True stories with a twist!

Posts tagged ‘travel’


Meet my brother, Jerry as he continues his travels in Africa. This photo was taken in Zambia. My brother is on the left.

Jerry travels to Africa frequently because of his work with SHAREAFRICA, an organization helping AIDS orphans. SHARE builds schools and feeds, houses and provides clothing for over 200 orphans in Kenya. (For more information, see the website:

After a recent trip to Kenya he and his companion, Usha,  took a side trip : a safari in Zambia. One afternoon while sitting on a restaurant’s verandah eating lunch, a monkey suddenly swooped out of a tree, landed on their table and grabbed a piece of pizza out of Usha’s hand. The restaurant manager observed this interaction and came to their table with his apology.

“I’m sorry about that monkey disturbing you, he said. “I am going to assign a special guard to you so you will not be bothered by animals any more. He will stand by your table until you finish your meal.”

And he did. The fierce looking guard in the photo did an admirable job and they were no longer interrupted by animals during that meal. The animals seemed to know this guard, and stayed clear of him. At the end of the pleasant, peaceful lunch Jerry said to the Zulu, “I would like to thank you. You have done a wonderful job protecting us. I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Jerry.”

“What?” said the Zulu. “That cannot be true. MY name is Jerry.” And then he asked in all sincerity,”Why did your parents give you an African name?”


In November, 2009, when I heard the astounding news that Conde Nast decided to eliminate the publication of Gourmet I was shocked. “This magazine has been a part of my life every since I was married,” I wailed. “Couldn’t Conde Nast call for a vote? Summon a focus group? Just a snap of corporate fingers and it’s gone?”

I have so many memories of this wonderful publication.

The first recipe I tried was “Dill Bread Hoffman.” That recipe brought a raging battle to the “Letters to the Editor” page.

“How dare those Hoffmans steal my recipe and then name it after themselves? I submitted that recipe first.”

The pride in family recipes was very serious to the original Dill Bread bakers.Their published temper tantrum added a Country Brawl quality to the magazine.

I was bought back to one traumatic pre-Thanksgiving when my son was in second grade. He came home from school in tears. He had forgotten to tell me that bis teacher requested that the children ask their mothers to serve a typical pilgrim dinner that night.

“Everyone told the class what they had for dinner. Most kids said stuff like, turkey, corn, and squash. But when it was men turn I said Szechuan beef with Chinese mushrooms. Everyone laughed at me.”

My defense? Gourmet had featured recipes from China in the last issue.

Every month when Gourmet arrived I enjoyed a reprieve from humdrum ordinary to exotic. It connected me with famous, sophisticated chefs divulging coveted recipes.

And they were receptive to their subscribers. Once, after a vacation to La Jolla, California, I requested a recipe from Sante Ristorante. One day a letter from Gourmet arrived, containing the recipe for “Papardelle with Fennel Sauce,” compliments of the chef. Gourmet had made time to call and get the respond to my request.

Now they were being forced out of my life forever.

Is it possible to mourn a publication? I did.

Feeling the need for comfort, someone with whom to share my feelings, a way to connect with a past Gourmet experience, I found Sante Restorante and dialed their number. Rather than a greeting from the restaurant I heard a computerized voice saying that the number had been permanently disconnected.

“So they’re gone too!”

As I sorrowfully looked through the last issue ever to be published, November 2009, “A Day That Will Live In Culinary Infamy,” those annoying little post cards advertising new subscriptions kept falling out from between the pages. They were annoying before but now they were infuriating.

“I’ll show Conde Nast what I think of their company’s policy!”Searching through all the Gourmet Magazines stored on my kitchen shelves, I gathered every single postcard and mailed them back to Conde Nast.

They will have to pay for all that postage for those cards. I hope they have to declare Bankruptcy, Chapter 11, and income tax evasion.

So I wonder, “If Julia Child were here today what would she think of what I did?”


I never thought it could come to this. How could a little action on my part, or maybe a few actions on my part, derail the entire government of Italy?  As I read the headlines about their financial disaster and the thought that these economic problems could sink their government and even cause a collapse of the Euro in Europe, I hang my head in shame.

