Sunday, August 31, 2008

There's No Place Like Home


New York is dizzying. You'd think after 25 years in Chicago I could cope with any big city in the world and generally I have. I love Paris and London, tolerate Milan, managed in Athens, but New York is a world all its own. Just an example, the taxi rides make me car sick. I'd rather cross the English Channel in a small boat in stormy seas.
I know NYC has improved its reputation but I can't warm up to it. It is great to photograph, the shows are wonderful (although so are the shows in Chicago), but there is a hostile edge I just didn't like.
I'll say more later but for now I want to post a couple of pictures and catch a plane.

Times Square at Night

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I get around

"Round round get around
I get around
Get around round round I get around
I get around
Get around round round I get around
From town to town"


Somehow the Beach Boys seem appropriate. So here we are from somewhere near Half Moon Bay, California to. . .

Times Square

Times Square, New York City. My head hurts. I don't normally travel quite this much but right after our normal August family vacation there was this once in a lifetime August family wedding, so here we are.

Now we're off to see Spamalot. Wish you were here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Just a picture

Farming the Wind

Windmills near San Francisco.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Freshman Dorm

Dorm Cafeteria

Another walk down memory lane (what a trite phrase).
The picture is of one of the Stanford dorms known as Larkin House. I lived just around the corner in the same building (Stern) in a dorm by the name of Twain House. I'm sure we were arch rivals but somehow this is less significant 25 years later.
We all shared the same food service. I'm certain the food has improved. We used to say that "Green Eggs and Ham" were invented by the Stern food service. We also learned to avoid any foods with California titles, e.g. California Quiche and Monterey Casserole. Guaranteed indigestion.
Of course, we had the occasional food fights which were fairly civil. Another sterling tradition was throwing up the pats of butter in the hopes that they would adhere to the high ceilings. Until the food service wised up and stopped serving butter in pats, it would be a special treat to have a butter pat of unknown lineage fall into your food with a loud splat.
I hear dorm food has gotten much tastier and, even healthier too. I doubt the "freshman 10" have been cured. But dorm life will never be the same again.

Friday, August 22, 2008

So Many Stories. . . .

Rodin in Memorial Court

So this June would have been my 25 year college reunion. Does that date me? Until yesterday, I hadn't been back to Stanford since, sadly enough. At first I was busy in graduate/medical school and didn't have the money, then I was busy in graduate/medical school/residency/etc. and had a career and a family.
It was wonderful going back. Not at all a disappointment. It was more like remembering why you fell in love in the first place.
I kept dredging up more and more memories and stories of college life. At first I couldn't find my way around the place but with every moment more came back. There was the coffee house (pre-Starbucks era, currently a Peet's Coffee), there the place I saw the University of Washington basketball team lounging on the bookstore steps and realized how short I was/am, but, wait, the Alber's Wall has been moved!
That takes me to story number one.
I believe it was in 1980 that Stanford acquired a new outdoor sculpture to go with a large collection of Rodins and various works by other artists entirely unknown to me at the time. This sculpture, by Josef Albers, became known as The Wall and seemed to be uniformly loathed by Stanford undergraduates. It had a couple of liabilities. The first was that it was hard to see it as a work of art. I recall it as a 6-7 foot high wall of stone and steel which looked less like art and more like a 6-7 foot wall. Unfortunately it was placed in the middle of a major bicycle thoroughfare on campus. On a campus overcrowded with speeding cyclists racing to their next class (such as myself) a large wall was a safety hazard. Students resented this and thought the cost of the work could have been better spent.
Needless to say, cultural ignorami such as my classmates and I, found better uses for the sculpture. The one I remember was using the wall as an opaque net for a game of toss the earthball. The earthball was a large inflated ball decorated like a globe. I recall it as being nearly as tall as I am. It took several people together to toss the ball over the wall. I think I wound up sitting atop the wall shouting directions during the game. I also was supposed to help spike the ball but doubt that I ever achieved that distinction.
As we were driving to campus yesterday, I glimpsed what I believe was the Wall out of the corner of my eye sitting forlornly in a remote part of campus. Maybe someone listened to us students after all? Or maybe not. One final aside--I tried to look up information about the wall on the internet and could find little other than that it existed. Even Wikipedia failed me here.

Returning to the Scene of the Crime

The Quad

My alma mater 25 years after graduation.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Yosemite Panorama

Happily some things never change.

Sunday, August 17, 2008



The Dark Lining to the Silver Cloud?

