100 Best Cities in the World – the Count down Continues


So – let’s review – 50 cities – I’ve been to 28 of them. That’s 56%. Hope I do better on the next 25…

50. Dallas – Great start – I’ve been there several times. I’ve also been to Fort Worth, and most importantly – to Plano! Plano is actually a lovely suburb of the vast and massively tall buildings of Dallas. We once made the mistake of thinking that downtown Dallas might be worth a visit – on Saturday. Boy, were we wrong. Like many US downtowns – it’s a city of office buildings – alive during the day, dead at night. Really really dead on weekends. Unlike Montreal, with it’s bustle day and night – Dallas looked and felt dead that day. We left and went to the Science Center in Fort Worth (great place). But hey – things change and it’`

49. Atlanta – I was raised in Atlanta. Lived there from 1951-1966. My fondest young memory is feeding the ducks bread from our table at a lake (pond?) near our home. My memories of growing up aren’t all that wonderful generally – but I did love our yard. We lived on an acre of land – mostly woods with a creek running through it – and we had a gardener. One time a rattle snake came into the grassy part of the yard – and he had to kill it with a hoe. Very memorable. I also remember playing for hours and hours and hours in the woods. Basically by myself – but sometimes with some of the neighborhood kids – all of them boys. I was very glad to leave Atlanta when I graduated high school. At that time – 1966 – 50% of the girls in my HUGE graduating class got married within 2 weeks of graduation. I was a square peg in a round hole. I was the ONLY kid in my class who applied to college across the Mason Dixon Line. My favorite high school class – math of course. But I loved science as well. My senior year we had a science fair – and for my project – I learned to program a computer. The very first IBM 360 – it was in a AC room with a raised floor for all the cables. And the guys running it were amazed that a 16 year old GIRL (it was the GIRL that amazed them) was interested. I wanted to be an engineer. But in those days – Girls didn’t become engineers. So I settled on Math and Physics. Up hill battle even so. None of this described Atlanta however. Last time I visited it was a lot like Dallas. Huge downtown with towering office buildings and not many folks actually living there. Vibrant suburbs – still segregated to this day. Oh well.

48. Orlando. Another easy one. I love Disney anything.. I’m a Disney nut. I’d have worn Disney clothing with princesses if it came in boy stylings. I’ve taken my kids, I’ve gone with my sister Carrie (we rode King Kong at Universal so many times they allowed us to just sit in the front rather than run thru the maze). I’ve taken my grand-kids. I think that Disney blew it big time when they lost out to Universal on Harry Potter – but I love Harry Potter lands to death. I adore the Star Wars section of Disney Hollywood – and I’m a true believer in the Avatar lands. Memories of Orlando are many – although I think my favorite was when we took Sophie (about 3 at the time). She was up up up – then asleep. She slept thru every dinner, thru meeting Belle, thru truly expensive Princess dinner parties. But her highlight – having a short conversation with Rapanzel over how to wash hair…

47. Calgary – Wow – if this list sticks to North America – I’m golden. Ok- Calgary – definitely a yes. We took all 3 of my kids on a trip to Banff and the National Parks and started in Calgary. Huge empty streets except for the street walkers. My oldest son – Robert (12 at the time) – wanted to know what these ladies were doing. They would hang around the nearby all night convenience store because it had a pay phone. We’d go to the place to grab a treat before bed. Paths crossed. Questions were answered… maybe.

46. Copenhagen – well – I’m not surprised this city made the list, it’s cool. I’ve been to Copenhagen, but I was really young (like 20), I saw the Mermaid, I caught a ferry back to England. All I remember.

45. Tel-Aviv – Check that guy off too! After the war in 1976 we got really concerned about the long range life span of Israel, and felt we had to visit while there was still an Israel to visit. Went with my oldest (only at that time) son – who was just 18 months old. We camped our way around most of Israel, visited the Sinai (at that time part of Israel), and even went snorkeling in Elat. I managed to leave my passport at the cable car station at Masada, ended up driving back to get and went to the wrong side of the mountain! With an 18 month old kid and a stroller. And weather over 100 degrees. The Israel army took pity on me – and a solider went to the Cable car base, got my passport – took the cable car up the mountain and then RAN down the Roman road to where I was sitting in the shade with Robert. He gave me my passport and than RAN back up the Roman road. These guys are fit.

