The Involuntary Vacation

Two weeks ago, Teddy had gone on a road trip to the Texas-Mexico border and I was taking the opportunity to frenetically clean the house in his absence.  The phone rang when I was scrubbing baseboards.  Knowing it was Teddy calling, I said laughingly, “Guess what I am doing?” He answered, “I am in the Emergency Room in McAllen”.  My heart stopped, metaphorically, and I screeched, “What?”  At first, I thought it might be one of his allergic reactions to insect bites but then he told me that his heart rate was very fast and irregular.  They were struggling to get it stabilized and he was being admitted to McAllen Cardiac Hospital as soon as a bed was available.

As soon as I put down the phone, I went into triage mode.  I phoned his hotel and explained the situation then booked a flight for the next day.  He had driven down in his own car but it is almost 700 miles from our home in south east Texas.  When he was transferred to the Cardiac Hospital he was put into ICU.  If his heart rate, rhythm and pressure improved, they intended to put him in a regular room, possibly for another night or more.  Teddy has a long history of cardiac issues – first, a tachycardia as a young man, then high cholesterol and blood pressure in his 40s.  All have been managed very well with medication over the years and no hospitalizations or events.

I have chronic anxiety with some depression and the news about Ukraine was beginning to bring me down.  As I pondered how I was going to deal with this, my heart went out to all those refugees who were going on journeys with no end in sight.  This was the time to put on a stiff upper lip and just be brave.  What I was most worried about was the journey back in his Challenger sports car.  We would have to do it in two days, as originally planned, and I would have to reschedule the booked hotels.

Like many of us, I had no wish to go on an airplane right now.  I arrived at the airport and it was jam packed with people.  My flight was delayed by a couple of hours – it was flying inbound from San Francisco and had a mechanical problem.  There was a bar close to the gate, so I decided to have a glass of wine.  I had a nice chat with a pretty lady travelling back to Monterrey, just over the border in Mexico.  Finally, our plane boarded and I settled in the back.  The mechanical problem was non-functioning air conditioning, so we were all a bit hot and bothered.  A couple, from the north, sat across the aisle.  They had obviously been drinking and their previous flight had also been delayed.  They borrowed the phone from the guy behind them and the mask-less woman proceeded to loudly berate their travel agent about a missed hotel reservation – all while the plane was speedily rattling down the runway.  The flight attendant tried to intervene but just gave up.

I was silently furious.  It was a 50-minute flight – couldn’t she could have waited to phone until we landed?  Had she not been watching the news with people boarding trains from Ukraine with no accommodation booked?  Teddy’s phone had been running out of battery with no charger so our communication was getting brief.  Luckily, Speedy Gonzales was flying the plane so it was a bumpy takeoff and landing with brakes screeching.  I raced off, got my luggage and went out to get an Uber.  A young man outside told me that there was a 35-minute wait for an Uber so I jumped in a taxi.  Immediately I was transported back to Egypt.  There was a candlewick bedspread on the back seat, it smelled like goats had been the last guests and he spoke no English.  My Spanish is not good enough behind a mask and Scottish accent, so he dropped me at the wrong hospital and I had to get an Uber to the right one…

By the time I got there, I was utterly exhausted, but Teddy was looking good in a regular hospital room.  It was such a relief for both of us to hug each other. McAllen is not a rich town but serendipitously Teddy had his heart incident treated in one of the 50 best cardiac hospitals in the USA.  The hospital was very clean but utilitarian.  The doctors changed his medication and monitored him until his heart rate was completely stable.  It was an isolated event triggered by goodness knows what but age, a long trip, red wine, dodgy shrimp and too much caffeine may have triggered the inevitable.  As he was discharged, the cardiologist looked at me and said, “You know the warning signs of stroke, don’t you?”  With trepidation, I assured her that I did with a family history of cardiac ill health.

