Tag Archives: travel

Cinderfella and the Leather Slippers

Bill is very particular about the slippers he wears, and he wears them religiously, especially when we are traveling – dirty floors and carpets full of germs and all that. And never, ever, would he allow someone else to wear them. That would be tantamount to asking rain not to fall. Bill can be so Howard Hughes-ian at times, I could swear he’s at least a distant relative. Even I had better think twice about putting his slippers on and flopping around the house in them, as I’m wont to do at times.

Soooo, when he stepped into the shower after a week filled with sight-seeing and morning to evening side-trips in southern France, he was so exhausted he didn’t realize for the first couple of minutes that he’d done so without removing his leather slippers – the ones with the shearing wool lining. The only kind worthy of adorning his feet. By then, it was too late. They were soaked inside and out. Needless to say, when reality set in a split second later, I couldn’t keep from laughing. I mean, really, how could you not see the humor in it.

Mr. Bill, nit-picky in the extreme about certain aspects of daily life, stepping into the shower with expensive slippers like that – talk about a Priceless Moment! And it wasn’t as if we could go shopping for another pair just like them right then, either. Pretty exhausted by this time myself, I was unable to maintain my composure, and the staid, reserved manner I would normally turn on for a situation like this just wasn’t working for me. It was just too much. The slippers were soaked clear through and squished with the least hint of pressure. Sopping wet – what can I say? I couldn’t help myself.

I left Bill stuffing his slippers with dry washcloths and met Mary Jane and Joe for breakfast that morning, relaying the details of this calamity, engendering another raucous round of laughter as Bill arrived at the table. I’m sure the other diners were wondering what on earth we found that hilarious at such an early hour.

Before we left for the day, Bill was uncharacteristically calm. So calm I couldn’t be sure he wasn’t channeling some stranger. A monk in a secluded mountain-top retreat or Buddhist guru bent on serious meditation perhaps – peaceful men who use words sparingly (or in the monk’s case, not at all). Asking me if I thought a hair dryer might help – I said it couldn’t hurt – Bill un-stuffed the moccasin look-alikes, removing the soaked washcloths, and pointed the hair dryer down their throats.

I hadn’t told him I didn’t think the hair dryer idea would actually work, but it became a moot point anyway as, after a few minutes on high heat, the hair dryer died. Its wire had burned through. Obviously, one non-industrial strength hair drier was not able to manage a big job like this. There was nothing else we could do right then as we were momentarily leaving for the villages of Beaune and Cluny. So Bill re-stuffed the slippers with dry washcloths and placed them in front of the sliding glass door to catch the heat from the sun in the hope that would facilitate the drying process.

Shortly afterward, we boarded a bus to visit some wineries – we could have used a big glass of wine at that moment  – and to soak up the local history on an all-day tour. On the way Joe, reading a copy of the ship’s newspaper, turned to me pointing to a story about Jerry Brown (then governor of California) and his proposal to impose new restrictions on Californians, which Brown deemed necessary due to the drought. He rattled off what they were and said there was one in particular that he thought would interest Bill. It was the one banning individuals from stepping into showers wearing their slippers because they soak up too much water. Too much water, a valuable resource currently in short supply, was being wasted on slippers in need of a washing.

You know how it is when something is set in motion (Newton’s law and all that) – once I started laughing, I couldn’t stop. Tears were streaming down my cheeks and Mary Jane and Joe were also making the most of this moment of levity. When I turned to see how Bill was handling being the brunt of the joke, I found him laughing, too. People were looking at us liked we’d lost our minds, but we didn’t care. We were enjoying the moment we were in to the fullest. Too many people don’t, and look at all the fun they miss.

The real test would come this evening, though, when Bill’s slippers, hopefully, would be dry. Would Cinderfella’s soaked slippers still fit?

