California Dreaming–Part Two


My friends and I spent the last two days of my California sojourn driving to and staying in San Francisco where they have an apartment.  I had not been in this part of San Francisco before and some things there surprised me.  Next to their apartment building resides a grocery where we went shopping for some salad items and cheese.  Much to my astonishment most prices were no greater than in Amarillo Texas, near where I live.  Some items were cheaper.  Who would have thought?  Not me.

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On the road to San Francisco.

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The view from their apartment.

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The purpose of our going to San Francisco rather than staying near Carmel was to see the new opera, “if I were you”, commissioned by Merola Opera.  It is a modern retelling of the Faust story.  The devil is female and much to my astonishment sung/acted by a young woman, Cara Collins, from Amarillo, Texas.  The director, a good friend of my hosts, informed me that Cara’s teacher, Mary Jane Johnson who is famous throughout the opera world, was there also.  That saying about how small the world is seemed all too true.

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After the opera several of us went to a French restaurant where the waiter spoke several languages.  I felt a bit envious.

After breakfast the next morning, we took a walk to Alamo Square and to The Mill, a famous coffee shop.

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A view of City Hall through the trees.

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Above:  the Painted Ladies.

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Latte at The Mill.

Then off to my flight home.

 

 

Day Trip to Caprock Canyons


Caprock Canyons State Park, at the southern end of Palo Duro Canyon, requires about 1 1/2 hours to drive from my house.  Yesterday, we met the Panhandle Native Plant Society there to investigate flowers and grasses.

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When we first arrived, it seemed blue might break through the cloud cover, but it did not.

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The park ranger took us to several different sites to identify different flower and grass species.  The above is an area which in the early 90s was a cotton field and has been restored with native vegetation.

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We drove to another area which remained “wild”–never cultivated.

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Then we drove to a picnic area overlooking the lake.  Close to there we found the poppy below.

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After lunch, we parted with the rest of the group and drove to the end of the road.  Martina had hoped to see bison–the state bison herd roams there.  At this point we had seen none. As I drove along, a bison bull was strolling down the road.  Martina took this photo from the side window.  He was only a couple of meters from the car.

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We stopped and took a few more photos where the road ends. I have hiked from this point in the past, but not yesterday.

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After leaving the park, we headed to Silverton, Texas, to visit a coffee shop there which was recently featured in a Texas magazine as the place to go.

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I loved the murals and sculptures.  The owner is a sculptor and also a raptor trainer. The shop features coffee, desserts, unique clothing, and art.

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On the way back we stopped at the Palo Duro Canyon overlook/picnic area on highway 207.

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If you are in the Amarillo or Canyon, Texas, area, I highly recommend this day trip.

 

 

A Birthday Tale


Several weeks ago, the tail of my favorite horse, Miracle, disappeared.  When she died from colic after giving birth several years ago, one young lady at the vets took hairs from her tail, made a braid, and gave it to me.  Since then, it had hung in the hallway next to Dad’s spurs and a photo of the family farm above Dad’s parade saddle. Suddenly, it disappeared.  Where could it have gone?  No one had recently been to the house except Martina, my Italian exchange student, and me.  My daughter and grandson had stopped by, but no one else.  Nothing else had disappeared.  It was a mystery like the time I found a handful of dry dog food under the saddle.  I never solved that one and had given up on solving this one.  I had even considered looking for something else to hang in its place.

On my birthday yesterday, the principal walked to my room with a bouquet of flowers and a package.  The bouquet was from my grandson.  I opened the package. Much to my astonishment, there was Miracle’s tail, the top of the braid carefully and colorfully wrapped, a thin copper wire winding through it, and and then wrapped around the bottom.  My daughter had managed to take it without my seeing her do so, took it home, and had wrapped it so it would not come apart.  When I originally told her about it, she and my grandson commented how strange it was and made note of the dog food incident as if some mystery lurked in that particular place in my house.

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My grandson had picked out each individual flower.  He obviously knows my favorite color is orange.

Then to top off the day my son also sent flowers.  It dropped 50 degrees from yesterday afternoon to late last night, the wind shrieks, clouds loom dark and ominous.  It is a good day for bright flowers.

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Adventures in Argentina-Buenos Aires Neighborhoods


Buenos Aires has many neighborhoods, areas with sometimes distinct character.  Our hotel in San Telmo made it easy to see a lot of the city by walking.  Other areas we strolled through include Centro and Recoleta. In the three days we stayed there, we walked 35 miles according to my Fitbit.

