Archives for posts with tag: travel

This Atlas Obscura article drew my attention for several reasons. First, the idea of sculpted faces among the cobblestones is intriguing. I’ve seen many sculpted faces in Europe, on buildings, bridges, and decorative fountains, but never in the street. It would be fascinating to walk beside them and try to decipher their expressions.

The mere mention of the city of Ljubljana, brings me fond memories of a wonderful elderly lady I once knew. Her name was Josephine. And she was born there. When she was a child, her coal miner father moved his family to America, in search of a better life. They settled in Pennsylvania, where he found work…as a coal miner. He died of Black Lung, but his daughter did find a better life there. Her first husband was also a miner and abusive. She gathered her courage and divorced him, at a time when it was not often done. Her second marriage was a happy one, to a lovely man. They were together for decades, until he died. My favorite story she would tell me was of the trip to America. They had to change trains in Paris and little Josephine wandered away from her family. They were frantic. After embarking on this arduous, courageous journey they thought they had lost their beautiful nine year old daughter. It was with waning fear, exasperation, and great relief that they were reunited with Josephine just in time to catch their connecting train. It was such a pleasure to hear of this child’s adventureous spirit, and to know someone who had passed through Ellis Island, on her way to a new life in a new world across the Atlantic.

And then there’s the way my favorite poet inspired the sculptor to create the faces in the capital of Slovenia. His work can reach from the whimsical to the gravely serious to the sublime. What better wordsmith to be the impetus for the Faces of Locksmith Street than the man who wrote poems that echo still through the streets of Paris, as modern day footsteps trace his own long ago strides across cobblestones that mark the tumultuous, cacophonous, yet silent passage of history.

I drove across parts of four southern states on vacation right before Christmas. I wanted to sync my phone with my car for music listening purposes, but also wanted my battery to last the whole day, without the hassle of car charging. So, I diligently sought my kind of music via FM radio.

I soon discovered that my kind of music was not four different states’ kind of music. I love alternative. They love oldies, country, gospel, and talk radio. I eventuality found what appeared to be the only popular\alternative station in the entirety of the deep south. Fortunately, and oddly, it seemed to follow me along on my journey. Over the four days I traveled, I kept hearing two songs I fell in love with.

The first was. Lizzo’s Good As Hell . I loved everything about it. The sound, the lyrics, and the way it’s such a girl power anthem. I think a woman can be feminine and cool…and strong. Strong is always good. Especially when it comes with a giant dose of self-confidence. For me, that’s what the wonderful Lizzo is doing here. Encouraging us all to be, and stay, strong and confident, with a side of fun nails and hair tosses. At the moment that’s my favorite song. The version I’ve linked to above features Ariana Grande and is very cool.

The other is Dance Monkey by Tones and I . Such a fun song, which has become my second favorite for now. It’s really great to drive to. The beat and sound make me happy. That’s a major criteria for me about music. If it makes me happy just to listen to it, then it’s a valuable part of my day.

For music lovers there are songs we like, songs we love, and songs we can’t do without. Then there are the ones that are all of these, and also vital for long road trips. New music to lead us on our journies to new and exciting adventures.

Florida is a place of beauty, abundant nature to observe and photograph, and unexpected experiences. When given the opportunity to go to Busch Gardens, I knew there were animals there. What I had not realized was how many and how close I could get to some of them. Add a zoom lens, and I was able to take photographs I had only dreamed of before I got my DSLR and traveled to The Sunshine State.

I love palm trees too, so they were high on my priority list. These tall, spindly ones are among my favorites.

Many of my animal photos were taken from the steam train ride. I didn’t always catch the guide’s descriptions in their entirety, which unfortunately means I don’t have a proper kind for this beauty. Just an antelope. I really like the way it stands out against the pop of green it grazes.

Though the head of this white rhino is nearly in silhouette, its distinctive horn is unmistakable. Rhinos are so tragically endangered that it makes me both incredibly happy and incredibly sad to see one. These creatures deserve to live on Earth as much as we do. Hopefully, some way, some how they will be given a renewed opportunity to thrive.

