in a few hours I’ll get on a train for Lyon. The good news is that I have an upgraded room at a very nice centre city hotel and I get to see the Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth film that I missed in Faro (Supernova only played for two days).
A quick and cynical recap of my evening last night: I was getting ready to leave my studio tucked into the French Alpes and I hit the top of my head on a vaulted stairway ceiling — I’d been doing really well with that fucking ceiling till then. I waited for the bleeding to stop and it didn’t so I left with toilet paper stuck to my head. I hiked down the mountain and crossed the bridge to where the Thai restaurant supposedly was, but my Google Maps wasn’t googling properly and I ended up too far in the opposite direction. I murmured, fuck this, to myself and decided to go to this sandwich spot closer to where I was staying. I had seen pictures of the sandwiches before lunch, but I’d already decided on Italian and there was no turning back. I got to the sandwich spot and it was closed. I thought, fuck this shit, and I walked to this British ghetto where I intended to drown my sorrows in whiskey and fish & chips. If you’re thinking, “British ghetto in the French Alpes?” I promise you it’s true. There was this sprawling, out-of-the-way spot in Old Town Grenoble that was swarming with Brits and British pubs. No wonder the French kept it far from the rest of the village. I’m not sure why, but I’ve noticed when Brits travel, they like to go to British pubs; stick with what you know I guess. I picked the pub with the least number of humans, showed my vaccination certificate, and crawled into a corner seat where I intended to sulk and hide and sip my whiskey. American rap music was blasting into my ears and I thought, I gotta get the fuck out of here, but where the fuck will I go? I sat in suffering silence for what seemed like hours and no one came to take my order. I went to the bar where a lone service person tells me that I have to order drinks and food from her, there at the bar. I sigh, it was a big sigh with lots of drama attached, perhaps even Oscar worthy, I said, “I’ll have a dark & stormy and fish & chips,” she screamed over the rap, “I don’t know what a dark & stormy is and if I were you, I wouldn’t order the fish & chips.” It was a freakin’ British pub for Christ’s sake (she was British by the way). I thought, ain’t this the fucking worst night of my life? and said, “Have you got a bandaid, my head is bleeding.” I saw no sympathy in her judgmental eyes. She hollered, “I’ll go check.” My lady returned 10 minutes later sans bandaid. How is it possible that a commercial kitchen doesn’t have a bandaid? I ordered a rum & ginger ale and a medium rare burger, thinking I was already dead so what would it matter if I were to die again. She handed me one of those plastic disks that lights up like a spaceship and she told me to come back when it explodes. I ate that overcooked god-damned burger as fast as I could so that I could exit that rap den while I still had an ounce of dignity and or life left in me. I walked slowly dreading the mountain I still had to climb before I could crawl into my bed and sleep off the dread. I’m not proud of this, my blood stained pillow case and I have only ourselves to blame, but there is one thing I do know and that is that today will be better; I’ve set a low bar after all.
I posted this recap on Facebook and learned that my friends really do read my posts. The F-bombs were not said out loud by the way.
Easy train trip back to Lyon and a short walk to my hotel. My Google Maps is super wanky these days and it took me there in a roundabout way; I’m certain it knows I need the exercise — cheeky GPS. I settled into Greet Hotel, a recently opened, trendy hotel that was priced right. I had upgraded to a larger room on an upper floor. I asked not to be put in a room with a skylight because I wanted to have a view. But of course they put me in a room with a skylight. After a few apologies, I got my view and a very comfortable room for my last two nights in Lyon.
I walked over the bridge to Kenbo, an excellent Asian street food restaurant that was open (many restaurants are closed on Monday night). The restaurant was in a very funky, young neighborhood that had a good vibe. Not a bad day. Everything was smooth and easy and I finally got to eat the Asian food I was longing for. Almost forgot, my head feels a lot better, although it is still tender at the top.
I must admit I am ready to go home. I miss my dog, I miss my bed, I miss the gym, and I miss my normal life. I imagine most people feel this way after a week away.
Today I will do whatever I please (I know that’s what I do everyday), when I please. I did not pay for breakfast at the hotel because all I want is a coffee and a cookie. I have not stopped eating since I got off the plane in Lyon. Today will be a light food day and lots of walking. It will be partly cloudy and cool. Sunshine is forecasted for my day of departure and for several days after; isn’t that always the way? I can’t complain, I did have lots of cloudy sky and some rain, but I also so had some unexpectedly beautiful weather as well.