Everything and Nothing

While en route home from a three-week vacation trip, it seems I left one of my notebooks on the plane stuffed into the seat pocket of the person in front of me. Tight quarters being what they are these days, I’m surprised I didn’t notice, given the 8 ½ x 11 notepad stuck out at the top. My reading glasses, pen, and book were also there, so I’m at a total loss as to explain how I could have left that notebook behind. I would rather have left an arm behind than that notebook.

I had written two blogs and had a solid start on an essay on those pages. I’m sick to my stomach just thinking about it, in tears even. Every single writer reading these words knows exactly how I feel.

In the larger scheme of things, this is nothing, really. Yet in this particular moment it is everything. Everything and nothing at the same time.

And I have to say that it’s all right to over-react, an accusation some might like to make. Not everything has to be compared to the worst thing that might have happened. Not everything, regardless how small, has to be minimized either. Not every smaller event or setback can compare in importance to the larger things in life, but that doesn’t mean littler things don’t count in one moment in time or another. They weigh in differently, but that doesn’t mean they don’t count. Especially if they have a space of some significance in one’s life, however momentary that might be or how irrelevant to someone else.

Life isn’t all or nothing. It’s made up of loads of both big and little things. If a truly big thing had happened, I would be devastated. And no, I’m not devastated, but it is a blow to have lost those words, those thoughts, and the direction they were pointing me in at that specific moment. Moments like that don’t always arrive on time and sometimes not at all,  and the thing is, I don’t recall where they were taking me. Where they had brought me. So much information was processed between my having written them and my searching for them now. I wrote them down and put them away for later digestion. I thought they were safe.

But my brain was on overload the entire time we were gone. We were in Greece, in Israel, in Naples, Pompeii, and Rome. Cities of Antiquity, the Holy Land. There was so much to see and do. So much information to absorb. So many cobblestones to negotiate and cross.

So that which I wrote along the way was set aside as new things were being processed. I wasn’t worried about it. I’d get back to it, polish it off, and send it out when I got home.

Only it wasn’t there when I got home, was it.

I have turned the house and the car inside out three or four times, but I’m going to have to stop now so I can move forward again. Whether it’s writing about something or doing something, there comes a point when we have to move on. Do something else. Let go.

Obviously, I’ve had a bit of trouble letting go. I was hopeful I could write this and get it out of my system by doing so. If you could see how red my fingers are from holding on so tightly, how precious little tension has been assuaged by searching the same places over and over again, how stress lines have formed on my forehead as I sit here going over the possibilities and looking for new places to search, places where I still might find the notebook that’s surely waiting to be rescued.

Letting go? You can see how well that’s worked out.

Burial At Sea – Southern France, Part II

When I think about France, I’m reminded of my daughter, the consummate Francophile. It makes setting foot on French soil without Laura difficult, fostering, as it does, a bout of nostalgia. I visited her several times while she lived there, and we had many adventures, some that revolved around the wonderful cheeses of the Savoy – specifically, Reblochon. Our favorite.

Those of you who’ve been following my blog will recall Reblochon from an earlier post, and the adventures with that cheese continue here.

Laura loves France; in many ways it’s like home to her – and France has Reblochon, one of the best things France has going for it. It’s impossible to get state-side as it’s unpasteurized and forbidden entry into the U.S. because of its “unsanitized” state. So when we are in France, it’s the first thing we buy. That and French baguettes, chocolate, and croissants, of course, and let’s not forget French wine. Who could want for anything with these gracing one’s table?

Because Laura and France are inextricably linked in my mind, when I spotted a small wheel of Reblochon in a local French market last month, I had to have it.

One thing you need to know about Reblochon is that it smells. Most cheeses do, I know, but this is offensive to the max – trite but true. When you step into a small cheese shop there, the mingling of cheese smells can be overwhelming at first, but Reblochon engenders the same affect all by itself. Bill is genteel in his description of it, saying “It stinks!” But one taste erases that unpleasantness. Reblochon spread on a fresh baguette – there is nothing better.

