Sunday, October 21, 2018

Cruising

I dreamed last night I was crossing the Atlantic on the SS America. This was a voyage I really took as a newly wed in 1964 to join my Army musician husband in Germany.

My father had driven me to New York, made sure I was in my cabin, found a German woman to be my friend. She had moved to Miami with the intention of staying in the U.S., married an Army Sargent who was deployed to Germany. She was less than happy about going "home."

My father also arranged for my place at the dining table making sure there were other young people at the table where I would take all my meals. They were four-star restaurant quality.

I was taking his dream trip.

The trip was a week out of time. Despite being third class, the meals were wonderful and the entertainment on-going: movies, dances, games, library. I quickly made friends including the German woman who seems so much more sophisticated than I was.

Before boarding the ship, I had been over protected never being allowed into Boston, less than 12 miles away. Quite a contrast, especially since I would have to make my way from Le Havre, France to Stuttgart, Germany on my own without language skills. Exciting though.

I remember Dieter, also returning to Germany, pouring out his love for another passenger Kathy, the wife of an Army lieutenant also stationed in Germany. They shared a stateroom. He wanted her to leave her husband after we docked. I wish I knew what happened. Kathy acted very much like a spoiled brat in complaints about things that at their worst were luxurious.

The Twist, the Stroll were among the dances we did several times. One night the ship hit a wave and the drummer and his drums went sliding across the room. Some of us fell. It was a rough night until we found calmer waters. I tried not to think about the Titanic.

At the dances an older woman, traveling alone, got drunk every night and had to be helped to her cabin. I wish I knew more about her life and was it hard to be with so many young people with their lives before them.

We let passengers off in Ireland. Locals came aboard selling Irish knit sweaters. The next stop was the U.K. then across the channel where we disembarked for a train to carry us to Paris and my new life as a wife.

When ever I see a movie about an ocean cruise, I smile. With such a sheltered upbringing, it was an experience I never thought I would have. Most of my life turned out to be experiences I wanted to have but never dreamed possible.

Photo: S.S. America, the first cruise ship where the interiors were designed by women. Built in 1940 it was turned into a war ship in WWII. Sold and resold. It ran aground in 1994 and broke in two.


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Small changes



I read Small Changes by Marge Piercy when it first came out in the 1990s.

The description of different women's lives, their relationships with men and what it is like to be a woman in the working world dominated by men rang frighteningly true.

I wanted to reread it to see how much had changed. Or had I changed?

I remember trying to read Atlas Shrugged at 15, 20 and 24. The first time I couldn't get into it, the second time, I thought it was wonderful and the final reading I saw it as claptrap. I only wish some of our alleged leaders could see through it.

On this reading of Small Changes, I saw much that was still relevant. The scenes of Cambridge was like going back to my years living in the region. The personalities of the characters still rang true, although I had less patience with some of them not to see wrongs sooner, but that was through the filter of my maturing and society changing slightly.

Perhaps, where I saw the least change was in the workplace where the power structure is usually male.

Having become a published writer since www.donnalanenelson.com since then, I wanted to edit some of it. There was a bit too many conversations espousing the author's philosophy which did not negate the philosophy itself.

When I look at the position of and attitudes toward women in society today, I saw more technological progress than changes for women...small or otherwise.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Abortion is forever



After working on Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles, for a year it was published in late winter. The copies went to my daughter in the States. She sent them out to Supreme Court Justices and any legislator fighting to make abortion illegal.

Only when I returned to Geneva in late September, did I get a chance to hold in my hands the copies we sent to my home there. There is always a bit of shock when I see what I wrote published. Feeling the paper is different than reading the book on screen.

I started to read it. What struck me was the inevitability of abortion. In one chapter I had written how one hospital in Arizona had performed about 300 abortions annually before Roe v. Wade. The woman needed to be certified as having their life in danger. That could mean psychologically as well as physically.

It doesn't take too much imagination to believe that the doctors had to stretch the truth.

It also does not take too much imagination to think of all the hospitals across the U.S. who did the same.

Although I am long past the age that I might be faced with the idea of having to consider an abortion, I want women to have the right to decide for themselves.

It sickens me when I see committees made up of men, studying women's health issues and then legislating them. The unawareness of those that want to stop legal abortions of the realities around the issue is just plain frightening for the lives of hundreds of women faced with unwanted pregnancy.

