May 29th “Déjà vu, again ?”

It is 5:30 am and I am back in Moscow for the week. No particular reason except to of course see “Judinka” and try and get in front of some of those items which sometimes get in the way. Bank accounts, apartment keys, moving stuff from one place to another.
I am paying for this trip out of my accumulated Delta Air-miles. I doubt Delta will be my airline of choice so decided to use them up for this trip and it effectively cleaned me out.

I was woken up by someone working outside shoveling something and being very energetic about it at 5:30 on a Sunday morning. The trees now have leaves so I cannot see what is actually being moved so energetically but given I am up and it will be a few hours before Judi surfaces thought I would play a bit on the blog. The statistics suggest some people are reading it but they do not seem reliable as they can go up and down for the same day but I am going to persevere even if it is only as a reminder to me of what’s happening.

The “Déjà vu” reference is for Atlanta Airport. Back again for the trip and into the process. There are now “two” greeters asking me “Where’s you goin” so there must have been some people getting through going nowhere and there have reinforced the checks. I have my card in my hand so I am confident I am in the clear until one asks “where’s your ticket”. “One of those nice people behind the counters has it” I reply which is slightly sarcastic but appropriate. There is a slight Mexican stand off as we eyeball each other but I step through and they turn in unison to the next person who foolishly does not have their card out and are now searching through various bags to try and prove they are going somewhere. Personally I would have thought the 4 suit cases would have been a clue but the greeters are not falling for that old trick.
Get my ticket and hand over my two bags. They are not as big as last time as most of our bags are now in Russia so all that is left are a random collection of odds and ends of luggage. Now given I am process and Judi is logistics it is surprising that we have managed to not work out we should have returned some to Atlanta to help with getting all our “needed” items over before the removal men come. I have managed to jam a small duvet and some towels into a bag I have to buy to get my stuff back from Geneva several years ago so this is the second time it has been used in what? 10 years. 

Hang around the airport which I know like the back of my hand and wait for my flight. Boarding is the usual chaos trying to board by zone when the passengers operate in a different language is amusing and the guy handling the boarding seems to be spending more time turning people away “no zone 1 not zone 5,4,5,6,3”. Frustrated he gets on to the public address and this time louder “Zone 1” only. Now I thought it was an English thing to speak LOUDER when not being understood. It is good to know we have exported this process to the rest of the world. I slip through with my Breezway ticket which is like a “get out of jail free” card in monopoly and works just fine.

I am close to the back of the plane row 31 and given zone 6 is being held I have time to settle in. Books, iPod, peanuts, Suduko etc. I look up and I know exactly what’s going to happen next. Bearing down is a guy in a mulit-colored checked jacket which even from 20 rows away what I can see is one of the worst wigs in the world. The color of straw with a texture to match and looking like it has been hacked at with blunt scissors. I know he will end up next to me, but no he believes I am in his seat which i am confident is incorrect but fine let him try. I know the plane is full so if correct I will get bumped up to business. He seems convinced the seating goes A,B,C,D,E,G,F. No sir see that little window next to the G sign thats you. Not happy with my explanation he triple checks with the attendants and then grudgingly seats himself down next to me in the window G seat. Still in his jacket with his bag under his feet his knees raised above the fold away table which will be a problem later. I try and concentrate on my Suduko wondering how long I can avoid looking at that truly remarkable hair piece. It goes through my mind how he is handled by the customs people. Does his passport show the picture? if not and this is a disguise it certainly does not work. I think the jacket is also not helping even if you miss the head piece you are not going to miss this (think technicolor dreamcoat) Maybe he is trying to travel incognito if so then it is not working as everyone who passes us takes a good long look.
Also on the plane is a princess well I assume it is a princess by the way she is instructing her servant (maybe husband) to put this up and take it down and adjust the air and give me your pillow and get some more. She also must be wearing her favorite outfit which probably fitted when she got it now but that was possibly two sizes ago and now looks a little taut. Other than this there is a guy who once we are airborn wants to open the Vodka he purchased in Duty free. This seems to be a problem for the stewardesses and his comment that we are over international waters which I think is inspirational cuts no ice with them so no ice for him. Now I do have a little sympathy for the crew and think if you are going to surreptitiously drink on a plane then probably best if you buy a half bottle of something (which I have done) rather than a 2lt bottle which is so big they have built a handle into the side of it. This is a little difficult to hide. 

