NO PRANCING FOR ME

I went to the doctor today. I made a list of the things I needed to talk about, among them trying to get some Prednisone or something to make me able to actually enjoy my vacation in Maine in October. I just want a week off of the whole pain and misery thing. I checked with my cardiologist and he seemed to think a week of Prednisone would be fine, at least for my heart.

I know Prednisone is evil and will — with prolonged use — melt my bones. But really, I’m not asking for a long-term run. Just a week. One lousy week of living without pain.

Dr. Marc Jacobs filterHe said (really, no kidding, he said this), “I don’t want you prancing around like a 20-year old, hiking all over Maine.”

Prancing? Like a 20-year-old? When I was 20, I was wrapped in plaster from my rib cage to my knees following a spinal fusion and laminectomy. I can’t remember ever doing any prancing even when I was a kid. But hey, he doesn’t know me yet. If we had a longer relationship, he would realize what an absurd statement that is.

Not only am I not doing any prancing, but we’re sharing our vacation with our best friends. He will be one month past knee replacement surgery. She’s almost as arthritic as me and she is way past prancing. Garry is in better shape, but he’s not bouncing around either.

I pointed out I was unlikely to take up bungee jumping or mountain climbing, but the doc was convinced I would do something stupid and potentially damaging to what we humorously call my body.

“You’re 67 years old. You’re recovering from massive and extremely serious surgery. That’s reality. You aren’t healed yet.”

“When,” I asked, “Is yet?”

“Six months.”

“Six months,” I repeated. And I sighed.

I should be used to it. Maybe I am, but I don’t like it. Not at all. I just wanted a week off. One week, so I could walk, take pictures. Enjoy myself and not be in pain. Go out, find a moose unaware, take great wildlife pictures. In the wild, not in a zoo. But no. I have to be sensible. Bah.

I’ll deal with it. But I really wanted that week. One week without the pain. I guess it is too much to ask.

OUR FINAL DESINATION

Wrong Turns – When was the last time you got lost? Was it an enjoyable experience, or a stressful one? Tell us all about it.


It was late in the day when we rolled into Gettysburg. Tired, ready for a shower and a meal, we asked Richard our faithful GPS to take us to the nearest motel. We followed his directions carefully.

main street Gettysburg

It was our first visit to the area. Road-weary, we were too exhausted to deal with getting lost and we were (are) often lost. Diligently, we followed Richard’s directions.

After a few turns and one long straightaway, Richard announced in his loud, clear voice: “You have reached your destination!” Indeed we had, though it was not the one we had it mind.

As far as we could see lay miles of tombstones. Richard had brought us to our ultimate destination, what must have been Gettysburg’s largest modern cemetery. It stretched for miles.

Who knew our GPS had a sense of humor? We didn’t stop laughing until we finally found the EconoLodge.

A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE: SUMMER MEMORIES, OR WHY IT’S GREAT BEING A KID

A Photo a Week Challenge: Summer Memories

I thought these might be a perfect entry for this challenge. Not me, but my granddaughter and friends when they were children. Before makeup and boys and drama.

Almost the definition of why it’s great to be a kid.

Summertime Ready

Summertime SET

Summertime - GO

Anyone want to do it again?

Anyone want to do it again?

Getting There Is Not Always Enough … Marilyn Armstrong

We didn’t get to ride this one.

Yesterday, we went to Busch Gardens. We did nothing, got wet, walked too much, came back exhausted, soggy and poorer. We seem to have absolutely impeccable timing for getting places at exactly the wrong time!

We didn’t get to ride this either.

We planned carefully and sensibly. We figured that if we went late in the day, it would be cooler and probably less crowded too. Logical right? I mean, the park‘s open until 10 at night, so getting there at 3:30 should leave us more than ample time to whatever we wanted and ride whatever we wanted.

After we finally got through the long walk to the park from the very closest parking lot, we decided to take the train ride that loops around the park. It would give us something of an orientation, an overview.

After that we were nearly slavering with anticipation, we headed down the long road to Apollo’s Chariot, the first of the 6 big, bigger and biggest, baddest roller coasters we intended to ride.

