Tuesday, February 26, 2008

South American summer

A stiff breeze blew off the Rio de la Plata riffling the silty water. The river was the milky brown color of a perfect latte, including the foam. Sailboats ran before the wind and fishing boats motored through the harbor. I sat on the Promenade deck watching the other passengers lap the deck and the birds twisting in the wind. It felt good to be in the warm embrace of summer.

I arrived in Buenos Aires a full day late because of the snowstorm. But the flight was uneventful and I was able to share a remis (car service or shuttle) from the airport with a Swiss doctor. I got to the dock and onto the ship without a problem. Knowing Spanish was certainly helpful.

I would say the average age of my shipmates is about 75-- most are retired. They are vibrant well-traveled people. From many deck chairs I can hear drifts of conversation about their past travels. The whole lot of them seem to have been to Antarctica. I am going to have to push that higher on my list. While I am getting off in Rio many of my fellow passengers are going with the ship to Lisbon. The Marco Polo has been sold to a German company and the passengers and crew are feeling the bittersweet last moments and memories of glorious voyages past.

Fast forward,

We have just weighed anchor and are leaving Uruguay. Tomorrow will be a full day at sea on our way to Brazil. I will have time to tell you more then. TTFN!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008


“Hey, aren’t you suppose to be in Argentina?” my neighbor called across the street as I stood in the blanketing snow leaning on my shovel.

“Yup. I had to re-schedule my flight.”

“Yikes,” she said, Will it be OK? “

“Hope so.”

Instead of slipping my freshly painted red toes into cute leather sandals and standing on the deck of a ship with the warm summer breezes lifting my hair; I pulled over them knee-high rubber-bottomed snow boots and I went out to shovel 6 inches of snow.

I am so colossally disappointed that all I can do is pace around my house. Instead of flying out today, I am forced to fly tomorrow. I called and had my flight re-scheduled and the cruise line notified that I would be late arriving. It is all I can do but it is cutting it too close for my comfort. I will worry until I am on board.

To make matters worse, I will not be able to see anything in Buenos Aires, birdlife or otherwise.

Why, oh why, did it need to snow on the one day when I needed to be elsewhere? We have had a lot of ice but it has not snowed much on the mountain this year. Normally I would slide off the mountain and go about my business. It rarely snows further south. Today the entire state got hammered.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Women and their shoes

Maybe I should say me and my shoes. I had no idea I was one of those women that felt strongly about wearing the right shoe with the right outfit. I normally have no issue packing. I travel for business all the time.

But when traveling abroad I cannot tell you the times that someone guessed my nationality because of the shoes I was wearing. (Apparently we are notoriously bad dressers.) I am determined not to embarrass myself this time.

So when I started to pack for my South American cruise, I packed the appropriate shoe to go with the outfit I would wear if I were home. But there is the rub. I will not be home and I do not want to have one piece of luggage just for my shoes. That is plain silly.

So I unpacked the red sandals, the high-heeled pointy-toed brown pump, the black short-heeled pointy-toed pump, the medium brown sandal, the taupe sling backs, the black leather flip-flop with adorable black bow, and my sneakers. (I had already decided against the hiking boots; after all, I would only be in the jungle 2 days.) This did not include the cutest black and white buckle-toed plaid shoes I was planning on wearing on the plane. Egad it was like a different shoe for every day.

I am starting over--re-thinking my clothing options, which of course, drives the shoe choices. I need the sneakers, and a sandal and something dressy. Sigh. I will have to build my wardrobe around the shoes not the other way around.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I'm Gonna Go Where it's Warm

I slid down the mountain this morning, riding the brake the whole way. The ABS shuddered more than once when I hit a patch of ice, black and scary. I clutched the wheel and grimly steered through the skid.

I am so over this winter thing now. I have been a snow-weenie and proud for years. Last May I went to Alaska and vowed to embrace the cold, the snow, the dreaded wintry mix. In Anchorage I bought some extremely cool gloves and hats and some leopard print silk long johns; ready to be stylin’ this year. I even bought a thick luxurious coat in Chicago in early December. All, to no avail. It didn’t happen. I am well turned out, but still hate winter.

And February is always the worst for me. Hints of spring are everywhere. The birds are surprised to hear a tentative spring song come out of their throats. The air occasionally has a hint of warmth to it. The weak sun melts the last of the mounds of snow. But it is all a tease--a joke from old man winter and the groundhog.

Well, I’ve had enough! I am going where it’s warm. I leave next week for South America. Where, may I add, it is summer. I’ll be in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. My arrangements are made. My bag is half packed. I have my visa.

Now, if only the snow would only hold off until I fly….

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Gung Hay Fat Choy

In all these years I have never seen the Chinese New Year celebrations and parade. So, I decided that this year, I would brave the blinding snow, plunging temps and 40 mile an hour winds to go see what it was all about. I somehow convinced 3 friends to go with me. I first went up to 65th street to the China Institute for their Lion's Dance. There were abut 100 people waiting on both sides of the street. First out the door were the drummers to scare away the evil spirits, then the lions came out to dance. The lions cavorted, jumped over each other and bowed to the crowd. (If the lion bows to you, you will have good luck for the coming year.)

