Thursday, July 13, 2017

Excitement on an ordinary day



     My mother made a frantic phone call home from a telephone booth — that dates the story — and our family’s daily routine changed in an instant.
     There are those moments when you must jolt into action if you want to turn things around. That’s just what my dad did, and the rest of us followed his lead like he was the Piped Piper. We didn’t disappear and possibly end up in a cave implied by a version of the legend; however, we did drive frantically into unfamiliar territory and lived to tell the story.
     It’s good for the soul to shuffle-up ‒ that dates me, too ‒ the   humdrum of daily life.
      Back when I was a know-it-all-kid in the sixth grade, my mom went on the Long Island Railroad to Brooklyn for a routine doctor’s appointment, and my younger sister and I went down to dad’s store after school. It was a short half-mile walk to the main business district, and we were accompanied by plenty of other kids going home. Life was much simpler, and we walked everywhere as long as we didn’t miss meals. Our freedom was for the taking.
     Dad was going to take us home when he closed the store and attempt cooking supper. Truthfully, Dad wasn’t a very capable chef, but we helped him out. I don’t recall that we ever starved, and I am sure mom had left a Jell-O mold in the refrigerator along with an apple pie on the counter.
    Actually, I looked forward to those late afternoons when I had extra time with dad. My artistic sister kept occupied coloring on her latest project, and I meandered up and down the aisles straightening boxes of linen hankies while watching the traffic go by heading for the Hamptons.
      While I was setting the table for dinner, we got mom’s S.O.S. She accidently had gotten on the wrong train when she changed trains at Jamaica. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, except all the trains on the tracks make it confusing if you are not sure of your directions and train routes. Jamaica can be a nightmare for the uninitiated or tentative person even today.
      Somehow mom stopped in Ronkonkoma (Town of Islip) at the end of the line about half way from home with 30 or so miles left. The conductor told her there were no alternatives unless she took the train back to Jamaica, and tried once again.
     Dad calmed her down, and in the meantime we all hustled into the Plymouth sedan with dad driving full speed west. We left supper on the kitchen counter. That was before the fast Long Island Expressway had come out to the end of the Island, so it was stop and go at every traffic light in every town all the way.
     I thought that this was great fun, and I loved the thought of getting out of homework, as well as leaving town. Anything to get my wanderlust soul all stirred up didn’t take much. I wondered about the town with the Native American sounding name where we were heading.

     From an early age I loved maps and I would spend hours studying them planning imaginary trips. The neighborhood gas station gave them out free, and the owner would hand me the latest ones when I stopped in on my walk home from school checking on his supply. He knew about my obsession and kept it quiet.
     The closer we got to the train station off the main highway and onto side roads, the more I realized that dad was lost. There didn’t appear to be any signs, and it looked more like a residential area near water.
     “We’re going around this lake in circles,” I proudly informed dad. “We need to stop and ask someone.”
     As if he hadn’t made that discovery himself, I needed to needle him more. That was Lake Ronkonkoma (Long Island’s largest freshwater lake) I was pointing to and verifying on the map in my hands.
     I hadn’t learned yet that dads, or men for a fact, don’t stop and ask for directions. It’s not in their genes. They keep muddling along convinced that they can figure it out.


     The last thing dad wanted was my backtalk. I could see him perspiring a bit and his hands were clutching the wheel tighter. I slumped in my seat and watched the sun going down as we circled the lake for the fourth or fifth time.
    Finally, we got to the train station, collected mom and managed to wind our way back to Route 58. The return seemed easier, and there was less stress in the car.
     For a surprise we got to eat out at Howard Johnson’s, which made me ecstatic. I didn’t have to look at the menu before ordering my usual heaping plate of fried clams that I wolfed down with gusto. We never got to eat fried foods like that at home, and seafood was becoming my new food of choice.
     Years later we would still joke in front of mom that if a day got boring she could go get lost at a train station and we would come and rescue her. She would raise her shoulders and not get the humor like the rest of us. I guess she hadn’t let that scare go.   
     Today, with texting, cell phones, Uber and GPS this wouldn’t be much of a story at all.

    
    
    
    

      

Sunday, July 9, 2017

July beauty


     Seasonal flowers, like the daisies blooming here at a vineyard overlooking Seneca Lake, dot landscapes with patches of color in the Finger Lakes region. 



