Thursday, December 31, 2009

One Quick Blog For The Day




Oh my bags are packed......

Just so you all understand why this upcoming visit is so special and awesome.
Charity and I have not met before.
She lives in Chicago, I live in Hamburg. Germany.
We met nearly two years ago to the day on the Diamondville Forum, which is the board of Neil Diamond's Band, and began to chat casually, then she invited me to read her blog (which was awesome, but the stupid girl killed it after she had gotten her wish, namely a new, different President for her country) and linked my theater class homepage to it.
We started to write emails.
Then, at the beginning of 2009, I moved on to twitter, and somehome consequently to facebook.
There is a weird connection here and maybe it needs to be explored at some point...

So a few days before Christmas, I tweeted, "Bought a case of pink champagne for NYE".
This is just one of those whimsical, apropos tweets to keep us in people's minds, right, and has NO deeper sense at all.
Only here, BINGO!
Charity replied, probably just as meaningless, "Wish I could be there!"
Yes, and here begins the true wonder of this thing, because when I said, "Come on over!" she agreed. And got herself a ticket. And is coming over. Today.
So I'm excited and jittery and bursting with joy, but I'm also deeply moved, because it proves how real you all are.

And here is the girlie, last night, on her way to O'Hare. Scared of flying, but doing it.
For me.




Monday, December 28, 2009

Goodbye, and Welcome


This is one of the silk paintings I used to do and sell a few years ago. It serves no purpose but to give this blog some color.

Okay, here goes, a quick and short blog entry, just because.
Just because I want to kick out this total sucker of a year with a bang and tell the new one coming up so quickly a few things while we are in this hiatus between Christmas and New Year's Eve.

2009: You were a real a**hole. Sorry to be rude, but you were.
You let my father faint and fall in a busy street and wake up scared and disoriented in the ER; You gave my mother in law pneumonia and the Noro virus and put the dear old lady in hospital for twelve weeks.
You let my beloved sister in law die, you rotten bastard, at the age of fifty, just one week after her grandchild was born!
You let a dumb young jackass run over my husband while he was crossing a street on a pedestrian walkway with a GREEN light and suffer from his injuries since June.
You gave us THREE major plumbing disasters and a house that was nearly not inhabitable for half a year.
And you made me sick, too, because at some point I could not cope anymore.
Now that you are old and weak, you had to give in, right? We outlasted you in the end.
We took all the misery and pain you tossed at us, and we are still here!

My husband's injuries are healing. Our parents are old but well and healthy, and I'm getting well, too, thanks to the high doses of steroids my physician has now finally prescribed.
Honestly? I had no idea how miserable I had become over the past few months.
Only the sudden feeling of well-being is coming as such a shock right now, like a dense grey fog lifting.

And on this note, goodbye, 2009. You s*cked. Big time.

Welcome, 2010.
You are having an easy start with this family.
We have only this one wish: don't be as bad a bastard as 2009.
Give us the time and space to heal, and if you decide to take one of our elderly family from us, please do it kindly.
Let the hubby have joy at his job as teacher, and let me write and travel, as I have planned.
If you can, please let me see my book published. I know it is good enough to be, all I need is some luck and to meet the right people now.

You are starting out really, really well, I have to say. You are giving me Charity as a starter, and hell, no dish of shrimps and no case of champagne can top that.
Not even a huge bottle of Laphroiag.
Hey, not even a date with Neil D. could do that!!!
So I'm hoping you are meaning well with us.

Thank you. This is all.

The Great Puzzle


You might have noticed (how could you not, after all my blathering about it???) that I'm going to have a visitor over New Year's Eve. That's right, Charity will be coming over.
The weather forecast for her flight day is really bad; they announced storm and snow and ice and all kinds of winter baddies, but since she is flying a German airline, she'll be fine. They are very thorough, safe and humorless.

But that was not what was going through my mind.
Charity will get here safely, even if a little bleary-eyed, and we'll have tons of fun.
The thought that struck me, was, "How come we look forward to people this much?"

Yes, please, how come we enjoy being with people so much, or having guests?
Really, it means upheaval, a change in daily habits, cleaning the house for them (!!!) and cooking special meals, maybe drinking more booze than intended, less sleep and - let's face it - spending more money.
And yet, and yet - I'm nearly dying with joy and anticipation.
But really, why is that?
What makes us WANT to meet people and be friends? Where does the joy come from, when you are introduced to someone new on twitter and hit it off, conversation-wise, like happened to me just now, with @fraukewatson, for instance?
Is it true what it says on those mushy Hallmark cards, is it about sharing and loving and caring?
Or the partying and fun? Or all of those?
Or something more?
Now why does this remind me of the Grinch?

I know it is my job to come up with a fitting answer to those questions now, styling myself a writer and all, but I can't.
Maybe it's a little of all that, and maybe there is some deeper, anthropological reason that I've never heard about, or maybe it is only me.
All I can give you is my personal truth.
There is nothing more fun, or a greater joy, than having friends around.
And there is no greater adventure than sharing moments and experiences with other people.

There is one woman I know, my younger son's former primary school teacher, and she is different. We did not start out too well with each other for our ideas of a good education for the kid clashed somewhat, but we ended up in a sort of friendship because it was just too hard to accept that we would not get along.
She is a very, very nice person, creative, fun, beauty-loving and good to talk to, but she is, principally, also a loner. She likes to do things on her own, like going to the movies, the theater, an art exhibition, shopping, to a restaurant. Taking her dog for a walk.
Told me at one point that she did not need company to enjoy herself, she was fine alone.
This, to me, is a concept that is beyond scary. It is terrifying.
How, I ask you, if you come across something that has a real impact on you, are you going to process that impression, if not by sharing it, in any way at all? It just sits there on your soul and simmers, and there is never any output, nor any reaction, to it?
There is no echo to your feelings, no one to smile at you and nod and say, yes, that is really something, is it not?
Or tell you, laughingly, to your face, how silly and maudlin you are being.
Let's say you are traveling the United States, on your own. And you are standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Or in NYC, right in front of the Met, where you always wanted to be.
Or facing Times Square. Pick any place at all that you've ever wanted to see, and then imagine yourself there, alone.
How would that feel?
You'd turn around, your mind and your throat bursting with the need to share, and no one you know there to see the elation in your eyes?

I need my people.
I need them to share my own joy, and I need them to share their joy with me.
Guess there is some truth to those silly Hallmark cards, after all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Merry Merry Christmas.... whimsical

After sending out so many handwritten cards to friends all over the world, I'm using this here to give you my thoughts on the spirit of Christmas, and a few images that I love best.

