Thursday, December 28, 2006

I am here, don’t fret …

I have missed writing, and I have missed talking with all of you. I got caught up in the whirlwind of Christmas and Holidays in general, and I have had little time to sit down and share myself. A small personal crisis and a silly (sickness) bug didn’t make things easier, either. But ‘nuff excuses!
I hope ( I really do!!!) everyone felt less alone this Christmas, and less threatened. I hope all of you have had the comfort of a home, a warm hand, a warm plate of food and a divine sip of a favorite drink to make you smile. And I really hope that you smiled a lot. I hope you had at least one beautiful surprise in the whole scheme of things, one that made you think that life is not so shitty after all!
My Christmas, despite the fact that at first glance was an “alone” one (and boy, does that word spell grimness?!), was also a peaceful and bountiful one. “Gift”-wise, it was probably the poorest in years, but emotion-wise and immaterially speaking, it was a plentiful one. And I am so grateful for that.
I have learned that plans that were in the works for months can fall through in a day, and dreams that were never imagined can come true on Christmas Eve. It depends on how open you leave yourself to miracles and to the unpredictable! I have also moved some labels around of who my friends truly are, and who my friends really are not, or should not be.
I have also learned a new meaning of “alone”: it sometimes can mean just a welcome peace that you must have at the end of this Season when we all overdo so much! As my aunt used to tell me: “never feel bad about being alone, you can nap whenever you want”. It is freedom to do … whatever at the end of a day when all you did was please someone else other than yourself.
I have learned also this Christmas that people can say a lot with few words, or even without words at all. It’s the actions that count, and sometimes just the gestures. “Just the thoughts”, as they say! It’s true. I have learned that when someone so much as think of you, you’re not alone.
My Christmas was fun, loud, full of gifts I probably didn’t need, and food my hips definitely didn’t need! It was peaceful, and quiet, and full of hope, and light. It was like nothing I expected and definitely like nothing I had planned. But it was memorable, with lessons well learned and mysteries discovered.
I hope we all can find that, in this Christmas, or the next, or in every day, for that matter!
Happy Holidays, still, everyone!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas fever: yes, it IS so about the buying, and stop denying it!

Oh, you know the drill: you go to work, and everyone bitches about the crowds, and the traffic, and the horrendous, never ending Christmas shopping, and whines about “why in the hell are we doing this anyways?!”. And then, right as they clock out, and head home, they tell you they’re heading for the mall, or some kind of random store where they have to either “finish Christmas shopping” or “ pick up a few things” or “loose ends” or “wrapping paper” or cards they forgot to send in the first round! But come tomorrow, they will remind you, again, over coffee, that they hate the crowds, and … etc… and “Christmas is not about all this commercialism anyways”… And all you can do not to fall over laughing is to roll your eyes and say “oh, yeah, sure”… and sigh.
Sure, people, tell yourselves THAT and then go out into the big world of traffic and buy some more, add some more to the credit card balance, why don’tcha?!
It is SO about buying the crap! And you know it, and better stop denying it, because it’s becoming old! Unless you want your family to think you’re a Scrooge, or your co-workers to think you’re lame, and don’t want to “participate” in the Office Christmas exchange, and your aunt Millie think you hate her, when she’s already dealing with senility and paranoia in the old people’s home, assisted living nonetheless, and your children to run away from home because they’re the only kids on the block without a tree, and a lighted house, and without any bragging rights the first day in school after Christmas break about “what they got” or “what Santa brought them”, depending on the age! Sure, go ahead! Buy nothing! And see how THAT feels! You think you’re miserable now, huh?! Try buying nothing to no one for Christmas, and see how that feels, then!
Truth is: yes, it is about the buying! For one reason or another, we buy. We show love, or we show off through buying. Whatever our reason, however much conscious or less conscious that reason is, we buy… It’s how we express … love, or care, or … trying to make up for time lost, or just express one-upmanship! “Oh, you think you’ve been good to me all year, Mr. Boss! Wait till Christmas, till I give you a present to make you indebted to ME for the rest of your life, or career, for that matter”.
And so, we’re caught in the rollercoaster, and we’re in traffic, yawning at the end of a busy day, to satisfy the needs, of ours more than theirs, and to buy, to catch up, and to please! Yeah, because see, Christmas is “pleasing everyone” time! We need to see smiles, and happy faces, and in our culture, that’s done by accumulation of “stuff”!
I, for instance, buy because: I live far away from home and I miss (physically) everyone’s birthdays and Easters, and name days (yes, we have name days in my culture!); so I have to compensate at Christmas, when I can say “thanks for being my family and loving me unconditionally, and without restrictions all year round and I am sorry I can’t be there for Christmas either, because here in America, where I live, the employers are stingy with the vacation time”; and “happy birthday and Happy Easter, too”; “and name day” ; I buy because I want to say “thank you” to my friends for just being my friends, and not giving up on me throughout the years; I buy because that’s one time of the year when I do something extra-nice for my pets, like buying them a toy, and an extra snack they’re not allowed to have year-round, for dietary restrictions; I buy because I know just exactly who will buy for me, for whatever reason, and I don’t want to owe anything to anyone! So I have to “match them”(and we ALL do that, don’t freakin’ deny it!!!!!!!!!!!); I buy because it’s what’s expected! If they invite you over for Christmas dinner they “expect” at least a bottle of wine, if not something not completely idiotic they can send as an example to the “completely useless Christmas gifts” column of the local paper the day after Christmas!
So, we buy. And Christmas is so about the buying! Yes, maybe in the old ages, when the money was scarce, and wars plenty, and the people would celebrate Christmas by just having wood for the fire for a change and a meat-full meal, in those times maybe it was not about the buying of totally useless crap; maybe then, it was about the getting together, the warmth in the house, the caroling kids at the window, and about the “white Christmas” outside! But times have changed, and people, too! And, yes, we “evolved” (Gosh, that sounds like an oxymoron!) into these … very shallow creatures that think a gift certificate to “Pier 1” will make a difference, but it’s the price we pay for being the 21st century women and men! We are social creatures, and it’s what’s “expected” of us, socially!
And truth be told: we live, by God, in the most wonderful country in the world, where “returns” rule as kings! You can return pretty much anything and get anything else we can possibly need in any store! If you can’t find anything you DO need at “Barnes and Noble”, “Walmart”, “Sams”, “Linens’n’Things”, “Bed, Bath, and Beyond”, “Bath and Bodyworks”, “Victoria’s Secret” and any other store your friends and relatives shopped for you (but failed to get “exactly” what you needed indeed), then you’re just a picky bastard –it’s ALL I can say!
And c’mon now, you SO needed that cork screw you never would buy for yourself, and that book on gift giving and that blue necklace that surely goes with your jeans, even if you hate blue! You never dreamed of buying these for yourselves, so go ahead and enjoy them now, that you got them from uncle Willy and Grandma Bertha, and they’re free!
And also: you gotta be honest. At the end of the whole Christmas craze, you do SO expect others to remember YOU! You do expect cards in the mail, with baited breath to see just to whom you were important or at least worth mentioning this year! If you don’t expect at least that, than I feel really, really sorry for you: that is truly the sign of a really sad person and existence, excuse my judgment!
Sure, it’s a free country. Do what tickles you, and defy convention and what “society” expects! And I hope you can sleep at night! If not from what your family, friends and co-workers will say, at least from what your kids will cry about. And don’t try to deny it: your conscience will suffer too… Because it’s a different time we live in. Yes, we think of the old times, when commercialism was not the rule of the day, and yes, we regret we weren’t born then, to be able to appreciate “the simple things”! Yes, we realize the shallowness of the now! But we subscribe to it, one religious year after another, while we curse the world, stuck in traffic, or trying to catch a parking spot at Walmart and also at the Mall! Because the times of now are not “so simple” anymore. Trust me, though: it could be worse! You could be living during Communism where it was illegal to celebrate Christmas, and where you could not even allow yourself to think out loud that there was such a Holiday as Christmas at all, for fear of being thrown in jail for the rest of your life, and never seeing your friends and family! So, enjoy the nameless, meaningless gifts and rejoice! Try to find meaning and truthful smiles in everything you give! It’s OK! It’s awaited and appreciated, one way or another!
I hope everyone is having the best time of the year yet! Happy Holidays to all!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Fleeting Thoughts

I have always thought, in a way, that I have all the answers. That life cannot take me by surprise. After all, it’s what dad taught me when I was three: “every day when you wake up, you already know what the day will bring you and you’re prepared for it! You’re firm and you don’t waver! You’re determined, and if anything, you make up others’ minds, not the other way around!” He forgot to tell me that other dads taught their sons and daughters the same things, and I would meet those folks!
My Romanian teacher used to say that I will die young (so does my doctor, but for a different reason), because I “burn like a candle, for every idea I have: right up and bright”. It does get exhausting, indeed!
I used to think I love the people of the mountains, back home, because they don’t do anything in half-measures! They party hard, and work hard; they love hard and they hate hard. Just like the Spaniards, love, death and life are perfect synonyms to them! They give it all or take it all! I used to think that that’s the only way to go through life! But now I know that life requires half measures and so-and-so-ness! Because nothing is forever! Because leftovers are sweeter!
I have learned to not believe in ever…or forever… But into a very vibrant and full “now”. I give my all to the now, I would say, and I leave for the “next” whatever is left, bruised and scarred! Just like a good fire on the hearth: the ashes are left , and God willing, they’ll turn into something the next day!
I used to think I love winter, because my skin hates the heat! With a lazy liver, you would hate the heat too! I don’t know anymore. Winter is not what it used to be! Now, I hate the wishy-washiness of it! And the laziness I feel in the thick clothes! I need to be free, and move! I need determination, too, even from the weather!
I guess what I have learned the most is nothing that’s human-made or human-related is absolute! It’s bad, because it’s annoying, and it’s good, because it leaves room for surprises! And I love surprises.
Don’t feel puzzled, if you’re confused! You’re supposed to! This is life!

