Sunday, March 08, 2020

Paris 1

My first trip to Paris was a solo venture. Everyone was amazed I went by myself. I felt that if worse came to worse I would land on the steps of the American Embassy and make my way back home. As it turned out, travel in Europe was remarkably easy.
I booked a room in a low budget hotel in what I would later learn, was considered a pretty bad neighborhood. But coming from Englewood, in Chicago . . . bad is relative. I always travel either in spring or very early fall, to avoid the crowds, but still enjoy good weather. I remember walking out into the bright sunlight of the morning and exploring on my own. Paris is a city of pale limestone. There was a crashed motorbike abandoned at a tiny bridge like crosswalk. On up just a piece was a boulangerie, where I would buy my morning croissant. Just a few paces on up the way and I was in the heart of a Sri Lankan/Indian district. This was ironic as one of my favorite places in Chicago is our large India Town. I had stopped there on the way to the Airport and had lunch with my sons.
One of the most surreal experiences I had was walking in the early evening down the main drag with the shops and restaurants. In the middle of this block full of Sri Lankan restaurants and shops was a bar that seemed very out of place. It was the Hell's Angels of Paris biker club. To be honest this club would have seemed out fo place anywhere in Paris, but it particularly stuck out here. One evening their activities were in full swing. Members with their bikes were congregated outside. Engines revved as on the other side of the street Sri Lankans assembled taking it all in. Quite the scene, and not to be found in any Paris guidebook I am aware of.
I would take the train and travel to the various tourist drags. Much of Paris is lovely. Other parts are so normal and very much like any city in the world. Dollar stores, corner stores, etc. My French was from a tiny book at that time. and not very good at all, but the French appreciated the effort. On most of my trips as soon as I manage to spit out one mangled phrase of French, the person I am addressing says, "It's ok. You can speak English." But if I approach them blurting out English, I get quite the opposite response. I always try to start in French." Je suis désolé. Je parle un peu Fransais. Parlez vous Anglais? " More often than not, the response is positive.
One time I needed to buy some aspirin for a headache. I went to a pharmacy just off the Champs Elysee. I gave the pharmacist my standard opening line. He responded with a firm, "Non!" Undaunted and amused, I stood firm and said, "Votre anglais est supérieur à mon français." He relented and helped me, then gave me a French lesson. "Ah seet ah men o feen!" I smiled, took my acetaminophen, and said, "Merci!"


Sunday, March 01, 2020

The sun is shining. It is the first day of March. I am sitting in my living room with my feet propped up on an Indian pouf. My wet dog, freshly bathed is lying beside me. I look out my window and see my neighbor's disabled van, across the street. Ticketed. The ticket has been there for over a month, flapping from beneath the wiper. Its my neighbor, Fredo's way of rebelling against the system. His fight the man. He had the van parked in the back on the lot of one of the vacant row homes. It was ticketed there as well, so he moved it to the front, where it garnered even more tickets. He refuses to pay. In a city that makes use of the Denver boot, it will be interesting to see who wins.

He is a Mexican. His face is unusually long and angular. His front teeth are missing. He washes cars in front of his house in good weather and regularly makes threats to kill someone, dump their body in Lake Michigan and dissolve it with lye. I don't think anyone takes his threats, delivered with a grin, seriously. At the same time I would not want to cross him.

His mother is outside, either in front of the house, or out back, most mornings. She picks up garbage and sweeps. Her English is very broken and you are never quite sure if she actually understood you or not. She is a sweet, smiling woman who keeps her yards, front and back, in perfect order.
QUEEN

Lately I have been fixated with Freddie Mercury.

I'm not sure how I stumbled into this. I've got his song Who wants to live forever on repeat. I'm not sure why. Maybe it is the Coronavirus. I'm sure his being from India also plays a role. And maybe his magnificent, utterly unique talent. 

I just saw the movie Bohemina Rhapsody. It had rave reviews, but I was disappointed. The lead character was so fragile. Even in his stage appearances. When I watch old youTube videos I don't see that at all in Freddie. All I see is strength. He strided across the stage as if he not only owned it, but as if he built is and the framing was extracted from his loins and muscles. 

I can see him. His back to me. Wrapped in a cape. He throws it open and viola! A fully formed stage and venue pops out behind him. He turns and smiles, and grabs the mic as if it is all a matter of course. 

The music of Queen was so diverse, I did not even realize that many of the songs I have been familiar with for years were by them. What an amazing range and versatility! What a gift Freddie was to the world. 


Here comes the coronavirus. 

Coronavirus struck China first. The doctors that first spoke up were silenced. At least one of them ended up dying. Over 18 healthcare workers have also died. There are 3 cases in Illinois. We are relying on China for numbers. But how do we trust them.

I have never been like this before. This is not the first time that illness has struck. But this time is different. They are talking about quarantine. Staying home from work and everything else. I am personally worried because just the common cold knocks me on my butt. I struggle getting over it for weeks. I've never paid much attention to these, but I am this time. I went to the store and bought massive amounts of toilet paper, paper towels and dog food. I need to make another trip to the store today for meat, olive oil, pasta and onions. 

Meanwhile the madman in chief is telling everyone this is all about him. 3000 plus people have died just to make him look bad. WTF? How is this bizarre comedy playing out in real time? How can people be so willfully ignorant? 


