Home Looks & Feels Strange

December 24th, 1930 ~ New York, NY
Get up before six. Haven’t slept much during the night due to knocking on doors and footsteps and general sleeplessness, so when the steward announces my bath, shortly after 6, I am “Jenny on the spot.” Anne has no urge to get up even for a bath. Arrive at breakfast after all the other passengers are through. Our waiter is distracted and doesn’t give us good service but we don’t mind. The immigration officials having just arrived in the dining saloon, we walk over, have ourselves passed and return to our breakfast while the line forms on our right.

Having docked, we gather our belongings and say our goodbyes to the various officers. Mr. Offer, polite as always. The Doctor, jocular, — glad to get back. Mr. Payn, studiously absorbed in his duties, which involve the rating of two of the crew, who can be neither listed as crew, nor passenger, nor fish nor fowl. Our adieu to the Captain is very touching. He has been ill for the last several days, and we find him in his room, lying on his sofa berth. His pain is tearing his insides out, and he remarks that if we want to see him, we will probably find him in the Long Island Hospital. Nor is his prediction wrong. 

Our stewardess is a friendly soul and provides me with a swivel stick in the nature of part of the boat’s decoration. I walk around with it, attached to my coat, and on the dock the custom’s men assure me that I am Santa Claus, and fittingly got up.

The customs examination is a farce. On my part it consists of nothing but conversation, and we discuss the number of passengers the boat has brought up, the excellent treatment accorded us, the low price of passage, and the hard times New York is enjoying. That we did not bring in a boat load of liquor is another regret. 

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On the dock I receive a letter from the girls in the office telling me not to go to the office until the day after Christmas. It is snowing, a cold wet snow, and we shiver involuntarily, regretting the warm weather left behind. We lead our baggage and packages into a taxi and depart homeward. I drop Anne off at her office and continue with all our baggage, leaving hers at her home for her. 

Home looks and feels strange and I wish I were back on the ship.

The fact that the trip is over, and the many nice people from whom we are loth to part. We shall probably never see most of them again, but we regret, nevertheless. And so endeth our voyage and vacation. Our tale is told. Finis. 

 

May 30, 2017 ~ New York, NY
Hawaii always has this hold on me. I’ve made the 10-12 hour flight three times now and I never mind it despite my loathing of the stale tubes. This time was more than a vacation. I had an address and received mail. Locals knew me by name. I was both ready and not ready to leave when the time came. I was ready to move on from the stress on the farm in the final days, but I would give anything to be back in the tropical sun, with my peekaboo ocean view, enjoying all the fresh fruit and veggies I could desire. I was ready to make a surprise birthday visit to Jill and to see my family and friends, but how could I leave the turquoise blue water, the spring fling that might have flung, my animal friends, the sunsets, the palm trees and warm breeze? Home held promise, unlike when I left. It’s a shame sometimes promises get broken.

 

My last day on the Big Island was glorious. I woke up in a hammock to the sound of the roosters at dawn. I feasted on glorious views and amazingly fresh sushi. I lazed about on a quiet beach drinking an iced Kona coffee and nibbling on macadamia nut chocolates made fresh at the farm a few days prior. I said my goodbyes to the ocean as I watched the sun sink into her being. It was a perfect day, no reason at all to be sad or unhappy. But why couldn’t I keep a smile on my face?

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The flight home was uneventful. J, who had come to visit for my last few days, flew home with me. We were seated separately, different cabins of class between us. A metaphor I couldn’t have even begun to understand then. Arrival into JFK was a bit of a shock after the open-air departure from Kona. Too many people, too many sounds. The island bliss was beginning to drain from my body, as if from an hour glass once filled with tropical sand. The Belt Parkway was bumper to bumper all the way home with incessant honking only the way New Yorkers can fill still air. Billboards, strip malls, all the imaginable lights shining in my face, and not a palm tree in sight. Where was I? Why does it seem so foreign to me? The air smells different than I remember. I go to the grocery store the next morning, hungry for comfort. I start shivering the moment I walk in, the chill too much for my tanned skin. The first thing I happen upon is a bin of avocados. A familiar feast, I thought to myself. But… why are they teeny, unripe, and greatly discolored? And I have to pay how much for them?

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My reassimilation never quite happened to the home I once knew. I already miss the avocado tree that produced fruit the size of my head, the one who’s bounty I could reap my afternoon snack from. Jean was right. Home, sometimes, looks and feels strange. You change, but the folks at home haven’t. I longed desperately to be back on island time with warmer weather and people.