Monday, December 04, 2006


“I stick my fingers into existence – it smells of nothing. “ (Soren Kierkegaard)

Every so often I come across a line, or two that just mirror(s) my life so loyally, it’s scary. Existence smells of nothing lately. Because it’s void of everything, including smell, or taste. I try to find sense, and I try to find focus, and I feel like my senses are dormant, and my life is a dream, therefore I am asleep! I move, I talk, I make statements, I shop, I drive, I … talk again, but I feel no substance behind it. Just pure inertia, with no brain and emotion behind it. I am not sure if this is just a temporary hibernation stage, or just an “je m’en fiche”-ism that will just last for all my adult life (hope not). I feel no real connection to people, I sense my own fake-ness, and no purpose in everything. I feel like the future is only as long as 9.39 PM (it’s 9.38PM right now), and that’s all I have to plan for. All my values are scrambled, if any are left, and all hours of every day are superfluous! I have never felt as light as a feather. Some would call it pure freedom, and be glad they found it. I call it death!
I am praying every night for substance, and I am still waiting (funny, how I am praying “every night” and not “every day”: well, I simply pray at night – the factness of my actual prayer time seems to be one of the few relevant details here). At least, this awareness is hopeful! I KNOW, and I acknowledge this sudden change in my values, and person, and I feel not at ease. The knowing gives me hope. I am not lost yet. My existence might smell and taste like nothing, but it’s not a permanent predicament. There’s hope. And trust me: hope smells good!
I am craving for valuable people, and happenings, and life, in general. I am craving for “good smells” of LIFE with a capital “L”. I am craving good smells.
It’s not “life” that I am living lately. But simple “existence” and simple “surviving”. And it’s becoming pretty damn scary! This is the deadest, maybe, and the shallowest I have felt in a while, and it’s no fun! I can’t swim, but I miss the depths …

Sunday, November 26, 2006

People of the South

My dad just got back from a European mini-tour; he drove back from Germany to Romania, and thus got to cross Germany, Austria, and Hungary. My sister (who has seen these countries before) asked what shocked him the most in his travels. He said, in all these countries, what was a general shock was the fact that people are so cold! He said, nowhere could he feel free to just … open his mouth to make small talk and just ask about the weather! He said he felt lonely abroad, and thus happy to be back home. I remembered that he never felt lonely when he visited me; actually, he wanted to stay here, and never return home!
We, Romanians, love to chat! And not being able to carry conversations with complete strangers at least about the weather is crippling to us! It’s a personal offense, like those people don’t “want” us in their world; we are “not welcome”, we are not “good enough” for them?!. And THAT is just hurtful! We love to share, to ask, we’re nosy, we’re friendly, we love to hear about your day! My sister lives in Canada, and she commented to dad’s disappointment: “well, dad, this is the West, in general, for you! People are cold here, in Canada, too. Very much so! The only place on the planet that I have seen so far, where people are welcoming and warm and friendly is the American South. Only there complete strangers will ask you how you are and ask your opinion about the weather”.
And I have to completely agree with her. I have traveled Europe, North America, and some of Eastern Asia and I have to agree: only in the American South people do make small talk to you! Not that I like it ALL the time! Some days, I want to just read my trashy magazine, thank you very much, rather that tell you about my failed marriage and my ex-boyfriends and my canceled plans for the weekend, so you can bask in the self-righteous “boy, she’s SUCH a loser” at the end of my monologue. But it’s true: when in a room with strangers or in an elevator, here in the South, you can bet on one thing always: there will NEVER be a thick silence with embarrassing starings at the ceilings! Oh, they won’t necessarily CARE, but that’s NOT going to stop them from ASKING! And we’re people, not solitary islands, out there in the Pacific, with no hope to ever meeting! We want the human touch and our most distinguished capability from animals is the ability to speak, and communicate through an articulate language. So, I think we all are designed to “keep in touch” and bridge the individualities that we are! It’s a human trait that most of the world seems to forget about nowadays, in our speed-driven lives.
And you know, for a Romanian like me, who loves to talk, and share her life, coming from a completely alone 4 day weekend, on Monday morning, that kind of chit-chat is MORE than welcome!
One more reason to be grateful for where I ended up living! (Thank you, ex-husband!) You gotta be grateful for the small things… and small talk, for that matter…:-)

Monday, November 13, 2006

What do the rivers of Heaven flow …?!

I have been sitting on this piece for a couple of months, because I was fearing I was going to be judged as spoiled and picky, but then I said: what the heck?! I am judged, I am sure, as a whole lot worse than that, so … I’ll send it out there!

This might have been just as well entitled “Angry and thirsty, stranded in the midst of America” – it would have been just ironic!
So, here I go:

Have you ever heard of or come across a fast food restaurant that “don’t have no water” for a drink with your meal?! No, no, nothing fancy: a glass of water, ice or not … a cup of ice, even, empty?! No. Not an option! They literally refuse to offer anything that comes in cup but is a different liquid or concoction other that the punch buttons on the cash machine tells them it needs to be! That restaurant is a “A&W restaurant”, and this particular challenged location I found in the Detroit, MI, airport. They don’t have bottled water, nor TAP water to be offered to the customers with their food. I guess their taps, over there at the “A&W” restaurant in Detroit, Mi, only provide root beer! I guess if they ever wash their hands in there, they must just make do with root beer, because you see, water is in such shortage there!

No, no, I cannot choose the option “no drink with my meal”, either! I am PAYING for the drink, thank you very much, while the person next in line GETS IT, since I don’t want any sodas or juices. No, I am paying $1.50 extra for my shitty sandwich, but if I choose not to drink it, SOMEBODY, by God, HAS to have it, because the little person at the cash register, HAS TO fill up a cup of SOMETHING for SOMEONE with this particular chicken sandwich … so the guy behind me gets a root beer AND a sprite – or something like that! Because “no drink” is not an option on the machine, either, you see; and they MUST punch SOMETHING in in order for the total to show up!

Next time when YOU hate YOUR job, think about this dilemma: dealing with a sorry ass picky damsel who cannot f*&^5ing pick a damn drink and cannot get you to the bottom line when you have 5 people waiting in line to order and missing planes left and right! Think about THAT, for a change, people! :-)

I am standing there, in awe, and I don’t want to be mean, but I wanna scream at the top of my lungs: “Use your brain, people! Someone put it in your head for SOME kind of reason! USE it, or else it’ll go stale! Just like that water on the tap pipe that is not released in my shitty cup right now! Wasted!”.

So, I order my sandwich – see, it’s in the computer, people are waiting, plane is leaving in 20 minutes, guilt trip – I am ordering, OK!!! But no water. Well, yeah, sprite, actually, for the person behind me. Me: no liquids! No, for that, you have to “go next door, ma’am, they has bottle water down there. Next door”. So, I am waiting for my sandwich, and going next door for another charge of $2 for a bottle of water, although I have paid $1.50 for a sprite that the person behind me is now drinking, out at the “A&W” joint!

I guess the little woman at the “A&W” counter was not trained to be faced with the picky bastards that by chance might order water instead of the sugary drinks – what an abomination, overweight America!!!!! Water? Geez!!! Who in the Heck orders Water in a fast food place nowadays?!? Who do you think we are, lady? MacDonald’s?! So, she didn’t know any better. Never in the whole training process was she ever told, even in passing, “use your common sense” or (pickier yet, Geez, Alina, who do you think you’re dealing with here, Homo Sapiens, by chance?!) “brain” – no… She was told: punch the buttons! Since the buttons don’t exist, make the damn picky bastard customer MAKE up her damn mind, or send them “next door”! Pretty simple!

I guess in the big wide world of Fast Food Heaven, out there at the “A&W” headquarters there are rivers of coke and sprite and root beer just flowing every day, uncontrollably! They’ve never heard of “water” up there at the corporate level of “A&W”. In the “next door” Heaven, however, at the bagel shop, it’s where they have the streams of water instead, and THEY afford to bottle it and sell it for $2 a piece, too! And satisfy the picky bastards over there, in that renegade Heaven! But not here, in this sugary, sweet one! No, ma’am! We don’t do water, or … empty for that matter! Up in here we just punch buttons! We can’t punch buttons that don’t exist, ma’am! There’s no way!

Man, and I was thinking I was coming home (I was coming from abroad on that sad trip which landed me in Detroit, MI for a brief hour or so) to the land of opportunities and all possibilities! I guess, in a way, and by some root beer-loving folks, I am doing JUST that!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I’m “single”, NOT “stupid”!

Yeah, you heard me: single NOT stupid! I know they both start with the same letter, but God help you if you get them mixed up! With my fiery temperament, I have no tolerance anymore for people who get that mixed up, or assume I am stupid, anyways, single or not…
So, I get into this car crash, right?! And I need a rental, right?! While my car is in that shop (luckily not totaled). So, Mr. Rental Car Guy shows up to pick me up at my door, and take me to the Rental Car place to rent the wheels that are going to get me through the one month ahead. And Mr. Rental Car Guy decides to flirt with me, although he’s probably 24 and I am … much… his senior. I don’t say my age; I am not asked. I am “assumed”… I guess: young, stupid, and gullible!
He proceeds to tell me (I never asked!) that he was in fact offered scholarships “for academics” to universities such as Harvard, Yale, UCLA, and 3 others (I stopped listening after Harvard and Yale, all right!) and to Auburn, Alabama (figure THAT!), UNC and 3 others for “athletics scholarships”. And in the end, he chose … Guilford College! He is from Mobile, Al, originally! So, of course, he would choose a Southern school! Ok, why not Auburn or Alabama, you might ask?! I did too! Ask myself, that is! I was too busy stifling the laughter in his sad face to ask HIM! He goes on to tell me that he chose Guilford College because of the “community work” they do! Forgive me if I am judgmental, but although I am not really familiar with that program, I know you can be of help to the community if you, as an individual choose to do so! And to refuse such pristine education in favor of community work that you might do anyways, along with the pristine education seems highly unbelievable to me. Ok… I am being judgmental!
Then, he learns I am bilingual, and he proceeds to tell me that in fact he speaks 5 languages fluently: French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, and American sign language; oh, yeah, and English of course! An by the time he is 40 he would like to speak 10 languages all in all, but he already has gotten a heads start on Japanese, of which he speaks some. I wanted to say: “Just because you can say ‘Merci’ and ‘Bojour’, it doesn’t mean you’re fluent in French!” – but again … busy laughing within myself…
The entire time, I am looking at this guy, and with all his “Athletics” scholarships under his belt … I cannot see an athlete in him! I see an acne face, beer gut, couch potato, second class rental car clerk who’s trying really hard to overcome his Southern accent.
How stupid do you think some people must me to believe you turned down Harvard an Yale for a no-name private college with no history to speak of in Sports, either, just to graduate and rent cars for a living?! Oh, yeah, the reason for working for the said rental car place is: “they plant trees”. Hhhmm… ok!
I just never understood I guess the pathological liars. Do they need to make THEMSELVES look good to THEMSELVES?! Because to us, they just dropped down a few HUGE notches as plain idiots!
And as for the single part: do you think I’d rather date a Harvard drop out than a real Harvard grad?! Or do you think I feel better renting from a Harvard drop out than from a Harvard grad?! Why even drop the name, dude?! What’s the point?! And take this piece of advice from someone old(er than you): if you at any point got an acceptance scholarship from Harvard, do yourself a favor and frame it and hang it right next to your Guilford College degree! Trust me: it’s JUST as impressive!
But for now: you’re just sinking under the weight of your own name dropping! So: good luck swimming …!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Some mundane thoughts about the "NOW"

“To take for permanent that which is only transitory is the delusion of a madman”.
(Kalu Rinpoche)
PS: once you SEE this, it all becomes simple!