They are treating this virus with gatorade. Yep, gatorade. Whatever did we do before its invention? I need to stock up.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

I'm in school again. This time it is do or die. I have been and on again off again student at DePaul since 2004. I should be way past the finished line at this point. But Alas, here I am . . . again.
I was really foggy on what I should be doing and asked for a new advisor, for several years now, to no avail. Finally I was in school for so long my advisor retired. Every time I would call her over the years to find out what I should do, I would end up more confused than when I first dialed the phone.

So I got a new advisor, and after our first call I knew exactly what to do. It was so simple. I had 10 credit hours outstanding. Ten.

When I first started, I was still working as a teacher's assistant at St. Sabina. My kids were still at home, for the most part. Abe teased me that he would finish college before I did. I was indignant. Not only did he finish college, but he also finished law school, passed the bar, got married started a law firm, and had two baby boys. And I could not be more thrilled. What kind of parent is not thrilled when their children surpass them. Not this kind of parent!


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

I saw a commercial about lumber today. As soon as I saw it I could smell it. My dad was very good at remodeling houses and we took endless trips to the lumber yard. I remember the sound of his saw. Sometimes I would take the scraps of wood and nail them together. I was making structures for the numerous kittens we had to play in.
My parents often bought homes that needed remodeling. My father was very creative. He would always add some kind of wood-burning feature, a fireplace or a stove. He would finish walls in creative ways, beautiful wood panelling around the bottom and stucco on the top. He loved wood beams. One time he found the front of an old icebox. Except it was not just a normal sized icebox, it was large enough to cover an entire wall. It was from a store. He built it into a wall in the house. It was beautiful. My mother was also excellent with wall paper. She was always very detailed and had the ability to match it up perfectly. I've wall papered one room. A small one. Not my favorite job.


Saturday, February 15, 2020

This week has been a blurrrrrrr. Monday I had to commute. I go into the office once a week and it is at least an hour drive. So that is an all day excursion. Then I spend the next day tired from all of the driving. Wednesday wasAtticus',  my oldest grandson's, birthday. We go to the auto show every year. He turned four. His younger brother, Lincoln, is going to be two next month. We always have a great time. I look forward to it all year, and so does Atticus. His dad told me that all year long he gets asked, "When is the auto show?"

Because the weather was bad and it was a Wednesday, it wasn't crowded. I took advantage of that and let Lincoln run around while I chased him. He is hilarious. He will run a few feet then peek back over his shoulder to make sure you are following, then take off as fast as he can. I got a very good workout!

The auto show is huge, of course. And it is so much fun walking around and seeing all of the latest models. I have had my eye on a Ford escape. Once I got inside, I was disappointed and knew the car was not for me. It just did not fit right. I was much happier with the Nissan kicks. I think that is what I will aim for.

Today I am taking Atticus the first birthday present. It is a Bernie Sanders t shirt. I am also a Bernie Sanders supporter. His mother is for Warren and his dad is on the fence. He chose Bernie of his own volition. Smart four year old.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

I'm currently hooked on a Netflix show about the Ottoman Empire. 

I visited Turkey a few years back, Istanbul, to be precise. I absolutely loved it. The food was incredible, the people were amazing, and the city was gorgeous.

At the time that I visited, I was completely unaware that I was staying just a few yards away from a very historic site, Galata Tower. I could see it right from my window. It was right there. Now that I have been watching the Netflix show, I know its historical significance. 

In Istanbul I felt very safe. My son, Jon, went with me, but we have a tradition of splitting up in the mornings and then meeting for dinner. As a woman traveling alone, it seemed as if every man I encountered was keeping a protective eye on me. Everyone was so kind. 

Many of streets were cobbled. In the spot I was staying all roads led to the tower and the buildings and city blocks would narrow to a v, opening to a square. In the center was the tower. There were restaurants, kebab stands, and fruit juice stand were you could stand and watch as they squeezed the fresh juice from the fruit, or fruits of your choice. There were also a lot of shops selling beautiful plates, lamps, instruments, Turkish towels and soap, as well as all kinds of other gifts and souvenirs. 

One morning my son encouraged me to come down to the waterfront for breakfast. The roadways were a steep incline going down to the edge of the Bosphorus. We watched a man grill a fresh fish, season it and but it on a large crusty oblong bun. we took it to tiny plastic chairs and tables set up by the water where men would oblige you with freshly brewed tea. It was served piping hot in tulip shaped glasses that were carefully grasped by the rims. Everything was delicious! It was one of the most memorable travel experiences I have ever had. 








Saturday, January 25, 2020

"I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows." Apostle Paul    


 I started meditating. Metta. It is fabulous. People who are unaware of my spiritual transformation might be surprised. Worried even. I come from a religious background that does not approve of such goings on. I come from a religious background of hellfire and brimstone, punishment. Meditation was for hell bound hippies and what not. It was right up there with witchcraft, voodoo and devil worship.     

But something happened to me a few years back. As bizarre as it may sound, I started driving for Uber. I did over 3000 rides. And somewhere along the way I fell in love . . . with people. And then I fell in love with me. I saw the face of God in the being's He created in his own image and likeness, and I came to know his loving embrace. When that happen all thoughts a fear of hell disappeared. I can no longer believe for even a moment that people go there.