Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Same Dilemmas, Bigger Price Tags

When I first made the decision to move back to California, into the house that I had left behind five long years ago, there were so many emotions to face. How long until the walls closed in on me? Would I be able to stick it out long enough to get my book written? Who was I when I wasn’t a Peregrine – wandering from place to place collecting stories and life experiences? Would I be ordinary?

After a mad dash from Colorado, where all of our belongings were stored for two years, to California in record time to meet the over-caffeinated driver of the moving truck,  Stewart and I arrived in Walnut Creek, exhausted on a Thursday night.  We realized that our garage, which was built in the early 1970’s, was too low for us to park 7’3″ Peregrine inside. The homeowners association doesn’t allow any campers or trailer to be parked on the street – and makes no exceptions for celebrities – we had nowhere to sleep, and nowhere to park. Fortunately, Stewart was thinking faster than me, and dragged the cushions and memory foam into the empty house. A quick call to the local police department, and we found a street where we could park Peregrine for three days undisturbed.

When the guys were unloading the truck, all I kept thinking was, “What is in all those boxes?”, and “Where is all my furniture?”. When we made the decision to hit the open road, I gave away or sold most of my furniture. The only things that I kept were things with sentimental and collectible value. Beds, gone. Kitchen table and chairs, gone. Living room sofa, gone. Desk and book shelves, gone. The main problem with my method was with no furniture, there is nowhere to actually put anything. Those several dozen books that I just couldn’t let go of, are now stuck in their boxes until I once again accumulate a piece of furniture to house them. It’s a vicious circle.  This was not my first time doing this, so I write from experience. In the ’90s  I did the same thing with all of my belongings when I moved to Ireland. This purging of personal belongings is cathartic, but can also be quite expensive.

While I was unpacking a box marked “Mara’s Bathroom”, I came across a lovely green and black alabaster round canister.  I love interesting boxes, so in the past, whenever a loved one was faced with that inevitable question, “What should I get Mara for her birthday?” it was easily answered by searching for a unique box. When I removed the lid and looked inside, there were a pile of cotton balls squeezed together. Cotton balls. My first reaction was, “Do I have any polish remover?”. While living in Peregrine, space was at such a high premium that I had to decide early on which it was going to be – cotton swabs or cotton balls. Cotton swabs have more practical applications, and take up less space, so it was au revoir little puffy clouds of softness.

Now I have been back in my house for two months. Stewart and I welcomed a horde of darling trick o’ treaters. We have entertained two sets of out of town guests (I hope more will come soon). We celebrated Thanksgiving dinner complete with all the accompanying fanfare. The house is looking more like a home each day thanks to the hard work that both of us have put into it nonstop since we have been back. Much of my time each day has been spent replacing items previously given away or sold at bargain-basement prices.

With each chair, each rug I add to my home, it feels as though the tether tightens. How did this happen when I worked so hard to free myself from this just two short years ago? My favorite purchase of all is an old farmhouse table that looks like it has so many stories of its own to tell. This will be my desk while I write. As long as I keep focused on why I am here, I can breathe. Please pass the cotton balls.

Low Dose Aspirin

When one of my sisters brought home whatever was going around the school, my mother had a theory that it was best to get it over with, and have us all get it at once. This included chicken pox, mumps, measles, and so many bouts of the flu that I’d be hard pressed to recall exactly how many. As the youngest, I had most of these childhood diseases before reaching school age, so though I suffered the misery of swollen glands and head-to-toe rashes, I rarely got to miss a day of school.

The treatments in those days were very different, too. The doctor offered the choice between your left or right butt cheek before he injected you with the miracle drug, penicillin. And, if you required a prescription, the pills came in tablet form. Period. No liquid version in grape or sour apple flavor. No chewables. Instead, moms and dads everywhere were faced with the task of getting their sick children to swollow bitter tablets, or crush them (the tablets, not the children), and hide the powdery lumps in whatever mixture their children were least likely to refuse. In my case, applesauce. At age 12, it was still applesauce. Yes, twelve.

I had already begun the right of passage and summer ritual of every preteen in my circle of friends – babysitting for neighbors’ kids.  I  spent as much of my spare time that wasn’t committed to sleepovers and pure heat induced comas squirreling away the money I earned for a one way ticket to Miami. My parents promised to pay for the return fare. As much as I pestered them that summer, counting and recounting my money, my father often threatened to forget to buy it.  Even at the ripe old age of twelve, I was filled with wanderlust. But, that’s another story.

One of the families I sat for that summer had an only child, and 8 year old girl who was being treated for brain cancer. Her head appeared as a minefield to me, filled with freshly scarred over holes. She didn’t want to play very much, but was happy to just hang out together in her living room. I was a bit frightened by her, and the responsibility I had while her mother was gone. This was the only time I would admit to myself I was glad I was only babysitting in the next building.  What if she got sick? There were so many bottle of pills. How would I know which ones to give her? Should I give her two chewable baby aspirin if she got a headache?

Chewable baby aspirin. There they were right in front of me. A bottle of St. Joseph’s chewable baby aspirin. The little girl was frail, and needed to take a nap. Her mother wasn’t scheduled to be home for at least another two hours. There was plenty of time. If ever I was going to overcome my fear, and learn how to swallow a pill, it was then.

After making sure my charge was fast asleep, I took a full glass of water into the bathroom along with the bottle of baby aspirin. I locked the door just in case. Out came the little orange tablets onto the counter lined up in a row. First, I tried doing it like I had watched the people on TV – put the pill in my mouth, then take a sip of water. All that happened was the pill began to melt on my tongue. I used a tissue to wipe that one off, and began again. This time, I put the pill further back on my tongue, but gagged, so that didn’t work. Finally after numerous combinations, I took a sip of water, held it, slipped the baby aspirin in, and swallowed. Success! I had managed to complete the process. I had swallowed my first whole tablet. If my blood had been drawn at that point, it likely would have been as thin as someone on Coumadin.  I didn’t care. No more crushed tablets in apple sauce for me. I had found the winning combination.

Those baby aspirin turned out to be invaluable for many people, including me. Since the ripe old age of twelve, I have ingested far too many pills to recall, however last November I had blood clots in both lungs. the treatment was Coumadin for six months after I was released from the hospital. Initially, the doctor wanted me to take an aspirin a day, but it turned out full dose was too strong for me, so she now has me on a baby aspirin a day. This miracle drug is now used by millions of middle aged and elderly people to prevent cardiovascular disease. In fact, the demand from the aging population has increased so greatly, that the drug manufacturers have astutely repackaged the 81 mg dose baby aspirin as “low dose aspirin”. At 51, I prefer the nostalgia of baby aspirin. Each night when I take my now handful of pills, I resist the temptation to lock myself in the bathroom.