Monday, July 3, 2017

Back roads of the finger lakes

I've often wondered what people from out of the area are thinking when they travel the back roads of rural Upstate New York for the first time. 

Take it from someone that has lived in the area for a long time. There are awesome views in any season if you make the time to look around. Slow down. Breathe. There's more to life than getting to your next destination whether it be the winery, restaurant or hotel. 

Go ahead. Take the fork in the road. 






Friday, June 30, 2017

Take the fork in the road

Take the fork in the road

     When you can’t find your place, create it.
     If you ask me, it’s a bold statement, and one that I borrowed from someone. It’s ideal for this time of year when our calendars are overflowing with graduations, reunions and wedding celebrations.
     Part of the fun of going to graduation parties is listening to the plans of young adults and hearing the excitement in their voices. They are out to save the world and they see no roadblocks that can’t be detoured in one or way or another. You have to love their optimism and energy. If they have been parented properly and given life’s tools, each will go for it and not be timid in creating a situation suitable for him.




     One graduate told me that she is going to get a degree in public health, and promote universal health care. The adults standing nearby were bemoaning the present state of affairs, and frankly, were thrilled to acknowledge a person willing to commit to bettering our future. They agreed that we need fresh new thoughts to wade through archaic ideas we have come to accept as the status quo.
     Another said that he is going into environmental conservation, and keeping our planet clean with proper water management. He’s been catching live things that wiggle in streams since he was a little boy, and it is natural that he follows the flow. 
     “I am going to be a pediatrician,” said another self-poised graduate.
     If I ever give any advice I usually say to know your strengths and your style.
     A grad agreed with me. He said that he chose the smaller rural college that offers his major and where he feels the most comfortable, rather than a huge city campus.  I didn’t hear the real story from him, though. Others interjected that there is a girlfriend nearby. That explains it all.
     It’s okay to be obsessive, too. People after their goals are consumed.
     When I asked a UR pre-med student about her choice of going into pediatrics and the amount of years it will take, she smiled telling me that it was part of her educational plan. She was working in the college lab with children and loved it so much that she decided to specialize.  Obviously, she had thought it all through.



     Pay attention to what is happening on the side.
     Look at the number of foodies and restaurant owners who loved cooking as a hobby, and have turned it into a blooming business.  There are many such venues and products right in Livingston County. Go to the East Avon Flea Market and you will notice people passionately selling their own invented creations from spices to bbq sauces. New breweries have cropped up by the initiative of entrepreneurs desiring fulfillment in addition to their main day job.
     Leave your options open and try not to get yourself pigeon-holed.
     Intelligent people have many varied interests and their windy path in life often provides for utilizing those skills in one manner or other. You marvel at the folks who are able to reinvent themselves over and over.
     An example might be the graduate who said, “I am getting a degree in business and I have no idea what I will be doing with it.”   
     All of us could use a reminder on how to move forward. Life is not so cookie cutter-clean anymore. There are more options over the horizon than ants crawling under the porch bench for a crumb of wedding cake.
       It takes a visionary person to see beyond the simplistic and set forth with lofty goals. Part of the accomplishment will be taking the risk, overcoming failures and braving the naysayers. Oh, there will be plenty of those folks who will try and steer you on a safer course.  
    


      When my daughter was turning 13, she asked for the complete works of William Shakespeare and an art book of Impressionistic painters for her birthday. First of all, I was thankful that her teachers were inspiring her, and secondly, that an ounce of culture was rubbing off.  You just never know as a parent during those preteen years. Since bookstores had ample coffee table art books on sale, I thought that I was getting away on the cheap side never ever dreaming that art would be her chosen field. Today she owns a Chelsea gallery.
      My daughter told me that she had 2 goals in mind when she graduated from college.  She was going to be selling art to the rich and famous rock and roll stars by the time she was 40  - she achieved that goal way earlier – and secondly, she wanted to make art accessible and relatable to every day people like you and me.
     I share her story not to brag – well, of course, I have to as a mother – but more to show an example of the possibilities if you take your life by the hands and seek a place for your talents.
     Yogi Berra, a favorite sports star of mine, made a quote that I caught with both hands. When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

     By the way, if you do get invited to the party, look for a need to be filled.  Take it upon yourself to be the one to handle it. That’s how you’ll fit right in and you will be appreciated for your helpfulness.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Exploring the Dalmatian coast to the Julian Alps