No one should say abortion is a good thing, but sometimes it is a best choice out of many bad ones. Abortion will never be stopped, I tell people when I send them the book, anymore than Prohibition put a stop to drinking or the making of alcohol. Women with means will go where it is legal. Women without will submit to anything or do it themselves and once again hospitals across the country will have to reopen those 20+ beds they kept filled for women dying from the illegal abortions.

For anyone wanting a copy of the book, send me a comment.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Storms

During the excruciating heat this summer in Argelès, I fantasized rain pounding on the roof. It just didn't happen for more than a few minutes a couple of times.

Then we go home to Geneva, and there are major storms. The river in the photos is usually so dry that our dog Sherlock considers it a path where he can run freely on the yellowed, dead grass.

I missed it.

I love bad weather--not all the time--but enough to enjoy being home, a cup of tea, books, computer, sweats.

Even going out and having the wind whip my face makes me feel so alive unlike on a hot day when moving at all sucks my energy like an industrial vacuum cleaner.

Unfortunately, this storm left six dead. That is the down side of bad weather. And when I say bad weather, I am NOT referring to things like Hurricane Michael. I am talking ordinary bad weather, heavy rain, cold, snow.

Here in Geneva it is a beautiful day. Blue sky. Temperatures require a sweater or light jacket. The leaves are beginning to turn.

Hopefully in the winter, out patio and garden will have snow. Sherlock thinks of it as white sand and digs and digs. Maybe we can make a snowman or another snow rabbit as we did last time. And hopefully when the snow stops, we have the same beautiful blue sky we have today.






Saturday, October 13, 2018

Sleeping around


 Seehof du Lac, Weggis, Switzerland

 My husband sleeps around. With each new bed he takes a photo to put on Facebook. One year there were over 20 photos posted.


I’m not jealous. He travels a lot. Many times I am with him. We stay in hotels, B&Bs and sometimes with friends which allows us to catch up with our lives.


My preference is usually B&Bs because they are unique and it is fun to discover their artwork, furniture, etc.


Hotels in general, (and I’ve stayed in everything from no star to five star) can be anonymous. Often the colors or decor are discordant. They do, however, have the advantage of things like shampoo, robes, etc.) Mostly, even the best are forgettable. 


 Schoolhouse Hotel in Dublin.

My husband does amazing things in finding the unusual such as the converted schoolhouse in Dublin with each room named for an Irish writer.


In Neuchatel we were in a converted armourie. The window looked out on a waterfall. The beams went back centuries. There was a small living area with books. 


But the one where we just spent two nights while researching Swiss aviation was probably the prettiest I’ve ever seen. It felt like a well-coordinated master bedroom in soft blues and yellows. The view from our balcony included the lake and Alps.
 
Although this was a research trip, it doubled as Xth honeymoon because in our marriage almost everyday is a honeymoon. 

Our beautiful bedroom.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

expat vs. immigrant



I've called myself a repat: I'm an American expat except I moved to Europe with the idea of staying, took Swiss citizenship and then renounced my American nationality because of FATCA.

My husband pointed out to me that when one changes countries with the goal of living in the new country permanently they are immigrants.

Having also lived short times in Ireland, Scotland and a longer period in Germany, I've taken part of their cultures into my genes.

Despite the renunciation there is part of me that will always be New England Yankee, but after almost three decades of living in Switzerland, part of me feels Swiss and there's a part of my heart that is in France. I suppose if you asked me I would have to say I consider myself an international, with three countries that have made me me.

I owe a great deal to all three countries.

More than one person has called it disloyal.

I do wonder why land, which existed as long as the planet has to be marked off as a country which demands heart, soul and sometimes body in loyalty. Just looking at how the borders of Europe changed over the centuries how arbitrary the idea of "country" is.

Granted some land masses are occupied by people who treat it and each other better than others. If we are lucky we can live in one of those places.

One of the best thought out discourses on nationality identity was posted by the Nomad Capitalist. Even if you never travel, it makes for interesting listening.





Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Unicorns


Merriman Webster defines unicorn as "a mythical, usually white animal generally depicted with the body and head of a horse with long flowing mane and tail and a single often spiraled horn in the middle of the forehead."
My husband is a unicorn.

No he doesn't have four-feet and a horn.

Being out of the US for so long there are new names and phrases that crop up such as Snowflake that I am hearing for the first time in a different application than I previously knew.

One of those is I unicorn yesterday which I came across on Facebook yesterday.

