From Amsterdam to the South Tyrol

Jacaranda Tree

Last year Maun and I referred to our bike trip as our “first annual last trip.”  Well, it wasn’t our last trip nor will this year’s be our last as we have already made plans for 2016.  In any case, we are off again with our departure set for May 25.

Once again we will be journaling the trip at:  www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/ourtour2015

Please join us as we pedal across Germany, along the Inn river in Austria and over the Alps into Italy.

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Barcelona to Paris and More

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Maun and I, after having to take last year off because of her shoulder and my hip, are leaving for another bike trip.

It is more convenient for us to journal our trip at Crazy Guy on a Bike, a site devoted to cycling journals.  You will be able to find our blog there at:  www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/13960.  Alternatively you can simply find the site and then  type David Alston in the search box and then click on my name which will be highlighted on the page it takes you to.

Au revoir,

David and Maun

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Teatro alla Scandale

Since Maun and I, because of our various injuries, her shoulder and my hip, didn’t  have the expense of a bike trip to look forward to this summer, we have been able to be a little more indulgent with ourselves, starting with our decision to keep the apartment in Paris that we had reserved for September and October.   Normally we would have ended our bike trip here and spent the two fall months going to classical music concerts and generally enjoying the city but this time we would be in Europe for a much shorter time and without our bikes.

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Even though music is our preoccupation neither of us are particular fans of opera.  We find the performances generally too long and our venue in Salt Lake is not very comfortable so we are very choosy about which operas we see at home and it usually amounts to one or two a season.  But we are interested in opera houses as monuments and we have attended performances in New York, Paris, Prague and Verona, usually as interested in the hall as the opera even though we always like it when  the opera is one we know, La Bohème probably being our favorite.  And since we were going to be a mere eight hour train ride from Milan, we thought,  why not add another famous house to our list.

La Scala at Night

La Scala at Night

When we were in Paris last fall we had looked at the La Scala website more or less just for fun and we quickly discovered that the entire season was sold out so we couldn’t have gone no matter how strong our whim.  But now we knew we wanted to go so while still at home during the winter we looked at the site again and found the date for the first sale of individual tickets would be in June.  We marked the date on our calendar and when it arrived Maun was on the computer very early in the morning.  We had talked about setting the alarm for two in the morning or so but decided we didn’t need to do that.  Actually we did as it turned out.  By the time Maun logged into the site we had missed about four and a half hours of sales and the choices for seats that we could possibly afford, even when we were planning a splurge, were already severely limited.  But we got them.

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Choosing seats on the internet for a theater that you don’t know is sort of a chancy business.  And with the amount of money involved maybe even a little scary.  Nevertheless we had our tickets.  But there was something strange about them, they appeared to be right next to each other on the plan but they were numbered and priced differently.  We simply assumed we should have set the alarm for the middle of the night after all and that we would not be sitting together.

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The famous La Scala boxes.  In most opera houses we have visited the ceiling is the attraction.  Here the ceiling is rather plain.

As is our habit we got to the theater quite early and had to wait briefly to be admitted.  Our seats were in a box and by being early we were the first ones there.  Maybe, we thought, the box was only for two people because there were only two chairs with backs with two low and one high stools behind them.  The usher only opened the door to the box for us and said nothing about the seats.  So, of course, we took the two chairs with backs and waited, hoping we would be the only ones in there.  The reason for the price difference, we decided was that you could see much better from one of the chairs than you could from the other.

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We made a dry run to the theater the morning of the performance.  This is Maun’s cappuccino in the La Scala cafe.

DSC00893Changing posters for tonight’s performance.  People were taking the posters as souvenirs.  I took one too but had no way to get it home so I gave it away.

We heard a rustling behind us but it we didn’t turn around and the noise soon stopped.  The lights went down and the curtain went up and then two people entered the box, this time with much more than a rustling sound and accompanied by an usher and told us we were in their seats. What did we know?  We had to assume we were so we gave up the chairs and moved to the stools behind.  Now we could easily see why the price was different;  from Maun’s stool, nearest the stage,  you had to lean way forward to see anything more than the wall of the box.  I could see better from the other stool and I could lean against the wall.  It was uncomfortable, and ridiculous, I thought, but I could have lasted.  Maun, on the other hand, would have never made it.  The only opera available when we had time to go to Milan was Verdi’s “Don Carlo.”  The DVD  we had watched at home in preparation was five hours long.  La Scala had shortened this slightly to four and half hours.  Maun and I could change off with the miserable stool but even then her back wouldn’t last.  Had we been in Salt Lake, or maybe even Paris, and had made sure these horrible stools were our seats, we would have simply left.  But we had way too much invested in the deal to do that.  We had listened to the opera several times and watched the five hour DVD twice.  The first time we read the Wikepedia summaries before each scene.  It took us a week of evenings to watch it.  I even read the original German play by Friedrich Schiller (not available in our library but free on Kindle.)