I went on-line and found this amazing street food court about 30 minutes walk from my hotel. It was in a part of Lyon I had not been to and I love street food. The internet had it opening at noon.
I happily strolled to the location and viola, no more Heat. This sort of this has happened to me before. The problem with the internet, is that it is often not updated. I had past an Italian restaurant along the way with what looked like amazing wood fired pizza. I went to A Tavola and had an outstanding pizza. I could have been upset about Heat, but getter older teaches you to breathe and let it go.
The southern part of the peninsula is being built out and renovated. I think if I lived in Lyon, this is where I’d want to be — in that area on the Saône (the lesser known river in Lyon).
Don’t miss Supernova (Tucci and Firth), it’s outstanding cinema.
Lyon is beautifully laid out; most of the city is a grid, making it easy to find your way. The rivers on either side of a center peninsula (where I stayed when I arrived and when I returned) help you navigate without too much effort or dread. I walked for hours and stopped in many galleries and food shops. I passed numerous churches and only went into one — I have strong feelings about the Catholic Church, I will not go into now. The people who live and work in Lyon and Grenoble are kind and helpful people; for that I am grateful. Many do not speak English, but thanks to Google translator, I got by. There were many museums I did not visit. I prefer the art being created now; especially by local artists. I’m not sure I will return to Lyon, there is so much more of the world to see.
The Rhône and Saône converge to the south of the historic city centre, forming a peninsula – the “Presqu’île” – bounded by two large hills to the west and north and a large plain eastward. Place Bellecour (my first location) is located on the Presqu’île between the two rivers and is the third-largest public square in France.
The Final Day
I happily leave this place later today. Not that I didn’t love it here; in fact, I’m thrilled to have finally made it to Lyon. I want my Paco and my Portugal. It’s nice to be going home to a pet and a place I love so much — a choice I have never regretted. I’ve come to a time in my life where a cup of coffee out on my terrace, watching the sun come up, is all the paradise I need.
It’s so easy to forget you’re human. I need to revisit this topic for my own sanity.
If you’re anything like me — and God help you if you are, you’re fairly hard on yourself. You can spend a lot of money trying to figure out why you’re like this, or you can just accept it as fact.
People who are hard on themselves usually spend a lot of time thinking about the way they did something or said something, presented themselves, worked on a project, planned a presentation; pretty much scrutinize every aspect of their lives. You go over it in your head a dozen times. This process, although it can keep you awake at night, is not necessarily a bad thing. It might be healthier to come up with an alternative that would be more productive the next time you do whatever it is that you’ve done.
For example: You decide to confront a friend who has been consistently late for a dinner date. Your friend gets to the restaurant 30 minutes after your scheduled meeting time and you’re angry. As they approach the table at the restaurant, you stand with your hands on your hips and you make certain to tense up your facial muscles and you stare her down.
She apologizes and you say, “I’m tired of your excuses; if you cared anything about me and my time, you wouldn’t do this to me.”
Your friend gets defensive, tells you that you have no idea what it’s like to be her and that she almost cancelled because she has so much going on. You both sit down angry, with no appetite, and no resolution. You both leave the restaurant wondering if your friendship can survive this confrontation.
You can stew on this forever or you can decide that there was a better way to approach the problem. This, of course, is only if you value your friendship; some friendships are more work than they should be. Writing down various solutions are “next steps” can help purge the problem and free-up your thinking.
You can try calling your friend and letting her know that she means a great deal to you and that you have come to realize that she deserved better. She now knows that you do not appreciate her tardiness and that you had gone past your level of tolerance. Remember, forgiveness and taking the high road are very freeing. You can try saying this:
Jane, I realize that you have a lot going on in your life these days and I really appreciate that you still make time for me. Perhaps in the future we can decide on a time to meet that is more practical for you. For example, if trying to have dinner at 7:00 p.m. is stressing you out, perhaps we can meet for a drink at 8:30 or 9:00 instead. Or maybe a weekend brunch would work better for us . . . or a morning walk.
Your letting Jane know that: 1) you understand and hear her, 2) you’re willing to work with her, and 3) you obviously want to see her. She’ll feel a whole lot less defensive and more understood. I’m pretty sure she’ll be on time in the future. And if that doesn’t last, you need to re-evaluate how important being on-time is for you.
Give Yourself a Break
I’m so much easier on others than I am on myself. Lately, I stop for a second after I disappoint myself and I say, how would you have treated your friend David if he had done the same thing? Nine times out of ten the answer would be that I would let it go. Often, it was an innocent mistake or there is a simple explanation and therefore, I can let it go. If I can treat a friend that way, I can do the same for myself. You’ll find that when you treat yourself fairly, you will performing an act of kindness and it feels just as good when you do it for yourself. In fact, it really needs to start with you; empathy comes easier when you know how it feels.
