Sunday, October 6, 2013

Thirty days hath ...

1 September 2013, Bethesda MD
Still enjoying my weekend with Beza and taking our visitors from Poland to the airport, Inga’s friend Dorota on Saturday and Franciszka’s friend Agnieszka today.  Franciszka came back from the shore with Aga to see her off.

Franciszka & Agnieszka at Dulles

5 September
Happy birthday to my Godson, Craig, and my late son Peter ... and mazel tov and happy new year to all of my Jewish friends.  I had some quiet time on the deck this morning to reflect on both.

Here I am starting a new blog when I haven’t even posted the July and August entries.  That is on the week’s “to do” list.  I actually sorted all of the photos.  

Spent most of the day shopping with Inga and Franciszka.  Bought a pair of tall winter boots.  I walked around DSW in the boots for 30 minutes to be sure they’d be comfortable.

Also had lunch this week with my friend Bob’s daughter Alexis and her fiancė Marcus in Silver Springs where they now live.  They both got jobs with the District of Columbia Library System and moved from Pittsburgh.  It was fun to catch up with them.

Alexis & Marcus at their new apartment

7 September
Happy birthday to my friend Marilou back in Minnnesota.  I sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her answering device today before going off to Black Hills Regional Park with Inga, a group of her Polish friends and kids for a day in the sunshine.  It was nice to get away from the city and just relax.  Tomek got a rowboat and took his young son Tituś and me for a ride across the reservoir.  Jarek got a canoe and took his sons and Antonia for a long ride.  Everyone brought food to share, more than enough to feed a small nation.

10 September
At David’s memorial we Returned PCVs were catching up with where our friends are now, but no one knew what had happened to Patrick.  He stayed in Poland, like so many of us, and he and I used to land at David’s Warsaw apartment many a weekend. As the older, I took dibs on the couch.  When he was working in Kraków and I in Sandomierz, we shared a Warsaw apartment for about six months to avoid the doubling up at David’s.  Later I took over the apartment, now occupied by Marta, my friend Hala’s daughter.  I attended his wedding in Kraków; he married  one of our language teachers, Ela. Last I heard of them they were in Paris where Patrick was working.  Anywayz, Bob says, via an email from David’s brother Mike today, Inga and I learned that Patrick is in the DC area.  I called him and he’s coming here tomorrow.  It’ll be great to see him.

Inga, Antonia and I trooped to the JV volleyball game tonight and managed not to embarrass Franciszka.  I had threatened to yell, “Yea, Team Managers,” to her horror.  The team lost but played well.  We cheered and clapped and sweated in the gym where the temp had to match the 90F of outdoors..  We also saw PC friends Tamara and Michael whose younger daughter is a freshman at the same high school (Franciszka is a sophomore).  Marissa was playing in a soccer game, also lost.  Not a good night for the BCC Barons.

12 September
95F  yesterday and the A/C in half the house isn’t working!  A second heating/cooling system was installed by a previous owner who enlarged the house.  It cools the family room, kitchen and two bedrooms above.  While the open plan of the main floor and ceiling fans help cool those rooms somewhat, the bedrooms are a sauna.  After house calls by two different companies, we know we need a new compressor, which has to be ordered.  Inga woke Tosia at about midnight and moved the two of them to the lower level, which is quite cool.

Inga left a couple of hours ago for the airport not knowing exactly what time her flight would take off.  United called my mobile to say it was delayed, likely leaving at 8:10 pm (not 6 pm).  We had all kinds of trouble with this reservation, which is why my phone number ended up on her reservation.  It’s a Swiss International Airlines flight operated by United and a reservation on Travelocity.  I finally got a United human being on the phone who helped us get a valid confirmation number.  We even had an e-ticket number and the web sites wouldn’t recognize it.  The delay leaves Inga about 30 minutes to transfer in Zurich ...

Off to Apple with Tosia to see why my phone won’t ring.  I get calls ... and it vibrates but it won’t ring.  I’ve checked all the settings, so now it’s up to them.

Later ...
Did it again ... the iPhone solution took less than a minute, as I predicted to the Apple Genius who helped me.  Somehow I had moved the switch on the side of the phone to mute and not noticed.  At least Antonia had fun playing on iPads and MacAirs (she “needs” one because it’s so cool).  We took an umbrella against a threatening sky and thankfully were still in Apple when someone let a plug out of the cloud bathtub.  That’s how heavily the rain fell for about 15 minutes.

