Saturday, June 30, 2007


I cannot tell you where this photo was taken. We were moored along the coast of an island off Croatia, that's all I can recall. The islands are idyllic and I was tempted more than once to think this is the perfect life. But then, Croatia was also a very dangerous place to be just 12 years ago, so that kind of thinking is dangerously naive (and ridiculously American). What I see is the people hard-working and warm, a smile I understand, hills steep, the sun hot. A rolling country-side flooded with olive trees, an occasional vineyard, tile-roofed cottages made of stone, an occasional spray of yellow flowers, a life I can look at and even touch, but not live.

Paulie Georgi Mine 186

Thursday, June 28, 2007

What a fever will do

I created this graph for my benefit, really, just to get a look at the roller coaster ride of fever that has been my life lately. When I look at it, what surprises me most of all is that I can still create a graph in the first place, since it's not something I've had to do in quite some time, as in when maybe I was wearing a pink oxford button down with my initials monogrammed on the pocket, accessorized with a grosgrain ribbon pulled through the collar and tied in a bow around the neck. A time otherwise known as my Senior year in high school, when I was made to study analytical reasoning.

What surprises me also is that there is only one time I've taken my temperature in the past five days where the result was the normal 98.6. That was when I got home from the minor emergency clinic late Sunday night/Monday morning. I've been to that clinic twice and a specialist Wednesday, am filled to next week with antibiotics given through IV, a gigantic shot in my rear and two horse pills daily, but still this infection has the gall to stick around.

There's a battle raging inside me and when the fever gets like it was Wednesday night, I fear that I am losing brain cells, and not in a way where I can sigh and attribute the vanished thought to some long forgotten but over-the-top night from days gone by. No, this is brain cell loss through cooking. This infection is that iconic This is your brain on drugs commercial. The eggs are my brain cells sizzling on the hot surface of my very own bacterial infection. And that's turning me into a different person, a person who creates a graph of her fever spikes and posts it on her website.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Not even with a saddle and his hooves tied, would I

This is a picture of my friend and her schmoopy-baby-mushy-mushy-mushy-love-bucket, otherwise known as Nevin. Nevin is a big lug of gentle giant, a black-as-ink Limousine Bull. She pretty much has him wrapped around her little finger with all the love she gives him ( in the form of curry combing and extra treats and wheelbarrow loads of attention). My friend loves and pampers him so much that any day now I expect to find him in their house, perhaps on his back waiting for her to rub his belly or to hand feed him the finest cuts of grass available.

As sweet as she has made him, he's still a gigantic animal, an unpredictable animal. And a BULL to boot. What's funny about this photo is that my friend is not a risk taker. When driving, she doesn't approach the speed limit, much less speed. She will manipulate rules but rarely breaks them. She's afraid of things that go bump in the night. And yet. And yet, without an ounce of hesitation, she'll skip-to-the-Lou-my-darlin' jump on the back of her gigantic schmoopy baby and give him a full body hug.

Big Hunk of Love

Note his head is bigger than her body.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Live Heat 103.7

One hundred and three point seven. That boiling number is the fever I had when the nurse in the minor emergency clinic finally put the thermometer in my mouth Sunday night. When my friend picked me up an hour earlier, it was 103.5. I ran high fevers as a child, but thankfully one forgets how freezing cold, scorching hot, and hallucination-inducing that high a fever can be. I did a bit of research this afternoon and apparently if you reach a fever of 103 you should seem medical attention immediately. One fairly conservative medical site screamed in all caps that if you reach a fever of 103 and have lower back pain, CALL YOUR DOCTOR RIGHT AWAY. Why? Because the high fever / back ache combination most likely means you have a kidney infection. And that's dangerous. And painful. Trust me, I now know.

