Friends, Romans, countrymen,…Lend Me Your Ears


What a day in Roma.   Quite sure we took 30,000 steps and 10,000 of them were retraces, doublebacks and around in circles.   We are tired and our feet are sore.  It was raining too.


We started off looking for the Pantheon.   With maps apps, a paper map and no idea where we were, we crisscrossed our own route so many times that it was deja vous all over again.  And in the rain.  With umbrellas over head.  At one point we were so desperate, we asked a female soldier carrying an uzi for directions.  Oh, what a day.  

By accident we found ourselves at waters edge at the Trivola fountain.  Just stumbled upon it.  Turning a 12 minute walk into an hour takes some special sort of genius.  When we return, perhaps we will apply for a Menza membership.   9A032BC9-3196-4C67-BF05-56B09F88C4E7

I personally asked about a hundred people for directions because things are not marked very well.  And because sometimes we could not understand the directions.  And because people assumed we knew things we didn’t.   A confluence of confusion.  

We finally found the Pantheon. An enormous example of architecture built way back when. How did they do it?  If it were explained to us, we would as confused as we were with directions.  Just sayin.


After we viewed the Pantheon, we headed to the Vatican because we had prepaid tickets for tour and an audio tour.  We bought a 3 day pass for public transport and off we went on the bus and then the metro.  Emerging from the abyss of the very efficient Metro, we ambled toward the Vatican Museo.  The entirety of Roman visitors were there.  Massive lines.  People working there were very helpful and thru ignorance on our part coupled with our aged looks, we were able to advance our cause of visitation.  

5C968196-867F-43FF-B04C-B5F1F36FB386The Vatican was too much. A museum on steroids.  It reminded me of a rugby match with us advancing from scrum to scrum.  Really people, there are too many statues of dead people.  And the tapestries would put any video game or teenage boy movie to shame.  Daggers and blood.  Men, men, men everywhere except for an occasional Virgin Mary ( which I regard as a myth).  


If a fire should break out, we all would have been trampled to death.  Safety was not a concern except for the strict rule of no videos or pictures in the Sistine chapel lest the flashes destroy the ceiling art. They treated that safely, I suppose it could be said.  

God, we were glad when it was over and we were grateful that the day was cool with rain because it was very hot in some places.  A man at dinner tonight (from Holland) said that if a person stopped to listen  to the tape at every designated place, it would take 21/2 years to complete the tour.  It was by all accounts overwhelming.  

After we escaped the place, we just wanted to get back to our hotel and that was not to be.  We went back down to the Metro  but unbeknownst to us, we went the wrong direction.  The end of the line for the wrong direction shared the same name as our station so that when we emerged, nothing looked remotely familiar.   Rayman could hardly walk.  He barely slept on our flight over and he wasn’t at the top of his game.  Really, I was the navigator all day.  So we decided to get some espresso and ducked into a joint to refresh and regroup.   We asked the woman barista where we were in relation to where we wanted to be.   She had no idea even though we had a map.  Finally Rayman overheard a woman speaking English so he rushed her before she could escape. We were so far afield that our map didn’t include our present location.  She set us straight and by the time we left the shop, we were laughing and Rayman even hugged the barista…he was so excited.  We then walked back to the Metro we had left and rode back to our station and found our hotel.

We cleaned up and went to dinner and had a great meal, met and visited with a family from Holland, and walked back to our hotel and here I am blogging. 

Quite an adventure for our first full day in Rome.  

Good Grief

Woke from my air nap to have a sore everything.   Our premium business class seats did not recline. And that is all I will report.  We were glad to arrive without major incident.  Only to be greeted by an hour and a half queue at Customs.  And I was in an ambien walking dead mode which didn’t help our plight.   I highly suspect that our agent was watching looney toons on his iPhone because he was 1.  Slow. 2.  He never made eye contact.  I could have been twerking and he wouldn’t have known.