Worst Case Scenario
By now you know that this is my modus operandi. Consider the worst thing that could happen. You will normally discover two things: 1) the worst thing is not likely to happen, and 2) if it did, you would survive it.
For example: When I decided to move overseas I naturally experienced some anxiety. What if I hate Portugal? What if the people there don’t speak English? What if my money runs out in two years? And on and on.
A good friend realized that I was anxious over the “what ifs” and said, “Chris, why are you so worried? If it doesn’t workout come back to the States. You’ll always be an American citizen and you’ll always have a home here.”
Duh, permission granted to stop worrying.
Treat Yourself the Way you Like/Want to be Treated
Why is it so hard to treat ourselves with love and respect? I know it’s a loaded question and very difficult to answer; however, why not start today. Like any habit, it’s learned behavior — you have to do it and then repeat it over and over again; after awhile it will become a habit. You will see, you’ll do it without thinking about it. Try it one day soon: look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are not perfect and that’s okay. In fact, it’s even better than okay, it’s the preferred way to be. Perfection is hard to be around; it makes one feel inadequate and less than. You are enough . . . I am Enough.
A few years ago I was told that my laugh is a little loud. I became self-conscious about it and I stopped laughing. I stopped until a work friend told me how much he loved my laugh.
He said, “Chris when you laugh everyone hears you and we all laugh with you; your laugh is contagious.”
That person who told me that my laugh was loud, for whatever reason, could not handle joy. I can be sad about that, but it shouldn’t stop me from laughing. Think about how many times you were not your authentic self because someone else couldn’t handle it . . . well isn’t that just too bad for them.
Every time you take two steps back, remember that as long as you take three steps forward, you’re making progress.
Or as my friend David describes it: The Venice of the North
Ten years ago, a friend of mine and I rented a car and drove from Oslo to Copenhagen. Having spent just one night in Stockholm, it seemed like the right time for a longer visit. The country has had relaxed COVID-19 restrictions from the beginning of the pandemic and since I am vaccinated and an expert at social distancing, I booked the trip hoping it would not be one of the ones to be cancelled (I’ve had 10 or more cancelled holidays since March 2020).
The principle reason for this trip: I was invited to a gin tasting party in Vilamoura, Portugal shortly after moving to Faro. It was one of my first events as a retiree and I felt like a kid on his first day of school. If I am to be honest, it was a big trip to make just to taste some gin. But . . . there is a reason they say, “You never know what the day will bring.” At the end of the tasting I met a Swedish couple who had only moved to Portugal two weeks after me. Unlike the others at the tasting they were warm and welcoming; we became fast friends. They are the reason I visited Stockholm and Kälholmen island. I was invited over two years ago. The pandemic kept me away for awhile, but not forever.
I scheduled a few days in Stockholm prior to taking the trip to their island paradise.
During the first few days of my trip I was blessed with magnificent clear skies and temperate sunshine. One of the nice things about going to Sweden in the summer, is the almost springlike weather.
Three Very Different Overnight Accomodations
An airbnb in Östermalm — My small studio was in a beautiful neighborhood filled will parks, eateries, and waterways. It was about a 30 minute walk to the Old Town and other sights. It was billed as a writer’s studio because it was on the top floor and had a skylight and writing desk. It was everything I love about Airbnbs; quiet, away from tourists, and affordable. I did not meet the host — it was perfect.
2. Källholmen Island — 2.5 hours from Stockholm by ferry. My friend’s cozy cottage; surrounded by water and nature, no running water and bathing in the Baltic Sea. The Swedes prefer and enjoy island living in the summer and Sweden has thousands of beautiful islands, small and large.
A bit fancier and a nice way to end my stay in Stockholm. Strange name perhaps, but this boutique hotel was far from strange. Beautifully designed, new, and a bit trendy. The bed was fantastic and that makes me very happy. Odd to have down comforters in August, but heck, it’s Sweden so I just opened the window. An excellent gym helped with some of the guilt from this trip. Breakfast was included and it was one of the best buffets I have experienced.
Eating in Stockholm
I was impressed with the restaurant options in Stockholm; every type of cuisine I love was available. The Algarve does not have a Korean restaurant, making Korean a must. There were many Korean restaurants in Stockholm, some right near my hotel. Even my hotel’s rooftop restaurant had Korean food on the menu. I thought about going out for Italian food, but Asian won out again. I also indulged in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.
