The ninth path

One of my first posts on The Florida Dispatch (A Sharp Shard of Time) pondered on how some moments survive perfectly preserved through time—like ancient insects caught in amber and found intact hundreds of thousands years later, trapped in the hardened resin.

The example I gave was an Air France menu that my parents annotated while flying to Europe on their honeymoon. The time was precisely 12:45, 21 April, 1958. They were right over New Orleans. They had downed two glasses of champagne, they had eaten Fricandeau de Veau Portugaise, opined that the flight attendants were snotty, and were wildly in love as that airplane propelled them into their future.

Turns out that at the same time, 22 April, 1958, Hunter S. Thompson—also roughly the same age as my parents—was writing a letter to a friend. The subject: finding your purpose in life.

I wonder: Would my parents have lived differently had they read the letter Thompson was drafting in New York while they were flying?

mom and dad in Coliseum

My parents, of course…

More importantly, dear reader, will Hunter Thompson’s words in 2017 alter the course of our lives—yes, yours and mine—even by 5 degrees? Well, let’s find out!

Here is the letter that ricochets across the Internet right into your screen. It might seem long, but READ it (please, please, pretty please). After all, we’re talking about the meaning of life, so give it a few minutes of your time, ok?

April 22, 1958
57 Perry Street
New York City

Dear Hume,

You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal — to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.

I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles … ” (Shakespeare)

And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect — between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.

But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he’s not after the “big rock candy mountain,” the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?

The answer — and, in a sense, the tragedy of life — is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.

So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?

The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all, or not with tangible goals, anyway. It would take reams of paper to develop this subject to fulfillment. God only knows how many books have been written on "the meaning of man" and that sort of thing, and god only knows how many people have pondered the subject. (I use the term “god only knows” purely as an expression.) There’s very little sense in my trying to give it up to you in the proverbial nutshell, because I’m the first to admit my absolute lack of qualifications for reducing the meaning of life to one or two paragraphs.

I’m going to steer clear of the word “existentialism,” but you might keep it in mind as a key of sorts. You might also try something called “Being and Nothingness” by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called “Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre.” These are merely suggestions. If you’re genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you’re doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.) But back to the answer. As I said, to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors.WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.

But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors — but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires — including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.

As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).

In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life — the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.

Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN — and here is the essence of all I’ve said — you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.

Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ve lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn’t any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.

So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”

And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know — is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.

If I don’t call this to a halt, I’m going to find myself writing a book. I hope it’s not as confusing as it looks at first glance. Keep in mind, of course, that this is MY WAY of looking at things. I happen to think that it’s pretty generally applicable, but you may not. Each of us has to create our own credo — this merely happens to be mine.

If any part of it doesn’t seem to make sense, by all means call it to my attention. I’m not trying to send you out “on the road” in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that — no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.

And that’s it for now. Until I hear from you again, I remain,

Your friend,
Hunter


(letter found serendipitously here via my cousin Nayeli, depicted here as I see her, well on her ninth path.

Nayeli

Just ask…

Sometimes you just ask and —wham!— you get. On occasion, even way more than what you expected.

For example, yesterday I looked at a menu and ordered key lime pie (I was at Key West’s Blue Heaven, so it was sort of a must).

Not even that piece of pie could distract me from the vibrant art on the table so I asked the waiter after the artist who did it.

A slice of art

“Sure, Carrie Disrud, she lives a block away from here”, he said. “She’ll be happy to see you”.

Minutes later, I was knock knock knocking on Carrie’s door. Her husband Tom, a tall warm person, led me to the artist, who was grooming her dog.

After the initial greetings and hugs, I asked: “When did you know you were an artist?”

“When did you?” she countered.

I confessed that I’m not, but can surely be described as a very enthusiastic obsessive/compulsive amateur.

Then she uttered words of wisdom: “The best place to start is now”, so we did.

I just happened to have shreds of torn paper (heavy, watercolor, archival grade, of course) in my bag.

We colored and glued them on a square of blank stock while my friend Debbie took pictures of the house, as unique as Carrie’s art.

A couple of hours later, after eating a masterful pizza baked by Tom, I left with our joint effort.

The place to start

It is called —of course— The Best Place to Start is Now.

So just ask for pie. Your life might suddenly change.

I play mind games…

The following was published in the National Parkinson Foundation’s website.

I play mind games. Literally.

I create memory games in hopes to boost cognitive function in people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). I know the effectiveness of these games is still being debated but, hey, at the very least they provide a welcome distraction from PD.