Local writer travels from Croatia to Slovenia






     Upon arriving in Dubrovnik, Croatia, my husband’s search for ancestry on his father’s side begins. He hopes for insights. After years collecting slips of paper, death records and immigration documents, he cannot connect the dots.
     I jokingly exclaim that I am along for the ride, and in the meantime, I will explore red-roofed hillside landscapes familiar in popular movies, especially The Game of Thrones.
    October is a perfect time for traveling to countries along the Adriatic Sea – Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Slovenia once part of the Yugoslavian Republic ruled by Josip Broz Tito.  
     There are only occasional disturbances from bura, the Croatian word for wind, pronounced like the word, Buddha. It is a northerly wind blowing from the mountains to the sea.  



     If you ask me, bura is just wind. However, to Dalmatians it is so much more, and one of the most talked about topics of Croatian life. We miss a night cruise on the Adriatic due to rough seas from several days of bura wind, and we make the best of the situation by turning it into one of those opportunities for changing plans like flexible travelers. Instead, we find a nearby restaurant and talk with another couple about what they are discovering in Dubrovnik that we might check out the next day. It’s fascinating to get other people’s perspectives.      
      Our tour guide, Antonija, tells us that rain is another thing that gets the locals down, and bad moods prevail along with grouchy looks when the sky opens up. I never encounter rudeness, although on the 2 rainy days in Dubrovnik, I am too busy watching for puddles rather than faces. 

     Our trip is14 days by land; however, cruises are a popular option, too. The region welcomes tourists and is easy on the budget in contrast to Europe in general. For example, a three-course meal with drinks for 2 in Spilt, Croatia costs 214 kunas, or about 30 American dollars.



Wandering around Dubrovnik

      Dubrovnik is one of the jewels of Croatia. It is an international city, and quite easy to navigate, especially since English is spoken everywhere. Its past as an independent city- state rivaled that of Venice, and its harbor brought ships in and out for trade with all of Europe and the Middle East.
    The Stari Grad, the extraordinarily well-preserved Old City, is a place that we linger and return frequently using public bus transportation from our hilltop hotel. We walk the high wall surrounding the city and marvel at the beauty in every direction.
     Looking to the left and to the right off the main pedestrian walking area, we notice steep-stepped alleys where there are shaded restaurants and handmade craft shops tucked away ideal for hours of exploration.
     One afternoon we accidentally come upon a tiny covered spot outside and enjoy an octopus salad and bowl of mussels –Croatian specialties - with local beer and wine while people watching and soaking up the sun. There’s a term in Croatia, pomalo, or take it easy, and that’s what the day is meant for.

Meeting a Croatian family

     Croatian cuisine is a flavorful blend of Mediterranean and Slavic influences, and my husband and I have the distinct pleasure of visiting a local family for an evening dinner prepared with foods from our host’s small farm.
    While we sit on the patio of a modern brick home, Anna, a university student, speaks in fluent English about the courses of the meal. We start with homemade grappa made from their grapes, prosciutto, cheese, peppers and bread for dipping in olive oil. The second course is a variety of smoked meats – Ana shows us the family’s smoke house - and we end with flan for dessert.


     But it is the family’s story that remains with me today. During the civil war in ’91 the men protect the land, and the women all flee into Dubrovnik each with a plastic bag of belongings.
      In the meantime, the army takes over the family’s home and when the family returns, it has been looted and emptied of furniture. It is a pointless war started by very nationalistic leaders we are told, and over 8000 men are killed as a result.
     At the time, Anna is only three years old, but she has grown up with the stories about how proud the Croatian people are for their country, now part of the European Union. As she is speaking of the experience, her eyes become teary, her voice raises an octave and you sense the deep love for her familial roots.
     In fact, throughout Croatia family is regarded highly and of the 4.3 million people, most do not live far from their roots. Anna’s relatives reside up and down the road and gather once a day for the main meal. Our tour guide, Antonija, has her own apartment as a single woman, and visits with her parents and siblings as often as possible.
     Anna tells us her education through the university level is provided by the government if she maintains excellent grades. All citizens receive health care and pensions. Everyone is taxed at almost half his salary.
      The more my husband listens, the more things begin to click together in his mind from his growing up in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, which incidentally, has the largest population of Croatians in the United States. He recalls the family customs around the table and specific sayings that are similar to what he is noticing here.

