Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My apologies ......

While I doubt that anyone to whom this apology is directed will ever read this (or the post I'm apologizing for), I feel I need to say how soorry I am for my flip "Boy, was I prepared for nothing...." comments.  After seeing the devestation that Hurricane Irene caused so many (in my state and in others), and learning that hundreds of thousands are still without power three days after the storm passed, not to mention the 30 some people who lost their lives), I realize how crass and self-centered my comments were.

I was just trying to be amusing (?) in outlining how super prepared I was and how I needn't have done any of it.

But that was just me.  Some folks as close as 15 miles away are still without power and have had flood damage done to their land and homes.

I can only hope that those that were impacted were also highly prepared and that those preparations at least somewhat eased what they went, and are still going, through.

My heart goes out to all of you - please forgive my words.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene Who?

The scary predictions. 

The 24/7 news. 

The adverbs.  "Horrific."  "Historic."  "Devestating." 

Power outages could last as long as a week. 

Tension building by the hour.  I found on where the Weather Channel was on my TV; had never watched it before. was locked in on my laptop.  Four two-galloon water botles in the trunk of my car.  Canned foods loading down my cabinets.  Lots of Starbuck's bottled coffee to fill in for the week that my Keurig would be out of commission.  Cell phone fully charged and waiting.  Patio cleared of anything that could possibly be blown around and sent through my bay window.  Pre-cooked meals that would be edible cold, if necessary.

I'd overlooked nothing.  Do your best, Irene.  No boy scout experience, but nonetheless I'm prepared.  Beyond prepared.  Even two small bags packed.  One for me, to cover at least two days if I had to take up the offer to go to friends who had a generator, the other with food supplies for me during that time (so as to not use up their limited supply - plus some additional boxes of Kraft's Mac & Cheese for their boys).

Bring it on, Irene.  You don't scare me. 

My internal clock must have taken in all the information about the timing.  Irene was schedule to "hit" NW Connecticut at around 3am.  I woke at 3:30.  It was raining and that was about that.  Turned on the Weather Channel and saw that it was still on its way.  My thinking was that I might as well stay up and welcomg Irene when she arrived in full dress and if I stayed up for the next several hours I'd be tired enough to go back to bed when the electricity went.

Finally went back to bed around 10am - with electricity flowing through every lamp and appliance.

It's now about 2pm and it's raining.  Not that hard, but it is raining.  There appears to be a gentle breeze blowing through the trees and flowers.  There are maybe 20 to 30 leaves scattered around my patio. 

So, allow me to paraphrase the Thane of Cawdor,

National meteorology is but a walking shadown, a poor player
That struts and frets their hour upon the channels
And then is heard no more: it is a tale,
told by alarmists, full or sound and fure,
resulting in nothing.

Let me say that I am by no means intending to take lightly, or to diminish in any way, those that have been impacted by Irene.  It's just that it was clear to those of us who paid attention on Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri and Sat that we were all going to die on Sunday!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wow - June 28th was my last post.  I can't believe it's been that long.  Just a bit shy of 2 months.

And has it been because my life has just been so full of fun and frolic that I haven't been able to find even a few minutes?  Don't I wish.

To be honest, I'm not sure why I haven't written.  Normal depression has been around, as it always is, but that's not very unusual.

Heard an amazing comment on depression - not sure where, but it stuck with me.  It was said by someone who suffers from chronic depression.

You can tell someone who is depressed "see, right over there on that table?  there's a guaranteed cure for your depression if you'll just go get it, reach for it."  The depressant (depressee?) will look longingly over at the table but just won't be able to make the stretch or the walk to the cure.  Just too hard.

It sounds so stupid but it's so spot on.  It's not that we're too lazy or tired to walk to the table holding the cure, it's just that we literally can't.  It's too hard, and the table seems way too far out of our reach.

It's a really good thing that I can't afford to retire.  Without my job I think I'd turn into a total basket case, moving from bed to couch and back again, and no where else.

Coffee, cigarettes, tv and books - that's about all I'd need.  Well, and also the occasional pint of Haagen Daas, box of chocolate donuts and M&Ms.

As much as I gripe about my job, it is my salvation.  Apparently the work ethic is not impacted by depression.  I am definitely a wait till the last minute person, but when it's crunch time I can churn it out better than anyone.  And my clients love me.  They think I'm bright, chipper, always available and that I truly care about them.  Hmmmm - never realized that depression makes great actors out of us.

Right now, my depression and anxiety have a focus, an unfortunate one, and one that's making me crazy.

A week and two days ago, at around 8pm, I let out one of my kitties.  He often spends the night out and so when he didn't return when I called him before going to bed I was not concerned.  I knew he'd be curled up on one of the deck chairs in the morning, waiting for breakfast and some loving.  Well, he wasn't there.  I was a bit concerned, but not all that much.  I knew that if I came home at lunch I'd find him waiting.  Nope.  And when I got home from work, still no Marcel.  That evening the concern went full force.  I walked around, calling, whistling (to which he always comes!) ... and nothing.

The next day, making my rounds of the compound where I live, trying to get everyone on the lookout, I learned that at the far end of where I live two cats had gone missing about two weeks before mine.

