Cee’s challenge this week is for faces. Being at my friend’s house and her being uncharacteristically willing to let me take her picture, voilà! Taken with my new 60mm Olympus macro/portrait lens using the camera’s art effects and of course, Photoshop.
SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2015 WEEK #20
What is the most important thing that you ever learned? (I bet it’s not something you learned in school).
That life just happens. Both good and bad. Controlling life, to which we all aspire and in which we fervently believe until we learn otherwise, is a waste of time. You aim yourself in the general direction in which you want to go. After that? You take your cue from what happens along the trail. The people you meet, the opportunities you get.
As they say (with good reason): “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”
What feeds your enthusiasm for life?
Writing. Photography. Creating things. Reading. If I feed my mind, I feed everything.
I don’t know what I would do if I was no longer able to do anything creative.
What’s your most memorable (good or bad) airplane commercial or private flight?
We were coming back from Ft. Lauderdale after a 2-week Caribbean cruise. A lot of unexpected and interesting stuff had happened on that cruise, but we were not prepared for the flight home. Actually, the first leg of the journey, from Florida to Atlanta, was perfectly normal and on time. The connecting flight to Boston was waiting on the runway, our luggage got transferred. So far, so good.
Having boarded, strapped in, we sat on that runway in the plane. No air conditioning, not an offer of water or coffee or a soft drink for three hours. No one explained why. One of the passengers was a diabetic and went into a coma. They removed her from the plane on a stretcher.
Finally, we actually took off. Thunder storms forced the plane to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia, where we sat for another couple of hours, waiting for the weather to clear. And for a new pilot. Why we needed a new pilot? Your guess is as good as mine.
We got back to Boston at 3 in the morning. Our original arrival had been 6 pm. Garry was scheduled to be at Channel 7 the following morning at five. He was exhausted. They told him “tough luck, you should have planned better.” We went home. Garry took a shower, got dressed, and went to work. So much for (a) Delta Airlines and (b) the glamorous life of a television reporter.
If you were a great explorer, what would you explore
I’ve never thought about exploring. I’d love to see Paris, the Great Wall of China, Japan, India, and Kenya. Among other places.
That’s travel, not exploration. Exploration makes me think of jungles, insects, snakes, and yellow fever. How about a nice cruise to Tahiti? I’m up for that.
Once upon a time, in another life, I had a home in Jerusalem, just down the road from Jaffa Gate. When I remember Jerusalem, the edges are soft. “My” Jerusalem is gone, replaced by housing projects, shopping malls, and office parks.
I didn’t know I was arriving at the end of an era. Those would be the last years the Bedouins would cross their sheep through the middle of town, stopping traffic on King George Street on their way to the greener grass on the other side of the mountain.
Those would be the final years during which you could stand on the edge of the wadi by an ancient olive grove to see the great golden Dome of the Rock glowing in the first light of dawn. Now, the wadi is filled with condos. A promenade has been built where ancient olives trees grew.
At the end of January 1979, my son and I arrived at Lod airport. Neither of us had ever been to Israel. Owen knew absolutely nothing of the place. I had read a great deal about it … history, legends, guidebooks and novels. We had no friends or family in the country, nor were we familiar with the language or customs. Despite this, we would make it our home and both of us would grow to love it.
My mother said she thought me very brave to leap into the unknown. I enjoyed the role of intrepid heroine. But I was not brave, just hungry for adventure and yearning for culture shock.
I was running toward a new beginning, a different reality I could not find by staying where I’d always been.
When we arrived, exhausted and anxious at the airport, I scanned the faces in the crowd, wondering who would be there to take charge of us and get us to our destination. Remarkably, someone was there. Somehow, we recognized each other.
We were collected, processed and given official identity papers. A small amount of money. I had no idea how little it was worth. It was a while before I learned to do exchange rates in my head.
I remember that the taxi driver played the radio loud and sang along. The music was 1960s American rock and roll. The driver spoke no English. I spoke no Hebrew. It was images tumbling one on top of another.
The apartment in which we were to live had a living room, a hallway with a kitchenette, a small bedroom, and a tiny bath with a half-tub.
