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Mountainfilm 2014

Each Memorial Day weekend, Mountainfilm in Telluride hosts its annual film festival. This year was the 36th celebration of film honoring indomitable spirit. The mission of Mountainfilm is dedicated to educating, inspiring and motivating audiences about issues that matter, cultures worth exploring, environments worth preserving, adventures worth pursuing and conversations worth sustaining.

The films presented are always varied, covering a multitude of themes. There was one film this year that really took my interest: it was the story of a World War II vet who had dreamed since the days of the Normandy Invasion (June 1944) about returning to France to fish in a river that he crossed as a foot soldier. While crossing that river, he spotted a fisherman who had hooked a salmon. His thought at the time was, “Gee! I wish that I could be fishing in that river and hooking a fish….”

Unfortunately, it was the middle of WWII and he had a war to fight — but this momentary desire lodged in his heart for the rest of his lifetime.

The film told the story of his visit to France, returning as a ninety-some year old man, fulfilling his wish to fish that river. To commemorate his trip, a custom fishing rod maker in France honed a special gift for Frank Moore — a handmade casting rod with his name and date engraved in the handle. All of the French citizens in the film were very reverent about the pilgrimage this elderly American man made to Normandy. Appreciation was expressed for the young Americans who gave their lives to free France.

The REAL story of this film however was about the couple — Frank and his wife Jeanne have been married sixty-nine years. This couple professed to know about love as only a couple who has been together for sixty-nine years can know. They were the epitome of a couple from ‘The Greatest Generation.’ They came to age during the great war, embraced the good values of the times, and married just after WWII when Frank returned from the service.

For me it was a very special moment of remembering my own parents, both who are no longer alive. They were also part of ‘The Greatest Generation.’ I remember sitting on my father’s lap, listening to his stories about WWII and his time in the Army Air Corps. Our summer vacations were largely constructed around visits to the other members of his B-17 crew. These were my father’s lifetime friends. I am sure there were many other people seated in the audience from my age group, feeling a bit misty-eyed as we shared Frank and Jeanne’s story which could have been the story of any of our parents. As a parting gift from Telluride, I tracked them down at the Mountainfilm picnic and gave them a copy of my father’s WWII diary. I am sure they will enjoy this small return in time to the 1940s.

I have been back in New York City for the past week, and located in an apartment very close to Central Park. The weather has finally turned a little warmer in New York, so I and many other New Yorkers have been able to venture out into the park after a long, cold, nasty winter. The park is filled with flowering trees, wisteria hanging from old wood trellises, and tulips popping out of the earth. It is a welcome sight!

I have discovered that the hour between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. is overtaken by dog owners. I have seen some of the funniest sights! That dog owners speak to their dogs, often in baby-talk, is a given. I saw a woman pushing two bulldogs in a baby carriage. An shaggy standard poodle stood upright to drink water out of a drinking fountain. A group of men conducted a ball-fetch competition with their dogs, and a woman told her dog to follow me because, as she explained, the dog only liked to follow strangers and refused to listen to her owner! Although in general, I feel sorry for dogs living cooped up in New York City apartments….all of these animals looked pretty happy prancing through the park’s foliage.

I have taken a few different routes through the park, fast-walking, not running. One is to do a large circle, crossing from the east side to the west side, and then south to Columbus Circle. From there I take a path parallel to Central Park South and then head north again next to Fifth Avenue.

My favorite route though is to walk uptown north of 96th Street and then cut into the park near the reservoir. I can either walk around the reservoir or head further uptown following a road that travels in the interior of the park.

Through my foot travel, no matter what direction, I am rediscovering landmarks like the Central Park Boathouse, the Great Meadow where many rock concerts have taken place, and other historical places that are marked in the park. Each day is a discovery. Each day can also cause me to reminisce: I remember looking for my first apartment in New York City in the year 1975 and our real estate agent was excited because ‘Jefferson Airplane’ was performing that night in Central Park!

Barre Class

Today in New York City, I went to a ‘barre class’ for the first time in about 18 months. ‘The barre method’ is an exercise regime developed by Lotte Burke who helped dancers recover and maintain their core strength. It is now a concept in fitness that has swept the U.S. No wonder…..it is ideal for all ages. The focus is on building your core strength and muscles, creating long, lean muscles, like that of dancers. It is not necessarily aerobic, although a good barre class, like a good yoga class, can make you sweat.

