Reflections and Other Tidbits We had heard that Manchester was an industrial city and not that appealing, but after all, our main purpose was to regroup with people that we had spent seven days on a cruise with and really enjoyed their company. By now you must realize that our first stop was the tourist office, for which I am gaining a new appreciation for. Not because they supply the bewildered with maps, but because they are a microcosm of what is available in a city. When you look at the postcards that a tourist office offers, it is a snapshot view of what you might be interested in seeing. They also have all of the city’s entertainment venues listed, public transportation information, Internet locations, and in Manchester, two other priorities: the location of the Hard Rock Café and Costco.For those of you who lack the ability or desire to shop at Costco or Price Club or other similar warehouse type stores, Costco is a giant warehouse that sells at a discount to members. It is an American company, but there is one in all of England, in Manchester and there was one in Glasgow, but we never made it there. We needed Costco, okay, are you ready to hiss? We needed to get cigarettes at a discount. Get it out of your system, make your mental comments of condescension, but it is a necessary evil for now. Costco here is more of a sociological outing then going for cigarettes. We could count on two hands the names of products that we could recognize. There were so many things in the food sections that were totally new to us. I would love to stay here for months, with taste buds, to taste all of it. It was wonderful and fun to see what they sell that is completely different from what we would see at home. Even the book selections were primarily English authors that we knew nothing about. Across the highway from Costco, there is a mall called Trafford Square. It is the largest in Europe. Actually, to call it a mall is denigrating and abusive. It is one of the most beautiful shopping complexes we have ever seen both outside and inside. The outside has columns, with a huge glass dome in the very center and four smaller glass domes on the four points. In between the domes are touches with flame lights to look like fires burning. Inside, there are themes. In one area, you are entering through Chinatown and all of the stores have a Chinese decorated front. Another area is New Orleans and you would swear you were in that city waiting for Mardi Gras to begin. One of our favorites was the cruise ship. The ceiling reached to the stars and the ceiling was painted as such. The entire area was like the deck of a cruise ship and the tables and chairs surrounded a huge swimming pool. The back wall was painted like a luxury liner. Everywhere else around the mall, were columns, wonderful fountains that performed water acrobatics, and of course Christmas decorations. We spent about three hours there wandering, drinking tea, and taking it all in. We could have spent as many more hours and still have more to see.Everywhere you walk in the city center of Manchester, there is a feast for the eyes in the architecture. The Victorian style replaced the previous Georgian, with grand style. Georgian is nothing to look at, it is very plain and lacks a great deal of appeal. With so much Victorian flourish, each building looks like a piece of art in itself. I realized that not all museums are indoors. This city is a museum that has not been fully appreciated. The primary Internet café here is an EasyEverything. This is the café that has monitors, keyboards, and a mouse without the hard drives. Until we find another café with the complete computers, I will not be able to send this off. We were able to check e-mail and respond to it, so I thought I would share some of the messages we have been getting.My friend Brian assured me that the bridges in San Francisco are still intact, in spite of the fact that the Governor added more security due to potential threats. I was fully relieved that I was not still commuting back and forth to the University of San Francisco for my doctorate at this point in time. Brian also suggested that my taste problems may be due to the heavy beers here. He had the same problem, but it was due to the hops. I shared with him that I drank heavy beers when living in California and never had a problem, so I think I can rule that out. Just before leaving, I went to an allergist and had a number of things ruled out.Ruth, my former co-worker said that my last e-mail sounded like I was a little homesick since our usual vacations were for a month and then back to the routine. Now we have been in Europe for over a month and the routine is yet in sight. I reminded her that when we do return, we will not be returning to California to live, so that will still be a major adjustment in our lives. We will have to start from scratch again in making friends in our new area. The one thing we won’t do again is overwhelm our lives with lots of furniture and ‘things’ that we can’t leave easily when we want to take off again.On our last day in Dublin, Ron and I had gone back to the National Library to do more family root farming. I wrote down all of the Frenches who left Ireland during the entire famine years. It only took two and a half hours. I e-mailed it to my aunt to see if any of the names fit any of the missing pieces of what she and distant cousins had uncovered. She wrote back that our family stayed in England. All of these years, I thought I was part Irish. All of that pride I displayed on St. Patrick’s Day for forty, plus, plus years for no reason. How