Posts Tagged With: travel

Biting the Apple

Though I can use PCs, I really prefer Apples.  And I’ve almost always been happy inhabiting the alternate universe.

Not today.  Not right now.  There is trouble in paradise, and it all began a couple of days ago when I upgraded to the new OS, Mavericks– free for the first time ever.

Yesterday my iMac (circa 2006) started acting a bit strange– I had been working and took a break.  When I came back, expecting to immediately awaken the computer from sleep mode and begin again, I heard the sound that you hear when a keyboard key is being held while some other action is going on — a kind of bop bop bop sound.  I thought that was strange, and couldn’t get it to stop.  I simply restarted the computer, or at least tried to.  The screen flashed a couple of times.  Then I turned the power off, let it sit for a couple of minutes, and restarted.  It did.  But after a while, something else started acting up (I no longer remember what), so I simply turned it off.  

Tonight when I tried to restart it, I heard the start-up sound but only got a blue-gray screen.  Several attempts later, and no luck, I turned to my laptop and went to the Apple page.  That I was able to find something immediately upon typing “gray screen at booting up after upgrading to Mavericks” told me I clearly wasn’t the first to have this problem.

I tried a safe startup — turning it off, then on, and immediately upon hearing the “restarting” sound, I held down the shift key.  Nothing.

So I then tried to start using an install CD.  No luck.  Only now the CD won’t eject.  Common sense stopped me from following through with my first instinct — to hit the computer with a heavy object like a baseball bat.  I resisted, fortunately.

Wanting to blog (there’s a 30-day blog-every-day-challenge, sort of like the write-every-day-on-your-novel challenge), I turned to my laptop.  Thinking to check my email, I discovered that today I cannot get my email on the laptop.  It can’t connect with iCloud.  This is a new problem.  Yes, you guessed it — it started after I upgraded to Mavericks, the new OS.  

Rather than go into my usual mode at such problems — becoming obsessed with the problem and working at it until either a) I solve the problem or b) am exhausted after hours of no luck — I logged on to WordPress to blog.  Of course, that I had forgotten my password and needed to change it was the reason I’d tried to check my email for the link to reset the password.  Since I couldn’t do that with the laptop, I used my iPhone, got the mail, followed the link, and changed the password.  Once that was done, I could log on and begin.

Whatever topic I’d originally thought about writing on tonight about travel (my usual Friday focus) had flown out of my head in the meantime.  

Thus this rant for Day One of the blogging challenge.

Now that I think about it, though, this rant is about another kind of travel — into cyberspace and back, through a path of frustration.

Luckily, I have the desktop backed up — if that worked correctly.

I’ve been in my office chair attempting to work for an hour now.  

And just now there’s a message on my screen in the right-hand corner: ” What’s New in OS X Mavericks.  Take a tour now, or view it later from the Finder Help menu.”  

Somehow this wasn’t the kind of tour or travel I had in mind when I sat down an hour ago.

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Friday Night Memories

It’s Friday night and friends just left.  They called about dropping by, and I was out shopping but quickly  got in the car to come back home so that we could visit.  This is what retirement is about — making the time to visit with good friends. Whether  I’m in Lake Charles or elsewhere, it’s important to me to spend time with friends.  That’s is crucial.

And tonight was such fun.  They brought one bottle of wine, and after that bottle and two more, plus two pizzas, they left to go home.  I am sitting here smiling, thinking of the joys of having and taking time to spend with friends, as well as family.

My original plan was to be at the family farm tonight but I was too tired to contemplate another three and a half hours on the road today and three and a half on Sunday. I mean, I love to travel; I love to drive or fly or whatever.  But since I got home on July 18, I’ve done a lot of road time.  I needed time to stay in place, to stay home, at ground central.  And thus I had the time to say “yes” when my friends Barney and Molly called about dropping in.