Just remember that all we have is the ‘right now’. There is no ‘next minute’, and no ‘tomorrow’. No ‘two hours from now’ and no ‘a year from now’. That’s all we’re sure of, and all we’re 'given'! All we’re ever allowed to take for granted – and that should be a responsible choice, too (the taking for granted, that is)! There is the ever present, ever demanding now, waiting to be filled.
And demanding it is: like a hungry mouth, screaming at you, asking to be fed. What is it going to be tonight? A mouthful of joy? Or luke-warm happenings? Or a mouthful of sadness? Or simple truth? Your choice, most of the times! A mouthful of smiles and peace, maybe?! Who knows?!
Yeah, some things are external, they come from outside of us, but what’s INSIDE of us, our response to all of them, is ours, and it’s solely our choice. Just make sure, whatever it is, you’re not waking up tomorrow with regrets! Those are for the weak! Who needs them?! You did it! It’s done! Tomorrow is another chance to screw it up, or make it big. But you can’t go revisit what you did … right now… So be careful! And loving, and kind! And the life will flow smoothly if you remember some of these simple and yet hard to figure out things: gentle, kind, loving – towards yourself mostly.
And just always remember: you only have the ‘now’. If you have plans, make them happen, and start them RIGHT THIS SECOND. There is no certainty about the next minute. Unfortunately, life doesn’t come … with a “lifetime warranty”. I know: that’s ironic. But isn’t life always?!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Travel Journal: Key West

My favorite grandpa in the whole world used to say that no trip should be picture perfect nor without troubles, because how are you going to ever remember it? If everything went according to plan, you’ll have nothing, he used to say, to remember around the fireplace at Christmas and talk about when you’re older. Nothing. So, some “adventures” are absolutely required in order to make a trip interesting – he used to say. And I never took him seriously, until my trip to Key West! This trip surely had its share of freak happenings (in more ways than one), and the oddness of some will always be imprinted in my memories! They all made the trip more interesting, and kept my alert level to an all time high! I was never prepared for whatever the next corner had reserved for us. But that was where all the fun was, too – mostly!
I started getting suspicious weeks before the trip, when we couldn’t find our Hertz reservation online, although we both remembered making it, and it showed up on our credit card! We were reassured all was well, re-confirmed, when my friend called them, but I was not so sure. Yes, I tend to get overly paranoid when I attempt something new. You never know, right?!
We left my house late for the airport, and not only did we get lost on the way there, because we thought we were getting onto a shortcut, when we got stuck on this one lane street behind a garbage truck that was doing 25 on a 35, but once we finally got to the airport, all the parking lots were full; so we spent 10-15 precious minutes we really didn’t have, to find a parking spot. We are lucky that we live in a small town, with a small airport, so the afflux of planes leaving in the middle of the day is not the size of a New York or LA airport! So, we managed to check in, send the luggage through, buy a slice of pizza and make it to the gate before boarding started. Once there, we heard my friend’s name on the speaker, and he was being called “at the podium”, which means at the gate office. He was asked if he would mind to be given another seat, for a very strange reason, one which, in at least 9 years of international traveling, I have never heard of before: there was a prisoner in our plane, and he 2 officers escorting him had to be by the prisoner’s side, and one of the chairs was given mistakenly to my friend. I was to sit across the aisle, but in the same row, so my friend asked to give me also a new seat, to prevent me from sitting across the isle from a criminal (well, sorry, until proven innocent). Thus rearranged, we ended up sitting in different rows altogether, and both paranoid that we are in fact traveling with a prisoner on board, and what could happen now?!!

Once in Charlotte, we almost got killed several times by one of those little cars that take passengers from one gate to another, and squeal out of this world to people to stand out of their way! We didn’t know where to dodge anymore, because we tried everything. We survived and got to our gate after all! I guess they can’t give them speeding tickets in the airport for those things, but I personally think they should!

Once in Miami, we grabbed our luggage and waited patiently for the Hertz bus to take us to the car rental place. Once on the bus, the driver could not, once again, find our reservation. My friend assured her that we must have one, because we did it twice, online and on the phone, but I was becoming nervous once again! Call it female intuition, but I smelled trouble. Somewhere soon, anyways!

At the Hertz dealership we found just 3 people in line, which looked promising: we needed a short line, since we were to drive at least 3 hours to Key West and it was already 7 PM, and we were tired, starved and both cranky (already, I know!). There were three clerks, too, which also looked good! What we didn’t know was: that there were at least 300 pieces of papers per customer to be signed, sealed, and about 500 questions from each one to be asked! So we were in line for what seemed like Methuselah’s age! As the crankiness progressed, our eyes wandered over to the TV and my friend was in shock: the two teams that he’s the very loyal fan of, the Phillies and the Nationals, were playing! And yes, you guessed it: he was missing it! And you know how guys get when they miss their sports, for whatever reason, yes, including a trip they themselves planned! Yes, that’s right: cranky! – that was not a good premise for me, trust me! We were going to be stuck in the car for the next 3 hours with no tv nor radio, probably, that would broadcast the game, so the tension grew.

After an hour of wait and many peeks on the big screen tv, we finally got our car, and the directions to head South, and we took off on the streets of Miami! We soon found out that the last “left” turn on our directions from the gracious Hertz clerk could not be possible, because we hit a road that was a right turn only. So, again, just like in Greensboro, we got lost, and wandered on slow moving streets before we got back on the Turnpike!

On the way down, we stopped right after we left Miami, for dinner, at a Chillies Restaurant. I was to wait patiently at my table while my friend paid some lonesome visits to the bar’s tvs to catch the scores of the baseball game, and needless to say, that is one of my biggest pet peeves: to be left alone in a restaurant… But I was patient! I was going to make this trip a success, however much Fate, in all its might, might decide to screw with it! So, dinner passed, and we’re back on the road, when my friend mentions that well, he didn’t call the office of the timeshare at which we were going to stay “the day of” our coming there, and he hopes that the office clerk remembered to leave us he key to the place, even without a reminder.

At that point, I refused to think anything else could happen to us! That was it! The late airport arrival, the prisoner, the looongggg wait at Hertz, the missed baseball game… No! We WERE GOING TO HAVE A KEY – and that was it. I refused to think further! My friend kept doubting; I kept not listening!

I guess 4 hours and 42 bridges later ( I will only so much as mention in passing, too, that the slowest “Chillies” waiter in the whole entire world lives in the outskirts of Miami, too), we were in Key West. We drove around looking for our place, to which we arrived at midnight. And yes, we looked for the key, at the office door, where it was supposed to be taped on, at the condo door, maybe, we walked to the bar and asked about it, or about the clerk, but no sign of the key, or the clerk, or course! The Phillies-Nationals game was still on (last inning) on the bar tv – and that was one small reward of all the pain: he could at least get a score.

My friend decided, in all his generosity, to use his Marriott points to put us up for the night at the Courtyard Marriott, so we won’t have to spend the night in the car, in the car port of the timeshare! Once at the Marriott, we were left with the only room available: a smoking one, and both of us hate smoking! Yes, it smelled, but ask me if either of us cared. At that point, we were so edgy, we wouldn’t even talk to each other. I think both of us realized we were not mad at each other, but man, were we mad at the Travel Fairy! She really screwed us over! So far … at least … Little did we know … but don’ let me get ahead of myself here.

The first morning in Key West came around, and we woke up in the Marriott room, eager to get out and enjoy the Keys, and the days ahead of us, but not before the proverbial American shower of course! I guess I was more eager than him, because I jumped in the shower first: in the HOT shower, that is, because there was NO cold water to be mixed in with the hot; so I, who absolutely hate hot water and has her heart run at 120 beats a minute on hot water, had to deal with the hot-hot-hot water in the shower that morning and have her skin burning red like a lobster when she got out. No other choice! All right, I thought. Just the beginning. If you’re gonna be this difficult, ask me if I care then! Bring it on! I am ready! Burn me up in the shower, will ya? OK! Fine then!! And I decided I’ll smile, just to spite life! And the Travel Fairy!

We left the Marriott starved, and the last thing we did was to ask for directions to a breakfast buffet, since we were both so hungry. We were recommended this place as “the best buffet on he island”; we looked for it for a while, in eager nervousness, and once we got there, we found an empty parking lot and a “friendly” sign on the door reading “AVAILABLE”… and a phone number. Yeah, if that was the BEST on the island, I wonder what he worst looked like?! We finally went towards the “Sunset” end of the island and we ate there, somewhere off of Duval, of course, where everything else is. We were lucky indeed when we came upon a parking lot that was ready to have us for $5 a day, instead of the very customary $5 an hour, like the rest of the town. We counted our blessings! The bummer on our first day there, though, at least for me, was the rain: everywhere you looked, there were dark, menacing clouds, and the rain started shortly after our meal! The good thing, we were to find, was that rain never lasts for more than 15 minutes at a time there. I guess just passing rainy clouds, saying “hello”. That’s when I noticed that all the bars and restaurants are outdoors and they have almost no walls around the dining areas! Very welcoming and limitless, just like Paradise ….

After a day of walking, people watching, eating everything in sight and drinking frozen drinks, we headed home, this time to our reserved place, the timeshare condo, overlooking a beautiful, lush green marina and pool! Gorgeous! Felt and looked like Heaven on Earth: lush vegetation and clean alleys, quiet pathways and hallways marked the place. Really relaxing. While moving my luggage upstairs to the bedroom though, I saw something moving across the hallway. I thought: oh, we have roaches?! Well, you see, I forgot this is the beach, and Florida, and the end of the world and the Subtropics, so the small thing moving across my room was not a roach, like everywhere else on the planet, but a baby lizard! I don’t know about you, but if there are two things in the world that I cannot and would not have tolerance for, those are reptiles and rats! I kill bugs just about any day of the week, but reptiles! No, they are of a different realm! We let the guy live though, don’t worry. Well, my friend did … I was once again almost ready to sleep in the car.

After the lizard adventure, I was ready for my shower, after a whole day in 100 degree heat and rain, after nervousness and bad luck, and ready for bed. Now, the condo had the reverse of the Courtyard: no hot water in the shower, just cold; so, shivering in the A/C and in the cold water, I was so tired, I couldn’t complain anymore, even. I just sucked it up, cleaned up, dressed up and slept like a baby. My friend asked me the next morning, had I heard the storm going through in the night. Nope! No way! I was dreaming away… of a land as lush as our front yard, and of a water as clear as the Atlantic in front of us, but no lizards and with hot water in the shower. :-)
Everything went relatively smoothly the rest of our stay there; with a mild cloudiness in our first sunset watching – which is what anyone ever goes to Key West for, isn’t it?! But the sunset was gorgeous, despite the clouds! The food and the beauty of the old city managed to keep us wowed and entertained the entire time. We didn’t know what else to order, and where else to look! Such a feast for the taste buds and eyes.

On the day we had to leave back for Miami, my heart sank! I was nowhere near ready to leave. Yes, we had made good use of our time, and we had seen pretty much all there is to see, and we had eaten everything we were told we had to eat, and we had enjoyed the history, and the sun, and the fun… but ready to go back we were not! There should never be an end to good times, should there?!

On the day we left Key West, the streak of unluckiness came back, or so it seemed! The room had to be emptied at 10! What kind of a check out is 10 AM?! We’re both snoozers, so you know we weren’t happy, with an 8 o’clock alarm knocking on our brains! The cleaning woman was knocking on the door every 5 minutes, starting at 9.30, and that is not even a little bit exaggerated! The day we left, we planned to drive to Miami, and be there in time for the Phillies and the Marlins game, scheduled for 6 PM that night. My friend had a feeling that the game had moved up, for tv: and once on the road, around noon, we picked up a paper and indeed, it was moved up to 1.25!!! There was no way we were going to make it to the Dolphins stadium before the game! No way! For my friend, an ardent sports (and baseball nonetheless) fan, this was the second major miss and disappointment of the trip! That set the mood for the day! Killing ourselves to get through to Miami, we drove relentlessly and ploughed right through the traffic with one aim in mind: the Dolphins stadium and “the game”.

