Making souvenirs

Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That’s why last night and this mornin’
Always look the same to me

John Prine

IMG_0977In French the word souvenir does not mean an item; it means a memory, so the Spanish memoria seems more like our English word.

I went to the Unitarian service Sunday because a friend was giving the talk. Unfortunately, it was not very good and many perhaps 12 or 15 people left before the talk was over; the topic was creativity, and the talk was not very creative and was very academic, with many quotes from obscure (to the audience) researchers.

After the service Mary and I went to lunch at an obscure place and then we went to her place where I helped her with some software questions. Then it was home, with a stop at the bank and the chicken roasters, where I waited for 15 minutes as they were very busy near closing time.

Saturday night Dale and Renate invited Tim and Laetitia and the kids, Diana, and myself to dinner. Despite having been in Mexico for 14 months I had yet to have carnitas, something I savored in California; they had carnitas (made in the neighborhood), roasted chicken (also from the neighborhood), sliced, roasted squash topped with parmesan, a German potato salad, sun-dried tomatoes, Mexican-style pickles and more. Dessert was Tres Leches cake and strawberries. It was a fun evening as everyone but me had lived in many countries so there were many stories, such as the wine cellar that no one could figure out how to enter as over the centuries the street had been built up layer by layer and the only entrance was now half-hidden by the road, of houses in Budapest and Prague, of rhinos and guides in Bhutan. I fixed popcorn for Maelis and Marius and they fell asleep in front of the TV in the casita while the adults talked in the main house.

Maelis is quick and clever and when we played a game of secret names (Marius was Bernardo and her dad was Bruno) and she asked Dale his:  he replied “Cleopatra” and she immediately asked, “why did you cut your hair?”

Maelis knows about my grandchildren and she asked me if I had a son or a daughter, and when I told her she wanted to know how old he is.  He’s a year younger than her dad, and my grandsons are a year younger than Marius and Maelis.  Symmetry.

She wanted to know about my husband and where was he.  Why weren’t we together anymore?  That’s when my adult evasive banter kicked in for me, but she was persistent and knew I was avoiding something.  Somehow I managed to change the topic, but I know she will come back with more questions for me.

I had coffee and a pastry at the new cafe at the corner of the Salida and Cinco de Mayo, and the owners were glad to see I came back.  They’ve added some plants and shrubs and colorful placemats; the owner is proud of her little spot.  I watched the world go by, as good as – perhaps better than – my experience at any Parisian cafe because there is that personal connection here which was never present there.  It’s different than experiences in my former Oakland neighborhood, too, because while one might encounter a friend, one never built a relationship with the ever-changing staff behind the counter.

Diana and I, Mary and her friend Guy and another friend, and Tim and Laetitia are going to the opera Wednesday night.  It is Laetitia’s birthday and there will be one act from each of three operas.

John Prine


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