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Published: April 3rd 2016
I looove the mosaic sculptures of Nikki St Phalle. This guy's got a really great baseball butt! Wanderings in San Diego with dear friends Joan & Sue.
A loooong day of travel started in the early morning as I left Banos to drive up to Quito. I’d left CiCi off at Sue’s lodge/campground Pequeno Paraiso the day before, since it would’ve added another hour of driving to my already interminable day. En route to Quito I stopped in Latacunga to drop off a sewing machine for my goddaughter. I 'd bought an almost new machine second hand in Cuenca and Jeaneth agreed to split the $300 cost. Arriving in the valleys below Quito, I parked my truck safely parked at Walt’s condo complex and got to meet his adorable new pup, a black lab named Duchess Ella Negrita. After a quick visit, I caught a taxi to the airport.
I almost always travel from Quito to Los Angeles via Panama City on COPA airlines (a Continental affiliate). In the past I’ve had excellent service with COPA, however on this flight I was less fortunate. The first leg was fine; it's only 2 hrs from Quito to Panama City. During the 6 ½ hour leg to Los Angeles I like to catch up on movies, watching 2 or 3 films. I was seated in a window seat at
Chilly Evening Walk
Waiting for our table at a beachfront restaurant, Sue & I sat and shivered while watching the sunset.
the bulkhead (nice) but the personal screen in front of me was not working. The flight attendant tried resetting it, but to no avail. Some sisters from Guayaquil who were seated on both sides of the aisle agreed to reshuffle and give me the middle seat on the other side where the screen did work (they shared headphones – one ear each – to watch their film).
After a few hours the crew dimmed the overhead lights for sleeping, but instead of just going dimmer they started flashing like disco lighting. When I asked the attendant about it she said, “Oh, don’t worry – it’s just a mechanical problem.” I wondered what other mechanical problems the plane might have. The overhead lights were turned off and we were advised to use our reading lights...didn’t help much on the long walk back to the restroom (where the lights were also on the fritz).
Arriving at LAX just before midnight I quickly moved through immigration (all automated for new passports) but then I had to wait a full hour for my luggage to arrive. It felt like the longest hour of my life, especially knowing that I’d have to wake
Pacific Beach boardwalk -- no, we didn't get big ice cream cones!
my sister when I arrived at her house. A seemingly interminable wait for the shuttle to Dollar Rent-a-Car (while 2 or 3 vans for each of the other rental companies passed by) and then the line at the Dollar office, inching forward with only one clerk on duty. He was in a chatty mood and wanted to know all about what it was like to live in Ecuador. Just gimme the car! Two overtired/wired kids sat in the chairs by the door, greeting each new arrival brightly “Welcome to Dollar!” “Thank you for renting from Dollar!” I had to grin in spite of my exhaustion! NO traffic on the freeways so I made it to my sisters in less than a half hour!
It was GREAT to spend the next day with my father (after sleeping in a bit). His physical health has not deteriorated markedly in the past six months, but he is more forgetful and confused, mounting obsessive behaviors and increased anxiety. He remembers who we are, but asks the same things over and over again, on a very short memory loop.
After my brief visit with Dad I headed down to San Diego. My good
At The Hotel Del Coronado
We treated ourselves to an elegant brunch waterside. The Victorian hotel is truly a grande olde dame!
friend Sue came down from her home in Fresno to join me for a 4 day/3 night jaunt to visit some old friends. The first afternoon we met up with Joan, an old friend of mine from when I lived in Quito during the late 1980’s. Now in her mid-80’s, she looks decades younger! Joan still teaches yoga and walks everywhere in San Diego. We wandered around Little Italy and while dining al fresco we met a guy on a Segway (motorized stand-up vehicle) who told us about tours that he offered. On our drive down Sue had just been telling me about her recent Segway tours in San Francisco and Santa Barbara; now it seemed that we were destined to do a tour in San Diego as well. After lunch we strolled along the waterfront park and maritime museum.
