Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What I Learned From My Grandchildren

A few weeks passed since my trip to the grandkids Halloween weekend. Visits sometimes take on the aura of an exhausting hands-on, educational experience requiring rehab time afterward. As I rested and rejuvenated, I thought about the insights gleaned over that weekend.

 A question about the kids nagged at my brain. 

I realized the youngest generation has no identifying tag. Or at least I did not know what the generation has been nicknamed by observers.

My contemporaries comprise the baby boomers. Our parents belonged to the Silent Generation, also known as the Greatest Generation. Behind boomers are Generation X and the Millennials (also labeled Generation Y or the Echo Boomers).

I researched the question, an easy task nowadays with the Internet at our fingertips. I discovered that kids born from 2000 to the present are called Generation Z or the New Silent Generation. I am not sure why. I can attest that my grandchildren, members of the New Silent Generation, are anything but silent (except when sleeping).

During my Halloween visit the 4, 7, and 10-year-old opened my mind and filled my brain with the following tidbits -

Boys when they get older lose their hair and go bald, or turn gray. Or both. Girls, on the other hand, maintain their full mane and the same beautiful color forever - blonde or black or brown...Which made me wonder why I spend so much money at the hairdresser, but this wonderment was not shared with the 7-year-old.

Spending $25 on a new water bottle is a good investment. For my granddaughter. If I buy it. This was one investment I did not make, despite the whining and begging and insistence on needing the item. I know there is an entire cabinet in her house full of water bottles, perhaps not as pretty as the new one, but definitely as useful. Score one for Grandma.

Butterfingers are given out in large quantities on Halloween, but no one in our family likes them. Unwanted Halloween candy is carefully stored away, waiting for next Halloween to be handed out to a group of unsuspecting kids who probably also do not like Butterfingers...if anyone remembers where the stash is hidden months from now. Actually, the uneaten sweets will probably end up in the garbage long before next Halloween.

I finally got Elsa and Anna straight (from the movie Frozen, for those unfamiliar with Disney princesses) and learned most of the words of the song Let It Go (also from the movie). The four-year-old was supposed to be Elsa for Halloween, but at the last moment decided a pirate princess better suited her personality and wardrobe. She wore a black wig and super girl cape along with angel wings and a princess dress. It is, of course, a woman's - and girl's - prerogative to change her mind. The Elsa dress can be worn next year, but probably will not fit. And the kid will want to be someone else, anyway. But the dress will get a lot of wear around the house.

I also wore a costume on Halloween, a mask and two boas draped around my body. I thought I would be a trashy diva (after the name of a chain of shops in New Orleans), but my daughter-in-law insisted I be G-rated. I became Fancy Nancy's Grandma. Fancy Nancy is a series of books about a young girl who loves dressing up very fancy and throwing around French words.

Like au revoir!
The Trashy Diva
a.k.a. Fancy Nancy's Grandma

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Retiree’s Life

You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.
-       George Burns

It is early evening. It feels much later because it has been dark a long time. Nightfall arrives by 5:00 p.m., and even on warm days as darkness descends the bleakness chills.

I am watching TV and working on my computer, multi-tasking. On a small table next to me rests a fresh cup of coffee and my dinner – a piece of chocolate mousse cake.

Decadent. Delicious. Calorie-laden. Loaded with non-nutritious no-no’s.
A picture...just in case some of my diet-conscious,
strong will-powered friends forgot what a great dining experience looks like!
The backstory…

Hub and I went out to lunch today. It is Restaurant Week in a nearby town. The meal cost $11.07 (plus tax). The three-course spread included soup or salad, entrée, and dessert.

I started with salad, a generous mix of greens, onions, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes. My entrée followed, two crab cakes with rice pilaf and mixed vegetables.

The food was delicious and proportions ample. Often restaurant lunches comprise smaller portions of dinner plates. There was no skimping on our lunch, with more food than we could consume.

Dessert would have to wait. Since it was paid for, I felt obligated to accept it. The waitress prepared my slice of cake for take out.

Fast-forward a few hours. I was still full with no appetite for dinner, but that piece of chocolate mousse cake hanging out in the refrigerator was calling my name.

