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Alphabet Challenge: T

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

T: Taormina

I visited Taormina, Sicily, in fall, 2004. I remember the place well but found surprisingly few notes in my travel journal. I probably soaked up the beauty of the town and didn’t feel the need to document the experience. 

The main section of Taormina looms high over the sea. In town, the white-washed store fronts sold flowers, fresh produce, art, and, made on the premises, cannoli. Hotel Caparena, where we stayed, is still in operation.

I recall walking on the deserted beach on a glorious sunny afternoon. I planted my feet at the water’s edge recording the waves of the Mediterranean sea on my cell phone. I listened to that recording for months after our trip. 

I later learned that Truman Capote had stayed at Villa Britannia in Taormina, another hotel still in operation. He felt New York City held too many distractions to write. 

I would love to have a room of my own in Taormina. 

Alphabet Challenge: S

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

S: San Francisco

Emergency runaway ramp

We left the Grand Canyon in early afternoon. As we began our descent into Death Valley, the sun slid behind the hills. The car started to pick up speed. Penny screamed, “the brakes aren’t working.”  She gripped the wheel, giving all of her attention to keeping the car on the road. On one side of us loomed the granite facade of the mountain. On the other a drop-off to the valley below. As the car continued to accelerate, Carol Ann and I grasped hands and prayed. Miraculously, Penny jerked the car off to the right onto an emergency runaway ramp. We slowed down. When the car stopped, we sat silently as we realized we hadn’t died. 

Penny, Carol Ann and I had graduated from St. Peter’s School of Nursing a year ago. We promised that we would work as hospital nurses for a year and then move to San Francisco to live. We left New Jersey in Carol Ann’s second-hand car in September 1963. We had driven cross country along Route 66 from New Jersey. On the way, Carol Ann’s old jalopy had to be serviced many times: two flat tires, overheated engine and now, after our close call, a garage in Lone Pine, California, where the car was towed, would fix the brakes.

We arrived in San Francisco, our final destination, on a sunny autumn day. Our bags were in the trunk. We were headed to the YMCA in the Tenderloin district where we had rented the “penthouse.” 

On the first hill in San Francisco, the car stalled. Penny was behind the wheel. She couldn’t seem to put the stick shift into gear. We sat looking down the steep decline in front of us. I sat in the middle of the front seat and Carol Ann sat next to the door, just as we had as we careened down the mountain days before. My hands started to sweat. Carol Ann must have felt as I did because she opened the door and jumped out of the car. I followed. Standing beside the car, we both watched helplessly as Penny sat frozen. The cars behind her started to honk. I knew I couldn’t climb back into the car to help. Neither could Carol Ann.

Poor Penny was behind the wheel again. Before we could figure out what to do, a guy standing on the sidewalk sized up the situation. He jogged over and opened the driver’s door. Wordless, he grabbed the wheel. When he put his foot on the brake, Penny slid out of the car. He slipped into first gear and drove the car down the steep street, waiting for us to join him at the bottom. 

The next day Carol Ann sold the car.

Penny began dating the fellow who came to our rescue.

I decided I didn’t want to live in San Francisco and, after a few months, went home—by plane. 

Alphabet Challenge: R

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

R: Roof

My friend Carol lived with her family in a two-bedroom flat in the basement of an apartment complex in Jersey City. Her parents were the custodians. (See B for Basement) 

Carol and I began to play together before we started kindergarten. By the time we were in our early teens—after dolls and before boys—we discovered the roof of her apartment building.  

The four-story building had a flat roof surrounded by a brick wall high enough that we couldn’t plummet to the sidewalk but low enough we could stretch over and watch the cars below. Sometimes we sat on the tarpaper floor eating sandwiches for lunch or stretched out letting the sun warm our bodies. 

What I remember best was the evening sky dotted with stars as Carol and I took turns belting out the popular songs of the day. The crying catch in the voices of Teresa Brewer (Let Me Go, Lover) and Brenda Lee (I’m Sorry) challenged our vocal dexterity.

The serendipitous recording of Up on the Roof, released in 1962, never fails to take me back to Carol’s roof every time I hear it. 

Alphabet Challenge: Q

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

Q: Quadrangle

I couldn’t find the pictures of our children, two and four years old, climbing on some sort of sculpture or stone wall on a sunny day in the University of Chicago Quadrangle. There were tulips around the base of the gothic buildings. I wanted to put the pictures on this post to show how happy the kids seemed. 

My husband and I had driven from Jersey City to Chicago with our children in 1971. He had been accepted to a master’s program at the University of Chicago. We planned to stay for the two years and then return to New Jersey where our families lived. That never happened. 

When my husband and I finally moved out of Illinois in 1992, our children chose to stay behind. 

Alphabet Challenge: P

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

P: Pediatric Unit

On one of the pediatric units at Babies Hospital in Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, I contracted chicken pox. 

My roommate Gloria and I and six other students from St Peter’s School of Nursing in New Brunswick, NJ, spent three months at Babies Hospital where we did our pediatric rotation in 1960. We explored the city on our days off. While it was fun to be in NYC, I didn’t enjoy caring for sick kids. I couldn’t detach myself from their pain, sadness and the misery of their hospitalization. Give me healthy, happy kids every time. 

Toward the end of the rotation, I was dressing a toddler for discharge. I lingered in his room, playing with him just to hear his infectious laugh. 

It wasn’t until the parents had collected their son and left for home that the head nurse informed me the toddler was discharged because he had chicken pox. 

I never had chicken pox. After two weeks, I noted the first spot. The nurse in the infirmary diagnosed chicken pox and quarantined me. My classmates headed home since our rotation was over. I lived in New Jersey and couldn’t cross the state line with an infectious disease. 

