My weekend in Istanbul – Part 2

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The forbidden women’s section of Cagaloglu Hamami!

When we last left our heroines, they were stranded in Istanbul with no money and no way home.  They were falling on desperate times so had to start working in a Turkish brothel….

Just kidding.

AGMA always did have a flare for the dramatic!

Our first full day of touring Istanbul was wonderful!  We went to the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.  We ate incredible sweet treats at the Hafiz Mustafe 1864 close to the Sultanahmet tram stop.  I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E.

Then we were off to Cagaloglu Hamami Turkish bath.  I was a bit nervous about talking my 3 friends into going with me….

While AGMA thinks a Turkish bath is probably the closest to heaven I will get on this earth, I understand that it’s not everybody’s cup o’ tea (the sauna, being pretty much all naked, the scrubbing with a kese mitt and the BUBBLES – oh Lord… THE BUBBLES!)

They adored it!  Whew.

All squeaky clean, back at our hotel, we discovered a letter has been slipped under our door.

???

I read it.  C read it.  I reread it. C reread it.

“Does this say what I think it says?”  I asked.

Yup!  It was a letter from the Gate1 tour director in Turkey telling us that we were going to be picked up at 6:30 AM the next morning to be taken to a different hotel in Istanbul so we could join up with the tour group that left on their tour of Turkey the day before ours was supposed to leave.  We could just pop in with them and spend the next 11 days touring Turkey instead of going home.

Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me…

C & I aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, but we had learned our lesson (the expensive way) about travel during a global pandemic.  We were going to get out butts home ASAP.

HOWEVER, K&D, our travel companions, thought staying was just a dandy idea.

WTF???

Our eyes rolled all the way around in their sockets!

So they were off the next day.  And we got regular texts throughout the day from them saying how wonderful their new tour friends were. And how nice the tour manager was and that they were soooooo glad they decided to stay.

More eye rolling.

But C & I did have a 2nd lovely day in Istanbul.  HOHO bus, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Market, wandering the very crowded, not socially distant streets around the Bazaar and Market.  That evening we had an incredible dinner with a fabulous view of The Golden Horn sitting next to a table with two hot Frenchmen.

Did AGMA say that out loud?

But we were very happy to head Istanbul’s beautiful new airport the next day  (3/15) to make our way back home.

In the meantime, K kept posting pictures of their trip on Facebook – the massive hotel breakfast buffet, the Anzac cemetery at Gallipoli, the ancient city of Troy.

At this point, it was obvious that things were getting pretty serious at home, so worried looks replaced our eye rolling.  But they were adults right?  Maybe?

As we settled into our extra legroom exit row bulkhead seats on the plane (I rarely upgrade, but thought it might be a good idea), it was obvious that people were nervous.  I could see the masked guy sitting next to me sizing me up  as to whether I was “safe” or not.

I tried not to cough…

Then we got the “What a surprise.  NOT!” text from K&D.  They just found out their tour was suspended.  They were heading back to Istanbul.  To, once again, be stranded.

I didn’t, but AGMA sooooo wanted to say “We hate to tell you we told you so, but we told you so!”

They assured us that the tour company was going to make all of their arrangements to get back to the US even though they had booked their airfare (like we did) through an OTA and not the tour company.

Back to eye rolling.

The flight to Atlanta was uneventful.  We spent quite a bit of time reading the breaking news from the US as well as getting updates from K&D.  They and the rest of their tour group were very upset the tour was cancelled and BEGGED their Turkish guide to continue.

Again, WTF???

Turkish Airways served a nice dinner complete with a lovely French red wine from Bordeaux.  Seriously, it was the best wine I’ve ever had on an airplane.  I had several little bottles.

If ever there was a time to get lit, I was pretty sure this was it!

But, oddly, the dinner included a side of beans.

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Beans.

The flight was 12.5 hours.  There were about 450 people on board.  It could have gotten real ugly…

Note to self…send an email to Turkish Airways to suggest they may want to rethink that side dish.

When we got to Atlanta, we braced for being screened, scanned, probed, questioned, and possibly told we had to quarantine.

What happened was a joke.

We had to stay on the airplane while some masked Feds came on board and asked us to complete a form.  The form asked if we had been in China in the last 14 days; if we had been around anybody with the coronavirus; if we felt sick.

That was it.  At this time, Europe was being slammed by COVID – 19.  No questions about Italy.  Or France.  Or Spain.  Or the UK.

Then they gave us a paper with information about the coronavirus, and let us deplane.  We got our luggage, breezed through customs and were on the streets of Altanta in about 30 minutes.

That was it.  No thermal scans.  No infrared thermometers.  Of course, no tests.  And we weren’t told to quarantine.

AGMA still wonders how many people on that plane had the virus.

The next day, after a decent night’s sleep in my bed, we found out that K&D had been “deserted” by their tour guide and were told that they had to make their own arrangements to get back home.

Damn – I hate it when I’m right!

