Thursday, April 17, 2014

(1) "YOU CAN TRUST ME TOTALLY."

linden ponds, Hingham
THANKSGI10VING DAY 2013

I DO FEEL GRATEFUL FOR MY LOVING FAMIY, BUT GOING BLIND IS THE PITS.
 I HAVE JUST SPEBT  OVER AN HOUR TRYING TO WRITE A CHECK FOR BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD,  A TASK I USED TO DO IN MINUTES.  I WAS TOTALLY DEPRESSED UNTIL  I LOOKED UP THE CURRENT STATISTICS FOR THIS BLOG AND FOUND THEY HAD JUMPED .SKYWARD SINCE YESTERDAY.  I FEEL MUCH, MUCH BETTER, THANK YOU  ALL FOR BEING INTERESTED.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING, DEAR VISITORS

P,S , TIMMY STOPPED  BY THIS MORNING AND URGED ME TO ACCEPT HIS INVITATION FOR THANKSGIVING DINNNE AT HIS HOUSE.  I DO WISH I'D ACCEPTED.  INSTEAD I SET OUT IN MY SCOOTER FOR THE DINING AREAS OF MY NEW HOME, LINDEN PONDS.  NOT A SOUL WAS THERE.  LUCKILY I HAD A BOSTON MARKET TURKEY DINNER IN MY FREEZER. WAS UNABLE TO READ THE DIALS ON MY OVEN, SO I HEATED THE MEAL IN A DOUBLE BOILER..
    
     I COMFORTED MYSELF BY THINKING OF THE POOR STREET PEOPLE AND REMEMBERING HOW TED HAD SPENT HIS THANKSGIVINGS AS A  VOLUNTEER FOR THE COHASSET COMMUNITY CENTER, SERVING UP FREE DINNERS TO THE TOWN'S
NEEDY INHABITANTS.

February 9, 2014
Flashback to decades ago when I was only fifty:

Westwood
July 14, 1971
     My Nikon has been a life preserver. Clinging to it, I have given the world a second look and discovered beauty. The hours I spend in the darkroom are enthralling. but lonely. Floyd Rinker, my high school English teacher, phoned and asked how I was.
     "Could be better," I said. “My marriage has broken up.”
WITH FLOYD AT NEWTON HIGH SCHOOL 25TH
REUNION 1964
     "Come over and tell me about it."
     I did. After a few hours of telling him, I asked: "Where do I go from here?"
     "How much traveling have you done?"
     "Martha's Vineyard. Fort Lauderdale."
     "Never been to Europe? At your age? Go!"
     I tried to hide my qualms about traveling alone, but this guru read my mind.
     "If you'll behave yourself," he said gruffly over lunch a week later, "maybe I'll go along. I don't like to be spoken to until after I've had my morning coffee, I don't like to be kept waiting for cocktails, and don't expect me to traipse all over the countryside with you and your camera." Included in our arrangements are two side tours for me alone—to Copenhagen and to Istanbul.
Sept. 1971 Wednesday or Thursday or something like that
North British Hotel
Edinburgh, Scotland
     Floyd elected to have a continental breakfast brought up to his room, but I wended my way to the dining room after first trying to go through a large pair of decorative windows.
     “We’re off to a bit of the wrong direction this morning,” burred a cheerful porter, steering me toward the right one. I had so wanted to see what was on the other side of the looking glass, but the Scots are a practical sort who keep their white rabbits well hidden.
     I did see a mad hatter during our brief stop at the London airport. He was about four feet tall and solemnly preoccupied with stacking and re-stacking all the hats his family had collected during their travels, then balancing the lot on his head to see how they felt.
LADY McKUEN'S SON JOHN
     When he was satisfied with the effect, I snapped his picture, whereupon his mother, Lady McKuen, asked me to send her a copy and even offered to pay for it. Never having been within gawking distance of a real Lady before, let alone being commissioned to do a portrait of her son, I was that flattered!
     Now we can only hope that the latent image on my film turns out to be a likeness of the lad and not of his Lordship’s butt, which had a disconcerting way of intruding itself between camera and subject at precisely the moment I was ready to fire away.

2 November 71
Dear Mrs. Malley
It was a lovely surprise to get those sweet photographs of my Mad Hatter son. Thank you very much indeed. He, John, is very proud of them & to the rest of us it brings back the summer days as now the wind howls round the house and the leaves fall off the trees. You have caught the summer feeling & the serious/eccentric character of your small subject.
Thank you very much for sending me the copies. With best wishes, Brigid McKuen.

January 2012
Kathie found Lady McKuen online . . .
THE MOST BADASS WRESTLER
BERWICKSHIRE NEWS
November 25, 2010
. . .The honour of opening the exhibition was bestowed on Lady Brigid McEwen of Marchmont, who herself is a keen Wojtek enthusiast having dedicated a chapter to him in her book about the Polish war effort.
She said she was “extremely honoured” to be asked to perform the opening after being told the story of Wojtek many years ago.
“I was originally told about Wojtek by an old Polish Soldier who came over to Britain during the war. . .
“They were treated very unjustly at the end of the war so I wanted to write a book which highlighted all of their efforts.
“Wojtek was an extraordinary animal so it was only right that he was featured heavily. . . ."