We were at the front of the line on the platform, ready to board the ride. Which is when the announcement came that the ride was closing due to weather issues.

Not this one either.

Weather. Mainly, lightning. Not to mention wind and rain. So we stood around a bit, milled around in confusion, then eventually headed back the long road to the rest of the park.

With great anticipation, we waited for a weather update. We were in a code orange, which is bad, but the next announcement was “Code Red,” which was much worse and actually closed everything, except shops.

Shortly thereafter, the sky opened up and a sheet of water fell out. We stood under an awning speculating — along with everyone else — whether or not there was any chance the park would reopen.

Also, didn’t ride this one.

It did not reopen.

We hauled ass back to Guest Relations, where they were very gracious about the whole thing and seemed genuinely sorry that we come from so far away, didn’t get to do anything except eat a pretzel and get soaked. They refunded half the money because our friends had to leave today and we took rain checks and will make another stab at it tomorrow. We would have gone today, but the weather report doesn’t look promising and I couldn’t deal with the same scenario two days running.

The best experience of the day? The electric scooter that you can rent and drive around the park. I loved it! It was way zippier than I thought it would be and fun, too. Unfortunately, by the time I got it, I was already over-tired and when we finally got back to the hotel, having stopped at the grocery store in between and then cooking dinner … we had barely enough strength to climb into bed and pass out.

Today, the humidity is 99% and thunder storms are likely in the afternoon, so we  are going to go tomorrow morning when hopefully, it won’t be raining because that really IS our last chance.

Talk about disappointing! Nice that Garry and I get another shot at it, but I so wanted to go with my friend too … but … well … it didn’t happen and if there’s one thing you cannot count on, it’s usually the weather.

They’ve left now and it’s very quiet and feels kind of empty. I’m trying not to be a bit down-hearted, but it’s difficult.

Tomorrow is another day, I hope.

Old Gettysburg – Marilyn Armstrong

Horse and buggy. Easy to shoot. Horse doesn’t move much. Okay. Not at all.

When you think of Gettysburg, you probably think “battlefield.” Military history. Civil War.

I’ve never seen an actual “cigar store Indian.” Heard about them, but never seen one.

What does not likely come immediately to mind are “Ghosts” and “Ghouls.” However unlikely, that seems to be the most prominent theme of this historic town and its battlegrounds.

Old soldiers never die?

The shops are full of ghosts, ghouls, and zombies representing the dead soldiers. And, of course, there are tee shirts. Many varieties of ghosts, ghouls, and zombies, dressed in both Confederate and Union uniforms. Some, with no uniforms.

A zombie of Gettysburg.

This is tourist central, but it’s charming and quaint and everything is nicely clumped together in a small area. Even for me, it’s not too much walking. That the temperature has dropped quite a bit helps too.

Tunnel on the path.

You can get a tee-shirt with the entire Gettysburg Address on it, with or without Abraham Lincoln. You can get a wide variety of  Confederate, Union, or combination tee-shirts. Guns and knives vie with children’s toys as souvenirs.

Tee shirts … whatever you want, bet they have it.

The honored dead did not die in vain. They died so we could have cool tee shirts.

The Blue and Grey Tee Shirt Emporium.

A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE

Weekly Photo Challenge: Perspective

Main Street. Hyannis on Cape Cod. Mid-October. One sidewalk café, 2 perspectives.

Hyannis cafe 113

Empty of people and clean, the café says something different when the waiter clears away the remnants of visitors.

Hyannis cafe and waiter

Always, it’s beautiful, a fine place to sit, relax, talk. Enjoy perfect autumn weather.

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TERMINAL MADNESS – BEASLEY GREEN

Marilyn Armstrong:

Reminding me — again — why I hate airports.

Originally posted on Beasley Green:

cathay-pacific-new-business-class-sydney-to-hong-kong-airbus-a330-20

Going nowhere extremely slowly.

