Friday, October 31, 2008

October no buy -- I cracked

I cracked this month and bought a black turtle neck plain for 19.90 CHF. I've been looking for a plain one for about two years, and there it was hanging out, waving it's sleeve at me, in front of a store.

I also bought boots (which were on my replacement list in my original no buy blog) for 35 Euros and they are beautiful leather and lace up the back.

The last purchase was a replacement telephone for the one stolen in Barcelona. That one was so old it didn't have sms capacity. This one does, but so far I can't figure out how to use it. I didn't get one of the fancy-dancy models just a 29 CHF model that receives and makes calls and SMS. Considering I may make a call a month if I'm unlucky, it is enough. What I miss more is the doggie suit that my old telephone was dressed up in. There's something about talking into a fuzzy dog that puts cell phones in perspective.

There is a demo on line that I have so maybe I will figure out how to use the phone. The manual was great in telling me not to use it in airplanes etc. and change the card, but not a word about how to make/send calls or sms's.

However all these purchases just reminded me I basically do not like to shop and consider every second in a store stolen from the good things that could be going on in my life while I am having to walk the aisles to select something that I usually have to hunt for, stealing even more time from my life. Even when my no buy year is over, I doubt if much will change. If this were a money saving exercise I would have to give up restaurants and ticket events but that would be another whole exercise.

The great part of this exercise has been, not having to figure out where new things have to go -- with the exception of that black turtleneck which will go under my itchy black sweater...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The present

It was raining cats, dogs, ponies and calves when I left the house this morning to join a writer friend. The original plan was to take a cruise across Lake Geneva to Yvoire, which claims to be the most beautiful village in France. The lake was choppy (okay, not even close to the one in the illustration but this was the best choice I had), it was raw and windy.
Plan B was tea, chat and lunch.
Within the warmth of first a tea room and later an Indian restaurant we forgot the weather as we explored topic after topic.
Today was her birthday, but I was the one who got the wonderful gift of a morning and early afternoon spent sharing our thoughts.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How can we sleep

At the U.S. latest attack on a sovereign nation I feel sickened once again by the actions of the U.S. (I wonder what we would do if Canada crossed our border and killed eight of our citizens?) while chasing what they claim are criminals. But we only see our point of view, which is filled with violence and destruction.

"Despite a collapsing economy and complicity in a system that is devouring the embers of a burning planet, the privileged carry on with their lives, "unaware." But everyone knows. Even the most ardent supporter of the powers that be is aware of what the government of the United States has done and is doing to Iraq, to the world, to the planet ..."

"... Now, as I write, on October 25, 21 Iraqis and another US soldier are killed in Iraq, along with an additional 17 wounded Iraqis. These facts hardly garner mention in the American corporate media, because the "surge" has been a "success." You and I are the intended beneficiaries of this "success," as our lives grind on in this twisted Disneyland, while half a world away an occupation grinds on, carrying out industrial scale slaughter, with the unfailing support of our tax dollars."

"... It would hardly seem so, considering how even much of the "antiwar" contingent believe corporate media drivel about the "surge" being successful. Would Americans call it a success if it translated into a thousand American citizens being killed or disappearing every month, as they do, on average, in Iraq? Thanks to the "success" of the "surge," today approximately one-quarter of the total population of Iraq are either refugees or dead."

"...This latest manifestation of bread and circus has the American public enthralled. Our slavish faith in the media renders us unwilling to demean ourselves to the point of hearing the truth within. Millions in the country are transfixed by a politically inexperienced, religious fundamentalist hate-monger from a small Alaskan town known for its meth labs, marijuana growers, four-wheelers, snow-machines and a Wal-Mart Supercenter with the distinction of selling more duct tape than any other in the country."

"...The question I ask myself is what will protect our country from collapsing under the burden of this enormous guilt of having systemically wrecked and destroyed another nation with such impunity? What will protect us from the awareness of being complicit in such unlawful and willful destruction? As the truth becomes impossible to ignore, are we to be transformed from a nation of sleepwalkers in to a nation of insomniacs?"
Dahr Jamail The Cost of Slumber

Monday, October 27, 2008

It is enough to make you proud?