On their trip through Iran, the men of the Polish 22nd Transport Artillery Supply Company came across a young Iranian boy wandering through the desert, and carrying a large cloth sack. The men thought the boy looked tired and hungry, so they gave him some food and a Crunch bar. When the kid thanked them, the Poles asked what was in the bag. The boy opened it up and revealed a tiny, malnourished brown bear cub. Since the soldiers knew the little cub was in very poor health and needed attention quickly, they bought the bear from the kid for a few bucks (or whatever they used for money in 1940’s Iran) and fed it some condensed milk from a makeshift bottle. For the next several days, they nursed the bear back to health, giving it food, water, and a warm place to sleep.
Over the long journey from Iran to Palestine, the bear, now named Voytek (it’s spelled Wojtek in Polish but pronounced "Voytek”) quickly became the unofficial mascot of the 22nd Company. The bear would sit around the campfire with the men, eating, drinking, and sleeping in tents with the rest of the soldiers. The bear loved smoking cigarettes, drank beer right out of the bottle like a regular infantryman, and got a kick out of wrestling and play-fighting with the other soldiers. Of course, he was the most badass wrestler in the entire company, thanks in part to the fact that he grew to be six feet tall, weighed roughly five hundred pounds, and could knock small trees over with a single swing of his massive, clawed paw.
He grew to be a part of the unit, improving the morale of men who had spent several years in slave labor camps, and was treated as though he were just another hard-drinkin’, hard-smoking’, hard-fightin’, hair-growin’ soldier in the Company. When the unit marched out on a mission, Voytek would stand up on his hind legs and march alongside them. When the motorized convoy was on the move, Voytek sat in the passenger seat of one of the jeeps, hanging his head out the window and shocking the shit out of people walking down the street. . . .

King Frederick Hotel, Copenhagen, Denmark
September 11, 1971
Dear Floyd,
TIVOLI GARDENS
      After checking into the King Frederick, I walked across the square to the Tivoli Gardens and had my first adventure almost as soon as I passed through the gate. I was taking in all the lights and excitement and fun, and bumping into people in a touristy way that would make my husband cringe, when suddenly I found myself nose to nose with an Indian. I couldn't have jumped higher if he'd had a tomahawk and feathers. He was the kind of Indian who comes from India; but his swarthy complexion, curly black beard, and gleaming black eyes, weren't what I'd expected to meet on a dark night in the Tivoli Gardens.
      "Hello!" he said, between the gap in his front teeth. I was speechless.
      "I only said hello. Is that so frightening?" He fell into step beside me, asking where I was from and how I liked Copenhagen. I decided to ignore his piratical appearance and assume he was a harmless foreigner from a strange land, even as I.      He told me how difficult it was for a native of India to leave his country. After buying his airline ticket, he was permitted to take with him only $8.00 in American currency. Fortunately, he had a brother living in London, who was able to help him.
      "Oh, look," he said, stopping suddenly and pointing. "They have gambling in there. Do you enjoy gambling? Why don't we go in and watch?"
      I saw that piratical glint in his eye again, and aid I didn't care for gambling and thought I'd go back to my hotel. The pirate tried to talk me into having a drink with him, but orange lights were flashing in my head. He walked me to the gate of my hotel, and when I wouldn't agree to meet him the next night at a definite time and place, he bowed and smiled and said we would perhaps meet again by chance.
      If you never hear from me again, you'll know we met by chance, whereupon I was doped and smuggled off to India as a white slave. Further adventures I'll relate in person when I see you in Venice. Don't plan to meet my train; I have become self sufficient and will see you at the whatever-it‑is hotel when I get there. If I'm more than 48 hours late, check with the Bureau of Missing Persons in New Delhi.
      I have been forgetting to take my tranquilizers, yet have never felt more tranquil. I think of Ed once in awhile, but am no longer obsessed. Your travel prescription is working, Dr. Rinker. . . .
September 12, 1971
Copenhagen
     I left Copenhagen for Milan at 9:30 a.m., where—according to my travel agent’s plan— I was to get on a train for Venice at 5:43 a.m. This temporal legerdemain was beyond me. True, I had not been paying much attention to the news the last ten days. I’d heard Khrushchev was dead, and a bank in London was robbed, but as far as I knew, time zones had not been altered.
     Fortunately, Floyd detected this error before we parted in Edinburgh on the tenth, so the first thing I did upon arrival in Copenhagen was to seek out the local AAA. I was told I would have ample time after arriving in Milan to catch the train for Venice.
     Other things I sought out in Copenhagen: The Little Mermaid; The funny mirror in the Tivoli Gardens; the Stroget or “walking street.” On the Stroget, some sit on a bench and read the local newspaper; some sit and feed the pigeons; some sit and smile; others fiddle for a living. The lady with the camera walks the Walking Street and takes pictures.