Everything you can think of stood in our way: we couldn’t find a restaurant to eat lunch in, for miles, on the Keys; when we did find one, it was obscure to say the least, dirty, hair on the table, stale chips and fake crab, and it took forever; we came upon lots of traffic, on a 2 lane street, of course, with no alternative road, but the water, construction work and one lane traffic, we had to stop for a draw bridge and it was not even for a big boat!!!; Fate was grinning, again!; at one point, closer to Miami, the bottom seemed to have fallen out of the sky: huge black clouds swallowed us, and we couldn’t see 2 feet in front of us through the heavy rain! – the only hope was that the game would have a rain delay! Once in Miami, we started looking for the stadium on the map, and yes, you guessed it: it was at the very opposite end of town than we were coming from! So had to plough through the city traffic to get there! We finally did, around the 3rd inning (yes, they did have a rain delay! Some prayers ARE indeed answered!), but there was no one at the ticket counter and we couldn’t get in without tickets! Someone who looked important showed up, and he told us “he will hook us up”, and gave us free tickets. I guess the luck is not too dark, huh?! We promised him at buy a lot of beer, to repay him for he huge favor. Well, that was before we found out a bottle of Bud Light was $7! Yes, we bought 2 beers, and sorry, we thought that was plenty, too! We did see the Phillies win, though, which was the cherry on top! No, they didn’t go further, but they won! You gotta be grateful for small favors!
And yes, I will remember all these crazy things that happened and which added so much spice to our trip. But I will also remember the very wonderful things that left me speechless and made for the flavor of Key West!

The landscape of the Keys is like nothing I have ever seen before: low and narrow, bare and empty in face of the huge amounts of water that surround it! You feel so low, and so engulfed by it! There is no escape: there is only the water or he sky! And they’re both infinite! The sky always looks so close to the water, too, mirroring itself in the Ocean, like a close up mirror, you hold right up against your face! Not to miss a line! The palm trees and coconut trees didn’t wow me as much as just the pure sky into the water reflections! You’re lost. There is no end or beginning; there is only a deep, deep, endless blue that makes you think how finite you are in comparison to the whole universe! It feels like living under water, almost: the water always feels “taller” than where you are.

They say everyone goes to Key West for the sunsets and I thought: “oh, how cheesy”. And of course, again, in the face of pure nature and God, I was proven wrong. So wrong! You don’t know it till you see it! The light getting sucked out of the world into the water! The fire dying into the abyss… into nothingness… and the world coming to an end, of the day, but if you’re caught in the moment, it’s so hopeless! The sun dies, every day, in Key West, and the death is applauded, and God only knows how many trillions of pictures live now around the world of this death?! The moment is serene and quiet, like a death, but bright, passionate and yes, loud, like pain! I went in being a skeptic about it, and I came out enlightened: there IS indeed such a thing as the tallness and speechlessness of nature. And it’s all around us. The sunset in Key West was one of those moments, to me, when I am sure there’s gotta be a God in those moments! The world is too beautiful and perfect a place for it not to be…

I will always remember, from this trip, the lazy days: of walking around the streets, with no purpose, and no aim at all, but the walking, the living in the moment at its best! The frozen drinks snacks in the hot afternoons; the foods, all exotic and spicy hot; the feeling of the shark’s skin, tough as sand paper; the peculiar-ness of iguanas, who turn orange to prove they’re ‘better looking’ – can an iguana, really be good looking?!; I will always crave the mid-afternoon stop at Ben and Jerry’s for a bite of Key Lime Pie icecream: we sat on that bench in front of the store for at least an hour, I am sure making the icecream man mad for occupying the bench, and just people watched and commented, on the old woman with the shaved head, or the young woman with her shirt falling off and uncovering a boob, like a Botticelli model; or the old man, with shorts, and knee high white socks (why do old men wear that?!) riding a motorcycle; I knew I really reached Heaven when I got to Hemingway’s house, with the rich vegetation, and the cats, the many tens of polydactyl cats that have made history! It was like coming of age for me, as an English major AND cat lover! I could not believe I was walking his streets, and seeing his views and touching the walls he touched, and breathing the air he breathed! It was worth a trip to the end of the world to see that!

I felt the same sense of “arrival” and of one’s smallness when I reached the Southernmost point in the US that I felt, years ago when I climbed the World Trade Center towers. A feeling of “you cannot go any further”, and you, a small person from small city Romania, have now made it! Your ancestors would be proud! Your eyes have seen and your pores have breathed! It was an end of the road kind of feel for me… and a revelation… of, again, being very finite.
I will always remember the swim in the pool, all our own, one morning; the hot, honey-like thick air, and the coolness of the pool. The kisses and the wetness; the sticky skin against sticky skin in the middle of an afternoon embrace- absolutely my favorite from the entire trip. The smell of sun block. The remoteness of the glass bottom boat, once we reached the coral reefs: I can’t even swim, and I was hovering over sting rays and barracudas now! The taste of conch, and of key lime. The taste of salt in the air.

I will always treasure the silver Celtic necklace that looks like a fisherman’s anchor’s rope . An anchor of happiness and freedom!

You feel lost in the Keys, but you feel also found: found by each other, and the coziness of the old city that survived thousands of hurricanes and storms! You feel vulnerable and strong! Alone and together – at the same time. It’s a feeling like no other, the feeling of the end of the world!
I will remember the goofy/ silly things too: like the fact that the black neighborhood is “poetically” called “The Bahamas” in Key West: they truly have a desire and propensity to be like no other! I will remember the cute waitress at Sloppy Joes with the black bandana, seemingly Goth or Hippie, but so good, and so cute and soft- featured that she wasn’t either! I will remember the reaction I had when I saw live conch the first time: “I ate THAT?! GROSS!” - absolutely disturbing! But yes, I ate it and I loved it; conch chowders were my favorite. I will remember the Jimmy Buffet look alike bands playing at every corner of the street, at any time of the day, too … The sentiment of everlasting and endless vacation always floating around … Just easy-going-ness at its best. I will remember the brutal, seemingly atrociously painful dive of the pelicans into the shallow waters for fish! They are such heavy birds! How do they fly?! They just crash into the water like big planes nose-diving. The silly signs and menu notes everywhere: “ you are here: and this is Paradise”; or “bad ass coffee”; or “ if life gives you lemons, just add vodka”; or “ damn good margarita”…. The laziness and no purpose of life while on vacation… roosters everywhere and stray cats! Where in America can you see roosters and cats roam free and loving people?!

The small annoyance of the rental car’s beeping at us when the belt wasn’t on couldn’t kill this charm and happiness.

I have yet to be on another trip, or remember having been on one before that is such a feast for all senses and for all emotions. You’re paralyzed with sensing too much, and feeling too much, and loving too much, and breathing too much in. Every corner of every street reveals a surprise: funny people, sad people, interesting foods, or music, a historic place, or a historic bar, a memorable construction made of coral, a sunset or a random rooster, or an orange iguana, a funny or interesting sign, a funny man from England that constantly tells you to “shut up” while he juggles burning torches … You’re in shock, and only after this whole intake has “sedimented” itself inside of you can you make sense of it all! I suppose you can say it’s like a hurricane wave: coming at you all at once, strong, unstoppable, and overwhelming; and only after it’s retrieved, you can see the consequences!

One thing I know for sure: grandpa was right! There is no such thing as remembrance without adventure, and every second in Key West is pure adventure! And I know now that I live through today and every day in anticipation of that! (if I wasn’t convinced before).

It’s time!

We are at that time in the year when the sun’s balloon just exploded and it pours gold on Earth. Everywhere you look, there is liquid gold plating the trees and the hills. When it dries a little, it turns into shades of red and auburn, and when it dries even more, it becomes dark brown. But every day for a while now, there is more and more new gold poured on nature. It hurts the eyes …
It’s the time of the year when I shiver at the wheel in the crisp mornings and my car just refuses to warm up fast enough for me to be happy! Time for leftover chicken-and-noodle soup for lunch in the park. I love listening to the wind through the golden leaves… It sounds so much more different than the wind in the summer. It’s not the loud, youthful, deep voice you hear in the hot August nights; it’s the hoarse and raspy voice of an old man, about to catch a cold. And the Carolina blue sky hovering over, like a hopelessly immense sheet of pure azure above it all! The feeling of being lost in space, while looking up… of being lost in the deep, and clean, blue and golden space … Of being swallowed …
It’s time for new mulch and one last lawn-cut! Time to buy the apple scented candles and room sprays and crave cinnamon into every pie! Time to stock up on candy corn, grape jelly and apple strudel and bring out the pumpkins! Time to order recipe books filled with favorite holiday grubs and let your mouth just run … like the mountain springs with water ….! Time for cozy, slow Sundays, tucked in with a great book on the rocking chair, or cooking batches of favorite hot and hearty soups, while looking at the joggers in the lane, all dressed up in golden sunlight … chimeras in the street, so lazy …
Time to feel homesick, and call everyone back there to just say “I love you”, and hear “I love you” back…
It’s time to grow older and hopefully wiser. Back home, we say it’s time to count the ducks and the apples; time to count up just how many of those “new year resolutions” have been accomplished and how much of this one more past year was purely chance’s work?!
Time to change the cd’s in the car and include some mellow The Sundays, Harry Connick Jr., Elton John, Norah Jones and Joe Cocker. Time to feel in love, if only just with life or the now! Time to sleep in, cuddled up in the cold early mornings with the warm fur.
And time to dream of … nothing. No more planning yet! For a few months, we too are allowed to be big lazy bears and hibernate. We’ll leave the plans for ugly January. For now, we’ll live in the Paradise of liquid gold, good smells, thoughts of nothing, and the Fall’s “Dolce Far Niente”! And “dolce” it is indeed!

PS: and time to capture the moments in more visual snapshots, too; click here for pictures, or paste in your browser:

Monday, October 16, 2006

What's left ...

Whenever I say 'good bye', for more or less "good", I always, for some reason, come back to these Tsvetaeva lyrics. I discovered them in college, and all with the exception of the cigarette smoke, seem to fit me: simple and deep. I hope people remember these about me, one day, amongst other things ...

"One day, pretty creature"

"One day, pretty creature,
I'll become a memory for you,

There, in your deep memory,
Lost -- so far far away.

You'll forget my hook nosed profile,
And my forehead in the tempest of a cigarette,

And my eternal laughter, annoying you, --

And on my working hand, a hundred
silver rings, -- an attic-cabin,
Of my heavenly confusion of papers

Frightening year, reasoned by the sorrow,
You -- were small, I -- was young."


