Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Adieu, Émile

As we stood outside in the back of the house, looking at the little courtyard and the terraces, my daughter-in-law said “We call this the cat crossing. We don’t know where they all come from, but there are always cats crossing.”

Soon we had one who came regularly, a cat like we have never had before. He was young and scrawny (we’ve had young, scrawny cats before) and his left eye was opaque. He showed up faithfully around the time we fed our indoor cats, looking for a meal, thus Émile. We bought separate bowls, and kept him – and his comrades – fed. Even when we travel, our housekeeper/ cat sitter would make sure he never went hungry.

The only way we knew he might like us was that when he heard our voices, he would come hang out. We were never able to get closer than 3 feet away from him, and even 3 feet made him goosey. We would thrill when he would spend a day or two up in his niche, a safe little place surrounded on all sides. Late in the day, he would wander away until meal time the next morning.

Emile with a fresh white squirrel

He was, like most cats, a ferocious hunter, and was proud to show off his latest squirrel or bird; what cat doesn’t love a fresh hot meal?

But one day, about two months ago, he started looking a little peaky. The last time I saw him, he was having trouble with a back leg. He disappeared.

Cats do that – outdoor cats. When they are unwell, they go somewhere. Sometimes they get better. We’ve had cats come back before, but I don’t think Emile will be back. The other cats have disappeared, too. There may be some kind of a cat virus going around, or, God forbid, someone may be poisoning them.

We would have liked to provide for Emile, to take him to a vet, get him immunized, get him checked out. We would have liked to give him affection. We would have liked for him to trust us.

And a part of me, thinking like a feral cat, imagines that none of that was of any interest to Emile. He seemed happy with the life he had, free, with a free-range menu supplemented by these strange two-legged beings who put out offerings for him on a regular basis. We sort of knew that this would be the way it ended, that he would ghost us in the end.

Being pragmatic, knowing the probability of this particular kind of ending, doesn’t make it any better. We’re still sad he is gone, and thankful for the time we had him in our lives.

July 24, 2022 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Back in Kuwait

No, No don’t get excited. It’s a metaphor.

When I lived in Kuwait, I would tell my friends it was a lot like living in Alaska, and I loved the look on their faces. Then I would explain – in Alaska, people wait eagerly for good weather, and when it comes, they can’t get enough of it. We are outdoor people.

For much of the year, Alaskans are trapped inside, and have to be good at finding things to do to keep themselves from going crazy.

In Pensacola, as it was in Kuwait, the temperatures are very hot. Kuwait was mostly very dry, and had sandstorms, unlike Pensacola, but shared having a long coastline, and heat with humidity in the summers.

So now, as in Kuwait, I am up early, to get to the pool and swim my laps, so lovely and cool. If I need to grocery shop, I try to shop on the way home, so as not to have to venture out again as the day heats up. I get home, and tend to the Little Free Library while it is still in the shade. Most of the rest of the day I spend inside, except for picking up grandchildren at their camps.

It is a great time to do some quilting. I am just about to start when Ragnar, my helper, comes in to join me. (Also, AdventureMan is outside weed-eating and edging, which is of endless amusement and torment to Ragnar, who forgets he was once a feral, outdoor cat, and was lucky to survive.)

I do a couple more things to set up, hoping Ragnar will take the hint and move off to find something more interesting. He doesn’t. In the end, I have to lift him (lovingly) and place him in another room on a blanket we call Blue Mama, because Ragnar particularly loves sleeping on this blanket.

He doesn’t come back, and I spend the morning “back in Kuwait,” enjoying my confinement by working with fabrics and colors I love, patterns I would never wear but enjoy the challenge of working them into quilts.

June 16, 2022 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Weather, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Out of Control

It gets worse. The flooring people, after one week, still have not arrived. They are in communication with us, and their crew is on another job where they found some problems that need to be fixed before they can complete the work on that job. It is taking time.

