TRAVEL ON – RICH PASCHALL

Where To Next? by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


Perhaps you have seen the commercials or print ads for a popular travel planning site that features a garden gnome. Yes, a garden gnome!  If you have done any travel planning online, then they may have popped up on your computer too.  The internet is smarter than we are and knows when to send us a picture of a garden gnome.  For years I thought the ad campaign was silly.  I could not imagine why a lifeless gnome was speaking to us from various locales from around the world.

Then a friend recommended the beloved 2001 French film Amelie to me (aka Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain) .  Actually, he checked it out of the library, gave it to me and told me to watch it.  Amelie was busy in her life solving the problems of others while neglecting her own.  As the film progresses, one of the people Amelie turns her attention to is her father, a widower who rarely seems to make it past the garden and his beloved gnome.  I will not explain the importance of the wooden figurine, but needless to say, Amelie has launched a great plan that includes the gnome.  If you do not know French, watch it with subtitles.  It is worth it.

Tom Law t-shirt, Chicago

Some years after discovering why the gnome is travelling the world, I had a conversation with musician Tom Joseph Law regarding his t-shirts and where they had been seen online.  Perhaps it was just a casual conversation about the posting of a friend, I honestly don’t recall, but I do remember that I had a picture of myself at a local event in 2015 where I was wearing the shirt.  So I posted it to Facebook.

Colombia

In the picture, a stick figure Tom is falling off his surfboard while a large fish seems ready to greet him.  It is based on a rather horrible surfing accident which Tom relayed to me one day in quite a bit of detail.  Some of it is a bit amusing now that time has passed, but it was not pleasant.  It affected Tom’s voice for a long time to follow.  This is not good for a singer-songwriter.

The first time I went to Colombia, I took the shirt along and got several pictures throughout Medellin.  I am not sure which one I posted at the time, so here is one with my friend and tour guide for the visit.  Not only did John take a few pictures with my camera, but we also bothered his friends to get some pictures of us. It was the first time John and I met in person, after a year or more of conversation.

On the next trip to Colombia I may have forgotten this particular shirt, but I had another Tom Law shirt with me.  It is the drawing that also appears on the cover of an album (EP, actually).  I may have violated the true spirit of the gnome, but nothing says Colombia more than an American wearing the British guy’s t-shirt in front of the British store in a mall in Medellin. So here it is anyway.

Medellin

When I finally got to travel to England and visit the area where Tom is from, he had already left the country.  I am pretty sure that had nothing to do with our arrival.  So we found our own travel guide and went on to Bath while Tom was hiding in an eastern European country.  I guess it was his own personal Brexit.  Anyway, I got my travel companion to take pictures of my gnome t-shirt with my phone.  If you wish to see pictures of our tour of Salisbury, Stonehenge and a Roman Bath, you can find them here.

Bath, England but where is Tom?

Last month I visited my closest friend in France.  This brought the opportunity to get another picture of the traveling t-shirt with the gnome falling off the surfboard.  On a sunny day in a week that was filled with clouds, we made it to Strasbourg where I coaxed the French guy into taking pictures of yours truly in the British t-shirt. Since the guy in the foreground is not much to look at, it is fortunate we were on the street that leads up to the magnificent cathedral in Strasbourg.

Strasbourg, France

This historic building was started over a thousand years ago.  It is awesome in its intricate details and is always a site to behold.  At one time, it was the tallest structure in Europe.  Now the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg should be on the tour of anyone passing through the Alsace region, whether you are carrying a garden gnome or not.

When considering all of the countries where this shirt has been, whether there was a postcard home from the gnome or not, Tom thinks it may have made it to more countries than he has.  That’s not too bad, actually.

LIFE IN ABSTRACT

I got up early to visit the bathroom and looked out the window. Not quite 6 in the morning and it’s …

It’s …

Snowing.

Hard. A lot of snow is falling. From the snow-white sky. Falling on the trees and on everything.

