Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2020

Archive for the tag “Travel”

Six Kolaches Over Texas – From 2017

 

kol1SOME THINGS ARE WORTH EATING.

Other things are not.

A nicely done “medium-rare” steak – Yes. A “well-done” steak – No.

 Fried Chicken – Yes. KFC – No.

Airline Cookies, Cheap Mexican Food, and Beets – No, No, and No.

Kolaches – YES!

Kolaches? Wazzat?

Sit and learn, my child.

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Few places in the world produce more delicious pastries than the kitchens of Eastern Europe. I grew up enjoying the wonderful delights from my Aunt Annette’s ancient cookbook. That may also be part of the reason I graduated from size Medium to Large before I could read.

Kolaches are a Czech creation I believe, although there are variations from all over Eastern Europe.

When we were down in Texas with Family for Christmas I learned that kolaches are BIG in Texas. A flock of Czech bakers must have avoided Ellis Island and came into the country through Houston.

A few days before Christmas, with all of us caught up in a severe holiday hunger, it was decided that kolaches were needed – Now – and lots of them. Somebody had the phone number of the local Tex-Czech Bakery and – Poof! Kolaches appeared on the dining room table. More like 6 dozen.

These Czech Old World pastries that are as popular as Dr. Pepper and Barbeque in South Texas are a phenomenon. Some people might say that they look like your basic Danish pastry, but I wouldn’t say that in front of any Tex-Czech baker. They take their Old Country kolaches roots very seriously. I think wars have started over less.

There were about a dozen people around that table, ready to pounce on the six dozen kolaches. Those kolaches didn’t have a chance.

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Picture, if you will, a school of Great White Sharks circling six dozen wounded sea bass. Apricot, Cheese (Not Danish), Prune (Still not Danish), and Cherry sea bass kolaches were devoured at a frightening rate.

Yumilicious!

Now, in complete honesty, I am not a big sweets person all that much anymore. Advancing age and A1C have tempered my childhood appetites – but I joined in the Great Kolache Feeding Frenzy of 2016. My personal score that day remains a family secret. I held my own, but there were a couple who could easily consider turning Pro.

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There were six dozen kolaches at the start. By the end of that session there were five dozen MIA. In its own way it was both soul stirring and frightening. The surviving kolaches quickly disappeared under aluminum foil and were secreted away only to be wolfed down in a midnight raid on the kitchen. There were no survivors.

Back in Terre Haute (That’s French for “I want another kolache.”) I had my mind set on visiting the one place in town I knew of where kolaches could be found. As I drove up to the front of the building I saw a sign in the window – Closed! Just shoot me now. Go ahead, get my taste buds all worked up into a dither and then close down my one and only hope.

That was no way to end 2016 or start off the New Year!

Illegal drugs can be found almost anywhere, but … but … I want my kolaches! What do I have to do to get some kolaches? It’s a long drive to both Texas or to the Czech Republic, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do!

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And The Beat Goes On

 

While most of the world has been staying home this year we decided to not let it all tie us down to one place. We are, by nature, people who love to, want to, need to, travel. We are not going to let reality get in the way.

I can’t prove it, but there were rumors in the family that somewhere in the obscure and leafy branches of the Family Tree there were Gypsies. Gypsies who came and went leaving behind the gene responsible for Wanderlust.

It is Wanderlust that has people moving from one part of the world to another. It had some of my ancestors leaving Lithuania and ending up in Cleveland. Wanderlust did that and the fact that my grandfather was a deserter from the Czar’s Army. The Czar frowned on things like that in the 1890s. He didn’t like it when you stole his horse on the way out of town.

I was born with a double dose of Wanderlust and it has had me on the move all my life – and I never stole anyone’s horse (Don’t believe the rumors!).

Dawn’s ancestors must also have had a genetic run-in with those Gypsies somewhere along the line because she can match me Wanderlust for Wanderlust.

Unfortunately, with the current state of the world being a true mess, traveling is not easily done. My wife, the lovely and also Wanderlusty, Dawn and I like to travel a lot. We get to visit family in Texas several times a year and other trips both in the States and abroad have me frequently filling out those “Hold Our Mail” cards at the Post Office.

Not this year. This year we are forced to take mythical vacations.