The airport procedures involved in travelling by airplane are lengthy and laborious at best. Lots of checking, searching, walking, waiting and standing; yet it never ceases to amaze me how travellers can’t help but fall into the fruitless enchantment of the boarding gate wait. Despite the amount of dragging around of bags and beating of feet on hard marble and concrete floors they do, even seasoned travellers find themselves lured into this futile ritual. Airlines have tried to offer support by prioritising and calling out seat numbers in groups to save people the discomfort of pointlessly standing around for lengthy periods of time, but it’s like a mental illness that effects almost all travellers regardless of age, gender, race or creed.

So you know you’re allocated a specific seat on the plane, right? You also know that no matter what happens you’re not going to be asked…

View original 770 more words

REACHING OUR DESTINATION

We were approaching Gettysburg. Tired and hungry, it was a long haul from Williamsburg to Uxbridge. Not a trip to make in one day. We needed to stop for at least one, maybe two nights. We had to pick a stopover; Gettysburg was on the route. And I wanted to see it anyhow. Being such a tourist town, it was bound to have lots of places to stay.

Gettysburg buggy

I never worry that we won’t find a place to stay. I know it’s possible, but in all the years of traveling, in and out of the U.S., there has always been a place to stay. It might not be exactly what we had it mind. Sometimes it turns out awful, more often, a happy surprise. That’s why I like tourist traps. They’re ready for visitors. Lots of them. Plenty of motels, restaurants and the only color they care about is green.

Tunnel-Lane-Gettysburg

It was late afternoon as we rolled into town.  We asked Richard, our faithful GPS, to take us to the nearest motel. We followed his directions carefully since it was our first visit.

Finally, Richard announced in his loud, clear voice: “You have reached your destination!”

Indeed we had, although not the one we had it mind.

As far as we could see lay miles of tombstones. Richard had brought us to our ultimate destination, in this case what must have been Gettysburg’s largest modern cemetery. It seemed to stretch for miles. Who knew a GPS could have a sense of humor? We didn’t stop laughing until we finally found an EconoLodge.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?

96-HyannisHarbor-GAR-3

It took me almost two years to build up a following for Serendipity, but just a week for traffic to drop to fewer than I can count on one hand. If anyone needed a test of what keeps a blog alive and active, the answer is utterly simple. Content, content and more content. Pictures, stories, stuff. New stuff, funny stuff sad stuff. But mostly, stuff.

We got home this afternoon and I’ve been running in place ever since, trying to play catchup with unanswered phone calls. Dogs apparently starving for treats … the poor things were practically FAINT and WEAK from lack of biscuits. Garry was actually insulted when, in the middle of giving some serious love to the furry kids, they heard me walk into the kitchen and abandoned him en masse in the hopes of acquiring a cookie. Or a piece of fallen bread crust.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Try not to take it personally,” I said. “They are DOGS.”

“Hrmph,” he said and went back to watching Steve McQueen in a rerun of “Wanted Dead or Alive.”

“We shouldn’t bother with vacations. We should just stay home. We like it better here. Except for the pictures,” I paused. “It was a great photo shoot.”

“Yup. That’s exactly what it was. A week-long photo shoot.”

“Punctuated with baseball and two pair of really cool new shoes.”

“Yup.”

That was when Bonnie jumped back onto the sofa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Oh, NOW you want my attention? I was letting you play with me while wearing one of my good shirts. And you KNOW how I feel about my shirts.” Bonnie was unimpressed and continued to dance around. She loves him, but she loves treats more, at least more immediately. Dogs are not into the whole deferred gratification thing.

So meanwhile, because I couldn’t post or edit anything on this site, I started another blog — Serendipity Redux — on Bloggers and I’m not sure how I’ll divide my time. I do know reclaiming a little piece of my life felt pretty good and maybe I don’t want to be quite such a slave to Serendipity. Maybe unplugging for a little while wasn’t such a bad thing.

We’ll see how it goes. Right now, glad to be home, glad we’ll get to sleep in our own bed tonight. Did I mention (no, I didn’t) we left our wonderful pillows at the hotel? We have to drive back to the Cape tomorrow and get our pillows. I was trying to figure out some way to not have to do that, but I couldn’t. They are special pillows and we need them. Love them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We’ll take cameras because the trees are amazing right now. Not so much on the Cape, but here in the Valley, wow! It’s autumn, baby.