I never knew what it feels like to have a piece of your flesh, of your heart ripped right out of your being and taken away until Maia died, one grim April morning! I thought the world stopped, and I just suffered a lobotomy, since I would never, ever be the same without her! I was so maimed!
Maia is my mom’s mother. I say “is” because she will always be here! Always, she is just a step away from me. I ask her for advice, I talk to her, I kiss her good night, and I ask for her advice and help almost every day of my life. She’s here when I fall asleep, she’s here when I go in for surgery, she’s there when I fly, and when I have “milestone” moments in my life!
I talked to her, in real life, last on my 29th birthday! I was in New Orleans, and she was on my cell phone, crying up a storm, and telling me I was the love of her life, along with my sister, and why did we leave her. She died 5 days later, without another word!
She passed away as dignified as she lived! She never lost her physical might, and never her mind’s power! She was strong and nothing could subdue her! Not the loss of a husband, not the abuse of a second one (God rest his soul in peace), not the lack of money and food, not the Communists, not the loss of her health and her independence. She was standing up straight until the next minute of her life! She was plagued by osteoporosis and polio arthritis, and also from heart congestion and heart failure, and yet, right before mom took her into the hospital, she said she will give herself a bath! She didn’t allow mom or anyone else to help. It was her job, to go to the doc “clean” and she managed to take care of that! She got ready for the hospital, and determined as she always was, she said “this is the last time I see this house with these eyes” – and it was. She died several hours later. Her big heart stopped and the doctor broked her sternum trying to revive her, with no luck! She passed in a fraction of a moment. It was the biggest gift God could have given her and us: a quick death! – if there is such a gift!
She was my heart! She was my love! She was my rock. She raised me, she said, since I was 3 days old, till I went to High School! I was a college baby – mom and dad were still in college; so Maia raised me! She took me to work, she fell asleep rocking me, she changed me, and fed me, she watched my first steps, and she taught me everything I know today, in my daily routine: how to brush my teeth, how to fold my clean clothes, how to clean my house, how to cook, how to be grateful to others who help me, how to say “thank you”, how to be humble, how to be proud and stand for what I believe in, how to fight for what’s mine; she taught me the importance of school, and of continuous learning, of bettering yourself, no matter how old you are; she taught me how to be a “lady”: how to look clean, and elegant, even when I am having a bad day! She taught me how to match clothes, and shoes to clothes; how to never go to a wedding without nails done, or hair done properly!
She taught me how to listen for God: “when its thundering, God is walking madly through Heaven. Listen!”. She took me to my first communion! And my first funeral …
She always, always taught by example: she always helped the less fortunate, and she always said good people are here to be used by all – because they’re good! She taught me how to work hard and never, ever to say no to any kind of work, because work is not demeaning; only laziness! People tell me I have her eyes, and her hair, and her lips – and I can’t think of a greater compliment!
One day, when I was in 3rd or 2nd grade, I looked at her fingers, and I saw her biggest ring, and I asked her if I could have it. She said: “sure. When I die, it’ll be yours”. I wear it today and she is right here with me. I never thought that moment would be this soon! I would give that ring back, and the 2 years of my life since she’s been gone, to have her here with me, to hold her tightly one more time, and tell her just how much I love her and how much she means to me. But I am not that lucky. And she also taught me that you cannot be against God’s will, which overrides all wishes!
What do you give someone who is your whole life on their birthday?! When they give you SO MUCH? How can you ever say “you’re loved” or “ thank you?! How do you ever repay?! Somehow, I know that she would not expect anything in return, and even if she did, it would not be much! Because she was happy to just be and to see us happy. One thing I know for sure, though: she would not have liked me crying on her birthday, or being sad, probably, but then again, as much as I loved her, I didn’t always listen! 
Happy birthday, Maia, and know, always, that you are loved!

Romanian version/ Versiunea in romaneste:

Nu am stiut ce inseamna sa ti se smulga o bucata de carne din tine, sau o bucata de inima, pana cand a murit Maia, intr-o zi trista de aprilie. Atunci am crezut ca intreaga omenire s-a oprit complet, iar eu am suferit o lobotomie, pentru ca ma simteam total transformata! Mutilata complet!
Maia a bunica mea de pe mama. Spun ca “e”, pentru ca e mereu cu mine inca! Dintotdeana, si mai ales de cand a murit, e mereu cu mine, in fiecare clipa. Ii cer mereu sfaturi, o sarut de noapte buna, ii cer mereu ajutorul in fiecare clipa din viata mea. E aici cu mine cand adorm, in fiecare seara, cand intru la vreo operatie, cand decolez cu fiecare avion, sau cand intampin un moment de cumpana!
In viata “reala”, am vorbit cu ea ultima data de ziua mea, cand am implinit 29 de ani! Eu eram la New Orleans, si ea imi vorbea la celular, plangand in hohote si spunandu-mi ca eu si sora mea am fost dragostea vietii ei, si de ce am parasit-o! Apoi a inchis ochii pe veci, dupa 5 zile de la acea convorbire, si nu am mai auzit un cuvant de la ea.
A murit la fel de demn cum a trait! Niciodata nu si-a pierdut demnitatea fizica, si niciodata nu si-a pierdut acuitatea mintala! A fost o femeie puternica, si nu s-a lasat supusa de orice alta greautate din viata ei! Nici de pierderea unui sot, nici de abuzul celui de al doilea (Dumnezeu sa ii odihneasca in pace!), nici de lipsa de bani, nici de abuzurile comunistilor, nici de pierderea sanatatii proprii, sau a proprii independente. A stat dreapta, si mandra, pana in ultima clipa! A fost doborata aproape de tot de osteoporoza, si de poliartrita, si apoi de boala de inima, si in ciuda a tuturor acestor boli, in ultima clipa, chiar inainte de a pleca la spital, i-a zis mamei ca trebuie sa se spele “singura”. Trebuia sa fie “curata” inainte de a fi vazuta de un doctor. Si s-a spalat singura, demna cum a fost mereu! Hotarata cum a fost mereu, a spus inainte de a pleca din casa, ca atunci era “ultima data cand se uita la casa aceea, cu ochii aceia” – si asa a fost! A plecat la spital, si a murit cu cateva ore mai tarziu! Inima ei mare s-a oprit brusc, iar doctorul i-a rupt sternul incercand sa o reinvie, dar fara succes! A murit repede, si asta a fost darul ei de la Dumnezeu, daca exista asa un dar, de a muri repede!
Era inima mea intreaga! Dragostea mea de o viata! Era piatra mea de referinta, Gibraltarul meu! Spunea mereu ca m-a crescut de cand aveam 3 zile! Si m-a crescut pana am ajuns la liceu! Ma lua la servici cu ea; adormea cu mine in brate cand eram mica; ma schimba de scutece; mi-a supravegheat primii pasi, si m-a invatat tot ce stiu pana in ziua de azi, toata rutina mea de zi cu zi: cand si cum sa ma spal pe dinti, cum sa imi asez hainele si sa le pastrez; cum sa fac curat; cum sa gatesc, cum sa fiu recunoscatoare celor care ma ajuta; m-a invatat sa spun “multumesc”; m-a invatat cum sa fiu umila si modesta! M-a invatat, de asemenea, cum sa fiu mandra, si sa imi spun mereu punctul de vedere, si si sa vorbesc mereu raspicat daca am ceva de spus! M-a invatat sa lupt pentru dreptul meu si sa nu dau inapoi. M-a invatat mereu importanta educatiei si a invataturii! M-a invatat sa fiu “doamna” si sa am grija de mine, ca femeie; m-a invatat ca nu se merge niciodata la o ocazie cu unghiile nefacute sau cu parul necoafat!
M-a invatat sa Il acult pe Dumnezeu: “cand tuna, il auzi pe Dumnezeu mergand furios in Ceruri”. M-a dus la prima impartasanie, si la prima inmormantare.
Mereu ne-a invatat prin exemplul ei: era mereu buna cu cei neajutorati; si mereu ne spunea ca oamenii buni sunt mereu folositi de cei nevoiasi pentru ca de aceea sunt “oameni buni”! M-a invatat cum sa muncesc mult si neobosit, si ca munca nu e josnica, oricat de jos ar fi! Numai lenea e josnica!
Cateodata lumea zice ca seman cu ea, ca am parul ei, sau ochii sau buzele ei, si e cel mai frumos compliment pe care mi-l poate da cineva!!!
Mi-aduc aminte ca eram in clasa a doua sau a treia si ma uitam la mainile ei, si la inelul ei cel mai mare, si i-am zis ca il vreau eu; iar ea mi-a spus ca mi-l da mie cand moare! Azi am acel inel, si l-as da inapoi, si as da inapoi si cei doi ani din viata mea, cei doi ani de cand ea a plecat, as da totul inapoi, ca sa o mai vad doar odata, si sa ii spun cat mi-e de draga si cand de dor mi-e de ea! Sa o strang la piept si sa ii spun cat o iubesc! Dar nu am norocul asta! Si tot ea m-a invatat ca dorinta Domnului e mai presus de toate.
Ce poti sa dai cadou cuiva care iti este intreaga viata de ziua ei?! Cand ea ti-a dat atat de multe daruri, ce poti sa ii dai inapoi?! Cum poti sa ii spui “multumesc” cand ea ti-a dat toata viata ei?! Stiu, in sufletul meu, ca ea nu se asteapta la daruri prea mari din partea mea! Ea a fost mereu fericita doar sa ne stie pe noi fericiti! Si asta ar fi fost un cadou suficient! Stiu un lucru sigur: ca nu ar fi vrut sa ne vada plangand de ziua ei! Sau sa ne vada triste… dar asa cum am facut-o de multe ori, nu am ascultat-o intotdeauna! Si asa ca azi sunt trista!...
La multi ani, Maia, si stii ca mereu te vom iubi! …

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Things are always bigger in the US … or Canada…

When I first came to the US, and always thereafter, I have always heard from all over the world, that “things are always bigger in America”. Invariably, everyone outside of here, means the USA when they say America. And indeed, I found, as a girl coming from Eastern Europe, that things are indeed bigger, wider, and more … wide spread here, in the Land of the Free. All things, almost … until this fall I got the chance to visit Eastern Canada. And let me tell you: if one is really keeping score, and after living here in the US for close to 9 years now, not ALL things are indeed bigger in the USA: SOME things are “bigger” in Canada, rather. Here are some of those things that I came across with:
- beer containers for sure, are bigger in Canada: I was able to order a meter of beer only in Quebec City and Montreal, not NYC or Atlanta; bring on your guts people (beer guts, that is), and make room for the bathroom line; one restaurant had these chemistry-lab looking glass containers almost a yard tall, for beer, and they told us that’s all they have to serve beer in (see photo); it’s either that, or water! It’s pretty interesting when you get to drink out of a “glass” the size of your 6 foot tall brother in law’s torso when you’re barely 5 foot tall; quite an undertaking.
- Waterfalls are gigantic in Canada. I have always thought you have to fly out West, to the Rockies, or at least to Niagara, of course, to see truly spectacular waterfalls in the US; the East Cost, I thought, doesn’t provide mountains with the necessary altitude to make the waterfalls spectacular, but not true: drive up to Quebec City – somewhat on the East coast, right?! Just drive up to Canyon Ste. Anne and Montmorency Chute, and you will feel just like an ant in the face of nature. Montmorency falls are the tallest dump of water in North America, taller than Niagara itself, although not bigger in volume of water; just in height: 80 meters. I have always loved the North Carolina mountain waterfalls, but your breath never stops until you climb down and then up in the Canyon Ste. Anne, and stare at the falls. It’s where Thoreau found home, and quite a spectacle.
- I know you’ll laugh, but squirrels are the size of huge, fat, rabbits in Canada! They’re fat, and they fall outta trees with a “plump” noise. I was almost scared of them! They really look like a wild, dangerous creature, not like the cuddly little cute rodent we’re used to, here in the South at least! They’re fat things! Maybe they have more fat for the long, cold winter, who knows?!
- Butter sticks: butter eaters of the South need to move to Montreal! Man, the Canadian butter “sticks” look like a PACK of butter sticks here, and twice the height! The butter savers - things are made the same way, of course: they take up as much room in the fridge as a carton of 6 eggs! Yes, they do call it a “butter stick”, and not a “package” or a “lump”. I thought shampoo bottles are huge in America, compared to Europe, until I saw the butter “sticks” in Canada: you have it for a safe 3-4 months, if you asked me: how does that not go spoiled?! Apparently not!
- And one last thing: prices! Ok, maybe they’re not bigger there than all over the US, maybe just bigger than the South, but the cheapest pint of domestic beer starts at C$5.40?! And yes, it’s a pint, which means it’s draft, which means, it’s half water anyways… And yes, it’s C$5.40, and you’re thinking “Canadian dollars are much smaller than US dollars”, but not the case: for whatever the reason (politics is not the point of this blog), the conversion rate right now is C$1.08 to $1.00 – so, you see… not a huge difference there at all! And since we’re on the topic: Quebec taxes are enormous! Think a 7% tax rate on your food and drinks is huge?! Maybe a 7.5% is immoral?! Try 14%, since you pretty much have to pay the same tax (7%) for Quebec as you pay for Canada…But then again, who do you think pays for all that “free” healthcare?!
And one more last (sad) note: yes, Americans still do amaze me as the “largest humans” on Earth! In that respect, Quebec looks like a London, or any other European capital: a GQ or Vogue poster can be shot in Montreal any day of the week! I was really trying to find at least a resemblance to “America” in this respect, but … no luck!
For pictures, copy and paste in browser:

Thoughts about home – two worth mentioning (and reading) blogs

Yeah, yeah, yeah, …we have all seen the cheesy little hangings you can buy at the flea market that quote “home is where the heart is”, but for a wandering heart, home can be anywhere, really. To me home is where I was born and where my parents live now, and whether my heart is there this minute, or not … that’s where home stays. I like to keep my heart moving, you see: exercise is GREAT for people like me, with heart disease, so … it’s moving…
Lately, I have read a couple of notes about my “home” that I know all of you will find amusing, interesting and also, will enjoy reading to get a deeper glimpse into why I left, maybe?! You be the judge! They’re a fun read, so enjoy:
My sister sent me this disgruntled rant on Romania, and actually my home town is mentioned in it more than I care for… And both my sister and I were shocked at the accuracy. It’s a great read, too, not just a well documented one:
My wonderful friend (don’t leave me!!!), another American, who visited Romania a year or so ago, felt the urge to respond to the aforementioned rant and here’s his response:
Thanks, to both, for taking the time to put this sometimes Godforsaken place on the map again, and thanks for the smiles, and the reminders. It’s always such a fresh and eye-opening experience when you see yourself or what is familiar to you with strangers’ eyes! A real rush!
And a brief note: things mentioned in these blogs ARE accurate and they do not just “resemble” real circumstances and people, they “are” real circumstances and people. Take my word for it!
PS: you might have to copy and paste these blogs' links into your browser.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Random thoughts

"… by the absence of grasping, one becomes free." (The Buddha)

I feel old in the fall. The red of the trees, at the tops, makes me think of newly graying temples. Just a hint of oldness, the premonition of what it is to come. Of death.
Do you feel your joints crack in the mornings now, from the cold air? I do. They’re rusty, in the crisp mornings. Like an un-oiled old gate in the wind.
Have you ever felt like coming home, and turning the lights down or off, and lighting candles all over the house instead? Playing soft music, and living by candle light? Like in a cave? Or a temple? Just to revive the past, the old days? Sometimes electricity is such a pain. Literally!
Today, I felt in a “Christmas” mood: I wanted all Christmas- scented candles around me: pine tree, and cinnamon and apple pie, and snow! And I am wearing a beach dress. What’s Christmas like at the Tropics? I have felt wintry today. Just like the aging trees.
Have you ever felt like there is “no way to hold your head that doesn’t hurt”? I understand Johnny Cash perfectly!
I always wonder about those folks that sit at the light, despite the fact that the green light prompts them to go. What are they waiting for? What are they deciding now? Are they confused? “Hm… Too many choices: I can go right, OR left, OR, maybe, straight. Too many choices!” – they must say to themselves. Just like at the grocery store in the cereal aisle!
Have you ever wanted to bottle up the feeling in your entire body, down your spine and in your legs after a great yoga practice?! Just to drink from it later, once in a while, maybe at the office, one day, when you feel overwhelmed and suicidal!
Have you ever missed your mom so much on her birthday that it hurt? It hurts in the heart! Inside, deep, deep, inside the hearrt! I can’t even reach in there to calm it! Have you? …

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Pet peeves – continued

Parking in the fire lane pisses me off, anyhow! No matter how you put it, and what reason you’d invoke, it pisses me off to see people parked there when it spells clearly “NO PARKING”. It pisses me off just about as much as people getting INTO the grocery store through the Exit door, when others are trying to get out with cartloards of stuff! Just as much! But what makes me even more mad is morbidly obese people that park in the fire lane! You watch these people and they get out of their cars in chapters: one leg first, then one half of their butt second, hold on, they forgot about the head, they need to duck, slowly, then the other half of their butt, then slowly, so that they won’t tip over, the second leg – beyond slow motion! Well, when you do that, there is no reason, trust me, to be as un-thoughtful to hold up the entire traffic! When you get out of your car (or in), in chapters, you need to understand that something needs to be done about it: something like parking all the way at the end of the parking lot, and walking yourself to the store from there! After all, that might be your one and only chance to lose an ounce! Walk, people! You need it!
Ever since I moved to the States I hear people saying “Oh, I don’t like fish with heads” or “Oh, I don’t eat chicken with bones”… Hhmmm… Since when God made chicken with no bones, and fish with no heads, I wonder?! “Oh, I don’t like fish to stare at me when I eat it”… ?!? … How can something that is dead stare at you?! Not quite sure how that works! Since when did people become so picky, and unreasonable, I wonder! I guess that’s what higher living standards do to you?! And when you do find chicken walking around without bones in their bodies, and fish swimming with no heads, please call me…
Call me selfish, but...: I understand that we live in the world of mobility, and most of us gave up the land phone lines as they slowly become obsolete! We’re now relying solely on the cells, but not all of us. Some of us need land lines, and land lines come with long distance charges! So, I don’t understand why people move across country and they still keep their cell phones with a Michigan, Ohio, California, etc number?! You’ve been here for 2 years, you bought a house and married, you’re obviously settled, right?! Change it to a local number, please! – just so your “new” friends won’t have to pay long distance charges to talk to you across the highway, in the same zip code! I think it’s the least you can do for the people that befriended you, here, in your new world (and give you both a “home” number and a “cell” one)!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Addiction or Annoying Bad Habit?!

Do you suffer from the “pick-up-the-free-magazine-or-newspaper-on-the-way-out-of-the-grocery-store-and-never-read-it” disease?! Because I do! And it’s horrible! Every once in a while , maybe once a week (too often, anyways), I pick up whatever it’s new in the newspaper stand at the grocery store, WalMart, sometimes at a restaurant too… Triad Homes, Triad Living, Real Estate Book, whatever… It’s free… And I always think: what a perfect way to go home, eat a cozy dinner of mac’n’cheese and dream over all these houses I can’t buy and all these cars I can’t have or don’t even want, really… What better way?! Just “dream” the American way, since I can’t “have” it, every minute … And you never know: maybe you WILL find the dream house; you do have some extra cash, and the neighbor woke you up last night again in the middle of a party he’s having for the fourth day in a row, and the car kind of makes a funny noise, so maybe you WILL find a new car too; and there are always new neighborhoods going up in town – who knows; we always have to stay informed, keep up with the market! Right?!
Right: and the publications end up piled up on my dining room table, or in my car, for a while, until they move to the newspaper rack, only to be dumped when they’re sooo many I can’t fit them in there anymore, and I decide they’re outdated, anyhow, so … let’s trash them! Is that sinful waste or what?! What would have happened if they didn’t end up unread in my trash can, I wonder?! Would another person who is really looking for a house/ car have picked them up and found their dream house/car in there?! Will they have gone to the Magazine Heaven, when the store replaced them instead of my dumpster?! What?!
It drives me nuts, every morning, when my trash weighs 100 lbs because it’s loaded with unread Triad Homes (I have been living in this place for 5 years now, and I have brought these pubs at home roughly every month!). I think of the waste, and I think of my back being thrown out of alignment, but yet next time when I am picking up beer at the store you know what I’ll pick up on my way out! Sinful! Pure addiction! Or just a bad, bad habit, and we all know how easy and fast THEY die! *sigh*

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Stop and think for just one moment …

“The trouble is that you think you have time.” (Jack Kornfield)

Yes…that’s what I thought when I kept telling mom I will see Bubu (mom’s dad) soon, when I knew he was dying of cancer. And one day he went. Never got to say ‘good bye’. Never saw his deep blue-green eyes open again, much less give him a hug. I wear the first silver chain necklace he ever gave me almost every day. But I never said good bye. We lived 5 minutes from each other.
Same thing with Bicu (dad’s father) : he was sick for so long! Years! It seemed decades! I always knew he could make it. He could outlive, paralyzed, all of us. And one day, he fell, and never breathed again. Never said ‘good bye’.
I apologized to the funerals of both, and I hope and pray they forgave me! I loved them both so, and I wanted to tell them that, and so much more, but I always thought: I will have time.
Maia (mom’s mother) was my toughest one though! She was my soul mate, and my one unconditional love! She was my rock and my North Star! I lost direction when she went, and I never got to see when she went, where she went to, so thus she is forever eternal to me! She is still here, giving me advice, loving me, and tucking me in at night! I feel like a part of my heart will forever live in Eternity with her.
You never have time! You have obligations, and work, and meaningless chats about the weather and meaningless tv shows that you have to catch up on; you have to feed the dog, and the cats.. You have to pay the bills... When the real things of life "can wait"...
The truth is: you never have more than the NOW and that is the only real priority: to fill in the NOW. There is no reality other than the now, and it’s so simple to see it, and yet not anyone, pretty much, is aware of this! The past is buried; the future is unknown and so much at the mercy of so many external factors that it’s unreal also. The now is here.
What are you going to do with the one second you have been given?! What?! Make sure you spend it well! And wisely! Make sure you leave this one second behind with no regrets attached to it. And enjoy it!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Pet Peeves - Chapter 2

So, I am back for more pet peeves, or other things that grab my attention in not such a nice way…
I have always hated the expression “Flattery won’t get you anywhere”. It is simply a lie … the most common lie people tell. We live in a world where vanity is a family value, cherished and passed on, so flattery, my friends, will not only get you far, but it will get you precisely where you need to go! So, my advice: try it, and tell me I am wrong after that!
I hate shopping with a passion. I hate the too many options, the decisions, the fact that nothing fits me, when it’s for me, or the fact that the colors of the seasons are always the wrong ones. I hate that they start the shoe sizes at 6 and I wear a 4 and a half…Hate spending the cash. Hate to shop for others, ‘cause I never know how stupid my gift is going to seem to them. HATE SHOPPING, OK?!!!! But I love shopping for food. Now, food is a different matter. My mouth watering the entire time with the anticipation of a home cooked meal – out of this world pleasure! Hhmm…yum! - Love it! Except for lemons! I hate shopping for lemons, guys. Why?! Because most of the time (99.99% of the times) I only need one lemon! Every recipe, and every made-up recipe only needs one lemon. There is never need for 2 lemons. Not three. Not 10! Just one. But don’t you feel silly buying just one?! Don’t you feel like the cashier is going to totally hate you and give you a “go-to-hell-you-cheap-bastard-you’re-making-me-look-for-the-stupid-four-digit-code-for-one-stupid-lemon-you-freak” look?! Because I do! And I always buy at least 2 of them, and at least one always rots in my fridge! Yeah, not happy about wasting my cash on lemons, that’s for sure!! If I had a dollar for every lemon that rotted in my fridge over the years … - now, there’s a thought!
With the risk of being stereotypical (ask me if I care later), I will say that people in the South cannot carpool! You happen to see more than just the driver in one car, then the car goes at least 15 miles under the speed limit in the fast lane! People down here cannot drive AND talk at the same time! No, no, you’re giving the lazy ass 2 things to do at the same time, you know their brain just doesn’t work that way, dude! They stop driving and they talk, because someone right there (even if it’s a drooling 2 month old) is waiting for an answer. I guess the person in their car is more of an immediate emergency than all the suckers on the highway, so the driver will focus on giving an answer! You know, they’re not THAT multitasked down here, and their living horizons not that wide, therefore they cannot see what’s OUT there, in their non-immediate world! So start honking! But then they start slowing down even more, or swerving, so you’re simply stuck! Oh, road rage! I wonder sometimes how boring and un-juicy my life would be without the richness and the beauty of the curse word vocabulary in two languages! Quite sad!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Off the beaten path…around DC…

"Life's a journey, not a destination..."

