Category Archives: Travel

The Wager

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The Wager

When I was a mere teenager,
my dad made a little wager.
Could I manage to exist
by guile and craft and will and fist

without allowance or assistance?
It was not at his insistence,
and in no way was I miffed
at his challenge aimed at thrift.

I packed a bag and caught a lift.
For one year I would simply drift.
Quietly would I abscond 
and win my keep as vagabond.

I’d leave a life humdrum and canned
to live a life less gray and bland.
And thus I started my vacation
around our great and varied nation.

In California, I mowed lawns,
in Texas, worked at shucking prawns.
Combined wheat in South Dakota.
Then made off for Minnesota.

Washing pots and dishing curry,
worked my way down to Missouri.
In Tennessee I met with luck
and crossed the whole state in a truck,

but by D.C. and Baltimore,
grunt labor had become a bore,
so when I finally reached the ocean,
suddenly I had the notion

to make a call to dad from son
telling him his son had won.
The call I made was not in vain,
for next day I was on a plane.

Tattered, back-sore, sunburned, chapped,
I showed my dad the miles I’d mapped.
He slapped my back and said, “Well, son,
you’ve done what I wished I had done

before I did each of those things
that doing what one ‘should’ do brings.”
He slapped a check into my hand
and promised college, job or land.

I would be sent to school or hired—
whatever now I most desired.
I told my dad I’d let him know
but for just now I had to go.

I hit the bank and cashed his check,
bought new clothes and washed my neck.
Grabbed my passport, kissed my mom,
let her feed me, dropped the bomb.

Hugged my dad, then counted coup
and hopped a plane for Katmandu.
I hadn’t traveled my last mile,
but from now on, I’d go in style!

 

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The prompt words today are drift, humdrum, abscond and wager.

Venetian Dreams

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Venetian Dreams

The year we did the Grand Canal,
I came home feeling humble.
My own life just seemed so banal.
My dreams began to crumble.

My life was filled with piety
of very little note.
None of the notoriety
could my First Baptist quote

compared to all the beauty
I’d seen in St. Mark Square.
I felt it was my duty
to be living over there.

I needed no incitement.
My life here seemed so rote.
I needed the excitement
of traveling by boat.

Though it seemed an overindulgence,
I sought to be alone.
I needed the effulgence
of sun shining on old stone.

I could sell my small red Honda,
put my jewelry in hock.
(I had visions of a gondola
waiting at the dock.)

I imagined a “For Sale” sign
in front of my small home.
It seemed a “Get out of Jail” sign.
This housewife sought to roam.

If it sold within two fortnights
I could take off, traveling solo.
I could trade in Sunday sportnights
for a flight to Marco Polo!

I would feel I was at home again.
I’d missed the sights of Venice.
I wanted to be where I’d been,
free from all the menace

of getting three kids off to school
and ironing hubby’s shirts.
I sought to trade the Golden Rule
for romantic nights and flirts.

I’d give up school bake sales
for pannetone and gelato
eaten with Italian males.
“Me First” would be my motto.

I tried to conjure the Rialto,
but I saw the Bridge of Sighs
as my sound track’s rich contralto
assumed a different guise.

“Mommy, Mommy! was the chorus
of my shattered dream.
My stone fantasies were porous,
issuing a frantic stream

of nightmare shrieks and pleadings.
I started down the hall.
My daughter’s midnight needings
my most urgent call.

The canals were left in shambles
as verity flooded in.
So much for fantasy gambles.
My real life won again!

The prompt word today are canal, overindulgence and humble.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/02/15/rdp-friday-canal/
https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2019/02/15/your-daily-word-prompt-overindulgence-february-15-2019/
https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2019/02/15/humble/

Journeys

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Journeys

Every conversation is a quest two people enter
from opposite  directions to converge at its center.
The hard part of the journey commences with their greeting—
an intricate endeavor not completed with first meeting.

With each new associate, we visit a new land.
With each conversation, our horizons expand
into lands exotic, tragic or entertaining.
Perhaps enemy territory—often with no training.

