Thursday, February 24, 2011


The first time I ever flew in an airplane I was in 4th grade. It was 1962 and we were moving to Washington, D.C. My father had gone out there several months ago to start a new job, and we were finally joining him. All our family was at the gate to wave goodbye to us. One of my younger cousins burst into tears as we boarded the plane. I was terribly excited and not afraid at all.
This was a propeller plane and it didn’t fly nearly as high as passenger jets do now. I don’t really remember that much about the flight itself, but I do remember the descent into the Washington area. We flew very low for quite some time, right above the tree tops, it seemed. It was fun to be able to see everything going on below, but my mother was terrified. She sat there trying to physically hold the plane together with a tight grip on the seat in front of us. It was one of the first instances I remember not being sure that my mother’s reaction was correct.
Of course, since then I’ve flown many, many times, including a few occasions on private airplanes. Once in Central America, I flew on a very, very small airplane, amid heavy fog and steep mountains. I knew it was dangerous, but so were the few overland routes to our destination. The mountains were misty and beautiful when we could see them, and I wasn’t afraid.
Another time some friends that were starting up a seafood delivery service offered to fly us from Nashville, where I was living at the time, to St. Louis. We flew along rivers and highways, using grain towers and highway intersections as guideposts. It was lots of fun, but I didn’t enjoy their demonstration of how the plane could dive, and made them promise not to repeat that trick!
And then, I became a mother. My life suddenly had a meaning and a purpose unlike anything I had every experienced before. I had to be there, on earth, to take care of my babies. I became fearful of many things, and one of those things was flying.
I knew my fear was irrational, but that didn’t help. I didn’t refuse to fly, but I hated it, especially take-off and landing. While in flight I would scan the faces of the stewardesses when the engine noises or our altitude changed, for signs of unease. As long as they looked calm, I was okay, although sometimes I thought they were hiding their true feelings.
This state of affairs continued until we moved to Asia. I wanted to go, and I also wanted to be able to return to the US for visits, and go on vacations while we were overseas, all of which involved very long international flights. It’s very hard to maintain a state of vigilance and fear for 16 hours straight. I gradually began to overcome my fear of flying. As mysteriously as it had begun, it also began to dissipate. It helped that my children were now grown, I suppose, but I realize that it still doesn’t really make sense.
We have friends that live on a small airstrip in Lakeway, Texas. On my recent trip to Austin they offered to take me up in one of their airplanes. In the past I had always hesitated, or flat-out refused, but this time I was ready. Up I went!

It was beautiful and fun. Phil is an excellent pilot. Our takeoff and landing were very smooth. I could see the gorgeous Texas Hill Country spreading out below me for miles and miles. It’s the prettiest part of Texas, and you can see why from these pictures!
Lake Travis

Pedernales River

We landed quietly and smoothly. It was fun to see the landing strip come into view; hear the engine noise disappear as we glided to a stop. I emerged from the plane triumphantly. I did it, and I wasn’t scared at all. It felt like I had come a full circle, from that first flight to Washington, D.C., many years before.
Lakeway Airstrip


This doesn’t mean I’m about to take up bungee jumping. I’m still a fairly timid person and heights in some situations still make me feel dizzy. But, flying? In a small plane?
 I’m ready to go again, whenever I get the chance!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I moved from Austin to New Hampshire with a very nice collection of sandals, open-toed dress shoes, and flip flops. I owned a couple of pairs of cowboy boots, and some nice leather boots as well. But my winter weather shoe-gear consisted of one pair of very old snow boots and that’s about it.

I realized pretty soon into our first winter in New England that I needed some waterproof cold weather footwear. My first purchase last year was a pair of shiny Cole Hahn waterproof shoes.  These shoes are great for wet slushy city streets, but not for snow. But last year we didn’t get that much snow, so it wasn’t a problem.

They’re also not very warm. I knew Uggs were warm, so my second purchase was a pair of classic Uggs . They are very warm, and cozy, but they aren’t waterproof. In fact, water and snow are bad for Uggs, so their use in New Hampshire in the wintertime is somewhat limited.

Earlier this fall, we were still getting a lot of moisture, but it was in the form of rain, not snow. I decided that it was finally time for me to get a pair of fashionable and functional rain boots. I’d been lusting after some of these ever since I first saw them in Hong Kong, but never lived anywhere that was cool enough that I was confident my feet wouldn’t melt if I put on a pair. For pictures of all kinds of crazy rain boots, check out this entry from the Austin City Limits Music Festival in October of 2009.
When I went to look at rain boots I thought at first that I wanted Hunters, since that seemed to be the most popular brand, but when I tried them on they hurt my feet. On a whim I decided to try a pair of Sperry’s instead. They felt great. I had a difficult decision to make, however. Should I get the bright yellow ones, the lurid pink ones, or the more conservative royal blue with the bright yellow interior? It was very hard to decide but the blue ones finally won out.
Then came this year’s record snowfall and numbing cold. My old snow boots kept my feet dry, but didn’t keep them warm. They were so old that the fleece inside had compacted and worn away. I needed some new snow boots.
I wanted something functional but stylish. A friend suggested that I investigate Sorels: This meant a trip to Nordstrom was in order. Poor me!
I decided that I needed a pair of Joan of Arctic Sorels.  Boyoboy are these some awesome boots! High, warm and darn cute too, they work great for slogging through snow in the city or country. I can even wear them with my snowshoes!
But it seems like buying one pair of winter boots only made me want more. I decided I wanted a shorter pair of snow boots too, lighter and more convenient for forays into the city. I wanted a pair of short Sorels, but it wouldn’t stop snowing long enough for me to travel to Burlington Mall, where Nordstroms is located! I spent one snowy morning wandering disconsolately through Rockingham Mall here in Salem, looking at short winter boots. I was just about to give up, when I saw an Aldo store that looked promising. They had a pair of boots that was just perfect!

