Maya: Illusion. Obscuring the spiritual reality of absolute being with an illusory appearance of the sense-world.
Blog: A place to talk about life rather than to live life.
Blogger: A person who talks about life rather than lives it.
(So why am I blogging instead of living life, you ask?....I did a lot of living, now I want to talk about it, so get off my case!)
"Life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering - and it's all over much too soon."
"I'm not afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens."
First Stop: Dubai: (I know, I know, it’s the Middle East, not Far East Asia.)
Airbus A380, a city in the sky.
Patrick and I started our trip on Emirates Airlines. When we saw the plane, the Airbus A380, we asked ourselves, how in the heck is this enormous plane ever going to get off the ground? It’s the world’s largest passenger aircraft and only certain airports have the facilities to accommodate it. There are two levels, the upper level is first class and business class with a lounge area, a private bar, and private sleeping compartments. You can even take a shower at 40,000 ft. The lower level has six sections with ten seats across (3 on each side and 4 in the middle) going back nearly one hundred rows.
Shower spa in the air.
The traveling city (that’s what it seemed like) was impressive, but what impressed Patrick and I the most was the service provided by the airline. It was like going back in time when flying use to be fun and service was great. (Remember those days?)
Even economy is spacious with huge overhead bins.
No more peanuts.
Most western airlines today have completely done away with any comfort for their passengers. Now a days you’re lucky to get 5 pretzels in a little bag that are handed out like nuggets of gold. Don’t think about asking for a second bag, they’ll bark at you and tell you one per customer. (All right, that’s not true, but you feel like that’s what’ll happen, so most people don’t ask.) At the rate airlines are going it won’t be long before the seats will be taken out and everyone will stand like a herd of cattle.
Emirates crew from around the world.
But, let’s get back to the Emirates Airline. There were stewards and hostesses that spoke a total of 28 languages. And I don’t mean text learned by heart like on some airlines where you don’t understand half of what they’re saying. On the Emirates, each of their personnel was fluent in several languages. Menus were passed out so you could select the meals you wanted. Hot towels were given to you before each meal so you could freshen up. Free wine and spirits were available. You had each meal with real cutlery, no plastic crap here. If you were hungry in between meal times, you could nibble on something at the bar in Business and First Class. In Economy you could ask for a cup of noodle soup or ice cream.
Time flew by!
Headphones were given free of charge and each passenger had a large individual screen. There were more than 500 films in a variety of languages and countries to choose from. Hollywood isn’t the only one producing films, you know. We spent seven hours flying from Paris to Dubai, but it seemed more like three or four the ride was so comfortable.
Welcome sign as you get off the plane.
Dubai at dusk.
Dubai was not what we expected. Then again, we really didn’t know what to expect. I think I had kept in mind all the Arab/Middle Eastern countries I had been to. Places like Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, or Israel. The United Arab Emirates was ultra modern and as soon as you landed you knew this was a place of wealth. Luxuries and designer names were everywhere. The women wore the traditional long black abaya with a hijab, but you could tell just from looking at their clothes they were made from the best quality material money could buy. And why not, many women do buy their abayas from Chanel, Dior, and a number of other top designers. Gee, who knew?
Women shopping in Dubai.
It was nothing like the djellabas, chadors and burkas of good quality, and poor, that I had seen in other Arab countries. For some reason the images that have stayed with me in those places were more of poverty than wealth. Sand storms, where it was always hot and dusty, also come to mind. Here, everything was air conditioned and even the men in their long white dishdasha and keffiyeh looked pristine despite the hot temperatures outside.
A hologram greets you in the airport.
Maya Muses: The people were friendly and spoke both French and English so we had no trouble communicating. Patrick and I didn’t stay long enough, but we told ourselves we would definitely like to go back again. Inshallah - God willing.
I finished reading Carlos Santana’s autobiography/memoir, The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light. If you’re a Santana fan (And who isn’t?) this book is a must. The tone is all Carlos Santana and he tells his story the way he plays his guitar. His fingers slide from one note to the next, sometimes he lingers on a chord or a note for a few extra beats, then he moves up the frets and back down again jumping octaves. His story telling is no different.