My new friends took me out for dinner at this beautiful, authentic Swedish restaurant, located in a beautiful park minutes from Stockholm’s center.
“At Ulla Winbladh you can enjoy authentic Swedish food crafts in a historic environment. Here we serve home-cooked food as it should always be, that is: a purely mind-expanding experience. The inn Ulla Winbladh, whose name takes its inspiration from the national poet Bellman’s muse, is well known for its high-class Swedish food tradition. The inn in 1897 is something as unusual as a popular concept restaurant.
The building in which Wärdshuset Ulla Winbladh is housed was originally built for the Stockholm Art and Industry Exhibition in 1897 by the architect Gustav Wickman. From the beginning, the facilities housed an ultra-modern steam bakery at the time and was then called Reinholds Ångbageri. Later, the business became a patisserie where, among other things, waffles with whipped cream and jam were served. When the patisserie was transformed into a restaurant in the mid-50s, the name was changed to Wärdshuset Ulla Winbladh. The name comes from Bellman’s most famous mistress and muse who in reality was named Maria Kristina Källström. In the 18th century, it was common to go out and have fun at Djurgården, something that Bellman and his girlfriends often indulged in.
In 1992, the restaurateur, cookbook author and food columnist Nils Emil Ahlin took over the inn and created the Ulla Winbladh we know today. Since 2004, Wärdshuset Ulla Winbladh has been owned by Stockholms Restauranger & Wärdshus, which works to manage the Swedish food heritage. The ambition is to nurture and develop the atmosphere and history that the inn in 1897 holds and of course – the Swedish taste traditions.
Guide Michelin has now presented which restaurants in the Nordic region will receive the world’s most prestigious restaurant award this year. At the press conference, the 2020 Michelin stars and recipients of the Bib Gourmand award were announced. The latter award – Bib Gourmand – indicates a restaurant that serves “well-cooked food at a reasonable price”. We humbly thank you for keeping our Bib for the thirteenth year in a row! Last year, Ulla WI nbladh broke a record as the restaurant in Sweden that kept its Bib Gourmand for the longest period.” Restaurant website
This dining experience was a real treat. The outdoor eating area made for a very pleasant evening. The crayfish, cheese pie, and creamy chanterelle mushrooms were highlights.
Millesgarden Sculpture Park is located outside the city. Milles’ home and studios are on the grounds and you get to tour the house and gardens. The restaurant on site was terrific. You get a spectacular view of Stockholm from the gardens.
“Personally Milles loved and wished to evoke at Millesgarden the gardens of Italy’s Mediterranean coast. In the newly-built loggia, the Little Studio designed by Evert Milles, Carl commissioned a fresco painting of the bay of Naples with acanthus and cactus in the foreground and olive and wheat being farmed in the distance.”
There were many fantastic parks in and around Stockholm, making walking for hours a pleasure.
Transportation in and Around the City
I took a taxi into the city after landing; it was about 65 Euros and at midnight, worth every penny. Travel weary and punchy, there were no Ubers available. A train goes into and out of the center for about 12 Euros; that’s how I returned to the airport — it’s about a 40 minute ride.
Stockholm has a very clean and efficient subway and light rail system. I used my ATM to buy tickets and frankly, didn’t even look at the cost of a ride. I believe it’s under four euros; not cheap, but it gets you there quickly. I did not use the bus or tram system, but I noticed the buses were all new. I was told that there is only one tram line left in the city. I did use Uber a few times and found it to be pretty quick and reasonable.
One Unexpected Memory
My friend David lived and studied in Stockholm many years ago. He met a gay couple while he was there and they have stayed in touch. David suggested that I meet them and doing so was one of the highlights of my trip. Claes and Nils have been together for over 30 years (I think that’s correct). We enjoyed a couple of excellent meals together and I got see their lovely home. They were warm, gracious and gave me hope for finding lasting love.
First and foremost, Sweden is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been — in or outside of the city. Almost everyone speaks English. The Swedes are warm and welcoming. I hope no one minds that I add that they are also very attractive. The closer you get to the city centre, the more diversity you see. There is no shortage of culture and attractions. The architecture is breathtaking and unique. The Swedes have a talent for design; you see that everywhere, in everything. Whether it’s old and stately or modern and sleek, it’s easy to get lost in the beauty of it all. I was struck by how much green there is everywhere; nature takes a front seat and has not been overlooked or forgotten. Sweden has embraced technology; therefore, using cash is impossible in most places. This is not the case in Portugal and took some getting used to. I’m sure the world is headed in this direction. I understand that germs and bacteria are abundant on cash.