After escaping the queue, we went in search of the termini.  That is Italian for train terminal which we found and boarded. Squished and standing, we rode non stop into Rome.   That is when we got dazed and confused trying to figure out their metro.  Two wonderful Italian women took us under their bosoms and helped us unload some euros to buy our tickets in la machina.  Too bad they did t hold our hands and lead us to the appropriate train. We managed to get on the B train instead of the A train.  We had a 50-50 chance. Mid route as Rayman was being bugged by a potential pickpocket, we discovered our error and scrambled off. At this point Rayman put his foot down and insisted we take a taxi.  Who was I to argue?  

I was still sleep walking.  

The cabbie didn’t speak English so the ride was done in silence.  I did not say the address right so I showed it to him in writing and we arrived after an extra twirl or two around city blocks choked with people.  Arrival to our hotel commenced, we checked in and I fell upon the bed and fell asleep.  Immediately.  I have no idea what Rayman did.  He couldn’t sleep on the plane so now he lays next to me at 5:00 a.m. snoring.  

We dined at the joint next to our hotel, waited forever to get the check.  So long that our waiter gave us a discount without us even grumbling.  When in Rome…

Back to our room and to bed.  

Today we do the coliseum and Vatican and gelato not necessarily in that order.   Without suitcases the ride on the metro should be fine.  We do plan to get to the Vatican early just in case since we bought tickets.  Don’t want to keep the Pope waiting.  

Observations.  What the hell?  Traveling didn’t seem so hard in earlier adventures.  We are not as nimble.  We hold onto bannisters for dear life.  We forget things…In search for lost chords.  It a bit disconcerting.  On the other hand, it is exciting and challenging and it catapults us out of our comfort zone.   

Will check in later, post gelato.  

Yippee.  just got my itty bitty keyboard to work.  Up until now i had been using the keyboard on my iPad.  Much easier now.  And faster.  

I think that an ex-NBA star works here in the maintenance department.  The TV is up by the ceiling which is about 20 feet tall.  The snack refrigerator is tippy toe high.  It’s a hoot. 

One other observation.  The throne is on high.  About 7 steps so we have ample opportunity to fall, stub, and kill ourselves going to the loo.  Once you get up to it, the bath is fab.  A bidet too.  And all marble and granite.  Lovely…

And did I mention that our tour of the Pope Palace is at 1500 or 3 p.m. today and that heavy rains are expected?  Lordy, is all I can say about that!


Roman The Globe

Yesterday we drove south to Buellton to spend the night with our friends at Flying Flags RV park.  What a splendid time we had Coverting with our friends, the animal bicyclists we know and whom I have spoken of in past blogs.  A fine group that thinks nothing of riding 41 miles one day, followed by 35 miles the next while pedaling up mountains, descending into valleys, and back up the mountains, stopping for refreshments, turning around and riding back, then fixing food for a potluck barbecue and cranking open copious amounts of wine bottles to wash down all the delicious food.

To put things into prospective, I would have retreated to my room for a long nap if I had done what they did.  Then would probably not wake up until the next morning.   Just sayin.

Most of this group is retired.  Ron and Elizabeth from Ashland, OR were there.  They have biked across America.   He wrote a book about their trip.  Across and Down by Ronald Zell.  It’s on Amazon.  They also rode from the Canadian border to Mexico. OMG.  Super hero’s to me.   



Ron, Elizabeth in the center. Old friend, Charlie on the left. Our RV hostess, K.C.

But I digress.

We had a blast and we spent the night in the Covert’s RV.   They are our RV muses and they hail from Sacramento.  They excel at entertaining.  And that included cooking us breakfast this morn. Before we took off for our trip to Italy.  

Let me speed ahead and replay our trip to LAX.  We left about 8:45 a.m., turned left and headed to the freeway on ramp. It was closed.  So, we turned around in a state of panic ( traveled less than a mile and this?).  We went north on the freeway and ran into a backup.  We sped pass the off ramp becuz it was backed up and drove to the next off ramp.  Got off only to discover that the southbound entrance was also closed.  What the f&$k?  As the minutes ticked by, our panic increased.  It wasn’t pretty.  So we made a decision to go north to highway 154 and go the back way.   We still have no idea what the problem was but we couldn’t risk sitting in traffic. 

