“I’m going to be really sad or really mad if …” and, like I said, I don’t remember what “if” was involved. It doesn’t change the story.
“Be sad,” Cristin answered.
You who know me, imagine this, on Monday, June 11, 2007.
I’m on the plane now, more than halfway to New York, from San Francisco.
The flight was scheduled to leave at 12:45 pm.
I stayed too long on the computer in the hotel room, looked up suddenly at 10:45 without having packed, still typing.
I wasn’t on the freeway until 11:15.
I needed gas. Megan and I had been to Monterey and Carmel and back, the tank was almost empty, Hertz charges like $6 per gallon so it seemed cavalier and wasteful to not get gas. I pulled off the freeway at Holly in San Carlos, got into the gas station at 11:25. The ATM didn’t accept my card. I gave the machine a $20 and it took it, but then I couldn’t reach the tank with the pump, had to move the car, and then the ATM machine was unhappy with me, sent me to see the cashier. I wasn’t back on the freeway with a full tank until 11:35.
I drove fast. I was at Hertz at 11:55. I handed the paperwork to a person and told them to mail the receipt. I was on the rental car train at 12:05 and into security at 12:10. I was selected for special security because I had toothpaste and sunblock in my baggage. I wasn’t out of security until 12:25.
I was almost the last person on the plane. I called Megan because I had to tell somebody.
The plane sat on the runway for 30 minutes for gate hold at New York.
In late Spring of 1981 we spent a weekend at my parents’ condominium in Carmel in the less spectacular hill section of the 17-mile drive.
We arrived at the Carmel Mission about five minutes after 5 pm. It was supposed to close. Vange was disappointed because she wanted to visit the church to pray, something she used to do every so often, especially on trips.
Right when we were at the door a nice priest arrived from the inside, intending to close up the shop. Vange turned on the charm. We were very Catholic, we really wanted to see the church, it was important to us, “Please Father,” she said, and she turned on both the charm and the accent and of course there we were looking like a young mother and young father with three kids.
He was charmed. “Sure,” he said, “in fact, I’ll show you the mission myself.” He was obviously happy with this turn of events.
His happiness lasted only a couple of minutes. As he walked us down the center aisle, in the middle of the main church, Paul looked up at the huge crucifixion statue silhouetted by stained glass windows in the background.
His mouth was wide open. “Who is that?” He asked, in his loud, throaty, five-year-old voice. “Why are they doing that to him?”
The priest lost his enthusiasm in that minute.
You take the opportunities you get. This one was because Megan’s last final was June 8 and I was going to New York on June 11. Vange and Cristin were set to join her for packing her room on June 12. So i rearranged to join her for a couple days, sort of on my way to New York.
I was thinking about Yosemite, but somebody recommended Monterey and Carmel, I think Sabrina. We decided on that. I reserved a Miata to make it more fun.
I picked Megan up Saturday morning at Slav-Dom. She’ll have to post on how good it feels to be entirely done with the second year at Stanford, the last final — Friday night from 7 to 10 pm — done. She certainly seems happy about it.
We drove to Monterey, top down for about 30 minutes until the novelty wore off. We stayed at Hotel Pacifico, walked around, saw the aquarium, had dinner (note Megan’s last post) at a wonderful restaurant in Pacific Grove called Passionfish.
More pictures are on Amiglia.
So I was noticing in Dad’s post about the trip to Latin America that it reads much more like a diary of restaurants than a trip. It made me stop and laugh because I realize we all do that in this family. Every trip we’ve ever taken can be described in a series of meals — and that is how any of us will likely describe it if anyone takes the time to inquire. I find I often forget trips– where exactly we went, what order we visited places, what we saw– but I rarely forget the food we ate. Honestly I often piece together the trip by thinking about what food we ate and then extrapolating from there. For instance, one of my strongest memories from our trip to Sweden is eating delicious smoked salmon on some island (Vaxholm?) while looking out at the water.
Now my question is, are we all nuts? (Or maybe what I’ve really revealed here is the extent to which I’m nuts). I mean I feel like other people go places and don’t come back predominately describing the food they’ve eaten. What does this say about us as a family, should we be worried? So on the one hand this kinda freaks me out because it seems highly abnormal — also its a good thing we like healthy food or this would be drastically bad for our health. But on the other hand, think of how much time everyone spend in their life eating food. Think how lucky we are to appreciate food as much as we do. I mean seriously food even colors the way I view my day as its broken up into the time chunks between meals. Everyone’s gotta eat, lucky us for enjoying it so much.
I watched the 1987 movie Moonstruck, just a few days ago, in 2001. I was 39 when I first saw it, and I now think I missed something profoundly important, probably because I had to be 50-something to really see it.
In one scene, Raymond and Rita Cappomaggi — both in their 50s, married forever, they keep a store together — are arguing about something trivial, the standard bickering so typical of middle-aged couples, when he suddenly stops, and looks at her intently.
“What is it?” she asks.
“I just saw you looking exactly like you did when I first fell in love with you,” he answers (or something like that — I’m paraphrasing). She smiles the smile of a blushing 15-year-old girl.
And we the audience see it in her, the way she looked once thirty years older, and that it is still she. It’s magical how that moment, for Raymond and Rita, makes other moments come alive, dissolves the break between present and past. Love is still there, and it is a suddenly-morphed love that preserves the foundations of knock-down, drag-out youthful infatuation, but builds it on the solid foundation of time, reality, making it work.
This is not the typical starstruck young lovers. These people are middle aged. That’s unusual in movies.
The movie of course revolves around the blistering-hot love affair between Loretta (Cher) and Ronnie (Nicholas Cage). Movie romances need beautiful people. Even so, it still has its unusual angles: Loretta is supposed to marry Ronnie’s brother Johnny, but more out of 30-something fatigue than love, until she meets the brother, Ronnie. With Ronnie she has the kind of love we’re used to in movies, the young and the beautiful, but even with that subplot the movie has something special to say about love. Ronnie tells Loretta:
“Loretta, I love you,” he pleads. “Not like they told you love is, and I didn’t know this either, but love don’t make things nice – it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess.
