Sunday, July 12, 2020

Hey There Colorado! (You Both Can, and Can't, Go Home Again)



Most definitely not in Florida anymore! Visiting Red Rocks amphitheater, in Colorado, July 2019

Exactly one year ago we went back to Colorado for a short visit, the first time we've been "home" this century. For so long after college, my best friends worked in New York and Philly and longed to live in Colorado as we did. They held that dream, it would be so cool to live near each other again, and finally after retirement they were able to move west ... though we had so sadly moved away, back to the East Coast and the boat. So it was phenomenal to go back for a visit to see them in their new digs. They indulged us with a tour down memory lane.

I expected the visit to be weird and disorienting ... and it was. After all, we're different people than the people we were when we lived there - older, weaker, slower, and we hope wiser. And the place itself is different too - more developed, more crowded, maybe less wild.  So in that sense we couldn't go home again because "home" didn't exist. But the mountains - the thing that drew us to Colorado from the beginning - the mountains were wild and steady and reliable and unchanging. Draped over them was this grid of human development trying to tame and flatten them.

The days before we left were a mad scramble, as we prepared Cinderella for storage and ourselves for a summer of adventures. All of our possessions, save for one backpack and one duffel bag each, were removed from the boat and boxed in storage. Somehow in the chaos I'd managed to pack the camera to bring along on the trip, but lost the charge cable. Typical -- I've never yet had "enough" time to organize things properly for a move, so books, spices, and tools all shared a packing box, one of 46 (!!) filling every last available cubic inch of our storage unit. A pair of earrings and a flashlight were misplaced, and a laundry bag we hadn't seen for years came to light.

We needed to turn in our rental car by midnight (like Cinderella!) and be at the airport by 4 AM. We really couldn't talk ourselves into paying $100 for a motel room we could only use for half the night, so we planned to just cat nap in the airport lounge until check-in. Which meant that we were technically homeless for one night. We spent the afternoon hanging out in the public library, one of very few places in the city other than work or home where people are free to hang out without the expectation of buying something. We were not hungry and didn't want to get drunk, so that ruled out restaurants and brew pubs, we aren't movie people, and didn't want to go shopping.  When you think of it, there just aren't that many options. We did in fact cat nap at the airport, along with a surprising number of other people, until time for our flight.

Our friends met us at the airport and all tiredness was forgotten as we caught each other up on our news, and we eagerly looked out the car windows at all the changes Denver had shown after 20 years away.

First stop - hippie college town of Boulder

The Boulder Flatirons, from the redundantly-named Table Mesa, a.k.a., the hill behind our townhouse. 


View from the top, looking back down over the city.

The downtown pedestrian mall. A lot more polished suburban touristy spot than the hippie hangout it was back in the 1970s and 1980s!


We visited our old home town of Boulder. It both was, and wasn't, the place we remembered. Could we visualize living here again someday? The rocks haven't changed, lots of new development so the human landscape has changed quite a bit. Most of all, we've changed. Some of the nostalgia I feel isn't really about the place, as much as its about who we were when we lived in this place -- younger, stronger, broke-er, dumber. And our futures stretched before us, wide and green and forever. All in all though, if losing that optimism is the price to be paid for gaining amazing experiences, long durable friendships, and some wisdom, patience, and empathy... I'll take aging, creaky body and all. I still have love, health, money, and time enough to enjoy them, yay retirement!

A very very special curry dinner

Then and now: the crew posing for this group photo behind the bar of the original India's Restaurant, ca 1985. (We all had so much hair back then!)



Still the best curry in Denver. 