Hey “Hotel for dogs is on” how unusual to have the same film 3 times in a row (not). Fine I have my iPod and just settle down. Not much of a flight except I really don’t sleep at all which I will pay for later in the week I know.

We land and when that familiar “ping” of the seatbelt light goes off everyone gets up and gets ready to deplane. I sit still which seems to be annoying the bewigged guy but I say we are not getting off yet trust me. After 10 minutes the announcement comes “will everyone return to their seats we need to check for swine flu”. I turn and smile. So on they come, masks gloves gowns and rubber boots. Now the process has changes slightly as last time once checked you could leave which logically is wrong as if the last person on the plane is the “hot” one you have released the rest into the environment. This time we have all got to sit still until the everyone is checked.

This done we get off and I file into the “Diplomatic queue” which I know is actually anyone. I want to avoid being behind “wiggy” and the “salvation army group” who are all in uniform and surprised me by “not” singing on the plane. I have actually had several trips with choirs and one 12 hour trip with 150 scouts to Hong Kong, they could sing but not a lot of melody and a very small repertoir.
Ok my queue has 10 people in front of me, fine. Inch forward and then make a big leap forward as Customs turns away 5 locals who do not believe they need to fill out the form. The unaccompanied minor is next and seems slightly belligerant when asked to take off his sunglasses and baseball cap so they can identify him. Me next and I notice the customer girl has a mask on. Fine they are trying to ensure they are safe. The down side is that every time she speaks she pulls the mask down thus defeating the objective I think. Bang bang goes the stamp and I am through just beating the airline crew who get invited to the front of the diplomatic line.

Baggage claim is a bit of a mess. Last time we had three conveyrors which I thought was weird but now I understand why. This time we have one and there seems to be a flaw. the turns are too sharp so bags keep falling off and this in turn knocks off the ones behind. Rather than throw them back on they are left to pile up so it is a bit of a free for all as people are rummaging to see if their belongi
ngs are in the growing heap on the floor. I decide to go to the smoking area for a while and let them sort it out returning to find they have neatly lined them all up and I pick up my two and head out for my taxi. 

Mr Grumpy my driver suggests I am late, I try and explain it was more due to the plane than me personally and off we go. It’s hot I think

May 23rd (part two) “Finally my destination is in sight”

The question to ask is why am I actually doing this. Not sure there is a clear answer. Because I can? Because I should ?

I think perhaps everyone is an Elvis fan although some have yet to openly admit it. I think apart from a great voice and good looks Elvis stands to symbolize the American dream that through your talent and hard work you can achieve anything and everything.

I am a fan not a huge one. I have maybe 2 CD’s but whenever you hear his voice ringing out there is that familiar comforting feeling. He sang well and never seemed to stretch for the note it is crystal clear and annunciated and generally something you can either follow or sing along to.

When I first arrived in the US and found he had a whole station to himself it was my Saturday morning treat to turn Sirius on and blast him through the home theater singing along as well as I could. Not sure Judi felt the same appreciation as generally she was still asleep however what better was to start the day than with a duet of Elvis and Steph singing “There will be peace in the Valley” (although maybe not in the house) anyway it was something I did for quite a while. On a trip back from buying wine in France I once bought a CD in a service area and sang along with it although Judi was in a different car so Elaine had the dubious pleasure that time but I as usual had a blast.

So the answer has to be because I want to

You might find it useful to follow this blog along with the pictures

So here I am Graceland, in my mind it would be quaint and quiet, I really should know better. Turn into the car park past the two jet planes and park near the camping ground across from all the coaches. Follow the crowd and find the ticket office there are half a dozen positions. I ask for the Mansion tour and the girl informs me the wait is probably 60 -90 minutes for the shuttle (Graceland is on the other side of the road) and suggests I might want to tour the planes and automobiles first it will have calmed down in a while.
Fine I think why not I doubt I will be back ever so $33 passes between us. The planes are interesting big chairs and beds and bathrooms, phones which the audio says actually worked which is interesting given we are not even allowed to do that on flights now! (Coming soon I am sure). There are also a few Tv’s of the tube type for tapes.