“We aren’t here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die.”
This movie, however, doesn’t settle for just that — which would be good enough — because it connects that kind of “beautiful young people in love” with the long-term love that (we hope, we assume) it creates. Near the conclusion, Raymond sits in the kitchen with his wife Rita, his sister Rose (Loretta’s mother), and his brother-in-law Cosmo, Loretta’s father, Rose’s husband. He remembers a moonlit scene 30 years earlier, when Cosmo stood outside the family home, bathed in moonlight and bathed in magic. The connection between then and now is made. Rose looks at her husband Cosmo, and as she does she sees both the bumpy and ill-shaped old fart in front of her plus the romantic suitor who was lit by moonlight many years earlier. She’s angry at him, struggling with him, struggling with life, but she pauses, looks him in the eye, and says “T’ Amo.” I love you. He’s caught off guard, focuses, and answers back: “T’ Amo.” They both mean it.
That’s true love. It’s solid, like granite, with magic sprinkled over it, like moonlight.
High mountain near midnight bright moonlight outside the tent
and cold, and almost barefoot, but I was out there and I stopped,
cold, and looked at the landscape.
Moonlight on granite.
The granite held it all steady and solid:
mountain lake and the lakeside meadow, the peak above it,
and the rockstrewn snowpatched cliffs between.
But the moonlight made it magic — crystal, sparkled, rock-flecked magic.
The rock, like solid time, relentless …
draped in a silver moonlight as equally unreal as rock is real. my people asleep in the tent in the meadow.
The slopes, the pass, the peak, everything there rested on granite.
Think about solid rock, miles deep, mountains made of it, that’s the granite.
Flight to Miami on Sunday Aug. 3 instead of as originally planned because of the problem with the Brazilian visa. Very nice flight from SFO to Miami, nice seats in business class. We both loved the movie “Bend it Like Beckham” and Cristin also saw “Holes,” which was another excellent movie, and we had good food. Before we knew it we were in Miami, we had the rental car, we arrived at the hotel Loews in South Beach.
I was very disappointed with the hotel, it wasn’t bad but it had no Internet and it was ordinary. Cristin calmed me down. Vange said I should have asked her, because we should have been in South Beach. It turned out later that we were in the heart of South Beach.
Monday morning I woke up and did the Brazillian visa errand. I failed to convince Cristin to keep me company and thank goodness, because it would have been a bad idea. I did nothing but follow the cars directions to the Brazilian consulate across town, wait in line, pay my money, and turn in our passports and forms. The Brazilian embassy was in a large office building in the middle of what seemed like an upscale residential area, near the bay.
I returned to the hotel, we walked in almost-unbearable heat to a restaurant recommended by the hotel (News Café) that served breakfast all day. As we walked to that place we discovered we were actually in the heart of South Beach, just a couple of blocks from the Ocean Avenue section that has one restaurant after another, and small but trendy hotels. We had a nice breakfast, then walked back to the hotel, for a while on the beach but it was too hot for the beach.
Cristin exercised at the health club, I fought with dial-up connections and email, and we passed the afternoon in our hotel room. I was reading Bel Canto, which is a fabulous book.
At dinnertime we went a couple blocks to the Delano Hotel, which Saby had recommended, to check out dinner, but the place was empty at six pm and looked too formal, so we didn’t. We returned to the hotel and had dinner at their restaurant, which was also too formal, and empty. Then we gave up for the night.
The next day we went to a second recommended restaurant that served breakfast all day, the Van Dyke, and as we did we discovered we were close to a second very interesting South Beach area, a shopping mall that was very full of restaurants. We had a good meal outside (heat, but shade) and we chose a restaurant there (Sushi Samba) for dinner.
In the afternoon I did the visa errand again, this time picking up the passports with visas on them, and Cristin was again smart to let me go alone. She visited the gym again.
We had dinner at Sushi Samba as planned, but once again we were too early, and therefore alone. Still, it was interesting ceviche, and small but expensive Nigiri.
We returned to the hotel, packed, and left at about 8:15 for the airport where we were to meet Paul. We had an 11:45 pm flight on United to Buenos Aires. We dropped off the rental car, waited a bit to meet up with Paul. He appeared in plenty of time with backpack as luggage, looked healthy but a bit disheveled as he so often does (memories of Paul as the Woodstock charter in Peanuts, in first grade, running to the bus in front of Mariposa with shoes not yet tied, shirt still not tucked, always looking late and not fully finished).
Paul was delighted with Business Class, which was a surprise to him. It made me feel so good to see his reaction. Cristin of course also reacted always very happily to that, but she had already had the pleasure a few times, whereas Paul took it as a very pleasant surprise.
The long all-night flight went relatively quickly, mainly sleeping, although I woke up about 4 a.m. and slept fitfully until we arrived at 9:30 Argentine time. Paul’s bag didn’t arrive, which made our arrival less pleasant, but we finally got to the Sheraton San Martin with a great location and very nice rooms on the 19th floor. We looked out over a park, then a broad dock area, and the River Plate (Rio de la Plata) beyond. It is as wide as an ocean, and in fact I had to ask, during my seminar lunch, whether it was an ocean or the river. I should have looked at the map, I found out later, because it takes 300 Kms to get from Buenos Aires to the ocean, according to the taxi driver who took us to the airport on Saturday.
It was Wednesday morning. We were tired. We walked to Puerto Madero, a nice renovated restaurant area near the hotel, for lunch. It was the wrong time, nobody was there, but we were hungry. We were also tired, we didn’t do that well, but we settled and found some sandwiches in a café. It felt like a poor imitation of Starbucks, and we had wanted a nice late breakfast.