I read somewhere that modern DSLRs have something like 5,000 setting possibilities. Um, no. I’m learning how to use it and may continue to do so for as long as it’s mine. I concentrate on lighting and composition to get what I want. Or try to. I end up with a higher and higher percentage of shots I love, so I’m satisfied with how I’m doing so far. I still have some trouble with depth of field. Sometimes those mistakes turn out to be happy accidents. I was able to crop this giraffe one so that it looks like an intentional piece of pop art. I’ll take it!

Elephants have such timelessly beautiful faces. They look old and ageless at once, with wisdom gained and emotion endured etched into the lines around their eyes. Just like us. It’s my understanding that they are very similar to us in many ways. They bond with family and friends, love them, grieve them when they are gone. It would be a pretty wonderful thing to have an elephant for a friend.

Emus are so cool and fluffy. They seem sweet, but I’ve heard they can be cantankerous, kicking very hard among other things. Years ago I was at a wildlife park in New South Wales, Australia. I was enraptured, photographing koalas high in a eucalyptus tree (The koalas were high in the tree, not me!), when I felt a presence behind me. It didn’t touch me. I could just sense that something was close. I reluctantly removed my face from my viewfinder, and slowly pivoted. It did not take a full body turn to come face to face with an apparently curious emu. When I say face to face, I mean that it was really close. We gazed into each other’s eyes for a heart stopping moment. Then, I slowly backed away, until I realized it was still standing where I’d left it. At that point I beat a hasty retreat, glad to have had such a close encounter, and also glad to walk away emu kick free.

I’m glad this zebra was in the shade, so that its amazing markings were able to really be showcased. Bright sunlight could have caused too much contrast or glare, but this is perfect. Really studying the complex patterns of striping on its forehead and knees in particular, show what a wonder zebras are. Beautiful, almost but not quite comical looking, they’re a gift nature has bestowed upon us. Let’s enjoy every stripe.

This lion and lioness seem content in each other’s company. They’re both gorgeous. His mane surprised me by how rough it looked and how much actual red was in it. Nearby, a lioness had taken up residence in the fake bed of a fake truck that decorated the exhibit. By looking at her through the glass right over where she lay, I could see, count even, the individual hairs on her back. That is the closest I’ll ever be to a lion, I’m sure. I could have stood there, gazing upon such majesty for hours. It was an experience I’ll always treasure and never forget.

I’ll close this out with a pic I took with my phone. It’s not sharp like the ones from my camera, but it gives an idea of how beautiful the Christmas decorations were. I rode the Skyride and loved dangling, swinging, and swaying high above the gorgeous lights, but nothing quite compares to being close to them. it was a day filled with many of my favorite things, the top favorite being, as always, the magic that comes out of my camera.

Having enjoyed more than one road trip around Great Britain, I found this Atlas Obscura article extremely amusing. It was only after bumbling my way around a mystifying tangle of letters in many town names, that I eventually had an epiphany forced upon me when I discovered that Leicester is pronounced Lester. Ah h–what? I’d encountered the word in another incarnation through pop culture (Elizabethan era version) references to Elizabeth 1 and her Earl of Leicester suitor and favorite. I’d pronounced (Well, thought it, as a child in the rural south had no one to discuss such topics with…though dogs and cows could be remarkably good listeners in a pinch.) it wrong up until I heard the city pronounced correctly. I then realized, with no small amount of awe, that the mundane name Lester, so common among the farm and factory folks of my surroundings, most likely had its origin in the elegant British word.

Much later, when Princess Diana drew my interest for the rest of my life, I was fascinated to find out that a London shopping area she frequented, Beauchamp Place, is pronounced Beachum. Not something an American is going to intuitively deduce.

This article is filled with examples of similar place names that make our weird American pronounciations seem logical…and simple. I no longer wrinkle my mental nose over Cairo, Illinois being called Karo…like the syrup of pecan pie fame, though it has no added letters and/or syllables to give it that extra umph of England’s charm.

In all honesty, though, I think all those head scratching British place names are intriguing, fascinating, and, yes, cool. As long as I don’t have to spell them.