Unbelievably, the intake nurse gave me a bit of how bad can it really be? attitude after she asked me on a scale of one to ten, to rate my pain. I did not hesitate, ten. She said, Really, ten? Ten as if your leg had been cut off and you were sitting here bleeding right now? I have no idea why this woman in the care-giver field would pick that moment to challenge me, but I mustered up every bit of strength I had to respond, feeling at that moment in my high-fevered dementia that it was up to me to save myself and she was the one thing standing in my way. I looked up at her and told in my most serious tone of voice, punctuated by a stream of tears down my face, that I had no idea what it felt like to have my leg cut off but that I had a very high fever and hurt all over and was there because I needed help and not because to debate her on my interpretation of how much pain I was feeling. Then I took a breath, put my pounding head in my hands and asked begged her to just please take my temperature, which she did. And let me tell you there were all sorts of turnarounds on her part after that. Some people are not moved by tears, but fire apparently gets them jumping.

It took five hours, 3,000 milligrams of Tylenol and two IV bags of antibiotics combined with two bags of saline solution to get my fever down and the infection under control. Two weeks of antibiotics will complete the job.

Today, my body is in a different kind of pain. It feels as if a cavalry has run through it with a hundred thundering hooves, it feels like the aftermath of a war that has raged within it, it feels like the shattered walls and weeds growing where bombs landed on neighborhoods in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunday, she won't take her eyes off me Sunday

That girl, she's mighty happy to have me home. It's not often that she's more interested in me than a bone, but clearly, for this one moment in time...

Mom's home!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Pricey souvenir

Way better than the new stamps on my passport, this speeding ticket I got in Croatia. I've never been proud of a speeding ticket before but this one I was a bit excited about. An expensive trip token for the scrap book, I admit. But, how many people can boast a Croatian speeding ticket? It cost 300.00 Kuna on the spot (about 55.00 USD), and I was terrified by the uniforms and very serious demeanor of the two cops, not to mention that my imagination put me in an 800-year old underground prison with Cuttlefish soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and no wall jacks for charging my Blackberry.

The radar gun was held together with gaffing tape and I wasn't the only one pulled over. I think we all got tickets for 89 kilometers in a 70 (55 in a 40, roughly). Here at home, I might have questioned the speed trap's convenient location to the only ATM to be found for 200 miles. I might have been a bit mouthy and resistant. Just a little. There though, I was so nervous that I did everything but offer to polish his boots and salute when dismissed. Seriously, when the cop told us to go now, I was so happy and relieved that I almost hugged him. But that would have been a bit much. I did smile and wave though.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Where trouble melts like lemon drops

I know that I'm supposed to be all about what I saw and did and lived on my vacation, but right now I'm listening to Somewhere Over the Rainbow, the version by Israel Kamakawiwo. You think you don't know it but you do. It's the Oooo Oooo song behind a Hallmark commercial a while ago and most recently the Rice Krispies commercial, the one in black and white, save for the mother's apron and the little girl's hands as they make the Marshmellow treats. Israel is Hawaiian, the instrument is fittingly a ukulele. The commercial about moments, just those moments.

It reminds me of Michael, this song does. Michael who has been gone for so many years now, I can't tell you if the years are 12 or 13 or 15. It's no longer important, how long he's been gone. What's important is that he was here. AIDS stole him from his life, his family, his footprints and his hugs, all he had to give. He was robbed. So were we.

I have a framed photo of Michael on my bedside table. In it, he's standing in the parking lot of his apartment complex, looking right at me, his arms spread out as wide as his grin. He's standing right there, alive and bright. Alive with life. It was just a moment.

What would you notice about me, I wonder, if I hadn't loved him. What would be absent from my face? I think my heart is a crime scene and I wonder what is obvious. There are bloody stains, fingerprints, residue from the fighting and resistance. Usually, I am careful with love but with Michael I let it go. With Michael I had helium lifting my heart. He was my friend.

My life, it's at an age where it's less about what I've been taught and more about what I've learned. It's about the lives I know, and the lives I knew. My life has a bedside table, upon which are carefully placed silver-framed photos of people I love and have loved. There's a lot of death there on that table. Lives gone, relationships shifted, children grown, my uncle gone, my father gone. Every night though, every night, I glance that way and I look at those faces, and I remember that love is not what happens to you, love is how you happen to others.