ON THE WALKING STREET, SOME SIT AND READ.
SOME SIT AND FEED THE PIGEONS
SOME SIT AND SMILE AND RESEMBLE THEIR DOGS . . .
SOME SIT AND FIDDLE FOR A LIVELIHOOD.
THE LITTLE MERMAID LOOKS HOMESICK.
      I'm not homesick in the least, but the suitcase I bought in Filene’s Basement is a problem. I wrote Floyd that not only is there more than enough room for my wardrobe, but I could also curl up and sleep in it in an emergency. He replied that he had heard of babies left in baskets on doorsteps, but to see a full-grown woman arise from a suitcase would be a novelty.
Sept. 13, 1971    
Venice                                                          
      My train was due to arrive in Venice at 5:02 p.m.  At 5:05 the train stopped and the few passengers still aboard began piling off.  I hefted my two suitcases down from the overhead  rack, then discovered the corridor was too narrow and crowded to  get everything off in one trip.  With my carry‑all and camera  hanging from my left ahoulder, and my purse and smaller suitcase  clutched in my right hand, I disembarked.  Leaving the suitcase  on the platform, I returned to my compartment for the jumbo bag.   By the time I staggered down the steps of the train, my shoulders  were pleading for mercy.  Not a porter in sight.  Italian male  stalwarts stare  studiously in other directions.    
     Loaded down like a camel, I staggered down a long flight of  stairs leading to the terminal, and eventually found a taxi.     "Please take me to the Bauer‑Grunwald Hotel," I said to the  handsome young driver, as I settled back with a relieved sigh.    
     "The Bauer‑Grunwald is in Venice."    
     "I know," I said.  "That's where I want you to take me."    
     "It will cost you 30,000 lire."     
     It sounded like a lot of lire.  "Why so much?"         
     "Because we are not in Venice.  You should have gotten off  at the next stop."    
     I pictured myself staggering back to the train, only to have  it chug off as I approached.  Quel nightmare!      
     Okay, I told the driver, take me to the Bauer‑Grunwald.     On the way, I remembered my letter to Floyd.  Suppose he had disobeyed orders and was now waiting for me at the Venezia  station?     "Driver, I may have a friend waiting for me at the railroad  station.  We'd better go there first."     "I cannot do this, Madame."        
     "Why not?"    
     "Because of the waterways.  I will take you to the water bus  that will take you to the station."    
     At the water‑bus dock, I dragged, pushed, and pulled my  suitcase to the ticket window while a throng of muttering  commuters shouldered their way past me.  I was now sweating  profusely and was sure my hairpiece as well as my scarf needed  adjusting.  Either that or my bangs had grown six inches in ten  minutes.    
      "A ticket to the railroad station," I said when I reached  the window.    
     "Numero uno, numero uno!"    
      "Yes, just one," I said.    
     "Numero uno!" the ticket agent repeated, glaring and pointing off to his right.     I picked up my bags again and stumbled toward gate numero  uno.  I remembered that Kathie's impression of Italian men had  been unfavorable, and I was fast learning why.  Gallant,  charming, and flattering they may be when you're tripping along taking in the sights but attention unrelated to romance is not their forte.   As I joined the crowd milling toward the boat, my purse fell  open and spilled out my passport, hotel itinerary, change purse,  and vitamin pills.  People stepped around, over , and on me while  I crouched down and collected my belongings.  I was the last one  to board the boat.     I reached the station too late.  My bangs grew another four  inches.       Enough!  My pencil is worn to the nub and so am I.                                                 

Sept. 14, 1971 
Hotel Bauer Grunwald         
     From the moment I reached this hotel, I've been in a  fairyland.  The Grand Canal flows by my balcony. 

                                
     
     Across the  canal is a church. its dome glowing in the light of the setting  sun.  Wherever I turn, there are spires, domes, and cupolas  outlined against a pink‑streaked sky.  The activity on the canal  holds me like a magnet; I can scarcely tear myself away long  enough to unpack.  Gondolas propelled by lithe gondaliers. 
     Barges conveying everything from laundry to vegetables.  Motor  boats, waterbusses, huge steam-ships ‑‑ there is so much to see,  it is impossible to describe. 
     Venice...ah, Venice!  Everyone I  love must see Venice.                                        
Sept. 22                                       
Departing from Istanbul 
     A week on a cruise ship seems like a year of ordinary living. The excursion scheduled yesterday morning included a visit to Istanbul's famous bazaar, seemingly hundreds of streets and thousands of shops. 


     Outside the bazaar, the streets teemed with sellers, buyers, strollers, beggars, and human creatures humped over like camels, bearing enormous burdens on their padded backs. I snapped picture after picture.

     Nearby was the university and an open area where handfuls of corn were sold by crones and children. A pretty Egyptian girl assured me I would get my wish if I threw the pigeons a few golden kernels. I threw a few kernels. 

     A young man, wearing tinted glasses and a dark moustache, spoke to me next. "You are American. Are you visiting our city for long?"     
     "No, my ship is leaving tomorrow"

     "I am a student at the university," he said, falling into step beside me. I hoped he wasn't going to be a pest. I didn't want company; I wanted to concentrate on taking pictures.

     The young man introduced himself as Gilmaz and continued to ask questions. I didn't want to hurt his feelings by telling him to get lost.

     He offered to take me to picturesque areas I would have difficulty finding by myself    outdoor markets, fishing wharves, and parks. At no charge, he assured me.

     Gilmaz was twenty-four and couldn't believe I had two sons almost as old as he. "You are so slim and shapely   surely you must have been a child bride?"

