Ice Cream

15

January 11, 2018, Prescott-

I ended my work day by being reminded that today was the 11th, after a fatigue-based brain fart.  That gave rise to the inevitable concern from Lead Teacher, about the onset of dementia.  Umm, no.  I was tired, exhausted.  I know tomorrow is January 12th.

Now, on to the reference in this post’s title.  On the podcast, this morning, one of my mentors was accenting an aversion to success, using ice cream as an analogy.  If one were to go up to a counter, see a flavour of ice cream that appealed, and was asked what would be your preference, and then dithered, thinking about whether one deserved ice cream at all, even while knowing that thousands of other people enjoy ice cream, each day, what would that feel like?

I have long dithered about enjoying life.  I have long felt that I did not deserve success, even having a hard time accepting, initially, that Penny found me attractive.  I have come to the conclusion that it was my autism talking.

The fact is, she DID find me attractive.  I was not the dregs with which she had to make do.  So, we had our ups and downs, for 29 years, but they were years of love.  I have been amazed at finding myself in places like Neah Bay, downtown Portland, San Francisco’s Russian Hill and Fisherman’s Wharf, Paris, Versailles, Utah Beach, the Dom Sector of Frankfurt, Iolani Palace, Bruges and Sitka’s Mt. Verstovia.  I really DID walk the length of Prescott Circle Trail and Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, albeit in sections. I am amazed, also, by the beautiful lady who now calls me friend.

So, all those bowls of ice cream later, I am looking at a huge sundae, and preparing to nibble a spoonful at a time.  I have spoken of giant steps being on my horizon.  I still need to convince myself that I am not the family’s hood ornament, or an appendage to the two-woman team in the classroom where I work.  It’s these very giant steps that will do this, for me.  The mentor cautioned us to not falter.  I won’t, having come all this way.

Bruxelles, Mon Amour

8

March 22, 2016, Prescott-

Bruxelles, mon amour,

I hear your screams

As the hosts of tyranny

Hose your streets with blood.

You welcomed me warmly,

Giving a festival of peace,

French, Flemish, Algerian,

Standing side by side,

As the games of comradeship and hope,

Played out, in front of my eyes.

Paris, mon amour,

I recall your sons and daughters,

Taking time out of their frenetic days,

To help an oft bewildered Americain

Find my way across your arrondissements,

With nary a hint of hauteur, in their demeanours.

Rouen, ma cherie,

I think of all you endured,

As the scene of travesty,

When the Light of All France

Was immolated,

Just a stone’s throw from where

My paternal ancestors were first blessed.

Damascus, my friend,

I have not had the honour of your presence.

Yet, I hear and feel your anguish,

And, yes, I know these horrors are

Not what you wish,

For yourself, nor for the cities

Which weep alongside you.

All my friends and beloved ones,

Know the horrors and cruelty,

Will pass, must pass.

Soon comes the day,

Which will not be followed

By night.

The Road to 65, Mile 33: The Gate Swings Backwards, and Then……

3

December 31, 2014, Prescott- I woke up around 6:30, on New Year’s morning, 2014, and knew that this would be the year I would hop on board a plane and head over to Europe.  Exactly where, and for how long, remained subject to the vagaries of substitute teaching and my investment income.  All year long, though, things that were meant to happen did, and other things had to be consigned to a later time.

January- The Boot dropped, on Whiskey Row, right at 12 Midnight, as I sipped the hot chocolate I had bought, fifteen minutes earlier in Devil’s Pantry.  The rest of the month brought lots of hiking: Tucson’s Bear Canyon and Seven Falls, the depths of Kartchner Caverns,Casa Grande Ruins, Cave Creek’s Go John Trail, the northern portion of Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, a march through downtown Prescott on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  It was a rather dry month.

February- I started the  month by presiding over the Four Chaplains Commemorative ceremony, at our Legion post, went most of the way up Harquahala Peak, visited Desert Rose Baha’i Institute, studied my Faith a lot, and prepared for the sale of the house where I had lived for the past 2 1/2 years.  We said goodbye to the unofficial “greeter” of Willow Creek Gardens.

March- Three years had passed since beloved Penny left her pain behind.  I moved. Then, I went on an errand of mercy and tribute, to Denver-in a U-Haul, and made it safely through the blizzard that greeted me, just north of Pueblo.  It was a fabulous little impromptu community, first at Walsenburg, then at Colorado City, which made things a whole lot easier.  We who had to negotiate the snow, stuck together.  On the Ides of March, I learned about a Loyalty Rewards Program; how ironic.  The next day, we Legionnaires paid homage to those who left us since last March.  We refer to the departed members as ” Post Everlasting”.  Aram headed out on deployment, for seven months, on the last day of Winter.  I saw him and the ship off, then joined other Baha’is, in San Clemente, for Naw-Ruz, the Baha’i New Year.  Blue Herons and Egrets were plentiful at Dana Point and on Doheny Beach.  History abounded in San Gabriel and Redlands.  An International Dinner ended the month, at home.

