As is so often the way we do things, this USA 2019 trip has been a long time coming. We started with planning to be at Narda’s son’s Chris’ 40th birthday, several years ago. We wanted to do a combination of Airbnb, Chris’ home in Washington DC and Home Exchanges. This is how we have travelled the past few years in Europe. In Asia we combine Airbnb and hotels/guest houses. The idea was to stay out of hotels for this three-month trip and we succeeded. We first contacted a couple in Denver, 9th of November 2017 and they wrote back soon after. We confirmed exchanging in July 2018 for now, April – May 2019. They are looking at our house for early 2021; their winter, our summer. Currently they are sailing in the Caribbean. In 2018 we began speaking with Lawrence, our teaching mate from our China years, for a trade in Florida. Quick jump in this story is that we had a wonderful stay in Orlando at his home toward the end of this trip.
We have the rest of this year long ago planned/paid (Thailand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), as well as next year, 2020 (settled last year). Currently we are negotiating with people for 2021. I am saying this as even when I re-read our blogs, I think we do so much travel, how does this happen? Narda does the legwork of getting places to stay, tracking down incredible flight deals, and generally does so much that all I need to do is play on the computer, look out the window and excitingly exclaim what a marvellous place we have suddenly been transported to.
Instead of many videos this trip we have made sixteen slideshows and only one video. They are grouped together here or view them as they are slotted into where we are speaking of. The slideshows are about a minute each.
All USA Playlist https://tinyurl.com/y4o3halm I have also made a QR image to click with your phone if that floats your thingy.
15 April Monday
Our last days in Adelaide and we “child sat’’ the grandies. Can’t say babysit anymore now that they are five and seven. We spent a day packing; how to get all we need for three-months into seven kilos carry-on and 22.7 kilos (50 pounds) check-in stuff. Narda is the master-packer, I easily make my piles of all that I want, and she makes ‘executive decisions’ of what is taken, as I see my many favourite tee-shirts and other garments find their way back on to their shelf.
Getting our home ready for three months away is always a project. People will be staying, coming and going and we always seem to have too much stuff in our bulging suitcases. We have been doing this for twenty-years and have yet to master the luggage thing, though we do well leaving home, it is returning that becomes a nightmare with all we collect along the way. This trip was exceptional too much stuff brought back home – I will get to that, later. I am sort of responsible for this excess.
We left Adelaide in the afternoon and had an overnight in Sydney. As we had an afternoon flight, we had planned to take the bus from the front of our house to the airport. Knowing that we can go to our bus stop and 45-minutes later be at an airport then off to anywhere in the world is a wonderful feeling. However, the day before we were to leave, Narda’s sister, Caroline, offered to drive us to the airport which was a nice option.
I try to go to Sydney each year as a memorial to my son, Leigh, who died there in 2003 and this year the only time we could get to Sydney was by doing it on this trip as a stopover to the States. We stayed at the Budget Ibis as it was near the airport and was cheap. Note to self, yuck: location sort of OK, but we had to cross lots of traffic getting there with our crap, though we got a shuttle the next day. The rooms were old, small, dingy which is OK. It was getting from there to the metro to get to Olympic Park that was difficult; lots of construction, crossing busy large intersections. Nevertheless, we had lunch downstairs at the Ibis-Novotel that we try to get to each year. We spent the rest of the day getting back to our cubicle at the Ibis.
Friday we were on the 9 am flight, 17 hours from Sydney to Houston. Long flights are boring, and we
have found United as one of the worse airlines; unfriendly staff, food not very good, though the movie selection is good, and it is the cheapest. We ignore the yucky parts and move forward. We had three hours in Houston before our flight to Washington D.C. A rather uninteresting note; the pilot announced that we had left Sydney at 9.06 am Friday and arrived into Houston at 9.06 am Friday. Groovy. We had just spent seventeen excruciating hours flying, only to discover that we had not used up any time.
We were to stay in DC from Friday evening until the following Tuesday when we were to fly to Denver. However;
Narda’s friend from her teaching days at St Luke’s had a tragic event in her life which changed our plans. Her eldest son, only in his late 20’s, died suddenly several days before we left Adelaide. The day before we left, we learned that the funeral would be on Saturday, the day after we would arrive in DC. Instead of going to Chris’ home after we arrived in DC we decided to continue.
Two hours after arriving in DC we were on the Acela Express to NYC. We booked the overpriced Doubletree Hilton at Times Square (much higher than usual as it was Easter Weekend) and finally got to lay down after close to thirty hours of travel. We were back out around midnight as hunger got the best of us. Luckily, there was a Taco Bell a block away and we got to eat with the denizens of the night before going back and passing out…until the hotel clock radio woke us up at 6 am, no doubt from some previous weary traveller heading out of town.
Once again hunger entered our world and we took a subway to the West Village. Getting off at West fourth we headed to Rocco’s (Pasticceria Rocco) on Bleeker Street for a wonderful NYC breakfast. The funeral we were attending was a few blocks away on Bleeker.
I wore a suit and tie for the first time since working at Dalian American International School in China, five years earlier, such is retirement.
The funeral was incredible, full of JD’s many friends, some dressed in the colourful blazers he loved to collect. The room was decorated with lots of his stuff, notably Star Wars memorabilia. His love of Star Wars was celebrated; after each of his friends gave a eulogy, they would say “may the Force be with you”, and the gathered folk would respond “and also with you”.
After the funeral we went to Cowgirl’s for lunch (519 Hudson St) a couple of blocks away from where Narda taught for five years (St. Lukes). After Cowgirl’s we went uptown and spent time at Ronnie and Karen’s place.
Not having an American sim card, we tried several phone companies; Verizon and some other losers could not help us. The problem is that US sim cards are not compatible with our Australian phones. T-Mobile at Times Square thought they could help and after hours of little success (one of their cards worked in my phone but would not in Narda’s) we left late at night back to our hotel. Times Square is a miserable place. It is used to be groovy in the 1960s, even in the 1970s, but now it is worse than Disneyland.
On Sunday (21st April) we took the bus from NYC to DC. The bus was $30 and took about three hours depositing us at Union Station. It was comfortable with Wi-Fi to keep us from needing to talk with one another. Narda’s son Chris collected us and left us at the church he preaches at and at the end of his session we took Liam home, stopping at his favourite eatery, Chipotle Mexican Grill. I rarely eat at chain restaurants, except for McDonald’s in Australia because they give seniors a free coffee for a purchase over three dollars. Since a coffee cost $3.70, we order one coffee and get the second free and get to read the newspaper. A big day out in our world when in Australia. Chipotle is good though, probably not good for a low-carb diet but they know how to make a vegetarian and a meat eater happy. We spent the next day walking Liam to school, riding on buses and mainly catching up on sleep and getting used to a new time zone that is 13-hours different from what we had been used to.
Well not exactly getting into sync with our new time zones. Though we have been in NYC for a couple of days, one would think we would have gotten some sleep, but we got even less in NYC. We were up too early the next morning and packing ready to fly off to Denver. Believing it would be warm(er) in Denver we left a suitcase behind for when we would return in a month. As we usually do when in DC we took the shuttle to the airport and were off to Denver. Our roundtrip to Denver set us back about twenty bucks for the two of us as we used our United points.
I have been wanting to see Denver Airport terminal since first reading the conspiracy sites about it. One theory is that there is a secret bunker located under the Denver Airport. DIA is the largest airport in the United States, the second largest airport in the world behind King Fahd International Airport in Saudi Arabia. Of course, the conspiracies began shortly after the invention of the internet in the mid-1990s (the internet was invented in 1990) as most conspiracies have. [For example, layout of the runways of the airport is in the shape of a swastika. But it is the artwork on the walls that has everyone going nuts. Murals that can be viewed in the baggage claim area feature content that, according to some, feature future military oppression and a one world government like the concept of “big brother.” The most memorable of these pieces is a large green soldier of sorts with an eagle symbol on his hat, a bayonet tipped gun and a large curved sword in the other hand. Underneath the soldier are signs of poverty and distress, a woman clutching her baby and children sleeping in ruins. Viewers of the piece state that it appears to represent themes of future military oppression and a one world government. The artist of the piece, Leo Tanguma, however, claims that the mural and others like it represent man-made destruction of the environment and genocide while the people of the world come together to live in peace. The two large murals are entitled “In Peace and Harmony with Nature” and “The Children of the World Dream of Peace.” Within the Denver International Airport there is a dedication marker which is inscribed with the compasses and square associated with the Freemasons. Additionally, this marker lists two of the grand lodges of Freemasonry located in Colorado. Among all the odd decor of Denver International Airport is a statue of an open suitcase. Within this suitcase is a honed demon with its head in its hands.] This stuff is from this website if you want to read more, https://www.exploringlifesmysteries.com/denver-international-airport-conspiracy/ And there is more about bunkers beneath the airport, statues and other silly stuff. So, were we rewarded for all our research? No, the whole bloody airport is going through a reconstruction and the walls are covered. Next conspiracy…
We have a house exchange in Denver. Our hosts had left their car at the airport long term parking and we found it with little effort and were off to our new home. American freeways in the dark, with lots of road construction, after driving on the other side of the road for the past whenever months in Australia is a challenge. Not to worry we rocked up at our beautiful new digs and found the remote to open the garage and we were able to get inside and say wow. The house was three sizes larger than ours. In our month there we decided to move into the basement as that was large enough for us, it had a lounge, bedroom, bathroom, and a big table to do our never-ending computer work on. We never used two of the lounges upstairs or the master dining room or several of the bathrooms.
We slept in. We have a month to explore Colorado so there was no need to rush out into the high altitude. That was our first ah ha moment. Not only jetlag, then after sort of adjusting to eastern time for three days we now were in Central or is it Mountain time? Then there is the height thingy. A mile high. Cool. After a couple of trips between the basement, the main floor, the next floor up we were puffed out. I get altitude sickness at two and half thousand metres, or I came to learn of that when we were in Quito, Ecuador, 2,850 metres (9,350 ft) a few years ago. After a couple of days, we had to flee, unfortunately, we only had those couple of days to see that wonderful city. Recently when we spent a couple of weeks in Shimla, India I was fine. There the altitude is 1924.00m (6312 feet). Denver is around 1,730 metres (5,700 feet). Not quite sure why we both got puffed out more in Denver than in Shimla where we walked heaps. We drank lots of water as recommended.
Our first full day in Denver, our stay for the month was in the town of Centennial (Arapahoe County), about sixteen miles from Denver City Centre, “the safest City in Colorado for the last eight years” according to their site, http://www.centennialco.gov/ Not sure as there was a school shooting while we were there, more about that later. We found the area friendly and it was easy to find what we needed. We were in a very suburbia area meaning a car-friendly area; though we did find walking trails not far from our home. We (well me in particular) excitingly found Sprouts Farmers Market, within walking distance. A giant health food store with those wonderfully high-priced products, which happily we found later at Walmart for much less. Left to my own devices I could have walked home with a suitcase of ‘health foods’, needless to say, I didn’t. We stayed home most of the next day too except to go to a nearby Target store to get photos printed. I seem to be stuck in the digital world of photos and Narda likes to print photos and put them in her diary. As we travel, we look for stores that have a photo machine that does small prints, for her book. As Narda points out, we still have family photos from many years ago (I have family photos from the early 1900s from my parents, not with me in them in the early 1900s, I am only 72) and we have lost many digital setups. So, there you go. Having both is the way to save those fleeting memories that last for hundreds of years. We worked on our projects at home; Narda’s writing diary and my online textual-photos I post on too many social sites.