I could not resist.

I have little willpower.

I blame retirement for my dilemma. This gastronomic catastrophe would not have happened while working, when there was little time for an extended, decadent lunch.

Life changes…

There are few pressing deadlines in my life since crossing over to the flexible lifestyle of the retiree. I participate in work (part time, flex time, my time nowadays!), volunteer and other activities because I want to, listening to my body and heeding the fact that my energy level is finite.

If I miss an exercise class, I attend another scheduled throughout the day. I can be at the gym one morning for a 7:00 a.m. class, and another morning sleep late. 

On the other hand there are no good excuses for not exercising…

I can stay up late and watch a movie or read a book and not feel the ill effects the next day, dragging myself through a workday. I simply sleep a bit longer the following morning.

I can patronize stores, restaurants, museums and theaters during the week, avoiding holiday and weekend crowds.

I can take vacation whenever the travel bug hits, avoiding crowds and traffic and taking advantage of off-season and other special rates. 

Of course there are disadvantages…

Age creeps up, insidious, suddenly screaming “Gotcha!” and as a result we end up at a doctor’s office.

The dark is not a friend of the aging. Once darkness descends – outdoors or indoors, day or night - it is difficult to remain conscious for any length of time. My eyes grow heavy, my body slumps, concentration declines. I attended an art appreciation class last year, scheduled in early afternoon. Each session involved a series of slides with commentary. As hard as I tried, I found my head drooping and eyes closing. I forced myself to pop my head up and stay awake. I gave up and did not sign up for the class this year.

Night driving can be difficult on aging eyes…hearing often deteriorates…and hearing deficiency can lead to brain shrinkageour ability to smell and discern between smells weakenstaste and/or eating problems may occur due to illness or dental problems…medical issues and appointments can dictate our lives…

Enough of the negative.

I am going to concentrate on the positive aspects of life at a mature age.

It is time to live in the moment and enjoy my dinner, coffee and a slice of decadent, delicious, calorie-laden, loaded with non-nutritious no-no’s, chocolate mousse cake.

And not feel guilty.

Life is good…

Age is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.
-       Betty Friedan 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Downton Abbey and Our American Aristocracy

 Few will experience the lifestyle of the very rich and beautiful presented on the British TV series Downton Abbey. Real people – the upstairs lucky handful (the 1%) in this patrician world (diligently attended by downstairs servants) populated manor houses on vast estates and spent their time doing…I am not sure what.

Winterthur, an estate at one time encompassing over 2,500 acres, was the American equivalent, carefully crafted by Henry du Pont. He filled the mansion with collections of Americana, including furniture, textiles, china and silver, and works of art.

I entered this world via a display of Downton Abbey costumes at Winterthur, spending the day with my mom, sister, and niece, touring a small part of the family residence, viewing the costumes, and lingering over afternoon tea, savoring a sampling of hors d’oeuvres-type foods and desserts.

After a day immersed in this aristocratic world, then returning to my humble abode, my mind turned to today’s mega-rich moguls.

What will their museums be like? What do they collect? What do their homes look like?

My imagination began fashioning a fanciful preview of museums of today’s super rich scattered around the country and open to the public…

I thought about Rush Limbaugh, an enigma wrapped in a radio show. People line up to tour his Palm Beach, Florida, gated compound and visit two impressive dwellings, Limbaugh’s and the house occupied by his serial wives (one at a time, of course). Their memoirs, Living Next Door to Rush, by Wife I, II, III, IV, and V (I am guessing at the total number) are sold in the compound gift shop. The tell-alls were unavailable previously because of a gag order issued as part of divorce settlements.

Rush’s collections are displayed in his man cave - the movies and memorabilia of John Wayne, Charlton Hesston and Ronald Reagan, his gun collection, sports cars, cigars, and pillboxes. There is a room devoted to the testimonials of those who gained from one of Rush’s most ardent causes – lowering taxes on the wealthy so these moneyed capitalists could provide jobs for the less fortunate.

Unfortunately the room remains empty.