So here it is--if my internet connection holds long enough to type this--the litany of woes of this vacation.
Day one--we leave for the airport a little late. Traffic, even though it is a Sunday, is ghastly. We arrive at the airport 40 minutes before flight time and it is a no-go. They will not check you in less than 45 minutes before flight time due to security regulations. The frustration of standing in the airport waiting for your flight to leave without you is extreme!
Well, it turns out that the next flight we can get on to any point in southern California is Monday at 5:45 PM. The ticket agent said that due to the Olympics (is LA the most direct route to China?) there were no seats to San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles or other points south.
We swallow our disappointment manfully or womanfully in my case. Call the rest of the family who will be meeting us in San Diego and rearrange our plans a little. Unfortunately, losing the one day, means I will not get to see my aunt who lives in San Diego.
Next day we board the plane to San Diego with plenty of time to spare. The plane takes off and things are going smoothly when the pilot gets on the intercom to tell us that one of the hydraulics has lost fluid and we need to return to Chicago. He says it is not an emergency and our landing is routine but necessary. He does warn us that just in case our plane will be met by the emergency landing team in O'Hare. We land without problem accompanied by a large number of fire trucks and ambulances. Quite an escort! Our one bit of fun was that the passenger next to me was a naval fighter pilot and he regaled us with stories of his job. My youngest son was all in awe. I think my husband was too. Boys!
There was some delay in locating a second plane for us but finally we took off 5 hours late. This put our arrival in San Diego at 2 AM. We decide to stay in the closest hotel to the airport and climb in a cab. Now here comes mess #3 for the trip. I wake up the next day to discover that I do not have my purse. I must have left it in the airport or on the cab. Or someone stole it! So far no good Samaritan has appeared to return the purse and contents. I lost the usual stuff, money, ID, cell phone and the little camera I had bought to replace the little camera that was stolen last year. That camera must be cursed, like the Hope Diamond or something.
Fortunately no one has used the ID to charge items or empty my bank accounts so there is a small silver lining to the cloud.
I now feel sort of naked and a bit dependent on others for money. The hardest part will be seeing if I can get back on an airplane next week without a driver's license. According to the Illinois DMV, the best I can do is file a police report (done) and hopefully a copy of this will allow me to board a plane. If not, who knows?
The story still doesn't get better. Two days ago we get an e-mail from our house sitter. One of our two cats is missing! She is an indoor cat and we fear she got out one of the doors--we had a minor construction project in the house the day after we left, or worse the kitty is stuck in a closet somewhere and by now has died of thirst. I shudder even to think the latter. We still hold out hope that she is just hiding during the day and coming out only at night. She is a shy cat and that is possible although she knows our house sitter. My younger son is bereft but we still hold out hope the cat will turn up.
Could things get any worse? The superstitious do not want us to ask. So far we are all well and having a good time in spite of everything. This morning we woke up to discover that the key to our rental car (one of those electronic ones) no longer works. It must have a dead battery. At present we are waiting to discover what the solution is to this conundrum--will there be a new battery at the local hardware store (maybe open on a Sunday)? Will Thrifty drive to Three Rivers to deliver us a new key? I'll keep you posted.
It is still hard to post, especially pictures which have long upload times due to the instability of my internet. I have great pictures of the sights here in Sequoia, but those, and this post, will have to wait until the next time I am connected to the Net.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Are we having fun yet?

Mr. Toad

And the answer is, definitely yes! Two nights ago we arrived at our hotel/cabin in Three Rivers, California at the entrance to Sequoia National Park. At only 1200 feet of elevation or so it is still hot as Hades here but there is a wonderful little river in our back yard. The first day we were here, the braver members of our party found a water hole and went swimming. It was beautiful. The water was cool but in 100 degree heat that didn't matter much. If you ignored some slippery rocks and a bit of algae, conditions were perfect.
I was calmly soaking myself when I noticed a prickly feeling in my legs. It is the feeling you get when you're not quite sure if there is a fly or spider crawling on you or if you are just being paranoid. I checked out my legs to find that there were some small fish nibbling at me. It was pretty fun to watch and feel. Plus a lot less offensive than when a mosquito tries to graze off me.
Now only if I had had my little waterproof camera. Alas that was in the lost/stolen purse. That camera has bad karma. My last one was in the purse that was stolen last year.
Well, I hope my internet connection holds long enough to post this. Uh oh. I think not. Sigh.
Yesterday we went to see the giant sequoias. If I ever get a stable internet connection I'll post photos.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Borrowed Internet

