Monday, April 26, 2010

In proof of the previous post

Chapter 18 is here, as promised

 We’ve developed a tradition in our marriage: As soon as the upcoming season’s baseball schedule is published online, we check to see when the Toronto Blue Jays are playing the Seattle Mariners, the major league team situated closest to Alberta. Then, after consulting with friends and relatives in British Columbia, to see if they’d like to join us, we check for tickets behind home plate (so nice to be protected from foul balls) or behind the Jays’ dugout (so nice to see the team up close, but scary to be at risk from foul balls).
 One year, we decided not to go at all. I was okay with that. Traveling to the west coast as often as I did already, while my parents were in care, I was quite happy with the idea of staying home and watching Jays games on TV.
 However, I hadn’t reckoned with the idea of Male as Discoverer, Conqueror, and Explorer of Regions Unknown. Said region unknown, in this case, turned out to be a website, and not just any old website, but an alternative to The Dreaded Ticketmaster. I’m not sure why, but my husband hates Ticketmaster the way some people hate spiders or snakes. Ticketmaster is to be avoided at all costs, even at the cost of going somewhere we’d decided not to go.
 “Guess what!” he said one day, smiling a suspiciously guilty smile.
 “I found a new place to buy baseball tickets!” he declared.
 “That’s nice,” I replied, “bookmark the site so we’ll have it next year.”
 “Oh, well, I thought it would be nice to go this July, as the Jays are having such a good spring.”
 “Well, yes, they are, but I thought we weren’t. You know, the recession and all that...”
 Blithely brushing off the recession with a wave of his hand, he quoted baseball stats at me for a full five minutes before admitting he had, actually, already, bought tickets for the series from a website about which I’d never heard before. I protested, but he brushed off my protests as well.
 Then he got me to agree to go, by saying he’d book the hotel across the street from the ballpark. Good idea, right? Watch batting practice every day, no long walks for me, lots of fun, right?
 Turns out the website was everything it promised to be, but Dick wasn’t. Instead of getting a room at the hotel across from Safeco Field, as he’d promised, he booked us into a hotel offering such-a-deal a mere 14 blocks away.
 “How do we know I’ll be able to walk 14 blocks?” I asked, aghast at his duplicity, and in fear for my feet.
 “Well, we’re saving so much on the hotel, we’ll be able to take cabs to and from the games if you find you can’t walk.”
 “Promise?” I asked, foolishly prepared to rely on the word of a man who had already reneged on his promise to stay across the street from Safeco Field.
 “Oh, sure,” he assured me, “and besides, you know what Seattle is like. The weather will be nice and cool, and we can take our time walking, or else there’s the bus. Just remember your umbrella.”
 “Right,” I said, remembering how many full buses had passed us in other years, and how long I had stood, on tender feet, at bus stops. But, foolish unfittie that I am, I said, “Okay.”
 It wasn’t okay. Seattle was a baked image of its usual self.
 In the summer of 2009, the northwest coast of North America got the prairie heat, while the prairies got the coast’s cool, wet weather. Seattle temperatures hit record highs for baseball games and, I believe, for summers in general. We left the soothing cool of our own back yard and went to swelter in temperatures reaching and even passing 100 degrees Fahrenheit (almost 38 Celsius). Any weather hotter than human body temperature can’t possibly be good for the human body, in my opinion, no matter what the Seattle Times claimed.
 Dick had purchased our airline tickets based on low price rather than on good timing, so we arrived at our hotel — a beautiful place, to be sure — hot, sweaty, rumpled, creased, and uncomfortable, with barely enough time to change our shirts, never mind shower, before (yes) making our way to the game via public transportation.
 Someone, some misinformed and/or delusional person, assured us the nearby underground subway stop would get us to the ballpark faster than would a taxi, and we (more fool I) believed him, until I found it nearly impossible to get myself onto the steep, fast escalator, then across a wide underground plaza, and down a staircase to an even lower level with a choice of stops, and us with no clue which bus or train to take. We ended up, somehow, traveling the next two stops by train, then walking (yes, walking) the rest of the way.
 Red-faced and weepy-eyed, I tried to protest. “Don’t you remember you promised we could stay at the hotel across from the ballpark?” and “When you picked a hotel farther away, you said we could take a taxi.” But it seems the reality of the recession had already overcome spousal loyalty in Dick’s mind, and the cost of the cab from the airport had put him into shock.
 “No, I don’t remember,” he lied firmly. He walked firmly, too, while I trundled along some distance behind him, cane in one hand, dangling purse under a yellow umbrella/sunshade in the other.
 It was hot.
 It was very, very hot.
 Then it got hotter.
 The first two games were in the evening, so our seats, the ones behind home plate and also the ones behind the Jays’ dugout, were in shade. We won the first game, which was wonderful, and lost the second, but it was very close. I didn’t see the third game, however, because it was in the afternoon.
 “No, I won’t go,” I told Dick. “There won’t be any shade. I can’t sit in the sun. Yes, I know you brought sunscreen, but you know I’m allergic to the sun. I don’t just burn, I break out in hives and welts.” (I have to tell him this every year because, over the course of autumn, winter and spring, he has been known to forget.)
 “Well, what am I going to do with your ticket?” he asked, as if I actually had a helpful suggestion to offer.
 “I’m sure you’ll think of something. Now go. I want to nap.”
 And, sure enough, he thought of something. He traded our two good tickets for one not-as-good ticket plus enough cash to buy two genuine MLB T-shirts with the names and numbers of our two favorite young Blue Jays on the back. We wore them when we went out for a spectacular seafood dinner and, once again, I remembered why I married him. Good thing, too, because over the course of time, travel, and trouble, I have been known to forget.
 The moral of this chapter?
 Unfitties, always keep cab-fare hidden in a pocket of your clothing or purse. American funds are best because they are accepted pretty well everywhere, while Canadian money will only get you blank looks or uproarious laughter, if it isn’t actually thrown back at you.
 Of course, you might find yourself paying for a taxi in which your partner (you know, the self-declared I’d-rather-walk person) has suddenly decided to hitch a ride, but your body will remind you it’s money well spent.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Unfit hardly cuts it compared with this

