Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sometimes it's just too hot and humid to have creative thoughts.

To sleep, perchance to dream.......

I had to visit the cemetery this morning. This was a pre-planned trip. Fortunately, not for services. I have to write a small article accompanied by a picture for an anthology.

I hoped early morning light would be soft enough for great photos...and of course I would sit on some bench and think cliche thoughts about death...then remind myself ....the purpose of writing is to find fresh thoughts on cliche situations.

After a nice spot of coffee from a nearby cafe....I head over to the cemetery.

I 'm not happy. By 8:15AM, the light and the sun were so intense the gray-white granite statues and headstones were faded. Damn.

I walked down row after row of very old worn headstones and statues....conscious of looking for the right angle....when I felt a small rivulet of sweat trickle down my back. Oh....It's going to be hot today.

I stop to photograph a statue of a cherub...saying to myself this is too cliche.......but if I didn't start taking some pics....I wouldn't be able to warm up and shoot anything.

I knelt down...tried this angle and that angle...and it was just okay. When I stood up.....I felt like my own personal hot multiple streams of sweat rolled down me and even dripped off my nose. I realized by the greenness of the grass.... this historic cemetery watered its grass regularly....and the hot sun was creating an open air sauna.

I find an interesting fat cherub holding a globe....but ..they are going to start funeral services soon....a small thought says this might be an interesting photo...but I don't want to be a jerk.

Giving up on the pictures....I decide to give contemplation a try.....

Here's my thoughts:

1) It's hot.
2) It's humid.
3) Wow, my capri pants are so wet it's like I showered in them.
4) I hope I don't come home full of chigger bites.
5) Death. Oh Death. Death. People dead. Dead people dead. All over. All over dead people dead for a long time. Historically dead people in a historic cemetery.

Let's try new perspective:

1) I'm gonna die. Blah blah....regrets....renewed lust for life. Blah Blah. Forget it.

2) Man, I am so happy I'm going to get cremated...who would want to lay here and sweat for eternity?

Looking around.

See huge white towering obelisk hidden in big oak tree...Get up to see what family could be so obvious. Ohhhh. Local Bank family. Look up....and see....huge downtown bank building with competitor's name on it. Awesome bank family's line with another bank family's monument....Telephoto jammed. Great. Forget's probably too ironic for story.

Tourists stop by and chat with me. Am I a traveling cemetery fan?

Watch these sweaty Californians (dedicated cemetery fans ) get in their big suburban and knock over a small marker when they turn their monster car down the small lane built for carriages....not SUV's.

Blouse and pants drenched. Hair curled. Telephoto jammed. Sauna on full. Not a creative shot or a creative thought anywhere. Time to go home.

Getting in your car....and aiming your air conditioner vents right at your face.

Priceless. brain is obviously stewed.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007

My New Baby.....and She says....Vroom.

It's bad...real open your garage door and smile at your car. whip out a rag and wipe a bit o'dust that has dared collect on your dash board....but that's what I'm doing with my new baby.
I got her on Friday (and's a she....I had a male car once....a big strapping white Suburban which I visualized as a white stallion. We galloped down thousands of miles of interstate highways together and I was quite attached to it.....of course that was pre-gas hike....let's just say he was put out to stud a couple of years ago.)
I had been test driving cars for a week....and wasn't happy...and then I looked at this Mazda Miata X5 seemed a little small... I had reservations about a two seater.....but I turned the key and she said, "Vroom."
"Did you hear that?" I asked my bemused hub.
"Hear what?"
"Vroom vroom."
That was it. Everyone knows a blond needs a car that goes Vroom...especially Vroom Vroom.
The men folks will now have two cars to meet their work and school obligations. I won't have to share a car anymore with them......won't have to gaze at dead withered french fries on the passenger floor, cups of stale soda and all kinds of male debris from road eating and transporting.
I also won't have the pleasure of turning on the music and finding Satan howling at me through my car speakers. Trust me... if Satan howled....he would sound just like a couple of heavy metal bands my son favors.
Which reminds me.....I'm going to collect my Cd's and put them in the car.....chic music...lots and lots of chic music.
Vroom vroom.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Quiet House ..My favorite City in Slovenia

It's midnight....and the house is so quiet its spooky. Younger men folks out and hub hasn't moved from his chair....and the Harry Potter book for the last couple hours.

