Deep in the Heart of Texas

Uthj0ap0T%irKB6FNEcUtQAirplane time offers up an opportunity for blogging, reflecting…not necessarily in that order.

Traveling in Texas was altogether interesting.  And having the advantage of friends and family to be our tour guides was invaluable.  Yes, we still had to schlepp our bags which as thus far only resulted in one mishap as yo jumped on the escalator in Mexico City.  I lost control of my carry-on for my computer/iPad  and it tipped over head first so to speak and landed pointing down the escalator two steps below me.  Snatched it up at the last second with a jujitsu move that was quite impressive if I do say so myself. 

But I digress.

TAXES ARE LOW

Back in Austin, the refrain was always the same…no taxes.  We don’t pay state income tax.  They think we Californians are crazy.  This is reflected in their political TV commercials as well as in conversations with strangers in stores, in queue at the airport.  “You can have it”, the younger man said when we mentioned that we were from California.  This bares considering.  How can they have such wonderful roads and good looking modern schools and pay no income taxes?  We wonder.  We did notice a lack of safety features like handrails on steep grades in the public park.  But is that all?  This must be investigated as soon as I get a signal and log on to the internets.  I am jealous that it only take a $72 registration fee to drive your car.    Is there a breaking point, I wonder?  A place where the rubber meets the road (as good as they are)? 

We have arrived in Oaxaca and have a fabulous little apartment in zona centro.  It is a dream. So, we are tired.  Have been on quite a journey and I’m taking a little breather to do some Texas research.  GTS is a new acronym that means Google That Shit.  So, I looked at education which is near and dear to my heart.  Here’s what I found.  They  beat out California K-12.  Yikes.  Okay, what else?   California outperforms Texas in healthcare, ranking 1 in public healthcare in the nation.  So there is that.  Our economy outperforms theirs which puts the idea that taxes kill business in the dubious claims department.  We are neck in neck in opportunity but we are both at the bottom of the barrel in that category.  They rank higher in infrastructure and that does not surprise me.  It is great.  Public safety is lower for Texas despite a cop behind every tree.  We saw mucho grande police action in Texas.  The only thing they had more of was bars.  They ranked higher on fiscal stability which makes me question these numbers from the U.S. News and World Report.  So…it is was interesting to look at the study.  And I’m glad I live in California and glad to have visited Texas!!

WEATHER OR NOT

On to other observations.  Johnnie, Rayman’s bro, reports that Austin had 90 days over 100 last year.  Ouch.  And they just had a record breaking rain storm that has locals boiling their water before drinking.  So, Texas has some pretty awful weather in my estimation.  Born lucky, I’ve ended up on the Pacific Ocean which is mild year round.  Isn’t this priceless?  Probably unless you are in a service job and have two kids.  Dollars are stretched for those of that circumstance. 

DIVERSITY

It has a diverse population with lots of Mexicans and black citizens.  A smattering of Muslins based on observations of women’s outfits.  Some Asians.  It is very young.  We left feeling ancient. 

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THE LONE STAR STATE

Texans pride themselves in their “Texiness”.  Lots of boots and cowboy hats.  Lots of flags flying.  American flags.  Texas flags (the one with the lone star).  Theirs is an air of superiority over all others (from other states).  Egos, perhaps as big as that star of Texas.  Vast amounts of the state are covered with sagebrush and appear uninhabitable (think West Texas).  Around the hill country there are loads of oak trees and rolling hills make it a very pretty place.   Lack of water is a problem.  They have been in a drought.  Just like California.  Texans don’t qualify as cult status but they sure are enamored with themselves…(generalities here.  Our friends and family are not included!!).

TEX MEX FOOD

The food is good but I love authentic Mexican food.  We ate well.  And enjoyed it very much.  Did I mention how much I like authentic Mexican food? 

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TRUCKS

Trucks are everywhere.  My heaven’s.  Never seen so many trucks.  Gas guzzling trucks that get by on $2.39 per gallon.  After all, it is oil country.  So they stimulate the economy by driving around in big honking trucks.  Prius cars are an endangered species.  May have sighted one
Tesla.  Few hybrids.  In the countryside, it’s all trucks all the time. 

