Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sepia Saturday # 340, July 23rd, 2016: Home Sweet Home

"A picture postcard dating probably from the 1930s of a bedroom at the Hotel Imperial in Ostend, Belgium. Perhaps the date can be pinned down by an example of the then rates: "Pension a parter de fr 110". The decor does seem to be the kind of style popular in the 1930s. The flowered wallpaper is particularly notable".

My mother, Jill, hated traveling. She loved staying home and she positively revered routine. She used to boast that her children were toilet-trained at 9 months. The fact is, we were so routinized that she could plunk us down on the pot at the precise time she knew we'd go because we were fed exactly at the same time every day. And I mean at precisely the same time. Years later, when I would visit her, she'd make us dinner and we'd wait for the clock to read 6:00 pm exactly, and then we ate. I realised only when I lived away from home for some time how really unusually structured our lives were. Is that why I fight "routine" tooth and nail and why nothing pleases me more than being on the road? Do we inevitably swing the opposite way when our parents are rigid? My mother took exactly the same route to the store every time she went. It didn't matter if another way was faster, safer or more interesting. There was one way to the store and that's the way we went. My husband teases me now if I try to give him driving directions. "Yes Jill," he says and I shut up.

In all fairness, my mother never discouraged me from traveling nor did she express any disapproval of my choices. She'd only say, "I don't know how you do it." In some ways, when travelers speak to non-travelers, it's like they're from different planets. I couldn't understand why she was content to stay home. Some speculate that their DNA is different. Here's a link to an interesting article on the subject.  DRD4-7R is the gene they call the Wanderlust Gene. I think I have it; I know my mother did not.

When Jill came from Canada to visit me and my sister in California, she'd start counting the days until she could leave almost as soon as she arrived. I loved to have her with us, but hated to see her suffer. On her last few visits, she was escorted by my friend Linda, the kindest person on the planet, who came along with her and we were all able to enjoy some time together. Mother was much more relaxed with Linda and the security of her company took away some of the terrible stress she felt when away from home.

This is one of the few photos I have of Jill on the road. She and my dad took the obligatory European tour after he retired - he hadn't been in Europe since 1917 when he was in the Canadian army stationed in France. This ghastly room is in Paris. At first glance, I thought it was a hospital room and the black thing on the wall was an IV drip. Who would put a telephone up on the wall between two beds? The interior design is wanting, to say the least. The two pictures on the wall, hung too high, appear to also be hung at slightly different heights, just off enough to drive you a little crazy. They also look not to be centered over each bed. As for that light....could you see anything at all?

On the table is a bottle of whiskey and two bottles of water...that's what my father drank: one part whiskey, two parts water. Poor mother was stuck in that room, hair done, make-up on, wearing her pearls and counting the days until she could leave. I can imagine how their time in the room was spent. My father would be sipping his drink and enthusiastically reading aloud from a guide book. My mother would feign listening, give him an affirming "uh-huh" from time to time but she'd be day-dreaming about something at home. She had little interest in history but would never interrupt my father or complain about his interest. It might be surprising that a woman rooted in one place and who loved routine would so readily accept modernity. But she loved modern things - modern furniture, clothing, cars, kitchen appliances and gadgets.

Recently I found this second photo from the same European trip. They have a better bedroom in this photo all the way around - a better light, no ugly prints on the walls and it looks more comfortable. So does my mother. Hurray! It must have been getting close to their return date.

For more bedside tales, surf over to Sepia Saturday.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Iran Redux: Learning to write

This week, for the writing workshop, we brought in a picture of ourselves that we liked and in the class we were given twenty minutes to write about our emotions connected with the photo. This is difficult for me to do, always being guarded about disclosing too much personal stuff. Our teacher gave us some excellent advice which I'm trying to apply. Here is a little travel piece about Iran, written with my newly found knowledge. The teacher thought I could make good use of footnotes ala Mary Roach and so I have. The chosen photo is at the end. 

Iran: Visiting the Zoroastrian Fire Temple and Museum in Yazd

Wearing a hajib, or head scarf, was getting old. My head was hot, my scalp itchy and sweat was trickling down my forehead. In Iran, we were either freezing or boiling. Our driver, a university student, had kept the car air-conditioning going full blast for the past hour's ride. Later, we found out it was examination week; he'd pulled an all-nighter and was fighting to stay awake. As auto passengers in Iran for the past week, we saw the worst drivers we've seen anywhere in the world.(1) Had we known, in addition to the everyday road hazards we experienced, that our driver was barely awake, the journey would have been even more terrifying!

My Iranian travel outfit.