Two weeks ago, it was warm as summer. We were taking pictures of kids fishing in the river. In tee-shirts. I’m suspicious of warm weather in the middle of February, but this was it. The snow was still melting. Just a few days earlier, we’d gotten more than a foot and a half of it. Now … summer.

In February.

In New England.

I got used to it. After the week and a bit of 72 degree weather with shiny sunlight, the snow had melted. I figured winter was done and gone. But not this morning. Because it’s snowing hard and apparently going to keep at it for a while.

Snow?

This entire year has been an abstraction. A time of craziness that isn’t going to return to normal in a future I can see. In other ways, life is peaceful. We have gone an entire year and no one has been ill. Our financial lives have not fallen into disrepair. It has been as normal a year as people our age can expect … except for a few, wee tiny things.

Probably started when the lid blew off our national pressure cooker and the worst man possible was suddenly president. A bit of a shock, that. This strange weather is simply one more little piece of craziness.

In a nearly desperate move to keep our own personal heads from exploding, we’ve settled into an existential gray space. Everything is sane because nothing is. Sane. We know we are crazy. Which is okay because it’s the world and whatever is … IS.

So if there will be 10 inches of snow today? It will melt.

DAILY POST | ABSTRACT 

SITUATIONAL FRIENDS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I recently wrote a blog about old friends; people who knew you when you were a lot younger and who shared a part of your life that doesn’t exist anymore. That got me thinking. Why do some people become ‘old friends’ and others drop by the wayside? Why do some people stick with you over decades while others drift away?

I believe that most people start out as situational friends. You meet and become friends because you’re sharing an activity or a stage of life. Examples are people you work with and parents whose kids go to school with and/or are friends with your kids. Also, people you meet through hobbies, like at a golf or tennis club, a knitting circle, a book club, etc.

What makes some of those friendships ‘take’ and become permanent? I have no idea. Many friendships seem to end when the shared activity stops – you change jobs, your kids graduate or find new friends, you leave the club, whatever. I’ve had so many friends like this it blows my mind. I’ve often wondered why we lost touch. Why was it that that particular person or couple slipped away? We were so close!

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But some friends do stay with you and ripen into wonderful ‘old friends’. I’ve never been able to tell which friendships will last and which won’t. In the mid-late 1980’s I was redecorating my house from top to bottom. I spent two years working closely with my decorator and we became friends. At around the same time, my daughter became friends with a girl in her kindergarten class and I became friends with her Mom (and Dad as well – we also socialized as couples). Those friendships lasted all the way through high school – 12 years. Who am I still close with 30 years later? The decorator. The Mom still lives five minutes away from me and we haven’t even talked in years and years. The decorator moved out-of-state more than 10 years ago but we’re still the dearest of friends.

For many years, Tom and I had a group of friends who shared a dock with us at the marina where our boat lives. We were crazy close. We traveled together with our boats, partied all summer and had gotten together regularly over the winter. Gradually, boats left the marina, people moved away and most of them disappeared from our lives. Only one friend remains out of at least six or eight couples. I was heartbroken that the ‘gang’ dispersed into the ether.

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I think friendships like these end because of some odd combination of laziness and busyness. When you no longer share that situational ‘bond’, you’re not thrown together. You have to make more of an effort to see each other. Obviously, if you haven’t developed a strong emotional connection that transcends your ‘situation’, that won’t happen.

Also, people are busy. Between work, family and other friends, time is at a premium. If you’re not at the top of someone’s ‘priority list,’ you lose. The common ‘bond’ was what got you to the top of the list before. Now, unless you have a personal bond or you forge a new one that shoots you to the front of the line – you’re toast. You just don’t fit into the new reality of your former friends’ lives.

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I have to admit, I’m hypersensitive. I take it at least a little bit personally whenever someone drops out of my life. But, I don’t lose sleep over it either. I’ve learned making and keeping friends has as much to do with timing as anything else. Like romantic relationships, some things are not meant to be. Fortunately for me, many wonderful friendships have blossomed, lasted and enrich my life today.

Many of friends now live all over the country but distance has not lessened our connection. Some things are meant to be.