 

 

Rushing In The Rain

December 16th, 1930 ~ Trinidad & Tobago

Awoke to find ourselves alongside an oil station at Point-a-Pierre, Trinidad. We took on oil all morning and sailed at noon and didn’t reach Port of Spain until 2 P.M. We were very impatient to get to town to pick up our purchases of the day before and do some additional shopping. The launch didn’t take us off until 2:15 and as the ship was about to sail at 4, we had to hustle. Stopped at the Post Office on St. Vincent St. to buy stamps for Harry’s collection and mail Capt. Drysdale’s and Mr. Guy’s letters. Rushed to Frederick St. to get our brassware and shop some additional souvenirs. The bargaining was hectic because I kept track of the time and it was a case of closing the deal in double quick time or leaving the bracelets unbought. We flustered Mr. All India so much with our rushing that Anne really got bargains which she would not have gotten with more time to dicker. Rush to St. Vincent’s jetty and get there in time for the launch. It had been raining pretty hard when we left the ship so very few of us had gone ashore. Wore my blue raincoat and rain hat and was surprised to have Payn tell me how pretty I looked in it, especially as Anne thinks it the least becoming of my headgear.

 

May 7, 2017 ~ Big Island, Hawaii
Finally a weekend away. A and I have been working our tails off at the farm and we couldn’t wait to have some time away to relax and recharge. We treated ourselves to a road trip so we could see more of the island without having to rely on the unpredictable bus. We hightailed it out of Kona and proceeded to loop clockwise up around the island, hitting up Mauna Kea and Hilo on the way before heading south again to Volcanoes National Park. Only having a few days away, we wanted to see and do everything! Yes, we were rushing, and no, that wasn’t all packed into one day, but we felt it better to get a teaser taste of as much as we could.

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Volcanoes stopped us in our tracks. There are miles of hiking trails over and through the lava fields, both old and more recent formations. The rugged beauty is something so completely different than what we normally see in our day to day lives and we knew we had to stay more than a hot afternoon minute. With our camping spot reserved, we had the freedom to explore until our weary legs wouldn’t carry us any more.

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One of the wonderful things about the park is that it’s still open after dark. In fact, most visitors first arrive when the stars come out at their chance to view the active lava in all its glowing glory. At the far reaches of the park is a spot on the edge of the ocean where one can view the lava pouring out into the sea below. Unfortunately, it’s an 8 mile round trip on a horrendously broken up gravel road that no cars are allowed on. The sun was setting and we wanted to get a good spot before night fall, so hiking in was out of the question as it would have been too slow. At the edge of the parking lot are profitable bicycle rental companies ranging in price from budget to fancy. We had no idea why some were more expensive than others, they all looked the same, so being on a budget, we naturally went for the $10 rental. It came with a helmet, a water bottle, a bike lock, a head lamp, and a handy poncho in case of rain. Sounded good us! About two miles in we realized why ours were so cheap. The bicycles were so unbelievably uncomfortable and didn’t handle the broken road well at all. I was already sore and my bones severely rattled. Given that A was far up ahead, I couldn’t turn back by myself.

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We finally arrived to a crowd of people lined up along the cliff that separates us from the lava across the water. It was so crowded that we had a tough time finding an unobscured viewing point. We sat back and had some snacks for dinner and waited for the light to fade from the day. The sight was impressive and so surreal. Smoke billowing to the sky as the hot magma met the cool ocean. As the night grew darker, the lava became more majestic. No words can do it justice. The hoard of people with their selfie sticks turned me off a bit, so I wandered around and was equally taken aback by seeing the old lava formations up close. You could see how it folded and moved, caught forever in action when it solidified.

When A was ready to head back, we donned our headlamps and proceeded to cycle back. The winds picked up and the temp was dropping. I was sore in unmentionable places the moment I sat down. About a mile in the tropical rains started to fall, lightly at first. I peddled as fast as my little legs could, trying hard to avoid the potholes that were quickly becoming mud. Hard to do when the only light was from a tiny headlamp that, too, was bouncing from side to side. Bump. Bump. Bump along. The rains were picking up in ferocity. As hokey as it may have looked, I donned my poncho because last time I got caught in Hawaii’s rain, my cellphone became a casualty. This time I had my precious DSLR with me. My one-size-fits-all rain gear kept getting caught in my spokes, so I tucked it underneath my legs and rear end (trying to get some extra padding, too), but it was so large that the hood kept falling off and the back side billowed out behind me like I was the Wicked Witch of the West. At one point I’m pretty sure I heard A whistling that spooky tune as she cruised passed me, cackling as she went out of sight.

