Posts Tagged With: travel

USS Goldsborough, DDG 20

USS Goldsborough DDG-20.jpg

USS Goldsborough, DDG 20

It was my brother’s ship. A big old destroyer. I was living in Honolulu, and spent a lot of time on that ship when it was in dry-dock. Bill and I hung out together all the time for over a year; much of that time was spent on the Naval Base, as my husband was out to sea on an old pig boat sub off the coast of where I was not supposed to say.

It was the Viet Nam era, and I normally met Bill at Pearl after I got off work. The Goldsborough was in dry-dock, and this one particular day I had to use the lavatory. Bill supposed the Commander was not going to be showing up, so he just told to use the commander’s unit and to be quick about it. I very confidently told him about all the boats I had learned to go potty on. My poor bro believed me.

When my mission was accomplished I took a look at all the gear and pushed some buttons, turned this knob, pulled on the ring it was much like flushing the Coast Guard Cutter and the Submarines I’d been on. Well, I found out they aren’t all the same.

My brother was freaking when I told him I pushed this, turned that, and pulled that little doo dad there!! But he got me covered ASAP.

(I think I feel him laughing over my shoulder right now: “Aww, Sis, don’t go public with the toilet.. Please?”)

Bill didn’t live long enough to learn what a blog is. And now my poor dear bro, I miss him so, is my subject . He is such a special guy that I just want to share him with everyone. And if you think I made a mistake in tense, I didn’t. He often comes to me in my dreams, cheering me on.

After the bathroom event I inadvertently blew serious cover on PEARL HARBOR’S TOP SECRET MILITARY CODE NAME in the Officer’s bar!

I wasn’t even drinking, Bill and me and a couple of guys were playing cards. Somehow or other I said the phrase so closely guarded (not!) and the entire bar froze into silence.

They watched as I was swarmed by a bunch of uniformed men who escorted me to a room filled with uniformed officers. Bill insisted on staying with me. I needed to convince everyone that I had no idea where I’d heard the phrase I thought so amusing.   I didn’t know, and was terrified I was going in the clink.

My brother had to talk real fast, and I can’t imagine his feelings about his job security. I mean it was a stupid sounding password, and I thought sounded hilarious for the tropics. I thought everyone would get a laugh.

I believe Bill was kind of glad when my husband arrived and we went stateside again. Back to Northern California, San Francisco, with the famous cool and foggy weather.

Years later, we were a family, a daughter and a son and a great job with Chevron. We had an opportunity to travel the world and we did our best to hit as many continents as we could. South America and Antarctica are the two the kids and I missed.

But all the joys of travel bring potential problems. While returning from a holiday our family was held under armed guard because we didn’t have an international visa. Chevron’s Mr. Ten Percent had neglected to provide one, and In Saudi Arabia the potential for serious trouble was everywhere. We could, depending on which way the wind blew, end up as hostages or worse. Here we were in the Jidda airport for 24 hours, arrested and under armed guards. Both kids were very small, 3 and maybe six going on 7. The little guy was tired, hungry and ticked off and expressed his frustration by giving the armed soldiers the raspberries….which is not as belligerent as throwing shoes at them, but is hugely offensive and unacceptable behavior! Fortunately, Arabs are often softies, especially when dealing with children. They seemed to appreciate that I did my best to apologize to them in my not-very-classic Arabic.

A very important lesson came several years later, when we were back in the States, and I was driving home from an afternoon wedding in which I had not imbibed. I don’t like champagne, so my nieces and nephews – and me, well, we had this champagne fight. Nobody was hurt, but boy we were soaked!

When it was time to go home I remembered it was late Sunday evening, and I hadn’t washed my son’s baseball uniform!  He had a game Monday afternoon, and for the first and only time in my driving life I looked around, coast seemed clear, and I put the pedal to the metal:  Go!

I blew right past a county Sheriff’s car and heard the siren, saw the lights.

They pulled me over, and though I passed all the usual tests you see on TV– backwards alphabet, finger to nose… counting and what not, even my breathalyzer was under the limit at that time.

But, I sure didn’t pass the scent test as my pretty pink jumpsuit reeked of the fermented grape.

Then they had me walk the straight line (in high heels – men don’t have to, huh?) And the coppers had no choice: I wobbled in the soft dirt with my damn left leg. I felt hecka pain inside my left hip for the very first time. I probably looked like I was staggering, as it sure felt like it.

So, right or wrong I was arrested, read my rights, and one Sheriff took my car to drive my kids to my nearby friend’s house; and the other drove me and the patrol car to the jail.