I’m not going to spend a great deal of time writing about the pandemic in Sweden and traveling there from Portugal. I will say two things: First, I did not see a lot of mask wearing and there was no mandate to do so, and second, because it is an EU country, the only restriction for travel was that you had to be either vaccinated or tested. I was pleasantly surprised with both.
Lyon, France in mid-September
London for theatre in October
The Eastern Algarve in November
Christmas in Faro with friends
Hong Kong, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore in January ’22 (includes a cruise) — my flight has already been cancelled making this trip a big maybe (my second attempt)
Cuba February ’22
Toulouse, France April ’22
Basel, Switzerland June ’22
Colorado, USA September ’22
Northern Europe Norwegian Line Cruise October ’22
If Paco’s caretaker allows me to go, there will be additional travel in between.
morally right or justifiable. “feelings of righteous indignation about pay and conditions”
Just as soon as I read “feelings” in the definition, I thought, well, no one can argue with my feelings. But can they? Lately, I’m feeling an abundance of feelings about so many things. I feel like I’m in righteous overdrive. Is it the divided world we live in or am I an angry old man?
Things I Have Felt Righteous About (I typed a list yesterday and it disappeared. Now I’m forced to consider what counts):
Politics (lies and misinformation)
Dishonesty in relationships
Smoking around non-smokers without asking if it’s okay
Recycling (people who act like it’s way too difficult to separate their trash)
Climate change deniers
People who do not/will not listen
Friends, family, and/or strangers who take me for granted. The number of people who think they’re entitled to whatever is astounding. You forget to say thank you the first time you’re forgiven; after that, you’re on your own.
People who use religion to explain away their bias or hate
Laws or rules that make no sense or serve no purpose
People who fight socialism who do not even knowing the meaning of the concept
People who see others in pain and turn the other way
Abusers of all kinds
I’m going to stop there because I’m getting fired up.
Using That Energy
The simple truth is this: if you have anger, rage, resentment, fury, it has to go somewhere or it ends up sitting in your internal organs and festering. Should it go unchecked, it will fester to the point of severe damage. The best thing you can do for yourself is to channel that anger toward something positive. For me, writing is my outlet, my escape valve. When the pressure builds, I write. The other method is to exercise patience; patience takes a lot of energy. If your deliberate in your practice of patience, that energy will become something fruitful and thought provoking.
Case in point: I get angry with a sibling who calls me on a regular basis and talks and talks and talks, but doesn’t bother to ask how I’m doing. I let that steam build this week and I was going to let this family member have it. A piece of my mind was appropriate and there would be no holding back. (This individual does not read my blog, but I still feel compelled to keep his or her name to myself — family will know).
The phone rings and it’s the culprit. I listen. I seeth and I wait for the right moment to pounce.
I’m about to unleash the kraken and my sibling says, “What’s happening with you these days.”
If that lesson is not convincing enough to keep me from jumping the gun, coming out with my fists clenched and my chin out, I don’t know what is. Patience Christopher, patience.
Whether this individual listened to my reply . . . well, that’s a whole other matter. The other life lesson is this: we humans are only capable of so much change. The higher your expectations, the greater the likelihood of disappointment. Baby steps are all we can hope for.
What Do Others’ Think?
Like most, I pay way too much attention to social media. Whenever I’m feeling particularly righteous about something happening in the public arena (i.e., politics), I notice a post gets a lot less attention than say, a cute picture of my dog Paco. Or perhaps, people notice my outrage and agree with me; however, they made a vow to stay away from politics on social media and they’re sticking to it. That sort of gets under my skin. Waiting for a big election to come around is not the time to protest. Right now is the time to counter the false narrative.
The other side of it of course is that I am preaching to the choir: the people in my life who are my tribe . . . the people in my life that I respect and admire because they agree with me. In truth, there are a few people in my orbit who are on the fence; these people are not 100% one way or the other. These uncertain few are my audience when I go off on a rant. I know of two people in my close circle of friends who have come over to my side. It is for this reason that I will not stop putting the facts out there and presenting a raional, truthful, common sense perspective; in my opinion.
“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
There is only one way out of this rut. No, that’s not true, in fact, there are many ways out of this rut. I’m cheering myself up, bear with me.
The pandemic is/was tough on everyone. Being a unique situation, we all use different survival skills to navigate through it. During two extended lockdowns, I developed a routine that kept me fairly sane and allowed me the space I needed to be somewhat productive.