When a Mother Stops Being Mom

When I was a little girl, my mother and I used to stay up very late most Friday nights to watch what were then referred to as horror films. Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and Bela Lugosi would come out from behind the curtain dripping with chocolate syrup. By today’s standards they were pretty tame, with the exception of the Hitchock films that were sure to frighten me with their realism. Even now, when I see birds gathered on a wire, I shudder.

Our other shared passion was musicals. Songs from South Pacific were sung to my own daughter during bath time. Maria, as a modern day Juliet, was so beautiful and tragic in West Side Story. And, the ultimate for me, Fiddler on the Roof. I knew every word to every song, complete with dialogue spoken mid-song. In retrospect, I’m not sure if, as the youngest child, I developed my love for this American artform because it gave me a chance to spend time with my mother, Regardless, it continues until this day. I’ve been known to break out into song on more than one occasion if the appropriate song pops into my head. However, this I get from my father. Unfortunately, I don’t sing nearly as well as those around me wish I did.

I bring all of this up because during these formative movie-watching years there was one song in one film that made a particularly strong impression on me. The first time I remember seeing White Christmas, I was about eight years old. Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Irving Berlin, were a trinity for great entertainment. The song that the plot is really built around, is “What Can You Do With A General” Two army buddies end up in Vermont to see two young ladies, only to find that their former commander, who is the innkeeper, is about to go bankrupt.

What Can You Do With a General?

This song has played over and over in my head through the years, and I’ve often applied its principle to other roles and situations. Just as the General found he was no longer of value once his role in the war was through, what do we do with mothers when they are no longer moms?

There are many reasons why a mother may lose her children. We’re fighting two wars at the moment, and young men and women die on the battlefield leaving behind grieving mothers. The streets of many US cities may as well be behind enemy lines with gang warfare taking the lives of approximately 15,000 people each year. There are young people playing Russian Roulette with drugs and alcohol, and their luck simply runs out.Then there are the horrible accidents and diseases that take children and young adults, leaving behind mothers devastated by their loss. These mothers experience a grief that only another who has gone through it can fully understand, yet they are still mothers, respected by the world as moms.

And, then there is the loss that hurts in a way that few can understand. There is no Hallmark card for it. There is no date to mark on a calendar, or grave to set flowers. There is the grief of estrangement. For these mothers, whose children have turned away from them, it is an entirely different sort of pain because there is no societal role for them. Much as the General was unemployable after the war, what do you do with a mother whose child doesn’t want her to be a mom? Who has fired her?

When I was twenty years old, my husband died, leaving me and our ten week old baby. People assumed I was either an unwed mother or divorced. It was a natural mistake considering my young age. However, it was very important to me that people understood that I had done it right. I had gotten married, then pregnant. That my husband had not chosen to leave me, but that circumstances beyond his control – death – had separated him from me and our daughter. Over the years, friends who were going through difficult divorces would tell me that I had it easier than them because my husband hadn’t rejected me, nor had our marriage been a failure, but simply fate had interfered with our happily ever after.

This is very much how I view the mothers of estranged children. They are in the throes of messy divorces, with all the baggage that’s carried along with them. But, they are still mothers, and this is where the similarity ends. From the research I have done, most have agreed that nothing would make them happier than to once again be engaged in their children’s lives. Maybe the roles would be slightly different, and the rules would change, but they long to hear in a familiar voice “Mom”.

For those of you who are struggling with this, there are resources out there. Mark Hundley, a therapist who specializes in grief and loss, has recently released the second edition to his book, Awaken to Good Mourning, which deals with the loss of a loved one, that can be applied in this situation very well. Also, here are a few online support groups that may be helpful. If you know of others, I ask that you please add them to the comments below.

http://www.eons.com/groups/group/parents-of-estranged-children

http://www.experienceproject.com/groups/Group-For-Parents-Of-Estranged-Children/195536

http://www.dailystrength.org/groups/parents-of-estranged-adult-children

http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/

A Tale of Four Cities

Now that all the excitement of disease, death, and urine samples is behind us, it’s time to get back to the real purpose of this blog – FUN! We have a lot of catching up to do, so we had better get started.

As I mentioned previously, we left the Keys, and headed over to the Florida West Coast. Our first stop after driving through the much lauded and equally overrated Everglades was St. James City on Pine Island. You may ask why we stopped in this particular place when Sanibel Island was our destination, and all I can tell you is I let Stewart make the arrangements. Note to self: Google all reservations made by Stewart before departure. The Island was in a beautiful location right on the Gulf of Mexico, and the Intracoastal Waterway, however the median age was 63.2. The only thing that come to mind is they averaged in the ages of great-grandchildren who were visiting at the time the census was conducted. Even the biker bar had a handrail in the restroom with a raised seat.

Besides the mosquito and noseeum infestation, we were able to manage a bit of fun. One of the restaurants we returned to a couple of times was The Waterfront Restaurant and Marina. The food was delicious and plentiful. The fresh clam chowder was particularly good, as was the broiled seafood gumbo. The first time we at there, we sat in the bar as it was packed. Beer was 25 ¢ and served in a mason jar. As you can imagine, hot sun mixed with cheap beer made for an interesting group of diners and drinkers. A few locals entertained us with stories, some of which are just not appropriate to share on a PG-13 blog. The many stickers that graced the wall behind the bar were also good for a few laughs.

The biggest drawback to St. James City being Heaven’s Waiting Room was that Stewart and I are night people. We first began to think about food when the street lights were being extinguished for the night. Fortunately we were able to find one of the best meals we’d had to date at The Lazy Flamingo. Though they are known for their Dead Parrot Wings, we shared an appetizer of conch (pronounced conk by the locals) fritters that were moist and delicious, followed by grilled grouper sandwich for me, and a grilled fish platter for Stewart. We were stuffed to the gills, so to speak, but our very persuasive waitperson convinced us our meal would not be complete without a slice triple layer chocolate mousse layer cake. We didn’t want to let her down, so we dug in. When the bill came, the waitperson had deducted 10% from the bill because she liked us – not something that happens every day. (Note: I did not tell her I wrote a travel blog, which made it even sweeter!)

The third and final noteworthy place we visited that was Woody’s Waterside. Now, before I go any further, I think it is important that you know Woody is a dog. More specifically, a hound dog. His picture graces the wall behind the bar asleep with his tongue akimbo and paws wrapped around a can of beer. After eating there, I will be adding restaurants named for pets to my list of places to skip. In retrospect it seemed like a good idea as the parking lot was full, and compared to the geriatric biker bar, it was fabulous.