Cristin napped a bit, Paul and I walked around, bought him a warm-up suit and me some socks, we saw a bit of the city. It was cold, and gray, the middle of winter, so Paul needed something for warmth since he didn’t have his baggage. We talked about him, his job, his decisions regarding Raina, Cristin, the family, Laura, life. We found the cemetery in ______ district in which Eva Peron was buried, and we went to her tombstone, but we failed to discern whether it was the Eva of the 1940s made famous by the Andrew Lloyd Weber work, or Evita, who I remembered was a second Eva that Peron had found in Panama, singing in a nightclub, who was with him in the 1970s when I watched the return of Peron to Argentina on the Latin American wire in UPI at 110 Avenida Morelos in Mexico City.
We returned to the hotel to pick up Cristin by 3, then after a short time in the room we struck out again, walking, to a restaurant in the Palermo district that Paul knew of from a friend at NYU. It was a long walk, Buenos Aires’ downtown seems to last forever, so at about 5:30 after going forever in Avenida Santa Fe we took a taxi to the restaurant, which, it turned out, didn’t open until 8:30. It was about 6. We were hungry, and tired.
We took a taxi to a line of restaurants across from the Cemetery and ended up in an outdoor steak house, with heating, one of several, in which a crew of young women showered Paul with flirting attention while Cristin and I watched in awe. The chemistry of Paul with these women, his age or younger, was amazing. He had to leave the table twice to smoke, which bothered me, and it bothered Cristin and Paul that it bothered me.
We returned to the hotel afterwards, walking at night through a nice part of town, and I was finished. Paul and Cristin went out to a nightclub recommended by the girls in the restaurant, leaving at about 11:30. Cristin came back in at around 2 a.m. I learned the next day that they’d had a good time, Paul had made friends with a woman named Romina.
The next day I did my seminar, which turned out to be the best of the series. It wasn’t as obvious the first day, but it was already possible. However,
I finished the day very tired because of the animo of the group and the requirements of doing a seminar in Spanish.
Paul had his luggage by then, although I was told it was an annoying process from morning through mid afternoon.
Paul called Romina from our room while we were considering the evening, but she was busy. We took at taxi to Las Canitas, another restaurant area people had recommended to Paul. He took over paying the taxis and dealing with directions, which was a nice change for me. He kept pointing out how much the plane tickets and hotels cost. That was nice. We were still early for Buenos Aires, around 7:30 or so, but we found a nice restaurant on the corner named Campo something, and had a good meal. I was very tired by 9:30 or so when we were finished, and on that night Paul and Cristin were tired too, so we all stayed in.
The next morning I did seminar again, and by midday when it was done I was exhiliarated with the response. They loved it. It was very rewarding. I had a press interview immediately after, and returned to the room, finally, at about 2 pm. I had until 5 before another press interview.
Paul suggested Argentine empanadas for lunch, that we shouldn’t not have empanadas in Buenos Aires, and the concierge recommended a restaurant within walking distance. It was a nice walk, an interesting shopping street (LaValle) blocked off from traffic, and a nice lunch, with empanadas.
I returned to the hotel, had an interview with a journalist in leather jacket and long hair, we talked about important concepts in technology and the Internet, it was fun. After the interview we took a taxi to the restaurant we’d been able to eat in on Wednesday, had a good dinner, organic food mostly. Afterwards, we took a taxi back to the hotel. I slept, Cristin and Paul went out to a club, and came back about 3 in the morning.
The next morning we took a taxi to the airport, and a plane (Varig) to Sao Paulo. The plan was on time, we had decent coach class seats, and we found ourselves in Sao Paulo. Paul stretched out across three seats that were empty, and Cristin and I shared spacious seats on an exit row.
The taxi took an hour to the hotel. Blue Tree Towers Berrines. Even on a Saturday it took a long time, and the city failed to show itself with distinguishing landmarks. Our hotel ended up in a business district, what they call the Silicon Valley of Brazil, a decent hotel but with nowhere to walk to. Within an hour or so Paul’s friend Renato was there, along with his girlfriend Carolina and a friend Luis called Tequila, a lawyer. We went in two cars to the district where Carolina lives, a nice district on a hill, where we sat in a bar for two hours drinking beer and talking. Tequila left, we went to a restaurant in Bajia style – not real good – which was empty because it was not yet 9. Carolina didn’t eat anything. I stayed up late that night to finish Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, a novel. The book takes place in a Latin American country, and it involves terrorists and hostages.
Sunday morning we woke up late, too late for breakfast, and ended up asking at the hotel front desk where we could go to walk around, choose a restaurant, and spend a part of the day. They recommended Embus Das Artes. The taxi took more than an hour, and we ended up in a village place with an outdoor crafts market, a lot like Tepoztlan, with the taxi driver hanging around waiting for us. We looked around, had a poor meal in a crowded restaurant, and returned to the city, all three of us bummed. Cristin and I stayed in the hotel with room service, read, watched television, and remained bummed. Paul left to go with Renato and Carolina.
A note about taxis: Paul began paying all the taxis in Buenos Aires. He was appreciative about how I had given him the airfare and hotels. It was nice, for a change, to not worry about always having the change for the taxis. I appreciated that in Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo.
Monday was a seminar. I spoke in English, they spoke English and Portuguese, and the seminar went well. It was almost impossible to follow discussions in Portuguese, but I did manage to catch the context most of the time, if not the full meaning, so I was able to manage. After I returned to the room, finished at last, Paul called me with instructions to go to a Japanese restaurant in Plaza La Boim, near the university. The taxi ride took about an hour, and when we approached the plaza looking for the restaurant I saw Paul and Cristin on the street waving at me. I liked the meal, we had a good time, and we took a taxi back to the hotel without problems.
Tuesday was a half day seminar, worked out fine, and I found Paul and Cristin in the room, not having had breakfast. Paul had been walking around, and decided that since we were in a business district we had a lot of choices for lunch. We walked to a small lunch restaurant, self service, very poor food. I was depressed and worried for Paul, who had a bad cold and was himself very disappointed with his prospects in Sao Paulo. He had ended up depending a lot on Renato, who was involved with Carolina. His cold was bothering him, and his return to New York was not until Sunday. When we got back to the hotel, after lunch, he contacted Renato again and learned they had set up a soccer game, which was a consolation but he was talking about having expected a driving trip with Renato, and taking a bus instead. That worried me.