Developing a routine is good for productivity and bad for creativity. I’ll compare it to a machine that makes widgets. At the end of production every widget is the same; there is no variation in size or design. That’s not what I’m looking for in my life, my creative outlets need to happen willy nilly — when the spirit moves me so to speak. This is the polar opposite of routine.
I’ve been working hard to break away from all of the unnecessary routine in my life. Changing things up, cancelling my plans at the last moment (not plans with others, personal plans). This seems to work well for me. I give myself an internal high five when I can accomplish it. Ironically, it’s just another daily task; however, one worth considering.
Note: Paco’s daily walks have to be at or about the same time of the day, everyday. His internal clock is fairly precise and if I don’t make a move for his leash, he torments me with his eyes and intensity. This is one routine I cannot change. Another is coffee in the morning and many of you will relate to that one.
Time. Once it passes, that’s it, it’s gone, can’t get it back. At times, time seems to almost evaporate into the ether. It seemed that way during the pandemic. I assume it was routine that caused this distorted perception of time. I found this disturbing; as if someone tore a chapter out of my book and I cannot rewrite the pages.
The best way for me to deal with this, is to be more present going forward. I’ve been mixing it up, churning it around, and trying my best to make every moment count.
Putting it All Out There
A friend recently commented that she was impressed with how I was able to, “. . . put it all out there.” Being who I am, I contemplated the thoughts behind the comment. Was she in fact saying, “You overshare” or “Do we really need to know all that?” I’m hoping she shared what she shared with the best of intentions, that is, that my candor was refreshing, unique, or brave. I may never know for sure. What I do know, is that sharing my reality helps me to keep things in perspective.
Travel Helps to Change Things Up
One of the many reasons I love travel, it that my daily life changes dramatically when I travel. There was a time when I would try to have the same schedule: up early, exercise, language lesson, answer emails, etc. No more of that nonsense when I’m on the road. The last few trips did not include gym time. Instead I took lengthy walks or cut out exercise altogether. I’ve discovered that giving my body a few days off is actually a good thing. In fact, I think your body is not the only part of you that benefits from the break — I believe your mind also responds favorably. I cannot quantify positives, but I can feel it and that’s what counts.
Cutting A Former Partner Out
I have a former partner who was in my life in a significant way for a long time. When our relationship ended, we agreed to remain friends. If you can take the best parts of a relationship and savor them, that’s a good thing right? Grown up, mature even. After a while I realized that I was the only one of the two of us, reaching out. That speaks volumes about the other person and what they think of me and/or us. I have decided to cut them out of my life. I found seeing his life laid out in front of me on Facebook and Instagram, hurtful. Removing the thing that brings you pain is mature as well, yes? What do you think?
It’s interesting to know that he will never see this and that he might not even realize that ties have been severed; oh well. I think that says it all.
I often think of that carnival game where you throw a hardball at these furry little pop-ups and hopefully, slam them down. Get ’em to stay down and you win a prize. At times, I feel as if those furry guys are a metaphor for my life. I imagine a place or a goal, and shit happens, giving it the big kibosh. COVID-19, climate change, politics, life; it can all leave you feeling completely defeated.
Human beings are resilient and born to persevere. Still, how many times can you be beaten down before you give up? It always looks easier for other people. And sometimes, you have the passion and wherewithal, but others are hell bent on convincing you that it ain’t gonna happen. How do you navigate all that?
When It Looks Easy It Probably Isn’t
Because we’re human, it would be difficult not to compare our own lives with others. Your neighbor tells you that he’s taking his family to their lake house and you think, why don’t I have a lake house?
I had a friend who was always boasting about what he could afford to buy. He had no problem spending $500 on a meal and he flew first class every time he travelled. I won’t lie, I was jealous. He crashed and burned; I learned that he was losing his home and his car because he was spending money he didn’t have. Things are not always as they seem, as they say.
What to Say to People WhoTry to Squash Your Dreams
I’m aware of all of the obstacles that could get in my way, however, I’m committed to giving it a try.
Will you help me make it happen?
I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you, but it’s important to me that I give it a go.
Fuck off why don’t you!
Put Your Dreams in Writing
I love the saying, “If you can see it, you can have it.” You can only manifest something if you truly want it and believe it’s possible. If you have a dream, and I hope you do, make it real by putting your words down on paper or . . . tell others about it — that makes it more real as well.
I’m going to practice what I preach by putting my own dreams in writing:
I want to wake up in a home that is mine, right on a river, a lake, or an ocean. I want to see nothing but water.