CHARMED I’M SURE

Texans are very friendly and so are we.  So we got along famously with everyone we met.  Yes, sir.  No, Mam.  Lots of that going on.  Sweet really.  

Boiling Water

As we jet off to Mexico City, I sit here in the exit row with plenty of legroom.  This makes blogging a much easier task as I have plenty of room to spread out all my electronics.   And there is no eating of knees.

The last couple of days have flown by.  After leaving the Visellii’s Texas castle, we rented a car from Enterprise and it was so smokey in the car, we had the attendant spray the car.  And then we headed south toward Austin, TX to meet up with Rayman’s brother of the step kind.  They have know each since about 1950.   Johnny and his wife, Dianne, met up with us at a lovely resort where I cheaped out and reserved the “courtyard view” which was really a parking lot view.  They were smarter.  They got a lake view of Travis Lake. QkE2gq17RJacs9gXBVSxcg

There was wine tasting in the lobby.  Met some fine folks one of which knew the winemaker at Robert Hall.  The Viognier was quite good…and free.  As we were exiting the lobby on our way to dinner, someone asked us if the car in front of the door was ours.  Actually, yes it was.  Seems when we drove up the bellhop grabbed us, Rayman threw the keys on the front seat and off we went in search of our room.  Forgot all about the car, the claim check etc.  So, our car sat in front of the from door for about an hour and everyone going in and coming out apparently was asked if the car was theirs.  There was a sign in the middle of the driveway…No   Parking.  And there was no valet.  We howled.  And then Rayman moved the car.

Johnnie and Dianne were fabulous.  They drove us all over the place starting the first night they  escorted us to the Oasis Restaurant on Lake Travis.  A multi-story restaurant that featured a dinner bell that rang at sunset.  Fun time was had by all catching up on all our mistakes, mishaps, and the like!!  It had been 2003 the last time we saw them.   Here they are with the Rayman.

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The next day we were treated to a wonderful tour of Austin, home of the Texas Longhorns.  Thank goodness they weren’t playing at home on Saturday.  As it was the roads were jammed in downtown Austin.  The Japanese Gardens was our first stop.  We walked the property which was delightful.  That was after Dianne, Rayman and moi charged from the car to the entrance and managed to lose Johnnie who does not have a cell phone.  The search was on.  After 10 frantic minutes, he was located by Dianne and then we were lost.  Once found, we roamed the gardensIMG_5264 and as we were about to leave, a woman sauntered by and told s there was going to be a butterfly release in another part of the park.  So we followed her there and witnessed a butterfly release with a group of about 50 people.  Timing is everything.  It was great fun too.   Johnnie and the Rayman above.

Leaving the gardens, we headed over the Barton Springs.  It is a huge natural swimming hole fed by springs usually. H5iPQyT5SaCLRBzw3eEGMQ Because this was the only the second sunny day Austin had had following 2 weeks of rain, the Springs were higher than usual because of the river that was at flood level washing down the ravine.  Quite a sight.  On a somber note, there are signs all over certain neighborhoods of Austin telling residents to boil their water before drinking it.  Yikes.

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Then we drove through downtown which was having a book fair and caught a glimpse of the state Capital building.  Beautiful.  Lots of shenanigans go on there and it reminded me how much I missed Molly Ivans, the intrepid reporter for the daily newspaper.  Texas politics is a hoot and she captured it in all it’s quirkiness. 

On to the LBJ Library.  When whipping out his wallet to get the credit card, Rayman discovered that he didn’t have it.  Panic ensued.  A full blown search was embarked upon.  He called the restaurant from the night before.  Nada.  So, we put it aside, Johnny bought the tickets and we took the tour.   That was the highlight of Austin for moi.  I have read 3 of Robert Caro’s books on LBJ so it was great fun for me.  Not as fun for the ex-Vietnam vets I was with…Rayman and Johnnie.  Rayman is still pissed at LBJ about that war.  But his Great Society was such a success that it has endured until the Republicans got control of all branches of government and they are busy trying to dismantle the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Civil Rights Act.  The juxtaposition of Johnson and Trump is instructive.  This was my first visit to a Presidential Library and it was fascinating. 