On our third day we got out into the world and found a T-Mobile centre to try and sort out our phones. We found a friendly chap that not only got us a three-month card but gave us new phones with it. Not top of the range of course but they work as phones and not as computers and cameras, recording devices, navigational, and all the other useless bells and whistles that phones have. They still took photos and had navigation and all the basics, just not high quality, which all we wanted them for was as phones, and for that they were fine. Our Australian ‘high-end’ phones were still useful as cameras and computers when there was Wi-Fi.
After three days we rose from our zombie-zoned-out times and felt normal. Our friends, Frank and Kay from teaching days in Dalian, China, came to visit. The last time we saw them was in 2014 in Bagan, Myanmar, when we were also with Jean and Sean from our Dalian teaching days and who we will visit later during this trip, in Florida. They stayed for a couple of nights with us. It was fun.
After an evening and next morning of catching up and sharing stories with our friends a bit we Frank drove us on a sight-seeing tour of some of the mountains. We went to where Buffalo Bill was buried and did some stuff and learned about cool Bill, found it all quite interesting took photos then moved on to Red Rocks Amphitheater. http://tiny.cc/b6xdcz
Red Rocks Amphitheater at Morrison, Colorado, https://www.redrocksonline.com/ is the home of outdoor music on steroids. Most music stars since the early 1900s have played in the 9500-capacity arena. My personal experience here was great. We were trolling around the place looking at the music hall of fame, looking out at the view, taking too many photos when I realized I did not have my phone. (I change lenses on my camera and thought I must have set my phone down when putting the zoom on our camera) Not only did I not have my phone but my phone was one of those wallet setups that us post-millennials (decades-post…) put our credit cards, driver’s licenses, photos of ourselves or our loved ones, which ever fits in the most… in panic we all looked all over, spoke to people, left phone numbers and went off to find the best way to cancel our credit cards which of course would have stuffed us up no end. As we were walking out of Red Rocks toward our car one of the staff came running up to us and said, “is this your phone”. It became our Red Rocks miracle.
Frank and Kay live in Loveland, Colorado. There are about three excellent sculpture parks in Loveland. Benson Sculpture Garden is the one we spent the most time at. Well worth the visit. Our little slide show of the sculpture garden is over at http://tiny.cc/4cydcz.
We spent a few days, two different times at their home. They were such great tourists guides, we had experienced this in Myanmar five years earlier when they showed us around their hometown, at the time, of Yangon. We spent a day driving up into Rocky Mountain Park, and even in April there was snow on the ground. See our one-minute slideshow of this amazing area at http://tiny.cc/yeydcz
We had a couple of down days staying at home, eating low-carb, organic, allegedly nutritional substances, walking around our area, acting out the same routine as we do back in Adelaide with our morning walk. I have a bowl of seeds, probably bird seed, but I like to think it is doing me good, have our super healthy dinner and watch Netflix series. We watched ‘After Life’ (http://tiny.cc/bgydcz); series created, produced, directed by, and starring Ricky Gervais. We haven’t liked too many shows that Ricky Gervais is part of, he seems to appeal to the millennials, (we rarely think he is funny) but this series was well worth the watch. I see there will be a season two so that will be what we will watch in some other part of the world. (Netflix has announced it is renewing “After Life” for a six-episode season 2, which will launch in 2020. … But now I have to make sure the second season is even better, so I’ll probably have to work much harder than usual. Annoying really“ said Gervais. Apr 3, 2019). We also watched ‘Hell on Wheels’, which I describe a bit below when writing about Cheyenne. Really the series to be watching when in this part of the world.
As excited as children possibly can be, we awoke 30th, April to snow. We went bananas. It may be difficult to discern, but there is snow falling in the below photo. I built a snowman (on the outside table) and posted the photo on Facebook. (spoiler alert, I did this photo in Photoshop)
We found a local cinema (AMC) and the only movie that looked interesting was one about India partition; ‘Kalank’, a 2019 Indian Hindi-language period drama film set in 1945 in the pre-independence British era (http://tiny.cc/bkydcz). As we are going to Pakistan for a few weeks in October, originally crossing the border from India, but due to some conflict between those two we are going from Colombo, Sri Lanka, we are trying to make sense of what their beef is. The next time we visited this cinema there is a school shooting, described below, but this time we enjoyed the film. Though apparently, I fell to sleep for a portion of the movie according to Narda. But the part I saw was interesting.
We went to Loveland for our extended visit with Kay and Frank.
Cheyenne Wyoming Slideshow http://tiny.cc/ypydcz A lot of photos of our day in Cheyenne.
I had wanted to go to Cheyenne since the start of this trip. A blast from the past and all. I lived there in 1974 in one of those strange moments in one’s life where we look back decades later and think, I did what? I was in a cult group; The Holy Orders of MANS, in the 1960s (I joined in Hawaii), then left in 1971 and returned in 1974 to the San Francisco centre. Bottom line, they sent me to Cheyenne as they had one of their many cult-houses there. I was in a subset of the Order called the Brown Brothers of the Holy Light. Meaning I had to wear a robe and be in that group for a year. The Brown Brothers was the celibate section of the Order, where I was sent off to, for former ‘indiscretions’. What was tough was walking around Cheyenne in a brown robe. People would laugh, (you are probably laughing right now), call me names and whatnot. I spent six-months in the winter of ‘74-’75 there, not very happily.
That was then, this is now…all those celibate years later, caught up in the Me2 hype of being an appropriate male, or not.
This year (2019) Wyoming celebrates the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage, they were the first state to give women the right to vote along with lots of other women’s firsts:
If you get to Cheyenne visit the ‘The Cowgirls of the West Museum’, what’s not to like about such a museum? http://cowgirlsofthewestmuseum.com/ and it is free entry. Checkout the slideshow above for shots of women in cowgirl gear, and other random pics of Cheyenne.
Cheyenne is also an early railroad hub – See the Cheyenne Depot Museum. Frank and Kay told us about the Netflix series, “Hell on Wheels“, which is set in Cheyenne in the late 1860s and is about the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States. Well worth the viewing if you are into historic fiction, with a bit of Hollywood. To get the lowdown of how the story goes check out, “Why is Cheyenne called the “Magic City of the Plains”? Cheyenne was called the “Magic City of the Plains” because it seemed to spring up practically overnight”. https://tinyurl.com/y2aydorc Well there, I spoiled the narrative, but still, look it up.
On a trip to Denver, we took a tram around the city to get a feel for the place. On the tram I took this photo of this girl with a service dog. I couldn’t work out what was wrong with her. Where we come from a service dog is the eyes or ears for someone who does not have physical sight or hearing.
I did not realize why this girl had this service dog until now, back home in Australia, when I was writing up our trip. We did notice a lot of people with ‘service dogs’, at airports, bus and train station. Everywhere. Wow, what was going on in the States? We did not learn until two months later when we were visiting our friends in Florida that people have ‘emotional support animals’. What?
If you have an emotional disability, you can legally qualify for an ESA, short for emotional support animal. You must be certified as emotionally disabled by a psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist or other duly licensed and/or certified mental health professional.
Damn! What is going on over there? We lived in the States from 2002 – 2010, and of course, I am a Yank from the get-go, though I left in 1981, for the stable sensible land of Australia and neither of us had ever heard of an ESA.
All domesticated animals may qualify as an ESA (cats, dog, mice, rabbits, birds, snakes, hedgehogs, rats, mini pigs, ferrets, etc.) and they can be any age (young puppies and kittens, too!).
OK folks, here is the reality. Another word for an emotional support animal is pet. Get over it. I think people were just looking for a way to get their pet onto flights for free and not have Fido stuck in the hold of the plane. Of course, I don’t have an opinion on all this but it did take us by surprise. We both felt that America is in crisis, people were more upset, insecure, paranoid, than when we lived there (during the Obama era) and now the good citizens of the USA need support animals to protect them from the harsh reality around them.
We left Frank and Kay’s about 1 pm, stopped at a thrift shop and I got a Colorado tee shirt for a dollar (big spending tourist that I am). I was looking for a cowboy shirt with a fringe. I thought it would suit me but in Denver they were around the $200 mark and I had a budget of five dollars. I want to look like a rodeo rider when I get back to Australia. Unfortunately, in months of looking in thrift shops I never found one so I will look like another elderly person riding a bike in Adelaide instead of a stud in a cowboy-rodeo shirt, on a bike.
Our favourite shop is Walmart and we did most of our shopping there. My friend, Randy, Eugene, Oregon, never went into a Walmart all his life. Principles or something. But it was our shop of choice, so much cheap crap. Now, with the mass shooting in El Paso (August 2019), I am not sure whether we would go to Walmart. And the tweets that say the owners make 11-million dollars an hour and workers $11 an hour do not make it the shop of choice. However, for the likes of us, retired, on a budget, why pay twice as much for the same thing at the local hippie organic shop?
I always have projects I am working on. I have been doing a combination of paintings/photos/text since the mid-1960s when I first started being a street-artist in New York City. My longest time in one place was in New Orleans 1968 and 1972 – 1974, though I had about the same length of time being a street artist in Adelaide (1993 – 1995). Other places have been Waikiki (1980), Baltimore (1978 – 1979) and in the mall in Washington DC (summers of 1978 and 1979). I no longer sit in streets displaying stuff but do it online on numerous sites. I was working on my ‘Thoughts in Patterns 7’ on this trip which I managed to complete and make available on Amazon as print and as an e-book. They are really ‘thoughts in travel’ with the combination of images of places we are in with thoughts embedded. Book 7 with many photos and textual impressions is at https://amzn.to/2NgoQvU
My nephew lives in Denver (his mother, my sister, lives in New York) and we visited him on a couple of occasions. We have a short photo album of Denver at https://is.gd/Vkpvyd
Back home in our little burb we went to the picture theatre. There was little of interest except for comic book films so the one that looked least painful to us (meaning we did not need to know a backstory or have seen a previous edition to understand it), BTW, we still didn’t understand it (Captain Marvel) but that is not what we remember about the day. Actually, now a couple of months later I have no recall of the movie but of the day. As we entered the car park, we saw many police cars, ambulances, a couple of helicopters I looked on my breaking-news app and saw that there was a shooting nearby. This photo is from the cinema door. We went into to see Captain Marvel, at this time the report stated that the shooters had not been found. We live a short distance from Columbine High School, site of the Columbine High School massacre which was commemorating the twenty-anniversary of the shooting, this week. Seven years earlier, also in Aurora, where we were seeing the movie a person went into a theatre and killed a lot of people. At the time, the attack had the largest number of casualties (82) in one shooting in modern U.S. history.
When we came out of the film, they were still reporting the incident, the people involved were in custody. As we constantly pay out Fox News, not believing anything they say, at least politically, re. climate change, etc etc, Narda wanted to meet face-to-face Fox news people. Of course, news gathers are not the same as the nut cases that fill the Fox channel with their incoherent drivel (not that I have any opinions about this fake-news media.
As we are in Littleton, we explored the town. We discovered that Littleton is a sister city to Bega, Bega is a town in the south-east of New South Wales. They have a statue of a kangaroo and their idea of Australia. There is even the Ned Kelly pub. Not having been to Bega, Australia, we cannot confirm whether these two cities are sister cities or just me2 wannabes. We had a couple of other snowy mornings, each time just a bit then gone with the sun. We found what looked like a typical USA taco joint (Taco House – 1390 W Littleton Blvd) for lunch in Littleton, not sure if they have one like it in Bega. For anyone passing through Littleton, it is a bit of a dive, though cheap, probably authentic. We both had indigestion for a while after which simply could be that we are not used to this type of cuisine or the over-saturated oiled Mexican dishes we ate.