I know that I posted a blog back a few months ago about this, but we have not slowed down. Our Pilgrimage has continued.

For example: In our minds and online we have traveled to china, Japan, Russia, France, England, and just about everywhere else. I think the only continent we haven’t been to is Antarctica and that’s too cold for me. Don’t believe me? Well, we have pictures to prove it.

Here is a picture of us in London visiting the Royal Family.

And the Pope. He has a nice view from his balcony.

Earlier this year we even managed to visit the International Space Station. It has the best views of anyplace.

This doggone Covid-19 virus has brought about some profound changes in our day to day lives. We have all had to make adaptations and this is the one that we have chosen. Putting these pictures together has required itinerary planning, Selecting the right clothing, and scheduling time to take our photos.

As our Around The World Journey has continued we had met some interesting people and seen some glorious sights. It was just a week or so ago when we were  in Italy and checked out the Leaning Tower. Its still leaning and so am I at the end of a long day on my feet.

Just the other day we flew off to Argentina because we had the urge to dance the night away and what dance could be better for that than the TANGO!

Can we dance or what?

Who dares to tell me that I have two left feet?

 

 

 

Summer is turning into Autumn but that is not stopping us. We have taken a short breather at the request of some magazine publishers. We are going to appear on a number of popular magazines. That one up at the top, the National Geographic, is pretty nifty looking. Don’t you agree?

Why have we done this? Why have we cut ourselves loose from the insanity around us? Why have we insisted on our Freedom? Here is why. The words of Sojourner Truth.

 

When You Gotta Go

How long has it been since you could go anywhere on a vacation? It may be months but it feels like years, decades even. I’m beginning to understand how Robinson Crusoe must have felt stranded on that desert island. But unlike Robinson Crusoe I have access to the internet. I also have a very clever and creative wife who knows how to make a computer do things Bill Gates never dreamed of.

Because we are unable to travel anywhere like we usually do we have had to find an alternative way to satisfy our Wanderlust.

One of the most important and well liked things about traveling are vacation pictures – and, boy, do we have some great vacation pictures.

One night, a couple of weeks after this virus business began, we decided that we just had to get out of town for a while. We grabbed our passports and headed off on our “Corona Grand Tour – 2020!”

Our first stop was London where we dropped in on our old friend Queen Liz and her family.

Yes we were dressed a little casual but they didn’t seem to mind. Dawn was able to borrow a nice hat but I turned down the offer to borrow one of Prince Charles’ fancy outfits.

After a few days of slumming with the Queen over tea and crumpets we moved onto the Continent to visit another old

friend. Francis has some pretty fancy digs in Rome and he took us out onto his balcony so we could get


a really nice view of his compound. I did spruce up a bit for this visit. I wore my baseball cap. Francis was wearing his cap so I thought it was OK. I hate committing those fashion faux pas. They can be so embarrassing.
We had a good time in Rome but we soon felt the need to move on so we headed south to visit another lifelong friend and a landmark spot in North Africa.

Casablanca.

We could have gone anywhere, but with all the gin joints in all the world we knew that we’d have to walk into Rick’s. Everybody goes to Rick’s. Dawn and I have always enjoyed dropping by Rick’s. You never knew who you might run into because for years everybody who was anybody stopped by for a drink. We liked to visit Rick’s to hear Sam play the piano. As time goes by it just doesn’t get any better.

Listening to all of the great music reminded us of the time we spent in Hollywood working with the stars. Our favorite was the time when Dawn and I taught John Travolta all of those fantastic Disco moves that he used in “Saturday Night Fever.”

He was really a very good student

Traveling, even when you are having a good time, can be exhausting. When that happens to us we like to stop by and visit some old friends who live in Florida. We decided to take the bus down South and it turned into quite an adventure.

After all our travels last month we had a wonderful relaxing time with some of our friends in Orlando even though some of them could be a little Goofy, but we love them all.

Survivors!

WELL, I’M GOING TO ASSUME THAT, IF YOU ARE READING THIS, YOU ARE STILL ALIVE. In some cases I know that that may be a bit of a stretch, but it does look as if you made it through another Christmas.