Thirty-odd years ago, we helped some friends build an Indian restaurant. We have so many stories from that time. No money, but Dan came home from work every night with fabulous curry; we didn't cook at home for months. Every time one of the staff went home to India on vacation they came home with artwork to decorate the new restaurant, or specialized cookware, or whatever. They weren't allowed to store any food on premises until the health department okayed the site, so we kept the spices in our guest room, including a 50-pound (!!) bag of cinnamon. (Can you even imagine how delicious our house smelled?) I remember the executive chef sitting on the floor during construction, shaping an asphalt floor tile holding it and the knife in exactly the same pose as he would peel a potato (and looking just as comfortable). We went to the restaurant's new location; they have moved twice since then but still have behind the bar, the framed dollar bill we gave them for luck when they first opened. We still have aboard Cinderella (part of) the thali set they gave us - we use the small dishes for snacks and nuts when we host happy hour or for mise-en-place, though the engraving on them has been worn smooth. (The rest of the set is not gone, just too big for the sailboat, is in storage with our other treasures, for "someday" when we move back to land.) Still the BEST Indian food in Denver! The owner's son, now a charming 30-something and working at the restaurant also, mentioned a funny memory he had as a 7-year-old, pulling out one of our measuring tapes to see how far it could go, and then not being able to get it back into its case. How remarkable that that stuck in his head, so many years later.

Old friends

In addition to the fellow college alumni, we had two other sets of longtime friends in the area. We would much have preferred to get with them one-on-one but there just weren't enough hours in the day, so we all got together in a trendy microbrewery in south Denver. The shortest of these friendships, is still over 25 years.




Our old workplace

Before and After - image from an EPA summary of the site history


On our way to drop us at the airport, our friends took us to visit our old workplace, Rocky Mountain Arsenal.  Chemical weapons were built there during WWII, Dan worked there in the 1970s after returning from Korea, while it was an active installation; Jaye worked there in the 1990s as part of the environmental cleanup after the place was decommissioned. (Probably my favourite job of my entire career.) All the buildings are gone now, their frantic and desperate history preserved only in a few educational plaques scattered around the site, and the buffalo literally roam. Of course, turning a Superfund site into a park is the definition of success; and it's the nature of environmental cleanup that it's a good thing if you make your job unnecessary. But still, when I worked there I would sometimes drive through the old plant area, the pipes and tubing and enigmatic buildings, and feel like I could almost, almost sense the camaraderie and shared sacrifice and archetypical American pluckiness of the workers there then, and leaving every evening, driving past the billboards that said "Thanks for the help!" on my way out the gate and I'd always smile a little internal, "No problem! You are welcome any time!" and wonder how modern visitors such as our hosts could ever understand the scope of what had happened here. 

All in all, an awesome visit, over way too fast. We promised to return for a longer time next year (this year, hah!) which of course can't happen now. So instead, it's just a lovely thing to look forward to, some future year.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Hard Aground



I always thought that the sailors' slang "on the hard" to describe a boat stored on land was a bit poetic -- boats would rather be floating and rocking gently. But in this case, it's safe and secure (and bonus! we get to attend to some maintenance.) 

We've packed up to leave the boat before, numerous times. Last summer we packed Every. Single. Thing. off the boat and deep cleaned the empty lockers before storing it on the hard through the hot Florida summer while we went working and traveling on the Santa Maria. A few years before that, we packed our valuables, left a friend in charge, and flew off to Aruba for 3 months. So we're no strangers to leaving for a while. But this time felt different. It felt desolate, and it felt … permanent. The end of an era, or at least of a phase of our lives. We expected the virus to have changed our cruising, we planned less ambitious seasonal treks, even welcomed the idea of staying in one area for a year or two and feeling the rhythm of the seasons again. But I didn't expect to feel like this was the end of our full-time living aboard.

Maybe, it was because all those other times, we were packing off to go to an adventure – sailing on El Galeon or visiting friends and family in Colorado and Alaska or scuba diving the Caribbean or hiking the Rockies. This time we were going from something – hiding from the awful summer heat and humidity since both our first choice way to spend the summaer (sailing El Galeon in Europe) and our second choice (bringing Cinderella to explore the Chesapeake Bay) and our third choice (road trip to the American West) all were quashed by the combination of virus and Dan's diving accident. And the very thing we loved about living in the marina in the middle of downtown St Augustine, the visitors, the vibrancy, the crowded narrow historic streets, was the thing that made the city so dangerous for us now with the risk of infection while we were trying so hard to stay isolated.