They ended up leaving Istanbul on March 17th (2 days after us) but, in total, their trip to get home, with 2 layovers was 26 hours.  So they actually got home on March 18th.

So the moral of this story, boys and girls, is NOT to travel when WHO declares a global pandemic.

And if you do, have enough sense to come home when the Universe tell you to.

My friends, stay home, stay safe and TRY to stay sane!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My weekend in Istanbul – Part 1

Yes…AGMA is alive and kicking!

Well, maybe just alive, but these days that’s pretty much a win.

Given the state of the world, and the fact that my muse of a coffee shop is closed, I just haven’t been in mood to write.

Lord knows time isn’t an issue.  Anymore.

Nor will it be an issue in the foreseeable future…

The world has changed drastically in the 3 weeks since AGMA wrote my last post.  Changed more that I think any of us could have imagined.  In our wildest dreams.

Or nightmares.

When the coronavirus was first reported on in China, Hubs said, “This is going to be like one of those monkey movies.”  Pish posh – I thought he was being an alarmist.

Silly girl.

We are currently living in one of those contagion monkey movies.

I think I want my money back.

So AGMA made, in hindsight of course, the not so wise decision to go forward with a tour of Turkey with friends in the midst of a global pandemic that was moving across the globe like wildfire.

Boy, was I stupid.

“Let’s go to Turkey!” I said.  “Let’s fly in a day early to get our bearings!” I said. “It will be an adventure!” I said

I hate it when I’m right.

AGMA started feeling uncomfortable about going the week before we were supposed to leave.  Cases of COVID-19 were multiplying fast around the world.  But the US didn’t have very many cases and Turkey had zero.  And my friends were all still really gung ho about going.

Since AGMA was the one who talked them all into booking this trip, I put my discomfort aside and told myself, “This is going to be fun and it’s all going to turn out great!”

Humans have a great capacity of self-deception.

The day we left, March 11, coronavirus was declared a global pandemic by WHO. (And no – I’m not going to break out into a Abbot and Costello routine…)

Gulp.

My good friend and travel companion, C, and I met up with D & K in Amsterdam who flew in from Detroit.  While waiting for our flight to Istanbul, the news came across that the Orange Madman had decided to suspend flights coming into the US from 26 European countries.

Ah oh…our return flight home on March 24th was going to connect through Paris.

Double gulp.

We all kind of looked at each other and said, “We’ll sort it out when the time comes,” and boarded our flight to Istanbul.

Looking back, it was sorta cute in a naive kinda way that we thought we’d actually be in Turkey until March 24th.

After a loooonnnnggg travel day, we finally got to our hotel in Istanbul around 7 PM on March 12th.

But there is no rest for a wicked AGMA.  I had a dinner date with a woman Hubs and I met through EatWith when we were in Istanbul in November 2018.

C and I sort of wiped ourselves down, brushed our teeth and changed our clothes, and hurried off through the darken streets of Istanbul toward the Hamdi Restaurant.

And it was on those back streets that we got the news…

(Please recall that I said to my friends, “Let’s fly in a day early to get our bearings!”)

An urgent text from our tour company said, “Your trip is suspended.  Do not board flight.  Travel restrictions related to COVID-19.  Check email for further updates.”

There we were, 6000 miles away from home and no tour to join.

AGMA started to laugh.

I mean, you either laugh or cry right?

We ended up have a fantastic dinner with my Turkish friend.  The food was delicious (nothing like having a native ordering for you!), the setting was magnificent (3rd floor view over the Golden Horn on one side and the Süleymaniye Mosque on the other), and the company was delightful.  It was almost enough to make us forget we were “stuck” in Istanbul.

Almost.

D & K were able to talk to the our tour company while C and I were at dinner.  They were hoping that the tour company could recommend a private guide so that we could do an abbreviated tour of Turkey.  After all, that was a heck of a long way to come to turn around and go home….  The tour company said, “Nah baby nah, ya’ll better hurry on home now.”

Before tuning in for the night, we all agreed to work on Plan B at breakfast

The breakfast buffet at the Yasmak Sultan Hotel was wonderful!  Even with only a few hours sleep, a good breakfast and some strong coffee perked all of us up.  We all decided that we needed to get out of Dodge by the most direct route possible as soon as possible.

And as luck would have it, Turkish Airlines flies a direct route from Istanbul to Atlanta.  Well now, that seemed like a no brainer…

Since we were in a bit of a bother to get home, we all paid for our return flights on the 15th out of pocket.  We figured we’d take up the matter of the flights we had booked home on the 3/24 with our OTA when we got home.

We checked out of the Yasmak Sultan and into the Legacy Ottoman Hotel for our final 2 nights in Istanbul.  The tour company had prepaid for the rooms at the Legacy for 2 nights as part of our tour and the hotel said we were welcomed to use them.

Sweet!

At this point, on March 13th, Turkey had just reported it’s first case of COVID-19, so we felt pretty comfortable staying there for 2 more days.

We played tourists on the 13th and had a great day!  The weather was incredible and we enjoyed the warm hospitality of the Turkish people.

