Book #69: Finished

This is a compilation of Charna’s and my photos from our trip to New Mexico including short paragraphs we wrote and information found online. IMG_2704 (1)The cover is a print called “Santa Fe Typical” by McCarthy. Binding is the Secret Belgian Binding. I spent quite a long time thinking about how to construct this book. My original thought was since the print is symmetrical I would wrap it around the spine and both covers. However this would have made the book smaller than I needed to present the photos. Also, I wanted to use the 8″ x 10″ unbuffered bond but that would require a single sheet binding. Finally I used an 8.5″ x 14″ matte presentation paper, folding the 14″ width at the 10″ mark to create a finished book 8.5″ x 10″.

IMG_2703Here is the book in progress showing inside the binding. I used the folded over sheet for both text and smaller photos.




Last day and coming home

I spent my last day with Yona. First we went to Beilinson Hospital where Yona had a brief appointment. The hospital is enormous, very modern looking and filled with people walking in the corridors. I’m used to large hospitals; we have them here in Pittsburgh; but I’ve never seen so many people in the hallways. We got to the Dr.’s reception room where a woman lying on a gurney and her daughter were already waiting. Two more women, only one a patient, walked in while we waited. Then the daughter’s husband and another family member came in along with the family of the other patient. Yona said this always happens: you go to see your doctor with your entire family and when you are hospitalized the entire family comes with food. That explained all the people in the hallways.

Yona lives near the Mediterranean in an area that narrowly borders the West Bank. We drove toward another checkpoint leading to the West Bank city of Tul Karm, only a short distance from Netanya. We did not enter Tul Karm but turned into an Israeli settlement filled with lovely homes and gardens that borders it. When the settlement was first developed it was considered high risk. Protected by the border wall, two electric fences, a no-mans land and a guarded gate, it has become a highly desirable location where children can walk home from school by themselves and play outside without constant adult attention.

Our next destination was a nearby Israeli-Arab village where we met with the principal of the school, whom Yona knew. She doesn’t really know everyone; it just seems that way. This village did not have the neat gardens and numerous trees we saw in the previous settlement. We arrived as school was letting out and saw lots of children walking in the streets.

After another lunch of hummus and falafel at an Arab restaurant we drove along the coast and looked at two more schools, this time boarding schools. I don’t know how much I could focus on my studies with the Mediterranean nearby.

It was a long day and I was happy to get back to Yona’s house and rest for awhile. My taxi came at 10pm for a 1am departure. The airport was filled with groups of kids waiting to go through security. To my amazement and pleasure I was invited to sit and security would come to me. What a change from our airports, of which I have more to say. I got through all the preliminary questions and the inspection of my bag. Clutching passport and boarding passes I went through the usual x-raying of my carryons, again with no waiting. They really gave me special treatment. I’ve decided it pays to walk around with a cane.

My plane arrived at JFK at 6am. I asked for a wheelchair and this made it much easier. I hope never to go through JFK again, but, if necessary, I wouldn’t hesitate to get a wheelchair again. My next plane (to Pittsburgh) was supposed to leave at 2:59pm. I love these time designations; like they are meaningful. Anyway, I had already arranged to meet with Renee. We each took our respective subways and met in the middle of Queens where we found a pleasant Hispanic restaurant and had a second (and third) breakfast. After a couple of hours I returned to Kennedy and she went home.

I got to the airport to find my plane had been canceled. I was standing in line so long I finally asked for another wheelchair. American Airlines put me on a Delta flight scheduled for 7pm. The wheelchair lady (very nice, as was the other one) took me to the other terminal where I found that the plane they put me on had already been canceled. They put me on another one, but that also got canceled. This time I stood in line a long time only to find I would have to wait until Sunday to get on a plane. The alternative they offered was an 8am flight from JFK to Atlanta and then a flight to Pittsburgh that would arrive at 4:15pm Saturday. I couldn’t deal with it. I went to Renee’s apartment where I slept like a rock then got on a 9:50am Megabus and arrived in Pittsburgh at 5:30. I have another nasty story about my suitcase, but I finally got it.