But let me backtrack a little. On February 10, 2014, I heard the end of me in four words, “You have Parkinson’s disease.” Though my heart kept beating, I realized that my life as I knew it was gone that day. Then, when after a few weeks the echo of the words “progressive, incurable disease” went down a notch, I started to realize that my brain was different.

I turned from obsessive reader to compulsive illustrator. No longer did I carry a couple of books in my bag to not run out of reading material… Now I always have pens, markers and sketchpads in my bag, “just in case I have a minute to draw.”

And yes, now we are back on the conversation’s track regarding the mind games. They are a product of this compulsive drawing.

Someone asked me recently, after seeing me draw on and on without even pausing to drink coffee (which would have been unthinkable four years ago), “If you could, would you go back to your previous life, when you were healthy and worked in an office, Or would you choose to stay in this life, in which you indulge in illustration but have Parkinson’s?”

When you have your health and youth, you tend to take things for granted, to think that life just flows by. But when you have to fight for every inch of it, it becomes precious. You say, oh, I’m b.r.e.a.t.h.i.n.g!

In my case, as a bonus I found my purpose in life, which is helping people through the images and words I craft.

I also think a silver lining of the dark Parkinson’s cloud is being a part of an extensive network of parkie peers and other fabulous people you get to meet along the way. I believe that sharing makes us all stronger, so I have joined many activities.

  • I’m part of The Tampa Bay Tremble Clefs, a Parkinson’s chorus that helps patients find therapeutic values in group singing. Together, we sing as therapy. Led by speech pathologists, it helps our voice, our articulation and even helps us breathe better.
  • I participate in a pilot program that teaches me self-efficacy and how to take ownership of my life and the Parkinson’s in order to have a better outcome.
  • My friend Joe Fabrizzio and I started a support group in New Port Richey, FL. We gather once a month to talk about our symptoms and how we’re coping. We are happy to have a place where we can be understood. We shake and shuffle at ease, and take care of each other. I love all my support group members like siblings, we are family. Twice a week we do a Parkicise class, as I call it, for it is an exercise program tailored especially for Parkinson’s.

So far, I’ve attended two Moving Day® Tampa events. I love meeting with that huge chunk of my Parkinson’s family. It’s powerful to see that so many share this condition. I’m also moved to see the families who are there to support their loved ones. At the same time, I can’t help but remember that there are plenty of people who can’t leave their home, or lack a supportive community, and that strengthens my resolve to work for Parkinson’s awareness.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this conversation and the mind games. The more I found out about my brain, the more I wanted to create a gizmo to help me and the entire Parkinson’s community with our cognitive issues, which are as important as the motor symptoms, if not more.

My memory card game comes with 24 cards with my drawings. Traditional matching games use only images. In mine, one piece of each pair has text in it. This way, the game engages both the limbic system and the part of the brain that processes language. I say that it is sort of a gym for all mental muscle groups!

I also use the card game as a conversation piece. I figured people with Parkinson’s can use it as an icebreaker, since the cards can prompt and guide conversation.

Finally, I want to share the phases that I have gone through personally with Parkinson’s, to see if they echo someone else’s journey:

  1. For the first year, the meds took care of most of the symptoms. That made it easy for me to forget that PD is a progressive disease.
  2. Then the little reminders started to appear. A tremor here, a freezing there. I was still pretty cocky: “I’m going to beat it. I’m going to kick Parkinson’s in the face.”
  3. Finally I realized that Parkinson’s is bigger that I thought and has sharp teeth that bite hard, so I became guardedly optimistic. I know that I’m outmatched and Parkinson’s will win at the end, but I’m going to do my best to cope with it and try to squeeze out every little bit of joy I can out of my days.

My father taught me that a sense of humor is the only weapon against the inevitable blows of life —it is what it is—, so I hope to have the last laugh and tell Mr. Parkinson: “All right, you win, but you can’t take away the fact that I had a wonderful ride out of life”.

I love the Parkinson’s Foundation. Thank you for being there for me. It’s bad enough to deal with such a mean disease, but at least it makes it bearable when you’re working with others.

Attitude, attitude, attitude (two very tiny videos)

On Sunday I went to a store and rode up the escalators to the third floor. Me being the image-obsessed creature that Parkinson’s Disease has turned me into, I took video with my phone. On the way down I did the same thing.

Same store, same day, same escalators, same iPhone. Then I edited video for the first time and added music to each. The results were so different!

1. Caged Butterflies

and 2. Liberated Butterflies.

Need I go into the whole spiel that attitude is crucial to what we get out of that short escalator ride we call life?

So what musical score is playing in the background of your life? Please share, I really want to know.

Linguistics, strictly linguistics.

Have you noticed that I refrain from posting political commentary?

