Saturday, December 24, 2011


The tree is up.
The table is set.

Oh, how I wish I took better pictures.

A co-worker work was fired, just days ago. I had my own threat this week. What’s my co-worker feeling, tonight?

I think of a benevolent woman I knew, deceased now. What a view of life she had. Her husband, upon learning his long career as a college professor would end with termination, took his own life. Some years later, her son ended an unimaginably cruel and unfair time in his life by shooting several people. His favor was quickly returned by local law enforcement.

In a Christmas card, this lady, my friend, wrote of seeing lights appear in neighborhood windows, of smelling cookies baking, about hanging her late-husband’s hand-made angel decorations, to the joy of her grandson. Naturally, she missed her husband and son, she wrote; yet, there IS joy in the air, and there IS hope, she concluded. Every Christmas, I put that note on my refrigerator.

I look out my window. In the dark, my little Tuscany isn’t visible, but a brightly-lit tree is, atop the same hill.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hello Russia!

I’ve been seeing regular viewing of this blog from Russia.

Welcome! Feel free to comment and say hello.

But know that my total vocabulary in Russian is limited to:

  • Stuck

  • Red light

  • Nurse, let go!

- PJ

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


One of my oldest friends in town, stuck in the elevator with me last Saturday, is the person to whom I handed a copy of Half Italian, mentioned at the end of my 11/21 post.

He found the book quite entertaining. “But I know you,” he reflected. “I can’t speak for a general public that doesn’t know you.”

True. I need the feedback of strangers.

Nothing, yet, from the contact of my 11/24 post.

- PJ

Monday, December 12, 2011

Final Reunion

Saturday was the Paris Group mid-December reunion I mentioned in my 11/21 post, an epilogue for our trip, last October. We celebrated with a Christmas potluck.

Roast ham, enchiladas, potato-cheese casserole, baked prosciutto-wrapped-blue-cheese-stuffed dates, Belgian endive and heart of palm salad, apple-blackberry pie, pumpkin-spice cake…and…homemade caramel sauce to top the desserts, with fleur de sel (that French touch, as a reminder of our trip).

Energies were high, a grand conclusion to a great time.

And then…seven of us got stuck in the building elevator. Five guests and two hosts (us), made a call to elevator service, from the elevator phone. One semi-concerned employee ensured a technician had been called, with no estimated arrival time. “Have a better night!” she concluded.

A brand new building has its growing pains, and ours is no exception. A few months back, on one of the hottest days of the year, eight people became stuck in the same elevator for over an hour. One was an eight-month-expectant mother. Our group lucked out with a cold night.

I lowered my seat to the floor, prepared for increased temps and decreased oxygen. Better to slow my system. I’m claustrophobic, and this was my first time stuck in an elevator.

We’d given the elevator company a cell-phone number. Realizing no one in our elevator had cellular service, we called back. Seven rings later, someone answered. “Are you the Valley Oaks group?”

“Yes. We gave a cellph…”

“We’ve called a technician.”

"No one has…”

“A technician is on the way.”

Two more interruptions, and then, “We’re trying say you can’t contact anyone on the number we gave you – no one has service!”

“Sir, we require a number on every call…in case we’re disconnec…” Silence. Kaput.

Later, the elevator phone rang. “A technician is four miles away. Try to have a better evening!”

Like the others, I tried to be discreet when wiping perspiration from my forehead. As oxygen decreased, stuffiness increased.

Later (one of our group timed it as twenty minutes) the elevator phone rang again. “The technician is there but he can’t get in. We tried to call the cell number you gave but no one answered.”

Duh. What do you want us to do?

But the technician got in, somehow. We heard him yell, from somewhere below us. The elevator moved up, then down. The door didn’t open.

Then the technician yelled, “Put your hands flat on the door, and push it, hard, from your right to your left.”

His instructions were clear, except there were two elevator doors, front and back.

“Which door?” we called out.


With due respect for all, our elevator group were not the demanding type, all understood and spoke English, and none of us were “dense,” including an eighty-year-old lady who’d stood the entire hour we’d been waiting.

Which one? There are two!” we called out.


We did, on both doors (seven of us, after all) and one of them opened.

We were on the floor from which we’d started. We walked out, into cold dry air. Recovery.

Conclusion: some safety device was malfunctioning.

Back in my home, the last of the party candles had gone out. I cleaned up, and went to bed.

It was a great party.