I just finished reading Amber Blecker's post on her CruiseResource News Blog, describing her experience as an accidental medical tourist on the other side of the world.
Check out what she has to say -- it will knock your socks off, as my mother would have put it. And be sure to heed Amber's advice.

Whether There's Weather or Whether There's Not

COMING SOON, CHAPTER 18 of An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Stay tuned to this blog for the trials and travails of the traveling unfittie and her adventurous referee husband. Chapter 18, coming any day now.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Chapter 17 of an unfittie's travels


My hardworking husband has now and then been known to work hard enough to win us a spot in the company’s annual business/reward trip, to a warm and sometimes exotic location. And sometimes those locations are too hot for me to handle. I’ve mentioned his daughter Andrea accompanying him to South Beach, Miami, when it sweltered, and Monica going with him to an island sizzling in the Caribbean sun, but I haven’t explained what really happened.

Monica, a young mom who spends a lot of time raising her two children alone because her husband works “up north” as we say in Canada, referring to that vast part of the country north of any properly-populated areas, had originally been invited on the Miami trip with Dick. When she required major surgery and couldn’t go, her sister happily stepped into the breach and had a wonderful time.

I appreciated staying home from Miami at the end of May/beginning of June. In fact, I appreciated it so much that when Monica, fully recovered from her surgery, had another opportunity to travel with her dad a year later, I lost all sense of proportion, forgot all the things of which I’m incapable, and volunteered to do something impossible.

It wasn’t my fault. Fate, in the form of a potential plague, stepped in. Dick and Monica were supposed to go to the Mayan Riviera at the end of May, but the 2009 swine-flu scare (later known as H1N1) caused many airlines to cancel their flights to Cancun. Then, Monica’s husband was unable to change his days off when Dick’s trip was switched from May to June, and from Mexico to the Dominican Republic. I really wanted Monica to have a nice holiday. I’d been to the D.R., enjoyed it, and wanted her to enjoy it, too. So I offered to stay with her two children for a week. Bad choice of babysitter.