Zurich and Slovenia already seem so far away as to feel unreal. I was looking at my pic tonight and smiled when I saw these....they are from Purin, Slovenia. Slovenia has about 30 miles of coast line....and it feels just like Italy. In fact, over the centuries I'm sure Italy owned this little parcel of land and probably jostled Austria for it. It had such a good feel about it....I feel I could write a novel here....winding streets, cobblestones, a city carved out of a hill and of course the it both smell and sound.


There was something interesting about this her pose and demeanor. She graciously allowed me to take her pic.


The magic is in the the narrow the the old air conditioners paired with even older pink and coral houses coexisting with orange and green houses without squabbling.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ze Vase has Z'arrived!!!!

When I travel....I don't do a lot of shopping....if I stumble upon something fine....but I just refuse to spend hour after hour looking at stuff I can find in NYC or Chicago. The world is a small place in some types of merchandise.

But as I mentioned before....I do fall for art...or more precisely it calls to me....You Whoooooooo....said this art gallery located on a small winding street in Zurich. You Whoooooooo......okay okay ....can this be shipped? Zure. No problem to Zhip Ze Vase.

I told hub I bought a vase and it was being shipped. I could read his eyes when this huge box came...."What the hell kind of vase needs a 4 foot high box?

It was packed like a Russian nesting one container was another and another....till viola!

Ze a unique diamond pattern seen on Swiss items.

Ze vase sitting on the fireplace ledge....this is where I pictured it......and it fit....perfectly.

One unforeseen problem, apparently ze hypnotized by ze pattern......Okay Mikey... when you wake up you will be a smart dog.....a very very smart barking at people who wear shredding garbage doggie ...very smart doggie....Mike?


Monday, July 16, 2007

The Museum of Hostages ...Remembering my Introduction to Evil.

This is a powerful picture for me. It scares me just like the cell scared me. The picture is taken in the Museum of Hostages. A small jail/cell block preserved next to a manor in an idyllic rolling hills-pasture-land-setting. The faculty wanted us to see this place.... a series of cells where the German gestapo crammed 20-30 people in the space equivalent to a large walk-in closet. From here Jews and non Jews were either shipped to concentration camps or simply taken outside and chained to the beautiful birch trees and shot.
The place is grim. There is graffiti on the wall. A clock with hands pointing to 1pm. Names, prayers, quotes, pictures.....gougings. In each room, artifacts are placed on a small display: handcuffs, pictures....articles....helmets...bayonets....metal drinking cups.
I went into cell #4 and froze. The display in this room had pictures from book about a concentration camp. I "recognized" the pictures.
I grew up in Chicago and lived in a large apartment building. My grandparents owned the building and lived on the first floor. We had two apartments ...the 2ND floor and the basement and so my grandparents place was a passage between our dual living areas and like any kid a natural place to snoop.
One day while snooping in their main closet I came across a book. It had a faded red cover and was in Polish. I opened it and immediately became frightened by what I saw. The book had pictures of skeleton-like people who were somehow still alive and standing. On other pages there were pictures of these skeleton people dead and heaped into piles. There were pages with pictures of faces, faces of women and men standing in line for something. I put the book back...but for the next couple of weeks....I would return and study the pictures. Each time the pictures got easier to look at....but each time I became more frightened at something I didn't understand.
My grandfather caught me in the closet...sitting against the back wall ....studying...the book. He yanked it out of my hands and told me it was not a children's book. "Who are these people?" I asked him.
But that information didn't resonate with me. In my Catholic grammar school, Jews were folks who seemed to children's terminology/ideology....missed the bus. As if everyone was standing around, the bus came....and a group of folks decided it was not the right bus and would wait for the next one. The Sisters seemed to be present Jews as stubborn folks......folks who had a chance at Jesus but preferred to wait for someone/something else they would like better. This inherently did not seem to me to be a big deal....yet it somehow was.
I remember going back to the closet and this time when I studied the faces I felt a deep fear. The people all looked like they could be part of my family. Uncle Zigmund (all adult friends and relatives were called aunt or uncle) looked like the man at the beginning of the book. Aunt Clara looked like a woman in line. Did I look any different than some of the little girls?
I guess it was my first experience with evil....of realizing that people would do harm...horrific harm ....for no logical reason....and if harm or death could be handed out based on no reason.......couldn't someone make up a rule that would eliminate me or my family based on something they didn't like? Perhaps all blonds would be considered evil or all people with a certain type of nose could be declared unworthy of living and destined for elimination.
Seeing the familiar concentration camp pictures in the cell....transported me back to that early introduction to a particular madness....which could spread to others simply by being near it.
I left the cell and walked outside onto the gravel path near the pasture.
Bells were ringing....small tinkling bells.... I realized, after a few minutes, they were cow bells....innocent high-pitched bells ringing over the hillside....and it made me feel the fear could madness come to such an inherently beautiful place?
And if these valleys and green hills and distant snow -capped Alps and meadows and early spring flowers couldn't stop evil....what could?
I didn't have an answer.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Micheal Moore...Lake Bled and the Lack of T-shirts