13 September, “Friday the 13th”
7:10 am -- Inga just called ... from Dulles!  She still hasn’t left for Poland, said she has another three hours to go.  Insane.

Inga was supposed to leave at 6 pm yesterday for Warsaw via Zurich:  Swiss flight operated by United, then a Lot flight.  She left here at about 2:30 pm yesterday ... 

This itinerary was a nightmare from the beginning. I will never use Travelocity.  We tried to book her seats and were referred to the airline web sites.  However, neither Swiss nor United could find her reservation using the "online check-in" or e-ticket number provided in the Travelocity confirmation.  But since we had a confirmation, we decided to wait until check-in time Wednesday evening  ... alas, same problem.   I called United since we at least had a phone number for them and after about 10 auto prompts, finally got a human being ... who also had trouble finding the reservation!  She got us a correct United confirmation number, then directed us to book seats on line.  After about an hour of futzing around, I got Inga the window seats she wanted but no boarding passes as it's an international flight and you can't do that now.  Whew!  

About noon yesterday, I got an auto call from United that her flight would be delayed to 8:10 pm but could leave earlier, "keep in touch."  (My phone number was on the reservation as we’ve been having problems with the landline and didn’t know for sure what her number would be in Poland.)   Deciding that it was better to wait at the airport than get stuck in rush hour traffic for an unknown departure time, off she went to Dulles, an hour away, at 2:30.  Around 5, I got an email message from Travelocity that Inga should immediately call the airline due to a change in itinerary.  Now mind you, if she were relying on this message, she'd be up the well known creek.  She called a few times in the evening to talk to the kids and at 10:15 called to say she was still at Dulles.  I fell asleep thinking she'd taken off around midnight ... only to get the call this morning.  The prediction was take off in three hours; she'll be in Warsaw around 7:30 pm CET today.  Mam nadzieję (I hope).

In other news, I just got an email of an obit for a colleague that I worked with briefly in Kosovo.  Phil was only 62 when recently died of a rare cancer, according to the obit which read like most obits until the last paragraph:  “Phil was one of millions of Americans unable to get medical insurance due to severe illness or disease.  He asked that his memorial be the form of activism or contributions to secure health equality for all Americans.”  Although I can’t say that I will miss Phil, I didn’t know him that well and he quit the Kosovo project with only two days notice, I am sorry to see him go this way.  I have a sense that he might’ve had more time with his family, perhaps survival, if he’d had the resources ... and that’s just wrong.

15 September
Yesterday was a beautiful day to be out and about, so I took Antonia and her friend Greta to the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria, then to lunch nearby at Bugsy’s.  I had planned lunch at a food court in an old building near the art center but learned before we left that it had closed.  Bummer.

Confirmed with the A/C repair place that they’ve ordered the compressor and expect it to take a week, which means Thursday at the earliest.  It’ll be installed the same day if it arrives in the morning, otherwise the next day.  Forecast is for 70s to low 80s for the next week.  Jan and Mike will be here so I hope that’s the case.

Late this afternoon I had a few friends over, mostly those with kids around Antonia and Franciszka’s ages.  Antonia seemed to have fun with my old Booz pal Regina’s sons and their girl friend.  This backyard is great for kids and dogs.  Beza was out with us most of the time, doing her tricks and going around soliciting pets.  But she never begged or tried to get at the food.  Good dog!

Two more days until I leave for PA and OH.  Talked with Karen and found a hotel that’s near a great restaurant where we’ll have dinner Tuesday night.  Then she has plans for our day on Wednesday.  It’ll be so great to see her.  She sounded much stronger on the phone this time - hurray.  But the reunion -- it’ll be so much fun to see old friends and classmates.  However, the whole idea of 50 years has made me suddenly feel old.  I’ve actually said that out loud a couple of times to people, who are all kind enough to reassure me that I’m not.  So it is slowly going away ... but still, 50 years!

16 September
Hectic day.  I got my hair color refreshed in advance of the reunion, then did a bit of shopping for dinner (rotisserie chicken to accompany the broccoli and cauliflower I’d steamed at home). Franciszka had a volleyball game that we promised to attend.  I picked her up at school so she could come home for a short nap and some dinner before we returned her to the school.  After Antonia and I dropped her off, we went to the supermarket for a few last minute things.  Of course, back at the high school parking was non-existent.  We finally found a place and a nice kid opened the back door so we could walk through instead of around; the school is huge.  The JV team won.  And Franciszka told us later that the varsity won too.  Go, Barons!