Whilst interesting they only waste 20 minutes so off to the cars. On the way I check the shuttle queue a “helper” checks my ticket and says this is 3-7, ok I give up and look puzzled she explains this means the 7th shuttle after 3pm. Not sure of the logic as it seems anyone can just wander into the queue but no matter it is open until 5pm so lots of time. To the cars, each one has a little plaque which explains which film it was used in or how / where Elvis acquired it. Of special interest is the small run about’s as these would have been very new at the time and these little quads look very out of date next to the Rolls and the MG and Ferrari. There is the Pink Cadlillac well I assume it is pink being colorblind is sometimes a drag anyway it is not white or gray so pink it shall be to me. You can check the photos.

Back to the queue after picking out some suitable souvenirs. The line moves regularly and pretty soon headsets are given out. Very useful as they begin to set the scene for us. There are people of all sizes and nationalities which is hardly a surprise. We are off across the road. The gates have their own traffic lights which is, whilst cool also only to be expected. A driveway of around 150 yards leads to the house. Graceland is one of those places like the Eiffel tower or the Sydney opera house you know what it is going to look like before you get there and id does not disappoint. It is of course smaller than your mind imagines and also fairly small by today,s American standards but that is not a put down just a comment. There is the group before us getting briefed outside the door.

Our turn ok no video and no flash but anything else is ok. I am actually first through the door and primed for action. The first thing you see is a lounge with huge white sofas and some stained glass creating a small room at the end where a baby grand piano rests along with a TV set. There is a large clock above the fireplace which is surrounded by glass tiles and gold drapes. A simply stunning site. Off around the corner to see the bedroom for the Presley seniors then onto the dining room very ornate furniture and cabinets. Black marble tiles underneath the table and a large chandelier. Purple drapes and silverware settings for six. 

Through to the kitchen which the audio says was refurbished just before Elvis died. It looks kind of dated. It is large even by today,s standards and I think maybe a lot of time was spent in this area. Large refrigerator and cooker toaster TV so everything you would have yourself. Down the stairs to another lounge. Large sofas a bar, 3 TV’s, stereo system. It seems Elvis learned the then US president had 3 TV’s so he could see all three networks running at the same time so he did the same. One could only imagine with the proliferation of stations today the whole room could not show them. Anyway in it’s day this was as good as it got.
Next door the pool room is covered top to bottom in heavy patterned fabric. The same fabric is used on the couches and chairs and the pool table dominates the center of the room. Ever so slightly weird but fine we are not judging taste here we are getting an insight to someone who could have whatever they wanted. Up different stairs to the “Jungle room” which is fitted out in interesting wooden furniture African style with large carvings on some of which are animal heads. Everything is covered in what looks like animal skin but cannot detrmine which animal. Not sure what I was expecting probably zebra skin but it must have been awesome when he put it in.

Next out of the house and into a small office complex. Old filing cabinets typewriters phones. A moment captured in time. Across the back of the house which looks very calming. Through a trophy and gold disc exhibit including the famous Gold Lame suit. Outside again and across to the once racquet ball court Elvis had built. It is not another trophy room and floor to ceiling discs and plaques. It also has those show suits he was so famous for. A showman he understood you had to create a spectacle which the paying public would enjoy and he always gave them what they wanted.
Out once again and across to the garden of remembrance where mom dad and Elvis lie. Moved here after a failed attempt to steal him from a local cemetery (there are some strange people). I snatch a couple of photos at the front of the house as there are no new guests. Get a Japanese guy to take a couple of snaps of me and get dizzy with all the bowing afterwards.

I hang around the souvenir shops for a long while all themed for different items, cars, shows, sun records, films, kids.

