Ten Amazing Travel Days

Ten Amazing Travel Days

“It’s a perfect day, drank Sangria in the park, later on when it gets dark, we go home”  Lou Reed

A perfect travel day is when everything falls seamlessly into place. There are days when you experience amazing things because the world is an incredible place. I picked ten of my favorite days

Cappadocia , Turkey

Cappadocia could be among my favorite places in the world.  The dramatic landscape is the result of volcanic eruptions that happened millions of years ago. Wind and water eroded the land leaving these odd surreal land formations, fairy chimneys, caves and underground cities.

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Floating across the sky at sunrise, above the lunar-like, rugged moonscape of Cappadocia in a hot air balloon was one of the most incredible mornings of my life and should be on everyone’s bucket list.

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Dubrovnik and Peljesac Penninsula, Croatia

I had a great time in Croatia with my kids. A particularly beautiful day was spent exploring the Peljesac Peninsula with our tour guide Petar Vlasik http://www.dubrovnikrivieratours.com.  We stopped at a few different wineries for wine tasting. Ston is a fortified city from the middle ages with stone ramparts said to resemble a small great wall of China. Ston is known for their lush oyster beds and salt pans and is a great place to eat the freshest oysters and buy salt.

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That night we attended a really good jazz concert at the Old Rectory Church in Dubrovnik. It was a great family memory.

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Onsets and Ryokans, Japan

Ryokan are Japanese style inns found throughout the country in hot springs resorts. Ryokan are a traditional Japanese experience, incorporating elements such as tatami floors, futon beds, Japanese style baths and local kaiseki ryori (eight course typical Japanese meals with local and seasonal specialties).

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The main activity besides eating is bathing. The geothermal springs located throughout the country( onsens) provide hot mineral-rich water for indoor and outdoor baths. The chemistry, temperature, pressure, buoyancy, sulfa and magnesium of thermal baths have curative properties . The meals show all that is beautiful about Japanese culture. Kaiseki is a multi course meal rooted in the Buddhist idea of simplicity. I have been fortunate to visit a few ryokans in Nikko, Yufuin and Iso Nagaoka. Each one has been special.

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Marajo, Brazil

Marajo is an island in Brazil in the state of Para at the mouth of the Amazon. It is the size of Switzerland and home to many beautiful birds and water buffalo.

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The story goes that a ship laden with goods and water buffalo from India hit a reef and sank off the coast of Marajo. Some of the buffalo escaped the wreck and swam to shore. The buffalo are descendants of this shipwreck though now more have been brought in. There are large herds of domesticated water buffalo on the island. At Fazenda Sanjo you can experience life on a farm in the Amazon. There is piranha fishing, riding and milking buffalo, canoeing and horseback riding through the river with the buffalo. We did the riding with the buffalo. It was definitely the most different thing I have ever seen up close and pretty amazing.

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Edinburgh, Scotland

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a summer theatre festival that includes cutting edge theatre, interesting comedians, and everything else. It is a festival where anyone can perform and my daughter’s high school took advantage of that and had a three-week summer program in Edinburgh. My son and I went to see her perform. It was my first time at the Edinburgh Fringe. Being a theatre person, I loved every minute of it and have been back a few times.

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My son worked there the following summer. The Royal Mile is the definitive part of the fringe. This road is packed full of street entertainment, groups doing excerpts from their shows (mainly musicals) and lots, lots and lots of acts trying to flyer you to get you to see their shows. There’s not really any equivalent to this anywhere else. Theatre goes on all day and all night. We had a blast.

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Cartagena, Colombia

The heat in Cartagena gives it a sleepy feeling which kind of makes it okay to sit on the wall, browse through shops and street vendors, buy fresh fruit from a woman carrying it on her head and not go to a museum.

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La Boquilla is a poor fishing village twenty minutes outside of Cartegena. It is a peninsula at the end of a beach with the Caribbean Sea on one side and a lake with mangroves on the other. The guide takes you on an old canoe through mangrove tunnels with flocks of birds and fishermen fishing for crabs ,shrimp and small fish.

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After the canoe they pull out a fresh coconut and make a hole for a straw with a machete. I walk for a long time on the beach with my feet in the Caribbean Sea. I have lunch on the beach of fresh fish, plantains and coconut rice.