The staff were fantastic from the Cardiac hospital to the little ER and we thanked them all.  The receptionist at the hotel was ecstatic to see the ‘Irishman’ who had become ill.  She had a bit of a crush on that accent…  We stayed one more night in the hotel and slept the sleep of the dead.  Then we set off on our very long journey travelling from scrubland with cactus all the way to rolling hill country.  We were made to pull over at a border patrol about 30 miles from McAllen, as was everyone else.  It is advisable to carry your passport when so close to the border.  They were looking for a fugitive but one look at the older white couple and they waved us on.  It was very exciting!

I had no intention on going on vacation but my soul was soothed by the bucolic vista complete with goats, sheep and cattle.  We stopped for coffee breaks at little towns until we reached Cuera.  By then we had come out of deep oil country and it was truly agricultural.  It was such a treat to idle behind a tractor full of hay bales.  Most of the towns had magnificent central courthouses in the square and each had a different feel depending on the ancestry.  McAllen was almost entirely Hispanic but then we reached German and Czech towns.  Although I had a nutritional/exercise plan worked out in my head, I relaxed the rules a little for our involuntary vacation together.

Finally, we arrived home and it was such a relief to sleep in our own house.  After a week he had another AFIB incident in the middle of the night and we went to ER.  It was a short visit and they treated him with IV medication.  His GP is now in control until he sees a cardiologist in April so fingers crossed that this was a timely warning. 

Teddy doesn’t look bad, two days after ICU – all beer and Band-Aids. May he enjoy the last beer he will ever have…😊

Kaffie Frederick General Mercantile

This is the oldest hardware store in Louisiana – the Kaffie Frederick General Mercantile in Natchitoches, LA. It was founded in 1863, during the American Civil War, by Jewish Prussian immigrants who were looking for a welcoming place to settle. The store is still owned by descendants of the family.

This is an original working till from 1910. I LOVE hardware stores and have been known to loiter with intent in my local Ace store… Kaffie Frederick was the stuff of nostalgic dreams and totally unexpected. Despite it’s historical magnificence, it’s a working hardware store, with some unique old toys.

Look at the original paneling on the walls and those amazing tools! They looked as though they could have been used in battle…

It’s amazing to think that the store was opened before electricity was in general use, so you needed natural light, and perhaps some gas lights. I wanted to say thank you to the owners for preserving something so special, even if it was by accident.

This is so much more practical and sustainable that plastic packs of nails and screws. Below is a side view of Kaffie Frederick General Mercantile from the street.

Courtship

These are African grey crowned cranes – although it was silent I imagined I could hear tribal drums.

So many of us start a courtship with a dance.  I met Teddy at my friend’s raucous 21st birthday party and one dance was all it took.  Skip to 38 years later and we just spent a fabulous weekend visiting Franklin Safari Park, just north of College Station.  We rarely took vacations together lately because of our sick elderly cat.  I was desperate to see and touch animals because the house is so quiet and this was just perfect.  Many more amazing photographs to come.

Merchant City, Glasgow

This is the Tron Tower in Glasgow’s Merchant City.  Tron is a Scottish word for a weigh beam, essential for all trading cities. It is derived from the old French, ‘troneau’ meaning balance.  This general area is still called Trongate.  The original building was a Catholic Church ‘Our Lady and St Anne’ constructed in 1525 which later was ‘Reformed’ as a Protestant church. The tower was added in 1628 and is all that remains after fire in 1793.  A previous devastating fire in 1652 destroyed much of the Merchant City buildings – most of them had wooden frames. Glasgow had various peaks in its history but much of the wealth came from trading tobacco, cotton and shipbuilding.  Daniel Defoe, in his book ‘A Vision of Britain Through Time’, wrote –

Glasgow is, indeed, a very fine city; the four principal streets are the fairest for breadth, and the finest built that I have ever seen in one city together. The houses are all of stone, and generally equal and uniform in height, as well as in front; the lower story generally stands on vast square dorick columns, not round pillars, and arches between give passage into the shops, adding to the strength as well as beauty of the building; in a word, ’tis the cleanest and beautifullest, and best built city in Britain, London excepted’.

Let’s not forget, however, that this wealth was built on the back of African slaves.  I doubt there is a country in the world that does not have a dark history.

