ALL THAT JAZZ

Nothing better than meeting friends at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  This is my 4th time at the festival (I think), and I always go for the last weekend in April.  I first attended, in the early 80’s with Barbara Thorn, a native from Baton Rouge, she had friends that lived in the French Quarter, where we stood on a balcony and watched the people – Ah, the Humanity! 

ME, Lydia, Bruce, Hilary & Robin (left to right)

This trip is a repeat visit with Hilary.  We celebrated her 40th birthday, and we are here again celebrating another birthday with wife Robin.  Hilary and I met years ago in Anchorage, Alaska.  Robin and Hilary still live there, and this year they are taking a break from work life, which gave us an opportunity to meet in NO.

Bruce was my union shop steward at the Anchorage Pioneer Home in the early 90’s.  His wife Lydia recently retired as the Executive Director of the National Education Association Alaska, now both fully retired they have returned to their home in Tacoma, WA.  Alaska friends are friends for a life-time.  Lydia and Bruce will visit Long Island in June, where Bruce’s mother lives and he and I will play some golf.

I stayed at the Pontchartrain Landing Marina, Villa, and RV resort on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain.  As always met great campers.  And, thank goodness for Lyft, a cheap ride.  Especially compared to my first day of parking when I got a $100 boot on my truck in a parking lot on the edge French Quarter.  YIKES!  

If you have never gone to the NO Jazz Fest, I recommend an addition to your bucket list.  Especially, if Bonnie Raitt is playing.  She ROCKS.

Next stop is Montgomery, AL to visit the new memorial and museum to recognize the victims of lynchings.  On May 6, I plan to attend President Jimmy Carter teaching Sunday school in Plains, GA.  Then on to Chapel Hill for Mother’s Day with the very best Mom ever! 

Looking forward to seeing my D.C. friends before heading to Long Island for the summer.

 

Sweet Dreams Alabama

After wonderful stay at Bay Breeze RV Park, on the Bon Secuor Bay in Alabama.   I traveled west to New Orleans, for the first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival.  The Bay Breeze RV Park, and the very friendly owners Paulette & Jerry (and Reagan the dog), have been wonderful.  To make it my perfect last day, I played 18 holes of golf (in 3 hours) and Maggie and I had our last walk on the Gulf of Mexico beach.  We bid farewell to our neighbor campers at the Bay Breeze, Jim and Kathy Bloom in their beautiful vintage 1979 Airstream.  Jim found it and bought it for $5,000.  She is a beauty.  I  always have such great neighbors in campgrounds. 

My golf partner Joel, a retired Alabama high school teacher, and I had a very pleasant round of golf, because I didn’t ask him if he voted for Trump.  When I pulled out of the parking lot, I had to stop and ask.  Yes, he voted for Trump, but his wife is a D and voted for Hilary.  Joel said he would have preferred Marco Rubio.  But would never, ever vote for Hilary.  I had hoped since he taught civics, he might not be a Trump voter.  But, Joel said he wanted change and Trump was new blood.  Yep, I get that.

Taking the Dauphin Island ferry cuts an hour off the drive west,  continuing across on the Dauphin Island Parkway, straight though Mississippi, to Louisiana and New Orleans.  Hilary & Robin, from Anchorage, and Bruce and Lydia from Tacoma have joined me for the first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz Fest.  The last weekend in April, is the first weekend of the NO JAZZ, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  The second weekend is the first weekend in May, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Hilary and I were here in 1995, I attended the Jazz Fest with long lost friend Barbara Thorn in the 1980s, and Michelle and I came in 2010.  I wish I had kept a journal, because I can’t remember dates.

A great line-up of musicians: Bonnie Raitt, Sting, Jimmy Buffett and Irma Thomas.  Pals from Alaska, music, and great Cajun food.  Who could ask for anything more?

Life is good, and the road ahead is long and full of promise.

If it sounds too good?