Pictures to come.

Old Friend

I remained in Jerusalem on Sunday night so I could meet with another old friend, Janette, on Monday morning. The weekend had been rainy and cold but Monday was lovely again. We spent time walking and talking, catching up on the several years since we were together. I saw her new apartment in a senior living place, we went to lunch and finally to an informal Hebrew conversation class she holds for three American women. It did not improve my Hebrew.

Temporarily swearing off taxis I took a bus to the central bus station, another bus to Tel Aviv, then the train to Netanya, where Yona met me at the station. It felt like coming home.

This morning, Tuesday, we went to Haifa to see the exhibit I couldn’t find last week. The exhibit was in Carmel Center, halfway up the mountain. Not being sure of the way up Yona stopped a couple of people for directions. The second man said he was going there, so he got in the car and directed her. Very Israeli.

After another Israeli-Arab salad lunch we went on an unusual excursion. Yona is a volunteer driver helping sick Palestinians, particularly children, cross the border to reach Israeli hospitals for treatment. This service is provided at no cost. At the hospital in Haifa, we picked up a mother and baby and another mother with a very sick teenage boy who could barely get into the car, although he was the one who directed Yona about where to drive. The women said nothing. We took them to the checkpoint nearest their homes where we entered easily by giving the boy’s name and they were met by their families. Yona also gave a donated computer to the boy. You can read more about the volunteer group at

How old is old?

After my 79th birthday last May I started to think about becoming 80 and what it might mean. First, let me say I know a number of people in their 80’s, and older, who are doing just fine. But, in the past, I knew many who weren’t fine, or were already dead, and the prevailing stereotype is 80 is old old. Should I stop traveling? Should I stop driving? What does it mean to be 80?
Added to that my knees have been bothering me for months and the pain makes me feel very old. I had cortisone shots in July that helped enormously–no pain for months. But while I was walking around in the bitter cold in New York City something happened to my right knee and I’m suffering again. I have been going for physical therapy and doing exercises religiously. I joined Weight Watchers just before Christmas and lost 11 pounds, so far. Still suffering. Finally I decided that 80 was just the day after 79 and my real problem was the terrible cold weather and snow and ice in Pittsburgh.
I am writing this from Israel where it is warm and sunny and I’m feeling better–not great, but better. And my friends, Yona and Arik, are treating me like a queen, so this my not count as traveling alone.
I’ve been to Israel many times in the distant past, but this is the first time in, probably 30 years. I am amazed at how the country has grown and changed. The roads and highways are wonderful and there are cities replacing the sand, shrubs and a few shanties from before.
Yona picked me up at the airport on Monday and I saw only the view from the road, but that was amazing enough. I postponed my collapse from jet lag long enough to play with Yona’s three grandchildren. The youngest seemed to be fascinated with me until I told her, in Hebrew, that I spoke only English. That was the end of our relationship. Actually, I am amazed at how much of my very scant Hebrew has come back to me.
Today we went to Ceaserea where there has been extensive excavation of the port city built by Herod during Roman times and a large, newly constructed, modern city.
From there, we went to Atlit to see the prison camp built by the British to incarcerate the Jewish refugees who had survived the Holocaust and were trying to enter what was then Palestine. These people, who had no place to go and were welcomed nowhere, went from Nazi concentration camps to remarkably similar British concentration camps. Imagine the terror. Once the state of Israel was proclaimed by the UN, all of the Jewish refugees from Europe were welcomed along with a huge number of Jews from Arab countries who were forced to leave their homes.
We had a late, excellent lunch in a restaurant in the Arab village of Ein Hud and that was the end of my day. Wiped out and jetlagged.
I am taking pictures but I don’t think I will be able to post them until I get home. I replaced the cursed Asus with an iPad mini and I haven’t figured out how to get the photos onto the mini. Nothing like new technology.

