Portugal 2003 with Carmen

ETSU Duoro River Uniworld Cruise 2003 — “Life is but a Dream” — Mary Garrett’s reflections

All difficulties aside (but rest assured, I’ll get to those stories later) this was a wonderful trip, with a pampered, close-knit family of travelers, dramatic and colorful surroundings . . . and plenty of port!  We had several tastings, learned that the neutral spirits are added to stop the fermenting, and saw how red-hot metal is used to open really old bottles.  The grapes aren’t irrigated, must depend on the natural water table, and their roots can go 40 meters down, thus also holding those rugged hillsides intact.  Someone mentioned a wonderful movie with that as part of the plot, but I’ve lost the title — any ideas? 

Our ETSU group was 18 willful (Carmen’s special “gifted” students) independent storytellers.  The repeated phrase was “This is like herding cats!”  (Having tried sorting out the cats who live below me, I can attest that it is an apt metaphor).  Carmen Deedy planned lessons for us, copied Spanish folktales for us, and gathered us together in the lounge or sun deck, only to suffer through a million “this reminds me of” stories before the next bridge or dam or wonderful vineyard would pull our attention completely away.  Kodak moment!!  It was great fun!  

We did find ourselves sharing and developing some wonderful family stories, with themes (Barbara’s daughter getting locked in the bathroom, leaving people behind, “I’m going to kill him/her”) repeating themselves in story and in fact.   Carmen’s “Dancing with Hilda” was a wonderful example of family story, illustrating the power of a child’s love and the magic that comes with a determination to live up to that love.  In the swap, I told Sherazade and the fan story I remembered from high school Spanish.  Carmen had asked me to tell her a part of Sherazade earlier in the day and wouldn’t let me stop until I told it all — my favorite story!

The crew of the Duoro Prince was so nice, I wanted to take them all home with me — on the interminable trip home, I wanted Sufia to come along and help me find the beauty and history of my surroundings, Antonio to smile his “Cheshire Cat” smile, Rui to raise one eyebrow and pass a plate of appetizers.   We all chipped in for wedding present for Sufia, who is marrying in October — a wonderful bowl she had admired in the gift shop.  I also finished an apple hat on the trip and when she remarked on it, I presented it to her; usually I’d wait until a child is expected, but since I wouldn’t be there . . .    Her fiancé is a waiter on the ship, so they will stay together as they work — not like the families waiting at the dock for their loved ones to come home for one night between trips.  I don’t remember his name, but he’s the nice one who made a carrot and cabbage (no potatoes) soup especially for me.  Meals, by the way, were good, but food was less a focus than on other cruises — a healthier balance, I think.  When we docked back in Porto, we noticed people waiting on the dock, families waiting for crew members to get off duty and go home for one night — sweet!

On our last night, Carmen posed each lady with her new beautiful lace mantilla and comb — too much fun . . . I can hardly wait for the photos!  It was absolutely precious — How nice!  (inside jokes, ask me privately)    I do think “Snake Woman” may develop into a story I tell at some time — and it would have been interesting to try, with Carmen, the concentrated developing of a story in just a few days.  She says it works!  Usually I live with a story for weeks or months before telling it.  There was also a story about a sprig of rosemary — and plenty of rosemary plants to go with it  (and almonds, oranges, figs, pears, olives, cabbages as well as grapes).

The details of the voyage are a blur of cathedrals and bridges and  dams (one dam thing after another — what did the fish say when he hit something hard – dam.  Those puns, and the “Melting Princess” story, which I no longer remember, brought several threats to throw me into the Duoro, but it didn’t scare me; I teach high school).  Going through the locks was interesting, sometimes a bit daunting, too, as walls enveloped the ship and rooms got dark.  The bridges were beautiful, individual works of art — and the low ones were fun for people on the sun deck — “Lie down in a deck chair, now!!”  The roof on that deck could be lowered to allow for the bridges, a bit like a giant erector set.  Interesting!  We all agreed that we didn’t want the bus driver’s job — very narrow, winding, hilly roads, and people who don’t actually park their cars, just abandon them.  (I think “Driving Portugal” would make a good video game).  It rained the first two days, but Sufia promised to pray “on my knees” for sunshine, and it came!  Actually, the rain kept it cooler for us — Portugal, we were told, has “three months of winter and nine months of hell.”  The scenery was dramatic, mountains, vineyards, tile roofs, old cathedrals — and laundry hanging everywhere (expensive electricity – warm, dry days — why not). 

I may be able to sort the images once I take time to reflect — the church in Salamanca stands out; we revisited it after the initial group tour so Carmen could see it, and she decided that in addition to seeing the old church (scheduled to be demolished when the “new” church was finished in the 16th century but kept as an addition instead), we would climb to the roof of the tower — lots of stairs, amazing view!!!  

The University also was most wonderful —  fourth oldest in Europe!  We were interfering a bit with their orientation meetings for summer session, and it did look like a wonderful place to study.  One detail: when university study was only for the rich nobility (second sons – the first born would inherit the land), students would come with multitudes of servants to see to their needs.  The classrooms weren’t heated, and seating was on the floor — a servant would be sent ahead to warm a spot by sitting there until the student arrived.  Professors also allowed five minutes before class for students to stomp and warm up.  In one classroom we were told of a professor imprisoned by the Inquisition for translating a text into Portuguese (a “common” language).  When he returned after years in prison, he said, “As I was just saying,” and continued his lecture.  Paella in Salamanca was also memorable — and it’s fun to say Salamanca!

The Duoro  Prince was so small that all the passengers began to feel like family.  Brian, everyone’s friend, became unofficial ship’s photographer, putting a slide show of photos on his computer and promising a CD of all his shots.  His daughter Brittany (who was already out of the U.S. on June 21) borrowed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix from Carmen’s Lauren, and we three had a book discussion on the last day.   Brian curtailed musician Cheryl’s early-morning harmonica serenades with the request . . . “not until I’ve had my third cup of coffee.”  Two English ladies and a Scottish couple (Robbie & ?) were utterly charming (and I regret my terrible name dyslexia).  Of course, our storytelling group had special moments, working on stories together, and appreciating the wonderful creaking door in the ladies’ room at the monastery where we had dinner.  (That meal included chestnuts — the one food on my allergy list that I thought wouldn’t come up at meal times).    We took a peek (and photos) inside a couple of guest rooms — very posh indeed!  . . and those Ming vases, very tempting!

Leonard and Jenny (? I think) both were sick for part of the cruise — so they should get a do-over . . . .

Travel Difficulties — or “It Still Beats Sorting Socks”

(Why Mary needs a travel partner/keeper) —  See Mary arriving at the airport three hours early, feeling smug and virtuous when check-in and security went so fast, buying a newspaper, a new tote bag (on sale) for the newspaper, and Starbucks coffee to enjoy the wait, near Gate 15 to keep an eye on things.  Finishing the newspaper, checking the boarding pass just for something to do, and realizing —  THE FLIGHT WAS RE-SCHEDULED!!  BOARDING BEGAN TEN MINUTES AGO.  Throwing away the rest of the coffee, I rushed toward the correct gate 19, hearing my name over the paging system, and arriving just in time, rather embarrassed and apologetic but being reassured, “It’s fine, you’re here.”  Rule:  always double-check flight times!!!

(Some people will do anything for attention).  The flight from Chicago to Frankfort was rather pleasant, chatting with a young Air Force guy, Eric Love, going to Germany for airport training and one of his colleagues, a young woman with a plan to write travel books.  Dinner was pretty good, I had a little wine, and a little Bailey’s Irish Cream, and settled in for a little sleep.  Waking up a couple of hours later, feeling a little warm, I thought a trip to the restroom was in order, but while waiting for a vacancy, I felt dizzy.  Then I felt the floor on the back of my head — a near-by passenger came over, called the stewardess, she called for oxygen and “any medical personnel on board.”   Checked out by a paramedic and a doctor (both rather cute), I still don’t know exactly why (stress from condo problems before the flight, reduced circulation from sitting, standing with knees locked, drinking?), but I do know that the care and concern were real — Eric was berating himself for leaving a buddy alone to get in trouble.  Rule: listen to the body and sit down when dizzy (and less Baileys??)  P.S.  The Frankfort Airport is huge!! —  workers ride bicycles from place to place within the building!  It’s also confusing, with shops hiding the signs that point the way to gates.  Thank goodness people don’t mind pointing the way!

The return flight — very little sleep because dock-side partying in Porto goes on all night, and we had to leave for early flights at 5:30 a.m.  It was sad saying good-bye, but I looked forward to home.  Smooth flying, transfers, customs (well, I did join the elite group who have had scissors confiscated — so nice to know that I can’t run amok with those half-inch fold-up blades — also, my bags were opened by someone along the way — they had little plastic closers on the zippers and a tiny little note inside from National Security).  

In Chicago, I managed to keep a large group of Korean businessmen from getting off the tram at the wrong terminal (a real achievement for perennially lost me, and should be good for some Karma).  Then storms hit Chicago, and I spent five hours at O’Hare (hoping my seat-mate from Frankfort, a young mother heading home to her three-year-old, had gotten out before the storm).  We had kidded about our “refugee look” on the last day of the cruise, but this was real — a tired and cranky group milling from gate to gate, with rumors being passed around.  I wanted to throttle the mother of four squealing young boys (my sympathy ran out as I remembered my mother’s ability to silence us with a look), then I found a quieter gate and napped a bit.  Finally our pilot, calling himself  Captain Pinnochio, admitted that the plane we saw approaching wasn’t our plane, it was a plane that had been on the runway for five hours and was coming back to refuel.  Wow!  That put things in perspective!  We had room to walk, real restrooms, Starbucks!  He promised to get us home, and he did, piloting well through stormy skies — I thanked him for the flying and for his humor.  (I had, however, thought of staying in Chicago, since I had to return on Wednesday anyway, but three nights in my own bed won out).  It was so good to get back!

Carmen and Marsh, I believe I have found something that even beats sorting socks — knitting socks!!  No really, the knitting shop owner talked about it when I went to buy the right size needle for the little hats (about time for that one . . .).  The only latex-free socks I could find were thinlittle Buster Brown socks — if I can manage this pattern, I could actually have warm socks by winter.  (Of course, I could just winter someplace warm instead — want to come?)

England 2003 — EF trip

We aren’t traveling much these days, but we can remember the “before times.” I’m grateful to the Garretts who taught me to journal after a trip, the better to remember the experience. This is a bit wordy, a bit rambling, and photos will be scarce, but the memories are there. 😉 Nice photos on this travel blog (thanks for “liking” me) https://lovetravellingblog.com/category/united-kingdom/london/

England 2003 — EF trip Mary Garrett

“Never pass up an opportunity for a good loo stop,” words of wisdom from Penny, one of our guides to the wonders of London.  “Mind the gap” and “stand to the right” — heard frequently on the Tube.    Signs read “Caution, pickpockets and purse thieves frequent this area.”  I wondered why they weren’t told to move along elsewhere.  Then in Greenwich I saw a sign that said “Caution thieves: undercover policemen operate in this area.”  Now that’s more like it!  I also liked, “Polite warning: do not leave your bicycle in this area.”  We wondered about all the signs warning that anyone assaulting subway (or customs) workers would be prosecuted — our informants said it wasn’t a frequent problem, just a courtesy to warn people not to do it.

It’s a nice walk” meant prepare to hike to exhaustion!   The EF tour of London and surrounds was fast-paced, packed with experiences, exhausting, and wonderful.  Mary Lu and I were constantly saying, “I’d like to see . . . there isn’t time now;  next time” which means there will have to be a next time!  It was especially difficult to leave Stratford at 3:30, when I wanted to stay for days!  The next trip will be more leisurely.  At odd moments on the trip, I read appropriate books,  I Am Morgan le Fay (from my school library) and Parrot Pie for Breakfast: An Anthology of Women Pioneers (from the bookstore on “our” corner of Notting Hill).  On coming home, I’ve been listening to Amy Douglas’ Stories of Shropshire, to enjoy the feeling and sound of England a little longer.  (On the plane over I watched How to Lose a Man in 10 Days and asked the British youth seated next to me if what they said about commitment scaring a man away was true.  He said perhaps for American men, but British men weren’t so afraid of commitment.  On the way home there was no one next to me to discuss Chicago with).

One of the docents at the Field House once said, “Children see faster than adults” when Joy was trying to hurry me along as I lingered over the Victorian rooms.  Since this was a student tour, things moved fast, and the kids had a great time!  I did my best to keep up and used free time to rest, savor, and reflect.  Before I left St. Louis, Margie had suggested that I’d be better off just staying over for the two weeks before the ETSU cruise, and on the way home I vowed to remember that if I ever have two trips come so close together again.  I also have to admit that the U.S.Air flight was the most “basic” flight I’ve ever had to Europe — pampering was not on the agenda.  

The 7-day trip was really only 5 full days in England, since travel took so long, and I am writing under the influence of jet lag and exhaustion.  (By Fri. a.m., after 12 straight hours of sleep, I am feeling better.  Thursday I had naps between doctor visits — passing my annual physical even at my worst — by the time I finished all the tests and bought groceries, I was really wiped out, almost sick from exhaustion).  I had taken a cab home from the airport, wise enough not to want to drive exhausted, and the driver was an interesting man from Ethiopia, happy and grateful to be here, proud of his U.S. citizenship, providing well for his family, but filled with worry about his homeland where his parents still live.

Pam Lowy was a wonderful tour leader!  Her friendly, “perky” guidance took us through and around all “obstacles.”  We were especially impressed with her facing off cars and buses, determined to get her whole group safely across busy streets together.  The music of many horns often accompanied her performance.  She coordinated transportation and guides masterfully, and befriended everyone along the way.  We were impressed with her skill and patience, and her tattoo of the Japanese characters for patience.  We gladly followed her up-raised notebook, umbrella, or hand anywhere, and laughed at the young man on a street corner who tried to imitate her with an up-raised program.  Her mnemonic tricks for remembering the stops were fun, effective, and contagious.   I especially appreciated her efforts to secure latex-free meals for me, sometimes difficult because we would be  told that there were no latex gloves used and then find out we were misinformed.  Fortunately, kindness prevailed, and managers would find a way to prepare food without the gloves. 

The (Nottingham) Hill Gate Comfort Inn was a charming old building, with tiny rooms (our twin beds were touching, with little room for moving them apart), balky elevators, and noisy plumbing (but a full-pressure shower, not like American low-flow restrictions — it felt so good after a day on the Tube).  There was a substantial breakfast downstairs to get us started on our day, and they were accommodating enough to provide it at very odd early hours to meet our schedules for tours and airport (one group had to leave the hotel at 3 a.m. for the airport — they stayed up for it, which I had been tempted to do in Istanbul).  One of the participants said, “Everything in England is upstairs, hot, small, expensive, and not to code . . . and we love it!”  

The Tube — very interesting, complex, and complete system, overcrowded at times (we had a discussion of “accidental contact” vs. “inappropriate closeness — get an adult if you need help” after one encounter).  Efforts to reduce traffic in the center of London now include a tariff for cars traveling there, and encouragement to take buses, not the Tube, which is already so full.  Pensioners have a discounted fare, but only after morning rush hour — they will say to the driver, “Am I too early?” hence the nickname “Twirlies.”  Finding our way as a group was really easy; if I did lose sight of Pam, I just looked for the blue and orange EF backpacks several of the students carried.  The “cult of the blue and orange backpacks” is taking over the world; we saw several other groups along the way.

When I finally ventured out on my own Monday afternoon with a lovely boat ride from the Globe to Greenwich and “tubing” back to join the group for dinner, I was impressed that people were not only willing to help me find the way but actually very interested in figuring out the best way, with the fewest changes.  It is sometimes hard to find the stations, tucked away in odd spots.  When a disabled train stopped the line at Piccadilly, I was assured that Covent Garden was only a little walk (not a “nice walk”) and really not that hard to navigate, using my time-honored method of asking someone every few blocks to make sure I was still on the right track.  One man, about as confused as I was, sent me a half-block or so the wrong way — he realized that when he passed our group waiting outside the restaurant I was seeking and asked them to pass along his apologies for sending me the wrong way — how’s that for courtesy!!  

Dealing with money was interesting, too — I hadn’t realized how slow it is to make change when  I have to actually read the amounts on the coins instead of just knowing; I felt like a five-year-old just learning what money is.  After visiting the Globe, and using up most of my money (should have used the charge card), I found myself with a handful of coins, mostly “coppers,” realizing they wouldn’t be enough, and having the vendor graciously accept the handful as “close enough.”  Just a kid again, begging ice cream with my pennies.   It’s nice when people are so kind and gracious.   Of course, a trip to the ATM restored my purchasing power.

On our first day, MaryLu and I took a brief stroll of the neighborhood and came back to move in and rest while Cassie (from Arkansas?) took her kids on a long walk through Hyde Park, past Buckingham Palace, and who knows where else.  On one free morning (6/7?), I slept late, breakfasted slowly, and took a short walk to nearby  Kensington Garden where I enjoyed the children’s play area/garden, sat and read for a while, and enjoyed the conversations of ravens and starlings.  The young and energetic used the time for a trip to the Tower of London, which I will see on my next trip.  I did rather come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t really have the stamina to take a student group, unless I could feel confident enough in them to let them go some places alone.  I felt bad about my lesser energy until I did some math and realized that I had 20 years seniority on those intrepid chaperones, and that my restful free times allowed me to keep up the pace of the rest of the adventures.