By now the performance had started and because, even though Maun and I had been very early, the late arrival of the others caused the confusion and discussion to occur as the performance started and we had to worry about bothering others.  So we settled into our miserable seats knowing we wouldn’t last but waiting for a scene change to decide what to do.

I partially solved my problem by trading my low stool for the high one, figuring I could later trade with Maun.  The box door opened again and I’ll be damned if someone else didn’t arrive, now well past the beginning of the performance, with still another usher, and lay claim to the high stool which apparently was high because it was properly behind my low one.  Even though it wasn’t any of these people’s fault, I was on the verge of losing my temper on the heels of my patience which was already gone.

This time I went out into the hall with the usher to see what was going on.  Contrary to the first guy who had simply opened the door to the box,  this very pleasant young lady took the time to show me a plan of the box with the two chairs and assortment of stools all accompanied on the plan by their prices.  There were five seats in the box, every one of them priced differently and all but one of them not worth a damn, let alone the (to us) scandalous amount of Euros we had paid.  How could we have ever determined all this on the internet?  Probably by looking farther than we did and finding reviews by people who had endured the same experience.   We though we were old hands, however, having purchased so many tickets for concerts in Paris on the internet with no problem,  we just plunged ahead.

And then the dear young thing almost apologetically said that if we could tough it out for the one hour duration of the first act, we could go to a special desk in the theater entry and very possibly change our seats for better ones.  Unbelievable.  It was as if they had anticipated us poor tourists being upset and sure enough, they changed our seats for orchestras seats on the eleventh row.  I can’t even imagine how much these seats cost, certainly no less than five hundred Euros for the two of us.

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Our new seats.  How much would have they cost?

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Some stereotypes are accurate.  That is a Dubai license plate on this Rolls in the smart Montenapoleone shopping street.  Maybe owner was our neighbor in our new seats.

We enjoyed the rest of the opera in this splendor and ended up being very glad we had come.

DSC00944All’s well that ends well.

Posted in Summer 2013 | 4 Comments

Warm Showers

Several years ago while  Maun and I were watching a bike race in Salt Lake, we struck up a conversation with a fellow spectator.  We told him that while we loved to watch races we were really not racers ourselves but rather cyclotourists and we mentioned a couple of the trips we had made.  He said he was too and he asked us if we knew about an organization called Warm Showers.  We said we didn’t and asked him about it.  He explained that it was an organization made up of cyclists all over the world who were willing to extend hospitality, i.e. a warm shower and a place to stay, to cyclists who were touring on their bikes.

Maun and I were going to be home that summer and we thought it would be fun to have cycling guests so we signed up.  Shortly after we got a request from a pair of French brothers who were riding their bikes across the country, from New York to San Francisco.  Salt Lake is not normally on this route but these guys had heard lots about Moab because they were avid mountain bikers and Moab was on their list of places to see in the U.S.

They stayed two days with us, time for them to do their laundry, go to a bike shop and see some of the city.  Their visit was a lot of fun for us.  I loved showing them around Salt Lake and it was fascinating to listen to them talking about their trip.  And  our hospitality was well repaid when we stayed with them in their home in Toulouse the next summer.

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Vincent and Thibaut from Toulouse at breakfast

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 On their way to San Francisco

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They sent us a picture when they arrived in San Francisco

With my hip preventing us from taking a bike trip we were clearly going to be home again this summer.  While we hadn’t really thought about hosting cyclists, it wasn’t long before we received a request from Jean Garcia, a Frenchman from a small town across the bay from Toulon on the Mediterranean.  Jean was pedaling from San Francisco to Vancouver and was taking an inland route so that he could see Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and then Utah’s national parks.  Jean is not a whole lot younger than we are and we had a lot to talk about and enjoyed each other’s company.

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Jean leaving our home with his trailer which we thought was very heavy but he is traveling completely self-contained.  He is really only going to a  hotel down the street and around the corner where he will meet his family.

Because of our convenient airport Jean had chosen Salt Lake for a rendezvous with his family.  His wife flew from France and his son and daughter in law from Tahiti where his son is a psychiatrist.  When I expressed surprise that there was a need for psychiatry in Tahiti, his son said that Tahiti has a very high suicide rate.  Surprising.  They had rented a vehicle large enough for the whole family and were going to visit Yellowstone together before the family left for home and Jean continued on his bike to Vancouver by way of Glacier National Park.  It was fun to meet the family.  And again, we have made new friends and we will visit Jean and his wife, Monique, in France in October.  Jean says their home is 300 meters from the Mediterranean, we are pretty excited.