Spending time in war-torn areas



     We take a day trip to the country of Montenegro, a republic that goes back to the eleventh century and which declared its independence in 2006.
     It has the distinction of never been conquered by the Ottoman Turks. Driving around Kotor Bay, Europe’s southernmost fjord, it is surrounded by exquisite terrain of rugged black mountains and long unbroken stretches of beach.
     Traveling north we stop another day in Bosnia-Herzegovina and honestly, it is a poor war-torn country that hasn’t recovered. I have never seen anything like it in my travels.
     The bullet holes and dings in houses and buildings still without roofs or partial walls is evident in the city of Mostar, home of Turkish architecture and a forty-five percent Muslim population. The Old Town bridge built in the 16th century is a symbol of reconciliation and co-existence of diverse cultural, religious and ethnic communities.
     At the borders of each of these countries it is necessary to go through Passport Control, and because of the Syrian refugee crisis, security has escalated. Only 2 families have asked for asylum in Croatia as most Syrians are trying to get to Germany and beyond.

Encountering a tense solo American traveler

      We meet a young businesswoman from Chicago at a rest stop on the highway – she comes right over recognizing us as
Americans - and she says that on her public bus the police take off several Syrians without proper papers.  
     She talks at a fast pace and nervously sips from a Coke. We suppose she is realizing after the fact that as an innocent bystander, she witnessed an international situation and wants a brief encounter with Americans to help her comfort level. She says we gave her what she needs and thanks us. After we finish our conversation, we wish her safe travels.


Visiting historic sights

     One of the highlights in Croatia is the Palace of Diocletian, one of the greatest Roman rulers in Central Europe. It is a virtual open-air museum with the palace as its centerpiece. It is here in the bowels of the palace that I see where film crews cleared the vendors’ stalls and shot scenes of the dragons’ lair in The Game of Thrones.
      We tour a coastal town, Rovinj, only twenty miles across the water from Trieste, Italy, and it takes on a different flavor from its early settlement by Italians.
     We always look for local farmers’ markets for interacting with vendors who will introduce us to new products. In Rovinj we taste black and white truffles for the first time, and we remark at the earthy taste.   
     Nearby in Pula we visit the 23,000 person amphitheater, the sixth of its kind preserved in the world, and nowhere as crowded as the Roman Coliseum.
     Postojna Caves is an extensive underground cavern and the largest in Europe. After a refreshing 3 plus mile walk down and back, I remember similar hikes in Carlsbad and Mammoth Cave in the US, and include this one as a new favorite.
    Once again, Antonija, our tour guide with a strong history background, gives my husband corrections about his family name that he has not yet found through Ancestory.com. His spelling is incorrect considering the location and varies on records. Unfortunately, like in most immigrant families, such information is not discussed while he is growing up. He tries to read between the lines and recall vague incidences while on the trip.

Touring Slovenia

     Heading north into Slovenia we don fleece jackets – the temperatures slip into the forties and low fifties- stay at Bled Lake, a European resort. Bled is blessed with natural hot springs regarded as having healing powers and has been a popular fresh air retreat since the mid 19th century.
     I take advantage of walking the perimeter of the lake, breathing in deeply and viewing the snow covered Julian Alps. "Winter is coming" is the motto of House Stark, one of the Great Houses of Westeros in The Game of Thrones. The meaning behind these words is one of warning and constant vigilance. That’s decent advice for any traveler, too.
     Perhaps, a surprise to me is a visit to Ljubljana, a city that has incorporated Roman and medieval styles with modern architecture. There is a lot of picture taking opportunities in the largest city in Slovenia, and to think I almost stayed behind.
     Before entering the Old City, I see the utilitarian worker apartment buildings from the Communist era. Today, Slovenia is modern and economically better off than countries to the south.
     Two weeks later and a pound or two heavier, we leave for home saturated in the history around us that we never paid enough attention to 20 years ago. Thanks to former President Bill Clinton, who helped bring about a peaceful ending to the Bosnian War, the borders stay the same.
     My husband is hard at work piecing together more clues in the puzzle, and thinking that he will be ready for a visit to the actual location of his ancestors on a future trip.  As for me, I am waiting for the sixth season of my favorite TV show and hoping that Khaleesi and her dragons will win the final battle.
 