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Christmas Dinner – and then there is a day of Christmas Leftovers and Batteries not included. That seems to be the Order of Battle

For me that day after Christmas usually involves multiple trips to the supermarket for a can of this or that and a Dollar Store Safari for batteries of the size I failed to buy before Christmas. How was I to know that nothing uses “D” size batteries anymore? If you ever find that you need some “D” batteries let me know because I have a boxcar load of them out in the garage. Most of them may be thirty years old, but they can be yours at a reasonable price.

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We’ve Made It This Far

 

OH, MY GOODNESS! HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

It’s Christmas Eve already? The calendar says so, but I never completely trust those calendars anyway. Those are the crazy things that claim that March 21st is the First Day of Spring and I can usually look out of any window and see a foot of snow.

No, I realize that this is Christmas Eve by looking around this old house in Texas and seeing all of these people (half of them kids) gathered about awash in gifts and wrapping paper. That, not a calendar, tells me that it is Christmas Eve in Texas.

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Flying The Crazy Skies

I FLEW BACK FROM FLORIDA YESTERDAY…and, boy are my arms tired. Not from flapping them like wings, but from dealing with a crazy person on the plane.

For some strange reason Southwest Airlines figured out that it would be good business to have a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Indianapolis at 6:30 AM. What??? I don’t get it either. At that time of day you are only going to have customers who have been drinking all night, an assortment of crazy people, and a few folks who are so strung out they don’t know what planet they are on. Oh, yeah, and then there was me just trying to get back to Terre Haute (That’s French for, “That woman is crazy.”)

A 6:30 AM flight boards at 6:00 AM. I had to return my rental car so push back my arrival time at the airport another half hour. We are now talking about Official Werewolf Time. Why do I do these things to myself? For a ticket that is half the cost of the flight at 9:30 AM that’s why.

So here I am at Gate A-4 at about 5:30 AM. Looking about I can see three other people; the Southwest Agent at the desk, and two young women who are getting ready to open up the Starbucks on the other side of the empty concourse. I’m the only one who looks like I’m planning on going anywhere.

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Searching For High Quality Trash

 

HOW SOON AFTER GETTING UP IS IT ALLOWABLE TO TAKE A NAP? I think I may be pushing it a bit, but I got up at 7:30 this morning. It is now 11:10 AM and I’m seriously considering a little nappy-poo. I know that sounds nasty but…I don’t care.

It is now 3:37 PM.

It was a good little nap. I agree with you. A four and a half nap does border on a coma, but I felt it was also somewhat medicinal. Take a pill or two; lay down for just a minute…BOOM! Its late afternoon. I had plans. So much for them.

It is time to go on to Plan B. Get up, put on pants, and go buy a couple of souvenir T shirts. It’s obligatory in Florida. There is probably a law on the books here, “Don’t buy a cheap T shirt and we feed you to the gators.” People disappear all the time down here. They vanish forever or just show up at the Mayo Clinic. “I was standing in the buffet line when, all of a sudden, I blacked out and woke up in Minnesota.”

I’m going out to hunt for cheap T Shirts. Wish me luck.

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Those Days Are Coming

 

ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS I DID ONCE I LANDED IN FLORIDA was to locate the nearest Starbucks. No matter where I am I gotta have my morning coffee. My afternoon and evening coffee too, but that should be obvious. The closest Chapel of St. Arbucks to my lodging is about two miles away. I can live with that. I have to. But all Starbucks are not the same.

While the buildings vary little from state to state, country to country, but the clientele is unique to each store. On a college campus most of the customers will have just finished puberty, while in Midtown Manhattan the majority of the sippers will have high blood pressure and be paying child support. This week I am in sunny South Florida.

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By The Sea, By The Sea

 

GUESS WHERE I’M AT? NO. NO. NO, NOT THERE EITHER. I AM IN FLORIDA -The Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood Area. What am I doing down there when there is a perfectly good winter going on in Indiana without me? Well, for at least a few days, that is the idea.

Ever since our five week visit to Ireland I have been cold – freezing even. I needed to do something or I was afraid that I would not survive to see another Springtime. The cold feeling exhausted me. I was empty Physically, Emotionally, Creatively, and even Socially. I felt like I was an empty shell with freezer burn. I hated feeling like that and I don’t think I was very good company for anybody. I was either silent or snapping at everyone – and that’s just not like me. Going to where it was still warm so I could thaw myself was the solution. So here I am in Florida.

