27 January 2018

Books of 2017

  1. Goldfinch, Donna Tartt, fiction drama, audiobook, Las Vegas and New York City ***
  2. No mark upon her, Deborah Crombie, mystery, ebook uk. ****
  3. The advantage, business, short book, Patrick Lencioni ***
  4. Sidney Chambers and the shadow of death, the granchester mysteries, james runcie, UK post WW II, ***.5
  5. Strangers on a train, Patricia Highsmith, New York and Texas, 1950, mystery fiction, ***.5 ebook
  6. The Keeper of Lost Causes, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Denmark, Mystery, audiobook, **** (book 1 of series, Realized I’d read a later one and kept thinking I’d read this book, or maybe I had. Hate re-reading unintentionally, especially when I bought it!) good read, but dark. 
  7. The Devil in the White City, Chicago’s world fair, Eric Laarsen?, 1893. Nonfiction, audio book. What a strange and interesting time. ***.5
  8. Leading out of who you are. Simon P Walker, nonfiction leadership. ****
  9. Whoever fights monsters, by Robert Ressler, nonfiction FBI developing profiling for serial murders, grissly but interesting in short doses, audiobook. ***
  10. In the woods, Dublin murder squad, modern fiction, very good, writing great but one character's bad choices will probably keep me from reading more in the series. ****
  11. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Nabeel quereshi, nonfiction, ebook excellent
  12. The Last Child, John hart, fiction modern day south USA, exceptional writing. Ebook. *****
  13. A tapping at my door, by David Jackson, U.K. Modern day, detectives, ****ebook
  14. Snare of the hunter, by Helen Macinnes, ebook, 1960s, ***.5 Cold War escape Czechoslovakia to Austria. Sort of a spy Agatha Christie type book.
  15. May we be forgiven, a novel, A.M. Holmes, modern fiction NY City suburbs mostly. *** minus the vulgar scenes, I would have said 4 stars. Ebook
  16. Walking on Water: Faith and Art, Madeline L'Engle, nonfiction ***** ebook
  17. Mr. Churchill's secretary, Susan Elia MacNeal, U.K. WW II. *** audio 
  18. The girl who was supposed to die, by April Henry, Boston mystery fiction, audio, ****
  19. Live to tell, by Lisa Gardener, detective fiction, audio. ***
  20. The Girl you Lost, by Katheryn Kroft, **** mystery fiction, audio
  21. The laws of teamwork , by John Macwell, Nonfiction , ***, gift, paperbook!
  22. The Rabbi Slept Late, by Harry Kemelman, written 1960s, New England fiction, ebook. ****
  23. Get well soon, Jennifer Wright, nonfiction plagues. Very interesting. Audiobook . ****
  24. Today will be Different , Marie Semple, fiction Seattle, audiobook, ****
  25. The Crossing Places, Ely Griffiths, Norfolk U.K., modern mystery, ***.5, more but one area seemed strangely presented or not researched clearly. 
  26. The House of Spies, Daniel Silva, modern spy novel, France, Israel, london, morocco.****
  27. Movie Storyboards: the art of visualizing screenplays, by Fionnuala Halligan , library ebook, nonfiction. 
  28. Single White Female, John Stutz, 1980s NYC. *** fiction ebook
  29. The Mushroom Hunters, on the trail of an underground America, Langdon Cook, Nonfiction, strange and interesting. audiobook. ****
  30. An Army Arising, why artists are on the front line of the next move of God, Crist John Otto nonfiction, paper book, a gift I enjoyed **** nonfiction 
  31. The life of the beloved, spiritual living in a secular world, Henry Nouwen, nonfiction, ebook ****
  32. Redemption Road, John Hart, North Carolina, fiction, audiobook, ****
  33. Are you Sleeping, contemporary mystery, Chicago, Kathleen Barber, ebook ***
  34. Dorothy L. sayers, A Careless Rage for Life, biography, audiobook. ***** 
  35. So Happiness to meet you, Karin Esterhammer, nonfiction, travelogue, library ebook, ***.5
  36. My Italian bulldozer, Alexander McCall Smith, Scotland and Italy, fiction audiobook. **** light and entertaining 
  37. Stay the course, choco de Jesus, paperback gift, skeptical start but I loved his attitude to sharing faith. ****
  38. The way of the thorn, David Trementozzi, spiritual allegory, paperbook, gift. 
  39. The Happiness Effect, How social media is driving a generation to appear perfect at any cost, Donna Freitas, nonfiction; report of a study/survey, paperback, gift. Very Interesting perspective on our times.
  40. The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith, , London, mystery audiobook, library, ***.5
  41. Death and the Lit Chick, G M Malliet, Edinburgh, present day, fiction ebook, ****
For me 3.5 stars is a book that was fine. I likely won't rave about it or chat about it but it was a good read. A lot of nonfiction gifts and I read more nonfiction than normal. I have trouble rating those books. Either they were useful or interesting or they weren't.