Thinking about the house I realize there was nothing at all in the house relating to the fame or the glamour which was Elvis. No pictures, discs, posters. This was where they escaped from all of this. Nothing specifically inside the hose would actually give a clue to who owned it or what they did. All of that was outside the confines of Graceland. It was very well set out but that is to be expected however it was a family home inside if a little grand.

So worth the effort? You bet. Would I recommend it? Yes definitely if you are within 500 miles then take the detour. Would I go back? Probably, and why not (not on my own though I think it needs friends so Bev when you are ready let me know). It is quite an adventure and something I am glad I made the effort for all that was missing was some friends to share it with so “you reading this will be them” so
in the word of the icon

Thank you, Thank you very much

May 24th “two of the three kings”

Three “Kings” in Memphis?.  Not really that much of a trick question and it would be remiss of me not to mention Martin Luther King Junior, BB King as well as the “king of Rock and Roll” Elvis Aaron Presley.

Martin Luther King junior was assassinated 4th April 68 in Memphis at the Lorrain Hotel which was my first port of call on Sunday.  I remember the news reports but at around 16 I had no idea of the significance of the event or the man. It is only later as I grew that I could appreciate the full impact of his work and his beliefs. Promoting nonviolent tactics which did not always make him popular with his own. He is an iconic figure and his “I have a dream” is a common phrase used my many to crystallize their views.

The hotel is still maintained as it was. The central building is now a “Civil rights Museum”. I choose not to go in. I have a problem with prejudice and intolerance and I know it will only upset me so I sit on the wall and just watch the people of which there is a constant stream (and so there should be). It all looks so ordinary and without the visitors it would just be another little street. However it is there and it is worth the trouble to find it as it is an important piece of “world” not just American history.

As I write another advocate of peaceful resistance Aung san Suu Kyi is on trial in Burma and you should all be aware of Nelson Mandela’s struggles in South Africa and I am certain there are many more unsung heroes out there. His position in history is set as is the belief that everyone is equal without conditions.

On to Beal Street a fairly short walk down Main St following the tram tracks. Next is BB King the legendary blues player who I think is still performing. King spent a lot of time here in Memphis and still owns property on the street which is the heart of the music / tourist area. The previous evening I wandered down the listening to the street musicians (check out a cool dude) and hanging out in a couple of the bars. Eric Clapton cites King as influencing his music. (Nice link two of my friends just saw Clapton in London). I am a bit of a blues fan and my Babe has had to endure my collection of various artists including “The Blind Boys of Alabama” who are a particular favorite of mine.

Ok Ok I will get to the last King in a moment, it’s my blog so in my own time thanks.

Next is Sun Studios. Need the car so back to the hotel (mandatory valet parking but at least it is parked, I will really miss valet parking when I leave the US). A couple of miles down the road and there it is. That huge electric guitar hanging on the corner of a three sided building. Inside the first room is of course a coffee and souvenir shop and one of the guys is sporting the Elvis sideboards (good for you) the tour only seeks to remind me how basic the process was.

You probably know Elvis came to make a record for his mother and was asked back. The session was not going well and during a break he picked up a guitar and started to sing “that’s all right, mama” and as they say the rest is history. I wonder how close a call it was right at the start. Personally I think a talent like that would have eventually found the right outlet. Anyway took a few shots but can’t get one without people in it but enough to satisfy the photo album.

Now I have filled a page I will have to create a new one just for Elvis, Graceland and Tupelo

May 23rd “drive 185 miles on I78 then take raaamp on right”

Road trips in the US can be great fun and the one I am on now is only a quick dash across Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and the tip of Tennessee to Memphis. Only 400 miles so 6.5 hours. The drive is not difficult as it appears to be freeway most of the way.

My GPS (called Gavin) has just put me on the I78 which is fine. The “raaamp” thing is because I set the voice to Australian Female a while back when England won the Ashes. That’s cricket for the uninitiated, think of it as the MLB or NBA playoffs but all played at the same place and a maximum of 5 games, or maybe 4 or 3. (Daniel I will change it to English when you win them back). So Gavin which is a she sometimes pronounces things a little differently than you might expect. I used him/her the other week driving in Belgium and we had some fun saying Vooruitgangstraat which was a little cruel of me.

