Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Road Too Much Traveled

When Jim Morrison wrote his lyrics about how “The West is the best”, he was not thinking of I-15, I can tell you that much! He was not thinking of all the people pulling guns against cops for not particular reason, or just against random people at the mall, fighting for a sale, or of the horribly polluted air between the canyons, either. These, and many others, are random truths you find for yourself once you move and live here.

The one truth I found in probably my first month of living here, is that the main Interstate that goes by my house and is virtually the only access way to anywhere here, I-15, is surely a death trap! I wrote many times about how the speed limit here is anywhere above 25+ mph higher than what the road signs say, and how there are no rules, or, ahem, there are the Wild West Rules, meaning, every man for himself, into himself, however they deem fit!

I have nightmares occasionally about dying hit by a car on I-15. Because, I am telling you, one day of commuting on that thing could cure you of driving for life!

And I commute, an hour every day, at least. You can’t tune out life, because at any given second some idiot does something stupid that you must avoid – cuts you off, switches lanes with no signal, straddles the lanes, runs you into the wall of the HOV lane, you name it.

Well, tonight was my unlucky (and amazingly lucky, too) night of hitting a flying full size mattress in the fastest lane. You read right: a mattress. There was no way to avoid it – cars flying by me to my left and my right, so the only choice I had was “let” it settle down and drive over it. At 70 mph! And so I did. The liner, of course, came unraveled, and spun around and around and around my front wheel, making sure that the foam was securely tight under my tires.

Luckily, I could pull into the HOV lane, and beyond, on that lane’s shoulder, and also amazingly luckily, a Utah Highway patrolman was parked across the street from me. He zoomed over to my lane and after jacking the car up, taking the wheel completely off and cutting the liner from around my wheel axle, he freed me up to be able to drive off towards my house!

My disgust for people who don’t use common sense when they haul things, light things, that can fly away from a bed of a truck, was only surpassed by my gratitude for this patrolman, who was so kind, so patient, so collected and hesitated none at getting himself dirty, taking the flaming hot lug nuts off my wheel, handling the huge and disgustingly dirty mattress, to get me back to safety.

There are good people in the world, everywhere. I just wanted to stop a spell and be grateful today, when they showed up for me, to rescue me from the death trap of I-15.

Throughout the whole ordeal of being stuck on the shoulder of the fastest lane with cars zooming by at 90+ mph, I had to think of something to keep my sanity – and that was this:

Be safe, everyone. And whatever you do – tie that sucker down when you move it to your kid’s dorm! 

Mattress under car, liner around the wheel and officer trying to jack the car up

Mattress stuck in the front shield of the car

Free at least! Check out the size of that thing! 

Monday, May 25, 2015

That May when Utah Valley Moved to Portland

I have lived in the high Utah Desert for five years now. Sheesh! That used to be my deadline max! “I give it 3-5 years”, I used to say when we first moved here. Funny how time just sneaks up on you like a pair of wild wrinkles around your eyes.

I have lived through snow dumps and icy roads, through high winds that pick up furniture and large trash containers and carry them down the street, as an unwelcome present to your neighbors. I have seen bigger hail than ever before, and even bigger rainbows than ever before, too.

But never in five years have I seen so much rain for this long in this Valley! We have had nothing but daily rain for the past three weeks. Some days, I even forgot the count of time since last I saw the sun in the sky! For three weeks, I keep telling myself: “This weekend is the weekend I am putting my garden in”. And for three weeks, I have been putting it off, because there is nothing but a mud pit out there and no break in the skies, and colder than cold temps, too.

To the many laughs and chuckles of my East Coast and Romanian family, I even threatened I would go out and buy some rubber rain boots, just so I can sink myself freely in the mud and plant my tomatoes, nonetheless! “Rubber rain boots in the desert?!” – they smiled dubiously. And I am glad it didn’t come to that!

This past Saturday, I found a window of sunshine in the sky to finally plant my garden. It’s not a big one, as usual, but we did have to move a raspberry bush, and add new soil to the veggies, which made for a pretty decent workout. Now, it would be grand time for the rain to come back and nourish what is finally in the ground, as opposed to all the weeds that have gobbled up all the water so far! But if only rain (and weather) would listen to me!

The veggie beds before: ... a pile of weeds and nothing besides, really ... 
... and the veggie beds after: new veggies lined up like ready little soldiers, planted firmly in the new compost soil.

Our strawberries are sugar sweet this year! I thought, like grapes, they'll be sour from so much rain, but not these: they're a handful of sweetness with fresh, clean mountain air mixed in. 

This is easily the greenest I have ever seen this yard.