Honestly, sometimes all you can do is laugh. We had to move to the Airbnb because with all our bedrooms being re-floored, we have no place to sleep in the house; our beds are all broken down to store in the family room. Our cats are confined to the living room, which, fortunately, they like well enough, as well as cats like changes of any kind, as you who have cats will know.

We are reasonable people. We know that if it were us whose floors were problematic, we would want the company to fix the problem and finish the job, even if it meant taking longer than planned.

As people who are spending time and money to stay in an Airbnb while NOTHING is getting done, it is frustrating and chaotic, and expensive. We were so careful putting things where we could find them, except we can’t always remember those special places where we put the things.

And, of course, the unexpected struck. A funeral, for a good friend and mentor, at which I will be a reader, and for which any appropriate dress is hidden in the far back of my living room, behind bookcases and mattresses and stacked furniture.

After scrambling through different channels, trying to get to my “dressy clothes I won’t need rack” in the way-back, I discovered that I could make do with something on my accessible rack in the living room.

One last little whine. The temperatures have suddenly risen; the temperatures are tropical and laden with moisture. It is hot. It is humid. Our comfortably cool weather has disappeared, reappeared, and then disappeared again as a cold front moves back and forth over Pensacola, shifting our temperatures from cool and dry to hot and humid.

There is a bright silver lining to this cloud of December mishaps – As part of my job in the church, I co-ordinate with a delightful young woman who did the same exact thing, cleared out four bedrooms to have wooden floors put in, but she and her husband did it with children! They ran into the same problem, staying in an Airbnb, the job was delayed, and they ended up staying in a total of three Airbnb’s because the ones they had booked were booked again and there was no room for extensions due to the flooring company mishaps.

“It’s a drag,” she told me, “but you will be so happy with those beautiful floors.”

She is right. She made me laugh. She was exactly the right person in the right place to help me put perspective on all this and to laugh. Her situation was so much worse, and she survived.

The cats have adjusted well to their lives confined to one room in the house. The beta male, Uhtred, who has not realized that he is now bigger (and smarter) than the alpha male, Ragnar, has found a safe place where Ragnar can’t get him and has also figured out how to open the folding door, even with its slider to prevent being opened. He is smart, and persistent, and loves to open doors. so far, we have him contained.

The right dress will show up for the funeral. It’s not about me, anyway. There is a pin I need to wear, and I know exactly where it is, in a box at the bottom of a heap of boxes I can’t access. The hamster brain keeps running on its hamster wheel, and I have to take a breath and realize that most of what I worry about will resolve itself without my getting wrapped up in anxiety.

Limbo is never a fun place to be. We want this to be over, we want to put all our furniture back, to sleep in our own house, to have our things put away in logical places where we can find them when we need them. We trust this company and want to work with them; we believe they are doing the best that they can in troubled times. We are in a good place; no immediate vacation plans, no children, not a lot on our schedule, and our Airbnb has been very gracious about extensions. I’ve given up thinking I’ll be able to have this all done, everything put away, for Christmas.

We are not comfortable being out of control. We are experiencing the discomfort of rolling with the unknown. On some level, I believe it to be a reminder that mostly control is an illusion, and that we are often oblivious to the tumult and chaos all around us, disruption can blindside us at any time. I know there is a lesson in humility involved, and I suspect another lesson in letting go and going with the flow. Like Uhtred, I persist in trying to free myself, I keep pulling at that door.

December 10, 2021 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Aging, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Home Improvements, Hotels, Living Conditions, Moving, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Renovations | Leave a comment

Moonlight Over the Bayou Texar

October 23, 2021 Posted by | Beauty, Florida, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Photos, Quality of Life Issues | Leave a comment

Friday Night Special: Mushroom Soup Forestiere

Mushroom Soup

Who knew, this late in life, that AdventureMan would develop this new talent? This week he had a bug in his brain; he had loved making the steak with mushroom sauce last Saturday night and now he wanted to make a very French/German version of mushroom soup, sort of a Forestiere, so he researched recipes, watched a few YouTube videos and created a brandy-laced soup that totally knocked my socks off.