Toward the end of our stay in the Denver area we went to Colorado Springs. Narda has an Australian nephew living there. After a visit we spent the rest of the day in the rock formations nearby, Garden of the Gods, an amazing place to wander around in. See our one minute slideshow of this area at https://bit.ly/2k5frLm
We also visited Suzanne, who worked with us at the school in Dalian, China. She has an amazing house built into the same type of rocks as there are tossed about at the Garden of the Gods. I had wanted to go to the top of Pikes Peak, but the road was closed due to snow or some sort of wintery mix. One of the Yank’s favourite tunes, “America the Beautiful” was put together by Katharine Lee Bates after she visited the Pikes Peak summit in 1893. Not having made it to the summit I was unable to match her creativity. This is close as we got (using our 300 mm lens). The 14,110-foot summit is visited by more people annually than any other peak in America, and it ranks as the second-most visited mountain in the world, after that one in Japan (now I am really upset I didn’t get to the top).
Before we left Colorado, we had another big day out with Kay and Frank. We looked at motor-homes and chose ones we would tour the world in (houses on wheels) and had lunch at a famous truck stop; Johnson’s Corner. https://www.johnsonscorner.com/ “Retro American diner & travel plaza opened in 1952 serving classic comfort food & cinnamon rolls.” In 1995, Johnson’s Corner was a location for the Hollywood movie “Larger than Life,” starring Bill Murray, Matthew McConaughey. The film was financially and critically unsuccessful. Not to worry the restaurant was good.
We not only had a large beautiful house but a good van to explore the Denver area with. This is why we love house exchanges; we get to live as if we were locals. So far, we have spent time in Denmark (six-weeks in the beautiful town of Ringkøbing), Spain (Noja), Berlin, a few places in the Netherlands, with many more coming up; two more Netherlands, a few in the UK, France and lots in the planning. We still do a lot of Airbnb. After nineteen years of travelling we have just begun, there is so much more to experience.
This was an especially easy place for us, our hosts left their car at the airport and we left it there again at the end. How easy is that? Again, I had hoped to find all the conspiracy images at Denver Airport but due to remodelling the walls were still covered. Obviously in preparation for a future alien invasion. We had an easy time through security – even got through with a few pounds over our fifty-pound suitcase limit.
My little special treatment for each flight; can’t go through the security scan because of my defibrillator/pacemaker thingy. They should let me choose which person gets to frisk me. ‘I will take that lady there please…the agent with the red stilettos, & the USA flag tattooed on her thigh …’ bloody ‘me-too’ movement put the kibosh on that didn’t they?
We arrived Newark at 1 pm with a six-hour layover on the way to Albany, New York. We had recently changed our Chase credit card to a different one, same United points setup, but about $50 a year cheaper than their other card. With it we get priority boarding which is great in the States. Unbelievable you Yanks. In Australia, as well as with international flights we get seven-kilos carry on. This includes all carry on, camera bag, computer bag, and all the other crap we drag around the planet that has to be at our beck and call at any moment (well me, I need a computer and our Nikon, and zoom plus other lenses, always, Narda seems content with just a Kindle and a passport – wow how thrifty) but in the States? Wow! Firstly, there does not seem to be a weight limit, secondly the size is close to a regular suitcase, plus the extra bag is equal to a large backpack. Then there are the service pets that the Yanks need to comfort themselves in these trying times. I have seen people barely able to lift their suitcases. This all makes it very difficult to get bags into the overhead once on the plane if there are a lot getting on first. Priority boarding put us up right behind the first-class suckers (no jealously intended). They also now wave foreign transaction fees (which has been costly in the past), give us free luggage check-in (saving $30/bag) and the other fantastic ‘reward’ with our new Chase card was that we had a free hangout in a United First-Class lounge, Over in the A section where you enter through security, near gates 27, 26. Newark Liberty International Airport, as you would know, is the worst airport in America, and is only 16 spots shy of being the worst airport in the world. It must be true, the report (study) is on the internet – https://njersy.co/2U0BIYu. Not to worry, we had the United Lounge thanks to Chase. It was wonderful; good soup, the cheddar broccoli was fantastic, lots of finger foods, salads, free alcohol (pity I stopped all alcohol in 2005, and Narda only had one glass of wine, now Narda is sleepy, but just the thought of unlimited alcohol made me a bit drunk with memories of when and why I don’t anymore), juices, coffee and on and on, good Wi-Fi, comfy seats. I was obviously a bogan (an Australian term, look it up) in the wrong setting but who cares? I had my stuff spread all over; computer mixed with food and drinks; clothing scattered about… Life is good. After six-hours we had to leave our natural habitat and go sit with the riffraff, waiting for our flight to the world-class-cosmopolitan city of Albany, New York.
At Albany Airport we rented a car for the week. Albany is an important place in our world. We lived there 2002 – 2006, teaching at Albany Academy for Girls and Albany Academy for Boys. That was a neat gig; Narda was the chair of performing arts and I was the chair of technology, for both schools. We even shared a small office; two chairs living the life. I also taught part time at the State University of Albany and at Russell Sage College, Troy. We were in the area for those years to look after my father who was in his late 90s (he hung out until he was 102 – https://neuage.org/100) I grew up (well, made a grand try of it) nearby in the town of Clifton Park, leaving there in 1964 when I was 17 to explore the world. The farm I grew up on is below, that is my brother and me on the barn roof. I think this was taken early 1960s. Now route nine is four lanes and the farm is all concrete with Cracker Barrel exactly sitting where our house once did. As usual when in this area we ate at Cracker Barrel and as usual I thought about what a change in sixty-years. Where I used to live I now eat – not so unusual – though in this case it is. Cracker Barrel is one of the few chain restaurants we go to. Not expensive and a good feed, especially when one is a vegetarian and the other eats roadkill.
We went to Oneonta, to visit my sister and her family for a couple of days. She is a very talented artist (https://omordah.com/). Narda sang with Susan’s dog Kota,
The Dog Whisper (video) https://bit.ly/2kq3dNO
we talked about our lives, explored the Oneonta area had lunch at some nifty cafe then drove back to our Airbnb in Clifton Park. We like going to this part of the world, having bought two one-hundred year old houses and renovating them https://neuage.org/house in the boutique historic town of Round Lake, New York. Returning to one’s childhood stomping grounds is a mind twister. I left when I was 16-17 years old, came back over the years to visit my parents in the 1960s, a few times in the 1970s, twice in the 1980s (once as a single parent with two children in tow; age six-months and two and half), 1992 (again with children following along), then not again until Narda and I moved there in 2002. As all places it has changed in my seventy years back and forth. Lots of suburbs, shopping centres, freeways. I grew up on a farm; they don’t seem to exist anymore. Clifton Park was established in the 17th century and named in 1707, not really a new burb. I went to Shenedehowa Central School. When I started in 1954, there were 1700 students for the whole school now there are more than 9800 students spread over a few campuses. Just an example of the growth of this area. Where I grew up there is a shopping centre. When I lived there Clifton Park had one small general store, the church I got dragged to for many years, and two pubs. The cemetery is there, though a bit shaggy. We went and saw my father’s, mother’s, and brother’s grave. There were several people raking up leaves. A couple of people remembered my parents and one fellow remembers my mum as his elementary school teacher in the early 1950s at the old school on Cemetery Road, just a hundred metres from the cemetery.
We sold our houses in Round Lake a few years ago. In our large house the new owners found a box of stuff I had left behind. Instead of tossing the content they wrote me so we went to visit and collect the box of stuff that should have been tossed. There were a lot of records from the early 1900s. I kept two for us and two for my son who likes to mix tunes in his studio back in Melbourne. This happened to us the last time we were there, a couple of years ago, several boxes of stuff we didn’t really want in the first place were waiting for us. Stuff that was more than a hundred-years old. Stuff that was never meant to be dragged across the world then down-under to Australia, but I did. More boxes in the shed laying in the trenches for declutter day. Or as I recently said to my son, good luck when we die sorting out our stuff. Of course, Narda and I know everything will be sent off to landfill. Four sons, no collectors. Where have we failed.
This has been another one of those ‘catching up’ trips. Everywhere we go. To add to our list we had dinner with several of Narda’s teaching mates from Albany Academy. By the end of the trip we would have caught up with six from our teaching days in China (in Denver, Colorado Springs, and in Florida), four from upstate New York, everyone Narda taught with during her five-years at St Lukes in NYC, as well as friends of mine since high school in the mid-1960s. As well as my sister and family, Narda’s sons, and other once-have-known people. A lot has to do with Facebook, keeping up with folks.
We also met an old fellow probably well into his 90s at De Voe’s Rainbow Orchard, there on Route Nine, Clifton Park, who remembers my father. DeVoe’s has been around since 1931. My father used to pick fruit since it opened. I used to pick fruit there too; apples and strawberries that I remember, in the 1950s and early 1960s. When we lived in the area 2002 – 2005 we used to go there for our fruit and vegetables. If you are in the area, get off the Northway (the freeway between Montreal and New York City) Exit 9, Clifton Park and go up Route 9 – it is right before Walmart. Tell them Terrell and Narda said hi.
By 26th May it was time to head toward our next adventure. We dropped off the rental car at Albany Airport and got a Lyft to the Albany/Rensselaer train station for the ride to DC. It stops for a change in NYC and got us to DC at 8.30 pm where Narda’s son, Chris, collected us. Amtrak is a better train than the Overland. We took the Overland from Adelaide to Melbourne recently (722 Kilometres) and the eleven-hour ride was good but there is no Wi-Fi, or electric outlets. Amtrak to DC from Albany (600 Kilometres) took about seven hours and we had Wi-Fi and we could charge our laptops. However, the Overland provided us with good meals, ( we paid extra for that) and the seats, though old, are comfortable with a lot of leg room. We love trains everywhere. The ride along the Hudson from Albany to NYC is great. We used to love taking that train in the winter when it was snowing.
The day after we got to DC we went to the Memorial Day Parade (see our one minute slideshow) https://bit.ly/2kCjmPY
The parade seemed a bit boring with mainly high school bands but still worth the watch. We walked many hours, following the parade and wandering around DC. There are many things that make DC amazing. One is Rock Creek that goes through the district. It was a ten-minute walk from Chris and Jessica’s house where we were staying to the creek. The park was created by an Act of Congress in 1890. It was only the third national park established by the U.S., following Yellowstone in 1872 and Mackinac National Park in 1875. Three-year old Liam would ride his bike alongside us, and it became almost a daily walk. One can be in nature, on a wooded trail following a mountain stream then be walking or bike riding to the White House, Capitol, museums all in a very short space of time.
Narda, Liam, Jessica, and Stuart at Rock Creek on one of our frequent walks.
Here is our one-minute slideshow of Rock Creek Park Sunday Walk. https://bit.ly/2lZzoUq
See our slideshow for the Smithsonian Museums, Smithsonian Museums https://bit.ly/2lCwHrP
Brendan, Narda’s son teaching in Pakistan, arrived on the third of June and we went to collect him at the airport. On the sixth the rest of the family arrived from Australia; Stuart (making the third son to be present in DC), Narda’s ex-husband and his wife. Narda’s birthday was on the eighth, making this her favourite birthday of all time: three sons, two husbands and a grandson. A couple of days later was Chris’ 40th birthday, the reason we are all in DC. We had Brendan’s 40th birthday in Phnom Penh a couple of years ago (we went to that and so did Stuart and the other husband), the next 40th will be my son, who lives in Melbourne. We haven’t sorted what to do for that yet. Stuart wants to have his 40th in Bali in a couple of years. Fact being, Narda and I may be getting old.