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Cecilia and Sebastian at our picnic lunch in Panguitch

Two weeks after Jean left we received another request.  It was if people somehow knew we were going to be home and available.  This time it was from a young Swedish couple who were making their first long distance bike trip.  They had started in Seattle and were passing through Salt Lake on their way to Las Vegas where they would meet friends and continue their trip across the United States by car.  Cecilia and Sebastian were doing things a little more casually than Jean.  They bought their bikes in Seattle and were going to sell them before going home and they were traveling quite lightly.  While Jean Garcia was prepared for, and encountered, every possible kind of conditions, from temperatures over a hundred degrees to the south and then near freezing temperatures at night in Montana, these kids were not.

And leaving Salt Lake to the south or west is a hellish proposition.  Fifty miles from Salt Lake and one is in the middle of the desert with few places to stop and very little support in terms of food and water.  We discussed the route possibilities with Cecelia and Sebastian and they decided they would be smart to take the Greyhound bus at least to St. George.  From there the ride to Las Vegas is at reasonable if not very nice. But taking the bus meant having to find boxes for their bikes and going to all the trouble of packing them.  We know where to get boxes, just up the street, actually, but the whole process is time consuming and we would have felt obliged to get them to the bus station.  Finally, as we talked things over, Maun and I just said to heck with it and told them that for the price of a tank of gas we would take them to Cedar City where there is a nice KOA.  From there it is a sort of fun ride  to St. George.  Still desert but interesting.  Maun and I would then come home by way of Cedar Breaks National Monument, where we hadn’t been in years and it would be a little vacation for us.  So that’s what we did and we had a good time.  Originally we had thought that we would stay somewhere on the way back but the thought of sleeping in our own bed was too appealing so we went straight home.  As it was we had a nice visit in the monument and were home by dinner time.

In the meantime we have heard from our new Swedish friends and they are home safely after an interesting trip.  I am curious about what they did with the bikes, I will write and ask.

Two weeks later, as if on schedule, our next guest arrived and he was a very serious cyclist indeed.  Sean Tu, a young man from Taipai, Taiwan has set out to ride his bike virtually around the world.  He started in Alaska and, again, he passed through Salt Lake on his way south from Yellowstone, on his way to California to visit a former professor.  From there he plans to ride all the way to Ushuaia, Argentina at the very bottom of the South American continent.  Then he will fly to the Cape in South Africa, make his way north to Europe and then through central Asia and back to China in 2015.  Will he make it?  He is very determined and others have done it before him so why not?  When he was with us he complained of a sore knee and just last week he wrote us from Los Angeles, after having crossed Death Valley, and said he had a tooth that had to be treated.  It might entail flying back to Taipai, he said, because it would be cheaper to fly home and have the tooth taken care of than it would be to do it in Los Angeles.  Unbelievable.

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Sean in our favorite Chines restaurant.  He didn’t want to eat Chinese food because he wanted new experiences but we talked him into it so that he could compare our restaurant with real Chinese food.  He said the restaurant was good.  Interestingly he didn’t like things spicy.  We couldn’t believe how much he ate, this is his third bowl of rice.

Sean was much less interested in us helping him with a route out of Salt Lake as he had it pretty well figured out and was depending on his GPS.  Maun and I much prefer paper maps when we are touring but we are rapidly becoming the minority.  But when we told Sean that our light rail had just been extended and would take him fifteen miles out of the city and right to the road that leads to the southbound route recommended for bikes he was interested and this is what he did.

SeanSean at the train stop.  We forgot our camera so Maun took this picture with Sean’s camera and didn’t quite get all his head.

Maun and had planned a bike ride on the morning Sean left.  Maun has spent a  lot time this summer exploring our newly mapped Jordan River Parkway.  The Jordan River connects Utah Lake in Provo with the Great Salt Lake.  The river is named after its middle eastern counterpart because it, too, feeds a dead sea, the Great Salt Lake, which has no outlet and is thus very salty.  By now I was back on my bike but being very careful and only riding on dedicated paths.  Maun took me to the middle section of the parkway because she found it to be very pretty when she rode it earlier in the summer.  We had stopped at a nice rest area at 12300 South, about two miles west of the train stop where Sean had to get off.  We were resting on a bench after filling our water bottles and using the WC and to our total surprise we saw Sean pedaling west on his way to the highway that would take him south on his long, long trip.

We are now in Paris where I am tending my hip in style.  We are looking forward to visiting Jean Garcia and we will also visit friends in Normandy, friends whom we met cycling some years ago.  We have visited them several times and last year they came to see us in Utah.  Biking seems to be a very good way to make friends.

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Long Beach

For the first time in a long time Maun and I did not plan a bike trip in Europe this summer. Last summer we made the longest trip we have ever made (www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/radweg1).  The ride was one of our  best,  but during our post-trip stay in Paris Maun was using her bike for an errand and fell,  tearing the rotator cuff in her left shoulder.  It required surgery,  and  while her recovery was rapid and almost complete, we didn’t feel like she could deal with a long distance bike trip where you are often in situations where you have to lift your bags and sometimes even your bike.  So beyond the vague idea of just enjoying Salt Lake we had no plans.  We did have plans for the spring however.