12 February 2017

Ghost apartments

About two blocks from where I live in Spain are these apartments. In my head, I call them ghost apartments. Our entire neighborhood "urbanizaciĆ³n" in Spain was built in 2006-2008 brand new from empty ground.

Many of you may recall that the economy got a bit dicey in the late 2000s. This hit Spain a bit earlier due to some overbuilding with some EU funds and well, some other government policies forcing certain standards. Time stood still for a lot of places here including these apartments.

Out my kitchen window I can see an entire square block that the electric boxes, streets, curbs, were all put in, but no houses. Right next to these apartments is a full kids play area and park walkways.

I would love to get a look inside these. From the exterior, they look fully finished but not a single soul has lived in them ever. Probably not a good scenario for any paranormal occurrences. For me it's the ghost of a building. A place completely constructed but never used. I'd love to see if it is 100% finished, appliances and everything or just a shell.

Our entire neighborhood infrastructure was put in place all those years ago and is barely utilized. When we moved into our house a year ago, it was about 7 years old. It had never been lived in, ever. Brand new but with peeling paint because there'd never been heating or cooling. Also a clogged plumbing system on one half of the house from construction debris! No one knew that either.

So now, the economy is beginning to turn up again, quite a bit slower than the USA, but instead of those apartments being advertised, rented, or sold, new ones are being built a few streets in the other direction. I can only imagine there's a bankruptcy thing going on somewhere or the empty buildings in our neighborhood (town homes and apartment blocks) are in a no man's land between owners and banks.

I suppose I have a nosy streak (like my book character Blanche?). I like to know what's inside and behind closed windows and doors. My folks used to drive us around at night for the pleasure of peeking into the lit windows of a mansioned neighborhood near where we lived. It started very young for me, I guess!

Is there somewhere you want to get a look at?

Here's a link to another earlier blog about trespassing in a place that my curiosity couldn't resist!

05 February 2017

My reads of 2016

I'm a bit late posting these this year. I've never binged one series before like I did the Charles Todd books in WW I - that was fun and it was hard not to keep talking about the era since I was reading so much. Continued the audio book mix and made room for some books outside my normal mystery genre too. What were favorite reads last year?

