Thursday Thoughts

Weather Woes
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Well, we survived the temperature drop here in the Land of the Sun. On my Facebook timeline the other day, I posted something from the Arizona Fox affiliate showing the 10-day forecast which indicated a drop of temperatures into the mid-60s, and their suggestion that we all dig out our gloves, scarves and boots. To be fair, the temperature dropped into the low- to mid-40s during the night, and while that wouldn’t necessarily require what my mother always called mukluks, one’s fingers might get chilly. I must also add something else about our weather. The other day when I blogged about the Arizona media talking about so-called “cold temperatures” that were actually mid-60s, I (and others) commented about Arizonans being weather wimps. This suggestion caused my always-practical brother to send me a text in which he invited anyone who thinks Phoecians are wimps to stand beside him in the bakery department of the various Basha’s grocery stores in which he works when the temperature outside is 115 degrees. Point taken.

If It’s Broke
I mentioned that upon our arrival here in Arizona, Bill has been at work fixing a washing machinevariety of household minor calamities. One toilet fixed – check. Bushes cut back – check. Fixed breaker switch that had tripped – check. Washed dirty window – check. Fixed washing machine – NOT CHECK. Of course, as you would imagine, the fact that the washing machine remains broken is not his fault. He spent several days taking the machine apart, no simple task since the large mineral content in Phoenix’s water results in metal parts being almost impossibly stuck together. Still, he was successful and has ordered the part that needs to be replaced. Currently, the washing machine is in the hallway leading to Jen’s bedroom – the Sanchez Wing is what we call it. Unfortunately, it leaves a space of about 6 inches in which to get by. It seemed workable since Jen is not here. Adults use the other bathroom. Jen’s grands can squeeze by and are happily able to reach their toys in her bedroom. How nice to be 5 and almost-2.

Hug a Vet

Bill enjoys his Italian beef sandwich -- free because he is a veteran.

Bill enjoys his Italian beef sandwich — free because he is a veteran.

We decided yesterday that since we were less likely to have walking weather when we go back to Denver next week, we would forgo our inside exercise and walk outdoors instead. Now, when it comes to walking for exercise, I like to go around in measurable circles. There is a park nearby with a lake that I know is eight-tenths of a mile around, and there is a sidewalk. So I’m prone to

walking three times around the lake and calling it my exercise. Bill, on the other hand, heartily dislikes walking in circles and is much more inclined to prefer a destination walk. What we chose to do, then, was to park our car in that very park and walk to a destination, namely the nearby Chicago hot dog joint. Back and forth added up to just over a couple of miles. The restaurant is owned by a young man from Chicago, and he is always there and knows regulars by name and by order. Also always there is his father, who cleans tables and chats up the regulars. Yesterday, when the Chicago dogyoung owner took our order, he asked if either of us was a veteran. Bill told him that he had served in the Army. “Well, then your lunch is on my dad,” the young man said. “He’s picking up the tab on all veterans’ meals today.” Son of a gun. Is that not the nicest thing you’ve ever heard?

Far from Madding Crowd
Now here’s a random thought to share today. Following Mass on Sunday, Bill and I took a walk around the huge flea market that is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays during the cooler winter months. We didn’t really have anything in mind to purchase, but it’s always fun to see what’s for sale. After we left, Bill said, “Wow, it’s nice to get far from the maddening crowd.” I agreed, and then asked him, “Did you know that the book title you are referencing does not actually use the word maddening? The title is actually Far From the Madding Crowd. Bill admitted he didn’t know that, and it got us both to wondering just what the word madding means. Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, it means maddening. I wonder why Thomas Hardy didn’t just use the word maddening. Show off.

Ciao.

Reluctant Traveler: D-Day Redux

In 2008, Bill and I spent three-and-a-half months traveling around Europe — Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and Austria. During our travels, I wrote a blog called The Reluctant Traveler in which I told of our daily adventures. It was, in fact, my first experience with blogging. In honor of Veterans’ Day, I am reprinting my blog post from August 3, 2008, on which date we were visiting Normandy and the sites of the D-Day invasion. Though it deals specifically with the World War II battle, it is meant as a tribute to all those men and women who have served our country in the Armed Forces. Thank you to one and all!

D-Day

Sunday, August 3, 2008

After spending the entire day yesterday looking at the various sites of the battles that were fought to liberate France, and eventually to win World War II, as we drove home I asked Bill how he felt. “Pretty proud to be American,” he answered. I knew exactly what he meant.