Then I hopped on the 6 train down to Canal Street. Unlike the Macy's Day Parade, the Lunar New Year Parade travels up and down all the streets of Chinatown. The literature said it would attract 400,000 people. And I would say there were at least that. The narrow streets were packed.

We stood for 2 hours scrunched together with throngs of other parade watchers while confetti and streamers rained down on us. There were bands, floats, and marching cultural organizations. There were martial artists, clowns, a stilt walker and of course, what we had come to see, the lions. Just when I was starting to feel a little cold, bored and hungry the golden dragon roared down the street to everyone's delight.

I loved it. If you are ever near a Chinatown during Chinese New Year, I recommend going to the parade. It was loads of fun. And there is the dim sum and green tea in crowded steamy restaurants to round out the day.

Gung Hay Fat Choy. Happy New Year.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The one that got away

Azer’s arm ached from steadying the crate on the roof of the car through the open window. He wished he were anywhere but driving down the streets of the city on a hot Sunday afternoon delivering tomatoes with his father. He let go of the steering wheel and reached over to turn down the Mughum music that was blaring from the radio. It was loud and embarrassingly old-fashioned.

Without saying a word, Azer’s father snaked out a gnarled hand and turned the music back to ear-splitting decibels. Azer closed his eyes and prayed for strength. He wished he had not agreed to do this favor for his father.

As the car crawled up the steep street past the Symphony Hall and the Museum, Azer noticed a blonde woman strolling down the sidewalk toward them. She had on blue-tinted sunglasses that flashed in the sun and wore loose white trousers and a pale blue tunic that fell to her knees. On her feet were brown open-toed sandals.

The car veered toward her as Azer stared. His father’s shout startled him and he spun the wheel hard to the left. Azer let go of the crate and grabbed the steering wheel with both hands to regain control. Looking into the side mirror past the old man’s arm; he was mortified to see the woman waving her hands.

He slammed on the brakes. He looked in the side mirror again to see the crates that had been tied to the roof scattered on the pavement and tomatoes rolling down the street. He leaned his forehead against the steering wheel and groaned.

His father flung open the door with a curse, surveyed the damage and started to scream about money lost. Oblivious to his father’s snarls, Azer bent over and started to retrieve the tomatoes.

Some of them were smashed but many of them were only bruised. He scuttled down the hill picking up the fallen fruit. As he approached the last few stray pieces, a pair of brown leather sandals with painted red toes came toward him. Above the sandals white trousers billowed in the hot breeze from the Caspian Sea.

“You missed one.”

A hand held a beautiful red ripe tomato, unblemished during the accident. Too embarrassed to even look up, he took it.

“Tesekk├╝r ederim,” he mumbled.

“You’re welcome,” she said.

The feet turned and walked away.

Azer finally looked up as the blonde woman turned the corner and slipped into the cool shade of the park. He stumbled back to the car with his arms full. He kept glancing back at the park as he helped his father refill the crates and tie the load again. Finally with the crates secure, he got behind the wheel.

Azer looked in the mirror as they drove away hoping for another glimpse. As they rounded the corner, there it was: just a flash of blue, white and blonde.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Caught in a winter storm

“Excuse me. Pardon me. Sorry.”

I dipped and twisted my way down the sodden street; alternating carrying the umbrella directly in front of me, hiding from the brutal gusts of wind or holding it high above my head so as to not get entangled in a war of spokes with others hurrying, head down in the rain. The wind threatened to snatch the umbrella and carry it away or when frustrated, turn it inside out. I tried to angle the umbrella against the rain and wind. Rain lashed my pants and water dripped from the tips of the ribs. Managing the umbrella and not paying attention to my where I was walking, I stepped in several gutter lakes. The city was awash in a raw winter storm.

Carrying an umbrella in the driving rain and wind in a large city is an exercise in courtesy and perseverance. My umbrella is one of those huge black British-types with a curved wooden handle. You have seen them. Most New Yorkers carry small sensible collapsible ones the barely cover their heads. Mine can cover an entire family of 4 if pressed into service. Yes, it is a pain to carry around when it is furled and not in use. But in my humble opinion, in the world of umbrellas, more is more.

I rarely walk in the rain anymore. Living on the mountain, I get in my car and drive to wherever I am going. If I have to run into the store, I do not get out an umbrella, but dash off unprotected. If it is truly a deluge, I will fish around in the back seat and carry one but only from the car to the office.

I need to embrace the umbrella. We have all seen pictures of monkeys using large leaves to keep off the rain. I have even seen squirrels use their tails for the same thing. Once in Costa Rica, I saw a tiny hummingbird wait out the rain under the leaf of an umbrella plant. If animals are smart enough to protect themselves from the rain, I should too. I am going to start to carry an umbrella all the time. It won't make me look like a weenie...right?