Attack of the bike people

It is estimated there are 850,000 bicycles in Amsterdam. About 750,000 nearly ran me over during our stay there. By the time we left, the shrill little bell rings from cyclists warning me they were about to lay me out flat had begun to sound like a chronic medical condition. The Dutch are polite enough about not running you over, but to a man and woman, they claim their bike paths prohibitively as their own. The city claims they fish anywhere from 12 -15,000 bikes out of the canals every year, and several times I fought an urge to add to that total - while the bikes were parked or otherwise.

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Song of the standby

   Except my readers, who will hear about nuisance and delays because it's an integral part of the meaning of travel for Carol and me. Carol handles nuisance and delay with the peace of a monk and the patience of a pointillist painter. My handling varies, but tends toward an Indiana Jones sense of imminent peril. Between the two of us, we have a travel approach that is a comforting blend of serenity and an urgent sense of gloom.

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The last picture show

  I'd managed to book us into yet another disappointing accommodation for our last stop on our Wild West adventure. To top it off, I'd booked us in for two days. Two days in a place that when Carol looked up what there was  to do there as we were driving towards it, reported to me, "There's no there there."

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You can't go chrome again

   Nostalgia, when done right, is charming. When we rolled into Williams, AZ prior to our train trip to the Grand Canyon, I felt we had discovered a little town that had gotten nostalgia just right. Carol was still a bit unsettled from seeing our accommodations for the next two nights. Even after I had explained how the guy backing up next to us in his pickup with his personal belongings neatly tied off in hefty bags had made his reservation using Expedia.com, she remained skeptical, suspecting I'd once again booked us into a hotel occupied by characters in a Rob Zombie movie.

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Grand illusion

   I can sum up my initial view of the Grand Canyon this way: totally fake. There is no way a river is responsible for what you see here. The Mississippi River has been depositing Minnesota onto Louisiana for eons, but it still looks like Louisiana, which is to say, an unreclaimed swamp. That's what rivers are supposed to do. They do not paint breathtaking landscapes like they were van Gogh or Monet. Even the little kid standing next to me told his mommy, "it looks fake."

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Road trip

    It was the day Carol looked into the living room and didn't see me on the couch. She called out for me. The thing was, I was sitting on the couch as I'd been for the last whenever. "I'm right here," I said waving to her, a wan smile on my face. When I realized that she could no long discern my outline on the couch from that of the couch itself, I said, "We need a road trip."

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The Sabbatical: Hurricanes 101

    In the aftermath of Hurricane Betsy in 1965, much of St. Bernard Parish and Chalmette were flooded to a depth of about five feet. These were the days before federal flood insurance and FEMA trailers. What was available was a loan from the Small Business Association, which my parents dutifully took out and repaid just in time for Hurricane Katrina.

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The Sabbatical: Bayou Blues

   My family's roots are submerged in the bayous of Louisiana. If you think Louisiana is the armpit of the country, then the bayous are the pit hairs.

   My grandparents raised eight kids on little more than what could be hooked, dragged, dredged, gigged or netted out of Bayou Des Allemands. My grandfather was a barber; my grandmother ran an ice cream parlor. Between my grandfather not charging the Depression-devastated inhabitants for their haircuts and my grandmother frightening the children who came in her shop at the wrong time for ice cream, my grandparents eventually lit out for greener pastures: the reclaimed malarial swamp known as Chalmette, where I grew up.

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The Sabbatical: School Daze

  With time on my hands now, I used part of it to noodle around my ambivalent attitude towards authority, resulting in a liberalism that believes in government as a force for good and resents its intrusiveness at the same time.

   As with everything else in life, it started with my parents. As nurturers, they expanded the "children should be seen and not heard" maxim to include not being seen either. In summer we were sent out from the house after breakfast into the stifling heat of New Orleans and told not to return until dinner. Left to forage for lunch, we learned to distinguish the hard way between poison mushrooms and berries and the good ones.

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Mourning becomes memory, part 2

Mourning becomes memory, part 2

Carolyn Kay Marquardt

August 10, 1949 - May 23, 2017

 

   If you asked those who knew Carolyn, they would tell you what they remembered most was her laugh. I remember it as a great full body dry heave of joy. They would also mention her hugs. "Huge sister hugs," Marianne describes them.

   That Carolyn exuded joy was something well remembered by her nephew Sean.  "She was almost always smiles from cheek to cheek; this happiness tended to resonate with everyone around her, and aside from being a very fun and outgoing auntie, this was probably another of many reasons I always looked forward to her company."

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Cosimo

   Upon our return from our last European trip, someone asked me if I'd met any interesting people. Carol stifled a laugh; I thought the question, asked of me, was rhetorical. While I do prefer to travel invisibly, and ask only that humankind for the most part act the same, some personalities strike you in a profound, if unobtrusive way, that you're happy to deactivate your cloaking device and meet them openly on common ground.

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You should go home again

  I believe most tourists to any place on the globe at one time or another, confront the same question: what would it be like to live here full time. A number of these tourists went on to do it and then write about it. I've read several of these well-written memoirs (Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence always comes to mind first). They've all taken me on amazing journeys, but have wound up at the same terminus for me: Don't do it.

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 Picture perfect

Those who knew Carolyn's travel photos and are now viewing Carol’s on my blog may have noted a marked similarity in photographic eye, color and composition. This has come as a bit of a surprise to Carol, as she has seen several of Carolyn’s Shutterfly books.

   “They're so beautiful and professional,” Carol has remarked. “It was her hobby.”

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