When I’m in Greece, it takes a bit more work.  I can email or text or call friends to meet me for coffee at a particular coffee shop.  I can drop by the Athens Centre to visit friends there.  But dropping over isn’t the done thing there.  It requires calling and scheduling, though scheduling a dinner party is interesting.  In Greece, scheduling too far in advance isn’t possible — people need to think, to plan, to fit it in.  But I persist.  And many though not all my friends are part-time and full-time ex-pat Americans.  I can make arrangements for a dinner party the week prior to the actual dinner.  Sometimes, though, it’s tricky to manage.  

As the visiting Cajun American, I try to offer a bit of Cajun cuisine and hospitality.  The Southern girl that I am at heart also requires that I set this up with some care.  I make sure to have sufficient if not plentiful food.  I plan for, say, 10, when 5 or 6 might show up.  Or 4 or 5.  I can always freeze food for later.  Certainly I will cook something with crawfish, probably crawfish étouffée.  Additionally I offer a salad and some bread.  Wine flows in abundance.  And dessert is simple — ice cream or fruit.  

At home in Cajun territory, we sit at the table for hours.  Long after the mean has ended, we sit and talk, lingering over wine and listening to music.  While the food is important, the friendship and community are more central.  Without that connection, there would be no point (other than a superficial one) to be together.

So here in South Louisiana, I have friends over.  I play music on the CD player.  Perhaps they bring music.  I cook, and we eat. But more importantly, we talk about anything and everything.  It’s all about the connections, about the friendship and love.

It’s the same in Greece. really.  Meals there are social events, and the gathering is for the human connections, not just the food.  Food is really the catalyst, the excuse, but not the central event per se.

From my first visit until now, I have always found Greece strikingly similar to South Louisiana.  There is a very Southern feel about the country, its culture, and how people connect.  There too, meals are social events.  Even if the group is family and does not expand beyond family, the meals are merely settings for the talk, the conversation, the long lingering over food and dessert and drinks.

And that’s the way it is in Greece.  When I have friends over, we stay at the table for hours.  Certainly, there isn’t much room beyond the table, but more than that — it’s the enjoyment of being together.  My friends are from such a range of places and experiences, and our conversations range far and wide.  This past summer, a friend from home here in the U.S. was visiting, and he was there when I had friends over for étouffée.  It was fun to watch him interact with my Greek and American friends as our topics of conversation came from any and every possible topic and angle.  I loved watching him react, and gratifying to see my friends get along.

Tonight as I sit in the office, typing here, I am smiling ( and yes, it’s in part the wine, but more the warmth of the evening spent with friends) at the sheer pleasure of friendship.  

Here at home, or in Egan, or at the beach, or in Greece, or elsewhere — the time spent with friends and family is something that cannot be duplicated.  Neither can it be bettered or improved upon.

Real conversations allow us to bring up almost anything.  It’s safe and comforting and a wonderful experience.  That we keep refilling our wine glasses is a secondary event.   

Tonight I have gone nowhere outside of Lake Charles.  Yet in memory and in thought I have been to Greece and back.  I have time-traveled in memory as well.  And I never left my own living room, my own rocking chair.

Travel certainly implies physical space, dimension.  And I’ve traveled out of state, out of the country, out of Lake Charles.  This year alone, I’ve been to Texas and Louisiana, London and Istanbul, Athens and elsewhere.  Additionally, I’ve traveled vicariously with friends who’ve gone elsewhere.  Finally, I’ve traveled in time, in memory.

Now, though I sit in my home in Lake Charles, in the present time, smiling at the kind of friends and culture where it’s okay to call and/or just drop in.  We’re short on formality, long on real connections. 

Right now, though, I need to wrap up the evening, clean the plate(s), throw out the trash, and be grateful.

Travel tonight?  Yes, thank you.  Not in space or place, but in memory. 

Instead of being here in Lake Charles, I meant to be at the family farm.  I wanted to be there.  But only yesterday as I sat here at the desktop computer, I knew I was tired, that today I would be even more tired.  So I decided to stay, not to hit the road.  After all, I’l do that on the first weekend in October, when we gather for the Richards family reunion.