At Fresh Market, his favorite market in Pensacola, he found the special mushrooms, and a crusty loaf of French bread, a mild goat cheese and a Country Pate by Les Trois Petits Couchons, established 1975 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

He was so busy all those years managing, commanding, strategizing, traveling, and I did all the cooking. I did fine – I have a few good recipes, and we moved so often that I could just use them again at the next post. Most of what I did was survival cooking, i.e. I had an obligation to get a meal on the table three times a day, and it had to be something my husband and son would eat. I did fine, but it wasn’t exquisite, and there was only dessert when we were having guests.

AdventureMan takes cooking to a whole ‘nother level. He loves taking his time, scouting out the special ingredients, even growing the herbs to garnish the platters. For him, this is a lot of fun. For me, I think I’ve died and gone to heaven.

October 1, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Cooking, Cultural, Family Issues, Food, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues | 1 Comment

Leaving Bozeman, Day 14

AdventureMan hates my phone alarm, which is a tune called “Twinkle.” He always says it reminds him of hotel mornings when we have to get up at what he calls “The Cr#p of Dawn.” This was one of those mornings, we need to be up, get to the airport, turn in the car, check in two hours in advance, etc. 

Don’t you love this Mama Bear’s big claws?

It all goes smoothly. We drop our keys in the drop box, still a little nervous that we never received a contract for the upgraded vehicle. By the time we reached Dallas, I had a confirmation of the car rental return and a copy of the contract. Go figure.

The airline people were not at the airport two hours before the flight. Oh well. We checked in and had time for breakfast at the Copper Horse before boarding for our flight. In Dallas, we found a BBQ take-out and ate in the waiting room. 

We arrived safely back in Pensacola, on time, and there were zero taxis and about six sets of people in front of us. We never do this, but we called our son and asked if he would pick us up. He arrived, fully masked, welcomed us back, and drove us home. That night, he texted that he and our grandson both tested positive for COVID and the family would be quarantined, They live just blocks from us, so we were able to see them, to bring groceries or whatever they might need. They were tired and achey, but never got very very sick. 

I just took a break; AdventureMan asked me how the trip report was coming and I said I was finishing up and I was astonished at how much COVID had been an influence on this trip. From the start, when Viking cancelled our planned cruise in May, to the end, with hotels and restaurants struggling to find staffing, COVID had played a major role. We need to be paying attention. Things are changing. We are going to need to do things differently. We need to start figuring out those strategies now.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Climate Change, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Wildlife | , | Leave a comment

Discovering My Neighborhood

We have a renovation coming up which will require that we relocate for ten days to two weeks while the workers are completing a project we have long awaited. It’s not that easy these days to schedule projects; we ordered our new windows in March and they were installed in July! It’s a supply chain issue, a demand issue and a finding people to do the job issue. We are so happy; the company we wanted made the best proposal, we accepted immediately and scheduled. Our timeframe is months out, but we are on the schedule and we can live with that.

Hoping to find someplace nearby where we could stay, my first choice was the beach. On VRBO, where I found an amazing mansion on Napoleon Street in New Orleans, steps away from Magazine street, I found the perfect place at Portofino, at really great price. When I showed it to AdventureMan, he looked sad. He said of course, if I really wanted to do that, we could but it also meant battling two bridges twice a day to come back home to feed and take care of the cats. Oh. Yeh.

Floor plan for Portofino Condo
View from Master BR

Can you see why this would grab my heart? I could see myself sitting on the balcony, sipping my coffee, maybe even watching the Blue Angels fly by on a Tuesday morning practice. Ahhhhhh . . . . . And did I mention, the price was right?

So I started researching places near us where cat-care would be easy, and, sigh, yes, AdventurMan you were right, we can keep an eye on the work going on, too.

I was astonished at the quantity and quality of short-term rentals available in our neighborhood. Smart young people are buying up properties, even very small properties, fixing them up and maintaining them as Airbnb or VRBO rentals.