Warren Buffett’s homestead offers a contrasting, understated experience. The fourth richest man in the world (according to Fortune magazine) lived in the same house in Omaha, Nebraska, for decades. The home is billed as a peek into life during the post-war 1950s. The furniture is similar to that found in millions of homes across suburban America in the mid-20th century. The dining room table, informally set for a family dinner, displays a typical steak and potatoes meal. The house, purchased in 1958 for $31,000 ($255,327 in 2014 dollars), expanded over the years to 6,000 square feet, larger than most people’s homes, but a cottage compared to residences of America’s rich and famous elite. Buffett eventually purchased a multi-million dollar home in California, but a modest dwelling compared to the mansions of his mega-wealthy cronies.

One of the New York City apartments inhabited by the celebrity-driven businessman Donald Trump opened to the public by appointment only. The penthouse, encased in floor to ceiling windows towering over Manhattan, attest to the man’s flamboyant public persona. Gold-plated furniture reminiscent of Louis XV rococo style fills the public rooms. The bed in the master bedroom is draped in a heavy silk canopy with mirrors and a TV on the canopy dome. His boudoir displays numerous toupees worn over the years. A theater room continually plays his Apprentice TV series and excerpts from news conferences and other public appearances.

The David and Charles Koch (brothers, not a gay couple) bus tour around Wichita (a.k.a. Kochville), Kansas, and home of Koch Industries – the second largest private company in the country – views sights where the family left their mark. The bus passes Koch office and industry buildings, and stops briefly so tourists can get off the bus and walk around Koch Community Plaza, plastered with pictures of politicians supported and those the brothers spent billions opposing, as well as declarations by teachers, union representatives, college graduates, and immigrants on the difficulty of earning a living in America following the Koch brothers success in lowering wages and minimizing worker benefits. Plaques honor the oligarchy of wealth championed by the brothers.

Arkansas boasts two major tourist destinations – the Walton Family Museum, homage to the wealth acquired on the backs of low-paid retail workers, and the William and Hillary Clinton Library and Museum, a bastion of moderate/liberal Democratic ideas in the midst of conservative Republicanism.

Chicago celebrated the opening of the Obamamax, a state-of-the-art theater featuring highlights of the President’s life and political career. Old Tea Party contemporaries of the President boycotted the event…Football Hall of Fame memorabilia in Canton, Ohio was relocated to the new Museum of Historical Sports…Every year the Gates Gala attracts the rich, famous, and wannabee rich and famous to their annual high tech online virtual event…

Suddenly the dryer buzzer rouses me from my reverie. Real life interrupts and, working as my own maid, the downstairs life of laundry, cooking and cleaning beckons.

Here is an interesting chart with the names of the wealthiest American in each state. Many, I must admit, I never heard of.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Who Do You Trust?

 For political news.

Your answer depends on your partisan leanings.

A survey by the Pew Research Center, Political Polarization and Media Habits, queried people about where they obtain their information and which outlets they trust – or do not trust.

But before discussing survey findings, I cannot resist a few comments on Election Day 2014.

First of all, Good riddance!

Negative campaigning overwhelmed any significant messages. Honestly (a strange term to many politicians), I tuned out.

In my current state of residence, New Jersey, Senator Cory Booker, appointed to finish the term of the former senator who died in office, then won a special election for a one year term, sought a full term of his own. Polls indicated he was way ahead of his opponent. It was not much of a contest.

My local Republican Congressman faced a Democratic opponent trailing badly in the polls, as every Democratic challenger has done over the past eleven elections. Again, not much of a contest.

No excitement here.

Our Governor took a hiatus from governing the state to campaign for governors and would-be governors around the country. Nothing like getting the name Christie out there before the 2016 Presidential election heats up.

Major news outlets covered Senate and Gubernatorial races around the country ad nauseum. Months of political naysaying and innuendo, lies and misused statistics, finger pointing and no substance are finally over, until the next time—which comes sooner and sooner each election cycle.

The mention of news outlets brings me back to the Pew survey. The newsgathering behavior of what the survey termed consistent liberals and consistent conservatives – those on either end of the political scale – are summarized below:

* The main source of news for conservatives is FOX News, taking 47% of the votes.