Busy days

IMG_5828 Friday was hot and humid again, draining my energy and clouding my mind. I got on the bus thinking I’d probably go to the Natural History Museum to stay out of the rain that seemed sure to come. I walked down Central Park West and noticed, for the first time, a huge rock outcrop running from about 85th St. to about 82nd St. I know that Olmsted and Vaux moved lots of rock when they created the Park but I can’t imagine they moved that one. Tried to find more info but failed. Instead of the museum I got on the subway and went down to 14th St. then walked to the Chelsea Market where I bought some Amy’s bread twists and went up on the High Line to eat “lunch.” There was sunshine, a little rain, more sunshine, more heat and humidity.

I walked to the Rubin Museum, my refuge from nasty weather. It’s cool, calm, quiet, very Buddhist, and filled with great things to view. They had a special exhibit about Naga warriors. From pictures of their sculpture I thought this would be about an African people, unusual for the Rubin, which is dedicated to Himalayan art. It seems the Naga people come from an area of India between Burma and China. They were known as headhunters and were largely isolated from surrounding peoples keeping their culture separate. I found it interesting because of the strong resemblance to African and Papuan art. I wish someone would do a study of how this happens.

After looking at two exhibits and having a lovely ice tea I walked to the Center for Book Arts, another favorite place, this time with books and broadsides about the bombing of the street of booksellers in Baghdad. Usually when I go to an exhibit like this I am as interested in the structure of the books as in the content. In this case the content was so strong I found books with unusual structures to be distracting and actually preferred reading the broadsides, which were very well done.

Julia joined me at this exhibit and we went back to her apartment to visit and have dinner. A very full day.

Picture above is from Saturday’s adventures, which I’ll write about tomorrow.

A week in Chicago

Our family, including Renee from New York, went to Chicago last Friday (6/14) for Charna’s graduation: two days of special festivities.  Friday’s presentation, a baccalaureate service full of school-spirit and college talent, was held in the huge, packed Rockefeller Chapel. Unfortunately we were seated near the back and had trouble seeing and hearing. In my tenure at the University almost no school spirit was ever exhibited, so I found this presentation somewhat strange.

Twenty thousand people were seated in the main quadrangle on Saturday prepared to be rained on. The University has no venue large enough to hold the families, friends and graduates gathered together in one place.


It wasn’t anything like I experienced when I graduated. My college class had 400 students, one of the smallest in the university’s history. This class had 1300 from the college and large numbers from the graduate and professional schools. The other difference, which I loved, was the great diversity of the participants. My college class had 3 African Americans and 397 white people, mostly Christian or Jewish. I don’t think there were even many Catholics. Today’s convocation had people from all over the world and Charna graduated from college (with honors), not like her old grandma who barely made it.

After all the festivities the week became bittersweet, not with my usual nostalgia, but this time reality could not be ignored. My first visit was to Carol, who is now in hospice with lung cancer (and still smoking). Seeing her was a heartbreaking experience, only relieved by the presence my nephew and family, including my 10-month old great, great niece. She’s adorable, but the great, great part makes me feel very old.

The remainder of the week was much the same. One of my friends fell about a month ago and is having a terrible time recovering. I spent as much time with her as possible, broken up with visits to healthy relatives in beautiful places and additional visits with Eli, Charna and Hannah, Eli’s committed partner. I like her a lot; hope she remains with him.

On Friday I went to the Art Institute with Sandy. We saw a great photography show and all together had a fine day.

Jetlag is over

It actually seems to get easier as I get older. I think it’s because my attachment to time is slipping. Sometimes I think I could easily reverse day and night, which is what I was doing this week.

