Monday, June 28, 2010

La Toilette

(La Toilette, Georges Croegaert, 1891, Private Collection, Art

I've always had a serious fascination with bathroom plumbing.

And when I say "plumbing," I am referring to that oh-so-necessary item known as the commode.

To the uninformed, the word "commode" means "toilet" in polite society.

I adore the pristine crispness of a beautiful white commode.

It should go without saying that all decent commodes are white - not beige, not sage green, and certainly not mauve pink.

Midnight black?

Ick to the max!

I'll pretend that disgusting image never entered my mind!

There is something about the power of a flush that makes me get all tingly inside

A solid push on the handle and - WHOOSH! - everything disappears like magic!

But where does "everything" go?

I don't want to get too technical but I sincerely believe that "everything" disappears into the - hmmmm - bowels of the earth.

Although I'd love to, I'll never forget the restroom in the lobby of our Edinburgh hotel.

I cautiously opened the door - this was a wise decision - and slowly moved inside.

My gaze landed on an overly used (I'm trying to be nice here) hand towel that had been draped haphazardly on the back of the commode.

Let me just say that's never a good sign.

My eyes moved to the commode.

The height of this thing - from top to bottom - had to be nearly 3 feet!

Had they built this thing to service Amazons?

For a split second, I seriously wondered if I was going to need a ladder to climb on board.

The toilet seat was truly a work of art.

Certainly Medieval craftsmen had fashioned this splintered wood device to torture unsuspecting users.

Not to be outdone, the loosey-goosey handle wobbled in my hand as I performed The Great Flush. get the picture.

"Why DOES this toilet look so strange?" I asked myself.

My frazzled brain was sputtering quickly to solve the puzzle.

Ah - hah!!!

I had unknowingly discovered the earth's original commode!

And it was on permanent display right here in this very lobby.

Suddenly, the light bulb in my brain flickered on.

This had to be one of those educational interactive exhibits in which museum go-ers are encouraged to become personally involved with the object on view.

How in the world could I be this fortunate to see such a thing?

And how in the world could I hold the contents of my bladder another second?

Obviously, some questions are better left unanswered.

I refused to wash my hands at the filthy sink.

Nothing in that restroom could have been dirtier than that sorry little basin.

Besides, I knew we were just minutes away from entering a private bathroom in our upstairs accommodations.

Hopefully, conditions there would be sanitary.

I grabbed a used paper towel - there was not a fresh one in sight - and twisted the door knob.

The desk clerk smiled at me as I headed up the stairs.

Thrilled to be in the lobby again, I grinned back at her.

Opening the door to our room, I glanced down and noticed a dainty length of bathroom tissue trailing from my perky sandal......

a sweet souvenir of my visit to the world's original commode.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Twitching Tush

(The Sick Girl, Felix Vallotton, 1892,

Something utterly ridiculous has happened.

Here we are - just six days until we depart for our Scandinavian Grand Adventure and I am sure that I have broken my tush.

As you might well imagine, this has occurred at the least desirable moment.

I am lumbering around on both feet but I have posterior pain the likes of which I have never experienced.

You may (or may not) be asking yourselves, "How on earth did this happen?"

Detective that I am, I believe I have tracked down the cause quite quickly.

It all started last year when Bob the Builder and I were finishing the interior of our new house.

Because I've always been allergic to work - thankfully, no one has found a cure for this ailment to date - I offer to paint walls when "reno" time pops up.

Last year, while rolling our 178 walls with "caramel sandstone," something else popped as well.

More correctly, something "popped out."

As a result, I sat in a chair with a heating pad on my left posterior - um, cheek - for three solid days praying for a speedy death.

Yes, I should have gone to the doctor.

But since I happen to be allergic to physicians as well, I decided to tough it out.

Things improved quickly and I returned to my normal snappy self before I could say the word "phobias."

Then a few months ago, I began having pain down my left thigh.

This felt a lot like the pain I experienced when I was expecting one of our children.

Fortunately for that particular offspring, I do not remember which child it was that decided to do bodily harm to his or her saintly mother.

If I remember correctly - and believe me, I do - that searing pain was directly related to my sciatic nerve.

My son-in-law, John, who is no stranger to back pain himself, informed me last evening that my broken tush is most likely related to spinal/vertebrae problems.

Something to do with shifty movement between the "lumbar # 4 and 5 discs."

This time the pain is traveling right down the middle of my left "cheek."

That pain is, in his opinion, related to my sciatic nerve as well.

Who am I to argue with a fellow sufferer?

I absolutely believe he is on to something.