The boat had always felt like freedom, and our route to possibility. Now it felt like a constraint, a tether. I felt trapped, chained to a place I didn't want to be. Florida wasn't taking the virus seriously, I didn't feel safe, and I couldn't figure out how to leave. And hurricane season was coming. Next best option: store Cinderella on land, safe (or, statistically safe-er than any other option – nothing is guaranteed when it comes to hurricane season) and we rent a place with a little more space, isolation, and air conditioning until we can move back aboard.

In one of the magical ways networks of cruising friends lead to win-win situations, we rented a lovely townhouse from some friends-of-friends who were planning to spend the summer traveling in their rv. Close enough to come back easily to check up on, or work on, Cinderella where she would be safely hauled out on land for the season; yet calm and quiet and away from the city hustle.

As we wheeled the final load of packages away in a dock cart, I heard behind me the chimes of the ship's clock striking 6 bells, 3 pm. Tugged at my heart, as though Cinderella was saying, “I'll be faithfully waiting for you to return.” I miss you already.

Last week my word of the week was “squander,” – as in, let's not squander all the financial sacrifices our local businesses made during the shutdown, by opening back up too quickly (which Florida likely did anyway). This week it's “wistful” – I miss walking the cobbled streets, the historic Spanish architecture, the gentle rocking of the boat and the view from the cockpit, and I wonder when/if I can go back.




A
Wistful: almost everything I like, and am missing, in one photo -- portraying living history with friends, sailing, Spanish culture. The photo is of the Santa Maria docked in downtown St Augustine. If you zoom in you can just make out the stern of Cinderella off the upper left corner of the foredeck. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Pandemic Pantry



We haven't been inside a grocery store since March 13, so exactly 2 months now. We have been making it work with Instacart and what we call our "grocery angels," those neighbors who have been picking up food for us, and one wonderful food truck in town who has connected locals with some of the small farmers who are his suppliers to the benefit of both.

I didn't realize how intimate it is to share grocery lists. Most of our friends know we're vegetarian/pescetarian, but there's so much in the details. Now my delightful neighbor R. knows what we eat every week, that my junk food tastes tend toward the salty/crunchy rather than sweet, that I like a specific fancy imported Irish cheese, and that we've been drinking far too much wine.

My Facebook timeline has been filled with beautiful pictures of homemade breads and cakes that my more creative friends are making while in lockdown. I had a Zoom "high tea" last weekend with friend S. who had gone all out. She lives alone but her table was set for a gracious party -- on the little screen I saw her surrounded with candles and china and freshly-made scones on gold-rimmed serving platters.

I ... don't seem to have the emotional bandwidth to do any of those creative lovely things. So I took it in the other direction, put the cooking on autopilot and streamlined our galley. It's now something of a cross between "Chopped" (the cooking show where contestants are given a bag of mystery ingredients that they then have to turn into a dinner -- half the fun is seeing how wildly divergent the results 2 or 3 people can come up with using the same components) and a capsule wardrobe (relatively few basic pieces that you can mix and match to make a wide range of looks). We started with about a two-week rotation of some favorite meals that were comforting and at least reasonably healthy. We loosely follow a Mediterranean diet anyway, heavy on fish, fresh veggies, and beans. Social distancing gives us one unique advantage -- we can use all the garlic we want to make Spanish meals we learned on El Galeon, because no one is going to stand close enough to us to smell it!