Anita sent me this today:



Christmas on Oxford Street.
Now I've only ever been in London in late spring, but I'd dearly love to go there during Christmas time, too.
I've written a longish chapter about my characters being there in December and diving into the busy shopping life and generally enjoying themselves (as some people clearly must, or they would not do it; I know I would love it, I don't mind happy crowds).
Anita, you are a sweet girl and a dear friend. Hopefully we'll meet, some day!

Lydia is going a little posting-crazy with images right now, too, so here's what she sent:




It reminds me a bit of the one guy from "Total Recall", right? But it would sure win Neil's "Ugly Sweater Contest", if that's what you were after, Blue! ;)
And she promised to make this for all of us: Hot chocolate with star-shaped marshmallows!!!






Tyler Massey, the sweetest US expatriate in the UK. A master tweeter, and a great musician, sends us this (is there a slight resemblance??)




Gail. She must be the sun of Scotland, she radiates so much warmth and love.
She captioned this pic "A selection of frozen chicken".






Also, I'm getting a lot of this these days. They make me feel VERY good, just the color of the cup alone is enough to make the spirits bright!






Right now, it is getting dark outside, at 4pm, the sky is very overcast and the temperature is dropping again. The snow did not melt completely yesterday, everything is still white outside, and I think we will have the White Christmas they promised us.
In all honesty I can't remember when we last had one.
There were lots of rainy holidays, and one was so warm we could take a walk in sweaters.
The guys just came home from the grocery shopping chore, loaded with goodies and treats - well, and some groceries - the tree is decorated and lighted, there are even a few presents under it already!
The candles on the Advent wreath will be exchanged one last time to be lighted tonight, and then, for tomorrow night, there will be a lot more, all in red, because it looks so cozy and warm.
In that, I'm a bit conservative.
Just yesterday there was a note about a German actress in the paper who has decorated her home in chocolate brown, dark purple and black for Christmas. I ask you, where's the light and glitter in that.

This here is The Bug and her siblings:




under the family Christmas Tree.
Don't need to say anything about the Bug, right? (Besides that she thinks I'm her "other" Mom now.... that makes me feel old!!!)

This just occurred to me: I love the tweets that say: "off to do a last minute errand", because it implies that people are indeed winding down for the holidays.
This is the best about this time of year: the quieting of the rush, the getting together of folks who have not seen each other in a while, the special care and love that is invested in decorating and cooking, and the evening spent wrapping gifts we have thought about, sought for and bought for our loved ones.
Oh, and this: sitting on the corner of the couch, waiting for the outcry from across the Ocean when someone who did not expect to get anything will receive that little parcel with the green customs sticker and shout out over twitter or facebook in surprise!!!

Oh, here's another one that Rachelle Gardner just posted:





There's little to add to this, is there? Can it get any better?

Here comes the Bunny, and she gives us a glimpse of her home for this season.
There's not a lot I have to say about the Bunny either, right? Just go back in the blog, and you'll meet her over and over again!





And here's the last twitter one: Kitty Christmas, from Kaffieann.







This funny pic of a Christmas Tree topped by antlers (?) comes from Lisa, who seriously needs her behind walloped one of these days for repeatedly putting herself down, when in fact she is one of the most compassionate, loving people I've ever met.




And of course, this would not be a proper Mariam blog without this pic:





A happy guy, with a lovely Christmas Tree!

I'm wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, my friends, and a very Happy New Year.
May you be safe and well and healthy and glad, and never alone.
Some of you I'll get to meet next year (one of you, even this year, if in the nick of time!).
Love you all!






This last, thanks to Michelle :)

A last minute update: Here is Marion's daughter, sharing a moment of quiet with her Mom:




And a happy guy at the San Francisco Zoo, via Candy:



And this, dear friends, is it!!! Merry Christmas, once again. :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wishing You All.....

Friends like these:


The Bunny.





and the Bug.





The Bug is the cute little doll in the center, and don't you just know why she got that nickname?
I always wanted a very special doll when I was a kid, and she looked like this:




I never got one, because they are handmade and very expensive, and never were in my parents' budget. Now I know why, they are modeled after real kids (sic The Bug).
She still does look a bit like that, even though with her new, very short haircut, she does seem like a grownup.... sometimes.
The Bug is special.
Well, all my friends are special. They have to be, or they would not put up with me, I think.
But the Bug, she is extra special.
When I posted a week ago that we had bought pink champagne for New Year's Eve, she replied that she would really like to join us for that, and I said, "Then come on over! Do Come on!"
And she is. Doing it, I mean, coming over, all the way from Chicago, and only for a few days, but she is coming over. She'll be here in time for coffee on the 31st, and a lot of celebrating at night.
Guys, go out and buy the fireworks!!!!
Just imagine the scope: From Chicago to Hamburg, on the spur of the moment!
The cherry on top of this lovely cupcake of a visit: We'll be able to see this on New Year's Eve:






Yes, they are going to air the TV special of Neil's Hot August Night in NYC here in Germany!
It does seem as if The Bug and I have somehow come full circle: we met on the Diamondville Discussion Board in January 2008, and we'll "sing in" 2010 with the Vocalist and the Band, too.
And next summer, I'll be going there:




and there:



with The Bug.


The Bunny, now.

She makes these:







Muses.
Muses, to inspire people, but the secret she does not seem to know is that she is the most important muse of all.
Sadly, it has never occurred to her to make one that looks like herself, because if she ever did, that one would have my name on it.
The Bunny, she is the one who drives me to write, for she really loves my story.
So if the whole thing never gets read by anyone else, and no one finds it interesting enough to publish, I know I will have written it for her, and that is quite enough for me.
And with the Bunny, I'll be here, because I'm visiting her, too:





There are many others, as you surely know by now: The Pea, Julie in Boston, and the Crook in DC, Keith in NYC and all the other Mimosas, and all of them are good friends and deserve a blog of their own.
But really: only Bunny and The Bug have presented me with pics this great so far!
I dare you: send me snapshots that are even half this funny, and you'll get your own blog, too!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Distant Shore




For lack of a better idea, I'm giving you the beginning of my novel now. Maybe you'll enjoy reading it here.



1.