This rather sinister building is the Tollbooth Steeple built in 1626. It was attached to a later demolished town hall, court and jail.  Public hangings and other ghastly punishments were a spectacle for the medieval locals.

Glasgow Cross, between High Street leading to St Mungo’s Cathedral, Gallowgate and Saltmarket.

Interior and Exterior of the old Glasgow Fruit Market

When I was a child this was still the bustling Glasgow Fruit Market.  The father of one of my first school friend’s worked here.  Every day I looked with interest in her lunch box to see what exotic fruit she had.  Now it has been transformed into a bustling, glamorous event space with bars and restaurants.  On the day I visited, there was a craft fair in the middle.  One of the artists, a man of my age, noted that I had a silky voice with my mutated transatlantic vowels.  A silver tongued merchant methinks…

Alleyway or Wynd. Good for ‘winching’ on a dark night. Google it in Glasgow dialect…

I graduated from college in this very building in 1980 – Glasgow City Halls.  I always feel a tinge of regret when I think about my graduation. Family issues made me choose not to continue with a post graduate qualification. In time I could have lectured at my alma mater. One of my fellow students did exactly that with lower grades.

He spent two years wallowing in unrequited love for me because I thought he was gay and he didn’t make his intentions plain. Maybe this is the ‘troneau‘ in life. He got the dream job but not the girl.  Speaking of dream girls, I have a new admirer at work.  He thinks I am too beautiful to work with the masses.  It is hard to know how to respond but perhaps I should retire to my brown recliner throne and have Teddy bring me sugared plums?

 

I wish I had a dragon

Image by Josch13, Pixabay 

No, this is not Game of Thrones ode although Dany’s wrathful flyby of Kings Landing inspired the title and thoughts.  I have just returned from a sad transatlantic trip to Scotland for a family funeral.  It was not unexpected but somehow it is always a shock in the literal sense.  On the return trip, suffering a terrible flight with a revered south-east Asian airline, I drowned my sorrows with some unpalatable wine and wrote words on my magazine cover that conveyed how I had felt during the trip.

WRATH, GRIEF, SADNESS, REGRET, RELIEF, LONGING, THANKFULNESS, GRATITUDE, LONELINESS, RESENTMENT, AMUSEMENT, LOVE, CONNECTION, ALIENATION, BOREDOM, AFFECTION, ADMIRATION, JOY, FAMILIARITY, DISCONNECTION, HUMILITY, REFLECTION, EVOLUTION, ACCEPTANCE, IRRITATION

LOVE, LOVE AND MORE LOVE

I see my psychiatrist tomorrow and I think I will just hand him this list of words.  What will he make of it?  Such contradictions, so many emotions and counseling needed.  Funerals are such complex occasions.  Sometimes they are a celebration of a life lived well; sometimes the family gathering causes angst or the opposite.  This is not the time for me to write a memorial – my feelings are too raw.  For every kind comment there is an insensitive remark.  It has been years since my last visit to the old country and so much has changed.  I can no longer mention my country of birth, USA, with pride.  Do friends and strangers really think that the course of modern politics has been in any way influenced by me?  This is the plaque outside Glasgow’s City Halls were I graduated.  My economics lecturer was the local Communist political candidate.

The political climate is no better in the UK or Europe.  BREXIT; right wing Hungarian rule; Scottish Independence; modern day slavery in Italian fields that gives us our cheap tomatoes – to name a few. I see racism and bigotry on both sides of the pond.  As I left Glasgow airport and was waiting in the check-in line, I noticed a young woman sobbing from one end of departures to the other.  It wasn’t busy so I couldn’t figure out why someone wasn’t helping her.  Eventually she ended up close to me and I asked her what was wrong.  She was sick, had taken Nyquil the night before consequently sleeping late.  She arrived 45 minutes before her Canadian charter flight departure but no-one would help her.  I urged her to go back to the closest desks and ask someone to radio the charter representative.

Eventually I checked in and went to find her.  We were sent from pillar to post and I eventually demanded that we see a manager.  The flight had gone but at least the airline representative might be able to find the cheapest alternative to get her home.  She couldn’t call them on her Canadian phone.  I left her in chastened hands with the manager in route and the airline had been radioed.  Who knew all my Texan airport experience would have come in handy?