The day was kind of dreary, one of the few overcast days we’ve had during our entire adventure. It couldn’t quite make up its mind – it would drizzle, then the sun would peak out of clouds. It never quite rained. The weather suited the day, we felt. The weather was overcast too on June 6, 1944.

Traffic was awful. Everyone was on the autostrada getting away for holiday. What should have been an hour-and-a-half drive took us twice that long.

Since we only had a day, we decided to focus on the areas in which America had the impact. As such, we only saw the Canadian cemetery in the distance as we drove by, and the same was true for Sword, Juno, and Gold Beaches, where Great Britain and Canada soldiers came on shore.

Our first stop was just above the little French town of Arromanches, high on the cliffs above the Normandy beaches, where there was a 360 degree theater. The film shown on this circular screen was powerful. The film director intermixed current scenes from the little towns that line the Normandy coast with film taken on June 6, 1944, as our soldiers stormed the beach. There was no dialogue, and the only sounds you heard were the sounds heard by the soldiers as guns fired and planes flew overhead, or the sounds of a peaceful rural French life. The 1944 scenes were graphic, violent, poignant, and awe-inspiring while the current scenes were pretty and colorful and filled with joy. The contrast made a very strong point – the towns around the Normandy beaches owe their freedom from the Nazis to the United States of America and the other allies.

After viewing the film, we got back in our car to drive to the little French town of Longues-sur-Mer. Here we stopped in a small boulangerie and picked up two ham, Gruyere cheese, and tomato sandwiches smeared with good French butter, and two wonderful pastries for dessert. We then drove a few blocks towards the sea, to an area where there were four German bunkers with their guns still intact. These guns had the ability to shoot up to 13 miles. The clear shot the Germans had of the beach was absolutely bone-chilling.

We ate our lunch at one of the little picnic tables they had set up for that purpose. As we ate, we tried to figure out how the French bakers can get the baguette so perfectly crusty on the outside and so chewy and delicious on the inside. It’s a reality I will continue to ponder.

Our next stop was Omaha Beach, and the American cemetery. We walked through the museum, which gave a lot of information about the events leading up to the war, and even more interesting (at least to me), the events and discussions that went on during the days just prior to D-Day. While I could always imagine how much thought went into planning a battle such as that fought on June 6, I had never really realized that the Americans had tricked the Germans into thinking a bigger battle was going to be fought elsewhere. The Americans used false communications, fake airplanes, and other kinds of trickery that helped catch the Germans off guard and lulled them into thinking that, even as our soldiers were storming the beaches, this battle was not to be taken that seriously.

After visiting the museum, we walked down to the beach. I think of my entire day, this was what moved me the most. The beach area from where the water meets the shore to where the soldiers would have some trees or shrubs for protection was easily the length of two football fields. (And speaking of football, the next time I hear a sports announcer refer to a football player as a hero, I think I will put a rock through my television screen. Football players are not heroes. Twenty-year-old boys climbing off boats carrying hundreds of pounds on their backs, running to the shore, and then crawling on their bellies for 200 yards or more while getting shot at are heroes.)

After looking at the beach, we walked back up to the cemetery. Of course, the sight of all of these white marble crosses and stars of David is poignant beyond belief. Each marker has the name and rank of the soldier and the day he died. I always forget that the battles of Normandy went on not just for this one day, but for months. There are a number of markers that bear no name, but say only God knows who he is. Very sad.

 

We left the cemetery and drove a bit further up the coast to Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument. We decided to stop here at the last moment, and I’m glad we did. Pointe du Hoc was an area where, early on June 6, 300 US Army Rangers climbed the cliffs of this heavily German-fortified position to secure it for the allies. They were successful, but only after losing over two-thirds of the soldiers. Out of the 300 Rangers, 95 survived. The area was heavily bombed and the huge holes where the bombs had dropped are amazing and a somber reminder of the power of those bombs.

craters

Our last stop of the day was in Ste Mere Eglise, the first town to be liberated by the American soldiers on June 7, 1944. This pretty little town is in the general area where the 101st and 82nd Airborne soldiers dropped early on June 6 to land behind enemy lines. If you saw the movie The Longest Day, you will recall that one soldier got caught on the church steeple and played dead for a number of hours while German soldiers took shots at him. As he hung helplessly, he watched the ensuing battle below. The people of this town, to this day, have American flags hanging and have a parachute with a dummy hanging on the steeple of the church in commemoration.

It had been a long and somber day, but one that made me very proud.