Getting Around...

  So a friend of mine - well I met him and his wife online, and recently in person, was featured in this article on Romania Insider.  Raoul Pop and his wife Ligia, are both Romanian, whose families emigrated to the U.S. when they were younger.  They have returned to Romania, and are rapidly teaching healthier eating habits to Romanians; which is a good thing, since pork seems to be the main staple on the tables here.  Raoul is also a very talented photographer, who after running into many ex-pats here and speaking with them, decided to start filming a series that he puts online, called "Romania Through Their Eyes".  His goal is to hopefully get the ear of those in positions of power who can bring about some much needed change.  Even just getting the ears of average Romanians.

I was recently interviewed for this series, which I understand Raoul is currently editing, and I'm a bit nervous, as I'm a bit of a talker - especially with my hands - I think it's an American thing.  ;)

Anyway so in the article, right under Raoul, guess whose name and photo is listed?!?  That's right - mine. I was utterly shocked, since the other ex-pat bloggers listed are professionals who are actively working here in Romania, where I'm just the American wife of a Romanian man, with 3 kids, who struggles desperately to learn the language.

The man listed directly below me, is absolutely hysterical, and definitely a must read for any ex-pat here in Romania, or anyone wanting to visit Romania.  Sam's motto, is "You might have been born here, but I'm still more Romanian than you" - and I think he's probably right!  PLEASE check out his blog here!


Time Machine

  So maybe I mentioned this before, I can't remember, but I notice the kids at my kids school.  I mean the teenagers.  Obviously my kids aren't teenagers and don't require me to walk them to and from school.  I mean the girls trying, sometimes desperately to get the boys to notice them.  And the boys with their coolness just standing there.  They KNOW they don't have to do anything, they don't have to really try to get a girls attention, and even if they do have to try to get their attention, they look cool doing it; whereas the girls, well we just make ourselves look like idiots.

  I've said this before, and I'll say it again.  People are the same all over the world.  The only thing that really separates us, besides language, is culture.  But even with language and cultural differences, we're all wired the same.  Girls will always pretend to be stupider than they really are so that they don't make the guy they're crushing on to feel inferior or something.

  I watch these 15 year old girls run around acting silly and giggly, and I just want to grab them by their shoulders, and yell at them "STOP IT!  Stop pretending to be stupid, focus on your books, make a life for yourself.  Forget about the boys till you're done with University, and have a career.  These boys here and now, they're not going to get you where you need to go in this life!"  But it wouldn't do any good, they wouldn't listen, cause hey, when you're 15 you know EVERYTHING, and us 'moms' - pshhhh, we don't know nuthin.  We might as well have dropped off the turnip truck yesterday.  Gah!

  I keep trying to instill that into my girls, and have been since they've been old enough to comprehend complete sentences.  I tell them, what matters in this life is your education, and how you treat others.  Focus on learning, going to college, and getting a career, then AFTER all that, that's when you worry about marriage and babies.  Don't mess around in school, do good in school so that when you get big, you can have all the clothes and shoes you want - they're girls, they love clothing!

  If I've just repeated myself, excuse me, just these daily observations of the next generation make me laugh, and look back at my own awkward adolescence; I was weird, self-conscious, and insecure, too worried about what others thought of me instead of grinding it out in the books.  If had kept my nose in the books I could be anything right now, who knows I could be sitting in congress shakin' things up....okay maybe not shakin things up, cause well, they'd assassinate me for not playin' ball with the lobbyists, et al.


Looking Back

  So I wanted to go back, since, well, I've never given my first impressions of Romania.  And yes, even though it's been nearly 3 years since my arrival here, I still remember very vividly my initial thoughts and feelings.  So let's go back to January 20, 2009, the day we arrived, the same day that Obama was sworn in too, oddly enough.

  So we arrived in Bucuresti with our 3 kids in tow.  Kelly was 6, Isabel was 4, and Paul was 18 months old. We'd been traveling for about 17 hours total.  Paul developed air sickness in the form of diarrhea - FUN, and I'm sure the flight attendants just LOVED me when it was time to clean out the trash bins.  :/

  Anyway, so there we were with 2 carts FULL of all our luggage.  My hubby had lost his passport and was traveling with a Embassy Travel Document.  He'd not had a visa to be in the U.S., and the border agent asked him if he'd had one, he was honest and said no, we were told to wait a minute.  The agent came out from the booth and as he passed Marius, he told him quietly:  "your lucky.  my boss left early today."  He went into a little office, and a few minutes later came out and gave us all our documents back.  He told Marius, look I fixed it in the computer that you DID have a visa.  They'll stop you again before you get to the lobby, if they ask if you had a visa say yes.  *whew*

  We weren't stopped again.  There were military guards by the doors to exit the airport, they looked straight at us, Marius was sweating bullets, I wasn't worried, I think it was a mixture of exhaustion, and over-wrought emotions.  The guards, instead of stopping us, sent an airport worker to help us get our bags to the car.  Marius' 2 brothers and his sister were there waiting for us.  Marius hadn't seen his family in over 12 years.  It was a bit of an emotional roller-coaster ride standing there in the airport.

  So off to the rental van we went.  We arrived at 4:45 p.m. - can we say RUSH HOUR?!?  It took us 4 hours just to get out of Bucuresti.  What should have been a 4-5 hour drive took 7.  We didn't arrive at my mother in laws house till 2 a.m.  By this time we'd been travelling well over 24 hours.  There waiting for us was of course my mother in law, one of my other sister in laws, and her nephew who lives with MIL in a TINY 2 room apartment.  So there we were, 11 people crammed into a 300 sq.ft. apartment.  Yeah.  Claudiu, the baby, left to go back to Bucuresti, where he lives with his wife, their son and his in-laws.  Vali the brother under Marius and his wife, went back to their house there in Tulcea.  All that was left, were me, Marius, our 3 kids, Elena, Marius' sister, and Vali's son, Cristi.  So we crammed ourselves into the beds and sofa beds to sleep.  The next day I felt like I was in a dream.  It was the dead middle of winter. Everything was stark and grey.  I could see the beauty beneath the harsh veneer of Soviet style architecture.  Old cobblestone roads.  It was quite an experience.

  Marius took me to Piata Noua, the farmer's market. we were besieged by dirty little kids begging for money.  Marius ignored them, I started digging in mine and his pockets to give them some change.  One night, Me, Marius his brother Vali and his wife Cati (Cathy), went to a local restaraunt to have a coffee.  While we were sitting there, a little ran up to the table, my sister in law yelled at her, then one of the men who worked there, came out yelling at her, chasing her out, and kicked her in the behind as she ran for the door.  I was shocked.  I put my head down and tried not to cry, but I couldn't help it, the tears welled up in my eyes.  Evidently Marius or one of my in-laws noticed the change in my composure, and Marius looked at me and asked what it was, and I said, what was that?  Why did he kick that little girl.  It was a gypsy kid.  I knew that.  Marius explained they have a bad habit of running up to your table and grabbing whatever is on the table, or a purse, jacket, whatever.  I was near the window, and none of my stuff was accessible, which was good, since I had mine and the kids passports in my purse.  I told Marius I understood the concern, but it was still no reason to kick a CHILD, gypsy or not.  My in-laws at first didn't understand why I was so upset, but when Marius explained to them, that a child is still a child regardless of whether it's a gypsy or not.  They told me to wait till I'd been here a few years, stuff like that wouldn't phase me anymore.  Say sorry sai, but they were right.  After having my kids picked on by gyspy kids who live in our bloc, or CONSTANTLY come to my door begging, it doesn't phase me.  I've even had to yell at them.  They would come to our door, I would give them some money, or some bread, or fruit, well then they started coming EVERYDAY, sometimes 2-3 times a day.  Enough was enough.  I would tell them I didn't have anything, and really I didn't; and would close the door, they would knock again, again I would say "N-am nimic.  Imi pare rau." (I don't have anything.  I'm sorry).  Close the door, yet AGAIN they would ring the bell.  That was enough, I was being taken for a fool, so I opened the door, and said loudly "N-am!  PLECA DE AICI!"  (I don't have anything, GET OUT OF HERE!)  They don't come to my door everyday anymore.  Maybe once a month.  Usually when the seasons change and I clean out the kids clothes for things they've outgrown or messed up, I bag it up, and when they come to the door, I give them the clothes.

  Gypsies aside.  I noticed a difference in people's attitude here as well.  People here are very guarded, for good reason 40+ years of Communism makes you guarded.  I would smile at people we passed on the street, and I kept noticing that they would look at me strangely, especially the men, older ones in particular.  I mentioned this to Marius; "Do people not smile here?  I mean I smile at people when we pass them, and they look at me like I'm crazy or something."  Marius asked what I meant, and we had just passed an older man.  I told him, well, when we passed that man I smiled at him, and he looked at me funny.  Marius laughed and said that usually when a woman smiles at a man, she's telling him that she's available.  I stopped smiling.

  Life moves slower here.  At least in Tulcea.  In the larger cities like Bucuresti, maybe it moves at a faster pace like in the U.S., I don't know.  But I like it here.  In the spring and summer the landscape is lush with green and flowers.  Lots of birds, especially here in the delta area.  Winter is dismal and harsh, but there's still beauty to be found, even in the bleakness, especially when the city is laying under a blanket of white!