I used to go several times a week to a wonderful studio called BodyFit in Scarsdale, New York. I have really missed barre class since I have been living in Europe. It does not seem to be a phenomenon that has caught on yet in Europe, although Lotte Burke was English.

I went today to Pure Barre, a franchise located at 60th Street and Broadway. I will go again on Thursday to an affiliate studio just below 14th Street. I have decided to sample as many studios as possible until I discover which one is the most convenient, most professional, has the best teachers, has the best mix of students etc. I will say that I felt good today because I was without a doubt the oldest student in the studio; but I kept up and I was not the one in the worst physical shape!

Here’s where I fell behind: the music was completely foreign to me. I was at least 30 years older than the music that kept beat to our exercise. The music sounded like electric beams being knocked from the universe into our small studio room.

Now listening to Crosby, Stills, and Nash and reminiscing about my own youth dating from the 1960s.

Many of you who are regular subscribers to Red Tambourine may have noticed a lapse in the posts…..I have been overwhelmed with a writing project during these past three weeks and have not been able to work on my posts for this blog. I have been working on writing the text for a new book about Telluride, Colorado — a history that is primarily illustrated by graphics but a loose text accompanies the design. The title of the book will be Telluride: A Silver Past, a Golden Future.

This book is my first venture into the world of publishing, and I am learning a lot. The French publishing firm of Editions du Signe in Strasbourg conceived of this project, a history of Telluride written in the same formula (nearly) as a book about Megeve, France. The commune of Megeve inherited a large collection of postcards from a collector, and so its story is told primarily through the postcards that ‘mark the passing of time.” The Telluride book is based on a mixture of graphics — antique prints, historical photos, vintage postcards, and memorabilia. There is a unique inter-active feature of both books in that postcards come in-and-out of the book, to be used or saved. Both books are ideal souvenirs for visitors to these ski destinations. Both books are large, coffee-table books.

I had to much research about the history of Telluride, and in doing so, I read a number of books, articles, and websites for information. My first big mistake was not meticulously taking precise note of each resource. I have forgotten completely how to write a bibliography, how to footnote, or how to reference thoughts, quotes, or materials! When were we last taught those skills? I think it was when we were in junior high school! I found myself panicking, and going backwards into all the research, trying to re-find the articles and quotes used in the book so that I could give proper credit to the original authors. A nightmare!

Proof-reading is for people who are very detail oriented. I focused on each word choice, each comma, each sentence structure, and read the chapters over and over. I found a helpful on-line grammar assistance program called ‘Grammarly’ and ran each chapter through that. I learned a lot about my own writing weaknesses as a result, and I think it will improve any writing that I do.

The most exciting aspect of this book is that we are telling the history of Telluride primarily through the graphic design. The young designer has been very creative and clever in mixing an assortment of graphics worthy of a very special presentation in order to put together each chapter. I think it will be a very special book.

Table D’hote

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit a food factory located in the countryside south of Tours — about an hour south of Tours — so basically in the middle of  ’nowhere’. It is a very specialized commercial food factory with a very good reputation. They make prepared meals for many different companies.

I was very graciously included in a meeting with some gentlemen who came from different areas of France to participate in discussion. Two from Lyon, one from Britanny, and some other staff from the factory joined in. When it came to lunchtime, I was indeed wondering what a factory does when there is nowhere to take guests to lunch?  IL FAUT MANGER!  I should have known better than to worry about a solution. This phrase does not mean ‘it’s time to eat’ — it means ‘it is NECESSARY to eat.’ The French are religious about mealtime.

What does one do when there is no obvious place to eat? In France, they don’t order in sandwiches…..

We drove through the countryside and arrived at a small farm with stone walls, a scruffy garden, and a windowed dining room where there was a table set for our group. We were the only people dining, and there was no choice or menu to choose from. There was an older couple cooking in the kitchen, drawing on their past experience of owning a restaurant and a creperie.

Madame, the cook, brought out lovely dishes of blanquette of veal — a classique French dish of chunks of veal meat cooked until tender in a white sauce, accompanied by mushrooms and carrots. It was ‘to die for’. Those of us not watching our waistlines had second helpings.

Not to be sold short by his wife, Monsieur was in charge of dessert: chocolate crepes.

In this private place, the business conversation could continue if necessary — but frankly, all mouths on hand were too busy eating to talk. This was a ‘table d’hôte’.

I could not help to think how great it was that two retired people could augment their income by drawing on their past careers — not running a full-time restaurant but still enjoying the possibility of cooking for guests on their schedule and by their choice. I thought it was lovely.