From his childhood in Autlán, Mexico, to Woodstock in 1969, back to Tijuana as a kid, and on to San Francisco, Carlos moves from one part of his life to the next much like he would if the two of you were having a drink together, where one incident would remind him of something else, and then something else, and on and on. And you don’t care if you can’t keep the dates straight, this is Carlos Santana talking to you and you’re just happy to follow along.
There are moments of hilarity, moments of sadness, and moments of greatness. Carlos Santana talks openly about it all: about his childhood in Mexico with his parents, his two brothers and four sisters, playing music with his dad’s band at the age of 11, the sexual abuse he suffered from an American tourist preying on young kids, the divorce his wife wanted after 34 years of marriage and he didn’t see it coming, how the stars aligned so he ended up playing at Woodstock, and ultimately winning nine Grammys, including Album of the Year, for Supernatural.
His book reads like a Who’s Who in music. From rock stars to jazz legends to blues musicians, Carlos takes you on his musical odyssey. The hours spent locked away in a dark closet, just him and his guitar, so he could become one with his instrument, so he could find himself, his style, and his place as a musician. After reading his book, you can’t listen to his music the same way ever again. This is one of the great rockers of his generation and he left a mark for generations to come.
His music has stood the test of time. His style is unique and others have tried to copy him, but can’t. The group Santana went through many changes, musicians came and they went and they came back again, but the foundation remained the same. Listen to Samba Pa Ti, Moonflower, Europa, Black Magic Woman, etc., and the music is still as fresh today as the day it was first played. This book has 516 pages of his life and music, 32 pages of photos, but more so, it has a spiritual journey of one man who happens to be a great musician.
Maya Muses: The only downside about this book is there’s an over abundance of names of musicians here. Some you’ll be familiar with, some you won’t. I knew about 95% of them (but I grew up in a musical family listening to all sorts of music) and still I thought it was a bit of an overload. Don’t let that stop you, there’s something here for anyone who’s a fan of Carlos Santana.
We’ve been warned for years that global warming is going to do our planet in, but ask anyone lately and they’ll tell you, “Global warming my ass!” Places like New York City and Boston are used to seeing snow and lots of it, but when Niagara Falls freezes over and so does the Allegheny River (no little creek we’re talking about here) this is what we call COLD!
Niagara Falls - Remember when we came on our honeymoon, darling. Wasn’t the water falling?
Allegheny River - Let’s have an ice skating party and invite all of Pittsburgh.
And when I see a few of the places I’ve visited in the wintertime when the weather was warm and sunny, you know, places like Jerusalem, the Grand Canyon or Istanbul…and they’re now covered in snow. All I can say is we’re heading toward the Big Freeze.
Jerusalem - I know the Wailing Wall is around somewhere.
Grand Canyon - What can I say except beautiful.
Instanbul - Galata Bridge and the Yeni Mosque looking new.
Maya Muses: Bundle up, folks, it doesn’t look like things are going to get better any time soon. Pull out your sleds, build an igloo or a snowman, scoop up some clean snow and make ice cream* or snow cones. Or if you have an entrepreneurial spirit you can sell bottles of it. People are crazy enough to buy bottles of snow as you can read here and it’s not cheap - $19.99. That includes S&H, but sometimes when it arrives you got yourself a half a bottle of water. If you ever needed proof there’s a sucker born every minute, look no further.
Here’s to Spring, only 3 weeks away!
*Recipe for Snow Ice Cream
1 cup milk (any kind, but the creamier the better)
1/3 cup granulated sugar.
1 tsp. vanilla extract.
1 pinch salt.
8 cups clean snow (more or less depending on the density of the snow)
Whisk the ingredients together (except for the snow) in a large mixing bowl until combined. Place bowl in freezer until you gather the snow. Stir the snow into the milk mixture, and keep adding until it reaches a creamy consistency. It should be fluffy and easy to scoop, but not runny.