I had booked us an Air B’n’B studio apartment tucked between Mission Beach and Mission Bay. Before booking I'd contacted the Air B’n’B host and she confirmed that there were two beds and that I’d find ample street parking nearby. Alas, neither of her answers was entirely true. What she was calling the second bed was a wobbly 'pleather'
The Bubble Man
Sue & I watched this guy for hours as the sun set over Pacific Beach. Simply magical.
fold down sofa that was impossible for either Sue or I to sleep on. We took the memory foam topper off the big bed, stacked it with blankets, quilts, pillows, towels, a yoga mat and created a sleeping nest on the floor.
We only dared to move the car a few times since parking was a nightmare (as I guess I should’ve expected so close to the beach). I must say, though, it was great to just step out the apartment and join the flow of folks walking along the boardwalk (not quite as crazy as Venice Beach near Santa Monica!) Sue & I enjoyed sunset strolls on 2 of our 3 nights; great people-watching – a real slice of Southern California!
We were totally mesmerized by the Bubble Man – a scruffy bearded guy dipping a long, tattered loop of cotton rope into a bucket of soap solution. He formed the most spectacular bubble creations which glinted in the setting sun; a magical display which dazzled young and old alike.
Sue & I met my friends Stacy & Kyle for dinner the second night; I’ve known Stacy for 40 years and we try to reconnect whenever
Sue has done Segway tours in a number of California cities. She's a believer -- great pace for sightseeing.
possible. We met at a restaurant called Tostados – very chic and unique. One of my tostados had scallops and octopus on top; another was with watermelon, cucumber and yogurt. I’m hoping that Kyle will come visit me in Ecuador later this year!
Since no one else had signed up for the 8:30 am Segway tour around Balboa Park, we had the guide all to ourselves. First designed as transport for the elderly who could stand, Segways never really caught on for public ownership. They’re sometimes used at airports or at Disneyland and other large public spaces by police and security personnel, and now have become popular for tourism. Once I got a hang of balance, turning and stopping mechanisms (done by gentle leaning or shifting of weight from the balls to the heels of the feet) we headed out onto the city streets and up the hill from the tour office, reaching top speeds of 12 mph!
As we entered the leafy park area, a 5K walk/run for Autism was just finishing up. There were groups of families and friends with matching T-shirts (Team Tony, Georgie’s Gang) and much joy among the participants. People showed great interest
Top O' the Library
Joan took us to the spectacular new San Diego Public Library building. Here we are under the steel and glass dome on the 9th floor rooftop.
in our electric form of transport; we felt like minor celebrities! It was a beautiful, crisp morning in the park with its stunning Spanish colonial architecture. Our guide took us to hidden corners, past sunken gardens and he even pointed out a defunct outdoor bowling alley! I agree with Sue – Segway touring is a great way to cover a large area but still travel at a pace ideal for sightseeing. And beautiful Balboa Park was a perfect place for my first experience.
After our Segway adventure we met up again with Joan and she took us to the new public library, a modern 9-story building topped with a futuristic metal and glass dome. There was avant-garde artwork the length of the glass elevator shaft, and floors 6 & 7 housed a Charter School. We went all the way to the top and visited the rare book collection; a fascinating museum room with tiny books, ancient documents, page-edge art and much more beautifully displayed.
From there we walked across another park to brunch at a hip outdoor restaurant. So fun to bop around with Joan…she knows all the cool places! In the park we messed around with two
Shifting Sphere Selfie
Two huge chrome spheres align (or not) to indicate if the earth has shifted on its axis.
huge metal spheres, lined up for viewing that supposedly indicates shifting of the globe on its axis. Very interesting!
It was an action-packed, fun-filled 3 day adventure! Sue and I have travelled together around Ecuador a few times and last year we went up to Ft Bragg to visit Glass Beach. I hope we’ll have a chance to travel together again – who knows where next! Both of us are curious and outgoing, eager to experience new things and learn all we can.
Back to LA where I spent most of each day with my Dad. We would have meals together at his senior center or sometimes we’d go out for lunch or dinner; he loves Chinese food! There are always activities going on at The Village but often we’d settle into one of the lounges to play Cribbage for hours. When it comes to playing cards and counting points, my Dad’s mind is sharp as a tack. We laugh and joke and he sparkles with joy.