 

 

 

California Convergence

May 23-24, 1925 ~ Enroute to Riverside, CA on the A.T. & S.F. (The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway)
Settled in Riverside at the Glenwood Mission Inn. Our room was quite cozy and our balcony had a wicker table and chairs, which we found very convenient for writing. The room had a compact little private bath with shower instead of tub. A nice demonstration of hospitality was a basket holding 5 very large oranges on the dresser with a card of greeting from Mrs. Richardson, the manageress (sister of Mr. Frank Miller, proprietor).

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We arrived for lunch, which was served in the open patio under the palm and orange trees, to the tune of splashing fountain and chiming of bells. Girls in Spanish costume on a partially concealed balcony played appropriate selections such as “Juanita”, etc. The meals were excellent and the surroundings as romantic as one could wish. Dinner was served on the patio also, the only lights being shaded candles. While they didn’t cast much light, they looked very pretty. Breakfast was eaten indoors, in the main dining room.

The city also is very lovely and attractive with its nice palm tree shaded lawns and flowerbeds. The homes are good-looking and the stores spotless. It was here that Anne acquired additional luggage in the shape of a sunhat bought in one of her favorite shopping places. It’s now being carried about in a paper hat bag and bellboys are porters hesitant to handle it for fear of crushing it.

Enroute to Los Angeles on the Santa Fe from 9 A.M. May 26th to 11 A.M. Only a short ride. Passed many orange groves and saw oil wells for the first time. Hundreds of oil wells are clustered together.

 

May 26, 2019 ~ Del Mar, CA
Dear Jean,
By some grand coincidence, I find myself in California, picking up where you left off, exactly 94 years later to the day. I’m lazing on the beach, eyeing the Surfliner train whizzing by on the cliff above my head, wondering if it rides on the same track that you did. It would have been quite the scenic trip for you if so, glancing at the Pacific as it rounds the corners.

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You stopped writing at Riverside, which I find confusing and a tad frustrating as it was just the beginning in your loop up through Canada, to Banff, and back to NYC. I would love to know what you saw and what your thoughts were of the mountains as compared to the tall buildings back home. Instead of dwelling on what never made it to paper, I shall see it as an opportunity to carry on California for you.

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The houses and yards are still as pristine as you described. Perfectly manicured, palm trees abound, it was as if we were walking around in an outdoor living catalog. Nothing out of place, no plant beginning to yellow or wilt. It was a tad eerie, actually. Grass, it seems, is a novel commodity and yard space is a joke. The tropical plants happily reminded me of my Hawaii days though, lavender-colored Jacaranda trees dotting the road and birds of paradise standing out as if from a painting. I can’t get over the colors of California. The flowers are just about every shade of the rainbow. It was a delight for the eyes and soul. Craning toward the sky, the birds were a lovely distraction, soaring through the blue.

It was promised to me that Southern California would be sunny and warm, with 80 degree temps year round. You’ll love it, they said! My bad weather karma says otherwise. Del Mar was chilly, windy, and gray. I was huddled up in my hoodie on the beach for the hour or two each afternoon that the sun decided to emerge from the clouds. The locals we met kept apologizing for the un-California weather, as if they had any semblance of control. It’s funny how many people I’ve met in my travels that feel compelled to say they’re sorry for unseasonable weather patterns, exemplifying the sheer pride they have for their home town. Maybe I should start apologizing to them for bringing unpredictable (read rainy) New England weather their way?

Ardent Admirers

December 17, 1930 ~ Barbados
Arrived early at Barbados and debarked in a launch for an all day stay ashore as we were scheduled to sail at 6 P.M.  A “Snowball” delegated himself our guide and accompanied us to the Post Office where I dispatched the balance of my cards and purchased a collection of stamps. We persuaded him to leave us and we wandered around hunting for odd shops to spend more money. Succeeded in finding native dolls and also bought a rubber ball so Cappy could play with it instead of Anne’s air pillow. It was raining wet rain so slipped into the Self Help shop which sells all sorts of hand made articles from jellies to dresses. We were attracted by the fresh flowers and bought 3 doz roses for 50¢. We had the flowers well wrapped as we didn’t want any one to see them and returned to the beach. Found Dunnett and Haig out on the pier. Later on the beach joined Charlie, Percy and Minna Meyer. The sun was hot but no one cared to leave, even after one blast from the ship designating one hour before departure. At 2 blasts, 5:30, rushed to dress and got to the launch at the pier where the rest were waiting to pick us up. There were 6 of us including Mr. Guy (2nd mate).