The fact that all this dire news that is shaking the world was a problem that I caused is humiliating and embarrassing. How can a few harmless acts destroy an entire country?

A whole continent?

It all started with my boots. Boots? Yes, I kept hearing about the quality and superiority of Italian leathers. On a trip to Italy I sampled these luxuries. They were soft. So soft that I could imagine wearing them as bodywear rather than footwear. Could I ever wear any other leather once becoming acquainted with Italian leathers?

This is a rhetorical question.

So I bought some and charged them to my Visa card. Don’t ask me to define ”SOME.”

After the leather find I discovered Italian silk. Near the town of Como were fabulous silk factories. Italian silks are so fine that fashion houses around the world order them for their runway collections. Could I return to the United States without buying my family and friends some of these luxuries? Another rhetorical question. I could do no such thing. So I charged more sales to the reliable Visa card.

We all love pasta, but Italian pasta and the piquant tomato sauce served with it was such a sensation that I had to share some with my friends back home. It’s a marvel that even delicate, perishable items can be shipped across the ocean. Obviously Italian goods were meant to be sent back home. I’m not the only one who does this!

By the time I was ready to leave Italy I singlehandedly boosted the Gross National Product to its all time high. There was rejoicing in the streets. it was like the New Orleans Mardi Gras without the trumpets.

But then the boom dropped.

Reliable Visa rejected my entire shopping spree. They recognized that this kind of spending did not match my regular pattern, and voided the whole amount before I could disagree.

My Visa rejection is what started the economic downfall of a beautiful, romantic and stylish country.

Vaya Con Dios, Italia. Scuzzi!



She was an elderly woman from Sienna whom we
met on a trip to Italy. She spoke English
quite well, and in the course of our
conversation she asked, "Is it true that you
American women are slaves to your homes?"

I am an American, I am a woman, and I own my own
 home. Am I a slave to it? What a silly, backward idea. 
"Of course not", I
respond. Where did she get such an absurd
notion? The very idea. How insulting. This 
peasant woman from Sienna, suggesting to me 
that I am a slave. Which of us is traveling
to foreign countries: 
She or I? Does my life sound like the life of a slave? 

When I come back home and back to my environment what do I 
feel? Comfort? Oh, Yes! Slavery? Nonsense. And yet her 
question haunts me. 

It's dangerous for a new idea to be force-fed into your mind. How do
you expel it? It's like a song that repeats and repeats but cannot
be erased from memory.

I think of her question the next time I stay home all day awaiting
the arrival of the plumber, or waste perfectly good time for an
appointment with the electrician. And the computer problem: where
 are those Computer Geeks anyway; they're already an hour late.  I have other important 
things to do.

This is a bad mindset. I will not think of myself as a slave to my
home. I love my home. It always feels wonderful to be back home no 
matter how far I've travelled or how long I've been away. I am 
reminded of an essay I read years ago in the NY Times.

It said the real value of vacations is that you realize how beautiful
your own home is when you return. It helps you understand and value 
the wonderful life you have. That essay stayed in my mind all these
years. It really resonated with me.

But now I have to wait for the stone mason, who has to replace some 
chipped flagstones on the patio. The living room sofa is in bad need
of steam cleaning after a visit from the grandchildren. 
And I have to be home to sign for a Fed Ex package due to arrive 
from Hong Kong.

Why don't I schedule these people on a day Consuelo is here? She can let them into the house
and I won't have to stay home. 

But Consuelo doesn't speak english. Although I speak a little
Spanish I can't exactly describe to her what she needs to 
explain to the servicemen.
Trapped. I feel trapped. I AM trapped. And I was looking 
forward to seeing the new exhibit at the Montclair Art Museum 
today. What should I do now? What choices do I have? These jobs have to get done.

Well, I reason, I don't have to waste time. While I'm waiting I can 
accomplish some small tasks. How can I make use of the time as I wait
for repair guys? 

Putter in my garden? No, that won't work. If I'm out back in  the garden I might not
hear the front doorbell ring. If I miss the repairman I'll have to to waste another day
waiting for another appointment. And I'll probably be charged for wasting the technician's
time. I hate being so dependent on service people. I'm a captive audience. I'm at the mercy
of ridiculous service people. What choice do I have?