The average grocery store, I learned researching this post, contains almost 40,000 discrete items. Forty thousand. As we learned after coming back from our trip to the Bahamas 10 years ago, too many choices can be paralyzing! My pandemic pantry list contains only about 40 basic items, not counting herbs and spices and condiments. Bell peppers and green beans, tomatoes, onions, olives and oranges and slivered almonds; eggs and fish and cheese and garbanzos and lentils. We're having a Spanish-style cod stew or blackened salmon on wilted spinach salad or cheese omelet with mushrooms and tomatoes or Peruvian beans and rice or shakshuka or moqueca (those two are as much fun to say, as they are to eat!) or just plain old pasta. The limited palette gives us room to be creative without being overwhelmed, perfect. I'll also be making a separate page here on the blog to link these recipes, and update this post when that is built.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Let's Not Go Back to Normal


I'm all about finding that silver lining ... always!



Overall, this lockdown isolation (and we are on Day 40 today as I write) feels like a long sea passage -- just the two of us on board alone together. The hiatus has given us time for thinking, talking, reflecting, just as we do at sea with only the waves, each other, and our thoughts for company. It's nicer than a long passage in that we have internet, fresh vegetables, and no night watches. It's less nice than a long passage in that when we finally arrive and get to leave the boat we won't have an interesting new country to explore. Or maybe, just maybe, we as a nation will rethink some things during this quiet time (or even, some things will die of their own accord) and we won't go back to some of the ways that weren't working so well before. If that happens then there could be a new country to explore after all.

“In a rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to,” suggested a meme that I posted a couple of weeks ago. So I have indeed been considering. There are things I miss from my old life, but perhaps fewer than I expected to. My normal life had lots of things I certainly don't miss -- the busy-ness and scurrying about; the filling every spare minute with distractions, mindless entertainment, and shopping; the indifference.

On the hurry-scurry, one of my Spanish friends said it best. The original is perhaps more lyrical than my translation but the point is so inarguable that I'm pretty sure it comes through. “Haste is dead,” he proclaimed. "Today, there is no rush to get up, there is no rush to bathe, no rush to dress and eat breakfast and drive to work. No rush to come home and make dinner and go to bed so you get enough sleep to get up tomorrow and do it all over again. Haste is dead, and time has been reborn.”

I've been pondering the distractions a lot as only essential services are allowed in our state at the moment. What is 'essential services' on the one hand, food, medicine, construction, trash, roads, gas. But almost half of what we have in our local economy … isn't essential. Most shopping isn't essential. I remember reading somewhere that the US has six times more retail space per capita on average than most of the rest of the world. An excess of stylish new clothes is certainly not essential and most of the people I know who have been cleaning and organizing while on lockdown are finding they have clothes to give away, a surplus rather than a shortage. And that goes for many other material things as well. Entertainment, tourism, museum, zoo, art, live music, even the library are all closed as non-essential. These things are also not considered 'nessessary' but they give life meaning, value, beauty. What a drab – and I daresay, brutish – existence we would have otherwise. Maybe post-lockdown we will begin to value experiences more than material things.

The indifference of the old "normal" compared to the generosity we've been offered in this time has been the most dramatic contrast of all. So yeah, that's the part of the old normal that we'll be most glad to jettison, and the thing that we will most remember from this time. Our neighbors and members of the local cruising community have been  amazing.  Grocery angels have done our shopping for us, we've had help from laundry angels, and errand angels while Dan is in strict isolation due to his injured lungs from a scuba diving accident in February. (It's been weird, learning to accept help rather than give it.) We've donated all the money we didn't spend last month on eating and drinking out, to suddenly unemployed servers and coffee shop owners and entertainers. We've learned to live slow, and to celebrate our friends via zoom and videochat, in many ways the one-on-one connections are deeper and richer than the noisy pubs we are more used to meeting friends in.

