Life in These States of UTK

Lots of construction going on. What’s missing is anything resembling decent signage or consideration for pedestrians–especially disabled folks. With my bum knee, I guess I now belong to that category. But this, I understand, is pretty normal around these parts. Come to think of it, it reminds me a lot of Tel Aviv. A few years ago we rented an apartment there and discovered that they were tearing up the sidewalks having made not the slightest provision for disabled folks.

Last Wednesday I needed to journey to the ends of the earth. Well, at least the campus. A class I was taking was scheduled for a room inside and at the far end of the football stadium. Normally to get to the stadium, I would walk down a long valley that leads directly from Cumberland Ave to the stadium. And that’s what I set out to do. But halfway there I discovered that that route was blocked by construction.

The only way out of the construction (other than turning around completely and returning the way I had come) was to enter a campus building. I was confident that the building would have an exit to an alternate path to the stadium and so I entered the building. A sign was posted which read “Exit on 3rd Floor.” I was on the first floor, so I looked for a staircase.

Just a few steps along a corridor I came to an Exit sign and a stairwell. I entered the stairwell and climbed a flight of stairs, which would put me at the 2nd rather than the 3rd floor. There was no flight up from there, just a door to what I thought would be the 2nd floor of the building. I went through the door, and this is what I saw:

UTK Construction02The door closed and locked behind me. I was on a grassy hill. Below me was a ledge, about four feet higher than the corridor running along side the building. Looking up the hill I could see a fence, about 5 feet tall. I walked up the hill and down the hill. The gates at the top were padlocked, the ledge at the bottom was continuous, there were no stairs or other means of getting off the hill.

For a New York minute I contemplated calling 911 to get me outtathere. I walked up the hill to the fence and thought about climbing over it. Nah. Then I went down the hill and contemplating jumping down four feet to the concrete path below. Nah.

Finally, the solution came to me. I went back down hill and sat my behind down on the ledge, draping my legs over. About two feet to drop, but by holding both arms on the ledge I could let myself down easy and only drop the last six inches or so. Success! (You may be wondering about all this fuss, but let me say that if you have a knee without cartilage you’ll know exactly what motivated all that care.)

Of course, this now put me exactly where I was before! I still had to enter the building and find a way out further up the hill. This time, however, I took the elevator to the third floor and found the public exit. That did indeed lead to the football stadium and to my class.

On the way back, I took a few photos of the area of my confinement. I think this is the best summation of the experience:

UTK Construction01Yes, that wheelchair entrance sign is indeed located behind the fence I would have needed to climb to exit that direction.

Summer 2013 What I Did On My Vacation

The core of this vacation was a return to Marquette for enough time to appreciate why we bought a home here 7 years ago. If anything, it is better than ever.

We contemplated taking advantage of the fact that we could actually fly from Knoxville to Marquette now that K.I. Sawyer has been transformed from a military base to a commercial airport, but that would have deprived us of the chance to see friends along the way, not to mention the incomparable experience of traversing the Mackinac  Bridge.

Traverse City

On the way up we stopped in Traverse City to do some business (meeting some wonderful U-Tennessee alumni) and seeing the ancestral home of our wonderful son-in-law. Traverse City is nestled at the bottom of the Grand Traverse Bay with the million dollar views and (unfortunately) real estate prices to match. We enjoyed a fabulous breakfast with John and his partner Margo at a small coffee shop located inside a mental institution that is being converted to housing and shops.

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John Malcolm Showing Off His New Mansion

That is, of course, a somewhat bittersweet experience for me. Those of you who know my history with “Momma” know that it is a concern for me that just when we seem to be getting an idea of the proper way to care for people with profound mental disabilities, we are removing the option to allow them to live on beautiful grounds. The term “community housing” is too often a euphemism for cheap, under-supervised “board and care” homes or so-called “adult foster care” homes. Why couldn’t these lovely grounds have been turned into apartments for the people the institution was actually designed for? But don’t get me started…

In any case, the company was terrific, the food superb, and the ambiance delightful.

The Upper of the Lower

After breakfast, we resumed our road trip passing through Charlevoix and Petoskey, and on to that fantastic bridge. The waters of Lake Huron glistened blue and green on our right, Lake Michigan on our left as we crossed from the LowerP to the U.P. Almost as soon as we made the left turn to US 2, the population dropped off and we were in the entirely different environment, both geologically and geographically of YooperLand.