Truth is, for the last couple of years I have cared little for what the Romans called the res publica (the “public thing”).

In the spirit of the Vedic tradition that drives those who have more years behind them than future into the wilderness to reflect, I am on a personal soul-searching quest that leaves no room for politics and the fiery discussions it ignites.

And in these inner wanderings I have sensed, as the Bhagavad Gita and the Chandogya Upanishad point out, that ignorance breeds fear, while knowledge makes us glimpse the interconnectedness of all beings (echoed in the Biblical dictum “Love thy neighbor”).

If we follow this premise we might conclude that when we hurt others we hurt ourselves. So I try to listen to everybody, left and right, up, down and sideways, liberal and conservative, in the middle or who knows where, while always keeping in mind the ethics of reciprocity and the fact that we are all together in our collective human condition.

This is just a long preamble to explain why I am sharing an article by John McWorther on Trump’s use of language. Raise your hand —even though I can’t see it— if you have ever been baffled by the way he talks. 

So, dear readers (my fellow humans, my siblings, as the poet Baudelaire would say), I am not posting on politics. I’m just an introspective, secular humanist sharing a post on linguistics.

Click and ponder. 

How to Listen to Donald Trump Every Day for Years

On the fleeting nature of life

FullSizeRender 3.jpg

It was the 8th century in what is today the United Kingdom…  Saint Bede sat as a guest in a dining hall talking important truths to a heathen audience when an unexpected bird came flying into the hall and then winged out into the night.

With vivid imagery from his time and place, Bede then painted a striking metaphor of life:

“It seems to me that the life of man on earth is like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter’s day with your captains and counsellors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall. Outside, the storms of winter rain and snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one window of the hall and out through another. While he is inside, the bird is safe from the winter storms, but after a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. So man appears on earth for a little while – but of what went before this life, or what follows, we know nothing.”

I could never be as eloquent as Bede, but if I had to describe life in my own sloppy way with similar 2017 imagery. Since I am on a cruise, at dinner I would tell my fellow cruise mates the following, after crediting Bede for the concept:

“It seems to me that the life of man on earth is like the swift passage of a Norwegian Cruise Line guest through the giant water slide of this great ship –a metaphor for life itself– on which we sail with friends, family and strangers. In the midst there are literally tons of comforting food and entertainment. Outside, the storms of politics and reality are raging. You slide swiftly on an inflatable doughnut through the toboggan on the upper deck. While you are laughing your way through the ride you are happy and carefree, but after a few moments of joy, you vanish into the harsh world from whence you came. So man appears on earth for a little while – but what will follow when we dock, we know nothing”.

Meet Laura

This post was originally published by Gil Thelen in shufflingeditor.com.

Who’s afraid of palliative care? My editor, of course. Mention palliative care to a Parkie, and most will recoil in real or imagined terror. The first mental association is to hospice and/or…

Source: Meet Laura

Walls with a twist

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” goes Robert Frost’s poem. I paraphrase it with an additional word: “Something there is that doesn’t love a blank wall” and goes to extraordinary aesthetic lengths to make it more interesting. This is the gallery where I store pics of walls (or doors, which are walls that open and close) with a twist.

 

Popo, Ixta and a moment in time

In 1519, the conquistador Hernan Cortes and his few hundred probably tired and certainly stinky men, climbed the road between the Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl volcanos and beheld the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan down below.

Popo-and-Ixta

Picture taken on the way from Mexico City to Atlixco, Puebla.

Bernal Diaz del Castillo described the moment  as follows: “And when we saw all those towns and villages built on the water, and other great towns on dry land, and that straight and level causeway leading to Mexico, we were astounded. These great towns… and buildings rising from the water, all made of stone, seemed like an enchanted vision… Indeed some of our soldiers asked whether it was not all a dream… It was all so wonderful that I do not know how to describe this first glimpse of things never heard of, seen or dreamed of before…”

I have often tried to imagine how it would be like to go back in time to witness that moment. So here is a challenge: If you could go back in time to witness one event, which one would it be? Please post it as a comment… {Yes, reader, I’m talking to you}

It could be, for example, 26 November 1922, at the Valley of the Kings, in Egypt, when the archeologist Howard Carter and his group first look inside King Tutankhamen’s tomb. Imagine it!  Carter made the “tiny breach in the top left hand corner” of the doorway and peers by the light of a candle gold and ebony treasures. When his patron, Lord Carnarvon, asks “Can you see anything?”, Carter replies with the famous words: “Yes, wonderful things!”

Or maybe the moment Graham Bell calls Watson in what is considered to be the first phone call?