For 2 whole hours they “held” me in a cell with several crazy women. Scary, scary, crazy women.

Yes. It was a “wrongful arrest” – Yes, I really should have got a big fat speeding ticket…. instead of a… valuable lesson, hmmm? I am okay with the whole ordeal, and in many ways it was.

I would not know the real story of my gimpy hip and 24 degree scoliosis for nearly 20 more years. But first I danced a Hula with seven other beauties at the Sudanese Club; I also took up Belly Dancing. I ran in the Hash House Harriers, that famous worldwide running club that pops up anywhere one finds Brits their Beer.

And at the age of 50 I learned to play tennis and was recruited to a Senior Women’s team in another town. Within four years and a lot of worn out tennis shoes, my team went to USTA National Tennis Championships in Tucson, AZ. ranking #5 of 25 teams in the USA. Champion or not, I was not able to play tennis after that. Not yet. But.. next summer, I’m thinking?

Sometimes things in life have to go down the way they have to go down. I safely learned a very important lesson: MY fabulous judgement can be faulty, even when I’m stone sober.

However, there is one issue that still floors me. It is the hat/uniform/badge “power thing” that some peace officers, male and female, can really get caught up in. I’m afraid it may be a part of some problems we suffer now in our country right now with renegade cops and outraged populations. Hats/Uniforms/Badges. Think about it.

But on that evening, at the Sheriff’s office, I was being booked and fingerprinted by a pimple faced jerk behind the counter.   He wanted to know what color my underpants were.

Obviously he was playing Pimpled-Power-Man to my Trapped-Woman-Woman.

So I just told him the straight truth. I told him I was going commando!   No UnderRoos for this lady, Sonny! I took his little power away and Pimples gasped and nearly fell off the high chair he had been sitting on. It is hard to express just how very satisfying that was.

I don’t know what our parents would have said had they got to know a grown up me. But believe me, I do know that my brother truly would have been ROF and cheering me on. I think he still does.

(The USS Goldsborough was purchased for parts by The Royal Australian Navy, but I’m not telling Bill!)

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WARTHOG PARENTING

 

 

The common warthog is medium-sized species; their head-and-body lengths range from 0.9 to 1.5 m (3.0 to 4.9 ft.) and shoulder height is from 63.5 to 85 cm (25.0 to 33.5 in). Females, at 45 to 75 kg (99 to 165 lb.), are typically a bit smaller and lighter in weight than males, at 60 to 150 kg (130 to 330 lb.).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warthog

 

Years ago our family was on our first African Safari in the Masai Mara. Masai being the name of the local natives; Mara is the name of the wide river running through the area.  The Mara is beautiful, twisting and winding through Kenya, home to herds of hippopotami and the giant Southern crocodiles. The Mara is far more dangerous than the Nile Rivers in the North: it is a fact that most human killings by animals in Africa are by Hippopotami.

We stayed at Kichewa Tembo Camp, in a spacious tent complete with an outdoor toilet, outdoor shower. One morning while my husband and our two (very) young children were sound asleep, I thought I might leave our tent and step outside to watch and photograph the sunrise over the Mara, hoping to see some of the animals living normally, waking and coming out to graze.

On our arrival we were cautioned to walk only on wide bare dirt paths or where native grasses were kept mowed down to nubs. Tall grasses often contain deadly surprises, like lion, cheetah, hyena: all predators laying low, sleeping off an evening of hard work.

On this particular morning, light spread slowly across the sky, first a metallic grey-green turning blue, exposing the short grass, as the first flickers of orange peeked above the horizon. The sun rose tentatively, picking up a rainbow of pinks, taking over the early morning blues; and awakening the inhabitants of the savannah to bask in her full beauty.

Delighted with the display, I sat cross-legged on the prickly short grass in the semi-dark, and indulged my then habit: in the untouched beauty of nature, I lit a lousy menthol cigarette! I smoked and waited, eager to see how this show would progress, confident that I, although alone, was securely seated on the protective short grass, therefore I would be in no danger.

When the sun fully rose above the horizon and spread its light, the gods opened the gates of nature and thundering herds wandered in: wildebeest, zebra, water buffalo, giraffe followed by one delicate Thomson Gazelle: mostly early-morning hooved creatures.

Apparently lion, cheetah, leopard, cervil, and elephant and others were either sound asleep after a night’s marauding or waited for Group One to tear up the earth and kick up some protein or perhaps to drive other predators away. Nature has ways of sequencing to which I am not privy.