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez became a writer in Cartegena. His novel Love in The Time Of Cholera Is set here. It is one of my favorites. I see Fermina riding in the horse and carriages and Florentino wandering everywhere in despair. You can see how much of Cartegena is in his books.

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Hoi An, Viet Nam

Hoi An is one of the most charming cities in Viet Nam .Hoi An’s Old Quarter is lined with two-story old Chinese buildings that now house shops with elaborately carved wooden facades and moss-covered tile roofs.

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The food market reminds visitors of another era when it was filled with goods from all over the Asia. (mangos, rambuchan, snake wine) Hoi An is a place where you can get clothes and shoes made at a reasonable price as long as you have a picture. It is also one of the best eating cities in Viet Nam and known for cooking classes and especially delicious food.

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After spending the day in the hustle and bustle of the busy streets of Hoi An, i head back to the Nam Hai all-villa resort on quiet Hoi An Beach. The contemporary architecture is welcoming and eye-catching as feng shui mingles with strong modern lines.

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The Spa at the Nam Hai is truly something wonderful. Composed of 8 villas, floating around a lotus pond, it is the ideal location for a relaxing massage, steam shower and herbal tea! The people who work there are most helpful and always want to practice their English.

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Venice, Italy

Every corner you turn in Venice ,you walk deeper into some real-life watercolor painting that a camera can never do justice. It’s like no place else I’ve ever been.

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It’s  a maze of canals and small streets, whimsical bridges, and colorful buildings. And as with all mazes, you should prepare to find yourself lost a time or two. I was there with my kids and a friend,  It was during the Art Biennale in the summer.

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We got to see incredible modern art from all over the world in the morning and explore the city in the afternoon.

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An important Venetian holiday is held on the third week in July. It is the Feast of the Redentore commemorating the end of the plague that killed fifty thousand people including Titian. The fireworks display is so extensive and significant that the re-election of the mayor is contingent on their quality (sort of like us picking a governor based on his movies) I have to add that they were the most incredible fireworks of our lives –I hope that mayor got re-elected.

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Buenos Aires, Argentina

It started in Tigre, a port a half hour from Buenos Aires. We sailed through the different rivers of the Delta Del Parana.

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At lunchtime, we went to Tres Esquinas in Barranca, a working class barrio in Buenos Aires for steak and empanadas. I love outdoor markets but the Sunday antiques market in Plaza Dorrego  in San Telmo is a phenomenon. The antiques are around the plaza but the shopping continues with arts and crafts vendors for many blocks. It is curbside capitalism at its finest.

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La Confiteria Ideal did not start as a tango hall but as  a pastry café in 1912. In the nineties it became a tango hall. Its faded glamour was a perfect background for the faded glamour of the tango dancers I saw that day. Dance has been a big part of my life. Andres Miguel my tour guide is a tango dancer.  tango@culturacercana.com.ar  Everything we did that day was related to tango  –  a boat on a river, good food and shopping, a milonga and always tango stories. He was the perfect tour guide for me and gave me a gift of the perfect day.

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Krueger National Park, South Africa

My daughter and my new son-in-law  were married on a safari In South Africa with sixty-five of their closest friends and family. A game park in Africa is an unlikely wedding destination. (We Love Pictures)

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You know that word that we Americans overuse for everything – awesome? i didn’t expect to have the feeling of humbleness and awe I had when seeing the African animals in the wild up close. There are moments of joy in your life. Watching your daughter get married to the right guy   in the peace and beauty of the African Bush is a distinctive moment of happiness. Watching your son officiate the wedding with intelligence, humor, kindness, sensitivity and even a bit of spirituality  (albeit in the form of animals)  makes it perfect.

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Fly safe,
JAZ

My Top Ten Desserts In The World So Far

My Top Ten Desserts In The World So Far

“I am starting to think that maybe memories are like this dessert. I eat it, and it becomes a part of me, whether I remember it later or not.” Erica Bauermeister

When the mood for dessert strikes, I am there. I consider it a necessity not a choice to try desserts when I am traveling.  There isn’t a problem in the world that a good dessert can’t make feel a little better. Here are some of my favorites in no particular order.