Every once in a while (not as often as I would care for), I take a “off the wall” (unexpected, i.e.) trip that kind of seems to spring from nowhere. Some people ask me “why there?” or “why with that person?” – but I don’t have an answer, other than: pure curiosity. And those trips always open up the door for so many surprises that enrich your life so. Even the failed ones are not failures, but good, valuable lessons that you’re fortunate enough to experience.
I always look at an upcoming trip as probably a painter in front of an empty piece of canvas: I have kind of an idea of what’s coming, but no clue what the end product will be like. These unexpected trips, however, have no idea behind them. Just the tools, and the open mind. And they’re often the most fun, too.
This past one was in the DC area, and it was definitely not in the failure realm. A friend of mine wanted company on his visit to Alexandria, VA and Silver Spring, MD.
Here are some of the things I will always remember from this trip:
- Alexandria’s enormous high schools; I have never seen schools that are bigger, more college-looking in my life! They are HUGE! Mostly brick, and spread on hundreds of square feet of land; I guess they want you to feel the seriousness of education and the weight of it too. Intimidating would be the word!
- Alexandria is so rich of history; almost every neighborhood is full of historic houses, and narrow streets, like back in the day; you have the feeling all the people live in museums; the houses are old colonial style, mostly, and you can take the cars away, replace them with horse drawn carriages and you step back some centuries and dream! The air smells of history and the land is soaking in it; you feel it at every step; who said America is the New World?!
- The ‘Old Town’ in Alexandria will always remain in my mind, because of the Torpedo Factory, a former, well, yes, torpedo factory now turned into an art gallery and shop. The railings of the main staircase feature every art present in the building; the shops are not only stores you can purchase the art, but also ateliers where you can watch the art being made; anything from metal sculpting to oil painting and custom jewelry is on display. The waterfront nearby features gourmet foods, European footwear and what do you know: rescue … birds for adoption! I for one am familiar with the adoption gatherings from Pets Mart every Saturday, where they would have kitties and dogs, sometimes bunnies, but parrots and macaws ??!!– I never knew they could too be “rescued”. Beautiful sidewalk “bump-into”, I might say.
- I was also to witness my very first ever live soccer game on this trip. Washington United took on the Colorado Rapids, to only be able to tie in the end, a 1 all score. To me, it was a milestone. I grew up watching soccer, as the national sport in Romania; a sport (there) with no season, because it’s played even in the bitter cold winter. But I have never been on a stadium and watched it live. I loved it, and let me tell you: soccer fans are so much more fun and so much more exciting than baseball fans! Yeah, I know, there is not as much scoring, but who needs it when the vitality of the game itself is enough to get the crowd going?! I wished only that my family could have been there to watch with me.
- An interesting discovery was that Polish people are just as Balkan as Romanians, although further North in geography. I don’t mean to generalize or over-simplify, but certain people do display certain common characteristics when they belong to the same national group. And that is just a fact. Interesting it was that Polish and Romanians have so much in common: certain things that I have labeled for years as “Romanian” were to be displayed this weekend by this very chirpy and welcoming young lady from Poland. A wonderful hostess and cook, a determined and at times demanding wife, and an overprotective “mom” to her pet, all tied together with a generous laughter and a happy and warm spirit made me feel right at home. A simple-minded yet sophisticated system of values were very familiar to me too, as well as a disarming honesty which sometimes Americans find hard to grasp. A rare find, I would say. Very unique and refreshing.
- In an Arlington diner, we discovered you can order two eggs and ham, or two eggs and bacon, or two eggs and sausage, or two eggs and ... "scrapple". Aside the fact that it's a funny word to say, I felt like the people who put together the menu got tired of all the boring things that they could figure out to pair up with the eggs, and made up a new one : "Eh, have some bacon, sausage, ham, throw some scrapple in there, or something ...". We had to ask what scrapple was and the nice waitress with the piercing blue eyes served us 3 pieces of the mysterious food as samples: "After they're done making the ham and the bacon, she said, whatever meat of the pork is left, they grind it and turn it into scrapple" - it tasted like sausage patties, only with more flavor and spice. Definitely not recommended if you're watching your cholesterol, I'm pretty sure.
- For dinner one night, we went to a Central American (“El Golfo” in Silver Spring, MD) restaurant where you could find foods from anywhere in South America. If it’s one thing I completely love about the bigger metropolitan areas of the big cities is the diversity and cosmopolitanism of the foods. The food was incredible! I have never seen burritos and rice done that way in my life. Tasty, and gourmet, yet affordable; linens on tables and in your lap, and incredible service. It was definitely the highlight taste bud-wise!

No, we didn’t get to visit “THE” city of DC, but the only regret I had at the end of the trip was not having spent more time on the water, in the galleries, and scouting out more yummy treats. Reasons enough for a come back, I hope.
For pictures, please use link below (you might have to copy and paste in browser):

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pet Peeves – Chapter 1

I have been collecting these things for a while, so now, I decided to share them with the world, as any good writer would do: just share the wisdom/ frustration, not just bottle it up and be selfish.
I typically consider myself an open minded person, but of course, I am human. And as a corky (and opinionated) human being I do have my own pet peeves, my own little frustrations that make my skin crawl and my hairs stand up sometimes, even if for a brief second. Just to make life more interesting. You know, just certain things that rub me the other way, just like a cat petted from tail to head! Or just things that absolutely puzzle me to no end, making me question every system of values I have ever encountered!
Yes, I have been known to call fat people “fat” at WalMart to their faces if they interfere with my shopping spree! Sorry! Deep down I am a hot blooded, Latin, Aries, Gypsy Romanian, what can ya’ do?! And as a true Aries, a person of impulse. So, thinking kicks in only after the action has taken its course…
Sorry for the offenses, just take them all with a grain of salt… Please!
These are examples of “irk-ness”-s; just first thoughts that sometimes I wish I could voice but common sense and sometimes the law prevent me from taking any sort of action. The paper is the only outlet.

Handicapped parking spots are not a Romanian thing; I first experienced them in America; and they don’t bother me much: I think it’s wonderful to accommodate the less fortunate. What I absolutely hate though, is fat people posing for handicapped, once; and another thing I hate: fat people, with handicapped stickers on the car, pulling into the parking spot that is RIGHT next to a designated handicapped place, but not a designated handicapped place per se, while the said handicapped spot is absolutely empty and they could take what’s theirs! You see: the spot they’re taking might be mine! Not anymore! The handicapped spot is empty, and the “normal” one next door is taken by a fat person, who cannot turn their wheel a couple of notches more to occupy what they really want. Well, what they are really given! HATE that!!!!!!!! Only at WalMart!

Another thing I absolutely hate is the wrong color of tags on clothes. Why do they place white tags on black clothes, and black tags on white clothes?! Why?! Then, you know the black tags will always be seen through the white clothing, and the white tag will always stick out of the black outfit making you look like an idiot! Color coordinate, people, or just sew the tag to the clothes, on the inside preferably, so we won’t be embarrassed. It’s like the little Gods of the clothing industry want to have fun with us being in Corporate America meetings and looking like a second hand dresser! Conspiracy, I tell ya’!

Another thing I don’t get is this: why is a 300+ lbs woman, with a quadruple chin and barely able to reach her steering wheel from her fat stomach, not able to tell the road from the shoulder, since her eyes are completely swallowed up by fatness, driving a beaten up Chevy, from the 19th century, it seems, metal flaking off the bottom, - so, why is she choosing a personalized license plate that reads “BEAUTIE”?! OK! I think I am somewhat decently smart and observant, but I cannot guess for the life of me who the beauty might be here?! Maybe I am blind??! Not judgmental, remember, but come ON … be real here… If you did it for comic relief, though, it works! I AM laughing, I can promise you that much.
Aahh, it’s good to see that people can poke fun at themselves. Yes, indeed!

More to come… Soon…

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


" In the midst of nothingness, there is a road that goes directly to my true home."

The taste of life sometimes turns so bitter you feel you have just chewed on your own bile! So bitter it makes your eyes tear and your teeth cringe! Your own person becomes the very essence of this bitterness and this sickness; you want to hide, but there is nowhere you hide from yourself. Your body hurts, the tongue in your mouth, the image in your bathroom mirror. You want a punch in the stomach just so you can appease the pain of the heart.
And you remember all the things they say about life: that it’s nothing more than a pile of shit with whipped cream on top; sometimes Fate throws a cherry in, too; and that you pay dearly for happiness, while pain is free… All those things you know, and you refuse to believe when you have horses’ blinds.
But somehow, you find the strength (does crawling require strength?!) to move on and shake it off. And pray for band aids and less cloudy days! You pray and you hope. Although what you really “have” is the now, and the now is so bitter and endless. I never believed that I could say, in any circumstance, that the “now is endless”, but the bitter and painful now is!
And somehow, subconsciously, you know you’ll be all right. Somehow, you know that one day you’ll return home, to your true self, which indeed is pure, and whole and so healthy! You trust that you will find that road back to your sweet (oh, so sweet!) self, and the balm will calm the pain. And you know it’s never too far; it’s right here, but the tears and the pain prevent you from seeing it… In the meantime, you just throw up to get rid of the bitterness and purify! It’s a life ritual, and you cannot pull back from it. As much as it hurts, you feel good already…

Monday, August 07, 2006

Travel Journal: Myrtle Beach – not so much cheese for me

They always frown when I mention I have plans to go to Myrtle Beach, or that I just went there. There is never a doubt: the minute I will pronounce that name, eyebrows will raise, hands will wave, eyes will roll, and grins will appear; all accompanied by the all-to-known comment “oh, cheesy”! But having lived there, and having known a couple of places, I can tell you: Myrtle Beach is not all about the cheese, and the redneck-ness, and the gross touristy “too-much”-ness! Not for me, anyways!

I decided to do a trip there a couple of weekends back, just because I missed the Ocean! The Ocean helps me think. It helps put things into perspective for me. I used to look at it, back when I lived there, as the ONE big thing between me and my past life! The big “Pond”, that separated my mother continent from my now home continent; so, it will forever hold more meaning to me than just a huge body of water, full of sharks and jelly fish where you can swim and have fun in the sun.

