Personal hygiene -- Your fronds will appreciate it!

Waiting for the coffee maker, staring out the window at the swim pool while squinting sidelong looks for ants around the kitchen sink, the sturdy middle school guy in the black t-shirt and black shorts is duly noted. Poor kid. He's gonna hit the Coke machine for his breakfast before he gets on the schoolbus. What's wrong with his parents? Why can't they feed him a nutritious bowl of oatmeal or something for the most important meal of the day.


Well, yeah, my kids ate a whole lotta Honey Nut Cheerios until they got old enough to appreciate a cuppa coffee before 8:00 class. They knew not to expect meaningful conversation from Mom at that hour. She just had to get their picky-eater lunchboxes packed. Best mornings had bacon and pancakes with Aunt Jemima syrup. I apologize to their teachers for the sugar rushes.

This kid in black out there by the swim pool is not getting a Coke. He keeps pacing around, then trying to relax on a pool lounge chair, then pacing again, looking over the fence to see if the bus is coming. He hollers at kids walking to the bus stop.

Someone throws something over the fence to the sturdy kid. He's looking for some privacy. Geez. Don't let him be shooting up! I don't want to see. I can't stop watching.

The kid in black's climbing between the palm fronds of the swim pool landscape that is intended to make the complex exude exotic luxury vibes. Crap. He's not gonna get undressed, please Jesus! I've seen a lot of things out by the pool from my kitchen window. That bobcat drinking that one time, the annual meeting of the mallard males, kids doing their best to get hit by lightning making me really nervous, a wise shaman barbecuing ribs on the gas grill...

This kid in the fronds, though, is reaching up under his shirt to first one pit, and then the other. He is putting on deodorant. He steps out from the fronds and walks to the fence, tossing the deodorant to someone. He arranges himself, then heads out the pool gate. Maybe he will get to sit by the cute girl with earbuds and violin case.

I think I can I think I can get moving. The coffee is ready. Life is good. My job is not driving a school bus full of sweating hormone-exploding middle school kids on ninety degree days.

Tomorrow the coffee maker will chug and gurgle again. Tonight I stare out the kitchen window at the Coke machine down at the pool. Did the sturdy kid do some homework? Did he have a chance to shower, squirt some Frebreez in his shoes? Will the bus driver be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed pulling up to load the kids Friday morning?

© 2013-2016 Nancy L. Ruder


The House At the Edge of Night

I have traveled so little, but I know we bring to to each new place and experience a brain desperately trying to make connections and draw parallels with previously visited places, to pull stories, histories, mental images, and other stimuli from the deep stacks and vertical files. Indeed, I think our brains are a bit like tiny shushing librarians in sensible shoes racing to be more spot on than Google. At the end of the day their support stockings sag, but they have won.

And so, in Sardinia images of scruffy New Mexico landscapes, Puccini opera stage sets, magical realism with/without cholera, Great War-era genealogical trees, watercolor mixing lectures, and Escher dorm room posters flooded my dreams and daytime musings. 

These three tiny clay houses smaller than my thumb are my main souvenir. They represent Alghero, but also remind me of the Alexander Girard arrangements of miniature villages and processions at the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe. I hear the church bells and shepherd's song at the beginning of Tosca Act III, see the fortress in Carmen

Listening to the audiobook of Catherine Banner's House at the Edge of Night was a perfect appetizer for my trip. I highly recommend this family saga set on a fictional island near Sicily if you are traveling or just taking your inner librarian on a much-deserved cruise.

War memorial in Stintino

© 2013-2016 Nancy L. Ruder


Churches--Rice Chex and diamonds

Wandering the pedestrian district of Alghero's Old City I found some of its churches. without the help of maps or apps. I'd been admonished against walking around with a big doofus tourist paper map. My phone with Google Maps and I are still getting acquainted. So I just moseyed around trying to be observant of my surroundings to build a sense of direction and location, and to not twist my ankle on the cobblestones. Very old school, and not terribly efficient, but I did not fall of the edge of the earth or into the Sea of Sardinia.