And I got to go to a Turkish Bath again.  Heaven on earth!

And the food.  The yummy for the tummy food.  The “OMG, this is amazing” food.

Did I mention how much I like the food is in Istanbul?

Part 2 coming as soon as AGMA loosens my belt…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not funny, but…

pennywise

…it’s kinda funny.

The response to COVID-19 that is.

Now if you are in the middle of it in Washington state or Italy or Iran or Wuhan, China or other locations with a high infection rate, I do understand that this is a very serious life and death global health crisis.  I’m in no way making light of the loss of life and plight of those who have contacted the coronavirus and/or are in high risk areas.

This is unlike anything AGMA’s seen in my lifetime and it’s frightening.  And it’s really just getting started in the US.

But I’ve always live by the personal credo, “You can either laugh about it or cry about it.  I choose to laugh.”

AGMA would’ve been a comic genius during the Black Death.

Lest you think I’m being insensitive, in AGMA’s world, funny doesn’t always translate to  “ha ha”…

The description of “funny” can be very situation.

As in, “That smells kinda funny.”  (Translation – “What crawled in here and died?”). Or, “He’s always been a bit ‘funny’.”  (Translation – “He cray cray!”).  Or, “You think that tRump is making America great?  That’s funny!” (Translation – “Are you f*cking crazy???”)

I think it’s funny (translation – “pathetic”) the way the CDC sycophant in charge totally screwed up the testing strategy and test kits leading to the US being 6 weeks behind other nations in our testing.  And I think it’s funny (translation – “ridiculous and dangerous”) that vice sycophant Mike “smoking doesn’t cause cancer” Pence is heading up the, as it turns out, non-response to the CV in the US that is resulting in no cohesive plan based on medical facts whatsoever for dealing with this serious health crisis in America.

And tRump’s comments during his visit to the CDC last Friday…hysterical!!  (Translation – “We’re all screwed!”)

But I REALLY do think it’s funny (Translation – Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!!) that two of 45’s most dedicated gestapo men in Congress – Doug Collins and Matt “gas mask” Gaetz – who were in “Heil Twitler” proximity to the Fat Orange Menace are in self quarantine because of encounters with a CV positive person at CPAC.

Karma can be a beautiful thing.

And AGMA is laughing at myself (Translation – “You can run but you can’t hide!”) as I wipe down the ATM drive through machine, the self check-out machine at Kroger, and the counters and my computer at my favorite coffee shop.

I’m sure I will be chuckling tomorrow (Translation – “Resistance is so futile…”) as I put my protective seat cover on my airplane seat while wearing my nitrile gloves.  After which AGMA’ll throughly wipe down my tray table, video screen, armrests, the wall around the window, and anything else that doesn’t move before settling in for my flight to Amsterdam.

All the while avoiding touching my face.  ALWAYS avoid touching the face.  Although right now my hand is on my face!  How funny!  (Translation – “What the hell is wrong with me??”)

And I’ll probably be guffawing (Translation – “I wonder if I’ll see my family again??”) as I repeat the ritual on my flight to Istanbul.

Allegedly Turkey has no reported cases of the coronavirus.  Knowing what an upright and honest guy their president, Recep Tayyip “let’s imprison journalists as terrorists who dare to tell the truth about my repressive regime” Erdogan, is, AGMA’s not entirely buying what he’s selling.

Turkey is surrounded by countries with CV-19.  They share are border with Iran that is one of the hotbeds of the coronavirus.  It’s estimated, despite their reported numbers only being around 60,000, that there could be possibly 1/2 million people in Iran have CV-19.

And AGMA’s read that there are rumors of suspected CV patients in isolation in hospitals around Turkey despite the “official” stance that they are free of the virus.

I get wishful thinking.  And clearly AGMA’s okay with Turkey’s wishful thinking.

I myself am a wishful thinker!

That’s so funny! (Translation – “WTF are you thinking AGMA??  It’s been nice knowing you…”)

 

 

Let’s go viral!

corona

We got back from our adventure on the French Riveria last Tuesday and life has been nonstop.

Into the fire…

Of course Hubs and I both came home with a cold (one of us always gets sick when we travel), and now we think we are infecting the entire Atlanta metro area with the latest designer contagion, the Coronavirus.

AGMA initially wanted to get tested, but quickly found out that, due to the stunning foresight of der Führer Twitler wanting to give all his billionaires BFF’s a tax break, public health funding has been slashed at every level of government and many positions in the public health sector are unfilled.  Currently, there are no tests available unless you are on your deathbed.

A little late methinks.

The US is 6 weeks behind most countries in preparing to deal with the Coronavirus.

Shrewd…

So we’re sending up thoughts and prayers (Mother and Coronavirus Tsar VP Pen-is would approve!) that we really do have a run of the mill cold and nothing more exotic.

In the meantime, AGMA thinks I’ll have a beer.

Our trip was really great!  Unseasonably mild temps and sunny days were pretty much the rule rather than the exception.