No closets. You buy closets and install them. Israeli closets combine closets and dressers. Lacking any place to put our things, we used our trunks as dressers.
We had nothing to eat. The refrigerator was empty. Hunger was gnawing at us, but we had no car nor a clue where to shop. No other choice, so we ventured out. Found a grocery store. All the labels were in Hebrew. Bread was sold in whole, un-sliced loaves. Cheese was sold by metric weight. Mostly, I recognized the fruits and vegetables, but even some of those were unfamiliar.
Culture shock really struck when I tried to buy milk. Finding milk required asking everyone until I found someone who spoke English. He then led me to the dairy case. This was unsettling since I’d thought that a dairy case is a dairy case and would be easy enough to recognize.
Milk was sold in plastic bags. Not cartons. Not bottles. Bags. What in the world was I going to do with a bag of milk? Finally, I bought a pitcher. After tearing the bag open with my teeth – not having thought to bring a pair of scissors – I poured the milk into it.
It turned out that there are special containers to hold milk bags and you just snip off a corner and pour the milk directly from the bag. Who knew?
We finally slept. The next morning dawned into brilliant sunshine.
“Let’s go see our city,” I said and we found the bus to Jerusalem, rode down Hebron road, and got off at Jaffa Gate.
The walls rose up tall around us and I shivered with excitement (I suspect that Owen, lacking my expectations, was merely stunned into silence). This was what had brought me to Jerusalem. Thousands of years of ghosts floated through those narrow streets. You never walked alone in Jerusalem. Generations of ghosts walked with you wherever you went.
Donkeys, so heavily laden that they looked as if they would collapse under their loads, plied the stone streets, cruelly prodded by small brown boys armed with sticks and shrill voices. Vendors called from their stalls, garments brightly ornamented with intricate needlework. Everything rustled in a light breeze. Stall owners stood in the lanes accosting passersby.
“Come in, come in,” they called. “I make you a special deal.”
Small open spaces housed spice markets that filled the air with the most exotic smells, the scent of ginger mixed with cinnamon, cumin and saffron. Just breathing was a joy. As the day moved on, more and more people arrived, filling the shuk until it seethed with activity and noise. Everywhere, people were haggling over prices, making deals, grabbing up bargains, filling their bags. The shuk was vital and alive.
Everyone was buying or selling. Voices echoed off the stone. Jerusalem of gold, Jerusalem of stone, and in the springtime and summer, Jerusalem of flowers.
All around you, embedded in the walls, is the architectural history of the city. “Yerushalmis change their minds a lot,” I was told. The walls tell stories. You could see the outlines where arches and windows had been but were now closed and see how the ground level had risen.
That first day, we wandered. The city led us into herself. She twisted us around until we found ourselves atop a hill, looking down at the Temple Mount, the golden Dome of the Rock shining in the sun.
The walls, the golden dome, the stones made my bones resonate. I fell in love. No matter how difficult my life became, the city would lift me up. Jerusalem sang to me, called to me, made love to me, and now, so many years later, in my dreams, I am still in love with her.
New Orleans was a gastronomic delight. Every place we ate was better than the last, including the breakfast bar on the corner and the hamburgers in the gin joint down the street.
From the moment we got on the airplane and headed south, we focused on where we’d eat as well as trying to figure out where to drink and listen to music. Everyone on our flight was doing the same thing. Reservations are competitive.
Turned out to be simpler than we expected. We handed our list to the concierge. He worked out the schedule and made the reservations. Nice!.
One event would not take place at a restaurant, though dinner was included. The trip down the Mississippi on a paddle wheeler which we were going to do on my birthday. It was my 50th and our official excuse for being in New Orleans. We had planned the boat trip for The Big Day.
Let me get right to the point. It was the only experience in the whole week that wasn’t great. Every other thing we did — from the tour of the swamps where we met the alligators, to each meal we ate — met or exceeded our expectations. The cuisine was exquisite, the service was warm, friendly, and efficient.
There was music in the air everywhere. The drinks were big, strong, and delicious. Unlike the real world, you could walk around the streets with a tall drink in your hands and no one would care. Probably because they were clutching similar beverages.