The first two I looked at were little cabins on the Bayou – darling places, but for the length of time we needed, maybe a little too small. The first one advertises on VRBO at $54/night.

This next one is also VRBO, on the Bayou, and starting at $67 per night:

I’m a sucker for a photo like this

These both look immaculate, and so new you can almost smell the fresh paint.

Then I started looking at airbnb. My daughter-in-law has had great luck with them, and they seem to have more variety in our neighborhood.

This house has beautiful spaces at $159/night.

This house has a beautiful location and lots of space at $210/night.

This rental was only $93/night, and allowed pets, but not on the furniture.

This one has a lovely location at $125/night.

Privacy. Convenience. Space. These are great options for people like us who just need a temporary place, and also for travelers seeking less of a tourist experience and more of a real life neighborhood experience.

August 15, 2021 Posted by | Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Hotels, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | Leave a comment

“Keep it Superficial!”

AdventureMan grinned as he said it. He had just asked how we were doing, to which I replied “Fine!” We are both focused on projects that need doing but are neither stimulating nor particularly gratifying.

Have you ever noticed how long you can think about something, and then when you do it, it takes mere minutes, and you realize you’ve invested a lot of thought when you could have just done it and then not given it another thought?

When we bought this house, my thoughtful daughter-in-law left me paint cans for some of the rooms. In one bath, there was a line at the bottom of a wall that needed re-painting. It was such a tiny line, but it caught my eye every time I saw it and I resolved to fix it. And then I didn’t fix it.

So this morning, I found the right tiny paint brush, found the right piece of cardboard to shield where I don’t want the paint to go, gathered a little newspaper and moved some paint from the larger can to a smaller bottle. That took about as much time – maybe five minutes – as it took to also paint in the area that bothered me, and paint over places where time has bruised or nicked the paint, since I was working with that paint anyway. Total time – maybe ten minutes, maybe fifteen. A drop in the bucket, given all the times I had thought of doing it and didn’t do it.

There are things I just don’t really want to do, and it is so easy not to do them. AdventureMan is changing the cat litter; who ever WANTS to change cat litter? The joke in our house is that when I got pregnant, many years ago, I showed AdventureMan an article about some terrible thing that can happen if pregnant women handle cat litter, and it was around thirty years later when he asked me when I thought I might be able to scoop litter again.

While I am all about equality, there are some times when dividing up the labor makes sense to both of us. And then, there are tasks that you just do because they need doing. When he asks how I am doing, he doesn’t need to really know how I feel about painting a small line, and I don’t need to know his thoughts about the cat litter. it’s shorthand for “I love you; I care about you.” A “fine” will do.

June 10, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Character, Civility, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

MomFest in New Orleans

Didn’t we just have a fest in New Orleans? On Saturday, AdventureMan and I were having chargrilled oysters at The Original Oyster House, our favorite seafood place along the Spanish Fort causeway going into Mobile.

As usual, we were having a discussion about words. I had decided that Saturday would be the beginning of Mother’s Day, and as we were meeting up with our son on Sunday, and heading to New Orleans for Monday and Tuesday, it would end up being a four day celebration. AdventureMan wondered what a four day celebration would be called. I suggested a four day weekend, and he said, no, MomQuad. I didn’t like the sound of that, so I announced, definitively, that we would call it the MomFest, which had a less legalistic and more celebratory flavor.

Sunday, too, was lovely, having time with our son where we could hear about his life and his adventures in prosecution. His accused was very sure he would not be convicted – “If they have no face, they have no case!” but our son, by his careful and painstaking work, proved him very wrong.

And Monday we headed to New Orleans, hitting the road around 0830 for an anticipated 1130 arrival.

Oops. Not so fast. Just out of Mobile we ran into massive thunderclouds and shocking bolts of lightning, and torrents of rain rushing up from the gigantic wheels of the trucks who drove hell-bent-for-leather to get their cargos in on time in spite of the weather.