For now, I want and need to stay in place, to drive no more than 4 or 5 miles, to be at home.  

From time to time, I need a respite even from travel, from driving, from road trips.  Being able to travel doesn’t mean that you must travel.  Otherwise, that gets just as routine and ordinary and boring as anything so repetitive.  

Next week is full for me.  I’ve got meetings and Leisure learning classes and an 8-hour precious metal clay class.  

And I need to get started on a book project for a client.  There’s a book to proofread for my cousin.  

Plus I am ready for some sleep.  

Indeed, I think it’s time for that even as I type.  

Tonight, as I think about travel, I think about how many ways it’s possible to travel.  That can be from one country to another, surely, but it can also be from one place to another, from one time to another, from one culture to another. 

I’ll think about that as I crawl into bed in a few minutes.  Maybe I’ll dream about driving.  I did that last night, or this morning.  

My traveling tonight will be, as in some magical realism, in dreams and memory, on a garden of forking paths.  You know, where people who never knew each other suddenly do know each other, who are part of a life that is as real as anything yet not your own reality.  

Friday night lights illuminate not football in my mind (other than in memories about high school and college).  Instead they illuminate places in memory.  So it’s time for some light shining on the past, on places and people.  

Only with solid examination of our past can we hope to see who and what we are, and to have any sense of what we’ll become.

Traveling offers us such growth, such joy, such pleasure.  If you haven’t lately, take some time to travel.

Even if you stay in your own living room.  


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Home Again, Home Again

When you’re young, travel has a romantic appeal.  The realities of transit sort of get ignored.  Maybe the problems and discomforts even have a certain appeal– for the first few times, anyway. By the time you’re my age, though, the logistics just are part of the planning, and often require patience and endurance.  My budget doesn’t stretch to first-class, or even business-class.  Though I would love to indulge in that, when it comes time to pay for a ticket, I just think how many more tickets I could get if I continue to fly economy, so I do.  Anyway, I figure that my immigrant ancestors probably came steerage, so I’m simply honoring them.  I do dream about a first-class experience at some time, though.

In the meantime, I endure the ups and downs of tight layovers and transfers to other flights.  I measure my bags and weigh them, careful to meet the guidelines of individual airlines.  And usually I pay for a second bag when I travel to Greece since I buy linens and things for the apartment and can get better quality for less in the U.S.  I arrange for taxi pickups and transfers.  I arrange my travel myself.  It’s do-it-yourself travel, at least as much as possible.

There’s not much left for me with the romanticism of travel, not with the actual getting there and getting back.  That’s just necessary. The joys of backpacking are still with me, but now I want to sleep in a nice bed, in a room with a private toilet, and with some amenities.  Not on a train overnight or in an airport lounge, not if I can help it.

But being someplace and getting around?  That still has its original appeal, even after (hard to believe) nearly 40 years of traveling internationally.  But now for me travel is more than tourist sites to be checked off a list.  Now, I visit a site or two, but I spend time walking, looking, shopping and observing people.  When I want to, I find a coffee shop and sit for a drink, watching what goes on.  I take out my journal.  I write.  I take photos.  I don’t feel the need to rush from site to site.  I savor the whole experience.  I am a traveler rather than a tourist.

For example, when I went to London in May, I was only there for a long weekend.  One of my objectives was to see the special Pompeii exhibit at the British Museum; I got my ticket for the day before I left London, and that left me two and a half other days.  I went to Covent Garden and to Neil’s Yard, shopping and watching the buskers around Covent Garden’s Apple Market.  I bought cheese and bread for my room for eating dinner.  I usually ate lunch while I was out and about.  I wandered on the Tube a few stations away from my hotel for that.  I wandered only one stop away for Saturday’s Portobello Market.  Once more, I walked and shopped, took photos, sat and had a pint of cider, wandered more, bought some prints, sat and had a glass of wine after eating.  I listened to street musicians.