VACATION REPORT: DAY 2 – RISING TO THE CHALLENGE

When you can’t fix it, you soldier on. Today, overcoming the series of blows that knocked out yesterday, we go forth to shop and take pictures of Cape Cod. If the Red Sox can survive last night’s defeat by Detroit, we can survive a cruddy tourist trap on Old Cape Cod.

The weather is with us, or it’s supposed to be. Hard to tell. Yesterday it was bright and beautiful early, but got dreary and chilly by early afternoon. Regardless, we’re out and about today.Until we get tired.

Ogunquit, September 2009

Ogunquit, September 2009

We’ve never had a bad vacation. Garry and I travel well together. We’ve been to awful hotels and had horrible airplane experiences.

Once, coming back from New Orleans, American cancelled our connecting flight (without so much as an explanation) and left us stranded in Atlanta.

On a flight from Israel to New York via London, British Airways left me sitting on my luggage (with all the other Israeli in-transit passengers) in Heathrow for 40 hours. It was supposed to be a 3-hour layover, but the plane broke down. BA had to bring a replacement from Italy. They didn’t even offer us cookies and tea. Or a comfortable lounge because we were merely coach passengers. It didn’t ruin my trip home, but I have never willingly flown British Airways again. I’m not quite that forgiving.

I remember when Garry and I were coming back from Florida and Delta left us sitting on the runway so long (in Philadelphia) one of the passengers went into a diabetic coma. We had to make an emergency landing in Baltimore, which was going backwards since we were in transit to Boston from Orlando.

Williamsburg 2012

Williamsburg 2012

Then there was my memorable flight between JFK and Logan, during which two out of four engines got taken out by lightning. I wasn’t sure I was going to ever see Garry again. Not to mention the poisonous mussels in Galway that left me unable to look at a mussel for the next ten years — that was our honeymoon. One vacation, I came down with German Measles but we just kept going because there wasn’t anything to be done about it anyhow.

We are, as I said, good travelers. We let bad stuff roll off and enjoy the rest. It’s hard to find anything good about this “resort,” but it will give me plenty of material for blogging mill and in the midst of a kind of grisly horror have been moments of insane hilarity. It would be silly to let it ruin our single annual week of vacation. We’d be the only losers.

Rockport, July 2010

Rockport, July 2010

Today, laden with cameras and optimism, we will sally forth to hunt for (1) a really comfortable pair of shoes for me and some great beauty shots of beach and cute Cape villages.

We’ll be back. Later, with photographs.

Gettysburg, 2012

Gettysburg, 2012

MAO AND A TURKEY

Long ago in a land far away, we had a Siamese cat. Mao — “cat” in Chinese. I don’t know if that’s Mandarin, Cantonese or some other dialect, but it was a good name.

English: A two-year-old seal point "tradi...

We got Mao as a tiny kitten. From day 1, he was a feisty, chatty cat.  Our first cat, which his name reflected. Mao Ee (Cat 1). There were, of course, many others over the decades in all the places and houses in I’ve called home, but there’s never been another cat anything like Mao.

When we traveled, friends took care of our house. I was a great grower of plants back then. Feeding the cats was one part of the job … but watering the 200 plus plants was — or should have been — the bigger task. Frank — best friend’s husband — was often tasked with house care in our absence. Mao was a thinking cat. A logical cat. He decided we were gone because Frank had driven us away. Thus if Mao could drive Frank away, we would come home.

Thus, when Frank came to the house to feed and water cats and plants, Mao attacked him. I don’t mean a little pounce, a playful swat. It was all out warfare. Mao crouched in shadows and attacked, all 20 claws outstretched, going for gore. Poor Frank loved cats and he and Mao had always gotten along fine. He had no idea why Mao was out to get him.

The moment we came back, Mao was back to normal, friend to the world. He had obviously been right because we were back … ergo, it must have been because he drove The Invader (Frank) away. Logical, yes? After that, Mao attacked everyone who took care of the house in our absence. He was the terror of Our Crowd. It got increasingly difficult to get someone to take care of things while we were gone.