  Like I said, those first few days felt like some sort of waking dream.  I'd just left everything and everyone I'd ever known and moved halfway around the world, where everything was different. And I didn't understand a word being said.  But it was cool, I noticed things that people here didn't notice anymore.  Things Marius had never noticed the whole time he was growing up here.  He got to see his hometown with new eyes too.


Americans: What NOT to do abroad....

Okay, so this post is mainly for you younger people - you know who I mean....You college age kids whose parents are footing the bill for your adventure in Europe.

Rule 1:  It is NOT necessary for you to talk loudly everywhere you go.  This is NOT the U.S., people here in Europe don't want to hear your conversations.  While you may think that they don't understand English - they DO.  They just pretend to be stupid so they don't have to converse with YOU!

Rule 2:  If you absolutely insist on speaking loudly, at least speak with some appearance of intelligence.  The word 'like' is not a conjunctive word.  It does not need to be used, like, every other, like, 2 words, or like, whatever.....  The Valley Girl girl slang died a quick death back in the 80's, so please leave your 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' mentality at home in the U.S.
*Note:  History is NOT stupid.  Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it.  If that's the case then I feel sorry for myself when I get old as you idiots will be the ones in charge.  *sheesh*

Rule 3:  IT'S EUROPE, It's NOT the U.S., so NO, the rooms aren't going to be big like back home, and yes, the water heater has to be plugged in at least 2 hours prior to bathing.  AND DON"T USE YOUR FLAT IRON here - unless you want to knock out the power to at least 10 city blocks!

Rule 4:  Just because your daddy paid for your little adventure doesn't mean you are better than anyone else.  It doesn't mean YOU are wealthy, it just means your dad is an idiot for giving you everything you want instead of making you earn the money yourself.

Last Rule:  If you can't behave like a nice, quiet, intelligent, civilised human being, than for God's sake, and all us ex-pats actually living in abroad, JUST STAY in the U.S.


♪♫Waiting For The Man♪♫

....well that's how David Bowie put it anyway.  Albeit 'The Man' in Bowie's classic is NOT the same 'Man' I've been waiting on.  No - no smack for me, thank you very much.

..No, the man I've been waiting on, well several anyway, is an arm of the Romanian government. Yes, I do love it here, but there are situations where my love and adoration is caught in a 'Catch-22'..... *sigh*

Okay, so Marius came home 2 weeks ago  for his vacation.  We went to the D.M.V., or the RO version anyway, to see what was needed to change our drivers licenses from U.S. to RO ones.  Marius had gone about 2 years ago, and was told we would have to take an exam, and that you could study and practice online - Marius didn't even pass the online exams - I guess they want the drivers here to be Einstein's - if you meet a RO with a RO drivers license I can guarantee they KNOW how to drive, and drive safely, even if their driving looks a bit scary.

So on this visit, we were told NO, we did NOT have to take exams, we did however have to have the following:
1.  Our original U.S. licenses
2.  Copies of our D.L.'s, and copies of ID cards (mine being issued by Immigration)
3.  Translations of our D.L.'s into ROmanian, which had to be notarized.
4.  Medical Visitis (which included a Psych eval; sorta)
5.  Taxes to be paid
6. Criminal background check (which included paying more taxes at another place)
7.  A notarized declaration stating, that our D.L.'s were real, not revoked, no outstanding warrants on them, etc.)

The criminal background check for me wasn't ready till today.  Marius was able to get all of his turned in last week - literally the day before he left.  It took us close to 2 weeks to get all of this done.  My background check took 4 days because I'm American, and mine had to be done in Bucuresti, unlike Marius' which was done locally here in Tulcea.

So anyway, I get up this morning, head on over to the Police Station to see if my Cazere (background check) was in, and it was, I then head straight over to the D.M.V., since I have everything else. I got there at around 9:15.  There was already a HUGE line ahead of me.  So I waited around for a few minutes, then I notice that the first hour (9-10) was for the people taking exams.  So I decide to walk next door to talk to my sister in law, who works at a pet store there.  We drank a coffee, and then I hiked back across Piata Ciuvica, and across the street to get to the Romtelecom offices to pay my home phone, cable, and internet bill, then walk back over to the D.M.V.  It is now 10 a.m. and the same people are still in line.  I thought about leaving and just coming back at 2 p.m.  Cause the offices close at 1 for lunch, and re-open at 2.  Glad I didn't.  After waiting for nearly 2 hours, the guy (actually the dept. boss) looks at everything and notices MY declaration is incomplete.  It was exactly the same at Marius'!!  Well according to law, because I'm not a RO citizen my declaration needed to cite a few laws and say a few more things.  GRRRRRR...... WHY DIDN'T THEY TELL US THAT WHEN MARIUS WAS HOME?!?!?

  So off I go to the Notary, and bring them the wording, and law citations and attempt to explain that MY declaration needs to say such and such.  They say it will take half an hour.  It's 12:40 - I explain I need to get home, my kids are there waiting on me, and that I would come back at 2.  PERFECT! the lady says!

  Okay, before your panties twisted in a knot, it's acceptable and normal here to leave your kids alone in the house for a few hours.  That and they are old enough to stay alone.

  So I grab them some snacks they begged me for and head home.  I get home just before 1.  I've also got to go to the P.O., cause I have a package from the U.S. there.  I can only pick up pkgs from outside the E.U. at a certain P.O. on certain days, Mondays & Thrusdays, and then only between 1-3 in the afternoon.  So I hang up the laundry I washed, grab all my stuff and head back out the door at 1:40.  Arrive at P.O. at 1:45, get package, which was from a friend I haven't heard from in ages. She made my girls some very pretty hair bows.  So now back to the notary.  I arrive there at 2:03, and notice the notary headed out as I'm headed in. *grrrrrr*.  They give me the declaration, along with the paper the dude at the DMV gave me, make sure everything is correct, and give it back to them.  Now I have to wait an HOUR for the notary to come back - why didn't she tell me the notary would be leaving at 2 - I could've come back at 1:30.

  So 3 o'clock rolls around, and here comes the notary.  They take care of me first (thank God), and I pay for their services and head on over to the DMV.  Now the guy told me to come back in the morning with the new declaration, but I said, "Nah, let me just go ahead and get this over with now".  So I go in, hand it to him, everything is good!  I take my picture, sign what I have to sign, and he then tells me it will be mailed to me within about 15 days.  I ask him for the temp. license; a piece of paper that I show (if stopped) to the po-po proving that I have permission to drive, just waiting on the actual license.  He doesn't have any, and that I have to come again in the morning around 10 or 10:30, so his co-worker can fill it out!  So now I understand why he said to come back in the morning.


  So about the medical visit, which included seeing a shrink.  We get to the medical place at around 9, give our info, pay the fees, and  are told to go across the hall.  Another doctor comes out grabs us, hurries up and takes our info.  signs off where he has to sign off - that he examined us, and we're cool.  Then tells us to hurry up and go over to the shrink - who is in the mental hospital, which is right next door to our apartment building coincidentally, but to hurry, she will be closing her office at 10, it's 9:30.  So off we run, park the car at 9:40, run around, and finally find this woman's office, we walk in at 10 min. to 10.  I say hello, and give her my ID, Marius explains we're there for the fisa for prescimbare permis de conducre.  She takes my ID, and looks at it, and asks "what is this" to herself. Marius says "Ea este Americanca".  It was hysterical.  She immediately puts the card down, and hurries up and fills out our fisa, and signs it.  We then go to the eye doctor, who was late coming in.  I get in there, and I have to read the very last line.  Now, in Romanian they don't have names for the letters - they just say the ABC's by their sound.  So there I am BUTCHERING the letters, and I guess the doctor and the nurse kinda looked at each other and at Marius a little funny, cause he again explains "She's American, and still learning the language".  "AH!  Bine.  She's okay!"  I'm done.

Now if this would have been Marius on his own doing all this, he would have gotten nothing but ATTITUDE from everyone at every Dr.'s office, ever place to pay taxes, EVERYWHERE, but because his wife, the AMERICANCA was with him, well they were just a sweet as sugar, sweeter maybe, if that's possible.  This is that catch-22 I was talking about.  You have to run around like a chicken with its head cut-off to get anything done here, but because I'm AMERICAN, it goes easier for me and Marius, for the most part anyway.  Oh that and you can get things done faster with bribery.  Yesh, I know that goes on everywhere, but it seems to be more open and blatant here, which again is a good thing and a bad thing.

I asked Marius, why the DMV didn't just do it like they do back home, you know put the little eye checker's there, and pay everything there.  And WHY all the medical sign-offs?  I was like it would make things much easier for everyone.  He looked at me and said, cause if they did that, they couldn't get your money, and he's right.  It cost us right around $500 for the two of us to get our licenses.

Romania I LOVE YOU, but at the same time, you make me crazy!


What I ♥ about Romania

  I've been here in the old Eastern Bloc for nearly 3 years now.  Yes there are things about back home that miss, mainly my family, the rest of it...meh.  But here's what & why I love living in Romania.