So . . . adventures!  On the first day, once all groups were present, Pam took us for a tour of the area.  By the way, our bus driver in from the airport estimated that renting one room, with kitchen and bathroom shared, would cost the equivalent of $1600/ month!!  My, weren’t we posh, in our room with its own bath!  We took the Tube and walked across the Tower Bridge (? — I’m a little sketchy on notes here).  We took nice photos of London, Big Ben, the Eye (another attraction that some of those very active students managed to take in) and enjoyed nice barbecue at Sticky Fingers, to the background of Rolling Stones music.  

6/6  Liz was our guide — talked about the “Upstairs/Downstairs” history of the West End houses, built to accommodate families with servants, now broken up into expensive flats.  She showed us a “flyover”  (overpass) which I had wondered about in a short story “Billenium,” and detached houses out by Riding Court Road.  (I noticed that the owners of “attached” homes asserted their individuality by painting and roofing their units with individual style and choosing different colored doors).   We also found out that St. Matthew’s, built 1888, the burned-looking church which MaryLu and I had seen on our first day’s walk, was most likely so dark because of pollution from the days of burning soft coal. Liz remembered being sent home from school early on days when the smog was particularly bad.  Many buildings have since been cleaned; now that the air is cleaner, it makes sense to do so.

Windsor Castle was one of those “pinch me” experiences — I didn’t quite believe I was there.  We crowded around to see the changing of the guard — I loved the bagpipe music!  It took a while, as they did paperwork connected with turning over responsibility.  Jim recognized the Captain of the Guard as an Australian chum from his time in the Vietnam War, and he ended up having “tea with the Queen’s own”!  The Queen was home, according to the flag, but she didn’t come out to say hello.  I did get to see Queen Mary’s Doll House, with such intricate detail (I decided I’d like to stay in the Queen’s bedchamber, if she were ever not using it) and the King’s Closet where The Merchant of Venice was once performed.  There were most impressive displays of weapons, and the Order of the Garter was explained as well,  Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense . .   Evil to him who thinks evil.  

Nice pictures at  http://www.heraldicsculptor.com/Garters.html

My Fair Lady in England, with real English accents.  A wonderful production, with an interesting  version of “Get Me to the Church” using trash cans for rhythm, as in “Stomp,”  and chorus girls dancing to “London Bridge” and  bringing in a bit of “Moulin Rouge.”  It was wonderful and left me humming the tunes.  The million or so stairs to the balcony were almost too much for˙ us, but it was worth it!  Mary Lu and I debated whether it was a love story — I think it is, though not the usual romance, more unspoken and undemonstrative, but understood.

6/7  St. Paul’s, Christopher Wren’s tomb plain — “my monument” the church above.  I loved the plaque commemorating the masons “the men who shaped the stones.”

The guide at the British Museum was the prim, proper, intellectual one would picture for the site, a bit too dry for our youngsters, tired out as they were from their active “free morning.”  She took us from the beginnings of Cuneiform Writing, through Egyptian works, Greek (no remorse for taking the Elgin Marbles), Cornish, and the ship burial.  I have to admit to being a bit befuddled myself on some details, though they were impressive displays.  It was the 250th anniversary of the founding of the museum, and among the special events of the day, they were giving all the children . . . balloons!  I spent much of my day dodging children with balloons, and while my companions tried to “run interference” for me, they hadn’t the practice the “greats” have had.  I finally moved outside to wait for the group and go home.   Sigh!  (stupid allergies!)  I wasn’t so distracted, though, that I didn’t notice when the guide said Persephone was in Hades with her father (now that would be a whole different story, wouldn’t it?)

Medieval Dinner, was fun if a bit hokey.  Eating soup without spoons was only partially effective, and the place was a bit smoky, but the singing was good, the dancing was boisterous, the sword fight was interesting, and good will abounded.  On the bus going home, I sang the “Anne Bolyn” song and Jim sang an interesting “Circle Song” that I want to learn.  We enjoyed the lights of Harrod’s and an interesting traffic light sculpture, and we discussed the mysterious zebra crossings we had seen earlier (having to do with the zig zag lines painted on the pavement). 

6/8  Stonehenge — 2000-1500 B.C.  shrouded in mystery, and now protected by barriers.  I kept wishing we could get closer, but I suppose it has to be protected (one of the few places I saw No Smoking signs — outdoors at the Stonehenge site).  Our guide explained that the stones were erected using carpentry skills in stone, using as tools the antlers of red deer and cattle shoulder blades (this theory tested out by scientists, as Larry Kinsella has done with his atlatls).  The fact that they could spare so much of the strong male work force meant that they were relatively wealthy.  It was amazing!  We saw lots of poppies on the way — they only grow where the dirt has been dug up (as for trenches).  We saw contented sheep, too, and lovely rolling hills.

Bath — the Roman baths were much more extensive than I had imagined, and the “Bath water” wasn’t all that bad, a bit warm and some mineral taste, but nothing you’d have to hold your nose for, and it’s supposed to make you strong and healthy.  Residents can have daily doses for free.  (Of course, the story we heard of prescriptions of Guinness – Guinness is Good for You — for pregnant ladies sounds like more fun).  There are plans to build a working spa using this natural hot spring, and remembering how rejuvenating the bath was in Turkey, I’d say do it!  There was a craft show in progress, so I came away with Forget-Me-Nots preserved in a pair of earrings and a little limestone hedgehog.  Mary Lu met up with Amanda and spent the afternoon and evening with Amanda and Tom — and their baby! — instead of playing tourist.  Taking the train back to London was quite successful also.

We ended the day with Pizza in Soho, wonderful pizza and a wonderfully eclectic place — chandelier and exposed ductwork, disco balls, partially exposed brick walls.  Delightful!

6/9  Globe theater.  Exciting connection to the past — almost a pilgrimage.  The theater is lovely, but we couldn’t take pictures (though other groups were — go figure!  Right now I am wishing I had been more defiant).   It is so much more decorated than I imagined!  The workshop leader explained how different it is to perform in the Globe, with the audience so close and so much interaction between the actors and the audience.  This was echoed by one of my helpful “guides” on my afternoon adventure.  I wish we could have seen a performance (– next time!)  I loved all the exhibits of how clothing was made and dyed, woodworking, past performances.  I even indulged in a computer which allowed the recording of myself in a scene, then replay with other voices and applause!  It was fun!  I saw school children doing it later and having just as much fun!

Afterward, I took the short boat ride to Greenwich, passing the church that blessed our Pilgrim fathers (and mothers) on their way to America, and the Mayflower pub, made from some of the timber of the ship.  We also saw Cuckhold’s Row, where a row of ducking stools punished unfaithful wives once upon a time.  The guide was funny, explaining that the donation box was for “research” funds — and that they did much of their research in the pubs along the Thames.  He pointed out that the view of the river from one pub had been a favorite of many artists, then said that he had seen Van Gogh there.  The bartender asked, “Vincent, do you want another beer?”  but he answered, “No thanks, I have one ‘ere.”  (My favorite corny joke of the trip; Pam’s frayed knot story is second). 

I walked a bit in Greenwich, admiring the college quiet and the Cutty Sark, and then took the train to Canary Station, walked past six million shops to finally find the Tube station, and made my way to dinner in Covent Garden at Bistro 1 (where the waiter worked so hard to come up with a latex-free and potato-free dinner.  He brought tiramisu in place of the banana dessert; so he is of course my new best friend).

The evening’s theater was Bomb-itty of Errors, a rap version.  I tried to keep an open mind on this, and truly there was some clever rhyme and lots of energy (and too much volume — I used kleenex to make ear plugs and wished that this had been the night of the balcony seats).  Several of our group were offended, and some of the humor was far over the line.  I keep thinking of really good comedians who refuse to go for the cheap laugh.  This could have been a far better effort if they had avoided scatology and worked more on wit.  An evening at the Globe would have been far better.

6/10  Stratford!!!!   This was the best part!  Sacred ground! Avon means River — Strat (street) ford.  John Shakespeare was a glover (samples of work and materials in the Birthplace House) and a usurer (like Shylock?)  It was wonderful to walk in the houses and imagine life, relatively cozy apparently.  The garden at Anne Hathaway’s House was stunningly beautiful, and both gardens smelled wonderful, with all the fragrant herbs.  Mary Baker, the first curator of the house — no relation to my colleague Mary Baker, but I still loved it!  Pewter shown off as a sign of wealth, polished to look like silver.  Wooden trenchers for everyday, licked clean, thrown out when too greasy.  Clockwork spit to turn the meat.  Showing off the best bed in the main room — conspicuous display of wealth.  

We walked to the Avon, of course, but the graveyard was “a nice walk” so “next time.”   We had a pasty for lunch (Cornish meat pie — I had them in Jamaica).  I had refused to stop at a McDonald’s — not after going all the way to England!   I found the t-shirts at the lovely art shop Cassie told me about, and got M. Night’s Dream and The Tempest shirts, lovely shirts, designed by the owner’s son, who also designs beautiful glass.  If we had had enough people signed up, we could have stayed in Stratford for a play there . . . ah well!  

On the way, we admired all the beautiful Cotswold farms, rolling hills, hedgerows, dry stone walls — farmland as it should be, perhaps.  We learned that sheep raising was so successful because, as an island, England could eliminate the wolves.  (Rams with bag of dye to mark the ewes).  Most important crop — high protein grasses to feed the sheep and cows.  Second — wheat, bred shorter and with heavier grains on top.  Third — barley.  Also rape seed (canola).   Post office because of posts on which the mail would be hung.  He also explained why the private schools are called “public” — open to the general (paying) public, not restricted to church members or clergy.

Woodstock — Rosamund kept there.  Then Queen Elizabeth I (by Mary).  

Blenheim Palace — Churchill born there

Oxford was interesting for architecture, Christopher Wren. 

Bodleian Library — King James —  all 5 orders of columns, Tuscan, Ionic, Doric, Corinthian, and Composite.  Late Gothic — 15th C — fans, buttressed.  18th C. Baroque — Radcliffe, Camera

The students’ dining hall — very like Hogwarts’ though on a smaller scale. 

Broad St. — Martyrs’ Monument — Cranmer, Ridly, Latimer — Queen Mary’s burning of Protestants (5 years, 350? victims). 

Dinner was very nice stir-fry, once the manager provided untouched-by-latex ingredients.

Home on 6/11 — tired but full of memories.  Seatmate on the plane had been staying at a low-cost place, the Cherry Court Hotel (for future reference).

Our tour leader constantly warned us to tuck our vital stuff inside our shirts, and either it worked or we were very lucky.  It’s a shame that there have to be dishonest people (as I think to myself whenever I fumble for my keys).  My friend left her passport on the plane (she had tucked it “temporarily” into that little pocket on the back of the seat in front of her).  Fortunately, the customs guy was nice and gave her a temporary pass to the baggage area, where the USAir rep. went on the plane and rescued it.  Whew!

I am finishing this on Sunday, 6/15.  Last night I saw a powerful Macbeth in Forest Park.  Joy and Joe brought all five little ones, and toward the end I had Robin barely awake on my lap, C.J. to my right, sleeping against me, and Nikki in front of me, asleep with his head on my knees.  When Macduff was exclaiming, “all my pretty ones, dead?” I felt his sorrow more intensely, surrounded as I was by such little innocents.  That was surely the monstrous act that would turn all with a pulse against the monster Macbeth had become.  

Joneal Joplin as King Duncan was also a presence one had to respect and mourn as well.  I had been afraid that the play was too intense for such young ones, but when I pointed out everyone safe and sound at the curtain call, Robin said, “Aunt Mary, they are actors; it’s just a play.”  They fully understand so much, bless them, and the plays live on.  My Aunt Yoko and her grandson Isaac came with me.   Isaac declares himself not a reader, but loved the play, performed as it should be.

Glaciers and Tundra and Bears, Oh My

ETSU 1998 Storytelling Cruise to Alaska

Glaciers and Tundra and Bears, Oh My

ETSU 1998 Storytelling Cruise to Alaska  on the Dynasty– Denali, Seward, Cordova, Prince William Sound, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchican, Vancouver.

Reflections by Mary Garrett

Too much to do and see (and eat), not nearly enough time (or sleep) on this adventure north.  For the first time, we found ourselves asking, “Now where will we be tomorrow?” and sandwiching class time in between exciting new sights and sounds, like glaciers and whales.  As Donald said, an odd thing to be complaining about, a trip that was too interesting.  I’ve tried to fall back on Perrin’s mantra of “just enough,” and while I really think we went beyond that in many aspects, we did have “just enough” friendship, sharing, and warmth (ours, not the weather’s).  Though we didn’t want to leave, we had perhaps “just enough” time to leave everyone wanting more.  I’ve already signed up for Storytelling ‘99!  Everything proceeded smoothly, no disasters, probably due to Marsh and Leonard’s good planning, helped along by Merle’s red travel blessing envelopes.

(7/18)  Donna and I began to realize just how far we were going on the flight up.  Of course, that was accentuated by flying Southwest — a hectic way to fly.  (We decided on the way back to avoid the competition for seating, hang back, and take what we got, which turned out to be the emergency row, with three people sitting backwards and facing the other three.  We renamed it the party row and had a great time visiting with our neighbors).  We had been warned that Southwest, in addition to not assigning seats, did not feed its passengers; so we brought along a little picnic of our own, which along with Southwest’s “snack pack,” proved to be more than adequate, leaving us with left-over snacks for later, and beginning the infamous “food box” that Marsh teased us about throughout the trip, as we collected all our leftover treats in the pretty box that held our snacks in Denali.   When we got home, we shared all those treats with Joy’s children — they were excited to get food from Alaska, even if some of it had started out in St. Louis.

Alaska Airlines was a civilized respite, with their Alaskan native painted on the tail of the plane.  Then a ride to the Big Bear B&B on the Borealis Shuttle, the driver complaining that it was “barely midnight and already getting dark” and giving a mini-tour of Anchorage as he drove.  I was especially tickled by the “whaling wall,” a mural of whales, and his story of the Orthodox Israeli who liked that joke so well he asked to get out and take a photo to take back to Jerusalem.  The B&B was lovely, full of beautiful Alaskan art, but we were so tired, all I wanted was to be tucked into bed (Mary Kay said her B&B host did tuck her in). 

(7/19) Breakfast was a real treat, and our hosts drove us to the train depot early in the morning for our trip to Denali.  I love the Alaskan Railroad!   It is such a pleasant way to travel, and the high school students acting as guides on board gave wonderful commentary on the way and seemed to be really enjoying their work.  We now all know not to go out on the mud flats, which act like super quicksand, and we looked for wildlife from the train windows as we went.  Views were excellent from every car, especially the observation dome, and even the excellent dining car.   Reindeer sausage is good, if you don’t think about Rudolph.   Several members of our ETSU group were on this tour, also, adding to the pleasure.

The Knightly Tour people drove us to our cute little Sourdough Cabins, and then provided shuttle service to supper (halibut for me — good stuff!) and then back in the rain (we saw a lot of rain on this trip!)  

(7/20)  Our trip into Denali began bright and early (5:30 a.m.), and was completely perfect!  (Well, except for the grumpy guy across the aisle from us — it became apparent why his wife was less insistent on a seat together than he was).  The sky was so clear that we saw Mt. McKinley all day!  (Many people had told us that only about 20% of visitors ever see the mountain because of the clouds).  It was magnificent!

Our guide was interesting and informative, and quickly taught us to call out “stop” if we saw wildlife, and to locate them (i.e., left side, 10:00).  It worked well, we saw amazing animals:  bears (including a mother with three 3-yr-old cubs and another with one 2-yr-old in close proximity), eagles (including two fledglings in a nest on a cliff and adults in flight), a moose with a calf, caribou with a yearling, lots of cute ground squirrels, ptarmigan, a fox with several ptarmigan in its proud little hunter mouth, Dall sheep, marmots, snow shoe hare, and mew gulls.  We had to keep all our snacks in the bus so our crumbs wouldn’t corrupt the animals’ natural behavior (we watched the ground squirrels eagerly licking up spilled hot chocolate — they obviously like people food).  The guide told us of an incident when overfed ground squirrels attracted a bear to easy food, the bear was trapped and moved, but returned three times; on the third return the bear was killed as a possible danger to humans, “All because people thought it was cute to feed the squirrels.” 

After the tour of Denali, we boarded a bus back to Anchorage.  Our driver was very informative, and I enjoyed his Kodiak Island accent (much like northern Minnesota, must have the same Norwegian background).  He gave us a thorough education on the types of salmon: King or Chinook, Red or Sockeye, Pink or Humpies, Chum (keta) or Dog, and Silver or Coho, and got us so ready to have salmon for supper, but there were only hamburgers and hot dogs on the menu where we stopped.  Sigh!  He made it up to us by reciting Robert Service poems to us — the best of all the R.S. we heard on the trip! I told him to look up the Anchorage storytellers and join up.  He also pointed out Wasilla (all I saw), where the Ididarot actually begins, since the water is impassable at the time of the race.

Back to Big Bear, and up very early the next day (Tues.,7/21) to take the train to Seward.  Our hosts got us to the depot late, barely five minutes before departure, and the husband took our bags to the bus station before our B&B buddy Rick Marshall straightened him out.  It was a narrowly averted disaster!  Once on the train, we were in storytellers’ heaven, with our own storytellers’ “party car”, and lots of free coffee (decaf for me) in our Alaska RR travel mugs.  We even saw Dall sheep closer than in Denali, not white specks on the mountain, but real animals with legs and everything.