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After the tour, we went to the Muddy River for lunch where Rayman managed to get stung on the neck by a bee which activated his arthritis in his knuckles.  Really.  The bees ignore me but the mosquitos didn’t.  I look like I have chicken poxs.  Just saying.   Even have a bite or two on my fuselage.   

We returned to the Lakeway Resort and rested (I washed undies).  After an hour or so, we went up to their room and sat outside enjoying the view.  And we started talking about old family stories.  Johnny had the funniest one.  He lived in Laguna Beach in his 20s and one Thanksgiving he went to dinner at Ray’s mom’s house, his stepmom’s house.  Before entering he threw his white clothes into the washing machine with soap and clorox.   When it was time to cook the turkey, it was discovered that the bird with in the washtub which the washing machine drained into.  How was he to know the turkey was there?  The very bleached bird was discarded.  A friend had an extra bird defrosted and it saved the day.  He’ll never forget it.  And neither will we!!

Always something to learn.  Always something going on.  Great visit. 

Some things in Texas are completely unsurprising which is surprising in and of itself.   

Our trip to Texas originated in San Luis Obispo and took us first to the TSA desk, and then the x-ray machine, then off to the belt that moves your possessions through a curtained box, and then the stuff comes out the other side and all piles up like a herd of sheep running up against a wall.  Then all pressure is on, isn’t it?  Picking up your belongings and putting them in your purse, wallet, on your wrist, in the carry-on..and you have to do it in a flash.   Which can induce a feeling of panic and discombobalation.

After that we got in the plane and discovered that we were in the last row.  So, in the last row and on a plane that was so narrow, I could not roll my carry-on down the aisle.  On the flight to Phoenix, I ate my knees and worked a crossword puzzle. 

We transferred at Phoenix and took another flight to Dallas-Ft. Worth airport.  Very bumpy ride with belts on the entire time.  Geez.

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It was agreed that we would meet Larry in baggage claim.  And sure enough …there he was.  With his silver white locks, he is hard to miss.  We jumped in the car and headed to Granbury, TX.   A bedroom community 45 minutes southwest of Ft. Worth.  They live in a big one story stone home.  On a big piece of land.   Complete with waterfall feature and as much outdoor furniture as indoor furniture. 

Larry and Laurie invited old friends Jeff and Donna to dinner.  Steak and potatoes…so Texan in my mind.  Great evening with great people and great food and wine…Oh, and the fig and pr0sciutto salame.

Wednesday was spent getting the lay of the land.  In the rain.  In a fancy car that hit my head every time I climbed into it (yes, climbed is a verb, and an apt one at that).  Once I hit my head and then managed to poke myself in the eye with the straw that was poking out of the top of the styrafoam cup that I had in my left hand.  What a klutz.

In our drive-by ride, we stopped in at Larry’s country club.  While walking by the bar, Laurie noticed some women she knew so we dropped in to meet them.  One woman introduced herself as Nita Dick, a very pleasant lady.  The other woman had started the intro handshaking session by introducing herself as Fonda Peters.  Okay.  Really.  The first people we had met in Texas in a bar.  And that is saying a lot because I think the Texas has a lot of bars.  They have bars inside bars.  It is a lifestyle I really hadn’t expected.  So, when I say we met Fonda Peters and Nita Dick…well, that is just special, isn’t?   These women were a stitch.  A good time was had by all.

When we returned home the TV went on and we learned about the bombs being mailed to Democrats.  And we were hooked watching with probably everyone else in America that had a TV and time …the news about the bombs. 

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Today, it was Ft. Worth.  They took us to the Stockyards which is an area if town.  Lots and lots of bars.  The pic above is us at Buffalo Butts.   Of beef restaurants.  And a fabulous boot shop. 

Bootshop

Boot shop

Here are some pics.  I saw a pair of boots that were on sale for $1650…the salesman said that they were only $825 each.    IMG_3683It was a fabulous store filled with about$300,000,000 of pure luxury.  Oh, and there were saddles sitting on saw horses here and there.  A sign said to talk to the staff before mounting.  Okay.  Really.  So I told them I wanted to mount that saddle.  He was going to give me a boost but then declined by implying I wouldn’t do it.  “You don’t know that”, I retorted.   And we bantered back and forth.  The guy was a hoot.  Did not expect that in Texas. 

