Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lightening Up… (continued)

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Our whole third week of June was spent clearing out junk and room-by-room, fulfilling a four-page punch list that was given to us by the realtor who had sold both Beth’s house and Jamie’s house in record time, Linda Ventola. This included such items as replacing bedspreads, towels, bathmats, lamps, chandeliers and faucets. We stored, moved, donated and sold many items of furniture. We gave away my large color Tektronix laser printer to a Masonic brother of Saul’s. We wrapped most of our art, photographs, and cherished bric-a-brac in bubble wrap and stored it away. We covered our old-fashioned looking sofa with a new, leather-look slip cover. We washed all our windows inside and out. Linda recommended a cleaning service that was remarkably efficient. Having cleaned my house myself all these years, it was a pleasure to have absolutely everything spic-and-span all at one time. Except for Passover, I clean on an as-needed basis.

That Friday, we went to Jess and Alex’s for a special Shabbat dinner to say goodbye to Sami who was leaving for Camp Ramah on the following Thursday. By Sunday, Father’s Day, we were sick of rearranging and going through boxes of dusty papers and books, but the clean-out work was almost done and we had completed much of the four-page list and were feeling very satisfied as the house began to shape up. Jess was checking out items for her new kitchen at IKEA in Plymouth Meeting and afterward, decided to drive over with Sami and Izzy to assess our progress and have dinner with us. Alex had taken Yona to visit his mother in Cranberry. We had dinner at Tamarindo’s, which worked out beautifully because they had vegetarian and fish options that we all loved. Saul had a whole crispy-skinned grilled red snapper and, of course, I was high on their incredible free margaritas. Jess presented Saul with a new cover for his iPhone that had photos of the girls laminated into it. I slept like a baby that night between the margaritas, the fact that the house was almost completed, and that we were signing the papers to put it up for sale the next day.

Linda seemed extremely pleased with the choices we had made based on her list and we signed the papers while her assistant, Michelle, photographed each room. Within the next couple of days, we finished most of the final touch-up that was necessary.

On Wednesday evening, June 20, Melrose B’nai Israel Emanu-El officially moved out of the building that it had erected as its home for over 50 years and into its own wing of a building occupied by Keneseth Israel on the Old York Road Corridor a few miles away. After a light dinner and mincha service, with klezmer accompaniment, our 11 Torahs were removed from the aron ha kodesh (ark) and placed in the hands of people seated in a number of convertibles that had been assembled in the parking lot for the purpose of moving them to their new home. The temperature outside was in the high nineties, but at least it was not raining. While the congregants drove over and waited for the Torah procession to arrive, our ranks swelled as we were joined by many other members of the community and members of KI. The convertibles parked at the police station a few blocks away and selected members were honored with the privilege of walking the Torahs the final distance and carrying them into their new home, among them, Saul and Larry, who is presently co-president of the congregation. The event was so well attended that every chair in the facility was pulled into service and there was standing room only in the back. Welcoming speeches were delivered and our first ma’ariv service was held in the new building. A lavish dessert buffet followed. Our friend, Faith, who attended also, met us a little later at Friendly’s for ice cream to celebrate as there was such an unexpectedly large crowd surging toward the dessert table we were a little “cowed.”

Early Thursday morning, we drove to Cherry Hill to see Sami off on the bus to camp. Then we took Izzy and Yona to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden for the day. We had a blast there! The crowds had not yet arrived and Yona had an entire tank of manta rays practically to herself in a special tot area that was built especially for small children. For once, Izzy was too tall for an activity. On the third floor, a large area had been opened designed especially for children so that they could climb, crawl, play, and make music. We stayed until Yona showed signs of exhaustion. Saul was thrilled because after he dropped us at the entrance, he discovered a parking area right next to the handicapped area especially for hybrid cars. The temperature hit 102 degrees that day, and we were very thankful for the short walk back to our car.