UN: Financial Inequality Rapidly Grows in US
A new United Nations report has revealed major US cities, including New York, Washington, Atlanta and New Orleans, have levels of economic inequality that rival cities in Africa. The report found that the United States had the highest inequality and poverty after Mexico and Turkey, and the gap has increased rapidly since 2000. The life expectancy of African Americans in the United States is about the same as that of people living in China and some states of India.

What countries have the least inequality? Socialized countries, or maybe just civilized countries, because with statistics like this, I question using the word civilized with the US.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

At the restaurant

Every table at Marrioner was filled. I had walked to the restaurant in the next village, partially because I was too lazy to cook and partially to celebrate the extra hour I (and the rest of Europe) were given as a gift today.
I've never minded eating alone in a restaurant, in fact I enjoy it, finding I pay more attention to each bite than when I am engaged in conversation (although I love that too and it isn't an either or). Eating alone gives me a chance to people watch.
A young couple with a boy, so young he needed two pillows to reach the table, entered. They produced a silver box about the size of a tissue box that held crayons, a miniature car and a rocket. The child was content. Although he looked askance at his father's mixed salad, he wolfed down his share of their pommes frites and filet des perches.
Next to me two Swiss matrons discussed their children and grandchildren. They were dressed in matronly style in wool suits that spoke of quality and timelessness.
A young couple entered with a white haired woman, dressed immaculately in brown slacks and a brown striped sweater (grandmother of one of them?). She laughed as she pointed to the blue French street sign, Rue Andre de Citroen, one of the restaurant decorations that includes street signs, advertisements for car races and license plates from all over.
They helped seat her and the young woman carefully tucked a green napkin in the neck of the old woman's sweater and then cut up her meal that was served in an extra large bowl.
The three talked with the same sharing as the other young couple with the little boy. When the old lady grew restless, the woman with her brought out a small stuffed animal.
As I walked back to Corsier, I wondered if she lived with the young couple or is she were in a home for the elderly. Had they just taken grandma out for the day?
I will never know.
When one people watches, it is bad form to go up to the person being watched and ask for more information, so imagination has to suffice.
I would like to think when they dropped the old woman off at whatever home she was staying in, she would remember her day out with people who loved her.

Absence of the letter i

In reading short stories by Carol Shields I came across Absence. She tells about a writer, who when she sat down to her computer discovered the key for the letter I was broken so she proceeded to write without using the letter.

To any of my writing students, it is an excellent exercise to try and write without using a particular letter. I would suggest N or X, and certainly not E.

And as I read the story, I realised there wasn't an I in it.

Here's a pargraph: "The woman grew, as the day wore on, more and more frustrated. Always the word she sought, the only word teased from the top row of the broken keyboard, a word that spun around the centre of a slender one-legged vowel, erect but humble, shoe dot of amayement had never before mattered."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bits and Pieces

1. The ponies are back in one of my favourite fields on my walks around my village.
2. The clocks go back tonight, my favourite night of the year, although the winter solstice is right up there in the top 2. My daughter has promised me we can have a real tree or at least a real wreath and that alone makes my Christmas complete. Although I have had great Christmases, without that greenery on the 21st of December, something will always be missing. For me it is the promise of life for the coming year, and although intellectually I know that the clock will continue ticking and the days will lengthen, emotionally, the real tree renews my soul.
3. The 80 electors, who will create a new Geneva constitution, have been selected.
4. Sister Emanuelle's death (she was a 99-year old French nun who spent her life working with the poor) was announced with this headline. "We are all orphans now."
5. The students at Lausanne University are pushing for the dropping of all tuition. They pay about 1000 CHF. I wonder what they would think of US tuitions which even at state schools run at least 5 times that and at private anywhere from 20 to 40 times that. The students say that the tuition eliminates the possibility of university for some youth and the country suffers by the loss.
Students here get a monthly allowance, up to age 25, and there is a university in Zurich that pays their masters degree candidates in engineering 25,000 CHF a year to study.
At the same time in the US Obama is being accused of being a socialist.
There are no screams here of socialism for the support students get. It might even be seen as an investment in the future of the country.
The people who seem to fear socialism the most in the US are the ones who would benefit the most, the ones who need health care and education for their kids, things that are out of the reach of millions and millions of Americans.
Sweden, Denmark, Norway are all considered socialist countries and they are also countries with the highest standard of living and the countries with the lowest poor-rich divide. The Swiss standard is far from shabby with three of its cities being considered the best places in the top ten to live. And yes there are poor here and incredibly rich. But I have yet to see a U.S. style slum.
So give me a socialist country any day as place to hang my hat.