If you happened to read my previous post, you know about my experience with the less than competent folks at Quest Labs. Needless to say, I was extremely happy to see Pine Island in the rear view mirror. Our next stop was beautiful St. Petersburg/Madeira Beach. This was 180º from Pine Island. Though we had an inauspicious approach with GPS directing us into a cemetery, we ended up in this beautiful lush place on the bayou where Tampa Bay empties on its journey back from the Gulf of Mexico. Our campsite was surrounded by old growth trees and flowering bougainvillea bushes with the view of the water right across the path. Our three days there stretched into almost two weeks as we were reluctant to give up our corner of paradise. Then, the heat and humidity arrived. Florida in late April/early May is just no fun. There were so many wonderful restaurants and places we went during our stay in Madeira Beach that I couldn’t begin to mention them all. Instead, I will focus on a few standouts.

This was the first real sense we had of the West Coast versus the East Coast of Florida. There was decidedly a different feel here, more Southern than Eastern. The pace was slower, the locals and tourists younger and friendlier. We ate at a lovely place along the boardwalk in Clearwater called Britts’ Laguna Grill. We started out with a dozen raw oysters. They were so large and plump they actually took two bites a piece. Fortunately, we had ordered a couple of caramelized salmon salads. The dressing was made with fresh ginger, and was outstanding. The couple at the next table had smuggled in their dog. It was the cutest little thing tucked inside the man’s shirt. I tried to ask them about the dog, but they spoke no English, and I spoke no Portuguese.

Our Fifth wedding anniversary was during our stay in Madeira Beach, and we had a full day. First thing we did was meet briefly with Tom Morris, whom I had ‘met’ on Twitter. There is always a chance when meeting someone who is only a virtual friend, that they will not be who they seem in cyberspace. In this case, Tom was the real deal. A true gentleman, kind and generous of spirit. I have a pretty finely tuned BS detector, as does Stewart, and no bells went off. Tom was in St. Pete’s giving a speech, and coincidentally, we discovered we were in the same town. This is known in tweetspeak as a tweetup. After his speech, Tom stayed to be interviewed for an Internet TV show. The producer and a freelance journalist were also Twitter folks, ProducerGirl and McMedia, aka, Sandi McKenna. More about Twitter later.

After taking a walk along the beach, Stewart and I decided to look for a place to eat. We stopped in at Crabby Bill’s. It’s been around for over 25 years, and from what we can figure out, Bill is crabby because he wants some good food and good service! There were very few people up on the roof deck overlooking the water, so we thought there would be no problem having a leisurely meal. I’m just going to leave it that if I don’t have anythi
ng good to say, I’m not going to say anything at all.

Later that night, after spending some time with Jeffrey and Emma, Stewart and I headed into St. Petersburg proper to see “I Love You, Man”. It was very funny example of a modern day bromance. One of the bonuses of traveling is seeing concerts and films in strange venues. The audiences are different, the feel of the place is foreign – even if it’s the same film showing in your own neighborhood.

There is this little gadget I have on my laptop that allows me to enter the city we’re currently in, and it pops up all the music in the area. While in St. Petersburg, I found out SEAL was going to be performing the following night at the Mahaffey Theater. We immediately bought tickets assuming we’d be in nosebleed seats. Instead, to our delight, we were able to get box seats right next to the stage. Apparently, they save these until the last minute in case some big shots decide to attend (the venue saves them, not Seal). We have both been to hundreds of concerts, and can say without a doubt, that we have never witnessed as masterful a performance as this. The energy in the room was electric. Seal’s connection to the crowd was almost intimate. The man is a masterful entertainer, a humble man who is grateful for his life, and a gifted singer. He had us in the palm of his hand from the first note. I’ve thought long and hard how I was going to explain this experience in words, and frankly, I’m stumped. It was just too divine even try.

One of the most unexpected treats we’ve had so far on this journey was discovering my dear old friend, Marta Rose, is VP Communications for Panama City Beach. Marta and I had been close friends years ago when we both lived in Santa Monica, CA, but had lost contact with each other until quite recently. One thing I always loved about Marta was her ability to connect with people and places in a very special way. She was able to show us around, and provide some local colour. We ate at the Boatyard, which was delicious, and Guy Harvey’s Island Grill, which was horrible. It was a shame, really, because it is perfectly situated at the end of Pier Park near the waterfront.

James Johnson, another Twitter friend lives in Panama City and was gracious enough to take us to a couple of really cool restaurants. The first one was Captain Anderson’s. It was an old local staple with a variety of delicious fish overlooking a dock with boats moored all along the backside. Next, we went to Ernie’s Bayfront Grill & Brewhouse. They have a great wraparound back deck that overlooks the dock – a coastal feature present at most establishments in this neck of the woods.

Did I mention it was Bike Week in Panama City Beach? Tens of thousands of Harley Davidson’s roared through the streets creating a cacophony of engine noise, music and general revelry. One of the things that really spoiled the dinner we had at Guy Harvey’s was the occasional biker who just had to rev his engine for effect in the parking lot. We were unable to hear each other, and the smell of exhaust was stifling. I did learn a new acronym, though. RUB, Rich Urban Biker, and there were many of these! The way RUBs were described to me was guys who have their bikes shipped down while they board their private jets, change out of their suits into their leathers, and paint on temporary tattoos for the week. As funny as this may seem, from what I saw, the description hit its mark!

One last thing I feel it is important to mention before we leave Florida is we spent three full months along the coastline from Miami down to Key West, and over to the west coast and up through the panhandle. Stewart loves to fish, and as I’ve previously written about even caught Emma while engaged in night fishing off our back dock. During all this time, with countless hours spent bridge fishing, dock fishing and bank fishing, money spent on bait, tackle and equipment, we did not have a single fish dinner that did not come from the grocery store or a restaurant. Stewart is a lot of wonderful things. A fisherman is no one of them.

(I realize this blog is really, really long, but it has been a while since I updated, so please bare with me.)