Every time when I need to think, or look back into my past and find my true self ( which we cannot help but lose realization of sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of today) I go to the Ocean. That is why I try to stay “on the beach” when I go there! And because that is the main reason I go to the beach, I care little for what the beach provides in terms of entertainment (or peaceful lack of it); I go to Myrtle for the familiarity of it, and because that familiarity keeps my mind clear, as I need it for other selfish and self absorbed things.

There are some “touristy” things I always enjoy revisiting there, though: like the River City Café, who allows you to eat peanuts till you pop, and to dump your shells on the ground, while writing all over the walls with permanent markers, in that nonchalant, vacationing spirit where you worry little about being a slob; also the Bummz Café (can a name be more appropriate for a beach bar?!?), which is on the beach, affordable, and with a great view of the dunes and the waves – now this one always brings me back! That’s when I know I am finally at the Ocean. Just sitting on Bummz’s patio, sipping a cold drink and eating the grouper sandwich, smell of sand and salt everywhere, and the swishy sound of palm trees nearby, almost putting me to sleep.
Yes, you also have to play putt-putt when you’re there, but not because you’re a redneck, but because it’s fun to be a kid again, once in a while! Especially since Greensboro doesn’t offer that, and especially when you can’t swim or boogie board, or play other sports to enjoy the outside world! To me it’s just fun, because I didn’t grow up in a country where putt-putt was even known, much less offered! Yes, I do some things now that I should have when I was 10, but this to me it’s just proof that you can never, and should never, tell yourself you’re “too old” for anything. You’re only too old in your head! You’re the one setting the boundaries! The world will always welcome you; will always await you with the same fun opportunities – always.
I will admit that Broadway at the Beach is indeed cheesy and at least overpriced! I do go there for the seafood at Joe’s Crabshack (have you seen the sizes of those fresh seafood portions ???? For something like $12.99 to $14.99???? – now, I like a great deal just as much as the next Walmart shopper, but that place just gives it away!); and you have to visit the “Stupid Factory (where boys are made)” t-shirt store, just to feel good about being a sassy chick! (*smile*); and although it’s filled with cheese, I always have to say hi to the Cat Store. How can I not?! I just need to be reminded that “cats are like potato chips: you can never have just one”, or that “cat hair is a condiment in my house”. Of course, I do. It’s all about the smiles, you see. And some places just offer them for free.

And also, this year, just like every summer, I got a tingly feeling on my skin, too. You have to get at least a mild sunburn and the sun never burns as hot as on the sand! A good sunburn comes with the summer menu! Just like I am thrilled when I get a good, miserable cold in the winter, which forces me inside, next to a huge pot of soup and some chamomile tea that otherwise tastes like liquid plastic! – just like that, I am insanely happy when my skin hurts from the sun! No, no sun screen required, not too much anyways, ‘cause we want to burn. Just for one silly day, we can let ourselves be free! I am not talking about the whole summer, and you’ll never, and I mean NEVER catch me in a tanning bad, but a little decadence and losing control I love. Yeah, I am not all crazy! After all, we’re all paranoid about skin cancer, right?! So, yeah, I laid out in the sun, got my skin tone changed, all naturally, and enjoyed the burn. Quite the pleasure when you go to bed and every pore screams, and stings. Aloe is my friend! It’s like cold beer for the skin! Yummy!

And I did think, deep and long, on the side of the ocean, and I did repainted the mental canvas of my life. I tried to see things as clear as the sky in the sunset or sunrise over the ocean, and just as bright! Just like sunset, the past was sent to bed; and just like the sunrise, the new life will invade my near future. And hopeful, too!

Dipping in your past energy can give you quite a push for the future. I came out of the beach day dreaming with new thoughts, and new hopes, and new gas for the gas pedal! Just like you come out of the water: refreshed and anew. You need a while before you dry off again. And when that will happen, I am sure I will be ready for another visit to the very familiar and uncluttered (for me) “Cheese World”.

For pictures (might have to copy and paste):

Travel Journal: Asheville: I’d do it again, even overpriced…

I usually try to get to Asheville, NC at least once a year; yes, just like I do the beach. No, not for the Biltmore, which I see as sinfully and inexcusably overpriced, just for the city. The hippie-happy-quiet-quaint-old-ish atmosphere appeals to me. Mind you, I am not into antiques, or “old stuff”, but a certain “charm” and nostalgia breathes through the walls and narrow streets of this town, and it always calls me back. It’s more like a mystery tale, to be discovered.

This past weekend though, the college, “artsy” mountain town got a transformation even I could not have predicted, for the Bele Chere festival! A friend of mine offered her second home up there to me and a friend, and we of course took her up upon the offer.

The usually quiet and almost asleep town, was awake and kicking all through the weekend, and we had enough people watching and walking with gawking eyes to last us for another year at least.

We got there on Friday night, after a 2 and a half hour drive from the Green City. My friend’s description of the condo paled in comparison to the first experiencing of it! All the comforts of home, indeed. Three stories of it, to be more precise. With anything you need, including a pool outside, full kitchen, complete entertainment center, a ping-pong table, and a tennis court. We settled in!

After being forced (by my co-traveling friend) to watch King’s “The Shining” on TV, since he could not live with the fact I have not seen such a classic, and after a nightmare-full night, we woke up Saturday morning to a small fresh fruit salad. We’re in Asheville, we must eat healthy, right?!? Not! My friend had woken up with a strange craving for funnel cake, and I knew just the place to get it too. (well, it was not hard with a festival going on, right?!)

We got downtown to find out that parking is an arm and a leg, sometimes a lung, too, because, of course, Bele Chere was going on. Gotta pay it! What are you gonna do, huh?! The usually quiet town seemed flooded with people from God knows where: the streets were literally invaded by millions! Wall-to-wall crowds. Tents with artists’ crafts, stages, ice cream and (yes!) funnel cake stands abounded the streets.

I usually love the street food, but this time, we thought we’d vote for comfort, so, we wanted to sit down and be waited on instead. We stopped at an Irish pub for lunch. We had things like bangers and mash, fish and chips, a cold brew on a hot day, and the weekend really kicked off to a great start. We also learned that everything even in the restaurants (not just in the streets) had been modified to “meet the needs or the mood of Bele Chere” – read: “every price had been kicked up at least $1” to insure, you know… profit! Maximum, that is! Yes, we did pay $8.99 for the bangers, when the regular price was $7.99, for instance.

After lunch, it was off to the streets again and to “let’s meet the circus” time! From various craft booths that featured anything from metal sculptures, to caricatures on the spot, to jewelry made from recycled phone wires and sprinkle baths where you could “cool off” as walking by, to various entertainment stages that featured any type of music, from country and blue grass to rock’n’roll and deep south blues, to even improvisation comedy, from booths burning lavender and musk sticks to selling oil lamps and aroma therapy all organic candles – the downtown was a feast for the senses!

The crowds were colorful enough in themselves, too: spiky Mohawks, purple hairdos, men in colorful, long dresses, and wide rimmed purple hats, a giant man, maybe 7 feet tall and at least 400 lbs, towering over the crowds in a bright yellow Hawaiian shirt and overalls, long haired girls in tall conductor’s hats, winding their hips on the beats of Jimbo’s guitar; tattoos and piercings to satisfy an army; rainbow flags and gay rights supporters at corners; old hippies, playing the guitar and belching out sounds that only vaguely resembled any music at all, with no mike and no stage, at times with no audience either, at random corners, swaying, barely standing on their feet, not sure if from alcohol or heat; and over it all, it seemed, a huge sort of menacing “Jesus died for your sins” sign.

What I call “fair foods” everywhere: you know: bbq, hotdogs, funnel cake, lemonade, and the likes: stuff you can’t buy anywhere except if there is a fair in town! For about 6 hours, we walked around, and we ate, drank, laughed and bought our way through the crowds! Yes, ate and drank, even on top of the bangers and fish! What else is there to do? We don’t count calories on our vacations. It’s against our religion, as it should be. Oh, yeah, and listened to music. Surely!

Some of the notable (to us) bands we saw were The Knockdown South, a band from Tennessee, put together by former Squirrel Nut Zipper, Jimbo Mathus – basically a blues band; Jimbo’s been known to jam with Buddy Guy and even got a Grammy nomination for their album, if my memory serves me right; we also had to pay the ($20) fee to see Cracker and Train. Now, 16 years of experience speak there, for Cracker! Great show! Great performance, well put together, although the band honestly admitted having “screwed up” twice: starting on the wrong key, that is.

The music was great, crowds were plenty and we felt like “mission accomplished” at the end of the day, with maybe a couple of “overpriced” let downs!

The Asheville Bele Chere Festival will always remain in my memory as the only place where I had to pay for … a wrist band! No, no, they would STILL ID you when buying the beer! But if you want to walk around with a beer in your hand, in the closed in downtown area, you gotta pay the extra $2 for the … wrist band! Also, exhausted and drained of energy, we wanted a sit down dinner; we’re old you see, we can’t keep doing this walk-around-drink-all-day-in-the-heat-thing! So, for the sit down dinner, we ended up at Scully’s, somewhere off of Walnut St. downtown. After a ditzy-waitress service, wings and crab cake sandwich dinner, I left the place with a bitter taste, somewhat: they could not, you see, ruin their glasses on iced water that evening, because that would have been free! No, we had to be OK with paying $2 for a bottle of water, which has less liquid than the glass, “for Bele Chere”, we were told?! So, let me get this straight, City of Asheville: all of a sudden, on the day of your street festival, when people sit down on curbs peed on by dogs, and eat hotdogs with their dirty fingers, I become a germ-phob and I need bottled water for $2 a bottle, and cannot drink the tap water from the sink?! My migraine was pounding, and the dehydration was kicking in, so… I didn’t whine that much. I do now, looking back!

We got home and we tried to cuddle up in front of a DVD of ‘Raising Arizona’, but we both fell asleep so we called it a night at midnight. Like I said: we’re too old for this sh&*^t!
The next morning, we had a breakfast on our beautiful porch, with the green trees and the lake and the pool close by, while the mountains laid lazily in the background. So much peace and quietness! We felt like all our stress was dissipating away, into the green pastures, and the mountain crisp air, and our pores were being refreshed and emptied out from poison. Such a rebirth!

Then, we were off to Biltmore (of course!). But this time, just to have lunch with my friend’s parents. We sat on the patio, sipping a bottle of the Cardinal’s Crest wine, then we had a delicious, decadent lunch of mainly seafood with a variety of breads, and served graciously by a Polish waitress. It was eclectic, and fun! And as I have mentioned: decadent! Driving back out of the Biltmore estate, through the rolling hills, and the deep thickets, there was a sense of regret! We wanted to stay there longer. Enjoy the foods, the wines, the grounds, the peace…

We headed home, though, to a game of ping pong on the scorching hot covered patio in the basement. Of course, the non-athletic me, playing with 2 left hands when I am right handed, didn’t do very well, especially so, in front of my very competitive friend, a Sports writer, too! But the fun was incredible! The sweat, the laughs, the loosening of the joints, were some of the highlights of my stay there!

After an “excellent” Mexican meal (inside joke here: our waiter seemed to be literally stuck on the word “excellent”), we headed home: completely bloated, 4 lbs heavier, but happy, wallets empty and smiling ear to ear! This is what we live and work for: a decadent weekend once in a while. Yes, I would go to Bele Chere next year. And I already know I will go to Asheville again and again at least as long as I live 2 and a half hours away from it! And I get to stay for free, thanks to the generosity of my friends.