1.  Romania is peaceful.
      Romania has a long history, with it's share of violence, but none that she herself started.  Since it's inception, WAYYY back in the day.  Romania had 1 thing on her mind:  how to live a good and peaceful life.  She never sought world domination.  Instead she was attacked and plundered by the Ottoman's - who she eventually overthrew (the only country I know of that did that during that time) thanks to Vlad Tepes, a.k.a. Vlad the Impaler, or for you 'Twilight' freaks - Dracula.  Then came the Romans, who were in this country only a short time - the shortest of all their occupations.  Then later came the Soviets and the only way that they really kept Moscow out of their business was to be even harsher in their policies than the Russians themselves.  And now - the E.U.....but I'll save that for another post.
     Romanians have a mentality of "let those fools take care of themselves, we've got ourselves to think of".  And in that I think they are right.  They don't want to get involved in physical or cultural wars.  They just want to live a good life, one that doesn't involve scraping by, or constantly fighting.  For this they have an enormous amount of my respect.  But this has also made them weak in the sense that it allows countries and politicians that are perceived as more wealthy or powerful to prey up on this intrinsically rich country.

2.  Romania is old fashioned.
      Travel through a little village (Satu) here in Romania, and you will still see horse drawn carts, horses and mules being used to plow fields.  The old ladies cutting funny looking plants to boil into a tea to cure an ailment.  The ways of the past live on here.  Yes technology is here as well, otherwise, well I wouldn't be blogging now would I.  But it doesn't permeate every facet of life here, and for this I'm grateful.  I don't have to rely soley on whatever crack-pot calls themselves a doctor here (at least in Tulcea anyway), I can talk to the old ladies in my neighborhood and they will tell me exactly what I need to do in order to cure a cold, or kidney stones, or liver or kidney problems - and they work!  LOVE THEM OLD LADIES!!!!

3.  Romania is Beautiful
     Romania has some truly gorgeous landscapes.  Granted the sovietic style architecture detracts from the beauty to be found along the coast of the black sea, and in the cities.  But out in the country, there are mountains, hillsides, everything.  It's untouched.  Now there is a MAJOR problem with littering here.  For some reason or other the people here have no qualms about leaving trash on the streets or sidewalks.  I don't understand that.  It makes the country look poor and ugly, and it's really not.  Another thing that would help, especially in the cities, is if they learned what landscaping is.  Yes, the blocs of apartments are old and ugly, but some fresh paint on the buildings and fences, put in some grass, bushes and flowers, and you could really make it pretty.  Everyone in the building could chip in to renovate the outside to look as good as what they've renovated inside their own apartments.

4.  Romania is "Centrally" located.....
     ......well at least to all the places in Europe I have always wanted to visit.  Italy is only a 2 hour flight away.  Germany, about the same.  Odessa, Ukraine is only a few hundred kilometers by boat or car. I want to see the city with my name, mainly so I can steal the sign that says "Welcome To Odessa", even if it is in Cyrillic! ;p  Turkey, specifically Istanbul is just across the black sea, or a 1 day trip by bus.  France isn't too far either.  Ireland - I think I will save the home of my ancestors for last, cause I really want to take my time there, and enjoy it.  No I won't be having a pint of Guinness - that stuff is just awful, but I can pour you a perfect pint!

There is more to this list, but this will have to do for now.  I've stayed away from the C.T.'s cause I think most people, well Americans anyway think I'm nuts when I start sharing those!  ;p  Speaking of Americans.  I will soon follow up with a "How To Behave When In Europe" .... my last trip to Italy, made me embarrassed to be carrying a U.S. Passport, thanks to some College girls from the states.  Oy to the vey!


Desensitized ???

  So 80+ teens and young adults were ruthlessly gunned down in Norway by a lone gun-man.  But what REALLY got our attention as a society.....

....Amy Winehouse found dead in her London flat.

  Don't get me wrong I loved the late singer.  She could croon with the best of them, and had an awesome back-beat in her songs.  But, I mean c'mon, was it really all that shocking.  Ever since she made it BIG she's been in and out of rehab, making a complete hash of her live performances, and let's not get started on her marriage.  Yes, she seemed to be doing better, was looking healthier, and staying out of the press.

  But still, SHE took precedent in the Media over this incident in Norway.  Some friends and I were having a discussion regarding these two events over on Facebook.  Granted I won't go into the one about the whole conspiracy theory of it all......and yes believe it or not, there are some theories out there.  But I'll save that for another post.

  The thing we noticed is how desensitized we've become over things like this.  I mean 30 years ago, if someone would have said they were gay, HOLD THE PHONE!  Now, famous actor comes out and says their gay, gay marriages, Tibetan monk eats fetus in public, etc., etc.  NOTHING shocks us anymore.  We've become so desensitized by the media that absolutely nothing gets to us anymore.  Not knockin' the gays, just trying to make a point.

  We are constantly being bombarded with craziness and horror to the point where things that should make us gasp and cry, and start building bomb shelters in our back yard (film: Blast From The Past), but instead, we change the channel from the evening news to South Park, where even more despicable things are displayed, but oh wait....that's just a cartoon.....no harm there......

....and we wonder why our kids are so violent?!?


Animal vs. Humans....what's the worth

  So we none of us got raptured Saturday - big surprise!  That was sarcasm!  But I did come across a very interesting video the same day about the horrible things the Romanian people do to animals.  The Brits wanna know what Romania is doing with the Millions of Euro given to it to help the animal problem here.  Well within the past week, it has come to the attention of not just the Brits, but us here in Romania as well, in the protected national park of the Danube Delta area - not far from me here in Tulcea, that the wild horses that live in the park, are being rounded up, beaten, starved, etc., then sold to companies in Italy or elsewhere for food.  In case you didn't know it, they eat horse in Italy-supposed to be very good.  Sorry I ain't eating horse!

  Anyway, this video on YouTube made it out like this is all the people of Romania do, is mistreat animals.  Now, that is NOT true.  There are a lot of wild dogs here, due to when Nicolae Ceacescu took power he seized land of the farmers and people living in the country, forced them to leave their homes and move into the Blocs of apartments he had built.  The people had no room for their animals so they had to leave them behind to fend for themselves - hence the now overpopulation of dogs and cats here. 

  I don't know if the E.U. is really giving that much money to the RO government to handle the problem, if they are, I'm not sure what they are doing with it.  I will say, that when we first got here 2 and a half years ago, there were dogs running around everywhere here in Tulcea.  Not anymore.  There are hardly any dogs roaming around any longer.  They have been humanely taken care of here in Tulcea city.

  Another thing the Brits were saying is that the RO governement pays like 15 euro to a person who kills a wild dog.  False, false, F.A.L.S.E.!!!  The politicians here are NEVER going to give the people anything, not even a 1 cent coin, let alone 15 Euro - 15 Euro will buy food for a week, possibly two!

  The instances of animal cruelty do exist here, like anywhere else in the world, but it is NOT the norm here.  People here are outraged over what is happening to the wild horses here in the Delta area. 

  The Brits are proposing to picket the RO embassies there in the U.K. on May 26th.  You know what - you guys do that if you will feel better, but here's my question - what is better to take care of, animals, or people.  Cause the people here have a hard life, much harder than the people in the U.K. or elsewhere in Western Europe will ever know.  And why is that, well because countries like the U.K., and Germany, France, Belgium, basically all the 'Schengen' countries of the E.U. are too busy 'raping' Romania economically.

  If you guys are so worried about all the animals - especially the dogs who run in packs and attack people unprovoked, get you some big buses or vans, come over here, round them up and take them back to your countries with you and find homes for them, cause the people here can barely afford to feed themselves let alone take care of an animal they way you think that they should.

  I'll be happy when Romania shreds herself of the notion that she needs organizations like the E.U. or the U.N.  She is strong enough to stand on her own - history shows that, and she is richer in more natural resources than most other countries in Europe - which is why Brussels gives her a hard time whenever she tries to do something to benefit herself and her people.  Hai Romania!!  Tu pot facut orice!!!


What's the World Coming To?

  So there is a massive bloc party in the U.S. at the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden.  Whatever.....I think he's been dead for years, but that info was never released in order for us to have a reason to stay in the Middle East.  But POTUS' #'s are in the toilet so what does he do, first releases his long form birth certificate, which is proving to be a forgery - big shock there - and now....he takes out the world's most wanted man, and then doesn't release proof....sounds fishy to me.

  But enough of the conspiracy theories, as I'm sure I'll just piss off someone back home, which will prompt a phone call from my dad.....*sigh*.  So if you aren't aware I live in Romania, a small-ish city on the banks of the Danube River delta.  It's a small, peaceful, and quiet city.  But today has shook me to the core.  Next door to me is a hospital for people with infectious diseases, like Hepatitis, Tuberculosis, etc.  Now what really gets me, is they let patients out of the hospital (in their PJ's) to walk across the street to the little convenience store there.  Well today, while I was gone to the larger store (grocery store), a young girl came out of the hospital, went to the store, then crossed the street to go back to the hospital, but before she could get back the maybe 20 ft to the hospital 3 Gypsy men who had been waiting in their car (parked in front of my bloc) got out and dragged the girl to their car.  She put up a fight, screamed and fought, but they overpowered her and got her into the car and sped off.   Fortunately a lady saw the whole thing, got the plate numbers and called the police.  I hope they find her.

  This sort of thing is something I expect to hear about going on in Bucuresti, Cluj, Timisoara, Brasov, or Galati even - all of these cities are much larger than our little city, and are usually in the news, but Tulcea???  Things like this never go on here.  I went to the little store that she had gone into and asked the cashier if the girl was very young.  Her response "Ah....she was a gypsy"..... she could have cared less.  In her eyes, and probably most of the people here, to them it was just one less gypsy to worry about.  Now granted the gypsies don't do much to help their standing in this country, or anywhere else in Europe, but c'mon people - this was a human being, a young girl!