I’ve been sidelined by a wrecked back. The kind that’s so bad it makes walking an ordeal. More than a decade ago I injured a muscle in my lower back, lifting an old style computer monitor. After the fact I found out they weigh about forty pounds. No wonder I actually felt the muscle tear. I was incapacitated for weeks, wanting tomato soup and toast daily, for some reason unknown. I had an old cane that my aunt used when she broke her leg, and used it to hobble to the bathroom. I still have the cane. Still use it, though the hobble isn’t quite as bad this time. Probably due to the absence of muscle spasms. Those things would sideline a moose. This time pasta with an excess of shredded parm loaded on is my food of choice, liberally interspersed with chocolate and ice cream, and tomato or avocado sandwiches. My palette has apparently shifted over the years.

Other than struggling to stand (and hobble) sufficiently to acquire food and make necessary trips down the short hall that seems at least a mile long these
days to the bathroom, I’m mostly only good for sitting and staring at the TV. I’ve gotten through a bunch of movies. I’ll do a roundup or something about the best of them in time.

At the moment I’ve used up a big quota of my concentration ability on writing a few hundred words of my zombie story last night. It’s an unfamiliar struggle to write, since my mom died in July, so a few hundred words is a real accomplishment right now. Yes, I am aware of the irony. I started that story in the spring, just because I wanted to try something different. Unfortunate timing, but I want to finish it before starting something else…or going back to my serial killer script. Oddly, I think zoning on the Walking Dead marathon this week shoved me back into the world of the living, breathing writer I am, since it dragged zombies right up to the front of my mind again. I should just call this the year of death.

So how did I hurt my back this time? It would be funny, if it hadn’t ruined at least two solid weeks of my life.  I try to do a Travel Tuesday pic on Twitter every week. A couple of weeks ago it was this one I titled Scenic Roadside New Mexico.

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It was in an old photo album of a lot of cross country trip pictures. Old and big and heavy. Without thinking, I grabbed it up with one hand and carried it around. There was at least one twist in there somewhere. It took a day for the pain to kick in. I’d gone to a Chinese buffet and went inside fine. When I got up to hit the buffet, I suddenly could barely walk. What the–? Took me a couple of days to figure it out.

This weird, suddenly destroyed back thing runs through the women on my mom’s side. Her sister had a terrible episode once, finally got it better, only to sneeze and cripple herself again. I’ve learned to brace wherever I am when I feel a sneeze coming on, to the point of once almost taking down a section of metal CD racks at Walmart. A weird, bad back can be a hazard to more than one’s personal…person.

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I managed last week’s Travel Tuesday, despite my own personal faux zombie apocalypse (more than once I thought of how my painful shuffling gait was like a Walker parody). This White Peacock on Oahu one didn’t involve heavy lifting.

Here’s Today’s Travel Tuesday pic, while I’m on the subject. A beautiful and dramatic hillside vineyard near the Mosel River in Germany.

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I’m hoping this forced break from normal life will reboot me back to a long term more normal life, after the disruptive, surreal, and heartbreaking years of living life through the lens of my mom’s long journey through Alzheimer’s. I miss her every day, but emerging from that period of our lives is like walking into bright sunshine, after living in a cave.

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St. Augustine is another place I wanted to see because of books. Eugenia Price wrote historical novels that brought times and places to vivid life. Reading one of her novels was like giving her permission to invade your mind and show you a movie there. I’ve been to locations from several of her novel series and thrilled to every sighting of something familiar.

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In St. Augustine it was this house that I desperately wanted to see. It was featured in the novel Maria and looks just as I’d imagined as I read. The real life woman who inspired this novel lived in what is known as “The Oldest House”. I stood in her bedroom, and stared at the huge bed decorated with carvings of banana leaves until I had it memorized. What an amazing experience for a lover of books.

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The old fort known as the Castillo de San Marcos also figured in Price’s writing. Its beautiful seaside setting is enough to draw visitors, but that beauty is greatly enhanced by a reader’s thoughts while touring it.

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Palm trees, the ocean, history around every corner, and the opportunity to walk where favorite characters who were also real people walked make St. Augustine a place of wonder on many levels.It shines like a Spanish treasure on the shore of so many peoples’ dreams.