I haven’t mentioned it, because the subject hasn’t come up, but I’m an amateur at this grandmothering thing. I love it, but I’m not necessarily good at it. I didn’t have children of my own, but am thrilled to have become a grandmother by marrying a man with many daughters. I love the grandchildren all to bits, and I’m pretty sure they love me back. But there are certain realities about which I didn’t think, and therefore certain questions I neglected to ask. For instance: “Is the 3-year-old potty-trained?” and, more to the point: “If she isn’t, is she amenable to having her diaper changed by someone other than her mother?”

The answer to both questions turned out to be a resounding no.

“Well,” said Dick, pragmatically, “I’ll just phone and tell Monica you can’t do it.”

“No,” I said, foolishly stubborn or stubbornly foolish, “I volunteered, and I’m not about back out.”

Foolish pride, is what that is. Walked right into it. Put my foot in it, so to speak. Hoist by my own petard, one might add. Too big for my britches, my grandmother might have said but, in this case, it was Kiana’s britches.

Sigh. Deep, heartfelt sigh.

I won’t go deeper into the subject, because screaming children aren’t particularly entertaining, and while the sight of me pulling out my hair might make my siblings (and perhaps my husband) laugh uproariously, it really wasn’t funny. But you can tell I survived, because here I am at my keyboard, telling you about it, and I still love the grandchildren and they still love me.

Just don’t do what I did.

If you have the opportunity for a holiday in a climate you simply can’t handle (rather than one you merely find somewhat less than salubrious), by all means stay home.

Stay home and relax.

Stay home and catch up on things.

Stay home and e-mail your friends all day.

Just don’t start feeling guilty about turning down the trip. Avoid letting guilt put you in the position of doing something for which your unfittedness makes you completely unequipped.

Been there, done that, won’t do it again.

I had recovered from the experience some six weeks later, however, and dropped in to have coffee with Monica when I was in the area.

She answered the door with Kiana at her side. “Oh, no!” exclaimed Kiana, “what’s Grandma doing here again?”

I’m glad I was recovered enough to laugh.

Monday, April 12, 2010

La Sagrada Familia, construction scaffold as art

Penelope Puddle, west coast umbrella artist, sees something in the ongoing construction of Barcelona's Sagrada Familia church, something which my husband and I missed. So that she and I can test her theory that the construction blends in with the church as part of its art, I am posting a few more pictures today.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Today's photo:

Probably the most famous unfinished church in the world is Barcelona's Sagrada Familia, designed by Spain's famous architect Antoni Gaudi, started but far from completed when he died. Funds have continued to dwindle in over the last hundred years to pay for construction work on the building, so a bit of work gets done now and then, here and there.
No matter how many photos my husband took, it was very difficult to get one without scaffolding in it somewhere.
Photo by Richard Schear

Friday, April 9, 2010

On the trail of Don Quixote

Photos by Kay Davies and Richard Schear
Fabulous blue skies after the fog cleared in Puerto Lapice. No rain on the plain in Spain for us.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Giant Tortoises in the Galapagos Islands

Every now and then I have to look at our photos from the Galapagos Islands, just to remind myself we really were there. Here's a long shot of two giant tortoises resting in the shade at the Darwin Research Station. A closeup of one with its mouth open -- who would have thought such a large green animal would have such a cute pink mouth? And our guide Karina got this old fella to smile for her. The rules on the islands are definitely look-but-don't-touch, and Karina knows how to get their attention without touching them.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