Concern was now bordering on panic and I kept looking, kept hoping, but by Friday evening had pretty much given up hope of finding him.  That evening my immediate neighbors came over and told me that their cat, Whispers," had been missing since Wednesday night, two nights after Marcel first went missing.

There has been talk of a fox seen in back yards....but a fox taking down even one cat, much less four?  I don't think so.  No one has heard coyotes.  Those who have dogs say that their dogs have not raised any fuss over any animal noises. 

Then the day before yesterday I learned that four cats from a neighborhood about half a mile away from me have gone missing in the past two or three weeks.

I am now so freaked out, I can't stand it.  I keep thinking of all kinds of horrible, sinister things that could have happened.  I can't sleep, not even with the TV on (which can usually shut my mind down enough to be able to fall asleep).  I just keep picturing horrible things.

It's so awful just not knowing.  I pray he is dead, and not suffering somewhere.  If I could only be sure, I'd feel 100% better.  And my little guy, Cinqo, seems a bit lost.  And even though he never went out the way Marcel did, he did go out from time to time, always coming back rather quickly.  But I don't dare let him out now - he's been out about twice in the past four or five days, both times with me out there on the deck watching his every move.  And I think he misses his big brother.

And so do I.

I just realized that my last blog was about dead bluebirds and now I write this about dead cats .....I might as well rename it the Blog of Death and Destruction.

Going to put this to a merciful end now - will be back shortly with something better to write about (I hope).

Thanks for listening. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sad News Upon My Return .....

I got word in Alaska that the blue bird eggs had hatched and that Little Boy Blue and Blue Velvet were busily feeding their five young.

Then upon my return home I got the news no one wanted to give me while I was on vacation - about five days after hatching, all five little ones were dead in their nest.

Jess, who had moved from her office into mine so that she could better keep an eye on the bird house, noticed one day that the constant back and forth activity of mom and dad had not occurred that day.  Being concerned, she went to check the next and that's when she discovered the sad fact.

Obviously, something happened to Blue Velvet.  Dad will not continue to feed without Mom ... so if something happened to her, then that's what did the littlies in.

So sad ................ it was one of the few things that made coming home okay, to be able to watch them as they came out of the nest and began their lives on the wing.  Oh, well ----- nature sucks!  We're going to try again - even though I'm not sure I want to go through this again.

Alaska Cruise - 2nd Installment - June 15 thru 25, 2011

June 15, 2011 – around 5am
It's 5am and the sun seems to be fighting to overwhelm the clouds - there are actually some windows of blue sky.

It would be great if today is at least somewhat clear - my expedition, "Whales, Wildlife and Bear Search," leaves at 8:30.  FINGERS CROSSED.

Yesterday continued at its stupor-producing level of relaxation.

Had lunch - came back to the cabin - ordered a large pot of coffee - called for a dvd - turned up the heat and propped open the verandah door (not environmentally sound, I know) and --- well, and nothing!

Fell asleep half way thru dinner.  Watched Country Strong on tv.  Skipped dinner.  My self-imposed Casino ban held.  Going to try the same tonight.  Will be harder because we sail at 4:30 so it will open at 5.  But tomorrow is a sea day and it will be open all day, so keeping my distance tonight would be a good thing.  We'll see

Gotta shower, have bkfst and get ready for bears, whales (orcas, PLEASE!), and more.

June 16, 2011 – around 2am
2am - gonna crawl into bed and curl up in a fetal position.  (Ask JEG why blackberry is all of a sudden 3 hours ahead of local time?  It's been fine until tonight.)

Another night - another bust.

Oh well, tomorrow is an $85,000 bingo jackpot - and I'm still No. 1 to be in the blackjack tournament final.

So there's still hope .....

Great excursion today - anywhere from 15 to 20 humpbacks - all around us.  Plus one little one, judged to be about 3 or 4 months - very energetic and playful.  Lots of sea lions, too.  AND ....................................................................................... one grizzly on the shore, just ambling along. 

Could only see him with binoculars - pretty far away, but still a grizzly.

Not much else to report.  Got back to ship at 12:30, changed, had lunch, played some trivia, wandered around taking some pics, went to cabin, watched some tv, showered, had dinner and went to the casino.  I NEED TO GET OFF THIS SHIP!!!!!!!!!

June 17, 2011 – around 8am
It may sound terrible, but I'm thinking two weeks is too long. I'm starting to get antsy......

Surrounded by the most glorious scenery, with some 600 employees whose only job is to pamper me - and I find myself missing my little house, kitties, friends and bluebirds,

Could I get any more pathetic? 

I think part of the problem is that it's taken so long for my highlight spots --- Homer, tomorrow - then Kodiak and then Sitka,

Then a sea day (also known as a "how long can you make your money last in the casino" day),

Then to Victoria where I'm told Orca are pretty much guaranteed (if I haven't seen then by then) and then to Seattle - at which point I'll probably start romanticizing things and wishing the cruise could have gone on forever.

No wonder I'm addicted to anything that shuts my mind down - I'm borderline psychotic.

We just docked at Anchorage - my excursion isn't until 1:30 so I'll get off and wander around,  Perhaps I can alter my current mind set.

June 18, 2011 – about 10am
Things got better today

Anchorage - new port city for me (all remaining, except Sitka which I loved, are new).