There was a cold wind blowing.  Lots of clouds in the sky.  We stopped for a coffee to warm up.  Had fun wandering the streets and looking in the stores and the windows of the stores.  Lot’s of Halloween merchandise in the windows. 

But. I digress.

The people of Texas have been friendly and with humor galore.  We have had a great time because our friends have gone all out to entertain us.  We didn’t have to rent a car.  We have been chauffeured from here to there.  All the while, catching up with all the news since we had seen each last…a couple of years ago.   That was not my best English sentence but I am not sure how to restate it.  No ( perhaps)   interest to restate the sentence.  You may finally be witnessing me boring myself. 

Other random thoughts.  Texas is pretty flat.  It has very nice freeways.  And I’ve never seen more law enforcement in my life.  I have seen Police, Constables, Sheriffs.  Everywhere.  And get this.  Texas does not air condition their prisons.  You don’t want to get on the wrong side of law here, I’m suspecting.

And the last thing I was say is the visit was way too short.  We leave tomorrow for Austin for the weekend to visit Rayman (you remember him, right?) family members. 

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Then it’s hasta la vista, baby. 

Customer Complaint

In the time honored tradition of sharing my view on a myiad of topics, I submit to you my complaint to Chase Ultimate Rewards department which ruined my tranquil morning.

Hope you enjoy.  I didn’t.

Oct. 18, 2018

CEO – Ultimate Rewards

While I sit on hold with your people, I thought I would give you an account of my dealings with Chase Rewards today.

At 10:43 a.m. I placed a call to cancel a reservation that we made for a hotel.  It is now 12:23 and I’m still working on this issue.  This in itself is absurd.  Rewards takes on a whole new meaning…perhaps it should be called “Punishment, Inc.”.

But I digress.

The problem was that your people could not find my reservation despite the fact that I had an email confirming the reservation.  The second problem was that we have two accounts (Sapphire in the process of becoming a Freedom card and a Chase Reserve card).   Which rewards points did I use?  I had no idea.  It was decided I had used the Sapphire/Freedom points.  Okay.  But the reservation could not be located.  After about a hour and five or six transfers, the mysteries were solved.   

The next problem was that my reservation had to be cancelled because of American Airlines changed our travel plans.  So, I tried to get my points back.  That took another round of phone transfers and instructions to call the hotel, get the name of the manager if that manager approved of refunding the money.  I did this.  The manager agreed.  Then I had to again enter the labyrinth of your Rewards department.  Again, it took three transfers and 40 minutes to get the mission accomplished. 

Heck of a job, Brownie. 

Two hours later, Pius ( your employee) got it done. 

There were multiple opportunities to have done a better job.  One person helping me throughout the process would have cut the time by 50% or more.  How hard can it be?  Our rewards with the two cards apparently exist in two separate universes…A call back number could have been given to me so that when the manager approved a refund, I could have called back the person that told me to get that approval.  A case number could have been assigned for easy reference and that would allowed me not to need to repeat my account info, my zip code, my boat’s license number (just kidding) twenty times (not kidding).

Two hours of my life gone with this mischief.  For shame.

Regards,

Ray and Dianna Jackson

Morro Bay, CA

On Golden Pond

Are any of you women starting to relate to “On Golden Pond’?  Just wondering.  It may be time to watch it again.  I”m kidding to a degree because when you travel and are out of your routine, funny things happen.  Top of the list, of course, is getting lost.  Second is losing things other than your way.  “Where is my hat?”.  “Where is my jacket, I cannot find it?”.  “What happened to the tape measure?”  “Have you seen my iPad?”  “I can’t find my sunglasses.”  The list goes on and on.  It seems more acute on the road even though our space is smaller, the amount of things we took along is much smaller. 

Or is it just us?

The last few days have been travel days as we are heading south from Portland to Morro Bay.  We stayed several nights in Newport, OR using the excuse that we wanted to play golf (we did and Rayman got a birdie so we celebrated with birdie juice and a trip to the carwash) and/or we wanted to see the sights. 