For Chocolate Ice Cream:
Replace 1 cup of milk with chocolate milk or add
1/8 of a cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. of instant coffee (optional)
Maya Muses: The little girl in this video (you’ll know which one) made my day. It goes to show when you let yourself go as a free spirit - you shine. It’s guaranteed to make you laugh and brighten your day. Enjoy!
My niece, Katarina, taking a selfie of us a few months ago.
Back when I was young there were no selfies, no holding a camera in the palm of your hand with the option of sharing your photos instantaneously with the world. I’m talking about the days when you had to take a roll of film to a store to get developed and you had no idea if the shots you took were good or not. You could only hope the photos were in focus or they showed your good side because it was hit or miss. You paid good money for them and you didn’t have the option of taking ten pictures until you got it right and you were satisfied. As often as not, it was a miss and those photos stayed inside the packet they came in rather than an album for all to see.
Celebrating New Year’s Eve with half a million other people.
Patrick and I were talking to friends the other day and we were telling them about a New Year’s Eve we spent on the Champs-Elysées with 500,000 other people waiting to ring in the new year. This was 2002 and we still used a roll of film in our camera. We had taken photos all evening and as we walked toward the Eiffel Tower it was sparkling in all its glory, so we stopped a lady and asked her to take a picture of the two of us. It was the final photo in the roll. We posed and smiled and it wasn’t until she clicked the camera that I realized her angle didn’t seem right.
I asked her, “You did take a photo of us with the Eiffel Tower, right?”
“Oh, you didn’t tell me to take the Eiffel Tower.” she said.
Ahh, duh! So what did she take? We found out after the film was developed.
I know the Eiffel Tower is back there somewhere!
There was a photo of Patrick and me standing beside a tree. It could have been anywhere in the world where trees grow. Uh hum. Fast forward 13 years later and we now get a kick out of this photo. Thank goodness the Eiffel Tower is in our back yard, so to speak, or else it wouldn’t be funny. I can’t imagine someone saving for a once in a lifetime trip to Paris and having a picture of a tree as a souvenir on New Year’s Eve.
Anyway, all this because I realized the other day that the photos I have on my blog and my Facebook page have never been changed since I first started on social media in 2008. The photos are seven years old and should be changed. They’re a somewhat younger version of myself. With age, I cringe whenever someone wants to take a photo of me. Well, to be honest, I’ve always cringed when someone wanted to take my picture. There are people who love being in front of a camera, I’m not one of them. I tell myself, I’ll get around to updating my photos, but it’s just so hard to find the time.
Forget about age and this espresso stuff, we need a drink.
Maya Muses: Two quotes I love about photos and looking at old pictures of oneself:
“When I look at my old pictures, all I can see is what I used to be but am no longer. I think: What I can see is what I am not.”
― Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project
“…They are still the pictures of myself I like best, for they convey that confidence of youth I no longer possess, especially in front of a camera.”
This was going to be my Happy New Year post, but what happened in Paris yesterday concerns all of us who enjoy freedom of speech no matter where we are in the world. I think Canadian columnist Mark Steyn said it best when he was talking about the weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo:
“Charlie Hebdo was ‘forced to bear a burden’ that other, more prominent outlets should have shared.
Yes, they were very brave. This was the only publication that was willing to publish the Muhammad — the Danish Muhammad cartoons in 2006 because they decided to stand by those Danish cartoonists. I’m proud to have written for the only Canadian magazine to publish those Muhammad cartoons. And it’s because The New York Times didn’t and because Le Monde in Paris didn’t, and the London Times didn’t and all the other great newspapers of the world didn’t - only Charlie Hebdo and my magazine in Canada and a few others did. But they were forced to bear a burden that should have been more widely dispersed…
We will be retreating into a lot more self-censorship if the pansified Western media doesn’t man up and decide to disburse the risk so they can’t kill one small, little French satirical magazine. They’ve gotta kill all of us.”
Maya Muses: Let’s see if newspapers around the world will unite and fight against these radical terrorists and show their solidarity. If they do, the terrorists lose, because as Mr. Steyn said, “They’ve gotta kill all of us.”