So the important thing on these trips beyond staying alert is to stay amused. I am in Judi’s car and her choice of CD is not exactly the same as mine, much less country but I did rescue the “Creedence Clearwater Revival” CD from the hall stand. I had copied it for Brian the other week so it was to hand as I started out (thanks Brian) so a happy 40 minutes, now what to do with the other 5 plus hours.

Nothing much to see that is until I close in on Birmingham as this is at the bottom of the Appalachian range so I do start to see some rolling hills which reminds me when we do finally settle down I need a view.  Quite pleasant I think and suddenly an open space appears on the left and “Wow” Talladega sits there in a huge clearing. Talladega is a NASCAR track which gets 143,231 people in the Grandstand on race day and several thousand more in the center of the race area. NASCAR is a bit on an acquired taste but as a convert I can tell you it is a lot more than going around in a circle 400 or 500 times. Anyway as fast as it appears it is gone.

I recheck the speed limit is 70 and a tad over that but it should be ok, I really don’t want to get pulled over we have all seen these movies where some “city folk” get pulled up for nothing and spend the next couple of decades trying to get home. Not that I believe this ever happens at all but one should not tempt fate. I am not Rambo and unlikely to turn my CD collection, GPS or iPhone into a deadly weapon. I am also not in a rush I have already booked the room so no rush.

So continue and Gavin takes me off what seems to be a perfectly good road for a tour and she normally knows what she is doing so I just take instruction (I find out why on the way home). For some reason we drift through somewhere North West of Birmingham AL.
I think that’s a big bingo hall and so is that and that and that. Not quite sure what phenomenon this is but it would seem there is quite a rash of them. Not old or closed but bright and shiny and large. A couple at the grand opening stage and 2 more opening soon.  All a little weird I am used to seeing clusters of Fireworks shops as they tend to be at the county line. The same for sex shops in fact the one I passed earlier had a 40ft hording letting me know “Kalli’s Adult emporium” is now a “Superstore” which must be progress. There seems to be no rational explanation for the sheer volume of bingo halls. Maybe like some churches people split off and set up their own or maybe this is a retirement zone so lots of people available. There are Cash ones, charity ones, unlimited prize places, Eat all you can and more. Not sure I would want to be here on a Friday night at closing time. It must be a riot as they all empty out with everyone having a car it must be bedlam on the road. I wonder if there is inter hall rivalry and my mind wanders off to the Monty Python Hell’s Granny’s sketch. Try and focus there are lots of traffic lights.

Anyway back on the freeway now and behind a truck which suggest I should follow it to “Piggy Wiggy’s” I have no idea what Piggy Wiggy’s is so I think I will overtake it instead. Later on I notice it is the name of a supermarket chain, like Win Dixie and Dollar General.

I pass Tupelo which was the birthplace of Elvis and make a note to stop on the way back. 

Nothing much more happens so I put on a homemade CD “Steve’s choice 2”.  (We all do it we make our own CD’s then wonder why did put that song on). All saints, Boyzone, Cindy Lauper, Eric Clapton (Layla) Red Hot Chili Peppers, I heard it through the Grapevine Otis Redding, Living la vida loca Ricky Martin, Robby Williams (2) and an all time favorite song “when you say nothing at all” by a guy I can’t remember, Shania Twain, Van Morrison and finally Whitney Huston who I think had (and may still) the most perfect voice. Not sure what I was smoking when I made this one but I made 5 altogether.

Arrive at the hotel and Pass Sun Record Studios as I get close, ok another one for the list of places to go.

I have already picked my first stop tomorrow as there were two kings in Memphis. 

May 22nd “To boldly go to the cinema” (for an early showing)

You know the phrase “It seemed like a good idea at the time” well it is alive and well today.

I said in the last entry I seem to have 11 hours a day to fill so why not go to an early showing of “Star Trek” great idea I think.