Coming back was not too difficult. The train is always a pleasure; my only disappointment was that Mt. Fuji was not visible. Sometimes there is a great view from the train. The flights were good. I was able to get some sleep on both of them. Crossing the Pacific I was in business class and was able to make my seat lay down. I slept and also watched a movie, “Hyde Park on the Hudson”, which I missed in the theaters. I had about three hours to wait in Dallas that I was able to spend in the Admiral’s Club. They do that for people who fly first or business class. I hadn’t been in one of those clubs for many years. In a strange way it is conspicuous consumption on a grand scale. It felt like the lobby of a six star hotel, marble and all.

By the time I got on the next plane I was zonked and promptly fell asleep before it took off, waking up to find a cup of great nuts (this was first-class, no little bags of mystery snacks) on the arm of my seat. I refused the lunchtime snack, ate the nuts and went back to sleep.

I was afraid to add my photos to my big computer without doing some upgrading. So, with the help of the wonderful people at the Apple Store I was able to upgrade my copy of iPhoto and spend much of the last two days importing and sorting my pictures.

Here are the pictures from my last day: Narita, the town, about 20 minutes from the airport.  PR on it praises the old-time feeling of the shops, etc. I found only two interesting shops: one sold Taiko drums and one sold bamboo objects. Neither had anything I wanted to carry on the plane but it was fun to look.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

April 22: Last day in Kyoto

This morning I found the following poem on my Facebook page, posted by Ukiyo-e & sumi-e, which usually posts Japanese paintings and woodblock prints. Tomorrow morning I leave Kyoto and travel on to Pittsburgh.
“How many mountains, how many rivers
Are still to be crossed before I gain
The land where loneliness comes to an end?
Today, as ever, I travel on.” – Wakayama Bokusui (1885-1928).
[Trans. by Miyamori Asataro. From “Hiroshigue’s Tokaido in Prints and Poetry”, 1957).

I seriously considered returning to Samboin, the garden where I couldn’t photograph, but was daunted by the thought of climbing those two terrible steps where I needed so much help. I wandered back to the shopping area stopping at a shop that sold lovely bamboo objects, several fabric shops and another paper store where I bought a small roll of paper, about 10 inches high and 5 yards long. Maybe I can make a book with it. There was all kinds of wonderful paper, but again, nothing that tempted me to struggle getting it home.

Spent the entire day walking around, again more walking than I wanted to do. Tomorrow I’ll be on the train most of the day, so I can rest then.

I bought a few other small gifts. I find it difficult to bring back souvenirs. So-called traditional Japanese crafts are too expensive; the cheaper stuff is terrible junk. There isn’t much here you can’t buy at home.

The last place I wandered into was a shop that sold canes, an amazing range of canes from colorful sticks with ordinary handles and fancy handles with plain sticks, including metal animal  heads, handles and sticks with lots of bling, and a really great one with a light on the handle. If it wasn’t 30000 yen, I would have bought it on the spot. I’ve been using Arvin’s cane and I enjoy the fact it was his and I can use it. The proprietor of the shop told me it was a tall man’s cane. Arvin was 6 feet. I didn’t know canes came in so many different sizes.

I am sad to leave. I have enjoyed the entire six weeks. But I will be happy to see my family and friends.

March 29 and March 30

Went from very warm yesterday to quite chilly today. I went back to Fukuoka for one more try at Yusentei. First I went to Shofuen, the garden that was closed on Tuesday. It is a small garden in an upscale residential area, built originally as a tea house garden, then taken over by the city. It was an uphill walk from the bus stop and then a steep set of stairs. However the wonderful thing about municipally run enterprises is they often consider people like me and put in an elevator, actually enhancing the experience. Instead of seeing the garden in bits and pieces as you clamber up the stairs it opens to you all at once when the elevator door opens.

Frothy, powdered green tea with sweets. Note the pink sakura

Frothy, powdered green tea with sweets. Note the pink sakura

It was noon by the time I arrived and climbing up the hill had tired me, so for the first time, I accepted a bowl of green tea and a sweet, which I was able to eat while sitting on a bench and viewing part of the garden. It was a lovely experience I will probably never repeat but it was nice to try it once.


