Tuesday, August 21, 2018


     The assumption is made over and over. Virtually every time I need directions or arrange a meeting with someone who hasn’t met me before, I am told how to get there by car, where to park. It’s automatic. Ingrained. As natural as breathing oxygen instead of carbon monoxide. I must drive. Obviously.
     Why don’t I drive?  In my defense I must say that I tried to learn. After arriving in Chicago in the early 70s, I registered with a driving school and took lessons.  Well, took one lesson.  That was it! The instructor suggested I practice a lot with someone who has a car before I continue with him.  He also advised me to get a car with manual controls.  Why? Because I can’t use my right foot to brake and press the gas pedal.  My right foot is missing a muscle and therefore doesn’t have complete range of motion.  Where did the muscle go? It atrophied after I had polio when I was 4 years old.  Since then I’ve lived with this “bad” foot as I call it.  It tends to trip on raised sidewalks and rugs.  It makes bicycling difficult. And driving practically impossible.
     I asked people I know who don’t drive to send me their thoughts, reasons, comments.  Some of them questioned my sanity, wondering who would care about that.  I beg to differ.  Others offered their thoughts and stories generously.  I have omitted their names and slightly paraphrased their stories in the interest of smooth and clear narration.
     I don’t come from a family of drivers. In Argentina, growing up in the 50s and 60s, only two neighbors had cars.  It was not part of the culture, let alone within our financial means.  When we arrived in Los Angeles, my father tried to learn but never succeeded.  He had to go to work on the bus.  In Los Angeles! Can you imagine? It took him hours to get there and hours to get back.  “It’s just me and the maids,” he used to say.  In Chicago he managed to get around on public transportation and abandoned the idea of driving altogether. 
     Like me, a friend told me:  “I come from a poor working class family.  Cars were a luxury for us and no one seemed to be willing to help me develop the skill using their automobile for practice.  It was mostly the middle class kids who had cars or at least the use of a family car.  Others might have beaters or borrow a family vehicle but generally they did not have the degree of access as those more economically advantaged.”  
     One of my friends said: “I decided that actually driving was too much pressure for me, not worth the effort while I enjoy taking public transportation where I can sit and read. Or I can walk. No only I gain in relaxation but I also increase my daily cardio activity.”
Someone else told me that: “I have suburban friends and relatives who would never think to walk the few blocks to the local food store.  Instead, they get in their cars and drive the four blocks to pick up a six pack or a gallon of milk.  I have struggled with weight for much of my life and there are growing health concerns to boot so now the idea of becoming a car and couch potato is even more disconcerting.”
     “You don't drive? How do you survive?” a friend is often asked.  She replies: “The answer is very simple. I live within three walking blocks of some of the world's finest cultural activities: the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Cultural Center in the well preserved old Chicago Public Library and the Symphony and theatre district are my ‘hood. They can all be accessed by walking past the beautiful Millennium Park or from the underground pedway. I haven't driven a car in over 17 years, except for a short time in Southern California out of necessity.  I don't miss it; I'll walk or take public transportation and leave the driving to others.”
     A friend says: “Uncle Harry, whom I loved very much, offered to teach me how to drive.  He had a big old convertible with a stick shift. We lived on Waveland, across from the park where there were big lots for people to leave their cars.  Sunday mornings there were no crowds, so it seemed like an ideal place and time.  Sitting behind the wheel, I noticed a family leaving their car, heading somewhere in my direction. I panicked. I was afraid I might kill them.  That was the end.
Another friend told me this story: “One blistering summer day when I was ten, a leather jacketed motorcyclist sped directly at me where I was waiting on the corner for the light to change.  At the last minute, he slid on his side and spun past me in a semi-circle, his body dragging and scraping across the sun baked concrete, which prevented me from becoming a victim of the out of control Harley.  His barely recognizable bloody body was taken away in an ambulance not long afterwards.  Perhaps, this was an early premonition that driving was not in my cards.  I like to think that I don't drive because I appreciate the perspective it gives me on life and the vantage point to see all kinds of people and experience things at a different angle and distance than from behind glass windows.  Still, sometimes I wonder how much easier life would be if I drove.  But mostly not.”
     Over the years I’ve been plagued by people who admonish me to learn. At least once a month someone will offer his or her counsel: “You should learn. That way you’ll be independent.”  “It’s never too late. My aunt Sally learned to drive in her 70s.”  “You’ll need to drive your husband when he can’t drive anymore.”  And on and on.  I smile, say “yes, yes, you’re right,” and walk on.  What I’d like to say is “leave me alone already. I am not going to learn because it is next to impossible for me to use my right foot and I am not about to buy a car with hand controls.”  And I’d also like to say “mind your own business!”  But I don’t.  I nod in agreement and curse under my breath.