I am a dog person, but boy has this cat wormed her way into my heart...and often my bed. We did come to an agreement on the computer chair. Rather than sit behind me, she can have the chair next to me. Also, although I appreciate her desire to edit my word on the computer, I prefer she dictate her thoughts not walk on the keys.

Friday, October 24, 2008


My daughter said yesterday what would really scare her would be if I changed and spent my retirement rocking on a porch. She brought it up when I said I was doing some writing for the Library in English.
Another one of her phrases is "My mother retired? HAH!!!!!"

I am living the life I always wanted to live: Live in Europe and write full time. What I have gained from quitting the nine-to-five routine is a chance to arrange my time. If I am in the middle of writing a chapter or getting my newsletter out and ny housemate calls "Sushi" I can stop and if while we are out we decide to go somewhere after, I can do it. At any moment I can shut the computer down and go watch a DVD with Brothers and Sisters being the current favourite, I can.
I never envisioned spending my time in a retirement community. I want to be where there are all ages.
Life is good.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Robacalls to my computer

I may not be getting election robocalls, but when my internet comes up I hear an advert for a Disney film. I have not been a fan of Disney since they sued a nursery school because the school had a picture of their characters on a window and also since I saw a demonstration of the way they manipulated the news media at an IABC conference thus taking up time that should be devoted to real issues, but to suddenly have an audio advert come through my computer with no way that I can see to shut it off, is really pissing me off. So let me imagine the punching bag is Mickey.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Going to the dogs

A writer friend and I had lunch today at our neighbourhood restaurant, along with her dog, which is the size of a pony. The three of us have eaten there often (and for those Americans reading this, dogs are allowed in restaurants).
I'd reserved a table in a corner so the dog would be out of the way. When we arrived, a new waitress looked at the dog and said the dog was too big to come in. I told her I had booked a corner table for that reason. She acted like the principle who caught a student defacing school property.
This is a restaurant where I've eaten regularly. My housemate and I are there probably about once a week. We take friends there, and guests too.
Fortunately the owner was nearby and over ruled the waitress, who periodically walked by where we'd been stashed and rolled her eyes, scowled and hurumphed. As much as I love Switzerland, the concept of client service is often that the client is there to service the store, restaurant or what have you. However, this restaurant has always had exceptional service.
I suspect she will not have a long career there.

Here's a piece I had published in the anthology It's a Dog's World from Traveler's Tales. The grumpy waitress could take a lesson from the woman in Germany.