We called his sister to see if she wanted to join us for a late lunch. She had just moved into her new apartment and when we arrived to pick her up, she came armed with coupons for a nearby Chinese buffet that was excellent. Yona had fallen asleep almost immediately when we got into the car and it took her almost an hour before she was fully awake in her umbrella stroller in the restaurant and ready to eat something. The selection of food was so extensive, feeding the koi in the fountain in the lobby so entertaining, and the afternoon so hot and humid that we lolled there for several hours sampling various tidbits before taking the kids home. We were so full that dinner was out of the question. As we returned home, Saul got a phone call from our Craig’s List ad about our pool table, the last item left in the basement. We had arranged for Danny to clean and paint the floor, and were afraid he would have to paint around it. Therefore, we were delighted that evening when the three guys arrived with cash, a pick-up truck and the know-how to move it out.

The next morning, the house spotless, lock-boxed, uncluttered, and ready for presentation, Saul and I packed our bags and headed for a mini-vacation with Ari in DC. We had a great, relaxing time. I had not done any personal shopping for summer clothes since last year and most of my tops had small holes in them from repeated washing. Why are most clothes now being made out out of tissue-paper thin cotton or non-breathing rayon or polyester? We spent an enjoyable afternoon together at the Queenstown Premium Outlets and sitting at the waterside at Harris’s on the Eastern Shore. Ari, Saul and I were all extremely pleased with our purchases. We ate out together at some of our favorite places. We did little chores around Ari’s house, like hanging art, doing laundry, stocking the refrigerator, etc. During the week, while Ari was at work, Saul and I took a drive through the National Arboretum. With scores of trips to DC over the years, we had never known it existed, and had been driving by within two blocks of it since Ari’s days at GW. To say we were blown away by the size of the grounds, the beauty of the landscaping, the incredible buildings and facilities, and the diversity of the flora and fauna would be an understatement. And of course, like most of the activities of this type in DC, it is all free!

We returned home in the evening of June 26. Our friend Larry, who is single, was due to have laparoscopic surgery on the morning of June 27 to repair a fistula. Larry has not been in good health since back in September of last year and has been in and out of the hospital while doctors have been trying to find the source of the problem. A bout that put him in a hospital while he was traveling in Cuba recently was the last straw. We waited at Abington Hospital, along with his friend, Ken, while the surgery was performed. When it was over, the surgeon told us that he had discovered a hard baseball-sized mass that required more extensive surgery to remove. Larry wound up with a larger incision and two resectionings. The mass turned out to be benign. The surgeon told us that he would be hospitalized for at least a week. We had expected him to convalesce with us after two days. We stayed with him for a few hours when he was brought up to his room. Then together, we made the decision to return to DC as he would be under constant professional care and would have plenty of friends to visit him and look after his needs. We could always return home in three to four hours if necessary.

We used Thursday to catch up with mail, laundry, and finishing a publication on which I had been working. Saul, who is now president of the faculty senate, had scheduled a meeting at Chestnut Hill College for Friday late morning. On Friday morning, we again packed our bags, headed to the meeting, delivered the disc for the finished publication to my client, and then traveled on to DC. We picked Ari up from work and had an early dinner at The Heights nearby in Columbia Heights, Ari’s neighborhood.

Later that evening, a huge thunderstorm with over 80-mph winds swept through DC downing huge trees and power lines which caused a near catastrophic power outage for more than 1.5 million customers in Virginia, DC and Maryland. We were among the lucky ones because we did not lose power at all. During the following week, and for 11 days in all, temperatures in DC hovered around 100 degrees. With no air-conditioning, and facing a possible week of those temperatures with no power, and in some cases, no clean water, families all around the area underwent hardship and stress, while road crews came by the hundreds from as far away as Canada to work under sweltering conditions to restore power as quickly as possible. Everywhere we traveled, unusual conditions prevailed. In Target, people were sitting around on the floors near electrical outlets, cooling off and charging their cell phones. A Thrift Drug that had retained their power while most of their neighborhood had lost it had been just about cleaned out and was in the process of restocking. Traffic lights that were dead for days, even at large intersections, required careful traversing with the prevailing understanding that they were to be treated as two-way stop signs. The Motel 6 chain in certain areas near DC was charging $500 per night. The local news channels interviewed people that had to trash large quantities of expensive food stored in their freezers and refrigerators. The malls were inundated with people trying to cool off and get something to eat. Several people were killed or maimed by falling tree limbs. During the height of the storm, I was never so happy to be in a 103-year-old, three-story, brick row house. Despite all this, we elected to stay in DC in the comfort of Ari’s air-conditioned townhouse because as things turned out, Larry was hospitalized for almost two weeks.