Cornwall was a place I particularly wanted to see in the UK. In part because I’d long heard how beautiful it is. My thing for seeing places books I love had been set was my main reason, however. I went with a mission. I loved The Shell Seekers, by Rosamund Pilcher, and desperately wanted to see the place that had instilled a perfect image in my head.

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I’m not sure I got solid information, but two sources (a bed and breakfast lady and the owner of a gardening shop who sold me a beautiful small artist’s print of a very Shell Seekery scene from among the trowels and Wellies) sent me to the above beach. I was told it was called Porthkerris and that it had been¬† Ms. Pilcher’s inspiration. It was beautiful and awesome and I felt I’d come as close to a Rosamund Pilcher pilgrimage as I was likely to accomplish. I left that beach happy.

Another author’s work lured me to Cornwall as well. I had recently discovered E. V. Thompson and his historical tals of the Cornish Coast were so captivating that I wanted so very much to at least get a flavor of the area.

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I’m terrible about remembering exactly where my travel photos were taken. I think this coastal gem is Penzance, of Gilbert andSullivan fame, but I can’t swear to it. All I’m certain of is that this harbor scene was gorgeous and some of the boats and one larger sailing vessel in particular gave me the feel I was looking for.

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This image, framed to look as if the click of my shutter had traversed centuries to transport me briefly to a time of fierce love, fierce people…and pirates, was as close as I got to satisfying my E. V. Thompson inspired dreams of dreamy coastal villages, where adventure and romance lay just beyond my viewfinder.

Cornwall seemed a place just slightly set apart from reality. Perhaps it is. Tintagel, said to be the birthplace of King Arthur, lies there after all. What could be more tantalizing than the chance to stand in a land and imagine it as Camelot?

Often traveling involves making the best of whatever weather the sky decides to provide during the one day or few hours available to you, in the places you most want to see and  photograph. Europe for me was hit or miss. Sometimes the sky was glorious. Other times it was gray or positively glowered. I was just glad when it didn’t pour rain, snow…or flocks of grackles.

The few hours my tour group had at Versailles were gray, with threat of glower.
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Some pictures are framed in such a way that the crowds of tourists don’t distract the eye. Such as these shots of a couple of the beautiful fountains…that were turned off when I was there in the winter. Of course.
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I must say I found them beautiful anyway. They look entirely different with the water rippling,  splashing, and spraying I’m sure, but I like the stark still way they stand against the backdrop of the immense grounds.
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This array of elaborate chandeliers gives but a hint of the grandeur inside.
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As does this gorgeous gold architectural detail.
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Here I cropped out the tourist masses so that this scene looks as it would have when it first graced the palace site.
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Such a contrast to the uncropped version that brings centuries old history and the modern into sharp contrast. I like the way the middle distance, then far as the eye can see carries the viewer out into the countryside, with a tantalizing feeling of being mere steps away from the past in its unaltered present.
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Finally, I love the way this cloudy sky glooms over an inner courtyard and the different shapes and sizes of the different sections look like a village as much as part of such a grand palace. The barely focused modern tourists, in their dark clothes and huddled attitudes, can so easily be imagined as centuries old citizens of a revolution torn France, walking along the same cobblestones today’s tourists tread. It’s eerie and awe inspiring. And one of the most beautiful palaces, or places, I’ve been privileged to see.

Please let this movie be as wonderful as I want it to be.

It is a rare thing for me to so anticipate watching a movie that those words run through my mind as I’m about to press Play. I randomly watched the trailer for A Little Chaos on YouTube and fell instantly in love. I bought the DVD as soon as I saw it in a store and watched it as soon as I had a chance. I found myself holding my breath, afraid it wouldn’t live up to the promise of a single, brief trailer.

A Little Chaos is my idea of a nearly perfect movie. As I held my breath, it held my attention. Its elegance and grace swept across the screen, with a mix of grandeur and simplicity. The king of France and a lady landscape designer are at the heart of this heartfelt story, though they each love someone else. They meet on a plane filled with grief and loss and…flowers. And in their unique way, dictated by their time and the constraints that places on them, they help each other find happiness and fulfillment.