Favorite moments:

  • Carnival in Nice!  The Flower Parade during the day one day and the Night Parade one evening that was TOTALLY over the top!
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The Flower Parade

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The Night Parade

  • The Menton Citrus Festival and parade!  Floats made up of oranges and limes, beautiful women in feathers and sequins, people in butterfly outfits on stilts, Italian bands and lemon tarts (the kind you eat that is…)
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A little bit of Australia in France!

  • The Carmargue National Park where flamingos and Carmarge ponies frolic along with Camargue bulls (they get to live in the bull fight ring) and Spanish bulls (not so lucky in the ring). The main products are rice and speciality salt.  It was an area unlike any other I’ve been in in France.
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Flamingos!!

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A beautiful Carmague pony gets up close and personal!

  • Gorges du Verden.  One of the Grand Canyons of France.  It’s a beautiful area in the Var.  In the summer, it’s packed with tourists.  The day we went (and it’s a full day trip from Nice), it was virtually deserted.
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The drive to get up to this view was interesting!

  • The Casino in Monte Carlo.  Proves that AGMA can lose money with the best of them!
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The name is Bond…James Bond

  • The view from our apartment in Marseilles.
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Stunning!

  • Great art!
  • And of course great food and wine!!

Next week I’m supposed to leave for Turkey.

Maybe.

Right now they are COVID-19 free (“right now” being the operative words.).  But of course they share a border with Iran that is Coronavirus central behind China and Italy.  And Iran is still pissed off at Twitler for assassinating  that general a couple of months ago and has vowed revenge against Americans.

And over the weekend, Turkey declared war against Syria.

AGMA’s not really feeling too warm and fuzzy about this trip.

On the bright side, I bet there will be a lot of empty seats on the plane…

 

 

Into the fire

out-of-the-frying

So AGMA’s planning on ignoring the elephant (literally…) in the room.

There are those of you out there, far more eloquent than I, who will be addressing the news of late surrounding the orange squatter in our White House here in ‘Murica.  I’m pretty sure I’m out of words to describe just how loathsome Individual #1 and the GOP that is enabling him are.

But can I say that Nancy Pelosi is a total BAD ASS??  Please….

Last night, she created one of the most iconic moments of tyrannical resistance in US history by ripping up the traitor’s SOTU “speech” that was full of lies and hate.  The Boston Tea Party patriots would approve.

I wanna be like Nancy when I grow up.

Amid the backdrop of impeachment and Presidential primaries and the destruction of America as we know it by the GOP, AGMA has decided to jump out of the frying pan.

Hubs and I have decided to sell our townhouse this spring.

This may not sound like such a big deal to most of you, but for those who live in Casa AGMA, it’s YUGE.

Your first question might be…  Why?

And it’s a good one.  We LOVE where we live.  We love the neighborhood and our proximity to great restaurants, shopping and all that the city has to offer.  And we love our townhouse.

The reality is that Hubs mobility issue gets a bit worse (he has a genetic disorder that is causing him to lose the use of his legs) with every passing year.   And our townhouse has 4 floors.

Because of that, AGMA has always had to do the heavy lifting (so to speak) when it comes to hauling stuff from one place to another.

But now I’m having spine issues that make it difficult for me to fulfill my previous position as pack mule.  I’m more like a pack squirrel now.

Damn it.  I hate it when that happens.

We always knew that we’d have to go to a single level living situation eventually, but my back issues have accelerated that timeline.

Plus, we think that the this might be THE time to sell to get top dollar for our place.  “They” are all saying that the real estate market is due for a “correction.”  We’d like to bail before it corrects.

“But where will you go AGMA?”

I’m glad you asked and the answer is….  We have no idea.

Seriously.

Anybody got a spare room for two charming seniors with two adorable cats?  One is an introvert and keeps to himself.  The other is an AGMA.  The humans, not the cats.  The cats are sweet and loving as long as you ignore the occasional hairball and the fur clumps.

Anybody?

(crickets)

Barring any fabulous offers from one of you, we were thinking of renting a place in Chicago this summer to be closer to the grands for a few months.  Not really sure how Son#1 and my DIL would like that though.  They’d get used to us I’m sure…

After that, who knows?

We talked about getting an RV and driving around the country for a year, but the more I read about it, the less I liked the idea.  It all seems like a lot of work.  And from what I’ve heard, KOA’s are hotbeds of MAGA folks.  Now THAT would be interesting.

But I think we’ll take a pass.

We’ll probably rent for a while here in Atlanta.  But then again maybe not.  Son#2 may be moving soon for a job yet to be found.  He’s finishing up his MBA and is currently “in the hunt.”

If he moves, will we follow him?  Depends on where he goes.  Or we could move back to our adopted hometown of many years, Cincinnati, where we still have some wonderful friends.  Or not.  Or we could move full time to the Chicago area.  Brrrrrrrr (even with climate change.)

Also, Hubs and I want to see how the election in November turns out.  If the Big Orange Cheeto cheats his way back into the WH with his BFF Putin’s help, we just might be political refugees.

