Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Passport Memories and a new trip?

Finishing up the passport tour I started a bit ago.

2004 brought a trip to Italy, via The Azores.  The Azores, which I'd never heard of, until I was told to set up lodging for 45 people there, are a tiny bit of islands 900 miles off the coast of Portugal.  It is a common overnight and refueling stop for the military, hence, our stopping there.  When you travel via military cargo turbo-prop plane, you can't go nearly as far on one tank of gas as you can in a jet plane.  Our route on that particular trip was Minneapolis, MN to St John's Bay, NF to the Azores (overnight), then on to Rota, Spain and finally landing in Rome. 20 some hours of flight time, sitting on webbing and cargo, and either dying of heat (if you were near the bulk head) or freezing to death (the rest of the plane) we won't even mention the bucket on a nail that served as the "facilities".  After making sure that everyone was situated in their rooms, I went to mine and crashed, for about 5 hours, and then I woke up.  Wide awake at 330am.  Unheard of for me, but who knows what time my body thought it was.  Rather than wake my roommates, I got dressed, grabbed a book and decided to explore this tiny cone-shaped island paradise.  I wandered slowly down the terraced roads, admiring garden after garden of tropical flowers, and found a lovely little park, facing the eastern horizon, which was just starting to show the coming dawn.   I watched the most spectacular sunrise I've ever seen (not that I've seen all that many, but I digress) and then I saw the dolphins. There were dozens of them, frolicking in the water just off the beach, leaping and jumping in the sunrise-washed waters.  I must have watched them for half and hour or more, before they headed off to places unknown.  Then it was time to head back and get ready for another long day of flying.
Rome was interesting.  We were fortunate enough to play at the embassy twice, once for a ceremony honoring the US, Canadian and British WWII soldiers, sailors and airmen with whom we were traveling (it was a tour celebrating and commemorating the liberation of Italy), and then again for the President a few days later.  The grounds of the embassy are breathtaking - wandering paths and garden after garden.  We also played at two of the large American Cemeteries, which are also very beautiful.  Then it was down to Anzio, the landing point for the multi-national forces that liberated Italy, and consequently divided the Axis powers by forcing them to divide their troops between west-central Europe and Italy.  This was critical, because it weakened the forces in western Europe, and helped to turn the tide with the Normandy landing which was to take place a few weeks later.  The most interesting part of the whole trip was talking with the service men and women and listening to the incredible stories they had to tell.
2008 brought another trip to Heidelberg, Germany, to once again replace the US Army Band of Europe, while they went on block leave.  Very little free time on that trip, and so very few memories that don't take place on one military base or another.

And that's it.  The only other stamp of interest is the one for the trip that fizzled.  I have a China Visa in that Passport.  My girlfriend and I were going to take a 72 hour trip to Beijing to go to the pearl markets and do a bunch of sightseeing (the things you can do when you work for a major airline!)  I don't remember what happened, I think it was the outbreak of Bird Flu, and all of the flights got cut, and the remaining flights were at full capacity, and so it would have been insanity to try and make the trip.

Future trip?  My son wants to go to a music festival in Donington Park this June, which is somewhere in central England, those of you in the UK can probably tell me more.  Then he'd like to hang out for a month and finish with a concert at Knebworth House, which is more to the south west, I believe.  While I think it would be an absolute blast, I have to question where he thinks the money would come from.  The flights are no problem (thank you former job with the airlines, my pension may be shit, but I can still fly for peanuts!)  it is more the living for a month between the 2 events.  Oh, well.  We have a while to dream before I dash the thought on the shoals of reality.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Kitten Madness

I meant to follow-up on the travel post, but Valla the Kitten has been very insistent today that everything must revolve around her, so, I might as well focus on the Cat part of the title today.  She is the youngest of the lot, adopted on New Year's weekend.  She was, at that time, about 3-4 weeks old, and she was a tiny kitten skeleton with grungy grey fur.  She had been found alone in an abandoned building, and probably would not have survived more than another day or two had she not been found.  We brought her home and gave her multiple baths, and started her on milk replacement. 

This is her, after the baths and feeding, curled up in a nest of blankets on the computer table where I was working, totally zonked from all of the excitement.  Notice, she isn't much bigger than the lid on my soda!

I was trying to work on taxes a bit ago, but she kept attacking the pen. I'd try to distract her with another toy, but as soon as I started writing again, she'd be up on the computer keyboard, batting at the pen.  I finally gave up and let her have the pen.   As you can see, she guards her treasures well!