It worked.  We went up over the hill and dropped down to Santa Barbara to merge onto 101.  And to keep ourselves “under control”, we listened to a Pod Save America podcast.  That helped immensely and we arrived at the Van  Nuys Flyaway garage where we parked our car in covered parking for $4.00 a day, bought two round trip tickets to LAX for 19.50 each.  The day was cloudy and very cold.  We nearly froze to death wbile we stood outside checking our bags.  Ice. That’s  what my hands felt like when they finally let us board.  And did I mention it was drizzling?  Yes it was.  We had to laugh. How many ovies have you seen that were shot on L.A. where it was raining?  It hardly ever rains there and yet Hollywood embellishes with the rain.  L.A. Confidential comes to mind.  

 If I digress

Rayman with women.

Rayman with women.

We arrived at the airport, checked in, and headed to our gate. It was a very long walk that took us to gate 142.  We didn’t know there were that many gates.  And get this. When we finally were called for boarding, they put us on a bus.  Yes.  A bus.  And they drove us to the further point west where our plane was located. All by itself like a lonely stepsister apart from all the major happenings of all the terminals.  Why?  We do not know.  

So here we are, well fed, two glasses of wine consumed flying high just north of Columbus, Ohio.   The sun is waning and so am I.  Rayman plans a movie.  I plan an ambien for sleep a bye time.  We are on  777 in row 14 which affords us a view of the clouds blanketing the nation and the left engine of the aircraft.  We have a bulkhead Seat which features a tv screen mounted on the wall.  It reports that we are traveling 640mph, 35,000 feet and it’s 62 below outside.  Amazing stuff, this air travel.   

So, travel tidbits.  1.  Our Chase Sapphire Reserve issued us a priority pass that got us into an airport lounge where free food and drink were available.  We called Chase a couple of weeks ago and they sent us a card to flash.  2.  Just because you have TSA preapproval does not mean you get it every time.  It randomly selects people.  We were not selected so we had the distinct honor of paddling around without shoes (barefoot in my case) thru security.  Grumble, grumble.  And age was not a disqualifier.  3.  If you have euro coins, no one will convert them to paper money.  So Rayman has 40eros of heavy coins in his carry on.  4. Not all planes have wi-fi on board.   5.  Alitalia served us Mac and cheese with a chocolate mousse and raspberry coulis and they have loads of foreign movies as well as U.S. movies.


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Skinny Sweetness

We flew to Portland yesterday.  On Alaska.  From Fresno.  You know, the flight was very scenic with cloudy skies and the Sierras stretching along the state of California like a giant dragon…spikes snowed-covered.  We all take so much of this for granted, don’t we?  It is wonderous.

One of the main reasons for the visit is to be with family….make that the main reason is to be with family. We have a quite a few relatives and it makes the trip so much fun to visit everyone.  

On April 15, 2012 Leyla was born.  She will be six.  My objective was to help celebrate the event with a cake and a shopping trip to the western store in hopes of buying her a pair of cowgirl boots.  After all, a six year old diva needs boots.   What a trip to the store.  She immediately saw and desired a pair of boots with lights.  And of course, they didn’t have her size.  This caused Leyla to want them even more.  We had her try others on for size.  After near-tears, we agreed to order them.  And that was about the time that she decided she did not want to wait for FedEx to deliver them.  So, the plain pink ones became at once more acceptable.  We all know how that feels.  After spending about an hour in the store, we left with pink boots in hand.  She made a very good choice.  And all was well with the world.  Tears avoided.  Such fun.

This a.m. was the time for the cake “project”.  Leyla was asked what kind of cake she desired, and it was determined to be a chocolate cake with vanilla icing.  This girl has great taste and she knows her mind.  Two traits I am confident will take her far in life. 

Being the cook and collector of recipes, I had come to Oregon armed with recipes.  And so this morning recipe review was front and center with my cousin, Sue (I call her Susie).  First thing she exclaimed was, “My god, this cake calls for 4 cups of sugar.”  I had not noticed that when I picked out the recipe.  Oh, well, I never use all the sugar a recipe calls for so I offered that up as a comment.  Sue took exception to something else…I can’t remember what but it was enough that I figured I should look for another recipe.  So, I picked out another one and there was something askant with at one too.  Can’t remember what.  Doesn’t really matter since I then took to the internets and found yet another recipe from Fine Cooking.  That one seemed to be acceptable.  And so it was settled. 