And just before I fall asleep, I wonder what song is in their heart, I wonder about little Jackie Paper's lifelong friend. And I feel my heart lift, and I smile about the other side of the rainbow.

Have you missed me?

Ah, home. Where the air conditioning is consistent, the means of travel my own and my little brown dog is no less that absolutely thrilled to see my face again. It's a two-way street, that one.

My luggage was never found. The irony is that all the stuff I had to buy - shoes, underwear, clothes and a new rolling duffle bag - was lost by the airline on my return flight. Seriously. Seeing the silver lining, all I can say about that is I have a lot less laundry to do than I thought I would. Have I ever learned how to travel light.

I have so much to show and tell you. But right now there are no less than four stacks of mail calling my name, and there are those two lost baggage claim forms that need to be filled out and returned, so I'll leave you with this serene image taken off the coast of one of the 1500 Islands off Croatia. Nice, yeah?

Paulie Georgi Mine 191

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Why I haven't been around here lately

Besides the fact I've been so relaxed that I forgot my blogger sign-in details, and not to mention the fact that in Eastern Europe there is no wireless internet service to be found, there are a few very good reasons why I haven't been around these parts lately:

1. The Sea: Adriatic
2. The Yacht: 51' Sailing Yacht Teja
3. The Captain: MY Personal Hurricane
4. The Companion: My friend, GR
5. The Times: Good, very very good
Paulie Georgi Mine 213 Paulie Georgi Mine 230 Paulie Georgi Mine 271

Saturday, June 09, 2007

When life gives you lemons, drink Cava

There is something so humbling about walking through the Bario Gotica, a neighborhood that was created in 1086. Yes, ten eighty-six. There is something so peaceful about walking through a church that has stood in place for a thousand years, when your feet walk along the same stones as others have walked, of lives who have lived before your own. Something so uniquely strange about placing your hand in narrow grooves along a wall and learning that the grooves were made by Roman soldiers sharpening their swords. There is something so lovely about being here, about seeing these things and strolling these streets, experiencing this amazing Spanish city of Barcelona.

Barcelona 003 Barcelona 010 Barcelona 015 Barcelona 029 Barcelona 032 Barcelona Day 2 003 Barcelona 004


Texts we sent to certain loved ones last night:

1. In courtyard of some 1000 year old castle and listening to I think Polka music.

2. No longer care about lost luggage.

3. Having fun. Polka music.

I think the funny thing is writing, "some 1000 year old castle." Because, you know, there are just so many and who can keep track?

Oh, and it wasn't Polka music. But there was dancing that reminded me of how people would dance to Polka music, if there was Polka music playing.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

I can't figure out if the world has it out for me or if I am truly blessed. On the one hand, we did lose a passport and have to cancel our flight to Madrid and then find a hotel in NYC when apparently everyone else on the planet was trying to do the same thing but we did score a great room with cushy beds and fluffy towels and very close to Central Park. But then my friend had to spend the next day in the icky dirty Federal Building off Hudson just North of the Holland Tunnel while I stayed at the hotel and re-worked our hotel and train and connecting flight reservations. But on the other hand she did get a new passport in all-told 16 hours from when the original was lost, and that includes the seven hours of sleep.

But then when we went to Newark airport to pick up our bags that were pulled from the flight the night before, we were told that they were sent to Madrid and were waiting for us there. That was good but it still meant another cab ride, this one for two hours in traffic to get from that airport to JFK.

But then there was that Air France Salon. And the Air France Business Class flight to Paris which was like flying on my living room sofa if my living room sofa came with four star service and dinner that started with crab claws over mixed greens.

Diary, I was feeling pretty good and hopeful when we landed in Madrid after our connecting flight through Charles De Gaul, but when we went for our bags it seemed like no one in the world would cough up to any knowledge of any baggage service whatsoever. On any flight. On any airline. Baggage? What is baggage? What is lost baggage? We have no time for this, please move to your terminal.

We missed our flight to Barcelona trying to find those bags because we had to run on foot from one terminal to another and then go back through security and I was on the verge of losing my cool demeanor at this point because my oh-so-comfy shoes were not so comfy anymore. And I was tired. And hungry. Air France First Class was a distant memory.

