Monday, March 19th, 2018

AND BACK AGAIN–this time Maine to Mexico

I just looked up from my book and have forgotten who I am, not where I am but who I am. Oh yeah. Now I remember. I’m in the Never-Never land of an airport–in Atlanta. I am surrounded by a tour group of Japanese retirees. They look like collection of tiny dolls with wrinkled faces that look like dried apple people, dressed a multitude of vests with pockets and strewn with cameras. I like to hear them talk. Bickering is bickering no matter what the language. Traveling spouse language. I remember where I am and how I goth here.

I was up at 3:30 am this same morning. My daughter called to wake me up which was sweet of her and condescending at the same time. The coffee I made was perfect and i took sips between every task of checking for passport, itinerary, glasses, and chargers and a tiny wood green frog my granddaughter gave me.

My ride comes. I dawdle to drink one more sip of perfect coffee. I had left lights on to wake up to coziness. I’m big on haegge! I leave the house and suddenly have a burst of appreciation for what I had found burdensome yesterday. The honeymoon glow of what you are leaving!!

Airport is sleepy and quiet. My ticket is a mess due to two cancellations from snow storms and that my first name isn’t on the itinerary but IS on my passport. A legal first name that I bet my kids don’t ever know. Nor will you!!  Three Delta people at different level all tried to make things work and “the system” woud not let them. They finally give me a boarding pass without the missing name and told me they thought security wouldn’t notice AND to buy another ticket in Atlanta for Mexico. I do get on the plane. Sleepy security bantering more than doing goofy detail. Good to remember. Good?

Whoa, back to Atlanta, I come out of the hallucination stage of travel. Body functions clicking in. What is it with red neon. Panda Express, Fridays, all blink at me. I think of buying red neon glasses. I want glasses that look like Smith Brothers’ red cherry cough drops. I am raving.

OK. Really awake. Heading to restroom and coffee (that will never ever match the peak experience coffee I made at 3:30 this morning. Will I make it onto the next plane? I’m now in a deserted gate area. I move to get away from television. Framed quilts on the wall, rocking chairs and a player piano put me back to wondering who I am and where I am. Will stay til gate opens.

Back to food Court.  Sit at a bar with charger outlets. Two handsome men speaking something that sounds like Hungarian keep mentioning a familiar word–Chick Filet. Two Japanes teen-agers do the universal honk of puberty. Across from me is a large black woman who smacks her food. For me, this is the worst sound in the world, especially if it involves bananas. All my kids imitate the sound to torment me. I take a swig from my water bottle and I choke. Big loud, messy, scary choke. My seat partner looks at me. I have one hand up. I indicate water and OKness as I continue to sputter. I stop and pant. Her name is Lillian.

Lillian: I would have come to hug you

Me: I would have welcomed you

Lillian: We have to do love every minute you know. These are times for love.

Me: That’s the gift of Trump. We know we have to love loud now.

Lillian: I love and know everyone in this airport even if I’ve never met them.

Me: I believe it.

Lillian: My granddaughter calls me Nana Ladybug

Me; (I laugh hard and can’t stop) That is perfect. You ARE Nana Ladybut

Lillian: I have to go back to work.  (She comes around to my side of the bar)

We fall into a big bear hug and stay there for a long time laughing loud and enjoying this instant friendship. Off goes Lillian waving. I am just plain happy. A love burst in the middle of the airport deserves all kinds of gratitude.

I leave for my gate on hour six of my layover. I stopped to get a ticket having forgotten about it totally and I get another miracle. A very sour information woman gave me joy. She wrote my full name into the boarding pass and snarled about red tape. Not all angels are full of light, you know.

lI board the plane. Small with two seats on each side. I see that there is only one person in each pair of seats. I can’t believe it. Room to spread out and no chit chat. Can this be true? That is an awful moment suspension waiting for the doors to close with no other passenger walking down the aisle. Then it happens. A last minute, sweaty harried man charges in and——————take the seat next to me. He is not just harried. He is hungover and steams with beer and cigarette smells. Up goes the hood of my hoodie. Down goes my tolerance. Fight thinking, “Why me?” I try to go Buddha.