We headed back to New Orleans, and spent two weeks at the Pontchartrain Landing RV Park. Of all the places we stayed, this was the most enjoyable. It was not the most scenic (we were for the most part in a shipyard), or the best facilities (no restaurant, game room or boat rentals), or the most centrally located (we were down a torn up road right in the midst of Katrina’s devastation), but it was STILL the best campground so far. It’s all about the people. This place had some of the nicest folks we’d met anywhere. The Property Managers, Nate and Dawn Garrder, were always available, kind and working hard to make this the best place to stay in New Orleans. The people working with them, like Jim and Bunny McElyea stopped by just to say hi and see if there was anything we needed. When Jim heard I had gotten good news from Kenner, he immediately went and found his wife to tell her. Bunny was by to share in my joy. We’ve been traveling for almost seven months, and this was the first time we even knew the names of staffers, nonetheless visited with them. They are doing a lot of work to make this place beautiful and fully functional for its guests. We will definitely be going back there.

16 May was our last Saturday night in New Orleans, and we didn’t want to miss one last chance to enjoy the fantastic music scene this great city has to offer. So, around 9:30 we headed over to Bourbon Street where you are almost guaranteed to find good music for free (or the very most, the cost of a beer). We walked around for a bit before we heard some of the best guitar playing either of us had ever heard coming out of Tropical Isle. The place was packed near the front, so we worked our way to the back of the bar area right near the stage. Right in front of us were friends of the bands, one of whom was a music producer out of Austin, TX. He started telling us about the history of the All Purpose Blues Band, and Billy Gregory, lead guitar, in particular. It seems Billy used to play with A Beautiful Day, and has been a New Orleans staple for decades. Their rendition of Black Magic Woman would have made Santana proud! When the band was through with their set, they came over and introduced themselves to us. Stewart and Billy quickly got into a discussion of calluses (Stewart had them, Billy didn’t). I was chatting with one of the other musicians, when suddenly Stewart grabb
ed my arm and starts pushing me. I was a bit surprised my gentle husband was manhandling me in this way, but decided to ignore him. When he kept at it, I decided maybe I should investigate what he wanted. At this point, his gingerly pushing became much more direct, with verbal instructions. “Move”, he yelled. “Let’s go”. Now, anyone who knows me will tell you, those are fighting words for me! When I asked him what the bleep he was doing, he yelled, “this place is on fire! Now, MOVE!”. Finally, I got it. I moved. Poor Stewart. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Unfortunately, it turned into a 4-Alarm fire with 70 firefighters working over the next couple of hours to extinguish the flames. Miraculously, no other buildings were damaged. The owners are planning on rebuilding, and the employees and band assured us they will find temporary work along Bourbon Street until the Tropical Isle reopens.

After we were certain everyone was out safely, and that they would not be playing another set, we wandered down the street to Famous Door, a venue we had visited previously. The same band, Rock Box, was playing. They did a good job covering everything from Led Zeppelin to Lynyrd Skynyrd. We stayed until they finished their set, then moved on to another blues club, where we heard New Orleans Levee Board Blues perform. They were world class musicians, but it was obvious they were playing to the crowd instead of playing what they loved. We were seated right in front, and the dance floor was empty. The place was about half full. I nagged Stewart until he finally gave in and danced with me. Within moments the dance floor filled up, and the band came alive. A group of young women gathered for a bachelorette party saw the crowd enjoying themselves, so they came on inside. The bride was up on stage dancing, her friends all donned wigs in colors ranging from pink to green to purple. By the time the band had finished two songs, there wasn’t an empty table or an empty inch on the dance floor. It was time to call it a night.

After all the excitement of Florida and New Orleans, we decided to bookend this segment of our trip with a return to my hometown, Dallas, TX. We arrived in Dallas on 21 May, and will be taking some trips throughout the state. More later…

For Mother’s Day Rememberance

I wrote this poem on 1 November 1990, a year and a day after my mom, Dolores Bass Gordon died. With Mother’s Day upon us, I wanted to share it with you. I’m not much of a poet, but anyone who has lost their mom will appreciate the sentiment. This Halloween will be 20 years since I buried her, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her.

A Poem for Mom

A year has past.
Three hundred sixty five firsts.
The first Thanksgiving,
The fist Mother’s Day,
The first Halloween.

Now comes the time of healing.
I can look back on memories
And you were not there,
Except in spirit,
Except in the pain in my heart.

Can seconds begin to return
The sweetness to my days?
Will the fall colors shine more brightly?
Will the winter fire warm me?
Can I live with this veil on my senses?

Life and death, death and life
The earth is nourished by our passing.
Yet, I hunger for your presence.
When will I be satiated?
When?

A year has past.
Three hundred sixty five firsts.
The cycle is complete.
I must go on
For the first time
Through the second year.

Mara Gordon
11/01/1990

Peregrine is Great, a House is Better!

After three straight weeks in Peregrine, I definitely was ready for a little square footage. Heck, I was ready for a square foot. Granted, we were staying in this beautiful place, Fiesta Key, but the restrooms were about a city block away. When we first got there, being on the water seemed more important than proximity to the toilet. Lesson learned: choose facilities over view. So, we met this really nice couple, A.W. and Beth, who turned us on to this really cool little house on Long Key. If this journey was going to be successful, we were either going to have to add plumbing to our trailer, or rent. Obviously, renting won. Check out our digs. Here’s a picture of the balcony overlooking the canal.

There is a phenomenon here in the Keys known as “bridge fishing”. The main bridges actually include a pedestrian bridge parallel specifically for this purpose. We decided to give it a try. Most of the time was spent baiting the hook, as those fish are hungry and smart. Turn to your left, and your casting into the Gulf of Mexico. Turn around, and you cast into the Atlantic ocean. Very cool. While Stewart was busy putting the squid on my hook, a local guy steps up next to us, drops his line into the water, counted to five, then pulled in his line with FIVE FISH ATTACHED! “OMG”, I shouted. “How did you do that?” He proceeded to throw me a couple of fish, and then explained they were for bait. Darn, I thought he had just given me dinner. Anyway, they are called ballyhoo, and the line is called Sabiki, which in Japanese means “little bait fish rig” I thought he said “ceviche”, so was completely confused. I was trying to figure out if it was the vinegar that made five fish bite at once. We can’t wait to try it ourselves. Stewart bought rigs in three sizes.