We took a taxi to Sao Paulo’s art museum, which turned out to be in one of many downtown-like districts. We spent a while looking at pictures – some name impressionists, among other pictures – but we were mostly killing time. We found a pharmacy to buy Paul some cold medicine, walked around some more including a jaunt through a park (very thick vegetation, and it worried me) and a restaurant with tables outside and television on a soccer game (Argentina vs. Columbia, PanAmerican games). Finally, as the business district started to shut down after five, we took a taxi back to the hotel. Paul went to the soccer game, after saying goodbye, and Cristin and I had dinner in the room, packed, and slept.
The next morning we woke up early and took a taxi to the airport. It was a 10:30 flight, but I had read 10:00, and the hotel people told me we should leave between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. We arranged a car at 6:45, made it, and we were at the airport b y 7:30, three hours too early. Breakfast was hard, crowded, not very good and not sitting down and ordering, but the plane left on time and we had good seats in business class. It was a very long flight from Sao Paulo to Mexico City, landing on time at 6 p.m., which was 8:00 in Brazil.
It felt very good to be back in Mexico, a place I know, where people speak Spanish. We negotiated the airport and taxi fairly well, and got to the Marriott at about 7:30. We stowed our bags in the room and went downstairs for a meal, where we discovered Vange and Megan.
Vange and I roomed together, leaving Cristin and Megan in the other room, which was very good. These were nice rooms, the Marriott in Mexico City is a very good hotel, very well located. Vange and I had a good night. It was a relief to be back with Vange, and Megan too as well as Cristin of course. I didn’t sleep well, but for good reasons.
The seminar went well the next day, all day, and I got to the hotel room upstairs very tired, with a sore voice, but happy. Vange and Cristin and Megan arrived shortly afterwards, with Vange excited and dealing with Raul by phone about what restaurant to go to for supper. We went to Fishers, which turned out to be very noisy, some good ceviche, but the clams and oysters were salty, and I was tired, too tired to talk over the loud music. It was also unpleasant to worry about safety, taking a taxi to the restaurant in Polanco, instead of walking (the hotel was also in Polanco). The str
eets were oddly empty at night, very different from Mexico City when we lived in it years ago.
The next day’s seminar went extremely well. I finished up well and followed that with a press interview. I got to the room about 3, ordered a salad, and returned a phone call from Raul, “my Raul,” my old friend.
We met in the bar at about 5:30. Raul looked old, tired, and beaten, but putting a strong positive face on it. He will be 60 next January. He needed money. He was starting a business in Mexico City, having left Chihuahua after seven years. He has a six-year-old son, Diego Patricio. I was very glad to see him, but he talked about the collapse of Mexamerica ten years earlier, how it felt to be afraid of the criminal charges related to fraud. He was eating with a friend in a provincial city when a black helicopter came by, he was afraid at that moment that they were after him. The people in the company cheated him, and robbed him. He said he had worked hard to build the company up, but he had been taken advantage of. This seems very different from what I had seen. I was happy to see Raul and didn’t want to be negative.
Pam and Raul arrived, we went walking to supper, struggling a bit to find a suitable restaurant. We had a good dinner, including gusanitos and some additional very Mexican food. We walked back to the hotel, packed, and went to sleep.
The next morning was very early, 4:30 wake up, but we are now on the plane back to San Francisco and then Eugene. Another trip finished, more milestones, more memories. Thanks Paul and especially Cristin for making a long and tedious business trip a good trip, with good memories.
June 5, 2003. Cristin and I flew together to London, starting with a 6 a.m. flight to Denver, then a couple of hours in the Denver airport, then to Chicago, then to London. Cristin is 21 now, with a gorgeous face dominated by a huge smile and brilliant eyes. She is painfully unsure of herself, being with her makes me want to alternately hug her and lecture her. She tries so hard to be adult that she comes off sometimes as more childish, and sometimes as a bit brusque, but there is always the spark of brilliant little girl in her. It seems like a magic struggling to become itself, rather than something that already is.
Friday morning arrival, taxi to the hotel, room was ready, we took a taxi towards Picadilly. Traffic got bad so we got out of the taxi early, walked for a while, and found a breakfast place – horrible breakfast. We were both very tired, and perhaps more than a little bit irritable. We walked through Soho, bought an orange juice, both of us determined to stay awake until after dinner time. We walked through the theater district, Cristin took some pictures of “look left” signs and such. We walked on, past Trafalgar Square – with a brief look at the National Gallery – then 10 Downing, Scotland Yard, and a bridge over the Thames. Pictures were controversial, Cristin objected routinely. We saw Westminster, but with difficulty, because of that all-encompassing tiredness of the first day across the Atlantic. We asked a guard outside Westminister for help finding a restaurant, so we ended up at a small quasi-Italian place that was slow, not very good, and slow. It started to rain. We took a taxi back to the hotel. We rested for a while, tried to take a walk, and finally it was late enough for dinner in the room, and then, at last, sleep. Cristin fell asleep quickly, like at 6:30, right after our room-service dinner; I read Atonement for a couple hours, then fell asleep.
Saturday started out bright and optimistic. Taking Sabrina’s advice, we took off walking for the Notting Hill Saturday market, which turned out to be Portabello Street. Cristin was delightfully happy with that because she remembered that street from a song in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. We had fun, looking at the stalls in the market. Then we went back over to Soho, purchased tickets for Chicago – the best we could get for that night – had lunch in Wagamama, walked around some more, all the way to Buckingham Palace, then retreated to the hotel. We went to dinner at La Trouvaille, which was well recommended but didn’t work for us, then walked to the theater. When we found our seats, we’d been taken, we had the highest possible, farthest away from the stage, hottest and most claustrophobic seats in the theater. Disaster! We walked out, down the incredibly long and twisting stairs out of there, but, almost out, we tried a desperation move at the box office. Could there be any no-shows, decent seats perhaps? And there were, hooray, some decent seats much closer to the stage, where there was air as well on a hot June evening. The show was very good, Cristin said better than the movie, which made me very happy to hear. We walked half the way back to the hotel, then took a taxi. It was a good day.