One evening I met a friend for drinks and caught up with her at a pub I knew.  I hadn’t seen her in far too long, and that was so nice.  Her late brother was a dear friend, and it was great to be able to share memories and catch up on the news about her two children, who have grown up.  My last night, another friend met me at the hotel bar for some wine and good conversation.

While I wandered around Kensington, and in Covent Garden, and in Bayswater, I found myself fantasizing about living in London, at least temporarily.  One day, I promised myself, I would do so — I would find a short-term let and stay in London for a month or so.  And so I plan to do, maybe in the next year.

Even for such a short trip, the realities of transit get tedious.  By the time I made it back to my place in Athens, all I wanted to do was take a hot shower and clean up. There was a clear sense of relief at returning, even from a short trip.  I was home.

Living out of a suitcase in a hotel isn’t so much fun as being someplace, but I put up with it.    It’s a necessary element.

A second trip in June took me to Istanbul and once more I just liked being there.  I was traveling with someone who’d never been there before, so I did more tourist-sightseeing than I might have, in a quick two days.  Next year (or whenever I return), I might well stay in the same little hotel, near the Blue Mosque, and just wander more.  I want to return to the Spice Market and get lost wandering around.  I want to go to the small bazaar near the Blue Mosque.  More time to sit and watch, that’s what I want.

Once more returning to Athens, getting back to the apartment was being home.

I love being in my “other” life, as I’ve come to think of it.  Since I am not really a tourist, I don’t do a lot of sightseeing unless I have company, and I had three visitors in three months.  Generally I putter around the apartment, do domestic things, and read a lot.  There are days when I do nothing except read murder mysteries or biographies or science fiction.  Sometimes I re-read through an entire series over a week.  Certainly I grocery shop, I pay bills, and I sit in favorite coffee shops. I meet friends for coffee or dinner.  I write.  I surf the internet.

Quite simply, the apartment is home.  When I first arrive and open the building door and first see my apartment door, I feel such relief, and then when I actually open the apartment door and enter, there’s almost no way to describe that feeling except the body itself seems to sigh and I feel “I’m home.”  And I relax completely.   I turn on the water heater for the bathroom (“boiler,” as it’s labeled in my switch box), grab a couple of shopping bags, and walk half a block and across the street to the supermarket, the “Bazaar.”  I load up, walk up the incline to the building, and let myself in.  I put up groceries and staples.  I shower and change.  I get online to email my sister and friends that I’ve arrived safely and am comfortable.  Then I cook something to eat, wash dishes, and head to bed with a book, ready to collapse.  After all, at that point, I’ve probably been up for something like 30 hours.  Only the next day will I unpack suitcases, and it will take another couple of days to sort out what I need from storage cabinets.

As much as it’s home, there always comes a point during a 3-month stretch that I find myself homesick for my other home.  Or homes.  I’m homesick for my car, for being able to drive somewhere, anywhere.  For my pets.  For my family and friends.  For American conveniences.  For Southern / Texan/Cajun cultures to envelop me.  For the quiet of my home as well. The pull of responsibilities kicks in, too.

Emerson was right about travel:  You can’t escape your problems when you travel; you simply take them with you.  At times I know that I have traveled for temporary escape (and probably will do so again, frankly), for the time and space to sort out something and return ready to deal with it.  I know better than to believe that running away means you can leave troubles behind.   I know that I will not escape anything, that such traveling is “a fool’s paradise,” as Emerson says in “Self-Reliance.”

Travel is also to enrich, to learn. No matter how many times I go to London, there’s always more to discover, as there is in Greece or Istanbul or Italy.  There’s always another country I haven’t been to yet, another culture to explore.

But travel can also be a respite, a kind of recuperative time for contemplation.  If anything, I come to value my American home and to weigh its pros and cons.  I know that I will, at some point, be homesick.