  I usually let my kids go outside by themselves to play in front our our building.  After today, this won't be happening anymore.  Events like these are things that keep me awake at night.  I fear for my kids, even thought nothing even remotely close to this has ever happened, sometimes when I am trying to fall asleep I am gripped with fear, panic and images of something like this or similar happening to my kids and it shakes me to my core.

  If you pray, please pray for this girl that was taken, from what I could find out she was a teenager.  Pray that she is found and is unharmed.


Romania is a 3rd world country?????

  So I made a new friend on Facebook....have I mentioned how much FB rocks?!?  He is a Romanian native who is studying architecture in Bucuresti, he read my entire blog, and found it interesting (he must be smoking some good stuff there in the capital), anyway, he finds it interesting to see/read how foreigners view his country.  He pointed me out to this blog by another ex-pat.  Sam is hysterical, and spot on!  My friend on FB found my blog through King of Romania's blog.  Evidentally Sam scoures the internet looking for outsider's views on Romania, he came across one I did back in August, where I posted a bunch of pics of painting, pottery, etc. of local artisans.  He LIKE ME!!!  Whoo-Hoo!

  Anyway, in that same post "king" posted a link to a missionary from Kansas City & the IHOP (international house of prayer - GAG!), where she described Romania as being a complete 3rd world country.  I have to agree with King Sam on this one - it was a thinly veiled guise of superiority on her part.  Romania is NOT a 3rd world country - just outside the cities they could care less about technology - they still farm and do things the old way, which in my book is WAY cool; since all the old ladies know what plants to boil into a tea for whatever illness you have.  It's trés cool!

I got stupid questions before we moved over here like "will you have electricity", "will you have running water"??? C'mon people!  Yes, Romania is pretty much the rear-end of Europe, but it's not the deepest darkest jungle in the middle of the amazon with head-hunting cannibals running wild in their loin cloths!  SHEESH!!!!



  So I think it's time I tell you about my grandma, we called her 'Bobie'; the "o" is long.  My oldest cousin Gregg gave her that moniker.  Not sure how he came up with that out of grandma or Gloria - that was her name.

  Anyway, I was thinking about her and decided to see if I could find that song "I'll Fly Away" by Allison Krauss on YouTube.  And I did.  See above.  This was one of her favorite songs. 

  Bobie got me and my little brother when I was 4 1/2, nearly 5, Calvin was close to 2 years old.  My parents had split up and my dad got full custody of me and my brother - a thing that was virtually unheard of in the early 80's, but I think it's because my mom didn't really fight for us.  But it worked out better for me & Calvin in the long run I think.

  Anyway, Bobie was what you call 'Old School' - and I do mean OLD SCHOOL!  I mean, she was tell me to do something and I would say "Who?" - her response:  "Your feet don't fit a limb!  Get to it!"  Yeah.....

...Anyway.  She could cook!  And she loved to laugh, and sing and dance.  We would be cleaning the house and she'd have Conway, or EmmyLou or Cash blaring, and she'd grab me, we'd start 2 stepping!!! She instilled the fear of God in me though, can I tell ya!  But I loved her, she was in essence my mom. 

  Anyway, I was 12 years old, nearly 13 - and I was starting to test the boundaries a bit.  But not too much because my brother was ADHD with Tourrett's so he kept her and my dad hopping.  Seriously - that boy literally bounced off of walls!  And of course there was that and knowing that Bobie's logic was this: "I'll give you just enough rope to hang yourself with"!  She wasn't stupid - she'd been there, done that, wasn't letting her grand kids anywhere near it!

  Early on the morning of January 16, 1991, just a little over a month before my 13th birthday, Bobie died.  The coroner's said it must have happened around 1:30-2:00 a.m. - what's funny, I woke up around that time.  See we lived in a very small 2 bedroom house.  Me and Bobie slept together, and my dad and brother had bunk beds.  I sleep like the dead, no pun intended.  I mean you can play AC/DC's 'Hell's Bell's' full blast next to my ear and I won't so much as flinch.

  But somewhere between that time frame, I woke up, I felt Bobie's back against mine.  I scooted a little closer to the my edge.  I tried to go back to sleep for 5 minutes and couldn't.  She was sleeping on her side, when she had the heart attach, I think her body spasm-ed or jerked her back, making her back to lean against mine.  She would've been on her back, if I hadn't had been in the bed.  Calvin, my brother who was 9 at this time said he had a dream that night that she was bitten by a snake and died.

  I don't know if it was her that woke me, or perhaps the God that woke me, trying to get me to help.  But all I know is that I felt an insane amount of guilt for years.  I kept thinking, if I would have just gotten up, looked at her, maybe it would be different, I would have been different.  I really would have. Had she not have died, my life would have gone a different path.  She died at a crucial point in my life, only I didn't realize it then.  I didn't realize that till many, many sad years later.

  My brother found her that morning at around 6:30 a.m.  We were already late.  She was supposed to be at work for 6:30.  His screaming woke me up.  He was shaking her, and yelling "Wake Up!  Odessa, she won't wake up!"  I jumped up, and as soon as I touched her arm, I knew something was wrong, her skin was like ice.  I grabbed a mirror that she had on her nightstand, and held it up to her mouth and nose - there was nothing.  I ran to the living room and called my Aunt's house.  Oddly enough, my dad had stopped by their house for coffee.  He had gotten up and left at around 4:30 to go to the gym to get in a work out before work.  He had just gotten there, he had found out that a couple they all knew had died in a car crash around midnight. *they say people die in 3's*

  I told my aunt, "I think something is wrong with Bobie."  My aunt asked me "what do you mean?"  I said "She won't wake up, I think she's dead."  I could hear the panic in my aunts voice, even though it was calm, and even, you could hear the fear in it.  That's when I heard Calvin start screaming "She's Blue!  Odessa she's blue all over!"  My Aunt asked what Calvin was screaming.  I told her to hang on.  I went back in the room.  Calvin had turned the light on.  It was garish.  Her lips, and her psoriasis were all blue and purplish looking.  I told Calvin to turn the light back off.  I went back to the phone, and told my aunt "She's dead, there's no breath, not heartbeat, her skin is cold and blue." My aunt told my dad "somethings wrong with momma - go home."  My aunt came back to the phone, and told me that daddy was on his way for us to just stay put.

  I kid you not, my dad was home in 3 minutes.  My aunt's house was at least a 10 min. drive due to the curves.  He came in the house, and went straight to the room.  He came out a few minutes later, he looked like a little boy, with his head hanging.  They called the funeral home, the newspaper, etc.  People started milling in and out of the house.  When the undertaker got there, they quickly shuffled me and Calvin across to the street to neighbors we couldn't stand, who we were related to by marriage some kind of way. 

  Calvin and I sat there with four adults hoovering over us, not really saying anything.  I think the silence was the worst part.  I kept starting out of the living room window - you could see everything that was going on at my house from where I sat.  When the adults would try to talk to me, I just wanted to tell them to shut up and leave me alone.  But I couldn't do that, Bobie wouldn't have liked that, so I sat still and quiet.  Till I saw them rolling her body out and putting into the back of the hearse.  I cried and cried and cried.  When I stopped, I didn't cry again after that for quite a while.  I think when that hearse drove off with Bobie, it took a little of my mind with it for a while.

  I don't remember much of the wake, people would try to talk to me, then just get silent.  I remember  just walking around - I tried to find a quiet corner to sit in, but could never find one.  Later one of my friends told me that I was like a zombie at the wake.  That I wouldn't really say anything to anyone - i was just dazed.  I remember the day of the funeral though....

..my grandfather came, he had left Bobie EONS before for another woman.  I had gotten dressed, and was trying to get Calvin squared away while dad finished getting himself together.  Calvin started being a little brother and we started the bickering.  My grandpa, 'Papa Gene' got up, grabbed Calvin to face him and told him "Your Bobie's gone now, you hear?  You listen to your sister, she's the woman of  the house now."  And he went and sat back down. 

  Both Calvin and I stood there in stunned silence for a minute.  The finality of it all hit home.  For Calvin it was more that the only mom he'd ever had was never coming back - and for me - my innocence and childhood died in that instant with those words.  Looking back I can see where there was a load placed on my shoulders with those words, weights that came with a chain that tied me up for a long time.

  My dad came out, and we were getting ready to head to the church.  Calvin and I never saw dad cry, and my brother called him out on it the day of the funeral.  Calvin accused my dad of not caring, not loving her. I knew better; I understood that daddy was a man, and that men don't cry in front of others, especially not in front of their kids in circumstances like this. 

  That was the only time I think I saw my dad's muscle's twitching from anger hurt/pain.  He gave my brother a look, that made Calvin back down a bit.  Dad got his cool back and told him "I loved Bobie, and I miss her a lot."  Dad's love, mourning, etc were never questioned by Calvin ever again.

  There were easily over 300 people at her funeral.  Bobie had always loved children. She ran the nursery at our church, taught Sunday School, and worked at a day care center with the infants.  All the parents from the day care came.  Every child she had ever had in her sunday school classes came.  Every girl that had worked under her in the church nursery was there.  I don't think she realized, and until then, neither did I, just how many lives she had impacted - all for good.