Anne clutched the package of flowers while I did likewise to the package of dolls. They wanted to see what we had and because we were so secretive they attempted to punch the packages. We protested and giggled and I acted as though mine was the important one to keep them away from the flowers. They thought, especially Guy and Minna, that we were carrying bottles of liquor, more so because I mentioned that we would not have the contents when we reached New York. Wouldn’t let the men carry either of our packages up the landing stairs. It was almost 6 P.M. and as usual we were practically the last aboard before raising anchor. Dumped the stuff in our room and rushed up on deck to watch our departure.

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Dressed for dinner in a hurry and divided the flowers into two bunches for Capt. D and Philip Payn. Waited until all had descended to dinner. Anne sneaked Payn’s flowers into his room and then with the second bunch we went up the aft stairs and so to the Captain’s quarters. Not knowing whether he was in, we tiptoed around to the window above his desk and dropped the flowers through. Anne had written the notes “From two ardent admirers.” Then down to dinner feeling giggly and guilty.  Afterward Anne saw Payn and he guessed immediately who the donors were and gave Anne two jars of Self Help guava jelly for us in appreciation. Up on the boat deck I spoke to Capt. D. but as he said nothing about the flowers I assumed he had not been to his room. Spent the evening with him and teased him about having gotten something for him which he would see next day.

February 2017

Nepal, A Love Letter.
I didn’t realize soon enough that I had love in my heart for a place I don’t know if I’ll ever come to see again.

Dearest One,

I’m sorry I compared you to India in my mind. I almost didn’t get to meet you because of my apprehension. Misinformed is all that was. I was naive when I was introduced to your neighbor next door, too young to understand the charm and wonder of the dusty streets. Before getting on the plane to visit I was told that I would love your beautiful colors and that your children with their bright smiling faces would want to meet me. It’s true. I’m glad I gave you a chance.

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We met at night. I was timid at first, but you were gentle with me. You held my hand as we walked, guided by the light of the moon. I was caught off guard. Blinded by your beauty in the dark, unable to fully make out your face until the oncoming traffic shone a spotlight on you. We got acquainted very fast. You took me dancing. Round and round the Stupa we went, my head spinning like those prayer wheels.

I lay on your chest and listen to the sound of your beating heart to calm myself. Music fading from one street to the next. Car horns. Dogs barking. Shop keepers yelling. You would be a vocal lover, I could tell. Somehow you charmed me with your chaos, an old trick that used to overwhelm me with anxiety but instead had me feeling overcome with joy. I felt at ease when you invited me in. That powerful incense you lit further seduced me into your arms. Swept off my feet and locked in to your blue Buddha eyes, I wasn’t supposed to fall in love with you that night.

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I woke to the sunshine and a warm February breeze, a calm counterpoint to a night of such passion and intensity. I rubbed my eyes and rolled over, saddened to find you had already left. You were probably going about your day with no pretenses to speak of. You are a hard worker, honest and humble. A breath of fresh air in an otherwise polluted city. I saw the beautiful flowers you left outside my room. They were hibiscus, a floral scent so fresh and clean. The petals were placed strategically, inviting me to follow. It was a scavenger hunt you were leading me on with no note or clues as to where I would end up or what I would find. How did you know I liked surprises?

I was always drawn to the tall, strong ones, and you knew this. I could imagine the sly smirk on your face as you introduced me to Nyatapola, the temple that towers over all the rest in your land. I found the petals on the stairway leading up to the entrance, lined with five pairs of symbolic stone guardians on each side. Each is said to be ten times as powerful and strong as the figures that rest on the tier below. Humans are placed at the bottom, lest we forget that we’re not the all important beings we delight ourselves to be. Always a teacher, you are. The place of worship still stands proud, 30m in the air, while the surrounding structures crumbled and fell to their knees in the earthquake. Although your most prized possessions are now just piles of rubble, I hope you don’t feel like you have to hide your scars from me. I was never one to judge by appearances anyway.

From the base of Kathmandu, climbing up into the mountains, I perceived the air and mood to be much lighter, as if your chakra and mine were reaching enlightenment together with the ascent. Off in the distance I saw a temple on a hill with prayer flags tethered down in each corner. I stopped to bow my head, offering the flowers I scooped up from my treasure hunt along the way. In exchange, you gave me a blessing and a yellow necklace to wear round my neck, matching the fields of mustard flowers below. Such a happy color, and it was always my favorite. The mysterious view across the valley is what I’ll hold with me, along with the sense of awe and wonder that filled my being in its presence. Thank you for leading me there.