And when that homesickness comes, it’s usually at the time when I’m winding down, packing up the things that stay in the storage cabinets in the apartment, packing the suitcase(s) that will return with me.  That is a kind of limbo time.  I tell friends that there is a sort of “click” that goes off in my head and that I’m already transitioning for the return and re-immersion into my American life.  That usually is the last week of my time in Greece.

When I finally get back to my house in Lake Charles, there is a similar physical relaxation, a sigh of “I’m home again.”  I close the door and check that my world is still in place, waiting for me.

And then there’s that word:  home.  Home is where I am.  Home is here, in Lake Charles, in the house I’ve owned since 1986 or so.  In Egan, in the house I’ve known since I was 16.  In Texas, at the family farm or at the beach house my sister and I rebuilt.  Home is my family, my friends, my pets.  It’s not the physical places, as comfortable and known as those places are.

No, it’s a state of mind, of being.  It’s that moment of sighing into a return.  That moment of recognition, of total comfort, of release.

So now I’m home.  Again.  And rediscovering the joys of here, wherever here happens to be.  Time away gives me time to reassess, to renew, and when I return, I return with a new vision and appreciation, ready to tackle things, ready to go.

Tomorrow I’ll have been home here for a week.  It feels right.

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The Wine Roads of Macedonia

On Wednesday I arrived with friends, landing in Thessaloniki, after an overnight flight from Houston to Frankfurt (delayed by thunderstorms in Houston).  Once I stepped off the plane, I felt immediately at home and relaxed.

Even though I’ve never been to the north of Greece before, the landscape looks so familiar – Thessaloniki is on the water, yet within a few miles, you’re in the mountains.  The scenery is very mixed, with some agricultural development and small towns.

There are eight of us here for a wedding, for the niece of a friend of mine.  She’s marrying a young man from the town of Naoussa, in the area of Ematha, not to be confused with the Naoussa on the island of Paros.  This is a small mountainous town of about 20,000 people.  Nikos and Sara met us at the airport and we rode to Naoussa on a spacious bus, with lots of room to spread out.  Some fell asleep.  Some of us sat up and talked.  I enjoyed the ride, looking out at the countryside, green and flowering.  Nikos said it had rained a lot recently, and the lush green growth certainly was evidence of that.

The bus couldn’t negotiate the small street to our hotel, though, so someone loaded the heavy bags in a car and drove those to the hotel.  We walked with our small bags, and as we walked, at least one person stopped Nikos to say hello.  It is his hometown, after all, and he lives in the San Francisco area now.

We settled into our rooms in a lovely small hotel, The Palia Poli (.  My room overlooks the patio.  I turned on the air conditioning and unpacked, discovering along the way that I had somehow not packed my new camera.  One of many small problems that, I am sure, I will deal with.  I have a camera on my iPhone, so that will do for now.

After drinks, we walked to a tavern by the city park, sat and had a great evening.  Nikos’s parents and sister joined us, and we ate lots of mezedes.  By the time we walked back to the hotel, we were full and ready for bed.

I slept Thursday away, I must confess.  I was exhausted after weeks of dealing with business, and I guess my body just decided it needed the rest.

After I awoke, though, I found a local guidebook and read about the area.  Naoussa has an interesting history, and I look forward to seeing more of it.  I’ve been so indulgent about laziness today, and sitting here writing this is making me sharpen and really wake up.

The internet password didn’t seem to work for me, so I just began typing a word document and asked later about the problem when I went downstairs.  I got the message that “the server has timed out” or  something like that.  Oh well.  There is an internet café that Carolyn and I saw last night when we wandered down to find our diet Cokes for this morning.  (Later I discovered that because my room is a corner room and because the walls are such thick stone, I can get reception for the internet by sitting on the loveseat near the window. Problem solved.)

We all took taxis up to Agios Nicholaos Park, about 2 kilometers from town.  What a change – in such a brief time we were up in a mountainous area, walking under enormous plane trees, and headed to the Arapitsa River, which runs through the park.  The river was clear, inviting, and icy cold – it’s fed by springs and by snow melt.  Even now in June the icy water was a shock.