When we arrived in Seward, Marsh and Leonard kindly took charge of taking a bus load of luggage to the ship so everyone else was free to wander.  We took the Trolley to the Sea Life Center, where we enjoyed seals and puffins, starfish, octopus, and especially the writings and drawings done by school children. We even took pictures of the men in scuba gear cleaning the inside of the seal tank.  (We also shopped!  I do more of that with Donna around . . )  

We took the trolley back to the ship about 4:00, found our cute little cabin,  and had the first of many excellent dinners with Rocky and Irma Rockwell, our table mates.  The dining room was beautiful, with many large windows so we didn’t miss any of the wonderful sights.  Roderick and Milton, of course, took good care of us, also.  Donna was impressed that Milton remembered that she drank milk, even at lunch the second day when we weren’t seated in their section, and he  always gave me decaf (I decided not to mention no chocolate; so I could cheat a little).  On the last night, I said I didn’t want to go, and Roderick offered to hide me in his locker — almost a tempting offer.   I would love to have a complete set of dinner menus among my souvenirs, but it I might make me too sad, now that I am back on Budget Gourmet.  

After dinner we had a brief intro meeting of our group, interrupted by the all-important lifeboat drill (weird life jackets, but perhaps designed to do a better job of keeping the head out of water).

The Dynasty  is a smaller ship, 800 passengers, and I liked the personal atmosphere, plus the fact that it was easier to find my way around.  Our group was approximately 1/8 of the passenger list, so it was like traveling with a big family.

We fit class time and story swaps in around shore time and sightings, feeling that we had a little less time together than we wanted, but still sharing, critiquing, and most of all learning from Donald how to better put together our stories.  (Normal world, Trouble coming, Crisis event, Outside help and New knowledge, New normal).  We talked about how to change the length of the story, spending less time on each “stepping stone” or making the story a quilt square rather then a whole king-sized quilt.  He also discussed the importance of a good master of ceremonies — introducing the teller and creating energy to enhance the experience for the teller and the audience.

The Kit Kat was the best classroom we’ve had yet, large, comfortable, and blessed with excellent windows for viewing the lovely Alaska scenery.  (The card room was a little less wonderful, but gave us a chance to prove we could tell anywhere.  I told Sherazade and Grandma’s Doughnuts there, and the Old People’s Wisdom story for critiquing).  We heard many wonderful stories, and I especially want to remember Priscilla and Duncan’s stories, and Chris’ story of his shaky beginning in life.

(Wed., 7/22)  This was the only stop where we had to use tenders — it is fun to ride in to dock, but it also makes debarking slower.  We saw a field full of small airplanes.  Cordova  has more airplanes per capita than anywhere — not surprising since boats and planes are the only way in.  We had a wonderful tour, which included Child’s Glacier up close and personal (while we snacked on home-baked goodies).  Donna and I were with the last hold-outs determined to see the glacier calving.  When the bus started and the guide said that was our signal to leave, we walked backward up the path so we could keep looking.  We were discussing the possibility of lying about seeing it when we heard an especially loud crash, ran back, and saw a huge piece of ice fall right into the water.  The resulting wave was quite impressive (surfing size if it weren’t so cold).  The driver heard us cheer and came back, too.  We also saw a sign depicting how high the waves had gone a few years back when they destroyed the observation tower and hurt several people, and we were advised that if we saw a really big calving to run away fast!  (Funniest tourist question:  “Can’t you clean up the glacier and get rid of those dirty brown streaks?” — the boulders scraped up by the glacier).

Later on at the Million-Dollar Bridge, broken in the 1964 earthquake, we were again the last ones out at the end of the bridge, and we saw more calving.  Sometimes it pays to be the last.  On the bus ride, we stopped the bus and several of us got out to see some moose, but they kept hiding behind brush — a good first hand look at moose defensive behavior — they didn’t know we weren’t hunters.

In the Cordova Museum, we saw interesting relics of early residents.  I especially liked a raincoat made of bear gut, sewn with seal sinew — all that sewing and work, and it would last about three months in use.  We got pins from the Ice Worm Festival, an annual winter celebration — carnival rides at 20 below –an attempt to  keep busy so as not to go crazy in the long winter.  Ice worms are real creatures that live in the ice; children dig them up and throw them at each other.  I also got a fireweed pin — fireweed was everywhere; it’s the first plant up after a fire, and when its flowers get to the top of the stalk, it’s six weeks until first snow.

Back on ship, we dressed up for the captain’s welcome party (Captain Tor Dyrdal — very formal gentleman).  I wore the ivory necklace Dad brought back from Alaska 50 years ago.  Our group shared stories after dinner, and then I stayed up for the Chocoholic’s Buffet, but couldn’t get Donna up for it (she was so much more sensible than I was about sleeping).

(Thurs, 7/23) Prince William Sound — We scheduled lots of class time, and then took breaks when it was time to stop for glacier watching, Hubbard Glacier, among others.  It was so very cold and windy, I was glad I had gloves, and that  Donna had gone back to our cabin for all our warm clothes.  The Captain blew the ship’s horn, which echoed delightfully, and caused repeated calving.  Donna was persistent in wanting to see a “shooter”  (underwater calving) and she did!  I got too cold, and went back in the Kit Kat, where we could see, but not as well.  We had a Tlingit guide on board during this time; she declared the passengers who wrapped themselves in blankets to be unofficial members of her clan, and invited us to run 11 miles across the glacier to her village.  No thanks!

(Fri., 7/24)   Skagway was also wet and cold — I broke down and bought a warm fleece top, and immediately felt much better.  The Lands’ End rain poncho did its job splendidly.  We wandered around, shopping, taking a ranger-led walking tour (hearing all about the notorious con man Soapy Smith — one shop sold Soapy on a rope), seeing the costumed drivers of the vintage touring cars, and wondering how they kept warm.  Then we took a bus tour to Liarsville, met the madam (she was hiring, but we passed that up), saw the sled dog, heard some Robert Service (with excellent, funny pantomime), and panned for gold.  I got six little specks of gold in a plastic zip lock, “just like the original minerXs used”).  The gold, of course, was brought in from Canada, since Skagway was just the beginning of the Chilkoot trail into the Yukon. In the museum we saw an example of the 2000 pounds of supplies each miner had to carry in before being allowed to cross the Canadian border.  They had to be crazy to try!  The husky we saw was part wolf, but we were told that doesn’t  make her wild or mean; it does, however, give her a very strong need for her pack, and huskies can die of loneliness if there aren’t enough other dogs and people around to interact with. 

(Sat., 7/25)  In Juneau we were treated to the day of activities that Marsh put together for us.  We teased her a bit, because the bus, which had a confirmed time of 8:15, did not come until almost 10:00.  There seems to be some flexibility in “Alaska time,”  except for the railroad.  Many of us just walked to town and (you guessed it) shopped.  I should also mention how pretty the shopping areas were in all these towns, with beautiful flower boxes and hanging baskets, I’m sure for the benefit of “visitors” (sounds friendlier than “tourists”) but also, I think, a result of being starved for color for that long, long winter.  (We were told keeping busy is the key to staying sane, but that supplies for winter crafts have to be bought during the summer when the shops are open).

We toured Juneau, and saw a school nicknamed the “penitentiary school” — its playground is surrounded by a 20-foot-tall fence to keep bears away.  We saw lots more small planes and boats, necessary to get to this capital.

We saw the Mendenhall Glacier — cold and huge; glaciers still seem more magic than physical science to me.  The park area is well-designed; our tax dollars at work.  They even had some glacial silt (or “flour”) for us to touch, smooth and gritty at the same time.  Five baby swallows  right by the path added to the fun. 

The Salmon Bake was terrific!  Finally, fresh salmon — and lots of other food, too — a veritable feast.  We were entertained by raven stories and stories of Alaska history by a wonderful woman who captivated even the non-story-tellers who just happened to be eating then.

Some people went back to town rather than pan for gold, but I’m glad we did it.  Our guide was fun, and we panned in the river, rather than a trough.  I put my first batch, from the dirt he had already filled the pans with (dug up “just over that hill”), in one vial, and then scooped some “free range” dirt from the stream and put that gold in a separate vial.  It was an adventure, but I don’t think I’d like bending over a cold stream like that on any sort of regular basis.

(Sun., 7/26) Ketchikan — and amazingly enough, sunshine!  That only happens there about 100 days a year — rainforest, after all.   Of course, we had to have sun at the end of the trip — to make us want to come back — and I do!!!

Donna and I explored a bit on our own, had lunch on the ship with an interesting older couple from San Diego (being able to zip back on board for lunch was one advantage of being docked at the pier), and then returned to the visitor’s center for a short bus tour of the town).  We did our random act of kindness by piling our stuff on a front-of-the-bus seat for an older couple who had been left behind the mad rush to the bus — one guy looked like he was going to try to challenge us, but then thought better of it.  At Totem Park, we noticed parking spaces “Reserved for Elders” and thought perhaps that kind of respect should be a more constant part of our culture.  The totems were magnificent, and the story of Seward’s “shame totem” for not returning to host a reciprocal pot latch was especially amusing.  The carvers had stepped out when we finally got into the carving hall, so we couldn’t ask about Daddy’s totem, but maybe we weren’t meant to know.

On Creek Street, we saw Dolly’s House on Creek Street, the only creek where salmon and men go to spawn.  We also saw salmon climbing upstream, and saw the salmon ladder they can use if they are too tired to manage the waterfall.  We also saw teens who had been swimming, too cold for us, but not for them.   There’s a covered playground at one school, so the kids can get out to play a little.  The sports field is paved with cement, and games are played even in the rain (“or we’d never finish a season”).  Hot dog cookers and microwaves are used to dry balls.  She also explained that they catch rain water for household use, and divert glacier run-off (all the pretty waterfalls coming off the mountains) for good, pure drinking water.

She took us to see the rain forest (and more kids who had just been swimming) and explained why cutting the trees would make them healthier, since in the constant dampness, they are rotting and being infested with beetles.  I’m not a forestry expert, but she seemed to make sense.  She also pointed out a nearby island with cheaper real estate, but no bridges, so you would have to do everything by boat, and in the winter the winds can be 90 mph, and the water is so cold you would die in 20 minutes if you fell in.  Doesn’t sound like a bargain to me. 

(Mon., 7/27)  Inside Passage –whales!  Too far to see, except with binoculars, but real whales, just the same — Shamoo on the loose!  It was thrilling (though difficult) to spot one in the binocs.

We had a hard time convincing the cruise director, John, that he should set aside a time and place for Donald’s public concert, but our nagging finally prevailed.  (Good thing, too — I was planning a major sit-in with all of us wearing our spiffy “Alaska Invasion” shirts and singing “All we are saying is, give us a room.”) Donald’s long-awaited concert filled the large Rhapsody Lounge with a very appreciative audience. (See, John, we told you so!)  We also got a first-hand demonstration of the power of good introductions, first John’s, and then Tracy’s excellent intro.

(Tues 7/28)  The Dynasty  docked in Vancouver, and we left soon after an early breakfast.  

Jody witnessed a final example of seeing whatever we talked about (previously demonstrated by animals in Denali and calving of glaciers).  She asked if they ever dropped any of the baggage into the ocean (They move impressive mountains of luggage onto the deck and then on carts across the gangway to shore).  Just after a crew member said “Never,” a woman’s bag went right over the side, then burst open and all her stuff floated away — what a disastrous end to her trip!  We decided to be very careful what we said from then on.

Our chartered bus ride to Seattle was pleasant, once we got Donna’s suitcase back from the woman who accidentally made off with it (once again thanks to Rick M. who sent her back with it).  Our driver entertained us with information and jokes (Conus roadis constructionis), once he recovered from loading all our luggage.  When we went through Canadian customs, we all thought positive thoughts, and were waved through.  Whew!  Good night’s sleep in Seattle (unlike the movie), once we found the right  Ramada.  I know there were wonderful things to do in Seattle, but they will have to wait for another time.

(Wed., 7/29)  The Southwest flight to Salt Lake City and then home was actually pleasant in the “party row,” enjoying wonderful views and interesting people.  Jessie and Al were waiting at the airport, and  then to Joy’s to hug those sweet children and give them t-shirts and snacks, and little gold centennial coins that they loved (Donna is a clever shopper).

Two good Alaska authors:  Velma Wallis, Two Old Women (based on Athabaskan myth) and Dana Stabenow,  Breakup  (and other mysteries)

Met on the cruise:  Priscilla Cogan; her book, Winona’s Web, is the most moving, spiritual book I have ever read.

ETSU New England Cruise 2002


ETSU New England Cruise  2002 Mary Garrett’s reflections . . . .

This was an unusual cruise in several ways.  This was our first cruise of the northeast coast, a new and interesting area.  Also, instead of one storyteller traveling with us, we had a “teller in every port,” allowing us to hear a variety of tellers and get the local flavor of each stop.  This provided interesting variety, but perhaps less “bonding time” with our tellers and as a group.  The “freestyle cruising,” while allowing more flexibility in scheduling meals and other acÎtivities,  also kept us more separate as a group, with no set time and place for meals.  One suggestion I heard was to arrange one (or more?) reserved dinner seatings as a group.  (The main dining rooms would take reservations for 5:30 or 8:30). We were also an unusually small group, only 32 or so, because the cruise line had recalled the unsold cabins early to cover an over-booking.  Sigh!  Reserve early!

This cruise was also different for me personally.  First, I brought my 13-year-old niece, Jill, with me, a new experience.  She proved to be a delightful travel companion, easily fitting into the adult group of tellers, and finding friends nearer her own age at the pool.  I took her back to her dad yesterday (8/5) and I really miss her; after 12 days with her, the space around me seems empty. 

Mary and Daddy John003

My mom once said that my dad didn’t like for us to spend the night away from home; he said there was an empty space when one of us five children was gone — I somewhat understand now.   We brought several stuffed animals with us, including our matching purple hippos (“I want a Hippopatamus for Christmas”), and the stewards arranged Jill’s sweetly on her bed when they came to turn down the beds.  One night when I “hit the sack” before her, Jill even tucked me in, “just like you do for me.”  So nice!

Also, Flora asked me to organize the story swaps on the cruise, a new responsibility for me, and great fun to do.  I am glad to have been able to experience this, and I think it went well.  I had been a little nervous, especially since I also had to think about Jill, but she likes to be up late (later than me, even), and she really took to the sharing in the swaps, even telling some stories herself.  I modeled a little after Dan Keding’s approach last year, beginning most sessions with a short story to get things going.  We seemed to have, to quote Perrin Stifel’s favorite saying, “just enough” tellers and stories each evening, and an interesting flow of themes as well.  In the absence of formal workshops, the swaps were the only time we worked on stories as a group.  Flora had offered critiquing sessions as well, but they weren’t formally scheduled  and I don’t know if any were requested.  (Our special outings, shore excursions, and general shipboard activities did wear most of us out).  

The fun was enlivened by Rosemary and Lisa’s door poster interpretation contest, with prizes distributed at the last session on Saturday afternoon.  The poster had two famous Chinese sayings, and Amy had illustrated them with very nice sketches also.  I didn’t write down her exact wording, but the first was the “Travel safely” characters that John Wu had put on the “Jackie” calligraphy that Jill had bought in Battery Park (and carefully and safely hand carried through the rest of the trip).  Lisa said it literally meant “May the wind fill your sails . . .” and the second had to do with sharing stories. Your words are like a river flowing–or may your words flow like a river! 

It was a great excuse to go by their room (not that Jill needed an excuse — Rosemary and Lisa were her new best friends from the first day, and the three of them did a dynamite tandem telling of Cinderella, exploring the “happily ever after” part into three generations).  Prizes were lovely ceramic charms from Hong Kong and a special antique French salt spoon “so your stories will always be salty.”  Mary Kay’s answer was in the form of a Haiku, very impressive!  Their contest helped me decide how to give away the six copies of my dad’s books I had brought with me.   I gave them out at the end of Friday evening’s swap, calling in order those who had told at previous swaps, stories for stories as it were.

July 26 — Flight to New York — Fabulous New York!!!!

The flight was easy and fun, with wonderful clouds and a good view of the city before landing.  The limo service was efficient (though confusing at first because I didn’t know he was really our driver; Mary Kay had spotted him first and pointed out Jill and me to him, and he had discarded his sign).  Once checked into the Milford Plaza, we formed a dinner group for the Steak House across the street — elegant, leisurely, and delicious.  Jill liked Neva Gail at once, but was a little less enamored with “slow, boring, stuck-up restaurants.”  The conflict over formal meals continued throughout the cruise, but we compromised with a few buffet meals in the Big Apple on 5th deck, and Jill learned to enjoy new treats like veal, zabaglione (which I had given her once by mistake when she was much smaller), lamb, and even tried (but didn’t like) escargot.  At first, the waiters brought children’s menus, then both menus, and by the end just the sophisticated adult menu.  One night we really tested their abilities as Jill decided at the last minute that she was hungry, and they quickly produced pizza and grapefruit juice, and a few nights later she tried the same meal from room service (also a useful source for coffee first thing in the morning — Aunt Mary is so much nicer when she’s had coffee).