(or “How I learned how expensive it is to travel by train and taxi in Switzerland”)

A terrible thing happened to me: my computer CRASHED. This was a serious crash. I couldn’t even get it to open or start up. The problem, which the computer had been warning me about, was that my start-up disk was full. How this happened, I have no idea, but I was told that photos take up a lot of space on the hard-drive.  Perhaps I just have too many photos stored on my computer.

I have an Apple MacBook Air and only wished I were in the United States where there are a number of Apple stores conveniently located. I discovered, however, that in nearby Vevey there is an ‘Apple Espace’ in a department store called Manor — and then in further-away-Geneva, there is an actual Apple store (the only one in Switzerland) run very much like the stores in the U.S.

I took the train to Vevey and went to Manor, but the salesperson was not very helpful other than giving me a couple of options for tech repairmen, both whom I had to call and make appointments with before I would know whether they could help me or not. I also did not have a car to travel to destinations, and even more concerning would be finding my way. So I opted to take the train into Geneva to the Apple store. It was a rainy, cold day in Switzerland.

Forty-five minutes after boarding the train, I arrived in Geneva and took a cab to the Apple store. A salesman there told me that they did not have ‘authorization’ to take information off my computer — and even if I bought a new Apple, they could not guarantee that they could transfer the information from my hard drive to the new computer. They sent me to Finac.

The salesman at Finac tried to be very helpful to me, but in the end, he was not able to open up my computer either and sent me to yet another store called ArtComputer — another trip in a taxi. ArtComputer couldn’t help me either, and so sent me to a group of computer ‘techies’ who worked out of the back of a record store — another trip in a taxi! These guys were like new-age hippies working out of the most unlikely office space, but they were my salvation! They call themselves the “IPodHospitale” and they were the only ones who could speak English out of all the stores I visited. They assured me that they could fix my computer, but I needed to leave it overnight.

So I left my computer, and took ANOTHER cab to the station to catch a train back to Montreux. I had a round-trip ticket between Geneva and Vevey but preferred to go direct to Montreux so I took a chance and boarded the next train to Lausanne. I figured I would change trains in Lausanne, catching the small, local commuter line to Montreux. I was relieved to discovered that this worked. When the conductor looked at my ticket, he just reminded me that I would have to change trains in Lausanne. (and I would have to buy yet another train ticket to Montreux.)

The bottom line was it cost me 200 Swiss francs in train fares and taxi fares making the trip to Geneva and back; the computer cost me another 200 Swiss francs to repair. It was a very expensive day in Switzerland!

Switzerland is famous for a well-developed, timely train system. I’ve learned a lot about Swiss trains in the last week or so……let me share some of my adventures with you.

First of all, it is a very quick trip between Paris and Geneva on the TGV — the high speed train. It takes three hours, station to station compared to six hours of driving. Coming from Montreux, there is a TVG train route through Lausanne, by-passing Geneva. This is the route that I usually choose but it requires taking a short, local train between Montreux and Lausanne, and then changing trains at Lausanne. There is only five minutes scheduled between trains (the Swiss  running everything by precise clockwork) but the change usually only requires a walk across the platform, departing one train and boarding the next.

I traveled to Paris two weeks ago and made a fatal assumption that all trains passing through Montreux went to Lausanne. I was early for my local train and so decided to take an earlier train that pulled up to the station so as to allow myself a little more time between trains. I boarded the train that pulled up to Montreux station and only realized that when we stopped in Clarens that I was on a train to other destinations! Merde! How was I going to make my connection in Lausanne?

I got off in Clarens in a panic and looked for taxis. Not one in sight. Being totally at the mercy of strangers, I asked a young man if he would call a taxi for me….he had one of those I-phones that pull up all sorts of information….a telephone that is way too complicated for a ‘Senior’ like me! He very kindly called a taxi for me (which gave me some hope and confidence in the goodness of the human spirit) and after waiting what seemed like a lifetime, the taxi showed up. I went on a hair-raising ride to Lausanne which cost me an additional 120 Swiss francs. When we hit streets in the downtown area that were all one-way and closed to traffic because of construction, both the driver and I were exasperated!  At five minutes before my train was leaving (and Swiss trains are never late….), we pulled up to the station entry.