1. The professor, Charlotte Bronte, ***, ebook
2. Look Twice, Lisa Scottaline, PA, Philly, ebook, ***.5
3. An impartial witness, Charles Todd, WWI mystery, ebook library, ****
4. A bitter truth, Charles Todd, WWI, mystery uk, ebok library, ****
5. An Unmarked grave, Charles Todd, WWI  mystery UK, ebook library, ****
6. A Question of Honor, Charles Todd, WWI, mystery UK, France, ebook library, ****
7. The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared, Jonas Jonasson, Sweden and many others, audio, ***.5, if not for political side trips 4 stars. caper.
8. An unwilling accomplice, Charles Todd, wwI mostly inside UK this time, **** library
9. The maharani's pearls, Charles Todd, bess crawford,  short story , library. 
10. Blood work, Michael Connelly, LA region current day, ***.5, audiobook 
11.  The Icarus Deception: how high will you fly?, nonfiction, library audio. ****
12. A Pattern of Lies, Charles Todd, Bess Crawford WW I, library ebook. ***p
13. Essentialism,  the disciplined pursuit of less, Greg  McKeown,  Library ebook, nonfiction 
14. In a cold dark place, Greg Olsen, Emily Canon series, Washington  state, audiobook. ****
15. Go set a watchman, Harper Lee, Macomb, Georgia, 1960s, audiobook, library
16.  Todo esta tranquilo, Mary Higgins Clark, Carol Higgins Clark, modern NH, ebook in Spanish, won't try English translated to Spanish anymore. ***
17. Dog Tags, David Rosenfelt, fiction NJ, audio ***
18. Furiously Happy, Jenny Lawson, nonfiction depression and anxiety issues, audio, ***
19. The Daughter, Jane Shemilt, uk modern day, not exactly mystery but sort of, 3.5* well written but didn't feel the ending and that pulled back my rating. 
20. The Tourist, Olen Steinhauer, *** espionage so lots of places in the world modern day. Audiobook 
21. The wild inside, Christine Carbo, glacier national park, mystery, audio, ***
22. And then there were none, Agatha Christie, soldier island uk, 1930s ebook, *****
23. Seated with Christ, living freely in a culture of comparison, heather holleman, nonfiction. Very simple and well written. *****
24.  Four seasons in Rome, twins, insomnia, and the biggest funeral in the history of the world, Anthony Doerr, travelogue, library****
25. The Tiger in the Smoke, Margery Allingham,  London mostly post WWIi, published 1952, paperbook, ****
26. Best Kept Secrets, Jeffrey Archer, UK post WW II, series, I accidentally picked up the middle of a series, audiobook, library. ***
27. Cold sassy tree, Olive Ann Burns, Georgia 1906, fiction, ****
28. The Whole Truth, David Baldacci, Europe modern day, fiction, paperbook, ****
29. Death du Jour, Kathy Reichs, Montreal and North Carolina, mystery fiction modern, paper book. ***
30. Vanish, Tess Gerritson, Boston modern day, mystery, paper book, ****
31. The Shining, Stephen King, 70s, Colorado, audio library book. *** because of my taste. Very good writing of course, but hurry up and do the killing feeling. Maybe I knew too much of the story.
32. A Sun burned Country, Bill Bryson, Australia travelogue, audio read by the author, library. **** I did laugh out loud at times
33 The Case of the Man who Died Laughing, the files of Vish Puri, detective, by Tarquin Hall, modern India, fiction mystery. Ebook mystery fiction, *****
34. The Careful Use of Compliments, Isabel Dalhoise book, by Alexander McCall Smith, Scotland  fiction  ebook library ***, well written 3 stars is just due to my taste.
35.The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck, China pre-revolution, drama, audiobooks ****
36.Rage, by Zygmunt Miloszewski, Poland Warmia area, contemporary fiction, ebook, ****
37.   Amnesia, g. H. Ephron ****, Boston, recent
38. The Butterfly Garden, Dot Hutchinson, *****, current day, fbi investigation, maybe one of the creepiest things I've read in a long time.
 39. The Expats, Chris Pavone, Luxembourg, Paris, audiobook library. **** espionage. I really enjoyed the expat aspects of this book.
40. The Emperor of Ocean Park, by Stephen L. Carter, modern day New England and D.C. Literary mystery. Ebook. ***.5 very well written but more of a literary feel than compelling mystery, we chased something the whole book only to let it go.
41. The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher, autobiographical, audiobook. ***.5 She read it herself. Quick easy read. She died a couple weeks after I listened to her voice for six hours so it was like I knew her. 42. The last witness, Joel Goldman, Kansas City, ebook. ***
43. One day after, by William Forstchen, today/post apocalyptic North Carolina. audiobook, *** not amazing writing, too much info dumping but a fascinating and haunting premise.
44. As you wish, by Cary Elwes, audiobook, reflections from actors and crew on princess bride movie****
45. The Bee keepers apprentice, Laurie b. King, a derivative of Sherlock Holmes, audiobook, *****
46. The Whistler by John Grisham, Florida fiction, audiobook, finished on Jan 1, 2017 ***

21 January 2017

What's your current story?

When you are getting to know people, you seem to exchange certain kinds of stories. How'd you meet him or her? Where did you grow up? For the extroverts among us, this often means a story. Another case of story is when a strange incident has recently occured and you end up telling it repeatedly as you see different friends or family. At least, if you are a talker, this happens.

I noticed recently that stories ebb and flow. A couple of stories from my introvert significant other's life before I met him make me laugh until I cry, but we haven't told these stories in years because other stories have risen to the surface. For some reason one the stories involving nearly passing out in a hot tub came up again. I thought how odd we haven't told that for so many years.