Muniseng and Pasties

We stopped for lunch at Muldoon’s Pasties in Muniseng, right on the shores of Lake Superior. Muldoon’s is justifiably renowned as the best place to enjoy these Cornish meat pies. We took our time savoring the food and the view and then it was on to the metropolis of the Yoop, Marquette.

Marquette Arrival

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St. Peter Cathedral, One of Marquette’s Most Beautiful Landmarks

Marquette is the biggest city in the U.P. with a population of about 21,000, but the county boasts a total closer to 70,000. Although it lost a major player when K.I. Sawyer air base closed, Marquette still benefits from hosting Northern Michigan University, the U.P.’s medical center, the governmental services for the entire U.P., a still valuable shipping center for Great Lakes traffic, and more recently, interest in reopening mineral exploitation. The last aspect has pumped some much needed cash into the economy and we were delighted to see the evidence of new prosperity everywhere in town.

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Part of the Marquette skyline

A few years ago some major publications woke up and noticed the great advantages of this community and Marquette suddenly found itself declared one of the 10 best places to retire in the U.S. We hope to spend at least part of our retirement years here.

On arrival at our hotel, we immediately rediscovered the pleasure of turning on a faucet and receiving a steady stream of cold, delicious water. No need for bottled or refrigerated water here!

For all its small size, Marquette has an amazing number of very good restaurants. Now Culvers isn’t one of these, but it is one of our U.P. traditions to eat one meal at this chain which comes out of Wisconsin and has better-than-average food for this sort of place. And, of course, some really good soft-ice-cream specialties. Diet be damned on vacation!

Third Street “Bagel”

First thing in the morning, it was our first trip back to my favorite bagel store, “Third Street Bagels.” Now, I have to sadly report that these are not really bagels. They aren’t boiled before they are baked and so, like a chain store bagel not to be mentioned here, they are more like rolls with doughnut holes than a true bagel. But no matter, I love them anyway! They are large enough to enjoy with two eggs, they are nicely flavored with the usual variety of bagel seasonings, and it’s just a great place to sit, surf the net, and enjoy great coffee and plentiful good-tasting food. The service, as everywhere in Marquette, is cheerfully provided by NMU coeds who seem to populate every eatery here even when school is not in session.

Marquette’s Version of a NY Deli

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What’s a town without bingo supplies?

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After church bingo and viewing the cathedral, a sacred tattoo is in order!

Although I probably should have skipped lunch (calorie-wise) I couldn’t resist heading to the NY Deli for a pastrami sandwich. This place was originally opened as the NY Deli and Italian Place by long-time U.P. resident Don Curto, but alas, nothing is forever and Mr. Curto decided to retire which resulted in the loss of the great location right by the Lake. One of his staff members felt that the community deserved to keep the NY Deli (there are plenty of places that serve decent Italian food throughout the UP), so he set up a replacement NY Deli a bit further down the main drag, but alas, further from the Lake.

They still fly the pastrami in from Brooklyn, and despite that, the sandwiches are all reasonably priced. The soups (including a decent chicken soup with matzoh ball) are all home made from scratch, and it remains a delightful and unexpected way to enjoy lunch in Marquette.

I’m not sure why (given the natural beauty readily available here) but we usually like to catch up on whatever is playing in the movies, so we spent a pleasant but mindless couple of hours at the multiplex seeing a buddy-cop movie with the twist that the “buddies” were the female pair of Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy (“The Heat”).

The Keeweenaw and Houghton

We declared Tuesday “Houghton Day” and so it was off to our old Keeweenaw Peninsula haunts. The reason we originally “found” the UP was that Michigan Tech University runs a terrific summer program and we eventually sent both our kids to those programs. Shoshana took photography and long-distance bicycling, Ephy, as I recall, took anything that allowed him to blow stuff up.

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The snow gets THIS high!


When we first started these vacations, we usually stayed in Houghton, but we quickly discovered that as beautiful as Houghton is, there’s a lot more to do in Marquette. Nevertheless, we allocate a day to Houghton whenever we can. And it is still as beautiful as ever!