Pastel de Nata – Portugal

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Baklava – Greece

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Red Velvet Cupcakes – USA

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 Semolina Halva –  Turkey (nice with fresh fruit)

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Black Sesame Ice Cream – Japan

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 Malva Pudding  (poeding) – South Africa

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Sweet Sticky Rice With Coconut Cream and Mango – Thailand

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Dulce de Leche –  Argentina ( on ice cream, cookies, cake, bread)

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 Fresh Acai  and Tapioca Ice Cream – Belem, Brazil

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Mango Pudding – Hong Kong

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Fly safe, JAZ

My Selfie, My Life or People Taking Selfies Around The World

My Selfie,My Life or People Taking Selfies Around The World

“I will go so far as to say without Instagram, there may never have been the word, ‘selfie.”

Ken Poirot

What happens when almost every phone has a built in camera?  There are a lot of people taking selfies. Is it a sign of being self absorbed or self reliant? Either way for some people, no day is complete until the selfie is posted.

Netherlands

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France

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South Africa

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USA

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Australia

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Brazil

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Japan

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England

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Turkey

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Norway

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South Korea

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North Korea

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Fly Safe,

JAZ

First Food That I Want To Eat When I Revisit A Country

First Food That I Want To Eat When I Revisit a Country

“Like I said before. Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”Anthony Bourdain

 Japan Sushi at Tsukiji Market, any dessert made with yuzu or green tea.

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 Turkey Pide, fresh pomegranate juice, anything with eggplant, and any dessert made with semolina.

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 Croatia Fresh tuna and bean salad, grilled calamari and swiss chard.

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Cambodia Fresh coconut water and amok (I loved Cambodian food).

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 Greece Avgolemono soup, baklava and Greek salad (feta, tomatoes and olive oil don’t taste the same anywhere else).

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 Italy Pizza, pasta with fresh tomato sauce and basil.  (My dream is to go to Sicily and eat pizza).

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South Africa Biltong (Im not even a meateater and I love it).

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Israel  Falafel and Hummus.

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Colombia Guanabana juice and Arepa con Quisito.

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Spain Churros, hot chocolate and real gazpacho.

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 Panama Sancocho soup.

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Netherlands Pofferjes and poached egg on brioche with smoked salmon, (first time that I have had that).

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Brazil Tacaca with shrimp and fresh acai ( not the watered down sugary stuff we get here) in the Amazon.

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 Thailand Thai iced coffee.

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 Peru Ceviche with giant corn.

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Argentina Alfajores from Havanna.

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Mexico Tacos, guacamole, mole or really anything in Oaxaca. (except not a fan of the crickets every day)

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USA When I come home I want a turkey burger from Golden State in LA.

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Fly safe,
JAZ

Beaches

Beaches

‘So that the monotonous fall of the waves on the beach, which for the most part beat a measured and soothing tattoo to her thoughts seemed consolingly to repeat over and over again… “Virginia Woolf

I know the beach. I grew up on one. I knew the color of the sand, the coldness of the water, how the waves break and the distance between the jutting rocks. I found this photo on the internet. I lived right behind the left side of that  photo. I also learned to ride my bike at the beginning of the boardwalk. The houses weren’t there yet. It was all beach. but that red brick wall was. When we mastered the two wheeler, we would come careening down that incline with the dangerous thrill of wondering if we would turn the wheel before smashing into the wall. I ended up riding right on the beach a lot.  (Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York)

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I liked how the sand felt on my toes and how the sun warmed my back. (Okinawa,Japan)

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I knew where to find clam shells, crabs and snails. In the winter I built snowmen on the beach. In the spring, I chased birds. When I got older, I dated a lot of the lifeguards in the summer. I was happiest in a bikini on the beach getting a tan. (Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia)

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I remember sad moments, scary moments and wonderful moments in an ocean. (Santa Barbara,California)

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I’ve seen the power of hurricanes, felt the waves knocking me down or the undertow pulling me further out and almost drowned. There was always at least one drowning per summer. (Cartagena,Colombia)

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We rented beach houses in Malibu when our kids were young. (Malibu, California)

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One summer, I decided to make a table out of sea glass. I needed thirty pounds of sea glass and I was determined to get it. I enlisted the help of family and friends. When a big pile of rocks came up, I was out there for hours, with my feet cut up. It was a job. Everyone on the beach wanted sea glass. I have the table. (Shell from Eluthera, Bahams)

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I still always look for sea glass on a beach.