The years moved on and Mao moved with us. There were children, jobs, bigger houses, dogs. Life. We held celebrations … big Thanksgiving dinners. One memorable occasion, we had a full house including a dozen and half people and featuring a huge turkey. When the turkey was roasted, I put it out on the counter to set while I moved food in the dining room and greeted arriving guests.

Thanksgiving006

I wasn’t gone 10 minutes. When I got back to the kitchen, Mao was on the counter, finishing off a drumstick. Its remains were still attached to the turkey — a ragged, conspicuously gnawed hole. Not the presentation I had in mind.

The husband and I consulted. We agreed and served the bird as it was.

“What happened to the turkey,” asked the friends and family.

“Mao got to it,” I said.

“Oh,” they said. “Pass the bird.”

It was a good Thanksgiving. Mao was some cat.

BULLETIN!! TOILETS DON’T FLUSH!!

Emergency measures have been initiated when our intrepid vacationers, Garry and Marilyn Armstrong of Uxbridge, Massachusetts realized they have bigger problems than they realized … and that’s saying something.

Maintenance at the 1 star Cape Winds In Hyannis is rumored to be on the way to unclog both of Unit 17’s toilets. When Mrs. Armstrong reported the problem, Front Desk replied with “That’s odd!”

“I, ” responded Mrs. Armstrong, “Would not describe it as such. “I would call it clogged.”

Informed of the problem, Mr. Armstrong pulled the covers over his face. What a dump.

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Blogger in a Strange Land – MORNING UPDATE: HOTEL HELL

What a perfect prompt  for this bright and shining day. Waking up this morning on an old futon with the entire room buzzing and rumbling from the vibrations of heavy machinery.

We slept in the tiny living room of our seedy resort in Hyannis, Cape Cod. Outside, I can hear the machinery thrumming. I don’t know what it’s doing and maybe it’s better if I don’t know. It would just worry me.

The elegant, understated kitchen vent.

The elegant, understated kitchen vent.

In the middle of the night, there was the sound of little feet scrambling around near the bed by the kitchen.

“What the hell?” I said to myself, leaping out of bed but making a circuitous loop before checking out that noise. I wanted to know what that sound was but also I didn’t really want to know — or step on something soft, warm, full of teeth and tiny claws. The non-paying residents of Unit 17 had come out to play (dum de dum dum).

See? They repair stuff. The screen is carefully repaired with cello-tape.

See? They repair stuff. The screen is carefully repaired with cello-tape.

Garry had removed his hearing aids, so he was spared this. I think he might have fled screaming. A brave man and true, but not in the face of rats. He has met rats, figuratively and literally and didn’t like them.

News Flash:  Screams were heard drifting from the Cape Winds Hotel last night. Missing are Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong, of Uxbridge, Massachusetts … Film at 11.

Please, someone … tell me we don’t have rats living in here …. anything but rats (or spiders).

Please join us for coffee on on charming patio.

Please join us for coffee on our charming patio.

VACATION REPORT: DAY 1 – “WHAT A DUMP!”

It’s 76 miles as the road goes, but it took three hours. Which wasn’t bad considering it was a snail trail all the way. Friday night traffic is bad and the roads to the Cape are the most crowded. No matter. We were in a good mood. Patient. No screaming and cursing as we were cut off and tail-gated crawling to Cape Cod.

Baseball. The soothing cure all.

Baseball. The soothing cure-all.

Finally we got here. I got a bad feeling. You probably know what I mean. The asphalt in the parking lot is all broken. It feels dilapidated. You try to find the office and you can’t because there’s a backhoe parked in front of it. And in your heart, you know your room is directly behind the backhoe. Yup, I knew it. I asked for a different room. I just couldn’t do a week staring at the ass end of a backhoe.

“The last lady loved it. She had three little kids and said it would keep them interested.”

“We don’t have little kids. I prefer not to spend my week on the Cape up close and personal with a back hoe.” Humor? My head hurts.

The only other available unit is on the second floor. No elevator. No help with our stuff, of which there was, as usual, way too much. I had asked for a room with handicapped access. “Well,” she said, “You’d have to talk to your exchange group about that.” Right.

We needed a place to sleep. It was getting late. We were tired.