Alas, his short term memory is all but gone and it test one's patience to answer the same few questions over and over again (How old am I? How much
Family Dinner at Claire's House
Enjoying Grandma Natalie's culinary specialties (Jenna's serving noodle kugel)
longer are you staying? What time are coming tomorrow? Where do you live? How long since your Mom died? How many years were we married? Etc…) Each time I left I would stick a post-it note to his walker detailing what time I’d arrive the next day but inevitably he’d call incessantly to reconfirm.
Two days before the East Coast Goldsteins were due to arrive for our family reunion, I got a scratchy throat and was up most of the night running a fever. I did NOT want to be sick for the family reunion so when I awakened with what felt like flaming broken glass each time I swallowed, I bit the bullet and paid $99 to see a doctor at the Minute Clinic at the CVS Pharmacy. (My health insurance does not cover me in the US). My rapid strep test was negative so the doc determined that what I had was viral and told me to drink fluids and gargle with Chloraseptic for the pain.
Big brother Lee arrived from New Jersey with two of his kids, Shara and Griffith. On Friday Bob & Kate timed their flight from Baltimore to coincide with Jenna's arrival
Al's Winning Bingo Card!
Hooray! The guest of honor got a bingo!! The fancy napkins read "Aged to Perfection"
from New York and Gilbert's flight from Atlanta. I had been lying low at Claire's house all day, but roused my sorry ass to join everyone for Friday night dinner. Throughout the previous week it was my job to prepare three of Mom's favorite recipes (meatloaf, noodle kugel and strawberry rhubarb jello). I'm so glad I finished the cooking before I started feeling yukky!
We lit the sabbath candles, broke the challah bread and shared a dinner that triggered childhood taste memories for us all. Chef Sam's roasted chicken and veggies were scrumptious and Griffie especially appreciated the frozen cream pies for dessert! It felt wonderful to be gathered together basking in the warmth of loving family. Dad would spontaneously burst into tears from time to time as we shared favorite stories about Mom.
Bob had rented a big house for us all to stay together and the others decided to isolate me in my own room due to my persistent hacking cough. I missed out on the family hike around the Hollywood reservoir, clinging congestedly to my bed all morning. At midday I put on a surgical mask to attend Al's Birthday Bingo Bash at the senior
A good time was had by all -- even me in spite of the sickroom face mask I had to wear so I'd keep my germs to myself!
center. Claire had thought of every detail to make The Village activity room extra festive for the party. She had fashioned a bingo card poster with silly photos of Al for each square, brought a colorful top hat for Dad to wear and the bright tablecloths were strewn with candies.
In addition to the several dozen village residents who showed up for their regular Saturday Bingo match, there were friends of Claire's and all of our family in attendance. Usually the residents pay 10 cents a card to play, but we picked up the tab for everybody that day. While I was snuffling in my face mask, the others served drinks and made sure everyone was ready for Bingo! The 100 year old gentleman across the table from me exclaimed, "I've lived here for six years and I've never seen the likes of this party!" We played seven rounds in all, and my brother, my niece & my Dad won three of them...they might have thought we'd rigged the cards!
Back to the house for a nap before another family dinner, this time at a lovely restaurant. My sister had reserved a private room and we spent hours
Dinner @ Garland
Lovely family dinner in our own private room at an elegant restaurant!
over a multi-course meal, pausing for family photos and going around the table to share stories of gratitude. I was feeling mighty poorly by the end of the evening, but really glad that I was able to be with my family for these special gatherings.
I went back to the doctor (another hundred bucks) and had to beg them to prescribe me an antibiotic. I was NOT getting better -- the strep tests still read negative, but there was enough white crud on my throat and enough fluid in my ears that the nurse practitioner, after a call to her superior, agreed to start me on amoxicillin. The next few days I barely budged from bed, hoping and praying I'd feel well enough to fly back to Ecuador by the end of the week when I had job lined up. I was able to visit with my Dad twice more before leaving and even though I wasn't yet fully healthy, my ears didn't completely explode on the flight back. I dozed through 'Casablanca' and 'Singing in the Rain' on the long flight and landed in Quito ready to hit the ground running....but to my great good fortune the volunteers
Posing for family photos -- never knowing if it might be the last time we're all together.
I'd been hurrying to meet had had their flight cancelled. Thank you lord, one more day of staying in bed and pushing fluids and now I'm really ready for my two weeks in the Andes with the Engineers Without Borders!
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