The great and beautiful Palace of Versailles is home to some of the most famous gardens in the world. I say some, not one, because the massive grounds showcase a wide variety of styles and designs of decorative landscaping. It is a place of magical beauty that cries out for admiration, even as its tragic history demands somber reflection. I know. I’ve been there and felt its dual pull.

It’s the having been there part that makes me nervous about movies dealing with places I’ve seen for myself. I adore Versailles and desperately wanted A Little Chaos to enhance that, without taking anything away. It succeeded beautifully.

My personal hopes and expectations aside, it was just my kind of movie. Gorgeous, gorgeous…did I say gorgeous yet? Imagery. Soundtrack. Cinematography. Acting. Direction. The only small mark against it was a very slight annoyance with the dialogue. A few times a question went unanswered or a statement fell out into the shimmery atmosphere that seemed unnecessary. Something like that will bother me if my attention gets snagged, but it’s a very minor thing.

Two scenes were my favorites. The first is when Sabine encounters the mourning king, mistakes him for a gardener, invades his privacy, and finds a kindred spirit in the slight, soft spoken man bereft of wig or crown. The other is the end, when she dances with the king in the heart of her creation. It was so very easy to imagine the true story as it took place in the past, peopled by familiar faces of actors transformed.

Alan Rickman cowrote and directed this low key masterpiece. I hope he is as proud of his creation, as I am thrilled to experience it

A Little Chaos left me feeling  transported into the past. It was as if I’d been given a rare opportunity to visit a place I love, as it came into being. I just watched it, and can’t quite extract my head from it. I feel as if just a tiny piece of me is roaming the gardens of Versailles, reluctant to pull away and leave it for the world of now. That to me is a movie experience all too rare.

A Little Chaos Trailer # 1

Sometimes people will say something to me or near me in such a way that I never forget it. A mundane situation here, an unusual circumstance there, no predicting when or where, each makes me smile whenever I remember.

1. “We can but try.”

This one is from an old British TV commercial. I think it was for spot remover or laundry detergent. A hard working housewife, worn down from a long day of…cleaning spots, and a voice so world weary and resigned that you can’t help sending waves of sympathy to her through the telly. A sigh, a rolling of eyes and she IS you. She is everybody. Wherever you are, whatever you attempt after experiencing that commercial once or a dozen times, you find yourself uttering those words in that exasperated tone. Suddenly you’re back in England, enjoying the block of commercials before your show starts as much as the show itself, and you smile. You did your best. You can but try. You carry on, humming the Benny Hill theme (which is much more difficult than you’d think. Oh well, we can but try).

2. “It wouldn’t be a surprise then, now would it?”

Nestled on the banks of Loch Ness, a small white clapboard building housed a restaurant. One must assume it was frequented by the locals, since it was the only restaurant in sight. Or driving distance. Charmed by my middle aged Scottish waitress, complete with brogans and a brogue as thick as the mists worn by the glowering giant Ben Nevis snugged up almost against the restaurant’s back.

As my dining experience progressed, the veneer of charm wore thin. Beneath her accent my waitress had initially concealed what some might consider a snappish personality that I personally felt was more along the lines of surly. I hate to admit that I was intimidated, but I was. Not at first. Not until the exchange that went like this.

Me (perusing my menu) “This dessert…Ice Cream Surprise…could you tell me what that is”?”

Her (scowling like a lowering loch storm): “Well, if I told you that it wouldn’t be a surprise…(ominous pause, during which I’d swear I heard thunder)…. Now. Would. It?”

Me: “No! Of course not. Sorry. I’ll have that. (I think I threw another “sorry” in right about then) Thank you.”

She sort of sniffed expressively, turned on her heel smartly, and marched away. I waited quite some time, wondering first if she had climbed the frigid looking mountain at her back to retrieve fresh ice to surprise me with. Eventually I started wondering if I could leave some money and sneak away before she delivered my surprise.

