chocolate is a verb

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Tag Archives: travel

found poem: now

found poem: I believe

making pictures

Dorothy in Venice, 1963My father, no doubt in sports jacket and bowtie, stands in a precarious spot to capture this quintessential moment of my mother’s Venetian happiness: beret, gloves, Michelin guide and two handsome young men in the picture. This was how she had imagined the trip, and herself in it.

Those months of making notes, bookmarking pages in the guide, asking my father whether he was interested in this or in that. But he didn’t care; this was her domain. In his heart, he would have opted to stay home, to putter, away from the office for ten days.

Though born in Hungary, he had left as an infant and had no nostalgia for Europe. The War — his un-discussed war — was still a raw scar twenty years later, reminders everywhere, even in places he’d never been. Like Italy. But he was a good sport and a good husband and, once committed to a situation, knew how to make the best of it. He enjoyed their travels, this trip a sort of celebration after a prolonged period of work and money difficulties.

Through it all — the belt-tightening, the going without, the slow recovery — Dorothy had continued to idealize each situation, each outcome, and her heroic role in it. The problem was that the reality seldom attained the ideal. She warned me repeatedly against looking forward to anything.

Yet in travel, when she could be anyone, be the person she envisioned, she came closest to the place where the picture in the scrapbook matched the picture in her mind: smile wide, attractive and excited and contented, a woman everyone would admire and want to know.

travels…

Palazzo dei Conservatori, Roma
The woman in the photograph is not the mother I knew. From her beret and straightened hair to her sensible shoes, she is outfitted for travel: a “good” suit, a voluminous purse, the ever-present guide book. The constrained 1950s still in evidence, she carried white gloves, wore a girdle and stockings and packed no pants.

My mother was a good traveler, mostly untroubled by the physical ailments that plagued her at home. She did research, highlighted maps, constructed an itinerary filled with art. She carried and used a sketchbook and a tiny watercolor set.

Although he would have been entirely content to stay home and play in his workshop, my father enjoyed these trips, too. He carried the suitcases, drove the dizzying European roads, wore a tie, took photographs with his tiny Minox camera and identified each one in his engineer’s printing: “FRAGMENT CONSTANTINE (?) / PALAZZO DEI CONSERVATORI / ROME 10/63.”

I wonder how my mother felt when she was being this person. The counterpoint to her desire to be “normal” was her desire to be seen as zany and wild. She struggled throughout her life to be accepted, admired, desired — by others and by her self.

Perhaps here she was comforted by her successful adherence to the Rules, by her ability to don the camouflage of a sophisticated traveler. But two weeks was never enough to manifest any real change. The disappointments of home waited for her at the foot of the airplane steps. The understandable order of travel would be packed away with the suitcases. Ordinariness would assert itself. The struggle would resume.

watching New Mexico…

Red Rock Park - near Gallupthe busy sky…
virga — the veils of rain that don’t reach the ground…
shadows draped across sculpted mesas…
the many colors of sand…
prairie dogs…roadrunner…woodpecker…
a shaggy donkey…a pink-nosed week-old calf…
the fragrance of ponderosa…
. . . . .
photo of Red Rock Park

yesterday…

Between storms, Portland shakes off her gray sweater. The Willamette braceleted with bridges, trains snaking round tracked neighborhoods, rain-or-shine residents shed a layer to show shirts and jackets brightened with shouldersful of winter sun.

Downtown seems a random dance of street life, people sitting, standing, eating, walking every direction, each one clutching a phone, ear buds pumping an unheard soundtrack. I walk and wander, ride the bus and train, and for long minutes without reference to visible river or mountain lose my sense of direction. The natives are friendly.

A half-hour bus ride delivers us to a Thai restaurant that will forever redefine our understanding of the words chicken wings and back to the hotel, where we wallow in stupid television.

This morning, a snappy little wind blowing the last of the remaining leaves, the city is back in her gray. A perfect day for Powell’s.

en route…

cow pathThe Holsteins browse the hillside, making butter. California rainfall is far below normal, but the grass is still thick and green beneath their feet. The cows are wide and their movements seem random, but their route back to milking is a surprisingly narrow, even dainty, cow path, a contour line of bare soil along the slope, where they walk, one after the other, bellies swaying, toward the barn.
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cow path photo

something else I’d forgotten…

car radio1) Palm trees.

2) How, in a really big city, there are so many FM radio stations that the car radio’s Seek button finds non-stop sound all the way across the dial.
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car radio

More things I didn’t know I was missing…

Things I didn’t know I was missing

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