So when I found some in the market, I snapped a picture of it on my iPhone for Laura, then purchased the whole wheel (maybe 6 inches in diameter). If Laura had been there, we likely would have consumed the whole thing at one sitting. Instead, Bill and I put it in the mini-fridge in our stateroom so we could share our cache with Joe and Mary Jane a little at a time. In the first two days, we’d eaten close to three-quarters of it and then, being off the ship more than on, forgot about it for a couple of days.

Who knew the mini-fridge in our room wasn’t working as well as it should have been?

When we remembered it and opened the fridge, the stench knocked Bill back on his heels and permeated everything in the room. It stank worse than ever. It was SO bad. I knew the bad smell that was good and the difference between that and the bad smell that was not good, and that’s what this was, bad to the bone. Even I was afraid to eat it. It had to go, no question about it. But where? How?

It’s safe to l say Laura would have been appalled at this waste of one of the finest cheeses France has to offer.

We considered unceremonious disposal in a public trash bin, but people might have wondered what had died in there. And the smell would creep all over the ship, something we couldn’t risk – couldn’t have people jumping overboard to escape the smell, could we? That would never do. If we put it in the wastebasket in our room, we’d have to sleep elsewhere – and it was too cold to curl up in a deck chair on the balcony or on the upper deck. I envisioned Stefan, our cabin attendant, refusing to clean our room; we didn’t want that either. We even considered asking Stefan to dispose of it for us, but we saw ourselves the talk of the Downton Abbey’s downstairs staff pointing at us in the hallways and whispering asides in the dining room. We’d be ostracized, singled out by crew and passengers alike. Perhaps even set ashore, bags in hand.

The only thing left was burial at sea. Bodies – Cheese: same thing, sort of. Quietly lowering our coveted cheese over the side of the balcony, sheathed in white, we would let it slip quietly into the water and sink to the bottom of the Rhone River. You see it in the movies all the time, with bodies, that is. So that’s what we did.

The mistake we made was this…

We had already tied it up in a plastic bag to cut down the smell before we’d decided on the more traditional, if not outmoded, sea burial idea. We’d twisted the bag around tying a knot near the middle thinking of that beloved cheese as garbage now. Garbage sitting in the bottom of a white plastic bag from which I’d not extruded all the residual air. It was still dark, so tying a second knot close to the top, I hung myself over the side as far as I could safely manage so it wouldn’t splash when it landed in the water. But we weren’t connecting the dots well. We didn’t think “plastic bag” and how one tied the way this one was would behave when lowered into the water.

It would float – as our own Reblochon did, adopting the statuesque pose of a swan moving just off the side of the ship on its way toward the Mediterranean Sea, its head held high and proud.

It failed to sink like I thought it would. In my haste to get it into the water unseen before dawn broke, I neglected to poke a hole or two in the plastic so it could fill with water. Instead of sinking, it sailed away silently like a symbolic lantern in the Japanese Lantern Festival guiding the souls of the dead to their homes and then back to their resting places – the floating paper lanterns creating a vision of peacefulness and harmony as they commemorate the dead.

It was a beacon unto itself.

Our ceremony for the dead Reblochon, cast as a singular, lost, plastic swan, was heading out in search of its family, too. A silent swan, set adrift alone on the high seas – the Rhone River substituting for the ocean. I doubt it knew the difference. No fanfare for a legendary cheese well-made. No salute to the Savoy. Bill noted: “We sent her off into the sunset (or rather, sunrise) masquerading as a swan.”

When we got home, I saw a brief article on the internet about the “10 Foods You Should Never Eat Overseas.” Guess what was on it.

According to the FDA, drinking unpasteurized milk or eating unpasteurized dairy products like cheese or ice cream is 150 times more likely to cause a food-borne illness than pasteurized dairy products, it said. Pasteurization (or irradiation, in some countries) kills a myriad of nasty little suckers like salmonella, E. coli, listeria, and other harmful bacteria that can be found in raw milk.

Though it was difficult to part with knowing I wouldn’t be having any for a long time to come, it was probably a good thing we didn’t try to eat it. On reflection, Laura would surely have agreed…maybe.