     


    
    
    
    
    
    
    


     

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Our older generation - Part II



     “All I want is a hug once in awhile,” one sixty-something told me.
     That was right after I wrote the column, Our Older Generations Often the Most Forgotten, back in April.  
     I thought I had hit on all the bases.
     Seriously, I had struck out failing to mention a major component of living a quality life in the golden years. Thanks. I appreciate being put on notice.
     Not one, but several people reminded me of that valid point, too, and perhaps, this is where another column came to mind.



     From our moment of birth until we take our last breaths, we need hugs. The simple act of an embrace has profound psychological and physical effects that are essential for our survival. People who receive hugs and cuddles from their spouses, children or even their pets live longer and recover from illness faster.


     Nowadays teachers are hands-off with students in the classroom. There’s no hugging. I am sure there are valid reasons for this policy in light of a new generation.
    I remember being in the beginnings of the transition period when policy changed, and it took some getting used to shifting from one way of thinking to another frankly.  It affected me deeply, and I struggled to find different ways to make each student accept his worth without any contact as such.
      Might I add that I do believe educational bureaucrats sitting in  offices far away from real live classrooms tossed out a humanistic approach used by educators for generations.    That’s my observation.
     Today, to make up for the ruling, whenever I see a former student and we approach each other as two adults, it is with a hug. Both of us are saying, “Thanks for the memories, and having faith in me.”


     Scientific studies reveal that hugs work by producing specific beneficial chemical reactions in the brain and body. You can read the studies yourself. It’s most compelling.
     The obvious benefits of hugging don’t require a scientific study, though. Hugs make us feel loved, safe and secure. They boost our self-esteem, and keep us connected to the world around us.
     Sadly, of all age groups, seniors are the least likely to be hugged, and they need hugs even more as years go by.
     The chemical changes produced by hugging can be a powerful tool for deterring the effects of age-related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and cancer.  
     In assisted living settings, many seniors lose the option of daily contact with friends and family members. They have often lost their spouses or lifelong friends, and health problems, disabilities or depression may prevent them from reaching out to strangers. For these reasons, depression and isolation are especially common, but a few hugs a day could prevent or even reverse their despair, and allow them to live fuller, happier lives.


     The other week I was in at the Livingston County Skilled Nursing and Rehab Center in Mount Morris visiting a close friend. As I brushed by other women in the commons room who reached out, I gave their hands a pat along with a smile.  It seemed like the right thing to do. It was only a small gesture, too.  

     It brought to mind the last contact that I had with my mother. As she lay dying I whispered how much I appreciated all that she had done in raising me. I had no way of knowing whether she heard me as her eyes were closed and she was sedated heavily. Then, I felt a slight tug on my hand. I knew. That memory lingers with me forever. I believe I still sense that squeeze of her hand today.

     Most churches have a larger population of older folks in the pews than any other age group. Another reader of this column told me that her church puts on intergenerational lunches, and although her children had only attended one due to school conflicts, it is an amazing opportunity for laughter, and yes, hugs for the elderly and children alike. That’s bridging the gap and serving others on many levels.


     I am the first one to admit that I will often post, “electronic hugs” as a reply on Facebook when I hear a piece of sad news. Well, that works, and it doesn’t quite do it, too.

     The same reader that reminded me about the meaningfulness of a hug also said that we shouldn’t forget that for some folks, the simple act of getting groceries is a complicated ordeal.
     The physical exertion getting in and out of a car, let alone finding a parking place, or someone to give them a ride, is not so pleasant the older one is in society. Seniors are ambivalent about depending on others for such basic needs, too.
     The rest of us should show a little kindness in reaching up to a higher shelf for someone struggling, and give those slower folks a wider birth in the aisles.  Help load their groceries in their car as you pass them in the parking load. It only takes a couple extra seconds. It’s a teachable moment for you younger parents.

    Go out and do something for an elderly person that you might never notice otherwise. I would be willing to bet that you will be rewarded tenfold in your heart for your generous spirit.
     Lastly, go on.  Give that person a hug. It’s good for what ails you. That’s what my mother told me.
          