I was enthralled with this display, and sat cross-legged and slack jawed with a half-smoked cigarette in my right hand, camera in my lap when I heard something nearby. I heard footsteps. Then I heard an animal make a snorty noise like a sleeping husband and I saw movement to the right of me.

Was it instinct that told me to freeze, to not make any eye-contact with the Leader of this Pack? Or was it because he was plain scary looking? He led his family of four Little Warthogs; Mama brought up the rear. They all slowed down, eyes on me. I froze in the clarity of my situation.

I used my peripheral vision to keep track of them, making no eye contact at all, worried about challenging them with those babies. They stopped for what seemed like a lifetime as I remained a statue. The damn cigarette was burning its way to my finger nails but I dared not move. As I worried about the scent of my burnt nails Papa moved on, but the children wanted to get a closer look at me. And now Mama snorted at them.

I dropped my eyes when I heard Papa turn around, hoping he knew the snort came from Mama, not me. They all went quiet. I felt twelve eyes on me. I kept mine on the grass, avoiding challenge, hoping I would see any flicker of movement; wondering what I might need to do: sling my Nikon at the Dad?

The whole family snorted at me. They then trotted away and disappeared from sight.

I looked at my watch and found it was a heart stopping eight minute encounter.

The cigarette, burnt down to the filter was out and it scorched my fingernail painfully. The odor of burning hair was on me.

Perhaps they moved on because I now smelled worse than they smelled.   I don’t know whether that is good or bad. What I do know, is these Warthog Parents had expectations of their youngsters. They trained them to obey so they could learn how to be safe and stay alive. I guess I was a part of that lesson.

A lot of parents today could learn from that band of Warthogs.

 

NOTE: Wikipedia is a source I use frequently. They are in need of financial support, approaching a possibility of shut down in the near future. I encourage all who access their information to go to their site and support them J

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MALTA MADNESS Part One

It was Just another yellow day of my first Springtime in the Sahara.  Spring was something the local citizens knew little about other than Haboob season kicked in and the dust storms would annoy us until November.  

Larry came home promptly at 1:30 from his day at the office and announced that Chevron’s DC8 needed maintenance.   A couple of the Air Wing fellows were flying her up to a facility in Malta, and  any dependents could fly for free but had to commit to a 2 week or more stay-over, so how woud I like to have a little vacation!  He encouraged me to take our children, three year old Stevie,  and Rebecca  who was nearing six.  She would have her birthday in Malta!  It sounded like fun, and images of the Maltese Falcon flew through my mind so we went.  I didn’t know at the time the movie was about Casablanca.  Wrong country.

Connie came along with her 2 year old son and 5 year old daughter. She and her husband were the very first couple to welcome our family to Khartoum by inviting us to dinner at their home.  The meal was particularly memorable to me because we were served a roast chicken the size of a dove with no seasoning,  and a mess of grey matter that she said was millet.  It tasted like parakeet food and got trapped between my teeth.  

Still, Connie and I hatched a plan to share expenses in a flat – expats can be real cheapskates.  They never know how long they will be posted and want to claim as much of the sumptuous expatriate earnings as possible.  Our housing plan was done in before we set foot on Malta.   This was to be the last plan we made together.

Connie’s daughter Gretchen was a dear little girl, but the little fellow was a spoiled brat.  Sean was a few months younger than Stevie and still nursing.  He wasn’t housebroken, instead he was being reared as a free-range child who could not speak English and certainly had not been taught The Polites.  Sean was a smelly, demanding two year old.

Everyone brought snacks and drinks for the eight hour trip, as there were no flight attendants and amenities on a DC8 maintenance flight.  My children each had lunch boxes with water, cheese slices, crackers and a small apple tucked inside.  I also brought color books, reading books and some toys to keep them entertained.  They were aware that they would not be allowed to wander through the plane unattended: they were to stay buckled in their seats unless they had to use the toilet. 

I opened up our small chest of drinks and snacks at the same time Connie, who was seated across the aisle from us, unloaded her suitcase from the rack above her.  She too had apples, plus a jar of peanut butter, and a knife, a sharp knife. 

I watched uneasily as she sat down, suitcase on her lap, and sliced her apples and I prayed we would have no turbulence.  Connie carefully spread a measure of peanut butter on each apple slice then handed them to her children along with a small Sippy cup of lemonade each, clearly a plan with flaws: lemonade plus small children on a flight. 

Gretchen sat quietly in the window seat looking out, a peanut butter-apple slice between her teeth.  She suddenly sneezed.   The apple slice fell from her mouth, bounced off the window and skidded to the floor peanut-butter-side down.   When she  tried  to pick it up, she slipped on the smeared peanut butter and fell down.  She rose just as Sean, who was sipping lemonade, bent over to see what the commotion was.  Her head bumped his Sippy cup hard and the cup split his lip.