* Liberals utilize a broader range of news sources, citing CNN, NPR, New York Times, and MSNBC as top news suppliers, but none received more than 15% of the votes.

* Top political news choices of middle of the roaders is CNN, local news, FOX News, Yahoo News and Google News.

The survey gets interesting when asked which media sources people trust – or distrust.

* Liberals trust 28 of the 36 news sources named in the survey. Conservatives, on the other hand, distrust 24 of the 36 news outlets.

* NPR, PBS and BBC are liberals’ most trusted news sources.

* Conservatives’ most trusted sources are FOX News, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck.

* Sources trusted by everyone except the most conservative are The Economist, BBC, ABC News, USA Today, and Google News.

* The only news source trusted by everyone across the political spectrum is The Wall Street Journal.

* The list of news sources distrusted by liberals reads like a conservative manifesto:

81% distrust FOX News, 75% distrust Rush Limbaugh, 59% distrust Glenn Beck and 54% distrust Sean Hannity - the most trusted news sources cited by consistent conservatives.

* The most distrusted news source mentioned by 75% of conservatives is MSNBC.

This jumble of statistics reveals no political epiphany. They only reinforce the view that liberals and conservatives, although sharing one world and one country, are in fact from different planets. Mars and Venus are already taken, so I will take a leap and suggest the two groups inhabit Mercury and Neptune (your choice which group occupies which planet), with moderates sprinkled in between.

Meanwhile most of the electorate, exhausted from the electioneering, are thrilled the election is over. However we will enjoy only a too-brief time-out before being barraged once again by a slew of Presidential contenders attempting to influence our minds and secure our votes.

People’s opinions will be influenced by the media they consider the most trustworthy.

Which means nothing much will change.

Here’s a radical idea. Maybe it should be mandatory before voting for everyone to read the political coverage in The Wall Street Journal (the only news source accepted as trustworthy by everyone)…

The Pew survey contains lots more interesting data. Click here to read more. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Flying High

Not on drugs. In the sky.

On Spirit Air.

Not exactly luxury flying, or affluent flying, or middle class flying.

It is budget flying on the cheap.

Not that I particularly like or enjoy cheap travel. I desire middle class or affluent travel at a budget price. If the opportunity arises I gratefully accept luxury travel at a bargain price as well.

Call me a spoiled senior American citizen desiring comfort for old bones.

The particular Spirit plane I am currently flying (as a passenger, not piloting, just want to clarify) is painted with the company's new color and design. Bright yellow definitely catches the eye. The name of the airline is printed in thick bold black letters on the side of the plane, with a few yellow strokes in the middle of the letters emphasizing - I am guessing here - the quick, fast, bold spirit of the company. Or perhaps more accurately, the image the company wishes to project and advertisers work hard getting consumers to believe.

Meanwhile I patiently await the steward's arrival with a load of drinks and food - all at a price, of course. Nothing free on Spirit. All I want is a cup of ice. I purchased a drink at the terminal and patiently wait to enjoy it.

The plane left an hour late. We were told computer problems caused the delay; paperwork not available until the glitch was fixed. Passengers sat in their seats, every one occupied, huddled en masse. There is not a lot of space in Spirit aircraft. Three seats across, a narrow aisle and three more seats tightly wedged together, the middle seats occupied by the unlucky seat lottery loser. All seats (except a few in exit rows and first couple of rows, available for an additional fee) provide barely enough space for legs and feet. I am 5'2" and fit - barely.

Bare is the company's motto - as in -

Bare fares. For one low price (sometimes, higher prices offered holiday and peak flying times), a passenger receives a seat of Spirit's choice and one free carry on. I take my back pack. Baggage extra. Seat with extra leg room - additional fee.

Barely able to fit in the seats.

Bearable, barely, time spent wedged in seats, including time loading the plane, waiting for take off, taxiing and take off, actually flying, landing and taxiing to a gate, when - finally - passengers unbelt and slowly unwind into a scrunched standing position, then finally exit the plane and stand straight.