      Going, going, gone. At the end of the afternoon, as Gilmaz walked me back to my ship, I agreed to meet him after dinner and let him show me Istanbul's night life. I took the precaution of telling shipboard friends that I was going out for the evening with a student named Gilmaz.

     "If you don't show up for breakfast, we'll sound the alarm."     
     My escort took me first to a shabby cafe where we had drinks and tried to talk above the clamor of a juke box. Soon GIlmaz was calling me by my first name, clutching my hand in both of his, and telling me I was the most fascinating woman he had ever met. After one more drink, I believed him. He was not satisfied just to hold my hand, he said. He would take me to a place where there was dancing, and he could hold me in his arms.
     The next dive shrouded its seedy atmosphere in darkness. Battered tables, lit by candle stumps, were grouped around a dance floor. We had more to drink, we talked, we danced. Gilmaz said he couldn't bear to think he would never see me again. Behind his glasses, his hooded eyes entreated me to relax and let him hold me closer.


     "You are not afraid of me, are you?  You can trust me totally."

      So might a cobra speak if it had a larynx and spoke with a Turkish accent.     

     "It's too late," Gilmaz was insisting a couple of hours later. He showed me his watch. "The authorities close the gates to the ship at midnight. We'd never get there in time."

     Then I would have to go to a hotel, I told him. I was tired and had had too much to drink, and I  wasn't feeling very well. Gilmaz said it was his fault, he was so enchanted that he had lost track of the time. My stomach rumbled disagreeably. From one unwashed glass or another, I had picked up an affliction which would make subsequent events even more nightmarish.
     Now, arguing persuasively, Gilmaz convinced me I should spend the night at his villa. There, he assured me, I could enjoy complete privacy in a separate apartment; and to prove his honorable intentions, he would give me the key to my bedroom door. He would get me back to my ship first thing in the morning. 
     Several bus changes followed, with the neighborhood and our fellow passengers gradually deteriorating in appearance. I began to feel alarmed.

     "Gilmaz, I've changed my mind. I want to go back to the city."

     "There are no connections at this hour. Why have you changed your mind? Are you frightened? No harm will come to you as long as you are with me."

     Next, we were walking down a deserted alley, lined with the dark irregular shapes of two and three decker tenements. I desperately needed a bathroom. That first, then a policeman.

     "Here we are," said Gilmaz, whose voice had begun to sound brisker and less ingratiating as we neared the home he had described in such splendid terms. He led me down a set of jagged stone steps, took out his key, and pushed open a scarred, creaking door.

     "Where is the bathroom?" I asked, looked around the dingy apartment. I had been thoroughly conned. The question was, would I now be killed or was I just in for a bad night?

     "Over there." Gilmaz pointed to a curtain. "The toilet seat came from Sears Roebuck," he added with a note of pride. "We haven't had  it connected yet, but you can use it."

     "We—?" I asked.

     "My cousin, with whom I share these quarters. You remember my telling you about him?"

     Yes, I remembered something about a cousin. At the time I had visualized "these quarters" as being less intimate.

     "He is very nice, you will meet him in the morning. Ah –   here he is now."

     A youth with sparse black whiskers, pulling on a pair of trousers, came through one of two doors opposite the curtain. Gilmaz started  to introduce us.

     "I have to go to the bathroom," I interrupted. The toilet seat, backed by a lidless, empty tank, was stationed over a hole in the floor. I had no choice but to use it. Outside I could hear Gilmaz and his cousin conversing in low voices. Oh God! Trapped in a 12 X 14 "villa" with Bluebeard the Turk and his cousin, Blackbeard!

     "If you need water, I will show you where you can wash up," Gilmaz called through the curtain. When I came out, the cousin had disappeared. Gilmaz said he had gone to bed. I certainly hoped so. He ushered me into a cubbyhole which was apparently the kitchen. There was no sink, just a pipe with a faucet.

     "Where's a towel?" I asked. Gilmaz gestured toward a grimy rag hanging next to the pipe and left me to manage my Turkish bath as best I could.  .
     "If rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it." A male joke.  Gilmaz entered my cell in his maroon pajamas, removed his glasses, and surveyed me with dark, heavy lidded eyes. He had changed from a mild-mannered university student to an imperious, mustachioed sultan, accustomed to having his way with his choice of the night.