She is still on the small side for her age, but she is now a healthy weight, with very pretty fur.

The other of the young cats is Q'Tesh ( a character from the TV show Stargate...  Valla is the name of the alter-ego of Q'Tesh)  She, and the rest of her litter, were thrown from a car onto the highway in front of our house back in October, when they were only about 2 weeks old.  (eyes weren't even completely open yet).  The other kittens died on impact or shortly after.  She must have taken a good bounce, because she had a face full of "road rash", a lot of ground in dirt, and a limp, but otherwise she was OK, if a bit fearful.    I cannot find my camera that has the pictures of her as a tiny kitten, but this is her today:

She healed up just fine, whiskers came in well and everything. 

The 2 old girls are hiding somewhere, so they will get a post on another day.

I put Valla on the pillow with Q'Tesh after snapping the pic, and I think she fell asleep out there, so I'd better get back to working on taxes before I lose another writing utensil!


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Who decided bad things MUST come in threes?!

I am finally venturing out of bed after a truly wretched day yesterday.  Luckily I can still laugh.

The day started off reasonably well; I got the boy off to school, and then I attacked the mountain of dishes from the "Great Beef Stew Experiment" of the night before.  It is an odd quirk of logic in my son that anything "new" that I make in the kitchen is poisonous inedible, UNLESS he helps make it.  So, we made a huge pot of beef stew together.  He peeled and chopped all of the veggies while I dredged and browned the beef. It was a lovely dinner.  

It rapidly became apparent that my garbage disposal had not properly disposed of the veggie peelings the night before, because as I started to run water for dishes, nasty brackish water started to back up into the sink.  Great.  I ran to the store for a plunger, because I have no idea where mine went in the move.  I madly plunged, but no luck.  I ran back to the store for drain cleaner.  No luck with that either, except to ruin a complete set of clothes.  About this time, I got a call from a lady that was going to come and see the beading supplies that I have for sale.  Rather than set up a scheduled time, she said, "I'm 5 minutes away!"   CRAP!  I quick changed my clothes, locked the cats in the bedroom, placed a cookie sheet over the disgusting sink, and shoved all of the dirty dishes into the oven, making a mental note to remove them later.

The lady came, purchased, and left.  Then I got a call to go out to lunch, and with one thing and another, I didn't make it back to the house until about 4pm.   About 5 minutes later there was a knock on my door.  It was a very nice gentleman telling me that he was there to repossess my car.  WHAT?!  Now, I have been unemployed since being medically retired from the Army in September.  I have gone to great lengths to make payment arrangements for all of my various bills, including my car.  Ford was kind enough to give me 2 months off, and then adjusted payments for the past several months, which I've made online, and I always print out the nice little thing that says, "Please keep a copy of this confirmation screen as record of your payment".  Apparently when Ford made the arrangements with me, they didn't give the info to the bank that underwrites Ford Credit, so according to them, I was about $1200 in arrears.  YIKES!  Luckily, I also kept the payment arrangement letter that Ford sent me.  So, there I was, on the phone with my stack of receipts and letters, calling Ford Motor Company, and they told me that they didn't have any payments.  Meanwhile the nice gentleman was on the phone with his company trying to figure out what he should do.  They're only answer was, "Take the car, and she can come get it when it is figured out." (And pay them a ridiculous sum of money.)  WRONG ANSWER.  After about an hour of calls, egregious hold music, and being passed from person to person, someone "found" the payments that I'd made, and also "found" the notes about the payment arrangements that had been made back in October.  Then I had that person call the nice gentleman's boss and explain that it was all a mistake on Ford's part, and they should NOT take my car.  After about another half hour, the nice gentleman left, leaving my car in its' parking spot.

At that point, I was completely done in, and the boy was "starving".  Of course, he is a teenager and is always starving.  I walked into the kitchen, turned on the oven to 450 degrees to preheat it for a frozen pizza, and went into the bedroom to read blogs, because I was in serious need of a bit of humor by that point.  About half an hour later, I opened my bedroom door to a wall of billowing smoke (why the alarm hadn't gone off, I don't know; it normally goes off with very little provocation.)  I yelled for the boy to start opening windows, and I raced into the kitchen and opened the oven door, which released a billowing cloud of choking, black, acrid smoke.  I turned off the oven, grabbed some towels, pulled out the entire oven rack, which had the charred and melted remains of plastic utensils, the stew pot, dishes, and everything else I'd shoved in there.  I tossed it all outside in the snow, and set my son to fanning the smoke alarm, while I ran to neighbors' apartments, pounding on the doors and asking for fans.  It took a good 2 hours to clear all of the smoke from the apartment.   I hopped in the car, drove through McDonalds for the boy, and then crawled into my bed to hide, lest the day try to hurl anything else at my frayed nerves.