Again, someone asked me something about my childhood that triggered a story that used to be a bigger part of who I was when I was younger. Now I rarely think of it and it doesn't seem so much a part of who I am now. In my adolescence and early adulthood, it was I suppose my only medical story or one of those odd things you tell. (Er, uh, extroverts tell.)

That story involved accidentally biting my tongue all the way through in a blind mans bluff accident. That's the short version.  A longer version involves no trip to the emergency room, drinking smoothies with raw eggs and soup for the summer, and "cosmetic" surgery to remove the flap that resulted from the accident. This blog isn't about that particular story in my life but it's the fact that a story that loomed so large for me for years can fade.

It still is part of what makes me who I am but I see a pattern where we move on to other stories in our lives. The new stories also make up who we are but the seasons change and those become displaced by some other story. A lot of women seem to have the story of childbirth loom large (no pun intended) and that becomes part of how they relate to others and so that becomes a major story.

When we lived in Belgium for two years in our 20s, all my stories seemed to start, "In Belgium..." Eventually I realized some of it was just incident stories of funny things or weird things, I could stop saying where they happened and just say what happened. To me it was integral where they happened but no one else cared. It was part of how I measured my life stories at the time.

A couple years ago I had another small health incident. It was my first night in the hospital since birth,  and I remember thinking, this will be a good story. But somewhere in the midst of the night of ice packs and a man yelling "madre" even though he was 80, well some of the humorous story wore off.

All of this gets me thinking about the stories that stay but just below the surface ready to pop out at any moment. These are the how did you meet or child birth type stories. But some stories get caught swallowed up as time moves on and hands us more and more stories. I'm fascinated to look back and see which ones rise up again and most startled when someone tells an event back to me that I was part of that I don't remember at all. It was a story for them but somehow not for me, but we were both there.

What's your current story?

26 August 2016

Wakery -- do you have it?

Wakery. I've had it as long as I can remember. Now I have a name for it which I made up myself.

I'm a grown up but I wake up angry. Every morning that I do not awake completely naturally with no external noise or alarms or neighborhood sounds, I am angry. My first conscious thought is usually, "Nooooooooo." Or perhaps just a sound of horror more than an actual word.

I am not articulate for quite some time after I rise. I actually don't and sometimes cannot answer people trying to communicate with me immediately.

My father took great delight when I was very tiny and even later in flipping lights and crying out, "Morning, Glory!" very loudly. Did I mention I wake angry? I even got in trouble a few times for too much anger at these moments. The irony of this is as I've gotten older, my dad is not an early nor instant riser either. He tormented me knowing how difficult it was. Misery loves company I guess.

It needed it's own word. My significant other gets Hangry on a regular basis (angry when hungry) and I thought: why do the hungry grumpy people get all the special words?

It is waking that troubles me and makes me not a great human being. It can be remedied. Even without caffeine (for many years I was caffeine free, alas, no more), I would come around in an hour or so. I can speak with civility and begin to converse.

My man of many years of matrimony saw this trait in his spouse early on and to his immense credit has never abused this personality challenge of mine. He is very kind in trying to wake me on work days or airport days. He is one of those people who wakes automatically BEFORE the alarm. I don't even understand that.  He turns off the alarm before it shocks me. If I'm dead to the world which is often he will pat the end of the bed gently to begin my waking. At times, he just touches my arm, but then I jerk awake with a heart attack and scare him too. (Wakery with palpitations?)

The worst thing now as an adult is to be at some event and share a hotel room with acquaintances. At least my friends and spouse know by now that there will be no talking, chatting, question asking. If I share with someone who is going to get up at horrible o'clock and meditate or exercise, even if they think they have been quiet, I'm awakened and must pretend I'm asleep so I don't do any bodily harm to someone. Why would you attend an event that went until late and get up at 5 a.m.? Why? Why would you dry your hair if someone is lying in a bed 5 feet away just because you like to rise early? It's probably saved me being committed that I'm inarticulate at those moments.

I feel like there's some unwritten rule somewhere that because I'm an adult (and likely not considered a young one at that!) that I'm suppose to rise early naturally or happily or normally. Nope. Didn't get that memo and while it can be embarrassing with people of that ilk, there is no denying it. Whatever it says about me -- I get wakery.

07 August 2016

Excited to sleep

Most of my life I've been a good sleeper. When things get crazy: deadlines, work or travel, I sometimes do more thinking than sleeping. We can all agree that sleep is so sweet if you've missed it or lacked it at some point. Mornings are never my friend.