44. San-Paulo. Knew it wasn’t going to last. On my short list. Oh well.

43. Frankfurt – Been there. Got bumped off an airplane and had to spend the night. Toured the city. The sidewalks were covered in dog poop. In those days – they didn’t have ‘clean up after your pet’ laws – so folks just let the dogs poop as needed. Horrid. You couldn’t look up to admire the architecture or even straight ahead to watch for traffic lights. If you didn’t watch your feet – you walked in it!

42. Hong-Kong – Been There. Sadly. Unfortunately for Hong-Kong – we had to leave Kyoto to fly to Hong-Kong. I really didn’t want to leave Kyoto – and arriving in Hong-Kong was literally a flight into hell. The airplane had to dip between two mountain peaks on the way in – and the belly of the plane scraped the tops of buildings on the descent. The streets were packed – and folks walked around/over/ignored the millions of beggars in the streets. I’m not good with places where there are really really wealthy people living on top of really really poor people. And there are really really poor people in Hong-Kong living on boats with no proper water or toilets, living in slums, living on the streets. Our hosts did their level best to impress us – but I left thinking – never coming back.

41. Montreal – I live here! Wow – I live in one of the World’s Best Cities. But I knew that. I adore my city, it has everything except perfect weather… Outside of say February and March – when only the insane lie here – it’s great. Our version of a heat wave is when it get’s above 90 – and even then, it doesn’t last long. Our spring is too short (we go from covered in Snow to covered in flowers in under 30 days – often with a snow storm thrown in to make sure we’re paying attention). We have great theatre (read my blog if you don’t believe me), we have great Festivals – Fringe is just one – but there’s the Laugh Fest, The Jazz Fest, Formula 1, The Graffiti Fest, Movie Fest after Movie Fest – it’s a never ending cycle of things to do and see. Well – not during Covid of course. During Covid we’ve gotten to respect our multitude of fabulous parks, walking paths, bike lines and out door markets. Our restaurants have rediscovered the delights of having a veranda – and out door dinning – even out door FINE dinning is the newest in thing. No – we’re not perfect – but we’re close. I’m super glad I live here. And I dearly wish I didn’t have to stay in February and March like I did this year.

Ok – I’m Pausing again. Of these 10 cities – I’ve been to 9 of them. So out of 60 cities I’m up to 37 – or 61.666%… That’s pretty decent.

Stay tuned to find out who made the top 40 cities of the world… You might want to start making your own lists actually.

Signing off for now – but promising to finish the list some time this summer… (that gives me a lot of space, eh?)

The Soup Lady!

Day 243 – Last Commandment for Seniors (#12)


You sill haven’t learned to act your age – and hope you never will!

Hear-Hear! I never ever ever wanted to act my age. I never acted my age all my life, and now is most certainly not the time to rethink that strategy.

When I was in my early teens – and by this I’m referring to that torture chamber we call High School – I was way to studious and concerned with math and science in particular to take notice of the things ‘girls my age’ considered important – like clothes and boys. To be very honest – I’m still not overly concerned about clothes – See Commandment #2 for Senior – “In Style” are the clothes that still fit.

I did go thru a ‘boys are amazing’ period – but for my time – it was very late, and ended rather abruptly with me marrying my still to this day husband – Victor! I arrived at University as a ‘Southern Belle’ – complete with breathy accent – and was immediately considered a very desirable date. This was beyond amazing to me – no boy had ever considered me interesting outside of class before – and I would have 4 dates a weekend. One on Friday night, One on Saturday afternoon, One on Saturday night, and one on Sunday afternoon. With 4 different boys. And for the record – no kissing until the third date!