On July 4, we had breakfast at a dim sum restaurant we recently discovered in Silver Spring, Oriental East. It was as good as the others we usually frequent, but was much less expensive. Then, we went for a drive out to Costco in College Park, but found it closed for the holiday. Since we were already part of the way there, we then drove to Arundel Mills where we toured Maryland Live! the new casino there. Ari played the slots for a while and won a grand total of less than $2. At least he didn’t lose! We spent a few hours happily and successfully shopping at the mall before heading back to DC for the national fireworks display. We arrived half an hour early and found a parking spot near a high school that sits on one of the highest vantage points overlooking the Washington Monument. We let the air-conditioning run until it was time to walk a block down to view them. They were as spectacular as we remembered from picnicking on the fourth, by Lincoln’s left foot at the Lincoln Memorial, on the National Mall, for several years while Ari was in college. The crowd in which we were standing, fueled by much partying and beer, was high spirited and, at various intervals, broke into spontaneous renditions of “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Returning to Ari’s, we discovered that we no longer need to stand in a crowd in 90-degree weather. From his roof deck, we had a 360-degree view of multiple professional fireworks displays, some so close that the ashes were falling onto the roof and we discovered later that we had all been blackened from leaning on the railings. The displays, both homemade and community, continued until well past midnight. Next year, we hope to host a party at Ari’s house. During our time in DC, we also saw the movie, Moonrise Kingdom, which was offbeat and charming, at the E Street Cinema. We tried a new restaurant that opened down the street from Ari, Kangaroo Boxing Club, that has johnnycakes that are habit forming. We also discovered a great joint in Silver Spring, Urban Barbecue.

We drove back home on the Sunday afternoon following July 4. Not a soul had visited to look at our house the entire two weeks we had been away, and since it had gone on the market. Very discouraging! On Monday, after unpacking our suitcases, we went out for breakfast and a dozen bagels at Manhattan Bagel. Then we began shopping to restock the house, first at Trader Joe’s, then at Costco, and then to Produce Junction. Around noon, we got the call from Larry that he was expecting to be released shortly. We went home, unloaded all the groceries, and then drove to Abington Hospital. We all waited, impatiently, for three more hours until they finally released him just after he had dinner. As we drove home, we called our friend, Faith, who was picking up Larry’s mail and asked her to join us at home for pizza and also to bring the mail. I called and ordered the pizza and it was delivered just a few minutes after we arrived. Larry was in good spirits, being out of the hospital, and joined us for a slice and to schmooze for a little while.

On Tuesday, while I did laundry from our trip, I made Larry some scrambled eggs for breakfast. It was the first decent night’s sleep and decent meal he had had in two weeks. I spent the afternoon preparing some food for the week, deviled eggs, cup custard, kasha and bow ties, and seared tuna.  A visiting nurse came to see Larry and change his bandage.

We all took it easy on Wednesday. I blogged all day while Saul spent most of the day reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a rare pleasure for him. We had watched the English language movie together at Ari’s, which had spurred him to read the book. Now, he has to see the movie again so he can understand what he was watching. We defrosted a big container of Alex’s smoked turkey soup with matzoh balls and had it for dinner. Larry’s health has been improving with each passing day.