The weather in Salt Lake in the spring is kind of iffy.  It can be nice but can also be extremely unsettled and not very pleasant.  We call it the mud season.  And after six months of winter, mud season is not what you look forward to so we have quite often managed to avoid it.  Last year we spent the month of May in San Diego.  We were very close to the water and downtown and we loved it.  The weather was perfect and we rode our bikes almost every day so we planned to go to California again. But this time we chose Long Beach because of its proximity to Los Angeles and because we wanted to ride our bikes along that part of the coast.  Last year we were able to trade homes with a young man who wanted to visit the national parks in Utah.  But no such luck this year and we had to find an apartment to rent.

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Our apartment in Long Beach. It was a little bit more expensive than we had planned but its location meant that we would never have to drive so we decided it was worth the splurge. Last year in San Diego we parked our car when we arrived and never moved it for the whole month we were there.

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We were on our bikes the minute we got settled into the apartment.  I had obtained bike path maps before we arrived  and we were very pleasantly surprised to learn that both the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers were line with paths that went on seemingly forever.  In theory one could ride from Long Beach right to downtown Los Angeles on the river path.  Part of it, they told us, was a little scary but you could do it.  We, however, had no need to go that far so it was no problem.

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Besides the river paths Long Beach has a beautiful path along the water that goes a long way.  By riding on surface streets for just a little way we were in Seal Beach having coffee in a very nice little place that we had discovered in the car on our way to Long Beach.  When I was going to school at UC Irvine we had lived in Huntington Beach and spent some time in Seal Beach but it was always along the Pacific Coast Highway and we had never discovered  the nice little downtown area and the incredible beach.

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Bogart’s in Seal Beach, probably our favorite place for coffee. It, like everyplace we went, had free wi-fi. And it was full of interesting people including several senior cyclists who had helpful tips on where to ride.

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Maun on the pier in Redondo Beach after a scary ride up the Pacific Coast Highway. Now we had clear sailing on beautiful path all the way to Santa Monica

Maun and I had been to Long Beach on our bikes once before when we made a ride down the Southern California Coast from Maun’s cousin’s home in Camarillo to our friend’s place in Oceanside.  From there we rode together all the way to the Mexican border and then took the famous San Diego trolley back to San Diego and then the train back to Oceanside.

This ride included the incredible path along the water through Santa Monica and Venice Beach and on to the beach towns of Manhattan and Redondo Beach.  We were excited about riding on this beautiful path again.  We were much younger when we did it before and when the path ended in Redondo Beach we rode all way around Palos Verdes and then took our lives in our hands riding across the horrible Vincent Thomas bridge into Long Beach.  Now they won’t even let you ride on this bridge so we had to find some other way to get to Redondo Beach to start our ride.  We found a bus that would take us and our bikes to San Pedro where we got on the Pacific Coast Highway and made our way.  It was frightening but nothing like the bridge had been and it was a mercifully short way to Redondo Beach.

So now we were on the path and on our way.  We had figured out that we had time to get to Manhattan Beach where we would leave the path and go on surface streets to the Metro station and the train that would take us back to Long Beach.  Another day we would figure out how to get to Venice with the train or bus and then ride the rest of the path.

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Intertrochanteric hip fracture with ORIF (open reduction, internal fixation} This is a Wikikpedia photo, my rod is inside my femur and much longer, it extends almost to my knee

We had ridden on the busy Pacific Coast Highway with no problem but when we were on the perfect path while we were looking for the street we needed to take to the train, I managed, while concentrating on too many things, to hit a pole that had been set in the path to keep cars off of it.  I was going about zero miles an hour but the collision caused me to fall and I landed right on my hip.  I thought I was okay but when I tried to get up I knew that something serious had happened.  And it had.  I had fractured my hip.  It had to be repaired surgically and that meant two days in the hospital and two and a half weeks in a rehabilitation center and a pretty drastic change of plans for the rest of our month in Long Beach.

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We were bound and determined not to let my accident ruin our stay in Long Beach.  This meant becoming mobile as fast as possible.  The physical therapy in the rehab center was very good and they had me going down the hall on a walker the very next day.  They divided the therapy into physicals therapy sessions and what they called  “occupational therapy.”  During these sessions we concentrated on getting in and out of the shower.  It is hard to believe how hard it was but we made it.  By the time I went “home” from rehabilitation center I was still using the walker but I could very quickly walk with just a cane.  Then it just became a matter of walking ever longer distances.  The train station, where we would catch the train to Los Angeles, was about a quarter of a mile away and that was the goal.

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With the walker on the bike path.  We are very close to the marina where we had hoped to charter a boat for a trip to Catalina.  Toward the end our stay we did get to go sailing but we had to do it with a captain.  Nevertheless I did all the sailing and my leg held up.