2015 has not begun as many had hoped, but perhaps uniting together, something positive can result from the madness that has taken over this world.
I’ve had less time than usual these past few months and for a good reason. My niece/god-child has been visiting us since August and it’s been a whirlwind three months. We took her to both Normandy and Brittany and to a lot of the touristy places in Paris, although she was here before when she was ten. She’s now 18.
Katarina at 10 in the Louvre.
Katarina at 18.
The café scene is her favorite thing:
We’re still drinking, Patrick’s already through!
Enjoying a drink at the Luxembourg Gardens
We went to the beaches in Normandie to show her where her grandma’s ships (LSTs) landed. I’ve mentioned before my mother was an acetylene welder in Pittsburgh during WWII.
We then went to Mont Saint-Michel and took a horseback ride on the beach. It was really a beautiful day to ride. I hate to admit, I had more trouble getting off the horse than on! Thank goodness no one took a photo of me trying to dismount my horse!
Katarina and Patrick, Mont Saint-Michel in the background.
A closer view.
We visited Saint-Malo and walked the cliffs in Bretagne. The weather was perfect during all our travels and has been perfect since Katarina got here. It’s now November and we continue to have an Indian summer.
Walking along the cliffs…
…and the beaches (Marc and Patrick sitting on the rocks, Katarina going to join them)…
Back in August I took her to a rock concert here (Rock en Seine) for her birthday. She was dying to see Flume and I was not looking forward to going to a concert with a bunch of young people listening to groups I’ve never heard of. We did have a nice time however. The only negative were the people crowd surfing and almost falling on top of us a few times.
Katarina and I getting ready to rock! (Well, she is!)
In September we watched the fireworks at the Parc de Saint-Cloud. It’s the biggest firework display in Europe. It was quite impressive. Patrick, Katarina and I had a great view.
Le Grand Feu de Saint-Cloud.
We celebrated Katarina’s birthday in a small adorable house by the beach in Morat. She wanted crêpes for her birthday, so we ate at a crêperie near the beach. Patrick had asked around for the best place to eat and we were not disappointed.
Celebrating Katarina’s 18th birthday!
Our adorable house near the beach.
Too bad we couldn’t say the same about her omelet at a restaurant in Mont Saint-Michel. It was a total rip off! She ordered the specialty of the house, an omelet and all it had were eggs and air. There was nothing positive to say except it was fluffy. No cheese, no salt, no pepper - absolutely nothing, but eggs and air! I don’t even remember what Patrick and I ordered, but it was far from memorable and all of it way over priced. A tourist trap to say the least. So, no photos of omelets.
Instead, here’s Katarina as a little girl from Brittany.
Patrick, well as usual, getting a little crazy!
Actually, I was disappointed and surprised about our meal because a few years earlier my mom and I had eaten at a restaurant in Mont Saint-Michel and everything we had ordered then was delicious. Perhaps we had been lucky. For anyone thinking of eating at one of the restaurants on Mont Saint-Michel. I would say, you’re probably much better off dining in Saint-Malo.
Patrick at home in Bretagne as in Normandie.
Of course I had to join in the craziness.
Patrick getting into this a little too much!
How could he not when you’re walking around Dinan? This beautiful Medieval town has a number of buildings that date back to the 13th century.
Somehow Patrick’s t-shirt looks out of place.
They don’t build them sturdy like they use to, but how much longer can these buildings stand?
Beautiful all the same!
Back in Paris, I did have an incident when we were on our way to Ladurée on the Champs-Elysées not that long ago. I was walking and didn’t see a small step and fell. Patrick said I was such a snob for falling on the Champs-Elysées rather than a small side street where no one would have seen me fall. Instead I was immediately surrounded by a bunch of people trying to help me up. Everyone except Patrick and Katarina! They said they were too shocked to move, seeing me on the ground like that. So much for them helping me!
Okay, so it’s Scarlett Johansson and not me, but same difference.