Lausanne is not a small station and has a number of platforms so I had to drag two suitcases down and up steps in order to reach platform #5. I was running….but I managed to board my train car just one minute before they closed the door. When I collapsed in my seat, feeling very thankful to have made my train, I also realized that I am still pretty fit for someone my age. (62)

I tried not to get over-stressed during this ordeal, remembering something my father taught me: Always Have a Plan #2 in case Plan #1 doesn’t work out. I figured in the worst case scenario, I would just re-book my ticket at the Lausanne station for a later train and hope that I could get a seat. This is Ski Country and weekend trains are full of ‘holiday-makers.’

Adventure #2 on the trains coming next week…..

A 'Baci' KISS!I am particularly fond of ‘baci’ — the hazelnut chocolate kisses made by Perugina. The best part is the fortune that comes with every ‘kiss’!  I admit that some of the fortunes can be compared to those found in Chinese fortune cookies, but sometimes I come across one that truly speaks to me. I try to eat one every day because opening the fortune is so much fun, and sometimes ‘food for thought.’

Here are some of my favorites to share with you for Valentine’s Day:

Love me when I deserve it the least; as that is when I will need it the most.

Day by Day and night by night we were together. All else has long been forgotten by me.

Women are meant to be loved, not understood.

The heart has its reasons which reason does not know.

Grow old along with me; the best is yet to be.

A loving heart is forever young. (Greek proverb)

Laughter makes you young; Love makes you beautiful. (Finnish proverb)

Launch your heart before you go and then run after it.

Love doesn’t make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.

One hour of love has a whole life in it.

LOVE graffiti on the entry to Giulietta's house

Last week I had an unexpected opportunity to visit Verona. Verona is a medium-sized city in the north of Italy, east of Milan and west of Venice. Probably what has made Verona most famous is the story of Romeo and Juliette. ‘Giulietta’ is her Italian name….

Like many Italian cities of its size, Verona is a delightful city with an old center surrounded by newer construction. There still exists an old Roman arena where concerts are held during the summer months. There is also a Market Square, smaller but reminiscent of market squares in Florence with vendors selling souvenirs. Unfortunately, during the winter months, these vendors are not really selling Italian-made goods. I have a feeling that during the summer months of high tourist season, there is a different mix of merchandise offered. Nontheless, I managed to buy two harlequin masks for my granddaughters which they will have a ball with!

The Market Square in Verona

The home of Giulietta and the balcony which Romeo sang her love sonnets is the top tourist attraction. Settled behind a main street with a small entry leading to it, the house is tucked in an alcove. Of course, admission is now charged (6 euro) if you want to visit the house and actually go out on the balcony to have your photo taken. This was an exercise I had to take! The rest of the house appears to be a museum but I did not take time to discover it as we were on a tight timetable to return to Switzerland. As tourist destinations go, this one was relatively easy to access and simple to appreciate. Crowds were at a minimum, probably because it is winter, making it possible for everyone in line to have their photo taken on the balcony without a long wait or undue stress.

Giulietta's balcony in Verona

The rest of the center city of Verona is filled with high quality shops, most of them carrying Italian goods and brands. It was a pleasure walking through the pristine cobblestone streets to enjoy the shop windows. There were also Italian specialty food stores, and many coffee bars where only true Italian expresso is served. I am told that it is ‘like no other’ expresso in the world.

A week ago Saturday, while grocery shopping at the local Coop in Switzerland, we stopped to buy some flowers. They had tulips on special, and I really LOVE tulips — but my companion pointed out to the saleslady that tulips are ‘problematic.’ They often fall over the vase and look collapsed. This is true, but I have never understood why. Sometimes I have good luck with tulips; other times they collapse.

People are very friendly in Switzerland, and we happened to be lucky to have a young woman who was anxious to share with us the ’secret life of tulips.’ I have rarely ever seen anyone so dedicated to their job. She explained at length to us how we should take care of the tulips.

First of all, tulips like COLD water. (I was under the impression that all flowers liked tepid water….) They don’t like a lot of water either. It is only necessary to leave about an inch in the bottom of the vase. She suggested that we mix 1/2 of the freshener for the blooms in the water, and to save the second half for changing the water. She also suggested using a vase that prevented the tulips from bending over. In my case, I had to cut the tulips a bit so that they would not be able to bend over the edge of the vase. I tended them well, and changed the water several times.

My result:  MY TULIPS LASTED TEN DAYS AND NEVER BENT OVER THE VASE!

The odd end of this story is that I left a new batch of tulips in a vase overnight while traveling, and when I returned, they were all bent over the vase because they had drunk all their water. I quickly refilled the vase upon my return home, and the tulips sprang to life again after one hour of water. We’ll see how long this batch lasts; I feel like I may have done some irepairable damage.

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