Sunday Morning~Road Trip

I got terribly car sick as a kid. The car, as much as I loved an adventure, even to the next town, was associated with nausea.  I dreaded it.  I have no idea why my parents didn’t keep me sitting close to the door, as every time I was in the middle of the back seat, I’d barely make it to the window, climbing across someone to throw up.  I remember always waiting until the last second before yelling, “I have to throw up!” and my father would swerve to the curb and i’d clamber out and wretch onto the side of the road. Probably didn’t help that someone was smoking in the car, but the motion was the culprit.  Carnival rides and any ocean-going vessel were torture for me. So my mother was skeptical when my father took us on our first cross-country road trip. She was sure I’d be miserable the whole way.  Being so excited about seeing Yellowstone National Park and the geysers, I barely gave my stomach a thought.  I’d pored over the National Geographic magazine featuring those geysers the previous winter and dreamed I’d go there someday. When my father announced the summer vacation would be a road-trip to Yellowstone I ran out of the house announcing it to the neighborhood at the top of my lungs, “Hey everyone! We’re going to Yellowstone!” I was nine years old and unaware that this response was inappropriate according to my father. It might make the other kids feel badly, or it might be an embarrassment if something came up and we couldn’t go.  The the lecture I got when retuning to the house listed these possibilities in grave tones. (The dumping of ice water on my enthusiasm started at an early age.  I have no idea why it didn’t squelch it permanently.)

That July my father and his five kids climbed into the huge Chevrolet station wagon, loaded down with camping gear, and set off across country. My mother stayed home. (I’m not sure if she was involved in that decision.) The entire neighborhood surrounded her on the street as they watched us depart. She had a huge smile on her face, so I assume she was not sad at being left behind, but I was ecstatic.  I felt like the chosen family. I waved goodbye to my best friend, Beth, from the rear seat of that car after the teary goodbye in the front yard.  I promised to write every day. There were new people to meet and places to see! The world beyond number 2 Pomciticut Ave was ours to discover!

I could write a whole book about that trip, and one for each of the summer road trips to follow, but one remarkable thing was that I didn’t get car sick. I remember thinking that after the first three hours (possibly the longest I had ever ridden in a car before that) it was just fine. My father boasted having driven 850 miles in one day! Himself! I don’t know how many hours in the car that was, but it was a lot. He probably fell asleep at the wheel a few times, woken by the sound of the gravel as he swerved off the road, but hey, we were “making good time.”

Aside from never throwing up once on that trip (Remarkable! My mother couldn’t believe it!), I became a road trip addict. Now, this is also remarkable, as those trips were not always fun. Or safe. In fact, it is a miracle we survived them (Note the falling-asleep-at-the-wheel reference.) But the feeling of being on the road, moving toward some exciting destination, is still thrilling for me. And with my own car and ability to make my own decisions about when to stop? Heaven.

It’s certainly different now, a mere fifty years later. My car could probably fit in the front seat of that station wagon, and gas is no longer 23 cents a gallon. The roads are more crowded, the landscape more built-up, and shores are obscured by developer’s greed. We can find the seven-day forecast on our phones and a ladies’ voice tells us when to turn left. We don’t get lost much. The one in the passenger seat is not frantically scouring the huge map to see which exit to take while in the flow of traffic. (Such pressure! All of life depends on this split-second decision!) But we keep our own schedule. We leave when we want, stop where we want, visit the friends and family eagerly anticipating our visits. We make note of places we’d like to explore.  We’ll come back, we agree.  We get ideas from our friends about what to see.  We get taken to favorite sights, where others’ childhood memories have rendered the location sacred and special.  We hear stories of past loves, antics, celebrations, holidays, and tragedies. We traverse mountains much older than the Alps, (Yes, we have older things in this country than they do in Europe. They just don’t happen to be buildings.) We appreciate the vastness of this land, the history it rendered, the lives it has changed. We are grateful for our friendships and their warm welcomes.

This week the road trip changes direction and focus. The passenger seat will have a new occupant. She sends me a message that says, “All you need is a great friend and a full tank of gas.” I couldn’t agree more. We’ll play great music and sing. We’ll take on new roads and see new friends. We’ll be careful not to laugh too hard while driving. We’ll feel cool in our (middle?) age acting like teenagers. (Right?) Ok, we’ll be more careful than we were as teenagers, and we won’t be on the lookout for cute guys. (Right?) We’ll have to depend on GPS since we can’t see the tiny roads on the map anymore. The wind in our ears might be too much with the windows down and we don’t want to yell to each other anymore. But the excitement doesn’t differ from those years way back when. A great friend, a full tank of gas, focus, goals, ideas, and dreams…all on the road where we’re heading.

Sunday Morning~ The Power of Kindness

When I was in nursing school in Boston in the 70’s, the city was a scary, dangerous place. We had to take a self-defense course before going out to our clinical rotations in Chelsea and Charlestown. We had to walk in groups in South Boston for safety reasons.  Now, hardly anyone can afford to live in these upscale, trendy locations.  What a difference forty years can make.

My son recently started a business in Everett in an old rubber factory. There had been a fire and the building was a wreck. The wooden beams and ceiling were charred, the windows broken, and the machinery destroyed in huge heaps of mangled mess. Having looked everywhere in greater Boston for something he could afford, this building, (which only needed a year of renovation) called to him. In my years in Boston, I don’t think I ever even went to Everett. Having never been there, I judged it as a run-down, crime-ridden slum.