Is better than borrowed time. My laptop woes continue so I'm borrowing my husband's laptop and internet access but this means no photos! So far there hasn't been much to photograph anyway but I like to head all my entries with a photo as those of you who read regularly already know.
I am currently in Bakersfield, CA. Hot and sunny doesn't quite describe the 101 degree temperatures here. I finally found a swimming pool that was warm enough for me!
We have had quite an adventure which I will go into with a bit more leisure time. Suffice to say we had some flying excitement and I am trying to go through life without a purse and all its contents. The rest of the trip had darn well better go more smoothly.
Gotta Go.
Sequoia today!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Shopping for a Bathing Suit

It has been several years since the last time I bought a bathing suit. I'm guessing around 6. The two I currently own are losing their elastic properties and one has a few holes in the seat. So I set out today to replace them.
I'm not sure anyone enjoys shopping for bathing suits. For one, the dressing room lights manage to make anyone's skin tone look sickly. For another, I have yet to meet an American woman who feels absolute self-confidence in her body. Trying on swim wear seems to bring out the worst in all of us.
I can't think of bathing suits without thinking of the comic strip Cathy. There seems to always be a scene with Cathy trying on a suit and shrieking "AAACK!"
To verify that my recall is correct, I looked up Cathy on Wikkipedia, source of all internet knowledge. Here is what Wikki has to say about Cathy:
"Cathy has a love/hate affair with food (especially carbohydrates). She loves it, but hates what it does to her thighs. She is often shown in a department store fitting room trying to stuff herself into a bathing suit."
Today's trip typified my previous experiences only more so. Perhaps it was my choice of stores (Nordstrom's) or my tendency to shop at the end of the season, but the suits I found were particularly loathsome. No, this was not my body image problem. I immediately determined that I do not need the slimming suit (one entire rack) since I have been accused of having "no butt." I tried on suits that made me look lopsided, suits that made me look lumpy all over and ones that even a woman built like a fashion model would have refused to wear unless paid handsomely. What were the designers thinking of? These weren't cheap suits either (note I was at Nordstrom's). After trying on around 15 suits I finally found something, ahem, suitable. Nothing great. Just not a granny suit and not a string bikini either. I can wear it in public without needing liposuction or a paper bag to wear on my head. And it doesn't make me look like I have three breasts.
On the plus side, on the way out of the building I fell in love with a dress which I will wear to the wedding I'm attending at the end of the month in New York City. So the outing wasn't a total waste.
By the way, that is really me on the rope swing. It was around 6 years ago and we were in Costa Rica. I was the only adult brave enough to swing with my son. Which is part of the reason the elastic is gone on that particular swim suit. It served its purpose.
Tomorrow we head to California for a family vacation and a few college tours. I hope I get some great shots of Yosemite and Sequoia to share with you. And I hope the natives like my swim suits.
Back soon, internet access willing.

Friday, August 08, 2008

I stand corrected

You Be The Judge

OK, so I exaggerated. There are a few Native Americans left in Wisconsin! (See previous post and comments). I still doubt the Indian-themed motels I passed are owned by Native Americans. As for the casino, well I figure the first peoples need to take revenge on us "white folks" after all the years of oppression and displacement.
I'm just remembering all the fights over whether Indian names and mascots for college ball teams were insulting. I was at Stanford shortly after the school changed its team nickname from the Indian to the Cardinal. The decision was based on the impression that the use of an Indian name and mascot was disrespectful to Native Americans.
The University of Illinois retired its Chief Illiniwek mascot in 2007. Not all Native Americans were opposed to the mascot but the Chief retired anyway. I was amazed to discover in researching this bit of most-important American history, that Chief Illiniwek has a MySpace account. I guess it is nice to know that some fans are truly in touch with their inner children.
So I guess the logic goes, football team mascots are out, motel names are allowable. Or nobody has gotten around to suing for being tacky yet.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

To the Dells and Back Again

Chippewa Motel

Tuesday I took my son back to camp. We picked him up last week because he still had not recovered from his GI disorder. After being seen by two doctors and one nurse, having blood tests, an abdominal x-ray and so forth, this was one kid who needed to be home with mom and dad. I have to give him credit. He stuck with it and was really hanging tough but it was time. A couple of days of mom's special GI diet though, and he was ready to roll, back to the Wisconsin Dells which is where camp is located.
I made the 7 hour round trip in one day. It was long but not too grueling. On the way home I decided I was sick of expressways and detoured on smaller roads. Unfortunately, it got dark before I could indulge in a lot of photography.
My conclusions are:
The Wisconsin Dells make Vegas look tasteful.
They have a thing about Indians. What is with the moccasin shops and native American themed motels? My guess is that there hasn't been a native American within a hundred miles of the Dells in around a century. But you can get real, genu--iiiiine Chinese-made, lead free moccasins in around 30 different stores.
Camp ends tomorrow. I hope my son stays cured. After three days of hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and sloppy joes, I have my doubts.

