all the kids

all the kids

Sunday, September 25, 2022


Here's the regular travelogue of Swizterland.

Everything is right with the world after losing the bag. Finding the bag, I mean.

Also the train to Switzerland, I don't know if it is just Switzerland out the window and the first time we had rain and clouds and cool, but Switzerland released us from the strangle of heat.

We trained alongside rivers and rolling green hills and big alpy mountains and they came through and checked our passports and what were they going to do throw us off the moving train? Just curious. We were all done with Italy, Italy goodbye. We fell into Switzerland like a comfy old gramma.

We dropped our stuff near the station at the hotel across trolley tracks and in drizzly cool rain and everything seemed high tech and clean. We immediately got coffee that the kids wanted and soda for me and had to figure out the bus and got a pass from the hotel clerk for free. Always a new town is like where are we, where is the center of this place, what will we learn here and how to do we get there. 

We had to find our way to the gurtenbahn, the trolley that would take us up the mountain to the bobsled down the mountain. It wasn't Nathan's birthday yet, he would wake up here in Switzerland on his birthday tomorrow, but it felt like his birthday because we weren't hot and we had to get to that slide before rain might shut it down.

The buses were in german and french, and we climbed a very high hill to get to the funicular which is a word I have no words for, fun and angled up. In line for that behind a swiss baby who was complaining we saw a vending machine where you could buy candy, chips or a pregnancy test. 

The top of this mountain. This was the pinnacle of our trip. I don't want to write about it because then I will be past it, but this was all Emma's doing. She found this place, she took us to this place, and this place was abundant. It was a kid's park really, with climbing things and a big house for formal functions with a view, and the tobaggan run

this place

This was the most fun and would be totally illegal in the US, so dangerous, no safety devices, just you on a metal board with a brake between your legs, and they shove you down a metal open half pipe and there you go, waving goodbye as you pick up speed

We were able to go on a million times and also sneak on free times because you could walk right around the turnstile since there was only one guy and he wasn't exactly the cops. He was this young blonde kid and he spent his day on top of the mountain shoving people onto a skateboard down a mountain. 

The first time I used the brake and was careful not to die and by the end I used no brake at all and just went faster and faster and faster. We screamed and played and looked at the green mountain and we were cooled off and there were secret paths through the woods and cows, I didn't see any reason to leave the tobaggan but for some reason the kids were saying come see the cows and I thought we have cows at home but we walked up the mountain and then we sat on the top of the hill and just looked at the cows eating grass, with their massive horns, and Nathan really loved this one brown cow who was right next to us. We stayed up there a very long time, maybe like when we were at the beach in Venice, it was a time we stopped, and felt.

No crowd, just sky and green and swiss cows. A really good therapy, someone should invent that. Except for the eventual methane, it is a gentle reminder of how peaceful life can be. 

We played on the wooden structure and listened to some british indian kids who were like wild indians in the bathroom, totally not listening to their mom, screaming and running and in need of a spanking. That was the bathroom at the top of Switzerland where I thought the toilet paper was weird and plastic and I kept using it and then realized it was the toilet seat covers all folded up so tiny it looked like toilet paper. I should've brought that home, also it's really awkward to wipe with plastic. It was funny when i found the actual paper, I thought it was just a weird swiss thing you never know.

Emma sat on a rainbow bench and we drank water from a flowing fountain and they said you can drink all water in Switzerland don't ever buy water so we drank it all fresh from icy swiss water gods.

Emma was starving and we found a snack machine in the funicular lobby and got some weird swiss kit kat cookies and beef jerky to eat while we walked down, we decided to walk halfway down and it was steep and woody and our legs would the next day feel impossible on the upper thigh, who uses those top muscles like that? Those bracing ones so you don't fall down a vertical hill. Nathan managed to roll his ankle halfway but we made it to the funicular stop and caught it halfway. The blonde guy from the tobaggan, Noy, was on the way back up and said if we only had one night in Bern we should go to the restaurant across the river for the best view. We didn't know where we were yet, so we took his suggestion and looked later on.

Emma ran out of steam a few hours into walking the old town at Bern. We passed Einstein's house which was closed and we couldn't find anyplace affordable to eat, or a souvenir shop so we kept walking and we found a bridge over a green river and this was the most beautiful view of our trip, I think. The houses along the river, and the river fat and wide and rushing, and a guy was swimming in there it must've been freezing and he had a bobbing orange float attached to him I guess so they could find the body later cause we weren't sure how he could ever get out of there. Poor Emma was so starving her personality ran out and there were just fumes there and the fumes were pretty mad so we finally got back to the main square and ate an overpriced burrito but the fries were good and then Emma had to do an interview for Raytheon in the bathroom sink while Nathan and I pretended not to listen. We went out again later in search of pretzels and souvenirs and everything closed up early in Bern compared to the bigger cities we had been used to lately.