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I bring bags of shells or stones home from any beach in the world. I can not walk on a beach without looking for treasures. (Panama)

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I turn to water for a sense of calm and clarity. (Hvar, Croatia)

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The ocean gives my brain a rest and heals what is broken. (Marajo, Brazil)

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It connects me to something beyond myself. (Great Barrier Reef, Australia)

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My life and my problems always seem very small compared to the vastness of the ocean. (Varadero, Cuba)

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When I walk onto a beach in any country, it invokes the memories of my childhood and I am at home. (Paraty, Brazil)

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Fly safe,

JAZ

 

 

Thirty Things That I Wanted To Do In 2014. Did I Do Them?

Thirty Things That I Wanted To Do 2014. Did I Do Them?

“Every hundred feet, the world changes.”  Robert Boitano

  1. Go to Colombia. Yes
  2. Go To Southeast Asia. Yes
  3. Go to Seattle. Yes
  4. Read more books on the 1000 Books You Have To Read Before You Die. Yes
  5. Go to the theatre with my son. Yes
  6. Meditate every day. I think this may be like a dieting resolution. I will make it every year. Still not every day.
  7. Do an Urban Art tour in LA. No definitely in 2015
  8. Do a spa day with my daughter. Yes
  9. Watch even less Real Housewives. Yes they are getting boring now that so many of them are going to jail.
  10. Go to Guatemala. No
  11. Go To Miami. Yes
  12. Have more spiritual friends. Now I want to have less spiritual friends.
  13. Eat less sugar. Hmmmmm not sure but probably not.
  14. Go to the Bridge On The River Kwai. No
  15. Try ten new restaurants in LA. Yes Orsa and Winston, Bucato, Sushi Tsujita, Bachi Burger, Cleo, Republique, Wallys, Everleigh, Carousel and Escuela De Taqueria
  16. Try ten restaurants in other places. Yes Andres Carne De Res – Bogota Colombia, Matiz – Bogota, Colombia,  Salou – Cartegena, Colombia, Morning Glory –  Hoi An, Viet Nam, Golden Rice – Hue, Viet Nam, Pepper Tree – Phu Quoc, Viet Nam, Washoku Bar – Tokyo, Japan, The Dining Room – Siem Reap, Cambodia, Salumi –  Seattle, Washington, Anchovy and Olive – Seattle Washington.
  17. Have ten meals with Kitchensurfing. Yes
  18. Go back to Japan. Yes
  19. Spend more time at 826 LA.Yes
  20. Practice tai chi. Yes sort of.
  21.  Go to a ryokan.Yes
  22. Go To Angor Wat, YES ( a bucket list item)
  23. Drink less coffee maybe No
  24. React less. Maybe
  25. Go To Agua Dulce. Not yet
  26. Get more people to read my blog. Still trying
  27. Do more yoga. Yes
  28. Go to Bainbridge Island. Yes
  29. Go to the Grand Canyon. Not yet.
  30. Go to a Grouplove  concert. Yes

Not too bad.  Two thirds yes. I don’t beat myself up over stuff like this. On to the 2015 list. I’ll make it smaller and harder.

25 Things I  Want To Do In 2015

1. Do something big that I am afraid of.

2. Drink less coffee.

3. Go to Rio.

4. Go To Another Grouplove concert.

5. Finish my hamburger blog.

6. Get more people to read my blog.

7. Try eleven more new restaurants in LA.

8. Try eleven restaurants in other places.

9. Go to another place on my bucket list.

10. Read more books – the kind you hold in your hand that smell like books.

11. Go to Sao Paulo..

12. Meditate every day.

13. Look up less random questions on the internet.

14. Go To Brazil.

15. Have more real friends.

16. Go to The Stanley Film Festival.

17. Get more involved at 826 LA.

18. See ten documentary films.

19. See ten foreign films

20. Eat less gluten.

21. Read more of other people’s blogs.

22. Do more beach walks.

23. Be more grateful every day.

24. Finally do that urban art tour in LA.

25. Be a tourist in LA.

Happy New Year and Fly Safe,

JAZ

Places That I Have Loved

Places That I Have Loved

“The town was paper, but the memories were not.” John Green

A fortune-teller told my mother that she would die at 87.  At 85 she began to get her life in order. By the time she died at 91, everything was in boxes and labeled with notes.  There was one box that had a note pasted on it which said,“These are places that I have loved. Perhaps you will like looking at them”. There were postcards, pictures, menus and a few photos from various travels around the world. I wanted to ask why she had saved them. What were the memories in this box that she wanted us to know?