Interesting city.  Biggest in Alaska with 350,000 population.

Back in the day when Anchorage was a rough and tumble town, the “good” folk made a law that for every bar in Anchorage there had to be a church.  The result is that today there are some 22 churches.

A one-hour bus ride through amazing country to Alaska's Wildlife Conservation Center.

Wood Bison, once native to Alaska had been wiped.  The Center got 30 from Canada.  Now have a 400-head herd, planned to be released into the wild by August.

3-month old moose - orphaned - will be released next spring.

The bears sadly cannot be released - all orphaned and once they get any familiarity with humans they are too dangerous.

2 Kodiak Bear cubs (hopefully I'll see them on Kodiak without a wire fence) but these two (14 months) were spectacular - and played and scuffled right in front of us before disappearing somewhere in the 10 square miles they have for themselves.

3 grizzlies - only a quick glance at No. 3, but 2 quite happy near us.  They have about 15 square acres to roam in.

Finally, 2 black bears - one very happy high up in a tree.

All in all, while I would rather have seen everyone totally free in the wild, as orphans they would not have survived.  Center takes injured animals and releases ASAP - but not injured bears.  They will only take bears that can be "certified" as orphans.

Then back on bus to a small (50 foot) boat for an amazing ride to the Portage Glacier .... 50 feet of ice on top of the water, 400 feet under!  We spent about half an hour 300 yards away. Spectacular.

Then bus back to hip.  Must have seen at least 10 golden eagles, dozens of Arctic Terns and a group of about 6 mountain goats.

Dinner and then lying in deck chair on my verandah from 8:30 to 9:30 pm, IN THE SUN (warm sun).

Tomorrow Homer --- Puffin promised, otters pretty sure, seals and sea lions probably, humpbacks no doubt, Orca, can't promise, Beluga, can't promise.

Tom Bodett of NPR, OK, also of Motel 6 (we'll leave the lights on for you), lives in Homer - year-round population: humans about 600, brown bears around 4,000!  My kinda town.............


June 19, 2011 – about 8pm
Other than the fact that it was so cold that even a hot shower didn't thaw me out, it was a good day.

10am off ship into Homer and on to another, albeit much smaller, one.

First to Gull Island - home of anywhere from 15,000 to 25,000 migratory birds.  Mostly various gulls (one a Common Muir (or something like that) and another a Black Oystercatcher (again need to confirm name) - need to be able to add both to my life list,  Also many Cormorants (different than the Cormorants I know) and some already-known birds.

AND .... PUFFIN.  Many, many fantastic Puffin.  Have to confirm if Tufted or Horned --- but right now I don't care.  Felt my mother nearby as we sat surrounded by them.  Hopefully, more tomorrow.

Many otters - lots of females with tiny pups on their bellies as they floated along.  Sweet critters.

Then continued on to the island village of Seldovia - $16.50 for a ham sandwich!

Charming place.

Wandered around and spoke with numerous local folk.  House like mine would be between 300,000 and 400,000 depending on proximity to the water.

No whales - perhaps tomorrow.

Tomorrow is Kodiak and I really want bears.

For the first tonight I left the casino with more than I started, helped greatly by a 600 win on a penny slot.

Exhausted - more tomorrow.

June 21, 2011 – around 8am
Blackberry was "out of order" for the past two days - and I'm somewhat out of order myself.  Exhausted, a little sick and a bit terrified to get my on-board bill in three days ........ And tomorrow's a sea day and we all know what that means!

The blackjack tournament was last night.  I held my spot and was in the tournament – not for long, however.  I was the first one to go bust.

When the casino shuts down tomorrow night, it's shut for good.....thank you God.

Woke up at 7 - we docked at Sitka at 8 - the place I wanted to be in most - put up Privacy Please notice on door and went back to bed at 8:15.

Woke at 12:30 - ordered bkfst and told myself I'd be fine if I stayed in my room all day (at least until the casino opened around 7).

Around 1:30 I panicked, threw some clothes on and want down to catch a tender to shore.

Really happy when I got into Sitka - such a sweet, lovely little town.

When I got to the store where I bought the tiles I found out they don't carry them any more!!!  Bummer.

So, I over-compensated in another store - purchase should arrive at work Mon or Tues.

So glad I didn't blow off Sitka - it would have been a big mistake I would have beat myself up about.

One thing will pull me out of the Casino tomorrow (at least for a little while) is Mariner Society Brunch by invitation from Captain Fred Eversen.  (I think it's for everyone who has been on more than one HAL cruise, which I guess is about 80 percent of the 900 passengers.)

That's it for now.........

June 23, 2011 – around 8pm
Victoria, BC - an absolutely glorious city.  Hard to describe.  Part European-city elegant, part Venice, CA, part Boston and, I guess, part unique Victoria.

Glorious day, as well.  Sunny, windy and in the high 60s.

After getting off whale-watching vessel I didn't want to get right onto the bus back to the ship, so I just roamed.

Had delicious famous Canadian french fries with gravy at beyond-charming waterside "park."  Then just walked until I realized I had no idea where the ship was.  Asked a bus driver to point me in the right direction, which she did, adding that it was about 2 miles away.  She ended up giving me a free ride back.

Went through the re-boarding process for the last time.