The next morning we ate downstairs and ran down to the one souvenir shop we had found so we could get something before our train. Einstein's house was open next door so we walked up the stairs and the lady gave us student discounts and we looked around his little room where his huge brain worked, and read about how his wife thought he was so boring.

This was Nathan's birthday, my little baby. We got him a bunch of these lemon drinks he loved, and took them on the train with us. 

We stressed at the train station that we were at the right track, we weren't sure, we were standing next to the marching band from the swiss army. So I ran down underground to the far away infomation booth and it took forever, there were three people in front of me, and 2 swiss girls in the booth and it was like they were just learning the computer in 1982, I thought I'm going to miss this train and then finally it was my turn and they slowly timeticking checked for me, but we were in the right place, so I zoomed back up and even got a pretzel.

The first train was more beauty out the windows, and around Lake Geneva, which is worth doing if you're starving for paintbrushed watery landscape. Everything green, or blue, and as my friend Kurt said, Switzerland is beautiful no matter rain or shine. 

We felt good after this train which was lucky because the second train was packed full of backpackers like all over the floor, we were stepping over people like an orphanage had just burned down. There was no way to get into the car on the left so we went up some steps into the car on the right, the only one we could reach and it ended up being first class. It said first class on a tiny sign but it also said it was for elderly or pregnant people, and the seats were less packed and only about five people in there out of ten seats. But the seats were yellow felt and kind of dirty so I'm like this isn't any first class I've ever seen, maybe first class is up that other set of stairs and through that door, but we had nowhere to sit and we couldn't go back there was no room so we sat. The kids slept while I worried the guy would come look for our tickets but no one came (they had never checked us on any train actually) and they slept long and I just watched all the green out the window and fretted about the tickets but it was Nathan's birthday so I let them sleep and have this time. Right before we got into the station in Lyon I made them get up and shooed them out of first class and got our bags lugged out and down into the orphanage pit where it was shoulder to shoulder standing room only at a Seattle indie grunge concert and just before the station the ticket guy came around as I knew he would so we got a free first class ride and got out of there.

Next time we go to Switzerland I would like to stay in a smaller town where the kids can snowboard and I can just enjoy the nature. This trip we needed to get around and see as much as possible. Next time, with Bess maybe for her semester abroad, we'll show her the gurtenbahn and then stay in a little chalet.

Swiss dreams can come true, in four years. You guys go with us. 

Friday, September 23, 2022


If I have another daughter I will name her Gurtenbahn

so maybe it's good I don't have another one, it's just the gurtenbahn was the first place on our trip we felt at complete peace. Emma found us this gurtenbahn

So green and beautiful, top of a mountain in Switzerland, all your stuff safe and stowed at the modern hotel in the misty old town below

There is also a river there, in Bern, called the Aare, wide, green, clear, rushing and a lofty old bridge over it, the kind of bridge you can loll on and feel like everyone belongs 

Red roofed houses all clustered near the water's edge but not urgent, just gathered there. A boat docked near a wall. It's raining a little but just to cool us off not to douse us

The top of that mountain, aside from the ass-kicking tobaggan run that is so fun it's more fun that anyone who is over 8 should get to have, it is a playful thousand feet long curly kew down the mountain metal luge that I can see snowmen flinging themselves on at night in the winter when nobody's watching.

This is a magical place, this Switzerland, with your german and your french and your wide bus windows and your expensive burritos

but mostly this is the last place Nathan is 21, on the top of the mountain, in the grass, looking at a red long haired cow eating grass. Sitting there when a man wandered over to us and had an entire friendly conversation in some language none of us could understand and yet he kept talking

This is a good place to come if you have been so sweaty and you just lost you bag but found your bag, this is a good place to say thanks and be lucky enough to be there with your two gorgeous, happy solid kids.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Silence of the Lamb

My mom had a little fever the other day, and then the next morning I was feeding her breakfast, eggs, waffles, pears, juice and I was talking on the phone which I am not normally doing but then I noticed her eyes had gone fixed like staring straight and I said

Mom Mom

I hung up the phone and I was like what's wrong what's wrong

And then she barfed, just erupted

She hasn't barfed at all since I got her, she's a hearty motherfucker

She just kept barfing but it was just sort of all flat down her front and the floor and the legs and I grabbed a blue bed pad like a giant washcloth and tried to do my best but she was finally done and then I felt so bad

mopping her up, mopping up everything

did I do something wrong here  should I have known

Also dementia is so weird you don't know what's happening not at all, not before the barf, not during the barf not after the barf

there is no regret or fear

You are just in this ethereal nothingness where your body floats, and people shuffle around you loving you and smiling at you and hugging and chattering and wiping you

But she is preparing to leave

behind my back she is packing her Mary Poppins endless bag and putting in all the lamps and putting in all the memories and taking all the furniture the future and every christmas we will never have and she's packing it because she has to she has her orders from the god/desses

nature wants her back

I have to help her to the gate

So I stand awkwardly because I am not liking this position by the gate, I don't have any of the right clothes or bags I'm not a doctor or a minister or who do you need most at this time

