Thursday, September 26, 2013

Smiling For The Camera But Coming From the Heart

Challenging my mind is what the Osher Lifelong Learning class on Steinbeck is doing right now. I wonder what the great author would think knowing I downloaded Grapes of Wrath on my kindle rather than purchasing it in printed book form? I am once more obsessed thinking about phalanxes, schools of now extinct sardines in Monterey Bay, and how phalanxes work in N. Korea.
One thing I know for sure, the phalanxes were NOT working at SeaTac airport when I flew in and out of Seattle two weeks ago. Because of my atrial fib I needed a wheelchair on both laps of the journey to transport me and my suitcase to and from the Marysville shuttle.
What should have been a snap was a giant snafu, causing me to miss the shuttle on arrival and almost miss my plane home. "Can you help me?" I pleaded over and over, my voice getting more desperate on both ends of the transportation nightmare.  It seems that each airline has a contract with one of many wheelchair services, and that only the designated wheelchair pushers are allowed to service the disabled, and then only from certain locations. There was no shortage of wheelchairs, just pushers. How can that be when folks are begging for jobs? My friends Sue and Jeanne who live here inform me that SeTac is so impossible for wheelchair availability that when they want to go to Seattle they instead fly to Bellingham, rent a car, and drive back.
In the end I was rescued by the kindness of strangers, but only after extreme duress; once by a clerk in a clothing store, who pushed me for 25 minutes to make the second shuttle after I'd missed the first one, and on return, when in tears I pleaded with a baggage clerk.
"What am I doing wrong?" I wailed. Seeing as my tears were getting attention, I exaggerated them somewhat. There must have been ten of us waiting in wheelchairs, but no drivers, and my plane was due to leave in 17 minutes. Then a tiny Asian baggage handler for Alaska air lines stepped up and said, "Your'e doing nothing wrong and I'm taking you!"  She proceeded to call the plane and have the pilot hold it on the tarmac, which indeed is what happened. Sincere thanks to the generosity of strangers and big ugly boos to whomever in Seattle is the culprit making this mess.
The purpose of my whole trip was to visit my dear relatives in Vancouver who are no longer able to travel due to the Canadian Health financial penalties for the very old to be out of the country, hence making trips to the states prohibitive. Though I love Seattle and it is the city of my birth, I'm on a rampage now to boycott it. The visit with cousins, however, was precious, and I'll try to forget about the ugly SeaTac experience. We stayed in a lovely B&B in White Rock, just above the border, and experienced true Canadian hospitality. Below, Bonnie and cousin Vi, almost 90, lastly my niece Cheari, and cousin Dollie, 98.  Their memories and smiles far exceed mine.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Life, Death, and Memories In Between

Returning from Canada this week, a quick trip to celebrate the lives of my precious living cousins Dollie (98) and Vi (soon to be 90) I learned of the death of my friend and neighbor of fifty plus years, Kay Gilliland. I've written a tribute here to Kay in the last year (and painted her twice, unsuccessfully) so Kay knew of the high esteem in which I held her. Still, her death leaves a hollow in my gut even as I celebrate her life. More about the Canadian cousins and the arduous journey via wheelchair in future weeks.

Some weeks ago a new Oakmont friend, Elaine Stanley, graciously invited me to be her guest on a history cruise on FDR's yacht, the Potomac, anchored in Jack London Square in Oakland.
Elaine is a volunteer docent on the ship. She instructed me to find a seat in the big black
leather chairs on the fan tail, a place FDR himself loved to sit. For me it was and will be a day imprinted on my heart forever: a magical day in which the sun glistened intensely on the bay waters, sailboats and merchant ships abounded, and I was flooded with over fifty years of memories of sucking in that view from my home in the hills.  Here is Elaine getting ready to lead a tour. My connection with Roosevelt was always personal. He was the only president I ever heard of growing up, the war having started when I was eleven. His two Seattle granddaughters attended my public grade school In Seattle, Magnolia, and we were once visited by the great man himself. My vision of him is sitting in the back seat of his convertible, slowly waving his hand at us (complete with cigarette holder) as the car slowly drove by. Of course none of us knew he was unable to walk. And once when Lee and I visited Warm Springs, Georgia, and I saw his actual leg braces  and crutches, my esteem tripled. Eleanor, meanwhile, has inspired me all my life. She is beloved in women's circles for her vision, her courage, her leadership and her life story. Catherine even has a cat named after her! Eleanor was afraid of water, having survived a near drowning in childhood, and though she entertained many times on the Potomac, she never sailed on her.  FDR on the other hand, treasured his time on board.  Kings, queens, and Churchill were among his guests, as well as his Scottie, Fala, of course. So I had a day of a living history tour, topped off by a trip under the Golden Gate. At one point the Oracle sailed right past us. A catamaran ten stories high on your starboard is not an every day occurrence. Circumnavigating back to Jack London square a huge Madsen swished by us. Altogether, a day of memory and joy.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Travels Here and There

The apple pears continue to harass me, or rather picking up the litter each morning does. Here is my attempt, in haiku, to address the problem:

          Besides night, who comes?
          Shakes my Asian pear tree
          Till the fruit exhales.

                   Rotting fruit galore
                   Bees and free loaders abound
                   Do I deserve this?

                         Be gone with you tree
                         Enchanting in spring you are
                         A manace in fall.

Next week instead of writing my blog on Friday I'll be eating fish and chips and fresh caught salmon in Canada and the Pacific Northwest as I visit my Vancouver relatives. Meanwhile, what I know about dahlias I could put in a thimble. A virgin photo trek with a newly formed group here
to Aztec Dahlia Gardens in Petaluma last Sunday produced some fun and photos. I guess I was as interested in the bugs on the dahlias as the flowers themselves, a few that are as big as dinner plates (the flowers, not the bugs).  While others continued to struggle with selective focus I doodled with pen and paper and colored pencil. Not my forte, but good practice. Maybe it is good to get my focus off of Syria.
Have a good week, and God Save the Queen.