The Milford was interesting, with avery elegant lobby, very small rooms (good practice for the cabins on the Norwegian Sea), and no soundproofing of the windows (though by the second night I was tired enough not to notice the traffic noises as much).  The staff was friendly, though service was a bit . . . disorganized?? After four or five requests for washcloths and extra pillows, beginning at about 7 p.m., I made a final request at about 1:30 a.m., “Am I really going to have to come to the lobby in my nightgown to get pillows?” — it worked; I recommend the line.  There was a nice deli on the corner, with a second entrance (we later discovered) from the lower lobby of the Milford — we had the rest of our meals there, very convenient, and helpful to have built a bit of a relationship when Jill’s retainers went missing Sunday morning.  They found the top one, and I left addresses in case the lower one was discovered.  They didn’t even want to accept a tip, but did when I pointed out they would need postage if the other was found (so far, no news on that).  All the storytellers reassured us that everyone loses retainers, but we were still very upset, and wrote careful, apologetic letters to Jill’s mom.

Theater!!!!  We had arranged tickets for The Phantom and Lion King, and both were wonderful!!  We were so close in The Phantom that “when he threw fire, we could feel the heat.” Sets were impressive, singing was awesome — I’ll never be content with the balcony of the Fox again.  We weren’t quiæte as close in Lion King (balcony, behind two women with very big hair), but the whole spectacle, the music, dancing, costumes, puppetry, and the amazing set were almost overwhelming.  Standing ovations for the cast and then for the musicians!!  We could walk easily from the hotel to the theaters, and only got a little confused here and there (a block out of our way — well-done for me, the champion of mis-direction).  On the way back from Phantom, we stoped at Sardi’s for dessert: cheesecake and boccone dolce.  It was so much fun!  I wasn’t sure we would get in without a reservation but the doorman (!!) welcomed us right in.  Times Square, on the other hand, wasn’t as glitzy as we’d expected — in fact, we agreed we could recognize it by its smell.

Jill and I took a tour on the Greyline  double-decker buses — the downtown tour on Saturday, allowing for a stop in Battery Park to transfer to the ferry for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It was disappointing (though understandable) not to be able to go inside the Statue of Liberty, but we did walk the circumference of the island (and stock up in the gift shop).  The new exhibits at Ellis Island were interesting; even more interesting was the gentleman we met on the ferry.  He was returning to the place where he had entered the country as a boy of 10, to join his American father after his Croatian mother’s death.  He had been accorded some special treatment, since he was already a citizen because of his father.  He was accompanied by his daughter and talked of his many grand-children and great-grandchildren.  Jill had not been pleased with the idea of “riding around on a bus all day” but was somewhat appeased with the on-off privileges, allowing for stops at places of interest, and fully enjoyed the banter of the wittiest guide in the whole world, Sherwood.  He was fun, funny, full of information, and friendly to everyone, even waving to various people as we passed by.  On our return from Battery Park, we insisted on riding his bus, and he helped to make it happen.   He has a wonderful philosophy of enjoying life, doing good, appreciating loved ones (he told the husbands on the bus where to buy flowers for their wives).  He says we’ll be seeing him on tv and in movies, and I believe we will.

Jill loved Battery Park, stopping to order a “your name on a grain of rice” necklace — when he offered to do two names, we each bought the other a necklace with both our names, a green turtle for me, a pink elephant for Jill (hers unfortunately disappeared from her neck going from the hotel to the ship — we’re on the lookout for another source).  The pigeons ate all the rice mistakes, and anything else they were offered.  One musician had pigeons landing tamely on his hands.  We waited a long time for the Jackie calligraphy, but it was so well done, and it was interesting to watch the work in progress.  The artist seemed pleased when we asked him to sign his work.  Our return to the hotel included a stop at Pokemon headquarters  — Jill needed to replace a game her dog had chewed up.  It was a huge and impressive store, and we only got a little lost finding it and finding our way home.  In front of the Milford, our N.Y. “home,” was the statue donated to New York by the Missouri firefighters, the one that had just been completed and was awaiting shipment last September.  It was quite moving.

Sunday, on to the Norwegian Sea

On Sunday morning, Jill and I did the uptown tour on the bus, though I think she would rather have slept.  It was great to see Central Park, Harlem, Fifth Avenue — then “home” for breakfast and taxis to the airport.  Boarding the ship was interesting — we had a new room number and accidentally sent our bags to the wrong room. Then when we got to 3212, the door was locked (someone had accidentally, I hope, taken our room).  A call to the operator brought a darling young woman named Jenny, who opened the door, saw someone else’s stuff, and promptly escorted us to a lounge for a cool drink while she looked into it, straightened it out, and arranged for the steward to “refresh” the room.  Her courtesy and sense of humor (“sorry, you won’t get to stay with me, after all”) made the situation fun and funny.  (Now, if we’d had a little of that in Colorado).  The staff were all wonderful.  One night Jill and I were having trouble finding each other, but we knew we would be fine because everywhere we looked, we got reports of each other, from the steward(ess?) cleaning the room, to the hostess in the dining room, we kept hearing, “She was just here.”  So sweet!  The hostess also started asking for stories, whenever she wasn’t too busy, and I was happy to supply them!!

  Jill had the great idea to look for our bags at the wrong room (so she could have her swim suit), and we brought them back ourselves so she  could hurry off for her first swim — well, after the obligatory and always-fun lifeboat drill. Watching the skyline and the Statue of Liberty as we left was very exciting.  We were on our way!!!

We had our own special reception the first night, and made plans to meet for dinner, necessary in the absence of assigned tables, but it did allow us to mingle more.  The next day (Monday 7/29) was at-sea, plenty of swim time (Jill even talked me into that cold pool, and taught me the secret, warming in the hot tub before and after) and dress-up dinner and photos with the captain.  Mary Kay, Fran and I even sat on deck and knitted for a bit.  I helped them get started with apple caps and even showed a waiter and two waitresses how to knit. (Ask Mary Kay about taking knitting on the plane in her carry-on.  If she’d been caught with them, she might have been accused of knitting an Afghan — seriously, put them in the checked bags nowadays).  I didn’t actually knit much on this trip.  I was busy during the swaps, and on the bus rides, Jill would fall asleep; so I was busy being a pillow (and loving it).  I used to fall asleep on car rides, too, until I became the driver.

We also had our first swap — great fun!  Rosemary Potter told “door knock stories” about her log house, and Neva Gail added a chilling story of the burning of an orphanage.  Lisa Tan shared a Chinese legend of the Monkey King in search of a weapon.  (Lisa has since written a book about the Monkey King).  Harriet told a family story of her uncle’s glass blowing (beer bottles, what else?) and getting advice from frogs, “too deep” and “go around” with really great frog voices.  Nancy told about her Nana, the best band-aid, with all that extra skin “to keep the stories in.”  

When we went back to our cabin, Jill stared our our window and made up her own ghost story, with ghostly warnings saving the passengers and crew.  I took some pictures of Jill sitting in that window, and when she told the story at the next swap, all were impressed that she could fit there (and Lisa was going to try it herselîf).  Jill really loved that window, and one day saw a whale from it.  On the first day while we were still docked, she made a joke about the “terrible view” — I told her I had read of someone actually calling to complain about the view once, and we decided the captain should have arranged to “change the view just for (you)” — big tips all around!!

Tuesday, 7/30 — Halifax, Nova Scotia

Our guide, Heather, was a trip!  Send future husbands to learn “light-house keeping” . . . older women can hold their liquor, but not the water.  Then a sad, spooky story of “widows’ island” when all the men were killed after helping pirates bury treasure.  Privateers were authorized by England and only became “pirates” if they attacked English ships.  At Peggy’s Cove, we enjoyed the lighthouse and the rocks (Jill was so agile on the rocks!!).  She even picked wildflowers after the musicians said, “She might as well, the goats eat them anyway.”   I believe it was also on this excursion that we saw all the dry stone walls (made with no mortar, these were a bit less elaborate than the ones in Golden, Colorado).  We started quoting lines from Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall,”  “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”  “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Then on to Hubbards for lunch at the Shore Club, lovely old place where they often hold dances.  The lobsters were good (Jill had chicken, but did taste the lobster).  I gave my second tail to Marsh, and Flora was sad; so Jill gave her blueberry shortcake to Flora and got 15 ETSU credits for it!!!  Sheila Smith was our teller — very impressive!  A recitation of “sailors’ rights” led to the story of the Kingdom of Outerballdonia, a fisherman’s paradise to which “women need not apply.”  Then the sad story of Captain Hall’s Harbor in 1813 when the cabin boy of the MaryJane and the Indian girl Softfeather perished because of the curse of Midas.  Then the story of the ghost ship the Young Teaser(?) with the powder cache set on fire and no survivors.  Her final stories were also songs, of the sea people and the sea as a jealous mistress, and Sheila’s voice is lovely.  On the way back, we made a quick stop at the Citadel for pictures of the lovely view and the very patient royal guard.  It was a wonderful day!  

That evening’s swap was lively.  Jill started with her Jamie and Johnny story “listen to a warning, it could save your life.”  Ruth told her Malcolm Will-ya story, based on her own brother, but with the foolishness of Jack.  MaryKay told about her Kirkwood house, found to have secret rooms for the underground railroad.  Rosemary told the story of the odd housekeeping vocabulary (extra points for not being distracted by the strange lighting going on behind her). We all agreed that on the ship it is  best to take no “hot cockelorum” into your “barnacle.”  Fran finished the set with the story of her own recovery from serious injury and the lessons, “The body will heal.  Ignore those who laugh at you. Take a hot bath every night.”

Wed. 7/31  Bar Harbor, Maine

Marsh pulled a real coup, getting the earliest tender tickets so we could go ashore and wander before our formal tour.  We shopped and then found Oli’s Trolley and enjoyed a trip into Acadia National park to hear Jackson Gillman.  Jackson actually found us as we entered the park, and after a bit of scenery we joined him, his wife Susan, and daughter Jillian (!) for wonderful stories.  The two Jillians bonded afterward with Jill’s gift of grass-weaving and mutual admiration of their great name.  We enjoyed Jackson’s song of the “Hang-downs” (the one that scared Robin last October), and the clammer song, his Potato Head County Eastern music, and his hysterically funny skit about Archibald TooGood (performed in tandem with Flora rising to new heights).  We also received “News of the Finest Kind” from the Maineiac satirical newspaper (I bought one to bring home).  As befits a member of the Fraternal Order of Old-Fart Fathers, he shared his song of anticipated new life (Jill can do the gurgly baby sound quite well; I can’t, but the tune kept haunting me even after I came home).  Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon and a final admonition to re-charge ourselves in the outdoors sent us off with healthy aspirations.


Thursday, 8/1  Boston — Marblehead & Salem Tour

Jill and I chose to see Marblehead and Salem, and it was lovely.  Our guide gave us an “insider’s view of Marblehead, including a visit to see the original of “The Spirit of 1776.”  She even managed to find time for us to walk up to see the House of the Seven Gables.  The witch museum’s recorded historical background show was chilling, and the gift shop was terrific, but once back on the bus we realized we had taken a wrong exit choice and missed the self-guided museum part.  Time was too tight,  and I hope we can go back someday. (Jill wants to be there on Halloween sometime).  Jill had a long list of people to get gifts for, and a special commission to get five t-shirts for her mom, one from each stop (leaving out Newport, oops!)  Jill also used her own spending money to get a warm fleece jacket for her mom at Ellis Island — on sale even!

Judith did her stories on board the Norwegian Sea — more finessing by Marsh to make that possible, and Judith had to leave her driver’s license for security!  Judith was wonderful!!!  She began by teaching us a song about cod, the livelihood of the Marblehead fishermen, “cut, clean and cut again, ah for the sparkling cod.”   This led to the story of Wilmott Red, the only Marblehead citizen to be tried by the “Calvinist foreigners” of Salem.  The adopting of a four-year-old orphan by the suspected “witch,” the “two trickling streams of sorrow” coming together to bring wholeness and happiness, the sad ending, but with life continuing afterward — it was so moving!  It also helped explain the Salem/Marblehead animosity our guide had alluded to Judith is brilliant!

Jill and I planned to go to the midnight chocolate buffet, but we lay down to rest for an hour or so before it — it was a strenuous day.  When the alarm and the wake-up call came, Jill was sleeping so soundly that I just couldn’t wake her.  I went, took pictures, met Lisa and Rosemary, and collected a plate of chocolates to make her feel better in the morning.

Friday, 8/2  Martha’s Vineyard

Again, Marsh got us ashore early, and we wandered and shopped.  We even sat and enjoyed the view in a closed restaurant and on the porch of a B&B with no one seeming to mind.  Jill craved ice cream (my fault for letting the kids have ice cream for breakfast when they spend the night).  I took a taste when we finally found an open shop (Yum!).  She also found magic tricks, a whole new area of expertise for her.    We also saw . . . Susan Klein!!  She had conducted a successful auction for charity the night before and had just a few minutes to spend with us, but they were wonderful minutes!  

We met at the pier for our tour, but were missing two people, whom I won’t name here.  We looked for them for an hour and then gave up.  Jill (and others) were upset at the loss of time, which gave us only a few minutes on the beautiful beach and made us cut short the stories in the library.  Our lost sheep, as it turns out, had been given directions to a shop, got on the wrong bus, and spent the rest of the day seeking us — you have to forgive lost sheep!  We ate our sandwiches on the bus (giving extras to the guide, her daughter, and the driver), and we did at least get to touch the water and take pictures of the Gay Head (Aquinas) cliffs.  As as every stop, we were told that we were lucky to have perfect weather, and that the day before was much hotter and less pleasant.  Did Marsh arrange the weather, too?

Barbara Lipke’s stories were fascinating, based on her Vineyard summers as a child (not a native — she told the same analogy as Jackson, “if the cat has kittens in the oven, that doesn’t make them biscuits”).  They had been getting sour cream free from a dairy, until he tasted it and started charging.  Three brave girls kept the Liberty Pole from being commandeered by the Phoenix.   Mrs. Sanford, the cook, married into money but was not accepted by the “finest people.”  “Lucy are they staring? . . . Then sit up straighter!”  Best of all, Barbara’s wonderful house, with remodeling to be finished in the spring (which spring?) and with a resident ghost who “seems to mean no harm.”  Martha’s Vineyard is so beautiful!  I may have to read those want ads at mvtimes.com, mvgazette.com, mv.com/diaspora.

Jill, Rosemary, and Lisa began our swap that evening with their tandem tale of Cinderella, and the continuing problems because you can’t get away from conflict.  Ann did a wonderful rhyming Cinderella story, and Lisa followed it with two brothers trying to take the golden squash.  I told “The Stolen Child” story from Healing Stories — the Scottish setting of Nova Scotia had brought it to me for Jill’s bedtime story (and it had taken two nights to tell — she was too tired to stay awake).  Neva Gail told of a weaver whose weavings came true, with a warning to demanding spouses everywhere.  Fran told of Jesus healing the child afflicted with demons.  Again it was an interesting mix of stories and tellers, and just enough time.

Saturday 8/3 — Newport, R.I.

Outstanding day!  We went to Belcourt Castle for elegant coffee, tea and pastries in the elegant dining hall that was originally the coach room.  Alva had inherited it from her second wealthy husband (divorced the first, Vanderbilt, for adultery and got much property there, too).  She was a staunch feminist, so when we got back to the bus, we sang “Sister Suffragettes” from Mary Poppins. (We had tendered over on the Amazing Grace, so we sang then, too). The castle was so elegant, and so filled with treasures!!  We took many pictures in the main room and garden (not allowed elsewhere).  Most of us couldn’t imagine living in such splendor.  (Of course, I’d be willing to try . . .)

Valerie Tutson was our teller — phenomenal strong woman!!  She had us singing in Zulu (Yabo means yes) and laughing and crying about her trip to discover her roots, to Africa by way of her grandfather’s Scotland.  In Senegal she visited Gore, the door of no return.  She gave me chills in that hot, stuffy room.  Her main story was of Duchess, owned by Wm. Ellery Channing, who earned her freedom by baking — even George Washington liked her baking.  She had been brought in 1739 from Africa to Barbados and then to Newport, which had the highest rate of slavery in the colonies.  She told as Duchess would have told to the children who gathered at her home for stories and plum cake, and then gave us plum cake.  She was so intense, and Jill, as the only child in the group, was a center of focus for her.  Jill declared Valerie her favorite teller.  Storytellers agreed — we want to see her in Jonesborough (and St. Louis?) and with some tapes for sale!!

We had lots of time left after the tour, and Jill wanted a beach.  We got good directions for using public buses and were prepared to do it, but the bus, when it finally came, was so slow that we worried we would repeat the “lost sheep” episode.  We got off, walked back (five minutes for what took the bus twelve — Folk Festival traffic) and tendered back for late lunch (they kept the line open way past scheduled closing) and swim and sauna (Lisa taught Jill about the sauna).   We watched sailboat races from the ship and saw the huge crowd gathered for the festival.

Then our last swap (sob).  I began with the “Dervish in the Ditch” from Doug Lipman and the “Heaven and Hell” analogy.  Fran told of Mother Mouse and of a monastery where the monks were told that one of them was the Messiah.  Henry and Flora warned of the dangers of Mother Goose and told the Frog Prince in a most amazing way.  (I was sorry Jill had come late, but then realized her presence might have inhibited the steamy princess).  Ramona told the story of the Samurai warrior and the tea master, a lesson in focus, discipline, and self-acceptance.  MaryKay shared a story of lost gold buried by fur traders on the Missouri River — the solution to our funding problems?  Rosemary told the familiar story of the monkeys and “hats for sale” but then added a piece from NPR about monkeys gathering oranges in . . . plastic shopping bags?!!  Lisa shared the good news/bad news/who knows? story.  It was such a wonderful  cruise and wonderful group!!  Mostly good news, I think.