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One Stop Holiday Shopping

 

I LIKE TO EAT. I DO IT EVERY DAY. There are times when I do it too often and too much. My most dangerous times are the Holidays. I don’t mean just Christmas and Thanksgiving – those are holidays that have become celebrations of Gluttony. I’m talking about other holidays. I can do some serious eating during the festivities around Groundhog Day and the Commemoration of the Founding of the National League.

I don’t need much of an excuse.

One of the things that I really like (and in some cases dislike) are those special dishes that are only ever prepared for a specific holiday. I like Turkey and dressing in November. I do not like it in July. In July I like Hotdogs and Bratwursts. I do not want them at Christmas. I do not enjoy that quivering jellied mass of cranberry sauce (Which is not a sauce!) at Thanksgiving. It is an abomination and should be dropped into the depths of the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean.

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The Big Brushoff

 

I GOT A BIT OF A PLEASANT SURPRISE THIS MORNING when I turned on the TV. Most mornings when I turn on the tube I am inundated with infomercials of all sorts and reruns of Roy Rogers and The Lone Ranger. I don’t mind the last two, but nothing great.

This morning however I was greeted by a blast of something both fascinating and cultural. On channel 198 here I bumped into a show that I had been watching while in Ireland. On what is called the Ovation Channel here was a program called “Portrait Artist of the Year.”

“Portrait Artist of the Year” is a painting contest. I know what you’re thinking, “Boy that sounds as exciting as…as…as watching paint dry.” But it is fascinating in my diseased mind.

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Why Am I Awake?

 

NOW THAT WE ARE ALL BACK ON OUR FAMILIAR SOD the next trick is to get reacclimated to the Eastern Standard Time Zone. Five hours is a lot of time to readjust to – at least for this old geezer.

It didn’t take long to get comfortable going the other way. That part of the journey took only a day or two because on the flight over I slept most of the way. I wasn’t the pilot so I felt fine with dropping off to sleep even before the wheels left the ground.

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I Don’t Need It. The Chickens Don’t Need It

TODAY IS OUR LAST FULL DAY FOOTLOOSE IN IRELAND. Tomorrow we turn in the car and spend the night in a hotel near the Dublin airport. On Sunday morning we climb into the big silver bird and fly back across the ocean. It is also the day when the Christmas shopping madness begins. I don’t think the two are really connected, but you never know. At just the time all of those online bargains appear I am quickly closing in on flat broke, busted, disgusted. My wallet can’t be trusted.

It’s a good thing I had no plans on buying anything more costly than a cheeseburger. No fries.

I am getting inundated with the ads, online and on TV, for all of those wonderful things I have no intention of buying. Sure, I’d like a big and fancy new computer, but I don’t need one. My computer is working just fine and does what I ask it to do. It has been doing so for close to ten years now and as long as it does my simple chores I will not tinker with my financial status quo.

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Looking Out Of The Window Until Spring

WHY DO I FEEL THAT THERE IS A GAP, AN EMPTY SPACE, IN THE WORLD? Oh, yeah, I know why – I’m in Ireland and the World Series is over. I didn’t watch any of it live on TV. It didn’t start until a little after 1 AM and I do need my beauty sleep.

This is the first time in my memory that I have not watched the World Series on TV. Regardless of the teams involved I have always made it “Must see TV” every September/October…and in a few cases dribbling over into November.

This year the two teams battling for the big ugly rings and big trophy were from Washington D.C. and Houston. I didn’t really care all that much who would emerge victorious, but I leaned ever so slightly in favor of Houston. Why? Because I had a couple of Houston players on my Fantasy Baseball team. That was the sum of my “fandom” this year.

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It Warms My Soul…And My Knees

I’M NOT TERRIBLY SURE THAT I HAVE A VIABLE SOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM. Then again I’m not sure if it is really a problem that needs to be solved or just a condition that must be endured.

I’m cold. I have been cold ever since we landed in Ireland and now that we are heading home soon I don’t see a change in the offing. We are returning to November. November does not hold much promise as a time of warm weather. It’s just not part of its makeup. That looks to be the prognosis until, at the earliest, late March/early April. And I’m putting a rosy glow on that idea.

