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.