We drove Brendan to Union Station so he could catch a bus to Pittsburgh for a few days visiting a friend. Being near the capitol building we thought we would just park the car nearby and go catch a senate hearing. Life seems so simple before having a clue that there could be more than the original idea. Any original idea. Firstly, we were unable to find a place to park, obviously, and carparks looked expensive, and we saw a few tow trucks sneaking around looking for customers – like our car, so we just kept going away from the capitol. Going up Third Street or Third Avenue, not sure which now, we noticed it looked quite residential and folks were street parking with no meters or harassing signs to tell them to piss off. On Rhode Island and Third we shoved the car into a spot and headed out. As we needed a toilet (bathroom to the Yanks) and there were no shops anywhere within sight we saw a bus stop and thought that a random bus ride would get us to some place of relief. Along came bus number 96 and we got on having no idea where to. We have always enjoyed random bus rides in various cities and where this was going, we didn’t care as long as we saw a shopping centre or public loo along the way. Lo and behold the bus wound around hither and thither ending at Union Station, right where we had left Brendan a couple of hours earlier and a couple of blocks to the Capitol. The Hill and all that. Can’t recall but I think we found a loo which was our original mission – no doubt at Union Station.
There were long lines everywhere in the visitor’s centre, except at the international desk. We showed our Australian Driver Licenses and became our own little line, getting into the senate with seats to spare. Sucked in Yanks, waiting in lines. Apparently, if you are from the US of A you need to get a note from your representative, we don’t have one because we are foreigners.
Well, I am a duel citizen but we didn’t tell them. As long as I keep my mouth shut no one knows that I am from these woods. It was all quite boring as there was a vote being held on some person or the other taking on some position on some committee. The vote was in the 80s or 90s for and only 8 or nine against, so everyone seemed to like the dude. We got to see Chuck Schumer who we favour and Mitch McConnell (Moscow Mitch) whom we don’t. If we had done it all correctly, we would have gone to the Congress chambers. AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was there and they had a big vote about The Dreamers thing that has been in the news for quite some time. AOC, is my hero in politics at the moment.
We easily found the bus back to where we had parked, and that was our day on The Hill.
As Chris and Jessica’s house is so full we were lucky that we could get an Airbnb two houses away from them for a couple of weeks. We still spent most of the day together but how many family members fit into a three-bedroom house? Chris and Jessica were working on making their basement into an Airbnb while we were there, it is finished now, so if you want a great place at a great price a block from bus service, not far to DC central with all their buildings and the metro to everywhere, let us know. We have a good connection to help you out.
On Narda’s birthday we found that there was a gay parade so we went to see floats and folks dressed up. As it started rather late in the day we were there for only a bit and did not see much as we were all going to dinner for the birthday girl. This was good for lots of reasons for Narda. From 2002 – 2015 we were overseas (from Australia) on her birthday with only me around. Since being back in Australia we have had a few birthdays with her family though not with all her sons since 2001.
Birthdays are why we are here, not just us as humans on planet earth, we the visitors for family birthdays in Washington DC. One could say the main event was Chris’ 40th birthday. Or we could say the main event was Narda’s 65th. Or are we here to celebrate Father’s Day in the USA? (Father’s Day is in September in Australia). Or are we all here just to groove? Nonetheless, Narda’s birthday was first, not first as she is the oldest ever, but first on the list of celebrations. 8th of June. After twenty-years of gift giving I was having a difficult time finding the best next thing. Fortunately, in Denver, Kay and Frank had a nifty wine bottle top that chirped. (ChirpyTop Wine Pourer) Kay got me one and I was able to keep it hidden for a month in my bag. (they have some over at Amazon, so when you are purchasing one of my books and need a chirping wine pourer go to https://amzn.to/2lMfpZc) Nothing unusual about that except Narda is always repacking my bag and for a month I was constantly rushing to pack my bag. She thought I was taking responsibility for my packing, ha ha, the month is over. I always get her an Amazon voucher for her birthday and she buys books for her Kindle all year with it, so it was good to have something to go along with the usual. Of course, Narda’s best-ever birthday was because she had her three sons together. And a couple of husbands. One of Narda’s sons is a pastor and the previous Sunday (my rare times I go to church – with Narda to see her son) one of his congregation, thinking I was Chris’ father, made a mention of something and I said, ‘oh, that is her other husband’. So Narda’s three sons, her ex and his wife, Chris’ wife and the grandkid, Liam, Narda and me went for a walk along the beautiful Rock Creek that flows through DC, and in the evening went out for a great birthday dinner.
Narda’s three children, (Chris, Stu, Brendan) not such children now, watching the Adelaide Crows in a rare win early one morning DC time, evening game time in Adelaide. Or perhaps they were watching something else, as they have wine glasses, so maybe not early in the morning. Though I did see them with their father, Peter, one morning, five am, glued to the telly watching a Crow’s game.
Narda and I moved into the neighbour’s Airbnb leaving a crowded house for the others. It is great, we have meals together and spend the day tromping around DC. The Aussie males had a great first morning in DC, arriving Saturday, on Narda’s birthday; Stuart, Peter and Marion were just in time to watch the Adelaide Crows game that was being played Friday evening in Adelaide along with Chris and Brendan. And to make everyone happy the Crows won. In my Australian family the Crow’s situation makes the weekend around us. Narda and I are not really fans, though we went to a game once. There are two teams in Adelaide: Port Adelaide and the Adelaide Crows. Narda’s family are Crow supporters except for Chris who favours a team in Victoria. Funny how wins and losses can affect a family for a couple of days, and it spreads all the way to Pakistan. If the Crows lose, which they seem to do often, we can hear the groans all the way up to Pakistan with Brendan expressing his grief. I suppose it is like the Yankees and the Mets in New York. Being a New Yorker, I grew up liking the Yankees and even though I no longer follow professional baseball in the USA I still would be a Yankee fan if I were a fan of baseball at all.
By the 10th of June we were all settled for Chris’ 40th birthday. We had a nice family gathering at a Mexican place in town, and then on the following weekend, a party a block away at a pub that was decorated for us and Chris’ friends. All fun and party!!! As is always the case, Narda and I left and were home and asleep before ten, probably before nine thirty.
As it was the end of the school year, we all toddled off to watch Liam graduate from preschool in full graduation drag. They sure won’t do such a production in Australia. The excited family (Narda, Stuart, Brendan, Peter (ex), Chris, Jessica, Marian (ex’s wife) watching the event of the year with Liam expressing excitement beyond belief.
I spent a couple of days wandering around DC on my own. One show I particularly liked was THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH PRESENTS:
THE DONALD J. TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL TWITTER LIBRARY See the Washington Post on this at http://tiny.cc/46eybz
18 June Tuesday
The Washington Express Bus is cheap, $30, takes about 3.5 hours, has Wi-Fi, power points, and comfortable seats. I was so comfortable that I left my phone on the bus, rang them as soon as we discovered I didn’t have a phone on me (minutes – such is the importance of always being connected) but the bus had already left and they said come back the next day. Sure enough the driver had found my phone and once again I felt whole. Not that I lose stuff (every day)… outside of my phone at Red Rock Amphitheatre, Denver, a month earlier but I sort of left my laptop on the same bus company a year and a half earlier. We discovered so when we had gotten settled at Chris and Jessica’s house in December 2017. At midnight we drove to their depot in the back blocks of Jersey City, recovered the wandering computer, and got back home intact hours later. No point in going re. other items gone astray (some returned) over the years, suffice to say, Washington Express Bus is a good company.
Our flat in Bronx. OMG. Narda puts a lot of effort in finding us places to park. NYC was pretty much booked full due to gay month or some such gathering. Brendan was at a conference at Columbia University for this week, sent there by the American School of Lahore, so Narda was tasked with finding a place not too far. Brooklyn was too far, Manhattan too expensive and the Bronx, just right. The Goldie Locks of burbs; close enough to Columbia, affordable, transportation, local Bronx vibe. The apartment was a bit small, two small bedrooms, Narda suggested the boys could share one room and sleep foot to head. Of course, why not, the girls do (age 5 and 7) when we go camping in our caravan. Brendan took the coach, Stu the small bedroom and we took the master suite, meaning there was enough room to turn around in. We had a small, one person could fit, kitchen. And the lounge was large enough for us to sit in when Brendan wasn’t sleeping. Across the street was the local ambulance centre, 8 – 10 ambulances about the place when they weren’t sounding their sirens and roaming the Bronx. Next to our four-storey building were 25 storey projects, blocks of them. Being summer, the locals were sitting in front of the projects playing loud foreign Bronx music, until when, I don’t know, once the earplugs were in deep enough I could hear them but eventually would go to sleep, by morning it was qui except for the usual sirens, babies crying, dogs barking – just like in those TV detective shows. We, being fearless, would walk the fifteen minutes to the nearest subway, which was at Yankee Stadium. Even at night. We were the token whites for the hood, and everyone ignored us. We had a key lock outside of the building to leave the front door and our apartment door key in. One evening, Stuart had gone home earlier than us, and the keys were not in the ‘secure-keylock box’. Poor fellow had to wait quite some time for us. Narda rang the Airbnb owner who did not seem alarmed and said she thought she knew who would have it. Considering we each had a laptop (mine was one day old, Narda’s a couple of months old – both expensive) and our passports, money, etc were all inside, we were not impressed. Eventually someone let us in and we were all highly annoyed.
Growing up in New York, of course, I was a Yankees fan. My long-time friend, Marta, a Yankee fan, suggested we catch up at a game. The last time we had a quick breakfast with her when driving through Poughkeepsie, New York, a couple of years earlier. We have known one another since the mid-1960s, when she was my brother’s girlfriend and we try to catch up when we can. A few years ago, she wrote a book on my brother, which I was fortunate enough to contribute to. ‘The Art and Life of Robert J. Adsit’ (https://martawaterman.com/).
Narda and her two sons, Brendan and Stuart, had never been to a baseball game. I had stopped following baseball after my son, Leigh, pitcher the for the LA Dodgers, died in 2003 (a couple of weeks after turning 20), and for me this was closer to watch a game again. Since the age of ten, Leigh said he would play for the Yankees when he grew up, and he never got far enough in life to fulfil his goal.
We met Marta at a well-known eatery (I forgot the name) a block from the stadium. We were all excited. It was raining and we were worried the game would be stopped. Our tickets were the next to the last row at the top. Marta had said this was the best place as it was undercover in case it rained. Lucky us, the section in front of us, seats being in the $150 range were wet, our seats were $28 and dry. The game started at 8 pm instead of seven, after the rain stopped. Narda and I forgot to bring jumpers and getting cold we went to the stadium shop and found the cheapest jumpers, $75. In the future we forget about the cost and remember the experience. Well this is three-months later, I have the jumper on now, and still remember the cost. The Yankees were doing well, there were some homeruns, and we were all very happy. By 11 pm there were still a few innings to go, we were tired, Marta had a long way to go home to Woodstock, New York, so we left and discovered the next day the Yankees had won. If you would like to share the photos of our one-minute slideshow see them at http://tiny.cc/2kt2bz
We spent the rest of the week wandering NYC. I got to tell Brendan and Stuart stories from when I was a hippie in NYC in the mid-1960s; about 1963 – 1967, before I wandered on down to Florida, New Orleans and finally to California and Oregon ending the 1960s in Waikiki. (I saw myself as a beatnik at the time instead of the commercial hippie label). Whether everyone wanted to hear my stories or not they got them. I even got to show them St Mark’s Church on East 10th Street where I read poetry with famous poets such as Alan Ginsburg in a 1965 Fast for Peace reading. St Mark’s Place (East 8th street) was my stomping grounds in the 1960s and on the top of my list of places to see again and to show the family.