DSC00115This Starbucks is on the corner of Seventh and Figueroa in Los Angeles and was the object of my first train trip into Los Angeles.  This is the only time I used the walker on the train.  Just getting here was a big deal, the coffee and the  perfect weather were a bonus.

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We have some favorite places in Los Angeles and right at the top of the list is the Getty Museum.  We had looked forward to the challenge of getting to the museum on public transportation but we had to give that idea up and drove to the museum.  The wheelchair belongs to the museum and used it because it made things easier.

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We also drove to Walt Disney Hall where we heard the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Gustavo Dudamel.  We bought these tickets while we were still in Salt Lake and we did not want to miss the concert.  Again we had wanted to go on the train and the metro but we ended up driving.  Maun had even made a trial run with the train but it was going to be to difficult.  Here we are having a pre-concert snack in front of the beautiful hall.  I was still in the rehab center when we went to the concert,  apart from going to breakfast a couple of times it was my first real outing.  Again the wheelchair was more convenient than the walker.

DSC00091Finally a picture of Maun who was doing all the work.  We are still on the terrace and the LA city hall is in the background.  It is iconic for us and it can be seen from almost all our favorite places.

DSC00089The concert hall is beautiful and worth a visit even if you don’t hear a concert.  Maun was very gracious to drive as driving in big city traffic is not her thing.  Our tickets were by chance and providence for a Sunday matinee so there was not as much traffic as there might have been.

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Union Station is another of our favorite destinations in LA.  It required a change of trains to get there so that was another adventure.  In general the trains were easy to use and our fellow passengers were polite and helpful.

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On the day we visited Union Station we had a nice lunch on Olvera Street not far away.  Is is said to be very touristy but we had a very authentic lunch with no tourists and the staff did not speak English.

DSC00148Walking back to the station from Olvera Street with another vide of City Hall on a very beautiful day.  Los Angeles used to have a reputation for smog and now we go there from Salt Lake to breathe their coastal air.  We had sparkingly beautiful weather the whole time  we were there.

DSC00222The beautiful Los Angeles cathedral is also on our must visit list.  The cathedral, Union Station and Olvera Street are all normally within walking distance of each other but for us and my hip we needed two separate visits.

DSC00168And finally the County Art Museum.  This time I just used the cane.  It was toward the end of our stay and I was getting around pretty well by then.  We used the train and the bus to get to the museum and it worked just fine.

DSC00149This bike path in Los Angeles is actually separated from vehicle traffic.  We  found the whole area to be quite bike friendly and bike riding was being widely promoted.  Maybe on our next trip we can ride on this path.

Posted in Summer 2013 | 1 Comment

Tsotchke

Friends who recently moved wrote the other day to say that they were pretty well settled in except for hanging a few pictures and unpacking some tsotchke. The word caught me by surprise. I think I have a fairly large vocabulary and even though I could pretty well figure the word out from context, I had no idea what it really meant and I couldn’t remember ever seeing or hearing it before. I put it on my mental list to look up the next time I sat down at the computer. But in the meantime I was leafing through our alternative newspaper and found a critique of a column I quite often read but hadn’t in this case. Apparently the author, who is an urban real estate broker who is herself sort of an alternate type and very witty an intelligent, had used a variant of the term. The author of the critique in turn wrote a lively discussion of its meaning. It was a fun read and I ended up with a much more thorough knowledge of what the word meant than I would have if I had simply looked up in the dictionary.

All this started me thinking about why I didn’t know what the word meant. I ended up wondering if I didn’t know about tsotchke because Maun and I don’t have any and haven’t had for a long time.

When we moved from Price to Park City we took everything with us, including two sailboats and my complete workshop with all the woodworking tools and painting equipment. All this completely filled the garage of the house we had rented and we had to park in the driveway. This would simply not work in the Park City winter so, however reluctantly at the time, we started getting rid of stuff. The power tools sold themselves, I think the ad was in the paper one day. My airless paint sprayer was next and I had some feelings about that so I told the painting contractor who bought it that he could only have it if he gave me the right to borrow it from time to time, which I did on two occasions. We found a slip at Bear Lake for the big sailboat and sold the little one. By then we had purchased a little two horsepower engine for it and we sold that separately. Again we had to negotiate, but we had plenty of practice gained during the building of our house in Price, so when the guy who said he would like to buy it wanted me to haul it seven miles to the freeway junction and run it in a bucket so he could see that it worked, we told him no in seven different ways. If he wanted it he could pick it up at our house and if it didn’t run he could bring it back. He took it and we never heard from him. Why would we? We knew it ran.