By Thursday, Larry needed us to take care of something at the bank for him, and while we were out, we decided to have lunch at a new Hibachi Buffet Restaurant that was opening a little north on Rt. 309. We were disappointed to find that it was still under construction. We decided to have leftovers again for lunch at home. Later in the evening, while Larry turned in early, we treated Ken and Randi to dinner at Earl’s in Peddler’s Village. I had been holding a certificate for the place for almost a year. When I called to make a reservation and gave them our last name, they knew Saul’s first name from a previous reservation. We have not eaten there in at least six years, so I was shocked that our name was still in their database. The ambiance of the place is top notch and the food is all locally-sourced. We shared a couple of appetizers, and salads. Our entreés were expertly prepared and beautifully presented. The service was friendly and very efficient. We went back to Ken and Randi’s for a while after dinner to catch up with each others’ lives and try to plan a trip to Florida for Thanksgiving.

Since there had been no calls on showing the house, and no signs that there would be, I decided to mess up my kitchen by making Shabbat dinner at home. Our realtor told us that she had sent out 3,500 flyers initially and received not one response. Very discouraging! First thing in the morning, Saul took Larry to his doctor for removal of his staples. I stayed home and blogged. When the guys called to say they were on the way home from the doctor, and it went okay, I made a batch of challah dough and got ready to go out to lunch with them. They picked me up and we drove over to nearby Metropolitan Diner where the owner, Jill, who was a student at Engineering and Science of both Saul and Larry, stopped by our table to chat with us for a while. We drove across the parking lot and I ran into Costco myself to buy a few items while the guys waited. Then we made yet another trip to Trader Joe’s so Larry could walk around a bit. I spent the afternoon preparing dinner—homemade challah, chicken soup and matzoh balls from my freezer, baby spinach salad with hot sesame dressing, chicken paprikash, kasha and bow ties, steamed cauliflower, and jumbo peanut butter, oatmeal, and raisin cookies. Faith joined us for dinner. I really missed Beth! Larry went off to bed early, Faith left shortly after, and Saul resumed reading the book that was consuming him. I polished off the Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle in two hours before I fell asleep. I am now playing the puzzle on the iPad that Larry gave me for my birthday, and it is so much nicer to use than pencil and paper! I am allergic to inks and toners, so taking the iPad to bed with me to read a book or play games is so much cleaner and hypoallergenic!

Larry wasn’t up to Saturday morning services yet, so we stayed in and relaxed on Saturday, having a large, late, lox and bagels breakfast. I caught some old movies on television and put the house and kitchen back into its formerly pristine state, while Saul finally finished the book. Larry’s co-president, Lori, and her husband, Saul, came for a visit on Saturday evening.

Sami was due to return from her half session of camp on Sunday and the kids were leaving the next day for a beach vacation with Alex’s mother and sister and brother’s families. Saul and I drove over to Jersey with all our beach paraphernalia for them to use, hugged and kissed our granddaughters to pieces, and had an early dinner at Yuki Hana, a new all-you-can-eat sushi joint that is near their home. Sami chose the restaurant, having been seriously starved for sushi at Camp Ramah. From her conversation, we could tell that she truly enjoyed camp very much. We headed home early right from dinner, as most of Sami’s clothes had not arrived yet from camp or had disappeared in the laundry and Jess needed to buy her some things to take on vacation. Later that evening, a violent thunderstorm rolled in with continuous loud crashes of thunder and lightening right over our heads.