The guys went to the grocery store and bought a few ingredients she was missing.  And when they returned cooking commenced.   Sugar, butter, flour, what could go wrong?   Well, the recipe called for 3 cake pans.  We had two.  So,  I cooked two, reserved batter and cooked the third after the first two had cooled.  No big deal.  However, Sue, was aghast as how “small, unrisen” the cakes appeared.  She called them cookies.  Huffing and puffing may have ensued.  She made me so worried, I offered to do another cake.  She offered to make her favorite cake from her Mom’s collection.  And the more the conversation transpired the funnier it became.  Really, folks, it was just a cake.  A flat cake.  But a cake.  So, out of desperation, Rayman found a picture of the cake and it looked skinny.  So, we all relaxed with the skinny cake and walked to lunch.   

Upon returning from the pub, I went about frosting the cake.  No story there.  So, now the cake is done.  I post it here for your consideration.  Complete with unicorn and Leyla!!

fullsizeoutput_44d9Leyla and boots

Bright Side of Stuff

My pinkie finger on my left hand is undergoing a make-over.  This involves a “digit widget”.  It looks like an oil derrick of the grasshopper variety.  See below.

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This has happened because I have a genetic disease.  See Dupuytren’s Contracture.  Google it, I mean.

Loving to write means typing.  I’ve trained myself over the years to express myself in writing using the computer.  It took some doing but there you have it.  And I need that pinkie to hit the keys on the keyboard.  With a “limp” pinkie, it was becoming exceedingly difficult.  Hence the digit widget.

Ode to the Digit Widget

Bent by contracture the pinkie needs help

The finger is stubborn like a wet piece of kelp

It cannot get wet nor can it lie dormant

Stretching it hourly in hopes it will not torment


The widget is mechanical and simple in form

Screwing into the bone it tries to perform

A miracle.

Oh, digit widget, my constant appendage

Will you right the wrong brought on by my lineage?

For if you deliver on the straightening as designed

My hand will be more useful and I will be resigned

To continue my typing

As long as I can.


Now that I am someone inhibited, I’ve had to make some changes.  No swimming.  No dishes.  Showers by the Rayman.  And life is a stitch.  Now I’ve taken to walking the dog for an hour each morning.  Good for doggie.  Good for me.  Showers are a kick.  Rayman has to wash my hair and body for the most part and help me towel dry.  I recommend everyone to try this even if you don’t need to.  It’s very fun.  For both of us.

Other advantages include no dishes.  Gee wizz.  Rayman often cleans up after dinner anyway, but now it is a given.  No negotiating.  This may last up to 6 weeks.  I’m a week and half into it.  Glory, glory.

We have been studying Italian and take one class a week, on Wednesdays at 5:30.  This interferes with Valentine’s day so we improvised and did a good dinner last night.  Rack of lamb roasted with slices of eggplant, tomatoes, garlic and olives.  The whole thing was washed down with great Opolo zin.  And we enjoyed some See’s candy that Rayman bought for the occasion.  Hope you all have as good a time as we did. 

But I digress.

Italian is fun.  No grades.  He speaks to us in Italian and that’s where my blank stare comes into play.  I have no illusions of speaking the language other than some perfunctory phases.  However, we will be able to read some of it and get the gist.  Oh, we leave for Rome on May 1st for those that don’t know.  For a month.  Should be wonderful.  And the digit widget will be off.  Yippee.

Several of our friends have fallen victim to various diseases and this concerns us.  We very much wish them a speedy recovery.  You know as you age that things are going to happen and yet, we are always surprise when they do.  My advice is to get out and do whatever while you can, if you can.  As if you need my advice.  Still.

One thing we can’t seem to do is ignore the politics de jour.  OMG.  Never thought it could be this bad.  And yet.  Here we are.  So, Rayman and I are trying to curb our habits of getting carried away.  It isn’t easy.  Enough said.