The racks will need to be replaced.  I am dreading trying to clean out the melted, solidified plastic from the oven.   My sink is still blocked.  The boy did find a wonderful Dali-esque souvenir out in the snow today.  He has it sitting in pride of place in his room with a little sign that says, "Epic Mom Fail".   Sigh.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Passports, Dreams, and Memories

Well, this is the first post of my "new" blog.

(Technically, it is a resurrection of the blog that I kept for a few weeks back in 2009, when I hatched several chicken eggs in my bra, after a 'challenge' was issued on  which explains the slightly esoteric nature of the previous posts.)

I have a number of blogs that I read on a daily basis, and I truly enjoy the snippets of life they reveal and the thoughts they provoke.  As I figure out this Blogger software, I will link to the blogs I enjoy, but I'm not there yet!  I figured out how to change the blog name and the background and added a picture and a bit of text.  A large portion of the Sistine Chapel was finished in roughly the same amount of time several years ago.

I pulled out my passport this evening, only to find that it is expired, (and the picture is of some impostor, at least according to my wretched son) so I need to go and renew it, and also apply for my son's passport.  We are throwing around the idea of heading to Europe sometime this summer for sightseeing, meandering around, and catching a concert or 2.  Several of the bands my son loves are touring in Europe this summer, and since I still have my flight privileges, it just might be doable if we scrimp and save betwixt now and then, stay in hostels, and implement other creative cost-saving measures.

Passports are like little tiny shorthand memory albums.  Each stamp brings back the memories of the adventures you've enjoyed.   While I haven't traveled an awful lot, I have been to some unusual places. 

'99  Reykjavik, Iceland - we arrived early evening, and after checking into the hotel, I needed a walk. Too many hours on a military transport, packed like sardines, had left me buzzing with energy; plus, I was FINALLY in another country!  I had dreamed of traveling abroad, and it just never quite worked out before.  I walked along the black volcanic rock beach, listening to the waves crash, and the cries of sea birds.  Being that far north, in the end of May, it didn't get all that dark, so I walked a long time in the twilight, enjoying the experience.
'99 Tallinn, Estonia - The first thing that jumps into my mind, is having our flight met by armed military guards.  That was not something we saw here in the States until after 9/11.  I found it a bit unsettling.  The rest of the trip was incredible.  I could fill pages of writing, and not do it justice.  Tallinn is a fabulous city, having been occupied by many different countries over the centuries, you can "peel" the city like an onion, from the Old Thomas Church and walled Keep in the very center to the modern tech edges, each block bringing you to another change in architecture, a living reminder of governments past.  The past and present were trying to resolve themselves when we were there.  Someday I want to go back and see how it is doing.
'99 Keflavik, Iceland - I have no idea what Keflavik looks like.  We landed in a swirling mass of white snow and stinging ice pellets.  The snow and wind buffeted our hotel all night, and in the morning, we took off in a grey icy downpour.

'01 Heidelberg, Germany  An odd trip.  We spent most of our time on military bases (since we ARE a military band, it does make sense, doesn't it?) which feel exactly like any military town here in the States.  U.S. money, McDonalds, and bowling.  We did have 1 day trip into the Black Forest, and we stopped at a lovely little town, Triberg, that had the most beautiful park.  The park was built around a series of waterfalls, and you could follow the path from the uppermost falls down to the bottom, with wooden bridges spanning the river at several points.  There is a unique species of squirrel in that region, red with black tipped tufty ears.  We weren't supposed to feed them, but I was unusually clumsy on the trail, and dropped a number of morsels when I spotted one of the little imps.  They were totally unafraid, and seemed to know just who was going to provide treats.

I think I shall stop there tonight, so that the post doesn't get to be overlong.  Tomorrow I will continue flipping through the stamps and memories.

Where have you visited?  What is your favorite place?  Where would you like to go someday?   Since the comments often prove to be as enjoyable as the blogs themselves, I will leave you with those questions.