IMG_0298The real reason is that we wanted to eat at Local Ocean.  Great seafood restaurant.  Do not go there if you want a hamburger.  Don’t go there if you want a pulled pork or a BLT.  Go there if you want roasted garlic and fresh Dungneness soup.  Do go there if you want fish cooked perfectly…halibut, salmon to name two.  They have it down.  Fresh as a flounder (there weren’t any founders on the menu), cooked medium rare.  With interesting veggies, interesting noodles.  Yummy.  We ate there 3 times.  And we stayed at a very expensive RV resort that was perched (also a fish) on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific.

IMG_3528  It had beach access, indoor pool and sauna, pickleball court and heaven knows what else.  That is where I sat watching for whales one morning and saw probably 20-30 blows.  It was exhilarating.  Plus we could see the lighthouse on the bluff to our south.

Here are some pictures. 

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After all that, we hooked up and drove to Coos Bay for 2 nights.  Stayed an extra day for a stimulating round of golf.  I beat Rayman because on one hole during the end of the round, he lost his drive in the woods on the right.  Then he lost his second ball in the same woods on the right.  Then he lost his third ball in the woods on the left.  Those narrow fairways got between his ears.  We played at a course about 20 miles north of Bandon Dunes and payed only $50 a round compared to Bandon which is about $350 a round.  So, I suppose you could argue that we were still ahead even factoring in Rayman’s lost balls.  It was a fun course and we had a great time. 

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It was Friday.  Kavanaugh had testified on Thursday, along with his accuser, Dr. Ford.  It took us back to our honeymoon which we celebrated on the big Island of Hawaii while Anita Hill testified against Clarence Thomas.  We had TV to watch re: the hearing and Bill Maher hosted Steve Bannon.  Didn’t want to miss that so I jumped in the kitchen and made pesto (from scratch, “Where is my olive oil?”) and a tossed green salad for dinner so we didn’t need to go out to dinner.  Good move.  It was very interesting TV. 

Today, we saddled up and hit the road for Brookings, Oregon, our last night in the beautiful state.  As soon as we pulled in and set up the RV, it rained.  “Where’s my coat?”,  ‘Where’s my hat?”   “Where are the keys?”  “Where is the restaurant.  And so it went.

The funniest thing was uttered by Rayman today.  We were passing through Gold Beach, Oregon.  Their high school sits right on the highway.  The school sported a big sign painted on the side of the building…Home of the Panthers.  “Well, that is silly.  I would think they could think of a better name.”, I exclaimed.  Without missing a beat, Rayman said, “Yeah, It should be Home of the Goldfish”.    We both roared uproariously. 

I can’t remember what happened next so I’ll close now.  On the banks of the Chetco River.

We Are Wired

At long last, we have almost succumbed to the wired world.  I don’t choose my words lightly.  It did feel like a near-death experience for us.

When you need everything new, what way do you approach the problems of the wired world?  We decided we needed a TV first.  So, we bought the TV. (see previous blog for the details of that task).  Then we ordered up the DishTV.  We chose Dish because we are familiar with them and they will allow us to suspend our service for up to 6 months for a $5/month charge.    Dish provides the signal for the TV. 

We then ordered up the wifi using a different provider.  We choose Xfinity because they are the only one that services our block.  It took several calls to figure that out.  We need the wifi when we are not here because we decided we should have a home security system.  We are in a mixed neighborhood.  That’s another way of saying, the house on our right is close to being a teardown.  The house across the street and up one is a definite teardown right now.  Please see below.  When you have a home security system, wifi is important. 

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I’m presently perched on my chair trying to get the home security system to find our wifi.  In other words, I’m in password hell.  So many passwords, so little time.  Everything needed a password pronto.  The only people that provided me with the passwords I thought up on the spot, was Xfinity.  All the others are a blur.  I’m running through them now.  It looks bleak.  I just noticed some of the neighbor’s names for their wifi.  They include the following:  Jeeves, TheSoundofMusic, Beer, SilverBarley, dingding, awfullyslow, and PanicRoom.  What does this tell me?  I need a better name than FamilyRoom.  But I am still locked out from my needed wifi connection by the security system.  OMG.  This might take all day.  I’m going to shout Uncle and call their customer service number (which is always humiliating because they ask for your password which is unknown).  They may require me to reset everything.  That’s okay….I’ll write it down. 