"What do you call people who must do what is expected of them 
without having any freedom of choice?"



We were vacationing in Wyoming, excited about our first visit to Yellowstone National Park. The hotel in Jackson Hole was lovely; the rental  car was new, and it was a beautiful summer day. My husband, our son Mark and I decided to get an early start for the drive to Yellowstone the next morning.

The attendant brought the car up from the garage and we drove off. When we got on the road Mark commented that the apples we had left in the car  the night before were missing, as were the bottles of water. My husband rationalized by saying,

“In Wyoming there are strict rules about removing anything edible that bears might find tempting. The parking attendant was probably complying with the rules”

That seemed logical, and we continued on our way.

At our first rest stop Mark offhandedly said to me.

“I never liked blue cars because they seem to change their color throughout the day. The shade of blue changes with the sun’s angle”.

“You’re right” I agreed. “Now the color looks more gray than blue.”

Back on the road, we ventured higher up into the mountain range. In another hour we finally saw the sign to “Old Faithful”. I glanced at the dashboard clock to see how long the trip had taken. Oddly, there seemed to be a problem with the clock. The time hadn’t advanced. This was a new development; yesterday it was working perfectly.

We lost our civilized Eastern identities as soon as we came to the prehistoric-looking park. Steam spewed from the earth and bubbling mud pots perked away. Eerie sounds arose from deep inside subterranean earthy places. “Old Faithful,” nature’s creative story, erupts and spews boiling hot water one hundred feet high. And “Old Faithful” repeats this naturely trick every two hours.

Much later, sated with natural vistas and wildlife sightings, we began our drive back to Jackson Hole. My husband asked me for the directions he had put in the car last night.

They were gone.

“Wait a minute,” he said. “Where is the rental agreement?” He looked in the glove compartment. It was empty.

“I know I put the rental papers in the glove compartment last night. I always  do that in rental cars.”

Mark noticed some papers peeking out from under the visor and pulled them down. Then the shock hit. All the coincidences of the day suddenly made sense. The missing apples and bottled water. The subtle change in the car’s color. The non-functioning clock. The missing rental agreement.

The papers listed the registeree as Mr. Thomas Gill.

We were in the wrong car! The parking attendant brought us the wrong car this morning!

The car was registered to Mr. Thomas Gill. What would happen when Mr. Gill requested his car? Obviously it wouldn’t be in the garage. It would be missing. We were driving it. The staff would report the missing car to the police, assuming it had been stolen. And if we were stopped we couldn’t prove why we were driving Mr. Gill’s car. It wasn’t from the same rental company we used, so his rental company wouldn’t have any record of who we were. If we were in an accident we would not be covered by insurance. And our cell phones were out of service range, so we couldn’t call the hotel or the car rental company to explain the mistake.

The last thing we expected right then was a traffic jam. A traffic jam in the middle of the wilderness. Was there road construction, an accident, a disabled car? Here in the great state of Wyoming traffic jams were caused by other factors.

Factors such as a herd of buffalo crossing into civilization from buffalo land by way of our highway. The tourists in cars ahead of us were thrilled. They abandoned their cars. Just left them in the middle of the road to get closer to the beasts and take pictures. Then, as if it weren’t bad enough to be surrounded by wild buffalo, one lazy animal decided to lie down right in the middle of the road. The tourists went wild! They couldn’t get enough of the buffalo scene. The bisons seemed to be enjoying their fifteen minutes of fame. No one but us was in the slightest hurry.

The police in at least three states were probably looking for us by now for car theft and impersonating Mr. Gill.

A whole new mountain range formed by a slow moving glacier could have been formed by the time the road was cleared.

That evening, finally back at the hotel, we were treated like celebrities. The hotel manager presented us with vouchers for free dinners, paid for the day’s gasoline and waived the hotel garage’s daily parking fee.

Everyone seemed to know about the car mixup. Each encounter with a staff member brought the same response,

“You’re the people who drove the wrong car today.”

Our misadventure was big news throughout the resort.

We never did meet Mr. Gill.

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