The virus still sucks, and we are still at risk, and we've lost numerous things we deeply value. I'm still wrestling a lot with my emotions around this summer's sailing season on the Galeon being cancelled. But the results of the lockdown, living slow and having time to think, that doesn't completely suck. We've found a small glitter of silver lining, and going forward, our “normal” will not be what it was before.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Feels Like Defeat (But Really Isn't)





Confusingly, having a car is both liberating, and confining, when you live and travel on a boat.


We haven't owned a car since we left Annapolis in 2013. We've just relied on public transportation or rented when we needed, because really, when you're as mobile as we are in the boat, or spending summers sailing with El Galeon or Santa Maria, owning a car is a bit of a liability. It needs to be moved while we move the boat from one city (or island!) to another, and stored and maintained while we're off adventuring. So instead, we rent while we're in a new area, to explore and to do basic maintenance like provisioning or getting boat parts.

Not having a car, especially in a historic downtown like St Aug, has always felt a bit freeing and European... until now. With so many things in unsettled circumstances, and Dan's lungs so fragile that we don't dare put him in a taxi, uber, or bus, we needed a long-term rental.

The good folks at our local Enterprise office know us and our preferences well. They lined us up with an almost-new Chevy Spark -- simple, small and agile, perfect for the narrow streets of the ancient town. It was delightfully reminiscent of the kind of cars we generally rent on Aruba. Unpretentious, youthful, and fun. Unfortunately, with Dan so isolated and fragile, there weren't many places we could take it! Storage unit, pharmacy, once or twice to parks where we could go for a walk until those closed down as well, and that was about it. All dressed up with no where to go; we couldn't even buy our own groceries and had to rely on favors from neighbors. (There turns out to be something surprisingly intimate about sharing grocery lists, but that's a story for another time.)

As the weeks went on it became apparent that we were in this for the long haul. We went online to extend our car rental, only to see that our local office had closed, though there was another one 15 minutes away that could serve our area. That, I think, was when we realized it was time to buy (gasp) our own car.

If not owning a car feels like a defining feature of a lifestyle of traveling on a sailboat and open to any adventure that comes along, then what does buying a car imply? The beginning of the end of our floating lifestyle? A commitment to stay in one area for a while? Having a much more predictable life, where the boat is just a floating condo? Was it the first step to moving ashore? Committing to buying a car just felt like accepting defeat.

It felt like the virus had ended our cruising dream, and maybe for others as well, as we see the fragility of this lifestyle. All over the Caribbean, Bahamas, and East Coast, our friends who were traveling on boats were reporting weird situations. They were trapped, couldn't move freely or get back north before hurricane season; marinas and ports and borders were closed or closing. I'm not sure what we want either. Early on, when we realized the Spanish ships and tall ship festivals were out for us this summer, as was our plan B of playing in the Chesapeake, we decided that St Aug was a smart place for us to be. We had a great infrastructure here, and many people who could help. We were known, and we knew the area.

The good news is that we had the money available, and were quickly able to find a vehicle that met our needs and wasn't too expensive. With the practical logistics solved, settling our heads was more challenging. Owning a car again simultaneously symbolizes freedom and an anchor or tether. We can go anywhere we want, independently, road trips!; and we're not traveling by boat any time soon, we're staying in this area for probably the next year.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Carnaval!!




It was only six weeks ago, but the world is so much darker right now. But six weeks ago was exuberance, feathers, sequins. Loud music, dancing in the streets. Laughter. Crowds, kids, sparkles. Family groups. Friends.

The people who participate spend hundreds of dollars and hundreds of hours on their costumes (sometimes more!) And walk/dance for hours in the sun; it seems everyone on the island is either in the parade, or watching the parade cheering from the sidelines. All the splendour is a gift to their neighbors -- and has been one of our favourite things to do witness Aruba, every spring.