Dogs' Night Outby D.L. Nelson
Two canine brothers find a little patch of dog heaven in a Heidelberg restaurant.
"Bring the boys," Llara said. Normally when I visited her in Heidelberg, Germany for a quality mother-daughter weekend, my Japanese chins, Albert and Amadeus, were canine non-grata.
That was because of Waterloo, her rabbit. The first time the boys and waterloo met, the rabbit dived under the bed and spent the rest of the weekend tapping out danger warnings to all the non-existent bunnies in the building.
"What about Waterloo?" I asked.
"I got tired of her chewing everything." My daughter was talking on a new telephone. Waterloo had eaten her old one. "I found a family that promised not to turn her into dinner."
Unlike in America, many public places happily accommodate dogs. At the Café du Soleil, my favorite Geneva bistro and a regular stop for fondue, the owner welcomes them and always stops at our table to say, "Bonjour Albert. Bonjour Amadeus." Only afterwards does he add, "Comment-allez vous Madame Nelson?"
Last month when I was in the French Midi, I ducked into a museum, half to escape the rain and half to look at the exhibit.
"We don't allow dogs," the cashier said, "but you can check them with your raincoat and umbrella." When I returned from a shortened visit, I found Amadeus playing with another checked dog and Albert asleep on the lap of the woman running the coat room.
So knowing travel and dogs presented no problem, I grabbed an overnight bag, their leashes, and passports. These are issued by my local vet and contain a complete shot record, although for all the years I've lived in Europe, I have never been asked to show them at a border crossing. Five hours of driving time later we pulled into a parking place in front of Llara's student apartment house.
After the normal greetings, my daughter, who claims cooking causes pimples, suggested we go out to dinner. Having eaten her attempts, I agreed.
We wandered through the old section of Heidelberg, looking into windows and admiring the lighted castle above. The dogs trotted along, leaving their marks at appropriate spots.
"Let's eat at the Kupfer Kanne," my daughter said. We had both dined there several times on earlier visits and had enjoyed the warmth both from the ceramic stove as we entered and the woman who we had guessed was the owner.
We were never sure if her, "Nice to have you with us," was because she remembered us or because she was friendly.
"Is it okay to bring the dogs in?" My daughter asked in German, as the same woman, dressed in the traditional aproned dirndl, bustled up with menus in hand.
The woman looked down for the first time, turned on her heel, and led us to a small alcove off the main dining room. We'd never noticed it before. Ours was the only table, but it was set with the same linen as the others we'd passed and decorated with similar fresh daisies.
"Probably doesn't want anyone to see the dogs," my daughter said.
The boys settled in as we studied our menus. The woman reappeared and waited as we selected a white wine. I wanted trout. Llara chose pork chops. After taking our order, the woman listed what I took as the daily specials because I recognized the words for lamb and beef. It seemed strange to do that after we had ordered. My confusion didn't last long.
"She's naming dog food. She's going to feed the boys," Llara explained. "Is lamb okay for them?"
Within ten minutes all four of us were happily eating, the dogs at their usual vacuum-cleaner speed and Llara and I more slowly. The woman poked her head into the room and asked if the dogs wanted seconds.
"Nein, danke," my daughter said.
After we finished the main course, Llara and I both gave into apple strudel and espresso. The dogs were almost asleep when the owner brought the equivalent for them--a bowl of water and doggie candy.
As we finished our coffee another couple, who had been eating in the main room came by to meet the American dogs that the owner had told them about. Llara found herself answering the usual questions.
"No, they aren't related. One has English parents, the other has French."
"Fourteen and eight years old."
"They've flown the Atlantic eight times. In the baggage compartment. Without problems."
We ordered more coffee as the rest of the diners came in to say a few words and tell us about their animals. By 10:00 P.M. interest in the boys and us had waned, and we were finally alone.
"What do you think she'll charge for the dog food?" I asked as the woman disappeared to add up the costs.
Under the table Albert let out a long burp.
The woman returned, presented us the bill and opened the black money purse ubiquitous to all German waiters and waitresses. I scanned the numbers. Only the human meals were on it.
"Fur die Hunden?" I managed. The woman said something I didn't catch.
"She says they were her guests," my daughter translated.
From under the table, Albert burped again.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sudoku Monday

The driver was obviously not having a good start to his week. How he managed to drive his car so his front tires were suspended off the two stairs near St. Peter's Church, I have no idea.
Was he upset?
As I walked by, I saw him, a man in his fifites, balding, calmly doing the sudoku in the throw away paper 20 Minutes as he awaited help.
Coming back from the dentist an hour later, I saw the same car properly parked more traditionally in the slot to the right of the second car in the photo. How he did on the sudoku I have no idea.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Walk

A beautiful Sunday calls out for a long walk through and around the village. And the circus is coming to our tiny village with tickets only 15 CHF.

Today is the final day of voting for the 80 people who will rewrite the Geneva Constitution. Although it is possible to vote in person, I'd mailed my ballot at the beginning of the week, being careful to choose journalists, constitutional lawyers, historians and artists among others. Interestingly, very few businessmen were running. The voting is always held in the school.