This morning, I went with Saul to the doctor for him to have overdue blood work and a routine check-up. The regular nurse was on vacation and the substitute gave up after two sticks. As a result, we had to spend an additional hour and parking fees at Abington Hospital for them to take his blood sample. He had been fasting for the sample, so he was quite hungry by the time they were finished with him. We had a nice breakfast at Lancer’s Diner, across from the Willow Grove Naval Air Station, where Saul had been stationed for boot camp and training when he was a teenager. Jacksonville Lancers was also the name of his drill team while he was serving time in the Navy. Gazing at the airfield through the large windows as we had breakfast brought back lots of old memories for both of us. The day turned into a rather hedonistic one in the end. We drove from Lancer’s to Grin Nails in Spring House where we both had mani/pedis. Neither of us has done this in a few years, and Saul was long overdue. His feet in sandals were positively awful and we bought him a great pair of casual shoes on our shopping trip to hide them. Among our wonderful treatments as we sat side-by-side were hot rock massages to feet, legs and backs. While I had taken Saul with me for pedicures a few times a couple of years ago, he had never had a manicure before. I think he enjoyed it almost as much as the pedicure. By the time we arrived home, I think Larry, who has been feeling better each day was getting cabin fever. He wanted to drive somewhere where he could walk a bit with a shopping cart for support. We had forgotten to get Saul fish oil capsules that he takes for his arthritis on our previous forays, so we went back, yet another time,  and bought some other odds and ends as well. Larry was doing so well and it was such a beautiful day that we asked if he wanted to go for a drive to Owowcow for ice cream. He had never been there and was game for it. We drove the 23 miles to Ottsville, and each of us had the 5-scoop, $5 special because we could not decide on just one or two flavors. None of us were hungry for even a light dinner after that. Returning home, we lounged for a couple of hours before we finally were up for some food. I made Larry another scrambled egg and Saul and I had tea and crackers.

In the afternoon, as we had pulled up to Costco, our realtor called to tell us that since we had put the house up for sale, nothing had gone up for contract except a couple of houses that were very low end. She felt that the record heat and July 4 holiday week had made people lethargic about looking for new homes. We decided to wait and see if things pick up next week. With Larry convalescing here and the girls coming for an abbreviated Camp Bubbie and Saba next week, we are not pushing at the moment. We are enjoying our “light” house for now and trying to remain positive. We feel that we have done everything in our power to make this happen, and that it will happen when it is time. Both of us believe that things happen a certain way for a reason and we are content to wait and see how the future develops.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lightening Up… or Lightning Up?

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A long time has passed since I have written. In fact, almost two months have gone by and they have been very productive months indeed. My last blog post was about hoarding and the deleterious effects this can have, sapping one’s time and energy. I am very pleased to say that Saul and I have used the last two months to get rid of almost all the unnecessary stuff that has been clogging our attic storage  spaces, humongous basement, closets, and drawers. The result is that we both feel a tremendous relief at having organized our lives. What is left is the stuff we actually need and use. We were able to sell some of our unwanted items on Craig’s List. The baby grand piano in the foyer that hasn’t been played for many, many years went to a 10-year old boy who lives, literally, around the corner. He came with his father and a piano tuner who took it apart to assess it. Although we had owned it for almost 30 years, we learned a great deal about its previous history in a few minutes. The excitement of this child was palpable when he first laid eyes on the piano. Ari had been the same way when we had purchased it for him. The pool table was purchased by a guy in his early twenties, who came with two friends, a pickup truck, the appropriate tools, and the know-how to carefully disassemble it for moving to a new location. The dented samovar was purchased by someone who offered more than the asking price because we held it for her. We gave away an old coffee table and console table to a young couple that was just getting their first apartment. We sold an old cabinet that nobody but my mother ever liked. We went through carton after carton of old useless papers. We went through thousands of books. We donated cartons of books to Chestnut Hill College, which indirectly sends them to the Phillipines. Saul hurt his back for a few days lugging these, and ten cartons of books with Jewish content to Temple Sinai. Impact sent 20-foot trucks twice to haul away donations and then finally gave up. Adele and Larry came and emptied out half a closet in which I had been storing items for a garage sale. In the end, we hired a wonderful hauling service to clean out the rest. They worked tirelessly in very hot weather and filled a large dumpster on our driveway past the brim and hauled away another packed 20-foot truck with items they felt they could sell. With a few more trunkfuls that we delivered to Impact, we felt elated and that we were finished for the time being. Looking back on the process, it is hard to believe the volume of stuff that has been removed, all of it useless to us and unwanted by our children.

Faith’s last Bible class of the season took place in its usual venue at Temple Sinai and some of the ladies prepared a light luncheon to mark the occasion. I have been attending this class on Thursday mornings for almost 25 years. I hope that, even if the house is sold, I will find occasions to make it back to this area every so often to attend in the future.