I am done threatening the skies and just glad and grateful  that we have a green and fresh yard to look at this Memorial Day weekend. And the tomatoes, peppers, beans, eggplants and cucumbers are glad for finding a home, finally too! They had mold in their containers from this much water! Now, they’re happily feeding off of the new compost. Life begins a new cycle!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

London: The Small Big City

Some kids grow up with fairy tale books. I grew up with British Literature. Sure, I had the French one, too, available, but my heart belonged to The Brits. There is some reverence about, an elegance, an order to it all. Unlike the French spirit, which is more haphazard and unexpected, the British folks are serious, balanced and possessed. With unexpected bursts of passion and lots of violence. I have always felt that we’re kindred spirits somewhere, in another life.

When I graduated college, everyone saw me moving to London. I remember my first trip to Margate (County Kent) – I sat down on the sidewalk and cried: I had found home and I never wanted to leave. I loved what I saw of London 19 years ago, in between the stops of the tourist bus that took me there. And I have longed to go back and to take it in at my own pace.

This year, this dream became real. We spent 5 days in London and we savored it. Or at least I did. You know: we always spent time reading about what we will do, and even plan a few things. We asked friends who have been there before what are the “must see”-s, we asked co-workers who live there how to effectively spend our limited time there. We took notes and we built an online portfolio of ideas, plans, pictures, “to see”, “to eat”, “to visit” things … And the minute we get off the plane and we get sucked into the first London cab, we let ourselves be swallowed by the whirlwind which is this old and beautiful city. We get carried away, and as one of my London friends said, we keep walking on to discover the magic behind every corner. And this curiosity becomes the only thing that drives us onto our journeys … Just like that, in an instance, the online portfolio is a thing of the past!

And magic this city has. I enjoyed the history lessons the most. I guess, after living in The States for 17 years, I was almost forgetting how heavy with history Europe really is. Every place we visited was a reminder of how old that country really is, and now young America is, by comparison. Not only every place we visited, but every wall and every statue we passed.

My husband’s favorite spot was Westminster Abbey. It is a strange place, really: a bit gloomy, more a huge mortuary than a true church. You step on graves and the names on them give you chills: Shakespeare, Dryden, Cromwell, Elizabeth I, Mary of The Scotts and so on … Like I said: my “fairy tales” …

My favorite spot was a somewhat “obscure” one – it was not something we planned to see, something we stumbled upon quite by accident: The National Gallery Museum in Trafalgar Square. We went in just to kill some time and because it was free. The amount of renowned Renaissance and Baroque painters whose works were exposed was astonishing! I thought I would have to make special trips to Madrid, Paris, or The Hermitage to see some of this art with my own eyes!

I mentioned before that we “kept walking” to discover what’s behind every corner, and with just one exception of the first day of the trip when we took a double decker bus to The Tower of London, we did indeed walk everywhere. We stayed in the Covent Garden area and we walked to Trafalgar, and Buckingham Palace and Westminster Square, and Waterloo Bridge. We stopped here and there, for snacks and beer, in between the history lessons.

And that brings me to my second huge surprise of the trip: whoever tells you Brits can’t cook have not been to England! Or … they lived in America way too long and their taste buds are damaged by too much cheese and butter! London folks know what to do with their meat and potatoes, let me tell you! Meat tastes like meat, not cheese, not bbq sauce, not soy, and etc. Potatoes are not greasy and tasting like oil – they taste like spuds! I did not have one bad dish there, and I tried their traditional food (fish and chips and bangers and mash) as well as other foreign cuisines, too, like Indian, Thai, even Italian – all delicious! My favorite, believe it or not, was breakfast toast (no butter – yes!) and the assortment of jams and preserves that they served it with. And yes, we had lots of beer, tea as well as gin, of course.

Although it is a busy and bustling city, we always felt safe here. There are policemen at literally every corner and bend in the road, in parks, museums and security at every hotel door. After walking the streets of Covent Garden for five days, we felt like we lived in a little borough, really, not a huge metropolis!  

I will leave you with the pictures from this trip. I wish you could smell the streets – a mixture of gas, cold spring air, and dust; I wish you could hear the incredibly noisy streets, half traffic and half construction work – a city always renewed, reinvented and restored; I wish you could see the richness of people’s races and cultures walking these streets; I wish you could taste the food – strong flavors, full of personality and uniqueness, without being loud; I wish you could be amazed at the spotless sky we had for 5 days straight and ask yourselves if you really are in the UK; I wish you could hear the steps of history chasing you on every alley, stories of torture and jealousy, betrayal and revenge. I wish you could smell The Thames and imagine that Dickens’s benches smelled that much more. I wish you could go and discover your London. It’s to each their own. 

An old landmark: The Houses of Parliament on River Thames: click on the picture for the whole album.