This is not the best picture of Lake Bled in Slovenia. I took this off a tourist web page...but I think it will do the trick.
Now look closely at the shore...actually the entire shore line of Lake Bled....okay?.....Now look closely at the Lake....and the interesting island....and although it's a bit foggy of a picture...the surrounding area......pretty isn't it?
And that's my point.....this is an accurate representation of Lake least the Lake Bled I saw....and what's amazing about it that it is pretty....and natural...and inspiring....which is why its so odd....and totally unAmerican.
Can you imagine what Lake Bled would look like if it existed in America? Do you think the shoreline would be natural like that....or would it be filled with zillion dollar homes and condos? Would the occasional stray gondola or sail boat be out there? or would the place be buzzing with boat rentals, wave runner rentals, para sailings...and sail boat moorings? Would the surrounding countryside by quiet....or would it be filled with McDonalds and Wendys, thousands of chalets for rent along with the obligatory go cart/miniature golf courses?
Tonight I went to see "Sicko" and whether you like Moore or not.......the point of the movie basically is that the emphasis on profits....keeps Americans from access to universal health care coverage. The denial of claims, the withholding of treatments and benefits....exist to increase the bottom line for insurers and health care organizations. Bottom lines are like bottomless pits....because once you reach a certain marker.....the only way your organization can judge it se;f more successful the next year is by increasing the bottom line and hence the profits.
The more I thought about it on the way home the more I felt I had finally put a finger on what was so disturbing about Lake Bled and Zurich.....these were tourist destinations....and yet they were beautiful ...they had not sold their souls at every turn at every opportunity to make a buck....or a franc or a euro.
In the old section of the city....which they consider touristy....I had to hunt for a souvenir shop....I had to hunt to find a place where I could find a t-shirt for the boys that said Swiss something or other. Yes there were a few shops....but the amount of shops was considerably small in comparison to say San Fransisco's wharf area. Set Yankees lose on the place and all the charming cafes and street shops would be turned into tourist joints....of the cheapest variety.
It was the same way in grocery stores. I love foreign grocery stores and in every country I visit I find myself poking around in see what real people see what they showcase and sell. Chocolate? of course. Cakes? Yes and beautiful ones.....Chips? Processed food? Everything covered in sugar or candy? No much. Standing in line at the "Coop" in Swiss, I studied people's baskets. Fruit, Vegetables, wine, meat, yogurt, cheese, bread. Basic foods. Chocolate covered cereals? No....Tons of chips/pork Cheese Yes. Cheeze whiz no. The amount of junky processed foods we sell in our grocery stores in comparison is overwhelming. Yet junk equals profits.....and just like a pristine lake would not be left alone....why leave cheese alone when you can put a bit of it in a can with lots of fats and some artificial flavor and sell it?
Billboards...advertising......Zurich and Lake Bled had some...but nothing overwhelming. Everything was rather discreet....understated....even frugal.
In the grocery store, I was chastised by the clerk for not bringing my own plastic bag. When I looked around, both men and women, business suits and casual clothes folks, were whipping out their sturdy little plastic bags to carry their groceries home or to the train. Here, we'd be given 25 plastic bags with two items in each bag. Of course we would be heading off to cars.... these folks were walking to trains or trams or were riding bicycles or just plain walking.
We keep telling ourselves and our government keeps telling us...that Americans are so lucky...and we should be so proud to have so much stuff......carry away foods, take out coffee....cocoa puffs.....busy busy .....hurry hurry ....lots o' t-shirts..and .rent those condos as the lake.
But you know...not everyone lives like that....around the world......and sacrilege of sacrilege.....its prettier....cleaner.....more serene......and even more sociable.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Whoa.....let's not forget ....GREENLAND!.....Really...Greenland

My email this week has been like a surprise package...hearing from people I met in planes, trains and automobiles...some to say hello.....others to ask to remain connected and some to send me pictures. Of course, that's one of the best parts of traveling (for me).