I read YES CHEF by Marcus Samuelsson with a vengeance trying not to be where I am.We land at sunset. The mountains glow pink around us as Iplod toward customs and immigration and security. Ready to bolt to freedom, I trudge one more time through regulations. I smile at the big button each traveler has to push for a random luggage check. No magic wand or scanning, just a big ol Fisher Price kind of toy button that blinks red or green. I lose and watch eyes flashhing in amusement at my wooden toy frog, my six red cups (no, I wasn’t going to sell them and set up a red cup empire) and my twelve books. (No I wasn’t going to sell them)

My shuttle driver awaits. He keeps asking me if I need to use the restroom. I keep saying, “no” until I realize HE needs to use the restroom. My Spanish is still emerging.One more leg to a now fifteen hour day. Bed in an hour and fifteen minutes away. We both tired and quiet. There are too many flash fires along the road in the grasses. We finally zoom through one that has reached the road and is sending baseball size sparks into the air. I shut my eyes waiting for the gas tank to explode. It doesn’t.

We arrive at my road. I remember that it is closed for sewer work. Neither of us is happy but both agree do one more tough thing. We bump luggage over boulder mountains and feel like mules. I manage to say that in Spanish and the laugh give us energy to make it to the house. I tip, not knowing or caring what I give to Kristian (with a K) who has a son JauKin (with a K) and he leaves very happy.

I race to bed holding up my hand to my husband. “Talk at your own risk.” I down a beer, surround myself with pillows, knowing I will wake up to the rituals and household habits of Mexico, just as i had done in Maine.






Sunday, March 11th, 2018

Mexico/Maine continues

I think I may have been in a period of writer’s block.Then again, I may have just been in the United States!! Or in the hands of a technological jester.Or maybe good ol’ Mercury is in retrograde again.(Why is Mercury always blamed? And always in retrograd).

Hells Bells. I feel like I just swam the English Channel to get to you. I will leave for Mexico on Tuesday. I hope it will be as idyllic as that sounds. I have been on a bucking bronco of activity ranging from wonderful connections with adult kids and grandchildren to a bazillion “nigglies”. “Nigglies” is my formal word for the little things that pick and bite and sting you until you do the damn thing. Now that I’ve said it, I can feel a new list forming.

I registered two cars that took two days going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth among, car dealer, insurance agent and city hall. I went to the dentist, the functional doctor, the tax accountant, got a hair cut, the eye doctor, got new glasses (way too fast. I think I bought a pair that belong in Alice in Wonderland), three birthday parties and took care of my granddaughter with many sleepovers and saw my good friend twice. And I had the kind of dinners out and conversation with my two nearby adult kids with the kind of good food and conversation that you remember. I’ve forgotten. Am I complaining or bragging????

I do know this. The US moves very fast. The daily speed is hyper. And, for the record, Mexico is not the siesta stereotype imagined. But there is a more human pace. Also the United States, or Maine, is so tidy. I was struck by how clean and neat (and gray) it looked. My Mainers thought I was nuts. They only saw the ugly leftover snow and droopy bushes and yellow, mud smeared grass. Neat mud smeared grass is what I would say. The ringing phone is much more active here in the US. Not cell phones. They are universal. The extreme telemarketing is shockingly intrusive after time away. I may switch to only cell except that I would never be able to find my phone. The grocery stores in Maine are phenomenal—especially Hannaford! New England neighbors are ready to help in a crisis but privacy is held high. In Mexico, as I’ve told before, I am often joined in bed in the morning with kids and babies and the women we work with. There is always a quick knock—with no pause. Privacy is not held high. Connection is.

I’m smiling. I want to say, “Thanks for listening. I feel better.” Isn’t it amazing that what is truly weighing heavily becomes lighter with the telling of it. Which is probably why I write. And why having readers matters. I love the phrase that Victorian authors used —“Dear Reader”, which you are.





Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

Maine Adventure Continues

First day in Maine is 62 degrees. Everyone is reveling in it and I’m too hot. I wanted a touch of Winter. I keep my mouth shut. I am shocked by how tidy everything looks. Dull, but tidy. With touches of sooty snow piles with dog doo-doo sticking out. Mexico has been crazy cold and Maine is crazy hot. Mother Nature is in menopause.

I have my granddaughter the first day. She runs through the house and is enchanted by goofy stuff. Glad it still exists. The wooden from we hide and find giving the tried and true signals of, “hot, cold, warm, hot, hotter, burning and You are on fire.” I think about how many times I have almost thrown that frog away. We play Sorry. We make popcorn. We read books. I am tired. She spends the night sleeping with me. I love the coziness but don’t sleep. She spends the next day. It’s still warm. We go outside into muddy Maine. She swings. She goes into the garage, drags out her bike, then the basketball net, then the Summer beach toys. I am in that numb stage or child care. Want coffee. None in the house. We go to the bakery across the street and that too is a museum of good memories for her. I both love her love of the familiar and hate that iit reminds me of when my mom’s house became a museum for my kids.