  My regret is that I didn't get to tell her I was sorry for being such a brat that night.  I didn't get to tell her how much I really loved her.  I still miss her even now, 20 years later.  She would have LOVED my husband - they would have always been off fishing together - she LOVED to fish, I hate it! 

  Of course her great grand kids, not just mine, but my cousin too.  Me and Leigh were popping out kids at the same time.  Bobie would have been in 'hog heaven' back in 2002; her grand daughters having daughters!!

  I wonder would she be proud of me now to see the woman I've become despite the mire I walked through to get here?  Did she know how much we loved her, how much I loved her? 

  Those are the questions that plague me from time to time.  In  my heart of hearts I know that she knew I loved her, and that I was just a silly kid going through an awkward age that would soon pass, and I would be ok.  But still never getting to say good-bye hurts, and I don't think the hurt ever goes away, it just lessens a little with time.  But every now and again, time sneaks up on you and kicks that hurt all over again. 

  Tonight is one of those nights.



Friends & Face Book

As I sat on my balcony a little while ago, watching the newness of the day start, and enjoying the cool breeze of a nice spring morning, my thoughts turned to my friends - mainly the ones I've left behind in Louisiana.  I miss them dearly some days more so than others.

  Something about this morning reminded me of one of my oldest and dearest friends, Briana.  She and I have known each other since 6th grade. I transferred from the Magnet school to a regular school, she was in the office waiting for her mom to pick her up because she was sick, I was sitting in the office while my grandmother got my transfer sorted.  I was embarrassed to be there.  I didn't do bad on tests or anything at the Magnet school - I couldn't get to the first half of my classes on time because the campus was so big and I had 1/4 of my books with me for these classes.  Book sack and arms full, I would run across campus - but could never get in my seat before the bell rang.  So I lost points in each class.  Hence my academic probation, resulting in my transfer to a school full of kids I went to elementary school with that I didn't like, and they didn't like me. 

  Anyway, Briana and I have been through everything together.  In 8th grade we got into a fight, over God knows what, and we didn't talk for nearly the whole year.  I fell in with a bad crows after that, and things happened to me that should never happen to a person, especially a girl.....

......but we made up and everything was fine.  We had a few little spats in high school but nothing major - we were in different circles in high school.  All the popular girls loved her, but they couldn't stand me for some reason.  Whatever - if I coulda, I woulda made Voodoo dolls of them all...*sigh*

  After High School we were still friends.  I was always at her house - we were inseparable, did everything together.  One night, instead of staying at her house, we went to visit some friends, who were guys.  We wound up staying the night there.  Completely innocent I assure you.  The guys didn't like me in that way, and the feeling was mutual.  And Briana was as pure as the driven snow.  She was a tiny thing - but don't cross her, or try to force her to do something she didn't want to do.  Strongest person I know.

  Anyway, so we get up the next morning and drive to her house (a trailer).  When we pulled onto her street - a lot of people were standing in front of her trailer.  We were like 'what's going on?'  We thought maybe her mom was doing something crazy - Gerri tended to do that.....she liked to PARTY.  But it wasn't Gerri.  It was the trailer. It was all black and charred and puffs of smoke rising from it in scattered places.  The fire department had come and gone.  I had a part in my car that I was scheduled to have replaced that morning.  Being half awake, and half in shock, I did the STUPIDEST thing. I left Briana there with the on-lookers to go get my part, I think a headlight replaced.  I was an idiot.  I apologized later when I realized how what I had done was so awful.  She of course forgave me, but she never forgot.

  We both kept thinking what a good thing it was that we fell asleep at our friends house.  When I stayed with Briana I would always sleep on their couch.  The weird thing - the fire on the end of the couch where I would lay my head.  *shudder*

  But let me move on to Face Book - such a wonderful invention - mainly for the art of Time Suckage, but too, it has allowed me to re-connect with lost friends.  For instance my friend Damaris.  Her parents were missionaries in Mexico.  Her father was killed in Mexico when she was young, and her mom brought her home to Louisiana, and put  her in our school - which was part of the church.  We were instant friends, joined at the hip.  She spoke Spanish - stupid me didn't try to learn.

 Facebook has let me find one of the COOLEST chicks I ever met, or ever will meet, Damie.  I met Damie in High School.  We were part of a small quirky little circle.  We were what was considered the freaks.   99.9% of the kids at our school were always in Girbaud jeans, Polo shirts, Bows in their hair.  Every hair in place - perfection.  Us.  Think Nirvana, Janis Joplin, etc.  We like music all kinds.  We dressed how we felt, if that meant gypsy skirts with combat boots - well....  Anyway, Damie was always super cool.  Kind of had this quiet wisdom.  So glad I found her again on FB - she hasn't changed a bit!

Then there's Mark. My sophomore year of H.S. brought my mom back into my life - that a story for another time.  SO I decided to give the whole "mom" thing a go.  I moved in with her down in Buras, LA.  which is in the Delta of the Mississippi River - the end of the world.  When I got to the school the first day - it was like the school I just came from, only - the kids weren't looking at me with disdain - it was with a sort of awe, like "she looks so cool" - one person told me I looked like I just stepped out of a magazine - I was wearing black jeans and old faded black Banana Republic t-shirt and a flannel shirt over it.  Chokers around my neck 3 earings in each ear, and dark lipstick.  I looked at her like she was the one who was smokin something - not me!

  So I was the latest curiosity - but I found the others just like me, who were all guys.  I was the only girl evidentaly that listened to their kind of music.  In this group was my friend Mark - I talk thin guy, with somewhat long hair, who never said much to anyone.  Very quiet and introverted.  But we talked, he was cool, I liked Mark. We would write each other notes in class and pass them to each other in the hallway in between classes.  Mark was 1 year ahead of me, or maybe 2.  I made friends with other kids to, girls who dressed more "normal".  They would freak when they would see me talking to Mark.  They thought he was strange, and weird.  I tried to explain to them, but they didn't want to get it, so I didn't bother trying.  I lost touch with Mark after he graduated.  But you know, I kept EVERY note he ever wrote me.  I think they are in storage at my dad's, unless they all got tossed when my brother and his wife moved into the house after us, and did a clean-through.

 So I found Mark on FB, and now, after much pleading and encouraging from me and a few others, he finally started his own blog.  He's very sharp, witty and interesting, and if you get a chance go here and read his blog!


The Pot Calling the Kettle Black.....

  Okay, so evidently one of the non Orthadox churches here in Romania has some sort of scandal - it's just 1, ONE individual church.  Something about taking money from the people in the church - for all I know it could be about tithing.  I don't know all the particular's - but it has give the Orthadox church here a HUGE stone to throw.  They are trying to convince the RO government to make all other religious sects illegal or something to that effect.

Well here's my issue with the Orthadox church here in Romania.  Drive through the country - go through any small, run-down, and I do mean RUN DOWN village, and what do you see, the Orthadox church spending hundreds of thousands of Euro to build a HUGE, NEW church building in a place where the people have no money.  These people have to decide what they are going to do with their money when they do get some; do they buy food so they can eat, or pay their water or electric bill?  You think I'm joking, no, I'm dead serious.  And here's the kicker:

  Someone in their family dies, they have to PAY the priest to perform the ceremony, even though that person when to mass every Sunday!!!  The dead person's family has to buy and give away food to all the people at the grave site!  Okay, that is a tradition here, I don't know if that has anything to do with the church or the culture.  But you get my point.

  The orthodox church receives money from the RO government.  The priests pay no taxes - have a nice home to live in (monastery) with indoor plumbing (some not all), electricity, clothes, plenty of food, and NEW vehicles to conduct their "business" in.  Not to mention they all have cell phones too!  When you visit the monastery you can purchase things that are made there on the premises.  One convent just outside of Tulcea produces honey and wine - both of which are really good.  So they are always making money some kind of way, but I never see them HELPING those that they expect to attend church every week.

  Want to get married in the church - you have to fork over money for that too, regardless if you attend regularly.  That's not for the use of the church space - that's for the priest, personally!

  During the Christmas and New Year season, the priests go around from house to house, apartment to apartment and "Bless" the homes - guess what, if you allow the priest to perform this rite - you better fork over some money. 

  One priest came to my door twice this past holiday season.  I explained I wasn't Romanian, nor was I Orthodox.  He proceeded to perform his rite anyway, and then I was pressured into kissing a picture of Christ, on BOTH his visits.  Everything in me was SCREAMING, but I was polite, and respectful, and kissed the friggin' icon anyway.  I felt like I'd just committed idolatry, even though I believe in Christ Jesus, and it was an icon of Christ! 

  So why did I do that?  Well because my kids were standing right there, and I didn't want to make a scene and confuse and embarrass them - not yet anyway, I'll wait till they're a bit older...... 

.....plus, for all I know that same priest could be teaching their religion class one day, and I don't want them to have a hard time. 

  As far as I know none of the other denominations charge for any of that.  The church that my sister in law attends is "pentecostal", but not what we think of as pentecostal in the U.S., technically they are somewhat charismatic.  But not like Benny Hinn, et. all.  She has never mentioned them asking the members of the church for money for funerals or weddings, etc.  Basically her church is a lot like the church in Acts Ch.2 - the members meet the needs of the other members.

  The Communist regime was atheistic, but allowed the Orthodox church to remain, out of tradition they said - but really the church operated as tattle-tale agency for the government.  When a person went to confession, or attended mass too often - the priests turned that parishioner into the Securitate; this was one bad a** agency you did NOT want to get tangled up with. 