And this is the place where I can drop off my bottles, batteries, papers, unwanted clothes.

And on a long walk, it was wonderful to talk with this woman and to pat her old dog, who was more than content to lay down in the grass and rest his hips.

And after ambling through fields I came out on the upper lake path and could look down on the vineyards, there leaves yellowing. Not all the fruit has been picked. Some branches are heavy and waiting for the men and women with baskets on their backs to finish the harvest.


I always associated raking leaves with my father doing it and my brother and I jumping in the pile. My ex-husband did the yard work and from then on I lived in apartments where leaves were not my issue.
With my housemate away in California, the leaves at our house think they are home free, but they are wrong. I am going after them in her name.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I feel sorry for John McCain

Yes, you did read that title correctly.
When I heard that Obama has taken ads on video games, nothing, but nothing, could symbolize more the difference in the two men.
At 66 one of my worries is that I don't keep up with life, which I suppose is one of the reasons if I want news about Palestine or Israel I will look at papers from there, watch BBC's Click to keep up on technical stuff, have friends from all age and nationality groups, etc. Becoming obsolete or irrelevant because I don't know what is going would leave me feeling sad and useless.
McCain admits he can't use a computer or email. He sticks with policies and ideas that obviously, as evidenced by the world financial crisis brought on by the US's negligence in oversight, are not working while Obama is tuning into the tools of the present and the future. Now I am not saying anyone who can use a computer should be president and anyone who can't shouldn't. But I am saying that right now we need someone, who can look for new paths out of the disasters the US is facing internally and externally.
Obama is the future. McCain is the past and I feel sorry for him that he hasn't kept up with what is happening on many levels with the country he hopes to govern.


Seeking autumn red,

irridescent, bright coulours.

Found on a fall walk.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Back in Geneva

And I want to fast forward to election day.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Slimed in Barcelona

Knowing that Barcelona is full of pick pockets, I had my pocketbook strap across one shoulder and snapped into my coat. Anything important was in the pocket under the flap in my pocketbook and that was inside. I also held onto the bag. When we stopped to look at the living statues along Las Ramblas, I was aware of who was around me. Once when bumped, I grabbed my bag. Living in Boston, had made me street savvy…or so I thought.
On the way to Gaudi’s architecture, I felt something warm and gunky hit my head. A bird had mistaken me for a toilet. A kind man offered me water and tissues and helped me to clean up, and kindly cleaned me of my pocketbook, all my credit cards, my passport and all my identification
At the police station nearby they have people able to speak multi-languages ready to help the constant stream of people who come in. If only they were as efficient in catching the crooks as they were in processing their victims.
They helped me call to cancel the credit cards and provided me with the documentation to cross the Spanish-French and French-Geneva borders.

The button that brings brightness

The living statue along Las Ramblas in Barcelona represented either a big black bird or a creature from the underworld with the talons on his heels, feathers all over his body, a blackened face, beak, and huge wings. He pointed one of his long-talonned fingers at my travelling companion’s chest where she wore her Obama pin.
“I like Obama.” Then he enfolded her in his wings for a photo.
His reaction was like that of so many people we passed. Two Irish couples stopped us and told us for the sake of the US they hoped Obama would win. The woman at the train station, threw up her hands in joy and broke into a smile. People passed us and gave us the thumbs up.
Some merely smiled and nodded, some wanted to talk in depth, but that button was the open sesame of cross cultural communication.
As one man said to me, it isn’t for America he wants Obama to win, it is for the world.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Streep blotches

Went to see Mamma Mia in English last night on the spur of the moment with my housemate last night, even though I had seen it in French the week before. The music was in English of course. Besides the announcement about smoking not being recommended at the end of the film making me laugh a second time, this time something hit me. It wasn't the music, the scenery, the comparison of the translation to the original but the fact that unlike almost all crying scenes, when Meryl Streep cries, her nose gets red and she blotches. There has to be a deity somewhere to let a director be this truthful.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Stand up