We are racing back to Stanford tomorrow for a follow up appt on my hand.  Driving to the Bay Area is such a good drive.  Beautiful fields of vineyards, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuces.  A meandering Salinas River.  All the signs with Spanish names, Arroyo Seco, Gonzalez, Soledad.  A reminder of all that  has come before us.  We owe so much to the Mexicans.  it is so much a part of our culture.  Life would be boring without tacos, enchiladas and our gardener, Vicente.   I count my blessings as being empathic to my fellow man allows me so much joy and many tequila drinks!   I hope you all feel the same way.

My writing has stopped because of my duties as trustee.  Since June, 2016, when my uncle died, I have been working as trustee.  It’s hard work.  It takes effort, time, patience, and lots of it.  Perhaps I should write about the job of trustee.  There is so much to know.  And if you want to do it right, you need help.  And then there are faux pas, mistakes, issues to handle.  A book would be good to write as it is still fresh in my head.  I’m thinking about that a lot these days.  I compose paragraphs in my head all the time.  Do you ever do that?  Make up stories?  Compose letters?  I often times find myself doing that and I wonder if that is what most people do.   One does have to wrestle with the mind, doesn’t one?  Keep it moving in the right direction.  Keep it positive.  Keep in fun.  It all takes work to corral the good and cast off the bad.  And I’m not always successful.  However, it is a goal, nevertheless.

So, happy Valentine’s day to you all.  Love is a good sentiment to celebrate.  It is positive, heart warming, and good to remember every day, not just VD day.  Have a good one.  And if you have the ensuing baby and want to name it after me, I use two n’s in my name.  Dianna.

End of Gozo

To see the maps of Malta, just click on the link above.

It’s been since October 10/11th that we have been in Gozo.  We leave tomorrow for Malta which is about 30 minute ride across the water on a ferry.  And I take the liberty now of making some general comments, takeaways, if you will, on the island.

Squirrels don’t seem to live here.  There is squirrel habitat but where are they?  Perhaps they have been killed by all those gun shooters that start firing their shotguns in the morning.  The firing range is on top of a hill here, near the village of Gharb…that’s where our hosts are hanging out for 3 months.  The only dead thing I’ve seen here is a dead pigeon, no doubt a victim of gunners. 

Speaking of pigeons.  There aren’t many of them here.  See paragraph above. 

No foxes, no prairie dogs, no vultures (who’s scraps the bones, I wonder?).  Haven’t smelled or seen a skunk.  There are plenty of lizards here.  They are small and quick and live in the all the stone walls that line the roads.  One suspects snakes but this kid ain’t looking for any because I might find one and then what would I do?  There are lots of flies.  Apparently there are not enough natural predators because they are everywhere, all the time.  We, therefore, became the fly’s un-natural predator with the canary yellow flyswatter the Morrow’s own.  I heavily suspect that fly swatting could become a national sport.  Some entrepreneur could make a fortune marketing fly swatters if they would only develop it into a game.  Perhaps someone should working on this immediately. 



Speaking of things that fly, there are bees here.  This is good news.  Local honey is stocked on the shelves of the local markets and I saw a few with my own eyes so I suspect the honey is not from, say, China.  They were buzzing around the lavender plants that grow like weeds…along with wild fennel and thyme.  The yang …of ying and yang are mosquitos.  Had to pop into a drug store here to buy “bug wipes” and, curiously, after I purchased them, the mosquitos went missing (and I only used one wipe).  The mosquitos must be as clairvoyant as my dog, Beau, who knows exactly what time it is at 3:00 because that’s when he gets fed. 


Beau in repose. He’s clairvoyant.

It is reported that goats live nearby.  And by nearby I mean a few doors away behind the garage door.  Interestingly, all the houses on this island are built with quarried stone from the island.  They are two or three stories tall.  I’ve only seen one one-story home.  Most are connected so they qualify as the original condominium island, perhaps.  Some are freestanding but the majority are not.  Each has a garage and garages can hold from up to four cars stacked fender to fender in a long line…or, apparently, a herd of goats.  I don’t know.  Maybe the door there isn’t a garage door but a large door to a lot.  You know goats live there because of the odor.  And the flies.  See second paragraph above.


Pictures of a garage door and a new house under construction.