Am I rambling on too much about my Spirit woes? Bare with my flight plight a little longer.

The positives of flying Spirit?

It flies from the closest airport to our house.

It flies to the closest airport to our Florida family.

It is usually the cheapest, assuming no luggage. Packing for a vacation, it is worth comparing with other airlines. It is sometimes the same price or just a little more to fly another airline from another airport when carry on luggage and/or checked baggage is involved. And the bonus is a slightly better seat with more legroom. And free drinks (non-alcoholic, of course).

This past weekend hub and I rode the local city bus. In the past I have said flying Spirit is the equivalent of riding the city bus. I am not sure anymore. Our bus seats were more comfortable with more leg room than Spirit offers.

Enough complaining about the bare bones of my flying experience.

I barely got started, but it is time to move on.

Fly on Spirit Air!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Words That Make My Heart Pound - Eat Chocolate

I am an avid, daily follower of current events, but recently the news has been so depressing I am considering a hiatus from the daily habit. School shootings, deathly epidemics, war, forest fires and volcanic eruptions result in one negative story after another.

Even the elections are a barrage of negative ads assaulting the senses from all directions. A lot of noise, no substance.

Then one evening recently, perusing the news while ostensibly watching TV, which is more like watching a series of ads punctuated by three or four minutes of a show, a headline caught my eye.

“To Improve a Memory, Consider Chocolate”

Chocolate is one of my all time favorite things in the world, although I do not indulge in the decadence nearly enough.

To summarize a recent scientific study, ingredients in chocolate - antioxidants called cocoa flavanols - were found to increase memory in older adults. The study involved men and women aged 50-69. The group performed at a level equated with people two to three decades younger. The increased memory function occurred following three months drinking a cocoa flavanols mixture.

A word of caution – this does not mean one can sit back and eat candy bars all day and all night. The article makes it pretty clear that processed chocolate, especially milk chocolate, has this wonderful ingredient squeezed out of the final product, usually a candy bar.

The bad news (if there is such a thing as bad news when it comes to consuming chocolate) is that a person would have to eat the equivalent of seven – 7 – dark chocolate bars every day to ingest enough flavanols to be effective, about 300 grams.

It sounds like a tough job, and as much as I would love to do it, I know my body would at some point rebel.

So what are the alternatives?

There are other foods containing flavanols, but in lesser amounts, including tea, apples, and red wine.

One hypothesis is that an individual can reduce the amount of chocolate eaten on a regular basis and memory will improve over a longer period of time. Scientists have not done follow-up studies to know whether or not this theory works, or figured out the best way for people to take advantage of cocoa flavanols.

They will. And, if any scientist is reading this, I am willing to volunteer for follow-up studies.

But please do not place me in the control group.

Give me the chocolate.

If I am going to eat chocolate, which will inevitably come along with fat, sugar and calories, it may as well be for a worthwhile cause.

My body for a dark chocolate bar. Or two. Or three. Every day.

A sacrifice for science, but someone has to do it.

Here are links to two articles describing the study and the results:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Visiting the Crescent City Post-Katrina

I spent a few days touring the Crescent City - New Orleans - exploring on my own while hub spent days walking the corridors of the city's convention center.

New Orleans received lots of publicity a few years ago not conducive to attracting tourists. But things change. The French Quarter, the heart of the old city and not flooded during Katrina, remains architecturally intact. The surrounding city is booming.

There are two reasons for the city's renaissance, according to local sources.

New Orleans (along with the state of Louisiana) has a long history of corruption. A few years ago the city bums were booted out - the former Mayor kicked all the way to jail - and positive things began to happen. New buildings, businesses moving in, government projects revitalizing the city.

Katrina devastated the area in 2005. One guide told me if it were not for the importance of the maritime industry, the city would have declined permanently. New Orleans is the focal point for the Mississippi River shipping industry and one of the busiest ports in the world.

Some highlights of my trip -

Let me begin with a happening in the sky.

Recognize this?
An airline meal!
I did not think they existed anymore. 
But they do - in first class.
Hub and I were upgraded from cattle class to first class on the flight to New Orleans 
(we returned home cattle class).