At my connecting airport in England, I tripped and scraped my knees despite being sober…then.  The only person who ran to my aid was one of the much maligned Eastern Europeans.  A Bulgarian cleaner who spoke very little English also helped.  On the glamorous flight back to Texas with flight attendants that resembled pretty butterflies, I had to complain about vomit blocking a sink and more dried vomit on the floor of a different toilet.  The response was a poor excuse and certainly not an abject apology which I expected.  It concerned me that they wore no aprons to serve food and inefficiently cleaned toilets throughout a 9 hour flight…and then the toilet tissue ran out.  Can you imagine my upcoming complaint form?

My words are my dragon and I wish I could burn my way through the hateful climate with live in.  I wish I could erase my memories of a sad abusive childhood.  I wish I could forgive.  I wish my self-loathing would cease.  I wish I felt more joy or even contentedness.  I wish I had a dragon.

 

Evaporation

Hoover Dam

This is the Hoover Dam with Lake Mead behind it.  If you look at the white band above the lake you can see how low the water level has dropped with years of drought.  The original Boulder Dam was built in the 30s during the Depression.  Thousands of workers flocked to the site for work.  The Dam was renamed after President Hoover – it provides hydroelectricity and water.

This photograph shows the scale of construction with the original road.  There is now a bypass which makes it safer for tourists to look at the dam.  Although it is a miracle of modern engineering, there is always an ecological cost to pay when you divert a river (the Colorado River).  We waste so much of our most precious resource on the planet – water.

When you visit or live in arid places you become very aware of how much we need water.  I wish we could send a little of our excess water in Houston to our dry neighbors.  After a 10 year drought we are now in the throes of a wet decade.  There is moss in my garden!!!  I left that behind in Scotland…

I am standing in Arizona looking at the impossibly blue sky of Nevada.  None of my photographs have been altered.  The light is fantastic.

This is my first glimpse of the Grand Canyon through the bus window.  More on the trip from hell next time.

first glimpse of grand canyon

I went to the Grand Canyon and it wasn’t…

Silhouetted crow on the Western Rim of the Grand Canyon

…that grand.  To be fair, the canyon was a really Grand natural spectacle, it was the arduous trip to get there that took the gleam off the visit.  Air travel has never been more popular, especially to tourist destinations.  The flight to Vegas was completely full and my heart sank as I walked towards my aisle seat.  Two rather large people completely filled the THREE seats.  They managed to squish up a bit and I had a little sliver of seat.  My airline should have dealt with the situation but I didn’t complain knowing it was pointless.

Finally we arrived at Las Vegas and even the airport seemed a little shabbier than it did a decade ago, on my last visit.  Still, I laughed at the slot machines right beside the gates.  My ‘I work at an airport’ aura followed me west and I helped a party of French people communicate with their Serbian Uber driver.  My Uber arrived and I drove off, shouting “Au revoir!” while thinking, ‘good luck finding someone else who speaks French…and enjoy our Freedom Fries!’

My hotel lived up to all its recommendations, just off the Strip but incredibly quiet.  Each room was a little suite and I could have happily lived there.  Perhaps some of the very elderly residents did? I felt like the young groovy chick that I am.  After I unpacked, I went off to see the sights of Vegas before my long trip to the canyon the following day.  Waiting at the crosswalk, I got talking to an older man (my age) who had his even older mother in a wheelchair.  I wasn’t sure she was alive…mummified?  Was his name Bates?  I kept bumping into them at the Mall across the street and she didn’t seem to move.  Welcome to Vegas!

As I was trying, with thousands of other people, to negotiate the Strip’s overhead walkways, I noticed that there were many homeless people; some drunk and some mentally ill.  One poor guy got in the large elevators with 15 or so other tourists.  He was shouting at nothing, terrifying the other occupants. My ‘I worked in mental health’ aura was about to appear when the doors opened and he stumbled out.  It is really hard to enjoy visiting a place when you can see the underside right in front of you.