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Part of Hancock’s Finlandia University


We  spent some time strolling around Houghton’s sister city, Hancock, which meant crossing the still-functioning drawbridge across the gorgeous canal. We dined at our old favorite, The Library, which features huge picture windows overlooking the canal. With the sun lowering, it was time for the 90 minute trip back to Marquette.

Marquette Walking Tours and South Beach

Wednesday featured a total of ten miles of walking around Marquette, mostly along the lake shore. We eventually got to “South Beach” (its real name!) which will give Miami visitors quite a chuckle. Unfortunately, the weather has been unusually cold for a Marquette summer, so the number of beach-goers was pretty minimal. Believe it or not, despite the chilly waters of the Lake, this is usually a popular–and crowded spot. Not this year.

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Yes, it’s really called “South Beach”

The Lake Superior Community Theater

Marquette has enjoyed a great community theater (cleverly named the Lake Superior Theater) and we attend whatever happens to be playing when we are here. This time it was a revue format of past productions. I was amazed at the vocal quality of the performers and the acting was just fine. The theater is celebrating 15 years and I’m glad they are still making a go of it. They deserve a lot better attendance (Marquette, are you listening?).Marquette -265

Lagniappe: A Taste of the Gulf on the Shores of Lake Superior

Wednesday’s dinner was at Marquette’s very own New Orleans restaurant called Lagniappe. Now before you sneer at the notion, I have eaten at some fine places in New Orleans, and while I wouldn’t say Lagniappe is at the top end of scale, it is quite respectable. Terri is a connoisseur of hush puppies, and she insists that there are no finer anywhere. The chef trained at some of the best New Orleans establishments and visits there regularly to pick up supplies and keep up with the trends. Although excluded for reasons of Jewish sensitivity, I can’t say much about the preparation of alligator, not to mention the various oyster and crawfish offerings, I can tell you that the place has great food, great service, and last night even very good live Cajun-style music.

Cruising Marquette Bay

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The Isle Royale III has been demoted to bay cruises, but we still remember traveling on her to Isle Royale!

Thursday, we tried a new (to us) breakfast place–Donckers. Excellent food, enormous portions. The restaurant is the 2nd floor of the local candy shop. The area where we sat had large windows that provided a crystal clear view of the Lake. Soon we’ll be walking again, and at 5:30pm, for our last evening in Marquette this trip we’ll take a bit of a cruise around the Lake shore. The ship seems to be the same one we took a few years ago to Isle Royale, and we’re told there will be snacks and music provided as well.

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The scene at Donckers. Really good food, excellent service!

All Good Things…

Tomorrow, alas, we’ll have to bid farewell to this gem of the north. Last stop before Knoxville will be Lansing where we will overnight with old friends. I’m feeling guilty because we have so many friends in Lansing that we could and should be visiting, but we simply have to get back to Knoxville, so perhaps another year.

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Me, as captured by Terri.


In Arena 7/3/11

Visiting the kids in Arena, Wisconsin. Don’t know if I’ll get to the UW campus in Madison.  So many ghosts.

I was thinking of my mentor Irv Saposnik. I took a fabulous course in English Lit with him circa 1971. It was a Spring course and Irv let us meet out on the lawn from time to time. 40 years later I don’t remember many of the course details or even which books we read, but what remains are the “warm fuzzies” of a course greatly enjoyed and the sense that synapses were stimulated.

Years later Irv left the UW faculty having developed an abiding affection for helping students in other ways. After a ten year stint in Israel, he became the Hillel Director of the UW-Madison foundation, the very place where the fires were kindled for my interest in Jewish studies just a few years before.

I heard that Irv had passed a couple of years ago and I was a bit surprised to learn that it was back in 2003. He was only 67 at the time, and I’m sad to think of all the young minds he could have influenced with a few more years.

Here I am in 2011. So many ghosts. But many fond memories.

Monday 11/15/2010 Another Picture Perfect Day in San Diego – Visit to the Midway

After a delicious breakfast at Richard Walker’s Pancake House I walked to the USS Midway Museum. If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in an aircraft carrier, this is the way to find out.

Superlatives have to be the norm when visiting anything of this size. Recently I’ve noticed an upswing in the use of the standard football field as a measurement stick. For example, in my research for a course on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Leen Ritmeyer, himself Duch and as far as I know not associated in any way with American culture, informed me that that the Herodian Temple Mount can be described as occupying 30 American football fields. By that standard, the Midway is a piker–it is only as large as six football fields. Or, I guess you could say that the Temple Mount can hold 5 USS Midways. Or something like that. Anyway, the Midway is huge.