I found myself still in my chair, when I heard the pitter patter…clomp…of her brogans, as she approached at last. She plonked a utilitarian white dessert dish down with a strange little flourish, and stood there expectantly.

Finally she could contain her odd mixture of pride, curiosity, and mischief no longer.

“Well? Surprise!”

I looked up from contemplating my glop of melty vanilla ice cream, valiantly attempting to float on a chunky sea of canned…beg pardon…tinned fruit cocktail. I was disappointed, but I didn’t want her to know that. I just knew she’d bellow something scary in that accent I could barely understand, if I showed weakness.
Starting to feel as if I had encountered a female version of The Kurgan, I smiled as valiantly as my ice cream coexisted with its accompanying surprise.

“Thank you. It’s…very nice.”

She nodded, apparently satisfied that I had, indeed, been thoroughly surprised, and clomped away.

I don’t know why I was disappointed. It just seemed too ordinary, I guess, so near the deep, dark waters where Nessie swam across my imagination. What was I expecting? A haggis sundae? Herring a la mode? A Scotch whiskey float?

I think I’d better be grateful for the surprise I got.

3.¬† “It’s not Nessie!”

Not far from the restaurant there was a museum devoted to Nessie. I thought that was awesome and eagerly went in to see what I could learn. A woman who worked there approached, excited, I thought, to share her knowledge. I thought wrong. This one wasn’t as scary as the waitress, but she was intimidating in her own way.

It soon became apparent that she had either been doing her job for too long or had just finished dealing with the most annoying bus load of tourists ever. Instead of leaping to answer any questions informatively, her grating, high pitched annoyed old lady voice was like a Jack-in-the-Box, jumping forth to shut down any stupid thing a tourist might say. She wasn’t so much an informer of facts as a debunker of myth and mystery.

Her strident battle cry?

“It’s not Nessie!”

Anything she was asked about everything from unusual ripples on the loch surface to suspicious dark shadowy gliding objects would elicit the same bleating response. She was loud too! Nessie herself could have come ashore and crashed through the front window, and all Ms. Negativity would have done was scream even louder that it was not Nessie.

I don’t know what her problem was, but the Nessie Museum experience became a treasured, albeit goofy, memory that sticks with me still.

4. “Did you hear that?”

This whispered question passed between my two Australian companions before a day’s outing. One was a friend of mine, an experienced traveler familiar with “exotic” accents. The other was a friend of hers who obviously had not met many, if any, Americans.

The “that” in question was my pronunciation of the freaking out girl’s name. I’ve always liked the name Jennifer. Now I can’t hear it without thinking of how it amused, thrilled, and halfway awed someone unaccustomed to hearing the Aussie dropped letter R. To me it was Jenn-eh-fur. To its owner it was Jenn-eh-fuh. Vocally, that one letter makes a world of difference.

I totally sympathized. The Australian accent is cool and exotic to me. So I understood what was setting her off. That did not stop me from feeling as if I had become an unwitting performer in a stage play for one. She giggled uncontrollably every single time I found her dropped R. In a way it was charming…for a few hours. Over the course of a day of shopping, lunching, and sightseeing it became tedious.

Over time it’s become a fond memory. Of course now part of my brain hears an echoing giggle every time the extremely common name Jennifer is uttered in my presence.

5. “Howzit, sistahs?”

Somehow it was quite some time before I came to know about Hawaiian Pidgin. I heard what my mainlander ears thought they were supposed to hear, even when they did not.

Early on I was shopping with a friend when a shoe salesman greeted one of us with a hearty “Howzit, sistahs?” On the mainland that would translate into something like “Hi, how are you?”. We thought he was saying we looked like sisters and proceeded to have an exclamation point infested conversation about how weird that was. Much later I proceeded to be embarrassed and wonder how he managed not to laugh at us. Very professional of him. Who knows? Maybe it happened so much that he did it on purpose for amusement to break up the tedium. I hope he was chuckling still the next time he tried to fit a size ten dowager in a muumuu with a size eight.

I’m sure there are more of these memorable moment moments tucked away in the back of my brain. I seem to attract strange incidents wherever I
go. It can make for some awkward situations, but also provide priceless souvenirs.