     Gilmaz said, "Do this." Gilmaz said, "Do that." 
     I will draw a curtain over the next few hours. Throughout that long night I felt an affinity with women of all times and all cultures, who have been sexually exploited against their will.
      The next morning, haggard and degraded, my self esteem in shreds, I accompanied Gilmaz and his cousin to the bus stop. The three of us talked about the weather on the long ride back to the city.
September 22, 1971
     It worked again. Like my stay in the loony bin, my night with Gilmaz lost its obsessive power once I had written it out in terror-assuaging paragraphs.
     I stayed in my cabin on the ship until noon yesterday, writing, writing.  I sent for a sandwich and wrote some more.  Then I slept, and slept.  This evening I was ready to face the pre-dinner cocktail group. There, someone asked me, “What do you do?”  I had rarely heard this question until I started traveling.  At first, my stammered answer was “I’m a housewife, I guess.”  But now another answer occurred to me.  “Well, for one thing, I fly an airplane.”
    This terminated all conversation within earshot as effectively as if I’d announced I was a go-go dancer.  My shipmates insisted on hearing about some of the zanier adventures Ed and I have had, starting with our boating days; they wouldn’t let me stop until my memory went dry.  Next to writing, holding a group’s attention is the best poultice for a traumatized psyche.
     I am about to go to bed, after condensing a sanitized version of Istanbul and Gilmaz onto a postcard for Kathie: “Leaving the bazaar, I was picked up by a twenty-four-year-old Turk, a university student who told me I was beautiful and said he wanted to take me dancing so he could hold me in his arms.  Wherever you may roam, a line is a line is a line.  After a few drinks of Turkish rotgut, we did go dancing and I woke up this morning with a hangover.  Love, Mom"
Nov. 2, 1971
     I returned from Europe looking like the one thing I had never been able to be for Ed since 1940 --   a new woman. In another era we might have reconciled and lived haphazardly ever after, but now I knew I had options besides shrinks, suicide, and making do. I asked Ed for a trial separation.
     "Enry Iggins" was sure I'd come crawling back in two weeks. Instead, I made an unexpected discovery: being single again wasn't all that bad. Instead of orbiting like a trapped satellite around my husband's personal planet, I was free to explore new worlds, including the world evolving inside my head.  I've joined a women's consciousness-raising group, and signed up for a seminar for recently divorced and separated women and men. I'm looking into Parents Without Partners. I'm even taking dancing lessons.



(2) ONE SNAPSHOT COULD HAVE BEEN MY LAST

April 4, 1972
Aboard Swissair 707
     We're not even off the ground yet, and already I'm off to a flying start, Dingbat style. Edward accompanied Floyd and me as far as the Swissair gate where we chose our seats and were given our boarding passes. Then he suggested I walk back with him to the lobby to say goodbye.
     When I rejoined Floyd, he said, "Do you have your boarding pass?" How did he know I didn't have my boarding pass? I can see how he would have noticed last September, fifteen minutes before boarding time, that I was missing a coat -- but a little green ticket? With Floyd's x-ray eyes, he could get a job in the security department, visually frisking potential highjackers.
     I thought I might have handed the pass to Ed out of habit, so I bolted for the door in hopes of catching him before he drove off. (As years go by, I may become a legendary figure at Logan Airport as I pursue my current missing object, dodging tourists and vaulting suitcases while my companion alternates his gaze between the clock and the heavens.)
     I dashed out to the parking lot. No sign of Ed. I gave up yelling his name because several fraudulent Eds, including two women, kept turning around and staring. Then I heard a familiar voice ask me what I was doing out there.
     "Looking for you and my boarding pass."
     Skeptically, he went through all his pockets and wallets, then insisted on investigating my pockets and purse. When his search was complete, the green ticket had not turned up, but my passport was missing. Ed's indignant disclaimers turned to surprise when he pulled it from his inside pocket.
     I had to get a special boarding pass from an official who grilled me concerning my whereabouts for the last twenty minutes -- had I been to the bar . . . the gift shop . . . the ladies' room?  Vowing I was not guilty of any such detours, I said the ticket had simply vanished between the boarding gate and the lobby. The chap shook his head. "Women! Give them a little lib and what do they do, they get dizzier than ever." He had a twinkle in his eye, so I didn't do anything militant like blacken it.
     After Ed got home he found my original boarding pass in his raincoat pocket. How do I know that?  After thirty-two years a woman just knows these things.
     It's now April 6th and we've been seeing Vienna for two days. I'll write more if Floyd ever lets me sit down long enough.
April 6, 1972
Vienna
To Ed
     Many, many thanks for making this trip possible for me. It was dear and generous of you, what with all your business problems. I hope your deal is still alive and well.
     We've been touring Vienna by aching foot, and now that Floyd has proved he's much younger than I, we're going to spend the rest of the week playing musical chairs.  Tickets to the opera tomorrow night (Macbeth), symphony Sunday at 4:00, Tristan & Isolde Sunday night. I'll be so cultured by the time I get home, you'll have to find a blue velvet box to keep me in. A pumpkin shell won't do, you understand.
     Your cultured pearl . . .