I arrived at about 10am and stayed through 2:30pm and I although I think I saw most of it, I know there were exhibits I didn’t have time for. Still, I think most people will be satisfied with a four hour visit, and it will be worth every bit of the (low) cost and time it takes to see it.

What you get is a journey through the insides and outsides of this vessel. You see where the enlisted men sleep and eat. How they get their clothing laundered. A visit to the chapel. Then the officers all the way up to the admiral. You learn about the functions of the various workers. After witnessing the day to day life under the deck, you emerge onto the flight deck. There you will see more types of military planes and helicopters than you ever imagined would exist. After circumnavigating the deck you can ascend the “Island” which is the large superstructure that served as the control tower for the floating airport that was, after all, the raison d’etre of the aircraft carrier.

Photos to follow.

Not with a bang…

… but a whimper”, with apologies to T.S. Eliot. We staggered home Friday the 15th of January after an unbelievable month of learning, doing, living, family and fellowship. But Terri and I also contracted a cold during the final stretch which is the “whimper” part of things. The return flights couldn’t have been better. Our taxi arrived on time at our Tel Aviv apartment to whisk us away to Ben Gurion Airport where we arrived about 2:30am for our 5:30am flight. Israeli security was efficient. I was one of the randomly selected folks for inspection of checked baggage. The checker pulled out a bag which contained some items I had purchased and chuckled when I identified the items as “kippot” (skull caps). There was obviously a much heavier item in the bag which turned out to be the paper weight that Shoshana had purchased for me at the Dead Sea gift shop. I had some difficulty explaining “paper weight” but after a chuckle we were on our way.

I’ve never done the “duty free” thing, so I wandered into the extraordinary duty free shop at Ben Gurion and selected a bottle of Lagavulin at a lovely price. Fortunately I checked with one of the sales folk strolling the area who let me know that I would probably not be able to get the bottle through the Frankfurt airport as liquids are generally confiscated there. So I saved the money and bid a sad farewell to the shop.

Shoshana and Karl’s flight was scheduled for an hour after ours, so we were able to spend our last few minutes in Israel together. Then it was off to our plane. We had a timely arrival in Frankfurt with a 4 hour layover. We spent most of that time in the gate for our next flight because Frankfort has security at every gate, meaning that if we left the area we’d have to check ourselves in for security all over again. The coffee and sandwiches were pricey but good.

The flight from Frankfort to Detroit was long and uneventful. When we landed in Detroit there was (as we later discovered) a high level alert which slowed our trip through Customs/Passport Control. There were 4 lines and you had to choose one, so of course Terri and I chose what would turn out to be the slowest. There was an older man with his wife dressed in coonskin caps who (for some reason) were investigated for about 20 minutes while everyone in our line fumed. When they were released, a number of others ahead of us were deemed worthy of long checks, fingerprint scans, etc. Several were led off to interview rooms. I had no idea what to expect when they finally motioned to Terri and me and come up, but nothing happened. They looked at our passports, asked us why we had gone to Israel and sent us on after 45 seconds. I had listed some clothing and gifts as the things we had purchased and the Customs agent asked me what the clothing items were. He accepted my answer without asking to look into our luggage at all, so the whole Passport/Customs process for us lasted about 2 minutes.

As we expected, our dog Nina danced a jig and bordered on a stroke for a few minutes when we arrived home. Its been two days back now and I’m just beginning to feel like I’m ready to rejoin This American Life.

Before I sign off on this wonderful and long vacation, I should mention that we chose to spend our last day in Tel Aviv at a place very suitable for our family’s inclintations–the Safari Zoo in Ramat Gan, a lovely suburb of Tel Aviv. The Safari (as its name suggests) is something of an attempt to mimic the success of the San Diego Wild Animal Park. When you arrive at the location, if you have your own vehicle you can make your way through an area where the animals are free to roam. If you do not have a vehicle, then you can hop into a van operated by the Zoo and get at least some of the feel for that part of the park. Unfortunately, the van (at least the one we were on) was shabby and of greater importance, the windows were dirty which limited our ability to enjoy the views of the animals as we passed. Our driver spoke no English, so the commentary he provided was entirely in heavily Russian-accented Hebrew. Fortunately, Karl had a copy of the Zoo map/catalog in English and was happy to keep us fully informed, so it would have been great except for the obscured windows. Terri pronounced her disappointment in the quality of the exhibits we passed. She’s had extensive tours of the San Diego facility and if Ramat Gan wants to compete, they have a fair ways to go.