I was awakened at 5:30 a.m. by a purring radiator, having slept almost double my normal sleep.
Yesterday had been a Yeah-boo day.
Frustrated by a sick computer and rushing to get a newsletter to my clients before I take off on a short holiday, nothing was going right.
"Stand up and turn around," my housemate, tired of my moaning, ordered.
I did.
"Now take deep breaths."
I did.
"Turn back and look out the window."
The sun played among the dancing leaves and the sky's blue was brilliant.
"You can go back to work now."
Somehow the quick lesson, carried over to the computer who behaved, the internet worked faster and the newsletter flew to its recipients.
I decided to help rake the leaves, and the same pretty leaves I raved about the day before seem to maliously fall off the trees ONLY in the areas I'd just raked.
Then came the best part of the day, the birthday apero for the young man of the house. No crisps or pistachio nuts, this time, but fois gras with moreille, gambas, brie with truffles, and thinly sliced fresh figs. Even a forbidden chocolate birthday brownie...Hmmmm...along with good conversation.
All in all yesterday had loud YEAHs and small boos.
The purr machine moved from the radiator to my chest. Her body felt warm, and her cold nose touched my hand. She continued to purr and I felt totally at peace with my world.

Friday, October 03, 2008


No matter how much I willed it, the small red and yellow patches in the trees of the French countryside that my train was hurtling by as it carried me from my French life to my Swiss life, could not be converted into the splendid colours of New England.
As I looked out the window
, I was flooded with memories of those Massachusetts autumn colours. When I worked with DEC I
was treated to panoramas of reds and yellows and would look forward to the turning of certain maples along my route to and from work.
Then there was the stop at Aunt Sadie's farm
stand to choose a pumpkin from the wagon out front and fresh pressed cider.
Walking the boys, Japanese chins Albert and Amadeus, along the Muddy River, our feet and paws trod on huge leaves making a colourful carpet
This led to other memories of my Riverway apartment and my dusty rose bedroom and sunshine yellow office. I would write and I could hear Llara in her bedroom as she practised her bassoon or played her music: Duran, Duran, Falco, Cats and even Bach.
And in my kitchen on Saturday
mornings, I often would bake bread filling the house with nice yeasty smells, always leaving a little dough to make fried bread with maple syrup for lunch.
And there were the walks to Brookline Village
with its small brick stores, where I could buy Dutch hot chocolate mix or paté for a special treat. Or devouring magazines in the Brookline Library as I waited for Llara to finish work.
None of these memories made me sad, but merely wistful for a time that can never be relived. Yet at the same time, I can bring out these memories anytime
and enjoy them. Unlike when I was living them, there is no need to pause to vac the rug free of dog fur or remind Llara to take out the trash.
The leaves were a little more colourful as we got closer to the Swiss border, but they will never even at their finest, match New England's foliage.
And by the time I walked through customs, flashing my lovely red passport
, I was ready to make a whole bunch of new memories with a reminder to myself to enjoy the making as well as the remembering.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Great Paper Caper

“I got a great price but I had to buy 15 ramettes,”my friend said. I’d asked her to buy a cartouche for my printer, and one ream of paper.
We’d been food shopping, I was tired and anxious to get home. “Thanks.”
I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and wondered…what’s a ramette? I found out 15 reams of paper or 7500 sheets of paper. Thanks to e-mail submissions and all on-line stuff I do I use only about 600 sheets a year and half of those are printed out in Geneva.
I’m a woman that only keeps five paper clips, one pencil and only ten common pins. I have two pens, one is the beautiful glass one, great for calligraphy in thank you and sympathy notes, but would never survive my pencil case so I have a second fountain pen that is durable.
My studio is tiny. Where would I put the boxes of paper? Maybe I could paint the outside as fake wood and I could call it a night stand?
Then I came up with a better idea.
I offered a few reams as gifts to my friends and we were able to sell the rest at cost to Joel the olive dealer, Michel Daniel’s helper at the computer centre and Franck who has a printer for his customers at the tea room.
I am saved from having to store a lifetime of paper in creative ways.