Sean yowled a bloody scream, and threw his Sippy cup his big sister, splattering Gretchen, himself, his mother  and the two  grey haired women seated in front of them.   Sticky sweet lemonade was in their hair and dripping down the backs of their necks .  They turned to each other and spoke quietly.  One lady quietly got up and went to the restroom and returned shortly with a pile of wet towels, some of which she shared with Connie and me, then joined her friend who had  claimed two seats near the cockpit for their own clean up party.

Sean began screaming for his TeeTee.  My kids were horrified.  They had never heard of a walking child nursing:  they had been cup-trained as soon as they could sit in their high-chairs.  They never used bottles, and were totally on their own by six months.

 Connie calmly picked Screaming Sean up in her arms, shooed Gretchen to the aisle seat and plopped down into the window seat with her squirming, bawling man-child.   Sean  pulled her shirt up so he could have his TeeTee.   Five minutes later  he was done feeding and proceeded to squirm and scream until his mother put him down.  Apparently Connie expected her 5 year old Gretchen to contain Screaming Sean while TeeTee was carefully put away. 

Of course, Sean had other ideas:  he bit his sister’s knee, snatched her Sippy cup from her hand and headed down the aisle toward the cockpit at which time the captain announced that all families must move to the far rear of the airplane “as a convenience to the children with easy access to the lavatories.”

Within a few hours we stopped over in Cairo to fuel up and endure a bug-spraying, in case we had live critters coming up from Khartoum where the only insects I’d seen was a terrible Blister Bug and one huge cockroach that jumped out of our shipment from the States.  This desert is not a hospitable place for any kind of life. 

As the team walked throough, we all covered our faces as best we could.  We were not allowed to  leave the plane and had no idea of what chemical (if any) was being sprayed.  And one of the uniformed bug sprayers saw Rebecca, who often passed for an Arab child with her long dark hair and big bown eyes. 

“Wat iz you Fazzer name?”  he asked my daughter.  Before I could speak, a young woman sitting in back of us said “Tell him DADDY!” 

I got her message, the message about security when travelling in foreign countries with small children.  The white slave traffic remains alive and well, certainly not restricted to Caucasians.  Over the next several years we were continually reminded by good citizens in Tunesia, Greece, Turkey, Thailand and other countries to mind our children. 

I took it a step further and refused to allow them to have “personalized” possessions, which was a big fad in the 1980s.  I didn’t want their names to go public.  And I continued the rule after we returned to the States. 

We exited the plane at Malta International Airport and caught a cabbie who recommended that we take a visit to Hagar Qim.  It was an interesting and ancient destination and the children could safely get a little exercise.  At that point, 1982, the exact age  of the ancient  temple complex was not known and estimated to be older than Stonehenge.  Subsequent research dates Hagar Qim to 3200 – 3600 BC.  In 1982 we were told quite factually that it was an ancient temple built to honor The Earth Mother, however I find no mention of this in current research.  I will continue to believe it because I llike the concept of a female deity.

After Hagar Qim we intended to get a snack somewhere, but the boy Sean had soiled his pants, and Connie forgot to bring clean diapers.  It ruined any thought of food for everyone, especially our poor driver.

I exited the taxi as soon as we arrived in Valetta, and told Connie that I thought it would be much better for us to make separate accommodations, that my children weren’t accustomed to being around young children.  She looked blankly at me and I realized both girls and the boys were the same age.

We bid adieu and never saw each other until the return flight two weeks later.  And we sat a comfortable distance apart.

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Leonardo da Vinci

 

I read a piece on Facebook today regarding the ever present interest in da Vinci’s famed painting of Mona Lisa.  The issue at hand was once again Who’s that Lady?  This artist and his Lady  with the secret smirk will keep the world guessing  throughout time.

I’ve seen the Mona Lisa in the Louvre and it is even more captivating than art book photos.  But I was surprised that such a “big” painting was so much smaller than I had imagined.

Leonardo had an interesting relationship with King Françoise of France, according to the lady working in the gift shop at the Chateau.  But then, maybe it was strictly about business.  Painters were not self-supporting and needed sponsors, wealthy  bill-payers so they could get on with their creativity.   Perhaps in this new millennium we should consider this:  look at Leonardo’s legacy! 

We should not have starving artists today, but we do and I can only imagine the potential for richness that the world is missing.  Instead we create chemical problems, pollute the sky, and poison the earth and waters and stash away useless pieces of paper in foreign accounts.