A working woman was complaining that the household was her responsibility. If she asked her husband to do something, he would, but he would never notice anything himself. She was tired of the responsibility.

A robust response followed from husbands who would do nothing to comments, on working vs. stay-at-home women, to those that would do something when asked.

There were a few husbands who assumed responsibility for routine chores without being asked and considered it part of living in the house. They were called unicorns.

I am married to one of those unicorns. He is not a myth. Sometimes he notices things I've missed and vice versa. He is as quick to mop the floor if not quicker than I am. It is more a case of -- I see something that needs doing so I do it -- than anything else.

Our house stays moderately clean and in order.

I love my unicorn.






Sunday, October 07, 2018

Rest Stops



I love French autoroute rest stops and not just the ones with restaurants. The aires are frequent, usually clean with places for kids to play and picnic areas. I compare it to the highway in New York where all rest areas were closed. Fortunately trees were available.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Grief



I often walked under the Vincent Royal railroad bridge and was touched by the photo of the young man who died at 16 years and 23 days. "Pourquoi?" Why. it asked.

Admittedly, I didn't think much about it until walked into a memorial garden when out on a walk with Sherlock. On a bench was a sign dedicated to Vinc, and "we will never forget all the moments lived here."


I wondered if it were the same Vinc.

As we walked down a street, I noticed for the first time that there were faded newspaper articles, protected by plastic covers. They were dated August 2011 and told of the death of Vincent Royall by a train.

The father met with train officials trying to get crossings made safer.

Although suicide was mentioned, it wasn't an official ruling.

Someone lived in the house. I could hear voices and even if Vincent died seven years ago, it would have been improper to knock and ask even one of the many questions. That there were two memorials and seven-year-old news clippings were still posted, told me that time had not washed away the grief of losing a child.

Two days before, I'd been on a historic tour of the village. That type of tour told of battles and buildings. The story of Vincent had become a mini-tour, more personal. Although there have been thousands of personal losses in the village from the 10th century, they have been washed away by time.

This one is still present in the bridge, the park and old newspaper articles.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Food is love

Food is love-- It's Karrie making roasted figs, goats cheese and nuts on toast for all her friends after a tour of the village.

Food is love--It is Rick making Sunday breakfast and making the plate be photographic pretty as well as adding new tastes.

Food is love was my grandmother making cupcakes and chocolate sauce for us as a surprise.

Food is love when making something special for a friend, lover or family.

Food is love when we make sure that our family gets all the necessary nutrients.

Food is love when it is a treat (popcorn, ice cream, crevettes, fois gras, salmon, cashews) while watching a DVD or special program together

Of course there are the times when food is a getting something, anything on the table after a too-long day at work. In a way that is love because the effort to do something when we want to do something else demonstrates a caring, even through gritted teeth.

Food is love when the child says for the xth time, "I don't like that" in an ear-hurting whine and the child is forgiven.





Wednesday, October 03, 2018

I'm tired.

It doesn't matter if you're democrat or republican. Neither party deserves to have a capital letter.

I'm tired of all the sanctimonious politicians who spout words for one situation that supports their party's immediate goal then changes them as soon as contrary words meet the needs of their party.

I'm tired of the words "American people" falling from sanctimonious politician lips? Do they have an idea what it is like to be a family of four living on under $50,000 a year. They have high salaries and benefits for life but deny others the basics.

I'm tired of symbols such as the flag and pledge. I care about what is behind it.

I'm tired of war, endless war. I don't want my grand nephews to be cannon fodder to protect the corporations. I don't want any young man to be lied to his death and promises of how much the country is grateful. Words mean nothing. Actions mean everything.

I'm tired of the amount of money politicians have seemed to garner that would be impossible to get from their salaries.

I'm tired of politicians who put the needs of corporations ahead of the people.

I'm tired of politicians who don't know what they are talking about because they've never done the research.

I'm tired of labeling, that any idea is besmirched because the opposite party proposed it.

I'm tired of the ignorance of the voters from both parties. One just has to read the many Facebook posts or tweets to realize that they don't know what they are talking about in many cases. Someone said ignorance can be corrected, stupidity is forever. I don't believe they are stupid.

I'm tired of people who don't look outside the US borders and brag about their tunnel vision.

I'm tired to the rudeness, the name calling and the rudeness to those that disagree.

I'm tired, just plain tired of it all.