On the way to dinner, Jill complained of a sore toe and back from a fall, and during dinner she seemed to feel worse, so on Rosemary’s advice, I stopped at the main desk to report it.  The nurse called us soon after in our cabin and asked us to come in to make a full report.  The doctor taped her cut foot and gave her extra-strong Tylenol, which she didn’t need to take.  There was also an amusing disagreement between doctor and nurse about what to call the “cots” for keeping her toe dry when she showered.  To use our new catch phrase (coined one night when we were both over-tired), “I never saw that on a cruise ship before.”  

Then we packed and celebrated the “closing of the suitcases” with one last smoothie apiece. Jill had purchased a book of coupons for special drinks and still had several left; she bought one for the photographer, which along with her bringing Rosemary and Lisa in to buy photos the next morning (really good prints!), earned her a free photo with her “push here for music” sticker on her nose.  (Sticker from the Tango Frog I bought for myself).

It was sad to leave, but good to get home.  I actually made it out to the deck to see Liberty one more time — Jill slept longer, with her Squeaker puppet-bird finally waking her.  While we were waiting for a taxi to the airport, we were offered a ride in a “stretch limo” for slightly more.  Marsh didn’t tell us not to (I try to check things out with Marsh when I can) so we set off, down elevators, out to the street,  and across a busy street hauling our luggage.  The light changed, and no one honked or anything (I think N.Y. drivers have been maligned).  Then we saw the limo, dull, rusty, dirty.  Jill was so disappointed.  I told her there was a lesson there about what h.appens when you go for the glitz.  We did get to the airport safely, though, along with the other family traveling in the same limo, so that’s what matters.  Someone on the cruise said I reminded her of  Auntie Mame — Mom used to call me that when I took kids on adventures, and I’m pleased to do it, and so far I’ve always brought them home safely . . . .

The flight back was great.  We played the Storytelling card game, and I was impressed with her creativity, and together we did the crossword and the Mensa puzzle in the in-flight magazine.  (We’d done the ones on the way out, too, but August was a new month).  Jill stayed one more night, so she could join me for lunch with Patricia McKissack (Jill is a big fan, of course, as am I).  Pat brought a copy of Fly Away Home and autographed it for her (I goòt it from the library to read myself –it’s wonderful!  A young girl, a “practical dreamer,” faces the KKK, befriends a Comanche boy, helps build desks for Booker T. Washington’s school.  I’ll have to get my own copy now).  We had the most wonderful long, chatty lunch.  I still think we could solve the world’s problems if we were given the chance.  Jill and I made one last stop at the Butterfly House (www.butterfly house.org), to honor Mom (we took two of her nightshirts on the cruise also), and then I gave Jill to her dad.  (Margaret had stopped by to see her in the morning — she missed her girl just a bit).  I am glad they both agreed to share her with me — what a great young lady, creative, a good traveler, able to handle adult situations so well, and just plain fun!


About the Storytellers

SHEILA SMITH of “StorygemS” is a singer, song writer and storyteller and your community Storytelling host in Nováa Scotia for the 2002 ETSU Storytelling cruise. For more than seven years she has been sharing her gift of storytelling with folks as a national conference and workshop facilitator, entertainer, and recently as part of the “writers-in-the-school” district program. Sheila is a graduate of AST Ministry & Theology Diploma Program in Halifax, NS and the Summer Institute in Pastoral Liturgy at St. Paul’s University in Ottawa, Ontario. She looks forward to sharing the wealth of Nova Scotia’s folklore, music and Maritime hospitality with you.


BARBARA LIPKE tells tales—folk tales, original tales, and tales that make you giggle, guffaw, or send a shiver down your spine. A long time “summer Vineyarder,” her Vineyard tales recapture a time gone by. She has told at Boston First Night, Exchange Place, National Storytelling Festival, and at festivals throughout New England, including the First Storytel^ling Festival on Martha’s Vineyard. She has two audiocassette tapes: Tales from The Vineyard, and From Off-Island, Vineyard Summers. She is the author of Figures, Facts, and Fables, Telling Tales in Science and Math, Heinemann, 1996. All are available from Barbara at 799 Commonwealth Ave, Newton Centre, MA 02459, or by e-mail at bliptales@earthlink.net.


JACKSON GILLMAN is better known as “The Stand-Up Chameleon.” Energy, wit, music, and wisdom are his stock-in-trade. More than twenty years in the business of speaking and performing have given him an enormous amount of material on which to draw as he customizes an engaging program of comedy, music, and oratory for this cruise event. Humor can enliven and enlighten any group, meeting, or gathering, and his is based on a foundation of beneficence, hope, and a belief in the enduring power of the human öspirit. So come along with him and let him introduce you to some of his characters.


VALERIE TUTSON graduated from Brown University with a Master’s Degree in Theatre Arts and a degree in a self-designed major: Storytelling as a Communication’s Art. Valerie has been telling stories in schools, churches, libraries, festivals, and conferences since 1991. She draws her stories from around the world with an emphasis on African traditions. Her repertoire includes stories and songs she learned in her travels to South Africa, her experiences in West Africa, and stories from African American history. In addition, she is gaining quite a reputation for her exciting retelling of age-old Bible stories. She not only delights listeners with her tale-telling, she also teaches workshops and classes to students of all ages, and hosts CULTURAL TAPESTRY, an award-winning show for COX 3 celebrating the diverse cultures around usö.


JUDITH BLACK. Judith’s stories include explorations into the mythic and dissections of the minuscule, with traditional and original material available for all age groupings. Well known for stories sculpted from her own observed life, subjects such as patient (or the attempt at it) parenting, disasters in dating land, and even helping elders through their last journey, are no strangers to her repertoire. Her source of comedy and her template for human growth and development have come from being a post feminist, vegetarian, and pacifist. She also gained much story material via her son’s path through the ranks of football playing and into the US Marines. One of her tales appears in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and many of them are on her recordings. These all can be found both in her adult repertoire and stories for children and families.

Steamin’ Storytellers on the Delta Queen

Steamin’ Storytellers on the Delta Queen!! July 24-30 2004

Meanderings by Mary Garrett



What a wonderful step back in time!  The Delta Queen, built in 1926 (roaring ‘20’s) is quaint and charming, or as Moriah put it, cute.  The atmosphere is magical, service friendly and fine, and the river experience is so special.  We found ourselves getting up in the middle of the night if we heard the boat approaching a lock, just to watch the process — the technology at work.  This was especially tempting because the door opened right onto the outside deck, just a step out, and the river was there!  Sitting on the deck in rocking chairs or swings, just watching the world go by — and it did, a bit too fast.  At the end of the week (well, not quite a week, and was it ever a shock to realize that the fun would end on Friday, not Saturday — oops!), I found myself wanting more time to sit and talk with friends, more sunsets to watch, more classtime with Judith, more of everything!

Moriah and I dawdled on the way home, and she stayed an extra night at my condo, but it really is over . . . . sigh!  (Tuesday, 8/3 — looking at the paper I notice that part of the Ohio near Louisville is closed for lock repair and that 15 barges got loose on the Mississippi and closed two miles of the river, and I know I wouldn’t have picked up on those items before this trip.  I also note that an Underground Railroad Museum has just opened in Cincinnati, so we really should have stopped there to see it — or make a trip back sometime?)

Drive to Louisville

We began with a drive to Louisville (ˇ5.5 hours of actual driving, 7 hours total by Moriah’s calculations) — beautiful, with rolling hills, and not too eventful, except for the 30 minute delay when we exited at Sulfur, Indiana, for a rest stop which took us too far from the highway — no gas available, only a portapotty to use, and a wrong turn trying to get back to the highway — we’ll never stop there anymore (although the gift shop neighbor who gave us directions was very nice, and the response from the gentleman stopping traffic, “fixin’ the road, ma’am” was memorably short).   There was very bad traffic around Louisville (accidents on two of three major freeways).  I used my “Arlington Heights” trick, opening my window to ask the passenger in a big truck if I was right about which lane I needed for the airport.  Not only did I get the information, the driver held back to let me enter the lane in front of him.  Then a Prius merged in front of me, the only one I’ve ever seen on the road; we waved and gave each other thumbs-up.  Fun little club we belong to!

I left my Prius in long-term parking at the airport, getting wonderful advice (things to do in Louisville, directions back from Pittsburgh) from the driver of the airport shuttle.  We waited a long time for the Courtyard by Marriott shuttle, but remembering the traffic jam, we weren’t surprised.  This driver informed us of the horse statues around town, and later gave us directions to a camera shop to get help for my obstinate camera (but the shop had closed a year ago . . .)

We decided against rushing to connect with the Belle of Louisville, instead having dinner at the Spaghetti Factory and then taking a carriage ride with a woman who knew all about the architecture (maybe because she was originally from Chicago, where they do love their architecture!).  She showed us many of the horse statues, and we saw more on Saturday with Mary Hamilton — Moriah counted a total of 61, all very different and creative. (http://www.gallopaloozaderbÎy.com/)

We did walk down to the water (and again on Saturday morning, to see the Delta Queen after it docked).   We also found time for a swim before sleeping, since there wouldn’t be a pool on board.  Moriah gave up a morning swim so we could seek camera help (finally bought a disposable camera) and explore Louisville a bit.  I sampled bourbon chocolates and bought some nice postcards — Moriah sent one home with a 34 cent Kentucky stamp I’d somehow not used yet.

Visit with Mary

Mary met us at noon, and we saw a bit more of the city, which is quite nice, I could see living there.  The Mayan Gypsy was closed (but we glimpsed the decor through the windows), so we ate at Lynn’s Paradise Cafe, a visual as well as culinary feast (Mary has promised me the recipe for curried chicken salad).  Then with minimal paperwork, we went on board the Delta Queen, with Mary, who had seen it so many times but never boarded (apparently, they sometimes are quite rigid with security, so we were lucky) . . . dessert on board, some visiting, and then Mary’s name was called to collect her i.d. and go back on shore, so we waved to each other as she left, just like they do on the movies!

It was great fun meeting and visiting, and last night I finally told Moriah a brief version of Mary’s “inappropriate” “Susan Contemplates Murder” (in _Telling Stories: Fiction by Kentucky Feminists_), and made her laugh out loud.  I maintain that it has a wonderful lesson on maintaining independence, as does the curtain rod story!  It was too late and too dark when we passed the Storyteller’s Riverhouse Bed and Breakfast in Bethlehem, Indiana, so I’ll get a vision of that another time.  (Someone asked after Mary departed, “Wait, was that THE Mary Hamilton?” Yes, she was indeed).  We had listened to  “Stepping Stones” and “1000 Ideas,” so Moriah would know who she was meeting, and listened again on the way home, just for fun.


Saga of the Cabin (stateroom? closet?)

Get-acquainted meetings, dinner, and entertainment all went very well — we even figured out how to fit both ourselves and our stuff into the room (it helped that agile Moriah didn’t need the ladder to climb into the top bunk).  A running joke through the week was that various places, crew quarters on the historical tow boat, cells at the prison, were larger than the DQ cabins.  When we settled in for sleep, however, I found out that my allergies didn’t like our room.  I could breathe on deck, but not in my bed, and after three trips back and forth, I gave up, put on long pants and shirt, and returned to the deck.  It was too cold and windy to stay there, so the night watchman Gary found the mate, who suggested that I sleep on a couch in one of the lounges.  He brought me a blanket, turned out some of the lamps, and assured me I would be quite safe there.  One great relief to me was realizing that the problem wasn’t with the whole boat, just with the room.  I had been putting together mental scenarios to allow Moriah to enjoy the cruise even if I had to leave, and chastising myself for ignoring my allergist’s warnings about river cruises — but I really wanted to be with our great group.  Moriah postulated that our room was perhaps the one we had been told of that flooded when someone decided to hang clothing from the sprinkler head (don’t ever do that . . .).

The lounge was bright, but the sleeve of my Solumbra shirt made a nice blindfold, and I did catch some rest.  My new friends assured me that if Moriah awoke and began to look for me, all on duty would know where to find me.  Whenever I awoke, I’d stroll by the room to listen and look for any activity.  I also made friends with Susan from Africa, who was doing needlepoint in the front lounge, and saw the sun rise, surprisingly at the back of the boat, such are the twists and turns of the Ohio (heading East . . .?).   The beautiful sunrise was a nice bonus.

I also heard some interesting sounds, four knocks about every 30 seconds, as I tried to sleep in the lounge, and I saw a picture of Captain Mary Becker Greene hanging near my refuge.  She looked like someone it would be fun to know.  The ship’s info sheet the next day featured rumors that Captain Mary’s presence is still felt on the boat . . . perhaps looking out for a female passenger in distress.  Travis later helped me find more information on Captain Mary, one of the first female pilots of a riverboat.  She allowed no liquor to be served on the boat; after her death, that rule was changed, and the bar section was struck by a boat, the Mary B!

When the purser, Rebecca,  came on duty, I informed her of my troubles, and she very graciously arranged a new room.  I breathed well the rest of the trip (except perhaps during our tour of the prison) and felt much cared for as everyone involved asked almost daily if everything was all right.  Our porter, Aaron, when informed of  the reason for our room change, said that he wished they had awakened him (at 2 a.m.!) so he could have taken care of the problem then.  Bless his heart!  . . .all their hearts! ·  Everyone was gracious and wonderful, and we got to stay and enjoy a wonderful trip! (though Moriah claimed she missed the bunk bed — she had slept well there, only waking up when the alarm went off).   One other commendation for Aaron, Moriah’s little bear with the “I Love Camp” shirt disappeared.  We left a note for Aaron to keep his eyes open for it, and on the last day it showed up on her bed.  Clever Moriah decided to let the bear hold Aaron’s envelope — with thanks for finding her souvenir of camp.

The mythical 7th floor became a running joke after we distractedly gave our hotel room number to Shelby the first night at dinner.  We decided that was where all the other children were (Moriah was the only passenger younger than . . . 40?).  It featured an Olympic-sized pool, jacuzzis in very large staterooms, and any other amenity one could imagine.  We’re also inventing a story of Camp Bear’s exploits.



Of course, the workshops with Judith Black were the highlight of the Storytelling Cruise, even though they had to be fitted in around other activities.  We began in the Texas Lounge — a bit distracting, with popcorn popping and drinks being prepared.  Judith demonstrated well how to cope with and incorporate interruptions, “No, there were no alcoholic beverages on the ark, drinking was one of the reasons for the flood,” and pantomiming during the announcements on the P.A.  She used biblical stories and showed how the story could stretch to include other possibilities, like Mrs. Noah, who doesn’t have a name (but now we know it’s Flo).  We storyboarded our own biblical stories, and then told the story based on the pictures, watching new elements emerge from our drawn versions.

We had the rest of our workshops on deck, with Judith performing in the hot sun and most of the audience cool in the shade.  It didn’t seem quite fair, but it was a wonderful setting.  I’ve used Judith’s Old Ironsides story “Hell for a Picnic” with my American Lit. classes, but it was so much more dramatic on the deck of a moving boat.  (I have made a personal pledge that all those wonderful stories and activities that have been eaten up by the MAP/NCLB monster will be restored to my lesson plans, and hearing Judith’s telling has strengthened that resolve).  She told us that historical stories have to engage the heart and imagination of the listener, and hers certainly do that.  We were right there with Barbara Fritchie saving the flag and spy Rose O’Neil Greenhouse outwitting Yankees with her charms (and her daughter’s warning, “Momma’s gone to jail” from the treetop).  Her story of the children pelting the British soldiers with cranberries was amusing — and we saw that stern British redcoat expression later in the Tecumseh play.  (I finished an apple hat on the cruise and gave it to Judith, but left the leaf separate, in case she wanted it to be a cranberry).  Charles shared a story of a nurse defying orders by burning unneeded forts to keep 4,000 patients from freezing in Nov. of 1863.

Bits from my notes — (better info at Judith’s site http://www.storiesalive.com)  Minorcharacters give more freedom to develop the story.  Illuminate a chosen vantage point — the audience enters the story through this window, and sees self reflected in the mirror of the character (traits we share).  The heart connects to the heart of the story.  Find a unifying theme, why you want to tell the stories (peacemakers in history perhaps?).  Dig for interesting details beyond the official records, like the fight for equality in the munitions plants.

Our final day’s workshop was on telling stories for children.  First, the journey from door (opening) to door (closing) must take the child from a safe place to a safe place, with adventure (empowerment) in between.  The character can be based on the child’s characteristics (what animal/plant/?? would you be?), with a name similar to the child’s (Solomon becomes Solhouse the Mischievous Mouse).  The day’s activities become an adventure, with the child’s talents (and suggestions) solving the problems and tasks.   Star of own story — memory and learning improve and so does confidence.  Stories to help cover curriculum —  Moth story teaches facts about butterflies and moths, plus lessons about being oneself, AND it’s fun!!  We did a group activity in which we drew a picture illustrating what we got from the week (mine was a kite — fly free — Leigh’s was a beautiful turtle) and used all the pictures to make up a story together — and it was a great story!

Moriah participated in parts of the workshops and caught most of Judith’s storytelling as well.  We listened avidly to CDs on the drive home, even enjoying the “Adult Children of Parents” — which I would have thought was too adult, but Judith, to quote a t-shirt I saw, “puts the fun in dysfunctional.”  “Glad To Be Who I Am” was labeled for ages 4-8, but we agreed that older listeners would hear the stories “on another level,” and they were fun!  We had listened to “Rosie the Riveter” “From Her Arms to His” on the way there — but they were even more fun in person.  One aspect I really liked was the use of song in the story — “Our Love Is Here to Stay” unified “From Her Arms . . .”  How did people travel before storytelling tapes?  Judith’s “Retiring the Champ” didn’t appeal to Moriah, of course, but I’ve found it a powerful, sad and funny tribute to a great woman, (and it brings sweet/sad memories of being with my mom through her final illnesses).