I want to pay for a child’s college education.
I would like to spend zero time thinking about what others think.
I would like to soon be what I think is my ideal healthy weight (about 180 pounds).
I would like to fall head over heels in love again.
I think my main point — sometimes it takes me awhile to get there, is that you cannot allow all the noise and naysayers to stop you from believing anything is possible.
Just finished the Naomi Osaka tennis player’s documentary (miniseries on Netflix). I cannot begin to imagine what this woman will accomplish in her lifetime. I’m blown away by her determination and grace.
Back to Vila Real de Santo Antonio tomorrow for a few days. This place may become my home away from home. The Pousada is exceptional and I need to return.
Stockholm is looking pretty solid for late August. Lyon in September, London in October, Asia in January, Cuba in February, Toulouse in April, and Basel Switzerland in June. There will be stops in between, however, the planning will cease until this virus calms down a bit. Many of these trips had been scheduled and were postponed.
Just a small town girl Livin’ in a lonely world She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere Just a city boy Born and raised in South Detroit He took the midnight train goin’ anywhereA singer in a smokey room The smell of wine and cheap perfume For a smile they can share the night It goes on and on, and on, and onStrangers, waitin’ Up and down the boulevard Their shadows Searchin’ in the night Streetlights, people Livin’ just to find emotion Hidin’ somewhere in the nightWorkin’ hard to get my fill Everybody wants a thrill Payin’ anything to roll the dice Just one more time Some will win Some will lose Some were born to sing the blues Oh, the movie never ends It goes on and on, and on, and onStrangers waitin’ Up and down the boulevard Their shadows Searchin’ in the night Streetlights, people Livin’ just to find emotion Hidin’ somewhere in the nightDon’t stop believin’ Hold on to that feelin’ Streetlight, people Don’t stop, believin’ Hold on Streetlights, peopleDon’t stop believin’ Hold on to that feelin’ Streetlight, people
I have to set the scene for you; although this happened 46 years ago, the experience is as fresh in my mind as it was the day it happened. I apology in advance for downplaying the fear I experienced then and continues to resonate. This is the first time I am retelling this story.
Like many teenagers in Brooklyn, I worked at a grocery store. It was a good job for a 16 year old; it taught me many lessons about life I might not have learned otherwise. Little did I know, that on one particular brutally hot summer day, I would learn a lesson of survival.
Delivering groceries to neighborhood people was hard work, but when I laid on the charm and kept my clients happy, I could do pretty well financially. My earnings paid for room and board, clothing, and my education — we paid our own way in my house as soon as we were able. I either hustled or listened to my mother piss and moan about poverty and what it was like to raise seven kids on her own. She had a point.
My siblings would argue this self-assessment, but I recollect that I was a fairly happy-go-lucky teenager — especially when I was flush with cash. Tips were a good way for me to make money because I could hide a lot of it from my mother. I figure she was a waitress and practiced similar deception. That late morning in August, I was rode my delivery bike about two streets east to an old building I had visited often; truth be told, every building was old in Ditmas Park. When you’re sixteen and you think you know it all, old and rundown is not cool. I took the elevator to the 8th floor and dropped off the groceries; after awhile, you spend your time thinking about everything else than what you’re actually doing; I believe she was a regular customer, a detail that’s fuzzy.
I recall it was so humid, my clothing was soaked through and I was lethargic from the heat. I entered the noisy old elevator; you know, the ones that go clunk, clunk, clunk when they move. I pressed the button for the first floor. The door slammed closed and the elevator descended a few feet and stopped abruptly. I did what any human would do, I pressed all the buttons, I pressed them over and over again, thinking somehow, my persistence would restart the lift. There was an alarm button, a rather loud alarm I might add, but it felt like I was screaming help in a padded prison cell and no one was listening.
Thinking, this can’t be happening, doesn’t make it go away — this was a living nightmare. I took a deep breath and felt like I might cry. Perhaps my brain knew that crying would use up too much of my water supply, instead I stomped my feet and banged the walls. Clearly, there was no one anywhere near this piece of shit machinery. I sat down on the dirty elevator floor hoping an escape plan would come. I’m pretty sure I was close to panicking by this point. I’ve never been fond of small spaces; this elevator was tiny. In addition to that foul odors easily make me nauseous. This particular building had a gag inducing stench. I screamed “help” as loud as I could. I screamed repeatedly hoping someone in the building would come to my rescue. Could it be possible that the entire building was empty? And where was the lady I just delivered groceries to? I had watched way too much Twilight Zone for my own good. In my mind one of two things was going to happen: the elevator was either going to crash to the ground or I would die of heat exhaustion; neither would be a good way to go.