The 14 screen cinema at North point has it listed at 10:10 am and at just over 2 hours I will be out in time to talk to Judi who is 8 hours ahead time wise.  
I assume that it will not be busy given it has been out for a while now so off I go. A ten minute drive and when I get to the complex there are only 4 cars parked. I still manage to be third in the ticket queue the guy at the front is scanning the list of films wondering what he wants to see. Now I go to the cinema to see a specific film do other people decide to go to the cinema and “then” decide what they want to see?. “That’s illogical Jim”
Anyway no bother only 10 minutes to clear everyone and I’m in. As in all of these complexes there are lots of service tills but at this time of day there is only one operator so I am now third in the queue again. The guy must be fairly new as when I order my medium diet Coke he does not try and upsize me or sell a special or chocolates, Nachos or hotdogs. I feel slighted as one expects this type of barrage every time but hey its 10:10 so off to screen 7 and settle in with the “4” other people who have come to see this Epic so early.

Trailers for Transformers, something with Adam Sandler and that guy from “Knocked up”, something with one of the cast of The Office, The girl from “my big fat Greek wedding” in something called “My life in ruins”, Stallone in a remake of “The taking Pellam 123”

enough already get the film on.

Off we go lights down music starts and “Angels & Demons” starts, what ????? all 5 of the audience stand up in union with the same thought. We are in the wrong place. We all troop out the door and stand looking at the sign above the door it clearly says “Star Trek” so without drawing straws one wanders off to see what’s going on.
From the opposite direction comes someone who looks like they are above serving popcorn (they have an official red jacket on) and we indicate the issue. He goes into screen 7 to verify we are not all delusional and comes out to confirm it is Angels & Demons and checks that this was not what we wanted to see “Doh” as if. He then goes into the opposite room screen 8 and comes back to inform us that Star Trek is playing in this one.

Now this is the Angels & Demons screening but nobody in there seems to have worked out the SS Enterprise is not actually a Papal vessel and probably think the Vulcans are a sub order of the Franciscans. The Red coat then gets out his radio and calls whoever and explains, the disembodied voice from the other end asks “are you sure” all 6 of us simultaneously respond yes.

So they stop the film but what next?. Show the correct film in the correct screen?. No that is too easy everyone has to change rooms and even though we ask, no we cannot go straight to the film we have to watch the trailers again. Transformers, Adam Sandler etc except one trailer comes up without sound now you are never quite sure so you wait a while just in case then the next trailer the same silence. (Not sure there are making silent movies any more) By now 3 of the five of us are moving towards the door.
I get there first and am immediately elected to go deal with it.
Off I go to wake up the popcorn guy as he is the only person around. I explain 8 has no sound and he picks up his radio and calls it through. “Are you sure” is the response so popcorn guy looks at me inquiringly. 
Ok it’s early so I think no sarcasm no pretending you have gone deaf or that no I’m just yanking your chain I’ve just come for Nachos with hot sauce and jalapenos at 10:15 in the morning. I just say “yes I am sure” adding “do you want to come and verify”?.

Popcorn declines as he is not allowed to leave his post (maybe they are expecting a late rush of people to arrive 15 minutes after the film has started) so back to screen 8 where hurray the sound is back on and we finally settle down to the film we paid to see.

Actually it was quite a good film only a couple of double loops to follow and time shifts where someone meets themselves which I though was not allowed but let’s not spoil a good story with Vulcan logic.

As I said at the beginning “It did seem like a good idea at the time” anyway “Live long and Prosper”

May 20th “The Cat and the Hat”

Travels with my cat

If you have known me for any length of time you will have heard about “Eric” the cat who lives with us. A female feline who graciously allows Judi and I to look after her and has done for a number of years. Not exactly sure how many years but in the 12 to 14 years I think. I have never been good with dates so within 2 two years is pretty good for me. 