The temperature was hovering around 100 F. at 11:00 am. We were standing at the side of the Zoroastrian Fire Temple and museum in Yazd, just east of Shiraz, waiting for Nadia, our guide, to purchase entrance tickets. She was wearing a beautiful green linen "manteau" or coat of mid-thigh length. I was wearing a saffron yellow dress I purchased in the market in Tehran with Nadia's advice. As I'd looked through the clothes, Nadia advised me, rolling her eyes, that it was very important to keep the butt covered according to Islamic law. Although she found the rules tedious and senseless she had to abide by them. She confided to us that she was looking forward to an upcoming vacation in Turkey where she could wear mini-skirts and bare her head for a week. Of course, she still required written permission from her father to leave the country.(2)

Just before exiting the car, she adjusted her hijab carefully so none of her beautiful brown curls could be seen. Our half-conscious driver, young and liberal, hadn't objected to her removing her scarf in the car. At every stop, while we tried to thaw out, he huddled over his maths notes, smoking like a chimney and drinking Bhenoush, non-alcoholic Iranian beer.(3)

Nadia and Richard...oops a curl slipped out. 

Not everyone was so easy on Nadia. In Shiraz, as we were walking through a market, an elderly woman dressed in chador, approached her and spoke to her angrily, shaking her finger in Nadia's face with one hand while holding her black garment together with the other. We were very careful while in the country to avoid any conflict - the woman's anger made me really uncomfortable, after all, Iran had never been on my bucket list. (4) After she left, I asked Nadia what her problem was. Nadia explained the woman was admonishing her for working as a tour guide. "You'll be raped or murdered by a man," she warned. "Be careful," was her last admonition before she scurried away. Nadia had flushed and two spots of color appeared on her cheeks but she remained composed. She explained to me that this kind of confrontation occurred regularly. If she wasn't being cautioned by a conservative woman, then it was the morality police.(5) "What?" I asked. "The morality police?" "Yes," she replied, "My sister was arrested once, but it's more an embarrassing nuisance than a serious problem." Nadia had rescued her sister, bringing her appropriate clothing to wear home from the police station. She brushed the incident off, but it made me squirm, reminding me once more, how difficult life was for women in this part of the world.
Woman chastizing Nadia.

We were ready to get back into the air conditioning by the time Nadia returned with the tickets.

From reading a bit in advance of this visit I'd learned that the Zoroastrian faith is often mistakenly thought to be a religion of fire worshippers.(6) If you wish to know details about the faith you can read about it in an excellent Time Magazine article here .We were surprised at the number of Iranian tourists in the museum but Nadia reminded us that Iranians have few places they can travel to abroad. They're forced to stay home and visit their own museums!

Zoroastrianism claims to be the first religion to be monotheistic. The main tenet of the faith is to do good works. On our way to the museum, we'd stopped at a "Tower of Silence" on the outskirts, where Zoroastrian corpses used to lie buried "open sky"; the bodies were exposed to the natural elements and allowed to decompose. They believe that burying bodies pollutes the earth. Because of health regulations, all of these towers have ceased to be used. The round structure at the top of the photo is where the bodies were laid out - as many as 10,000 corpses decomposed here. It was ungodly hot that day and I stayed down below, panting and sweating, while Richard and Nadia sprinted to the top. I was creeped out a little by the scene and thought I might just do myself in with the climb. The irony would be too much. The last remaining of such burial towers in the world lies in a wealthy Parsi suburb in the outskirts of Mumbai and bodies of dead Zoroastrians world-wide are sometimes shipped to the site for their final rite. 

Towers of Silence. www.orujtravel.com

Non-Zoroastrians are not allowed into the temple proper, but the eternal flame, reputedly burning for 1500 years, is housed in the entrance hall for all to see. As there was a small crowd around it, we chose to wander through the museum first. The explanations were in English - a big bonus - and we learned a lot about the unique religion. Rapidly dwindling, there is estimated to be only about 190,000 Zoroastrians remaining in the world.

 Once we saw a break in the crowd, we moved over to the flame and I got a few shots off before being jostled along by a new group of tourists. I bobbed and weaved in front of the glass separating us from the fire, trying to get rid of the reflections. At the time I thought the photos would be poor, but this one turned out to be one of my favorites of the trip.
Favorite photo of the Iran travel. Subject for my writing workshop. 

Details about the eternal flame.

(1) Iranians are the 4th worst drivers in the world with 38 auto deaths per 100,000 people surpassed only  by Venezuela, Thailand and Dominican Republic. If you want to be really safe on the road, go to Iceland where they have only 2.8 auto deaths per year according to "Driver's Domain UK", February 2015.

(2)Women are banned from leaving the country without first receiving permission from their husbands; single Iranian women (up to age 40) may need their father’s permission to travel abroad. Husbands can ban their wives from leaving the country at any time.

