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Just about everybody plans to move to Portland Oregon, so it seems.  But I must tell you something up front, from the beginning. Carefully think about this before you start packing.  Remember that it is always raining in Portland, Oregon.
We recently moved there ourselves, into our newly acquired 100 year old condo in North West Portland, walking distance to just about everything. We don’t own a car, but instead use public transportation or our bicycles. Because we are “Honored Citizens” meaning we are older than 65 it costs us $1.00 to take the Max train to the airport.  Streets are well marked for bicycles and we can safely use them to go shopping, to the library, the hardware store.  Buses are well managed and comfortable.  The streetcar runs around the downtown area and is very dependable.On those very unusual times when we want a car, we just rent.
People in Portland are young at heart, eclectic and tend to be environmentally sensitive. There is a lot of creativity and a great number of people who have chosen the entrepreneurial route, and who are designing and running very interesting small businesses.  They are easy to meet and tend to remember your name the next time that they see you.
I expected to have so many young people dismiss us from the conversation because of our age, but thus far, this is not what has happened.  We join conversations that are lively and interesting, and have made friends from the age of 30 and upward thus far into the 70s, with ease.  People see and greet you.  Cars stop for EVERYBODY to cross the street, and not just when there is a red light.  When we first arrived, we just stood there in disbelief at a street corner when cars stopped to let us cross even when there was no STOP sign.    My husband and I have decided that when we go back to the East Coast, our biggest danger is that we will forget that cars don’t stop for pedestrians and are likely to be hit.
Oregonians converse about many things with a calmness that just amazes me.  They have a habit of allowing people to finish their sentences before replying.  In indoor environments, they speak in relatively quiet voices.  I have a favorite coffee shop that I visit and enjoy sitting there listening to calm low toned voices speaking with each other, avoiding shouting and sharp, disruptive tones.   It reminds me of places like cafes in Paris and small shops in Sweden.  Stores and restaurants in Portland still have excellent service, much like the US had in the late 1950’s.  Clerks come up and ask us if we need any help, and actually provide assistance when asked for it.  Waiters check to ensure that we got what we ordered before taking off to the kitchen.  This is happening so consistently that we have finally decided that we are not confronting aberrations, but truly a different culture.
It is not without its problems, of course.  Homeless persons are found here, as they are across America.  Poverty is a problem especially in our newly formed 1% economy.  Food lines for hungry people can be long.  There are numerous opportunities to volunteer and help out.  Volunteerism is strong out here.
I hope that this delightful place where the trees are hundreds of years old and have enormous diversity of leafage, even on city streets, survives the ongoing transition we witness. We see cranes and new development everywhere.  Urban housing boards are arguing with developers over how high buildings can be, and how close to the road, how sustainable the building should be, debating building construction environmental definitions and classifications.   It is not clear to me how long Portland can survive this onslaught of construction and new development, but time will tell.
Some of the new developments that transitioned old industrial areas to new living and shopping arrangements are truly marvelous.  They are architecturally pretty and have used old structures to the max.  Newly designed buildings fit beautifully with the old, and blend well into very lovely neighborhoods with good character.  Excellent restaurants abound. The food is very fresh, organic and delicious.

By the way, did I tell you that it is always raining in Portland?

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Bike Riding in the Abacos

We don’t really need complicated gears on our bikes in the Abacos.  What we do need are wider wheels to take on dirt roads and baskets to carry food and drink.  Most of the island is flat. It is perfect biking for people wanting a simple, quick and quiet way to get from one place to another, in most cases.

An essential piece of gear for our bikes is the rear view mirror to help us keep track of cars and for ourselves, helmets.  Both are available in local hardware stores in Marsh Harbour, as are the bikes and the baskets.

 
Recently, we started to ride on the major highway and Sunday morning is an exceptionally good time to ride.  There are very few cars on the road.  Traffic looks like this.

Liz, Marge, Jimmy, Merle, Mary and Melanie

As a challenge, we decided to take a 30 mile ride from the Esplanade of Bahama Palm Shores to Sandy Point.  Since the start of the New Year, in preparation for the longer trip, we have been riding daily with a group of friends for 7 or 8 miles.