I hosted a Mother’s Day brunch for family and friends as I have for many years. It was a lovely day that I knew would be the last time my home would appear pretty much as it had for the last 19 years and probably the last time I would be hosting a big party here. Beginning the following Monday morning, the clean-out process began in earnest.

To mark the end of the Religious School year, we attended a poignant Dalet Class promotion program for Sami.

While Ari was in for Shavuot, we attended my cousin Alan’s daughter Emily’s bat mitzvah. Unsurprisingly, it was a very lyrical and melodic service, in keeping with that part of the family’s musical bent. The synagogue was small and welcoming. Emily, whom we have not seen in a number of years, is a pale and lovely young lady whose resemblance to my maternal grandmother is striking. We were gratified to learn that it was because of her own desire and initiative that she undertook the training and responsibility to become a bat mitzvah. The celebration and luncheon following the service at an historical inn on Philadelphia’s Main Line was lively and fun. The three of us, my brother’s family, and our other cousin, Bob, were able to catch up with Alan’s life a bit and get to know Emily a little better. Adele and Larry and Beth were in the throes of the moving process and could not attend.

About the beginning of May, my niece Beth sold her house next door within a week of putting it on the market. Saul, Ari and I arranged to take off some time to help her drive her stuff and her dogs to Tucson, Arizona, right after Memorial Day weekend. Her fiancé, Paul, bought a condo and is taking a nursing degree there. In addition to packing up and moving across the country, she was faced with the unpleasant task of seeing that her aged dog, Yenta, her companion of 13 years, was put to sleep in the most humane way possible. Yenta had been living on pain killers and could barely walk. She was in no way up to making the long and stressful trip. Beth also gave up her engineering job. She has really shaken up her life.

Our week-long trip to Tucson and back turned out to be quite an enjoyable vacation in many ways. Ari came home for Memorial Day Weekend which was also Shavuot this year. We attended services with Jess and Alex and the girls. The older girls did a beautiful job reading Torah in the main sanctuary at TBS. Ari stayed with us and worked remotely after that. We found that we were all able to leave on Wednesday afternoon instead of early Thursday morning as we had planned, so we were able to get a jump on the driving. Saul and Ari alternated riding in Beth’s car with the dogs, while I rode shotgun in the 20-foot rental truck with whoever was not driving with Beth (because of my allergy to the dogs). Many of the motels along the way were amused that we needed both pet-friendly and pet-free rooms wherever we went. On that first day, we drove about 300 miles, stopping in Harrisonburg, Virginia, around 9:00 p.m. With difficulty, we climbed a slippery grassy hill behind the Sleep Inn to have a late dinner at O’Neill’s Grill just before closing. On Thursday morning, after a motel breakfast, we left around 9:00 a.m. We traveled about 650 miles that day. We stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch and it was so hot that Beth had to keep running out to make sure the dogs were okay in the car. The last few hours of the 12-hour drive were the worst part of the entire trip. We drove into a torrential thunderstorm as darkness fell. We were all exhausted and found ourselves on rain-slick roads in the middle of nowhere Tennessee. Ari was having trouble locating a pet-friendly motel within reasonable driving distance. He finally located one, a Jamison Inn, in Jackson, Tennessee. It was adequate. We walked across the parking lot to have dinner at a Buffalo Wild Wings. By Friday morning, we discovered that we were better off leaving by 8:00 a.m. The Jamison Inn had a somewhat nicer free breakfast than usual.

