Verbal Snapshot No. 1 – 12/28/2016 3:11 PM

I am 65 years old today and I am sitting where I wanted to be in my dreams.  Although my dreams have a more secluded spot next to the river, a little closer to our room, this will do. 

I am probably 50 yards from the staircase and path leading down to the river.  It is a wide open area with many boulders, not a beach, and no way to access a stroll next to the river. That is, not an easy stroll as there is no visible path from where I sit, only large rocks and boulders.  These rocks, like the one I am sitting on, are shiny and slippery.  I have to anchor myself with the tread of my shoe.  I wonder at what point in time they were covered by water.

There isn’t much vegetation.  What I see is mostly dead. Some of the brush sticking up looks like petrified sea weed.  There is also a bluish bush that reminds me of sage.

I hear birds but they are off in the distance.  I just saw a few fly into a nearby pine tree, chirping their staccato melody.  I wish I could hear them better over the rush of the river. But oh!  That river, the sight and the sound!  This is the moment I have been waiting for with every fiber of my being. 

Adjusting my perch on the slippery rock, I notice the sun is just on top of the mountain peak, sitting there staring at me–wondering what I am thinking, wondering what is to become of me in my old age.  Not that I am old yet.

To my right, up the river, and in the distance is a mountain peak covered with snow.  I know Johnsondale is up the road a speck, but I cannot believe what the blind lady told me: that McNally’s is up that road 13 miles.  I thought it was in Kernville and we are 3 miles out of Kernville. 

The air is fresh.  It is cool December air.  It is breathable.  This is a picture perfect place and I feel like singing, “I Know A Place.” 

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Up, Up, and Away

The airplane just lifted off and I am full of emotions! Happy, but weeping – – why? Aviation terms are flying around in my head (taxiing, banking, turbulence), as the pit in my stomach grows. We fly over shimmery water and spidery veins of highways reminding me of a Google map or Sim City. My emotions need examination!

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View From Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest

Up for 20 minutes and I’m still feeling flushed and excited. Lack of sleep, in anticipation of going to Europe for the first time, doesn’t help. We pass over a big lake right outside of Las Vegas, Lake Mead? How lucky to have a window seat, right behind the wing, and be able to see the fingers of this huge lake. The digital display with the little airplane indicates we are 35,119 feet above sea level. I am drugged but don’t want to miss a thing.

The scene is spectacular! It is a clear day with wispy clouds. Expansive dry riverbeds look like slithering snakes. The glistening snowcapped mountains are presumably the Rockies. At 37,000 feet the digital display reads -78°F outside. Free WiFi on an airplane is a mystery, so I settle back to enjoy my bear claw and examine my strong emotions.

Insomnia has conquered the need for deep sleep. I start to reminisce and can’t remember the last time I was in a plane. But then it dawns on me. The last time I was traveling this far across America I was alone, the year 1981. Rivulets of regret stung my eyes and wound their way down the wrinkles of my withered old face.

Finding Familiarity in Budapest

You are in a foreign country staying in a grand hotel that serves a complementary breakfast. Upon arising you think it’s only 5:30 AM, and are astonished when you comprehend that you have overslept until 10:30 AM.  A potent cocoon of jet lag has caused you to miss your free, first morning meal!  What do you do?

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Start walking. Find the nearest touristy type neighborhood.  Usually these are signified by narrow cobblestone streets.  In Pest that main street is called Vaci, which we were told was “fashion place.”

We had not gone far when one of us spotted those all-familiar landmarks of Golden Arches!  The giant “M”s.  Home away from home!  Where up until that moment everything and everybody had seemed as strange as being the protagonist in a “truth is stranger than fiction” novel.

We proceeded through the floor-to-ceiling glass doors up to the counter to be greeted by Hungarian-speaking servers in abbreviated English.  Somehow we managed the transaction and made our way through what looked like a penny arcade, or old-fashioned telephone booths.  I recognized that the young people sitting there were playing video games.

There were no real booths, just benches with chairs on one side.  It didn’t look like an American McDonald’s.  It was more sterile and the whole building was surrounded by glass windows.  But there  was comfort in being there.

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Vaci Street

The main thing is that there were people, people of every ethnicity, people that looked just like the people back home in the McDonald’s in Bakersfield.  It was then, and later on in our trip, that I realized people everywhere laugh, cry, smile, and yawn in the same language.  I was at home in a familiar place!

Contingencies

My Girl Scout training taught me rules.  One of them was, “Be Prepared.”  It is the Girl Scout motto.  So I feel compelled to “scout out” the most practical wardrobe choices for a ten-day European vacation.

Regardless of my seemingly calm and collective demeanor, I feel compelled to rummage through my clothing every now and then.

Call it it what you may.

Am I sorting to discover the best mix and match solutions and layering techniques?

Granted Europe will be cold in March.  So maybe I am a little nervous about the weather.  The predictions state highs in the 50s, lows in the 40s.  And always a chance for precipitation.

Maybe I am deciding I need to be fancy on at least one occasion.  But the jacket I have chosen wouldn’t pass in a concert hall or church.

Or, on an even more practical level, perhaps I am trying to watch my ounces and pounds.  There are limits you know.  Do I resort to weighing my shoes so I end up wearing the heaviest?

How many outfits are enough for a ten-day trek to a foreign land?  Do I want to wash anything out?

Enough with the rules!  Am I honestly trying to cover every contingency?  Or did my Girl Scout preparedness training turn me into a OCD neat-freak?  Hey, it’s what I’ve been doing since grade school–the suitcase is out a month before camp!

Perhaps I am just a little excited to be going to Europe for the first time!

Spaghetti Squash

I followed a recipe today for stuffed spaghetti squash. You never know what you’re going to get with a Facebook recipe. My husband always asks, “Where did you get the recipe,” and I say embarrassingly, “on Facebook.” It’s true some are flops, but sometimes you find a winner!

Like tonight.  After softening the yellow gourd in the microwave for five minutes, it was easy to cut in half. There was a treasury of fine yellow curls–masses of them supporting a dozen or so seeds in each half. The seeds got scooped, the stringy fiber curls tasted. I guess it would be an exaggeration to say I was overjoyed or in heaven. It was more like discovering a new and pleasant sensation. These golden strands, the consistency of angel hair pasta, tasted yummy and were al dente!

After roasting the scooped out gourd, the recipe goes on to frying up chicken strips in a concoction of flour, eggs and Italian seasoning.  These delicacies then get stuffed into the gourd bowl along with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. The final step is baking to a bubbly perfection.

By the way, my dish looked like an exact replica of the one on Facebook!