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This Starbucks was exactly one block from our hotel.  We went there the first morning for the typical Argentinian breakfast:  coffee and a biscuit (not like the ones here) or a small croissant with some sweet glaze on top.  Starbucks can be found throughout the city.

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Everywhere you see beautiful parks and people use them for strolling, dog walking, jogging, relaxing, picnicking, hanging out–you name it.  Plus the trees–on all major streets, on side streets, everywhere.  Of course, it was the end of summer.  Perhaps parks receive less use in winter.

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Even on main thorough fares, like this one which is claimed to be the longest street in the world, trees reside on the sides, in the middle, everywhere.

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This is a mall, seriously.  We ate a delicious lunch here one day and came back the next day for a drink.  I had coffee; Gaston had a green drink with mint and ginger which was refreshing and delicious.  The ceiling is well–take a look!

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Hard to believe this is a mall.

One day we took the train to its end at the train station. The recently restored train station contains the fanciest Starbucks ever with incredible murals.

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The ceiling is beautiful too.

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From this station it is possible to take a train to various parts of the city but also trains go from here way out into the suburbs.  Reminded me of the subway and train system in New York City and its suburbs where I once lived.

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San Martin, the hero who freed southern South America from Spain, crossed the Andes with mules, not horses–Hugo, Gaston’s dad, gave me lots of history lessons.  However, when I saw this statue, I did not know all the history yet.  This park, filled with huge trees, borders several streets where, like much of Buenos Aires, modern and antique coexist.

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Suddenly we notice men on horseback riding out of a military area next to San Martin Park.  We rushed across the park to watch, hoping they would ride around the park.  They did not; they headed down a street.

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We never discovered the purpose of this little parade of military personnel on horseback.

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The buildings around the park provide a perfect example of the traditional, the centuries old beside the modern.  The traditional building in the middle houses very exclusive apartments.

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The opposite side of the park from the statue of San Martin overlooks the English Tower, given to Argentina by the English before the little war over the Falkland Islands which both countries claimed.  The English won.

A friend told me to take tea at the Alvear Palace Hotel so we headed to Recoleta area.  We strolled around, did not take tea, but we did have lunch in one of the small restaurants inside the hotel area.

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Next to this restaurant resides a tea store, Tealosophy,  where they sell nothing but tea.  I quit counting at fifty different blends.  In Argentina International Women’s Day was highly celebrated. This tea shop created a special blend just for that event, Mujeres Power.  I bought some; it smells heavenly but have not tried it yet.

We walked down to another park near the famous cemetery where all the national heroes and important people have been buried for centuries.  Nearby we saw the largest tree I have ever seen.

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The branches, which were impossible to photo in one picture, extend far and are so heavy they are supported by cement or metal columns.

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The tree is to the left in this photo.  The walk leads to a monastery and the cemetery.

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The cemetery was full of people.

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The artwork here speaks for itself.

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As we walked back we circled this famous piece–a tulip that opens and closes.

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Then farther down the street which is close to the port–we could hear ship sounds, etc.–we saw this living wall.

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Yes, this wall is made of living plants.  I could not help but stop and stare.

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The building which holds their equivalent of the US Congress.  I continue to wonder how I managed to walk past the Pink House–like US White House–several times and never take a photo.  Perhaps I was distracted by the protesters.  Argentina is used to protests which appear to be legally protected.  In the one we saw one evening, the protestors carried banners of Che Guevara.

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And finally some typical views, this one along a side street.

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Adventures in Argentina– Teatro Colon


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Teatro Colon, considered one of the world’s great theaters, began on May 25, 1908, with a performance of Verdi’s Aida.  This theatre replaced the original theatre which began operation in 1857.  Teatro Colon’s construction took twenty years even though its original cornerstone was laid in 1890.  The original architect, Francesco Tamburini, died in 1891.  His partner took over but also died.  The final architect, Jules Dormal, completed the theatre.

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Theater Colon is huge–originally 8,202 square meters, 3,196 of which is underground. Later 12,000 more meters were added.  The total floor space equals 58,000 square meters.  The design includes French and Italian styles, and includes dressing and practice rooms, rooms to design sets and create scenery, etc.–this part of the theatre is underground.  Everything used in the productions here are created on site.

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This is the curtain area.  The actual curtain used during performances remains behind what you see here.

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Marble, gold, other precious stones and metals are everywhere.

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Due to design, its acoustics are known worldwide as one of the best.  Every famous opera singer you have ever heard of performed here.  This holds true for ballet dancers and orchestras as well.