disillusioned I feel, having lived a lie. Well I will tell you that come next March 17th I am eating chicken.Our Hawaiian friend Leinani keeps on me to turn out the chapters, being my most fervent cheerleader. I mention her Hawaiian heritage for a couple of reasons. One is so you know the origin of her beautiful name and the other is because I have dubbed her the Hawaiian Princess. Until recently she had flying privileges on United and was able to whisk herself away at a whim, vacation time allowing. United Airlines having major financial problems since September 11th, has cut her wings until sometime in 2002, if they are back up to financial par. Regardless of this hardship, Leinani suggested that she would be willing to take advantage of the low airfares and come visit us if we would just settle somewhere. I explained that if she wanted a larger part in this tome I am writing, she would have to be more involved. We have tentatively named the chapter “The Hawaiian Princess and Her Two Coconuts”. We are tentatively planning on making the rendezvous in Budapest. Hopefully, it will come to fruition and I can guarantee with Leinani it will be a lengthy chapter, as she will provide plenty to write about. It is exciting to have at least one friend who is not afraid to leave the States. Well, that is not exactly true. Our friends Myrtis and Randall are living in Slovakia, in the northern part of the country. Myrtis has been my mentor in traveling and exploring the potentials of living outside of the States. I hope I can find a fraction of the success she has had in doing it. Let me also share congratulations for them as they are celebrating their twentieth year of marriage this month.As the days in November pass by, I have been thinking ahead to the 15th, regardless of my ‘stay in the moment’ mantra. The 15th was supposed to be the day that Michelle is to move out of my father’s house. I will not place bets on this happening, but I will be curious to see what transpires, but then I received an e-mail from my sister-in-law, Colleen. Dear Dad called her and invited the four of them, my sister-in-law, my brother, and two nephews to Thanksgiving dinner stating ‘they’ meaning he and Michele, would do the cooking. Colleen used her standard response that she uses when she doesn’t want to say, “NO!” outright. She responded with “I have to ask my husband.” Then she called him back and explained that since this was the first time they would have a holiday in their own home, they wanted to make dinner there. To this, my father offers to cook the turkey along with Michele and her kids. That did not go over well with my brother or with Colleen, so they decided to go to Colleen’s sister’s home for the holiday. This will mean that Dad is left home by himself. In the time that we were there, Michele never cooked, ever. The most she did with food was throw cereal in a bowl for her kids’ breakfast. Since she does have family and friends, my prediction is that she takes off with them, leaves her kids with my father and the three of them fend for themselves. Happy Thanksgiving! The only part about this that I find so sad is that my father is too blind and stubborn to see that he is cutting himself off from his family, due to Michele. He has traded his grandchildren for a stranger and her children.Most of the afternoon, we spent looking for a place to stay for Friday and Saturday nights. Our hotel was fully booked and it seems so is everyone else in town. There is a convention in town and it is a home soccer match between Manchester and Sweden, this Saturday. Ron and I walked from hotel to hotel being rejected at each attempt to find a room. Each place graciously suggested other places to try, but each successive attempt was fruitless. We finally reached this little hotel off of the beaten track and they did have a room, but it was over a pub. Our only other choice was to leave Manchester earlier which would mean missing seeing Jean and going to the Lake District. The Tourist Bureau person told us that the Lake District was a ‘bit wild’ at this time of year with the weather and may not be our best choice. We booked the room over the pub and left our deposit of twenty pounds. We were cold and tired and really did not care at that point.As soon as we returned to our room, I started water for tea to warm up then noticed an envelope with my name on it on the bed. I thought perhaps that Michael had called and left a message for us. It was from the innkeeper at our current place. He had a cancellation for Friday and Saturday and he put our names on it if we still wanted it. What luck that was and we did not even mind having spent over two hours hotel hunting.To celebrate we had dinner at the Hard Rock Café. Our only real passion is to collect the pins from each city we visit that has one. Of course, we are impressed with some of the memorabilia decorating the walls too. Ron had asked our waitress what her favorite pieces were and she pointed them out. Then she returned with a guide to the memorabilia that was currently on display. Ron spotted Madonna’s condom on the list and knowing who some of her past lovers were, we were expecting quite a spectacular display. After dinner, we hunted it down and it was a closed package with her signature on it. Our active imaginations were thwarted.Hard Rock now has a special edition pin for September 11th. It is a guitar done in red, white, and blue with the date on it. All proceeds from the sale of this pin are going to charity in New York. We each bought one along with our usual collection pin that has Manchester on it.