In her 400-year history of St. Mark’s Place (St. Marks Is Dead), Ada Calhoun called the street “like superglue for fragmented identities” and wrote that “the street is not for people who have chosen their lives … [it] is for the wanderer, the undecided, the lonely, and the promiscuous.” St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street.
‘A’ train to JFK to Florida arrived 7 pm, dinner at airport – Lyft to Lawrence’s.
Lawrence is our last house exchange for this three-month trip. We taught with Lawrence in China. He was a principal at our school. Lawrence helped me set up one of my most fun-filled positions at any school. I put together an inhouse television station. See sample of DAISlive at https://bit.ly/2ltar3z I still have Lawrence’s greenscreen and lights, they are in the shed for our little video studio that we use to make silly movies with the grandchildren. We spent a couple of weeks at Lawrence’s home. Because Lawrence belonged to the local country club nearby, we did a daily swim in a very warm pool. Our only mishap was when Narda picked up a hitchhiker – a tick, as we walked along the lakefront amongst the grass instead of going around on the road. This is the view from Lawrence’s backyard. I pulled out the tick (the photo has been censored, in other words, Narda doesn’t want me to share it with you – the tick waving from Narda’s leg), we put it in a jar, with its little antennas gyrating furiously, we went off to the nearest emergency room. Just to be sure we did not pick up Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, an infectious disease caused by a bacterium named Borrelia which is spread by these little buggers. We spent a good fifteen minutes at the hospital, the nurse looked at it, the doctor looked at it, prescribed an antibiotic, she did not want to see the still dancing tick in the jar, and, I watched the clock, spent a whooping five-minutes with the patient, Narda. The next person came in with the bill for us to pay on the spot. $1500. OK, we are insured but hey that is a bit rich. We were told the doctor bill would come separate, and it did, a few weeks later, $950. OMG! What a corrupt system the US medical institution is. If you have a calculator handy, let’s say the doctor sees 5 people an hour at about a thousand each, times five hours a day for a four-day week…. Gee, a new Bentley every month.
Around the lake there is a lot of wildlife. We heard that there was even a bear and a cub or two, but we didn’t see them. We did see deer that came up to the house and lots of birds that visited.
Our first trip was to the Cape Canaveral Coast https://bit.ly/2kgCbs6 We enjoyed our newish Mercedes, quite a luxury compared to the tug we drive back in Australia, Billy, who pulls our caravan, Holiday, around various destinations in Australia.
We had set out early in the morning having seen online that there was a space thingy launch. After finding a good spot along the coast someone passing by said it had been scrubbed. Nevertheless, we went to Cape Canaveral then on to Coco Beach which advertisements claimed to be one of the more famous/beautiful beaches, in the universe? Living in Australia, beaches everywhere, and having been on beaches on several Hawaii islands, as well as beaches in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and lots of other places, we were excited to go to a ‘must put on your bucket list’ that we saw advertised in many places. Wow what a dump. Sorry, just first and only impression. We went to their idea of a fancy pier, ‘It’s Not Just a Day at the Beach, It’s the Ultimate Beach Adventure! A historic landmark on Florida’s Space Coast, the world-famous Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier …’ Really? Last year we were at the Brighton Pier in the UK. Now there is a pier. We trotted out to the end of the pier; overpriced restaurants, wannabe pubs, generations XYZ struggling to look relevant. Nothing special. Nevertheless, I quickly added it to my bucket list so that I could cross it out. On the way to the coast is the beautiful Manatee Sanctuary Park, located at 701 Thurm Blvd. It is a 10-acre park that is set on the Banana River.
Lawrence’s daughter was still at home. Lawrence and the rest of his family were in Russia on a visit. She is attending her second year at University of Central Florida. It is the first time we have ever been in an exchanged home with someone still there. But what a lovely young person. Young people could take lessons from her in social skills. Perhaps growing up in Russia makes a difference. Having an academic family (mother has a school in Moscow that she can run from anywhere online; Lawrence has been a principal at a few international schools, and they are both teaching in Orlando.) She shared some meals with us (being a vegan was the first compatible thing) and was always willing to listen to us, something few people would do – respect us old tarts. She showed us around her university and gave advice of places to visit. Her name is Sasha, my son’s name is Sacha – and his mother is Russian so that was interesting. She also drives a new Subaru Outback, the same as my Sacha in Melbourne, same colour too. That is where the similarity stops, though Sacha is a hard working determined young person (well not quit so young – edging 40) and Sasha (maybe 20) is extremely determined, talking about what she wants to do her masters in, something mathematical and beyond our brain space. An example, we went away for a few days, coming home on the eve of the 4th of July, party time for most Americans, got home about eleven pm and she was at the kitchen table studying for an upcoming test. A young person not covered in tattoos, or on drugs, that values education above all and that had the time and patience for the likes of us. I didn’t know they still made them.
Slideshow for Orlando, Disney Springs, https://youtu.be/eg4iZ-DXhF8
We were not interested in Disney crap, which is what this area is all about. “Orlando, Florida, had 75 million visitors last year as the theme park mecca continued to be the most visited destination in the United States” Why? What is wrong with humans? OK, so I did take my kids to Disneyland in LA (twice) during my single-parent days, but that is because my friend Daniel Bushnell, who we were visiting (1985 & 1992) talked me into it. Suffice to say that Narda and I did not have interest in going to such an overrated overpriced thingy. Saying all that, Sasha recommended going to Disney Springs, which is a bit like a free Disneyland without the silliness. We even took one of their free buses to some Disney village place and back. There were OK restaurants there and lots of children wearing Disney hats, and their parents too.We took two more road trips. One to St. Augustine / Daytona Beach and the other to the west coast, see here for a one-minute or so, slideshow of our trip to and west coast of Florida, https://bit.ly/2lCu1dy
This picture, is the result of a very long trip in my world. I left home in 1964, before I turned 17. I had a few mishaps/missteps in life back in Clifton Park, New York / Shenendehowa Central School. Suffice to say that I left before completing tenth grade, not that I was doing well, I was a terrible student and the only subject that I passed was band. I took off on my motorcycle, ended up in Florida, not sure why in Groveland, but that is where I ended. When the next school year began, I was 17, sort of midway between tenth and eleventh grade, I signed up at Groveland School. My parents must have funded me, I don’t think I worked. Believe it or not, my apartment became a hangout for teenagers. I think there was some beer and females involved, short story shorter, my academic career came to a grinding halt, I lost my apartment, so I went to Key West, Florida. This is in my book, ‘Leaving Australia’ available from Amazon. I remember reading an article when I was there that Disney was buying up land in the area for another Disneyland. If only I had bought land, there then… so on our trip to Englewood we had to go through Groveland. I think I remembered something or the other but where I lived, who knows? The original school had burnt down (no it wasn’t me) but I had to return to the place where my life was a bit shabby. Here I was parked in front of where I once was a crazy teenager, now with a new Mercedes (OK, not mine, but still I was driving), and with a PhD. I had my tenth grade education until I was in my mid-40s then did the long haul of seventeen years of school in Australia, getting my BA in journalism, Honours in Children’s literature, and Masters in communications from Deakin University in Melbourne, then the seven year stretch of completing a PhD at the University of South Australia. A few years later I got a teaching degree too.
Thanks Australia, you’re the best. And of course, hooking up with the supremely cool and popular, all-star wife, Narda and my groovy son, Sacha. And I am only 72, just starting this exciting trip called life.
Back on track… we were on our way to Englewood to see Sean and Jean, whom we worked with in China for a few years. We saw them last in Myanmar (remember the photo of us with them and our friends in Colorado; Kay and Frank, all of us on motorbikes, earlier in this short narrative?) and as this trip seems to be a reunion of people we have worked with a couple of more were on the ticket. (this must be a reunion year as we will be seeing our friends; Tim and Agnes, in Chiang Rai, Thailand in a few weeks)
On the fourth of July we went up to Tarpon Springs to visit Kathleen and Jimmy. Kathleen, I have known since my strange days at Shenedehowa, she was my girlfriend back in tenth grade before misadventures/missteps/mishaps found me headed to the wonderful town of Groveland in 1963. The wonders of Facebook, we had gotten in touch about ten years ago, forty-five years after last seeing one another. We caught up for a dinner a couple of years ago in Clifton Park, New York, and we were planning to stay a couple of days this time in Tarpon Springs. Unfortunately, it did not work out and we only had lunch at a very nice seaside restaurant. Also unfortunately we do not have any photos of our visit, but of course we all look the same as we did back in 1963 so if you have the Shenendehowa Yearbook for 1963, as I do, you can see how we still look the same, except my hair is a tad bit longer, there is some grey shit sneaking into my once beautiful black hair, now brown through no fault of my own, and I am more educated, somewhat.
Knowing we had a five-hour drive ahead of us, and it being fourth of July, we left as darkness overtook our visit. It was an interesting drive with fireworks throughout the night especially when we got into the Disney-Madness area there were fireworks welcoming us back to Orlando on both sides of the highway and in front of us. When we got home around eleven pm, they were still going off in our neighbourhood, as I mentioned earlier, Sasha was home studying for an exam when we came in.
We had a few down days, going to our local pool and gym and getting caught up on writing. I completed two more books and made them available on Amazon;
(https://tinyurl.com/y29ygazd) published 05/July/2019 in eBook & Print Edition (664 pages) As with all Amazon books read the first ten % free.
In my world a biggie as I have spent a lot of hours over this past year, including three-months on this trip getting them finished so it was all making me feel a bit accomplished.
It is terrible with the gun stuff in the USA, one marketing tool that was creepy we saw was a gun-proof backpack for children. It was quite heavy and for $250 seemed a strange way to protect a child. Firstly, children’s backpacks are heavy as it is. I watch Mabel, age 5, and Maggie age 7, with their backpacks and they seem to weigh as much as the child carting them about. Then what is a child to do? Someone starts shooting at them and they put their heavy bag in front of them to stop the bullets?
We did one last road trip up the east coast to St Augustine, the oldest city in the USA. The area was first spotted on April 2, 1513 by Spanish dude, Juan Ponce de León. The city grew, the Spanish killed off lots of Indians with Smallpox and Measles and were themselves raided in karmic led attacks by pirates and the Brits and various other unfriendly folks. Nearly a century of conflicts and raids convinced the Spanish that a strong fort was needed at St. Augustine. In 1672, the Spaniards began construction on the Castillo de San Marcos, creating the fort as a barrier to enemies. The structure still stands today. That is the history lesson for now.
On the way to St. Augustine we stopped at Daytona Beach. I had only been here once, back when I had left home in 1964. I had gone to Daytona Beach for a holiday – perhaps that is not the exact narrative, I don’t remember why I was there but I was walking through town along the boardwalk thinking of sleeping on the beach at night as I had little or no money for a hotel, and at the time did not have a house to exchange and there were no Airbnbs, if I had money. Short story shorter, police stopped me, put me in jail for vagrancy, so I had to call my parents for money to go wherever I was headed in life at the time. This was another one of those closure moments. Hey Dayton police, look at me, driving a Mercedes through your ungrateful town. Meaning they were not grateful for someone returning and spending money in their town (we had lunch).
We took the scenic route from Daytona Beach up to St. Augustine along route A1A along the coast, so much better than the freeway which we took back to Orlando from St. Augustine. Hurricane Matthew in 2017 wiped out much of this road and it is currently going through a rebuild, especially at Flagler Beach where it is slow moving but interesting to see. Lucky for this area Hurricane Dorian, September, 2019) came close but did no more damage. Check for hurricanes before driving along here, otherwise, enjoy.