This year was a "small" carnaval. It "only" took a few hours for the parade to pass the spot we were standing. So here are just a few pictures of the faces of random folks who stopped for photos, happily displaying their artwork. I found the secret of getting those photos, by the way: gesture politely with the camera that you'd like a photo. They'll pause and smile. Click the shutter. Look at the camera to check the image, make eye contact and a thumbs-up or other gesture indicating the photo came out okay and gesture thanks. Then they'll give you the real smile -- the one that is simultaneously "you're welcome" and "thanks for appreciating my art and our island tradition." That's when you take the photo that will become the keeper.



And a few of the "shoulder pieces." Imagine carrying this on your shoulders as you walk 4 or more kilometers in the sun -- then doing it again tomorrow! And paying for the privilege, for bragging rights but mostly just as a gift to your neighbors.






Monday, March 30, 2020

Building a Community


Burgees with the group's logo, the outline of the Castillo that is a symbol of the town and has never been taken in battle.

In late January 2012, a small group of cruisers who before this had only known each other on line met in a pub in town to match faces to screen names. We tried to develop a strategy to help people make real life connections and create a sailing community.  Different than a yacht club, we wanted to focus on cruisers who would be passing through, staying a day or a month or a season, and then in this nomadic lifestyle, moving on to explore new places.

With physical gatherings, virtual gatherings, happy hours and educational lectures and a morning VHF net (like a conference call that covers weather, winds, tides, welcomes newcomers and provides information about local services, general assistance, and fun events), the group now has a robust membership of over 2,000 people. What makes it feel totally different to me than any other sailing group I'm in, is that this one doesn't just include boaters although there are plenty of those. Marina managers, local marine trades and shop owners, even the local SeaTow operators and local law enforcement, marine sheriff and fire department, are all members. The community isn't just the people who play and live on boats, it's the entire breadth of maritime support people and industries coming together with the common interest in making the town a good place for boating.

I wish I understood how we made this happen, because I'd love to replicate it in other places as we travel. But even though I was there from the beginning, I have no idea how we got so lucky as to make this community coalesce. Must be some ancient St Aug city magic, I guess.


That first meeting in 2012 had only nine people -- plus an idea!

And look at us now, 8 years later! (photo from Mark & Suzanne Einstein)



Are We Done? Not Exactly the End of Cruising


Great blue herons remind me of Maryland. And also of patience, which they have and I do not.


There's a truism in cruising, that you make plans written in the sand at low tide, or plans are firmly cast in jello. Two summers ago, after an interesting but horribly hot stay in a lovely marina in Jacksonville while Dan healed from hip replacement surgery, we promised ourselves that we'd never again voluntarily spend a summer aboard in north Florida. Plan A for summer 2020 was to work another season on El Galeon; Plan B was to sail Cinderella to the Chesapeake; Plan C was to buy a van, fit it out for camping, and do a western US road trip.

But here we were, the word "voluntarily" in that vow came up thanx to the virus and quite suddenly all those options evaporated and it looked like we were going to be spending another summer aboard in north Florida after all. El Galeon was out -- we certainly weren't going to be attending lots of crowded tall ship festivals this summer. Sailing back to the Chesapeake was out too -- too many marinas are closing or closed, and we have too much uncertainty, to sail north, not to mention needing to be in a stable place where we have solid infrastructure while Dan continues to heal from his scuba diving accident. Not really game for a road trip, either, under the current circumstances, long distance travel just isn't in the offing. It looks to be an active hurricane season coming up, and Plans A, B, and C won't be available.

I had a bit of a meltdown last week, without thinking blurted out, "I want to go home!" And then, stunned -- what truth had I spoken?  I can't remember when I've had so much fun, or met so many people I liked all in one place, as St Aug. And the community we have here has been tremendous -- the fabulous people who've been helping us during Dan's recovery, and the support of the marine community in town is like nothing else I've ever known. But still, I realized "home" was not here. (Or, necessarily, anywhere.)