Our third day of driving was much more pleasant. We drove over 700 miles, but by then, we were mostly driving on sunny, flat, lightly-traveled highways where the speed limit was 80 mph. We hit some heavy traffic when we reached Dallas around the 5:00 p.m. rush hour, but we were only slowed down for about half an hour. Having had a sketchy experience stopping for lunch at Cracker Barrel, we decided that snacking in the air-conditioned car was a better bet. I had loaded up with a bag of goodies at Trader Joe’s before the trip, and we supplemented this with purchases at gas stations along the way. Using Google Maps and Trip Advisor, late in the afternoon, I found a barbecue joint in Hope, Arkansas, that was highly recommended and had outdoor seating so we could keep the dogs with us. We never would have found Big Jake’s without the Internet as this gem was hidden on an industrial road behind a strip of the usual fast food joints. In addition to the homey feel and fantastic barbecue and sides, this place is known for its fried pies. With much difficulty, we chose five different flavors from among about two dozen. Hope, Arkansas, coincidentally, has the distinction of being the locale of the childhood home of former President William Jefferson Clinton which, we gathered from the locals, doesn’t get a lot of tourist traffic.

We spent our third night in Abilene, Texas, at a Best Western. We were still full from our late lunch and went to bed as soon as we arrived. In Abilene, the waffle iron at our free motel breakfast produced waffles shaped like the state of Texas. Everywhere we traveled in Texas we encountered things emblazoned with the state shape or the lone star—even on the highway bridges. Also emblematic of Texas, there is the perception of so much space that new things are built next to old things that have not been torn down or cleared away. One example would be a line of four gas stations right next to each other with only the second one in line being functional. The others had been defunct for at least 20 years. That, plus unsightly commercial/industrial complexes and slapped-together, awful-looking buildings made for much ugly scenery along the highways.

Our reward for pushing so hard to get the bulk of the miles behind us in the first few days was so that we could take our time at the end when we were sure to be road weary. Our fourth day became unexpectedly difficult when we traveled the highway in West Texas that took us along the Mexican border. We encountered high winds that were random and intermittent on roads where there was virtually no speed limit and the semis were passing us at 90+ mph while we had, as the saying goes, “the pedal to the metal.” On several occasions, a sudden gust of wind caught us and just about blew us off the road. Ari, who was driving the truck at the time, found himself gripping the steering wheel with headache-producing tension. When we stopped for gas, Saul drove the truck for the last few hours until we arrived in Deming, New Mexico. There was a customs-type border crossing between Texas and New Mexico where cars and trucks are stopped and are subject to questioning guards and possible searches. Luckily, after a brief wait in line and a few questions about our destination, we were waved through. After that, we began encountering road signs telling us that “Dust Storms May Exist” which in my case caused both amusement and consternation. Luckily, despite the high winds in Texas, we did not have a chance to answer this existential question in New Mexico. Unlike our previous days, we stopped at around 4:00 p.m. The brand-new Hampton Inn where we stayed was the best of all our hotels thus far. We had an early and very pleasant dinner at a Mexican restaurant in quaint downtown Deming called Si Senor which, accurately, was highly touted on Yelp. By the time we were leaving, the restaurant had almost filled up.

Our object was to arrive in Tucson on Sunday morning. Beth had hired a team of movers to unpack the U-Haul on Sunday morning, but since their hours were not flexible, she rescheduled them for Monday so that we would not be pressured to arrive before noon. After yet another very nice free breakfast, we headed for Tucson feeling that the last 250 miles would be a piece of cake compared to all the long hours of driving we had done, and it was. We arrived about 12:30 p.m. on Sunday morning, almost at the time we had set for ourselves. Paul met us at the gate of the condo complex and Saul, Ari and I switched over to Paul’s Mercedes SUV for the rest of the trip. We drove over to our gorgeous resort, Loew’s Ventana Canyon, within walking distance of the condo complex, and situated ourselves into our beautiful and spacious rooms. While Beth and Paul unloaded her car and small rented trailer, Saul, Ari and I lunched on cool salads at a nearby restaurant called Jasper. Then, we decided to indulge in one of our favorite pastimes, looking at real estate, since there were many Sunday open houses. Despite all our previous driving, we visited three open houses. One home was so cool that we revisited with Beth a few days later. That night, we all had dinner together at a very good Chinese restaurant.