But all that disappointment gradually transitioned to delight as we reached the zoo itself, a large facility located in the center of the park. Never had any of us seen so many animals so active in a zoo. There were animals courting, procreating (yes), feeding and even engaged in a little fighting. Everywhere we went the animals were doing things rather than just lying around which is what we are accustomed to at most zoos. We enjoyed a snack near the penguinarium where we saw the zookeepers feed the adults and then lead the younger birds off to a private area where they could make sure they received enough food. Each exhibit was reasonably spacious for the species contained and the staff are clearly attuned to the needs of the animals who are obviously well-cared-for.

It was a lovely way to end our stay in Israel and I think we are all looking forward to a return trip!

Good Bus Drivers and Not-So-Good

We had a modest agenda for today–spend a little time in Yaffo (Jaffa) seeing the things that we just passed by last week. Well, the best laid plans…

First of all, our beloved son didn’t arise until after 10am. Terri and I finally headed out on our own and had breakfast at a new place (for us). Terri had hot cocoa and pastry, I had cappucino and pastry, both were excellent and reasonably priced.

Following breakfast we headed for the supermarket to purchase the makings of Shabbat dinner. We had a couple of near misses–Terri asked for 5 kilos of chicken breasts, but the astonishment of the deli saleswoman informed us that we had made a mistake and we quickly modified that to 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) for the three of us.

Upon returning home and stowing our groceries, Ephy was willing to leave the house. We headed downtown which is in the direction of Yaffo and got off the bus at Diezengoff Center. There we paused for a delicious felafel lunch. This place had little paper plates for taking as much salad as one pleased, so the lunch was particularly tasty and healthy–well as long as you keep the salty things to a reasonable level which I’m probably not capable of.

Ephy heard from a friend and decided to strike off on his own, but he put us on a #19 bus telling us that it would land us right in front of the famous clock tower of Yaffo. Well, no. The bus probably did pass within a mile of the clock tower, but we never saw it. I realized that we had to be beyond Yaffo as I we passed quickly into some sort of overpass. I wanted to get off the bus to catch a return bus on the other side, but I couldn’t see where the return side might be. It was soon clear that we had entered Bat Yam (the city immediately south of Tel Aviv/Yaffo) and I motioned to Terri that we needed to get off, but she refused. Still trusting in the wisdom of our son, Terri was convinced that the bus would make some sort of loop back to Yaffo. After another few stops continuing towards Rishon LeTzion, she finally went to the driver and managed to communicate the problem. He advised her to get off the bus immediately.

We crossed to the other side and awaited a bus back. The number #18 arrived first. We showed the driver our bus pass, and he immediately pronounced them invalid for our area. “That’s only good in Tel Aviv!” he said. I replied that we were in Bat Yam by mistake. He replied, and I must say in a pretty nasty tone, “A mistake is one or two stops. Here you are practically in a different city. You have to pay.” Well, it was a small amount of money, but we had paid for a day pass so I was pretty irritated. Anyway, we paid and off we went north.

After about 15 minutes of our northward procession, I mentioned to Terri that a bus stop was marked for the #25 which is the bus that goes to our apartment. Terri noticed that the intersection was Rothschild and Balfour and said that we must be back in Tel Aviv. I was dubious as it didn’t look like Tel Aviv to me. But we got off the #18 bus and left our cranky driver and climbed on to a #25 bus that arrived soon after. He looked at my pass and said, “That’s only good in Tel Aviv!” I looked at the passenger behind me and he said “You’re in Bat Yam.” I explained what happened to the bus driver, and this one was sympathetic, so Terri and I enjoyed the return trip to our apartment without the need to pay yet another fare.

Yaffo will need to await another day.