Sunday night thru Friday afternoon – I was the model student – taking high level math and science classes, and for the first time discovering that there was history after the end of the civil war (for the record – that ended in 1865). I was raised in Atlanta Georgia – and that’s when our history classes deemed that history stopped. Surprise Surprise – it didn’t stop!

So between fending off boys (I took to hiding in libraries to be sure to get my studing done) and then going to parties all weekend – I was very busy.

I suppose this period is the closest I came to acting my age.

After I met Victor – things got really interesting in the ‘boy’ department. Victor was in the habit of waiting until the last minute before making a date – and I would be ‘taken’ long before. After several ‘I’m sorry, I can’t go out with you, I’m busy” conversations, he learned to book me ahead – and eventually we agreed to go steady. I think the crisis was ‘Homecoming Weekend 1967’ when I was the Princess from one fraternity – not Victor’s – and thus too busy to be with him. I think he asked me to go steady so that he could stop having to ask me out so far in advance.

But I still had to keep up my studies – but now I had to hide out in new places – and just from one boy! Fortunately, Victor pretty much hated libraries – and there were lots of smaller ones on campus that I don’t think he ever found. I was able to keep up my work weeks, play weekends lifestyle.

Then I spent my Junior Year Abroad. I choose to go to London to study Drama – which for a Math/Physics Major was a bit of a stretch. But the folks in the Drama department were ok with it, and while the Math Department got their knickers in a knot (I had to drop my double major), the Physics Department agreed to it. So – London, without my boyfriend, for a full year abroad.

This was, I admit, one of my favourite years (Fall of 68 to the Fall of 69)… and again – I wasn’t acting my age. I was interested in studying, getting good grades, visiting Museums and Art Galleries – and my Drama Department co-students thought me dull, boring, and not really a decent drama student. Push came to shove when I won a lottery to go behind the scenes at the Royal Vic and meet Sir Lawrence Olivier – then starring in Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”. Despite pressure to give up that opportunity to a ‘real’ drama student – I persisted in taking advantage of that win, a meeting I remember to this day.

My year aboard ended the way a year aboard for a square peg in a round hole must always end. I drove with my friends to Istanbul – then waved goodbye as they crossed into Asia on their way to India. I traveled alone by train and hitchhiking (ok – I was 20 – it seemed acceptable) back into ‘Europe’ and met up with a friend who I didn’t really know – but who wanted to do a bicycle trip thru the German speaking section of Romania. We met up in her university town – took our bicycles by train into Romania and spent 2 weeks or so biking from village to village. In those days (Summer 1969) the way you showed off your wealth was by the height of the manure pile in front of your house. I grew to love Lard Sandwiches – and we feasted off the garden crops of peas and green beans. One of the villagers bought my bra for her daughter for the equivalent of a weeks living money – and in a Youth Hostel in Czechoslovakia we swapped a $1 American bill for a day’s worth of food and lodging. Interesting times to visit behind the Iron Curtain.

I eventually made my way back to Paris, met up with my sister who flew in from the US, and we continued to wander thru France and eventually to England. We flew home from London – and while she returned back home to Atlanta and University – I went back to Tufts for my final year. Victor had meanwhile changed schools and was now at Cornell. Our plan was to see if we were still ‘an item’, and if so – I’d graduate and continue my schooling at Cornell – provided I could get accepted of course.

We did, I was – and we got married Sept 11, 1970. It’s 50 years and counting today…

Enough of this – bottom line – I’ve always persisted in being a tad different. I had my kids a bit later than other folks, I got married a lot earlier (I was 21 – Victor was 20), I was studious to the point of embarrassment to most of my peers, and when I got close to retirement – my friend ‘The Intrepid Traveler’ and I started our yearly trips to far off places. Not to be left out Victor and I did a fair amount of traveling too!