"Home" in the truest sense, is Cinderella, wherever she is docked. We still want to live on the boat -- but maybe not do the lengthy East Coast snowbird slog twice a year with the seasons. We've done the southeast coast 4 times south and 3 times north on Cinderella, and 3 times each way on El Galeon. Time for something different. I doubt that we're done with cruising, and definitely not done with living on the boat. The Chesapeake is calling; I want to try a place where we can sail more locally, just few hours sail and you can anchor in a different small town or deserted cove every day.  To get there faster, maybe we'll fly or drive to fun places for vacations. So, when things are stable again, probably next year, we're northbound again.

(image from here)


Saturday, March 28, 2020

Hadn't Expected THIS at All!


These flamingos are not social distancing!


Right? No one here did. After we got back to the States we were going to spend a few days in southern Florida before returning to Cinderella. I suspected, rightly, that those days were going to be my last feeling of normalcy for, how long?

There were a few days in a grimy hotel outside of Fort Lauderdale where we did our income tax paperwork and took cellphone photos of the resulting documents to email to our accountant. Dinner at a Thai restaurant with recently-engaged friends Phil and Kay. Overpriced pizza and nice microbrewed beer. A much nicer hotel, this time with a bar where the bartender poured extremely stiff rum drinks, and after we'd had our limit a stereotypical big spender who had done well in Vegas bought another round. A visit to our dermatologist. Then, because the boat was completely empty, a big stock-up shopping trip to Trader Joe's.

Back in St Augustine, we early-voted, bought more groceries, wine, dropped our things off at our storage unit ... and dropped off the planet, it seemed, into total isolation as the scale of the crisis became apparent. We were just slightly ahead of the curve; as events started being cancelled and pubs shut down the following week. The weather was beautiful, we had a rental car, but couldn't go anywhere, do anything, or visit anyone!

In a sense, the isolation is no different than a long sea passage. As long term liveaboards and cruisers, we're better prepared for it than most. We've had lots of experience entertaining ourselves and keeping our relationship harmonious, just the two of us in our tiny fiberglass bubble on the big empty ocean. We started discussing how to get some purpose to our days, otherwise we'd end the isolation as experts in nothing but playing computer games, overweight and alcoholic. The original plan was to commit to one hour each day doing: something practical, something physical, something educational, something creative. We deep cleaned the boat, went for isolated walks, sorted photos and music. Dan studied sign language and Jaye studied meteorology. We spent a lot of time reading the news and social-media-ing with friends. We read a lot, and went for drives to nowhere in our little rented Spark.

For me the most surreal was a comment my friend H made on Facebook. She was watching a movie and a character came into a crowded party and hugged another character. "Only a week ago," my friend mused, "this seemed normal; now it's impossibly quaint."

Our friends and neighbors have been awesome, buying our groceries and running errands and other favors to keep Dan's contact with the outside world as minimal as possible while his lungs continue to heal from the diving accident. And I'm enjoying the quiet, unpressured and unstructured time. I don't know how long this will continue, but we'll get through it, together -- separately.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Grocery Carts

This bit of social engineering just fascinated me. A very simple way to keep from stray grocery carts scattered around the parking lot when lazy people don't bother to return them to the cart corrals.


Rows of grocery carts, neatly organized and returned to the cart corral. How do they do it?
Simple, but elegant. See that little dangle hanging in front of the cart? The carts are effectively chained together. To get the cart out, you put a coin in the handle (a quarter, or an Arubian florin which is about the same size.) That pushes out the chain holding your cart to the next one, so you can take it shopping. But don't worry, you get your coin back when you're finished. All you have to do is return the cart to the corral, then use the dangling key on the cart in front of yours to push out your coin and lock your cart to the next one. You've effectively put a 25-cent deposit on the cart, which is returned when you return the cart. Elegantly simple, and simply elegant. Remarkably effective, too!

Putting a coin in the slot releases the cart for your use


When you're finished, returning it and inserting the key to lock your cart to the stack, returns your coin.
This was my favourite store on the island anyway because I like their products so much, but even if that weren't the case, I would shop there just for this!