Intercontinental Hotel
Vienna
April 8, 1972
     This morning we had breakfast in the hotel's Brasserie-‑or brassiere, as my friend calls it.  It was crowded but not that crowded.  Then we parted company until noon, when a friend of Floyd's named Gurnot would be meeting us in the lobby.
     I spent the morning at the Prater, an amusement park, which is famous for having the world's biggest Ferris wheel.  It was the first time I had done any wandering around on my own, and it didn't take me long to get into trouble.  It occurred toward the end of the morning, when I was standing in the wrong station, waiting for a train which never came in the right direction.  I'm aware of what happens to girls who come from the wrong side of the tracks; the same thing happens to their mothers.
     I was approached by a black‑haired, widely smiling man who poured out a stream of strange syllables between the gaps in his teeth, took me by the arm, and indicated with a tilt of his head a nearby saloon.
     I retrieved my arm, smiled politely, and said, "No, thank you."
     More unintelligible importuning drowned the air, with an occasional familiar word bobbing to the surface.
     "Likker?" he grinned, gripping my elbow and pointing to the bar.
     "No," I said, shaking him off and moving a few paces to the left.
     He sidled up to me, stabbed himself with his forefinger, and said, "Me Turk."
     I put a few more paces between us.   He closed in again, still speaking in tongues, or perhaps Turkish.  I was conscious of bystanders watching our crabwise progress along the platform.  Now he put his arm around me and leered, "Meet oh‑tel?"
     Enough was enough.  I wouldn't meet him at a hotel if he was the last Ottoman on earth.  I turned my back, walked over to a delicatessen window, and stared at a salami for five minutes.   When I turned around again, my would‑be seducer had disappeared.
     I found the proper station and took the proper train back to the square near my hotel.  I was in the lobby at 12:00 sharp; Floyd applauds punctuality, so I'd rather appear in my skivvies than be a second late.  When I met Gurnot, I was sorry I wasn' t in my skivvies.  My luck ran true to form when he failed to suggest a rendezvous in my oh‑tel but merely said with a charming accent, "How do you do?"
     We drove to Wachau, which is the most scenic part of the Danube.  We toured churches and castles and ended in Durstein, where we had a fine dinner at the Gottwieg Abbey.
April 11, 1972
Vienna
Postcard to Ed: We had dinner last night at Vienna's most superb restaurant. "The Three Hussars." Our leisurely meal, with wine and excellent service, took nearly three hours. The conversation never falters with Floyd, and I enjoy exchanging witticisms with him—or trying to. My best rejoinders occur to me at bedtime.  This morning we are leaving for Greece.
Haven't I been good about writing?
April 12
     We are now in Greece.  The Athens Hilton is like a city in itself.  You could spend a week learning your way to the shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Then there's the view from my bedroom:  the Acropolis looms on the horizon, while across the street an enormous Coca Cola sign reminds us what century we're in.  
Cruise Ship Galaxy
April 15, 1972
      Floyd, oh wise man of the West, arranged for me to take this cruise.   Up at 6:45 this morning for an excursion to Knossos by bus at 8:00.  At this early hour we are ahead of crowds who wander into one's viewing screen as one pushes the shutter button.  My Nikon is a splendid companion.   We share the sights that interest us most, and it lets me do all the. talking.   Usually this is under my breath:  "Go on, lady, move, will you?" or "Dammit, where is that filter?"
     Knossos didn't look like much until we came to the palace area.  Here we breathed the past and felt awed.  Although only an infinitesimal part remains of the "Labyrinth" of 1500 rooms, there was enough to feed the imagination and make us hunger for more.  We saw the king's throne, railed off to protect it from souvenir hunters; the underground drainage system, much like our modern pipes; and frescoes of girls in topless costumes and boys with long hair.  If the Minoans could be transported into our era, as we were into theirs, they would shrug and say, "What else is new?"
MY DONKEY, LOOKING INNOCENT.
     This afternoon, a trip ashore to Santorini.  The town is situated at the top of a towering cliff which we reached by riding donkeys, some of them docile, some like mine.  On the steeply winding trail, mine kept veering toward the abyss on the right; then he would do his best to scrape me off on the wall to our left.  An ancient donkey‑ driver controlled the beast with a flick of his switch and a phrase that sounded like "Giddap."  I was tempted to say "Whoa, there," but having learned that no‑no‑no means yes‑yes‑yes in Greek, I didn't want to risk a misunderstanding.  I tried to snap pictures along the way, but he sensed when I wasn't hanging on with both hands and would pretend to stumble.  He may have fooled his driver, but he didn't fool me.
April 13, 1972
Athens
To Ed
     My first impression of Athens was Diesel fumes, and I wondered if my nose would stop tingling long enough for my eyes to start appreciating. Today I escaped from the belching busses and made my way through narrow, people-packed streets, gradually going uphill towards the Acropolis, which appeared from time to time between tenements.
     I spent three hours, exploring and taking pictures. One shot was very nearly my last. I had lined up a striking view of the Parthenon, with red and yellow wildflowers brightening the foreground. Two women taking pictures of each other beside a toppled pillar were blocking my shot. When they finally made their exit from my viewing screen, I saw that a new group of tourists was about to intrude.  By taking a couple of steps backwards, I was able to eliminate them. After snapping my masterpiece, I bent down to pick up my purse and sweater. Then I saw where I would have landed had I stepped back two more paces -- at the bottom of a pit at least thirty feet deep. Its edges surrounded by vegetation, it was not readily visible to your average nut walking backwards with her eyes glued to her camera.
     Travel continues to be as therapeutic as photography—many exciting events keep happening (with a spicy sprinkling of near-calamities). The Athens Hilton is like a city in itself; Floyd says it is one of the most elegant hotels in the world. He was pleased when the doorman recognized him and made a big fuss over "Dr. Rinker." He has a bad cold and has quarantined himself for the day, so I am about to collect my free, on-the-Hilton "ouzo" cocktail and dine in not-on-the Hilton lonely splendor. . . .

(3) I DREAMED ED HAD A VERY YOUNG GIRLFRIEND.