I’ve been to China, Mongolia, Taiwan, Hong-Kong, Japan, South Korea, Bali, France, Fez, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Russia, the Netherlands, England, Ireland, Scotland, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Malta, Liechtenstein, Vatican City, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Israel, Amsterdam, South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Rwanda, Zambia, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Czechoslovakia, Greenland, Northern Quebec, Most of the US, Eastern and Western Canada, Venezuela, US Virgin Islands, Mexico, British Virgin Islands, Grand Cayman, Belize, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahamas, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. I realize of course that traveling now is not the same – but I was young, I was keen – and I was willing to travel cheap. Mostly – I was lucky to have a friend willing to travel with me! And grateful to have a husband who also found travel interesting.

There are so many places that I loved at the time I was there that I couldn’t imagine going back to – my ‘roughing it’ ability is seriously suffering from concerns about where there’s going to be a clean toilet – but I would recommend doing it NOW – don’t wait till you are your age to travel. It’s never too late – and it’s always rewarding – Masks on for safety of course.

Enough of this trip down memory lane. It’s getting embarrassing. Bottom line – I’m not planning on acting my age any time soon… Get over it.

Signing off to think of something else crazy to do… Mask on of course – The Soup Lady

Florida Snowbirds – The North Welcomes you…


I don’t normally quote someone else’s article – but this one was impossible to resist. It was published in the Montreal Gazette on August 30 – and totally summarizes the differences between living in Quebec and basking in the sun in Florida…

The author – Josh Freed – is quite funny – in the subtle and understated way of most Quebecers… We know we live in a unique part of the world, and are more than willing – as Josh so clearly points out – to laugh at ourselves..

Read and Enjoy! The Soup Lady

Josh Freed: Floridians can reverse-snowbird here, under these conditions

Dear Florida:

Every year since the last ice age, almost a million of us Quebecers have temporarily migrated south to your state, to escape the cold jaws of winter.

But now, at last, you Floridians may be ready to escape the cold jaws of COVID and flee north to us. Several Gazette readers sent me an entertaining column by Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino that makes the following modest proposal:

“Dear Canadian snowbirds: As an unofficial South Florida ambassador, I would like to begin negotiations for a reverse migration this winter. We’ve bungled the response to COVID-19 so badly nearly all the world won’t allow American tourists to come … and we really need to leave. We’re desperate. Now it is your turn to host us. We here in South Florida will come to you in Canada this winter.”

The writer wants Canada’s Parliament to arrange special “refugee visas” for COVID-fleeing or election-exhausted South Floridians between November and March.

But he promises Florida’s new snowbirds will be good houseguests who’ll shovel our driveways, learn to ice fish and embrace Tim Hortons double-doubles.

Overall, Florida, this seems a reasonable request to me. Perhaps we do owe you shelter after all these years of Quebecers swarming your beaches and all-you-can-eat-buffets.

As well, we desperately need some almost-extinct U.S. tourists, so I’m open to Florida’s proposal on certain terms.

But before I go to bat as your unofficial Canadian ambassador, you Floridians must know the rules and realities of cold, COVID Canada.

If you want to migrate here this winter, then as Joe Biden might put it: “Here’s the deal, folks!”

There are no outings whatsoever permitted, not even to McDonald’s, Burger King or KFC. Just order-in healthy meals from say, Mandy’s salads.

Like all good Canadians, you must also wash your hands 10 times a day, which will then be inspected by our Royal Canadian Hand-washing Police.

Protection: Here in Canadaland we worship hand sanitizer, not hand guns like many Floridians, who can still legally carry a concealed weapon.

Masks are mandatory indoors under Quebec law, and we always wear ’em. There are no major culture wars over face coverings here, where a mask is just a mask is just a mask.

You do have the right to protest against masks democratically, outdoors, but ideally while wearing a mask.

Also, under Quebec’s Bill 21 you have the right to see the faces of all government service employees. But under COVID laws they don’t have the right to show their faces to you.

Quarantine: To start, you must spend two weeks in quarantine — and I mean Canadian quarantine. That’s 14 full days under virtual house arrest, Canada-style, not some sissy-style Florida quarantine where you probably get to visit Disneyland every other day, then play golf.

Politics: Be warned, Florida is a politically mixed state with redneck Republicans in the north and blue neck Democrats in the south, and many voters swing both ways. But Canada and especially Montreal is strictly Kamala Harris territory.