Now of course Eric does not know the name is actually a man’s and the reason she has it was is due to the fact that originally we were supposed to get 2 cats and call them Eric & Ernie after an English comedy duo. However as we only got one then it stuck and she to her credit has never commented on it. In fact as you would expect she does not even respond to it. As any self respecting cat understands they deem to live with us not the other way around. She is still in the “we used to be worshipped in Egypt” frame of mind and acts like it all the time. Eric has travelled with us where ever we have gone and has 2 Passports to prove it. I have not broached the subject of Moscow yet. I am biding my time
She wakes me up at around 6:30 in the morning (weekends included) and it’s my fault of course. Not understanding the context of weekends it’s just something she does out of habit every single day. Normally staying out of reach but making enough of a racket to rouse the dead she will watch carefully as I stumble across the bedroom making sure I am not heading back to bed. Something I have never ever done so maybe she just does not trust me.

If I take too long in the bathroom she will come and hurry me along making just enough noise to get my attention.
She races down stairs in front of me but not until I cross the threshold of the bedroom door (still no trust).
The following sequence is the same every morning. Eric goes over to her bowl and takes a few sniffs. I put the kettle on and try and work out exactly what day it is. Ok the kettle boils and the next step is to fill the coffee cup and if Judi is home a cup of tea. (Judi drink’s Tea I drink coffee and we never cross over). By now Eric is under my feet I open the fridge and get the milk pour into the cups and wander over to Eric’s feeding station. There will be a saucer which I use to put a tiny amount of milk in. “I” know you are not supposed to give cats milk but Eric does not. Eric by now is actually getting the way and on more than one occasion I have dripped it onto her head. The key to this little dance is that as soon as I got to move the carton away she whacks it with her paw. She has always done this not sure why but it is almost Pavlovian and it does not matter how fast I can move she can move faster. It may be a reflex reaction to the time I took but she has never explained.

What makes matters worse is that most of the time she takes look at the milk and decides not to have it looking at me with one of those “You expect me to eat this ?” expressions. She then wanders off presumably back to sleep secure in the knowledge she has got my day started. For which I am of course greatful.

I have many many stories about Eric which I will recount on slow days,
How she escaped at Heathrow Airport and Judi having to fly back to try and find her
How Judi was convinced she had been shot when it was a Rose thorn
The number of animals she has brought for our attention, worms, frogs, mice, pigeons, chipmunks, squirrels and the odd roach
Getting lost in Brussels for 4 days, with me walking the streets shaking a treats box shouting “Eric” at the top of my voice
How much fun she has in her carrier (not)
Moving to the US when I was not sure who to give the tranquilizer to Eric or Judi or both.
How the cat sitter told us she was giving it up because of the stress (not caused by Eric I may add)
Getting vertgo on a high wall.

So to the “Cat and the Hat”
One of the gifts waiting for me what I got back home to Atlanta was a “Fur Hat” donated by some of my work colleagues.
Not sure Eric appreciated the new friend when introduced but will possibly get used to it in time.

Next time “putting structure into your day” (Given I am going to be up at 6:30 every day I need a plan)

May 19th “It’s funny the things you notice”

Back home in Atlanta and so so busy, not sure how I found the time to work but lots to do.

Thinking back on last week there were a couple of things which stood out and our worth a mention.

Maybe I am a little weird but some things just stand out to me.

Brussels is a busy little place it has the European Economic Community HQ, the NATO HQ all of the Embassies and a host of Big Business sites. Also it is very accessible for weekend tourists and any and all European tours.

It is not a particularly big city with only around 1 million people so what this means is that at any time of the day or night you will hear that dull rumbling of overnight bags being dragged over cobbled streets. It is just one of those things you see them everywhere and the owners are dragging them around at a furious pace all rushing somewhere. (note I say dragging not carrying as they will probably do as soon as they get to the Airport ref May 10th entry). It is sometimes difficult to get a good picture without one in view. Maybe this could become a new type of “Where’s Wally” game.

Another thing is people with maps. Now this is normally small groups less than 5 people who are stood on street corners trying to orientate themselves. Turning the maps around and around and generally all pointing in different directions. I got asked 4 times for directions which is a worrying trend. Either I look like a tour guide or I have an air of confidence making people believe I know where I am or of course it could be I was the first person to wander past. So I point them to the “Grand Place” which is almost always just around the corner so if they had read the road sign they were standing under rather than the map they were pondering over it would have been easier.