A good chunk of time passed before I starting screaming again. I was convinced my co-workers would miss me and someone was being sent to check what had happened. I would alternate between stomping and screaming and bargaining with God — whom I don’t believe exists by the way. Funny how that happens when you’re in a life threatening situation. You go through this, if you really do exist please help me— I’ll do anything, I promise, dialog in your head.
Dripping wet, long past the point of heat exhaustion, seeing double through pools of sweat, no voice, no help, and no hope; I recall at a certain point I began to enter the acceptance phase of my own impending death. At some point, I made the decision that being horizontal might save me some energy. The elevator floor was dirty and sticky, but I’m not sure it mattered much at that moment. Flat on the ground and feeling defeated, I believe I closed my eyes for a few minutes, the silence was deafening and my heartbeat was finally slowing a bit. I glanced at the ceiling and noticed an exhaust fan that wasn’t moving. Next to the fan was a panel. It was too high up for me, but offered new hope. I stood up in order to assess the situation and realized that I might be able to step onto the side rail and push on the panel. Desperation fuels hope — there were not many other options to choose from.
I jumped up with one foot on the rail and was able to touch the top of the elevator car. After a number of tries, I was dislodged the panel; quite relieved that it was not bolted down. I was able to eventually pop the panel off and push it over to the side, allowing me to see that I was only feet away from the elevator doors on the floor above the car.
It might have been more than an hour or perhaps only minutes; at this point I was pretty delirious. I faintly heard someone walking on the floor above and I shouted for help. The man walked up to the doors and called down to me.
“Is someone in there?”
I sunk down to the ground and responded with tremendous relief. Yes, I’m here, please help me get out.
“It’s the super, I’m going to shut the elevator down and start it back up.”
I don’t think I answered him. I may have thought it was in my head.
An eternity passed and the lift gave a jolt. It started moving but only about four feet. At this point the car was partially on the fifth floor.
“Give me a minute, I think I can pry the doors open.”
The super pushed the doors open and I could see him; I could breathe again. I expressed my gratitude and I told him I’d been there a long time. He apologized, his thick Spanish accent, more a part of my consciousness than earlier. He said something about being out of the building all morning. He asked for my hand, hauled me up, and I quickly crawled out onto the fifth floor. I don’t think either of us was thinking about the danger of what we were doing at the time. He could see I was dripping wet and he asked me if I wanted some water.
Please, I said and leaned my body against the wall.
He told me that his apartment was in the basement. He asked me if I could walk down the steps and I told him that I could. When we got down to the first floor he asked me to wait while he went to get some water. I thought he was kind. He returned with a tall glass and I drank the water in one gulp. I thanked him and left.
When I got back to the grocery store, I realized I had been gone three hours. None of my co-workers seemed to notice that I’d been missing. I walked over to Bob, the owner of the store, and found words almost impossible. He asked me where I’d been and I shared what had happened. He shrugged and told me he was glad I made it out of the lift. I thought he was matter-of-fact about the whole thing, but how could he know what I’d been through.
Years later I was watching the news and there was a story about a woman who was on an elevator in a Manhattan hi-rise. The elevator stopped a few feet below the floor she had entered on. The elevator door and the door to the floor opened, she panicked and hoisted herself up. As she was crawling out of the elevator, it started back up and cut her in half. When the door opened to some people who had called the lift, they saw the severed lower half of her body. The news only showed the bloody car, but it didn’t take much imagination to see the gruesome scene in your mind’s eye. Apparently, there was some sort of glitch in the system that caused the lift to malfunction. I believe they have put new measures in place to ensure an elevator car could never move if any of the floor doors are even partially opened.
I will never shake the image of that woman’s severed torso and what her final moments must have been like. I’ve also thought about my own situation and how I was fortunate to get out of the lift I was trapped in. I should have asked the super to call the fire department; I wasn’t thinking. The events that took place that day in my 16th year, taught me a great deal about who I am and how fortunate I have been. I treat elevators with great respect and carry water with me whenever possible; you never know when you might need it.
I still wonder where all the residents of that building were that day? Why didn’t the woman I had just delivered groceries to, hear me? And why didn’t my co-workers notice how long I’d been gone?
Hot dogs are one of my favorite foods and until recently I was convinced that a good, natural casing frankfurter, did not exist in Portugal. I was happily wrong — they sell them frozen at IKEA and I’m good now.