We stayed in this house for two years and then bought a condominium unit in the Park City Racquet Club development. This time we had a lot less to move but our bulky living room furniture wouldn’t fit in the small little condominium living room. We decided to buy new living room furniture and as we thought we were still somewhat attached to the old stuff we lent it to a friend instead of selling it. In the end we had absolutely no use for it and when the friend moved, the couch and chairs ended up in someone’s garage, I don’t even know where. There was never really a discussion of the value of the furniture, it was simply that the inconvenience of dealing with it outweighed any value or meaning it had for us. I think this casual attitude toward the furniture foreshadowed the ease with which we were going to be able to get rid of a whole bunch of other stuff.

Then came the big move and the end of any and all tsotchke. Almost all while we had been living in Park City, nearly fifteen years, Maun had been commuting to work in Salt Lake. I was soon going to retire soon and it made more sense to live in Salt Lake so Maun wouldn’t have to drive every day. We would no longer be able to take the city bus to go skiing but our logic was that one goes to work much more often than one goes skiing so it would be better to drive to ski while being close to work. We found a very nice condominium in the heart of town and remodeled it to our taste. It was going to be our dream home and we spared no effort and very little expense to make it just that. Once again it was smaller than our home in Park City and very little of our furniture would fit. And in the meantime we had developed a definite taste for contemporary furniture so we decided to sell the Park City place furnished and start over once again in Salt Lake.

With some misgivings I got rid of my books and vinyl record collection. I don’t miss the books and I only wish I had given some of the albums to friends rather than selling them, but we are only talking about maybe three albums. Then came our antique collection. I was curious as to how much our antique furniture might be worth so I spent a little time poking around various shops in Salt Lake. One shop was run by a very nice woman who lived close to Park City in Kamas. We talked about the things we had and the woman indicated that she would give us a very fair price for our things so we just sold them all to her, now we were really out of the antique business. That is not quite true, we kept my mother’s metronome, and old school clock that we had brought with us from California when we moved to Price and a little victorian chair that I had repaired and refinished whose cane seat Maun had rewoven. It was somehow special to both of us and we still have it. Then we gave my sister in law sneak preview of the rest of the things we wanted to sell. It was a good idea, she took a lot of stuff, most importantly our entire art collection. She dispersed the pictures and objects among her three kids so now if we miss any of the pictures we can just visit my nephews and niece and see them. Two of the pictures were very dear to us, watercolors by the well-know Utah artist, H. Francis Sellers and now they are in safe place for the next generation and can be appreciated by my grand nephews and nieces.

Then, after putting an ad in the paper for a giant sale, we recruited a couple of friends and went around the house putting price tags on everything and I mean everything. Tennis racquets, fishing poles, clothes we didn’t want and more. On the day of the sale we displayed the loose stuff on big tables in the yard. It was a beautiful day and we couldn’t believe how many people came, some an hour early. By the end of the day everything was gone and when we finally moved to Salt Lake we were able to do it in our Subaru.

Very often when we tell people of our travel plans, sometimes leaving for as long as six months and either renting or trading our home, they tell us they could never leave like that even though they would like to and envy us for being able to. Sometimes they can’t leave their yards, very often it is grandchildren that keep them home and sometimes pets. These are all very understandable reasons but when people say they can’t change their lifestyle, even though they would like to, because of their stuff, their tsotschke, that I have a hard time understanding.

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A Note on the Barter System and Doing Business in the Bar

One of the first people I met in Price was Tom Anderson who owned and managed the local radio station, KOAL.  The radio station had provided its own sort of welcome to Price as it woke us up in the morning with agricultural price reports.  We were apprised on a daily basis of the price of beef, hay and, of course, pork bellies.  It was not long before we met the man behind it all.  Tom was sort of a one man welcome wagon in Price.  He did it partly just because he was so gregarious but he was also a very good businessman and he had advertising to sell, after all.  Tom’s wife, Gege, was the dietician at the hospital at the time and she and Maun worked closely together when Maun was running Meals on Wheels.  We all became very good friends and Tom taught us a lot about living in a small town.

At almost the same time as we opened the antique shop, a new manager took over the Sears catalog store, which was right across the street from the shop.  Tom and Gege, again in the welcome wagon mode,  had us all for dinner one evening and after introductions and a fine meal the conversation turned to business Tom had traded advertising on the radio station for incredible discounts on Sears products.  For some reason the new Sears manager offered us virtually the same discounts.  We ended up buying a radial arm saw, a six inch jointer and a new air compressor for spraying furniture.  The compressor was much bigger and better than our old one and now we had a very complete woodworking shop.  And we bought a lawnmower, not as much fun as power tools, but obviously very useful.  Somehow Tom was interested in power tools as well and he owned almost every tool Sears sold.  He even had a cement mixer that I used when we built our house and I don’t think Tom ever saw his half-inch drill for the whole time we were working on the house.  No matter, Tom didn’t seem to use the tools, he just bought them because they were such a good deal.