  Even now, in some of the smaller towns and villages in Romania and Moldova, when a non Orthodox church "opens", more like people meeting in their homes - the Orthodox priests have been known to disrupt the services by throwing rocks through windows, etc. 

  So I guess my statement to the Romanian Orthodox Church is "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone".



  So the moon is supposedly bigger tonight (3/19/11) - however, I can't detect any difference, not really, not like what I saw back in October of '98 or '99 - OMGosh - the moon was ENORMOUS then.  I was driving from Houston to Baton Rouge - and it was just mesmerizing, it was all I could do to keep my little Mazda B2300 on the road...cause my eyes kept staring at this incredibly LARGE moon!

  Even though the moon doesn't look much closer to our little planet than it normally does, I did however manage to snap a few cool shots from my balcony window.  I wish my 70mm-300mm lens had stability control in it, but it doesn't, and unfortunately I didn't feel like dragging out my tri-pod so some of the closer-ups of the "up close" moon, are a bit wobbly - to be more precise, you feel like you have double vision - Schnapps, anyone????

  Anyway, here are a few of the better shots:

Zoomed out - with corner of balcony from the bldg. next to me.

 I Really like this one (above)
Double Vision

Clouds started converging  -  if only I wouldn't have gotten the bldg. in the shot - it would've been perfect.

So there they are a few of my Moon shots.  Sorry for the wobbly hands!


Sweet Child O' Mine (Ch.2)

  Antonia replayed the last 20  minutes in her head.  She went back till she found where she had ‘lost’ him, his interest, his calm. It was when she started questioning his past,  especially when she started talking about that old band, Armored Roses.    His demeanor went from calm, engaged, and interested, to somber, mellow and sickened in a matter of seconds.  She wanted to meet with him again, to undo any harm she might have caused.  But she didn’t have his number, or his address.  Wait, he said he was here every night, it was his routine.  She would hang back over the next few days to see if he would re-appear at his usual spot.

  Meanwhile, Bill was trying to find a place he could get comfortable in, but to no avail.  His heart was pounding out of his chest.  A mixture of feelings poured through him, his mind was in complete disarray.   He walked across the hall into the kitchen, opened the fridge, grabbed some sliced ham, cheese, mustard, lettuce, a tomato, and a mayo type spread similar to ranch dressing.  He set the items on the table, grabbed a plate, butter knife, and some sliced bread.  He took a deep breath, and started to prepare his sandwich.  As he sliced the tomato, he started to calm down.  His heart rate slowed, his breathing returned to normal.  He focused completely on making the best tasting sandwich in the history of the universe.  With his concoction complete, he returned all the ingredients to the fridge, then grabbed a bottle of Heineken from the top shelf of the fridge, closed the door,  picked up his plate with his free hand and made his way back across the hall to his living room.  He sat in his over-sized recliner that faced the windows to the balcony.  The windows were opened.  He listened to the business of the people on the streets as they made their way home for the night.  The cars and scooters honking at each other, or the pedestrians attempting to cross the street outside of the crosswalk.  A dove landed on his balcony.  It perched itself near the window and cooed at Bill, as if to tell him, it will be okay.  Just relax.  Breathe, Bill, just breathe.  Bill sat down his half eaten sandwich on the plate and took a large swig of his ice cold beer.  The icy beer washed down not only the sandwich but the rest of his anxiety.  Bill continued to sip on his beer and listen to the pigeon.  Allowing the peace and solitude to return him to a state of complacency.  He  sat and stared at the bird till it cooed its good-night and flew away to its own home, which was probably in one of the many old bell fray’s around the city.  Bill looked at the digital clock on the DVD player, it was 10:15, the sun had finally set completely about 45 minutes earlier.  The room was dark.  He reached over to the table besides his chair and switched on the lamp that stood there.  He could see her eyes staring at him, inviting him in, asking him to lean closer.  He rubbed his eyes, and shook his head.  He felt his heart start to pound again.  “Enough of this bullshit!” he said as he gulped down the rest of the beer.  He took the plate with the half eaten sandwich back into the kitchen.  He threw the bottle into the garbage, placed a paper towel over the plate, and put it into the fridge where he grabbed another beer.  Bill was not a heavy drinker, at least not anymore,  but tonight, he needed it.  He wanted to sleep, to allow his mind to rest, and a few  beers usually did the trick.

  Bill returned to the living room, where he sat back down in his recliner,  grabbed the remote  from the table and flipped through the channels.  There wasn’t much on, other than football.  Football is all that seemed to be on the TV in Italy, it was the only thing he disliked about living in Europe; the fascination with football.   He found an interesting program on Discovery World.  He watched as they toured though excavation sites around the world, uncovering how man lived thousands of years ago.  He loved how they always made it a point to show how science “proved” that there was no God, or how all the different religions basically believed the same things, they just had different names for it.  He wasn’t an atheist, but he wasn’t bible thumper either.  He believed in God, the rest he wasn’t sure about, it just seemed like a bunch of rules that somebody came up with in order to subdue the masses.  His beliefs weren’t set in stone, but he had to laugh at the way science poked fun of religion and it’s followers.  The beer was doing it’s job, as was the program on the TV.  Bills eyes began to feel heavy, they were taking longer to open after he would blink.  He forced them back open, finished off the rest of his beer, and hit the sleep button on his remote.  He set it for 30 minutes.  He sat down the empty bottle and remote on the table. Propped his feet up on the ottoman in front of his chair, folded his hands over his chest, and let nature take it’s course.

  “Mr.  Buxton, how do you feel about the  decision?  Are you relieved Gunner?  Can we get a statement Gunner?”  Light bubs were flashing, the lights  from the TV  cameras were blinding.  He  could smell the aroma a dozen different colognes and perfumes.  The heat from the bodies of the crowd pressing in around him was overwhelming.  His hands formed into fists, his knuckles were white, his jaw was clenched.  He felt like one of  those old bear traps that could spring shut with it’s iron claws at the touch of a leaf landing on it’s trigger.  His entourage was pushing him through the crowd.  “We have  no comments at this time.” he heard the man to his left say to the plethora of journalists following him to his waiting limo.  As they descended the steps of the court house and reached the waiting car, the crowd of journalists divided in front of him.  The photographers were snapping photos of a person waiting in front of his car door.  Now they were  back to shooting him, then the other person.  Then he saw her.  She stood tall and silent.  The victory he had just won, was a heavy defeat in her mind.  She stood her ground as he got closer.  Her stony expression never changed.  He was now standing right in front of her.  The man next to him started to speak: “Not here, not now Bill, you…”  but Bill stopped him as he started speaking to the woman standing in front of him.  “ Elaine, I’m sor…”  THWACK!  The sound of flesh hitting flesh echoed through the air.  The shutters snapped even more frantically than before.  She had slapped his left cheek.  As he looked back  up at her, her expression had  not changed, there was no expression  in her face.  But her eyes, yes her eyes were screaming at him behind the tears that were slowly falling from her eyes.  There was a fury there that no words of judgment either in his favor or hers would ever erase.  There was a man who had been standing behind  her, he put his arm around the older woman, and started to lead her off “let’s  go home mom, it’s over now.”  The man gave a cold  stony look at Bill, daring him to say another word.  She allowed her son to lead her to their car that was waiting two cars up from Bills‘.  Bill stood there, thankful for the sunglasses that were hiding his eyes that were rapidly filling up with tears.  His lawyer and bodyguard ushered him into his limo, crawled in after him and closed the door.
  “Well the criminal part is over now Bill.  Now we have to prepare for the civil suit that I’m sure Elaine and Tom are going to bring against you.  I think we have a great shot at being able to get out of having to pay any damages to them.”

  “Give her what she wants Tony, I don’t  care what the amount is, just work it out with her side, and get with my manager and accountant.” Bill said.

  “But Bill!!!  You were just found innocent in her death, why should you have to pay?”

  “JUST DO IT TONY!”  Bill screamed  at his lawyer.  “No more filings, briefs,  affidavits, depositions, juries, court hearings, I’m done.  I just want to put this behind me.  Give Elaine what she wants, end of discussion!”

  The car phone rang.  Bill didn’t hear it he was staring out of the window.  There was a large hard lump in his throat.  He swallowed hard.  A tear started to trickle down from his left eye.  He took a deep breath and sat up straight, gained control of himself till they reached his Malibu home.  Tony stuck the phone in his hand.  “It’s Sonny for you.” he said.  Bill apprehensively took the phone from Tony.  He didn’t particularly care for Sonny, but he was head of his record label, and he had to play nice with the guy that ensured he made money; money that he was now gonna need  more than ever.

  “Yeah, Sonny, what’s up?”

  “Congratulations man!  I knew you had nothing to worry about!!  Now that this is all behind us, we can get back to the studio and wrap up these last few tracks for the new album.  And we need to meet up to discuss the tour.”

  “ Yeah,  okay Sonny.  Look I’m exhausted can we talk later?  I’ll call you tomorrow, k?”

  “Oh yeah, sure man!!  Look  take the rest of the week off, and come down to the studio Monday morning, say around 9 ok?”