OK - excursion news.  Extremely wild seas below vast expanses of brilliant blue skies.  Did the trip with the Casino hostess (who else would I have become BFF with?).

After about an hour of being flung around the small boat (about 20 of us) the captain cut the engine and advised "all eyes on the water."

15 minutes later I saw the first blow but the animal was too far away to be able to be deemed "my first Orca."

Shortly thereafter, however, I still couldn't call anything "my first Orca," but I could claim Orca #1, Orca #2 and Orca #3!!!!!

Up and down, up and down - no way to get a pic with my camera (which is worthless for capturing wildlife, except perhaps a very sluggish snail), so I just stood in the bow taking it all in.  Tail slapping and one half-hearted breech.


Now back on ship facing the chore of packing - bags must be outside our staterooms no later than midnight (unless we want to carry them off ourselves).

The excellent catering to passengers continues when it comes to luggage - my bag will be tagged "Seattle Airport Hilton" and will find itself on the bus I'll be taking to the hotel.

Disembarkation begins at 7am, different times for different groups, giving priority to those catching flights.  My time is 9:15 to 9:30 - I should be at the hotel by Noon.  Wish I was going straight to a flight.  Not thrilled this trip has come to an end, but now that it has I just want to be home.

One plus - I'll get to have a great steak dinner at the hotel restaurant (Spencer's) which I missed on the way out due to a much-delayed arrival.

Last night on board and 5 of us who met each day at some point at the 3-card poker table are meeting in the Crow's Nest for farewell drinks.

Now to packing - got to leave something out for tonight, something to sleep in and something to wear tomorrow.  Hmmmmm, wonder if I can make one outfit do for all three?

I think what I'll miss most is the water - the vast expanses of it - being totally surrounded by it as far as the eye can see............and the constant gentle rocking (especially at night).  Except for one evening and night when the rocking was anything but gentle.

Farewell to the ms Amsterdam --- it's been a great home for 14 days.  Now it's back to a home that doesn't go anywhere or do anything ...... Just sits there (but in which you don't need to take an elevator or walk three flights up to dinner........but no one will be doing the cooking, the serving and the cleaning up.  ::::::::::::sigh::::::::::::::

June 24, 2011 – around 5am
Clearly we're not in Alaska any more - it's almost 5am and there's no sign of the sun.  Probably won't be able to bask in the sun at 11pm tonight, either.

Just announced on CNN:  "Tsunami warning cancelled after quake in Alaska.". (Note to self --- find out where quake hit.)

There's still water out there but probably no whales, otters, seals, sea lions, Puffin or Pelagic Cormorants .....

Awful thought -- today is my last work-day vacation day!  I get home around 7pm Saturday, Sunday to sleep, unpack, do laundry, check work emails and, BANG, then it's Monday.  No gentle, slow re-entry.

Well, that did it!  Not even off ship yet and depression is rolling in with the morning fog.

Just got light enough outside for me to see lower-48 land coming into view.

Comfort memory:  knowing there are some 30 Orca trolling for food along a coastline I can see in my mind.

Welcome home, MC.

June 24, 2011 – about 8am
13 days, about 20 showers, wishing during each one that the water could be hotter.  Final shower 10 minutes ago and I discover the cold "tap" needed to be turned two notches down.  Oh well, just had a great, really hot shower.

Just latched onto a plus about almost being home - no more half an hour Blackberry emails that would take 5/10 minutes on my laptop.

Will continue to try to discover additional plusses.

Off to Lido Deck for last bkfst.

June 25, 2011 – around 7am
I'm on board American flight 268 due to leave at 7:35 (I hope I hope I hope).

Note to Holland America:  It would be a good idea to, around day 12 or 13, require passengers to start doing some (simple) things for themselves.  Perhaps emptying their wastepaper baskets or getting their own coffee in the morning.

Last morning --- perhaps carrying "pretend" suitcase (not weighing more than 8 to 10 pounds) 25 feet or so.

By doing this, the absolute trauma of suddenly having to do EVERYTHING by yourself (like peasants) might be somewhat alleviated.

Up at 5am, with no open seas right outside my window (although I am still experiencing rocking motions).  Had to actually dig up some real money to buy coffee ....  Up till now, room key 6125 got me anything I wanted.

When I arrived at Hotel yesterday a group was getting ready to head for the ms Amsterdam, just as I did some 14/15 days ago.  Extremely jealous.

I understand how people get hooked on cruises -life on board is slow, easy and friendly, coupled with a sense of adventure.  A 5-star cocoon going where you want to go.

Alaska Cruise - First Installment - June 10 thru 14, 2011

June 10, 2011 – around Noon
On bus

40 minutes to pier

Ship sails at 4

Suitcase picked up at 10 am from hotel room

Relaxation will begin when suitcase is delivered to stateroom

June 10, 2011 – around 5pm
Boarded ship two hours ago.

No bag yet

Casino not open till 9pm

Relaxation still elusive

June 10, 2011 – around 6:30pm
Suitcase has arrived

Relaxation is filtering in - should spread through entire body in about 15 minutes ----- the mind will take a bit longer but probably not much more than casino-opening time + quarter of an hour!


June 11, 2010 – about 2am
If I were any more relaxed, I'd need to be resuscitated.