AGMA had my annual “check to see if you have any moles look weird” check-up this morning.  I passed inspection (whew!) and they asked if I wanted to make my appointment for next year.  I said, “No.  I might not be living in Atlanta next year.”

There’s actually something weirdly intoxicating to me about not knowing where I will be in a year.  Is this something that I should be worried about?

In the meantime, before the end of March, I need to clean out 10 closets, figure out what to do with all my Ebay sh*t I haven’t sold yet (boxes and boxes worth), go through about 20 boxes that haven’t been opened in 8 years since our last move, make untold trips to Goodwill, and arrange to get rid of furniture that is taking up too much room.

We also have to replace a broken ice machine, fix a broken gas fireplace and whirlpool tub, make repairs to our dormers, fix a hole in our garage ceiling, paint our main living level, have the bar on our kitchen island removed and replace all the counter tops, paint our kitchen cabinets and have a new tile backsplash installed.

Before the end of March.

But here’s the thing.  Hubs and I leave next Tuesday for 2 weeks in France.  Awesome, but bad timing.  Then I’m home for two weeks,  Then AGMA leaves on March 11 for a 2 week tour of Turkey with a friend. Again awesome.

But REALLY bad timing.

Oh…and I am also working my part-time gig 2 days a week when I’m home, trying to keep up with my running and attempting to keep my little Ebay business going.

And blogging.

TOTALLY into the fire.

 

 

 

Fun is in the eye (or mouth) of the beholder

crown

AGMA went to the dentist this morning.

You can tell because I have this obvious droop on the right side of my upper lip.  I look like I’m sneering at people.

More than usual.

I’m at the age when the dental work I had back in my teens and twenties is starting to disintegrate.  Not really too bad since that was 45 years ago!  In a weird way, AGMA is glad that I’ve lived long enough to be able to have problems with old dental work.

Does that make sense?

And my teeth are exponentially better than my brother (12 years older) or my sister (6 years older) who’ve had innumerable root canals and other seriously ouchy sounding work done on their teeth and gums.

So, overall, AGMA’s making lemonade out of “you need to have crowns put on 2 teeth” lemons.

Right now, I’m back in my very favorite coffee shop, sitting in my very favorite seat (and it’s really crowded so…SCORE!), starving.  Obviously, not literally.  My arse (big enough to have its own zip code) will tell you loud and clear that I am really quite the opposite.  Well fed.

VERY well fed.

Because my lips are still numb, the coffee I’m drinking is dribbling now and then ever so slightly out of my mouth.  I really can’t feel if my lips are closed or not.

It’s kinda cute.

Dr. S said I had to wait an hour before I ate anything.  Which really screws with my writing routine.

I always order a large mocha (no whip) and a scone.  It’s with this delicious sustenance that AGMA is able to be witty and humorous.  Sometimes.

15 more minutes and I can snag my scone.

Have I mentioned that I love my dentist?  When I first went to Dr. S over 7 years ago, I was coming off of a long stretch of not going to the dentist.  This, along with using a toothpaste without fluoride, and not flossing on a regular basis, was not good for AGMA. Really not good.

I am here to say that one can do stupid things even into their late 50’s.  But then you already know that based on the stupid nonsense coming from the GOP these days…

Dr. S is a great guy and very non-judgmental.  Or preachy.  He’s very gentle and does a great job of explaining without alarming.  If you know what I mean.  And he doesn’t recommend having work done unless it is really absolutely necessary.   And the work he does is very well done.

Anyway, without giving graphic details, I had periodontal disease and had to be “scraped”.

YUCK!

But hallelujah!  AGMA saw the light (translation – I don’t EVER want to go through that again if I can help it.) and now walks the dental straight and narrow.  I got an electric toothbrush, switched back to toothpaste with fluoride, and have invested heavily in floss and different mouth rinses.  I’ve also become a crusader for good dental hygiene.

My top piece of advice for millennials…floss every day.  Multiple times if possible.

So today was the 2nd visit of getting the crown on the first tooth.

As is the case with any outstanding dentist, his solo practice is always hopping.  But his staff does a great job of scheduling and there’s rarely a wait to get whatever work that you are there for, done.  Today he was busier than usual and I had to wait for him a bit for step 1 (the shot of Novocaine.) Did I mention that I barely feel it when he gives me a shot?

When he stepped into my “area” (because you don’t get your own room like you did in the old days – you get a cubby.), I mentioned to him that he seemed crazy busy today.  He said it was indeed a busy morning, but because he loves what he does, it’s all good.

“I’m like a kid jumping from playground to playground, and I love it!”, he said with a look of sheer delight.

Seriously.

AGMA really never thought of my teeth/mouth as a dentist’s playground, but why the frack not?

Now THAT’S the kind of dentist everybody should have!

Jealous?

So I have my scone now, the mouth droop is almost gone (and I’m not dribbling anymore!) and I got a 2nd mocha.