There was the letter.
He found it among the pile of papers he had brought home from the office the night before and tossed carelessly on the kitchen counter, where it lay now with a bill from the dry cleaner and a collection of other mail that Sal had pressed into his unwilling hand before he had left again, tired of business and the worldliness of it. The corner of the envelope was soaked through from the puddle of milk he had not cleaned away, and it stuck to the table top when he tried to pick it up. There was a strange, foreign stamp on it which made him frown.
Norway, he knew no one in Norway, and he didn’t think he wanted to, either, right now.
Impatiently, Jon was on the point of phoning Sal and giving him a good rant about it, but then decided otherwise.

The morning had started out beautifully. He had woken from the sun streaming in through the roof window straight into his face and the sound of the surf as it beat against the boards under the house, and lain on his back, gazing up through the roof window at the clouds as they passed overhead through the clear, deep azure of the dawn sky. The small house had been so quiet that he could hear the wood creaking as it adjusted to the changing temperatures of the mild February day and the cry of a seagull as it flew past the open balcony door.
Despite the serenity of his surroundings, Jon had rolled out of bed listlessly and stared at the prospect of another day that promised to make little sense to him, but had forced himself to shave and shower and dress, even though he knew for sure that he would not go out into public.
Maybe a brief trip to the small supermarket down the road for cigarettes and some bread, but that was the extent of his ambition.
Downstairs, a room filled with the residue of cold smoke and the aroma of bourbon greeted him; the ashtray was full, old newspapers covered the couch and dining table, the phone was still blinking with all the messages he had received and refused to respond to, and that pile of mail stared at him in accusing bleakness. The piano, pushed against the wall under the narrow stairway, dusty and unused, the music sheets a disorderly pile on the keys and the bench before it, a silent reproach.
While the coffee percolated, he opened the glass front of the terrace to let in the tart sea breeze, hoping the new day would, at least partly, blow away this new bout of depression, even though he was certain it was a pretty useless measure.

Sal had not called yet, the office had kept quiet, and Jon pondered about a stroll on the beach, barefoot, before starting to think about work.
With his coffee and the letter he wandered out onto the deck and leaned against the wall, still in shadow at this time of day, before the sun crept completely over the mountains behind the city. The sea had a pearly sheen to it now that it was retreating, quiet in the gentle breeze that hardly seemed to stir the water. Its color reminded him of the smooth surface of a well-polished opal, changing in the reflecting light. There were only a few people down on the beach, they never came out this far from the city beaches, where there wasn’t much to do besides walk and think. Mostly these early morning wanderers were locals who took out their dogs or gave themselves some space before heading downtown to their jobs.
It really seemed to be much too early to be up and around, but he had been restless, wanting to start something, wanting an incentive, something to put him on a path towards something new.
Turning around, he eyed the piano thoughtfully, then his desk, wondering whether he should start tinkering with melodies or go for lyrics. It was time to think about a new album, had been three years already since the last one, and Sal was getting restless.
Jon hated it when Sal got restless.
Sal was like a very unfriendly tiger then, pacing the living room floor and smoking too much. He talked a lot, too, gesticulating with his large, long-fingered hands. And inevitably he would start talking about concert tours, TV appearances and interviews, and how important it was to stay on top.
Only the sense of it all had somehow eluded him more and more during the past years.
“You’re drifting into depression,” Sal had warned him one night when they had been sitting right here on his little porch, “Just look at you, Jon. This is a farce, you know, you, living here among Wal Mart workers and shoe shop sales women. They are not even pretty, and the men run around in underwear.”
He had paused meaningfully, staring at the frayed t-shirt his friend was wearing. “Not that they would recognize you, of course, you look just like one of them. You have a wonderful house waiting for you, for God’s sake, and you rent it out to Art and live here, in this hovel. One day one roller too many will shake the foundation and you’ll drift out to see with this collection of clap-board and then you can sing to the sharks, you know, while they gnaw your bones slowly and painfully.”
When there was no reply, he added acidly, “But maybe that’s what you’re aiming for, right, since you can’t manage to do away with yourself on your own.”

So here now, a letter from Norway, opened, of course, by the office, because it had been addressed to him via his agent, and it made him wonder why Sal had pressed it on him. Fan mail almost never got through to him anymore, he had seen to that a long time ago, too disenchanted with the unoriginal offers and the repetition of the contents.
This one here, once more, same, universal words to catch his attention.
“You don’t know me, but my name is Joshua.”
Jon put it down again to light a cigarette and retrieve his coffee before he took himself out onto the porch.
“My mother’s name is Naomi Carlsson.”
The paper dropped from his hand and fluttered to the ground where it lay, face up, on the fine grains of sand the wind had blown up from the beach during the night. It fluttered a little with the breeze that found its way up there now, grating gently on the rough surface, taunting him.
Very carefully, Jon retrieved it and read on.
“We live in a small town in Norway called Floro, and she manages a hotel here, the Seaside. She told me you are my father. Is that true?”
Time seemed to stop for him.
From a little, unused cranny of his mind Jon took note of this: It was less the fact that the images around him froze, but more as if they ingrained themselves into his memory to be forever connected with this instant: the roiling water that was slowly retreating and laying bare wet stretches of beach, the seagulls dancing in the air, the single sailing boat skimming over the waves, and a big container ship far out on the ocean, seemingly standing still while it made its way up north; the few small clouds that heralded moisture in the air but seldom brought any rain, and the growing haze over the hills in his back as the sun rose higher and the traffic on the highways got denser.
“I’m sixteen,” the letter said, “And I really wanted to know. So on my birthday a couple of weeks ago I finally got her to tell me. It is hard to believe, you know. I don’t really like your music, I think, but you are very famous anyway. How did you get to meet my mom?”