Somehow we got on the next flight. Everyone behind the counter was making a big deal about how inconvenient it all was but then they gave us passes to the Air Europa lounge and we ate sandwiches and had a drink and were feeling okay about things. Until, that is, I called Continental about those missing bags and had the misfortune of having Monique answer my call. When Monique listened to my story and said that I had to file a missing baggage claim with Air France, I did come a bit unglued, I did. But, Diary, am I to be blamed for that? I think not. I think that Monique was painting half-moon detail on her acrylic fingernail extensions and wasn't really hearing me at a time when I needed to be heard.

And, Diary, I don't mean to complain for you know that I do appreciate all the gifts in my life and I am able to let a lot roll off my back but between Monique's can't-help-you attitude and the front desk of our hotel in Barcelona telling us that we lost our reservations and can only stay here tonight, well, I was as my mother would say, feeling Fed up.

Or I was feeling fed up. We unloaded our stuff in our tonight-only hotel, cleaned up a bit, recycled our dirty clothes and walked along Las Ramblas until we found an outdoor cafe where we ordered champagne and Paella. Musicians strolled, couples held hands, cyclists rolled past. Girls giggled, laughter hovered. We are in Barcelona.

There are shops that will be open tomorrow. It's only clothes, right?

My sister-in-law who has connections is on the case of our missing luggage. Which means we are lucky, I think. Still, I also think that pulling back 100% of what I had packed is a bit extreme a packing lesson. But having Paella and champagne on the main avenue in Barcelona on a warm and breezy summer night when all the characters and lovers and lonely people and hippies and vegetarians and dog-lovers mingle, even if you're in dirty clothes and have no luggage, is really okay.

Maybe we're just lucky in our bad luck. Diary, do you think that could be?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Right about now we deserve this

Sitting in soft leather chairs in the Air France Salon at JFK, we find ourselves marveling at how fabulous the lounge is, how much more it offers than the President's Clubs, how it feels like someone has been keeping a big secret from us.

Me: The President's Club doesn't offer salads. Or grilled vegetables.

Her: Or Salmon. Or little bottles of Lemon Olive Oil.

Me: Or French champagne. Or French cheese. Or Perrier.

Her: And they wanted us to call them Freedom Fries.

Proving to myself once and for all that I have a cool demeanor when things go to shit

To the list of places we will spend time before ultimately arriving in Barcelona, which was the first planned stop on our vacation, the first to involve a hotel and museums and exploring, and maybe Sangria, we can now add one more city, two more airports, and one more airline. And by the time it's said and done, six cab rides. Oh, and one more country. We're headed to Paris. Tonight. From New York.

Paris was never in the itinerary. For that matter, neither was New York.

This is the story of a passport lost somewhere between Houston and Cleveland. It's a story of some wonderful and helpful people at Continental Airlines, from the staff in the President's Club to the staff in Baggage and the people at OnePass. It's the story of bags being pulled from the flight we were supposed to be on, and nobody being able to do a thing but so many people wanting to do so much. International travel laws, the ones about having to have a Passport, they don't bend. It's also a story of a cab driver who last night gave us so much good advice and information that as I write, my friend is at a Passport office he suggested, the one that's not the busiest in the city, getting a new passport. In record time. In this city.

Our trip resumes in ten hours. Or so we think. In the meantime, I'm heading out for a stroll. Might as well see some sights while I'm here.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Knowing better but doing it all wrong just the same

A woman who sat at my family's dining table on a cruise several years ago told me that when you pack for a trip, you should set out everything that you want to take with you, and then pull back 40%. She wore the same dress a couple times and the same skirt with a different top a couple other times but I would not have noticed if she didn't tell me. She had a different pashmina each night. I had commented how wonderfully pulled together she was and she gave me her packing secrets, the main one being pulling back that 40%. The secondary one was, you might have already figured, bringing pashminas.

That was five years ago and I can no longer remember her name but every time I pack a suitcase, I think of her.