There was plenty of time for walking and taking in the scenery.  Birds chirped around us, the sound of the water rippling over stones in the river soothed us, and we wandered around.  First we stopped at the small church in the park, and then continued on.  I stopped and went back to write; others kept walking a bit more.

Such a refreshing and peaceful area was just perfect – so much so that we decided to come back on Friday night for dinner and eat on the veranda of the hotel at the entrance to the park.

Then it was time to go back to our rooms, change, and take off for the rehearsal dinner.  This was held at a local vineyard, Damaras Winery. The family have owned it for six generations now, and are friends of the groom’s family.  We were treated to a tour of the winery and the distillery, listening as the young vintner whose great-grandfather started this place explained to us that now the wine was organic and that they used no additives other than a little bit of sulfite.  Everything else – from manure to leftovers – went into a compost heap that in turn went to the vineyards, where chickens help to distribute it.

The setting outside, where the tables rested, overlooked the vineyards but also offered a view of the mountains and of the town.  That unbelievable light which is peculiar to Greece once more performed its magic on everyone, newcomers and seasoned travelers alike.  The sunset colors melted into evening as we took our places at the simple but elegant tables.

We ate as the Greeks eat, with many plates of lots of things, with wine and water.  And tsipouro, another product of this family business.  Powerful, even more so than ouzo, it is to be sipped slowly, not slammed back like a shot of tequila.

Eggplants in several different recipes, taramasalata, Florina peppers, bread, feta cheese, tiny fried fish, fried eggplant known locally as “blind fish,” a local type of fried cheese called boutsa”– and just when we all thought it was over, plates of grilled seafood and then a heaping plate of pasta (one for each of us) left us speechless.  And incredibly full.  A true feast.  Cool breezes, clear skies, and music in the background.  The voices of Greek and English speakers mingled as non-speakers (of Greek) managed to communicate with non-speakers (of English).  Laughter rang out often, denoting the kefi  (good feelings, rather embracing all) so important to Greeks.

Then it was time for taxis back to our hotel, where we all sank into our beds, fully sated and feeling happy.  Of course, the young bridal party contingent didn’t make it back home until several hours later, as we older ones found out this morning at breakfast.

Today, Friday, began with a leisurely breakfast on the patio.  Cheese pies, croissants and bread, butter and jam, fresh peaches from the owner’s father’s trees, eggs and sausages, fresh yogurt and honey, freshly squeezed orange juice, cheese and cold cuts – again, facing a Greek table is like facing a mini-cafeteria.  We just kept passing around food, grazing, and drinking water and juice.  Coffee and tea (a mountain herbal tea) also were available.

By 10:30 or so, we were off in three cars, headed toward Vergina.  The discovery of royal tombs there in the 1970s has led to a new, beautifully organized museum situated under the tumulus of the tombs themselves.  There we saw the finds from the tomb of Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great.

I  expected to see the bronze tools and implements of war, but not quite such magnificent examples of greaves and helmets and so on.  Silverwork surprised me:  the delicate, masterful decorative creations of cups and plates, serving dishes of all kinds – so beautiful even now that I wouldn’t hesitate to use them.

We could see the remnants of the couches and chairs that were placed in the tomb – even the still-sharply colored designs of the cloth that the royal bones were wrapped in.  Delicate fronds of gold leaves and flowers were braided and wound into diadems and crowns.

Everywhere the signs offered us clear explanations both in Greek and English.  I was most taken with the small replica of Philip II’s tomb – complete with miniature shields and greaves and cups and saucers, placed as they were when the tomb was first discovered.  This was a work of art in itself, I think.

And at the beginning (or the end, as I managed it), was a film about the tombs and the site, in Greek with English subtitles.  Dedicated to the Greek archaeologist who discovered and excavated the site and who has since died, the film included photography of the site and of the tombs and its contents as well as information about Philip II and his death at the Theatre of Vergina, near the tomb itself.