My father joyed in waking up his grumpy little daughter with a loud voice, bright lights, and shouts of, "Morning, glory!" The funny thing is now that I'm grown up I realize he is not a morning person either. He grunts and muddles through just like I do, but somehow enjoyed tormenting his eldest offspring in this way.

As a child, I was not a napper. I slept well at night but I was rather hostile when made to nap. So dad got some back when I made lot of noise during nap time.

When I was in high school, my parents had a habit of going out to breakfast and I would be chastised if I was still in bed when they got back. This resorted in me jumping out of bed when I heard the garage door and throwing on sweats to pretend that I was really up and at 'em. It was an often feeble attempt to avoid the, "Are you going to stay in bed all day?" discussion. Sometime during college and the first major episode of sleep deprivation I learned the beauty of a good nap and the joy of sleeping in with no one judging.

With no little people to raise, I'm still a big fan of sleeping in on weekends whenever possible. The last few years with the challenges sleeping, I've become even more intense about opportunities to sleep a little extra. I've been accused of not being a grown up in this area but I don't care. The feeling is that strong in me.

The last year has been one of those seasons in my life when sleep has been challenged, but I've developed this odd tick for the first time. I don't know what else to call it.

When I lie down for a nap or for the night, first I relax, pop my neck, breathe deeply. Oh, the bed feels so good....then bam.  I'm so tired I start dreaming before my brain is unplugged.

I don't know how to explain it. I start seeing the dreams, but then my conscious mind says, "Yeah, you're dreaming! You are falling asleep!" And this animates me and I wake up again.

Oh the irony of my mind being so desperate for sleep that it is excited enough to wake me up to celebrate the almost-sleep. Does anyone else get that? I've never done that before the last year. It's definitely a strange new hiccup in my falling sleep pattern.  The more tired I am the more likely it will happen.

I guess I'll go try to drift off and not get so excited that I wake up. May you have sweet and quiet dreams!

26 June 2016

Weirdest places ever slept....the end?

Writing up the odd places I've slept one of the themes I didn't realize was there was being cheap (okay, maybe I knew that one was there) and the other is not enough planning. So we like to play it by ear or the planner of the pair didn't have time or whatever? No big deal, sometimes. This story, however, was planned but still surprised us.

We were on our way to a cruise for a significant anniversary...but that's another story. The thing is it left out out of Stockholm, Sweden where we had never been. We decided to go in a couple nights early so there would be no worries about missing the boat, literally, and we could take in the sites of a city we'd never visited. 

Turns out when you go north in Europe the prices increase as you go. At least from our southern European living perspective. The hotels were crazy expensive. So we turned to a b and b site. My impression from the brief description was that it was in the center of the city (bonus) and was a spa (bonus). And the price came down from never mind money to 'well, I guess it's only a couple nights' kind of money.

We booked it. Flew in. Did I mention the 10 day cruise? So imagine the suitcase size when you are dragging that many changes of clothes with you. I know travel light etc. But the cruise...

So we have carry on backpacks plus hip high roller bags. We manage the train to our stop with limited anger and sweat. We arrive at night in the party central area of Stockholm. We walk and walk and walk. We CANNOT find this place. Of course tensions are rising so what is not fun already is turning ugly quickly. 

Finally we agree one will stay with the luggage and one will go find the destination. We've called the proprietor several times who seems to be in a bar with his blokes and yells various things and says just let him know when we are at the door and he will pop over and let us in.

Somewhere around 11pm we find it. It's the upstairs of another business in a nondescript building. The spa of the internet is the "Human Being Center" on arrival. This tickles us because it's not bad English but the connotation has some sci-fi aspect to it.

So our buddy comes over and lets us in. Turns out the spa is based on the fact that he and his partner have a front room converted for yoga classes and the room we are sleeping in also has a massage table. The spa bath is down the hall and we all share it. 

It is an amazing huge bathroom nicely re-done. Beautiful. A tub for two and separate shower, washing machine, two sinks. It's enormous. Did I mention it is down the hall and shared? Not uncommon but for over $100 I was thinking I'd have a bathroom so I wasn't really prepared.