She’s the first former Canadian resident to become a U.S. vice-presidential candidate, and we’re homers.

We can offer a Kamala Harris Early Roots Tour, from her mom’s former McGill office to Kamala’s one-time algebra classroom and Westmount dance class studio.

Unlike your president, we see her as a remarkable American woman, not a foreigner, immigrant or illegal V.P. candidate.

Of course, we’re also counting on Harris to grasp crucial Canadian and Quebec issues. As an ex-Montrealer and lawyer she will surely understand the subtleties of the “bonjour-hi” debate, the complexities of the Montreal English School Board Wars and the intricacies of Westmount Park’s dog run laws.

Weather: It is either cold and unbearably freezing here or hot and unbearably humid, so dress accordingly.

In winter, be warned: There are no Early Bird dinner specials, no pitch-and-putt golf courses, no winter surfing. There are no all-you-can-eat buffets since COVID arrived, in fact no buffets at all.

There are several important new Canadian words you must learn, including snow tire, windshield scraper, wind chill factor, polar vortex and Celsius.

The temperature here is an entirely different system than yours, but don’t worry: Fahrenheit and Celsius temperatures do meet and become identical at minus 40, which you may well experience.

On the plus side, if you do somehow get COVID-19, our Medicare-for-all system is free and we welcome all your pre-conditions. On the down side, be warned orange juice comes from cartons here, not from oranges.

Ultimately, if you do migrate to Canada, then when COVID ends you can decide if you want to leave or not. If you’re a Biden-lover and Trump wins you might want to settle here.

Likewise, if you’re an arch Republican and Comrade Biden wins and DESTROYS AMERICA’S SUBURBS as Trump claims, you can find refuge in Mississauga or Longueuil.

But there is one last condition before allowing you in: Come the U.S. election, your home state of Florida has to vote Harris-Biden, otherwise the deal’s off.

Day 9 – Laugh a little – it’s good for the immune system


Seriously – I’m sure there is some study out there that proves that laughing improves the ability of white blood cells to fight off COVID-19. Must be right?

In any case – my daughter-in-law has been gleefully sharing jokes related to the epidemic with me – so on the eve of my getting on an airplane (that’s scary) to leave my safe haven (also scary) – I share with you some humour.

What if they close the Grocery Stores? We’ll have to hunt for our own food. I don’t even know where Doritos live!

Like a Good Neighbor – Stay Over There —->

First time in History we can save the world by laying down in front of the TV and doing nothing. Let’s not Screw This UP!

A link to a song that sums it up – Stay the F*ck at Home – so worth a listen!

Thoughts and prayers going out to all those Married Men who’ve spent months telling the wife – I’ll do that when I have the time.

Every few days it would be smart to put your jeans on to be sure they still fit. Pajamas and Sweats will have you believe that all is well.

Now that we have everyone washing their hands correctly – Next week Turn Signals!

Wanna find out who your real friends are? Ask them to borrow a roll of toilet paper!

Yet another great video worth watching – again shared by my daughter-in-law – and trust me this one is really funny – in a serious way: Flatten the curve\

Single man with Purcell seeking Woman with Toilet Paper for good clean fun

Ladies – time to start dating the older dudes – They can get you in the Grocery Store Early

I know that there are a lot more in this vein out there – I saw a bunch that basically made light of all the sports cancelations – implying that men suddenly realized there was a wife in the house.. Like all jokes – funny because they have a grain of truth in them.

True – but still very funny – the Leader of Quebec has decided that during this crisis all stores need to close on Sunday – even Grocery stores. Why? All workers need a day off. (Why am I leaving my island hide-away to go home I am forced to wonder…)

So share any jokes you have here – and remember – Orange Juice and Laughter are great for the immune system.

Be safe

Be healthy

Signing off to spend 25 hours getting from my island to my home in Montreal – all the while keeping social Distance and wiping down surfaces… The world has never been so clean…

The Soup Lady

Day 8 – We must leave our island hide-away


The borders are closing and the flights out of here are getting canceled.