My Mother-In-Law was a Francophile.  She had a complete service for twelve of Royal Worcester china, and collected 16 and 17th Century porcelain.  She also had a full service of Reed & Barton’s Francis the First’s sterling silver place settings.  I never knew her to use them.   

I was fascinated with the silver ware, which she was not shy about letting me know was the best (most expensive) of Reed & Barton’s silver and she showed me the theme of fruits in the intricate designs: teaspoons, dessert spoons, soup spoons would each have a different fruit design on the handle, and so on with the various forks, fish knives, dinner knives and serving pieces.  She was in love with R & B’s Francis the First!  I thought it ridiculous, way overdone and a pain to keep up. 

Fast forward a quarter century and I find myself on a month-long European journey with a friend.  We began by visiting Paris for about ten days then hired a car and drove south through the Loire Valley (say Loawah Valley.)  We had plans to zip through Paris in three days (it took ten)  then the Loire, and get over to Italy a.s.a.p. 

Cest la vie!  We spent our second ten days in a charming town called Amboise (say “Ambwah) and toured the valley visiting and photographing the Loire River, it’s bridges, villages, chateaus and churches.  One church in the town of Blois – (say “Blah”) had a printed notice that it had been “blown away “ by a windstorm  several hundred years prior.   

 

We went to street fairs and farmers markets and walked across lots of bridges and ate cheese.  We loved the winding road through the countryside and visited the several chateaus, one of which had been turned in to a hospital during the world wars; another was well known for breeding  (noisy) hunting dogs. 

It was wintertime in France, dim daylight, lots of fog and scattered showers:  incredible lighting for shooting chateaus and scenic vistas.   It was also a very good time to be tourists.  Not many American’s tour France in lousy weather, so we were received like royalty.  My efforts at French, which I do not speak seemed to charm the people, not make them vomit and curse at me. 

Instead they helped me, took time to explain lingual issues like my ordering “poisson” (fish) instead of “boisson” (drinks).   Some lead me through their (empty) shops and made me repeat: “Brioche! Baguette!  Croissant!  And Ouf Coq, which I had every morning, avec un brioche sie vous ples.

I enjoyed the experience even if they might have been laughing at me rather than with me.

Our final stop was Françoise’ place, the chateau of Francis the First.  Sure enough, my first “aha moment” came when I noticed wall friezes throughout the castle depicting the fruits exactly as I’d seen on my mother-in-law’s butt- ugly silverware!   

My opinions about anything that ugly and who might own it blew up in my face.  We toured from down in the lower basement and kitchens up through the social halls, then up curving staircases to other rooms, probably “apartments” for guests,  and large sleeping rooms for servants.   Chateaus had to be enormous, because when a royal went a-visiting his entire staff came along to serve him.  Rooms and stables had to be provided for staff as well as the touring animals.  Big, vacuous and vacant rooms were common in chateaus.

 And so it was, after we toured Francis the First’s chateau, we emerged tired and frozen.  Some of the fireplaces were taller than we, and all had roaring fires in them, and it was freezing.  My teeth still chattered.  The rooms were enormous they were virtually unheated.  I decided I never wanted to be a princess or a queen, would turn down the job if offered.

And when we were done with Francis’abode we immediately went to the gift shop to buy postcards and warm up a little.

The shopkeeper was an older woman at the time, somewhere near the age I am now.  She was very nice and spoke beautiful English.  We chatted as we selected postcards and such to send or bring home, and she asked if we had seen Leonardo da Vinci’s home yet.

We never heard of it!   She explained that Leonardo da Vinci was last “sponsored” by Francis the First, King of France.  The two men got along well, and became such great friends that da Vinci eventually took up permanent and his final residence, about a mile from the chateau.  Francis and Leo were pals and enjoyed each other’s company so much that Francis had a tunnel dug from his castle to da Vinci’s home so they could inconspicuously visit, away from the prying eyes and gossips of Amboise residents and the whole Loir Valley. 

When we arrived at da Vinci’s home, we gathered brochures and learned that in the “first floor” or basement were full scale models of da Vinci’s inventions, built precisely according to his plans by IBM.

Seeing his “visions” full scale was as wonderful as it was sad:   he never got to see them.

Leonardo da Vinci captivated me in the valley that already held me prisoner.  He was an artist, a painter, an inventor, a cultivated connoisseur, an intellectual, and a very charming man.  I would love to just one of these attributes. 

Unfortunately, all I am able to do like him is to write backwards. 

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