Sunday was a hard day, the harder side of traveling. Perhaps the jet lag hit us, or it might have been the rain. We started out alright with a taxi to the British museum, but the museum was hard (stolen treasures, Greek and Roman, we tried to follow the written tour) and except for a nice lunch it was mainly a reminder of fatigue. Then we ventured through the subway to the City, which was deserted, and it started to rain again. We tried St. Paul’s as well, but it was closed, so we gave up and went back to the hotel. For dinner we went out to Yo Sushi, which was hard to find, but at least, finally, successful. After dinner we called home, argued with home about shoes, and felt generally miserable. I was nervous about getting the train to Slough the next day, and worried about my seminars. Cristin fell asleep, and I worried for a while, then did the same.
On Monday I managed the train to Slough without problems, and gave my train-the-trainer seminar for Progress Software. It went well, I was told, but slowly, ponderously, without the excitement I liked. We had some failed attempts at cellphone connections during break, then connected at lunch, so I knew she was okay. When I got back to the hotel, Cristin was a bit down. We went to Ask, an Italian chain Saby had recommended, for dinner. Cristin and I tried to keep our spirits up, she had managed her day very well, and was generally upbeat, good to be with, but it had been hard on her to be alone, I could tell. She had taken the tour at Westminster. She said my cellphone calls had embarrassed her with the tourguide and others on the tour, because she couldn’t figure out how to turn the phone off. We both laughed at that.
Tuesday the train was much easier, no tension, and the scheduling worked. The seminar was particularly hard, participants slow to join in, somehow skeptical. It was a long day for me. Cristin, on the other hand, had a very good day visiting the Tower of London, with another tour, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. We had a nice dinner at Wagamama.
Wednesday finished up the seminar, and I got back to the hotel by 1:30. The pending trip to Stockholm made me very nervous, we had to get to the Stansted airport for a 6:30 flight on Ryan Air, a discount airline that went to an airport 60 miles from Stockholm. We had a quick lunch at Yo Sushi in Paddington, then, at my insistence, took a taxi to Stansted instead of going to the train station and taking the train. That was a disaster! The taxi took almost two hours and more than 100 pounds, and we felt late. No time to eat or stop really before finding our plane, getting to the gate, then waiting in lines with no reserved seats. It was a crowded unpleasant plane trip – we did manage opposite aisles – with nothing to eat but very dumb sandwiches. We arrived at Vasteras airport close to 10 pm, the airport was small and short on bathrooms (lines), the taxis to the city were going to cost another $200, and with some tension we took a bus into the city. The bus turned out to be fine, the drive in gave us a time to notice the open flat wooded landscape and the very late daylight (it never really got dark, just dusk) and we finally arrived, near midnight, to a very pleasant hotel. The Hotel Hilton Slussen felt good, we were glad to be there.
Thursday the seminar went well. My clients made some suggestions at breakfast that got things going right, and it turned out to be the best I’ve had in this series. I went up to the room to talk to Cristin during lunch, and she went out in the afternoon with some local people who were friends of a friend from Whitman. After the seminar was done she called, decided to come back, the friends of friends were too young for her and she was disappointed. She didn’t want to go out for dinner. I could tell she was down but I wanted her to go out with me, I hadn’t been out of the hotel, but she was really disappointed and wouldn’t go. We had room service and then I took a one-hour walk through Stockholm’s old town. Then we slept. I should say that I wish I’d done better for Cristin that evening, because I love her and I could tell the day had gone wrong for her, but my insisting that we go out for dinner didn’t work for either one of us. One evening not done well, that one. Cristin was sad, and that made me sad.
The next day finished the seminar week, an excellent final half day, and by the time I was done I was on cellphone communication with Cristin and Vange and Megan, who had arrived that morning. They were of course extremely tired, we walked through a shopping center, had some lunch, tried to get Megan some shoes that worked for her, and eventually went back to the hotel. Cristin and I went out to a restaurant at Old Town for dinner together, and Vange and Megan had room service and slept. Cristin and I had a nice dinner, in a cellar restaurant, and made each other feel good. It was Friday night, so we had been in Europe a week.
On Saturday we had a nice breakfast and then walked to the docks in front of the Grand Hotel, where we took a 2-hour boat tour of Stockholm. It was beautiful, and we had a good time. We then took a ferry over to the park island, saw the Vasta museum (a ship built in 1630, an amazing museum) where we had a nice lunch. Then we wandered through a very large outdoor park, and it got rainy and cold, we finally found a frustrating dinner on the side of the Opera building, in a small crowded table, with food not very good, but very expensive. We walked back at the end of the day, tired but happy, through Old Town Stockholm.
Sunday we took our waiter (very personable man at breakfast, named Tony) advice and took the one-hour ferry to Vaxholm, a town in the Stockholm Archipelago of 14,000 islands. The ferry itself was fun, stopping several times in different small places, and we played cards. Megan and Cristin both play cards with their friends, so we played card games I didn’t know, fun games that were familiar to both of them (rich man poor man, BS, some others). When we arrived we found ourselves in a beautiful small town. We walked around, took pictures, and had tea in a quaint teahouse. Then we had lunch at the Vaxholm hotel, a lunch that turned out to be one of the best meals of the trip, delicious shrimps in lime sauce and salmon, good salads, and even the club sandwiches were excellent. As we took the ferry back, a pretty young Swedish girl talked to us for what seemed like several minutes, but must have really been before we communicated that we weren’t understanding anything. She was wearing a very funny colorful hat, and high pants, and a bright vest. She then found somebody who spoke English, and we found out she was going to be married in a couple of weeks and wanted “words of wisdom” written in a notebook she carried. We all contributed, then enjoyed the ferry, playing cards and watching the view. Afterwards we failed to reach the city hall in time to see it – where the Nobel prize is held, and walked around some before having a nice dinner in a floating restaurant near our hotel. Here again, we had a very good meal, outside, watching the water and the view.