Tuesday, October 02, 2018

The tour

 Part of the original city walls. 
There had been a house built into it, 
but the owner had left it to the town 
so that the walls could be revealed.

Twelve Anglophones traipsed after Jean-Marc, the Argelès-sur-mer historian, as he highlighted the villages history going back to a mention in a monk's will from 1,000.

The name for the village came from the word for clay, which was converted into bricks, a major industry for the 300 residents in the Middle Ages.

There were tales of pirates and battles between brothers to rule the area. From one of the original towers, the defenders of the village constructed a catapult. Engineering talent was not one of their strong suits and the stone balls fell on their own troops below.

How many times have I walked by that building and not noticed the stone blocks. Jean-Marc touched them, explaining that it shows the building originated 1300 or earlier because after then, the stone was replaced with rocks in new construction.


Walking in Argelès, I am always aware of the people who lived here before me. The Ave Maria in Latin is carved in the stone plaque in the village church, also constructed in the 1300s. And there's a neighboring house which has the year of construction over its door, 14??, the last two numbers not all that clear.


This was the sixth time I've taken the tour, the fifth in English. Jean-Marc worries about his English, but over the years, I have seen how he has improved. Some of the facts, I'd forgotten. Some were new.

When Jean-Marc talked about the power plays and the need for money by those at the top, the need for trade is not that different from today. Instead of things like cars and electronics, trade was iron, cloth and wine.

"The wine wasn't very good after a short time." Jean-Marc made a face. All was not lost. The vinters learned to add spices and sugar to improve the taste. Innovation is not just a 20th and 21st phenomena.

As we were standing in front to the street that once was blocked by one of the three city gates, Jean-Marc explained the hygienic problems of windows and chamber pots. Only when tourists which began to visit the nearby beach in the late 19th century, did the village leaders remove the sewerage backed up wall and gate.

Matt, the owner of l'Hostalet, the hotel rode his bike by the group. "After your tour come to the hotel for coffee," he invited the group.

By now we were 14 people sitting around the table in the dining room in front of the marble fireplace.

Our friend Karrie arrived bearing plates and plates of roasted figs, goat cheese and nuts on toasts.

1800 years can create a lot of history even in a small geographical area. But history alone could not explain the feelings of good will and impromptu warmth of the group of people not the generosity of the l'Hostalet.

Rick will have a dueling post at www.lovinglifeinEurope.blogspot.com






Monday, October 01, 2018

Men vs. women

More than once as I walked down the street with only a male nearby, I would feel fear. At the same time I felt sorry for the man, who probably was a really nice guy. He had no idea he was creating a sense of fear just by being a man.

At the same time men hurt women. I had no idea that a woman was being raped by seven men across the street from where I lived in Boston and was peacefully asleep in my dusty rose and blue bedroom.

Too many friends have admitted they were raped, sexually molested by their fathers, brothers, cousins or beaten by a lover, husband or boyfriend. So many it is almost ho hum, except it can never be ho hum.

At the woman's college where a friend worked, incoming Freshman were warned areas where they should never walk alone, day or night, including a beautiful park across from the campus. It was no idle warning.

What I found more telling was the list above. What women do to protect themselves and what men do. I did and do many of these things where applicable as routine.

I believe Dr. Ford. I see in Judge Kavanaugh, not the innocent man who passed me by in the street, but a swaggering male, the bully, like the many who've hit on me in the past.

Fortunately, I have only been harassed by men I've worked with. It never accelerated to violence although job loss was implied in one case.

I remember standing behind my male assistant, my hand on his shoulder as I read what he'd written on his computer screen. "Careful," he said, "I'll get you for sexual harassment." He was joking or at least I hoped he knew I had too much respect for him, his wife and his kids.

Some was innocence flirting, and the danger of movements like #metoo is that the normal exchanges between men and women will be curtailed. If fear of a sexual harassment charge was constant, my husband would have been afraid to speak to me at the conference where we met, and if he weren't I'd have been afraid to answer. Where is the line?

I have no idea how to teach boys to respect women having only a daughter. Had she been a boy I would have tried. It would be an uphill fight in a culture and was before there was a president who says "grab them by the pussy."

And boys do not have to be boys if it involves hurting a girl. Men do not have to be men if it involves threatening behavior toward women.

If men did not hurt women there would be no Cosbys, Weinsteins, Kavanaughs and uncountable others.

Wouldn't that be wonderful if women didn't need the self-protection list?