Garry had A Look. I know that look. He’s pissed, figures it’s not worth fighting over because it’s futile. He spent years on the road and he knows a dump when he sees one. And, as he points out later as he is hauling several tons of stuff up a steep flight of stairs … “We’ve stayed in worse.’

The old futon in the "living room." What a beauty!

The old futon in the “living room.” What a beauty!

Indeed we have. The place in Montreal with the hot and cold running cockroaches. That was very bad. This place IS a dump, but there are worse dumps. At least the WiFi works.

The mattress on the bed may have had some spring, a hint of softness … a long time ago. Long, long time ago. Now, it’s weary. Made bitter by hard use, it is lumpy and unforgiving. I sense 8 nights of torture awaiting us. Don’t stay at the Cape Wind in Hyannis. You’ll be sorry.

The bed is hard as a rock. The ancient futon in the living room is ugly and stained, but oddly comfortable. The TV works and the National League playoff series starts tonight. If there’s baseball, Garry is good to go. Until we hit that bed. That’s going to hurt. A lot. We brought our own pillows. Maybe I’ll sleep out here in the living room on the futon.

The bathroom. Garry looked. “It has,” he said, “A certain ‘je ne sais quoi.’ ” Yes, that certainly is true. I was laughing hysterically when I pulled out a camera and took a few shots of it. “Je ne sais quoi” like this is too good to not share.

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No baking dish. I use the broiler drip pan. I ask about getting one. Tomorrow. Hopefully. How about a bulb for the lamp in the living room? Tomorrow. Hangers for the closet? It’s a big closet, but not useful with no hangers. Tomorrow — if they have any (good luck). The dresser is tiny, just three small drawers — more like an oversized night table. I give two to Garry and decide to keep everything except my underwear in the duffel.

We moved to the futon in the living room. It took less than 15 minutes for Garry to cry “uncle.” I didn’t last that long. Now we are in the living room. If I think of this as an adventure, I might enjoy it for the sheer hilarity. You can’t make this stuff up.

It’s a dump. But, for the next week, it’s our dump.

PROMPTS FOR THE PROMPTLESS – LIFE IS A LIST

And as we head off on vacation, there are so many things to remember …

shopping list

Watch Out for the Pod People!

Everything and everybody changes. Most of my family and friends have changed relatively gradually over the years. Recently a couple of people I’ve known for a long time have changed suddenly and dramatically. Overnight, they became dry and humorless.

It appears they had a humorectomy. While they slept, their sense of humor was removed. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but it’s deeply disturbing. I think it’s possible they have been replaced by pods, like the  “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

I could not survive if I did not see how ridiculous my life is. If the absurdity of it didn’t make me laugh, I would do nothing buy cry and bewail my state. Laughter heals me. It’s better than sex. Better than yoga, meditation, medication, or street drugs. It’s free, unrestricted by laws, available to anyone who is not yet dead and is acceptable behavior under almost all religious systems.

Many friends are going through rough times. Their problems vary, but the results are the same. Stress, anguish, fear, worry, insomnia. You worry, try to keep it together until you’re ready to explode.

What can you do? If the light at the end of the tunnel is indeed the headlight of an oncoming train, I say: “Buckle up and let your hair blow in the wind. It’s going to be a Hell of a ride.”

Laughing at the craziness, insanity, ludicrousness, the utter absurdity of my life — and the demented world in which I live it — is my first line of defense against despair. Take away laughter, strip away my sense of humor and I’m a goner.

At our wedding — 22 years ago — my cousin and I danced the hora. What makes the dance so memorable  — other than discovering that she was in great shape and I wasn’t — was feeling like I was going to spin out of control.  That feeling of being grabbed by something stronger than me and being twirled and spun with no ability to control what happens has become an allegory for life.

I laugh any time I can, at anything that strikes me as even a little bit funny. It helps me remember why I bother to keep living.

My friends make me laugh. I make then laugh. When our lives are in tatters and everything around us is collapsing, we laugh. Then, we take a deep breath, and laugh some more. The more awful the situation, the more dreadful and intractable the problems, the funnier it is. We are not laughing at tragedy … we are laughing at life.

The difference between tragedy and comedy is how you look at it. Laugher is the universal cure for griefs of life.