After a short break for cold water and time to hit the museum store, we were back in the cars headed away from Vergina and toward Naoussa.  We took a left rather than a right at one point and headed upwards again, past the river, into the Pierian mountains to the monastery of Timios Prodromos.  A simple monastery, it offers its visitors a glimpse into the workings of a monastery whose exact beginnings are, as its guidebook says, “lost in time.”  Evidence of monks living in caves goes back many centuries, and history recounts a number of saints who visited the area.  All the local monasteries were burned by the Pasha about 1822 after the Naoussa revolution in the 19th century (the occupation of Greeks by the Turks ended only with the War of Independence, 1821-1828).

Pots of flowers and herbs bordered the steps and looked useful as well as decorative.  A young priest was working as we entered the doorway into a kind of open area.  At first I thought he was watering plants or planting, but I later found out his task was quite different – he was carefully washing the bones of earlier monks.  His head bowed reverently as he worked slowly and with great attention, he obviously saw his work as sacred.  Again, I had an insight into the life inside such a place.

One small chapel held our interest simply because it was inside the hollowed area of an enormous petrified tree.  Surely, I thought at first, this was not true.  However, as I looked carefully around me, I could clearly see that this was, indeed, wood.  Hollows and twists and bands of striated wood curled overhead.  Such an amazing use of nature, a practical use of what one has at hand.

The modern church is not much larger, but it is decorated from floor to ceiling – indeed all the ceiling itself it decorated – with scenes from Biblical stories as well as pictures of various saints.  Here is the story of the monastery, of Orthodoxy, of Christianity – played out in paint.  A simple row of chairs lined the back wall.

As we entered that small church, one of the many cats followed us in, obviously at home.

After our stop there, it was back to the hotel here in Naoussa.  Once back, we hit the local supermarket and ate a simple picnic lunch in the patio.  Cheeses, olives, crackers/toast, tzatziki, lettuce and tomatoes – a perfect light lunch.

I came back to my room about 5.  It’s almost 7 now.  In a few minutes, we will meet downstairs on the patio to head back to the park and the hotel by the river.  It’s almost time to eat again.

Maybe I’d better get ready.

10:17 p.m.

We just returned from dinner – early Americans that we are, we managed to eat early tonight.  After all, tomorrow morning some of us are planning a little shopping and some wandering around town.  Personally, I plan to sit and observe from cafes.  And get some rest in the afternoon.  Tomorrow night is the big night – the wedding we’ve all come here to celebrate.

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A Bookworm’s Confession

The carpet’s in, most of the inside renovations are completed, and today I got to sleep late.  No one was coming to work, it was dialysis day, and I planned on enjoying a day of relative leisure.

Even without setting an alarm, I woke up about 7.  Unlike most days, though, I could simply turn back over, close my eyes, and go back to dreamland.  It was heavenly.

Even when I woke up, about 8:30, I didn’t really have to get up, so I opened up the iPad Kindle app and started reading.  One thing I usually manage to find time for is books.

My love of books goes back to childhood.  My mother always told people she potty-trained me thanks to bribery.  She knew she was onto something — she promised me Little Golden Books and lace-trimmed panties.  I was hooked on books.  Dad will tell you that the problem became not convincing me to go to the bathroom, but getting out of it.  I have a vivid memory of my little potty chair and a rather tall stack of Little Golden Books.

In the summer before sixth grade I discovered the parish library would let me check out 10 books a week.  I ran through books that summer like a drowning person seeks air.  The joy of roaming the stacks expanded beyond the small school library I had access to in Egan.  That was the summer that I discovered science fiction, the great science fiction of writers like Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Andre Norton.  This was 1962, remember, so much of the science fiction of the 50s and early 60s had post-apocalyptic settings that reverberated after Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  Other topics included space travel and exploration.  I had a new love, thanks to that summer’s discovery.  I still enjoy re-reading Heinlein and the others.

