Sunday, June 3, 2012

Which Way To Turn?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Just saying. If you and I are ever anywhere, and we're lost, don't look at me. I have no idea. My husband has learned not to go the way I insist is the right way, because it just isn't. But I am right often enough, by chance, not to be infallibly wrong, so we can't even count on that.
My dear pal and admired colleague Norb Vonnegut's wife is just the opposite. But let him tell you. And there are prizes in store!

NORB VONNEGUT: It's great to be back on Jungle Red. The last time was in 2009, when I explained the meaning of "hornet gak" and described how 5,000 flying, stinging, angry insects almost ate my first novel, Top Producer. It was, as you might guess, a terrifying start to my career as a writer.
I survived. My third novel, The Trust, is coming out this July. And now I'm working on my first piece of non-fiction with a co-author, who spent two years in jail. But I digress. Today, I really want to talk about travel mishaps.

You know what I mean. You're going someplace fun, someplace exotic, someplace to stretch out and recharge the batteries. There's adventure in the air. And boom—everything goes wrong. "The Human GPS" is a true and heroic story about my wife, Mary, who once fended off a marauding band of Venetian pirates.
What better way to launch into the summer than a discussion about travel misadventures, right? The idea for this post actually came from my longtime friend, Mark Sheehan, who is a travel writer living in Sydney, Australia.
Mark compiled a series of travel stories for his new book: Are Those Your Underpants on the Conveyor? Most proceeds will go toward a cure for cystic fibrosis, a cause that Mark has championed for decades.
When he asked me to contribute a short anecdote for the book, I jumped at the opportunity. The Human GPS is an early look at what's inside Mark's book, which releases later this summer.
So here's my question: Do you have a travel story?
Post a few lines here about your own misadventures, and I'll send a free paperback copy of The Gods of Greenwich to five people chosen at random by Hank.
And let's spice up the offer. I'll send a galley of The Trust to the first person who tells me something I don't know about Charleston, SC, where much of my novel takes place.
Enough already. Here's what happened to Mary and me in Venice.

 *****THE HUMAN GPS****
               By Norb Vonnegut
You know how we all have one special talent: the gift big enough to fill a room; or so subtle only our id knows for sure? I believe everybody has a knack, a flair, call it what you want. We each enjoy our own superpower.
My wife is a human GPS. You could drop Mary in the deepest, darkest Amazon rain forest, and she'd find her way home no problem. Urban sprawl is a piece of cake. She pooh-poohs electronic navigation systems when we're driving somewhere unfamiliar, finds the voices annoying no matter the gender or the accent. Mary grabs a map and takes over the navigation, which is fine from my perspective because I could get lost in our backyard.
There have been the occasional mishaps. We once drove to Gatwick, when our return flight to the USA was out of Heathrow. But that's another story, and Mary was diagnosed with chicken pox the day after we returned. So I'm inclined to think the circumstances were extenuating. Even Superman runs into the occasional case of kryptonite, right? 

This story is about Venice. The city is to tourists, I think, what the Himalayas are to mountain climbers. Don't get me wrong. I love the place. There just happen to be enormous challenges when touring the canals. And some are more serious than the navigation.
Several years ago, we were driving through Austria en route to Italy. And true to form, Mary was scrutinizing maps and reading a travel guide that described “marauding bands of Venetian pirates.
“Watch out,” the guide warned. “There are thieves are everywhere.”
Duly alerted, we resolved to keep our eyes peeled. But the "marauding bands of Venetian pirates" became something of a running joke during our drive. For that matter, the warnings seemed overblown upon arrival. There was a state-of-the-art parking garage on the mainland outside the water taxi stand. It was well staffed and well organized, the picture of efficiency. I think 747s would be lucky to receive the kind of guidance our parking attendants offered that day. No sign of bandits.
The drop zone for water cabs was our first hint something was amiss. Literally, it was a drop zone. The attendants—smiling and waving their arms in the manner that makes the Italian language so enchanting—guided us to the departure area, tossed our bags into the hands of the crew, and signaled for us to get in. Next stop Venice.
There was one problem. The drop was eight feet. There were no stairs or ladders, just lots of air separating us from the deck. It was, as you might guess, the kind of moment that gave us dry mouth.
We did it, grasping the walls, allowing our bodies to stretch as far down as possible, and finally dropping. Me first. I helped Mary, who stuck the landing, a couple of feet, no big deal. When we were both safe, we glanced at each other with knowing looks that said, "This isn’t right.”
Then we waited. Our boat captain explained that another family was arriving, which made me wonder what kind of monitoring system the garage used. After about 15 minutes, the couple and their kids arrived. They, too, stuck the landings, both Mary and me helping this time. The captain indicated we would go to their hotel first.
We drove across the harbor, breathtaking views of Venice, and exchanged pleasantries with the family. Like us, they were staying three days. Inside the city's canal system, a turn here and a turn there, the captain announced to our fellow passengers with the Cheshire cat smile, “We’re at your hotel.”
That’s when Mary kicked into action. She marched up to the front of the boat and stated, emphatic, resolved, 100 percent certain, “No we're not.”
Our captain pretended not to speak English. But he got the point. Mary gestured right, then left, and stabbed at her map of the canals with an insistent forefinger. He was cowed and, nodding his head with an expression that says "Yikes" in any language, started the boat again.
Mary tapped him on the shoulders when it was time to turn, her map and index finger always at the ready. After another twenty or so minutes, we arrived at the first hotel. The couple thanked us, packed up their kids, and disembarked. They told Mary, “Thank you. We would have been lost."
Then came our turn. The captain turned down one canal and proceeded to a dock, which looked like all the others. “We’re here.”
Mary folded her arms and shook her head, tapping her foot on the deck. The captain shrugged and started motoring again. He had this guilty look on his face, like he should have known better than to try a second time. Twenty minutes later we pulled up to our hotel.
In retrospect, I think we charged right into the marauding band of pirates from the guidebook. They wanted a quick drop, a quick buck, and a quick getaway. I don't claim to have any special insights into pirates. But as pirates go, I suspect these guys were fairly agreeable. They just happened to meet their match that day, my wife, the human GPS, the modern equivalent of Red Chief in the famous hostage story from O'Henry.