October 10, 1975
Westwood, Mass.
During lunch with Floyd, he began describing a Smithsonian Study Tour to India and Sri Lanka.
"Sounds interesting," I said, sipping my cocktail.
My guru looked at me quizzically. "Would you like to go along? Can you part with your Jack for three weeks and three days?"
Hmmm, I would have to think about it. India? India was the last place in the world I would have considered visiting. By the time dessert arrived, I had come to a decision.
"Make it Hawaii and I'll go."
"I've been to Hawaii six times." Floyed said boredly.
The waitress brought coffee.
"Well, okay then," I said.
~~
"India! Why India?" My loved ones, including grown children, son‑in‑law, ex-husband and Jack, reacted with frowns, raised eyebrows, and doleful shaking of heads. Even my doctor, whom I had always regarded as a sensible, level headed sort, swore his version of the Hippocratic Oath.
"India! What do you want to go to that sinkhole for? You'll need every shot in the book and a big bottle of Lomotil for Traveler's Disease." He urged me to see the Rocky Mountains instead.
Friends called. They knew people who knew people who had been to India. Be sure to bring plastic bags to protect my camera and lenses from the dust laden atmosphere. Also, a roll of mosquito netting or I'd get no sleep and malaria. I'd need a bathtub stopper (if the hotels had bathtubs), and plenty of Kleenex because I was going to cry a lot when I saw all the misery and poverty and disease.
"Don't drink the water, don't eat the food, and try not to breathe too deeply," my son‑in‑law advised.
New Delhi
January 14, 1976
The plane from London to New Delhi was half empty, so I appropriated four seats across the aisle from Floyd and enjoyed the spaciousness like a Maharini in a queen‑sized bed. I read, slept, wined, dined, and chatted with an Indian lad named Karid Shah. He taught me how to say please, thank you, and no (mehr bani, shukria, and nah). I took pains to memorize the word for photo. It is foto.
We arrived at 4:00 this morning after a sumptuous dinner at the strange hour of 1:00 a.m. Also strange was our reception at the airport. We were met by a mob of Indians leaning over a balcony and shouting something that sounded like "Yankee, go home!"
Translation: there was a guru on our flight, and his disciples were chanting, "Truth is good."
I'd hardly stepped off the plane when a dark skinned chap walked up to me, and next thing I knew I'd been lei‑d. Floyd said I could have his. Then someone draped him from nape to kneecap in marigolds. He was too tired to object. . . .
Hotel Clarke Shiraz                                                                       
Agra, India  
January 18, 1976       
     We saw the Taj Mahal in the distance, but my photographs will have people in them—beautiful women in their brightly colored saris, exotic men wearing turbans, beggars pleading for a rupee.  It's all very different, wonderful, heartbreaking, a land of contrasts, thrilling and appalling. 
     A bevy of native high school girls approached me and asked if I spoke English.  They wanted to practice talking to me, so I seized the opportunity to take pictures and try out my three Indian phrases.  They broke into giggles when I attempted "atcha," their word for “okay.”  We ran into each other again at the Taj Mahal.  They seemed so delighted to see me, I felt like a favorite teacher at a high school reunion.  Floyd came along as the girls were asking if they could take my picture.  He told them I was a grandmother, which nobody believed, including me.  Then he announced that he was my son, and I gave him a good push.
The Centaur Hotel                                                                                           
Bombay, India 
January 24, 1976  
     I put in a call for a 4:00 a.m. wake‑up, as our schedule calls for bags outside door at 4:45 and ourselves in bus at 5:15.  I was sound asleep when the phone rang, dreaming that Ed had a very young girlfriend, a nice little kid who looked as if she'd just had her braces removed.  I wasn't exactly jealous, it was more like annoyance—talk about robbing the cradle, the old buzzard should be dating this kid's grandmother.  I checked my pill cycle to see if I was getting into the time when I'm not my most charming, even when asleep.  The pills haven't rounded the bend yet, but when they do, there are a few pests in this group who'd better watch out.
     They don't mean to be pests, they think they're being helpful when they look at a certain mountain crowned with a temple and say, "There's a picture, be sure to get that one."  I promise I will, at the local postcard stand, but still they persist in telling me where I should station myself to get the best angle, interrupting when I am trying to photograph a wide-eyed child.  "You should have the sun at your back," they inform me.  The sun at my back puts the glare in his eyes and a taxi antenna on his head.  Someday I'd like to return, arranging with a guide I met in Adaipur to take day‑trips, as he suggested, and photograph his friends and family.
     It's fun dreaming these pipe‑dreams even if they never become a reality. Who knows, my film may be . . . but stop, don't think negative thoughts—the pictures will be great and the Smithsonian will pay me to travel as their official photographer.
     I nearly missed the bus because of my time-losing Timex.  Floyd was not pleased with me over breakfast, but then he is never pleased about anything until five minutes past ten.
     I'm at the airport and our flight has been called. 
Hotel Rama International
Aurangabad, India                                                                                 
January 26, 1976                                     
     The last couple of days have been worrisome because Floyd was hit hard with Traveler's Disease.  Others in our group have had it and recovered after a day or two of bed rest, light meals sent to their rooms, and dosages of Lomatil.  But Floyd still felt so sick this morning when we were scheduled to leave for Madras, he said he just couldn't go, he would have to join us tomorrow.   The director told me I must urge him to get dressed and come with us, as there were no seats available on tomorrow's plane to Madras.  Floyd made a superhuman effort and is now in the back of the plane, one step away from the lavatory.  He will have two days to rest and recover in Madras, a city with hospitals and the finest of doctors.
      We have now changed to another plane (at Bombay) and are on our way to Madras.  I wish I could say Floyd is alive and well but he is at this point just alive.  Better days ahead.       

