Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Sunday, September 29, 2013

F is for Forks

 All travel educates. The traveler learns about other places in the world, people and cultures, about herself, and important life lessons. Well before the Twilight Saga, in the fall of 2000, a big lesson surfaced in Forks, Washington. It happened the last night out on a motorcycle trip.

Judy rode two-up with me, and our friends Sylvia and Trudy rode their own bikes on this adventuresome excursion all over Vancouver Island. We’d been staying in hostels along the way and were looking for one on the Olympic Peninsula.

In the handy hostel guide book, one was listed just south of Forks, WA, called the Rainforest Hostel. It seemed to be the answer to our prayers. We would get there to make sure we had a spot then ride back the five miles or so to the Hoh Rainforest. But, we were mistaken.

With many stops and a picnic in Olympia National Park, the ride took longer than we’d anticipated. It was almost dark when we pulled into the Rainforest Hostel, which turned out to be a private home. The owner, a smallish older man named Joe, greeted us at the door. His mangy dog sat back a little ways, and I thought the odor I smelled must be the dog.

Joe showed us the sleeping quarters, through the messy kitchen with overflowing countertops, to the attached garage, which had been set up for hostelers. There were four sets of bunk beds standing on the bare concrete slab. We looked around to see gigantic piles of laundry spilling off the unmade beds. Stammering an apology, he said he hadn’t had time to fold it or to get the beds ready. “We can do that,” I said, “but first we need to go get something to eat.” So we paid the man and took off to find dinner.

Each of us had doubts about the hostel, but none of us voiced our feelings. We were tired and hungry, there was a scarcity of towns along the coast, and we’d rarely seen any motels, none with vacancies. We really didn’t have an alternative.

Returning after a bite to eat, we set to work folding the laundry, joking that Joe must have saved it up all month, waiting for us. Now we had time to notice the uncleanliness of the entire place. Floors hadn’t been swept; dog hair was everywhere, and the carpets were matted with debris. None of us touched anything in the kitchen.
Judy volunteered to test-drive the shower. When she came back, we learned that she’d showered in her flip flops so as not to be contaminated by the filthy bathroom rugs and the grime-encrusted tub. The rest of us took her words to heart and only used the facilities for the bare minimum, touching no surfaces without a barrier.

We’d agreed that we would be up early the next morning and out of there. As we carried our bags out to our bikes, a sleepy Joe appeared. “Hey, you’re supposed to each do a chore before you leave,” he said, scratching his head and quoting the general rule for hostels.

I gave him my best junior high school teacher look and voice: “WE have done enough. Good bye.” And, we got on our bikes and rode away.

Over breakfast, we discussed the situation. It was creepy. Each of us had felt it but hadn’t wanted to be the one who was squeamish. So, we spent a miserable, sleepless night in Forks.

Lesson learned: In the future, if any of us feel uncomfortable, for any reason, we will speak up. Pinky swear.

~ xoA ~

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

E is for the English Countryside

Touring the English countryside by car was one of the bookends to my first trip abroad. A girlfriend and I had flown into London and spent a week in that fabulous city prior to a European tour. (More on that when we get to letter L). After the tour bus returned us to London, we stayed on another week and took a road trip.
We picked up a rental car in London and sweated and swerved our way through crowded streets, around the round-abouts and out of the city proper. Sitting in the passenger seat, on the “wrong” side of the car made me crazy. Everything was out of perspective, and I was sure we would side-swipe every vehicle parked on my left. I made the usual noises that one makes when she sees impending danger, imagined or real. This startled the driver and caused a bit of discontent in the small automobile . After two days as passenger, I commandeered the driver’s seat -- just to share the experience.

With no real plans or reservations, we took off to the west along the M4, traveling through farmland and small storybook villages. The first day out, we stopped at a bed and breakfast for the night. Happily, we were able to find accommodations wherever we landed during the week.