> For the actual city what I noticed was the proliferation of Chocolate shops. Now they were not short of them in the first place but there seems to be 3 or 4 times the amount. Several of the main brands Neuhaus, Godiva, Leonidas were well represented and there seemed to be a fair amount of new independent producers which indicates all is well. Belgium produces 172,000 tons of chocolate per year with more than 2,000 chocolate shops throughout the country. Pralines in Belgium are sublime chocolate confections. A beautifully sculpted chocolate shell conceals a center of filling which explodes with a surprising texture and flavor in your mouth. Many chocolatiers still make their pralines by hand. Every town and even small villages have chocolate stores with luxurious pralines.

How can we be in an economic crisis when there are new chocolate shops opening up.

Other than this the restaurants seem to be breeding and the Belgians don’t really do food chains, in general they do single owner places who do superb food which makes you think it must be easy which it is if you have been doing it all of your life. All of my old haunts are still going strong including the Lebanese which was around the corner from my Hotel. The reason I mention this particular one is I have a vivid recollection of a meal there when the belly dancer decided to perform on one of the tables and I spent a terrified 15 minutes convinced she was going to move to close to the edge and tip it over and being that I was first in line to have what could be termed a “well built” lady fall into my lap. She did have my undivided attention given the proximity and the potential for injury.

So as I said back home ready for the American Idol final and to make sure the Tivo does not delete either Grays anatomy or House before my babe gets back.

Next “the cat and the hat”

May 18th “Nostalgia it’s not what it used to be”

So what’s all this about “Nostalgia”

The dictionary says

  1. A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past.

  2. The condition of being homesick; homesickness.

Well I can say when I go back to a place there is a level of “familiarity” but not sure I would go as far as to say I wanted to return. Not that I have anything against these places I called home it is more about always seeking a new adventure. Each place I visit has so much excitement about it and the lure of the new outweighs the pull of the old.

There was a quote about “when a job becomes too easy give it away and get a new one” well the same goes for me and places so when I get too comfortable I have to leave.

For our vacations Judi and I have only every returned to the same place once that I can remember. Apart from Bangkok which we have seen 3 times but it is a hub city so it was on the way to or from somewhere so it may not count.

The last time we specifically went to buy a set of cutlery which probably sounds a bit weird but it’s true and you should see Judi haggle you would not want to be the store owner. (one guy said with a wife lie that he would pray for me) The airport check in was also interesting with a full 12 person set of every conceivable item including cheese knives weighing me down but we did as usual talk our way through it.

Anyway so there is nothing wrong with new things. I mean who wants to go back to black and white TV’s, mobile phones the size and weight of a brick or flowered shirt with matching ties (yes that was me and with a Mullet haircut) and how did I live without TIVO and my iPhone.

As the world shrinks it is easier to stay in touch and given there is no distance in an internet connection everyone could actually be next door. The mere fact that you are reading this proves that anyone anywhere can be in contact.

Therefore in general new is good and of course apart from the “places” we stop there are all those new friends to make and challenges to face. Right now of course we are in the middle of it all again. Trying to manage the timing of the visa’s with the flights the removal men closing down the utilities. What to do with all the electrical items we cannot take and of course discussing if Eric (the cat) goes in the hold or the cabin (I think Judi will win on the cabin)

So maybe I just don’t have the time for sentiment. I have just spent a week in Brussels and a lot of it meeting old friends. Maybe it’s the friendships I could be nostalgic about if anything. There is nothing better than to sit in a cafe or a bar or restaurant and chat about life over a drink and good food. Hearing about marriages new children and hearing all about adventures friends are having.

I seem to be very busy right now which given I do not have a job is worrying, how did I find the time to work before ? (or maybe I didn’t)

Taking an online crash course in HTML to enable me to add pictures which was a direct request so watch out for changes.

“Coming to a blog near you soon”


Just for Beverly

These are just for Bev who wanted more pictures, she said the blog was “quite” witty which I think is sort of a compliment

Anyway I am taking a crash course in HTML

One from Florida

One from Lima

and one from Alcatraz