April- My little apartment began to feel homey.  I did not stray far, this month.  The next several will be peripatetic enough.  Prescott held the photo session for its Sesquicentennial.  I would miss the real deal, on June 30, but one can’t be everywhere.  Affairs of Faith dominated, as they do every April, on the Commemoration of the Declaration of Baha’u’llah, as to His mission.  We  call it the Festival of Ridvan, after its venue.  It last twelve days, April 21-May 2.

May-  My father-in-law, Norman Fellman, had been getting progressively weaker.  He passed away, on May 7, at the age of 90.  Few affected my life in so powerful a way.  Pop held the bar high, but he’d occasionally help us over it, either with encouraging words, or his left foot- whichever he thought best for the situation.  Mother’s Day was surreal- a silent breakfast with my heart-broken MIL, followed by the flight back to Phoenix.  I would come back, three weeks later, to catch a flight to Frankfurt, Germany.  In the meantime, more heartache struck.  A little Baha’i child drowned, and a large gathering honoured his life, in the western suburbs of Phoenix.  The month ended with my landing in Frankfurt, and getting a good day’s rest at the Q-Green Hotel.

June- This was a dizzying, dazzling and endearing month:  Paris, with Tuilleries, Louvre, Tour d’Eiffel, Hotel Monte Carlo,Versailles- both palace and town, the  residence of ‘Abdu’l-Baha during His 1911 visit to Paris, Montmartre, and Champs Elysees, the Roma along the Seine and the various refugees in the Metro;

Rouen, home of my paternal ancestors, prison cell and execution place of Jeanne d’Arc, Hotel Morand,Vieux Marche, my first glimpse of a great cathedral, Roman fortifications, hungry swans in a pond behind a church, Feast with local Baha’is, Palais de Justice;

Utah Beach, and the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, tanks on the beach, hordes in the village square of St. Marie-de-Mont and a couple of roundabout taxi rides;

Mont St. Michel, every bit as inspiring and cacophanous as I’d been told, a place of legends;

Rennes, capital of Brittany, more remparts, the great House of Brittany’s Parliament,  more grand churches and forts, Hotel Grande Bretagne, a sad and lonely teenager, sobbing for her friends, engaging street people;

Vannes, great showcase of Breton culture, fascinating walks in the hills above town and along the quay, a large duck pond-off the beaten track, and cuisine lovingly prepared and served by Madame Virginie, side trip to magnificent Carnac;

Brest, the American Memorial,  Le Chateau de Brest, “Speak Breton, forget French!”, the exasperated Cyber cafe proprietress, the helpful hotelier, leaping onto the early train back to Rennes;

Amiens, the canals, the great botanic gardens, bright nights, Jules Verne’s memorial, the helpful student, Restaurant Kathmandu, the Peace Church, the great cathedral, no one there named M. Foucault;

Lille, Hotel Balladins, the Cyber Laundry, the grand Arts Palace, one of the biggest City Halls ever, Paris Gate and Tournais Gate;

Bruges, a welter of medieval streets, Historium, first time dipping French fries into mayonnaise, flinty-eyed Flemish householders;

Ghent, officious train conductor (reminded me of Anthony Perkins, playing Inspector Javert), lovely Hotel Sint Pieters, more canals, saucy but adorable Flemish schoolgirls, Gravensteen, the Old Butcher’s Market, Turkish emigres in the New Quarter, interplay between hills and riverfront;

Brussels, chaotic, graffiti-ridden, bilingual, snarky coffee house baristas, inquisitive German schoolkinder, World Cup Victory Gathering at the Bourse, Hotel George V, vibrant Algerian neighbourhood, sweet-natured Italian couple and their Pizzeria Bella, Palais Royal, the Central Square, the Baha’i Centre near an apartment complex;

Bastogne, Batttle of the Bulge  Memorial and Museum, Place McAuliffe, Hotel Leo, the train car as restaurant, vibrant teens at a music festival, happy young family at dinner, tough British motorcyclists with hearts of gold, the helpful drunkard at the bus station, Loup Garou;

Luxembourg, astonishing fortresses of two time periods,bustling Financial District, quiet neighbourhood of the Baha’i Centre, Monument to the Martyrs of World War II, Place Guillaume II, Hotel Vauban, Dani Kohll and Felix Schaber, the Luxembourg Philharmonic Plays Disney, a Sunday brunch in a Baha’i family’s garden, a great small nation honouring its sovereign;