Speaking of old school, do kids get to make salt/water/flour maps any more? That would be a good for extra credit on my Sardinia report. I would also like to make a model of the Old City out of boxes, tp tubes,  and three-penny school milk cartons! Thanks to Wikipedia for the map idea...

As soon as I passed the final exam of Medieval and Renaissance Art History my brain erased everything about cathedrals except a few vague hints for crossword puzzles. In my defense, it was a very early morning class in a cold, dark basement lecture hall with machine-dispensed ten-cent coffee in paper cups.

My room at the Hotel San Francesco had "sober furnishings" according to the website. It was perfect! The very helpful Franciscans at the desk 24/7 were never surprised when I dropped off my key to leave, or found my way back to retrieve it for shower and sleep. Wish I could have heard a concert in the cloister as part of the Musica & Natura 2016 series.

 Musica & Natura 2016 ad Alghero: Trio Mistral

Just imagining the cloister accoustics!  

Church of Saint Francis

The Cathedral of Saint Virgin Mary was the setting for the religious ceremony, so I was too preoccupied to properly study the architecture and sacred art. The Cathedral has a diamond floor and a Neoclassical facade (narthex for crossword folks). It was the only Neoclassical architecture I saw in Alghero, and it felt out of place. We did not throw rice at the newlyweds, although it is a Sardinian custom.


It also had a section to the right under reconstruction, and some challenges for wheelchair-bound visitors.


It took a long time to catch on that the Gothic bell tower was part of the same church. I could still be wrong. This is the portal to the bell tower, approached up a shaded narrow street in the early evening:

I liked the wooden doors of the entrance to the Orthodox Church of Saint Barbara:

The dome of the Chiesa di San Michele is a stunning, colorful landmark of Alghero. The dome has a diamond pattern of tiles, but the floor inside is checkerboard. The polychrome dome tiles may date from the 1950s, if my translation is correct.

Barrel vault

Happy wandering!


Forty stories

 "Vertiginous" is the word Lonely Planet uses for the 654 steps down to the Grotta di Nettuno. The cave at the bottom is totally worth the descent, as are the views during the many rest breaks on the trip back up. I want to thank my heart, lungs, and legs for joining me on this experience. I especially want to thank the dear friends who lagged behind keeping watch in case they had to drag me part of the way!


A little dog barked from the boat.
Definitely Whoville.

Nearing the grotto entrance

Rainbow rock at the gathering point for tour.

Cave photos are challenging with low light and spatial ambiguities. These are the "keepers" of my batch. The shot of Aladdin did not turn out!

© 2013-2016 Nancy L. Ruder


Prison windows

"The Alcatraz of Italy" prison was the first stop on our boat tour around Asinara Island. Used for centuries as a agricultural penal colony, leper quarantine hospital, and high security prison for mafia bosses, this prison was vacated in 1998. Areas of the prison for regular security, high security, and maximum security bunkers translated as "soft arms," "hard arms," and "bunker".

Where does the word "bunker" originate? Thanks, Online Etymology Dictionary:

1758, originally Scottish, "seat, bench," of uncertain origin, possibly a variant of banker "bench" (1670s); possibly from a Scandinavian source (compare Old Swedish bunke "boards used to protect the cargo of a ship"). Of golf courses, first recorded 1824, from extended sense "earthen seat" (1805); meaning "dug-out fortification" probably is from WWI.

The imprisoned mafia bosses didn't get to do much besides sit 23.75 hours/day in their bunkers under constant surveillance. On the way to Stintino we drove by old military bunkers, too, but no golfing.

Where prisoner sits for short monthly visit with family.

Exiting Samuel Beckett exhibit "Invisible Prison".

Isolation of Isola de Asinara.

Lizard's blue tummy spots match the sky.

The island is on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. And yes, I woke up at four a.m. again.

© 2013-2016 Nancy L. Ruder