Maybe just a dog and someone's arms around you

I have that

I have two dogs and one of hers and I have my arms, made by her and my dad

I clean her up and I watch her the next few days, she is weaker and she is silent, she goes a whole day without talking. Sometimes with her eyes closed. My friend Rebecca says she is listening to the angels tell her what to do. They're talking to her, the other side is debriefing her gently

I have to trust this is the process and feel honor that I am holding her hand here 

It is awfully human to be here and I feel my lack of power at all and my complete unreadiness and underdevelopedness

I think this is how you have to go, just bare naked and scared

I'm not even going I don't think anyway, I'm pretty sure this is her way out but it feels very close because she is my oldest friend

I am sorry mom

I hope I didn't miss anything. I don't want you to be talking to the angels I want you here making me creamed chipped beef and laughing and showing me your shoes

I want you doting on grandchildren and being annoying and picking out the best apples at the grocery store, the ones with the bee stings, you say

Since your fever and your quiet I lie in bed with you at night just in case and tell you all the crazy shit you did as a mother. All the fairs you took us to and the music and fast cars and exercising, how you let me drive back from the barn, over the Severn River Bridge before I had my license, just to practice

You trusted me

Because you were an idiot

We were a band of thieves. At one time.

I guess you had your two sons here, you have had me and Barry and the kids and the dogs and sunshine and water and horses and chickens and gentle hands taking care of you when you couldn't take care of yourself. You never lost who you were because we picked up where you left off just to help you when you couldn't do it and we did it the way you showed us how

I am scared but I am here

Dementia is tricky you might be here another year but if it's today I love you and I hate you for leaving but I will you see you in the flowers and I will not be far I am always with one hand on your hair 

Monday, September 19, 2022

the luckiness was the ending

You don't take photos of the worst parts of your trip, this is when you need a camera crew following you. If only we were a midget family, not only would there have been more space in taxis, but also we would have been a novelty and someone would pay to travel with us and catch our mishaps.

Milan was the mishap. With a capital SH. 

Before we left, B noticed in our itinerary that we had a half an hour to switch trains in Milan, and we had to switch train stations too. Emma looked it up and the station is like an 8 minute walk. We could uber it in 4 minutes. We said, we can do it. No problem.

Yeah that's okay but as we're leaving Venice we notice that our train is running a little late. We watch the train times as we're passing each station and now we're down to a 12 minute window to leave this train, dash out of the station with all our stuff, catch an uber, get to the next station, dash in, find the train, get on the train. 

This is not a good feeling.

We pull into the station and dash out at Milan. We go down the first exit stairway (mistake #1) and we're in tunnels and then climbing out the world's longest staircase to get out and Emma ordered an uber and this exit dumps out out in some back alley, not even the station, like the station's dirty little secret. It's raining. So we're freaking out because we don't know the right way to go and we're running down the street toward where we know the front of the station must be but then Emma says wait the uber will come right here. But we're scared to wait so we're halfway down the street then halfway back and she says no the uber just cancelled 

the worst sentence ever. We have like 10 minutes now. How is this going to work? So we're running again down this wet back street toward where the station must be again and then Emma yells up okay there's an uber coming again

and we get to a street corner and we're sure we're fucked but suddenly there is this uber and he's helping us pile our shit in and we say we have to run man

and he gets us fast down streets and around and up and we're sure we'll never make it it's like 6 minutes now

we get to the station, pile out, I check the seats to make sure we have everything, we run into the station, we spazzily stare at everything all at once, where is our train, where is the track, how to get in

we run up stairs, down stairs, thru ramps, finally running to the actual track. There's a train on the track that isn't ours, ours is the one BEHIND it so we run farther along the length of this NOT train, and then we're running next to our train and then it's ok we get on

it's ok

we are on! How did we do this. We're soaking and breathless and sweating

we have lugged all our stuff so we stop in this first car we got on, the club car which is just two tables and a bar for buying food at the very end. at the tables there's a couple at the corner sitting in one and I say maybe we should just stay in here

we have seats emma says

I say yeah but it's so crowded

let's just get our seats she says



We're all sweating and brain fried from the stress, the train switch and the run and all the lugging, those back alley huge stairs so I say wait lemme take off my sweatshirt. So I'm taking it off untangling  myself from all our travel supplies and then peeling off my soggy sweatshirt and then tie it on me and we're all taking off our outer clothes and then we gather all our stuff and start lugging it down a few cars past a million crammed people to get to our car. We're in the luggage end of our car and deciding where to put our bags and I look down at my shirt as the train is starting to move and I say the dreaded words    wait

where is my bag

Emma stares at me and I turn cold that cold feeling when you know life is over suddenly