80 year old maple tree in the center of the garden

After I felt restored I walked around the garden and the teahouse.



Before I began this visit I got detailed instructions for Shofuen and Yustentei from the information desk at the train station. Actually not detailed enough, but I was able to figure out details like which direction I should go on the bus. Two buses and help from passersby I got to Yusentei only to find it closed. This time there was a long letter on the door, I think, explaining the closure, which will probably last for months. I can’t read the writing but I recognize dates. Giving up, I got back on the bus then took the subway back to the train to Kumamoto.

March 30

On the train again, this time heading back toward Kyoto with stops at Hiroshima and Okayama. I can’t believe I have been here two weeks already and have only a few more days of travel before I settle down for most of the remaining three weeks. I shipped my bag directly to Kyoto, taking enough underwear and medications for the next four days. Interesting what becomes important as you grow older.

Had a great day in Shukkeien garden here in Hiroshima. I’ll write about it tomorrow or Monday when I’m on the train again. The rest of this post was written on my way here.

Some casual observations.

Alice, sometimes you must read my mind. I don’t remember writing about how clean it is here, but I think about it. You seldom see papers or plastic bags or anything on the ground. And unlike our cities you don’t see trash containers on every corner. I have walked around all day with junk in my pocket and no place to get rid of it. Every small purchase earns you a receipt. I have learned you don’t have to take them. Then it’s up to the giver to dispose of it. This year smokers seem to be largely confined to smoking areas with cigarette disposal containers. Mostly there aren’t even cigarette butts on the ground.

Besides the receipts, the other nuisance here is the one yen coin. Like our pennies they are mostly useless except in supermarkets where they make you think you are getting a bargain if they take 2 yen off. I now have a pocketful of one yen coins that I save for my supermarket purchases.

One of the wonderful things here is that buses and trams all have change-making machines. They expect you to pay the fare in exact change, but you can use the change machines to break even a 1000 yen bill. All lower denominations are in coins, including the equivalent of $1 and $5. In New York, if you don’t have a Metro card, you have to walk around with a pocket full of change or beg other passengers to help you break dollar bills.

I’m in another largish hotel room with a slightly larger bathroom and I’m getting ready to try out the bed.

March 28: Kagoshima

Day trip to Kagoshima, the southernmost city in Kyushu. Today is dry and warm, probably warmer than I like. Kagoshima has a  a garden, Sengan en, which they say, uses the bay and volcano for borrowed scenery. This one was easy. Got the train and the bus, going and coming, with no trouble and very little waiting. The garden is on a small mountain, I think 650 meters high. The lowest part is filled with restaurants and shopping. The actual garden is off to one side of the shops and I missed it. I was annoyed with all the commerce and I started instead to climb toward the peak.

As you climb the vegetation becomes more wild. It was lovely, but hardly what I would call a garden. I never got to the top, too much climbing on steep rocky stairs. I went up a short way and had trouble getting back down. I hate stairs, did I tell you that? I saw some photos and the area at the top looks like a manicured lawn, a viewpoint for the bay and the volcano.

I met a man coming down from the top and he advised me not to go. Said the steps were very steep. I was happy to take his advice. I think he is the man of my dreams and he will remain only in my dreams since I don’t even know his name. He is British, a mountain climber, going around the world climbing mountains and looking at volcanoes. He is nice looking, has a lovely voice and a polished accent. I expressed some surprise about the amount of time he was taking for this round the world trip and he told me he was 70, retired with a pension and had rented out his house. I was certain he was more like 60 and was with some kind of video or film crew making travel films. He had the looks and the voice for it. This is clearly the guy I want: great shape, interested in everything. Too bad he climbs mountains. That and parachute jumping are among the few experiences I am not willing to try.

My suitcase, filled with dirty laundry was waiting for me when I returned to the hotel. So, back to the mundane; you know what I did all evening.