With a few days left in our USA odyssey we flew back up to DC to say a final goodbye to Chris, Jessica, and Liam. When we were at Chris’ birthday party at the local pub, I got to talking with the neighbour who gave us his Airbnb for a couple of weeks, and he said that he was a bell ringer at the Washington National Cathedral. I said we would love to see the bells and the cathedral, and we made arrangements for when we came back after Florida to get the tour.
In morning went to Washington National Cathedral with Alex for an hour and a half – walked around the cathedral. If you don’t look at any of our slideshows do check out this video of the bell ringing tour we had, https://tinyurl.com/y4ydfdym
Simply amazing. He has been a bell ringer here for more than a decade, including a four-hour session on the fourth of July. He knows about what places in the world have bells, such as knowing which cathedrals in Adelaide had them. This is not a common gig in the world as most places have recorded bells ringing. Also, this is not one of the tours on offer by the Washington National Cathedral, making us feel special, well we always do, but this was extra special. We were up in the tower overlooking the city, even went out on the roof. Did you know that the CIA/FBI have listening devices and cameras straight across to the Russian Embassy from where we were? Of course, we are not admitting or denying that we know anything about this. It could have just been something we saw once in a comic book. Or not.
And that is it. One other thing, we do not eat out much, my crazy dietary desires/wants/requirements (vegetarian, low-carb, organic, blessed by a Tibetan monk/Hippie minstrel, and all the rest) along with our opposition to tipping (hey, if you come to Australia, don’t tip, it is not done here, no no no) precludes our eating out, but because it is Liam’s favourite place we did a few times have Chipotle’s takeaway. No tipping, inexpensive, immigrant-flavoured dishes, vegetarian options. I personally only had the food twice as it is high-carb and my blood sugars went to high, plus it is not blessed by a Tibetan monk or Hippie minstrels. But if you want a good feed Chipotle is OK.
That was our little trip. As I got several of my books from Amazon delivered to Chris’ house, we had them in our luggage. When we opened our suitcases in Adelaide, we saw that they had been thoroughly inspected. My books were separated from their lovely envelopes. What did they think were in these packages? As we have been watching Queen of the South on Netflix, we thought obviously we look the part of drug mules. Saying that, if you get the opportunity to see a great movie, see The Mule, directed and starring Clint Eastwood, I would say his best flick.
See ya next time. Next week we will be in Thailand, taking the train up from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, spending a month in Sri Lanka, couple of weeks in Pakistan visiting with Narda’s son, Brendan, then back to Thailand for a couple of weeks. Just a nine-week trip instead of our usual three-months. Perhaps, we are getting older and need more time at home. No that would not be correct as we are home for two months for Christmas when hopefully Narda’s three sons come and my son Sacha and his partner are here then to The Netherlands for three months. Follow our blogs to see if we are in your neighbourhood somewhere in the world. Cheers Narda and Terrell
In the Aljazeera interview today 16 September, 2019, with Imran Khan “Imran Khan on ‘genocide’ in Kashmir and possible war with India” Khan said he could see Pakistan starting using nuclear weapons against India – we will be there in a month – hey mate, wait for us… https://bit.ly/2lXohv9
Video for this Hong kong trip is at http://youtu.be/aUYG8gn72MQ
Macau two weeks later or last week http://youtu.be/AzaiYZU3zZk
I was having a quiet Friday evening watching thoughts drift by of what to do on the upcoming weekend. Sort of a quiet day. We arrived home at noon from a week in Xi’am seeing Terracotta Warriors, a Great Wild Goose Pagoda (go figure), peddling a bike around on top of a wall going around the city and merging with so many Chinese on holiday during 国庆节 (Chinese National Day) in a very polluted city of less than a trillion people though it seemed as if there were more than a trillion people in Xi’am frantically searching for a clean air-molecule or two. I personally had not found any and for the most part had held my breath for five days to avoid clogging up my airways. See a previous blog at http://wp.me/scHIf-xian
Though I do not think that holding my breath for five days had anything to do with what would happen next.
We had finished dinner and being a bit hungry I was in the kitchen looking for more. As we had been away for a week there was not much but I had found something which at the moment I forget what but as I took a step I passed out and came to on the floor a few seconds later. Narda was standing next to me and thought I had slipped and fell. When I came to I was quite disorientated or more disoriented than usual may be more accurate. And confused to add. Having never had passed out, or at least not in a self-propelled way as I may have on occasion done when I was past my youth but not quite to maturity – some time in a seemingly very distant past, this was all new territory.
I had a sore knee from twisting my leg on the way done and not being conscious to stop myself I had not grabbed anything to slow my descent – OK so it is not like parachuting from a great distance in the stratosphere but it is still a long ways to the floor when the microwave is at eye level one second and the floor the next. I pulled the dishwasher out of its place so I did go down with a thud. It was not a near-death experience because there was no tunnel with angels and whats-his-name at the end shoving me quickly back into the physical so I could constantly work off whatever karmic dept to the universe I seem to be laboring at.
Narda was concerned. I was confused. I assured her that obviously I just slipped on some butter that was on the floor but for whatever reason there was no apparent sign of butter when I went to show her. I said not to worry to her running for her phone to ring the Beijing SOS clinic so they could ring our doctor who actually lives here in Campus Village but we are not to go banging on the doctor’s door but have to go through protocol. Narda has in large print on our door the SOS clinic telephone number because, yes, we have used it before – see http://wp.me/pcHIf-eS when for some reason I seemed to have become unstuck after eating something and within fifteen minutes of her calling Beijing I was in the emergency room of our clinic (two floors below us) and with a drip into my arm. This seems to be my year for medical stuff I think.
To keep Narda happy, which as a useful husband type of tip I can offer, by saying it is always a good thing to keep one’s wife a bit on the happy side if at all possible. Of course that has to be balanced in a sensible and creative way though the sensible part I must admit I have yet to master but the creative part I have down really well. I just say ‘yes dear’. Nevertheless Saturday morning we took the elevator from our third floor apartment to the first floor and walked past the lobby to the clinic. We call life here ‘assisted living’ and any teacher living at Campus Village would agree. Doctors rotate every eight weeks and on this eight week rotation we had our really great doctor, Wilhelm. Steve our other rotating doctor, and the one who looked after me when I had my bit of food poisoning episode is fantastic too. Wilhelm did lots of tests on me from blood letting to EKG and the like and was so concerned he thought maybe I should stay in the clinic for the weekend or at the least to take it easy. I chose the latter and played softball with our school team against the local Taiwan mob as we do each Sunday. I did a bit lighter weights for the next couple of days and no free weights of rather heavy; heavy for me as I am 66, just 60 kilos (132 pounds) that I have been building up from, but taking Wilhelm’s, I thought overly-cautious, approach, I only did the attached weights. I did not swim either as he was concerned I would pass out in the pool and that could pose a problem. I went to work as usual because I love work, I love creating and teaching film and just having a great time with technology. I surely had no intentions of staying home and being old.
Wednesday I was sent into Dalian to the Vitup Hospital and had an ultrasound and a halter-cardiac monitor attached to wear for 24-hours. I felt light headed and a bit wobbly and a bit spacy but that is pretty much how I feel most of the time anyway and have since the 1960s so I am quite use to it except the degree for normal behavior that I have enjoyed or not enjoyed at times for the past 40 years was increased though not enhanced. So of course being the verbal person I am I told my doctor I was not quite the same in the head as I was and he seemed a bit more concerned and started talking about maybe going to Seoul or Hong Kong for a bit of a more thorough check-up. I thought I could do the same in Beijing but he was not so confident. Over the next few days the talk became more of you need to go to Seoul or Hong Kong with Hong Kong being the doctor’s choice. I was in favor of Seoul because it is one hour away and a cheaper flight whereas Hong Kong is 3.5 hours direct flight and twice the airfare. I was still doing my weights and Friday morning we rode bikes to our local shopping area before school and on the weekend I played softball and went to the dentist.
Another week went by and another and by the 23rd of October, almost three weeks since kissing the floor of the kitchen we were on a flight to Hong Kong.
We were booked into the Adventist Hospital 40 Stubbs Rd, Hong Kong and staying at The Emperor Hotel in Happy Valley. On the way in from the airport the taxi dude said this was a very busy night to drive to our hotel as the races were on and it was Oktoberfest. Our hotel was like a five minute walk to the The Hong Kong Jockey Club. Yes this is an actual photo of our walk-in and somehow we managed to get up the stairs and into the stands.
The cost to get in was 10 Honk Kong dollars ($1.29 US). I was mixed up with feelings; I was getting tested 9 AM the next morning and possible surgery as a result of it, I just wanted to be back at work. Who wants to be at work? Here we were in Hong Kong at the races, except if things went a certain direction I could be cactus in a few days. I listened closely to my heart – not in a romantic way where I am all goo goo because I am spending a night with this kool chick from Australia – oh wait that is my wife, and of course that is romantic an all but what I was listening to was whether my heart was physically doing the correct thing and thumping away like a normal heart should – and it sort of was but not completely. I wanted to relax and enjoy the moment. I had only ever been to horse races twice in my life. Once Narda and I went to the races in Saratoga, New York. (you know that song by Carly Simon “You are so Vain”?
“Well I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won…”
Of course we own houses in Round Lake just a fifteen minute drive from Saratoga Springs and I grew up a short distance from there too but I only ever went to the races the one time with Narda. Another time Narda and I went to a race in Adelaide, South Australia and that is it. We made a couple of bets when at the Saratoga track but I do not recall whether we won. This time Narda said “let’s place a bet‘.
First of all we had no idea what to do, secondly we could not get the folks at the betting counter to understand what we wanted. They did not speak English and we did not speak whatever they spoke. We watched for awhile and by race three we decided it was time to jump in. Narda picked by numbers – the number 23 because it was October 23, we were on the 23 floor of our hotel, we sat in row 23 on the plane and there was some other times the number came up so she picked a horse with a 23 to one odds. I looked out in the paddock or whatever they call the area they warm in and one horse was just not in sync. It would rear its head, go the opposite direction of the other horses and just was generally ready to take off. I thought that if I were a horse that is exactly how I would act, a bit of all over the shop type of animal, so I picked horse number five. Feeling not lucky, how could I? I was off for heart inspection in a day I was conservative and put 10 Hong Kong dollars on horse number five, the same amount Narda put on the horse with a 23 to one odds. Horse number five, King Derby, was behind all the other horses most of the race. Coming around, I think they call it the clubhouse turn – or at least where all the stands are, I could see horse number five go to the outside of all the horses and just pass them right to the crossing line when it drew level then passed the lead horse, to win. The odds were like four to one so we ended up with 44 Hong Kong dollars which paid for our two bets, the entrance fee for both of us and with a bit of a top up there was enough left for me to purchase a small carton of soy milk. I did not want to bet on another horse because I did not want to leave as a loser which could have happened.
Being Oktoberfest the crowds were probably larger and more rowdy than usual but never having been there before I am not sure. There was a time when we were trying to get out, with me holding on tight to my winnings, and Narda holding tight on to me that we did not move in any direction. I was of course thinking about my heart when I should have been thinking about my luck. Narda had said “just think if we had put down our houses and any cash we had anywhere in the world and then maybe even had borrowed some. We could retire.” Retire? I was wondering if I was going to get out of the racecourse. What if my heart played silly buggers and took me out right here? I was so pinned in if I died I would have died upright (“he was an upright citizen”) and no one would know. There would be no sound of my winnings hitting the ground, no last words heard amongst the blasting music from someone announcing a winner in a drawing, not even Narda would know for a few moments as she was pinned in too. We were all frozen together on a warm Hong Kong night.