Do we take umbrage with their words or enter, unprotesting,
the world that they offer—experimenting, testing
new mental mountains, jungles where vivid birds might call,
beckoning us onwards, or do we meet a wall

that offers us no access—sealed up, rigid, cold—
closed to all explorers, nearly obscured with mold?
What journeys do we offer ourselves to those we meet?
Do we offer easy access or promise sure defeat?

Life was designed for journeying. Daily, new vacations.
Some conversations novels and others mere quotations.
Some trips an experience you wouldn’t choose again—
just another whistle stop on life’s commuter train.

 

The prompt words today are quest, umbrage, intricate and associate.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/01/16/rdp-wednesday-quest/
https://fivedotoh.com/2019/01/16/fowc-with-fandango-umbrage/
https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2019/01/16/intricate/
https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2019/01/16/your-daily-word-prompt-associate-january-16-2019/

Acapulco Bound

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The Smell of Curry

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The Smell of Curry

Would that sentiment were only
positive and never lonely––
but all emotions of the world
in sentiment are tightly curled.
Every memory we cherish
is doubly edged with “live” and “perish.”
In every city, country, land––
bad and good go hand in hand.

The blend of cardamom and lentil
always makes me sentimental.
Odors of turmeric and its ilk,
garam masala and coco milk.
Curry spices being roasted,
degree of peppers being boasted,
chickpeas, carrots, potatoes, rice––
stirring in each thing that’s nice.

What do I think of when I smell
and taste that it is going well?
Bombay and wedding saris thin
sliding down my youthful skin.
Visions of a midnight ride
to cages with young girls inside
sold by their parents and then resold
nightly for a bit of gold.

Traffic, sitar music, fingers
scooping curry––all this lingers.
The beauty of that winsome song
that showed me where the world’s gone wrong.
His action, swift, unthinking, curt
of small coins cast into the dirt
to deflect those who beg and bleat,
surrounding us in every street.

Palaces and then the clash
of children in a world of trash,
the refuse of this giant city
the world they lived in—what a pity.
Back when traveling was new,
experiences were so few
that India changed my life forever.
So, will I forget it?  Never.

Since it was a journey that changed my life forever–both the physical journey through the streets of Bombay as well as that journey of the senses I go though every time I cook or taste a curry, I’m rerunning this poem written two years ago for the dVerse Poets’ Pub prompt of “Journeys.”

Guanajuato

I finally whittled my thousand photos taken in Guanajuato down to 135. Both my grand nephew Ryan and I had a fabulous time.  We really didn’t know each other as he was born when I was 49, and by that time, I’d been married for 10 years and had inherited 8 stepchildren.  We were doing arts and crafts shows which kept us on the road 278 days of the year one year, before we found our niche and settled down into it. In our 13th year of doing shows, we were doing 4 to 7 shows a year and doing better than that year when we were almost constantly on the road.  I’ve strayed away from the point, that being that Ryan was in Iowa, we were in California, so when we did see his folks, the visit was fleeting and he was a little boy playing with his brother in the basement.  Then later, when I went to visit my sister (his grandmother) he was in college or away doing apprenticeships.  So, when he graduated from college, I gave him this trip to Mexico as a present.  It was really a present for myself as he turned out to be a charming, enthusiastic, smart young man with a penchant for travel.  This was his first trip out of the States and he was thrilled with everything. The fact that he is vegan turned out, in his words, to be less of a problem than in the states. More about that later.  Here are the photos of our 4 days in Guanajuato. We were on a fabulous tour with nine others and luckily Ryan found a couple of “playmates” in the group…one the 28-year-old son of the tour director and the other a seventy-something trickster named John. You’ll see him in a hard hat next to Ryan. You can click on the first photo to enlarge all photos and see them as a slide series.  Click on the arrow to go on to the next photo.  Some will have captions. Go get a coffee or a martini, settle down, and share our trip:

Please note you have to click on the first photo and then the arrows to see captions: (If your wifi speed is slow as mine is, give them a few minutes to download and then all the images will be clear.  I didn’t and had to wait for individual photos to clear up as they appeared fuzzy at first. I’ll be interested in hearing if any of you had this problem. I published them at a high resolution so they could be increased in size but made for a big file, I’m sure.)