** 2016 addendum, wondering if Moriah, now a nurse working with elders would like Retiring the Champ.

Story Swaps

We had one official story swap, plus a small one organized at Sharon Thompson’s urging, plus telling on the bus after Tecumseh, plus I told “One Wish” on the deck to Anne and her mother — and I’m sure there were countless other unofficial tellings.  We have vowed that next time there will be more organization of swaps — it’s just so hard to organize around the ship’s activities.

Rosemary Potter had suggested a tandem telling based on the Three Pigs.  Moriah

and I had prepared by looking at some off-the-wall variations before we left St. Louis, and we organized our telling in several meetings on board.  (Rosemary, Jill, and Lisa had done a successful Cinderella story on the New England Cruise).  Rosemary’s new husband, Peter, agreed to play the wolf —  he is too funny!  We employed some piggy puns — Moriah’s violin shop was Fiddlesticks, and she did save the Pigavarious from the ruins — and allusions to other stories — the wolf came to my knitting shop dressed as a grandmother, wanting to knit a wool jumper (Peter the wolf in sheep’s clothing).  Rosemary’s ice cream shop served “The Trough” (inspired by the honeymoon ice cream pineapple served to Rosemary and Peter the first night), but the customers “pigging out” were interrupted when Peter “wolfed it down.”  The wolf found Rosemary’s documents and came on board, while Rosemary had to have Leonard’s help to get on board (as Leigh and Harriet had in real life).  Finally, Peter made a valid argument that most people present did like bacon, and since the crew had obviously been trying to fatten us up, we decided to make our getaway.  It was great fun!  (My librarian just gave me three pig puppets, one for each of us — I love my library!)

Pat Baker opened the first (and only official) session with a short story/joke about the little man with no “belly” drinking Guinness, plus the wonderful story of the emperor choosing his successor by giving all the children seeds to plant.  Marge Cleary shared memories of Baptist women and tight corsets.  Rosemary began our pig story while Moriah and I left so we could enter at the right time.  Then Craig told the story of “Slow Joe” who loved ice cream — too funny!  Harriet shared some family history around the St. Louis World’s Fair.  Peter told of his error in judgment driving his very fast car much beyond the capacity of the police to catch him . . . and remarkably getting away with it.  Charles shared another car adventure, on flooded roads, from his soon-to-be-published Never Mace a Skunk.  Sharon won my admiration with her harrowing story of riding a mule in the Grand Canyon.

When we had our unofficial gathering, I got my opportunity to share the “Worry Bundles/St. Louis Blues” story (which Leigh had never heard, even though she is the one who bought me the sheet music).  Rosemary shared the tongue-twister “Hightopper Mountain,”  and Charles followed with adventures hunting Civil War memorabilia on Rockyface Mountain, facing poison ivy and yellow jackets (and the important information that you need to bury yourself in leaves to avoid the yellow jackets . . . and a small branch of leaves, but not poison ivy,  over your head will keep away gnats).  Sharon told about staying at the Christmas tree farm with no electricity — what a trooper!    We invited all passengers to our activities, and some came.  I gave an NSN pen to one woman who wanted information on storytelling — I try to have one of those pens with me, as they have all the information and are not likely to get lost.  (Of course, I also gave out some of my cards — Dianne would be proud of me).


The food, of course, was wonderful — and constant!  Moriah received extra special service, with Maurice fussing over her the morning after our late night out, “I’ll get you some hot chocolate and fix you right up.”  Shelby, the maitre d’, brought her some orange sherbet personally the last night.  It was a bit like the song from  Annie, “Please put us to the test/I think I’m going to like it here.”  Moriah became quite good at selecting and ordering, and was adventurous as well, trying frog legs, seafood chowder, fried oysters, and other delicacies.  We also found the chef to ask about the dessert she had circled in her brochure — Mississippi Mud Pie.  He said it wouldn’t look exactly like the picture (food cosmeticians, you know), but that it would taste as good as the picture looked — and on Wednesday night, the proof was served.

I made it a personal mission to sample all the bread puddings: bourbon, rum and raisin, peach & rum, raspberry & white chocolate, and chocolate chip with whiskey?  I missed the one night (apple & cinnamon?), and would be hard-pressed to name a favorite.  On the last night we picked up on the Ordis’ comment about “six-day-old bread pudding” and worked up a six-person performance adapted from the “Peas Porridge Hot” rhyme that we were very proud of . . . but which Ordis just ignored.  Moonlight snacks were welcome but not ostentatious, and included lots of yummy fresh fruit, including raspberries and blackberries!  Yum!  I do miss the luxury of those meals and that friendly service, though I’ve been compensating by visiting my favorite St. Charles places.


Cub Pilot Award


The Captain’s Dinner the last night was extra formal, so we dressed up.  Moriah wore her Captain’s hat from the river museum, offering to pose with people as the captain had at the champagne reception, no charge.  At the end of the meal, we were told to wait for special announcements, and one of those was the presentation of an official certificate designating Moriah as a Cub Pilot.  The captain shook her hand, and we started making plans to travel on Moriah’s boat one day.

Shipboard Activities

There was a wonderful variety of things to do (besides the obvious sitting and watching the river).   No one could, or should, do them all. We took a tour of the pilot house, at the same time as the daughter of a former captain, who declared Travis “the best riverlorian.”  We heard some extra inside stories, I’m sure — like the time the “can” fell from the smokestack, landing loudly over the crew quarters, and sending the captain and (a woman, but my notes don’t say who), “informally dressed” scurrying up to the deck, where they collided and started rumors of half-naked liaisons on the deck of the DQ.  We also learned that one does not want to touch the radar screen — so we didn’t.  We did go to the Engine Room, while it was quietly docked, and while it was noisily powering up to leave (but not too noisy, really a very genteel boat).   We watched the locking procedures, and got to see the smokestacks lying down to go under bridges (not as low as those in Portugal, though, so we didn’t have to lie down).

Musical entertainment was good (despite the lack of a trombonist for “Muskrat Rag”).  We especially enjoyed the Sing-along in the Texas Lounge (Marsh and crew were memorable for “Rockytop”) and playing the calliope — we have the certificates to prove it!   The calliope concert with colored steam (from left-over jello?) was exceptional.  One evening’s show managed to include salutes to every state, and of course, there was plenty of Dixieland.  One afternoon we  requested “St. Louis Blues,” which was played quite well, with plenty of solos and variations.  We decided Banjo Bob resembles Mel Torme, and “Hi, Bob” in addition to making a good Inspector Clouseau, bears a resemblance to the dance captain in “At Sea.”

Flying kites from the deck was perhaps the most fun — the calliope and the paddlewheel made short work of several kites.  Everyone was a child again for a while.  Moriah took hers onto the bank the next day, but we needed a bit more wind.  We played Bingo as well, but forgot to bring the duck call for B2 — nor did we win, oh well.  (The deal was, if Moriah won, she would give me back my $5).

The historical presentations were interesting.  Travis’ mountain man character, Ike, presented information on Lewis and Clark, as he pondered whether to go west himself.  I found it interesting, and Moriah made it a priority to hear the continuing saga.  Leigh debated his statement that Seaman belonged to Clark — I hope that issue gets resolved.  We neglected to do the Lewis & Clark crossword puzzle and were surprised to hear there was a prize — a piece of paddlewheel from the DQ — we looked for the hole, but couldn’t see it.

Mel Hankla, a very knowledgeable scholar (and collector of powder horns) presented two characters. The first was Simon Kenton Butler, who left home because he thought he had killed a man and survived on his own by claiming kin in various places and working a mill for a pretend relative.  He fought Indians and was captured and forced to run the gauntlet many times.  He allowed one old brave to stay with him, despite his bad behavior, “because I let you live.”  Leigh pointed out that he used his walking stick well as a prop.  (We saw more about Butler in the Tecumseh play).

The second was George Rogers Clark, older brother to William, embittered by war injuries and by unpaid debts owed him for the French & Indian War.  Drinking (really water and cola in that decanter) was the only way to dull the pain.  An older brother, forgotten in the glory of the younger sibling. . . .

Dark Rain Thom’s presentation was impressive.  Native American medicine “could cure our native diseases, but not the ones the whites brought.”  Indians wouldn’t sell food, as it’s a gift from the creator — holding back from others would be like feeding only some of the children in a family.  Water was clean, no need to purify it.  Justice — for murder, either kill in return, adopt to take the place of the one killed, or require a payment of wampum.  For gossip, two warnings and then death (story of feathers, to be placed on home of all to whom the gossip was told, then to collect them back to obtain forgiveness . . .  not possible — like the Jewish story of scattering feather pillow).  Living death was banishment.  She brought an amazing variety of artifacts to share, including a rock on a string, useful for hunting rabbits, but also, if a man tried to kidnap a woman, “if she didn’t want to go . . . .” (she wouldn’t).

All Ashore! (Shore Trips)

Sunday — Cincinnati (Porkopolis)

We hadn’t booked a tour, and as I was tired and we were moving, I opted for a nap and gave Moriah permission to explore the boat (or go ashore with storytellers, but I think they were all gone).  There were good reports on the outing, and Rosemary bought magnets featuring some of the pig statues, very witty.  If you want to see more,  http://www.bigpiggig.com/pigs/pigs.php

(By the way, just remembered to mention — this cruise featured the most relaxed emergency drill ever, put on a life vest and sit outside your cabin.  Leigh said she missed the whistle and light, but it was pointed out to us that if there really were a problem, they would just head for the bank — the same reason they don’t need a ship’s doctor, but they do accompany and properly fuss over a sick passenger, as one of our group found out).

Monday — Portsmouth — to Chillicothe

Resting well on Sunday was a good idea, as this was a long outing.  An hour on the bus brought us to Chillicothe for the outdoor presentation of Tecumseh!  I’m not sure about accuracy, but I can attest to energy, good will, and enthusiasm . . . and volume!   The backstage tour included basic theater terminology and some insight into special effects, like fighting, falling, blood, and shooting.  They use grass patches instead of paper, no paper mess, and during the fight scene, the female cast members, in army uniforms, fired the cannons.  (Storytell List members will be interested in the fact that loin clothes were worn, quite well, by many of the male “Indians”).

The autograph session afterward was fun — Moriah collected the autographs; I discussed the meaning of it all with cast members.  Little brother, the prophet, a crazy leader causing trouble (like now?) should have listened to his big sister — all would be better if everyone listened to the women.  We must settle matters between nations, make peace, so the young people have a chance.  Rain had threatened for a while, and we had joked around with the “Ain’t Going to Rain No More” song (from the duck on a second floor cabin door), but finally I seriously prayed for the show not to be ruined, and the rain stopped.  Hmm?  Of course, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.  The young man I told this to said, “Thanks, I’m one of the crew that has to spread the tarp.”

The bus ride home was NOT dull — someone started storytelling in the back of the bus, and the time flew.  I had bet someone at supper that we could have our dessert on board (the doubter thought it would be too late and they wouldn’t feed us).  Of course I was right.  They wouldn’t let us go to bed hungry!!  Sharon had told a story of a talking clock on the bus, and as we were saying goodnight outside her door, the gentleman in the next cabin politely informed us of the time, so we stopped talking and went to bed.  Nice day!

Wednesday — Mutiny in Marietta

In fairness, Rosemary reported that our bus guide was very good once she got to the Rufus Putnam House where she quite ably pointed out features and furnishings.  On the bus, however, not so good.  The tour of the Fenton Art Glass Factory was interesting, if rushed — in order to spend time in the shop, one had to leave the tour halfway through.  I have to admit, though, that I was not sorry to leave the tour — the heat, noise, and smells make me sure that is not a career I want to pursue, and very few women work there.  I did shop a bit, though, some glass pieces, and Moriah and I each got a magnetic bracelet/necklace/whatever you want it to be.

Our moment of truth, and parting, was when the guide told us we didn’t have time to see the old tow boat because we had spent too long in the Ohio River Museum (she had allowed 15 minutes for each!) — I took my little stand, “We will see the boat!” and Moriah and I did a quick walk-through.  By then Marsh had determined that we could easily stay and walk back to the boat when we were finished, and we did.  We thoroughly explored that interesting W.P. Snyder JR, which had electricity way before most places, and mechanized systems for putting coal in the furnace.  I liked the speaking tube to carry the sound of the bells back to the captain.  The female crew, cook and laundress, shared a cabin near the captain’s so “no one would mess with them.”  The docent there was wonderful — “We like tourists!” (so even in tourist season, I guess they don’t shoot ‘em).  He walked us to the Campus Martius Museum, where we looked at displays on our own until a docent was ready to take us through the Putnam House.  It had been purchased after the fort was closed, and marked with numbers for disassembly and rebuilding, it was quite large and comfortable, and very beautiful.  There were numerous beds, including my favorites, trundle beds, because it was a very big household.

We got back late for lunch (but noted the Dairy Queen on shore as a back-up plan — DQ by the DQ).  No fear, food was found for us as soon as I mentioned that Moriah was coming as soon as she changed shoes — it’s good to have influential friends.  The only lunch left was fried oysters and shrimp, which I thought would be a stretch, but were really quite good.  We went back out to fly the kite, stroll a bit, and see the beautiful Lafayette Hotel — but no luck finding key chains for Donna.

Thursday — Wheeling, West Virginia, Moundsville Prison

I kept thinking of Sharon McCrumb’s novels and the statement that mountain boys can’t tolerate being locked up.  Prisons are such sad institutions, and I can’t really fathom the minds of those who have to go there.  The murals were interesting, a labor of love by the artists, and an expression of what they were missing — family, the mountains . . . even a big truck going . . . somewhere.   Inside a cell, with the doors closed, was an eerie experience.  Joliet is used as a training site for guards, which explains the “student parking” right next to the razor-wire-topped exercise yard.  It is also located right next to very impressive Indian Mounds, worth seeing for themselves.  We switched buses on this trip — the guide was terrific, but we wanted to be on the bus with the other storytellers — more fun!

We were very impressed with Oglebay Park, beautifully landscaped, with large swimming pools.  It was almost tempting to take an extra day on the way back  home just to stay there.  We were late getting back to the ship again (not our fault this time), but they still fed us, bless their hearts.

Friday & Saturday — Drive Home

Good-byes at the Airport in Pittsburgh were hard, as we really didn’t want to part!  I realized that I had no paperwork on a rental car reservation, so Leonard found an outlet and powered up his laptop; not finding the reservation, he made a new one.  We ended up with a Malibu at no extra cost because they had nothing smaller; I avoided tight parking spaces and did fine, and it did hold the luggage well. (A bit of sticker shock when I refilled it, though; the Prius made the St. Louis to Louisville drive on 8.5 gallons of gas).

The drive was easy, and we didn’t get lost . . . much.  We stopped at the Kruger Street Toy & Train  Museum in Wheeling, located in an old elementary school.  It was interesting and a good chance to stretch our legs.  Afterward, we passed the entrance to the Wendy’s for lunch and had to double back.  (Why do they hide entrances?  I guess if you live there, you know where to turn).   Later we stopped at a Perkins, for a snack and because it was raining hard, but they use latex gloves, so that was a waste of time.

We made it to the Louisville airport, turned in the Malibu, and shuttled to my car (Moriah bought a keychain at the airport gift shop for Donna).  The shuttle driver was a little bitty lady, but did her best to help with my big bag, and she gave Moriah a toy dog.   She also advised us the easiest way to find a motel for the night “easy on, easy off” — too bad we got lost from the motel trying to find Cracker Barrel (why do they hide the driveways for these places?) — good thing Moriah has a good sense of direction, and we did get back to the Country Inn, where the rooms were comfortable but the pool room had too much chlorine in the air, even for motivated swimmer Moriah.

The next day’s drive was also easy.  We considered a stop at the Evansville Zoo and then at Cahokia Mounds, but lacked information on proper exits, so we made a stop at Forest Park to ride the big carousel before it goes away.  It was a refreshing break, and we saw a bridal party join the line — photo op — obviously a marriage with a sense of fun.  Joy and Joe were off celebrating their anniversary, and the other kids were with their grandparents, so Moriah spent the night at my place, getting an evening swim and another swim the next afternoon, after dropping off film and library books and having lunch.  Joy picked her up about 5:30 and said she had missed her — I’m afraid I’m going to as well.

Notes — I tried taking notes on the Palm Pilot (perhaps I need more practice).  I switched to the Storyteller’s notebook from Jackie — she used a spiral spine on the notepad design, so the pages stay put.  It worked well, a good size to carry around, and the pictures and quotes inspire.  I’m thinking this might be a good item for workshops!!

Books recommended —

True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

Pigs Is Pigs

Wagon Wheels by Barbara Brenner

. . . and still reading The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter, and finding parallels to Dark Rain’s talk

Note from before the trip:

Nancy’s hanging fern had a nest in it.  We’ve been watching the babies.  Three of the birds flew the nest yesterday; one stayed in the nest.  Sam, Nancy’s Siamese cat (my “godcat”) almost got one.  He was a bit mad at us for not letting him “play” with them, but they were too cute!  (He does seem to have forgiven me . . .)

Chicken Salad, Lynn’s Paradise Cafe

Makes 4 cups

Whisk Together:

1 cup mayo

2 T. honey

2 T. curry powder

1/2 t. salt


2 cups cooked, diced, boneless chicken (about 1 pound)

3/4 cup finely diced celery

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup raisins, plumped in hot water for several minutes and drained.