OLD FRIENDS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

There’s something very special about old friends.

As we get older, there are also different degrees of ‘old’. I have friends from when my children were young, 30 years ago and friends from when I was young, more than 60 years ago. My husband has known Marilyn Armstrong since he was a freshman in college. In 1975, Tom and his ex wife actually lived for a while with Marilyn and her then husband. That creates lasting bonds that are like no others.

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My current group of local close friends have only known me as a retired empty nester. So it’s comforting to talk to people who knew me when I was a newly married career woman, or as an energetic full-time Mom with young kids.

Tom and Garry

Tom and Garry

Then there’s Wendy. She represents a whole other, unique category of old friends. We were best friends from 5th grade into 7th grade. We had that special bond that only 9-12 year old girls can have. We did everything together. We slept over at each other’s homes almost every weekend when we were in New York City for school.

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We spent time at my weekend/summer home in Easton, Connecticut, where I now live. We hung out at her ‘country’ house, first in a neighboring town in Connecticut and then on a tiny island on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. (Very cool! She still owns the island and goes there regularly).

wendy-and-ellin-bathing-suits

We intimately knew each other’s parents and in my case, grandparents too. We reveled in each other’s pets – we both had birds. We named our birds after characters in Peter Pan (Wendy/Peter Pan). Her parakeet was Petey and my canary was Tinkerbell.

wendy-and-ellin-posing

We were friendly through high school. In junior high, we moved onto other best friends and different circles of friends. We lost touch after high school. Totally. We didn’t have any contact at all until I called her after our 40th high school reunion. We talked on the phone a few times and then lost touch again for another ten years.

This past year, as our 50th class reunion approaches, we reconnected on Facebook. This time our connection has blossomed into a real friendship. We have talked on the phone for a half hour to an hour every week for the past few months. We both look forward to our conversations. We have moved past catching up and reminiscing. We have filled each other in on the basics of our careers, marriages and children.

We each have a child with serious health issues. We’ve talked about books, friends, hobbies and politics. We both suffer from Donald Trump’s PTSD.

We’ve come to realize that we’re similar in many ways and simpatico on other levels, too. We would not continue our relationship if that were not the case. We might have become close if we had just met for the first time. But there is something so special about talking with someone who knew my first dog, remembers my parents as ‘young people.’ Who remembers writing ‘novels’ together as pre-teens using manual typewriters with carbon paper — and no self-correcting features.

wendy

I believe we know each other – the essence of who we are – in a way that almost no one else can. It would have been nice if we had stayed in touch through all the intervening years. Apparently it wasn’t necessary. There’s just something about the friendship we had in those formative, innocent years in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. That ‘something’ has survived for 50 years and is creating a modern-day friendship which is more fun, deeper and more meaningful than either of us could have imagined.

ellin-blue-shirt

I’m surprised but thrilled that Wendy has become such a wonderful addition to my life. I talk to her more and on a different level than I talk to the old friends I have stayed in contact with. I cherish the bond we’ve created and I look forward to watching it deepen over time.

We are meeting in person next week for the first time since 1967. Although we live two hours apart, we hope we can continue meeting in person as well as texting, emailing and talking on the phone. I think we give new meaning to the phrase ‘old friends.’

SHARING MY WORLD — AND THE END OF THE YEAR IS GETTING CLOSE!

Share Your World – 2016 Week 49


What do you value most in a friendship?

Loyalty, a sense of humor, and intelligence. The only reason I have ever ended a friendship (from my end) was disloyalty. I have been dumped often enough by other people and their reasons are different, but for me? I need to know that a friend is really a friend. I hate rumor mongers, eavesdroppers, and people who talk behind your back, but smile in your face.