Click on the first photo to enlarge and see all of the captions.

 

Mushroom Years

Today, November 17 of 2017, I’m in Minnesota, finally, with nieces and nephews—not much time before my nephew goes back to Iowa tomorrow, and I can hear them talking downstairs, so I’ll avail myself of this piece written three years ago about my “Mushroom Years.”  It was 1973, a much different space and time when I definitely had much more energy as I back packed from Australia to Africa.  This was near the beginning of that journey:

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Bali-Bound, 1973

Germans, Aussies, Kiwi, Brit, Dutch, Canadians, Swiss.
I was the lone American who was pulled into this
adventure—just thirteen of us, including them and me
in a tank barge left from WWII, across the Timor Sea.
We did not know that Bugis pirates still set sail out there,
for we were young and reckless, and we didn’t care.
We still felt invulnerable. We would never die.
We all sought our giant chunk of the adventure pie.
We sailed all day and through the night and part of a new day.
Most of the cash that we had left was what we had to pay
to reach the west shore of an Island lashed by monsoon rain.
All bridges and all roads washed out, we searched for rides in vain.
A lonely store stocked not with much—some cans of cheese, two Cokes.
Not adequate provender for such starving, thirsty folks.
We crossed from Portugese Timor onto Indonesian ground.
Although we all had traveler’s checks, there was not much cash found
within our empty pockets, yet to Bali we were bound.
Still an unspoiled paradise—a haven with few cars
or partying Australians or honeymooning stars.

We stopped at one last little hut where I took off my sandals
to ease my feet, and thus were they made off with by some vandals.
And so it was that we set out through jungles vined and rooted,
fording rivers filled with leeches. I, alas, barefooted!
But chivalry was still in vogue and one or two or three
of my fellow travelers shared their boots with me
taking turns at walking barefooted for awhile
as we walked through the jungle, mile after mile.
Till late in the afternoon we came across an inn
(By then my resolution grown dangerously thin!)
Alas, we had no money for dinners and our room,
and here was where the two Swiss guys dispelled our sense of gloom.
They traded the two ten-speed bikes they’d carried or they’d ridden
most of their way around world—and they did it unbidden
by any of us, for we knew those bikes were like their kin;
and yet they gave up both of them for one night in this inn
for all of us, plus dinner—a repast full and rich,
and furthermore, our breakfast and the promise of a hitch
on a truck loaded with grain bags that was headed out tomorrow.
They did this for all of us and did not show their sorrow.
After showers poured from pails, (I noticed, I’d grown thinner)
some of us had a little nap and then a welcome dinner.
And when the Germans both pulled out their guitars for a song,
the sons of our innkeeper brought out theirs and sang along!
We all chipped in to teach the lyrics to Bobby McGee.
Our beds and food cost dearly, but the music was all free.

Next morning, we climbed high upon the grain bags for our ride
while Indonesians hung onto the rear and either side.
That truck looked like a peddler with his wagon piled high,
not with the usual notions, but with humans far and nigh.
We rode along uncomfortably, hour after hour.
No songs for us this long, long day, our mood was turning dour.
When it was nearing dusk, that truck gave one tremendous lurch
that very nearly threw us all from our precarious perch.
The Indonesians climbed on down and vanished all but one,
while the drivers told to us this next stage in our fun.
The axle cleanly broken, they would start out to get aid.
They’d come for us tomorrow—but they wanted to be paid!
We waved them off with promises—just one more awful bungle
and looked around for sleeping spots in this dense, darkening jungle.

We settled on a little hillock clear of trees and vine.
Rolled out all our sleeping bags. On what were we to dine?
One tiny little can of cheese and sardines in a tin
and those two Cokes we’d purchased—our provisions were most thin.
Hans had pellets with him meant for purifying water.
Guys headed out in search of it like lambs led to the slaughter.
The sky was darkening, but I knew I had to go to pee.
I headed down to where the trees afforded privacy,
pulled down my pants and put my hand, to balance, on a tree
when a sudden piercing pain shot from my hand through all of me!
I screamed and all my traveling friends came running down the hill.
I think of all my crises they were soon to have their fill.
I felt as though a burning dart had pierced through my right hand.
Toppled and now hobbled, I was unable to stand.