That’s the recipe I was given several years ago, but it seems to me there

were grapes in what we ate, not raisins?  So, you may need to play with it a

bit, but the mayo, honey, curry, salt concoction will give you the curried

base we enjoyed.

Take care,

Mary Hamilton

Storytelling Cruise to Belize 2005

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Bil Lepp Cruise on Carnival Elation July 3-10 2005 Mary Garrett’s notes

Bad news/ the group was small, only 20 or so total, so it was hard to achieve
“critical mass” for story swaps and classes

Good news/ the group was small, so there was plenty of time for one-on-one
questions and work.

This report may suffer a bit from a two-week delay in writing it, but with only two days between cruise and conference, there was just time to wash and repack. (I still haven’t sorted through all the mail). I just took a look at the “Cruise Highlights” video, and I’m remembering how much I like the feel of a deck under my feet. One downside on the Elation was fewer decks going all the way around, but I did find plenty of places to stroll a bit and greet the ocean.

A highlight for me was swimming with dolphins. They seemed happy and well-cared-for as they performed their well-orchestrated tasks, swimming among us to be petted. We were told areas NOT to pet, just a matter of respect and personal space. These were all males, and I couldn’t help thinking of the dolphin subplot in Sharyn McCrumb’s If I’d Killed Him When I Met Him. The kiss and handshake at the end were very nice, but as Tom Lehrer sang, “better let it go at that.” I’m not a strong swimmer and can’t see well underwater, so this was tame enough for me, but perhaps not wild enough for some. I wore my oldest extra glasses, so if they were lost it wouldn’t be a tragedy, and did just fine — but I didn’t buy the photos, so you’ll have to take my word for it. (I keep wishing for masks that could hold glasses properly positioned within).
** Glad to report that prescription lenses in masks are now more common . . . and appreciated.

I loved the zoo in Belize, also, as natural a habitat as one could get and still keep the animals from eating animals (and people) they shouldn’t. The guide kept pointing out that they could get out of the enclosures if they wanted (I suspect the same was true of the dolphins), but with such regular meals, why would they want to? Mosquitoes were the real problem, and I kept passing my repellent on to people who hadn’t heard they should bring some — and it ˛kept coming back, not empty! It was like the loaves and fishes. I left the magic never-ending repellent in my cabin when I left, not wanting a spill in my overly full suitcase.

At Chichen Itza I discovered that I could only go a third of the way up the pyramid before a combination of fatigue and fear of heights sent me back down. I think it’s time for a fitness program. Another deeper issue is the blood sacrifice issue — perhaps because the world is filled with such destruction right now, I can’t tolerate the darkness of the history of the site (though it was so hot that I began to think fondly of the well of the maidens; at least it would be cool there).

A grand highlight for me was performing in the ship’s talent show. They were mostly looking for singers, but Sue Hinkel had already been assured that storytelling would be welcome. Unfortunately, there were 12 entries and only eight openings, so they drew names (I guess that way no one can get mad); I wish Sue had been chosen as well. It was fun, and I even bought the video, to go with my wonderful plastic trophy and medal.

I started my iguana story with Noah Lepp’s knock-knock joke. (Iguana who? Iguana eat you up!!) Noah was a kick! He’s five-going-on-eternity, bright, fun, charming! When the seas got a bit rough from tropical storm “Dennis,” the small pool became a wave pool, much to all the children’s (including Bil’s) delight. Noah wanted the captain to sail right back into the storm area; meanwhile, the captain was busy finding a course away from the storms and warning us all to use “extra preca-u-tion” while walking around the ship and especially on deck. I actually took ginger twice for a bit of queasiness.

Classes with Bil were enlightening. His crafting of stories is carefully planned, with no unnecessary details, moving from the real to the crazy idea to the completely ridiculous (that aha moment), and circling back to the beginning point, with several levels of meaning. As a lit. teacher, I admire his literary devices as well, including the puns, accidental, simple, compound, and puns of inference, to compliment the audience’s intelligence. He’s also clever enough to keep political references sufficiently non-partisan so that everyone can laugh and no one feels challenged on particular views — finding common ground. Check out http://www.buck-dog.com/ I just did, and highly recommend the Harry Potter essay. I’ve also requested (Bil’s rec.) _The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float_ from the library.

It was great to meet Paula Lepp, a super-charming woman, who told of a wonderful teaching/counseling/wilderness program she had been a part of, helping really troubled youth find their worth.

Sue and John Hinkel and sister-in-law Barbara were great fun. Kristin with the magic tiara, who is making the jump to full-time telling, was a constant energy rush! For a small group, we had a big presence.

I also admired the older couples I saw dancing together — years of love — and the large African-American extended family being photographed on the stairway, about 30 very elegant people. The photographer had to go to the balcony to frame the shot, and onlookers (including me) applauded the feat.

Food and latex — good food is part of a cruise experience, but the use of latex gloves complicated that area for me. I got to be best friends with Mandy and Katrina, who helped order meals in advance for me (like eggs Benedict most mornings) so that they would be safely prepared. The buffet was off-limits to me because there was no way of telling which gloves had been used, so when the dining room was closed, they arranged room service. Far from a deprivation, it was “ask for whatever you want,” “no, you need to order more, how about (various indulgent foods). . . . ?” I couldn’t help thinking of the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man,” “We wouldn’t want you to lose weight, Mr. Chambers.” They were splendid, and by the end of the cruise, like sisters (I even brought them back chocolate and strawberries from the afternoon buffet, but that’s our secret).

Perhaps it was just the mood I was in (or perhaps storytelling at Earth Day this year), but I couldn’t shake the feeling waste and excess. The day I came home, Marilyn Vos Savant had a brainteaser — PAEWLGS — in the Parade Magazine.
Yep, the seven deadly sins, and they did seem to apply, mostly.
Pride – probably some of that
Avarice or greed – maybe so — lots of shopping going on . . . .
Envy — hard to avoid; perhaps we were also target of this one
Wrath or anger — naw, we were pretty mellow
Lust — oh yeah — lots of opportunity for that one
Gluttony — the big winner!!! I have pictures of the midnight buffet; with
the latex issue, I was saved from eating it, but I stumbled out of bed to take
a couple of photos (and had my drowsy photo taken with lovely Mandy).
Sloth — being pampered felt so good: no housework, beautiful surroundings,
and towel-animals as entertaining decorations.

Conclusion? I’ll do penance for a year and look forward to next year’s “occasion of sin” — we don’t know where yet, but it’s sure to be fun! (any hints, Marsh??)

I wrote down this line from the comedian — for Mike A’s nose flute introductions perhaps? “If I had a nose full of money, I’d blow it all on you.”

Notes from class — might make no sense to anyone else . . . .
Character — develop (grow, learn) in some way
can develop as a composite of real people
name fits character Miss Crankberry, Sheriff Hasbro
Setting — general
Theme (Donald Davis — “All stories are about two things.”)
Rising Action — Climax (falling action sometimes)
Conflict to resolution

Story is evolutionary — develops its humor/Will make a funny story
— slapstick, irony/sarcasm, puns, situational, human nature.

Wife calling husband on walky-talky “Where are you?” — “In the cabin. In bed.” — “No, you aren’t, not in OUR cabin!” Oops.

Writer’s block — use different approaches — say the opposite to clarify meaning.
graphic organizer, sketch, webbing
Research — include some facts, real numers, amid the tall tales.

Notes that turned into the Carnival Elation story on my Frogs and Friends CD
mini plane — smaller than Prius
lost luggage
lunch buffet — complimentary drink
lifeboat drill — hot, so have some ice cream
midnight buffet, still looking for clothes
breakfast from room service, waiting for clothes
breakfast in dining room, friends (and strangers) offering to lend clean clothes
Finally, clothes delivered, but somehow shrunk — so if you could lend some?

swimming pool full of waves — but fun until that one big wave flipped me over the side of the ship
grabbed rope — barefoot water-skiing — Wow!
flying fish hit me in head — off balance and fell
but grabbed a snorkle and enjoyed the underwater view for a while
until shrimp stampede — all those little pinches made me drop the rope.
Who knew I could swim so fast?

Additional thoughts:
My recurring teacher nightmare has been not being able to find the classroom
in a “these stairs don’t go there” situation which usually led through
downtown Minneapolis (where I worked when there weren’t any teaching jobs)
and finally to a park. It used to be a panicky dream, but now that I’ve
mellowed, I generally figure the kids will be fine without me, and I enjoy the

While on the cruise I dreamed I was calling into school, “I won’t be there . . . . Yes I know classes have already started, so you’d better hurry and send a substitute because . . . I . . . won’t.. be . . . coming . . . in.” Hah!

Love and peace (+sunscreen & big hats),
Mary Garrett

(St. Peters, Missouri)

Greece to Istanbul 2000

Sharing, reminded by Naomi Baltuck’s wonderful post on Turkey https://naomibaltuck.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/poetry-in-motion/

Greece . . . . Istanbul July 2000 with Barbara McBride-Smith

Mary Garrett’s Journal

(This was written primarily for myself, to organize and retain my memories — it is long because we did so much and still a bit disorganized, again because we did so much. You are welcome to read as much as you enjoy . . . By the way, I didn’t send one single postcard, that’s how busy this trip was; so consider this a substitute, and you are welcome to see pictures, guide books, etc. anytime you want to come visit.)
** Photos not digital, so all I can attach here are some recent photos of toys purchased in Turkey.

What a magical trip! Atop the Acropolis of Athens, viewing the Parthenon, I kept thinking I should pinch myself — it just didn’t seem that it could be real. Wandering the streets of Istanbul, Leigh and I pointed to minarets and views of the mosques and the Bosphorus, saying “That’s not real.” This was the most exotic, magical, and mind-boggling trip of all. Even as I sit here, reflecting back on our adventures, it is hard to believe it all — but the two-weeks’-worth of laundry, and purchases from street‚ vendors and artisans are pretty convincing evidence, as are the residual weariness that ten hours of sleep has only begun to alleviate, and the bruises and sore muscles from hauling luggage off the carousels. There was so much to do and see, and such a full schedule, that I think we all suffered a bit from the “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium” syndrome — and I will allow my reflections to wander accordingly.

The trip back to St. Louis was memorable (and tiring, as is to be expected from 22 hours of travel on three hours of sleep — that seems to be be rule for travel to Europe). The most memorable part was the presence of twin Bosnian boys, nine months old, traveling home to St. Louis with their new parents. Christian and Peter were the stars of our flight, participating willingly in a game of “pass the baby” as they made many new friends. Since their daddy, Michael, sat next to me, I got to hold, feed, and even sing to each boy. The English gentleman on the aisle seat, in between work on his laptop, proved his skills as an able father, helping to entertain the boys, and helping Christian to fall asleep (actually, that accomplishment took all three members of our team, as I contributed the lullaby). At one point a whole family of traditional Arabs were entertaining Christian while his mommy had a few minutes off. It was such a lovely picture that the Englishman took a photo to send them later. As we left the Atlantic and again flew over land, I sang “This Land is Your Land” to Peter as he looked out the window at his new home. It seemed appropriate, and Jeanette (Myers, the teacher of my “Singing for People Who Have Been Asked Not To” course) will be so proud.

The boys were welcomed by new cousins and aunts at t1he airport, but I feel honored to be a part of their trip home. (I even scrounged a much-needed diaper at the Detroit airport; remembering how other mothers had helped Joy in the past, I just found a big sister of a small baby in the ladies’ room (W.C.) and asked). It was wonderful to see how many people were prepared to love and welcome these babies!

Waiting at the airport in Istanbul, I had made friends with a Turkish family in the loooong check-in line. Even though we couldn’t speak, we established that the young daughters were pretty, that their mom had sewn their matching dresses, and that we liked each other. Language is handy, but not necessary for making friends. I offered them dried fruit, then later one of the girls brought me peaches, and I gave them some pine nuts I had bought in Istanbul on the way to the bath — I had given a bag of those same nuts to one of the women at the bath, having received more than I wanted because the vendor had no change — they never do. . .

Another adventure involving singing was at the evening of folk and belly dancing in Istanbul. It was a wonderful evening, with the sultan on stage with his guards and wazir (who had to taste the food, of course) — and storyteller, a very pretty young girl, who seemed to be entertaining him with many good stories. The folk dancing was actually more interesting in its variations than the belly dancing (but the stamina of the dancers was amazing). Leigh was asked to join the folk dancing, as she had in Greece — one of her high points of the trip, I know. Ann and Leslie and I posed in “lady sultan” costumes for pictures — Leslie wanted to pose in the Sultan’s costume, but they wouldn’t let her (too scandalous!).


At the end of the evening, the singer sang a group of international favorites, and invited us to sing along. I did, enjoying every minute, and Ann asked why I had ever needed to take that course (that seems to me a measure of success right there). Then at the very end, he sang “Yesterday” by special request, which gave me the courage to go up and ask him to sing “The St. Louis Blues” (as we had on the ship and in the fancy restaurant on the roof of our hotel, our new travel tradition). He didn’t remember it well, but gave me the microphone and had me sing the few lines I could remember (I guess my next task is to learn the whole song). The remarkable thing is that he wanted me to sing more (but under the pressure I couldn’t think of any suitable songs), the crowd of 200 or so wanted me to sing more, and the people on our bus’ wanted more (so we sang “Home on the Range” on the way back to the hotel), and the comments from people at friends’ table were good — That class has been good for me! (Actually, the cutest, and most multi-cultural happening at that dinner was the woman who stood up and belly-danced to “Havah Nagilah.” Perhaps there is hope for peace).

Other beautiful moments in Istanbul: the lovely dinner in our Hotel Marmara restaurant, 20 stories up, with the lovely view of the city as darkness fell and the lights came on — the mosques were lighted beautifully, one by one. The waiters removed the food covers simultaneously, with great flourish and drama, and the pianist produced the most sophisticated rendition of “St. Louis Blues” so far. (on the ship, at the Captain’s reception, the musicians sounded more like the Preservation Hall traditional jazz). By this stage of the trip, we were all happily sharing tastes from each other’s plates, bonding.

Our dinner out on the last evening was on a balcony overlooking the Bosphorus, where the ferries land. It was lovely, with children playing in the little park by the water, a man playing an accordion, and the ferries coming and going. We were served a pita bread as big and puffy as a beach ball, and when the waiter tore it open for us (it was too hot for me), the steam poured out. At the end of the meal, the waiters presented me with a full, cold 1.5 liter bottle of water (I guess because I asked to have my glass refilled so often), which I thought was a pretty funny present, but which we used every bit of as we waited to begin our flight a few hours later, at 3 a.m. (It is nice to be able to drink the water from the faucet again). Fitting all four of us into one little taxi, coming and going, was also hysterical! I suspect stories will be told in Istanbul for days to come.

Leigh and I had wandered Istanbul on that last day — finding the traditional Hamam, or bath, only after asking about a dozen people. It helped that the nice people at the hotel where we stopped when we realized it wasn’t really “just around the corner” wrote down the name so we could just show it to people. As promised, there was a car full of policemen by the school, and they were happy to point us in the right direction, and to give us instructions for riding the trolly back to the hotel afterward. The absolutely adorable old gentleman selling the trolly tickets had also been there to help us find our way to the bath — he refused Leigh’s dollar for a ticket, indicating that my dollar was enough for two, and he gave Leigh his stool to sit on as we waited. (We never did figure out why he was selling little strings that he had draped around his neck like a shawl, something to do with stringing beads). Two gentlemen gave us their seats on the trolly — there are still some gentlemen out there — and we enjoyed our trip back to the hotel.

The bath was quite an experience! The women attendants didn’t speak English, and we don’t know Turkish, of course; so it was like being a little child, and without my glasses, a blind little child. They managed to show us what to do, and we were scrubbed, steamed, and massaged into little relaxed puddles lying on the hot marble. Cold water tasted so good after, and the hot day seemed cool afterward. There was some discussion of tip; they wanted more, but seemed happy with what we gave (so it was probably too much). We were the only customers right then, and probably Americans were a bit rare also. It was lovely! As we waited for the trolly back, we thanked the young policemen for their help. I asked if we smelled better, and they laughed. Leigh asked if they thought we were adventurous or crazy — they said yes to crazy and then laughed more. It was just too much fun.

(I am continuing this writing on 8/3, after another 12-hour night of sleep and beginning to feel human again — only one more load of laundry to do, and I actually drove my car again, to drop off film and buy milk and fruit — I really miss having meals served to me by trained professionals. I am overcoming my sense of unreality at being back, and Bob is supposed to come this evening to finish the new door — the one that was to be completed while I was away).

After a return to the hotel, with six little bottles of water for our group, Leigh and I took a cab to the train station and the spice market. We had asked the doorman to give the driver our destination, but somehow we ended up by the ferry dock, with the driver refusing to take us to the (our imitations of train sounds) but instead pointing across a very busy street. Leigh had me call out for someone who spoke English, and a wonderful couple came to our aid (good thing, too, as he was moving the cab forward to who knows where). An English woman and her Turkish husband, who also spoke with a very British accent, explained that there was an underground cross-over for the street and promised to help us find the station, and helped to deal with the unhappy driver, who wanted even more money (we were told it would be $5; converting from the meter, I had added $3 more); our new friend told us to just walk away. They showed us where the spice market was, and had us walk with them to their streetcar stop, where we were right across the street from the train station. He indicated (as had our guide the day before) that Istanbul was being ruined by “ignorant” people who had moved in, who didn’t work and didn’t send their children to school, instead having them beg on the streets. Hearing the same complaint twice in two days made me feel there must be some basis for it, and I hope something can be done.