“You can’t still be pining for that girl, Jon,” Sal had asked after their third bourbon, “You’ll have to get over it at some point, man. There are so many out there, one of them must be good enough for you. This is only your usual hard-headedness. She left you, you know. A long time ago, too. She left you a long time ago without a word, and you never moved on, Jon. You’re still pining.”
In the end, it sounded more like an accusation that a question, and he never received an answer, either.
“You’re such a sentimental bastard,” Sal had thrown at him before he had left, “But I guess it’s okay. It makes you write great songs. So go on, suffer some more!”
Jon had watched him drive away into the night, piqued by the tart words and the stark truth in them, but not shaken enough to change his ways. Alone again, he had wandered to the shelf over the piano where those framed pictures stood and looked at them as he did every day.
And here it was, at long last, the moment he had envisioned so often in so many scenarios, and it was not at all what he had expected.
He did not care for the fact that the letter had been opened at the office; this he needed to sort out for himself before the machinery started its work and decisions were taken out of his hand, even if only to make it easier for him.
Again he read the words on the single sheet of hotel stationary.
“My mother’s name is Naomi Carlsson.”
As if he had forgotten.
As if he had allowed himself to forget, putting up those snapshots and dusting them every day himself despite the harangues of his housekeeper that this was really her job.
Gone. One night, she had been there, the next morning, gone without a word, and everything that reminded of her, except the single hairclip on the sink in the bathroom. Naomi, and he had stood there and stared at the thing, his brain frozen and his heart numb, and then done what he always did, he had called Sal and cried for help.
“What do you mean, she’s gone?” Sal had asked, “Where did you put her? People don’t just disappear, you know, overnight.”
But he had shown up half an hour later, bleary-eyed and cross to be woken up again so soon after he had gone to bed.
“For God’s sake, Jon,” he had said, “She’s not dead. She also was not abducted. Look around, she’s taken all her stuff. She only left you, man. Happens all the time, right?” and returned to his house and sleep.
And he had been left alone once again in that huge house by the beach, stunned and speechless.
As quietly and softly as she had stepped into his life she had left it again, and left in such a way that in all the years he had never solved the riddle of her disappearance.

“It would be really nice to know you,” the boy had written, “If it is true what my mom told me and she did not only make it up. Maybe she only said it because she likes you so much. She has a photograph of you on her desk, you know, and all your CDs.”
This nearly tore him apart, and he had to read it again a couple of times.
Norway, and that was where she had been hiding herself away from him, and her child. It hit him then, the realization that he had become a father somewhere along the line without ever knowing of it.
Deep inside he felt the nudge like the tiniest thorn, irritating and insisting, and he tried to ignore it while he finished his cooling coffee.
The letter, crumbled up in his hand, felt like a captured bird that wanted to fly again, and so he opened his fingers and held it up on his palm to stare at it. The idea that it would lift off and show him the way he had to take now was a wild, scary thought and made him reach for another cigarette, but it also made him realize that at long last he actually had an opening and a choice.
The nudge turned into a push, just like that.
He clamped down on it firmly and returned inside, closing the door behind him again. It was time to start working again, clean the piano and tune the guitar and get some new music written and recorded and pick up the routine. Sal was right, it was high time to put out something new, and he had been allowing himself much too long to linger.
The dust on the piano keys irritated him unaccountably. He wiped at it futilely and gave up again; there was no melody in his mind anyway that he wanted to try out and write down, had not been for a long time now.

Depression, Sal had called it, and he had suggested counseling, but discreetly, please, or work, or a new girl friend, but neither of those had seemed attractive enough to entice him.
A shove, nearly strong enough to make him jump from the piano bench, and he did rise after a couple of breaths and paced the restricted space of the living room.
He could just go, actually. No one would miss him for a while, and he could just go on his own, all alone, so that when he finally found and confronted her nobody would witness the humiliation and shame when she turned him away like a stray dog, or laughed at him, or, nightmare and most probable vision, had her husband throw him out.
Naomi, and she had walked through the big white house like a lost selkie, silently, softly, a beautiful shadow in his otherwise crowded life. Returning to her embrace after the harsh lights of publicity had always felt like falling backwards into a balmy, azure ocean, and being caught on the gentle swell of a wave that would take him away to unknown and graceful shores.

Carefully Jon placed the empty coffee mug in the sink and even wiped down the kitchen counter, returned the milk carton into the fridge and the coffee tin on the shelf. Almost it seemed to him as if he were fulfilling a ritual, putting everything in order like putting it behind him step by step, and the first one of those had been shutting the porch door. Now they were gaining momentum, one following the other in its own rhythm, but each a little faster than the one before.
There was, he knew, an overnight bag somewhere upstairs in the corner of the wardrobe; he had received it as a Christmas gift from his sister a couple of years ago and tossed it there, puzzled by its intention. He never used overnight bags. When he left here, it was always with a trunk containing many sets of clothing, as many as he needed for the official functions he would be carted to.
On his own, privately, he had not gone anywhere recently.
Not even when Sal presented him with an exclusive invite to a film star’s private Tropical Island, stating, “Go, for Heaven’s sake. Take swimming shorts and nothing else, get drunk every night, fuck every girl you can grab and come back tanned and rested.”
So now, this seemed like the right thing to use. One change of everything, a toothbrush, nothing more.
He would go, find out what he wanted to know, and return.
At long last, there would be an answer to the question that had been torturing him for years. She would have to tell him herself, look him into the eye and tell him why she had walked out on him like that, leaving him in misery, and he would have the fitting response, oh indeed. He would fling it at her, all his pain and bitter loneliness, and watch with grim satisfaction how she wilted.
And the boy.
His son, the child she had kept away from him, something would have to be done about that, too.
While he stuffed a couple of shirts into the bag his blood boiled up at this thought.
The promises he had made her, the dreams he had painted for her, and nothing had obviously been good enough to make her stay, and she had even taken that from him on top of everything else, the baby.
Not only had she torn out his heart and destroyed his soul, she had also carried away this secret.