AM I BLUE? Chapter 16 of An Unfittie's Guide


You might not think it to look at him, but my tall, strong man is a high-maintenance husband, especially for an unfittie to have. Although never hovering solicitously (euww, don’t you hate hoverers?) he is at least helpful some of the time, although not all the time, or even very often, and certainly not every time he’s needed.
The trouble is, he cannot be expected to do the expected thing. When approaching an airport security check, he will go happily ahead of me, put his carry-on bags on the conveyor, and step through the metal detector without looking back. He’ll be on the other side, claiming his things, before I can even get the baggie of liquids out of my carry-on and into the plastic box. Then I’ll be struggling to lift my small (but packed to the max) suitcase up onto the metal table, while the passenger behind me is complaining about dithery old ladies who travel alone. (How is she to know the big healthy man away up there on the other side is married to me?)
If we are seated together in a plane, he is very good about slinging my stuff into the overhead bin, leaving me free to sit down and push my shoulder bag under the seat in front of me with my feet (because I can’t bend that far). But if somehow we’re seated in separate rows, I’m apt to find myself unassisted.
Recently, we were on a flight that was completely full, the only available seats being one in mid-cabin in an exit row, and another one halfway from there to the rear. Dick happily settled himself into his exit-row seat, no doubt anticipating an opportunity for heroism should it be afforded him. Of course, even if they do have room, some airlines won't let me sit in the exit row because removing a window and throwing it out of a moving plane would be quite beyond me. So, I said nothing and wheeled my carry-on down to my seat, where I stood staring at the overhead bins in dismay until a flight attendant hefted things up for me.
Only after I was seated, and beginning to get somewhat comfortable, did my husband remember he had a wife. He turned to look and, seeing me somehow seated, waved at me, but never looked at me again until the plane was at the gate and the pilot had turned off the fasten-seat-belts sign.
“I thought you had managed by yourself,” he said later, in response to my reproaches.
Strangely enough, he probably does think I can manage by myself, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Why would I say that? Because I’ve been an unfittie long enough to know how strangely the human mind can work. A part of me thinks all women my age (and older, of course) feel the same pain I feel. When a friend offers to carry something for me, I demur, because I’d rather cause pain to myself than to my friend, somehow forgetting she doesn’t have my list of infirmities and therefore can carry things without as much strain.
Following the same line of reasoning, I imagine my husband mistakenly thinks everything he can do easily is equally easy for everyone his age or younger. Erroneous reasoning, to be sure, but if I hadn’t often made the same mistake myself, I wouldn’t be able to understand what is (or isn’t) going through his head. His “I’m strong enough, so everyone else is also strong enough” makes just about as much sense as my “It hurts me, therefore it hurts everyone else.”
Unfortunately, the results are not the same.

I’ve already discussed pit-stops in a previous chapter, but an almost equally important issue is the refreshment stop. My poor old body, circular though it may appear, requires frequent fuel in the form of food and water. My husband, however, can last for twelve hours straight with nary a nibble nor a sip. How do I contend with that? It isn’t easy.
If not fed on a regular basis, my body does peculiar things. I have chills. I get so cold my toenails turn blue. Once, when I was that cold, I waved my hands in front of Dick’s face and asked him, “What color are my fingernails?”
“Blue,” he replied casually, supposing, I suppose, I had painted them.
“That isn’t a natural color,” I said, by way of a hint.
“Oh,” said he, not at all curious about why they were blue.
“I’m cold.”
“Uh-huh.” Still no question mark. The man does not have an inquiring mind about things medical.
“I’m freezing cold, but it is a warm day. My nails are blue. My blood-sugar is out of whack. I need to eat something. My knees are wobbling and I might fall down any minute.”
“Don’t you have your cane?”
I tell myself it isn’t his fault. Some people are just born without that kind of curiosity, the way some people are born without empathy. Not that I’m suggesting there’s a connection, but... did I tell you he still expects me to get up out of bed when I’m sick, so I can cook for him? No matter how many times I point out the unreasonableness of this expectation, he continues to wake me up when I’m unwell and he’s unfed, to let me know it’s mealtime. This, from the camel who can survive all day without eating.
However, it now occurs to me to mention one of the nicest things about travel with Dick. He likes hotels. He particularly likes hotels providing breakfast, and having a cafe for lunch and/or a restaurant for dinner. Seldom have we had to stay in a motel with a kitchenette so, although he might awaken me before dawn to catch a flight he booked with his airmiles, he hardly ever wakes me up to cook for him when we’re traveling.
Silver lining, every cloud, etc., sez I, philosophically.