I go to dinner with my daughter and her beau. It is perfect. Good food (easy in Portland) good company. A welcome home. The next day we are in birthday mode for my now five year old granddaughter and stay there for a couple of days, pizza and cake and trampoline party and parsed out gifts. I love that my dear girl of five likes the colored tissue paper better that the gifts it wrapped. I twist the neon colored tissue papers and turn them into flowers and put them in a glass. We are at another great restaurant—three generations of women. I miss my mom. Issa asks if we can “pertend” that we have to ask the waitress if we can take the flowers home. We ask. The waitress says, “yes” and Issa is thrilled and so am I. I was so afraid she had passed the “pertend” stage while I was gone for two months. I also love how she accepted her Happy Birthday at the trampoline center at first singing with everyone and then realizing it was for her and  then her shy and gracious basking in the moment with not a trace of showing off. I like this kid.

I am almost peopled out when my son calls and asks me to dinner. We go to the hip part of Portland. I am out and about!! At night on a Saturday. We go to a new brewery and test Maine beer, maybe Ox Bow. Not sure. You enter from an unmarked door with a post card size neon sign that says “open”. We are sooooo darn cool. Next door is an organic wine store we visit and we are even cooler. Then to dinner at a Japanese street food restaurant and now way too cool for school. It is plain fun. So many people out milling and loving and dining and trolling and young—ing. I now assume there is a new law in Maine forbidding anything but black, gray and brown clothes. I wear red. Hooray for red!

Yesterday, Sunday, was a college day. I worked from bed editing the companion book (curriculum-ish) and hating Word and wrestling it to the ground. Damn Track Changes. And then went to dinner with my friend, Eileen, and had a bad meal. Every single thing I had tasted like Grapefruit juice. Salad, calamari, polenta cake and the wine. Even black pepper didn’t help. Home to catch some of the Oscars. I’m scared of the monster in The Shape of Water.

I meant to tell you about today, but won’t. Think of the most tedious, cumbersome, irritating day trying to get one important thing done that should take an hour but takes eight. Think of eight car trips between two places with never having all that you need (Because No One Made It Clear) and then spending a lot of money at the end. And still feeling a sense of accomplishment for getting the dumb thing done. Now I’m smiling. Guess what you think this day was about????



Thursday, March 1st, 2018

Mexico to Maine part two

Stumble around Atlanta airport trying to get oriented to language and Shopping Shopping Shopping everywhere. I slow down and turn off my perception and simply follow signs. Dumb and dumber. Tu ned out except tor signs. I find the speed train to correct terminal. I sit on the bench seat for those who need it. That’d be me. A sudden jolt sends a handsome Irish Soccer player into my lap. Even without his uniform, his calves would have given him away. His teammates laugh so he sits on my lap with his arms around my neck the whole way to the next terminal. All jolly and laughing.

But still not awake. Heading for coffee. No Starbucks in sight. I settle. Battered by neon and constant television I know I have to sit and settle. I choose frozen yoghurt with strawberried and pineapple and sit. Sit near laughing airport employees. Lousy  bosses being ridicules the world over.

Have reached my limit of humanity. I see moles on cheeks,chipped nail polish on toes, greasy hair and a sea of colorless clothing in constant motion. Am i the only person without gray or brown or black. Turqoise, that’s me. Four more hours to go before flight.

I buy two books. Two big and heavy for my two bags. I have forgetten how to travel alone. I am in airport hallucination. Will try to read. Woman on phone next to me on phone about office intrigue. She talks long enough and lourd enough that I get the plot. Definitely social services. New young boss meets crusty dusty experienced worker. Office space is the battle ground.

LL Bean t-shirt just went by. Maine clothes begin to arrive. So not Atlanta. It is a different tribe. Fleece and fleece and more fleece. We load. Last row of seats in the middle seat. Window seat with young guy in hoodie. I never do see his face. Huge guy in aisle. We let each other know without speaking that we sure as hell are not going to talk. I compress all muscles in order not to touch my seat mates. Every once in awhile, we get sloppy and realize we are touching legs of elbows and twitch away.

We land. After midnight. I have a guy I use all the time coming to pick me up. I avoid the cab line. People shout to me to get in line. So not Maine. Bassir doesn’t arrive. I call. He is asleep. He sent someone at noon. I know I gave him the flight number. I am pissed but do traveler control. I breathe and get in line trying to be someone with no expectations.  No cabs in sight.

My turn comes. I arrive home at 1:15 am. To a house i don’t recognize. The house sitter has made some changes. The refrigerator is empty. The cat irritatingly friendly. I say Buenas Noches and head to bed, knowing my soul will arrive tomorrow.