What mortified me even more were the British tourists behaving crassly.  I really tried to manage my Trans-Atlantic twang so I could travel incognito.  There was a really loud English couple, from up north like Jon Stark, in Victoria’s Secret who were trying to find something classy for her mother (presumably my age or less).  They eventually found a sexy little something in leopard silk polyester.  I struggled to contain my mirth…  Later I came across some Scots men in a hotel bar and every second word was a loud cuss word.  Sigh.

I took some shots close to my hotel as night was falling.  It was as though the night added some dark glamour to the previously tawdry street.

Do you see the truck at the bottom?  Sin City Indeed.

Featuring – Live Free 2 Sail Fast

Do you ever wonder why you started following someone or vice-versa? My taste in blogs is very varied and my friend Chad’s blog is all about sailing – Live Free 2 Sail Fast

I think what triggered my interest was a shared experience of mental ill health. In Chad’s case it is PTSD and he finds sailing to be very therapeutic. Not only that, he actively helps other veterans with PTSD to find some relief with sailing. His post on this subject is inspiring – PTSD and sailing.

I would rather go to the moon in spaceship than sail on a small boat because I have a phobic fear of deep water…🌊  Despite that, I am drawn to the water like a lemming and am truly envious of Chad’s ability to be soothed by sailing. He is about to start on a new adventure – see this post Saturday Morning Boat Musings and I want to wish him all the luck in the world. Here is a link to a post about his adorable Great Dane Quincy.

Enjoy!

Sanctuary

The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Puerto Vallarta

There is something about this photograph that summons up the feeling I get when I am inside a church. Sometimes I enjoy going to a service but mostly I like the silence of an almost empty sanctuary. On this hot day in Puerto Vallarta, it truly was refuge from the busy resort. The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is not a cathedral although it is often called such. Perhaps it is because of the beautiful baroque crown that is said to be a replica of Empress Carlota of Mexico’s crown.

Baroque Crown

I was utterly fascinated by Empress Carlota whose existence was unknown to me. Napoleon wanted a figurehead for Mexico – Archduke Maximilian of Austria. Emperor Maximilian married Empress Carlota (Charlotte of Belgium) in Mexico City 1864. This is a link to the Wikipedia page about the Empress which is an almost fantastical tale of the brief influence of France on Mexico.

church side door

Mexico has held me fascinated since I discovered that many generations of my Ortega family lived in various states of Mexico. Until recently I didn’t think I had any connection to the state of Jalisco (in which Puerto Vallarta is) until I found an ancestor on Familysearch, Felipe de Jesús Quintero Rosas who was born in Poncitlàn in the late 1600s. Don’t Spanish names sound so romantic? I now regret my haste to get rid of mine when I married. I so longed for an ordinary Scottish name so I could blend in. Only as you mature, do you realize how important your uniqueness is.

When I moved back to the USA over a decade ago, I was slightly surprised that there were so many Spanish speaking Protestant/Evangelical churches in Texas. Somehow I thought they would all be Roman Catholic. This car in Puerto Vallarta amused me…😇

EVANGELISTS!

Post Cards from Kerry by Chatty Kerry

My lovely Antipodean friend, Calm Kate, interviewed me for her new website, “Meet the Bloggers”. It really made me think hard about myself and what I reveal. Now you know almost everything about me… Please go and check out Kate’s site and her other WP blog, Aroused.

Meet the Bloggers

Met Chatty Kerry early on and really delighted by her fresh openness on her personal matters.  She shares her health issues, voluntary work at the airport, family, travels, thoughts and insecurities .. she is totally herself in a very personable way.  She shares great photos of gardens, buildings and scenes both locally and during her exploits into other areas so it’s not surprising that she has published in magazines … must ask her how much they pay?  So if you want personal, travel and variety it doesn’t get much better than Kerry!

[Apologies to everyone for my lack of tech skills, Kerry decorated her interview with a delightful collection of photos to illustrate her points but I have no idea how to down load them from PDF or word document … maybe I will work it out and add them later!]

Where were you raised?

SanFran_CUSAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

I was…

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