  “Ok, see ya then Sonny.”  Bill said flatly

  “Cheer up man, you’re free!  Go celebrate!”  Sonny hung up.  Bill handed the phone back to Tony.  “Ass-wipe.” Bill said under his  breath.  Tony placed the phone back on it’s receiver.  Sonny’s got a point you know, you just got your life back, you should be happy, let the last 9 months go, man.  Look I’ll send my guy over to ya, he’ll fix you up.”

  “No Tony!  Just leave it okay!”  The car was pulling up into his driveway.  It came to a stop.  Tony started in again about how he  needed to relax, party.  How he was sure the guys would be over soon with some beer, girls, and anything else he wanted.  Bill threw the door open to the car.  Tony was  right  behind him.  Bill spun around as Tony continued to talk about throwing a big blow out!

  “ENOUGH TONY!!!  I DON’T WANT ANY DRUGS, GIRLS, OR PARTY!  My wife is DEAD!!  Her  family blames ME!  Just leave me alone, get the hell off my property!”

Bill woke up, sweat was pouring from his body.  There was a strong breeze  blowing through the open windows.  Bill’s heart was pounding again.  He wiped the sweat from his face.  Placed his feet solidly on the floor.  He leaned over  and placed his head in his hands and cried for the first time in 17 years. 


Sweet Child O' Mine (chapter 1)

           *this is a work in progress.  posting here for thoughts, feedback, and ideas*

Bill was sitting at an outdoor café next to the sea.  He was sipping on a cup of perfectly brewed espresso.  The sun was setting behind the mountains of La Spezia.  The gulls were crying, and the pigeons were walking around the tables looking for bits of bread from the tables of the other patrons.  This was his nightly routine.  Sit at the café, drink an espresso, read a paper, and a book. 

  He had since finished the paper.  Same story different headline: death, hatred, sadness.  There was nothing inspiring to read, ever.  He didn’t much feel like reading his book, which was a historical book he thought looked promising, but was proving dull, and repetitive.  Watching the other patrons at the café was  much more entertaining. 

  Italians love their football.  Soccer was a sport he could never  get into.  Actually he never got into any type of sport. He played little league while growing up in the Midwest America, but only did it to make his dad happy, which like everything Bill did seemed to do only infuriated his dad. 

  The other patrons had all turned their chairs towards the large flat screen the current game was now playing on.  They were yelling at the referees, cheering at the goals, etc.   Bill’s table was at the back end of the perimeter of the café, next to the fence that bordered the sidewalk next to the street.  His chair was also facing the set, but it was also facing the sea.  Bill’s attention was drawn from the sea and the gulls above it.  His focus was now on the collective cohesiveness of the football fans watching the game. They were one in mind and spirit, separated only by bodies. 

  The long cool sleekness of a woman who sat down at the table in front of him pulled his attention from the people watching.  She was wearing a white linen sun dress and sandals.  Her long silky dark hair was loose.  He couldn’t see her face but knew by the way she carried herself that she was beautiful.  Her skin was an olive complexion that is generally found in Italians.  Unlike himself with his German and Scottish ancestry, the ability to get and maintain a tan had not been inherited by himself.  He had fair skin, that while had a slight tinge of color, wasn’t what anyone would call ’tanned’.  Even though he had not seen her face, he was staring at her.  He felt something he not felt in a long time, an intense desire to really to get know someone.  For years he had not wanted to really build a relationship of any kind with anyone.  Perhaps she felt his eyes drinking her in like a cook drink of water on a hot summer day, because she turned around and looked at him.  His breath caught in his chest when his eyes met hers.  She had the face of an angel.  High cheek bones, perfectly formed mouth with soft full lips.  And her eyes, they were bright hazel green pools of intelligence, beauty and kindness, framed by long, full black lashes.

  Suddenly from the T.V. a commercial for some set of 10 CD’s consisting of all the hits from the 1980-1990’s was blaring.  There it was, THAT song.  Bill’s attention was called to one of the other tables, a young guy stood up and  was lip-syncing to THAT song.  Mimicking  and making fun of the lead singer from one of the largest rock bands in the world who started during the 80’s.  Bill’s breath was back, a darkness loomed over him.  That song, it haunted him, pursued him like a demon dog out of hell.  His past life loved to rear its head and mock him every chance it got.  And here his former self was again, blaring at him from the flat screen and the mocking of a young man he had never set eyes on before now.  He had forgotten about the girl, until she spoke.  As he met eyes with her again, the world lightened  back up, the darkness rolled back.  She spoke:
  “I’m sorry, am I in your way?”
  “Am I in your way?  I mean, can you see the game, or should I move?”

Bill smiled, laughed softly and shook his head, “No, not at all.  I don’t like football.  But you can join me if you like.”

  “Not like football?!?  Oh!  The Sacrilege!  Better not say that too loudly around here!”  She laughingly said.  “I would be happy to join you, if you are sure it’s not a problem.” she said.

  “Of course not, see I saved your seat for you!” He said as he picked up the paper and book and laid them on the table. “Can I get you something to eat or drink?  What would you like?”

  “A glass of red wine sounds good”.  She was pulling her wallet out of her hand made bohemian  style purse.

  “No, please,  allow me, it would be my pleasure.”  Bill said as he got up and headed towards the counter.  “One  glass  of red wine  coming right up.”

Bill ordered  two glasses of red wine.  His espresso was  still there, not yet finished, but it suddenly had lost its appeal.  As he waited  for the waiter to open the bottle and pour the glasses, he looked back to make sure he wasn’t hallucinating. It wasn’t a flashback, she was real.  She was looking down at her hands.  She fiddled with a ring on her right index finger.  A small smile of a good, distant memory passed her lips.  She felt Bill watching her, and looked up.  He smiled at her and motioned to wait just another minute.  She smiled back  and  nodded her head in the affirmative. 

  The waiter placed  two glasses of wine in front of him, asked him if wanted some food to go along with with.  He replied that he would.  He hadn’t eaten since  noon, and wine on an empty stomach gave him nothing but a head ache.  He didn’t want to have to leave this angelic like woman any sooner than he had to;  tonight might be the only time he would get with her.  He would make the most of it.  The waiter said he would bring the food momentarily.  Bill paid the bill, and took the wine and headed back towards the table.  As he side stepped around the chairs of the other patrons, he looked down to make sure he didn’t trip over one of their chairs, or knock their table.  It was then that he remembered his age.  He was 49 years old, a washed up has been.  An aging recluse, with a small beer belly, crows feet and slightly graying hair.  He was still attractive for his age, but he was no Robert Redford; who looks good no matter how old he gets.  The wind was knocked out of him again, but not in a good way this time.  As he made it back to his table and sat the glasses of wine on the table a little voice inside his head laughed at him and said 
“Who are you kidding Billy-boy?!?  Look at her, she can’t be  older than 24!  You’re old enough to be her father.  But besides that she’s gorgeous, and you?!?  You’re old and out of shape, do you really think she’s interested in you in anyway, other than being charitable with her time?  Face it, she’s being  nice to a seemingly nice OLD MAN!”

  Bill smiled as he took his seat next to her, that black cloud creeping back up over him again.  Memories of past relationships  gone  wrong rapidly played in his mind’s eye!  Her voice caught his attention and drew him back to the here and now. 
  “So you are obviously not from here.  Are you on vacation?” she asked.
 “No, I moved here about 3 years ago.  I needed a change of scenery.  I’ve always like Italy, so here I am.” 
  “Really?!  Yes Italy is beautiful.  But I have to ask, if you don’t like football,  why come go to a café, when you know that everyone will be watching the game on the TV.?”

  “It’s my routine.  I come here to this same café  every evening, watch the  sunset, drink my coffee, and  occasionally a glass of wine..” he held up his glass “… read a bit, and of course people watch.  It’s distracting, and occasionally quite amusing.”  he said with a smile.

   “Aha!” she said with a playful smile.  “You are a philosopher and perhaps a poet too, I think.”

  Something flashed in her eyes as she said this, that perhaps no one would have noticed, but it didn’t escape Bills notice.  It piqued his curiosity, but he thought it couldn’t  be anything bad.  How could this ethereal beauty have any kind of malice in even an inch of her goddess like body?

    Bill laughed, and replied to her “No, not a philosopher, and definitely not a poet.  Just a retired bachelor, enjoying his life, in what he considers paradise.  My name is William, but my friends calls me Bill.”

  “I think I like William, it suits you better.”

  She was looking  intently into his eyes.  He felt the black cloud roll away.  He felt warm sunlight beaming into his soul.  What did he do to deserve to have even 1 minute of her time?

  “And you, miss, what do your friends call you?”

  “I’m sorry, that was rude of me!  Please forgive me.  My name is Antonia.  My English friends calls  me ‘Toni’”.

   “No, not Toni!  It’s too common, and you Antonia are anything but common.”

  She blushed, and pushed her hair back off of her sleek shoulders.  The waiter came with a small plate of small pizza slices, a small bowl of peanuts, another of chips, and divided bowl which contained black and green olives.  “Grazi” bill said as the waiter placed the last bowl on the table and turned to leave.  He motioned for Antonia to help herself.  She smiled and moved forward and took a green olive.  Bill took a small slice of the pizza.   The setting sun, had made the air a bit cooler, especially being so close to the water.  Antonia rubbed her arms as a small shiver passed through her.

  “Are you cold, would you like me to get you a wrap?  I know the owner here, they usually have an extra jacket in the back.  Should I get it for you?”