Madras, India                                     
January 27, 1976
Dear Ed,
     I've been hearing unsettling rumors about what can happen to one's letters in this impoverished country. If poor people get their hands on them, they remove the stamps, re‑sell them, and goodbye letter.  Our guide makes sure hers are hand canceled before she lets them out of her sight.
       It's disturbing because I haven't had time to keep copies of descriptions on which I thought an article might be based.  I am tempted to call you (collect) to ask if my loved ones have been hearing from me, but it would only make me feel terrible if the answer is negative.
     Would you do me a favor and call Jack at Shawmut Bank, Govt. Ctr. Branch, and tell him I'm concerned about these here Indian giver mailmen?  I would like everyone to know I have been a faithful correspondent, considering the filled schedule we're keeping and my extracurricular side tours.
    If you don't get this letter I'll forgive you for not doing the above favor. . .

Taj Coromandel Hotel
Madras, India                                                             
January 28, 1976
Dear Jack,
     When I got back to the hotel after visiting a seaside temple and taking pictures of fishermen and having a swim and a sunburn, the first thing I asked at the desk was the first thing I always ask.  "Is there a letter for me?" 
     "Yes, Madame."
     Madame's face gets three shades pinker.  But . .  .she can't read the letter yet, for she must see if poor sick Floyd is better.  This morning he said he was going to stay in bed---a relapse after yesterday's apparent recovery from three days of miserable illness—and if he didn't feel better by afternoon, he would call a doctor.
     So I carried your letter, which was burning a hole in my palm, to Floyd's room.  Bad news.  He told me he knew for sure what was wrong with him, as he'd had a milder case some years ago—his guts were falling out (hernia) and he would have to return to Boston for surgery.
     It has all been arranged.  The director and I and a man from the Sita Travel Agency will accompany Floyd to the airport tonight.  His nephew will meet him in New York.
\     Such a sad blow to his dreams of the wonders he would see in India.  Yet he retains his optimism, speaks with pleasure of the happy time he had the first ten days, and says he will return another year.  He's a brave man, my Guru.
      I told my fellow travelers I had written to Ed, asking him to call you to see if you had been receiving my letters.   They thought it very funny that an ex-wife could make such a request of her ex-husband.
Colombo, Sri Lanka                                                                              
February 2, 1976
        At the "t & t" (tea and toilet) stop between Kndy and Columbo, I was too restless to rest, so the tour director granted me permission to walk on ahead of the bus.  "But for heaven's sake," he called after me, "make sure you're heading in the right direction!"
     Off I went at a dog‑trot, eager to see as much roadside life as possible before I was overtaken.  I soon had half a dozen youngsters skipping along beside me, pointing out Moslem houses and singing, "Munnee, munnee!"
     I came to a high stone wall.  Looking up, I saw a curly‑headed tot peering down at me.  Before I could raise my camera, the head disappeared as the child scurried off to tell the family company was coming.
     And what a delightful family it was.  Two lovely sisters surrounded by handsome relatives of various sizes, ages, and genders were waiting for me in their driveway.  They posed for photographs ("Wait 'til I get my baby," said one of the sisters), then begged me to come inside for a visit.
     "Thank you, but I can't take a chance on missing my bus."
     "No, it is all right, please come in.  My brother will watch for the bus and stop it for you."
     I allowed myself to be pulled bodily into their house, all the while protesting that the tour director would have my head if the bus went by without me.
     "There is nothing to worry about!  Look, my brother is already sitting there across the street.  He will wave at the bus and the driver will pick you up."
     Giving in, I sat on the edge of my seat in the sisters' airy living room, one ear tuned to every passing truck, the other hearing of their husbands who worked in distant cities, getting home only occasionally.  I think they must have been lonely and bored because they held me hostage by asking many questions about my family.  I gave them a capsule version of my soap opera life, sudsing it up with an emancipation proclamation that widened their eyes.  I told them I was happily divorced, liked my former husband very much, liked the company of my friend Jack, but had no desire to remarry.  I was having too much fun with my freedom and independence to go back to life as a housekeeper. The sisters looked at me with the mixture of awe and fascination they might have accorded a female astronaut.
     "Really, darlings," I wanted to say, "I'm from Massachusetts, not outer space."
     A teenage brother asked if I would take his foto, enabling me to escape gracefully as far as the driveway.  I exchanged addresses and embraces with the sisters, who begged me to return to Sri Lanka for a longer visit.  The bus stopped to collect me, and I climbed back into the 20th century with a touch of sadness.  For a fleeting moment the sisters had become my sisters, an encounter I won't soon forget.
Note:  All my photographs were gray and flat, apparently ruined by X-ray machines at airports.