Speaking of Stewart and fishing…. It is time to tell you of the latest Emma saga. Stewart decided that a little night fishing off our dock sounded like a good idea. Even better, he took Emma and Jeffrey with him. It was 11:00 PM. When I looked out the top of the deck and couldn’t see anyone, I yelled down to make sure he hadn’t fallen in. This small, tight voice replies, “I need your help”. As quickly as these old bones would allow, I scampered down the stairs to find Stewart crouching over Emma with his hand down her throat. Blood was everywhere, later to be discovered mainly from Stewart’s hand, though Emma was wearing it in her beard. When I asked what happened, it turned out instead of catching fish, Stewart caught Emma. Fortunately, his instincts are still intact in spite of his advanced years, and he tied off the weighted fishing line before she could digest the hook completely. I called the local 24 hour vet, and was told to sedate her with benadryl ’till she could be seen in the morning. After a very long night, the vet was able to remove the hook from her esophagus with minimal damage – and even gave Stewart back his hook. Now, Emma waits with baited breath for her next adventure. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

A lot of our time during this segment of our journey has been spent relaxing and enjoying a fully-stocked kitchen. Alyson and Vopni Hauksson, my cousin/niece and her husband came down for the weekend, and Stewart made his always delicious breakfast. It was like being back at one of those casino smorgasbords. We all ate until we were comatose. Also, Vopni taught me all sorts of little tricks on my iPhone, as well as how to “borrow” movies on line. Very valuable information when the road is your home. After attending the Marathon Seafood Festival, we went to Lorelei for drinks and sunset. Someone had taken a 1964 (?) pink Cadillac, and set the shell of the car over their boat. Here is Vopni sitting next to it. Stewart tried to get him to climb in, but this is as close as he would get. As we were sitting there listening to music, the space shuttle flew overhead, and everyone there joined in one of those spontaneous moments of joy. Very cool.

Since so much of my time is spent in contemplation, I decided to share my streams of consciousness in another format. I am now on Twitter, and loving every minute of it. If you can’t find it on Twitter it doesn’t exist. It is a fascinating social network. If you haven’t looked at it, give it a try, or as we say in tweetspeak, give it a twy! I’ve added Twitter updates to the right side of the blog, plus a link to join. Stewart loves listening to me read out some of the more ludicrous postings. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

This couple we met, A.W. and Beth, as a welcome to our new digs, gave us a list of all the area Happy Hours, complete with the times and specials. It is hilarious the way some of the vacationers eat and drink their way across the Keys. We tried out a couple of the places, and they were packed. As soon as the drink specials were over, everyone cleared out like there had been a fire drill. I’m not big on finger-food, but Stewart sure is. He was all over the .10 cent peel and eat shrimp. So far, he likes the conch fritters at Sparky’s, but hands down, we both think the best key lime pie is still at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen in Key Largo. We happened upon Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen on the way back down to Long Key hungry for dinner. Our only criteria were a full parking lot, and no “Mom’s” or “Aunt” in the name. Mrs. Mac flew under the radar with a marital
reference instead of familial. They have this delicious drink called a key lime freeze that is like milk shake. Anything that good should be illegal. Also, we had the hogfish, and it was exceptional. What an unfortunate name for such a yummy fish. We will definitely be going back there.

March 8 was International Women’s Day. In honor of the day the film, A Powerful Noise, was shown in 450 theatres nati
onwide. Afterwards, a panel discussion was held with Madeleine Albright, Nicholas Kristof, et al, addressing the issues facing women globally, and some of the things we can do to help. CARE sponsored the event. Fran Sevcik made dinner for us all, and she, Alyson and I went to the viewing, while Stewart and Ron hung out talking fishing. Personally, I like the idea of micro loans, which help people help themselves, so Stewart and I strongly support Kiva. I strongly encourage you to give them a look. As little as $25 can change an entire family’s lives. Plus, it is fun.

We’re making plans for the next installment of our odyssey. It does look, however, like my health is once again casting a grey cloud on our adventure. It looks like we are going to be headed back to New Orleans mid-April for a consult at LSU. I will keep you posted how that goes. Until then, hope you all are well, and are enjoying Spring.

Fifty, the New Fifty!

Sorry for the long delay between posts. Each morning (afternoon?) when I wake up I have to ask myself, “Where am I?”

First of all, I have decided to withhold judgment about President Obama. Let’s face it, he inherited a mess, and it is going to take time and BI-PARTISAN cooperation to even begin to fix this mess we’re in. People outside the Beltway seem to be giving him some breathing room, which is a good thing. We didn’t get in this mess overnight. It isn’t going to go away overnight, either. I just wish there was some way to stop the bleeding. I made the mistake of opening my 401K statement (up until now I have avoided looking), and almost cried. The deflated value of real estate values coupled with the disaster, also know as our pensions, is enough to send me to drink. One amusing side note on the budget mess I’d like to share. In late January, I received a notice from the California Franchise Board (their version of the IRS) telling me I owed almost $5400 for 2005. When I called to find out what was going on, I was told that the State just assumed I must have hidden income since I am making my mortgage payments on time! After I stopped laughing, I asked the gentleman if this was one of Arnold’s ideas to go along with IOU’s. Just go after anyone, and see who is dumb enough to pay. Hopefully, Clarence (my contact) will get this sorted before they try and take Peregrine. If the California legislature and local mayors are smart they’ll spend some of their energy collecting from real tax offenders.

OK, so what have we been up to? Our dear friend, Nancy McClellan, lost her 18 year old dog, Honey, so Jeffrey and Emma did what they could to distract her. Nancy was kind enough to watch them while Stewart and I flew to Palm Springs for my mother-in-law’s 75th birthday. My brother-in-law, Lenny, took most of the pictures, so I will have to wait until he sends them to add some here. I do have one, however of Stewart with his mom on his lap. The apple didn’t fall far from that tree! I wonder how much it is worth to her NOT to post this…. Ginger’s party was great fun, and it was wonderful spending time with my three remarkable sisters-in-law. Tavia, Tara and Tonia are as different from each other as my sisters and I are from one another, however, each brings light into any room they enter. I know just how blessed I am in the in-law department. Let’s face it, when you marry a man, you also marry his family. Unfortunately, his brother, Mark, was unable to make it.

While we were back in SoCal, we met up with my dear friend, Peter Wolff. He is presently in LA working on a project using music for pain management and other therapies. I cannot wait to see how it turns out. He promised to let Stewart and I be his guinea pigs. Since we were all the way in Palm Springs, Peter took a train to Claremont where we met for a nice chat and an early dinner so he could catch the last train back to LA. When the three of us get to sharing ideas, and wine is added into the mix (Pepsi for Stewart), there was little chance of Peter making his train. We ended up eating at this wonderful little place called La Piccoletta Ristorante. The cioppino was so delicious that had they not had bread to sop up the broth, I would have drunk it with a straw! After dinner, we kidnapped Peter back to the desert and had a slumber party. Of course, when we looked at the train schedule for the morning, we failed to notice it only runs twice a week, so we had a nice chat back down towards Claremont.