  “No, it’s  okay.  I have a small wrap here in my bag, see?!?” she said as she reached in to her bag and pulled out a powder blue and cream colored hand woven cotton wrap.  She unfolded it and placed it around her shoulders.  She smiled again at Bill, and said “see, I am like your American Boy-Scouts, always prepared.”

  Bill laughed and nodded approvingly.  He took a sip of the wine, the taste of sweet red grapes played against the tomato sauce from the pizza.  She placed another olive  in her mouth.  He watched her lips form a into a pucker as the saltiness of the olive hit her palate.  She pulled out the pit and placed it on a napkin. 

  “So Antonia, are you from here, in La Spezia?”

  “Yes, I am.  I was born here, and lived her most of  my life.  I am here on vacation,  visiting my parents.  I live in Paris now.”

  “What do you do in Paris?”

  “I work at the Louvre, you know, the art museum.”

  “Yes, I know the Louvre,  I’ve been once before.  It was fascinating all those ancient pieces of art that have lasted through wars, plagues, and all other sorts of atrocities.  What exactly do you do there?”

  “I’m a preservationist, and curator there.”

  “Really?  Where did you attend school, here in Italy, or there in Paris?”

  “Actually I attended U.C.L.A.”

  Bill didn’t really care for California.  Yes it was a lovely place, it had everything, mountains, beaches, desert, ever imaginable climate, all found in one place.  But the people, especially in places like L.A., and Berkley, he didn’t like.  They were arrogant, self-absorbed elitists who thought that they owned the world, and that their thoughts and ideas were the only ones that mattered.  Even when they were all clamoring for his favor and attention years ago, he couldn’t stomach them.  They wanted his attention, which only provoked his anger, and irritation. He couldn’t picture her in the same atmosphere with those people, let alone living amongst them.

  “Did you like California?”  He asked.

  “It was nice, reminded me a bit of home sometimes,  but for the most part no.  The people were  too opinionated and full of themselves for my taste.  There was  no discussing anything unless you shared the same point of view as they did, which is pointless if you ask me.  I mean, what is the point of discussing a subject if you don’t even want to hear an  opposing point of view.  This is life, what it is about,  contradictions, conflict, finding a middle ground so that we can all grow as persons, find a way to live in harmony, yes?”

  He agreed with her, “I think you are the philosopher and poet, as well as the art historian.”

  “Perhaps a bit.” she said.

  “What about you though, are you yourself an artist?” He inquired

  “I suppose you could call me that.  I travel all over helping to restore antiquated frescos and other pieces of art that are in constant exposure to the elements.”

  “No Antonia originals floating around out there?”

  “A few.  I do paint, but not often.  I have to feel really inspired to paint anything that I feel is good enough to try to sell or show in a gallery.  I have a small collection being  shown in a gallery in Paris coming up in a few months.  That’s actually why I cam home to La Spezia for my vacation instead of staying in France or going elsewhere.  I have one more piece I need to do before I can show the collection, and I always find inspiration here.  Maybe it’s because it’s my home, and I know it so intimately”  She was looking out over the water and at the mountains in the distance.  Her face seemed to light up as she drank In the view of her life history.

  Bill  felt  completely mesmerized.  He continued to sip his wine, and nibble on the pizza and nuts.  It was like the windows  to his life that had been closed shut for many years had finally been forced open, and the fresh breeze was blowing away the cobwebs from his mind.

  “And you William, you said you were retired.   What did you do?”

The question he was hoping that wouldn’t be asked, but knew it to be inevitable.

  “I was a musician back in the states.  I made some smart investments and got out so that I could enjoy my life, and here I am, sitting in what I consider heaven, enjoying a glass of fine red wine with an angel.”

 His flirtatious answer did not go unnoticed, and it even reciprocated a flirtatious look from Antonia who was gazing at Bill with inquiring eyes.  There was more to his past than he was telling her.  She could sense it.  She smiled sweetly at him and continued the questioning of his obscure past.

  “A  musician, see I knew you were a poet.  All musicians are poets!  But what kind of musician, I mean you must have done something pretty big to have made enough money to retire early.  I mean you don’t look older than 40.”  Yes, she was being kind.  Bill’s age showed.  It was easy to take once glance at Bill and presume him to be around 50.  But being the kind woman that she was, and herself knowing that aging is not something any of us enjoy, she stroked his guarded ego, hoping that he would open up.

  “You are being too kind,  but thank you for the compliment.  I’m actually 49, I’ll be the big 5-0 next month.  But yes, you are right, I did do some rather “big” things musically.  I was in a band, we did well.”

  “REALLY?!?”  there was something about the way she asked this that made Bill think that she already knew this  piece of information.  That she also already knew exactly who he was , and what band he had been in.  He tried to lie to himself  to shrug it off.  How could she know she wasn’t old enough to have known his music, she had probably just been born when they hit the scene back in the day.

  “What  band were you in?”  She quizzed

  “Oh it was a long time ago, you weren’t even born yet I don’t think.  You can’t be a day over 24.  And I played what was called ‘heavy metal‘ back in the states.  A sound that wasn‘t immensely popular here in Europe.”

  “Actually I’m 28. And I listened to all kinds of music growing up, especially American music.  I loved American music.  I was, or rather still am, a huge fan of Otis Redding, and Ray Charles.  My favorite band from the 80’s as far as ‘heavy metal’ goes is that band ‘Armored Roses’.  But I don’t consider them heavy metal, just a really great rock band.  I had a HUGE crush on their lead singer when I was a little girl.  I thought ‘Gunner’ was so handsome.  I wanted to marry him.  You know how little girls are when they have a crush.  Silly, huh?”

  Bill felt even more uncomfortable now than he had in decades.  She completely unnerved him.  She had just admitted to having had, what was probably her first crush of her life on him.  He felt  his face flush.   His palms and forehead began to sweat slightly.  He decided to try to turn the conversation a different direction, then excuse himself as quickly as possible.  He took a large sip of his wine.

  “So have you started that last painting yet?  I mean, have you found  the inspiration that only being home can give you?”

  She had taken a sip of wine and was swallowing it when it came time for her to respond.

  “Mmmmm.  Not yet.  I just got here yesterday morning, so I’ve been catching up with my family and  friends.  I spent today walking around and just drinking in the scenes in the city.  The children playing football in the streets.  The teen-agers walking along hand in hand, engrossed totally in each other, forgetting that there are other people in the world besides themselves.  That’s a wonderful feeling - that first twinge of feeling in love with someone, when all the world seems to melt away, and that nothing bad will ever happen because of that other person next to you.  Don’t you think?”

  “Yes, it is nice.  Sounds like you’ve found your inspiration already.”  He took another large sip of his wine.  His glass was nearly empty.  Hers was still half full. 

  “Oh, well yes, that can be inspiring in and of itself for some very pretty prose, but not for a painting.  I think I may have found something today though that has a glimmer of hope for a wonderful piece though.  She looked intently as she took a long slow sip of wine.  She licked her lips and smiled somewhat seductively at Bill. 

  This was too much.  He needed to get out of there quickly.  He felt like a mouse who had been tempted towards the cheese in the trap, and if he didn’t resist and run away now, the trap would snap shut and he would be done for.  That angelic face hid a dark intent.  He didn’t know exactly what it was, but life and experience had trained him well.  He argued with himself.  “Stop being a scared old fool.  Not everyone is out to get you, man!  Honestly, how many times do you get  in this lately to sit across from a gorgeous, talented, sexy woman, who looks at you, and tells you with her eyes that she likes you, that she would like wrap her arms around you, and kiss away all your troubles?!?  Buck up man!”

  He felt that he was loosing his calm, his center.  He was  beside himself.  He couldn’t take it any longer.  He leaned  over, placing his hand to head, and  wiped away a small  amount of perspiration that had collected there. 

  “I think the wine was a mistake for me.  I’m feeling a  bit light headed.  I feel a bit foolish.  I’m so sorry, but I need to get home.  It was lovely to meet you Antonia.  I hope you find that inspiration you need in order to finish your collection.”  he said as he stood up.

  Antonia looked surprised.  She was sure she was on the way to being invited to his home, where she was sure to have seduced him, which would have helped her in getting what she was after. 

  “ Would you like me to walk with you to your home?”  She asked.
He thought about it for a moment.  The temptation was great, but he resisted, even though everything in screamed at him “YOU IDIOT!”

  “No, I’ll be okay, I don’t live very far from here.  But thank you for asking.  No, you stay, enjoy the rest of your wine.  And trust me, these guys are quite amusing; who knows, you might find inspiration right here at this table.”

  He had no idea that he had spoken truth.  She had found inspiration at that very table,  but not for a piece of art.  For something far more valuable that some paint on a canvass.  She  looked up at him, disappointment, and a begging him to stay look in her eyes.  Bill held out his large hand.  It was strong, and fine.  She slipped her long, elegant hand into his.

  “It was a pleasure to meet you Antonia.   I wish you all the  best.”

  “The pleasure was mine William.  But don’t wish me all the best, I hope that we will meet again.”

  Bill smiled at her, withdrew his hand and turned and walked away.  He paced himself  so that it didn’t appear that he was literally running from her.  His mind was a muddled mess of confusion and disorder, something he did not like.  He had maintained his composure in every situation, something that took him a long time to learn.  Nothing had rattled him like this in nearly 20 years.  He was looking but didn’t really see where he was or where he was going.  His feet knew the route, and within a ten minute walk he found himself unlocking the door to his building.