By seventh grade, I had exhausted the library at Egan, which actually included a high-school library since Egan had a high school until the summer after my first-grade year.  My reading was voracious — anything that caught my eye got checked out.

Beyond the world available through library cards, I began accumulating my own library. Every Christmas my wish list included books.  Depending on my interests and obsessions, the titles changed from year to year.  Sometimes it was Nancy Drew books; other times, Trixie Belden.  Then in 9th grade English we read Romeo and Juliet, and that Christmas I asked for three of the four volumes of Shakespeare’s plays that the Sears catalog listed.  I guess the history plays only grabbed me in college, because that’s the volume I skipped then.

Somewhere along the line, I started buying my own books.  For college classes, for graduate school classes, for teaching . . . for any reason at all.  I didn’t really need much of an excuse.  I don’t think I ever really got rid of any, either.  Some were still here in Egan while others moved with me from dorm to apartment to apartment to house. Books followed me everywhere, but every time I moved there were more of them, and those boxes were heavy to lift and carry.

Now I find myself trying to minimize and downsize.   What is hardest for me to get rid of?  Books.  They’re everywhere in my house in Lake Charles, in every room.  I have double rows of paperbacks; some of these are so old that they cost $1.25.  I have two 8’x4′ bookcases that my brother built for me.  They’re packed.  I have an old library bookcase that is nearly 8 feet tall and about 3 feet wide; it easily holds double-deep shelves.  There are three other smaller bookcases, also full.  And there are boxes of books I’ve got selected to get ride of.  And that’s only in one room, the back “library.”  There’s a small bookcase in my bedroom.  There are three bookcases in the living room.  I have professional books and books for hobbies.  I have fun books, “junk” books.  What I face now:  the desire to simplify my life, to downsize, and to give some of the books away or sell some.

That goes against nearly 60 years of habitual collecting, but I am leaning toward paring down — at least as much as I can.

Even here in Egan I have books.  My childhood books are here, and they’re staying.

Books are lovely — I love to walk into a bookstore with old books.  It’s hard to resist, but I try.  I am trying not to live like a hoarder, though for me the rooms would be filled with books, not sacks of garbage or newspapers.

The advent of e-books now allows me the freedom of buying books without taking up shelf space or floor space.  I like that.  Nothing really replaces a real book, but the ease of traveling with one device and dozens of books, that can hold even more books — that is attractive, believe me.

I’m one of those people who goes to sleep with a book in the bed.  Who’s kidding?  I used to go to sleep with half the bed filled with books.  Now, though, it’s the iPad.  One device but many, many books.

Tomorrow, one of my tasks is to take books out of boxes and put them back on shelves.  These are not my books, mind you — they’re my dad’s.  My love of books is a family one, you see.  Everyone in our family is a reader.

Many times you’ll see us in after-holiday-meal stupor, sitting or lying around, napping.  But each of us also usually has a book with us as we nap.  It’s also pretty common to see us gathered in the same room, silent.  We’re all awake, but each of us has a book.

Books were how I discovered the world beyond Egan, beyond Louisiana, beyond Texas.  They’re how I discovered the pyramids of Egypt and the mythologies of Greece and Scandinavia.  They’re how I learned history.

Every day, I read.  Some days I may only read a few pages, usually at least a few chapters.  Sometimes I simply read for hours, even all night, if the book pulls me in so much that I can’t stop until I”m done.

Just this week, I’ve read a new book on Hawaii and one on the real-life inspiration for the Downton Abbey series.  That doesn’t count the new murder mystery by Susan Wittig Albert.  And it’s only Wednesday.

Tomorrow the contractor will be back — if it’s dry enough for him to work under the house.  That means I’ll get up about 7 a.m.  I can work on putting books up.

But in the meantime, it’s time to grab the iPad and open the Kindle app . . . and throw myself into another book.

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