The train station was wonderful — stained glass and lovely masonry. We found the charming Orient Express Restaurant, decorated with photos from the movie. We sat at a table outside, so we could watch the street, and had tea and pastry, a lovely repast. We heard the call to prayer as we sat there, and were pleased with ourselves that we knew what it was.

Then we walked to the Spice Market, joking about having freed ourselves from the tyranny of the tour bus (though agreeing we needed the foundation of information provided from those tours). We asked directions halfway there, and were sent down an unpromising alley (joking that this was where they sent annoying people who asked directions too much, never to return), but we did arrive and joined a mellower crowd than at the bazaar. Several teen-age boys joked as we arrived, “Spice Market . . . Spice Girls?”

We were invited to shop in various stores, but not pressured. We enjoyed the sight of the dried vegetables hanging in the shops, to be used for stuffed peppers, etc. I bought spices for Leslie at a shop where the man complained, “You are breaking my heart,” when I negotiated the price — of course he also told Leigh that she was breaking my heart because she wouldn’t wear a hat in the sun. Another gentleman offered to be my boyfriend and even promised not to smoke. (So many people there smoke so much that the phrase “smoke like a Turk” is a common statement — I know I couldn’t live with that).

I also bought some candy “for the nieces and nephews,” but some for me, too. We had a pleasant stroll through the market, a pleasant rest in a little park nearby, and a very nice ride back to the hotel — this driver took us past the train station, one last lovely view, and thought $5 was too much . . . but we made him keep it anyway. It was a pleasant, adventurous day.

(Back now from the allergist’s — I really needed that shot! Actually, I figured out that the most difficult part for me was the tour buses, logical considering the mustiness of my car a/c. The best was Istanbul, but I can’t move there; besides the language difficulty, we were told it is the most expensive city in the world to live in).

Now, to begin at the beginning, with the world’s most awful flight, thanks in large part to my home-town airline, TWA. Our flight was delayed for maintenance, and poor cranky 2-year-old Calvin in the next row was only kept happy by the occasional gift of a sucker that Stephen and the girls had graciously shared with me after the family fun day here in St. Peters. Arriving in Detroit, I was given no assistance by TWA in making my connecting flight (I have seen other airlines do things like radio ahead to find the gate). Also, since my baggage was for some unknown reason checked only to Detroit, I had to collect it and race madly for the Alitalia (Northwest) gate, where they graciously re-opened the door to the plane and helped me, and all my luggage, aboard. What a mess! But I made it, and once on board was put back together by the flight crew, caught about three hours’ sleep, and had a wonderful time talking with a lovely Albanian woman, who had established her new life in Detroit, worked hard to learn lovely English, and was on her way to visit her son in Rome and her sister in Albania. As I was leaving the plane, the flight attendant asked how I liked the flight, once I got there. I said that it was wonderful, and that I liked Northwest much better than TWA.

In Italy I had to go through much the same run-for-the-plane routine, but with a little more time to spare, and the help of a guard who magically made the x-ray machine big enough for my illegally large bag, (to the chagrin of the gate attendant who fussed that “the police should have stopped you with that large bag” but who finally let me board — I do have to learn to pack lighter, but it’s so hard to anticipate exactly what will be needed). I have now learned to double-check the destination tag on my checked luggage, and since I shared my story with Marsh, she has now warned everyone else. It is really a miracle to travel so far so quickly, about 11 hours actually flying and 18 hours from when I left home, though at the time it seemed long. (And as Marsh pointed out before the trip, “If you don’t want adventure, stay on the porch and sort socks).

I could do without jet lag, though. In the first couple of days I seriously overspent by misunderstanding the exchange rate (and by being ethno-centric enough to think the 50 on the ATM meant $50 — why would it?) I also destroyed my air cleaner by mis-using the electricity converter (and I really could have benefitted from a working air cleaner). I don’t know how business travelers function after these flights!

The Divani Caravel Hotel in Athens was very nice (though the Marmara in
Istanbul was even more impressive), and after a little nap we had a brief meeting to organize our group. Dennis gave a little overview of the archeology, and Marsh gave us all-important conversion charts for the money, to help us deal with all the zeros (and Turkey’s money is even more impressive — we spent millions for dinner). We then took off to enjoy a Greek dinner, folk dances, and singing. It was lovely (we even saw pistachios growing on a tree by the entrance), but I hope they don’t judge Americans by the energy level we were (barely) able to muster up. Ann, Leslie, and I did have a long talk with the costumed dancer who posed for pictures with us — he teaches the traditional dances to young people, and as we saw later, does a creditable job himself. I was especially impressed with his dancing on top of a glass!

The next day we toured Athens with a lively, sweet guide, Smira(sp?). We climbed the Acropolis (quite a climb, and very hot), were awed by the Parthenon (dedicated to Athena, you know — she beat out Poseidon for the honor by giving Athens the olive tree — Barbara’s story on this was great!) Smira explained that the Nike (goddess of victory) was wingless so she couldn’t fly away . . . an especially good idea since so many treasures have found their way to the British Museum. Dennis had strongly advised a trip to the Archeological Museum, and our driver was kind enough to detour slightly to let us off at the museum. It was amazing, even with part of it closed off for repairs — but also very hot. I especially liked some older statues with horses, but I spent a very long time in a room housing a donated collection of jewelry and small statues, not because they were so significant, but because that room was actually air conditioned. I met with Lonetta and Chris well before closing time, and we agreed that it was time to taxi home.

That night we had dinner in Microlimano (Small Harbor), sitting right by the water and enjoying fresh perch and Greek appetizers — such a treat! The Sound and Light Show, seen from a small hill near the Acropolis, was pretty, but a bit dull. At first I thought it was my fault, having indulged in a bit of ouzo and a bit of wine, but then I heard others’ comments — we decided they should hire Barbara McBride-Smith and Ron Adams to make a livelier commentary tape. Harriet had decided not to climb the hill (there seem to be plenty of them to climb) and declared she had enjoyed a better spectacle from the park, sans boring commentary and with the extra pleasure of people-watching.

The next day (7/24?) I joined Marsh and Leonard for breakfast. Marsh had her first taste of Greek/Turkish coffee and called it “disgusting” so she gave me the rest — they both laughed when I made them point out directions for returning to the hotel “just around the corner.” It just wasn’t a morning on which I wanted to get lost and miss our much-anticipated trip to Delphi — which will be the source of much story-telling for the next year or more. First, the trip was not really workable in the time allotted (made worse by the late arrival of the bus). There was just too much driving and not enough time to visit the site, and Marsh’s attempts to persuade the guide to shorten our shopping stops to increase our time at Delphi were unsuccessful.

We were impressed with the ability of the bus driver to navigate the narrow streets of Delphi — at times he had to be up on the sidewalk to creep past another bus with only inches to spare. We were not impressed with the guide, poorly dressed, hard to understand (and I’m usually good with accents), impossible to hear in a large group — we decided that she had been called in as a last minute substitute. Several of us finally left her just inside the entrance at Delphi and climbed up without her, finally meeting with Dennis and Barbara and getting much better explanations. It is a beautiful site, and as Dennis said, just the sort of high and beautiful place to be attractive to the gods. Several people lined up as if to race in the arena; I was too slow to join the group, but would love a copy of the photo — hint to Marsh! (And did I mention that it was hot?)

Our guide’s one moment of glory was her dramatic argument with the gatekeeper (“the two harpies” – re Marsh) when Barbara had to run to our group for her ticket, chased by the angry woman shouting, “ticket, ticket.” We had plenty of drama, but not really time to explore or contemplate the sacred. Oh, and I refilled my water bottle from the faucet at Delphi, not realizing that the red handle meant “don’t drink.” Fortunately, Marsh warned me before I drank very much, and I took antibiotics (from my dentist — root canal two days before the trip), yogurt, and Vitamin C (and said a little prayer to Apollo, since Delphi is his spot), and I was just fine.

We were delivered directly to our ship, the Crown Odyssey (appropriate name!) — and were brought aboard swiftly (no long lines) and escorted directly to our rooms — very nice. Even the life boat drill was nice, as they had us gather in a cool inside location. We had a lovely dinner (but not dressy, no time) and then met for our first official class. Dennis showed those lovely slides and explained the lay-out of the temples and the types of columns. Barbara told the stories to go with the facts. This was a great combination, fact and story, and we even got a brand-new story of Artemis before the end of the trip. We had less time for group activities and bonding because the schedule was so hectic, but between them they prepared us well for what we were seeing, and helped us to organize what we had seen. (Of course, Dennis also invited us to keep asking people where to see the Colossus of Rhodes until someone “tells you where to go” — cute, Dennis!)

7/25 Delos — not wanting another tour, I wandered the island with others, feeling a bit like a voyeur as we explored the remnants of walls and tiles and pieces of pottery remaining on this sacred island (all the people moved away because birth and death were forbidden here, and you just don’t separate people from their families in Greece). I know I missed significant sights, like the lions inside the museum, and the most beautiful mosaics, but I liked wandering as much as I felt like and then sitting with Marsh to enjoy the waves and the breeze (and watching the young man dive for something which he placed in a box floating on empty water bottles). It was, of course, hot on Delos also.

After lunch, we were in Mykonos — Leigh, Wilma, and I left Harriet in a little cafe as we wandered around, finally finding the windmills and even getting a brief peek at the Folklore Museum. We were actually seeking a cab to take us on a brief tour of the island, but we were always told that the cab stand was a “hundred meters” further on, and so we continued to wander, and saw the town, lovely winding streets, little shops and cafes. We stopped at a lovely spot covered with an arbor of vines, with caged birds singing as we drank and rested. We only managed to find a cab when we really needed one — to take us back to the ship! We were so grateful for his timely appearance (and even looked for Harriet, but she had gotten her own cab and returned to the ship 15 minutes earlier).

That evening, we had an informal story-swap, with stories of ghosts, fire ant candy with snake-spit, unlucky sandals, “feeding an ass” at the Anglican church, loose skin as the place to keep all the stories, and my Sherazade. A couple of nights later we were treated to “Hoja stories” — I added one from Barbara Walker’s book, about a village suffering from the gift of an elephant. I bought another book, The Best Anecdotes of Nasreddin Hoca, in Turkey. (I noticed a certain similarity to Jewish stories, and a Chinese woman on the plane to St. Louis said “These are Chinese stories”).

One evening, we also had star-gazing, spotting the Big and Little Dippers, Cassiopeia, Scorpio and Sagittarius (I’ve been trying to see those two for a long time) and even the Milky Way.  Steve Kardolis did a wonderful job, using passing planes as pointers, and telling of an olive seller to whom guides pointed to refer to buildings behind him, “I see the guides using those buildings to direct attention to the best olives in the city.”  We did find time for some “bonding” activities, just not enough.

7/26 Santorini — Our guide for the day was Smira, who had flown from Athens (only a 30-minute flight) to do the tour. I was glad to see her and told her we could have used her in Delphi! The “Lost City of Atlantis,” the prehistoric (Cycladic?) site of Akrotiri, was very interesting — well-preserved walls and jars, and ongoing excavation work. Excavation began in the 1950’s, after mining for pumice had resulted in a donkey falling right through to the city below, which had been abandoned in 1600 B.C. because of volcanic eruption.

Wandering around Thera’s narrow, winding streets with Leslie and Ann, I found tee-shirts for gifts (fair warning, family, this is probably the last time I will lug back tee-shirts — I’ve received the lecture on supporting authentic crafts of the regions I visit). Leslie and Ann sought out embroidery — beautiful stuff! We enjoyed a lovely lunch overlooking the sea — Greek appetizers and moussaka (and Greek coffee – I like it!) and then took the cable car down to the ship. (I had thought about riding the donkeys, but it was so hot!) Someone later told me that the streets are so very narrow and winding as a way of reducing the force of the wind, which was strong but pleasant for us, but is quite fierce in the winter.

Dennis pointed out that we had seen or would be seeing several of the wonders of the ancient world, and filled us in on more of the inter-relationships up on Olympus. Barbara told about that forgetful Theseus with “a few cogs without a matching ratchet.” I personally think he was “forgetful” like some of my students who “forget” the rules, their assignments, and anything else they find convenient to “forget.”

7/27 – Rhodes — Our guide, Costa, was so very sweet and poetic. When we lost track of Leigh, he went looking for her, but wouldn’t let her rush, saying, “No stress, this is a no stress tour.” He talked about meeting an Italian man who had helped to install the tiles in the Palace of the Grand Masters. He regretted not knowing Italian so he could get “the story straight from the mouth, the heart of the man. A book is cold.” We visited the Palace and the Street of the Knights first on our tour because Costa wanted us to see them when it was cooler and less crowded. Restoration of the Palace took place in 1939, under control of Italian fascists (even noted by them as the ?? year of fascism), but they lost the war and never got to see the restored palace — thank goodness. He also showed us where the Colossus had been, so long ago, and took us to where beautiful pottery is still made today — I couldn’t resist two small pieces, glazed with the master’s “secret colors.” We also saw olive trees, with olives only a few months away from harvest.

The Acropolis of Lindos was indeed spectacular with the beautiful remains of the Temple of Athena, anfld the harbor entrance only visible from one side. It was a demanding climb, and hot as Hades up top (I swear you could bake cookies on the marble). Actually, I rode part way up on a donkey, mostly for the fun of it, but when I saw how much more climbing there was to do, I was glad for the help, and glad to ride back down as well. I think the ship should offer mountain goat lessons prior to these particular tours, but even without the lessons, I climbed up and around, down to the front of the temple, and then back up to leave, feeling like a real explorer because the area was so rough. One sad thing, though, was that the picture of my donkey ride wasn’t developed because of a power failure; so you’ll just have to take my word for this adventure.

7/28 Kusadasi — Ancient Ephesus. Lovely walk through a city of marble — the theater with its terrific acoustics, the amazing bathrooms (group effort there, with musicians), the impressive library (with underground tunnels to the baths and brothels “Don’t wait up, dear, I’ll be at the library”). Such beauty and conspicuous wealth. We were told that the fountains were emptied onto the streets in the afternoon to clean and cool the marble (could have used that on Lindos). We were then taken to see how carpets are made, and shown the advantages of double-knotted (Turkish) carpets. They were beautiful, and totally wrong for my cluttered life-style, but I can still admire them. If I’d had a few more sips of raki (like ouzo), I might have bought one anyway. There was also jewelry, including the multiple rings the sultan’s favorite wife would wear, one for each wife (I guess she would share him, but could keep the rings all to herself).

Istanbul — what a treat! It really did seem like a magical land. We visited the Blue Mosque (the Mosque of Sultan Ahmet), which was truly fabulous, and the Chora Church with remarkable mosaics and frescoes, explained ably to us by our guide (so ecumenical). We saw the site of the Byzantine Hippodrome, and then went to the Grand Bazaar, to bargain for wonderful finds and fend off those with more to sell than we could ever want. It was a rather frantic scene, but some of our group went back for more on our free day. Actually, everywhere our tour bus stopped, we were mobbed by people with postcards and other things to sell. I bought two wooden musical instruments and a top I didn’t figure out how to use until Stephen’s birthday party! (In Kudasi, I bought a dress, right where the guide said not to because it was all “ticky-tacky” — I must have simple tastes!)

7/30 — our private tour — wow! The Cistern was amazing, so large, such a secure place for water, such eerie Arabic music playing, best of all, so cool! The “recycled” marble columns were beautiful, but I had to feel sorry for poor Medusa, sideways and upside-down under the water. She just can’t catch a break! The Topkapi Palace was wonderful — I couldn’t quite get my hands on that Spoonmaker Diamond for my friend Margie. I was most intrigued with the fig/cypress tree in the garden, and the wonderful embroidered robes of the sultans. A gentleman from India told us that several of the emeralds were gifts from a relative of the sultan, the Indian ruler who built the Taj Mahal, and that emeralds were very good luck when given as gifts, but terrible curses if stolen.

Lunch in the courtyard of the Suleymaniye Mosque was wonderful (though some of us noticed that the chicken pastries had fallen on the floor and were then picked up and served — the floor looked fairly clean, and we didn’t get sick. Leslie said she would have preferred not knowing, but I can’t help sharing “dirt” like that). Marsh had warned us that there would be no alcohol, since it was on mosque property, and that anyone who needed to drink would have to “swill it from a paper bag in the bus.” (Marsh is a hoot!) The Mosque was quite beautiful (perfect, as our guide said, with a better-quality carpet so it wouldn’t smell from all the bare feet). We arrived just before the call to prayer, which we heard after we left.

The Bosphorus cruise was wonderful, more of a tour boat than a yacht, but we were grateful for the cool shade of the covered section. It is too bad that the houses we passed were so expensive, but Barbara and I decided we could time-share (I can afford about a one-half-hour time-share) and we picked out a favorite, and a spare for when we need extra room for guests. I realize looking at the original description of this day that we were supposed to have tea in an authentic tea house — how were you going to ever fit that in, Marsh? Since you described it as a “must do” event, that means we have to return sometime??? I recall tea on the “yacht” and in the market, so we’re covered.

Wow! Eight pages, and I’ve barely scratched the surface! Leslie said at one point that it will be nice to pull out all the guide books and re-live these adventures when it is cold outside. I think this is a trip that will have to be re-visited through pictures and words to be really absorbed, so complex that it will never be completely understood — a bit like life itself.