Yes of course eventually we got back to our hotel, I am writing this a couple of weeks later and I think I am still alive. As a matter of fact next week today we will be back in Hong Kong and I will be getting a bunch of tests to continue on with what I will say befell me whilst in Hong Kong back at the end of September. So yes, I believe I am alive. Still! Still as in quiet compared to my pre-Hong Kong self.
The next morning, Thursday, I was off to Adventist Hospital to get tests. I met Dr. King the cardiologist who was going to sort me out and I was sent off for eight tests. In Australia when I go to the heart centre and see my cardiologist each year the visit lasts about ten minutes, this has been going on for about a decade. He takes my pulse, does a couple of readings and sends me on my way with a sentence or two of advice. I thought this would be the same, just pop in – OK spending a couple of thousand of dollars to go and get that advice wasn’t what I wanted but Dr. Wilhelm thought it was important. I liked Dr. King. He had a sense of humour, was good at explaining and said he would arrange for a few tests. Then and there. All day Thursday. Seven or eight tests. A stress test on a treadmill with lots of monitors and beeping machines as the endurance speed and difficulty were increased to a point where the machines made more frequent noises and I felt worse. Then on to blood tests, a PET thingy (Positron Emission Tomography). In this test, I had a radioactive dye injected so that my heart showed on the scan. Laying down I was shoved into a doughnut-shaped machine to have images taken of my heart. When the dye went through there was a hot sensation going through my body which was not good. Being claustrophobic from an incident in my adolescence I spent about an hour in semi-panic. But the worse was yest to come; the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Laying down on a table inside a long tube-like machine that produced a magnetic field and again feeling quite claustrophobic with large banging sounds each time the magnets did whatever they did. I had a heavy plastic mask put over my face either because I was too ugly for the nurses to look at or to protect me from I know not what. It was like a helmet players of American Gridiron games wear. When I lived in the States we called it football but in Australia they say gridiron as footy is what Australians play and football is soccer some places but no matter what the sport having one on and being inside a tube fastened down was not fun. What was worse than the banging noses was some weird background music. Someone playing the same piano piece over and over. This went on for an hour. There is a button to push if one gets too stress and at some point I did and they took me out of the tunnel. I sat up said it was all a bit too much and being sympathetic nurses they smiled, took my helmet face mask off for about ten minutes put it back and and shoved me back for more noise and said this time it would be only for another fifteen minutes which somehow I endured. There was another test which I do not remember the name of where I was hooked up to several monitors and laying down they wanted to shove me into yet another machine. There was some problem with it because I have a very irregular heart beat and on their monitor it showed my pulse in such a low range – low in the teens – that the technician in charge got a bit worried. I told her it was her machine that was malfunctioning and not me. She said she had never had a problem with the machine and that maybe something was drastically wrong with me. She called in several other people and they all looked at me then the machine and they all looked a bit worried. I said it was their machine that sucked. Fortunately one technician had enough sense to physically take my pulse and she was relieved and I commented that it was their machine. They hooked me up to another machine and that seemed to work better. Actually this test was before the PET thingy because they had already put the dye into me and they had to have their monitors working before shoving me into the PET thingy. They said the new PET thingy could work with people with irregular hear beats like mine but there was only one of the newest machines and that was at Sanatorium Hospital, which incidentally was across the street from where we were staying and had a view of the horse racecourse. I of course volunteered to be tested there as being surrounded by 5 or 6 concerned, worried, semi-confused technicians, nurses and doctors was giving me the heebie jeebies. Someone rang Dr. King and someone said OK, probably the same person and it was all back on with me being put into the Pet thingy. There was the CT scan and the Ultrasound and a 24-hour wearing a halter-cardiac device all to find out what was in (too much calcium?) and what was out with what could be wrong with me if indeed anything was wrong.
We had spent about eight hours in hospital with me poked and prodded and early evening we finally got to go back to our hotel. Being told to take it easy and with my 24 hour halter-cardiac device with plugs stuck to various parts of my body firmly in place we took double decker buses around town. Being situated in Happy Valley which is a hub or the start of several double decker buses gave us a lot to choose from.
We just rode, got off; everything looked too Chinese for us – it was like being in China – oh wait maybe we still were – and got back on another one. The evening was so warm. We sat on the top deck and took lots of video which at some point will show up on my youtube channel.
Friday we were back to the hospital in the morning to hear the good news; that I was fine, the tests showed that I had had a bit of indigestion and we could go back home Sunday on our booked flight and be back to work on Monday with a bit of an expensive three day break from school. We figured since we were in Hong Kong we would make the best of it and spend the rest of the day Friday and Saturday wandering around Hong Kong. Maybe try to squeeze in a boat trip to one of the islands.
Well that didn’t work out did it?
Dr. King said that I had a few narrow arteries filled with calcium and that I would need surgery. He said until he put a catheter into my arteries he would not be sure but I would need at least three stents. He went over what the procedure was about and that Sunday would be good to do it. Being a Seventh Day Adventist Hospital they were not in full swing on a Saturday. I think Saturday is their Sunday. Go figure. Nevertheless with this not so groovy news we set up for Sunday to be a day of no-fun. I was to check in Saturday night – OK so they let people check-in Saturday but operations get put off until Sunday. I was listening to Janis Joplin sing ‘Another piece of my heart’ in my head and wondering whether I should make this my phone’s ring-tone.
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart now…”
Of course like everyone I have my brush with fame story; Janis Joplin. Back in 1969 I was almost run over by her in her Porsche. I knew it was her. We all knew that car as she sped around San Francisco. I use to go and listen to her at the Fillmore and in Golden Gate Park and I still listen to her when I am lifting weights at Campus Village at Dalian American International School 44 years later. Strange how things stick in one’s mind but I always remember that moment and how close I almost came to my end then but didn’t and she did not long after and here I am writing about her instead of her writing about me. Not that she would but perhaps if she had lived and I had been knocked over I could have featured in one of her songs and she could be tweeting about how even now 44 years later she remembers that moment. But of course that is all silly to think of now when I am writing about something totally different. My heart.
We went off to the billing department and they said we would need to get in touch with our insurance company to get pre-approval and that of course there should not be a problem with that. Having had problems with our insurance company for the past three-years we were not that confident. Someday I will put into writing the name of our insurance company but as we need them now and in the near future we will just say ‘our insurance company’. We rang the insurance company from the hospital and they said to send them a bill for the pre-approval. We took a peek at the future bill (the tests were only in the $3000 plus range) and sort of gasped. Seventy-thousand plus (not Hong Kong dollars but USA dollars) for a night in the hospital plus a few stents tossed in. I was thinking the insurance company would be better off paying off my fifty-thousand dollar death coverage than to pay this but over and over we have been told that we have a really good insurance company. Yeah right! So we went back to our hotel and wrote Dalian American International School to say we will not be back until Wednesday as I am having a bit of surgery on Sunday and I need to rest for two days so we will fly back Tuesday night and I would be back at work on Wednesday. Narda and I wrote and sent lesson plans for the extra two days.
Friday night we made multiple phone calls to both the China and the USA departments of our insurance company. This spilled into Saturday when we were told over and over that it would all be cleared up in a couple of hours and we would get the go ahead. By late Saturday afternoon we had to cancel the Sunday surgery as we had still not gotten the OK. All day Saturday we rang speaking to one person after another each saying it would be a matter of a couple of hours because anything over fifty-thousand dollars had to go to an underwriter. We went to Stanley Market and did a bit of shopping and then we discovered we had to move out of our hotel because Sunday night was booked out. We had planned to fly back to Dalian Sunday. Happy Valley was getting to feel like home and of course just a couple of days earlier we had our big win at the local track so moving was not going to be fun especially when our insurance company was being mean to us. One person, she was a supervisor, suggested we go to Florida because I could have the same operation done for about 45-thousand. We could not believe someone, especially a supervisor, suggesting we fly from Hong Kong to Florida to save the insurance company money. We did find a hotel; L’Hotel Island South http://www.lhotelislandsouth.com/eng/front/ and it was really a good four-star place. We got a room with the mountain view on the 32nd floor and thought OK if this is where we have to bunker down for a long time this will be it. We moved in Sunday afternoon still getting phone calls saying it would just be another couple of hours.
Narda was emailing everyone she could find in the insurance company and still at mid-night Saturday she was ringing and emailing. Finally someone said that the underwriters don’t work on weekends and that we should know within a couple of days when they got back to work on Monday. It was looking more and more like we were going to be stuck in Hong Kong for awhile. Sunday we went to Aberdeen and found a great little restaurant on Old Main Street, Myanmar Thai Palace We are going to Myanmar for Chinese New Year in January to see our ex-workmates; Frank and Kay and we are going over with Jean and Sean so it will be quite the crazy week. There in Myanmar. Going back to L’Hotel Island South we took a nap in the afternoon and at 5 pm we got a phone call that the insurance company had approved it. One of the many people Narda had phoned had pushed the whole thing through. Actually it was the head of customer service, a man in India that Narda has contacted many times to sort out situations from the past. Nothing major just some basic tests we get done every year to be sure we are functioning well, stuff like that. The amount of work the insurance company goes through to get out of paying anything is always remarkable. But this one dude on a Sunday morning had gotten through where no one else was able to and got us moving forward.
Arrangements were made for me to check into the hospital on Monday morning and have surgery late in the afternoon. We went back to the Myanmar Thai Palace for dinner, sat along the river and wondered what would happen next. I was a tad bit nervous about the whole thing. Having been an astrologer for forty-years and having stopped looking at planetary positions a decade ago I thought I would have a peek for old times sake. Nothing looked too good and if I were to believe in astrology again I could easily have made some linkage. Uranus was in 9 degrees and 34 minutes Aries which is fine as it was trine my Venus at 10 degrees Leo meaning quick and successful surgery. But the real indicator of all the fuss was and still is Saturn at 13 degrees and eight minutes Scorpio so exactly square my Saturn conjunct Pluto at 13 degrees Leo an eight minutes. And yes you saw it too; square my Venus.
Hello! Wow is this so possible?
Saturn takes 28 years to get to this position and to have Uranus in trine to my Leo planets (Venus, Saturn Pluto, Sun, Mid Haven, Part of Fortune) is statistically almost impossible – maybe the planets get in this position every few thousand years. Lucky me. Jupiter was still in trine with my Jupiter – separating two degrees so that was helpful. Pluto (is that still being used as a planet now that it has been kicked out as a planet?) was inconjunct or quincunx to my Venus and of course square by nature of the qunicunx to Uranus at the time. If I were to believe in this stuff I would have been alarmed that transit Saturn was conjunct Mercury (was there some bad advice being given?) meaning that both planets were squaring exactly my Saturn Pluto conjunction (I used to give presentations and wrote some articles on the Saturn Pluto conjunction in Leo being the symbol of the baby boomers. All that free-love (Leo – heart) with Pluto overthrowing Saturn. I had really lengthy examples and proofs sort of back in the day. Now I just ramble on and no one has a clue what I am talking about. Narda just popped in, she watches all these medical shows; 13 years without fail she watched ‘ER’ and now she is going through season after season of Grey’s Anatomy. She loves all this medical and I don’t. I have never watched any of them.
So Narda asks what I am writing about and I am sitting here with the astrology chart for 28 October on her iPad and I am saying I don’t believe any of this anymore and she says if you did what would that chart say?