(3)When we were planning our travel to Iran, people asked me if I worried about wearing a head scarf for two weeks. I had to answer honestly that the head scarf didn't bother me as much as the thought of no wine for two weeks!

(4)This was all Richard's idea; despite State department warnings about travel in the area, we were two among the approximately 1000 Americans visiting the country in 2015. www.travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings/iran-travel-warning.html

(5)Despite objections from Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, Tehran's police have announced up to 7,000 undercover officers will be on the lookout for those who don't follow conservative Islamic modes of dress and behavior. They're called the Gashte Ershad, the "guidance patrol," and they have broad powers to chastise and even arrest people for failing to meet what might be called the modesty test. Men are occasionally stopped — perhaps if their beards are too long, making them resemble jihadists — but usually, it's women who attract the attention of the Gashte Ershad. Too much hair peeking out from under a headscarf, removing the scarf altogether in the car, taking a walk with a boyfriend — all kinds of actions can risk a run-in with the morality police (as NPR's Deborah Amos reported in 2014).

(6)Some fun facts: Zoroaster, the priest who founded the religion, is the protagonist of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s classic work, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.” Freddie Mercury, the flamboyant vocalist of rock group Queen, was and still is the world’s most famous Zoroastrian. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Another trip to Daiso

Horse Fat Hand Cream

Yes, there is "horse fat" in the ingredient declaration. Just before Lavender Oil. 

For Russian cruet collector's there are several types offered. 

Japanese "nose and glasses."

Decorative aluminum foil. 

This has got to be good stuff. Rustling hard in such elbow knee!

Speaks for itself. 

Genius! 1/2 lb. barbells. 

Cooking Oil hardener.


Facial Plate for scraping the face. 

I guess these are some kind of foot pain relief. One type has chili powder for heat; the other
has negative ions???

Black Q-tips. 

Shmoo Pizza

My Wife Likens me to a Shmoo

Mutant bugs play Vivaldi 
in Bermuda grass. Weeds 
with runners choke morning 
into night. My wife pokes pins 
into the notes I leave. 
Soy milk is running low. 
Damn the Parcheesi.

Sometimes her face disappears 
into itself, not in shadows 
or light. Sometimes she stuns me.
I am a shmoo for her. 
Pan fried, multiplied. I wear 
a Btfsplk hat and paint
the dirty windows shut. 
Who needs it, the world outside. 
Moonbeam McSwine winks in agreement.

R. Hadley from www.thewaters35527.yuku.com

My husband does not remind me of a Shmoo but last night we made a pizza without the benefit of a peel, and the strange free-form shape that resulted, evoked memories of the wonderful Shmoo for both of us. Richard complained about the pepperoni because he remembered the Shmoo's legs turned into hams when you needed to eat in a pinch. No ham on this baby. The center was ultra thin and the thick crust or "bones" around the edges were chewy and delicious. I had no complaints. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Bite me Albertson's!

I found this hard to believe. "4-Bite Shrimp!" Works out to $64.00 per pound. I guess Albertson's marketing genius's figure we can't multiply and figure this out this outrageous price. In fact, they're right. When given a choice between 50% off, half off, and BOGO (buy one, get one free), consumers pick BOGO. Even though all three offers are the same price per piece. 

Maybe the more traditional but oxymoronic "Jumbo Shrimp" really irritated somebody important in the company. Never bothered me at all - I accepted it fully like many other everyday OM's.  In my unbiased opinion, there's even odds that the awfully good jumbo shrimp is free of freezer burn!

No matter, it's too expensive for me. And whose bite are they talking about? And is this the beginning of a new trend in food quantity measurement? FDA's new nutritional guidelines have been modified at last to be more realistic about serving sizes...the new labels will be kicking in over a three-year period. You can read about the revisions here. Thankfully, I didn't notice "bites" as a new measurement. They've made some very sensible changes and the labels will be easier to understand for most consumers. 

Later that day in Temecula, at the Ricardo Gallery in Temecula, I saw these gaping jaws. I doubt "4 bites" would mean much to this creature!  The whole shrimp display tray, the sign and probably the guy at the Albertson's fish counter could fit into this maw. Call it a "1-Bite" Fish Delight!

Ricardo Garden Art

Monday, July 11, 2016

Writing about the Blues

As we're taking a short break from travel due to demands on our time from real estate rentals, I'm taking a writing workshop which has an emphasis on womens' writing. At the first session on Sunday, our excellent teacher presented us with exercises, one of which was to select something from her home, something that we could see, which evoked an emotional response in us. Two of the others wrote about books. The house, as you'd imagine a writer's home to be, is loaded with bookshelves, floor to ceiling. Mary was moved to write an excellent essay about her meetings with Joyce Carol Oates and Mary Roach. BJ wrote dreamily about how her mother read to her and her siblings every night and about the pain of being allowed only two books from the library each week. Marit wrote a witty essay, oh so appropriate for our troubled times, about a little statue of president Obama our hostess had placed in a white cup in her kitchen - black and white. 