Pictured below is a sign I never encountered before,
(another unique travel first)
posted on the back of the taxi driver's seat.
It is hard to read, so here is the important section:
"...Any kind of sexual Activity is strictly prohibited. Please have some respect for the driver. This isn't your mom's couch. If u do not abide by the rules, the driver has the right to kick u out.
Thank you!!!"
And welcome to New Orleans...

Halloween is big in New Orleans. Houses are elaborately decorated.

Sometimes decisions are difficult to make. Especially real estate decisions.
Here is the same apartment. 
The interested party must decide whether to rent the place 
haunted or not haunted.
The choice is yours...

The finishing touch on your Halloween costume -

And of course a trip to New Orleans must include - besides the food -
The Music
Street bands in the French Quarter.

I did more than take pictures. 
I attended a cooking class, a kayaking trip along the bayous 
and a bike tour around the city.
I spent two hours in a dentist's chair.
New Orleans is a wonderfully flat expanse, 
so I spent a lot of time walking...and walking...and walking.
I bought a mask for Halloween.
And did I mention the food?
I ate a lot of food, most of it very good 
Creole and Cajun dishes, the local cuisines.
(One breakfast burrito, barely consumable, wins the prize for worst food.
 It ended up in the trash. Enjoyed an early lunch that day.)

And suddenly it was time to return home...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Best of Boomers on Living, Making New Friends, and Little-known Current Events

As Joseph Campbell once said, “People say that what we're all seeking is the meaning of life. I think that what we're really seeking is the experience of being alive.”  This week Kathy Gottberg on her blog SMART Living 365 asks and explores the question, “When was the last time you felt passionately alive?”  

Tom Sightings takes a look at The 1.7 Percent Solution. What's the 1.7 percent solution? You'll know in January, if you're on Social Security, when you find out how much you're getting next year in benefits.

While you may be completely sick of hearing bad news, Amy Blitchok from Modern Senior thinks there is one more police shooting that didn’t make national news, but deserves your attention. The result was the death of a 93-year-old woman in Hearne, TXVisit Modern Senior to find out what happened and why everything just doesn’t quite add up.

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about a survey that found 42 percent of Americans probably won’t review a health insurance plan’s details before signing up. If consumers don’t compare plans, they may need to change doctors, pay more for fewer services, or have other problems. Comparing plans is important with open enrollment for Affordable Care Act starting in November and Medicare’s open enrollment for prescription drug plans (Part D) and Medicare Advantage plans running through Dec. 7.

Since moving to southern Colorado four months ago, Laura Lee aka the Midlife Crisis Queen has been trying to make new friends. Here's a post about her struggles to make new connectionsin a small town...

Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting spends a lot of time on the road exploring parts previously unknown, revisiting favorite haunts, and visiting friends and family scattered throughout the country. She often gets queries wondering why she is a regular road warrior. Read The Top Ten Reasons I Travel for her answers.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Top Ten Reasons I Travel

Hub and I travel. There are those who prefer staying close to home, and look quizzically at us as we regale them with our latest escapades.

"Why?" they ask.

Here is my answer (more accurately my ten answers) to that question.

10. Cleaning the house gets boring and tiresome. Leaving for a few days or longer delays the process. The house gets dusty, but everything else remains in place. The dirty stuff patiently waits until I return, and the clean parts remain clean longer.

9. I like spending some time in warm weather during cold winters.

8. When opportunity knocks hub and I now often say, "Sure, why not..." when we used to say, "Not sure we can afford it....or cannot take off work...or cannot miss whatever else is going on."

7. Business travel can be exhausting, especially for older folks (I am talking specifically about hub, still working and traveling). I, however, no longer go to an office every morning, and can tag along and play. A very good deal (for me). I just spent several days exploring New Orleans while hub remained cloistered in a convention center. More about my adventures in future posts...

6. I want to view with my own eyes places seen in pictures and read about in books.

5. When our family business, Babysitters R Us, gets a call, we aim to please and usually say yes. Can't say no to the grandkids (most of the time) - they all live out of town. But in case anyone is looking for ideas for a business seeking extra income in retirement, note that payment is hugs and kisses in lieu of cash.