Today was the day for our thirty mile trip.  Three of us took off this morning at 8 am for the big ride.  Our husbands photographed us at the starting point.  It was a surprisingly cool morning and we headed out actually wearing light jackets and sweatshirts, which is unusual.  We more typically wear shorts and a t-shirt.

Merle, Lavonda and me.

 I carried a small can of juice and my camera in my bike basket.  In contrast, my well prepared partners were carrying oranges, bananas, water, and some delicious raisins and nuts that a neighbor packed for us. They kindly shared their stash with me.

One of our bikers, Merle, was wearing a special helmet that her husband Pete had prepared for her.  She was concerned she might not be up to making the whole trip.  Pete duct taped a special hat on the front of her helmet saying, “Sandy Point or Bust”. 

He also contributed shirts to encourage us to complete the trip that say ” “Work Hard…..No Surrender….No Giving up!”

We took off down the road from the Esplanade and made the 10 miles to Schooner Bay in less than one hour, which pleased us to no end.  We were riding fine.  We stopped at the sign to celebrate and take some photos.

The guard at Schooner Bay kindly agreed to take our photo at the 10 mile point and here we are. 

We soon realized it was time to get serious and get back on those bikes until we hit the 20 mile mark, our next stopping point at the turn off to Hole-in-the Wall.  The next part of the trip was particularly beautiful, because we were headed through Crossing Rocks, an area where the island is least wide.  Birds and butterflies are everywhere, and the marsh is very pretty.  

From there we actually took a little hill before it leveled out and we quietly cycled our way through the Abaco National Forest.  I never tire of looking at the wide variety of palms and trees on either side of the road.,

We pedaled steadily for the next hour, usually one cyclist following the other on the left side of the road.

There were several miles where we cycled through an area where there was a forest fire, just a few days ago.  In parts, some logs were still smoking. Luckily it just rained and the fire is essentially out..

In what seemed like a relatively short period of time, one hour, we made it to the 20 mile mark where we stopped long enough to peel an orange and eat a banana, then get back on our bikes and head on down the road for the 30 mile mark..

After the fire

Before we knew what happened, we were at the 27 mile mark, just outside of Sandy Point, where we were met by our husbands and some friends who cheered us over the line.  We stopped for some photos then headed on into Sandy Point to the beach.  

At that point, we hit the wind head on and really had to push to make it the last few miles.  If we were going to be punished by weather, that was a reasonable time to have it happen.  We were already over the finish line and headed to our stopping point.

On top of having a great trip, we had the pleasure of meeting up with our husbands and friends who threw our bikes on a pick up truck and took us to Nancy’s for a delicious lunch.  That was a terrific reward for our efforts and will keep us on the path to new adventures here on the island. 

 

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A Friend Passes Away

A friend passes away silently one morning
just as
the sun touches his window
one last time

The grass wet with dew still
breeze just beginning
clouds accumulating
palm trees sway
boughs bend

Palmettas flash their silver sides
over the insect-infested, bird-filled marshes.

The night heron marches away,
this time not screeching.

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What happened to 2012?

                                                                                                                              
We thought we had things figured out for 2012.  We were just going to steady the course, keep everything as it is, and just coast for my husband’s first year of retirement. 
Instead, in our usual fashion, we changed our minds.  We decided instead to downsize and hit the floor running by announcing to our surprised children in January that we were thinking of selling our New York home of 30 years.  Then, after we decided that we should sell our home, we also decided that it was a good time to renovate our 500 square foot seasonal cottage at our lake.  Then we decided to renovate the 200 square foot guest cottage so that there would be sufficient space to have kids visit in the summer months.
Having just about filled up every waking moment with the job of examining our closets and bookshelves, throwing things out, making runs to our local  library with book donations, then driving over to Goodwill with some of our belongings, then having a garage sale for some of our furniture, and then readying our home for sale, then completing our transactions with the various contractors who did the renovation,  we decided that we should also begin looking for a condominium. 
We looked everywhere.Then we decided just to skip getting a condo.  Then we changed our minds again, and we picked up a condo in Portland, Oregon.  
By the end of 2012, we managed to sell our New York home of 30 years and complete the cottage renovation.    
I really did not believe that we could have packed much else in this first year of my husband’s retirement!  Looking back at the year that I retired, I guess we did something almost equally crazy.
With respect to 2012, we are grateful for our children’s patience, for their love and support, and for our loyal group of grandchildren, who always manage to make us look on the bright side of life.  
This is best summarized, perhaps, by one of our grandsons when he and his family visited us at the cottage this summer.  He sneaked out of the main cottage where he slept with his Mom and Dad and baby sister, to knock on the door of the small wooden guest cabin to visit his Grandma and Grandpa who were sitting in bed together for their morning cup of coffee.  He crawled into bed with us, where we were surrounded by boxes, blankets and items stacked in the corner while the renovation was being completed.  The early morning sun was coming through the windows. 
He looked around and said, “This is my favorite cabin in the whole world.” 
For a couple of doting grandparents, it doesn’t get any better than that.