It was very thoughtful of Tom to introduce us to the Sears manager and get us included in the discounts, but introducing us to the notion of trading was way more important in the long run.  We ended up bartering for a very large part of the labor that went into our house and we even traded with Tom and the radio station.  I wall papered a couple of rooms in their home for three radio spots a day for the antique shop and the very clever ads that Tom created  made a difference.  It was a very generous trade on Tom’s part but he was a very generous person.  I say was because Tom died recently.  We will always cherish his friendship and will be forever grateful for all we learned from him.  Friends like Tom and Gege were a big part of the reason we stayed in Price.

clawfooted tub120After  struggling to get the claw footed tub out of the house we set it in full view of anyone coming down the lane and we soon had a taker who gave us a load of firewood for it.

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But I still had to chop and stack the wood.

 So where did we do all this trading and wheeling and dealing?  I have mentioned earlier that after my friend  Lou and I both quit teaching our after work meeting place changed from the Hi-Spot cafe to the Savoy Club next door.  It was a different crowd but what mattered for building the house was that one seemed able to find almost every craftsman in Price gathered there for after work conviviality.  As I look back it was in the Savoy Club that I dealt, sometimes on a  trade basis and sometimes for cash, with almost every one who helped us build the house.

 Sometimes these deals worked perfectly but in a couple of cases they backfired.  The very first deal I made in the bar didn’t work.  Actually it had to to with the antique shop and not the house.  The shop building hat last been a floral shop and it still had a sign hanging over the door.  The bracket and rod that held the sign were perfect for our purposes but the old sign was neon and heavy and I was having a hard time figuring out how we were going to get it down.  One afternoon as Lou and I entered the Savoy there was a truck out in front from Young Electric Sign Company, the biggest sign company in Salt Lake.  And there was the electric sign guy sitting at the bar, I could tell it was him by his uniform.  I sat next to him and after friendly greetings I told him what we were doing and that we didn’t know how to get the sign down.  He told me that for ten bucks he would take it down on his way out of town the next day.  I had been in Price long enough to know that I could take people at their word and as I had a job I had to do that day and couldn’t be available I just gave him the money on the spot.  He never came through and at the end of the next day he had my money and the sign was still there.  We always said that he cheated us because he was from Salt Lake and not from Price.

warm morning121The entire old house was heated with this Warm Morning stove.  We traded it to a mechanic  down the lane who repaired both our car and the old blue truck.  Notice that the chimney does not extend all the way to the ground and is supported only the stud wall.  We used the bricks from the old chimney to build our hearth.

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Another view of the Warm Morning stove.  They must have been the best coal stoves ever made.  This is a scary picture, we have now completely opened the house to the elements.  We had better get going before winter.  Kids I had taught at the junior high helped me with the demolition.

 Another deal that did not work out, a trade this time, was for some wiring.  Before we could do anything with the old house we had to move the electrical connection from the pole to the house because the box was located on a wall that we were going to tear down.  While we were still running the antique shop we had met a man who was a mine electrician, in fact a fire boss, the guy who enters the mine before every shift to assure that the mine is safe to enter.  We had something that his wife wanted very badly, an intact Singer treadle sewing machine, as I recall, and we arranged a trade.  So when it came time to move the electrical connection I called him.  We didn’t want to involve the power company because there would have been  bureaucratic hassle and, according to the fire boss we wouldn’t have to, he could easily change the live wires to the new box.  I erected a temporary pole and mounted a box and then told him we were ready.  He showed up at the appointed time but I am afraid our fire boss-electrician was also something of a drinker and I think he had downed a few before he came.  In any case as soon as he had disconnected the lines, there are three, remember, two hots and a neutral or ground, he managed to drop them from the ladder he was on and we ended up with the live wires from the pole lying in the road.  Now we really had to involve the power company and in a big way.  But couldn’t you guess by now,  I knew the power company guy who responded to my call.  Where did I know him from, from the bar, of course, and he very casually directed the rest of the operation until we got the wires out of the road and connected to the new box.  I couldn’t believe my luck.   Never the less, our fire boss friend’s wife had our sewing machine and I didn’t want this guy around anymore so we just had to chalk it up to experience, just glad we didn’t have to rely on him declaring the mine safe before we entered.  I recall this incident with amusement but it could have been very serious and we could have been in a lot of trouble.  Later we traded the rest of the wiring with a young man who was also a mine electrician and the brother of one of my good students.  He was building a very impressive new  house at the time and I painted while he wired.  It worked out very well.  In the meantime the young man has developed his own electronics firm and has done very well.

In the end there were a lot of people involved in wiring our house.  My brother, who had just remodeled his home and had taken the time to read the electrical book while I was reading about carpentry, came to visit for a few days and between him and Maun they got a lot of it done.  And even though I had, with the help from the owner of Western Auto, installed the hot water heating system, the boiler had a very complicated control box that nobody wanted to tackle.  Nobody, that is, but another bar customer, the guy who owned and maintained all the pinball machines in town and was frequently on the next stool at the Savoy.  To him wiring the control box was a matter of fifteen minutes or so and he charged us accordingly, very little.