These pictures come from a wonderful woman in Ohio, a teacher, Cynthia, traveling home with her husband. My flight left Zurich around noon and going fight jet lag by staying awake and busy.

I glanced up...from my very complex writing to do list...and yelped...(that's the best description I can think of....for the sound I made) seatmate and Cynthia who was sitting in front of me turned to look at me....probably to ascertain if I was choking on a proverbial airline peanut or something on that order.

"Wow...Look at that....I think it's......Greenland!"

My seatmate closed her eyes without even a peek....a few other passengers (unimpressed that the yelp was a consequence of a geological land form ...turned away)....but Cynthia was energized......she grabbed her camera and began shooting.

Like kids....we wowed and glaciers and icebergs and alpine lakes and finally clouds rolled over the landscape.

This was my first glimpse out the window in a while...and instead the Atlantic Ocean.....there was land...and mountains and lakes!!!

It's this amazing??? A gigantic glacier (including some weird kinds of tracks on it) breaking into an inlet complete with chunks of ice floating in the water.

A blue blue mountain lake somewhere at the tip of Greenland.

A different glacier flowing into the sea with another inlet clogged by ice.

Okay I do exist, I know I'm never in pictures ...that's because I'm taking them....but Cynthia couldn't resist taking a pic of an amazed woman.....hovering 7 miles above Greenland.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Temptations in Zurich and Slovenia

If you have a weakness for chocolate...or fresh fruit pies....or grilled sausage...or golden fried hash browns...or crisp pomme frites...(fries) or cheese in a hundred varieties...or creamy yogurt (in small glass jars) or crusty whole grain bread...or exceptional coffee with steamed milk...then avoid Zurich....because everywhere you find yourself facing cafes and restaurants...where you can indulge in luscious food.

An ordinary bakery with their extraordinary mouth-watering fresh strawberry pies

Candy shop windows are sensual galleries of color and can you refuse the invitation to go in?

Glow worms of chocolate happiness

Slovenia has extraordinary treats a woman in the capital city let's me share her gorgeous fruit sundae through my lens......

This little cutie was the night waiter at one of the cafes in Lake Bled, Slovenia....In the evening, I would walk down to this little cafe overlooking an alpine lake...the cafe had bright overhead lights so I could do my homework and friendly wait staff who suggested that writing could be improved with a brandy and a treat....this time my friend insisted I try the speciality of the house...a chocolate cake with whip cream and hazelnuts and chocolate drizzle...accompanied by a smooth tummy warming brandy....ahhhhh....there are good things in life...and cake and brandy eaten in an outside cafe next to an alpine lake is definitely one of them.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Cityscapes of Zurich

I am home now.......already Zurich seems like it was weeks ago instead of just a couple of days. Thought I would share my city and street pictures of the central city....