Dropped 500 on tables and slots last night - on the way out I dropped 100 into a slot - hit for 720 - went to bed 120 ahead .....

Room svc bkfst at 9 - showered, dried my hair on my terrace

11:30 trivia competition in the Crow's Nest - my team "The 3 Generations" won one last night and came in 3rd in another

Slot Tournament at 3

BBQ on Lido Deck at 8

Then I imagine it will be Casino time!

First port tomorrow - Ketchikan - doing the Saxman Native Village and Lumberjack Show excursion

Will continue this tomorrow (better than keeping a journal)

June 12, 2011 – around 9am
For starters - who in their right mind could have ever thought that me one deck away from a casino was a good thing?

Day 3 of a 14 day cruise and I'm about half way through my budget - had a bad run last night.

Docked at Ketchikan at 7 - have to be on shore be 11:20 for my tour.

Sitting in casino now (it’s closed, thank god - but its one of about 3 places I can smoke

Remembering taking a look on the internet last week at my cabin - what was the first thing I noticed?  Didn't think I'd be able to see the tv from my bed!  Pathetic.

Wherever you go, there you are.  And your self always goes there with you.

Others would make so much more of this adventure --- spa. Workout rooms, dancing, shows, fine dining......

But I'm not unhappy - actually quite content.  It's just that I often wish it took a bit more to make me content.

Off to Ketchican ..................

June 12, 2011 – around 10:30am
Got off ship at 10 - tour not till 11:30

Drizzly rain which is good for Ketchikan where they measure rain by feet instead of inches

About 55 degrees, and where are all my cozy sweatshirts?  Home in my closet!

Found a bar which serves coffee (and ashtrays) to wait in.  Not even 10:30 on a sunday morning and the beer and shots are flowing!

This is the part of traveling I like best - talking to locals in their environment.

Bartender-owner mustered out of the Navy in Seattle, 1969, headed north and never looked back

Guy downing beer at fast pace just got back from two week fishing trip. Going out again tomorrow.

Gotta finish coffee and find my tour group>

June 13, 2011 – around 4am
4am - exhausted and too late to put out a bkfst order

Too late to recap day - it was a good one

The casino curse has gone (at least for now) - 3-card poker, got a straight flush with 15 up - 40 to 1=600!

My bed beckons - sea a bit rough tonight - will be rocked to sleep

June 14, 2011 – around 9am
Today is a "sea day" (no port) - dangerous days.....the casino is open all day when we're not docked.

BUT today is really the first truly Alaska day - (also a bit dangerous).  About Noon we enter Tracy Arms, a narrow fjord toward Sawyer Glacier.  From today's issue of the ship's paper:  "The distance at which we can proceed depends entirely on the density of glacier ice within Tracy Arm as we must take great care not to damage our Azipods or Thrusters."

Don't know what those are, but sure don't want to damage them!

There is "resident" wildlife on the glacier and floating ice -- birds, seals and, possibly, bears.

Bkfst at the door - taking a journaling break................

OK - that was good.  Back to reportage.

Logistical challenge - room only has one outlet and I have three things that must always be ready to go: Kindle, Blackberry and camera.   Constantly need to determine which I'll need when and which is in jeopardy.  Keeps me on my toes.  Right now, camera is No. 1.

OK, yesterday.....

The native village was interesting - lots of totem poles, each telling a story.  Most are reproductions, about 40 yrs old - all cut, carved, painted and raised in 1000 year ways.

So many lovely things made of wood, including clothing!  Cedar hats!  Soft, pliable, elegant looking.  Went to buy one -----$1200!  Woulda cut WAY too much into my casino funds.

Then the Lumberjack show.  Kinda hokey but lots of burly men ....... !

Then it was back to the ship - nap - shower - some tv - dinner - and then to the casino till 4am

Think that brings things up to date - now shower and then to crow's nest for a trivia game and a $50,000 bingo game.

We've gone 953 nautical miles so far ....... We're traveling NE at 16.5 knots per hour ..... 51 nautical miles to Tracy Arm ..... Sunrise this morning at 3:58, sunset tonight at 9:52.

From the ms Amsterdam, signing off for now

June 14, 2011 – around 10am
Sitting in a strangely quiet casino.

My friend, Alang (from Bali) is busy shining up all the slots - but he saw me coming and had an ashtray waiting for me on the Roulette table.

My "expedition" today is taking a tram up Mt Edwards (some 4,000 ft) - the tram leaves every 15 minutes or so, and we don't sail until 9;30 tonight, so no rush.

Right now it's raining and visibility is about 40 ft, so - wouldn't see much at this point.  Haven't seen the sun yet at all.  Hopefully today will clear up a bit at some point.  If I end up not doing Mt Edwards I'll wander around the city.

Yesterday the highlight was going, oh so slowly, through the fjord, heading for the glacier (the Hubbard glacier, I think -- will have to check).

The closer we got, the slower we went, and the ice there was floating around us. 

It was wet and cold, so rather than go out on deck to watch the amazing scenery, those of us with gambling addictions watched from the casino, moving from the tables in the middle of the room to the slots next to the solid wall of windows.  (Somewhere between ice bergs, seals, eagles and the glacier I managed to turn 100 dollars into 350 in a quarter machine.)