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After Sandy, What Next?

Hurricane Sandy raged through the Caribbean causing much damage, destruction and death  We wondered what she would do next as she roared up the eastern sea coast.   There was so much commotion in the news about her impending arrival

Almost exactly one year ago, we were warned about the dangers of Hurricane Irene.  Would this be a situation where the bark of the dog was bigger than its bite?  We had survived Irene relatively unscathed. Were these warnings the real thing this time?  Public news announcements and warnings continued throughout the day  and along with everybody else we prepared for the storm.  We filled up jugs of water, bought a battery operated radio, checked for candles and matches, stored some extra food and wood for the fireplace, then hunkered down and waited.

Neighbors looking over damage in front yard.

Toward evening, the winds  started to blow more incessantly.  In the early evening we looked out our window into the valley and saw what looked like fireworks as transformers exploded and sparks flew.   Soon after, we watched most of the village go black.  It was 8:25pm and most of us had no electricity.  We watched the fireworks, the whipping trees, then finally went to bed.  Then at around 3am my husband and I awoke at the sound of an enormous crash.  We looked out the windows, counted all the trees and didn’t see any missing.  When we opened up the front door to see what we might see,  we heard the winds roaring over our heads, sounding like a train going by.  Eventually we went back to bed and fitfully slept, waiting for the morning light.

Down by the Hudson River, there was a lot of water damage and flooding.  I took this photo of the river from our local library.

Hudson River after the storm
a
Fallen tree in neighborhood

Once the rains and winds calmed down, we grabbed our jackets and went outside to see what was happening. Fallen trees and branches were all around us.  Some had fallen on cars, some on homes and some across electric lines and onto the street.  The damage was considerable.  

Cottage damaged from fallen tree

After several days, we also drove an hour away and checked out our seasonal cottage up in northwest Connecticut.  Although our little cottage was fine, our neighbor’s was damaged very severely by a fallen tree. 

 On the way we witnessed lines for gasoline that were very long and sometimes used police management to keep the lines orderly.  My husband counted 52 cars in one line, just waiting for gas to be pumped. 

Line for gasoline station is on the right.


For the following week, wind and water damage and shortages of electricity, gasoline and heat was all we talked about.  We shuddered to learn of the deaths and destruction that happened, especially along the coast. Commuting stopped.  Schools were closed.  Businesses also closed, or opened their doors under difficult conditions.

Sign on front door of local store

From a personal point of view, we were very lucky. Many homes were severely damaged by water and some were destroyed. Our home was not damaged by the storm.

Here are some personal examples of ways that our own situation changed that week we had without electricity, internet, or telephone.

First, we came up with a very fancy heating system in the kitchen by filling up pots with water and heating them up on the stove and letting them radiate heat.  It sort of worked.  We felt lucky that the top of the gas range worked. We reverted to lanterns and candles for lighting.  And we went to bed early.

Lighting system
Our hot water heating system
Refrigeration system

Then, things got better for us personally, when our neighbor shared a line from his generator with us, allowing us to have a light in the kitchen and to use his internet.  That was a huge improvement.  Everybody pitched in and helped out.  On the whole, there was very little complaining and a whole lot of good spirit. 

We were also lucky because we have a gas hot water heater that continued to give us hot water.  Numerous people came over and showered at our place.  It felt good that we had something to offer.  But here we are, more than seven days away from the storm, and we still have a lot of people without heat, light, or in some cases, even a home.