After cleaning up a bit, we headed for one of the few Conservative (Masorati) synagogues in the area. Services were very enjoyable. After arriving home, Terri and Ephy cooked a delicious dinner of salad, chicken schnitzel, herbed potatoes and challah. We had an inexpensive but tasty Israeli wine and despite the various tribulations we knew that in some sense we were indeed home.

Where to Find Pots in an Israeli Apartment

Our landlord Eli stopped by for a few minutes to deliver a light bulb and we took the opportunity to ask him if there was a better skillet in the apartment than the one we were using. He looked at us and said, “Did you look under the bed?” With that he went into the bedroom and lifted the mattress foundation. Under that were pots, pans, plates and silverware. Now we know!

Roughing It In Tel Aviv 12/20/09

Well, our first full day of activity in Israel was pretty much a bust. Interesting, but hard not to say it was all a bit ridiculous.

The initial idea was pretty simple. According to Frommer’s Israel (2008 edition, the most recent we could find), the Tourist Office is located at 7 Mendele Street. I thought that we could get maps, tour info and bus schedules and the like there, so we would make that our first stop of the day. So rather than waste a lot of the day, we took a cab to Mendele Street and arrived in good time. Unfortunately, the Tourist Office was no longer located there.

So we went to the hotel next door figuring that they would know to where the office had moved. Indeed, they not only told us that the office had moved near the Orchid Hotel, they provided us with a map to the location. It was a pretty easy walk, so off we went to find the new place. We got to the Orchid Hotel (and according to our new map, we should have hit the Tourist Office before we got to the Orchid), but no luck–no Tourist office. We entered the hotel and the desk staff looked it up for us and informed us that the office was now located at 69 Diezingoff St–about two miles away.

Terri and I walked the two miles and discovered that the address 69 does not exist on Diezingoff. But that turned out to be right near City Hall, so we did get to see City Hall! We visited the information desk for the city and they cheerfully informed us that the Tourist Bureau is now located at 42 Herbert Samuel Street. Having had enough of a walk, we again took a taxi and arrived promptly at that address where oddly enough we found that the Tourist Bureau actually existed!

The staff in the Tourist Bureau were very friendly. We did get a few helpful maps and brochures and then asked about bus schedules. They threw their hands up in the air and said they couldn’t help us with any of that because the bus companies wouldn’t give them the information. They had no idea about the monthly passes or really anything except how to purchase tours at the hotels.

Our main project for the day was supposed to be a visit to the Eretz Israel museum (one of the best in the country), so we asked how to get there. They told us that we needed the #25 bus (which turned out to be correct), but their advice on where to get the #25 bus turned out to be wrong. The place they sent us to had the #31 bus, the #16 bus and the #17 bus, but no #25. Terri was still interested in seeing if we could get the pass, so instead of searching further for the #25 bus, we took the #17 to the Central Bus Station (Tahanah Merkazit).

I surprised myself by actually recognizing the place (yes, it is huge, but I’ve been gone over 30 years). We entered the bustling place and discovered it was more a marketplace than a bus station. First I went to the Egged information desk. Egged is the bus company that runs most of the intercity lines. “Do you have have monthly passes?” “Yes, but they only work for a calendar month, so not a good deal today.” OK, we struck out there. On to the Dan bus company (Dan runs most of the intracity lines). There we encountered a cheerful desk where they happily had us fill out forms, took our picture for a photo ID card and then informed us that they too ran their passes on a calendar month basis, so no sense putting any money on our brand new photo ID cards.

By this time Terri was famished, so we headed for one of the many food stands. We purchased two pastries stuffed with cheese and a Diet Coke. I wasn’t surprised when the merchant said 30 shekels (about $8) since that was in line with prices in restaurants we have encountered, but when I handed him 30 shekels he was astonished and returned most of the money to me. Turns out he had said 13 shekels not 30, so our lunch actually came to only a little over $3. But what most impressed me was the honesty in this place–no way the merchants in most American bus stations would have so zealously returned my money.

We also saw this in taxis. Twice now I’ve tried to give the taxi driver a tip and both times they returned the money to me saying that I had given them too much.

So honesty is widespread in Tel Aviv, but knowledge, not so much. The “information desk” of the Dan bus station provided us with incorrect information about how to get to the museum. Fortunately I asked the bus driver and he sent us to another bus that would at least get us closer to our destination. Terri and I took that one (the #5). It dropped us off a little short of the museum, but a walk across the Yarkon River took us exactly to the museum–or a corner of it. We had to choose between walking one way or the other and of course we chose wrong.