So…I was able to reset my password with the wifi.  It took 45 minutes and I had to provide everything but Lincoln’s birthday.  Amazing to me that I was successful so I plowed forward to try to get the Vivinet to connect to the wifi.  It’s been an hour and no-go.  What the heck.  I’m going to try to reach them…again.  Sigh.   I reached out.  And what I discovered was that I was attempting to populate the field with the wrong password.  Shocked.  Shocking.  Shocked.   Having been told the error of my ways, I got it to work!!  And I was able to sign into Netflix in the record breaking time of a gelding rushing out of the gate at the Belmont.  Okay.  I perhaps am taking liberties with the truth.  Firstly, I put in the wrong email address (we have three between us).  Then I tried to delete one letter but instead deleted the entire field.  Third time was a charm and victory was realized. 

And that’s when we tuned into Ozarks.  My interest was piqued by my friend, Nancy, when she moved to, well, the Ozarks.  This promised to provide hours of seat-of-your-pants viewing.  It has it all.  Sex, drugs, hillbillies (some with brains), money, Mexicans, cartels, money laundering, infidelities, and great acting.  What more could a woman want? 

Tomorrow we leave for the coast of Oregon on our trek homeward.  First stop Newport.  Or as they say in Virginia, Newpert.  Intend to view it as our vacation because what we have been consumed with has been anything but.  Did I mention that I am sick of shopping?  Need a break.

OH, and before I forget, go see The Wife with Glenn Close.  A movie for the times.  It’s swell.  Saw it tonight in downtown Portland.  Then went to a Jewish deli that was a great choice for an after movie sandwich.  Really wasn’t very hungry because my cousin’s first born, Ali, and her Spanish husband, Bernat, hosted us for breakfast this morning.  Spanish tortilla, scrambled eggs, pastries from the bakery.  It was so much fun to be with them, and Kristen and her three children, and Larry.  Sue missed it because she was waiting for their handy man who was coming to replace their garbage disposal.  Larry made bastard fizzes and Emre, the boy twin, got a bloody nose. yPc6kpU9QXmPGt0pfKhh1AThere was no causal relationship…just what happened.  After the meal, we retreated to their lovely back yard which includes 5 monster tomato plants that the kids couldn’t resist… so they picked green tomatoes.  And a hammock that they all clamored to swing on.  Don’t we all wish we had their energy?  Why walk when they can run?  Why sit when they can move?  Whirling dervishes, these part Turkish children are and we love them to pieces.  If I had to take care of them for a day, I’d need a week to recover. 

A few words about Portland.  It is a small city with a big heart and many quirky things.  We love it.  Women sport purple hair.  Saw a man with a ponytail wearing a Scottish get-up (did he have undies under that skirt?).  Many rings through noses.  Tattoos abound.  City streetcars with Ikea ads plastered all over them.  Interesting shop windows.  Interesting shops that you don’t see everywhere which is refreshing in a world awash in strip malls with all the same stores…Bed, Bath and Beyond, Home Depot, MacDonald’s…you get the picture.  The sameness is at once predictable but entirely boring.  WalMart has not replaced everything, it turns out.  Even my home town of Paso that sported stores unique to the place…now has Target, Chili’s, Pier One.  And Walmart.  Sad.  But don’t get me wrong.  Portland has those too.  But it also has neighborhoods, districts, that are populated by stores with unique names like Gizelle, Gin and Denim, Fire and Stone.  And the food trucks.  Every ethnicity seems represented.  It is true.  It makes me feel old in a way and vibrantly alive in another.  Can’t wait to return and have all our friends up for a visit!! 

Maybe by next summer, I’ll be able to find my way around.  This kid is lost 95% of the time.  I can’t get my barings.  Or is it bearings?  At any rate, if I think we should be turning right, invariably we need to turn left.  Could mystery microwaves be scrambling my sense of direction?  I’ve never felt so lost.  I swore my cousin’s house was on the opposite side of the street as ours.  It’s not.  Lost in space.  That’s me.  And that’s that for now.