The moment Anthony and Cleopatra meet?

To be seated at one of the Buddah’s lectures after his enlightenment? (Because we are just imagining, let’s imagine also that we can understand what he says…)

The instant Michelangelo is giving the final touches to his painting in the Sistine Chapel, the one where God’s finger  almost touching Adam’s?

So, which moment in time would you choose?

A tajmahalish tree memorial

When emperor Shah Jahan’s wife Mumtaz died, he built the Taj Mahal as a 13,000 ton marker (I found the number in the Wikipedia but I’m making a point, not aiming for engineering precision) of his love for her.

Nevertheless, an unassuming marker that I found in Dunedin, FL, seemed to me just as monumental. The inscription says: “Rose, we traveled the road carrying our load side by side.” It is just signed “Ted”.

tree-epitaph-1

Of course there is an afterlife… and it´s not too late to send a postcard there

I don’t know the exact day and time, but at some point after our brain grew a neocortex with the capacity for symbolic thought, humans started to speculate about the afterlife. Is there one? If so, is it pleasant, painful as an than an eternal botched tooth extraction, or worse: boring? Can we influence where we end up everafterly once we have exhaled our last breath?

Well, yes, there is an afterlife, and apparently we can send post cards there.

Today I received an email reminding me that my friend Alina turns 44 tomorrow, and that it´s not too late to write her a birthday card. I knew she had passed when, years ago, I opened the paper and was shocked to see her obituary. Nevertheless, Alina’s Facebook page is still alive.

I can also facebook (from the verb “to facebook”) my beloved uncle Julio, notwithstanding the fact that he left the analog world some years ago –after living such an extraordinary life that those who attended his wake broke into a spontaneous ovation as his casket left the funeral house.

In that app I find not only photos of him, but also of my dad, my grandfather, my grandmother and even my great-grandmother, who never even powered up a computer before passing, but whose pictures are among the zillion albums stored in the www.

I have shaken Richard Dawkins’ hand and carry a membership card from his Foundation for Reason & Science, yet still find some comfort in that digital afterlife hosted in a thousand servers even if after the heart muscle has stopped pumping blood to the cells.

 

Wine = design

I hardly have a sense of smell so, in my case, wine tasting and its accoutrements –the decanter, the swishing of the liquid around the mouth, the uppity sniffing, the slight nod that indicates “ok, pour it” or the frown that means “inadequate!”– are moot.

I enjoy wine mostly with my imagination… and some bottles for their graphic design. For example, I love labels such as this one, by one of my favorite artists, Ralph Steadman.

MontesFollylabel

I met Richard Dawkins in church. Really.

Last night I shook hands with the author of The God Delusion in a church, of all places. The Master of Ceremonies was Herb Silverman, known as The Unflappable Atheist. The event took place in a most cordial environment. No otherworldly brimstone rained on him and no angry masses lynched him.

You might know about Richard Dawkins and maybe even have a rock-hard opinion regarding his scientific approach. But for those who have never heard of Silverman,The Florida Dispatch briefly explains that this witty man ran for governor of South Carolina just to challenge the state’s religious test requirement to hold public office (he admits he didn’t stand a prayer of winning the race in what is considered to be “the buckle of the Bible Belt”, and adds that had he been elected he might have started to believe in God… it would have been that miraculous).

Dawkins presented his book A Brief Candle in the Wind. Given that today’s average attention span has been said to be 8.5 seconds, I will also be brief and just say that the talk was wonderful (I am very enthusiastic and love hyperbole).

Just allow me to underscore two things:

First, Dawkins’ British accent seemed to me so charming that it should win any argument just on the strength of its phonetics (how is that for logical reasoning, eh?). He read aloud a couple of hate mails he received and did so in a voice so b.e.a.u.t.i.f.u.l. they almost seemed like praise. Here are a couple, but it’s up to you to imagine the accent:

“I hope you get run over by a church truck.”

And brace yourself for a most fierce one:

“I hope you lose your watch and are late to a very important meeting.”

Second, the venue itself. We gathered at the church of the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater (www.uuc.org), who do not ask their members to subscribe to a creed, and where you can find Christian, Buddhist, agnostic, Hindu, Jewish, atheist or Shinto members. Here is a church where you could show up in a T-shirt with the word “SKEPTIC” printed large on it and no one would challenge you.

Even Pastafarians would be welcome, that is, those who belong to the Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I would have stayed so much longer in all that all-embracing company, but the event took just a couple of hours and ended with a book signing session. I couldn’t help myself and also shook hands with Dr. Dawkins, behaving thus like the idol-worshipping fetishist that I am.