Life is good.

Now if only the Senate would call witnesses, read all the testimony, have a fair trial, and convict the mad squatter in the WH, life would be awesome.

Thank you John Bolton and whoever leaked that book transcript for making this a, if only very faint, possibility!

It’s going to get really interesting.

Popcorn anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arizona

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AGMA’s on the road. Again.

Thank goodness.

We got back from our New Zealand trip on 12/7. I was getting antsy.

This trip is a total trip down memory lane.

Right now, at this very moment, I’m in Tucson, Arizona where the weather is spectacular and the Margarita’s are cheap.

But my first stop last Wednesday was – Sun City, Arizona.

I was there to visit my foster family. Well, they weren’t legally my foster family. I just lived with them when I was a toddler for a couple of years. They were friends of my parents.

It was a complicated situation.

Sun City is somewhat amusing to AGMA. It was a joke back in the 70’s with the Baby Boomers. Only the old folks went there. People who are just waiting to die. How sad…

Guess who’s living in Sun City now?

You would be correct if your answer is…

Wait for it…

Baby Boomers!

Irony is so cruel.

Second stop – Sedona, Arizona.

Sedona is absolutely gorgeous. Especially on a January day when the sun is shining on the glorious red rocks.

Good friends have recently moved into a house they have had custom built. The house has been under construction for 34 months. Yes, you read that right.

34. Months.

And it’s still not done.

The reasons are complicated.

And it will be spectacular when it’s finished.

The view is already spectacular. The picture above is what I awoke to every morning.

Crazy beautiful.

Third stop – Tucson, Arizona.

Tucson and I go way back. I transferred to the University of Arizona in 1973 as a junior.

Waaaaaaay baaaackkkk.

I met Hubs the first week I was there in 1973. That was nearly 47 freaking years ago.

Holy crap!

Does anybody else think that this whole passage of time thing is a bunch of bullsh*t?

Thank you…

Tonight, I took my mother-in-law out to dinner. And her daughter, my sister-in-law. I haven’t seen them in 3 years.

It’s complicated.

And Hubs is safely ensconced at home in Atlanta because he didn’t want to deal with the multiple issues between he and his mom. But I get it.

Complicated.

AGMA will have to say dinner went as well as I think it could have gone.

Afterwards, I went to an iconic Tucson restaurant/bar for a drink to help steady my nerves. Casa Molina. The bartender was very sympathetic and made me the most amazing skinny Margarita I’ve ever had.

So I am writing this under the influence.

Don’t judge me.

Casa Molina is a Tucson institution. It’s the same restaurant/bar that Hubs went to in the mid-70’s with his fraternity advisor/mentor, Danny.

AGMA could go on about Casa Molina and Danny and his Mexican heritage and his incredible influence with young men at the University of Arizona at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity in the 1970’s, but I won’t.

It’s just a place that has meant a lot to Hubs and AGMA from ages past.

I’m here for another couple of days. I have a couple of friends from “the good old college days” who still live here that I am going to connect with. I even have a friend from my former life in Ohio (my kids 4th grade teacher!) who retired in Tucson. He and I are meeting for pancakes tomorrow.

Interesting connections.

But AGMA won’t be seeing a dear friend the I’ve always visited on returning because he passed away too young in 2018.

This a complicated visit for AGMA with complicated emotions.

And I’m thankful for strong Margaritas.

Cheers!

Steampunk, penguins and earthquakes

This is why AGMA will never be a travel blogger.

It’s taking me longer to get the posts done on our trip to Fiji/NZ than the entire trip lasted.

AGMA’s a bit like a hyperactive puppy.  All kinds of things (squirrels, squeak toys, etc.)  distract me and cause me to run amok for a spell.

(The etc. being devastating Austrian wildfires, the assassination of a high ranking Iranian official in a neighboring country, and the potential start of WWIII.  And Christmas and New Years – but they seem a pretty minor compared to everything else aside from the squirrels and squeak toys.)

I WILL finish the saga of the Great AGMA Adventure to the lands of Fiji water and Kiwis!

9.  Oamaru.  Oamaru is generally not on the radar when most folks think about visiting New Zealand.  But AGMA thinks it should be.  First of all, it’s the Steampunk capital of the world.  Yeah, I said Steampunk.  S-T-E-A-M-P-U-N-K.  Very surreal. Second, it’s one of the few towns in New Zealand that still has its original Victorian architecture and it’s gorgeous.  Third…PENGUINS!!  Cute, adorable little blue penguins (also known as fairy penguins.).

But oh Lordy…that Steampunk thing…

 

 

10. Christchurch.  AGMA and hubs were in Christchurch for the first time in 2014.  We were shocked to see that the city had barely begun to recover from the devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.  Unsafe, unstable buildings still stood in the CBD.  All over the CBD.  I remember a parking garage that had cars in it that had been sitting, parked in the same spot they were in when the last quake hit 3 years before, because the structure was too damaged to safely be able to remove them.  But you could tell that the people of Christchurch were determined to see their city come back better than before the quakes.