As much as I’d rather hide here on the island – we have just 9 COVID-19 cases on the island – we need to get back to Canada while the getting is still possible.

We had a flight planned that would leave the island around 3:30 in the afternoon, getting us home (via Miami) at around midnight. But the direct flight from Miami to Montreal was an early casualty of the need to cut back on planes flying empty.

Our next option – leave early in the morning – fly to Miami, from there to Chicago, and then home. The idea of spending 4 hours in the Chicago Airport exposed to all those travellers was frankly scaring me to bits – but at least it was just one day.

Now the morning flight from St. Croix has been canceled.

We have to go to Miami and spend the night in a hotel there. Then in the morning – we need to get back to the airport – from there via Philly home.

I called the hotel – who warned us that food service is very restricted – basically carry out only and eat in your room. And there are no services in the hotel – no pool, no sauna, no nothing… and no loitering in the lobby.

On the good news side – they are using serious measures to sanitize the rooms – and I trust them to do what they say.. It’s a very nice hotel, and I think they would make every effort possible to make sure we’re safe.

So that’s the plan.

I’ll report on how it goes when it goes….

Signing off to wish her husband of 50 years a very happy 70th birthday – The Soup Lady

EB Hotel – Now that’s a shower…


This blog post is a continuation of the one about my almost aborted trip home from St. Croix in March. In case you’ve forgotten – our plane ran into a bird on it’s landing approach in St. Croix, and American had to ground the plane until a very expensive piece of equipment could be flown in from New York City. But there was no where for American to put the 200+ passengers in St. Croix – FEMA has taken almost all the housing. So they found a plane in Puerto Rico and flew it down to Miami. Clearly most/all of us will have missed our connecting flights!

I land in Miami, and no surprise here, join a long long line of my fellow travellers waiting for the American agents to re-book us. It’s not as if they didn’t KNOW we were coming – that they didn’t KNOW we’d missed our flights. You’d have thought, foolishly as it turns out, that there would be some kind of triage.

You already rebooked – so all you need is printed boarding passes and a hotel voucher. Oh – you haven’t rebooked yet – ok that will take more time.

Nope – didn’t happen. So instead we all stand in one LONG line, waiting our turn. At first (given that it’s after 11:00 PM), there are only two poor agents at the re-booking center. But as the line grows and grows, the number of agents dedicated to getting us taken care of increases. By my turn, there are 7 agents working, so the line is moving.

Since I already re-booked – it’s a print and ‘have a nice night’ meeting. The hotel voucher says EB Hotel – and I question the agent – EB? Never heard of it. He reassures me – it’s a nice one. And sends me on my way.

I leave the airport security area, and cross over to the ‘hotel’ shuttle waiting area. Standing with me are several of my fellow passengers – all of us slated to go to the same hotel. One guy smartly calls the hotel to check on the shuttle – to be told – it’s on it’s way.

Shuttle arrives – not large enough for everyone, but I’m lucky enough to score a seat, which I’m not giving up. I need to be back at the airport at 5:00 AM – and it’s now almost midnight. I don’t want to lose any more of my precious sleep.

My room at the EB is amazing. Seriously – I’ve stayed in some pretty high end places in my life, but this is probably the fanciest hotel shower system I have ever seen. I set my alarm for 4:00 AM – it’s too late now to shower – but I’m willing to wake up early to take advantage of it tomorrow.

About my shower. It’s a hoot! There are 4 different kinds of shower heads. A rain shower in the middle of the space – partly over the large stone ‘sitting’ area, a more standard shower head, 4 body jets that are serious about giving you a massage, and a handheld shower head. It’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys – and I’m having a blast turning every shower possibility on and off – playing with temperature, pressure, and position.

I’m having so much fun – I’m almost (but not quite) late to my 4:30 AM Shuttle back to the Miami airport.

After the excitement of the bird hitting the nose cone, the jet being flown in to St. Croix from San Juan to get us off the island, and the over-the-top fancy hotel shower – the trip on to Louisville, KY is just long and boring. Ah well – can’t have too much adventure at my age – probably bad for the digestion.