I start shaking my eyes wide      it's the passport bag

where's my bag wheresmybag I always have my bag I never leave my bag it's always right here it's on me it's basically tied on me where is it

It's not there. I start looking in other bags but knowing that it's not in there I didn't put it there Ineverputithere and I say call the uber call the uber I am shaking very hard and everything has gone freezing hot white and pinpointy Emma catches my horror  our trip just stops dead she is scrambling looking him up how do you do that I hope she knows how to do and the train is moving and I'm thinking I lost the passports I lost our money and our credit cards we have no i.d. and no money and we're trapped in this country and what do I do do we get off the train at the next stop and turn around and how do we get anywhere I have no money do you get trapped in a country forever is that what an embassy does how do I find an embassy why is this happening it's not in the uber I know I checked the uber I check every fucking thing every thing we do every place we go 

Emma is watching me have a complete meltdown then I fast backward in my mind wait wait wait I didn't drop it I didn't I what did I do wait I took my sweatshirt off, I untangled myself  I was ON THE TRAIN

NATHAN it has to be in that car

Nathan starts running back to the club car. 

I leave all my stuff with Emma it has to be there stay here

I am running back through the cars, Nathan is not even visible he has gazelled ahead of me, there are so many people putting their stuff away clogging the aisles and I am shoving Sorry! Sorry! WATCH OUT! I HAVE TO GO! 

I get to the club car and Nathan is already at the other end of it like he's heading into the next car and I'm like no, this is the car but he has nothing in his hands and I'm ice cold shaking in fear oh nooooo this can't be and I look under the table and far off under the only table we were near and there is the tiny strap of my bag 

and there is my bag

so far under 

that is the bag

that's why we didn't see it

I grab the bag and hold it like my kidnapped baby

I completely start unhinged crying like the kind of crying you did as an exhausted kid when your balloon pops after the best day at the fair, because it's over and then it's ruined I am sobbing it's hard not to cry now while writing it

Go tell emma I sputter and Nathan looks at me mom never falls apart

well mom is falling apart

He takes back off and this couple at the other table way down there is looking back at me and the guy says are you okay

and I crying say I'm ok I'm ok 

He says let me get you a water can I get you a water

I say sputtery okkkk

He gets up to get a water

He is in line for like 20 minutes because that is how long I just cry

Cry for all the running all the hot stress all the new places all the family lugging all the sore muscles all the we can't possibly still do this all the change and the parts we see in our family that are weak I am crying because we won't be stuck in Milan we made our train we are having the luckiest trip ever we are going to Switzerland we don't have to go to the embassy we don't have to live here forever we aren't fucked we are so lucky aren't we

I get the perrier which is the worst kind of water but I drink that whole thing and I say thank you what's your name and it's Nick from South Africa and thank you Nick from South Africa for making me feel like humanity cares and strangers are there for you

I say I thought we lost our bag I thought we lost everything

                                and we don't belong here

I make it back to Emma and Nathan back in our regular car. We stow our bags we get our seats like we are normal but we are still shaking. Everything is different

We talk about terror and relief

We talk about terror

we look at each other and the grass speeding by the windows

we made the train

we did it in 12 minutes 

the sweat made me take off my shirt the heat made this problem

the problem made us realize we have no problems 

the luckiness was the ending

the grass going by the window, the ability to keep going, keep eating, be able to get across borders, be able to go home eventually 

I have the bag I thought all day, and every day after, even this day

this is the happiest ending of all trips

the story of Milan and the story of how when you get back you realize how lucky you are to have any of it, all of it  even the worst of it

Saturday, September 17, 2022


To get to Venice, you have to go through Florence, and when Emma and I were planning our trip by the pool before we left, imagining every last detail and the timing of it all, she said we have to stop in Florence and get off the train. I said oh, we can see the statue of David! 

There were only a few mistakes on our trip. Taking Bruce oh wait nononono kidding, mistake number one was not bringing my plastic berkenstocks, the slip on shoe crafted by heaven. The milan train disaster which is coming up shortly. The near robbery and the sexual assault of Rome, but that was not our mistake, it was given generously. So really, the David. Was the big one. 

I've already seen the David, and my mom had talked nonstop about loving Florence and the Uffizi museum and so I just assumed without looking that this was the David museum, Who thought Florence had ANOTHER museum? I booked the Uffizi tickets in advance, and Emma and I moved on to continue planning the trip.

We get off the train in Florence, stow our bags at the train station for the price of a small car, and walk toward our museum. Nathan is searching for a tank top which they DON'T MAKE in Europe, we discovered. We pass the famous bridge with houses on it, over the river that looks like it's saying don't cry for me Argentina it's so brown and not healthy, and it is packed like we're all leaving a parade along the river street. We get to the museum, we barge in for our tickets, we get in an enormous line, we go in, it's hot, we climb hot stairs, like so many stairs like the staircases were doubly long and everything we had to see they decided to put at the very TOP of the museum. We see a line of people coming out of a room and I put the kids in line but I walk around looking for someone to ask is this where the David is. I finally find a guy and he says oh the David is not in this museum. 