We learned that English pub food suited us best for a hearty lunch or evening meal. So those establishments were our usual stops. While there, we’d usually get into a conversation with some of the locals and ask for advice about what we should see while in the area. The friendly folks pointed us to magnificent cathedrals and castles, especially in Salisbury, Leicester, and York. Often, their suggestions determined which direction we took when we left their village.

York Minster, England's largest gothic church
At lunch-time after getting into Stratford-upon-Avon, my friend requested a green salad from our waitress. She thought a second or two and said, “I think I can organize that.” and whisked away to the kitchen. We chatted with nearby locals while waiting for our food and found out the theatre was dark that evening. Soon, our waitress reappeared, carrying an oblong platter and smiling. She looked pleased with herself. With a flourish, she set down the platter in front of my friend. After a quick look at the plate, our wide-open eyes met. The salad consisted of beautifully-arranged fresh vegetables, all of which were varied shades of green. Yep, it’s a green salad alright.

Stratford-upon-Avon is to William Shakespeare as Hannibal, Missouri, is to Mark Twain. Everything as far as the eye can see has Shakespeare’s name attached to it. We toured the town, including Shakespeare’s home and the visitors’ center at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre before continuing on our way. 
Royal Shakespeare Center on the River Avon
One travel day, we crossed into Wales, where we toured a village or two. I bought a small porcelain mug with a blue glaze for my mom and had to protect it for the rest of the journey. That night we slept in Wales at a place that had a pub with live music on the first floor and guest rooms upstairs.

By the fourth day out, we had both mastered driving from the right side of the car, on the left side of the road. Negotiating the round-abouts was still a challenge, and we did have one little mishap; though I’m not sure it was entirely our fault. But driving the two-lane country roads, with little traffic and beautiful scenery, was pleasant. By the time we returned the rental car to London, we felt pretty confident.

That was a terrific trip, driving through the green-and-gold countryside, observing the everyday lives of the people, and seeing names of towns that were familiar to me from books and movies. As always, the time is too short, and now I wish I’d been able to visit some of the areas I've read about in Elizabeth George's books.

~ xoA ~

(All photos from Google images)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

D is for Detroit

Also known as The Motor City, The D, and, as comedian Soupy Sales would say, “D-E-E-E-E troit!”.

I lived there all my childhood except for the 18 months we were in Columbus. My parents had migrated to Detroit during the early 40s when jobs were plentiful in the war factories, as did many from Ohio and the southern states. The City of Detroit hired Dad to drive an electric streetcar, and Mom, a young bride, would board occasionally and ride along with him. Several of my dad’s siblings lived in Detroit so the young couple had the support of nearby family.

All three of the Cassells kids were born there. I came along in July of 1943, a month after the Detroit Race Riots. My brother Tom was born two years later. Our sister ReeniĆ© joined our family in 1950, when we were living in the apartment house that one of my uncles owned on Kenilworth Street. 

Our block was part of a neighborhood off Woodward Avenue, Detroit’s main north-south artery. Directly across the street from us, stood a fire station. I remember, at first, we were alarmed every time the fire trucks, their sirens blasting, left the building. But, after awhile we got used to it. 

Down on Woodward Avenue, the Vernor’s Ginger Ale plant was in full operation. Dad first took us to those three-story glass windows one Saturday morning. Pulling our car up to the curb and smiling, he pointed toward the windows. That’s when we noticed the single-file line of pop bottles coming into view.  We scrambled out of the car and onto the sidewalk to get a closer look. The conveyor belt moved along, turning toward the next station, topping each bottle with a cap, and onward to catch the labels before carrying its cargo back to a mysterious place beyond the wall.  This was the most amazing thing Tom and I had ever seen in ‘real life.’
Grandma Annie Cassells visits   

Returning to Detroit in 1953, Dad had found us an upper flat further on the east side of town, on Concord Avenue.  The concrete steps up to the porch stretched out in front of us, looking as steep as a mountainside.  The front door, a dark wood frame with small square window panes, opened onto another set of seemingly vertical stairs and a tiny landing where we made a right turn and ascended a few more steps to a wooden door and inside.