In contrast to the deep thinking going on in the room, I (apparently the lightweight of the group) wrote about the blueberries in the bowl on the coffee table in front of us - the blueberries I was munching by the spoonful, having left home without lunch. I had an emotional reaction to them as they were assuaging my hunger and also because I'm always cynical about the nutrition claims issued by this council or that commission.  

The bowl looked like this....

The blueberries looked like this:

Here's my piece of blank verse. 


The blueberries are gorgeous
Royal blue and juicy, nestled in a Polish ceramic bowl.
A haze coats every second one - just enough to
separate the blue from the blue from the blue.
I spoon them into my hand and eat them one-by-one,
lady-like as my mother would say.
"One at a time?" my husband would scoff
"Live a little and eat a handful!"
But raw excess might leave my teeth and lips bluish
and that would never do.
Royal, navy, cobalt, sapphire are colors for pants and tattoos and not lipstick shades.
At least, not yet. Well, maybe Halloween.
And are the berries really so good for us?
Or will we find out next year or the next year
that ad men have worked their magic and tricked us once again,
And will we discover, too late, that excessive
blue causes facial warts at eighty
Or arterial sclera-something at ninety
And we really should have eaten more cheeseburgers?

Friday, July 08, 2016

Sepia Saturday 338: My Uncle Louis

Our theme image this week features a picture of a walking man which is taken from the collection of the Sepia Saturday Flickr Group. The description is as follows:

"A man walks down a street in Dunfermline, Scotland. We know from the written notation of the reverse of the photograph that the date was the 3rd May 1949. This is not a typical "walking snap" - walking snap photographers plied their trade in seaside resorts and concentrated on happy holidaymakers. The slightly skewed angle of the print suggests that this is an amateur photograph".

My beloved Uncle Louis, J. Hector-Louis-Ovide Fortier, my mother's older brother, walks down Granville Street in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He managed the Kenricia Hotel in Kenora, Ontario. He must have been at a conference or business trip to Vancouver, dressed as he is in that snazzy double-breasted suit. The photo isn't dated, but it was taken by Foncie Pulcie a well-known street photographer in the city. I'm guessing it might be in the fifties. Louis was born in 1908 and he looks to be in his forties in this photo. Louis was married to Auntie Nita, Nita Pearl Cornelia Sharpe. They had five children: Brian, Val, Marilyn, Evlyn and Paul. 

I did a google search to find out why so many French Canadian names are linked together with hyphens. By doing so, I stumbled on a crest for the family Fortier. The heraldry is simple - the king of beasts and a ship. As an incurable traveler, I can relate to the ship and now can blame my itchy feet on my genes. On the website with the crests for sale, www.cafepress.com,  one can order countless items featuring the crest - all the usual suspects like t-shirts and ball caps. These marketers have gone one step further and offer men's underwear and a dog shirt with the crest.
 I might order this shirt. 
Here's a favorite family photo with Uncle Louis on the far right. Auntie Nita is the fourth from the left, in the lacy top. As you can see, there's a cute girl draped over Uncle Louis and Nita is glancing over in her direction. Although she's smiling, I wonder what was going on. 

From left: Jeanne Fortier, Pulcherie Fortier, Hector Fortier, Addie Fortier (child), Nita Sharpe Fortier, unknown, Jill Fortier Killeen, unknown, Louis Fortier

The Sky Diner in the background of Louis' street photo was a famous Vancouver landmark. The inside of the place was designed to look like the inside of an airplane. Moving scenery passed by the rectangular portholes. I couldn't find a menu online but did find one blog wherein the writer recalled his favorite item at the restaurant was salmon salad which consisted simply of a can of salmon on a bed of lettuce. Yes, it must have been the fifties.

Interior of Sky Diner, Vancouver

And here's another "Street photo" I found: Mother, my sister Eilleen, and I walking down Portage avenue in Winnipeg. I was probably around 5 years old which would make it 1947. I love my mother's dress with the covered buttons and kick pleats. She probably made it and the dress I was wearing. The movie showing was likely "Desire Me" starring Greer Garson with Robert Mitchum and Richard Hart. In Wikipedia, it's described as a "troubled" production and therefore has no directorial credit. It lost $2,440,000 - a King's ransom in those days. Mother loved Greer Garson so she must have seen the film. 
Helen, Jill, Eilleen Killeen 

Stride on over to Sepia Saturday for more street snaps and stories.