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Dancing with The Mariachis

“Do you have a list of things you always wanted to do in Tucson that you never got around to?”

The question came from Linda. She and Mike (John’s son) had moved to Tucson the previous fall and were exploring all things new and exciting about living in the southwest. It was fun showing them some of our favorite places and activities. But now our situations had reversed. I had decided it was time for me to leave Tucson for a place better suited to aging in place and had put my name on a waiting list for just such a place — Becketwood, a senior coop in Minneapolis where I had history and daughters.

Now I faced the reality of leaving a place I had lived for thirty-some years and grown to love. So the answer to Linda’s question was yes.  There were things I’d always wanted to do that would not be that much fun (or even possible) alone.

So we began to check them off: Continue reading

Have Cat, Will Travel

It took almost two years to plan and execute my move back to Minneapolis from Tucson, a daunting task that included selling the house I’d lived in for sixteen years and most of its contents, preparing to leave all my professional support network — the doctors, attorney, accountant, Tee, my massage therapist, Darlene who cuts my hair and keeps my secrets, Firuzeh, my acupuncturist. My mah jongg group, my spiritual group, friends, neighbors. A million decisions to make.

And then there was Bill.

Bill is my accidental cat, as all the good ones are, a black and white “tuxedo” short hair who arrived at my door a month or so after the death of Miss Puss (but that’s another accidental cat story). My friend Susan who volunteered at the animal shelter, knew I was suffering kitty deficit, so when Bill arrived in the shelter she sent me a picture. He had oversized ears and big round eyes that gave him a perpetually startled look. I knew I should not be taking in a kitten, but he was adorable. Resistance was futile. I named him Sweet William the Lionhearted, which seemed appropriate at the time. But as happens, the fuzzy five pound kitty became a glossy twelve pound cat now called Bill. Continue reading

A rare one of a kind

I recognized the sound for what it was immediately. Eighty was trying to get her back legs under her and get to the door, but this was the time it was not going to work. I’d been expecting it — dreading it — for weeks.

Eighty is the dog we chose for John’s eightieth birthday in 2002. We had been visiting the pound and the Humane Society for a week and had not found The One. “How about this one?” I asked, pointing out a medium sized black-grey one with the long legs, folded ears, bedroom slipper feet, Andy Rooney eyebrows and a bright, curious look that said, “Hey, what about me?” Continue reading

Viva Cuba! Part 3

After four days in the posh Nacional with its broad verandas and Cuban music, its view of  El Morro across the bay, overlooking the Malecón and around the corner from the Coppelia Ice Cream Park, we loaded up Coach #425  and headed east  to Matanzas and Varadero for a look at not-Havana.

A neat little city, Matanzas was still sparkling from a morning rain shower, and instantly the pace and the temperature notched down several degrees from Havana. At the baseball park, retired outfielder Rigoberto Rosique,  a hall-of-famer from the Cuban League, gave us a history and showed us around the small museum. Among the photos I recognized Tony Oliva, a Cuban ballplayer who played for the Minnesota Twins in my day. A batch of kids about nine years old, came in with their mitts  for a lesson (the girls’ mitts were bright pink). Vivian said it was part of their schooling. I summoned the courage to try my rudimentary Spanish and asked one boy if he liked “beisbol.” He looked puzzled and said, “Huh?” I guess my Spanish needs more work. One of the great pictures of the trip that I did NOT get was all the kids riding back to school in a horse drawn wagon. Continue reading

Viva Cuba! Part 2

For the last week in May, lapping over into June, our Roadscholar group of twenty-two was introduced to arts, music and dancing of Cuba. Or more important, the Cuban people who perform it. Our visit coincided with their Biennial (they say, “bee-en-ally”) Art Festival, so art was showing up everywhere along the public walkways and plazas.

Our first official outing took us to the National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana where the gorgeous Danelle gave us a tour of the history of Cuba through art. She introduced us to a dozen or so artists’ work and explained what in the contemporary art world influenced their style and content and what was happening socially, politically and culturally in Cuba that was showing up in their work. She pointed out some “subversive” themes (like homosexuality) that would have been censored had the censors recognized them. I have never been on a museum tour that brought all of that together in such a meaningful way. (I’m always the one with a puzzled look, thinking “Is that a mountain or breast? and ”Why?”)

We asked Danelle about her background and she said she was a recent graduate in Art History from the University of Havana. Education in Cuba is free from preschool through university (for those who qualify and want a university degree), but graduates must dedicate three years of community service in their field to repay costs of their education. Continue reading

Viva Cuba! (Part 1)

Fidel and I go way back. In 1958 he was hanging out in the hills near Havana waiting for the best opportunity to finally undo the despotic Batista regime and rescue Cuba for the Cuban people. Havana was known as a retreat for New York gamblers and mafia bosses, drugs and prostitution. A third of the island nation was owned by foreign corporations like the United Fruit Company and the rest by other wealthy landowners and the Cuban elite. Most Cubans were poor and getting poorer. They were the ones Fidel was fighting for.

I was graduating from college, moving to Minneapolis and getting married. What I knew of Cuba was Desi Arnaz and Guys and Dolls. But now Cuba was in the newspaper (we didn’t have a TV yet). So on New Years 1959 Fidel and his guys swooped into Havana sending the Americans, wealthy Cubans (and eventually many of the professional classes) fleeing to Miami. Batista escaped to the Dominican Republic. By that time not even the U.S. government wanted him. It was exciting even in faraway Minnesota. It seemed like a good thing for the Cuban people. A few days later I had my first baby. Big changes afoot for everyone. Continue reading

Back in My Day

I’ve been on a bit of a retro binge lately. It began one evening when I went looking for some light television fare to end my day. But what I found was too violent, too raunchy, too depressingly real. I remembered how I miss Carol Burnett and “Get Smart”, “The Waltons”, “All in the Family”. So I wandered onto Netflix and found old reruns of — “The Rockford Files”.

You may remember the series. It stars James Garner as Jim Rockford, private eye — cute, irreverent, “open to anything except marriage or murder.” Continue reading

In search of purpose

David Brooks, the columnist from the New York Times, has been philosophical of late. Last week he wrote a piece on finding the purpose of your life. He started it like this: “Every reflective person sooner or later faces certain questions: What is the purpose of my life? How do I find a moral compass so I can tell right from wrong? What should I do day by to day to feel fulfillment and deep joy?”

Weighty questions, these. Questions that can and should be considered every day of our lives with answers that keep changing and evolving. We all come squalling into this world with one purpose — to LIVE! From then on we experience life, make our choices and suffer or enjoy the consequences. Stuff happens. Purpose? Fulfillment? Deep joy? Continue reading