17 September, Massillon, Ohio
Home.  Well, in eastern Ohio right now, but for a while I was “at home.” Being back in Western Pennsylvania and rolling along through the hills on a two-lane road always feels like home even though I haven’t lived here in 50 years. Some people crave the seashore or sunshine; I can’t live without mountains and hills, especially when the leaves start to change into gorgeous reds and oranges and golds of autumn.  I took “old Route 30” -- the Lincoln Highway -- to Massillon, Ohio, on this gorgeous sunny autumn day.  Leaves aren’t turning yet but the air was perfect for a long drive.

Karen met me at the hotel and we went to dinner.  She looks good although she’s lost a lot of weight, and she didn’t have any to lose to begin with.  She said she has one more chemo and so far hasn’t lost her hair.  

18 September
Had a lovely day.  Gorgeous weather as we drove to the Pine Tree, a combination restaurant and store full of home accessories, unique furnishings, funky clothing/handbags/jewelry and decorations for every holiday -- Halloween and Thanksgiving most abundant with Christmas beginning to peak in.  One of the staff was decorating a tall artificial tree with huge red paper roses and wide ribbons, something I’ve never seen before but which was beautiful.  Sat outside in the warm sun for a while  before returning to town.  Dinner in a bar/cafe across from the hotel.  Karen had eaten there before and liked it but said it got some bad reviews that sounded like sour grapes.  I think it was true -- our meals were terrific.  Tomorrow it’s off to PA.

22 September, West Mifflin PA
On Thursday, the map function on my phone brought me back to PA via US Route 22, another road I’ve traveled many times before, to a hotel not far from the original Pittsburgh airport (Allegheny County Airport).   Another perfect day for a drive through the mountains.  I remember an old boyfriend from the midwest commenting on roads in my home state.  He said we were either going up or down and asked if there weren’t any flat spots.  I said the occasional parking lot but even some of those are on a slant.  When you grow up with it, you just don’t notice.

My friend Jane and her husband Jim arrived just in time for all of us to head out for supper at a nearby seafood place, a chain out of Alabama with the worst “humor” on its walls but edible food.

Friday Jane and I hopped in our rental car and toured the township and surrounding area.  West Mifflin is on the way to McKeesport, the nearest city to where we grew up, which was Elizabeth Township -- I in Greenock Heights and Jane on Ridge Road.  We went to different elementary schools that merged into one junior high.  We drove past both as well as the high school.  We wanted to get out and walk since there are no sidewalks near the hotel, so went to Round Hill Regional Park and wandered a bit.  On the recommendation of a park staff member, we went south on Rt. 51 to the Rostraver airport for lunch.  She was right -- the homemade potato chips were to die for. I took the leftovers with me. The coconut cream pie with meringue was almost as good as my Mom’s.

Got hungry as I was getting ready for the Friday event so I ate the two hard boiled eggs I’d cadged at breakfast and used the leftover chips for salt.  Perfect snack.  With the help of my phone’s map app, we found Pinky and Nick’s house southwest of the high school in a semi-rural residential area.  They had plenty of space for a big tent in the back yard and 60 or so classmates and a handful of spouses.  A delicious buffet of homemade everything prepared by local alums plus a big cake honoring the big 50th anniversary.  Saw so many friends that I haven’t been in touch with since our 25th, the last reunion I attended, or in some cases since June 1963.

Tonight was the dinner-dance at a facility that was much closer to our hotel than I had expected.  Sat with Jane and another old friend Janet that I’ve been emailing with since Bruce reconnected us.  Bruce and Donna are in Lima, Ohio, helping celebrate his dad’s 97th birthday.  Bunch of kids from our street -- Bill (and his wife, now living in South Carolina), Bucky (and his wife, still in area), and Diana who married a classmate of mine but graduated a couple years later with my brother (I think).  One of my first playmates (pre-school) Lorraine couldn’t attend because she’s too far along with Alzheimer’s. That was a real shock.  So was the list of about 50 classmates who have died, including some really close pals from the neighborhood like Mary Jane and Dorothy.

Jane took a photo for me of the some of the kids from our elementary school: me, Glenn, Sandi, Bob, Suzanne, Bill, Bucky and Diana.  Both Jane and I won bottles of wine in a raffle.  The wine is from Ripepi Winery owned by the family of a former teacher of ours. I had no idea anyone made wine in PA.  Suzanne and Lance are keeping mine until my next visit; my suitcase is way too full to add it.  