I have spent the last two months working on two huge projects:

Bob the Trudge Master and I have been physically training for all the walking we will be doing in Europe. This means that we have been out the door and walking around our neighborhood for 30 minutes every morning at or around 6 a.m. As a result of this monumental effort, I now have calves that could walk from our house to Anchorage, Alaska and back again within the space of 35 minutes!

I have been sitting and writing, sitting and writing, and sitting and writing some more for many, many weeks. I have been working on several " Merry Scribe" projects - this blog being one of them.

Fast forward to last Friday.

I got up from a writing blitz, took a few steps and instantly began hobbling in pain.

I glanced back at the reproduction "Italian Renaissance" desk chair that I adore for it's unique design and Michelangelo-esque tapestry seat cover.

My delicate posterior regions have been practically glued to this chair for hours at a time as I have drafted page after page of the finest writing the world will ever see.


I fully intend to hack that torture device into toothpick size splinters and then torch it's slivery remains into oblivion.

Which brings me to the following happy circumstance.

I am receiving a one hour massage this very afternoon by an expert therapist who comes highly recommended by one of my dearest friends on the planet.

When I made the appointment to see the therapist - just one week ago - I had no idea that I would need her services so desperately.

I firmly believe that God works in mysterious ways.

Mysterious to us, by the way, never to Him.

Who knows how all of this is going to turn out?

I'm praying that I will be as fit as a fiddle and ready to speed walk all over Erik the Red's Scandinavian turf.

Or perhaps Bob The Annoyed will be pushing me around Copenhagen in a wheel chair - eventually dumping me into the city's fair harbor when he's had more than enough of my petulant whining.

I seriously suspect that something smack dab in the middle of those two possibilities may well occur.

We shall see.

I see the clock is tick, tick, ticking away.

I'm going to force myself to stand up now and drag my aching tush to the shower.

I've got an appointment with an angel of mercy and absolutely nothing is going to prevent me from keeping it.

Bottoms up!

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Romance in Rio

(James Tissot, Un Dejeuner, 1868, Private Collection, Art

Bob and I had just finished a lovely dinner in Scotland - Edinburgh to be exact.

The Irish stew had tempted both of us so we indulged ourselves, savoring every delicious bite.

Then Mother Nature decided to call - again.

(She can be a real nuisance, can't she?)

I excused myself and walked upstairs to the ladies room.

As I reached the landing, a middle-aged man looked at me and asked:

"Do you know if any of the shops are still open?"

I said, "We just left the Royal Mile and some of the stores are open there."

Then he looked at me and said, "You're an American girl, aren't you?"


My ears were still ringing with unbounded glee.

His melodious words floated through my head:

"American girl."


This man had just referred to me as a "girl" and I was ecstatic.

No one - and I mean absolutely no one - has called me a "girl" in - oh, I don't know - maybe 287 years.

Well, what can I say?

I fell madly, deeply, adoringly in love with this man.


I did not care if his personal hygeine routine consisted of one yearly bath taken in a teaspoon of water.

I did not care if he lived with a portly pet python named "Buster."

I did not care if he moonlighted on weekends as a serial killer.

I simply did not care.

My Mystery Man continued to chat:

"I have never been to Edinburgh. My elderly mother does not understand my interest in travel.

But I love to get out in the world and see new places. It broadens my mind."

As he spoke I thought to myself: "What a charming man! Perhaps we could run off to Rio together.

My brain began commenting on his musings to me:

"Guess what? This is my very first time in Edinburgh too!"

We have so much in common!!!

"Can you believe it? We both have elderly mothers! And they've traveled somewhere - definitely to the grocery store!"

We have so much in common!!!

"You can't be serious! I love to travel too! See, I'm right here in Edinburgh talking to you, sweet cheeks."

We have so much in common!

"Isn't this amazing? Travel broadens my mind too - and my flattened posterior which has logged way too many hours sitting on planes, trains and automobiles.

We have so much in common!

I gazed longingly into his azure blue eyes for what seemed like forever.

Then I came to my senses.

I wished him well and proceeded to the ladies room.

Minutes later, I returned to Bob and mentioned the encounter with my mystery man.

He didn't seem at all threatened by his potential competitor.

In fact, he smiled as I related the story to him.

I was immediately suspicious.

Perhaps Bob was thinking to himself:

"I just missed my chance to unload this woman. The guy probably would have taken her off my hands if I'd offered him enough money."

Then Bob glanced sweetly at me and said: "Dear, I'm happy that you had a nice conversation with your new friend."

I gazed longingly into his azure blue eyes for what seemed like forever.

I knew in that instant that Bob would always be my one and only mystery man.

And Rio?


It was Bob who took me to Venice, after all.