Signing off to sip her Illy Coffee – paid for by American Airlines – The Soup Lady

Oh the People you’ll meet..


Funny how you randomly meet people, eh? You are sitting quietly – doing nothing much, and then for some reason someone says something – and you end up in a conversation.

I just spent several hours talking about this, that and the other with Tommy – but as usual – I’m ahead of myself. Let’s start at the very beginning.

I’ve just finished spending a week on the lovely island of St. Croix. Many years ago now I lucked into buying a small condo here, which meet my every objective – it was comfortable, not up too many stairs, and it has a simply magnificent view – nothing between me and the ocean but 40’ of sand and 2 palm trees. It’s heaven. But it also got hit by Hurricane Maria – and I felt obligated to go down and check it out personally. To find out what the island is like now – read my earlier blog. But this blog starts upon leaving the island.

Getting to and from the island, which normally at this time of the year is simple, has become a bit of a challenge. While the airport on St. Croix is open, and mostly in good shape, the airports that feed into the island are in worse shape, and that has complicated matters. Plus the recovery process has actually increased the number of folks arriving and departing from the island – there’s a large (over 2000 passenger) cruise ship docked semi-permanently in Fredericksted, there are the countless FEMA, Corp of Engineers, Red Cross and related personal who have come to aid in the recovery – and there are the folks that have simply decided that living without electricity for 6 weeks is enough – and they want off the island.

All this means that flights are packed, and the airline folks are working with limited technology – power is still on and off, and WIFI that is more hopeful then in fact!

But despite the challenges – I arrived at the airport in good time this afternoon, processed thru check-in, the long wait for border patrol, and finally sat down in the waiting area for my flight to finally board. I ate a decent dinner from the cute snack bar (great Jamaican Patties), and boarded the flight. I’d even settled into my seat and said hi to my seat mates. But then nothing happened. No announcements, no nothing. So we all waited, and waited. Suddenly the pilot is addressing us – explaining that a bird hit the plane during the landing – and the plane has to be checked out before it can take off. Nothing major – it will be just a moment.

A few minutes later he’s back – this time explaining that the bird made a direct hit on the nose cone – which is where all the radar is located, and the equipment need to check the plane isn’t on the island. In fact, it’s not even in Miami. It’s in New York, and they must fly it down. And without this specialized equipment to check that the radar is ok – the plane can not fly. We must de-board and wait for further information.

What follows is pretty much what one would expect of about 200 folks with plans and places to go who suddenly discover that their plans are going to have to change – and change fast.

We all de-board, and cluster around the poor gate agents. The three lovely local ladies are fielding questions – to which they effectively have no answers. Should we leave the airport and wait till tomorrow? Will we be rebooked on the plane tomorrow? Will American find places for us to spend the night if we can’t get off the island?

Quick answers – finding places to stay on the island isn’t going to happen. Too many of the hotels are closed – there’s no options. The pilot gets on the microphone and says – the best option is for American to find us another plane and get us off the island. Otherwise, we are stuck here overnight – the part to check the nose cone can’t make it to the island until tomorrow – at best. However, once in Miami – we’ll be able to figure out what to do with you. But I’m done here – it’s in the hands of the airport folks. With that, he leaves. And we are left sitting in the rather basic waiting area of the St. Croix airport, with no idea what is going to happen.

Exactly Where does our now ‘disappeared’ pilot think American is planning on finding a plane?

I’m no fool – I’m on the phone to American – please rebook me – I won’t make my flight to Louisville, KY tonight – make reservations for the first flight out of Miami tomorrow morning please.

Meanwhile, some people start to leave – but then the airport manager grabs the microphone to announce – STOP – don’t leave. American has found a plane in San Juan and it’s on it’s way here. You’ll board at 8:00 PM – and spend the night in Miami. There are hotels there – and American will put you up.

Ok – now we at least know what is going on – so we must sit and wait for the new plane to get here. Thank goodness I already have my flight arranged for tomorrow. I just don’t trust American (or any airline for that matter) to make those arrangements in a timely fashion. Nah – they will wait, and I’ll be stuck with lousy options.