There were many good sized "chunks" of ice but one which brought everyone to their feet - even staff who have done this often were pretty impressed, saying it was the biggest they'd ever seen.

Due to the amount of ice we didn't get as close to the glacier.  Last year we got pretty up close and personal and saw it "calving."  Not to be this time.

Ice sights (some caught on film and some missed) were

An eagle

A lone seal

A mother and a pup - momma apparently did not like the ship as she pushed the little off and slid into the water after it

Once we turned around headed back to Juneau, most of us headed back to the tables.

I am currently in the lead to be one of 7 who will play in the Blackjack tournament.  But people can continue to qualify so I won't know if I'm actually in the top 7 till tomorrow night (500 dollars to final winner).

It's interesting - you pay 20 to enter.  You then get 1,500 in chips (fake chips!) --- and then you play 7 hands.  It's all about betting strategy.  I got lucky because I was trying to bet high but keep enough to double down if the right opportunity came along - it did and it worked and after the 7 hands I had 4,600.

That's about it for now - I've banned myself from the casino tonight (not TOO hard as we sail at 9:30 and it can only open half an our after leaving a port)

For now ---- all ashore that's going ashore!

June 14, 2011 – around 2pm
It is pouring - the fog is dense - and there's even been thunder.

A perfect day to be warm, cozy and dry, with my Kindle and an Irish Coffee in the Crow's Nest, a huge lounge with a bar, and nothing but floor to ceiling windows all the way around.

Curled up in the "designated smoking area" life is good.

Nothing much I wanted to see or do in Juneau anyway - except perhaps burn Sara in effigy.

The good stuff is still to come - Homer, Kodiak, Sitka ..... Bears, whales, otters, Puffin (and more tiles).

The absolute very best thing about a two-week vacation is that there's plenty of time to allow for a "wasted" day (or two).

Thinking it might be really nice to go back to my cabin after lunch and order a movie (or two).  There are over 300 to choose from.

Having a lovely morning (my second Irish Coffee, with a scone, just got brought to me --- no reason not to have a lovely afternoon, as well.

Can you spell relaxation?

M-S  A-M-S-T-E-R-D-A-M !!!

Friday, June 3, 2011

News from Little Blue Boy and Blue Velvet's nest .....

Yes, I'm afraid that I've named them.  My friend Jessica, the other half of the bluebird project, gets to name all 5 little ones.

That's right - I said five.


But, now I think it's time for family planning to step in and take control.

I'm concerned about how crowded that nest is going to be with five squaling, wriggling little bodies.  It's not that big a nest.

Actually, the nest is big.  It's about 6 inches high.  And she did all that in about 2 1/2 days.  But at the very top where the eggs are and where the fledglings will be is what's called the "bowl" and that's what's not very big.

I'll keep you posted.  It looks like the eggs will hatch while I'm in Alasks, but I will definitely be back before the babes fly the nest.

Monday, May 30, 2011

May got more glorious .....

Somewhere between 11am yesterday and Noon today, eggs were laid in the nest.

At least two - I was so stunned when I saw them, I quickly shut the box.  There could be more.  She will apparently deliver one egg a day until she's finished (probably not more than 4) and will then begin incubation.

Incubation takes about two weeks.  Then its about three weeks before the little ones make their way into the world.

Thankfully, I will be back from vacation before they leave the nest.  Mom and dad continue feeding for 30 days, so we will have many bluebirds for the month of July. 

So, my glory for July is guaranteed.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Still here - a month+ into my 70s ......

Watched a wonderful 1 hour monologue, a "teaching" hour, by Maya Angelou last night.

I have adored that woman for decades.  Her magic, her words, her growth, her pain - everything about her.  But what I have longed for over the years is a chance to put my head in her lap and sob while her words soothed me.

Last night she went throught the stages of her life, the stages that shaped her, the horrors that never brought her to her knees, but made her stand taller and stronger.

She did not like her 60s, she said, but found her 70s to be glorious.  I thought, sure, Maya Angelou would have a glorious 7th decade, but how did that translate to me?  I have no answer to that, but I will search for one. 

She is now 82 and told the audience that they should strive for their 80s.  That I know I can, and will do ... but first I have to find ways to make my 70s glorious.

It is, after all, probably all (or the vast majority) of what I have left.  Not to at least make an attempt to make them glorious would be giving up at the end, and while I've done nothing to match what Maya has done for us all, I have never been one to give up.

Oh, sure - I've slacked off on more than one occasion, I've been less than a "go gettem" person .. but I've never really ever given up.

I haven't really thought about it until right this moment, but I have had a glorious moment (moments) within the first 30 days of my 7th decade.

(I've got to learn how to attach pictures - I have some wonderful ones to illustrate and have tried for about 15 minutes to upload them.  Didn't work, so think small, compact and blue, using your imagination.)

About two weeks ago, Jessica and I set up everything perfectly to attract blue birds outside of our office.

We bought the right house, sank got a 6 foot steel pole (to make it hard for racoons, cats and other predators), affixed the bird house.  The spot was perfect.  Situated centrally between two large trees, about 40 feet away from each.  (The trees need to be nearby for the parents to stand guard and for the fleglings to have a safe place to fly to the first time).  Totally open where the house stands.  Right up against a dirt road.  All the directions found on Google told us we had done it perfectly.