Metz, Residhotel, Jardin de L’Eau, teen lovers seeking solitude, people eating lunch along the river, on a busy workday, everyone out in force on a Sunday evening, boys teasing an Arab girl and getting their comeuppances, a little boy’s first encounter with ducks, the German Gate, the enchanting woods, Bellecroix, the disaffected North Africans and their high rise ghettos;

Strasbourg, modernistic train station,hipster hotel manager, venerable cathedral and chateau, spacious and vibrant central park, supremely welcoming Baha’i community(They all were, but this one especially so), interesting city tour by night;

Heidelberg, three hour wandering through University District, walk along the Neckar, Robert Bunsen,gazing upward at Heidelberg Castle, pleading housewife seeking directions;

Frankfurt– The Dom, the bustling, enjoyable Main Walk, delectable Bosnian lamb chops, the long-suffering clerk at Penthostel,   the Baha’i House of Worship at Langenhain,bratwurst  and friendship in a small wurst haus, a night walk around the Messe and ignoring the working girls along the route;

Gera and Berga– Resurgence in the once downtrodden East, bumbling while trying to exit a city bus, engaging drunkards in a surreal conversation, a view of the mine where Pop worked as a prisoner, standing in front of the V-1 Rocketwerks, eating frozen yogurt in a quiet section of Neu Berga, a small memorial to those held captive in the Nazi Era, the POW barracks.

Part II of this retrospective:  July-December

An Eastward Homage, Day 10: Paris in the Rear View Mirror

14

June 5, 2014- I left my luggage downstairs at the Hotel Monte Carlo, so the ladies could get about their business.  There are two types of chambermaids in Europe:  Those who blaze through the rooms like the White Tornado of 1960’s American television, having everyone’s room clean by check-out time; and those who pick and choose which rooms on which to focus, maybe getting them all done by quitting time, or not.  With one exception, I had the first kind working on my rooms.  The Monte Carlo was definitely of the first order. There are also two types of desk clerks at these same hotels.  The first kind are semi-formal, but professional, glad but not overjoyed at your arrival and helpful with all reasonable requests.  The other are dour, have to work hard at even letting guests in the door and less than pleased at one’s approach to the counter.  The man who checked me in was of the second type, and never quite forgave me for having removed his door block, in my initial attempts to get in.  It took the Senegalese woman in the real estate office around the corner, calling and asking just what kind of hotel locks the door on their guests at 5 PM on a Sunday evening, to guarantee my entrance. That was about my only encounter with the French arrogance of legend.

The vast majority of people I met, in this land of my paternal ancestors, were more than gracious and very pleasant.  France is a very busy place these days.  There was a strike by SNCF workers, the entire time I was in the northwest of the country.  I was pretty much inured to coming to Paris, each time I traveled from one provincial city to another.  Despite that, though, people were focused and seemed to be working hard at whatever task was in front of them.

I spent the morning of this final day of my first extended visit to Paris, visiting a place that may well be one of the most important offices in the City of Light, in years to come:  The National Centre of the Baha’is of France, several blocks east-northeast of L’Arc de Triomphe.  I say this out of personal conviction, but anyone who is interested is more than welcome to investigate the Teachings of Baha’u’llah for themselves.  The unity of the human race, and independent investigation of all truth, are cornerstones of what we believe, and of what we do. Here are scenes of the immediate neighbourhood, the interior and the garden of the National Centre of the Baha’is of France.  The buildings below are not the Baha’i Centre.  The actual location is just to the right of the Red Cross, on Rue Pergolese.

SAM_9557 SAM_9567

Once inside and properly introduced to staff, a prayer room is available.^

The staircase leads to offices on the second floor.

SAM_9566

As with all important buildings in France, there is a garden in back. SAM_9580   SAM_9583

I spent about thirty-five minutes speaking with the three staff members who were present, enjoyed a cafe au lait, bought a prayer book in French, and bid them a fond “A dieu”. After retrieving my luggage, and thanking the gracious daytime desk clerk, for his steadfast help over the four days, I headed to Gare St. Lazare, for the journey to Rouen, from whence some of my paternal ancestors set out for L’Amerique du Nord, one day in 1650. So, this is a good point to look back on Paris.  I first made a brief stop here, with Penny, in 1982.  We were en route to Israel, and our Baha’i pilgrimage, so sightseeing was not on the agenda.  It was a mere transit stop.  This time, though, was planned almost to the hour, and I certainly took in a lot:  Montmartre (though not Le Moulin Rouge), Tuileries, Le Musee de Louvre, Versailles, Champs-Elysees, Le Tour Eiffel, Trocadero and L’Arc de Triomphe.  I enjoyed Petits Dejeuners aux pain, viande et fromage, a four course dinner at a Brasserie, another four course dinner at a Turkish restaurant, and a few kebab sandwiches here and there.  One rainy day, I wore my poncho. On the other rainy day, I pretty much stayed indoors or underground.