Right now my backbone feels like it is made of permafrost, tundra, and out of work Snowmen. I have tried standing in front of open fires and all that has done is singe my sweatshirt. My spine remains icy cold.

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Farkle!

GAMES – THEY CAN GET BLOODTHIRSTY AND GO ON FOR DAYS. Like those poker games that show up in the movies every so often.

Poker, Blackjack, Farkle, they’re all the same.

We are here on the Northwestern coast of Ireland along the “Wild Atlantic Way.” So what are we doing?

We are playing Farkle. And we are doing it until we are seeing spots in our eyes and losing the ability to do Third Grade Math.

For those of you unfamiliar with the noble game of Farkle – let me give you a thumbnail sketch so you can fully appreciate it, or understand what you’ve gotten yourself into.

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Let There Be Lights, Dang It.

IT’S SATURDAY MORNING. IT’S STILL DARK OUTSIDE, BUT, “HEY?” IT’S DARK INSIDE TOO. I flipped the switch on the bedside lamp…nothing. The power is out.

THE POWER IS OUT!

Oh, Man, what’s next – a plague of locusts?

Never before on our four previous trips to Ireland have we had this many Snafus, Breakdowns, and Fubars. Over the earlier visits to this island with forty shades of green things had gone smoothly and we were able to relax in comfort. This trip? No way, Paddy. On this five week trek back and forth across this beautiful country we have had little irritations (The neighbor’s cats getting into our house and not wanting to leave), to maddening annoyances (A slow moving toilet that needed 20 minutes to be ready to go), up to the Wrath of God blowing in off the ocean knocking out the power to our whole neighborhood. All of that was just the opening act for our fourth and final rented house.

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WELL, AREN’T YOU A SIGHT TO SEE?

 

 

WE ARE NOW IN OUR FOURTH HOUSE AND OUR FOURTH AND FIFTH WEEKS IN IRELAND. After this week we will begin the process of closing the book on Ireland and begin to get our thoughts on heading home.

For the first three weeks we were tourists and tour guides. We were blessed to have our “Alaskan Cousins” with us. They had never been here before and we wanted them to see the parts of this island that has brought us back time and time again. We may have run them a bit ragged, but with us they saw more than those tourists who saw the country from inside a rolling tour bus.

Before we left Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Guinness does go well with chocolate.”) our itinerary would have had us on the go about 36 hours a day. We’ve done it before and we thought we could do it again. Reality threw a pie in our faces on that idea. The first time I came here I was 60 years old and Dawn was…a mere yute. This trip has defied my experiments with time travel and tore too many pages off our Calendar. When we all landed in Dublin the age range of our group went from 73 years down to 62. We were not being mistaken for Hostelling Students on Holiday.

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It Was Not A Close Shave

 

SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO DO THINGS STRICTLY BECAUSE THEY NEED DOING. Things that are not fun. Things that are more of a bother or inconvenience than anything difficult.

Like shaving.

I have had a beard for most of my adult life. I grew it the first time while I was still in college. We’re talking the late 1960s here. I grew it for a play I was in. I forget which one. All that’s important is that I was brilliant and the beard was scruffy looking.

Over the years, decades now, the beard has come and gone with fashion, day job rules and what show was being cast. Now that I’m pretty much a retired geezer the beard is there out of habit and as a way to cut down on the need to shave. If I didn’t have a beard I would have to shave at least twice a week. Otherwise I’d look like Yasser Arafat the late Palestinian terrorist leader. Not a good look for me. It wasn’t for him either, but he always looked like it was Day #3 on his face. I don’t know how he did it. But he’s dead. Moving on.

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ALDI La La La

 

I LEARNED THE IMPORTANT THINGS AT MY MOTHER’S KNEE. Unfortunately, I am currently in Ireland and my Mother’s knee was Lithuanian. That uh-oh of geography has left me in a quandary when it comes to grocery shopping in the Emerald Isle. What works in Terre Haute, Indiana (That’s French for “Don’t put the ice cream on the Hob.”) does not necessarily work in Portshannon, County Clare, Republic of Ireland.

We are staying here in this house for two weeks and since we have become accustomed to eating we must also go grocery shopping, but trying to do that in this wide spot in the road village is futile we have to saddle up the old Kia SUV and go to a wider spot in the road.

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