We backtracked to the corner and made the other choice and soon enough we were at the entrance to the museum. It was 3pm and the museum closed at 4, so that was that. We took the bus (#25!) which let us off right near our apartment building.

The upshot of this is that we could have 1) walked to the museum from our apartment and arrived in about a half hour; or 2) we could have taken the #25 bus from near our apartment and arrived in 15 minutes. Instead, we spent about $12 on cabs, walked a total of 8.5 miles, spent 5 hours traveling and never made it to the actual exhibits of the museum. But we did get to the all-important gift shop where I was able to find a lovely book by Joseph Naveh, one of my favorite scholars, on the topic of ancient writing systems.

OK, we saw many slices of Tel Aviv life. Crazies on buses, bureaucratic inanity, and it was all in good fun. Fortunately we don’t really have much of a plan. Whatever comes our way we’ll enjoy. So it wasn’t a bust after all.

All’s well that ends well!

Mediterranean Sunset over Rooftop

Parasails Above the Mediterranean Viewed over a Roof

Midnight is gone

Midnight went on her last hunt. Our oldest pet, a black cat who reached more than 19 years, Midnight ran the house. When we moved to Michigan, our first cat passed on very quickly, and our first Michigan cat (Hattie) died quickly, probably from the same illness. A black cat named Sarah came into our lives. Terri and Sho allowed her to have one litter (turned out to be 8 kittens), and we kept Midnight after finding homes for the rest. After about three years, Sarah went out to hunt and never came back. Not long after, Midnight did the same.  At that time Terri and Shoshana found our gray tabby twins, Tommy and Rachel. But Midnight was always full of surprises and after an absence of 6 weeks, there she was back again. We’ve theorized that she might have been locked away in someone’s garage but managed to survive–I guess she lost quite a few of those proverbial nine lives in that episode.

But that broke our stream of bad luck–Midnight was here to stay. And she made it pretty clear that she would have nothing to do with the twins. Wouldn’t even share a litterbox with them. Fortunately for us, she preferred the outside life, so for most of our years with her she was our outdoors cat. She liked to come in for the day and stay out at night. And she would deign to keep us company during the coldest nights of Winter. And for all those years there was a steady stream of “gifts” left for us on the front porch.

Old age caught up with Midnight a couple of years ago, so for the past two years she was around the house a lot more. We threw in the towel on the litterbox issue and got her her own private one.

Two months ago, at her annual physical, the vet found a tumor on her paw and the diagnosis was immediate–cancer. She might survive a bit longer, we were told, with an amputation. But why put a 19 year old cat through that misery? So we gave her the most comfortable life we could provide and let her eat the wet food she preferred over kibble. What a pain that was because Nina our dog would do everything she could to get that food with very unpleasant consequences.

This morning the tumor opened up and Midnight bled profusely. I got a call from our cleaning crew (it was our biweekly cleaning day) telling us that the cat was clearly ailing. So after work Terri and I headed once again for the vet. One shot and a few minutes later, Midnight was sedated. Terri pet her and she purred until she was out. A second shot and her strong little heart was stilled.

Terri buried her under the tree which was a favorite napping spot of hers for so many years.

It seems like these days half my activity in this blog is writing obits for my pets. Midnight was 19, Tommy 14 and Roxanne 9. So in the last few months, we’ve lost pets who occupied 42 collective years of our pets’ lives. I miss them all.

The Journey to Metuchen

Well, it was an interesting trip, in the Chinese sense of “May you live in interesting times.” Nothing fatal,  not even calamitous, and occasionally just plain funny. The plan was a quick trip from Ann Arbor to my sister for a family visit, partially funded by one of those $9 fares Spirit Airlines puts up from time to time. (Actually, since I had to pay full price on the return flight, I’m not sure how much of a bargain it really was, but it got me off my duff so I guess its OK.)