After returning to Dallas, we spent one more week seeing friends and getting in the rest of my favorite restaurants. S&D Oyster Bar and Highland Park Pharmacy were both squeezed into one day (sort of like me and my jeans!). I had told Stewart that the seafood gumbo, oysters on the half shell, and bread pudding with whiskey sauce are some of the best he’d ever have anywhere. I am proud to say I was three for three. Unfortunately, Celebration was closed when we went so the staff could watch the Super Bowl. Real Texans will always put football first.

I do feel it is important to mention the place we stayed in Dallas. When I first booked Staybridge Suites I thought it would be gross. It was way further north than I would normally go, and it was on the tollway. It couldn’t have been better. The people were so nice, free laundry, breakfast, fitness room, free faxes (!), I could go on and on. When we went to Palm Springs, they allowed us to leave Peregrine in the parking lot, and gave us the same upgraded suite across the hall when we got back. Five cornstalks to them.

My birthday was on 4 February, and I really wanted to spend it in New Orleans, so we drove down the day before, and just walked the French Quarter that night. It was my first trip back post-Katrina, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It looked very much the same, but the feel was very different. Not as many homeless in doorways, less celebrants in general. Bourbon St. was still dirty and filled with the over-served, but there was a forced feel to the place. Breakfast at Cafe du Monde did wonders for my general happiness, though. Is there another place on earth that can do so much with powdered sugar, batter (beignets) and coffee? They are is still delicious and just as messy.

On the way to Cafe du Monde, we came across a very cool little store on Chartres called Dashka Roth. She makes wonderful jewelry and Judaica. I got a very cool pair of earrings for my birthday. She has the cutest little Maltese who is very happy to help out. If you have a few minutes, read her Katrina story on her website.

Late that day, we ate at Desire Oyster Bar on Bourbon St. Stewart had had my version of a po’boy, but I felt it was only fair he taste the real thing. Of course, now he’ll never look at mine the same. He swears he will, but I know better. Just a little tip, order the combo po’boy, and don’t eat the bread. It is about the same amount as food as the platter, but a lot cheaper. When we left, a walk was definitely in order. Plus, we only had one full day as we were leaving for Miami the 5th. We found this really cool store, Road Kill. I saw these awesome boots in the window, and just had to have them. I bet I’m the only one with rubber cowboy boots like these. They should be a hit fishing.

We went to hear this very talented band, The Bridge that night at Blue Nile. We got there a little early, so we went around the corner to Igor’s Checkpoint Charlie to listen to some music and shoot some pool. We met a nice guy from Pennsylvania, Tom Klich, who went with us over to hear The Bridge. The Big Easy is that way. Go where the mood takes you.

After New Orleans, we headed to Miami. Going through Mississippi, it was clear that there had been damage from Katrina, but not nearly to the extent in New Orleans. No levies broke in MS. That first night, we spent the night in Ocala, FL, which was experiencing the coldest temperatures on record. It was 26 degrees when we checked into our hotel. V-v-v-very cold! Nevertheless, we made it through the night, and headed down to south Florida in time to pick up my sister, Nancy and her significant other, Russ from the airport.

When we got to the condos I had booked at 8200 Byron in Miami, there were some initial problems, but eventually things were fine. Adam is the owner, and obviously new at the entire vacation rental thing. No sheets, no toilet paper, no soap…. Adam did do his best to make things right, and I am sure with time and experience, he will be great at vacation rentals. I would stay there again. Here is a picture I took out of the living room window with my phone.

The four of us fit as much into a few days together as possible. Nancy loves, loves to shop. so we walked through the shops of South Beach. The first night, though, they took me out to celebrate my birthday to this really great place, called Sushi Siam. The sushi was fresh, and the ambiance was wonderful. The sake was awesome, too.

My cousin, Fran and her husband Ron Sevcik hosted a family gathering for my birthday, combined with a going away party for our cousin, Stacy Schwatz, who moved back to DC. Cousins Brad and Freddie Ross came down, along with Freddie’s love, Cecily. My Aunts Dell and Dottie are still rockin’ their 80’s, and Uncle Zay is still amazing. I wish I could see them more often. The next night, the four of us (at Ron’s urging) headed down to Joe’s Stone Crab. Very expensive, but VERY awesome. Great sweet potato fries to go with the stone crabs. Old fashioned waiters in tuxedos. Very cool.

After Nancy and Russ headed back to freezing St. Louis, Stewart and I spent some time with my cousin, Alysson (Fran and Ron’s daughter) before heading for the Keys. She is actually more like a niece. What a sweetheart. She took us to a very cool Cuban tapas bar, and a Jewish deli – not at the same time. While at the tapas bar, I received a phone call letting me know that once again, I am a grandma. Kellan Vessie Robinson was born 9 February. I hope to see him soon. Vessie, was Buck and his father’s real name.

We have been in the Keys now for over a week, and have no idea when we are leaving. Life here is easy. Get up, fish a little, take the dogs to the beach, read, hang out, read some more. Of course, eat! After how crazy our pace has been since closing on the Colorado house Halloween, we are really enjoying the slower pace. No plans yet where to go next. Stewart wants to head up the west coast of Florida next. I’m more for a trip up to Hilton Head first. I’ll let you know which way the wind blows.

Now, for the saga of Jeffrey and Emma. First, Emma got sick staying with Nancy. Nancy spoiled her with treats. Way too many treats. Unfortunately, Emma was allergic, so once again chewed the hair off her legs. They had so much fun with her, though. Nancy let them climb all over her and the furniture. She said she’s going to get two Wheatens and name them Emma and Jeffrey. Too funny.

Everywhere we go people are surprised that we are able to travel so simply with two mid-size (sounds like a car!) dogs. The worst part is when they get into sticker bushes, or one decides to get sick in the back seat of the car. It is really no different than traveling with kids, except we don’t have to get a sitter. Just zip them into their kennels. It is a bit of a problem, though, because Emma is a bit of an escape artist. She has figured out how to unzip the kennel door, so now she is in her kennel attached to a leash attached to Peregrine’s wheel. Jeffrey, always the perfect gentleman, is content to wait for an invitation to exit his kennel. Stewart groomed them both this week, and they are looking lovely. Now at least, Emma’s legs match the rest of her.

Oh, that reminds me, I found the Jeffrey (person) for whom, my Jeffrey is named. An old friend, Jeffrey Shapiro, is a drummer from LA, and when I was around town while he traveled, I watched his Wheaten, David. I fell so in love with David, that I swore if I ever got another dog, I would get a Wheaten and name him Jeffrey. Jeffrey, the person, is still drumming, and can be heard in various tribute bands. Check out his Myspace page if you get a chance. I don’t know if he still uses it, but back in the day I redid his drum face for a show at the Troubadour in West Hollywood.