Then, just to make it better, we bought a blue bird feeder made specifically for meal worms, a treat they especially like.  We didn't like it too much.  They are not live worms, but as the can stated, they "remain soft and life like." 

We put up and filled the feeder, and for good measure put some on top of the house.

Oh, yes - one final detail.  Instructions found on the web indicated that something blue should be affixed to the outside of the bird house to attract their attention.  Jess cut out two wing shaped pieces of wood and painted them a perfect bluebird blue.  We attached them to the sides of the house and began to wait.

Patience not being one of my virtues, by the second day I was convinced it wasn't going to work.

By the end of the first week, we said "well, we didn't do this until March, too late for this year, but maybe next year ........."

By the 2nd week, I had settled down to being satisfied with the more "ordinary" birds that come by the swarm to the two feeders at my office window.

End of 2nd week, I look out my window and think I'm hallucinating.  "Jess," I yelled out of my office, not taking my eyes off the bird house.

The blue was actually shimmering in the sunlight.  There, as plain as could be, atop the bird house stood the male.  We stared and wondered.  Another male came by.  Later that day we spotted a female in the trees.

We held our breath for two days.

Then ---- with a mouth full of twigs that had to weigh almost as much as she did, the female entered the bird house.

For the past four days she has been building and he has been guarding.  And occasionally when she is inside working, he'll fly in with a worm for her.

When last checked (two days ago) the next looked pretty complete.

Further googling had us learn that bluebirds often build two or three nests and then decide which one to use.

More meal worms went into the feeder and on top of the birdhouse.

Now we wait.  The worst case scenario is that we've had up close and personal looks into the lives of bluebirds.  Best case?  We find tiny blue eggs in the nest soon, and within two weeks (WHEN I WILL BE IN ALASKA!!!!) we will have baby blue birds flying about.

Jess takes excellent pictures.  She will be moving into my office while I'm gone to keep track of what's going on and will film what she can.. Hopefully, after that I will have learned to upload pictures to this blog.

So, how'm I doing so far, Maya?  First month, bluebirds.  Second month, Alasks.  I've just got to make sure that I have something glorious in July.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

There, I've said it .....

I'm back - not sure why I've been "away" or sure why it's important to be back.

I do know that it has nott been easy turning 70.  There, I've said it.  Don't know yet if I'll hit the "submit" button which would make it public knowledge, but at least I've gone so far as to put it into writing.  It's enough, maybe, that I see it.

What I don't understand is that I know why 70 terrifies me, but I don't for the life of me know why I am ashamed to say it.  Why I will go to any lengths to hide my age, and why I get personally insulted and even outraged at the bad manners of anyone who brings it up.

When someone tells me they think I'm 50 or 60, or whatever age I'm not, I find no joy or pride in that.  One is what one is.  I've never understood plastic surgery.  If someone is 70, they can spend unearthly amounts of money to end up looking 40 .... are they then 40?  No, they remain 70.  So, what's the point.

Is the person themselves being fooled?  I don't see how, but perhaps.

Is the grim reaper being fooled?  I think not.

When time runs out, it runs out, regardless of how old friends or strangers might think someone is.  It runs out no matter how much it can be proved one doesn't look or act the age the grim reaper knows them to be.

My fear comes from the most certain knowledge that I have just entered the decade which will see my end.

I've already passed the age where most of my family met with death.  And the most long-lived of anyone was 77.  And she, my mother, lived a much healthier life than I.

For someone who was certain she'd never see 40, and was amazed to enter into her 50s, shocked to realize one day she has actually turned 60, it isn't any stretch to know that things are working on coming to a close at 70.

And that, to put it mildly, freaks me out.  It's not death itself that I am scared of.  It's the fact of not being.  Simply ceasing to exist.  No longer knowing things around me.  To be moved by the sight of a whale, the flight of a bluebird, the serenity of waving sunflowers.  To put down a great book with a satisfied thump on the table.  To not know who got voted off of Survivor, who won Dancing With The Stars, to learn if anyone ever outdid Ken Jennings on Jeopardy.  I wan t to know that I'll be around when the METS finally have another winning season - and that could take most of a decade.  Will Carly Simon ever disclose who "You're So Vain" was written about.  How will history treat Obama?  Do I have enough time to lose the 100 pounds and enjoy the loss, or will it just benefit possible pall bearers?

Who will keep the memories of things that I alone hold?  My beloved grandmother, my long-gone brother, my father?  Who will remember the days in NYC, Los Angeles, Lakeville and Germany?  Who will know the peace I found in Paris?  My mother will be rememberd by some for several decads to come, but not the mother I knew.  She, too, will cease to exist when I do. 

Words of comfort say that so long as we are remembered, we do not die.  If, true, then when I go, I take many with me - those who have no memory keepers but me.

I know there are those who will mourn my passing and remember me as they go forward.  Not a large group, but decent-sized and each one treasured.  But I don't want to be just a memory.  I want to continue to feel hugs and kisses.  To hear words of love and kindness.  To offer the same.

I do not want to simply cease to exist.  It's as simple as that. 