4. I like a challenge, and it is an interesting one finding cheap and reasonably priced accommodations when the traveling bug takes hold. Home exchanges, visiting family and friends, off-season specials and last minute deals are researched. All suggestions welcomed!

3. I like exploring new places, meeting new people and trying new foods.

2. I am following in my parents' footsteps. They traveled after retirement, and Dad would always say, "We are spending your inheritance." And they had a good time. As a good daughter, I am following their example.

1. Traveling is a lot of fun!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

One Day in This Traveler's Life on the Road

Picture this:

The scene is a ladies room in a very nice restaurant near the upscale Garden District in the city of New Orleans. A woman sits on the floor of the ladies room, the door of her cubicle partially open, her head close to but not in the throne (sounds much better than toilet). She is sweating, pale, apparently in discomfort, feeling bad all over.

No one enters to disturb or observe the woman's unique position.

A few minutes later a man knocks on the door, "You alright?"

"I'm OK."

A couple of minutes later the door opens, and a waitress and my hub peer inside. I look at him with bleary eyes and murmur, "Call a cab. I have to go back to the room."

And so ended our elegant lunch before it really began.

Several hours earlier:

A twinge of a toothache a couple of days before quickly became a throbbing pain on one side of my jaw. Two extra-strength anythings barely took the edge off. I got little sleep.

Early in the morning hub leaves for a breakfast meeting - we are in this unique city because he has a convention. While he works, my plan is to play.

Realizing I cannot continue normally with the pain, I fire up my iPad and seek dental help. Fast.

Kudos to the internet site Yelp! A dental clinic contains dozens of positive Yelp reviews. It is dicey seeking medical help out of town, but my tooth demands immediate attention.

The dental clinic offered an appointment at 9:00 a.m. and one late in the afternoon. I grabbed the morning hour and texted hub. He arrived back at the hotel in time to accompany me.

We took a cab the four miles to the clinic. Flying into the city and staying in a hotel downtown, our transportation options are limited to one free means of transport (walking), public transportation (reasonably priced) and taxis, a pricey choice, but I was in no condition and did not have enough time to seek alternatives.

The dentist turned out to be a kindly gentleman/grandpa type. He plans on retiring at the end of the year following 50 years fixing people's teeth. I felt confident he knew what he was doing.

I thought the agony was in an upper tooth. I was wrong; the problem tooth was a bottom one. The dentist did some prodding and fixing and prescribed an antibiotic and pain killer. He cautioned I might eventually need a root canal, but took a conservative stance - if my tooth was not permanently fixed, it would be in good enough condition long enough to enjoy this Southern city and get home.

We left the office and decided to walk, touring neighborhoods, stopping for lunch, taking our time.

First stop was the drugstore to fill my prescription. They were out of the pain killer. The pharmacist made a couple of phone calls. Another pharmacy a mile away stocked both drugs.

We walked to the second pharmacy, then continued on, strolling at a leisurely pace another mile to a restaurant the dentist recommended, a one-hundred-year-old establishment favored by locals and renowned for their barbecued shrimp.

We arrived, got seated, perused the menu, and ordered. We chatted with our waiter.

The soup arrived, a small cup of seafood gumbo, and I tasted a couple of spoonfuls. It was delicious.

Suddenly I started to sweat, feel nauseous and lightheaded. I sat still for a couple of minutes, then quickly left the table and (hopefully) inconspicuously dashed to the ladies room.

Fast forward a few hours:

I sit in our hotel room, relaxing with my coffee. Hours earlier the cab delivered us to our temporary home, and within minutes - seconds actually after entering the room - I fell asleep. Awaking a couple of hours later, I felt better. Hub and I walked to a nearby restaurant for a late lunch.

Hub went on to a business meeting and dinner.

Foregoing the business dinner (translation: we don't pay out of our own pocket) at one of the most highly rated restaurants in the French Quarter (all those Yelp reviewers can't be wrong!) for a good night's rest, I look forward to a day of sightseeing tomorrow.