There are still roughly 500 households in our little village that have no electricity, and we are expecting a pretty big storm tomorrow.  People are worried about how the northeast will handle this big storm so soon after Sandy.

We got an email message from our Hastings mayor, Peter Swiderski this evening that updates us on the situation and also very effectively summarizes the frustrations that we feel.

Here is the first part of his message:

Fellow Residents –


Perhaps the most frustrating day yet – aside from some assessment teams looking at the remaining damage, not a single restoration crew was in town today.  Not one.  Con Ed offered no good explanation other than they were allocated elsewhere and they once again proved a disconnect between what they say in the evening and what happens the next day.  Howls were met with apologetic shrugs.




The mayors of the various village and towns in the Con Edison service area are experiencing very similar frustration – teams yanked unexpectedly, unreliable predictions, poor information. When this crisis has passed, there will be hearings and inquiries on these issues – very clearly, while this storm presented a historic challenge, there are huge issues with Con Ed’s resource allocation, information provision and planning. A number of residents reported Con Ed robocalls in the evening indicating they would be lit this morning, only to wake to the crushing disappointment of nothing but cold and dark.  Cruel. I can only say that if you are without power, about the only thing Con Ed can say for certain is that it will be restored.  Believe nothing about when until the lights come on.  I’m sorry to be so blunt, but I have seen too many people just crushed.


Almost too much to consider, the upcoming storm expected tomorrow is predicted to start mid-afternoon involve rain and wind and proceed through the night.  Locally, it is likely to involve sustained winds of 20-30mph winds with gusts of forty or more.  It may turn into the a wintery mix overnight.  YOU ARE STRONGLY ADVISED TO SLEEP IN A LOWER STORY AWAY FROM POSSIBLE TREE IMPACTS if there are tall or overhanging trees in the vicinity.  They may be weakened and this may be just what they need to go over. If you are unheated, and have doubts about handling temperatures likely to dip five degrees colder than we have seen, please accept the offers of housing from the Village or your family and friends.
We can only hope and pray (hard) that the storm will stay far enough to sea so that it impact is lessened.  I hate to say it, but bring the flashlights and lanterns out, line up the batteries, and brace for impact. We just don’t know for sure, but I think we’ve learned to have an abundance of caution.”

Sandy arrives

Our mayor said it perfectly.  We don’t know when things will get better for our neighbors.  And we are not happy with the current outcome.  

 It is not clear what this next storm holds.  But there are predictions of snow and cold while people are still without heat.  This has been a very fragile repair job to our electric lines, to the distribution systems, roads and homes, and I am not sure that things will hold with a storm so immediately following that blast we just received from Sandy. 

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Sandy is on her way

Earlier this morning, around 8am I took this shot of the sky over Hastings on Hudson.  The clouds were in long fat rolls of different shades.  There was little wind.  We expect this to be an eventful day, and we are concerned with the outcome.  But, right now, it is beautiful and quiet outside, but dark and ominous.

It is now 3:09 in the afternoon and half the sky is bright and shiny; half the sky is grey and rainy.  The winds are gusty and coming in the opposite direction from usual.  Trees are swaying.

We took precautions, as advised by our governor and our mayor of NYC.  We left Connecticut early in order to get back to New York to prepare the house for the storm.  This morning we prepared vegetarian meals to get us through a loss of electricity that is expected.  We have filled up containers with water, cleared off the decks, and are now sitting tight.

The worst thing to do now is to peek at the news to see what is coming.  It doesn’t look good.  The alarms just went off in our village.   I have seen photos showing flooding by the river into our local parks.  Most of us are a bit nervous and concerned, but at this point there is little we can do beyond watch it happen.  I worry about the size of the damage that is about to be done.  Such a large area is affected by this storm.

My husband’s flight to California on Wednesday was just canceled. The subways system, and all public transport in the city and areas surrounding it are stopped.  The buildings in south Manhattan where our son works are evacuated.  Wall Street is silent.  This is not a happy day.

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Potholes can be pretty

According to a guerrilla group of gardeners who are gardening on public lands,   a garden can be so small that it fits in a pothole, a purse or a shoe.   Pothole Gardening: An Example   What a playful idea this is.

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