Monday, August 6, 2018


Well, we made it home in one piece, or two pieces I guess, tired of sitting in a car but exhilarated for all we saw and heard and lived: the Andy Warhol Museum, Fallingwater, Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, blueberries, Ground Zero, and museums in D.C., etc. etc. So many places, so many hotels, so many restaurants, when we try to recall something we're not sure where that was. We spent time with friends and met interesting strangers. And we listened to two audiobooks along the way. Kudos to David for driving all that way!

And of course there was the auction. The reason for going in the first place. It was good, not as good as we'd have liked but better than our fears.

And now, what? Back to the routine? No more living out of a suitcase? No more changing hotels every day?

This year we've had two longish trips with lots of moving and changing: Spain in May and the road trip in July. Where should we go next? I reckon we better stay put for a while. Meditate, marinate, process all we saw and felt. But sooner or later...

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

ROAD TRIP - Day 14: New York

Oh my .... Manhattan drives me bonkers. Chaos, traffic, construction, people, noise, garbage, graffiti, whatnot. On any day half the people here are tourists. Stay home already.

How can so many live here? I know, I know, “I love the energy” everyone says. Screw the energy. Give me peace. Civility. Cleanliness.

I used to like it, the shops, museums, cafes, libraries. Am I getting old? Is this a city for young people?

Our friend said “be aware of your surroundings “. They come and punch you for no reason. Ok...I said. That’s nice. ? ?

Tomorrow is the auction and then we leave. Yeah!

Monday, July 30, 2018

ROAD TRIP - Day 13: New York

Sea Cliff in Long Island offers the ideal cure for the chaos of big cities. We’re staying at our friend’s Elie’s house in this tranquil spot. I spent most of the day on the porch reading, napping, listening to the birds, relaxing among trees and plants.

Yesterday we drove from Williamstown where we spent the night after picking blueberries the day before. In the afternoon we took the LIRR to Manhattan and went to see “Fiddler on the roof” in Yiddish at the Safra Hall in Battery Park. Not easy getting there: from Penn Station we took the subway 1 but there was no 1 so we were told to take  the 2 but it wasn’t quite right so we got off at Fulton and hailed a cab. Time was running out. The oldest cab driver in New York appeared baffled, didn’t know how to get there at first, finally arrived and stopped short of the entrance. I opened the door and got out but he decided to drive a bit more. I screamed. Cars behind us honked. I yelled, flipped a bird, but we were not late. One minute to spare.

Play was terrific. Longish. Entertaining. The return trip had no incidents.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

ROAD TRIP-Day 11: New Jersey

We just picked blueberries for half an hour in a scorching heat. Why? Because I absolutely adore them and David thought it’d be a great idea to come to South Jersey where blueberries “were born” after reading an article in the New York Times. In the meantime we’re staying at the Plum Tree Inn in Williamstown, in the middle of nowhere, kind of.

The last two days were spent in Cherry Hill/Philadelphia where David’s friend Marvin lives. Had dinner with him and his wife, went to the concert of Gershwin at the Mann Center. Also visited the Barnes Foundation following everyone’s advice. What a crazy place! Thousands of paintings and art objects piled on top of each other. Cloying. Too intense. Exhausting.

The humid heat makes it difficult for me to stroll. It irritates me. The sun burns stronger here.

Living out of a suitcase is not as bad as it sounds. Yet I miss my bed, my kitchen, friends. Good thing there is the internet to keep in touch.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

ROAD TRIP : Day 8 - D.C.

It’s like any other city but with more power. Every other building is an embassy, a government agency, an organization of some kind. When we drive I like to guess the country by its flag. Streets are convoluted though, circles, zig zags, narrow, diagonal. Thankfully we have GPS or we’d be in Canada by now.

I couldn’t believe I was here Sunday when we arrived. Rain greeted us then and it has rained since but not continuously. Humidity is the word.

Museums visited so far: National Portrait Gallery, Holocaust Museum, African-American Museum. Strolled in Georgetown and the mall. The usual sights. More to come.

Our apartment is very comfortable. Nicely decorated. Good to be in a home instead of a hotel. Slow mornings with long breakfasts.

We had lunch with Betty near her residence. She’s doing well. Today we’ll see her again.

I finally figured out the relationship between Maryland and D. C. No small feat.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

ROAD TRIP: Day 4 - Fallingwater

From Pittsburgh to the Historic Summit Inn the road meanders, zig zags with sharp curves, hilly. I expected a bright resort but it turns out to be more of an old hotel, “dingy” David calls it. We have the last room in the corridor that leads to the parking lot. “ The Expedia room” proclaims David. We are surrounded by trees - pines, sycamores, thick with all manners of green.

Last night we stayed in for dinner because it rained, got chilly. My eggplant Parmesan was acceptable. David’s blackened tuna steak was better but the rolls appeared unbaked and “doughy”. I was looking forward to the pool but !alas! the weather did not collaborate. Rats!

This morning Fallingwater! Don’t miss it! Out of this world. Stupendous horizontals, jutting out into the landscape like floating in air. Windows and windows to gaze at water, vegetation. Everything is small, ala Wright’s height. (Photos to come.)

Tomorrow we drive to the nation’s capital.