I fled Anchorage, Alaska, in the fall of 1995, my home for the previous 25 years.  A love affair gone horribly bad, a dysfunctional work environment and job stress, and friends moving south.  I descended into depression and set a goal to get out of Alaska before the snow.  I accepted a job in Carson City, Nevada, sight unseen after a phone interview, and packed my bags. 

Ex-Alaskans best pal Barbara and husband Howard accompanied me to Carson City from Sacramento, their new home. Three adults and three dogs.  Their Willie and Wanda, and my dog Hanna.  U.S. Route 50 is one of my favorite roads, east from Sacramento entering the Sierra Nevada foothills and four-lane divided highway, becomes a narrow two-lane road.  Reaching Echo Summit at 7,382 feet begins the steep descent into  South Lake Tahoe.  Lake Tahoe is beautiful and surrounded by tall trees.  The fake TV set where the 60’s drama Bonanza is now a tourist destination on the east shore of Lake Tahoe.

I still remember the panic attack I experienced when crossing the tree-line as we descended into the Carson Valley.  Leaving the beauty of Ponderosa Pines and experiencing the desert devoid of trees.  It took me several years to appreciate the geography of the high desert.

The move to Carson City was my effort to reinvent myself.  I was determined to be someone else — Happy.  The 300 days of sunshine reported by the internet, was the promise of rising each morning to sunlight.

In Anchorage, the summers are to short regardless of the 23-hour day light.   The winter is far too long.   The sun comes up after 10 a.m. and begins setting by 3 p.m.   I had been popping Prozac like they were M&Ms.

Carson City is a sunny place, but a very small town.  My closest friend Barbara was 100 miles away.   I had taken a huge pay cut and knew no-one; however, I believe in redemption through change. 

1995 was before the dominance of Social Media, Match.com, Facebook, OkCupid and the rest.  I placed a single’s ad in the Reno Gazette Journal personals.  John Firestone replied.  He seemed like a nice guy, drove a BMW, took me to the best Reno restaurants, and enjoyed talking politics.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t any “chemistry” on my part, but John didn’t seem to mind.  

He like to travel, fish and play golf.  We never did any of those things together. He said the women he met in Reno were dumb and he enjoyed our conversations on current affairs, etc.  One night at our favorite Reno restaurant with a panoramic view, I tried to pay half of the check.  Explaining to John, I wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship so thought we should dine as friends and split the check.  John laughed and said, absolutely not!  He told me flatly, he would be having great sex with a casino cocktail waitress, before I opened my door in Carson City, a 45-minute drive south from Reno. 

I knew John played poker frequenting Reno casinos.  John told me flatly he had been ‘seeing’ a waitress who he described as, “her stomach was so tight you could bounce a quarter on it”.  I have to admit it was one of the best put-downs I have ever experienced.  I liked him for his honesty.  Smart men will date stupid women, but smart woman would never date a stupid man.

John and I continued to go to dinner, the movies, and attend concerts, no strings attached.  I left Carson City in 1999 moving to Washington, D.C., and as a going away gift for all the dinners and concerts, I gave John a fly fishing rod.  I returned to Nevada for work and pleasure in the coming years.   John and I would get together for a great meal and conversation.   He would never let me pay, even half. 

John would also call me periodically ‘just to catch-up’.  I was certain he had me on his calendar, as a reminder to call.  In the fall of 2002, I was in Cedar Rapids Iowa working the mid-term Congressional election, John called me out of the blue.  My privilege in life has been to work for labor unions and do campaign politics every two years.  In 2002 I was assigned to Iowa.  John called just to say hello and talk politics.  I remember the call, because I was lost, trying to find an address in Cedar Rapids before there was GPS or Google maps.  I pulled over and we talked as we had done regularly.

When I returned to my Washington, D.C. office in November, there was a voice message from a FBI Agent.  The agent was asking that I return her call, which I did.  She asked me about Jonathan.  Jonathan who?  Turns out John Firestone was not Jonathan or John.  His real name was Barry Richard Hunt, and he had been running a Ponzi scheme, bilking many people out of millions of dollars. John had disappeared and he was on the FBI wanted list.  The FBI got my name from his phone records.