Glenn posed a question that none of us could answer -- what was Sarge’s real name?  Sarge was our 7th grade American history teacher (and my homeroom teacher).  He’d been in the army before going to teacher’s college.  We did a “This is Your Life” for him and had his wife and daughter attend.  Glenn remembered the little girl peaking out from behind a curtain.  And we both remembered how Sarge opened our first class.  He said, “George Washington was a traitor.”  None of us could remember Sarge’s real name.  I recalled it was Italian.  Must poll Bruce and Marsha with whom I had many classes.

Me, Janet & Jane
Alana, Dennis, Janet & Glenn

Noreen & Eileen


Lance & Suzie

“Happy Birthday” to Stan, a friend from my first days in Minneapolis.  Wish I could’ve attended the surprise 75th party his kids gave. I reconnected last year with Stan and his wife Mary in Michigan, where they live now, but I haven’t seen those kids in 30+ years!  Oh, and Stan’s from Pittsburgh originally.

Stan, Mary & their granddaughter

23 September, near Pittsburgh International Airport
Well, here I am in a dreary hotel that I paid way too much for.  That’ll teach me to wait until the last minute to reserve when there are both football and baseball games on the same Sunday.  Oh, well.  It’s clean and near the airport.

I spent the entire driving doing something uncharacteristic of me -- driving all day by myself.  I wanted to go to Linn Run State Park in the Laurel Highlands area east of Pittsburgh.  It’s my “spiritual home,” if I can say I have one, a place that my family has been going to since I was a toddler.  With the exception of my niece Tomery, every child in the family -- and any we’ve taken with us -- has fallen in the creek.  When Daddy died, Peter and I went up there and encountered a man my age, his wife and two small kids.  They had NY plates but he was from Western PA and like me, had to visit Linn Run.  They wanted a photo of their kids sitting on a log that had fallen across creek.  Peter rolled up his jeans, carried them to the middle since they were too young to walk the log. 

After saying good bye to Jane and Jim at the hotel, I took the highway route mostly to the park and surprisingly found all of the local road turns.  I knew I was on the right road when I saw the Valley School of Ligonier sign; the school is about a mile before the park.  The creek was significantly fuller and running more swiftly than during my last trip, which was nice to see.  But no way to cross without strong potential for falling in ... and I did that already.  I filled my water bottle at the spring pipe where my parents used to get water most Sundays.

Had coffee at an outdoor stand set up by a local coffee shop, then drove into Ligonier where the Bagpipe and Drum Band of Seton Hill University was playing.  I missed the intro but have a feeling some kind of Celtic event had taken place in the area over the weekend; saw signs for “Clans and Vendors” on a couple of crossroads.  Passed Ligonier Beach, the huge swimming pool we used to visit in summer, and later bought postcards from the original developer/owner’s daughter.  She introduced herself when she saw that I’d gotten some cards of the pool.  Lunch and a crossword in a bistro, more walking, homemade ice cream cone (with coconut, of course) ...  And more driving.  I went back toward “home” via (mostly) my Mom’s old route through West Newton, drove down some more familiar streets, then got royally lost trying to take the back road into Pittsburgh.  It’s not easy, even with a GPS because the hills and rivers didn’t lend themselves to nice gridded blocks.  But eventually I managed to get here.  Now for a glass of wine and to finish the crossword.

24 September, Bethesda MD
That trip down memory lane both literally and figuratively has gotten me to thinking about why I left Western Pennsylvania.  In September 1963 I went off to college in Chicago and never returned other than for holiday visits.  Even my summer jobs meant living elsewhere.  To be accurate, I ran away.  I picked Northwestern for many good reasons (a journalism major at a top journalism school, for example).  But it also satisfied another, unspoken criterion.  I wanted to get as far away from home as possible.  I felt like I needed to escape but wasn’t sure why or really even, from what.  My mother?  As a teen, I fought with her loudly over everything. Yet she was my rock.  When I made the decision to leave my marriage, it was my mother that I needed to talk with.  And once, to my amazement, she told me I was “easy” to raise.

It’s clear to me after spending a day driving all over my old stomping grounds how much I love the place.  I can be gone for a year or three and return and feel totally at home. It feels more home than Minneapolis or Poland or any of the other places I’ve lived ever has.  Home at my core, not just home where I have a comfortable place to live, have family and friends to share my life with, places where I enjoy spending time.  I have that in Minnesota and even in Sandomierz in Poland.  But at my core, Western PA is still home.  My sister has joked about moving to Braddock PA when she retires.  Maybe if she does, I’ll join her.  Or maybe I’ll just look for a small cabin near Linn Run where I can bask in the beauty of autumn in the Laurel Mountains.