After a moment’s thought he decided to leave his car in the garage and call for a cab instead. It would not be advisable to let the Porsche stand at the airport for more than few hours, he knew.
This in itself made him pause, because his plan had been to be away no longer than two days.
Jon was still pondering this, standing on his doorstep while he waited for the taxi, when his neighbor stepped outside and nodded to him.
“Morning,” he said, “Lovely day, isn’t it? Are you traveling again, then?”
They knew, of course. His face was far too well-known, but the people around him here had developed a kind, tight-lipped protectiveness concerning their famous neighbor, and he was never molested, always treated like one of them.
“Yes,” Jon replied, surprising himself, “I’m off to Norway for a while. Don’t know when I’ll be back yet.”
“Supposed to be cold there,” Mike remarked judiciously, eyeing the silk-lined leather jacket Jon was wearing, “That won’t keep you warm. Not a lot of luggage either for a trip to Europe.”
“I’m not staying that long.”
This conversation, Jon realized, was assuredly the craziest he had ever had with someone who was not a star-struck fan, and he was playing the asshole-part in it.
“Right.” The man, he knew, owned a small but quite nice hamburger restaurant over in Santa Monica, right on the promenade, too, and why he lived out here, this far north, Jon had never been able to figure out.
“Someone taking you to the airport?” A box of cigarettes had appeared in Mike’s hand. He offered one to Jon who took it with a nod and a word of thanks.
“Nah. Called a cab.”
Actually, it felt rather good, he noticed, to stand outside his house on an early Tuesday morning with a small travel bag and a smoke, waiting for something as mundane as a taxi, and chatting with the neighbor.
Mike squinted at him against the slants of the sun.
“Not like you,” he commented, “To take a cab. I’ve only ever seen you rush away in that fancy German car or being picked up by one of them dark limousines. Are you lighting out, then?”
“Lighting out?” he had forgotten to pack a razor.
“Yes, man, running away, are you running away from it all? I would, if I were you, you know, run away. At least from time to time.”
Thoughtfully Mike observed the glowing ashes on his butt, “Must be hard, living in the limelight all the time.”
“No, there’s this girl….”
He caught himself just in time. This was so not like him, talking about his most private things with anyone, let alone with strangers.
Mike, though, was grinning at him in understanding, and with some warmth, and answered, “Yeah, it’s always about them, isn’t it? Well, I wish you luck, mate, even though I can’t see what’s wrong with Californian girls. You really need to go all the way to Norway to find yourself one? Must be someone special, then.”
With a brief wave he stepped down from the threshold and, picking up the newspaper on the way, walked to his car with a merry whistle.
“Thanks, Mike,” Jon mumbled, but somehow the short exchange had lightened his heart considerably and set things in a proper perspective for him.
There was no anger. Anguish, that yes. Anger, no. There had never been anger, really, only the deep pain of being left alone, and the unanswered questions.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Bunny As Designer



Today, I'm going to create a creator.
The Bunny (well known to all of you) wants to be a living, breathing part of my present (and will you please not how THAT sounds!!! ) novel, and so, while editing said novel, I have changed one of my characters from being

1. male
2. Lebanese
3. jovial and garrulous

to

1. female
2. a Southern Belle
3. garrulous, but with a snarky humor

This character, the fashion designer Jamal, now Bunny, is going to outfit my heroine, Naomi, in the cream and gold dress she will be shot in during the Academy Awards.
I agree, it's a perfect waste of a very nice dress, but it gets a center role because, well, blood looks just SO good on white and gold.
The Bunny designer has strong views on why to wear which gown to which occasion.
She tells Naomi quite clearly, "NO white dress for the Grammy! You'll be standing in front of a white wall for the interviews, and no one will notice you. Now if you want them to look but not ask too many questions, wear something that will so burn in their eyes that they'll forget what they wanted to say!" and sells her a scarlet and plum silk creation.
At the same time she allows, albeit grudgingly, the cream dress for the Oscars because, "Honey, there will be so many colors on that red carpet, no one will give a damn anyway."
The Bunny's shop is as lush and colorful as an Oriental boudoir. There are the most wonderful things to discover.
You enter through the glass door from the noisy, hot and humid Hollywood pavement and step into a haven of scent, soft music and rainbows. Bunny loves colors, and she loves opulent.
All her clothes hand-made, and the materials she uses are unvaryingly silk or velvet, chiffon or the finest linen. She believes in embroidery and pearls on her robes, and she does not think small in jewelry, either.
"Take me to the Vogue, or take me to the morgue!" she cries at one time.
Well, she cries it at the Vogue party after the Grammy Awards, and she might as well, since she's there, and celebrated.

You see, I don't like losers, and I don't like writing about them, either.
My characters may have a rough patch in their lives, it may even take half their lives, but they never, ever give up. All of them, even Naomi's bad-ass father, has a dream, and a very hard time accepting that his daughter is stronger than him in realizing hers and consequently destroying his.
The Bunny, she wants a store on Rodeo Drive, somewhere between Armani and Valentino, and for her to be the first choice for big Hollywood events.
And I have a good guess that she's going to succeed.
Go, Bunny! It's Vogue!


Friday, November 13, 2009

For the Pea!

In this picture: Tom Hensley, in Hamburg, on June 2nd, 2008. Pic taken by me.

I posted this blog on mySpace in July after our bathroom was finally newly renovated and ready to be used, and at the same time, on the Diamondville Fan Forum. The reply below was posted by Tom Hensley, Neil Diamond's pianist.


Up until today, I had a very clear conception of what luxury in its finest form meant to me.
A Porsche convertible, black, with leather seats and a Bose sound system. Or maybe Bang and Olufsen.
Trips to London whenever I feel like it, with a suite at the Mandarin Oriental so that I would only have to drop off the steps to be in Brompton Road or Sloane street, and there's a Starbucks next door, too.
Carte Blanche for the ground floor of Selfridge's, the designer purse heaven.
Mauve silk Valentino evening slippers, the 1000$ shawl, same designer, that I saw at Harrods last spring, my own MacBook, a large house on the beach in Maryland.
And of course the ultimate luxury trip, attending the soundcheck and time before the concert backstage at my favorite singer's show, but please not here in Hamburg, make that Madison Square Garden or Hollywood Bowl. Or the O2 in London, because I LOVE London.
The sound- and lighting equipment that Neil lugs around, for my musical troupe.
Only it would bring down the ceiling in our old school hall, so no.
Ah, here's another nice one: a performance with my troupe at the Royal Albert Hall!!!!
Attending the Academy Awards, but not somewhere in the back row of a balcony, no, I want to sit up front, too!
The list could go on, of course, as you all know, forever.
But today, I found the ultimate, final, to-die-for luxury right here at home:
my own shower. My very own, newly renovated bathroom.
No more traipsing to the school gym every night for a quick dip, no more brushing my teeth and washing my face over the kitchen sink! A long, hot shower, warmed towels from the brand new heater, white tiles, and also a non-clinging shower curtain (Tom Hensley, cry your heart out!!!).
Nothing, folks, nothing beats that! Believe me!


And here the reply:

I'm afraid I have to quibble...

...with your inclusion of Bang & Olufsen in your fantasy. I once made the mistake of purchasing a B&O turntable which was the biggest piece of junk I ever owned. It destroyed more records than the 1994 earthquake. I finally put it out during a garage sale, attached to a hammer and a sign that read "Bang a Bang & Olufsen $1". A lot of people banged it, but not enough to make back the far-too-high price I had paid for it. Audiophiles, on the other hand, will surely quibble with your inclusion of Bose. The mantra on the audiophile message boards is: "No highs? No lows? It must be Bose." And, now that I think of it--the Mandarin Oriental in London currently has a big construction project going on next door, so unless you like the sound of heavy machinery, you might want to set your sights elsewhere. And as long as you're toting a MacBook, it might as well be a MacBook Pro. Aside from those caveats, feel free to carry on.