At least they didn’t take a photo and send it to Facebook, Whatsapp or Instagram it! It didn’t seem to be too bad of a fall at the time, but I’ve been black and blue for the past few weeks. I landed on my left side and until recently I couldn’t even lie on that side. Thank goodness I didn’t break anything, but I’m still not up to par.
All that for Lemon Tarts at Ladurée, but yes, they were worth it!
Definitely worth falling over oneself. Yes, as long as nothing was broken. Not the tarts, nor my bones!
In October I saw friends from Germany, I hadn’t seen them for over 25 years. It was great to pick up where we had left off. Their sense of humor hasn’t changed a bit, although we did add a few gray hairs, wrinkles, and pounds. (Okay, I did!)
They’re the same and as funny as ever!
Katarina took a cooking class recently at Cook’n With Class with Patrick. She enjoyed it tremendously! Her and I have gotten into a baking mode and have started making Christmas cookies lately. Katarina made Pumpkin Walnut Cookies all by herself. Then together we made Russian Tea Cakes/Mexican Wedding Cookies and Walnut Tassies. Tomorrow we’ll make Kolacky and Rugelah and then we’ll have to go for a walk to get some exercise!
Good job chopping!
Ahh, maybe not!
Maya Muses: The almost three months that Katarina has been here has gone by so quickly. Each day has brought new adventures and something different from my regular routine. Yes, we’ve had our differences on occasion (she’s a lot like me) so at times we do butt heads and no, I haven’t been able to work on things I need to work on, but I’ve gained wonderful memories and that’s important too. Our health, both hers, Patrick’s, and mine haven’t been the greatest, but we can’t complain too much. How can we when life is good!
Why do you come to the most beautiful city in the world and destroy one of the most beautiful views Paris has to offer? Why? Each time I pass in front of the Pont des Arts, I want to cry and, yes, scream at the same time.
Pourquoi venir dans la plus belle ville du monde pour détruire l’une des plus belle vue que Paris peut vous offrir? Pourquoi? A chaque fois que je passe au Pont des Arts, j’ai envie de pleurer et de hurler.
Is this what you tourists consider beautiful?
Vous trouvez ça beau?
I remember what this bridge use to look like before some idiot decided to place a lock on here declaring their eternal love to someone. (Someone I’m sure they no longer even talk to!) And like a bunch of mindless sheep, you have decided to do the same.
Je me souviens à quoi ressemblait le pont avant qu’un imbécile aie eu l’idée de déclarer son amour éternel à sa bien aimée. (Une personne qui sûrement n’a plus de relation aujourd’hui avec elle!) Vous comme les moutons de Panurge, vous avez décidez de faire de même.
What is so great about destroying this historic bridge? Do you think this gesture of yours is romantic? Do you think your lock is going to be here forever? Think again! Your locks are on here for a few weeks or months at the most. Your locks are ugly. Your locks are destroying not only the bridge, but the beauty that was once a part of this bridge.
Qu’il y a t’il de glorieux à déruire un pont historique? Pensez-vous vraiment que ce geste soit romantique? Croyez-vous que ces cadenas vont rester là pour l’éternité? Réfléchissez un peu, ils vont rester quelques semaines voir quelques mois au maximum. Vos cadenas sont affreux. Ils détruisent physiquement non seulement le pont, mais aussi toute sa beauté qui lui était propre.
This is what this bridge and view use to look like:
Voilà à quoi il ressemblait avant:
This is what this bridge now looks like:
Et voilà à quoi il ressemble maintenant:
Do you plan on coming here and destroying all our monuments in the same way? I now see locks being placed on other bridges, on monuments, on lampposts, in front of churches like Notre-Dame and the Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre.
Est-ce votre intention de venir et de détruire nos autres monuments de la même façon? Je vois maintenant des cadenas placés sur d’autres ponts, sur des monuments, sur des réverbères, sur le parvis de la Cathédrale Notre-Dame et de la Basilique du Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre.
Are you planning on making Paris just another ugly place in the world? Why? I thought your dream to come here was to see the same Paris that down through history has been considered the most beautiful city in the world. Why come here if it’s to destroy that beauty? Would you like it if we went to your hometowns and destroyed the best parts of your cities?