Let’s talk ethanol, E85. It is more difficult to find than I had anticipated in certain states. For example, the nearest station to New Orleans is Baton Rouge. Not exactly around the corner. Also, since the E85 pump is frequently leased by an independent at a national station, the price can be greatly inflated. It is still cheaper than regular gasoline, but the savings is reduced by the station middleman (or woman).

The mileage is not a real problem. There doesn’t seem to be too much difference between gas and ethanol with or without Peregrine. The new spark plugs are great. It has definitely narrowed the miles per gallon, but gas is still leading in mpg. Actually, half a tank of each seems to be the winning combination. Obviously, this is not so simple when there is a huge distance between E85 locations. I do wish we were more efficient when towing, though. At least we are trying to do our part to help the environment and get off foreign oil.

A suggestion: Someone should come up with a user-friendly iPhone application to find alternative fuels using the built-in GPS. There is one for regular stations, but no way to tell which carry E85. All the web-based applications for E85 require that you know the zipcode – not something you’re
likely to do in the middle of nowhere.

After having spent some time in campgrounds now, I feel just fine about what we are doing. It amazes me to see motorhomes towing SUV’s. These folks bring all the comforts of home with them on the road. At the end of the day, they don’t have much more than we do with a little imagination and effort. OK, so a toilet and shower would be nice, but we have a TV tuner with a built-in DVR on our laptop, WiFi, a comfortable queen bed, seating, a table to eat at, book shelves. What more does a person really need?!

It is now clear to me that I have waited entirely too long in between updates. Please forgive me if this is too boring. There were just too many things to cram into one post. I will not be waiting so long in the future! If you have any suggestions for where to go next, please let me know. One last thing, we put Peregrine’s awning up for the first time (top picture). Doesn’t it remind you of your grandmother’s table cloth?! Be well.

Best of Luck, President Obama!

Today is a momentous day for all Americans, and for the world. For the 44th time, after a contemptuous election season, the transfer of power from one administration to the other, occurred without incident. Granted, Cheney went screaming and kicking, and had to be confined to a wheelchair, but he still went. That is what makes this country stand out as a beacon for so many other nations of the world whose elections are not transparent, and whose rightfully elected officials are blocked from assuming their rightful offices. It’s you, Mugabe, I’m talking to! It is a wonderful thing to witness. Even when we don’t agree with the election results, our candidate doesn’t win, we have an expectation, as Americans, that January 21st we will wake up to a peaceful nation with a new leader. Right on! Now to the latest in our odyssey….

We are still in Dallas, TX. It has been so wonderful to see so many dear friends. My roots run deeper here than I realized. Only after having moved away from Big D, and returning for a visit, do I realize how much of me has always been here – even when I am not. Everyone who has met Stewart immediately opened their arms and hearts to him, making him an honorary Texan. He even got himself a pair of boots and a hat. Every night before bed, I have to assure him he can put them back on in the morning. As we say here, “Bless his heart.”

On New Year’s Day, we were fortunate enough to be the guests of the Honorable John Creuzot as he was sworn in to office for his sixth term. In 1992, I was John’s first campaign manager, and can tell you if ever a man deserved to sit on the bench it is him. Congratulations, John. Of course, the fanciest clothes we have with us are dress flip flops, so off to the stores we went. Shopping at Northpark on New Years Eve was just like old times. Just the sizes were different, and my sister, Nancy wasn’t there to help me pick. With the help of my iPhone camera, she was still able to advise me on my ensemble. As I walked back to the car after the event, I used the power of positive thinking to place one foot in front of the other. I made it to the vehicle without having to remove my high-heel shoes. As the feeling returned to my feet, I could not help but feel at one with those who are tortured with a hammer. Now I remember why I don’t wear heels anymore. Stewart and I took turns watching out for passersby as we changed into our Levi’s and flats (of course, for Stewart it was boots) in the back seat of the car for lunch and a movie with Michael Allison and his partner, Andrew. Overall, a great way to start 2009.

The time has gone by far too quickly. We spent time with so many great friends. Bruce Horton (pictured), jewelry maker extraordinaire; Nancy McClellan, chiropractor and acupuncturist; Mark Perez, attorney at law; John Hitt, Professor of Government, Northlake College; just too many to name. Stewart picked up his 20 year chip, and was a relative newcomer in a room full of people who have been sober since we were in our early teens! We had lunch with my former professor and friend, Emile Sahliyeh, Dean of the International Studies department UNT in Denton. We discussed strategies for peace in the Middle East, and texting while driving. Apparently, Emile thinks texting while driving is unsafe. I explained to him that it is only unsafe for men. Women, on the other hand, are expert at multi-tasking.

Beth and Doug Brown invited us to spend a few days with them in Edom, TX. Beth and I met 20 years ago when we started a women’s group in Dallas. At the time, Beth was making leather goods. She has since moved on to become a very talented potter working with her husband to create remarkable pieces for their shop, Pottersbrown. As soon as we have a home that is bigger than 86 square feet, we will become collectors. They operate on the honor system. If you stop by the shop, and no one is there, just take what you like and leave the money on the counter. Squeaky may be there to greet you. Edom is a small town full of artisans and crotchety old men. If you find yourself in East Texas, it is definitely worth stopping.

For those of you who have been in our landlocked home, you have seen our beautiful artwork. The artist who created several of our pieces is Arie Van Selm. Arie is a Dutch painter and sculptor who is in galleries all over the world. I know him as my friend. He and his wife, Yutta, are having us over Wednesday night. Arie paints at his home, so it is always exciting to see what he is working on. I am looking forward to them meeting Stewart. Don’t be surprised if we end up expanding our collection. His Marilyn (smile) series through the 90’s, has been followed by a series entitled Tango-Birds. Very cool.

Ok, now to the highlight of all our blog entries, Jeffrey and Emma. Oh, for the life of Riley. The two hairiest members of our household are having a blast. Between trips to dog parks and runs through parking structures, they are getting the most out of their time in Dallas. We saw Marley & Me last Saturday, and rushed home to play with them. We took them to a neighborhood dog park where Jeffrey proceeded to herd all the dogs into a group in the center. One of the dogs, a black lab, decided that Jeffrey was pretty cute, and wanted to mate. The look on Jeffrey’s face was priceless!

Nancy McClellan’s loyal dog of 18 years, Honey, passed away Sunday morning, so Jeffrey and Emma decided that their reason for being was to shower Nancy (yes, shower with saliva) with love and affection. It is
difficult to stay sad in the company of these two canines. Of course, Nancy gave them doggie ice cream, and many, many treats. They are so easily bought.