And AGMA’s happy to report it has!

Other than a few sites we recognized on our first trip, it was like visiting a totally different city.  New office buildings, lots of gravel lots where old buildings used to be, cute laneways with kickin’ good restaurants and bars, new shops, and some buildings severely damaged in 2011 that were still sitting abandon.

We stayed spent the night outside of Christchurch at an AirB&B in the caldera of an extinct volcano turned inland bay.

We flew out of Christchurch on 12/5 with a 4 hour layover in Fiji then on to Los Angeles.  We landed 3 hours before we took off…  That International Date Line screws with AGMA’s head.  Spent a couple of nights in LA visiting a friend then headed back home.

As Dorothy chanted, “There’s no place like home; there’s no place like home.”  She was right.

Thanks for hanging with AGMA while I chased those squirrels.

And between 3 international trips, the upcoming presidential election (if we haven’t been nuked before then as a result of tRump’s psychotic madness), the grandkids, and the possibility of selling our house, I think 2020’s gonna be a wild ride…

Hang on!

P.S.  Happy birthday to me!  Today Mrs. Mowry’s little girl completes yet another trip around the sun.  Now I’m one number shy of the mark of the beast (just need to add another 6) so nobody better give me any sh*t this year!  🙂

 

 

Down the rabbit hole

auld

The last NZ post will be simmering until later this week.

But I HAVE to post something today (New Year’s Eve) because it’s the 6th anniversary of (drum roll please…) my very first blog post.

Tada!!

Quite honestly, I didn’t think I had one years worth of words in me let alone six!

Also, AGMA just went over 5000 followers this month.  That’s kinda of a big milestone too (for me.)  Although, I’m not really sure where most of them are since there are only about 40 or 50 AWESOME folks who actually read and comment on AGMA posts.

And because you are reading this, YOU, my friends, ARE freakin’ AWESOME!

Because it’s New Years Eve (in the US that is), there will be many (probably very poorly sung) renditions of Auld Lang Syne in the closing hours of 2019.  People who’ve had too many adult beverages will be hanging all over partners, dates, family and/or friends, crying, with snotty noses, and really screwing up the words to this traditional Scottish ballad.

So what exactly does “auld lang syne” mean?  Inquiring minds…

According to the source of all wisdom and knowledge, Wikipedia, “the poem’s Scots title may be translated into standard English as ‘old long since’ or, more idiomatically, ‘long long ago’,’days gone by’, or ‘old times’. Consequently, ‘For auld lang syne’, as it appears in the first line of the chorus, might be loosely translated as ‘for the sake of old times’.”

A couple of nights ago, AGMA fell down the “days gone by” “for the sake of old times” rabbit hole.

I decided to clean out my plastic bin full of old Christmas cards.

Yes, I had a bin full of old Christmas cards.  Doesn’t everybody?

Being certain I had just cleaned the bin out a few years ago, I dove in, pulling out any Christmas letters and photographs or photo cards.  I’m saving those.

It would take time to explain…

What became very clear to me was that AGMA had NOT cleaned out the bin a few years ago.  Unless you consider finding cards from back to 2006 “a few years ago”.

I’m fairly certain that some of the years in between got thrown out in a previous purge.  There wasn’t 13 years worth of cards in the bin.  Maybe only 9 or 10.

Yeah – there were a sh*tload of cards.

But when I started sorting through the cards, I felt the stings of my crusty AGMA heart being pulled.

There were cards/letters/pictures from:

  • people I had totally forgotten about (that made AGMA sad.)
  • people no longer with us like Al, hubs very first manager way back in the 70’s, my Uncle Harry,  and my old high school bestie, Ann (that made me really sad)
  • people who were once happily married, but are no longer (married and/or happy)
  • people who don’t speak to me now because we have opposing political views like my cousin Bob, my brother, and many of my former suburban “mom” friends from Ohio (only makes me semi-sad)
  • people who were incredibly important to me (and I to them) for a season, but that season has long passed, and we no longer exchange holiday greetings
  • people who were the picture of health, but have since been ravaged by illness and, in some cases, dementia
  • people who sent pictures of their children’s graduation from high school who are now sending pictures of their grandchildren
  • people who were one Christmas card people for various reasons

Total rabbit hole.  I was up in the attic for several hours.

I even found a copy of the letter we sent out in Christmas cards in 1990!  I read over it and thought, “Damn…that was a fast 29 years!”

“Time flies, and then you die” is a quote I heard years ago and have never really gotten out of my head.

Short and not so sweet, it gets to the heart of the matter…  We only go around once; there are no redos.

So, AGMA wants all you freakin’ awesome folks to make everyday of 2020 count – especially if you are NOT aging gracefully like me!