On Monday we packed and got ourselves to the train station for a 12-something train to Copenhagen. There was some tension getting things sorted out in the train, but that worked out very nicely. We played more cards, watched the landscape, and before we knew it we were crossing a huge bridge to Copenhagen in Denmark.
The arrival in Denmark was daunting. By following the wrong people, we got out of the train ramp into a street instead of the actual station. We had to orient ourselves to find the station, then change money – nervous over the very visible warnings about pickpockets – and then find a taxi to our hotel. The rooms turned out to be small, too close to the street, and dark. We tried to change rooms, then tried to change hotels, but to no avail. We were stuck in 71 Nyhavn hotel. We had reserved with Expedia and they were prepaid. Vie tried to help via cellphone, and Sabrina looked up the Internet description and said “are you sure you’re in the right hotel?” Finally Cristin said “how spoiled are we?” and we changed our mood and went out to eat in a restaurant along the Nyhavn waterfront, which was just a block from the hotel. We ate outside in a very crowded restaurant, Australians behind us, people sharing our table smoking, and cold; but it was a nice view, and decent food, and we made the best of it. The people who shared our table struck up a conversation, which included recommendations on what to do in Copenhagen. The rooms seemed better when we got back, and the beds were very nice.
The next morning, Tuesday, we were offered better rooms and they were bigger but smelled of smoking, so we decided to make due. We took a very nice boat tour of Copenhagen, then walked the main shopping street, failed to find a lunch place we had hoped for, and ate at the National Museum instead. The museum had interesting exhibits of old Viking warfare and daily life in Copenhagen. Then we walked to Tivoli, which we found crowded and hot and disappointing, although we had a nice dinner outside in one of the Tivoli restaurants. We watched an acrobatics show, then walked back to our hotel.
Wednesday, following the advice of our friends from Monday night’s dinner, we took a train to Hillerød, a small town about 45 minutes from the center of the city, dominated by the Fredericksborg castle. We walked through the town, had lunch, visited the castle, and took the train back. We had dinner again in one of the outside restaurants on the waterfront near our hotel.
Thursday we checked out of the hotel and took the train to Aarken, an art museum in the seashore in a suburb. We had a nice lunch there, but found little of interest in the museum, and took the train back. There was an awkward period of time between then and needing to go to the train station, we walked through Rosenborg and Marienborg castles, but Cristin and Megan were disappointed that we didn’t have time to climb the steeple of a church that looks over the city from the Christianshaven district. It was 5 pm when we arrived back at the hotel to take a taxi to the train station.
Finding the right train was daunting again, so we tried to get something to eat but didn’t really, just some dull pizza. We caught the 5:47 pm train to Hamburg to discover there was no dining car. However, within a couple hours the train went into a huge ferry, to cross the Baltic Sea to Germany, which ended up to be an exciting and adventurous 45 minutes that included a quick dinner. After that we played cards and passed the time easily until we arrived at Hamburg, and we then managed the switch to the sleeper train to Heidelberg, which left the Hamburg station at 10:42 p.m.
The sleeper train worked. Cristin and I had one compartment, Vange and Megan the other. Each compartment was big enough for two bunk beds, our luggage, and a small sink and mirror. I slept, fitfully perhaps, but I slept, as the train rocked back and forth through Germany.
We woke up to a meager breakfast of rolls and coffee, served by a porter, as the train approached Heidelberg. We were due in Heidelberg at 7:19 and, to my frustration, we dawdled with breakfast in bed clothes until the train was actually in Heidelberg. I tried to get the three of them to pack up and get ready, but they had their breakfasts and didn’t see the need. In literally two minutes after arriving in Heidelberg, the train was moving again and we were still on it.
The porter enjoyed our misfortune, grinning, as the train started moving again. I pointed out that we wanted to get off in Heidelberg, and he answered “Yes, I thought you wanted out in Heidelberg,” making no move to do anything but enjoy our predicament. Eventually we understood that we had missed our stop and we would continue to the next station, which was to be at 7:52. We were all nervously packed up and ready to jump off the train by 7:40, but the train was apparently late (the grinning porter said “construction”) and we didn’t actually get off until 8:10. We found ourselves in a small station that seemed to be outside of whatever town it was near. Fortunately I managed my German and we caught a bullet train back to Heidelberg (it turned out to be the best train we were in), so it took only 20 minutes or so to make up the ground that took an hour to travel. We got to Heidelberg at 9:16 Friday morning.
Heidelberg was the first of several very nice hotels reserved for us by Steven Hurley, of www.travelswithfriends.com. It was very well located in the old town of Heidelberg, KultursBrauerie, and we had two very nice rooms. The hotel itself is a brewery restaurant, with a very nice garden. Our rooms were noisy because they looked over the garden; but they were also very nice rooms.
We had to wait for the rooms, but we had a nice breakfast while we waited and we were happy with the rooms when they were ready. We packed up our dirty clothes, a whole car full, and took a taxi to a Laundromat.
That night we discovered the noisy rooms, but we had a dinner in the garden. The waitress was asked to explain one dish, and instead of saying simply “sausage,” which would have been sufficient.
Next day we met Isabel for a walking tour of Heidelberg. Dinner again at the same place, garden underneath the hotel, hot, shade trees, beautiful.
Sunday I picked up the rental car, a VW Passat station wagon, diesel, big enough, five speeds, and things went well. All on schedule. The highway worked, Megan sat in front. We tried to use the GPS and a map to find our way, but we failed, and we had to ask several times. We stopped in a gas station in a village, very suburban and new, for detailed directions. When we finally found the right autobahn things worked well.
She wondered while we were driving about why cars got hot, and why the ozone layer caused global warming, what caused the greenhouse effect. I wasn’t have to give her a good answer. She missed David, she said, because he could have explained it to her. She was very sweet about it; an interesting adjective, but the correct one. I could feel her love, she wasn’t disappointed with me, just wished she’d had David at that moment.
At one point traffic stopped, for a long time, maybe 20 minutes, then started for half a mile or so, then stopped for another 20 minutes. We were caught in the sun on the autobahn, not knowing what was going on. It was awkward. Finally traffic started moving again, but we never knew what had happened.