I learned the difference between eating au place and taking my meal emportee. (It was usually 5 euros).  I learned that one should never, ever write on a France Pass rail voucher, before it has been cleared by the proper official.  I learned that, if the first three trains on the Metro are overcrowded, the fourth will afford sufficient space for a man and his household.  I learned that Paris is a supremely lovable place. Many thanks then, to the young lady at the Montmartre Tourist office, the clerk at Metro Station Le Peletier, the desk clerk at Hotel Victoria and the aforementioned real estate agent, for getting me to Hotel Monte Carlo, albeit in piecemeal fashion; to the manager of Hotel Monte Carlo,  his day clerk and the chambermaid, for arranging a most pleasant stay; to our tour guide at the Louvre and to the staff at Versailles, for their most informative explanations of these fabulous cultural repositories; to the restaurateurs, of establishments great and small, for unfailingly delicious fare, served pleasantly and to my Baha’i friends, for helping me add a spiritual dimension to my Paris visit and for connecting me with the friends in Rouen and Strasbourg. I leave you with this view of the French countryside near Vernon, west of Paris

. SAM_9588

NEXT:  An Evening in Rouen

An Eastward Homage, Day 6: To Paris, With An Absent Crowd

3

Sunday, June 1 was one of those days that starts out with everything going like clockwork, hits about five rough patches, and then ends with everything silky smooth.  I had no trouble checking out of Q Greenhotel, rode the tram into downtown Frankfurt with a Sri Lankan-German taxi driver, who had the day off (Please, no “Busman’s Holiday” jokes) and enjoyed a leisurely continental breakfast at the Hauptbanhof (Central Train Station), before bosrding the train to Paris.  It left a few minutes late, but I was just fine with that, as there were only three of us in the second class train, clear to Saarbrucken.  Here a few of the things we saw, between Frankfurt and the French border.  First, auf wiedershehn to Frankfurt, my first European host since 1982.  You have set the tone, and Europe is less daunting, even for someone like me.

SAM_8894

 

Forty minutes out, we came to Mannheim.  I was expecting a fairly large contingent of American servicemen boarding here for Paris, but few people came on board.  Here is the Maritim Hotel, one of Mannheim’s grandest.

SAM_8896

 

West of the large city, the mountains of Baden-Wurttemburg began to show themselves.  There were some mountains in the area, as is pretty much true of all of lower Wurttemburg.  Hikers were out in force, as were filmmakers and barbecue grillers.

SAM_8902

 

SAM_8901

 

Here is a small parish, east of Kaiserlautern.

SAM_8903

 

The row houses of Saarbrucken were the the last notable site in Germany, before we crossed the border into France.  It was here that we were joined by about 30 people, most of them academics, who were coming from a conference in Koln.

SAM_8906

I arrived in the Gare du Nord District, in good enough time to get  on my way to my hotel, or so I thought.

SAM_8918

With good directions as to the AREA, I made it easily to Montmartre, which I THOUGHT was the location of Monte Carlo Hotel. I was reassured by a local resident at the base of  the hill leading to Eglise Sacre Coeur that that was so.  All the locals I asked, atop the hill, thought differently.  Turns out the Rue Faubourg Montmartre is a LONG way from the district of Montmartre.  A kind Tourist Office clerk set me straight, though sans street number.  I eventually got that, in a hotel in the 9th Arrondisement (District), that was about four blocks down from the Monte Carlo.  At 5:30 PM, I checked into my cozy room, which is about the size of my old bedroom when I was a kid.

Well, since I was up top on Montmartre, here are three scenes from there.

First, these are the steps.  There is a transom, which I at least used going down.

SAM_8919

Next, here is the goal of the steadfast among us:  L’Eglise Sacre Coeur.

SAM_8924

 

lastly, here is the view from the top, which spared me from climbing Tour Eiffel.

SAM_8926

I finally made it to Monte Carlo at 5:15 PM.  The first thing I did, once checking in, was find all the remaining hotel telephone numbers on my list.  The Monte Carlo is the last photo on this set.  I know I said two posts would be up tonight, but downward and sleepward.  See you manana.

SAM_8928