Currently, the theatre provides a venue for operas, symphonies, ballet, choral music, and contemporary dance among other artistic endeavors. During this March alone, fifteen  different performances of varying types occurred here. When we arrived the lines were long, some for buying tickets for performances, others for tours.

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Crashes and Creativity


Where have I been lately?  Haggling with two insurances companies.  Sixteen days ago, a woman ran a Stop Sign in a residential area while I was taking my grandson to middle school.  She immediately admitted it, the fire trucks were there within minutes (liquid and steam were spewing out of my car); the police showed up shortly as well.  About the time they arrived, a man ran the same sign and the police had to chase him down the street.  Makes one wonder what people are thinking, doing?  Texting perhaps.  Luckily, neither of us were hurt except grandson got a bruise from the seat belt and his glasses flew off.  He actually stepped out of the car and walked to school.

Kudos to my insurance agent, Lacie White of Farmers in Canyon, Texas.  I have never had an accident since I arrived in Texas 26 1/2 years ago so I called her.  She actually drove to the accident site, called the woman’s insurance company, etc.  Then she not only took me to the rental car place, but also to my daughter’s so I could unload luggage and such because we were planning to go to Dallas a few hours later.

The woman who caused the disaster received a citation.  Yesterday, I received a letter from her insurance company, Travelers, saying she might not be at fault.  Really?  She also did not have sufficient insurance to cover the value of my nearly new car, a 2017 which I bought last July.  Now I am haggling with my insurance company over its value.  This all has taken an inordinate amount of my time and energy.  Meanwhile, I have to find another car.

On the bright side, my grandson and I are fine.  I can still go to work, feed horses, and do what I always do.  However, it has delayed creativity, e.g. writing blog posts, working on my next book–already started, and starting my new handiwork project.  My last crochet project is illustrated below.  It is the blanket I made for my grandson.  For those who crochet, here is how I make it.

It is rather a creative, make it up as you go blanket, using some of his favorite colors, black, red, with a bit of grey for contrast.  As you can see I alternated colors to make each stand out.  The stitches used include single, half-double, and double crochet, made into different patterns such as shells, and a pattern where I alternated double and single crochet stitches.  My original inspiration came from patterns I found on Pinterest using many, many colors which I knew he would not like.  The beginning chain was multiples of four. The only downside of this type of pattern of alternating types of stitches is that the edges do not come out totally even and in the end I had to create a border around all four sides.  Probably blocking it would have also helped, but he wanted his blanket right after I finished it so I did not block it.  Ready to start my next project which I think will be making a sweater out of black and white granny squares, with maybe a bit of grey or red thrown in, colors left over from his blanket.

 

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Jen Payne’s New Book


Evidence of Flossing, WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND provides an unexpected metaphor for individual life, culture, and so much more. Nearly all the poems are accompanied with a photograph, often of trash in which lays a dental flosser (yes, one of those instruments with which you floss your teeth) with date and location.  Flossing is supposed to prevent anything from being left behind.  Hence, the title brings up an unusual play on words.

The first section Damage contains more than 20 poems which are a lament about much of modern life–mass shootings, the demise of wildlife, unpleasant changes.  One poem asks the question:  “Would God floss?”  In the second section, Contact, the poems focus on the natural world, walks in the city, the woods, beaches.  The third section, Connection, emphasizes the interconnectedness of everything, especially the relationships between humans and animals and nature.  There are poems about frogs, storms, birds.  One called Evidence of Fairies makes the reader feel the magic of old growth forests with moss and ancient trees.  In the footnote to another poem she discusses the fact that wolf spiders actually create songs to lure lovers. Then, toward the end, the Alice poems appear,  Alice as in “Alice in Wonderland”.  In my favorite poem Payne relates her encounter with a stranger picking oyster mushrooms near a path in the woods.

After reading the poems and comments in this book, I will never view flossing the same way again.  Will I find dental flossers now, something I never even previously thought about?  I use those long strings of floss not flossers.  Apparently the poems and flosser photos affected enough people that some sent Payne photos of flossers they saw here and there on the ground, some of which she has included in the book.

Even if I find no flossers, now I will certainly give a lot more thought to what I and others leave behind.

 

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About the author:  Jennifer Payne is the owner of Words by Jen, a graphic design and creative services company in Connecticut. She belongs to the Arts Council of Greater New Haven as well as several other arts and poetry organizations.  Her work has been featured in various publications, including The Aurorean, Six Sentences, and the Story Circle Network.  You can read some of her writing on her blog Random Acts of Writing.