But none of that explains my shame in revealing the fact that, yes, I am 70.  Have been for two days now.
Does the fear somehow bring one to shame?  I don't know - going to have to ponder that.  And I can only hope it takes me a long, long time to think about it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

You can't get there from here - TRULY!

I had to drive to a client's yesterday - Suffern, NY - MapQuest indicated it was 91.4 miles and estimated 1 hours and 40 minutes drive time.  Not easy to turn that into a 5 hour drive, but I managed!

All went well until at a certain point I glanced down at the written directions (hard to do when cars are pushing you to go 70 mph) and saw this I-875 towards NYC/Albany.

So I followed the sign that said NYC/Albany and all of a sudden was faced with “North” or “South.”  (Not until about 20 minutes later did I realize that my directions said I-87S not I-875.   I chose “north” simply because I didn’t think I wanted to head into the City.

As I said, about 20 minutes later I realized the folly of my decision but thought “no big deal,” I’ll get off at the next exit and get myself headed south.  No real harm done.

Well, the next exit was about 30 miles away.  So, when I finally got there, I went through the toll heading in one direction, did a U-turn and went back through the toll heading the other way.  Shoulda been easy, right?  Well, after a few minutes I realized I was going NORTH again.

Next exit was Kingston.  Lots of silent cursing in the car, but no tears.  Turned around there and successfully got myself heading south.

So far, not a real crisis.  So I lose an hour, big deal.  Hannity was off the air and I could get some of Mark Levin’s harangue for a while (but unfortunately there was a guest host.)

Anyway, I’m traveling south and all directions are being followed to a tee – I get to exit 14B, Suffern,
Airmont Road and happily get off the highway.  My hotel is on Airmont Road
I see the huge diner that is a landmark for me as it is what I use as a landmark to get from the hotel to the client's office.  I know the hotel is only about three blocks from the diner, so I’m home free.

Not quite ……………

I continue on Airmont Road and I realize I’ve gone too far, so I take the first left in order to simply turn around and backtrack.  Nope.  I'ts just turned onto a HIGHWAY.  And off I go to the first possible exit which is about 15 miles away.  I take that first exit, still thinking “this still isn’t too bad,” just get yourself turned around and go back and get back on Airmont Road
Well, the first exit I take gets me onto ANOTHER HIGHWAY.  Take first exist off that and now I am in NJ in a residential area with no people, no stores, no gas stations.

At that point, the tears have begun.  I pull into a driveway and try to get the GPS working.  It’s clear I need help, even tho I have no real expectations that a GPS will give it to me.  Doesn’t matter what I think, however, because I can’t get it to show me any directions that relate in any way to where I am and where I’m going.

I sob for a few minutes – give my self a “stiff upper lip” lecture and step into the street to stop a car – nice man tells me to go straight and at the bottom of the hill turn left on to 202.

I go straight and there is the first bottom of a hill and nowhere to turn – so I keep going.  There is after a few miles another bottom of the hill which has what looks to be a decent enough road to be called 202, so I turn left.  Go a few blocks and see nothing but homes and start to think this might not be 202.

I stop and ask someone.  I turned off one bottom of the hill too soon.

Go back and finally get myself onto something I can confirm is 202.

After a few miles I pull into a gas station to make sure I’m on the right track.

Woman says “Stay on 202 until you can’t go any further.  Then take a left and an immediate right.  That’s 59 and will take you right into Airmont.”  (Interesting that the first man who told me to take 202 said nothing about finding 59, but I digress).

For 10 miles I’m chanting “When you can’t go any further take a left, then an immediate right.” 

Abruptly, the road ends – but not because the road doesn’t go any further and I should be taking a left, followed by an immediate right.

It ends because it’s been shut down due to flooding.

So I’m forced to take a right (the only choice) which is again totally residential.

I wander for a while trying to make educated guesses about which way I should turn.

Finally – A GAS STATION.

Turn around – go back one light – turn onto Airmont Avenue – when Airmont Avenue ends take a left onto
Airmont Road
I do as I’m told and in about 20 minutes I see the DINER.  Home free again, right?  WRONG.

Due to the fact that's where all the trouble began the last time, I ask someone how to get to the Howard Johnson motel.  Not taking any chances.

“Go over the highway, go through three lights, after the third light take a left.”

I’m so happy – I do what he says but exactly where he told me he wanted me to take a left is where this all went horribly wrong about an hour and a half ago (when all I wanted to do was turn around)..

Hah, says I.  I’m not falling for that.

So I do another illegal U-turn (at this point hoping a cop will appear).

At a light I get out of my car and go to the car behind me.  Light is still red, but cars are already beginning to honk at me.  I don’t care.

Man says go back over highway and at the first light make a left.  (Just about opposite of what the first guy said.)

But I’m told to look for a Baskin Robbins as you can’t see the motel from Airmont Road , it’s right behind the Baskin Robbins.

At this point I’m thinking the hell with the motel I’m going to Baskin Robbins and eat everything I can pay for.

But I don’t and lo and behold behind all those forbidden calories is the HoJo motel.  Pretty much a dump – but it looked like the Taj Mahal to me.

And, that, my friends is how a 9l.3 mile trip turns into a nightmare. 

The only true blessing about the whole thing is that I didn't run out of gas somewhere in the middle of this hell.  Had that happened I don't think the people guarding the little rubber room would let me be making this post.