Your favorite band member

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nightmares And What They Mean



Not really a nightmare, but a recurring dream, sort of.

This happens: I dream I'm on a plane, which is not nice for me to start with because I really hate flying, but here I am: in a big plane, on the runway, motors humming, the thing vibrating with the will to take off, and yes, I'm WILLING it to take off, too.
Like hell I'm willing it to take off, because all the other times it never properly did.
Well, it actually does take off, every time, but only a little bit. It takes off just enough to make it to the end of the runway, and gain enough altitude to tumble into the forest at the end of it.
Mostly, in my dream, we have to land on a road a few kilometers beyond the airport, sometimes even in a village or small town, no one ever gets hurt, the inhabitants come to look what happened, and there we are: a dazed, helpless group of travelers who made it only just into the air for two minutes or so.
The hard part is not the unplanned landing on a street.
The hard part is being stranded, and the pilot telling us we have to return to the airport, and please take the plane along, so that we can try again.
So the other passengers and I have the chore to turn around the plane and push it back all the way to the terminal, and it somehow - of course - never gets done.
Stranded.
We get served coffee by the villagers, and something to eat, and we wait for the experts to come and get us and bring the plane back on track.

I know, right, that this is the silliest possible way to dream of an airplane crash.
But the point is not the crash in itself. The point is that every time, just before we take off, I'm really PUSHING the plane to take off, and I never manage. Big time fail, with no exception.
Now I've been wondering recently if there's a message here for me.
I'm not good at interpreting dreams, but this one here seems so obvious....
Maybe I'm not pushing hard enough. Maybe my will is not strong enough. Maybe my belief in the ability of the thing to truly fly is not good enough.
Not enough.

So I wonder: will this plane ever take off for me, will it take off the day someone tells me my book will be published?
Will I then, on that night, go to bed, fall asleep and finally, finally dream that the plane soars, and I can see the forest and that stupid village and its friendly people far down below me, while we are on our way to that far, unknown destination I'm heading for?

Trite, I know. And obvious, and pathetic. But it is true, and you know what they say:
No story ever invented is as wild as true life can be.

Fly, my plane. Fly.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Look Homeward, Angel


This is the house I grew up in.
It is one of maybe twenty such wooden, simple houses that were built just after WW II in the forest outside my hometown, for soldiers who entered civil service after the war, and their families. My maternal grandfather was one of them, and so we came to live here.
My father was not with us then, so it was only my Mom, my grandparents and my young uncles in that house.
One of my earliest memories is waking up on an early winter morning, when the grown ups were having breakfast before going off to work, and sitting with them in the warm kitchen, and being fed bites of bread with butter and honey by my grandfather. My Mom, who was working for the Weather Research Institute in Offenbach at that time, was wearing, I recall it clearly, a white blouse and a dark blue, plaited skirt that day. She and my grandfather went off to work and I stayed behind with my grandmother, who looked after the house. A while later, my friends came to pick me up for play. They could not reach the bell knob, so Peter would yell at the top of his lungs, "Frau Refke!!!!" which was my grandparents' family name.
We would romp around outside all day long.
I remember when I got m first set of Lego, and how we marveled that the stones stuck together, and I recall very clearly how I used to stand in front of my grandmother's book cabinet and stare at that one volume with the blue leather cover and vow to myself that I would read it one day, just as soon as I knew how.
It was "Gone With The Wind", and actually the first "real" book I did read, and I still have that same copy here with me.

I had a dog.
He was a big, black and white mongrel named "Tell" who would go with me everywhere, patient and friendly, and sleep under the kitchen bench so I could put my feet on his warm back.
There was no central heating, but wood stoves in every room and a cooking range that needed to be fired, too, and a big hot water boiler. In the basement, there was a huge tub for laundry, which my grandmother stirred with a wooden staff and, yes, boiled it. The laundry, I mean.
My grandfather used to chop the wood for that, and once every year the coal man delivered a mound of coals into the cellar.
I said basement earlier, but it was a cellar, with dirt floor and iron doors.
The garden was full of vegetable and fruit. My grandfather grew potatoes, tomatoes, leek, cabbage, onions, apples, pears, cherries, plums, strawberries and all kinds of other things, which my grandmom would conserve in jars for the winter. There was no freezer, no fridge and no TV.
No car, of course.
My father had decided to emigrate to Brazil and gone ahead to find a job and a home, and for a couple of years, before we joined him in San Paulo, I lived in that blissful childhood dream.

For me, as a kid, everything was easy and simple.
My grandmother cooked hearty, fabulous food, my Mom was pretty and always smelled good, my grandfather was a good singer and took me for long walks and bicycle rides, and somehow the weather was always good: either it was hot and sunny, or it was cold and there was snow.

We went to see that house last Friday when my sister and I went home to visit my parents.
The family moved out of there after we returned from Brazil and into modern apartments, but I love to return there once in a while and reassure myself that in that little nook of Germany, time has practically not moved at all.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Places That Belong To You...

Leslie and Pea had me thinking today about that Mimosa trip we are going to do next summer - and hearken well!!!! - I said "Going To Do". Not "What we dream about".
The travel dates are set, the route has been plotted, the sights picked out.

Leslie said, name the places you want to see! Make a plan!
And that got me to thinking about places that I've always longed to see for some reason or other, and probably never will.
Like this one here: Hollywood.
I've always, since I was a teenager, wanted to see Los Angeles, for obvious reasons. Nothing mysterious here: Santa Monica Pier, Malibu, the Greek Theater, Hollywood Boulevard. And Disneyland. And Neil Diamond's house, of course, but only a glimpse while driving by in a car, I'm NOT a stalker.



Or this one: Chesapeake Bay.
Because in 8th grade, I had an English teacher who had a sister living on the Chesapeake Bay, and she told us often how she went to visit with that sister, and how beautiful the United States were, and Maryland in particular. I think it was she who first directed my attention in that direction, and the image of that huge bay is connected with fond memories for me.



Or here: Roanoke Island, the Lost Colony in Virginia.
Why Roanoke?
I like "Matlock". Loved to watch those crime shows, and in one of them he goes to Roanoke for some reason or other, and I loved the atmosphere, even if it was only a silly TV episode. Also, William Least Heat Moon visited the island on his travel across America, and what he wrote about, I wanted to see.





Gloucester, Massachusetts, because of the movie with "a boat that goes out to Sea and never returns", as the director put it, "The Storm", and the atmosphere of that film, no other reason.