It turned out, the paddle wheeler wasn’t a paddle wheeler. In the sense that it didn’t have a paddle wheel. When I asked where the paddle wheel was, the “guy” explained that there weren’t enough people booked this trip to bring out one of the big boats that had paddle wheels, but this was a steam boat. So what was my problem?
I wanted the paddle wheel. I felt cheated, but I was coping like an adult. Until they lined us up — just like kids in a school trip — and marched us to the steam trays. Where they had the limp vegetables, mystery meat, jello (take your pick, red or green), and a few other anonymous items that invited me to move on.
If your future plans include a trip to New Orleans — and it should — make sure your paddle wheeler has a paddle wheel. Bring a picnic lunch. Or eat before (or after) your excursion. Don’t eat their food, even if you are hungry. Trust me. I wouldn’t lie to you.
Ecclesiastes 1:9 — New International Version (NIV)
What has been, will be again,
what has been done, will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
I’ve given this a think and come to realize not only have I not done anything completely new or outrageous in recent memory, I don’t know that I ever have, or wanted to. If I’d wanted to do it, I’d have done it.
I’d love to get a repeat performance for some places I’ve been. I wouldn’t mind a first run at a couple of spots I always wanted to go — if someone will transport me there without complicated travel arrangements.
My mind wanders towards travel because I love traveling. Sadly, that’s one thing that’s lost its savor. It was more fun in years past. Not mere nostalgia. Fact.
Airline travel especially has fallen to the bottom rung of the desirable-modes-of-transportation ladder. That alone would put a damper on any lingering travel lust.
I fear not flying, but I dread airports. Luggage handlers. Airport food. The so-called lounges where we wait for flights that never arrive or never take off. Incomprehensible announcements over garbled sound systems. Delayed flights. Security checks.
And the eternal question. Why is the connecting flight inevitably at the farthest point on the opposite side of an airport the size of Alaska? And why is that connecting flight on time when the flight on which you arrived, is late?
I haven’t done anything “beyond the pale.” Not recently and, on further reflection, ever. I’ve always been the same old me. How dull.
Historical Footnote: Does the author of this prompt know the derivation of “beyond the Pale?” It refers to the Pale of Settlement, in which Jews were allowed to live, other places being forbidden to them.
Catherine the Great created the Pale of Settlement in Russia in 1791. This was the name given to the western border region of the country, in which Jews were allowed to live. The motivation behind this was to restrict trade between Jews and native Russians. Some Jews were allowed to live, as a concession, ‘beyond the pale’.
Pales were enforced in other European countries for similar political reasons, notably in Ireland (the Pale of Dublin) and France (the Pale of Calais), which was formed as early as 1360.
I’ve read a lot of posts that wax nostalgic about the old days, of trips down country roads at a slower pace. Driving through little towns. Past farms, fields, woods, and streams. No super highways with their sterile rest stops and fast food outlets. Driving through the real America.
Those were the days, we say. The good old days which we remember from the back seat. Where we were pinching and pummeling our siblings while nagging our parents to stop for ice cream. Or asking the deathless question: “Are we there yet?”
Everyone who ever waxed poetic about the good old days of travel should take the drive from Jackman, Maine to Danville, Vermont.
It’s 231 miles from Jackman to Danville unless you travel through Canada, which we did not want to do. Just going through the customs checkpoints would have added hours to the journey. Unless you go through Canada, there’s only one route. Take 201 from Jackman to Skowhegan. Hook a right on route 2. Drive. Keep driving. Behind pickup trucks and aging SUVs veering erratically while never exceeding 28 miles per hour … the exact point at which the car changes gears. The engine lugging relentlessly as it tries to find the spot.
There is food to eat and gasoline to be pumped as you pass through all those little towns. There’s always someplace selling pizza, baked goods, sandwiches, and cold drinks. Usually a toilet, too. You will get a chance to visit every little town in the mountains between Maine and Vermont. I found myself staring at the map, hoping a faster road would magically appear.
Talk about ambivalence. In the middle of October the trees look as if they are lit from within. The mountains are covered in autumnal glory so magnificent it looks surreal. Reconcile that with an overwhelming urge to blow those pokey drivers off the road. Cognitive dissonance, here we come.