Before our new proprietor leaves he explains about the honor system on the raw food shelf. If we want breakfast we buy it and eat it out of the healthy packages that the raw food comes in. So my entire definition of  b and b has altered substantially suddenly -- that second b may not necessarily be breakfast. 

We got ready for bed and were just coming back to our room when he came home with his girl and asked if they could have dibs on the double tub or were we going to use it? Uh, no. No one was dirty or anything. But it's just the idea that it'd almost be like 4 in the tub if we got in later. Just couldn't do it.

The apartment was Scandinavian white, the bed squished up against the wall was comfortable and the massage table made a handy place to sort your clothes out. It was just not your regular stay somewhere. We were in the center of the city and had a nice time exploring and a delightful place down the block had a delish breakfast of all kinds of non-vegan stuff (it was a beautiful cafe like a magazine). We had a great time. We paid  what for us is a LOT for the Human Being experience but it was cheaper than the "real" hotels.

We can never go back to Stockholm because of a problem with the train system where they catch tourists without proper tickets and give them enormous unmerciful fines. We appealed and got no response nor did we pay the 300€ per person fine so we can never go back, well at least to be on the safe side. Fugitives again, but I digress.

One of my philosophies on trips where you go to see things is that the hotel is only for sleeping so it doesn't have to be high end as long as it's clean. I will not blog about the two hotels I've stayed in that caused me to go to the car and get a scarf to cover the pillow. As I'm getting older, I'm beginning to appreciate the idea of a trip to relax rather than see the entire region. In this case, I'm going to become a connoisseur of the nice hotel for the relaxing side of that equation. Some day. Or maybe when my budget catches up to me.

05 June 2016

Weirdest places ever slept....part 5 Chambres

When we are young, we are brave about cheap travel. Or we were anyway. Or we didn't know anything else. 

I'd never left the country when we committed to a two year over seas volunteer gig. As most volunteer things go, funds were tight but we weren't going to sit in apartment in Belgium without looking around.

We discovered that people in France advertise a sort of off the books place to stay by putting signs on the side of the road that said, "Chambre" -- room.

We set off on a weekend trip. The destination I believe was Mont St Michel. We'd heard of it's amazing beauty and set out in a rental car from Brussels. If you haven't put it on your list, it's definitely something to see. An island with a Monastery on top preserved in all its medieval-ness. The water gets very far out at low tide and people can be fooled that it is not coming back. When the tide comes in, it is at a crazy fast speed and people have been caught in a bad way. Seems like we heard tell of ghosts and such.

So we tootled down the French coast. We stopped  in Le Havre a site mentioned in the Henry V play of Shakespeare, after a real life battle event. We enjoyed the coastal towns where Brittany and Normandy change hands on the sea. We spent the afternoon in Deauville and chose a country road with the debate of where to say on everyone's lips. We saw one of these hand scrawled "chambre" signs in rough cardboard. We were far from anything at this point and turned down the small dirt track.

We arrived at a delightful real life farm. Something from a PBS television show with a big dirt patio in front of a wood shingled farm house. A lady took us upstairs showed us several rooms all very homey and country farm but somehow French. Not fancy at all but they had a certain rustic charm. They weren't prepared to do a meal for us but pointed us down the road to a little cafe-bar.

At that little bar, there was no English and they thought we were a great circus act sent to entertain them as I imagine we were. I had the most memorable steak of my life that night. We'd saved on the room and splurged on the food but even so we were in the country and it was comparatively cheap. (Always eat local when you can.)

So far nothing weird, right? You are correct. We went further down the coast to Mont St Michel and as is a common factor in our stories, we didn't know somewhere there was a holiday or event or something. So we could not stay on the Mont. Too bad because it was beautiful but also no vacancies. We set out across the country nearby with our new found confidence in chambres. We found a sign. This time it was just a modern walk up house. We'd already left our friends in the desperate search for rooms elsewhere, so of course we took what they offered. A paneled spare bedroom at the top of the not cherished house decorated a la 1975, crochet blanket included. The salle de bain was in a nook downstairs off the kitchen where the dining table sat.

While we made these arrangements in stumbling French with the lady proprietor and her cigarette, a couple of surly young men (teens?) were playing a video game or watching television in the dark salon behind her. No big deal we all have our own rooms right. We later realized how far this room arrangement was to the toilet and that for our convenience they had put a chemical camp toilet in the corner of our paneled bedroom. Not curtained off, just sitting there.