     

Saturday, June 3, 2017

40 weird things that make adults happy



       I wasn’t sure where I would go with this topic, or not. I asked followers on my Kay Thomas writer’s page on Facebook if they would be my guest and add their happy weirdness.
      Evidently, a struck a chord, and in one twenty-four hour period, I was good to go as a result of the conversation. That’s how this column came to fruition.
    I decided to leave the wording intact since it says so much about how individuals describe their feelings, including the exclamation points.
     To all of you who participated, thank you so much.  Obviously, you and I are compatriots in what makes us fulfilled as grown ups.
     When I read and reread this column in preparation for filing with the newspaper, I thought to myself that so many of your comments were such simple little pleasures that we all too often take for granted, too. A lot don’t cost any money, and others simply involve heightening our sensual awareness wherever we are at the moment.

    In no particular order, here is the list.  I put one or two of my own tucked into the grouping, as well, as the temptation was too great. Incidentally, I saved my husband’s idea for third from the end.




·      Gentle rain on a metal roof early in the morning.

·      Plans canceling and suddenly there is extra time.

·      Observing the freshly tilled soil waiting for that first plant.

·      Simple pleasures are the best - but good aromas truly take first place with me. Diffusers, body wash in the shower, clean - not too flowery smelling lotions are all comforting and remind me to breath deep and relax!

·      Opening a new book.

·      The scent of fresh cut grass, chicken on the grill, dogs barking and kids playing after a long winter. It's a shame so many southerners have never experienced this. Everyone should at least once.

·      I love being able to organize my desk after it's gotten especially messy. I also love being able to have my planner/desk calendar filled with appointments and such!

·     Collecting a coffee can full of loose change and turning it in to the bank before a vacation. Mad money.

·     Finding a designer label piece of clothing at the Salvation Army or Goodwill.

·    Making homemade applesauce in the fall and the aroma filling the kitchen is heaven. I can be dead tired and I still feel a lift of my spirit.

·   Coming in from swimming, taking off your suit, and getting into bed between the covers. Just as exquisite as skinny dipping!

·      I always enjoy new school/office supplies. There is something about a full box of sharpened crayons or an empty journal with a fun cover or a chunky pink pearl eraser...maybe it is the excitement of starting new or the endless possibilities ahead (or both)!

·      When a song from my youth comes on and I find I still remember every word as I sing along as loudly as my surroundings allow.

·      Having my dogs sleep on my bedspread leaving me little room to move and turn at night. I love those dogs too much to complain.

·      The first seed catalogs of the year and the first shoots from planted seeds.

·      Watching daily kid video updates on Facebook.

·      My cats purring while having coffee listening to the quiet sounds from outside through an open door.

·      Eating the corner brownie from the pan.

·      Having a cup of coffee by myself on the porch before anyone else is awake refreshes me.

·      The sense of smell is very strong. It can trigger memories tucked in your brain from childhood, or a smell from Grandma’s house.

·      Lining up my fly fishing lures during the winter and contemplating the first adventure of the spring.

·      My favorite: Pink Pearl Crayola. The off brands don't smell the same!

·      The smell of the air after a summer thunder/lightening storm.

·      The first sunny warm day of spring when I can hang my sheets outside and watch them blowing in the wind and then the wonderful smell when you sleep in them.

·      Buying a tub of onion dip and a bag of potato chips just on a whim for myself.

·      Picking up sticks in the yard in the early spring.

·      Buying yarn. More yarn. Hoarding yarn. Now I’ve lost track of what I own.

·      My grandmother's perfume Emerraud and her cooking. 

·     New car, simmering home made sauce, fresh tomato out of the garden, and my husband's musk cologne.

·      For me, it's all about the mindset. *If* my mind isn't totally racing thinking about things, then I notice the smell of the coffee beans etc.

·      Or weeding the flowerbed.

·      Salt air.

·      I can watch the hummingbirds come to my feeders on the porch for hours on end, and still each one is a unique gift of nature.

·       Writing with a nice pen.

·       Cleaning the lint from the dryer filter.

·  Receiving a bouquet of dandelions from my grandchild with her innocent eyes looking into mine.

·      The smell of a campfire.

·      The Combination: chipped ham, scrambled egg, cheese all on toast. A Pittsburgh memory. Hard to explain at the deli in WNY how to slice the ham – “thin enough to read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette through it.”

·      Coming home.

·      All of the above. Some of the above. No comment.