“Wow,” I say, “That’s incredibly beautiful” as we loop around a breathtaking curve in the road. I’m trying to control my peevish aggravation with the current slow driver riding his brakes in front of us.
They must lie in wait for us. As we are about to pass, they pull out in front of us, then slow to a crawl. The beauty of the mountains, lakes, streams, trees, sky, clouds, villages, farms, towns morph into a seamless continuity as we crawl down the mountains behind drivers whose feet never leave the brakes.
It’s a religious experience, but not in a good way. Aggravation wars with admiration for nature and a mounting need to drive at a normal speed. Garry is exhausted, irritable, frustrated. I’m empathizing, even offering to drive.
It took most of a day to make the trip. We crawled through Maine. Crept through New Hampshire. Limped into Vermont.
Our most startling moment was looking up and seeing a sign — a huge, brightly painted sign — that said: “WELCOME TO MEXICO.” Mexico, Maine. There were no Mexican restaurants, or at least none we could find. Lots of Chinese, though. After we drove out of Mexico, we came upon another huge, bright sign. “WELCOME TO MEXICO,” it said.
“Didn’t we just leave Mexico?”
“Maybe,” says Garry, “this is the village and that was the town?”
“Or something.” I wondered where the rest of North America had gone. Never mind. It was time to face the inevitable. Garry and I had to fill the gas tank. Ourselves.
Back home — a town which had seemed rural and quaint, but now seemed sophisticated and metropolitan — gas stations provide service. Not the case in very rural New England. Together, Garry and I pondered the problem. We had to remove the gas cap, which was stuck. Garry looked at me. I would manage the gas cap.
I pressed. Twisted. It was the child-proof lid from Hell. Eventually, it came off. Whooping in triumph, I fed our bank card into the pump’s reader and selected the grade of gasoline. Garry, feeling his moment had come, removed the pump from its hook, stuck it in the hole and pressed. Gasoline started feeding into the tank. When it snapped loose, Garry looked at me.
“Does this mean it’s full?”
“Yes,” I exalted. “We did it. We put gas in our car!”
We gave each other a high-five and continued our journey. We have developed a deep appreciation for the interstate highway system. And lost every trace of nostalgia for the old days of travel.
Everything is as it should be. No matter how strange or bizarre, in the end, it’s right. It does not mean we are happy about the way our book of life is written. Where is my shelf of bestsellers? My big house on the cliff overlooking the ocean? The hot little sports car and my horses?
I want what I want. To be richer, healthier, younger. I want my brother, a final conversation with my mother. I want my old friends to not live so far away. To live, period.
I want those things I buy to last forever. How many times do I have to buy a new refrigerator? Didn’t I just buy this one? Really? That long ago?
Somehow, it works out. It balances. You wind up in a place you never imagined being, but after a while, you realize it suits you.
Good stuff can be subtle. Crises whack you upside the head. Hard to miss them.
Happiness is sneaky. It slithers into your world like a mist, gradually invading the darkness and filling it with sparkles. One day, you find you are singing as you go about your daily tasks.
“Oh,” you say. “I’m happy. How — when — did that happen?”
It’s never all up or all down. The coaster tosses you from side to side. You scream down the big drop and laugh as the chain pulls your car to the next peak. That’s the point of the ride, isn’t it?
I once stayed in a resort so far beyond my expectations, I was stunned. The weather, however, was hot and humid. We could barely bring ourselves to go out and do anything.
The following year, we found ourselves in the most beautiful town on Cape Cod. We were near enough to the beach to see, hear, and smell the Atlantic. The room was horrible. The beds were hard. The bathroom was barely usable. But the weather was perfect, and the sun shone every day.
It’s okay to be sad. From sadness, we learn joy. We need darkness to understand light. (Remind me I said this!)
ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE, when everything actually turned out exactly as you’d hoped. Or better. Or something else entirely.
Welcome everyone to Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge. This challenge’s subject is the roads, walks, trails, rails, by which we move from place to place. You can walk them, climb them, drive them, ride them — as long as the way is visible. Any angle of a bridge is acceptable, as are any signs.