First of all, why is Florence so hot. I was thinking this blog and our trip would be alot more interesting if the heat had not oppressed the oppres. (get it?) We would have had more days of poking our heads through tunnels and playing if we hadn't been busy sweating like we were doing the track and field Olympics while wearing wetsuits.

So Emma and I scramble to bewilderedly look at the where the right museum might be on her phone and of course you have to have tickets months ahead there's no way. Luckily there is a fake David in the courtyard below so we go and take a picture with him, we are in FLORENCE, so at least there's one David. Who was this David and why was everyone sculpting him. And the kids are just as impressed with the actors that have sprayed themselves with gold paint and are dressed in togas and posed on the streets like statues for the tourists. They have these at Universal Studios and Hollywood Boulevard, but it's good we came all this way. And you know what? We're happy. Even with the mistakes. The best part about Florence is Emma finds a Brandy Melville store that is her favorite clothes store and I find an NYU tshirt because nothing says Florence like NYU. We are happy here in a tiny American for a second offshoot of Florence, where the style is like home and the kids can find treasures. 

We have to eat so we head toward the train station and decide to eat in the famous Florence church plaza Santa Maria Novella. You've seen it on instagram. Girls in flowy clothes are eating in a window with blowing curtains and this black and white church is out the window. I guarantee those pictures were shot during January, because the only thing blowing in this plaza is Nathan as he paces and sweats. Emma has to find good pasta, so we sit at Satan's fireplace and have pasta and pizza in front of this church after our failed David attempt but with a bag of cool clothes Emma found. Our waitress is crying when we leave but not from us I think because she has to stay here.

We pay forty thousand dollars to get our bags and then we roll back to the train and Venice is upon us in two hours.

Venice, watery Venice, with a souvenir shop on every crevice that isn't stuffed with pizza or pasta or a watery canal - Venice is like Annapolis if it flooded. So nice to have water and bridges, even Jeff Bridges. Would like Venice.

So exciting to watch them walk out of the train station and see a watery city. We got our water taxi tickets from a nice lady in the train station booth and then we walked right out onto the shores of this unreal city. 

It is satisfying to be on a water taxi with your beautiful kids (missing one, dammit), even in a mask and with a few too many people on it. Just seeing the weirdness and beauty of this totally different city, and then following Emma and the map over bridges and through winding tunnels to get to our little place right in the middle, over a chinese restaurant, up some stairs like we're in Venice's secret annex. No one lets us in, it's one of those code places which you'd think since I hate people I would like, but when traveling I find that we LIKE seeing a face at a hotel in a new place, it's like a human bookmark, you feel better. But we don't care this time, there's a shower here, there are beds, the room is very big and cold inside (the fridge is not, of course, who needs everything). We rinse off Florence, goodbye failed David down the drain we'll see you when we bring Bess to her semester abroad in four years.

We look up places to eat and then we just wander, getting the first pizza we see offered, walking along the grand canal, over the Rialto bridge which is so packed Nathan is announcing Bridge is Closed to everyone as we pass. We go down little corridors and more little corridors, whistling Pirates of the Caribbean, and we see a small pasta place with a big window, people cheerfully making pasta and looking like they're having a good time. We get their pasta and Emma gets the pesto she's been wanting and you could live for a week on the amount and thickness of that pasta we get but it's so fresh. We sit down on the stoop of someone's house, on a quiet canal, in the most beautiful place we have rested our feet in.

We ate peacefully and after we were done and leaving, a lady came back who lived in that door. She had her grocery bag and she just walked into that door like it wasn't amazing that this was her door and her house and that's where she came out every day. To that.

Later on we wandered past our hotel the other direction a few bridges and there was the Plaza San Marco where Nathan felt the most magical. At night, with music playing, outdoor restaurants with sparkly lights and linen tablecloths. Water everywhere. This was a gorgeous night for us all. Nathan got a glowing look on his face and said this is elegant. You know you've made it if you're old and sitting in this square at a nice meal and listening to an accordion in Venice. We just nosed into little shops, and popped across bridges with gondolas, and got some bread from a girl named Anna who was the kids' age and had lived in Sussex but was now back in Venice working. She would have been our friend, wandering into our house back home.  We wandered until we were ready to go lie down. I couldn't imagine living here, you'd see no sunlight in your house it would be like Idyllwild back home, the mountains blocking all the light most of the day. But to be lost in little alleys in Venice, because you didn't have to belong anywhere, was a great way to lose a day.

Traveling with kids where you want them to see, more than yourself, all the things, is what makes it more of a pressurized situation. Maybe I could've done better at sitting DOWN.  I was rabid by the newness everywhere, I had to fill their minds and hearts, our time was so limited so I felt all this purpose to the lugging and settling in of bags up stairs into rooms, and showers, and there was food that was needed and looking. I was on shoveling mompower supernanny mode. B was right, we needed to rest and feel the place too. When we stopped to look we felt the best. But there was just so much, and all of us.