When we'd come in quite late from the explorations of the dimly lit stone ambiance of Mont St Michel, those men, guys, dudes, were still in the livingroom and didn't acknowledge us coming in. Weird.

A few hours later I awoke, with a need to go to the loo. I'd not been counting on strange housing arrangements and hadn't brought a robe. The urge was great, the need to get back to sleep intense. The odd dudes lurking in the salon flashed in my mind's eye. I gave in to the chemical toilet.

The odd plastic echo sound however woke my significant other who couldn't figure out what the sound was. So he turned on a flashlight and shown it around the room much to the audible horror of both of us. I can still hear my best friend laughing as I tell this story.

Coming down to do ablutions in the morning a table full of even more surly young men perched in the kitchen eating cereal -- silently. Quite a contrast to the sunny farm kitchen and bowls of chocolate and croissants that we'd had at the last chambre. It was my significant other's turn to make people wonder what the sounds near by might be as he'd waited to use the real toilet.

Okay one more chambre on another trip: Not sure where we'd been but it was just the two of us and we were on our way back to Brussels but still in France. We followed a chambre sign on small road. It was a farm perhaps not charming but a reasonable looking place. We talked to the man the price was good. I don't remember if we'd agreed already to stay or if we were taking a look. The man in the wellington plastic boots marched us away from the farm and down a field path. Our own bungalow perhaps?

As we walked I explained to him in my budding French, we are Americans from Kansas City. He said to me, "Well I don't speak American." Yes, he used the French word for American, not English. He was weathered and hard beaten and a smoker with a rough voice. He'd understood me though so big bonus. Pat on the back dor my French. So I said, we live in Belgium. Farmer said, "And I don't speak Belge." Negating the French speaking population with a swat of his hand. Alright-y then.

The "bungalow" turned out to by one of those tiny trailers (caravans) the size of car, anchored in a field. It was not redecorated other than it had clean linens. It smelled as if it had been moldering in the field a good many years for unsuspecting tired tourists to come along.

Another theme in our stories - well, we were tired (or it was late) and we didn't know where else to go...so we slept in the yellow stinky trailer aka "chambre."

28 May 2016

Weirdest places ever slept, part 4, God's house

As part of our day job related fund raising, we travel to all kinds of places and hotels. Sometimes when it is in our nonprofit world, we stay with friends or the locals offer to put us up. This is great as it saves money as we raise it. Several churches have had space to host us and we've always been grateful, but it's also some of the strangest sleeping quarters I've experienced.

I don't know if any of you have ever been in a huge building alone as a kid or an adult. As a kid I remember we'd play hide and seek in the basement of the church I grew up in while the adults ate finger food and drank punch upstairs somewhere. It always seemed like you'd get spooked and run like you'd never run in your life down a dark hallway. Also my dad used to rent "computer time"  in a big office building in downtown KC. I'd be the only person on the 10th floor poking in people's desks and such. Then I'd go even further down to the bathroom and get spooked and run like mad back to the computer room that was completely sealed and sound proof. My dad wouldn't have heard me yelling or running or anything the way it was set up. It was great fun.  I give you this as way as background to the places with dark hallways that might effect odd places I slept as an adult.

The first time we slept in a guest room inside a church it was in a smaller community, but the church could probably seat a couple hundred people. We had a compulsion to walk around and see everything just so we knew where we were at and how the land lay. My significant other sneaked into the sanctuary and tapped on the cymbals while I was in another part of the church getting a drink or something and tried to say it wasn't him. The church folks had thoughtfully put a lock on the door of the room.

One nice thing about a lock is that you are in a huge building alone and it's nice not to feel vulnerable. Two is that folks arrive at all kinds of early hours for church services and you'd like to not introduce yourself in your skivvies.

So another time, another religious institution, the guest room was actually a large lounge with six sofas that made into beds. So you just picked one and opened up. While it was a big space (besides being in a big building) it very distinctly wasn't a single bedroom. We dressed in the attached bathroom.

Well, putting it mildly I'm not an early riser. The early risers in this rural farm community were getting coffee going behind a folding curtain that attached to our room. My significant other got in the shower and gave me a moment to awake. I started worrying this big room was a Sunday School area and I should get moving. I traded the sofa room for the bathroom only to hear pounding on the door of our area. I was about to turn on the shower when my man opened the door and said that I needed to hurry they were going to have to turn off the water.  The snow storm had frozen and broken pipes which were filling the heating system with water. Uhm, okay, no pressure.