27 September
Last night Antonia made pepperoni pizza for dinner from scratch -- okay, with a bit of help from Betty Crocker and Boboni.  But still, not ordered in.  She did a nice job -- and all agreed it tasted good.  Today Franciska will make lasagne, something she’s done before.  We use non-pre-cook lasagne noodles which makes the process quicker and easier.  We’ll leave shortly to pick up Inga at the airport.  She called this morning to say the trans-Atlantic flight was leaving on time, a far cry from her departure from Dulles.

28 September
Lunch yesterday at a Thai restaurant with Stacey, my Peace Corps roommate.  Wonderful to catch up with her since she started her new job.  She’s managing a national literacy program.  Then off to get Inga.  We were able to park the car and go into Dulles to wait for her.  Of course, we missed her as she exited but eventually caught up outside.  We all enjoyed Frankie’s lasagne

29 September, Minneapolis MN
BCC High School homecoming is coming in a week, and a new dress is in order for the big date.  Frankie and her friends wanted to go to Montgomery Mall to shop yesterday.  And Antonio said she needed new tee-shirts for school, which she does.  She’s outgrown most of those she has.  We piled into both cars and went off to shop.  The teens went one way, Inga, Tosia and I another.  After shopping, we three went to McLean where Inga’s friend Bogna’s served a fantastic homemade apple tart ... it was so good that when she asked if I wanted a second piece, I almost said yes. But I remembered my new jeans. Later Inga, Tosia and I had handmade pizza from their favorite place, Two Amys, and I was glad I hadn’t eaten a second apple tart.  Inga ordered olives while we waited, and they were sauted in olive oil; very interesting.

I packed two suitcases for my return since I had done a bit of shopping while in DC, Ohio and PA, including two pairs of boots.  Inga gave me an old one that she said I can toss, so I put my hanging clothes into that one along with some gifts and such.  I upgraded to first class at the airport and checked both suitcases ... and got a sandwich and snack en route. The cost wasn’t too dear considering I used miles to buy the ticket.

My sister Barbara survived all of the detours between home and the airport and picked me up, then I waded through two months of mostly junk mail.  I have a flat tire on my car.  Barbara also took me to the supermarket with her so I could eat tonight.  Tomorrow I’ll walk over to the garage that I’ve used in the past and have them fix it, then I can run errands all day and be sure to get to water ex on Tuesday morning.

Now Lily and I are enjoying a bit of relaxation.  Lily is my former princess of a cat who now lives with my nephew Christopher.  Chris moved out of his tiny apartment yesterday, but he and his girlfriend Jen cannot move into their new larger place until the end of October.  Chris is bunking with his mom and Lily’s returned home to me for a while.

PS  Sarge was Mr. Salerno.  Marsha recalled his name began with an S.  Bruce didn’t remember him or his class.  But my brother Dan came up with the name.  I wasn’t sure if Sarge was even still teaching two years later when Dan hit 7th grade, but I had decided to ask him.  Thank you, Brother.  As Glenn said, now we can move on toward working for world peace.

30 September
Like so many of you, I get a zillion emails every day, too many trying to entice me to buy something.  I delete those out of hand.  But I also get a message or three every week from my friend Ted, a media trainer and public relations consultant extraordinaire.  We met when I hired him to do media training for our executives in my last corporate job pre-PC, and we became friends.  I can still remember the lunch over which Ted said, “You know, we can have lunch without talking business.”  What a concept!  He and his wife Mary gave me my most valued going-away-to-PC gift -- a Swiss Army knife that I still have.   Anyway, Ted has become my de facto clipping service, including me on messages with lots of intelligent and interesting articles from the mass of media that he follows on line. One of those is POLITICO Playbook, to which I also subscribe but rarely read beyond the first item. I am so put off by what’s going on in US politics these days that I have taken to sticking my head in the sand, as it were, until sanity returns (or I may move overseas). But I digress ...

Today’s message from Ted pointed out a POLITICO item about a Kevin Spacey Foundation fundraiser in DC. I would never have seen it since the item was way too far down.  The motto of Spacey’s foundation, which helps up and coming artists, is “Send the elevator back down.”  it’s a quote from Spacey’s mentor, the actor Jack Lemmon, who basically said that if you’ve been successful in your chosen field, you have an obligation to help others, to send the elevator back down.  I agree ... and on that positive note, I’ll conclude the month of September.

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