The storm was easing up as we crossed the causeway into New Orleans, and by the time we got to Magazine Street, it had stopped raining and the sun began to peep out.

We love the variety available on Magazine street, and we haven’t had Ethiopian food for weeks :-).

Yes! Cafe Abyssinia, here we come again, a family tradition when we hit New Orleans just in time for lunch. Our waiter this time was delightful, a man from Chicago, related to the restaurant owner, who has actually been back to visit family in Ethiopia. He had great stories to tell about his family there, how they love hearing about America, and how they made him feel so welcome, and a part of a much bigger family.

Samson at Cafe Abyssinia

Then on to Zito’s and to Enrique’s to pick up items we had left to be fixed, polished or mended. Always a good reason to come back. We had a good visit, then headed to Creole Creamery on our way to The Parkview. Usually when it comes to ice cream flavors, AdventureMan and I go our separate ways, maybe sharing small bites with one another, but this time we both landed on the same flavor: Bittersweet Chocolate Torte. It was divine. We had to eat it sitting out in our car, as no one is allowed to sit inside and even the numbers who can come in are limited, but we were lucky. When we went back the next day, there was a long line of people outside, waiting for their turn to go inside.

I did look at VRBO for this trip, but it’s just an overnight, and oh, we love The Parkview. We love the parking, we love the park, we love the proximity to the zoo, and we love that you can catch the streetcar going in either direction just outside the front door, on St. Charles.

We had a different room this time, and I didn’t think I was going to love it, but we did. It was on the main floor, near check in and the breakfast room, but because of COVID, and in spite of the fact the hotel was fully booked, it was not noisy, the bed was huge with a good mattress and linens, and we had plenty of space.

So this was our bed. AdventureMan noticed it had a face on it, which after he described where it was, I could see it. But I also saw a heart, which he did not, and another stylized face high above, on the crown over the bed.

Can you see the face? The heart?
This is the face I saw on the top of the bed

We had dinner again at Superior Seafoods; we split the grilled oysters, each had a salad, and AdventureMan had grilled shrimp, while once again, I exercised poor judgement and had the rich and satisfying BBQ Shrimp. We had a 45 minute wait to get in – New Orleans high schools, Loyola and Tulane are having graduations, and the place is a madhouse – but we had a delightful conversation with a young couple, she was just finishing graduate school and the two of them were on a quest to eat as many oysters as possible before leaving New Orleans for Nashville.

When I say I exercised bad judgement, it is not a reflection on the food. The food was marvelous. I am diabetic and I have no reason on earth to eat injera (Ethiopian pancake-bread) for lunch, really creamy ice cream at midday, and grilled buttery oysters and buttery BBQ shrimp for dinner. It was very foolish of me. Oh well, every now and then I allow myself a little bad judgement.

When we hit the road the next morning, the heavens opened and torrents of rain followed bolts of lightning. Traffic was a little lighter heading east. Our sweet and caring daughter-in-law texted us to fill our tanks before leaving Mississippi, as on top of the pipeline hack for ransom, a major Pensacola gas distributor had failed an EPA requirement and many Pensacola gas stations were dry. Even as far back as Biloxi, gas stations had cars lined up. We did manage to fill the tank, and we turned off the air conditioning for the rest of the drive. The situation seems to be easing in Pensacola, but there is such a fear of a gas shortage that people are panic buying.

So today’s conversation was the difference between a buccaneer and a pirate. Do you know the difference? For a fascinating glimpse into early American history, you can read this lengthy and clear explanation here.

May 13, 2021 Posted by | Chocolate, Cultural, Eating Out, Health Issues, Hotels, New Orleans, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Plenty of Sunshine Heading our Way”

We’ve been having Seattle weather – weeks of cold, dreary, cloudy days and heavy fog some mornings causing bad accidents. We are ready for some Spring. And it’s coming, starting today:

Plenty of sunshine heading our way!

The original Disney version of this song

March 3, 2021 Posted by | Cultural, Heritage, Living Conditions, Music, Pensacola, Weather | Leave a comment