I think traveling by yourself or with a person you've just recently broken up with but already had the tickets so took the trip anyway (my last trip to Venice, at 25) (sorry, Dave), we were really good at wandering and stopping. It was quieter. It wasn't crowded, it was November. We would get food and walk. We didn't think very much. Maybe it was being 25. Also I only had one brain then, not four I felt in charge of. So I felt this pressure to not stop, ever. Our biggest family squabbles on this trip were other people wanted to sit down and eat for 20 dollars each and I didn't understand waiting for food when you could just grab the freshest bread ever off of any tiny market and maybe some chocolate or cheese or an apple and then keep walking, like by a river. The beauty in the trip, for me, was the feathering into the world, like a duck leaving three ripples as those invisible feet keep chugging it along.

I guess I learned alot about ducks this trip.

But I hear you, fam. It will be good for us if I can STOP. Relax more, next time.

Back to sweating,

In the morning we decided it was swim or die, so we looked up Lido beach and grabbed a water taxi and boated out 10 minutes across the water to the island of Lido. So nice to walk through a beach town and wait for Nathan to get a falafel for 400 minutes while Emma and I made videos of what he looks like when he's hot and walking. So funny. Then we get to the beach and the free beach is a hundred million meters away it's like back in Florence, so we first start walking then change our mind then go to a paying beach which is full then getting worried we go to the next paying beach which is romantically called Lung Mare, and we get in line to pay to get escorted onto a beach.

This is certainly not how WE do it, in the states. We had slow long line anxiety so while waiting we booked in italian an umbrella on this beach and then went to the window with no line that said online reservations. She informed us that we had booked the umbrella for tomorrow. We said it was in ITALIAN, and Nathan said we won't be here tomorrow. Looking plaintive.

She talked to her boss who didn't seem impressed but somehow we were paying our 7 dollars and then getting escorted to the COOLEST PLACE ON EARTH that we could get to that day, the Adriatic Sea.

We were put at an umbrella and he dragged one of the lounge chairs off cause I guess it only comes with one lounge chair (we later "borrowed" two from empty umbrellas next to us), and we dumped our stuff and went to visit the sea.

The most shells ever, the shell gods must have dumped all their shells here, they were all intricate and beautiful, and we all got directly in the water, while worrying about our stuff getting stolen. We floated for ever, Emma went back to lie down and be guard and in charge of resting, and Nathan and I floated in the non waves, and floated in the center of our trip, and floated in the not hot. We were not hot. We were wet and it was summer. Finally.

We missed Bess here the most. She would have really liked the beach, and Venice.

We moseyed to get burgers and fries at a cool hamburger stand, a little afraid of how crappy they would be since burgers had tasted pretty bad in europe. But these were cheap and amazing. I had a veggie cheese melt thingie because I had been missing actual vegetables. We ate at our lounge chairs looking out at Croatia in the distance (you had to imagine it) and Emma said I feel like I'm at a resort.

We did not rush out of Lido, we stayed to around 4. We decided we could wander back slowly and not have to worry about everyone leaving the beach at the same time crammed in the same water taxi.  From the water we could see wayyyy down the beach where the free beach was and Nathan was like, it is shoulder to shoulder people down there, man. So we felt luxury that the 7 dollars had bought us. We were rich that day.

Nathan met a Nigerian guy in the water who couldn't swim and when we were leaving we passed by them and took a picture with them and got their instagram. Their names were Blessed, Pedro and Justice. I'm sure we'll see them again some day when we invite them to stay at our house in LA and they come to murder us because we don't know them at all we met them at a beach in italy. I recommend handpicking your future murderers.

We were so happy to be walking back waterlogged, and back on the water taxi waterrelaxed and back to Venice, Venice chugging up to us like it's been there all along and will continue to be there forever

That night we saw the plaza again with the music and it was sprinkling and then raining a bit and we saw it emptier and quieter. We yelled for Carol across the Rialto bridge. I finished Rowan's christmas stocking there and started a new sunset one. We had to leave early in the morning, we had to catch a train to Milan and then a quick change to a train to Bern, Switzerland. This was going to be the scariest half hour of the trip. But for now, we had Venice.

The sleepy streets of Venice at 8 am on a morning in August, when you're leaving, after having been at the beach and in the warm Adriatic the day before - this is the way we imagined the trip would be, the whole time. We forgot that there would be other adventure seekers and last minute summer travelers, in fact that every place would be crammed with people who wanted the same exact summer as us, just they could afford it maybe and they didn't have dementia at home or maybe they did. Maybe everyone darting through tunnels in Venice were hiding from something like real life and that's why it helps to have those guys in red striped shirts hanging on the corners offering you an 80 euro ride in the gondola. They probably have all the answers to everything if you just get in their life boat, but who has 80 euros for all the answers to life.