I’m sorry Everett for having doubted you. The business, (Short Path Distillery) is up and running and the city has welcomed them with open arms. As many urban locales find ways to renew themselves, improve their tax base, and attract business, they’ve taken different approaches. Some will consider new business if they comply with lists of requirements. Everett said, “What can we do to help?”

A distillery is zoned industrial, not commercial, so the neighborhoods have potential to be a little less than quaint. But with a Brewery behind them and other enterprises starting in abandoned buildings, the city decided to do a block party to promote the new businesses.  How cool is that?  So yesterday, the roads were blocked off, a huge stage was set, food trucks and vendors set up shop and the party began. I just love a block party. And I love a community event. It was a fine September day, warmer than normal, summer-like, and the lights strung across the roads made the atmosphere festive. Reggae music filled the streets, people danced, they drank beer and spirits.  The lines were long for both, but people were polite and patient. I was a runner (not yet graduated to bartender) and had fun fetching and gophering. Well-behaved kids were everywhere.  People were smiling, laughing, talking. There were bachelor parties and bachelorette parties.  How fun!

I’m so proud of my son and his partners.  It is a huge undertaking to start a business like this and seeing the response is wonderful.  I was standing by the door when a fireman and policeman came in together. They were out in full force; a friendly presence.  I heard one say to the other, “Wow!  Look what they’ve done to this place!  Last time I was here I was breaking the windows!” And another one said, “Oh, yeah, wait till you see what they did with the ceiling!” They seemed happy! Local people happy that the landmark building was resuscitated and people could socialize there and partake of an artisanal spirit! I loved it!

Fourteen hours of fun manual labor later, the party wound down; a hugely successful day full of community spirit. I packed up my belongings and a case of gin and headed for home.  Three security personal offered to help carry the boxes to my car. I thought, how nice can people get around here? We walked down the empty sidewalk talking about how the event exceeded all expectations.  I thought, how kind these folks are.  How empty the sidewalk is. How all the cars that were parked there were now gone. Including mine. Car had been towed. Apparently I had gone out to buy lunch when the officers came in and asked everyone to move their cars. Missed that little announcement. So back to the distillery, where the mayor’s staff was now off duty and socializing.  They made a few phone calls for me (so nice!), found the car and gave me directions to bail her out (so helpful!).  Profuse apologies for the inconvenience (so sweet!).  I haven’t had my car towed in decades.  I am very careful to avoid that as I hate having to retrieve my car for zillions of dollars in the middle of the night.  But even that was a pleasant experience!  The officer at the police station was helpful and kind and had the paperwork all ready for me (so nice!)  My son insisted on paying the $131 bail, (so sweet!).  The guy at the impound was efficient and helpful and I left feeling like I wanted to give him the money. I drove home thinking about kindness, and how nice everyone was, and how they did their jobs so well. No one seemed jaded or frustrated or exhausted.

Is Everett the best kept secret in the world? My late-night drive home was peaceful. Thank you smiling nice friendly people. What a difference you make.

Sunday Morning~Saying Goodbye

I love Erma Bombeck’s line, “When you start to look like your passport photo, it’s time to go home.”  I always think of that at the end of a trip. I love my home and love being there, but it’s always a little sad to say goodbye to the days of being a stranger in a strange place.

This adventure has been filled with new and old friends, wonderful camaraderie, great physical feats, music, cathedrals, life lessons, and good food. I guess it can’t go on like that forever or travelers fatigue sets in. When every masterpiece starts to look the same, you’ve passed the time you were supposed to go home, no matter what you look like.

So it’s pack up the pack time and wave goodbye to Paris, whose masterpieces never disappoint. Natural masterpieces followed by those of geniuses. Great trip.

Sunday Morning ~Still Walking

Sunday Morning~Still Walking

The route becomes more and more magnificent the deeper into the Alps we get. The experience gets richer with each new friend we make sharing the adventure. The guidebook didn’t mention wading through glacial waters up to our knees, but we saw no other way over. We hadn’t accounted for the exceptionally warm day and the late afternoon crossing. The glacier was melting and the stone bridge covered with, what I considered, a mini waterfall, made the frigid, toe-numbing, slippery crossing necessary. There was teamwork involved as not everyone had water shoes. There was much cheering and encouragement as each one made it across. No injuries (well, I slipped and banged my knee, but that was nothing compared to the potential). Lots of problem solving and bonding, and made for great story-telling at dinner that night.

There was an ascent this week that was the scariest I’ve ever done. There was much discussion of it the evening before and I was a little intimidated, and the looming storm didn’t help. A choice of ladders to the top with a 3,000 foot drop underneath, or a near vertical scramble up slippery rocks with a 3,000 foot drop underneath. Hmm, choices choices. We started up the rocks, then opted for the ladders. That’s how scary the rocks were. And I love climbing on rocks. We were surrounded by thick clouds, in the rain, and though the ladders looked foreboding and definitely not OSHA approved, I wanted up and over that pass. The cloud made the drop to your death less visible, so that was good. My friends went before me and I told myself I had no choice. I couldn’t sit there in the freezing rain. Stare at the rock face. Count the steps. Four ladders attached to the rock, straight up. They did have little platforms to step onto between each one. That was a nice touch. And allowed the terror to subside for a moment.

We all made it, of course. Cheers, high fives, then let’s get down off this peak. And we did, to a warm, dry hotel. A hot shower later and dinner in front of the fire with more stories to tell, the wine tasted sweeter.