Dawkings and I

Choosing food based on aesthetics

Are you among those who pick a wine because the label is “cute”?

Have you ever turned down delicious gusanos de maguey (worms that live in the maguey cactus) just because they are “ugly”?

Do you wonder: “Who was the brave person who first ate an oyster…they look so icky?”

Well, this is a gallery where I post food with added aesthetic condiment.

image

Salad a la Pollock

food-a-la-rothko-crop

Chicken a la Miro

beauty-of-celery

Beauty of a celery stick

dragon-fruit-open

Rather tasteless but beautiful, like some people

 

Disappointed to find out that Stephan Pastis is not slobbish…

I went to a Stephan Pastis book signing, for I am a fan of his comic strip. I expected him to be in the flesh the way he portrays (cartoons?) himself in Pearls Before Swine: unkempt; with a hanging beer pouch and wild, confused eyes. A little smelly, even.

I was disappointed to find out that, far from being slobbish, he is even good looking.

%$#$%, he didn’t even wear his cap backward!

Pastis crop

“Let me show you my pictures”

“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar to Alice in Wonderland, and caught her unprepared for  such a question.

Had he asked me, I would have immediately sat down, poured myself some coffee (if available) and answered: “I am someone fascinated by the world and time I was born into, so I write about it and take pictures with my iPad mini”.

Then I would have spent hours showing the Caterpillar my photos, such as the one below, and come up with obscure references and quotes related –most of the time– to the subject being discussed.

Those friends and family –and even acquaintances and innocent passersby– who have been victims of my picture showing sessions know that the hypothetical encounter would probably have ended with the Caterpillar begging:

“Please forget I even asked!”

who am I

Selfie taken in front of a cristal door behind which some metalwork is also reflected, plus some color photoshopped in just for fun.

A sharp shard of time

A sharp shard of time

If you delve into boxes with old pictures, handle with care! Some memories might cut you. Time has made them brittle, and preserved them so well that all its details are focused and sharp. As an example, here is the menu of the Air France flight that took my mother and father on their honeymoon to France. It is dated April 21st,1958.

My dad scribbled on it that it was 12:45, and they had just flown over New Orleans. My mom was happy because she had not been seasick. They had loved the Fricandeau de Veau Portugaise (or maybe its impressive name). They didn’t like the snotty flight assistants, and said they would not fly Air France again.

On the menu they also marked that they had toasted with two glasses of champagne, and thought they might go for two more. Even though I wasn’t there–primarily because I had not been born yet–I can picture them in black and white, shining with happiness.

Why do memories cut so deep and hurt so much?

mom-and-dad-in-Coliseum

One momentous insight

I suddenly realize that I am having the best day of my life. Most importantly, I am enjoying it. I take this picture of the beach, the birds flying over the sky reflected on the water.

A worker at the pier where I am going to watch the sun set says “Have a good day”.

That is an understatement, so I answer that I am having the best day of my life.

“Why is that?” he asks.

This is also is one afternoon full of momentous insights.

“Because every day should be the best day of our lives,” I add.

The very best espresso I will ever drink

This plain-looking, unassuming cup of coffee HAS to be the best ounce of espresso I ever had.

I am not an educated barista, and my taste buds are not in the better of shapes, so how can I make such a sweeping assertion?

By deduction.

I am in the Guatemalan highlands, at the four-generations owned Dalton plantation where everything leads to my perfect espresso. Our guide, Roberto, should know… he has drunk four cups of coffee a day since he was four years old.

IMG_1241

A perfect little bean.

He explains that the beans have been hand-picked by women (I learn that they are better suited to the task than men because their hands have a preferable PH level) after growing under ideal conditions. The altitude is just right, the volcanic soil is nutritious and the plants are kept under trees brought from Australia and pruned to give 45% shade.

They must be very happy beans, and only perfect ones, also selected by hand, have gone into my beverage. I am awed to be in the presence of a Class 1 Specialty Grade cuppa, as per the Green Coffee Classification System.

Conscious of the great responsibility I have to enjoy this experience, I clean my palate with mineral water and shake the cup to release the the aroma. Then I take that first sip that will open my taste buds.

I stir the espresso to mix the oils and the sugars and take the second sip, the good one.

“Oh, wonderful moment!” I tell myself. Then I consider, after the ounce of liquid is gone: “It was probably the best espresso I will come across in my life. Besides, it was so good that now I’m spoiled for every subsequent coffee I will drink”.

Seen from a plane

When I was a child, my very devout grandmother told me that there were angels in the clouds.

On my first trip on an airplane, many years ago, I expected to see this:

CherubIt is hard, growing up.