While I’m waiting for the replacement jet to arrive, I call the hotel I’d organized for tonight – only to find out that I’d actually organized it for Monday night. Well, that’s a relief. Guess I knew something would go wrong… (nah – it was a lucky oops – that’s all).

All this organized, there is nothing to do but sit and wait. So I sit. Behind me are two guys talking about the shuttle from their cruise ship. I’m intrigued – and turn to chat.

Tommy – the young man closest to me – is a Stand Up Comedian. (No seriously – check him out at TommyDrake.com – he’s famous!) He works the cruise ship circuit for Carnival – 3 days on one boat, then 2 days on another boat, a few days off – and repeat. His friend runs the Guest Services function – and at first our conversation revolves around issues related to Guest Services.

Some of the issues are exactly the same as what I face – guests who have an issue, say insects or a broken DVD player, and simply don’t tell you. Or worse – only tell you via the guest book – or an on-line review. What gives – let me know what your issue is, and I’ll fix it. Why would it be a good idea to keep this stuff a secret? But then our conversation gets interesting. Like my guests – their guests are on holiday – and sometimes, that’s an invitation to behave badly. Traveling in multi-generation groups is particularly challenging – as we all know, and apparently getting on a cruise ship (or staying in a condo) doesn’t solve them!

On to happier topics, the guys go on to explain how the cruise system works – their boat is based out of San Juan, and they were on the most Southernly part of their trip when the hurricanes ran roughshod over the islands. This caused the ship to divert – landing most of the guests in Miami rather than San Juan. Naturally – some guests were really upset over this unexpected change of plans. Then they took several trips out of ports in Florida before FEMA hired the boat to provide housing for their staff in St. Croix. So now they are semi-permanently docked in Fredericksted, and providing ‘hotel’ rooms for FEMA, Red Cross, Corp of Engineers, etc. They are also providing entertainment – Hence the Comedian. There are over 500 Comedians who work for Carnival – rotating around ships so that the shows stay fresh for the guests.

And there’s a morgue on ship. With 2000 guests, 1000 crew – it’s a small city, and in a small city people die. And statistically because of the age issue (more cruisers are more older), deaths are more likely. Apparently, the per diem on a cruise ship competes with the per diem in a fancy full care facility – and it looks and smells a lot nicer! So there are folks who literally live on board ship. Maybe changing ships occasionally – or visiting family for a week or so – but effectively they are spending their retirement in a full care, luxury environment, with wait staff that know their names, porters who cater for their every needs – and nightly entertainment. Sounds like it might get a bit boring, but I can totally see why this solution would be super appealing.

Several topic shifts later, and we’re talking about being a Stand-up Comedian. Turns out that Tommy was the opening act for some major performers – including Cher. And he’s met Beth Middler among others. Must be an interesting life, eh? He tells me about after hour parties – for Cher they included bowling and going to the movies – but of course you don’t just go to the movies – you rent the entire theatre. I ask about private jets – but Tommy tells me that actually most of their travel – for the 3 years he was with Cher – were by bus. Very very fancy buses with lots of tiny bedrooms for the staff, but buses just the same.

We continue to chat – he talks about how he has to generate new material frequently – and can never be too overtly political today. Best topics are things we can all appreciate – like the issue of families divided along political lines. Some jokes have long lives, other jokes (like ones about the Hurricanes) were ‘old’ within a few weeks. Interesting, and not even close to anything I’ve ever talked about with anyone else. We chat about his ‘blog’, originally started long before the word ‘blog’ came along – it’s really his on-line journal. You can check out here: http://www.tommydrake.com/blog

Our time together has simply flown by – and the gate agents suddenly announce that our airplane as arrived from San Juan and boarding will begin immediately.

I say a fond goodbye to my fellow travellers – it’s been a fascinating 3 hours – but now it’s time to head on to Miami.

Frankly – I can’t wait!

Signing off to head on another adventure – The Soup Lady