The agent asked if John had ever tried to get me to invest, guaranteeing 15% – 20% return.  I had to laugh.  Sure, I think he might have mentioned something, but I didn’t have any money lying around.  I had taken the job in Nevada for half the salary I was making in Alaska.   And, my friends can tell you I have never been good with money.

The FBI agent had come to my office and we talked for over an hour.  Mostly because I was fascinated to meet a woman G-man.   She explained what John, aka Barry, had done.  I told her I might have given him money, if I had any.  But the best thing about not having extra cash is you won’t lose it.  I did not have any sympathy for people who had “invested”.   If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  

So why am I writing about John Firestone, now?  The other night during a great thunder-storm while channel surfing on Hulu, I watched Season 1, Episode 1 of American Greed.  I love crime dramas.  And, there was Barry Richard Hunt, my Jonathan Firestone!   He had fled Reno in 2003 and was found by the FBI in 2005 plea bargained 6 years in Federal prison and agreed to $2.5 million in restitution.   John was the first episode in the first season of American Greed ten years ago titled, “Hook, Line and Sucker”.  I felt really special watching having known the guy.

John was my true-life criminal.  We all have heard of scams, send money, etc.  Thankfully, I have never fallen for a con-man. It helps I never have had money lying around to invest or be swindled from.  I still hold “my John Firestone” in best regard.  He was a friend to me.

 

THE WORLD IS FULL OF PLACES

“The world is full of places to which I want to return”, Ford Madox Ford.

I read this quote in the Leisure Seeker, by Michael Zadoorian.   Now a movie with Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland, I always try to read the book before I see a movie.  Two old coots traveling in an RV named the Leisure Seeker, traveling along Route 66, on their last trip to Disneyland.  He has Alzheimer’s and she has cancer.   It isn’t the most uplifting book but has nice humor about the end of life.  

Places I want to return, this quote is on point.  I have been many places and might say to myself, “I want to come back here someday”.  China in 1985, Montague Island, Italy 1973, Australia 1985, Jordon Lake, etc., etc., etc.  I have not traveled as much as my dear friend Mary Ann, she has gone to exotic places, many I have never heard of.   She is the only person I know who traveled to Syria (before the war, of course), and now every day when I read or hear the horrible Syria news I think of Mary Ann.  I never considered Syria a vacation spot, even before the war, but not Mary Ann.

I have no desire to travel abroad.  I hope never to step foot in an airport.  North America has everything I want to see; and so many places I may never get to, let alone return.  We live in a beautiful country with very friendly people. 

Maude and Maggie (Austin, TX)

Lola and Maggie

As a single woman traveling alone I think people take some pity on me.  Also, walking Maggie helps, because she has to greet everyone.   How many times can I answer, “what kind of dog is that?”  She is adorable and a conversation starter.  Maggie is a rescue, and was listed as a Bearded Collie.  This picture is of Maude, and Maggie.  Maude is a “Beardie”, but who knows what Maggie is, other than a great ambassador.  However, I did chase down a guy with a dog that looked exactly like Maggie.  That dog was an Australian Shepard and Poodle.  Maggie’s best friend Lola is an Aussie-doodle, so could be.  It really doesn’t matter, other than keeping the conversation short.

Dusk at the Bay Breeze campground dock resulted in me being covered with bug bites.  No-see-ems are horrible at dusk, and white vinegar seems to be the best treatment.  I dislike bugs and bug spray equally.  I tell my fellow campers in Alaska the mosquito is the state bird.  I have been pleasantly surprised that until this last week the bugs haven’t been terrible, could be a sign that winter is over, and spring and summer are on the way, complete with bugs.

Last night a terrible storm blew through the Gulf Coast, thunder, lightning and barrels of rain.  I love a good thunder-storm and last night was a doozy!   Wonder what happens if lightning strikes an Airstream, I assume the rubber tires will serve as a ground.  Maggie hates thunder and lightning.  We woke this morning to high winds and a cleanly scrubbed sunny sky, too cold and windy for the beach.   At least it isn’t snowing.