Est-ce votre intention de transformer Paris en une ville laide comme il y en a tant dans le monde? Je pensais que votre rêve en venant ici était de visiter le même Paris qui a traversé l’histoire et qui est considéré comme la plus belle ville du monde. Pourquoi venir ici pour détruire tout cela? Aimeriez-vous que nous venions dans votre ville et commencions à détruire vos plus beaux monuments et quartiers?
Do you know that there are more tourists who come to Paris than the entire population of France? Do you realize that France is a country about the size of the state of Texas? Do you know that the population in France is almost 66 million people, while the number of tourists who come to France each year is over 85 million? Thank God not everyone who comes here is disrespectful.
Savez-vous qu’il y a plus de touristes qui viennent à Paris que son propre nombre d’habitants. Réalisez-vous que la France est à peu près de la même taille que l’États du Texas aux USA? Que sa population est de 66 millions d’habitants, alors que les touristes qui viennent la visiter son au nombre de 85 millions chaque année. Heureusement, vous n’êtes pas tous si irrespectueux.
Which one are you? Which view do you prefer?
De quel bord vous situez vous? Quelle vue préférez vous?
We’re happy that you come if you respect our home, if you take pleasure in what France has to offer, but keep in mind you’re a guest in our home and as a guest, you should act accordingly. So, please, stop destroying our home and stop placing locks wherever you feel like it. Not long ago, one tourist, when told that his lock was destroying the Pont des Arts, said “If they take down my lock, that’s okay, I’ll just put another one next time I return to Paris.” I hope and pray that person never returns!
Nous sommes heureux de vous acceuillir si vous respectez notre ville et si vous aimez ce que la France vous offre, mais gardez en mémoire que vous êtes des invités et que vous devez vous comporter en tant que tel. S’il vous plaît, arrêtez de mettre ces affreux cadenas. Il n’y a pas très longtemps un touriste a fait cette déclaration, “S’ils enlevent mon cadenas, je reviendrait en mettre un autre quand je serait de retour à Paris.” J’espere et prie que cette personne ne reviendra jamais.
Maya Muses: So, dear tourist, you’re not the only one at fault here. If the owner of the house doesn’t tell its guests to take their feet off of their table then who’s to blame? The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, was given a petition to do something about this problem and so far not much has been done. It’s time she takes stronger measures in stopping this horrible vandalism!
Maya Muses: Ce n’est pas seulement de votre faute. Si le maitre de maison n’est pas capable de dire à ses invités qu’il est très mal polis de mettre ses pieds sur la table, a qui la faute? La maire de Paris, Anne Hidalgo, a reçu une pétition pour qu’elle fasse quelque chose pour résoudre ce problème et à ce jour pratiquement rien n’a été fait. Il est grand temps de montrer de la fermeté pour arrêter le vandalisme de la capitale.
And please all you tourists who love Paris, do your part by saying no to those ugly locks! To the rest of you who don’t give a damn - stay home!!!
Alors, pour vous qui aimez Paris, dites non aux cadenas! Et pour ceux qui s’en foute - restez donc chez vous!!!
Today is my mom’s birthday and I’m happy to say she is still as active as ever! She enjoys learning new things everyday and has her own Facebook page, email address, Skype account, and she enjoys playing Candy Crush (maybe just a little too much) on her iPad!
Mom says one day she’ll be like Grandma Moses!
Mom has been taking several painting classes and she keeps getting better at it so you never know.
She loves working in her garden (or anybody’s) and when she’s with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she puts everyone to work.
There’s no “putzin around” when mom’s there to supervise!
And no time to sit around unless you’re exercising!
Maya Muses: Mom is 92 years young and we’re blessed to be able to celebrate another one of her birthdays! What can I say that I haven’t already said about my magnificent mom! She’s the best mom in the world and we’re lucky to have her as the matriarch of our family! When everyone asked, “What do you want to do for your birthday, mom?” Of course, her answer was, “Forget about a party, let’s go to the casino!”