When someone rang our doorbell, we could peek down the stairs and look through the sheer curtain that covered the window of the main door to see who rang.  Then, we could press a buzzer that would automatically open the door.  

Our neighborhood of primarily brick two-family flats had probably been one that was first inhabited by European immigrants in the early part of the century.  By the time we arrived, there was a good mix of ethnicities, and everyone knew each other and got along.  The neighbors all agreed on one thing: how children should behave.  Any adult in the neighborhood would reprimand a wayward child.  And, of course, that child had better listen and then “straighten up.”

Our house was across the street from Bradley Recreation Center, where we kids spent many hours on the playground, the softball diamonds, and in the horseshoe pits. Tom learned to skate on the ice skating pond they created each winter, and I took tap dance lessons once.  Bradley was the hangout for all the neighborhood kids; Mr. Burton was the Director and a mentor to many of us.

We also lived close to Belle Isle, a beautiful island park situated in the Detroit River between the city and Windsor, Canada. Belle Isle was quite a place with beaches, canals for canoeing, botanical gardens, and miles and miles of paved road. It was the go-to place for all of us as we learned to drive, including our mother.

I attended the High School of Commerce in downtown Detroit along with kids from all over the city. HSC offered us business courses and job opportunities via a work-study program called "Co-Op". I took the secretarial track and learned to type, take shorthand, and do bookkeeping. In my senior year, I joined the "Co-Op" program, working at the Detroit Edison Company in the mornings and attending classes in the afternoons.
High School of Commerce senior - 1960

Detroit was the place where I grew up, got my education, and became an adult. Motown will always have a spot in my heart. 
~ xoA ~

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

C is for Columbus

Columbus was my mother’s girlhood hometown; our family moved there in my 3rd grade year, after my grandmother died. It was 1951, and in those days, a widower did not live alone. So my parents chose to move from their life in Detroit to Columbus, Ohio, to accommodate my grandfather. My mother would become the lady of the house in her parents’ home.
Papaw and Nanaw moved to Columbus when Mom was a teenager. She graduated from East High School among new friends as well as old friends who had also relocated to Columbus. Marrying my dad took her to Detroit in the early 40s.

We settled into the big house on Mooberry Street; it was twice the size of the small apartment that we’d had.  My six-year-old brother Tom and I loved tip-toeing up the stairs and sliding down the banister when no adults were in sight.  There was a laundry chute in the upstairs hallway. We’d open the square door, pitch the dirty clothes in and watch them  fall and land in the clothes basket that sat in the basement below the opening. A huge ringer washer stood nearby, mute on its four legs, waiting until Monday morning to do its work. 

As kids, our time in Columbus was carefree. Tom and I played in the back yard, ate fresh tomatoes from the bushel basket that sat on the back porch, and roamed the neighborhood with our band of buddies. Neighbors were friendly but to be obeyed. We had no fear of being harmed or kidnapped and were free to be kids, to explore life, learn important lessons, and have fun. 
Reenie and me in our matching "sister dresses"
Taking a cue from the westerns on Saturday morning television, a posse of neighborhood kids would grab our stick rifles and pony up on our Schwinn two-wheelers, heading for the end of Mooberry Street. There we would relive the stories we’d watched on the screen. Good guys, bad guys, we all rode and played hard, practicing life on the range.

Columbus was an important place in my growth and development. It’s where I learned some important life lessons, like “Don’t smoke” and “Always tell the truth” and “You can’t fool your parents.” 
Living in Columbus, we got to know more of our family on both sides. Evenings, our uncles on our mom’s side were close by, tinkering with cars out back in their garage. We spent every Saturday with our four cousins, watching a weekly circus show and western serials. Some of our dad’s siblings lived nearby, so we were able to spend time with those cousins, too.
Tom, Reenie, and Aunt Lucille (circa 1953)
Our sister ReeniƩ was just a toddler in those Columbus days, but Tom and I still remember them with fondness.

~ xoA ~