Threesome in the park

Along the River

Rainy Graffiti

Business man on the move

My night light...out of my hotel window

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Back to Zurich

I am back in my little section of Zurich and happz to be here....i like mz little piece of the hamlet.....and will be heading home on Fridaz.
I went to an incredible sea side town and saw this....awesome cave....where I had to walk across a suspended bridge.........that was literallz over an abyss.....geez Dante was said to have been inspiried bz Slovenia caves to write the Inferno and I see why....but I hope I have some awesome pictures so Ill write about that when I get home....
My last day in Slovenia was certainly eventful....there were huge thunderstorms and lightening and a cold front that whooshed in....when the clouds cleared a could see....snow on the tops of the was beautiful and gave me a feeling what it must be like to see these grand mountains in the winters....awesome...
The group had a farewell dinner.....and I sat across from one of the more interesting students.....Ill call Alice.....shes from the west coast and although shes 29....her philosophy of life is to work hard for a couple months a year and coast around.....shes a poet....quite a good one....her poetry centers around her brother right now who died of unknown causes and was found on a playground ...face down.
We just started eating when she looked funny grabbed her throat and said she thought a fish bone was lodged inside her throat....having experienced a similiar incident a couple months ago...i knew to have her try and eat some bread and drink....but no luck and worse she has panic attacks...which she started to I told one of the faculty we best get her to an ER......and off we an unknown town and an unknown hospital.....
it was a bit scary.....mostly because of the language problems...or potential problems....i got to the front desk and told the nurse triage person.....FISHBONE IN NECK.....real loud and slow....falling into that stupid trap of thinking if you saz something louder and slower in a foreign language someone will understand you...fortunately most slovenians speak ENglish or enough of it....and they examined her.....meanwhile the faculty person who drove us..had also been feeling ill....and I gave her my anitibiotics....because she appeared to have  bronchitis...and had had pneumonia a few months ago......
I talked to the doctor who spoke reasonable English and was much impressed with him...he was doing everzthing right....competent...compassionate.....and accurate....Alice would have to be taken to the capital citzy (an 45 minute drive away) to be scoped....and have the bone removed with an ENT doctor.....yikes...meanwhile I look for the faculty memeber and the nurses point to a room.....I walk in and find her half naked with EKG pads on her...she told them about her coughing and they decided to work her now I had both rooms....and was trying to coordinate who was doing what.....
The faculty member got diagnosed with bronchitis....and another faculty member and Alices good friend came with the other van and whisked her away to Luiblijana where they retrieved what I heard was a "fricking large bone".....with a scope.....
I went back to the hotel and a few students where still of the poets travels with his we sat in the conference room on the top floor listening to him play....all of it sounded beautiful.....I was offered some honey brandy and I accepted....this is great stuff ...gentle strong almost clear....I have a bottle and hope to see if I can buy some back was kind of an odd ending to the program.....not only the stress of some folks not feeling well....but also how the group looked at me....
During the week one person....told me she considered me an intruder in essence...because this was a mfa program....and I didnät have my masters in writing nor was I in the program.....all of the faculty and students were kind to me and sometimes were even careful to obviously include me in things...but all of them....questioned could I participate if I wasnät a MFA candidate?....telling them the chair of the faculty invited me because he obviously thought my writing and work with him was solid.. didnät cut it...nor what I have written or even that I had several graduate level writing courses under my there was always this sense when I critqued....or suggested things....was my opinion or comments valid because I wasnät part of the program?
LOL....sometimes too....I questioned their validity.....most fact the majority.....had no idea what the real world of writing and getting published was about....they had no idea about lit mags or how they would even attempt to get published or what was requried of them...they seemed to think that simply their degree would get them work...and although it will in some cases.....there are so many writing programs....that is no longer a guarantee of publication....its almost always the work and what it accomplishes and what an editor wants to accomplish.
So my mixed bag of goods....from the experience...the beauty of seaside coasts...the scariness of caves....the interloper....the nurse......a very interesting experience all and all....and I will make something of it.....MFA or not.....LOL::::
Hoping I have some fantastic pictures...have my fingers crossed......plan to post them

Monday, July 02, 2007

Off to the seaside... me if I could yodel I would have...zesterday as we took a trip to the Julian Swiss Alps....Im not sure exactlz how high we were at the pass.....I think i heard 6000 feet.....the trip up and down from the pass is quite an adventure....there are 49....thatæs right 49 hairpin turns......I didnæt count them I was too busy trying not to get car sick.....but they are nicelz labeled by the slovenian gov so you can have something to focus on....besides the abyss on one side...high close rock walls...narrow roads...and the usual guardrail where someone had gone through to set ominous thoughts in your mind...
I have also started a chocolate adventure....another day another tzpe of chocolate which is reallz a glorious mini type of journey....all these chocolates are stocked at the local mini mart close to my hotel...ive sampled polish chocolate, german cholocate....austrian chocolate...and todaz....a generic slovenian chocolate bar....ill report on food and things later
im off to the adriatic sea to a small town that start with a P that escapes me....we will be there one day attend some writing conference at a universitz....and then return....
homecoming is coming soon....leaving thursday for zurich.....
hope you all have a good holidaz this week.....from