The first part of the journey took place in my ’07 Turbo Forrester, a relatively new car. The check engine light was on, as it has been for several months now. The first time it came on, the shop where I have my oil changes done told be it was an “Evap” problem–more commonly known as loose gas cap. It went away and stayed away for a few months. The next time it happened, I took it back to the dealer who advised me that the code was for the “secondary air injector” system, one of the “gifts” from the EPA. He said not to worry about it, I probably wouldn’t see it again. Of course I did. So, they decided they had to replace some component in the air quality system. The estimate was $800, not covered under warranty. But Subaru came through and agreed to come up with most of it.

Needless to say, a week after this repair, the light was back on. The dealer relates that he asked Subaru (as long as the engine was already in pieces) whether they might want to change “both sides” of this system, but Subaru only agreed to change the one that had coded. That day, the code was “Evap”. They reset it and the light stayed off for 36 hours. The next code translated to “bad gas” (supposedly a common problem in our area of the Midwest). This time it stayed off for 24 hours. Now the code was “secondary air injector” (the side Subaru had not agreed to replace). So I’m off to the airport in a car that has the check engine light lit while we wait for new parts to arrive.

The first part of the journey by auto accomplished, the next phase was the airport parking mini-bus. Uneventful. One of the few times I could say this this trip.

No problems with airport security, I arrive at my gate with the sign reading “on time.” I sit down, pull out the newspaper and glance up. The sign has changed to “delayed.” The plane is sitting on the tarmac, so do we have mechanical problems–did the “check engine” light come on? Nope, this time the problem is that La Guardia traffic control won’t provide permission for our plane to leave. Traffic is heavy at La Guardia.

Ultimately, they kept us waiting two hours, one hour on the ground, another in the plane. But at about 6pm we rose into the skies and had a lovely flight to the New York metro area. As it turned out, the traffic was still heavy at La Guardia, so we circled the City a few times. Beautiful views of the Statue of Liberty, lower Manhattan, Central Park, bridges and water. Great views of Flushing Meadows Park, the NY Worlds Fair globe and the old and new Mets stadiums as we finally landed (smoothly, thank goodness) at La Guardia.

I had no problem finding the commuter bus I had reserved. The driver was a trip and a half. As we got ready to leave, he greased up his arms and donned a variety of body armor explaining that these various braces and wraps would prepare him properly for the road ahead. He artfully posted his sign “Tipping is a cool thing to do” and we were off. As we approached the entrance ramp to the freeway, we came to a complete stop. “What is this?” our Knight-driver exclaimed (with some extra colorful language I can’t repeat in a family blog). Evidently there was a wreck or mechanical failure on the ramp. So after a New York Minute, he pulled the bus out of the ramp and onto city streets and we headed for Manhattan the old fashioned way. We arrived at Grand Central Station where I was told to transfer to a mini-van which would get me the remainder of the way to Penn Station.

It was at this time that I bid a fond adieu to my travel companion–a lovely young lady employed in the Ann Arbor branch of Google, Inc who had taken the same plane as I and reserved the same bus. Aside from the usual travel banter, I heard a bit about marketing operations at the Ann Arbor office. In a way, it was Google that caused our paths to cross. Originally I had intended to take mass transit, but that’s always awkward when transporting luggage. So I used Google to locate the commuter bus we were both taking.

I was in luck at Penn station–the train to Metuchen had just opened its doors, and with little fuss we were on the way under the Hudson. I didn’t realize it, but I was in the last car of the train. As it turned out that was unfortunate because the doors of the last two cars do  not open at Metuchen. The conductor advised me to move up to the next car, which I did, but that placed me in the second-to-last car. So we arrived at Metuchen, and then under the watchful eye of the conductor, I stood by the door which did not open. I waved goodbye to Metuchen as the train headed for Edison station.

At Edison, I called my sister Barb to let her know that they might want to consider picking me up in Edison. As it turned out, in keeping with the theme of this trip, her house phone was out of order. She had sent my brother-in-law off to the station to pick me up (without his cell phone). So all I got when I tried my sister’s house phone was a busy signal, and voice-mail for her cell phone. Eventually I grabbed a cab and arrived at my sister’s home shortly after her husband had given up on me arriving in Metuchen.

I had a delicious chicken cacciatore (one of my sister’s signature dishes), and all seemed swell after a nice, stiff single malt Scotch. I had left Ann Arbor at 2pm, and arrived Metuchen at 10:30. That made it about a half hour sooner than I could have driven. But then I would have had to stare at the “check engine” light for those hours, so I guess it was all worth while.