See this is what I mean. I tell her and basically all I can say is that it means what actually happened. I did not need the symbolism of astrology to know something was going wrong. OK one more thing; the Moon was in Leo. Holy Cow! There is the moon sitting on top of my Sun dragging all those influences into being. Saturn as Saturn does, delayed and made us go crazy and of course having calcium in my arteries is well explained by Saturn squaring my Saturn in Leo – ruler of the heart. For a couple of decades I was really into medical astrology even to the point of making magic potions and elixirs for people based on their rising sign and the position and aspects to their ruling planet. I was sort of known for this in New Orleans when I was a street artists. I use to drink a lot of lemon grass tea as that was suppose to be a Venus ruled herb and Venus rules my astrology chart (Libra rising with Venus being strongest by being in the 10th house and having so many aspects). Another interesting point is that at the time of surgery for Hong Kong at 4 pm there was Aries rising with Uranus in the first house and the fifth house – the house of the heart – being ruled by the heart sign, Leo, so all my Leo points and planets were in the fifth house during the surgery. I use to love astrology but it got in my way and there was a time I could not just live my life but had to do astrology charts on everything. It was when Leigh killed himself (http://neuage.org/leigh.htm) that I just could no longer use astrology. I was not seeing reality but was off following symbols that were based on interpretation and I got caught interpreting life through my eyes and wants and I missed what was really going on.
The Adventist Hospital being a vegetarian hospital seemed so natural. It went along with what was roughly my life-long life: hippie communes in the 1960s, eating vegetarian foods for the past 45 years, being in a new age cult group for a decade, various religious and philosophical beliefs embraced then discarded over the decades each pushing the vegetarian life style, being a tofu manufacture for eight years in South Australia – see my slowly evolving e-book http://neuage.us/tofu/ There was even a time when I was going to build a big tofu factory – compared to the small tofu factory I had for eight years – and sell to the Seventh Day Adventists in Australia. It is all quite remarkable and now here I was lying in a bed with needles in my arm and an oxygen thing in my nose and eating wonderful vegetarian food. The food was so good I kept ordering more off of the menu. The staff there must have thought that I had not eaten for days.
Every few minutes nurses would come in and take my blood pressure, give me some medication, take pulses and I would ask to see the menu again. At four pm I got rolled down the hall all neatly snug in my bed with my lame looking gown on and things hanging out of me and over me. Not that I see many hospital movies but times that I have passed through the lounge and Narda has one on there is always some poor joker on a bed being wheeled into surgery. Now I was one of them. I looked around for the camera crew and the make up artist but I was put into the operation theatre with little fan fare. Narda could not even come in. To make matters worse I was not given some really nice powerful mind altering drug. All they did was put some local numbing agent on my arm where they were shoving a needle up my vain and into arteries around my heart. I could see what was going on with three big screens in front of me and none of it looked to comfortable. Actually I was very uncomfortable and kept hearing ‘you have to lay still’. I never sit still and never lay still but I was trying. All the time my chest was feeling like a heart of elephants were doing a ballad on top of it. It was all so uncomfortable and there were so many people with jobs. I counted 9 at one time. But this is China. There are always a mingling mob for each job. I think it is called full employment. Everyone looked quite concerned and busy with their tasks at hand. Of course they all spoke in some language that I was not familiar with. If only I had taken those Chinese language courses offered at our school. Narda and I did one and we sort of never got back and here we are three years later not knowing anything.
I tried to take my mind off of what was going on by thinking about useful stuff. Like my lesson unit – that put me to sleep and they said I had to stay away so I thought of places I had lived, things I had done. Most of all I wondered if these people had a clue of what they were doing. I thought about various stuff I had believed in during my time on this planet and wondered if everyone changes their beliefs as often as I do. I suppose it is a times like this when someone is shoving rods into the heart that the question and importance of life become forthcoming. Unfortunately I did not get any insights. I no longer do. I think it has to do with our school taking on Standards. It makes people stupid; both teachers and students alike. We are losing the creative aspect and teaching sameness and in-fusing it into bland world of massive robotic proportions. I use to believe in reincarnation, astrology, evolution and all that kind of stuff.
Now I believe we are just the fodder, unripe food for the next wave of people/machines which of course will be combined and already has its start with Google Glass and other wearable tech things. My son Sacha said if I could wait a few years they would just send in an army of nanobots to clean stuff up and stitch the veins. I could have main vain veins with a search engine embedded that would scour the world’s medical knowledge and new procedures and not only find but implement the procedure and create the fixings by combining DNA strands various cellular molecules and have nanobots fly out of my ears and go off to factories in distant places maybe on another planet or asteroid get what was needed and arrive back to my body and go to the factory somewhere in my body and fly off to the part of my body that needed fixing and life would be beaut. I could have a whole nano-factory built somewhere in my body and a constant movement of things fixing and improving throughout my body as I lifted weights at the gym and listened to Janis Joplin.
These are the kind of things I think about when laying on a bed in a operating room with masked people speaking in a language I did not understand and hopefully they shared as they at times spoke in hurried phrases then a few of them would come running over and my wrist where they had the injection point would sting and then my chest would feel like a herd of elephants were doing the Watusi on my chest.
“There’s a dance called the Watusi it’s out of sight,
First you slide to the left then to the right.
The Watusi is out of sight,
You slide to the left, then to the right.
Take two steps up and keep it tight.
And do the Watusi, it sure is a sight.”
There were three large monitors that I could watch what was going on on. I looked up once or twice and it sort of freaked me out so I went back to thinking. This all went on for more than two hours and I just could not find a good range of thoughts to centre on. Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s I use to believe in all the mind control of your body stuff. For years I carried around “The Science of Mind”, by Ernest Shurtleff Holmes  believing all that crap. He was on about how our thinking creates diseases in our body. For example negative thoughts created negativity which manifested as dis-ease, not at ease, in our body. I furthered this thinking for a decade in the Holy Order of Mans when I was a brother in their centres in Hawaii, San Francisco, Cheyenne Wyoming, Wichita Kansas, Detroit, Syracuse New York and finally Baltimore Maryland. They had all this material about the higher Self and how our body was just a vehicle we traveled about in and if things went wrong it was karmic from some other lifetime or the miss use of energy now. I managed to go through their initiations of Self-illumination and Self-Realization before leaving for good and learning to re-live my life without the muddled illusions of superstitious belief systems. I must admit though whilst having stuff shoved into my arteries next to my heart and a herd of elephants doing the Watusi on my chest I tried to rise above my body or at least try to do something more metaphysical than just lay there hurting but I did not have any luck. My mind has ground down into the physical so strongly that I wonder how did I ever get into believing all the hocus-pocus stuff I once believed in.
At some point I got wheeled out of the operating room and there was Narda on the other side of the door. I know this happens all the times in her medical shows she watches but I had never been in an operating room before. Even when my two sons were born, I helped deliver both, it was just a simple room. Especially the one in Kahuku Hawaii where Sacha was born on the North-shore of Oahu. There was just Dr. Branch, the alleged mother and me. Leigh was born in Ashford Hospital Adelaide and I was there and at that birth so was Sacha, age two and a half.
Narda is always there making the continuity of life good. All I felt was hunger and of course a sore chest and sore arm and sore wrist. Dr. King (who has a Chinese name in brackets between the Peter and the King) said it went better than he had thought. Good grief what had he thought? He did put in a fourth stent after he was deep into my chest and found another artery that looked suspect. He kept saying to lay still which for me is very difficulty. I struggle to sit still for ten minutes and to sit still for two hours is gruesome. First I was cold so they put some horse blankets on me then I was hot so they took them off. I think I am a bad patient. Even my dentist is constantly telling me to relax when she has her head half way down my throat. I just am not the ideal ER patient.
The menu is great. I ordered half the stuff on the menu then ordered some more. Narda stayed in the hospital overnight. Lucky for you my photos are on my phone which is over in my classroom at school or I would show a photo of the room, probably one with me all hooked up to oxygen and drips and monitors but smiling because the food was good. It was like staying in a hotel with lots of room service. I had to stay in bed until the next day which was making me go funny in the head but we made it through the night and by the next evening, Tuesday we checked out and went back to L’Hotel South.
It is strange to go back only a day later to someplace when so much has changed. Now for the rest of my life or at least until they crank up the nanobots I have to wear material inside my body up near my heart.
Wednesday, two days after surgery – that is me in front of the sign the day following stents shoved in, not feeling great but at least a bit mobile. I liked this sign because I thought it said Old Man Street. I even made it my Facebook profile photo. A week later I realised it said Old Main Street. I felt like a real goose but I have kept the photo for now. No wonder I get so confused I misinterpret everything I see. That was always my problem with astrology. I am sure it is all there but I misinterpret it all.
We took a boat over to Lamma Island for the afternoon. Lamma Island does not have cars on it. Like Prince Islands in the Bosphorus Sea outside of Istanbul. We like quiet islands with no cars. Wish they would take them off of that island we call home, Australia. I wasn’t feeling to flash, a bit dizzy, light headed and weak. I guess when they poke around a heart it leaves one not feeling their best. We did not make it very far but found a nice quiet beach to sit at and later in the day took the ferry back to Aberdeen and went home.
Thursday afternoon we went home getting back to Dalian at 11 PM. Friday we were back at work. The people at Dalian American International School are the best. Lots of welcome backs and hugs (even though I am a product of the 60’s and lived in communes in California and did all that new age crap – hey my name is Neuage – I am not a touchy touchy person and don’t like hugging but I put up with it this time). The middle school choir, under Tyler, put together a song, Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life and sent it to me. Of course they left out a line or two which would not be appropriate for middle school children to sing – even to an old goat like me. In my middle school class a sixth grader ran across the room and threw her arms around me and said she was so happy I was now OK.
My students were so good whilst I was away. I had written up my lesson plans and one day even partially taught my high school film class via Skype. The students all did their assignments and emailed their work to me and my high school students put their work in their Google Sites pages for me to review.
I had on my table the DVDs of my heart operation. I had not looked at them and just figured in between classes I would have a look-see. Of course my middle school kids wanted to know what was on those disks and I said nothing that you would want to see – it is my heart operation and of course they then wanted to see it. I was quite unsure, Narda, whose music room is next door, was looking through my door shaking her head no. Can you imagine having a film studio next to the music room? I produce two shows for school a week called DAISlive with stories and events and the like about what is going on around school. In most interviews, stories and what not there is a first grade flute class or fifth grade singing rehearsal for the upcoming Christmas musical or worse, third grade drum class in the background.
I said to the children that it would probably gross them out which of course makes an adolescent want to see it all the more so we watched. Actually there was nothing gruesome to view. On the one DVD we looked at there were 36 video clips – in black and white – showing like a string with a lasso on the end going through the vein to position the stents. One 8th grader who wants to be a doctor after watching for a minute said that I had an irregular heart beat. Well I hadn’t even noticed that.
So here I am three weeks after surgery and we are going back next weekend, hopefully just for three days this time, to be sure everything is in place. I was told not to lift weights for the first two weeks and that this week it was OK to go lightly so I have done that. I said to a nurse “what about my six-pack I am trying to develop” (at 66 years old) and she said “why?” because I was married. I said that matrimonial status had nothing to do with vanity but she did not get that. We have gone for walks which is OK though I feel pretty crappy after about 20 minutes. Of course I am wondering whether ever having anything done was the correct thing to do.
To freak myself out even more I read a story in the New York Times Health blog section this morning,
“Heart Stents Still Overused, Experts Say” By ANAHAD O’CONNOR August 15, 2013 http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/15/heart-stents-continue-to-be-overused/?_r=0
which says one out of ten don’t need them and that doctors and hospitals make good money doing these procedures. Damn!