The artist in me admires your use of vivid color and detail. Marigolds of fiery hues match the red tika blessings on foreheads. Both are as vibrant as your personality. The palette used in your prayer flags is mimicked on the exteriors of houses. That’s to say the rainbow brings about a joy to an otherwise drab city. And the magnificent statue of the lotus-born Buddha rises out of the earth atop a hillside just outside of Kathmandu proper. It, too, has a radiant rainbow and gold body and is impressively tall, though, sadly, under construction. A testament to your tenacity, perhaps, that Buddha remains a beacon watching over the valley. I couldn’t help but notice the erotic carvings on the exterior struts of the temples in Durbar Square. My cheeks blushed, as if you thought I needed a reminder of you and your wild ways. The Newari craftsmanship of the tantric gods and goddesses, intertwined like we were that night. Hands on hands on limbs on bodies, bending and contorting together as one. I know you’re not intentionally trying to show off, but you do, in so many surprising ways. My heart is not the only part of me that lusts for one more night with you.
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It’s evening time again and I find myself alone, not realizing I’d miss your hand in mine. I locked eyes with a girl that had a yellow flower in her hair and her arms wrapped tightly around a boy on his motorbike. I shot her a smile of approval before she was gone into the cacophony of the city night. Oh how I longed to be whisked away like that again. I wander around, slinking into the dusty aura of the side alleys. Having anonymity in the dark speaks to the Monster in me, another masked face in silhouette. I’m lost in a sea of chaos. Gorgeous beings with warm brown skin and gentle onyx eyes surround me. I’m taken by the dark-skinned lookalikes of an Indian crush of mine. Silly, I know. To this day he still doesn’t know how I feel.

You wrapped me up in a traditional red scarf as we said goodbye. It was your last way of wishing me safe travels. We walked arm in arm toward the airport gate. I noticed this gesture of friendship is common here, no matter the gender of the two connected. It’s just a simple act of human touch, honoring the light and love in one another, among friends. You are beautiful, my dear Nepal. I miss you and your smile. Namaste.

Unexpected Rain

September 1, 1929 ~ At sea
Rain and lightning during the night but calm riding. At 5:30 it was raining hard and Anne was awakened by the rain coming in on her. I woke also and we got busy as the water was filling her bed. We struggled with the ports a while until we managed to close them securely. Then we started to bale the water from the protective sills with towels. We formed a brigade, I wringing towels out in the basin and Anne sopping up the water. Her bed was wet by this time but she covered it over and went to bed. Lots of water had also collected in a corner of the floor, so that Anne thought the ship had sprung a leak, but her fears were groundless.

 

February 15, 2017 ~ Doha, Qatar
We touch down in Doha into an eerie mist. The reflection of the colored skyline lights blend together in the choppy harbor. After settling in to the Saraya Corniche hotel, we walked in search of some food and felt a light drizzle on our heads. Odd, we thought, given our desert coordinates. We smile at the rain and head in to dinner.

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Sated and still jet lagged, we barely notice that an hour or two go by. It was only about two miles or so to the hotel and we didn’t feel like hailing a cab. It was a warm downpour by this point, but we simply didn’t care. It felt good to stretch after the long flight from Kathmandu. The roads were beginning to flood and we are ankle deep at points. I hike up my long dress just enough to get it out of the puddles but not so much as to show off too much skin. I had just the one outfit that was culturally appropriate for Middle Eastern dress and I couldn’t ruin it on the first night. The sidewalk ended at a relatively busy road (we took a different route going back), but we were too far to turn around. I hopped up onto the construction barrier on the side of the asphalt, treading across the top like the balance beams of my youth. We made it back a little muddy with water squishing in our shoes, but still smiling from the silly adventure and the fantastic meal in a new country.

Much to our surprise, the heavy rains persisted over night. The locals were overjoyed at this wonderful gift from above. The streets and sidewalks were now flooded and it became near impossible to walk without getting wet – same goes for getting Riyals from the ATM.

 

We didn’t realize that Doha only gets about 3 inches of rain a year and they don’t have the drains to accommodate any long stretches of precipitation. In our two days, they got about half of their yearly allotment. Perhaps I’m a rain goddess? I seem to bring rain to places that need it, and to some that maybe don’t want it as much!

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