According to the weather report it is snowing in the Great Lakes on April 15.  On a stormy day my favorite thing to do is going to a movie (maybe two).  My movie record for a snowy Saturday in Washington, D.C. is five movies in one day, one ticket and lots of popcorn.  I entered the theater at 11:00 a.m. and left at 8 p.m., and that was before theaters started serving beer and wine.  Yesterday I went to a huge Cineplex that was all but deserted.  There were 4 other patrons to see Beirut, with Jon Hamm (Mad Men).  In this very touristy area there are three movie theaters within a 20-mile radius, and they are ALL showing the very SAME movies, Hollywood blockbusters, and a few religious movies I have never heard of – it is ALABAMA.  If three theaters have 10 -14 screens each, why can’t they show a few independent (Indie) movies?  I am so spoiled having lived in Washington, D.C. where there are five independent theaters, in addition to Cineplex’s.

When I think about life after my Road2Reinvention, where I might live, one very important criteria is: there must be indie movie theater(s).  D.C., Tucson, Austin and of course Los Angeles have wonderful theaters that show independent movies, have huge reclining chairs, and serve dinner and drinks during the movie!   I am not a foodie, but I love a good movie on the big screen.  I also want to live near a beach and the ability to walk to local restaurants.  So the search continues, in the mean time there is always NetFlix, Hulu and Amazon, but watching a movie on an iPad, just isn’t the same as a BIG SCREEN.

 

 

Gulf Waters, who knew?

I don’t have the words to describe the amazing clarity and color of the water of Gulf of Mexico at Gulf Shores, AL.  I had no idea!  The sand is the color and consistency of granulated sugar and makes a squeaking noise when you walk on the beach.  Maggie has now waded in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the Gulf of Mexico.  She is such a lucky dog.

This is my first trip to Alabama.  As a northern Yankee I admit to having preconceived ideas about Alabama.  I think the Gulf coast is an aberration, not the real Alabama.  High rise luxury hotels, and $90 a round golf courses.  When walking on the beach during spring break, the majority of people were white.  There are Targets, and Wal-Mart, and all the other retail outlets that populate every U.S. community.  I found a great new rug for Scout at the local Ace Hardware, my favorite retailer.

The Bay Breeze RV park is a lovely small RV park owned by Paulette and Jerry.  Jerry leaves Maggie a small milk bone on the trailer step each morning.  They work 7 days week 365 days a year, and they are incredibly cheerful and welcoming.  It takes special people to be so cheerful 365 days.  If I was going to organize a camping meet-up, this would be a fun place to do it.  Bay Breeze is on the shores of the Bon Secour Bay.  Gulf Shores is over 45 miles west of Pensacola, Florida. The name “Bon Secour” derives from the French phrase meaning “safe harbor” due to the secluded location on the inside coast of the Fort Morgan peninsula of southern Alabama.  Just down the road is the Gulf State Park.  For my hiking vacationing friends, state parks now have cabins!  When we camping as kids it was tents or rented tear-drop trailers.  Gulf Park has beautiful cabins fully equipped starting at $150 a night sleep 2 – 10 people, and are  RIGHT ON THE WATER!  Bike and hiking trails, and a golf course, I will be visiting as well where the green fees are $29.  Where I will be playing.

I was going to move to another location, but why move when I can stay here until April 25, when we go to New Orleans.  NO is only 3 hours 198 miles away, so staying here will avoid a move – hooking and unhooking.  I am looking forward to meeting up with my Alaska pals, Hilary and Robin, Bruce and Lydia (now living in Tacoma), who will join me at New Orleans for the first weekend of Jazz Fest April 27-29.  Bonnie Raitt, Sting, and Rod Stewart are all headliners.  I hope the sun will shine, but I have my rubber boots just in case.

Anyone who wants to join us come on down, south!