Venice was a bath for many reasons. We bathed off the attempted crime of Rome. We bathed off the sweat of a thousand peasants in the Sea. We sat DOWN for a few hours. We wandered in the land of Pirates of the Caribbean fake, with shutters and arches and echoes. All I remember from my last time in Venice as a kid was getting there at night and it was so quiet and dark and all the streets seemed the same and it was like a puzzle you would never solve because who needs to solve things with a basis of spaghetti, spaghetti is never not going to be swirled and knotted, that's what makes it beautiful and delicious.

There was such beautiful colory glass, from the merano glass situation that I guess is an island city nearby and in every shop for cheap but we knew we could not pack one piece of glass to take home. If we could crack a t-shirt in half, we were definitely prone to doing that so there was no chance for glass. I'm keeping all my glass in Venice, just want you to know, and it's all for you. I thought of you.

In Venice we didn't have to go UP in things or explore the history of things, we just looked from the outside.

The wind on our faces from the water taxi, even though we had to wear masks, we were outside and there was wind in a hot, still, world, and water under our feet. 

We were off to Switzerland.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Mom Wrap

I signed up to get paid to be mom's helper through the county. It's only taken two years to finally get it all together, sign up the right places, turn in the paperwork, get the health certificate.

I think the health certificate just did me in. Reading a doctor's scrawling on there that said "END STAGE ALZHEIMER'S. GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER AND DEMENTIA." Signed by the doctor in the middle of a regular Thursday, like he was probably going to stop at Pollo Loco on the way home and watch tv. 

I don't know why I can't believe that this is a real thing and actually happening. Even though I've been watching it happen so slowly for two years. The labeling in ink on paper made me see my mom as a patient, as having a real problem with a label, a diagnosis. She's just a piece of meat, an animal that got a disease. That's all she is, a name, some numbers like birth date and social security, oops she has a problem and it's incurable. 

There's so much left off of this paper I feel like yelling. What about the PTA. She always brought cookies to my chorus practice in 4th grade. She was always the prettiest of all the moms. She made me want to be a mom. I could see from how her hand would linger on our backs when she talked to other people, that she knew no matter what was happening in the adult world, that we were really the only things that mattered. She told us often.

I put her to bed that night lifting from wheelchair to bed still able to sit up barely on the edge in her semi-crumpled ball that is her body. I shove the chair away a bit and then bend over her, pulling up her shirt to feel her long, smooth back. I scratch her back like she would do for me, and she used to say ahhhhh  but now instead of humming like she is always doing, she gets quiet because it quells the need to hum. Contact is better than humming.

Dementia has a lack of language which is its language. It makes your person less than they were and then not them at all. I get mad at dementia.

But my mom is just sitting there in the middle of it, both of us trapped in this real diagnosis with no escape. I sit next to her on the bed and wrap my arms around her and feel her whole self lean into me and we listen to whatever song is on and I cry and tell her I'm so sorry and she laughs because tears and laughs are all mixed up. Whatever closest to the top bubbles up. She has arms around her that love her, no matter if her brain got broken. I'm starting to think this is a whole garden.

My mom planted it and I'm just tending it.

Monday, September 12, 2022


So after a dry toast free breakfast we take an uber to the Giardino degli Aranci, which is alot of italian for orange grove. And thank god we ubered because this place is up a steep hill with some Malibu beach villa vibes, just add foreign cars and cobblestones. 

There weren't that many orange trees, but a big old church, and you wander through a wide L shaped dirt path to get to the scenic overlook of Rome. We passed this old couple having an argument in Italian on a bench. Actually just the lady was having the argument the man was just sitting there wishing she would die. I loved that this was our moment in Rome with these people, they lived here forever, this was their place to have arguments and then go home and vacuum, while this was our place to see as much as we possibly could while sweating out all the water we were drinking. And we passed each other, in this moment, each of us at our best.

At the balcony overlook there were milling people and Rome down below all neatly organized domes, ruins and trees. Nathan balanced on the edge of the sheer cliff, and Emma took some pix, and we listened to a guy playing Imagine on the guitar in Italian which B would've liked.

We ambled down the big hill after looking at all the cool foreign cars and Emma sorted which bus was the right bus and where, and we liked the bus that day because every bus in Rome takes you past ruins. We saw the Circus Maximus which was built in like 5. Like 5th century BCE. Isn't that like, before time was even a thing? It was where they had all the chariot races and was a way bigger deal than the cramped teeny Coliseum, born in 79. We also passed the Temple of Hercules which was much more modern clocking in at like the year -120. It had no visitors and only a crappy little fence around it because it has no lore I guess, it's just a greek marble gazebo but we saw you, hercules temple. And we were impressed at your persistent existence in this modern realm.