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As for intelligence, I don’t mean education. You don’t need a lot of schooling to be smart. I’ve met some brilliant high school dropouts and some incredibly stupid Ph.D. holders. I find it difficult to talk to people who are slow to grasp concepts. If I have to talk down to someone (not because of a difference in culture or language, but because they simply don’t get it), I am very uncomfortable and probably, so are they.

friends - all of us

I need laughter in a relationship. I need it as much as I need air to breathe. There is a lot of pain and sadness and loss in our lives — and it only gets more so as we get older. If you cannot find respite in laughter, you will be miserable. Amidst the misery of life, there’s plenty of absurdity. Right now and for the foreseeable future, our bizarre political world IS funny. In a horrible kind of way.

You can’t make this stuff up. It has to be true because if you wrote it as fiction, no one would believe it.

Do you prefer eating the frosting of the cake or the cupcake first?  Do you prefer a specific flavor?

I don’t like icing and will usually scrape it off and just eat the cake. I do, however, like whipped cream and will eat that all by itself. No cake required!

Have you ever been in a submarine?  If you haven’t, would you want to?

We went out into the Caribbean in a tiny little 60-person submarine (the Atlantis) to see the fish and the coral reef. It was beautiful.

atlantis submarine

I can’t imagine spending months at a time in something like that, even if it was a little bit larger. Still, I did enjoy the trip. It’s a great way to see the how the mer-people might live.

If 100 people your age were chosen at random, how many do you think you’d find leading a more satisfying life than yours?

More satisfying? I can’t imagine that they are more satisfied. They may be healthier (which would not be hard, given my long list of ailments) and they probably  have more money and can do more stuff, but I’m satisfied with the life I live and have lived.

Garry and I have gotten older and slowed down, but we are still here. I frequently remind myself — and others — that there are only two options: old, or not. Not doesn’t work for me, so I’m satisfied.

I’m here.

share your world cee banner

BLOGGERS AT PLAY

Garry and Marilyn finally — after three or four reschedulings — finally made it to Connecticut to visit Tom and Ellin Curley. Yes, these are real live friends who we have known a very long time. So long that Tom can remember the first house I lived in when Owen was still a rug-rat.

Tom has all his hair. In our world, that’s noteworthy!

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Tom and Ellin live in a lovely home in the woods with a stream in the back yard. And a boat called Serenity docked on the Housatonic River in Stratford, Connecticut. Pretty nice boat. Pretty big river. The boat’s transmission is currently MIA, having blown itself up some time back — not while we were aboard,  but it’s a great story, in case Tom (hint, hint) feels like writing about it.

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We spent last Thursday hanging out on the boat. It turns out, boats are a great place to hang out, even when they are tied up at the dock. Since Tom has a dinghy with an outboard in good working order, we could still motor up the river, even if the bigger boat is not currently able to do more than float.

Tom took me on a ride, while Garry and Ellin chose to hang with Serenity.

The Serenity is named (by Tom) after the brilliant Joss Whedon sci fi/western series “Firefly” that ran on Fox. “Firefly” lives on Netflix. There’s also a movie, aptly titled “Serenity.” Ellen liked the concept of Serenity which seemed (still seems) a perfect name for a boat. If you can’t find serenity on a boat, you’re hopeless. Many years ago, I had a (very small) sailboat and enjoyed some of my  most serene afternoons sailing her in the salt marshes off the coast of Long Island. But I digress.

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I had brought with me the newest in Serendipity swag-wear — the latest version of our tee-shirt. It’s hard to find gifts for people who don’t need anything. Garry and I don’t need anything either, at least not anything anyone can afford to get for us … so after I designed the tee-shirt, it occurred to me I actually could give them each a tee-shirt since both of them blog.

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Tom and Ellin were exceeding gracious by dressing in matching tee-shirts, something Tom had sworn he would never do — not ever under any circumstances because (in his opinion) it’s the final sign of senility. But I said I wanted pictures. I had a camera and a photo-hungry blog.

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It was a great little mini vacation. Thank you, friends, again for a really love time. And the weather was perfect too. Not too hot, not too cool. Absolutely perfect.

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Garry and I together shot more than 300 pictures, so you’ll see more pictures as I come up with excuses to post them. In the photo galleries, the first set are mine, the second are Garry’s. There are many more! Some days are just incredibly photogenic.