Iowa Backroads

Middle of Nowhere

When you are the only person in the car you can turn off the highway whenever you want.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Severe Weather

Wow! Tornado warnings here in Chicago! The worst has passed and all we have at present is a gentle rain but we had quite the lightning show earlier. I actually had patients holed up in my office for a few minutes until the worst passed by. I had to run home since my son was panicking.
I first heard our local tornado sirens a few years ago (and blogged about it here) and didn't know what they were. Today when they started wailing, the storm hadn't quite arrived yet and I was puzzled. Then the show began. A check of the internet suggested possible tornadoes to the south and north of me but none nearby. Now it is not clear if there were any actual tornadoes sighted. In fact, I'm still not sure if there were any tornado touch downs in the greater Chicago area.
News has it that Wrigley field was evacuated during a game. That must have been exciting. And passengers at O'Hare were taken off their planes and evacuated to a lower level. Of course, multiple flights were canceled.
I'm not flying until Sunday. We had to deal with cancellations on my last trip and I hope this time the weather will be kind to us.

The Little Airplane That Couldn't

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Do I have to?


Write something today? Today I felt sort of at loose ends. This was to have been my final child-free week but somehow things didn’t go as planned. The younger son continued to have stomach problems at camp this past week which culminated in our picking him up on Thursday, one week early. Needless to say, two days later, he is fit as a fiddle, complaining of boredom and asking for a play date. He was also fighting my “upset stomach diet” tooth and nail. Said diet is boring as all good diets seem to be.
Today, if all had gone as planned, I would have driven my son back to Wisconsin to rejoin his camp for the last week. Then, back home to start my final work week before vacation. However, a combination of wishful thinking (I’d rather be home with mom) and non-compliance with the GI diet led to a minor relapse. Younger son doesn’t exactly make symptoms up but he is a bit of a hypochondriac. Sadly, hypochondriasis runs in my family.
So here we are. Happy, not quite, camper is playing video games. And how have I spent my day? I could be revising my novel. But I decided to find yet another way to procrastinate. So I made a quilt. Well, a small quilt. A fragment. I think it will be a pillow cover.
I decided to write about this because I got my sewing machine out of mothballs (actually I excavated it out of the dust bunnies) and have been using it. My first major project in years was to make a quilt out of old t-shirts. We have enough discarded t-shirts floating around the house to make several quilts without compromising our leisure-wear status. The quilt came out pretty well, if I may say so myself. The principle is quite simple. You cut t-shirts into 13 inch squares, sew them together and add backing. I love it because the quilt is made up of outgrown shirts from 16 years of child rearing. I can see the University of Chicago onesie my oldest wore the day I graduated from medical school. And a Seattle Crab shirt I got for him the same year. There are a couple of camp shirts, a shirt from Duncan, British Columbia (from the train phase), another two shirts from the Pokemon phase, and so on. The quilt back was a $1 sheet I found at the Salvation Army. Here’s to recycling!
My next project was to make a pillow case out of a Hawaiian shirt I bought at the same Salvation Army store. The shirt was too loud for any of the men in my family to wear but it went well with the peach paint in our guest bedroom (where the quilt also resides). That project took my around an hour.
Yesterday, I decided I wanted to try crazy quilting. I liked the idea of making something without planning. No patterns needed. No trips to the fabric store for matching squares required. I had bought a couple of scraps of vintage fabric on my trip to Iowa last week. There were a couple of worn quilt squares and a ball of fabric strips intended for making a rag rug. Instead I incorporated some of these strips and scraps, bits of a (commercial) quilted pillow sham we had that disintegrated from too much machine washing, a few bits of the Hawaiian shirt used for the pillow (including a pocket), remnants of the sheet backing for the t-shirt quilt, bits of an old bathrobe and (don’t tell my husband I told you) of a pair of boxers I fished out of the garbage. I ran all the pieces through my truly ancient White sewing machine and I now have a rectangle of fabric waiting for me to figure out the next step. Even my sewing machine was bought used. Today was a good day for recycling.

Saturday, August 02, 2008



Glad mine aren't this hairy.