As we neared Rothenburg, we passed a terrible car accident, a reminder about realities of auto travel, and then traffic jammed up. It turned out to be construction, but it seemed bumper to bumper for miles.
When we finally got to Rothenburg, we stopped first at a parking lot outside the city walls. As we drove in, the driver of another car, containing a family, looking German, handed me a slip of paper. It was a paid parking slip, to be put on the dashboard, for another three hours. Thank you. We walked through the gates into the town, for a bit, but then realized we could take the car in, and we did. We drove through the very narrow streets of Rotherburg, having to ask for directions once, until we found Das Burg Hotel.
What a beautiful hotel. It was built into the city wall of Rotherburg, so that the rooms looked outside the wall over a valley falling down to a river far below, then rising over forested hills. At the bottom, along the river, we could see a rural road and some settlement, a few houses and a tiny village. It was hot, the birds were all over, and the valley was peaceful. Immediately below us, about 200 feet, was a walkway along the wall. People walking the outside of the wall stopped to take pictures of our hotel.
We went back into the town, a jewel of a medieval city with narrow cobblestone streets and buildings hundreds of years old. We looked for and found a well-publicized local museum dedicated to medieval crime and punishment, which ended up being in effect a museum of torture. It was unnerving. Vange and I were both uncomfortable with it.
Rothenburg is special to me because of this and previous visits. It was the third time I’ve been there. The first time, in 1967, Jim O’Connell and I took a break from youth hostels and rented a room in a nice small hotel there, as part of a hitchhiking trip down the “romantic road.” I think Dave Edmonds and Steve Tapscott were with us then too, but I’m afraid (gulp – there it is again) I don’t remember. The second time, in 1997, I was driving with Paul to Florence, after having visited Nils Bugge in his home in Denmark.
We had trouble finding a good place to eat. We ended up in a garden restaurant recommended by the hotel, having sausages, near the second church in the town. I wanted to relive good sausages with good mustard, but although the garden was nice and the service good, and the company wonderful, the food wasn’t. The mustard came in plastic envelopes.
After the meal we rested for a while in the beautiful hotel, then went out to join the Night Watchman tour (nachtwocke?) . He was a tall, thin man in a very dark medieval costume. He walked around town explaining the sites and history, punctuating his talks with humor. It was very good, very entertaining, very interesting. He explained how Rothenburg had survived because of its amazing physical location, surrounded on three sides by cliffs, and was preserved in part by centuries of poverty. He also explained interesting details such as the importance of salt, the lifts on the houses, the need to store grain in case of siege. Rothenburg survived the hundred years war by giving up when it was attacked. It was once one of the largest, most important cities in Germany.
The next morning we woke up, had a nice breakfast, and took off again in the car, this time to Fussen. We had about two hours of autobahn, speeding along talking and waiting to get somewhere, and then the autobahn ended, so we drove towards high beautiful craggy mountains, through villages, on a two-lane road. We stopped for lunch in a very small village along the road, where we found a small delicatessen that served nice sandwiches. It was very hot again, so we sat outside where we watched an amazingly small hummingbird that turned out to be a moth (we learned later).
We found Fussen, asked again twice in the village, ended up at Neuschwanstein, the most spectacular castle of Mad King Ludwig II. The castle is very much a tourist trap, feels like it, and acts like it, but it is also that beautiful. It was a hot clear blue summer day. We took the horse carriage up to the castle. We had been assigned a time, (4:55) so we had to wait, but in due time we passed into the castle for the tour of Mad Ludwig’s construction, which was never really lived in. The mountains around it are also beautiful, granite, rising straight up. After the tour inside the castle, we walked up to a bridge over a waterfall, and that was beautiful too. The mountains of Austria are granite, like the Sierra Nevada, but they rise more steeply up from the valleys. After visiting the bridge over the waterfall, we took a bus down from below the bridge, it careened very fast down the road.
It was after five when we got back to the very hot car and found our way to the Gasthof Zum Schlussen in an Austrian village nearby. Beautiful hotel, with amazing views of a flat valley surrounded by towering mountains. It was very much like a farmhouse, with lots of yard, a barn with horses, and unfortunately lots of flies. We had a nice dinner, although halfway through it we fled from the flies outside to the flies inside. We took a walk after dinner and discovered the local fire brigade practicing.
The next day we lost our way to Salzburg, ended up in a village asking again, and the tourist information person there, a woman in her forties, changed our plans in a delightful way. We had been told that crossing the mountains to Innsbruck was a five-hour ordeal, but she assured us it would take only 90 minutes, and was in fact the quickest way to Salzburg. Another person, American, who happened to be in the information booth heard us and assured us that she had just come that way, it was as the person described it. So instead of the originally planned route we crossed over the Brenner Pass to Innsbruck. I was disappointed with Innsbruck myself, it is very much built over, and although the main old town that I remembered was still there, it was very hard to park in an offputting underground tomb, and it was hard to find a place to have lunch. Vange and the girls found it a dull city-like town, surrounded by beautiful mountains, but much less interesting than where we had been.
I didn’t try to visit specific memories in Innsbruck, aside from the Weisser Kruez, under which we took a picture with me and Megan. That one block of old town (altstadt) was familiar. We drove by the university. However, unlike my visit with Paul in 1997, in this case we didn’t have time (Paul and I stayed overnight) so I didn’t really visit where I live or where I used to walk frequently. The memories were uncomfortably unrefreshed.
It bothers me a great deal that I can no longer construct things as they were, I cannot bring back details. This is terrifying. For years I satisfied myself with the idea that time was a process of constructing detailed memories, and that I would have them always. That doesn’t seem to be true, I am losing them.
We drove on to Salzburg, arriving at Freilassung where we dropped off the car, just across the border from Salzburg, from where we took a taxi to our hotel, the Blaue Ganz, which was another beautiful hotel very well located in the old town of Salzburg. We struggled with dinner that night – the hotel person recommended Herzchen or something like that, said “little heart,” but we looked for a “little hut” instead and ended up in a very formal, very expensive, very empty restaurant that we didn’t like. We walked around some more, but it was hard, and we gave up and went back to the hotel fairly early.