Oh, and this one is really important: The Shenandoah Valley, because the song is so haunting and beautiful. I don't even rightly know where it is, but a place that inspires such a lovely song must be extraordinary indeed.







Oh, and this one is really important: Savannah.
Again, atmosphere. "Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil". I wonder if that graveyard really exists....





About this place: hey, do you really need an explanation? I love fun, and people, and the show. Where else would that be?





Is there one place in the whole wide world as wonderful as New York City? That town has everything, simply everything. Including my love.







Okay, I lied about New York. I've been there, but I want to go there again, very badly.

Now that I'm torturing myself editing html and uploading pics, so many more places come to mind that I really want to see in the States.

Memphis, Nashville, Paducah, Chicago, Wabasha, Atlanta... have always wanted to go to Atlanta.

What's that? We're going there?
The dream goes on......

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What's It All About.....




Too bad music cannot be uploaded on a blog, or you would be hearing "Alfie" now.
Yes, that old Burt Bacharach howler that pulls some people's teeth, but I had to include it in the setlist because my sister says no one can do it, with the exception of Cilla Black.
I just love to prove my sister wrong, and it worked.
There is a tiny, blond chit among my girls here who sings it just as good as Ms.Black, and when my dear sis is here next weekend, she'll hear it sung by Jasmin and be blown out of her shoes.
Even if she's wearing her Jimmy Choo boots, hear me, dear?

Today we're rehearsing Greensleeves.
These kids have never learned to read music, and they have no ideas what a score is, but they learn so fast, and when he go on stage in April they'll be able to sing it in three voices, Soprano, Alto I and Alto II, and a cappella at that.
They would never listen to a song like that on their own, or "Alfie", or "Someone To Watch Over Me" or "I Will Follow Him" or, even better. "Strangers In The Night".
But they love those songs, and they fight over them like terriers.
Isn't that the greatest?
Some are shy, some are really bursting with the music that is caught up in them and wants out so badly, but they all love the stage and the songs and the weekends spent here in the hall.
No better way to spend a Sunday!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What The Bunny Did





Just incredible.
Imagine: you wake up because the cat is sitting on your chest, yowling into your face because he wants to be let out "Real BAD!!!" and you crawl out of bed at eight in the morning after everyone else has already left the house. You stumble into the living room and open the terrace door and the stupid creature takes its time to decide if it wants to go or not. The newspaper is spread out all over the dining table, the kid left his tea standing there, too, there's some mail, mostly advertisements and magazines, and among that pile, a brown padded envelope with a green customs sticker........ huh????
Didn't order anything from overseas, and no one announced he was sending anything either, so what the hell???
Sender: Bunny Hipps, Virginia. Right. I know that one!
Inside, a card with a note, and a small, white box with this: see above.
The note tells me that I have a friend in Virginia. Not a nice-to-know-you-let's-pass-some-time kind of friend, but someone who tells me that I am well loved and who values my friendship and is looking forward to meeting me in person.
And to underline that, the Bunny sends me one of her lovely pieces of jewelry!!!!
A rose star-flower with a hidden St. Christopher medallion on its backside to keep me safe.

Well Bunny, let me tell you, you are loved just as well from here. I'm not a good crafter, and the best you might expect in return is a crooked origami bird, but from here to Virginia, my heart goes out to you, and all the virtual hugs you can take.
Thank you so much!!!! What a wonderful, sweet surprise that was, and hey, I'm looking forward to meeting you (and the other Mimosas) just as much!
We are not unreal, and also not virtual. The proof is lying here right next to me.



A brief post scriptum for the Captain: If you ever feel like really making a fool out of yourself with your adolescent son: ask him what kind of Warhammer figures he has when he doesn't.
Turns out his friend has those, and they talk about it all the time, and what I took to be Warhammer were, in truth -and if I hear you laugh now, I'll clobber you!!!! - Star Wars figurines.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Peppers Melt The Laptop!!!!






Keeping a blog updated is harder than I thought.
It's supposed to be original, witty, entertaining and very clever at the same time, in short, it is meant to always show you from your best side so that people will be impressed.
But, the terrible chore of finding a subject!
This time I took the easy way out and asked the Mimosas to inspire me. This blog is, after all, about them.
Sara said, "Write about the significant others in our life and how they react to us hanging out here on Twitter all the time."
Huh? Significant others? Well yes, husbands, boyfriends, the like.
And while she said that I glanced over at my own "DH" who was busy reading his mySpace comments and mails and chatting to a friend who lives at the other end of the city on msn and in between asked me what the Captain had said again to make me laugh.
"A lack of rubber gloves," was my reply, because she had prepared jalapenos with her bare hands and was suffering from the repercussions.
"Don't touch ANYTHING!!!" someone advised her when the Captain said she was going to have a shower, which resulted in another deluge of humorous, biting or kind comments, from each according to her character.
I promised to have a go at her produce seller next summer.
She does not have a significant other, the Captain was pleased to let us know, but did her cat count? Because the kitty sure has an opinion about hours spent on the internet.
Blue's DH must be a little bit like mine: too lazy to twitter himself, but curious enough to let her read out selected tweets to him. A Twitter lurker.
Pea's DH ("The Ken Doll") is glad she has found like-minded company via twitter with whom she can talk about crafting, sewing, the arts and music to her heart's delight.
Sara's husband does not think we are "real people", and he does not like her to spend time talking to us.
Well, "really"? So is there a thing like "unreal" jealousy, and why waste energy on it then anyway?
How unreal, I ask you, can a jalapeno be that gets handed around all over the US for laughs, starting out in DC with the Captain and for some obscure reasons ending up in Los Angeles and messing up Moe's laptop (and why, tell, oh CaliMoni, does your laptop melt once the word "peppers" turns up on its screen? Very scary!!!)
And on it's way to LA (NICE song btw.) it swept up the dust under Pea's bed and got rolled up in bacon and stuffed with cream cheese in Austin. There might have been a detour via the arid steppes of Washington State, but that must have passed me by.

The Poisonwood Bible.
My favorite passage is where the Preacher father tries to get his new congregation to join him in the river for baptism and they look at him as if he's lost his mind. Which, from their point of view, he has, of course, because no one wants to be eaten by the crocs in the muddy water.