We are off to Palm Springs, CA on Thursday for Stewart’s mom, Ginger’s 75th birthday. Nancy has generously offered to keep Jeffrey and Emma for us while we are gone. I can only imagine how spoiled they will be when we get back. I’ll keep you posted.

One More Thing…


We are hearing some really great music and seeing some really fantastic art along the way. Two in particular that we have been meaning to tell you about are NIAYH and Amy Rogers.

On the night Obama gave his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, we went to Avogadro’s a campus staple in Fort Collins, and watched with a few hundred other people. After the speech, NIAYH (Now Is All You Have), a Portland Oregan band, performed and blew our socks off. They were amazing! We liked them so much, we invited them for dinner that weekend. You have never met a nicer, more talented group of young people. Give them a listen. Let’s hope they make it big.

Next, while we were in UK, we visited with our friends, Stephen and Leigh Rogers. Their daughter, Amy Rogers is an amazing artist. She creates all these wonderful images combining traditional artwork with computer enhanced imaging. I, of course, know nothing of what I am writing about, but her work is definitely worth seeing. Another young person we hope to see in galleries who we can say we knew when… Good luck to them all.

Here are links to our web albums. We will add more as we can. Also, we will add captions over time. Promise. Mara’s pics and Stewart’s pics

Happy Hannukah and Merry Christmas!

It has been quite a crazy time for us since our last entry. We began our road trip in earnest, leaving Fort Collins behind until we return for our belongings.

Let’s start with Las Vegas, New Mexico. This will be quick, as there isn’t much there. We stayed there because it was the closest KOA to Santa Fe (the one in Santa Fe is closed after October), and looked pretty. I think the owners photographed the campgrounds under the only tree for miles around. It was so late when we arrived, we decided to spend the first night in a cabin. When we woke up, everything was covered in snow, so we stayed in the cabin for four nights. The dogs each had their own bunk, and had a blast. They ran around in the snow trying to bury things – Emma mostly her head. Remember, she’s blond. Jeffrey just rolls his eyes and keeps his distance from his crazy baby sis.

Santa Fe has really grown. Gone are the days of quaint galleries, restaurants and spas along dirt roads. Now, they even have Cold Stone right along side a GAP. It is still worth going for the beautiful jewelry and clothes. Also, the people watching is great. I would definitely recommend a trip there if nothing else for Ten Thousand Waves Japanese Spa & Resort. They pamper you like no where else I’ve ever been.

Our next stop was Carlsbad, New Mexico. This place made Las Vegas look like a forest. There were about 100 campers there, and we were the only ones in a teardrop. Some of those campers are bigger than homes. They have all the comforts of home – satellite dishes, microwaves, double ovens – you name it. I was a bit intimidated with our teardrop (Peregrine) and porto-potty. When the winds hit 85 mph, it was scary. The tent room was fighting becoming airborne, and Peregrine rocked violently. After it was all over, we had three broken poles, and a torn tent. Stewart was able to make new poles that are stronger than the old ones, but we still need to locate a tent maker to sew up the torn bits. We have an entirely new respect for the pioneers who settled the west. And they did it without a heater and refrigerator!

If you are wondering why Carlsbad, I’ll tell you. Carlsbad Caverns is awesome! I have wanted to go there all my life, and it did not disappoint. It takes over an hour to get to the bottom, and it is 56 F degrees all year. It is also pitch black, but there are lights strategically placed so you don’t fall 754 ft and kill yourself. There was hardly anyone there this time of year, so it was doubly magical having the place practically all to ourselves. You have to whisper because voices carry up to half a mile. That was especially difficult for Stewart who doesn’t hear quite as well as he used to. Too many rock concerts. These pictures don’t do the place justice. Go to the National Park Service website or better yet, go to Carlsbad yourself. We recommend Lucy’s Mexicali Restaurant & Entertainment. The green chili queso was delicious.

The next day, our last in New Mexico, we ventured north to Roswell, home of the most thoroughly documented (and covered up) sighting in the United States. The UFO Museum and Research Center is one of the cheesiest places we have ever been. It is worth going just for the laughs. For all intents and purposes, the museum is a bunch of photocopied sheets wrapped in Saran Wrap! There are plastic aliens, and aluminum foil space ships. No kidding! Oh, and the crowning glory is the alien autopsy (see picture). The folks who work there take it really seriously, so if you go, laugh behind your hand. The dogs were allowed in, which was nice, so they added to our enjoyment because they believed everything they saw. In fact, Jeffrey is still sleeping with his pet alien.

We are now in Dallas, TX, my home town. No sooner did we get here than we left for Gordon, TX (no relation) to spend the weekend with my good friend, Steven Herzog and his partner, Shawn. They have a gorgeous 50 acre ranch where you can pet their longhorn cattle. No joke! They are so sweet. Of course, we stayed on the other side of the fence just in case. After introducing us to their neighbors, we were taken on a tour of this 6000 acre heaven. If you are looking for a little bit of heaven right outside the city, this is it. 7R Ranch is beautiful. It felt a bit like it was designed and built by Ralph Lauren. If we were thinking about settling back in Texas, this would be a great place to retire.

Sunday night, back in Big D, we all had dinner with Michael Allison and his partner, Andrew. It was so wonderful being back on my old familiar stomping grounds. We ate at Gloria’s over in Oakcliff, one of my favorite restaurants in the world. Don’t ask me why, but I just love it. Salvarorian food is delicious, plus there are many things that are not red meat for me to eat. Stewart didn’t speak, once again, because he was busy eating! Going by my old house where I grew up on Lavendale was a bit traumatic. In the place of my families beautiful white brick home with the ivy covered columns was this modern monstrosity. Of course, that is par for the course for Dallas. Anything over ten years old gets torn down! The bones of the neighborhood were the same, but everything was different. No more Lester Melnick or Wall’s Delicatessen (my first job). Instead, Borders Books and Music is where the old Safeway used to be, and White House/Black Market used to be a gas station. All in all, it is good to be home. We are going to a movie over at Northpark tonight – an old Christmas day tradition, and tomorrow I am getting my hair cut by Lawrence Bonano, who has cut my hair for over 20 years followed by lunch at Lucky’s with John Hitt, my old college buddy. We’re going to one of the judges whose campaign I ran back in 1992, John Creuzot’s re-swearing in New Year’s Day, and lunch at UNT with my old professor, Dr. Sahliyeh on the 5th…Who said you can’t go home?