The problem is that I'm not a big fan of pashminas. The whole draping thing gets on my nerves after a very short time, as in before I get out of the house. That leaves me to her first bit of advice. But if I do that, then I assume that the 40% rule would snag at least one pair of the shoes I want to bring, and I have plans for each pair, so I cannot do that. Definitely then, it means 40% of the clothes. How can I travel with only 60% of the clothes I need? I have plans for each outfit, so I cannot do that either.

As for toiletries, however, I can bend. I've transferred full-size items into small bottles, cutting back the total product by at least 70%, so that should help.

I've also put back four headbands, two scarves and three barrettes.

I'm sure I'll notice the difference all that makes when I'm lugging my suitcase across Europe. A suitcase that I'll have to unzip often to be sure it's filled with cute outfits and adorable shoes and not the ton of bricks that someone stuffed in there when I wasn't looking.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sunday, Sad Dog Sunday

Whenever the suitcase comes out, whenever the piles of clothes get stacked on the guest bed, she knows I'll be leaving her soon. And she doesn't like it one bit. Look at that sad face. It does no good at all when I tell her that I would take her with me if I could. And I would. I would take her with me everywhere I go. If I could.

Packing 010

It's been a long time

Last I went to see Stevie Nicks in concert, wonderfully opened by Chris Isaak. Earlier in the week, I decided to drive out there on my own and take the boy to an early dinner since his school is so close to the concert pavilion, which is way out of town. The plan was for me to get to the concert when the gates opened, rent our lawn chairs and secure a prime spot on the hill for the evening. My friends took a limousine and met me there an hour or so later. It worked perfectly because if there's ever a place you do not mind being alone, it has to be on a hill at a rock concert. The people watching is second to none, entertainment of the finest sort that TicketMaster has not yet been able to incorporate into the price they gouge you pay.

When my friends arrived, we were all kinds of excited to be with each other and sitting on the hill on a Saturday night in June. Cold beer, good friends, outdoor venue. Nice night. For two of us, this show was our seventh Stevie Nicks and/or Fleetwood Mac concert together, for others our sixth, our third. For one of us, the first. For me, I was at all of them and then some.

Early on in the evening I ran into a friend who was with some other friends, a couple of which had second row seats. Before I could stop her, she arranged for a swap-out mid-concert. She'd come get me, give me the ticket and I'd go sit that close to Stevie Nicks. I was excited to say the least but not sure it could be pulled off. Until later in the night, that is, when I had a ticket thrust in my hand and was walking down the hill and through the aisles and showing my ticket to countless attendants. Suddenly there I was.

And a funny thing happened to me at that moment. I wasn't excited anymore. I wanted to be back on the hill, back with my friends. Being up close was an opportunity I thought I wanted and I did want, until I got there. Once there, it was an isolating experience; it was just a seat. When I heard the initial notes of Landslide, my heart sank. One friend in particular always gives me a big hug when that song is played in concert, always holds my hand and sings with me. And in doing so, it's like our friendship rests on a hammock, swining lazy and supportive. I like that feeling, and I missed it.

After that song, I thanked the two girls (who I did not know) and said I was going back to the hill. They graciously said I could have the seat for the rest of the night and though I explained to them that I'd rather be on the hill, they thought I was just being considerate and so we went round and round in a polite No-please-do-stay, Oh-no-I-just-couldn't sort of exchange. Until I left.

And when I got back on the hill again, there were my friends, chatting, singing and dancing. I sat on the grass and took my rightful place among them. And I felt good, and at home.

After the show, as I drove the long drive south in the quiet of my car, the almost-full moon hung wide and yellow in the dark night sky. I smiled at that glow, and had an unfamiliar feeling inside. Something was missing. I realized there weren't any storms in my head and heart. What I felt was peace. With my life, with the night. With my father, my mother, my sister, my family. With the past and the future. It's been a very long time since I've had that absence of turmoil, since I've felt a sense of everything being okay in my life. It won't last forever but at least it was there, is still there. As I drove on beneath that moon, I realized that the important thing to me is not where I sit, but who I'm sitting with. It can make all the difference in the world.