And I've always been a Venice kind of girl.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sweet Switzerland

(Bassin d'Argenteuil by Claude Monet)

Bob's maternal grandfather was born in Salenstein, Switzerland.

Because of this familial fact, it was our great pleasure to travel to this beautiful part of the world awhile ago.

To put it simply, we wanted to immerse ourselves in the land of Albert's birth.

On the morning of our arrival, Salenstein was bathed in a gray and misty fog.

I was bummed to the max!

My mind had pictured a sparkling sun swirling around Switzerland's skies.

The words "gray", "misty" and "fog" were not supposed to be part of the script.

As I soon discovered, the day's inclement weather would have nothing to do with my feelings about Salenstein.


What could I possibly say that would do justice to this place?

Salenstein is picture post-card perfect.

It is a small rural community built on towering hills overlooking a placid lake.

Apple orchards and dairy cows pepper Salenstein's land.

It just so happens that Bob and Gretchen are world class apple eaters.

The minute they saw the lush, crimson fruit hanging from the trees, they began salivating.

In anticipation of a taste test, Bob declared: "I'll bet those apples are good."

(To the uninformed, the word "good" in Bob-ese means: delicious, scrumptious, perfectly perfect.)

Gretch was right behind him, her eyes surveying the multiplicity of just- ripened apple trees.

Were Seth and I apple lovers as well?

Not so much.

Soon, the Bobster and Gretch could wait no longer.

They each bit into a ruby red orb.

Ahhhhh - this was, indeed, food for the gods!

They exclaimed in near unison: "These are the sweetest, crunchiest apples we have ever tasted!"

Seth and I were delighted that our mates had been able to enjoy such gustatory pleasures.

But my eyes were riveted on the nearby dairy cows.

I was mesmerized by their taupe-colored hides which looked strikingly beautiful next to the emerald green grass.

Please believe me, I can find art anywhere - even in a Swiss pasture.

And to top it all off, my gorgeous cows were bejeweled with - what else? - the requisite Swiss cow bells.

Be still, my beating heart!


Leaving the beauty of Salenstein behind, we drove through hilly, country roads until we found a village that looked like a promising place to find lunch.

We parked outside a busy grocery and I wasted no time entering the shop.

I was on a serious mission to hunt and gather my two favorite culinary C's - cheese and chocolate.

Without delay, I purchased four kinds of cheese and four varieties of chocolate.

I couldn't resist a loaf of bread that looked simply mouthwatering so I threw that into the mix as well.

Starving, we unwrapped our goodies in the car and quickly consumed our repast.

Perhaps the reason was raw hunger, but everything tasted fabulous.

Each cheese had its own distinctive flavor but we awarded the grand prize in the taste category to a stunningly beautiful flower-shaped concoction.

The razor thin slices had been rolled into petal form - complete with curly edges.

The "flower" looked and tasted divine.

The bread was sweet, moist and supremely cheese compatible.

The Swiss chocolates were much too milky for my taste.

(I'm hard-core, people. Only the darkest of the dark chocolates ever pass my puckering lips.)

Fortunately, the milk chocolate fans in my merry little band were more than willing to relieve me of the burden of having to consume it.


Later in the afternoon, we came to a lake side restaurant that advertised hot apple strudel on their overhead sign.

I said to my captive audience, "We are not going to miss this!"

The amiable waiter showed us to an outdoor table on the roof of the restaurant.

We looked out on a shimmering lake immediately to our left.

After several minutes of pleasant chit-chat, the waiter returned with our strudel.

One glance and I knew this sweet piece of heaven would be melt-in-my-mouth perfect.

Tiny berries tumbled down the sides of the warm apple slices.

Vanilla ice cream puddled at the sides of the flaky crust.

An abundance of whipped cream covered everything.

Surely this fruity confection would be found on heaven's menu, wouldn't it?

As we slowly paced our way through the lovely strudel, the sun returned in it's full glory.

Sailboats - their white masts gleaming in the light - rippled along the blue-green water.

I wanted to hold this picturesque scene in my mind forever.

I'm well on my way to doing just that.


1. Absolutely no apples were stolen from unsuspecting orchard owners in the creation of these true-to-life scenes. They were legally purchased at a village market and then consumed on sight.

2. Although no cow bells can be seen in the accompanying photo, cow bells were indeed found on several of the photographed cows' closest friends. Unfortunately, for reasons which we can not fully figure out, the cow bell cows were not deemed photo worthy by our group photographer.

3. Claude Monet's brilliant sailboat painting was created in France - not Switzerland. Who cares? It could have been created in Switzerland and that's all that matters.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Our Parisian Hell-tel

(Jean Beraud, Le Boulevard St. Denis, Art

It all started back in London.

Try as we might, we could not reserve a second hotel room in Paris.