When I came out to join in the donuts and early morning church rituals, you could hear the water pounding in the heating vents like tribal drums. Really weird sound.

Okay, so another room another state. This time attached to the men's bathroom as this was the only bathroom that had a shower. My spouse taught me that it is inappropriate to balance one's makeup bag on the handle of a urinal, but honestly you just work with whatever space you have and there wasn't any. We stayed in this arrangement for eight weeks. It was in a urban spill from a very large city. The kitchen was in the basement which meant walking through the sanctuary (in the dark) and down some stairs and hallways to the kitchen for hot water or microwaves etc. So I had to psych myself up for the journey (see the paragraph of childhood basement running above!).

It was fine and we didn't mind. These are just the little challenges you don't think of unless you stay a place as unusual as the back of thousands of square feet of public use space. After a few days, someone from the pastoral family mentioned that we needed to double check the side door by the sanctuary (not the one we used in the back dark parking lot!) because it didn't always latch and sometimes homeless people came inside to get warm. No big deal but it was best to check. Yeah. Note to self check the doors and the dark hallways on the way to the far away kitchen.

So then my significant one had to leave for another meeting and I got to stay there completely alone for two weeks. It was fine. Really. So maybe yes, I ran a couple times thru dark hallways, but I was grateful for somewhere to stay. It probably helped the intensity of my prayers!

15 May 2016

Weirdest Places Slept, part 3, Place of the Dead

We spent a big chunk of life only going to visit people we knew when we went on vacation, grandparents, college roommates, that sort of cheap and comfortable vacation where you see your people.

When we started traveling for work reasons, we went a lot of places that hadn't been on the agenda financially or as major destinations. We had some meetings in New Jersey, New York,  and other east coast locals so we drove from the midwest. We didn't used to plan for hotels and on these trips a lot of people host us so we were just winging it.

In the middle of New York somewhere far from civilization, we found ourselves too far to go back and too far to go on as the wee hours began to make us sleepy. We finally took the next exit because we saw a sign for the "White Horse Inn." Taking a dark exit far from everything we'd seen for some time, we drove another 10 miles or so into the woods and discovered the White Horse Inn was a pancake - dinner place and they were locking up. We really needed to stop for the night so we asked if there was anything near by, a bed and breakfast perhaps?

An older fellow pointed us to a campground just a few miles down the road (still further into the deep dark woods and away from the highway) and they had a hotel on the grounds. Perfect.

It was dark and late, we could have missed it but somehow saw the turn. No lights or anything, it was one of those old methodist camp ground type things with the little victorian cottages surrounding a main green. (This sort of thing though this is not the one.)

We parked in front of  a white clapboard two story hotel, relieved and tired and wondering where we were. We'd passed no towns of any sort.

My significant other checked us in while I stood by the luggage at the bottom of the stairs looking at a painting. Not an experienced artist, but well meaning. I looked at the caption and it said, 'painted by Mary SoandSo in a trance.' Trance? I looked around further and there was a quilt done in a trance.

When my honey came up with the keys, we sort of put some things together he saw at the front desk and what I was seeing and realized we'd just checked into a camp for people who like to talk to dead people. Mediums, spiritualists, and such. Uh oh.

It was so late, we were tired and now paid up so we just went to our room, even though this would not have been a place we would pick out of website to stay. Let's just say it's not our spiritual cup of tea.

It was a lovely old room with wood floors and metal bed. You know how those old eastern board places don't have a/c? Well, this was one of them. We had the lights off in a few minutes since we were beat. My man was gleefully speculating if the curtains were blowing in the summer breeze or ...? I fell asleep. He told some family members who were completely terrified for us that we'd stayed there.

It was a lovely old camp ground but as we drove away each little cottage had a sign for a psychic or a medium or something. It struck me as a vaguely sinister environment with a quaint veneer over the top. A little arsenic and old lace.

Taking a different tact on the same trip later, we stayed in a hotel near the highway that had a hot tub the size of a car in one half of the BEDROOM space. Ick. And when I turned on the TV to porn,  we were really skeeved out. I think I slept on top of my scarf. Let's say, this may when we began to realize we needed to plan a little more carefully.