Jump off a building (attached to some sort of a safety device of course); do a zip line; travel someplace that makes you uncomfortable (but maybe not to an active volcano); eat strange food (like a whitebait fritter for Thanksgiving); love on your loved ones so they KNOW, without a doubt that you love them; get your second tattoo (or your first); listen to music that is not genre you normally listen to; get rid of stuff that has been in boxes for years; make friends with somebody who looks different than you; do goat yoga once; make time to meditate (on whatever you want) each day; make phone calls or write letters/emails/tweets to your elected officials to tell them what they are doing right OR wrong; give money (if you can afford it) to organizations who support causes you believe in (NOT a tRump charity please!!); get a new hairstyle/cut/color(s); go to a museum in the town you live in that you’ve never been to before…

Well – you get the idea!

AGMA’s just happy I’ve stuck with this little blog for six years! It’s brought me more joy than I could have ever imagined.  And ya’ll have given me, thought your comments and posts, the gift of YOU, which is most precious indeed!

Thank you from the bottom of my sometimes crusty, but always loving (shhhh – don’t tell anybody, it could ruin my reputation) heart!

Here’s to days gone by and all the days yet ahead in 2020!

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extreme sports, dark skies and lupins

For those who celebrate Christmas, we’re in that purgatory between Christmas and New Year where nobody quite know what day it is, where they are or what they’re supposed to be doing.

It’s a perfect time for a blog post!

I promised the rest of New Zealand, but after the franticness (is that a word?) of the past 3 weeks, it seems like our trip was a long time ago.

Funny how time has a way of doing that.

When you read the words “extreme sports”, I know that AGMA is the first person that comes to mind.  Just like tRump is the first person that comes to mind when you read the words “honesty and integrity” right?

AGMA has a very strong sense of self preservation.  Because of that, I’ve never really done anything even remotely dangerous.  Unless you consider not putting my seatbelt on in an Uber as living on the edge.

And sometimes it is.

But on this trip both hubs and I caught the New Zealand extreme sports bug and indulged in activities outside of my itty bitty, teeny weeny comfort zone.

(FYI, each picture has a caption.  If you want to read it, just hover over the picture.)

After visiting Middle Earth, we finished our visit on North Island in…

5. Auckland.  A beautiful city sitting inside the innards of multiple extinct volcanos.  Or so they say…  And quite a diverse city with wonderful energy, great restaurants and a beautiful harbor.  They have this tall structure in the CBD (just 1 1/2 blocks from our AirB&B) called the Auckland Sky Tower.  It’s kinda like the Seattle Space Needle.  And hubs decided to jump off of it.  Jump.  OMG.  192 meters (630 feet) straight down.  Of course he was in a harness and it was all super safe, but he still had to step off a ledge into a free fall (for the first 1/2 of it).  OMG. AGMA stayed at the bottom and watched.  Call me a chicken, but at least I had clean underwear at the end of the day!

6.  Blenheim.  We flew from Auckland to Nelson (on the South Island) and immediately hopped into our rental car (sadly, because Nelson looked very cool!)  Destination,  Blenheim, at the heart of the famous Marlborough wine district.  There’s a lot of sauvignon blanc there and somebody had to drink it!  On the way (which was incredibly scenic over unexpected mountains), we stopped in Havelock, the self proclaimed green lipped mussel capital of the world.  Who knew?  These mussels are MASSIVE and put US and European mussels to shame.  Kinda like tRumps imaginary brain.

7.  The Wild West Coast of South Island.  Going across South Island on the way to Greymouth on the beautiful west coast, we drove along the gorgeous Buller River.  In keeping with the extreme sports theme hubs inaugurated in Auckland, we opted to walk across the Buller River swing bridge and come back across via a zip line.  Okay, so maybe those just a demi-extreme experiences, but for AGMA it was cray cray!  A seal colony in Westport, the fascinating Pancake Rocks, and gorgeous coastal scenery are just some of the reasons we would LOVE to go back to the west coast to do more exploring!

8.  Lake Tekapo.  AGMA was pretty excited about our drive to Lake Tekapo.  It was going to take us over the Southern Alps through Authur’s Pass National Park.  This is supposed to be one of the most beautiful drives in the world.  “Supposed to be” being the operative phrase.  Unless it rains.  And is foggy.  Like it was the day we did the drive.  Damn.  It was still lovely even in the fog and rain, but I feel like I need to go back someday to see it in the sunshine.  But the incredible beauty of Lake Tekapo helped heal our broken expectant tourist hearts.  And the lupins.  So many lupins.  And the night sky.  Tekapo is part of the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve which is the worlds largest dark sky reserve.  Clear skies and few people along with strict regulations on exterior lighting results in some of the most amazing dark skies in the world with (to quote Carl Sagan) “billions and billions of stars”  The opportunity to do the Summit Experience at the Mt. John Observatory, I think, was the main reason we returned to New Zealand.

Okay – so I’ve been at the coffee shop for 3 hours now and AGMA’s pretty sure they are going to kick me out. There are a few more highlights, soooo…it looks like there will be one more post on New Zealand.

Sorry.

In the meantime, I’m going to try to figure out what day it is, where I am and what I’m supposed to be doing.

A typical day for AGMA.