Because we had booked our resort stay in Tucson after June 1, it was no longer prime time, and we stayed for the remarkable rate of $99 a night, which included a $25 per day food voucher that covered the most elegant white-tablecloth breakfast imaginable. Nestled against the side of a mountain, we had breathtaking views of enormous branched saguaro cacti, natural waterfalls, spectacular floral landscaping with soothing water features, and a beautiful pool area with hot tub and mini waterfall. The views from our rooms and balconies were just as gorgeous.

Beth’s movers arrived on Monday morning, way ahead of schedule, and she had to scramble out of bed to accommodate them. Ari went over to assist, while Saul and I hung out at the resort. We met for a late lunch at Beyond Bread. With the two days we had left over, Beth came over and joined us for breakfast and hung out at the pool while Paul was in class. Monday evening, we all met for a congenial and delicious dinner at Fleming’s where I used up a bunch of Bonefish Grill (they are related) gift certificates I found in a drawer when I was clearing out my old bedroom furniture. Lightening up does have its rewards! We helped Beth choose a new living room sofa and went to see the cool house we had seen on our first day in Tucson. On Tuesday evening, Beth met us and we had dinner again at Beyond Bread and dessert at a marvelous gelato place nearby. We were supposed to board the last flight of the afternoon (around 3:00 p.m.) out of Tucson, stopping in Dallas, and on to DC. Saul and I were to be picked up the next day in DC and delivered home to Philadelphia by Alex. Our flight was cancelled due to a huge thunderstorm and flooding in Dallas. In rescheduling, we were able to arrange to split up in Chicago, where we would catch a flight to Philadelphia and Ari would continue on to DC. Saul, Ari and I had a cab take us to a nearby Marriott, where we had a disappointing light dinner in their bar/lounge. It was too hot to walk even a few blocks to a restaurant, and we were exhausted with the whole airport scene. Our flight was rescheduled for very early in the morning on Thursday, so early in fact, that we caught the shuttle with some of our flight crew at dawn. So many flights had been cancelled because of the storm that the airport was pandemonium when we arrived because of overbooking, and we all volunteered to be bumped to a later flight in exchange for $300 in flight vouchers and additional food vouchers. To his chagrin, they managed to find a seat for Ari on the original flight. Saul and I waited comfortably for about 3 hours for the next flight, which was also overbooked. We volunteered again, and this time when we were bumped, we were given $500 vouchers and did not have to wait at all. They held the plane at the gate next to us for 10 minutes while we were re-ticketed through Dallas instead of Chicago. We were hustled aboard and took off almost immediately. Our layover in Dallas of 2-1/2 hours was just enough time to have a lovely meal at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen. We could have volunteered to be bumped a third time and have made another $300 and had our hotel and meals comped, but by then we were road-weary and I had a special reason for wanting to be home on Friday morning.

Our friend, Marianne, had called just as we were leaving for Arizona. She remembered the carrot cake I had made a year earlier on Mother’s Day and told me she had been dreaming about it for a long time. Her twin sister was coming to visit from Jerusalem and they were having a family party to celebrate. She asked if I would make the cake for the family get-together and some cookies for her grandchildren. She offered to pay me, but I told her she could take us out to lunch sometime instead. The first thing Saul and I did when we awoke on Friday morning (after having arrived home courtesy of a late-nate pickup at Philadelphia International Airport by our friend Larry) was go to the supermarket to pick up the necessary ingredients. The cake and chocolate chip cookies were finished by 1:00 p.m. and were picked up later by her son, John. Shortly afterward, we met our friend Larry for an early dinner before Shabbat at the Metropolitan Diner. Shortly after that, by coincidence, Ken, Randi and her sister Sherrie showed up there for dinner also. We moved to their table outdoors at dessert time and passed a pleasant hour schmoozing before going home to light the Shabbat candles. On Sunday evening, there was a phone message from Marianne raving about the cake and inviting us to dinner and an architectural program along with her sister at Foulkeways. It was a lovely evening. As ever, the setting was elegant and friendly, and the food, delicious and ample.

I have waited so long to write, and there are so many important details to record, that I will continue the narrative in another blog post…