I was excited to be in Salzburg. Unlike the disappointment of Innsbruck, it was as beautiful as I’d promised, much the same size as Heidelberg but clearly prettier. I felt unsatisfied with my failure to touch memories, but happy with the town. I saw the bridge on which Paul and I took pictures in 1997.
The next morning, Wednesday, the guide was not able to change her time so we had until 2 pm. Megan agreed to take a walk with me and we talked through some of my Salzburg memories, crossed the bridge to the park on the other side known as a palace related to Mozart (what is it’s name?). Megan indulged me, but of course, as so often these days, we were between us quiet, and I hoped she was happy. She seems loving when she’s quiet, not disappointed, but it worries me that these times pass by without animation. I worry about what I am to my children, who I am, someone loved of course, and appreciated, but not fun, not animated. These worries are there.
We had a nice lunch in Nord, a seafood-oriented fresh food place that we liked very much. Megan had found it.
The guided tour paled by comparison to the one we had in Heidelberg. Her name was Liselotte, about the same age, but she failed to make Salzburg as fun as Heidelberg, which disappointed me. She was all facts and history but it was too dry. I wonder still if Vange and Cristin and Megan didn’t pretend to be enjoying it for me, because of my history with Salzburg, but after three hours we were all glad it had ended.
We had trouble with meals again. We ended up with a Sushi snack in the late afternoon, but we were uncomfortable with it. The baby store closed while we were eating. Time passed, it rained a bit, and we had dinner at the Hertzchen place we had not found the day before. That night we followed fireworks to the center of town, after dinner, and discovered that Salzburg was hosting an international corporate-oriented sports festival. Groups of different nationalities filled the town, mostly the bars. The Italians grouped together in their red warm-ups and sang, challenging groups of Spaniards, who ignored the challenge.
Thursday morning we slept late, had lunch I don’t remember where, had trouble filling the time. In the afternoon I ended up walking along to check my memory for the beer garden we used to go to in Salzburg, along the walk to town, and I couldn’t find it. It was not as I remembered, or it had been changed. There was a Gosser Bier brewery building like an old mansion, built around a patio, that might have been it, but I was not sure. We had dinner at the Stieglhaus, another name I remembered, under the castle a good ways up the hill, with beautiful views, but not great food.
Trouble with meals never included breakfast. We had excellent breakfasts in every place, from Stockholm to including Copenhagen, Heidelberg, Rothenburg, Fussen, Salzburg, and Munich. Always in the hotel, always well served, often fun. By the time we reached Salzburg my German was working enough to manage a lot of the logistics of breakfast, explaining the need for eggs (eier) and tee mit milch, etc.
Friday we took the train to Munich about midday. It was a two-hour train ride, we were hungry and there was poor meal service (very dry very rye sandwiches with cheese) but we played cards and enjoyed a lot of it. Both Cristin and Megan enjoyed cards, particularly Megan, who was usually the instigator.
When we arrived we discovered a very big city, lots of traffic, but a beautiful hotel. It was trying to rain again, although hot, but we managed to see the five o’clock glockenspiel at the main Rathous, and we split up as Megan and Vange looked at stores, and Cristin and I explored restaurants. We met back in the room and walked to dinner – as most of Germany and Austria, not very good – and then we were caught in the rain on the way back.
June 27. Cristin and I share the twin bed room in the last hotel, the Torbräu. She had been off with Vange and Megan, doing shower-related things, Vange nursed her sunburn, while I flipped channels unsuccessfully, started reading. After Cristin came in we both read for a while, then turned off the light. Cristin wanted to talk. She was very nervous about going to Ireland the next day, and we talked about that. I was very reassuring. She told me some things that made me very happy, that I should always remember, about me as a father, how she wanted to have my qualities. “I want to be like you,” she said. “Mom says you’re the glue that keeps us all together.” Maybe she was just saying it, but it made me feel good.
The trip back was a long taxi ride, tension in the airport as we got everything arranged – Cristin’s arrangements involved some awkward waiting, but we were early. We walked to the Hotel Kempinski to make a reservation for Cristin for a month later, and eventually we had to go to our gate and we left Cristin with hugs and kisses.
Those partings are so hard. I worry so much about them when I leave them, waving goodbye in an airport. We left Cristin in a very busy underground area in Munich full of stores and people, at a point in which we had to go to one terminal and she had to go to another. How much it hurts me to do that. She had a flight to Cork changing planes and flights in Heathrow, and we had a short flight to Frankfurt and then the long nonstop to Portland.
Frankfurt was very hard because of the security checks and built-in short time, but we made it, and Portland was annoying that they hadn’t checked our bags right in Munich, but we made that too.
I am filling in the last portion of this in August, on a plane from Sao Paulo to Mexico, so very amazed at the awesome power of time. Cristin sits next to me watching a movie, having spent the month at Cork, and flown back, and then gone to Miami, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, and we will soon be in Mexico City.
On Thursday June 5, as we sat together in a very hot waiting area for a flight that was late leaving Chicago for London, I reminded Cristin how quickly time goes. “Before you know it we’ll be in London, and before you know it you’ll be in Cork, and then coming back again.” It seemed so long at the time, as it always done, but now I’m done with two thirds of this trip to Latin America, and that seemed like it would never be done. How quickly it all goes by.
Fall into quicksand, and, according to the common stories, you shouldn’t struggle. Just sit still while you sink slowly into the mud and die. Or maybe somebody will rescue you, and, if they’re trying, by not struggling you’ll give them more time to save you. If you struggle you sink faster.
Life has what I call Quicksand Problems. These are the situations that you can actually make worse, but not better. They happen. Have you ever found yourself in a bad situation — usually with family, friends, people you care about — that you can make worse, but you can’t make better. There are pieces of normal life that I call quicksand problems. Life is full of quicksand problems. There are problems you can make worse, but not better.