This I noticed anyway: every day, among all the chatter and the fun, there seems to be a different, underlying theme to the hours spent tweeting with the others of this group, and the astounding thing is, there always ARE new subjects to talk about.
So maybe the significant others do have reason to feel that spike of jealousy.
But then, they might get off the couch and away from watching car races or rocket simulations or playing chess against their silent PCs or simply snoring.....
and twitter with us?????? Heaven help us, no!!!!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lydia's Birthday Blog Hop





HAPPY BIRTHDAY LYDIA




Lydia is an artist.
She is a designer, a crafter, a writer and photographer, but her maybe greatest talent is the ability to walk really fast through the dawn streets of Austin, tweet away on her Blackberry AND take notice of her surroundings without stumbling over her own feet.
She is also a lurker.
Her updates on the going-ons at Starbucks during the darkest hours of the morning are mystery-novel worthy.
Lydia is a softie, too.
Every time she sees a picture of a small furry beast she goes to pieces and needs a fresh sheaf of animal-adoption documents. Her house must be full up to the roof with them, unless the tapir in her pantry snacks on them when she isn't looking (which he wouldn't do because he is a very well-mannered and educated tapir).
The tapir, by the way, has to share his pantry with the sides of bacon that Lydia keeps there for emergencies, right with the cupcakes and the kool-aid.
Which means, she's also a foodie.
On a regular basis she sends out illustrated memos on what she is going to eat so that all of us others drool on our keyboards, may it be sushi or Twinkies - or cupcakes.
Lydia is a laugher.
No one laughs as loudly and convincingly over twitter. In fact, should there ever be a twitter "laughter" app, I'd suggest they take Lydia as model. She laughs easily and heartily, too, at the inane stupidities we all toss at her.

And Lydia is a Mimosa.
Yes, you are, Blue. You can't be Queen because the Bunny is Mimosa Queen, but you are a close second.
We are the Mimosas. Women from all over the place, different in many ways, with tastes that vary and make as bicker (seldom) and similarities that make us cry with laughter, and many moments of real warmth and closeness.
Today is your Birthday, and I'm joining in to wish you a wonderful day, from all the way across the ocean and who knows how many time zones.
I wish for you to be taken our for sushi lunch by the Junkie, and an extra shot of espresso at Starbucks on the house, and that not one of your marvelous fingernails may break off. I'd like to see your lovely face today, so please tweet a new pic, and I sincerely hope someone will have the decency to get you a really big cupcake, and some serious chocolate.

But most of all I wish you all the health and happiness life can provide for you. Old-fashioned Birthday wishes, I know, but somehow they still sound right.

Have a great day, Blue!


The UnderstandBlue Birthday Blog Hop starts with Angie: http://sweetsandtarts.blogspot.com/2009/08/happy-birthday-lydia.html

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blue Highways - dedicated to the bunny



William Least Heat Moon wrote a great book.
I have no idea if it ever made it into the NYT or into any book charts, but it inspired me something fierce when I read it. It was a lucky find at a book store here in Hamburg that carried English books for triple their original price in a time before the internet and amazon, or even less amazon.de.
He had, after losing his job, the crazy idea to travel all over the States in his van, using only the Blue Highways, and he wrote this book about it.
Actually, maybe it was even this book that turned me off the "regular" sightseeing and into wanting to discover the small wonders and the people in the places we went.
So when I joined my husband in the States in 88 while he was training for his new job, I did not want to go to the big cities (well, with the exception of NY), but wished to see the country itself.
So we went up north from Minneapolis, all the way to International Falls, because that was at the end of nowhere.
Least Heat Moon had this way to categorize the diners he visited into "calendar categories": the more of those were hanging in the place, the better the food was. He stated that he had eaten extremely well at four calendar places but never came across a five calendar restaurant and then wondered how awesome the food there might be..... makes me think right now about the categorizing of tornadoes, but not going there right now.

International Falls, now.
If you ever want a town that has nothing, that is the place to go.
The paper mill might be worth attention, the smell permeates the entire area. or at least it did then, no idea if it still exists. Our motel was clean, the people were nice, but that was about all of it. The liquor store was a trailer on some gravel yard, and I can't really remember if there was anything else noteworthy. It was cold then, even though it was May, the river and the lake were still frozen.
Now I'm a hopeless romantic, and my husband and I were on something like a second honeymoon, and Canada was just across the bridge, so I suggested we go over the border to have dinner that night. This proved to be no mean feat, because as Germans we had, of course, US visas in our passports, which included a green paper that you had to return when you left the country again. It took a convoluted discussion with the border control to make them understand we would only be gone for a couple of hours, but they were nice and let us cross into Canada and Fort Frances, the village on the other side.
We drove up and down the main street of that sleepy place, found a book store (of sorts) that had maybe five books, about twenty different magazines on weapons and a hundred on fishing, a couple of uninviting diners, a video store, and nothing else. After an hour of futile searching for a nice restaurant we gave up and returned over the bridge.
The Canadian border patrol greeted us with the words: "Oh you're back, ey?"
Slightly disgruntled, we asked him where he went when he wanted a really nice meal, and he replied, "We never eat in Fort Frances. We always go across the border to International Falls." and then went on to give us the directions to Thunderbird Lodge about 20 miles east out of town.
We did go there, and what a gem that was! Just like out of a travel prospect, with boardwalks out to the lake, a great deck, a large log cabin in the middle of the woods with a huge open fireplace, quilts over the sofa, Indian paintings on the walls and wonderful, wonderful food.
There were no calendars at all that we could see, but linen table cloths and napkins and very fine crystal glasses, too.

On our way back south, we went through a small village called Eli, lost somewhere in the Minnesotan wilderness, not much more than one street, but I loved it.
Sometimes when you come to a place and you get out of your car, there is this instant love feeling. Something just is right - the smell, the light, the sounds, not even necessarily what you see, but how it feels.
I had that with Eli, Minn., and many years later, with Floro, Norway.

In Floro, when my friend and I reached it, it was cold and raining, and we were tired from the long drive down from Alesund, and I just stood there in the rain and thought, this is it. This is the place I want to live. Eli felt the same.

A while later, we drove south from Minneapolis along the Mississippi (hey, and what a discovery that was ! The Twin Cities lie on the Mississippi! The same one that runs through New Orleans!) and saw many other lovely places. Somewhere down there - I have forgotten the name of the town - is a Quaker hotel where you can ask for a cat for your room. Honestly, I'm not kidding you. They offer a room cat to spend the night with you. And they served us the most amazing chicken soup.

So yes, I still love the small places. The heart places. The places where America lives.

PS: William Least Heat Moon's book was on the NYT bestseller list for 34 weeks. just googled him.