They helped me pull my pants up, sadly with a still-full bladder
as I heard the Timorese man say that it had been an adder.
I’d die within the hour, there was nothing we could do.
They emptied all their pills out and decided I’d take two
of everything we carried in our pockets and our packs,
for all of us were traveling with a drugstore on our backs.
To wash them down they offered up the ultimate in gifts:
the Cokes that we were hoarding, then they sat with me in shifts.

My finger swelled to such a size that the one ring I wore
cut off circulation until Peter cussed and swore,
“We’ll have to cut it off, so Trevor come here with your knife.
We have to cut if off of her to try to save her life.”
They put my hand upon a rock, I was delirious.
Trevor was looking rather green. Could they be serious?
He brought the knife down to my finger, but his wrist went limp.
The Germans gave a severe look, as though he were a wimp.
They told him to get on with it, but still he chose to linger.
“I just can’t do it,” Trevor said, “I can’t cut off her finger!”
“Not the finger, fool,” they said, “Just cut the ring away!”
And Trevor used the saw blade, for he had no more to say.
All night they held my arm aloft and manned the tourniquet,
It’s clear to me that I will be forever in their debt.
When I hadn’t died after an hour, the old man rubbed his eyes
and said it was another snake and I’d be paralyzed
on my right side but wouldn’t die—somewhat of a relief,
and still, I must admit I viewed paralysis with grief.

Eight hours later, still awake, I heard a distinct pop
and the swelling went down, but the throbbing did not stop.
Years later when I read “The Pearl” by Steinbeck just for fun,
when the baby nearly died, stung by the scorpion,
in just eight hours the swelling went down. That’s how I came to see
that it was probably a scorpion that had stung me.
They came with a new axle and we were on our way
and made it to our destination later that next day.
We caught a plane to Bali, but I got there in a haze,
to fall in bed where I was passed out cold for three more days.
Covered with red rashes from the rivers that we’d forded,
we were treated by the women in the houses were we boarded,
who tended to our wounds from leeches and our dysentery.
Yes, Bali then was paradise, but entrance wasn’t free.

Still, we’d paid the price and we were there right at the start,
before the rush of travelers destroyed some of its heart.
We rented bikes and rode the island, town to town to town
without meeting any traffic to try to mow us down.
A quarter for our rooms each night, a quarter for our lunch.
A lobster dinner for fifty cents—we were a happy bunch.
Processions down the streets at night, where gamelans abounded.
and temple ceremonies—all-in-all, we were astounded.
Magic mushrooms by the grocery bag cooked into omelets for us,
everywhere we went, the people just seemed to adore us.

Kuta beach was lazy then, and as we strolled along,
the most commercial thing we faced to buy was a sarong.
No beggars and no hawkers and no motorbikes to meet.
No half-an-hour to stand and wait to try to cross the street.
You might have guessed from hints I’ve given that there’s been a change.
Everything has altered now and become very strange.
Poppies restaurant—a tiny place in ‘73,
has grown into a restaurant chain with dishes gluten-free.
Hotels abound and hawkers flog their watches on each street.
Young Australians in each bar must drink to beat the heat.
We lived on just one dollar a day, in homes on Kuta Beach,
for there were no hotels yet anywhere within our reach.
There are more stories I could tell, and might, another day.
This tale has gone on for too long, so I must fade away.
But first I must apologize for this long-winded view
and say if you’re in Bali, we were there ahead of you!

Note: I should explain that the reason we had no cash is because we were traveling with travelers checks in this era before money machines and credit cards, and in these isolated regions of the island  there were no banks or other places to cash the checks. I’m sure we all later recompensed the two guys who sacrificed their beloved bikes for our room, board and transportation. The prompt today was mushroom.

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