I should be finished buying winter boots by now, but part of me still wants a pair of those cute short Sorel boots. There’s no practical reason to buy them; I just want them! They are awfully cute though, don’t you think?|-010-|-5/803298481335,default,pd.html.
Oh well, maybe next year!

Many thanks to Harper for generously volunteering to pose with a few of these boots. She was VERY interested in the boots for some reason. Maybe because I was paying more attention to them than to her? Could be...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Happy Year of the Rabbit

We decided some time ago to plan our trip to New York City so that it would coincide with Chinese New Year. We were curious to see how it was celebrated in a major US Chinatown, far from China and the other parts of Asia where the New Year is the most important holiday of the year.
In Hong Kong, as in other parts of China, Chinese New Year has a raucous outer shell, with brightly decorated streets, massive fireworks displays on the waterfront, and lion dances everywhere you turn. But it is the inner celebrations that are the important ones. It is a time to be spent with family, so most Chinese have their one significant vacation at this time of year, so that they can travel to wherever their family lives. On the Mainland this means millions of people are in transit. It is NOT a good time to visit Beijing!
During Chinese New Year, everything shuts down. Restaurants, banks, businesses, all are closed. The first year we were in Asia we stayed in Hong Kong, curious to see what it would be like. We found out that things got very quiet, and almost everyone left town, either to visit relatives, or, if they weren’t Chinese, to vacation in a non-Chinese locale.   The following year we went to Bali, and the year after that, to Bangkok, Cambodia, and Laos
Sunday in New York was sunny and not nearly as cold as it had been. It was a perfect day for having brunch at a Jewish deli (Lansky’s on the Upper West Side) and then taking a taxi to Chinatown. We knew there was a parade in Chinatown on Sunday, and we decided we’d go and see what that was like. 
Once we got to Canal Street the crowds were intense, but nothing that a couple of Hong Kong veterans couldn’t handle! The problem was figuring out how to get to a place where we would be able to see the parade. The police had the streets blocked off, and everywhere they kept telling people to “go around”, which we did. But there didn’t seem to be any access to the area where the parade would pass by. It was very confusing. 
Finally on one corner there was a church vestibule that was unlocked. People were streaming through one door and going out another, thereby gaining access to the parade route. We boldly followed the crowds, and we were in!
Suddenly it got REALLY crowded. This was far beyond a typical Chinatown crowd, or even a Saturday morning in Wan Chai crowd. We were pushed along by a mass of people, until we came to a corner. In front of us was the street where the parade would pass by. To the right and left it was solid people. There was no way to move. Everyone was crushed together, and it seemed to be getting worse. Little Chinese ladies, determined and undeterred, tried to make their way through the crowd, but even they couldn’t do it. At one point my feet actually lifted off the ground. At least it was cold outside; nobody was going to pass out from heat stroke while being crushed.
The Chinese in the crowd were annoyed that they couldn’t pass; most local New Yorkers were patient and philosophical about our predicament; a few tourists, however, got a bit panicky. We couldn’t see a thing and couldn’t tell where the intense crush began and where it ended. All we could do was wait.
As suddenly as it began, the crush gave way and we could move again. It was very strange. We never really figured out what happened; why the crowd got so bad and why it became manageable again.
After that we started to have fun. We found a good place to stand and waited for the parade to pass by. People were shooting off these confetti bombs. The paper streamers and glitter were packed into a pressurized tube. When one end of the tube was twisted it exploded with a loud POP! And brightly colored streamers would be hurled into the sky, eventually settling on everyone’s hair and coat, and all over the street. It was very pretty, and fun to watch.

Then the parade started. Well, it wasn’t the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade by any means! I felt like I was watching a holiday parade in a small town, albeit one with a large Chinese population!  

Small marching bands marched.  Home-made floats with smiling beauty queens floated. Traditional drummers escorted lions and dragons on their way.

 Groups of dignified elderly ladies wearing bunny ears passed. And yes, Bugs Bunny was well represented!


After an hour or so we were satisfied that we had seen enough and left the parade route. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Soho, shopping for leather couches for our house and fashion accessories for me. Later than evening while getting ready for bed, I shook my head a bit and a cloud of confetti fell on the bathroom floor. I kept shaking it and running my fingers through my hair, until I had a tidy collection of glitter and colored paper bits to scoop up and throw away. I’m still finding bits and pieces in my coat pockets and my purse. 


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