Everything was booked except for a few scattered rooms in very remote areas across the city.

We felt that we really had no choice.

So we decided to bunk up together in the one room of the one hotel that was still available by online reservation.

What could possibly go wrong?

Those words were spoken from the mouths of true "newbies" to Parisian life and culture.

A mere week later, we found ourselves staring in horror at the size of the hotel room.

Seth surveyed the situation and said, "Your master bath at home is larger."

So was the handbag I had purchased last month but I decided not to quibble.

Then four pairs of eyes fell on the bed.

The one bed.

The one double bed.

Please allow me to explain right here and now that double -size beds in Paris are NOT the same double -size beds that we sleep on in America.

A Parisian double bed is slightly wider than our twin size beds in the States.

My mind raced: "How in the world am I going to get that bed all to myself?"

Lickety-split the answer came to me:

Bob would sleep in the bathtub.

Seth would sleep on top of the desk.

And my darling youngest child, Gretchen, would curl up on a stack of blankets on the floor.

There - I had it all worked out.

Now, if I could just get everyone to see things my way.

Distraction became my immediate ploy.

I cooed brightly to the gang: "Aren't we all hungry? Let's go out and get some dinner!"

Seconds later, we were strolling down the street outside our hotel - stopping only to study cafe menus.

We decided on a homey looking restaurant that offered "country French" cuisine.

We eagerly partook of our roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and Bob's creme brulee.

Fortunately, our server was in no hurry to deliver our check.

That worked out nicely.

The four of us were in no hurry to head back to the hotel.

Eventually, we decided to face the inevitable.

Gretchen and Seth insisted that Bob and I take the double bed.


My plan was working - now if I could find a way to shuffle Bob off to that teeny tiny bathtub.

The kids would be sleeping on the floor.

They gathered every possible source of padding and spread it on the tile next to our bed.

Then we settled in for the night.

I am using the phrase "settled in" loosely.

Very loosely.

Let me explain.

Bob sleeps in his own queen size bed at home - as do I.

Trust me, there are many excellent reasons for this arrangement.

Most of them have something to do with Bob's horrendous snoring.

A minor reason could be related to my habit of waking up at all hours of the night to read in bed.

But that's hardly worth mentioning.

Bob and I were just a little cramped on the miniscule mattress.

Actually, we were so cramped that neither one of us could exhale a decent breath of air without disturbing the other person.

Puncturing each other with our razor sharp elbows was a real possibility.

And the bed was lumpy.

Especially in the cavernous middle of the bed where who knows how many hotel guests had parked their tushes for the night.

Seth kept us laughing with his running commentary documenting all of the amenities that were available in the "house" we were "renting" for the night.

He explained that their "bedroom" was conveniently located right next to the "kitchen" (the tiny fridge holding drinks and snacks for purchase).

Seth continued to describe his "floor plan" in a gallant effort to amuse us and diffuse the tense situation.

The "family room" morphed into the half of the desk which held the television.

His "study" became the other half of the desk where his computer was set up.

I was listening and laughing but.......

For me, this situation was teetering between the emotional mine fields of "tense" and "I want to kill someone."

Bob doesn't like noise when he sleeps.

So he got up and closed our one and only window.

Within minutes, the room was completely devoid of air.

I realize that I may be an exception, but I like to breathe.

I felt like a sardine packed in an airless tin can.

Excuse me.

Sardines enjoy more spacious accommodations than what we had in that miserable bed.

Besides, they're already dead so they no longer care how tightly they are packed in next to their neighbors.

To make matters worse, my backside had once again fallen into the "pit of doom" in the middle of the mattress.

Allow me to be completely honest here:

My dangling last nerve was hanging over the precipice and was about to fall into a very dark abyss.

I had had it.

I testily asked Bob to re-open the window so I could breathe.

I would have gladly taken care of this chore myself but I would have had to step on Seth's face in order to get to the window.

In the end, I figured that my need to breathe trumped Bob's need for a noiseless night.

He was not happy about it but he opened the window.


the sudden burst of fresh air gave me hope that I might live to see another day.

Now that oxygen was refiring my brain cells, I noticed that Gretchen and Seth were sleeping restlessly on the floor.

I knew that they were having trouble getting air circulation down in their "basement apartment."

I told Seth to turn the vertical fan in their direction.

(Thank you, I'll graciously accept your nomination for my impending sainthood immediately if not sooner).

Eventually, I managed to catch some sleep a few minutes at a time during my night in Hell.

Sleeping fitfully, I tossed and turned until dawn.

My sardine neighbor was particularly delighted.

Especially when he suddenly awoke to find my elbow nesting cozily in his right nostril.