MARTIN HOUSE128Another friend named Lou.  Lou is a very good carpenter and was conveniently unemployed when I needed help.  I could do almost everything by reading the carpentry book but things like framing stairs would have been very time consuming so I hired Lou to help and we did it very quickly.  And I couldn’t hang the drywall by myself so Lou was a big help.

 Another trade that didn’t work so well was the plumbing.  Still another former teacher whom I was friends with at the junior high was in the contracting business and had somehow, probably self taught, learned plumbing.  I painted a couple of houses for him in return for plumbing work.  In this case we traded both time and materials and that was probably a mistake as it meant that there was cash involved.  My contractor friend and I had taken an agreed upon shortcut in the painting of one of the houses and the people insisted that it be repainted which I had to do at my expense.  The deal ended in conflict at the cost of our friendship.  It was the only time that happened.

The best trade of all was for taping and finishing the drywall.  Again we were friends from the Savoy although as a painter I had followed the drywall man on a couple of jobs.  We were both very generous in our terms.  I painted the exterior of his son in law’s old house in a little town that had been a mining camp and was now becoming sort of a residential hot spot.  In exchange, after making it very clear that he had no interest in smooth finish, as opposed to sprayed on texture, he taped the drywall and applied the first two coats of finish mud.  I had learned a lot about finishing drywall from a colleague at the college and I was happy to do the last coats because that way I knew it would be done right.  It was a very good trade.

120px-'54_Chevrolet_Advance_Design_(Cruisin'_At_The_Boardwalk_'10)Wikipedia’s version of the 1954 Chevrolet pickup that we owned and offered in trade for the framing and sheathing of the second floor and roof of the garage.  By then we had run out of energy and would have been forever finishing without help.  But we also were running out of money so I was willing to trade the truck even though it meant a lot to me.  The young carpenter finished so quickly that we had the money to pay him and he was glad to have it instead of the truck as he had a family to feed.  This was the third one of these trucks that I had and we actually made money when we later sold this one.

 The drywall was the best deal we made but the continuing saga of the plumbing provided the funniest.  When we bought the house it was not connected to the sewer.  It had been built before there was a sewer line in this part of the county and thus had a septic tank.  In fact, in it maybe only had what we called as cesspool, I never really wanted to know.  With the change of ownership we were obliged to connect to the sewer, which we were very happy to do as we certainly didn’t want to live with whatever was there.  This time we were going to need a professional plumber and we found one who was relatively new to town and happy to give us a deal.  However the sewer line was across the road in front of the house and making connection was going to require trenching across the road.  The plumber said he could not do it with just his backhoe, it would require a trackhoe, the machine I always called a steam shovel.  By yet another providential coincidence there was a crew conducting the final inspection of the new water line that had been installed between the water treatment plant just west of Castle Gate, and the city of Price,  some seven or eight miles to the south. They drove a trackhoe along the line so they could dig and repair any leaks they detected.  And where did these guys hang out after work?  In the Savoy, of course.  By then I had done enough wheeling and dealing that I would approach almost anyone and as soon as I found out who these guys were I told them of our dilemma.  The waterline was located across the main highway and up on the slope of the plateau that limits Price and Helper to the west, maybe a total distance of a mile from our house.  This was going to be a cash deal but as soon as we agreed on an amount and I made sure our plumber would be willing to work on Saturday, they arranged to leave the keys to the machine in the bar where I could pick them up on Friday.  Our plumber couldn’t quite believe it but the next Saturday found him crossing the highway and trundling up our lane at all of maybe six miles an hour in the steam shovel.  He dug the trench, made the connection and returned the trackhoe to the worksite and I took the keys back to the bar so the inspection crew  could pick them up in time for work on Monday morning.  As I write this even I have trouble believing this story but it really happened.

MARTIN HOUSE135This young man was in the advanced carpentry class at the high school and the teacher, who had been my colleague, let him work for me and get credit for the class.  When I asked the teacher for some help and he suggested this young man I said that it wouldn’t work, he had been the meanest kid I taught at the junior high.  The shop teacher assured me he was a different young man and he was right.  We worked very well together.  This is an interesting picture.  The interior demolition is not finished but it can wait, we are anxious to get things covered up for winter.  The picture also shows how we cantilevered the floor joists out over the existing front porch so that we could have a much larger upstairs room.  This is the detail that the architect in Salt Lake so generously helped us with.

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The trading  continued.  But they didn’t all happen in the bar.  After we closed the antique shop we still had the completely equipped woodworking shop in the garage.  One of my colleagues’ daughter had just married a young man just returned from LDS missionary service.  He was a good cabinet maker but had no place to work so we traded the use of the shop for this bed and nightstands.  He was a good craftsman and we kept the bed for twenty years.

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