We have seen and heard chickens.  There are cows in the fields.  And horses in the street.  Upon our arrival, our cab found itself following a fellow in a buggy holding his buggy whip while his horse trotted down the street, holding up traffic.  We are told that  “chariot” racing is a Gozitan activity here and the horsemen need a place to work their horses so they use the public streets when the race track is unavailable.  The locals also use the streets to move their tractors and it’s a quite a sight because the streets are narrow.  Very narrow. 



Taken from the bus. See how close we are?

Speaking of moving, I would not want to move here.  The attitude of the men on the island is brusque toward the gentler sex.  Several times we felt invisible and or ignored by shopkeepers, baristas (haven’t seen a Starbucks here) in local coffee shops.  And it feels like it did in Greece where men hang out together on sidewalks playing games or just smoking their lives away.   The women stay home and hang out the laundry.  (driers are non-existent).

Being a very Catholic country, see previous blogs, I am perplexed that I have only seen one nun (running to catch a bus…nun on the run).  Have not seen a single priest.  Where are they?  What are they doing?  My suspicion is that they stay in their churches so they can supervise the ringing of bells.  The bells here get “rung” every few minutes.  Every 15 minutes to be precise.  They have a coded bell system.  It goes something like this.  There are 6 hours.  1 a.m. is one dink of the bell.  1:15 is one donk followed by one dink of the bell.  2 a.m. is two rings.  2:45, for example, is 2 dink rings and 3 donk rings.  And so on until 6.   7:00 a.m. is 1 dink.  7:15 is one dink and donk and so on.  It is somewhat practical.  Who wants to hear 24 rings at midnight?  And who does the ringing?  I believe it’s all pre-recorded.  Just like the call to prayer in Istanbul, perhaps.   In this day and age, it seems quaint…unless and until it starts ringing while you are sleeping and wakes you up.  Then it seems rather annoying.  Just sayin.

So as you can see, I am perfectly capable of contradicting myself with free abandon.  See paragraph above. 

Gozo suffers from some of the same things we suffer from in CA.  See the story below:

We are not alone in the struggle for water.  I think if we don’t blow ourselves up with North Korea, water may be the war to worry about.  Water wars. 

But I digress.

Certain people of the world are quite beautiful, both male and female.  Not so much in Gozo and I’ll leave it at that.  Well, no, I won’t.  This island was invaded by nearly everyone and ruled by the the Roman, Brits, the French, Middle Easterners etc.  The list is very long.  Why attractiveness is not evident, I do not know.  Now, I will leave it at that.  Well, no, I won’t.  It is a relatively modest country in terms of means.  They don’t spend much on their teeth.  Okay.  This is it.  I’m done with that line of thought. 

Did I mention the pomegranate trees?  There are lots of them here.  Fig trees too.  Olive trees.  When I say a lot, I mean here and there.  The island as a whole doesn’t have many trees and apparently never has.  There are no orchards.  There are, however, fields of crops and I mostly don’t know what the crops are.  Farming seems to be a big part of the economy only surpassed by tourism.  With all the ancient ruins, and beautiful vistas, the island gets a lot of tourists.  So, why those surley baristas exist ( they remind me of  the waiters at Tadish’s in San Franciso, if you have ever been there.  Or Sarah Huckabee Sanders doing a presser )is beyond me.  Charm school wouldn’t hurt.  See paragraph 8, I believe. 

So…those are my observations of Gozo.   Hope you enjoyed it.  Today Gozo.  Tomorrow Malta.  The island of Malta is Malta’s main island.  Gozo and Comino are part of Malta.  They are the ugly stepsisters, I think.  Not because the are ugly but because they are smaller and generate less taxes/revenue.  I’ll only have a day to see Malta so I hope it is a good one.  A journalist was murdered there a few days ago.  Apparently there is a lot of graph and corruption ala mafia type stuff going on.  I’ve been reading the Malta Times.  It has caused quite a stir because the journalist, a woman, was speaking truth to power and they needed to get rid of her.  The EU is concerned about this young democracy circa 1960 when they were given their independence from England.  And apparently they were up to their necks in the Panama Papers  (money laundering scheme) yet the government here turned a blind eye.  Interesting times.  Sad times.  Dangerous times.  Glad to be returning home to my Rayman and Beau and all my friends!!

See you soon!!!