plane.jpgLast week I endured the two most dreaded days of my life each year for the past 20 years. FAA mandated 'stewardess training,' formally known as "CQ." Stands for 'Continuing Qualification.' Ladies and Gentlemen, this has nothing to do with serving you drinks and meals, listening to all of your problems, helping you stow your 100 pound compact suitcases, with an everlasting smile on my face.

"Grab ankles, bend over, stay down. Release seat belts, leave everything, come this way, jump and slide two at a time" Repeat 1,000 times in two days but wait....if you're on a 747, upper deck, remember to say 'sit and slide'  as it is a long way down. If you're on a MD88, remember to grab the flashlight as it is dark in the tailcone. But wait, that's if we crash on land; it's all different if we land in the Hudson River. We bought another airline last year so now we have 20 different airplanes instead of 10 and it's different on each plane. 

We are paired into small groups and my group had our plane hijacked. It's no different than a screenplay in how it is meticulously choreographed. I can't divulge the information but I did come home knowing that I am prepared.
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img 5921Going to the Olympics will be a huge amount of fun, especially if you know where to eat. Before I left on the trip, I used Facebook and Twitter to ask for restaurant recommendations.

My wife's cousin who lives in Switzerland insisted that when we were in London, we had to go to Yotam Ottolenghi's food shops selling ready-made or, as the English call it, "take-away" salads, mains and desserts.

I visited the Belgravia Ottolenghi at 13 Motcomb Street (there are others in Notting Hill, Islington and Kensington and a small sit down restaurant called Nopi near Oxford Circus).

Ottolenghi is a showman who puts his flashiest products in the front window. The tarts, cup cakes, muffins and cookies are drop dead gorgeous.

Just inside the shop, farmers market fresh salads are displayed in large oval bowls on elevated platforms, the better to grab your attention. Almost as an afterthought, the few mains like cold chicken and baked salmon are tucked out of sight in a refrigerated section.

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The tremors began on the couch.

Shannon and I were leisurely thumbing our way through an Hawaiian tour book, making lists of potential activities for the trip we had just booked.

“Swimming with dolphins sounds like fun.”  We wrote it down.

“Let’s go to the volcano!” More notes.

“How about skydiving?”


Dry mouth.


I clasped my hands together so that he would not see them shake violently.

“Sure.” I replied, nodding robotically.  “Sure.  Sure.”

“You okay honey?  You look a little pale.”  Shannon got up to get me a glass of water and I tried to calm myself down.

I think skydiving is one of those things that everyone considers for at least a moment or two.  It’s a thrill that you might feel 100% capable of or interested in when you’re sitting, say, at a bar or a restaurant in the middle of New York City in the dark depth of winter.  But here it was on the table for real. 

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vermont.jpg Most people go to Vermont to watch the leaves change colors in the fall but I like it in the spring when the leaves on the trees are green, 67 colors of green, so that the bonnets of the trees look like a jigsaw puzzle and the tulips are in bloom and the geraniums and the cherry blossom trees – there’s nothing fancy about Vermont, it’s all straight up plain flowers plainly blooming everywhere, as if the earth is starting fresh again after winter and toward the end of May it hits an optimum equilibrium even if it does rain every other day which if you’re only there for a day and a half isn’t very good odds, at least not of skipping the rain.  But people in Vermont don’t mind, they just take out their umbrellas and keep on truckin’….   

“And why are we going to Vermont in May, Mom?  I don’t get it.  Why are we going to Vermont, at all???”

“You’ll see, Anna.”

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wci_history_1.jpgYesterday I opened a “letter” from my mother; a perfect example of her eccentric idea of correspondence.  Bereft of card, signature, or, God forbid, “Dear Daughter”, the envelope contained 3 newspaper clippings – each annotated with her inimitable, looping script.  To the first clipping, a review cautioning that a new kid’s hardback called “The Graveyard Book” may be too dark for sensitive children, my mother had added “This sounds good!”  A study exploring the effects of the color red on both attention span and anxiety prompted this commentary: “You know I made all red things for your cradle and crib!  How to create an obsessive compulsive?”  And of course my personal favorite, an interview in which Nadya Suleman, the recent mother of octuplets, asserts that she wanted a family to help combat depression.  In this article the words “children” “cure” and “depression” have all been manically underlined.  Radiating a giant arrow, the newspaper’s indent points to my mother’s own thickly inked phrase: “What an idiot!”  She may not write much, but it sure reads loud and clear.

My mother’s attitude towards children and their rearing being what it is, she often chose the Wolf Creek Inn as the ultimate destination on the many and extensive road trips we took together.  Touted as “the oldest continuously operated hotel in the Pacific Northwest” by the State of Oregon’s recreation department, the Inn boasts perfectly articulated period décor, both a ball and dining room, and a magical, perfumed orchard.  It is also remote, haunted, and almost entirely unfit for children (read: no television).

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