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?

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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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Resting and Regret

June 25, 1935 ~ Kingston, Jamaica
Docked at Kingston at 7:30 A.M. Celia and I went ashore to shop and bought some gaudy material for the Rags and Tatters party. Back to the ship for lunch and decided to take a trip during the afternoon to Hope Gardens.

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Being tired after lunch we took and nap and slept so late that we didn’t take the trip after all. We needed the rest so didn’t regret missing the trip. Rae and her group spent the afternoon at Bournemouth Baths and joined some boys they met before for the evening. Becky got back shortly before sailing escorted by George Hill, his sweetheart and his brother, to whom Becky had transferred her attention with good results. Brother took her out for dinner, etc.

Sailed at midnight.

February 9, 2017 ~ Stockholm, Sweden
A self-imposed rest day, coincidentally the week two marker of our trip. While 14 days on the road isn’t long in the grand scheme of things, Sweden is already the sixth country we’ve passed through on our (mostly) ’round the world jaunt. It’s been non-stop movement. Planes, trains, automobiles, ferries, horses, our own two feet. I try not to get wrapped up in the mind space that dictates a jam-packed schedule, completed in record low time, for fear of missing something should one never return to a place or, you know, tragically drop dead tomorrow. Get out of bed before the sun, see and do EVERYTHING, sleep when you’re dead. While I admire the concept, it’s near impossible, for me, to push forth with fervor when I’m feeling run down.

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We slept in and had the Lord Nelson’s complimentary hotel breakfast, a typical spread of smörgås (open-faced sandwich) fixins: toasts and crackers with meats, cheeses, veggies, and hard boiled eggs, with pastries for good measure. We didn’t set out until 11am or so, which felt terribly lazy and a tad indulgent. I’m not sure we would have left the hotel room at all if the TV shows hadn’t been in a foreign tongue. The negative chill in the air negated any inclination I had to do a walking tour of the city. We’d just left territory above the arctic circle and this perpetually cold Monster was running out of patience for having numb extremities. Stockholm was merely a stopover city for us. Nothing in particular was on the agenda, proving to be fodder for spending the day on a whim.

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The plethora of museums seemed like the next best way to get to know the old world city, aside from eating our way through, but that was already a given for us. Visiting the exhibits is a leisurely activity that doesn’t require too much energy and we could stop and go as we pleased. While I’m not usually a museum girl, I have to say that Europe does them right. Copenhagen had some fascinating ones and Stockholm didn’t disappoint either. They’re more interactive, they evoke a feeling of grandeur, and you can find exhibits on just about anything – from stamps, to seafaring lore, to the history of bootleg alcohol.

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We ended up walking anyway, bundled up and enjoying the architecture en route, and took in two, Fotografiska and The Nobel Museum, before calling it a day and heading back to the hotel to recharge before dinner.

Savor Something New

June 21, 1926 ~ Kingston, Jamaica
Our room is at the back of the hotel facing the inner garden and harbor. The grounds are beautiful with many varieties of palm trees including coconut and banana trees. In the foreground is one of the beautiful Poinciana trees, which has bright red flower clusters.

Our bags hadn’t arrived so we were unable to change for lunch but our room was so cool, there being a very strong breeze blowing, that after washing we felt much refreshed. For lunch, I ate pepper-pot, which is a very spicy vegetable soup, delicious stewed duck with spiced rice, baked yams, cho chos, potatoes, and string beans. For dessert I had sherbet, cakes and fruit. Always a variety of fruit is served, artistically arranged in a bowl with special forks standing up high and proud stuck into skinned oranges with only the top left for a good hold.

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We didn’t care about the oranges, bananas, or pineapple because we get these at home, but we fairly devoured every bit of mango which came our way. Next best to the mango we liked paw-paw, which looks like cantaloupe but tastes like strong cheese or worse, so is eaten with lime juice, which improves it immensely.

Dear Aunt Jean,
I love getting to know the traveler in you. You don’t come across as being timid, I sense an assertiveness and an air of confidence about you. Journeying to the varying landscapes that exist outside of the concrete jungle and trying new foods that you couldn’t get back home are experiences I can admire and appreciate. I wonder, did you have any must do’s when you went somewhere new? Or, perhaps, things you’d try to avoid?

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I’ve come up with a few “rules” for myself along the way when I venture to an unfamiliar destination. They revolve around being open to new experiences and not setting my expectations too high for when things don’t work out as planned. I also try to sneak in as many local foods and drinks as possible, something we have in common! If there’s a market, you can guarantee I’ll be there. It’s a great way to get to know a local culture, through its artisans and foods.

I know very well the pleasure you must have felt upon seeing the selection of native tropical fruits in your travels across Jamaica, Colombia, and Haiti. You mentioned on a few occasions how special it was to have mango! How sweet it was, literally, and in its newness to you. Would you believe that they’re widely available at grocery stores now? So many different types of “foreign” produce and products from around the world are now mainstream. On any given day I can find mango, papaya, coconuts, jackfruit, tamarind, and the like in my local market.

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There is still something to be said for eating a mango, for example, since we’re on the subject, as close to the source as you can. I have a hunch it will always taste better when it’s freshly picked and sun kissed. Tropical ambiance has a lot to do with the tasting experience! I can attest to that personally. I was introduced to guava on my second trip to Kauai and I was elated to buy some from the store when I got home. Much to my dismay, it tasted bitter and sour, sitting alone in my cold, dark kitchen. It was nothing like the sweet fruit picked from the tree that fueled me on a hike into the mountains.

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While I understand the want for comfort food every now and again, especially if one gets a tad homesick, I find it utterly absurd to bother going through the hassle of traveling, perhaps venturing many miles from home, and eating at a chain restaurant or choosing the same foods off of a menu that you might normally eat at home. But that’s me! I, personally, like to know what people eat for their every day meals. I find it comforting in a way. Oftentimes, it can be very similar to what we eat, just with tiny variations. And if it happens to be totally different, say eating crickets, then I relish in the experience anyway. I suppose I may be in the minority in that I haven’t run into many foods that I won’t eat! In fact, many of my tasting experiences have led to new favorites that I look forward to when I’m back on the road again.

Ai pono,
Monster