We had tickets to see the underground church San Clemente which is literally three blocks up from the Coliseum. Our church ticket time was noon and the coliseum was at 4, so we had time to fool around and eat ice cream repeatedly. 

We get to the church early and there's actually CHURCH going on inside, so we poke our heads in, and an old guy worshipper with a cane inside looks at us like fucking tourists then wait outside where an australian dude is talking to his tour group in his perky accent. We're not sure if we are supposed to wait or find another door, or go get the ice cream across the street one more time. Finally church gets out and the guy with the cane is talking about god as he comes out of the church, so everyone is afraid to pass him to go inside for the tour. He holds court blocking the doorway and he looks like one of those rumpled old guys in the US who plays chess in parks all day. We finally realize he's in no way in charge of the church, he's just in charge of blocking the entrance so we get around him, and wait inside by the secret underground lair door. 

It's so fun to find stuff you didn't plan, and then to actually like the stuff. They let us in, and it's a tiny place, and we're going down ramps and old crumbly wide staircases, and they said that they had built a church on top of this church and then tunneled down and found this vast underground earlier church and then tunneled lower and found the remnants of an old house built near a running spring. Because it was cool air and wet stones and fresh in there, with that running water that's been there since Achilles was first learning to tie up his cool calf sandals, it seemed like totally the place you would go to find immortal youth. I could see why there was a church here.

We were cool enough finally the first time on this trip, not so stifled by heat and when your body is cool the first thing that returns is pranking people. Caesar was a big prankster. All I know is suddenly traveling was hiding and scaring each other around winding corners. We started having FUN, not just surviving. The cold tunnely underground church was our playground.

We didn't realize it at the time, I think we're still realizing it, but everything we saw was making us bigger. We were growing as we went, and I got to watch the kids growing, so that made me doubly big.  We grew wrinkles on our souls with each site, and I think the goal is to have as many wrinkles as possible as you go through life. 

This church gave us respite, laughs, and a deep creek of running water echoing. If Danny hadn't mentioned that there was a creek running through the church underneath we might not have felt that desire to see it but because who has ever seen streams running through a house under secret tunnels - how you can miss that?

On our way out I told the skinny guy who let us in that this was the best thing in Rome and he said, glowing, I know. I liked that he was spending his life here, in this watery secret church.

We still had time to kill so we moseyed over to the Pantheon, built relatively newly in YEAR 125, and we saw the old witch who sold Snow White her apples out front. On a side street right next to that plaza, a lady was making friendship bracelets with your name on them and she was making them in THREE MINUTES and they looked so cool we got five of them for people with weird names. Also they were only 3 euros so we gave her extra.

We got on the bus going the wrong way back to the Coliseum so we got to do an extra lap around Rome which turned out to be a relief so we could rest and look at ruins at the same time. We know that city, now.

So really you can't write about the Coliseum because what are you going to say. Crumbly. Immense. Ancient. God's Broken Salad Bowl. We liked the inside of the Coliseum better than the rapey outside of the coliseum (from earlier post, Thank You Rome, for Ruining Europe, avoid tall men selling bracelets). After we walked around in hot awe for awhile, I had Emma yell "CAROL!" really loud. 

My friend Kurt back at home, my trail buddy, is always looking for his true love. A few years ago he bought a pair of chaps and tried them on and they didn't fit right and he saw the name "carol" burned into the leather on the side. He said, I think these are ladies' chaps. I said Kurt, when you find the girl of your dreams, her name will be Carol, and she will fit these chaps. So ever since then, every time we're riding out on the trail and we see any female riders in the distance we always yell "CAROL!" and see if she turns around. 

Emma yelled Carol into all of ancient Rome.   

We would search the world, for Kurt.

Also, leaving the Coliseum, the steps are almost vertical and really skinny, there's no way people have not totally died falling down those stairs. You'd have to be 7 feet tall with feet the size of a toddler's to have the right physics for managing those stairs.

We laughed on the way home thinking about when the Coliseum was new and it was year 79, how parents were dragging their kids to see junk in there and they were dragging their feet and complaining. Or they were 15 and on their stone tablet phone and rolling their eyes. On these actual streets, same as us.

This was our last night in Rome, we didn't even try to go out to eat. Nathan was passed out in the bed and Emma and I were watching 50 Shades of Grey on the other bed and fast forwarding to all the bad scenes which is hard to find a good scene just saying. I had to then show her Miami Vice so she could see where this Dakota Johnson came from, I mean if we're doing history, let's get a few things straight in the American dynasty of 80s tv stars and their offspring who grow up to do scandalous naked sex movies. We ate pasta and salad that I got at the train station grocery store and that I went back to heat up in that train station microwave, see you really can have it all.

We were leaving for Venice in the morning. We were all packed and ready, we hadn't found the perfect pasta but we had seen the secret river and the argument in the orange grove, and we had forgiven Rome for all its trespasses against us.