The infirmary nurses treated the itch with Benadryl and calamine lotion but they couldn’t lessen the tedium of my confinement.  

Later on in my nursing career, I had to declare a specialty. I chose geriatrics.

Alphabet Challenge: O

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

O: Oak Park

Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio

Oak Park is noted for being the place with the most houses, twenty-five, designed or remodeled by Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright, one of the most influential architects of the 20th century, lived and worked in Oak Park with his wife and six children from 1889 to 1913 when he left them for the wife of one of his clients. But that’s another story.  

I moved to Oak Park with my husband and two children in 1977. In ‘83, I enrolled in a course sponsored by the FLW Home and Studio Foundation. For six consecutive Saturdays I sat in a large room at the Oak Park library with other potential volunteers listening to the experts discuss architecture in general and FLW’s life and work in particular. The class was free. I still have the three-ring notebook.  

For the next five years, I volunteered in the Book Store interacting with myriad visitors from all over the United States and abroad. And at The Annual House Walk, which at that time was held on the third Saturday in May, I gave tours. The Friday before the House Walk, all volunteers had a private showing of the homes that would be open to the public the next day. 

J. Kibben Ingalls House 1983

When we had out-of-town guests, I often took them on an informal walking tour of the FLW’s historical homes throughout Oak Park. 

I still have a keen interest in architecture, especially since my daughter became an architect and married an architect and my 17 year old grandson is planning on studying architecture in college next year.

William G. Fricke House, Oak Park, Illinois Sections & Details 1901

Alphabet Challenge: N

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

N: Number 2 Bus

When we moved six years ago, I discovered that the No. 2 bus passed our development twice an hour ending up in downtown Raleigh. I was delighted. I wouldn’t need a car. I wouldn’t worry about a parking space or deal with slow inner city traffic or forget where I eventually did park the car. I even wrote a post (Taking the Bus, December 7, 2014) about the No 2 bus. Furthermore, I wrote in my post that I had a long history of taking mass transportation. 

As a child, my friend, Carol and I would hop a bus in Jersey City for nine cents and get off at the end of the line. Then reboard the bus to retrace our route back home. I don’t remember how long this adventurous behavior lasted or how many bus lines we explored. Over the years, I have chosen busses and trains, when possible, rather than drive long distances. 

Even though I have picked No. 2 Bus as my N topic to fulfill my theme: Places I Have Been,  I must confess that after six years, I still haven’t been on the No. 2 bus. 

Alphabet Challenge: M

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

 M: Medical Intensive Care

I turned down the position of head nurse at the University of Chicago Hospital. Among the nurses hired to work in the new unit, I was the most qualified. I had been the head nurse of the newly opened Coronary Care Unit run by the New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry at the Newark Hospital in New Jersey and, later, I worked as a staff nurse in the CCU in Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland. 

Now, I was a mother of two small children, ages two and four, and the sole wage earner because my husband was in school full time. Luckily, my upstairs neighbor in the married student building where we lived, was a teacher, had two daughters around the same ages as my kids and wanted to trade off childcare. She worked part-time days. I could work part-time nights. Our arrangement would work seamlessly. 

So, I turned down the head nurse offer. Working half-time: two nights (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) one week and three nights the next, meant that I didn’t have the responsibility that goes into opening a new unit (been there, done that) or the aggravation of administration on top of delivering nursing care. Besides, my salary for working part-time nights was greater than that of a full-time head nurse position.

A decision I never regretted. 

University of Chicago–Billings Hospital

Alphabet Challenge: L

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

L: Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant

One day back in the 80’s, Lois, my good friend, and I stood in line waiting to be seated at Lou Mitchell’s restaurant on Jackson Boulevard in Chicago. As the crowd moved inside, Lou Mitchell, a white haired older man in a dark suit, handed out small boxes of Milk Duds to each patron. Lois and I were lucky to snag a booth close to the door. Although sitting at the long communal table in the center of the restaurant would be fun, we tended to talk non-stop whenever we got together, so a booth was best. 

Lou Mitchell’s diner, founded in 1923, is a Chicago icon. It’s open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and noted for its hearty breakfasts. Passing out Milk Duds is a long tradition. 

That day Lois and I had come for lunch. After we left Lou Mitchell’s we planned to stroll along the city streets, window shop and end up at Marshall Fields’ Crystal Palace for hot fudge sundaes. 

Lois and I continued gabbing after we finished lunch. Finally, we stopped talking long enough to notice the silence. We were the only customers in the place. Behind us, the waitress was mopping the floor. It was past the 2 pm closing time. We quickly stood, grabbed our coats, left a generous tip and signaled the waitress to open the locked door and let us out.   

Since that day, I’ve always had a warm spot in my heart for Lou Mitchell’s. 

Alphabet Challenge: K

I’ve signed onto The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2021.

The challenge is to blog the whole alphabet in April and write at least 100 words on a topic that corresponds to the letter of the day. 

Every day, excluding Sundays, I’m blogging about Places I Have Been. The last post will be on Friday, April 30 when I finally focus on the letter Z. 

K: Kayak

In 1995, I sat in the front seat of a tandem kayak with my feet on the pedals. My friend, Carol Ann, sitting in back, took charge of the rudder. We were on a Holland American cruise of the Alaskan inside passage taking advantage of an optional activity. This was the first time either of us rode in a kayak.

Carol Ann and I muted our normal disjointed, rambling, loud conversations in reverence to the quiet around us. I kept an eye out for polar bears.

The name of the body of water escapes me. What doesn’t escape me is the memory of the  moment: the sound of the oars as they sliced into the still water; the cold air stroking my exposed face and the feeling of wonder as we glided smoothly in the kayak past the ice floats scattered about us—the kayak delivering us to this new adventure.