There were photos from Japan. My mother loved her trip to Japan. They had gone with a group that matched senior citizens with Japanese families who wanted to practice their English. My friend Reiko and her father took my mom out for sushi when she was there.  She talked for a long time about how expensive that dinner was. There was a picture of her in a kimono smiling with her Japanese family.

There were some postcards from Brazil. The tour group was going down to the beach and casinos in Rio. My mother had been invited to a friend’s cousin for the afternoon and dinner.  Everyone told her not to take public transportation because she could get robbed. She and her friend went on the public bus. Everyone on the bus helped them, shared their food and wanted to talk. They had to change buses and the bus driver got out and took them to the next bus. They had a wonderful dinner with their new friends and drank caipirinhas (cachaca or rum sugar and lime juice). When they returned, they heard that most of their group had been robbed at the tourist locations.

She enjoyed Australia and Israel. I don’t remember her talking about Paris or Italy. I don’t know if she ever got there. She had wanted to see the Great Wall of China.

Travel wasn’t my mother’s passion. Theatre, Opera, Ballet and Classical Music were. I wasn’t surprised to see fifty years of playbills and programs and favorite opera tickets, but I was surprised to see this box. Travel is about pictures and stories and I didn’t know all the stories.

My mother was legally blind from the time that she was seventeen years old.  The doctors said it was from looking at an eclipse. I’m not sure exactly what she saw but it wasn’t what we did. When she was young, she made the decision to have the best life she could and not let it affect her. She studied at the Lighthouse For The Blind and knew everything that was available to her to make her life easier. The only difference I noticed growing up was that my mother did not read.  She told us the stories of every opera, operetta, ballet,  Broadway show and Shakespeare play. She is most famous with her children and grandchildren for her original Bunny and Squirrel stories. (who were suspiciously a lot like us.)

She developed her other senses to compensate for her lack of vision.  My mother knew the location of every seat in every theatre in NY. She knew by memory the address and phone number of everyone in her life. She took the subways and had certain markers on the stations so she could tell where to get off. She went with the crowd at traffic lights. She would walk down the street smiling so people would think she saw them when she couldn’t. She never wanted anyone to know that she couldn’t see.

As my mother got older, she was probably almost totally blind but she never complained and asked for help when she needed it.  She had many, many friends who were always willing to go somewhere fun with her. The alternative of staying home was unthinkable. One day when she was in her seventies she asked a bus driver if it was the 21 bus and he said ” What are you? blind?” and for the first time she said yes. She was proud of that story.

I also found color-coded envelopes with separated bills in them. I think we are the only country where all our paper money is the same size. I never thought about that. Whenever I asked her for money or small bills, she gave it to me. I always assumed that she could see it.

One day she said that she wasn’t going to travel anymore because of her worsening eyesight. She was in her sixties. I felt really sad. She said “Don’t ever feel sorry for me because I have the capacity for happiness and most people don’t. I understand that happiness comes in moments and I have had many happy moments in my life. I love NY and have a lot to explore here.”

She went swimming and took dance classes. (She had been a dance teacher) She went to the theatre, ballet, symphony or opera seven days a week. She went to all the museums in NY and loved discovering new ones and sharing them with us when we came to visit. She joined a hiking group on the weekends and started going to Atlantic City for a little gambling. She was always coming to visit her children and take care of her grandchildren. My mother slowed down to three to five times a week for the theatre after age eighty-seven because her arthritis was affecting her legs. But even at that age, her phone rang more than mine did and she had friends of all ages. For her ninetieth birthday, she went to the opera with everyone in her family who could make it to NY and then her favorite Chinese restaurant. Her friends gave her a huge friend party as well a week later (Her friends ranged from ages 40-100).

She never talked about traveling again after she stopped. I looked at the memories of a life that wasn’t mine and wished that I had paid more attention.   I wondered about those fragmented, arbitrary glimpses into her life. My mother left a very important legacy to me and anyone who knew her. You always have the choice to live the best life you can, or sit in the dark.

Fly Safe,

JAZ