HANK: Travel stories? Charleston? As we said, there are prizes in store, so let's hear 'em! Me? I just wanna meet the fabulous Mary!


"When the money talks, I listen," says NORB VONNEGUT. He is the author of three financial thrillers including The Gods of Greenwich, which the NYT calls, "A gleeful peek at the world of hedge fund moguls." Stephen Frey says The Trust (available July 2012) "reels you in fast…then goes like lightning." Published in eight languages, Vonnegut has appeared on Bloomberg as well as the Dylan Ratigan, Judith Regan, and Laura Ingraham shows. Currently, he is working on his first non-fiction project—a true story about the American dream colliding with American justice.
Vonnegut brings a unique insider’s perspective to his writing. Before turning to color commentary on Wall Street, he built his wealth management career with Morgan Stanley, Paine Webber and other icons of finance. A Harvard College and Harvard Business School graduate, Norb splits his time between New York City and Rhode Island and is a Trustee for the American Foundation for the Blind. LIKE Norb Vonnegut Books on Facebook to learn more.


  1. Loved the Venice story, Norb . . . I’d have been toast at the eight foot drop. My husband is like your Mary --- he can navigate anywhere without missing a beat. Never gets lost . . . .

    Me, I can get lost going around the block. [I seriously suspect I could get lost in the back yard, too, but that hasn't happened --- yet.] My daughter gave me a GPS so I would stop getting lost, but I regularly end up somewhere other than where I am supposed to be anyway . . . keeps my jaunts between the New Jersey pine barrens and Norfolk, Virginia interesting [or, from my point of view, something akin to "Phew, thank God I made it!"]. Traveling by myself makes for one of those terror-laden experiences you sometimes read about and simply shake your head in disbelief --- except that in my case, it’s absolutely true.

    The only interesting Charleston, South Carolina fact I know is that the Citadel cadets fired the first shot of the Civil War. Charleston does boast several firsts for the United States, including the first playhouse, the first museum, and the first public college.

    Glad to see Ghost Elaine continues to grace us with her presence . . . .

  2. Thanks, Joan. That was some trip. En route to Italy, we were driving on an Austrian freeway, and some cop with a massive pistol fined us $200 for not having the right sticker on our car. Believe me, he was a lot scarier than the Venetian pirates. At least they were jolly.

    Good shot on the Charleston facts. It won't be hard for somebody to win a galley of The Trust, but the Citadel.... My brother wears the ring. You'll understand the importance if you're a Pat Conroy fan.

  3. Yes, the ghost of Elaine. I cannot figure it out.

    Hey, Norb!

    Yeah, we have a gps in the car for our news assignments, and the camera guys always drive. Its always distressing though-they hate to follow the drections, and are always saying-oh,I know a better way. Rarely true.

  4. I've got enough travel stories to write my own book, Norb. Like the jeep driver on the way to Ladakh who thought he'd save money by switching off the engine going downhill on a steep Himalayan and unpaved road. I had to slap his hand every time it went near the keys.

  5. Norb, wonderful story--thanks for visiting. We are going to Venice in October--is your wife free? I can assure you our traveling companions would not be doing an 8 foot drop...

    Rhys, where were you sitting that you had access to the driver's hand??

    Last time my brother in law and sister visited us in Key West, we rented a small motorboat--a very sketchy craft. And the directions were sketchy too--follow the "bubba sticks". Bubba sticks are thin poles stuck into the sand bars, practically impossible to find. Only my b in law could have navigated us back to safety as a huge, black front chased us off the water...we'll go with him anywhere!

  6. Love the Venice story, Norb! If I ever get to Venice again, I'll have my map at the ready:-)

    I have a fair sense of direction, and am a pretty good navigator with a map. But I hate driving in the UK by myself, where there is often no place to pull over and consult the map. Last time I hired a car there, I thought, "Oh, a sat nav!" But that's a story for another blog. Just suffice to say next time I'll stick to the map....

  7. Yes, once Jonathan and I were driving from Boston to NYC via GPS. It said it would take 5 hours. It doesn't, you know? I checked the inner directions-and it was taking us via New Jersey.

  8. Welcome, Norb! Funny story! When we travel, my husband Ben drives and I navigate with maps. I have a pretty good sense of direction (though nothing like Mary's). Ben could get lost in the backyard or even the upstairs. I want to buy him a GPS for Christmas.

    As far as Charleston goes, from its earliest days bands of Catawba and Cherokee Indians settled with the white settlers and helped defend them against hostile tribes, as well as fighting in the Revolutionary War as members of Marion's Brigade.

  9. Hank, that's hysterical. Your camera guys have control freak battles with the GPS? I have this vision of them talking back to the lady giving instructions.

    Rhys, yikes! Going downhill in the Himalayas sounds scary with or without the engine running. Many of my really good travel stories are from epic bike rides. Mary and I once biked 1,500 miles across Europe.

    Lucy, Mary says she's available. I keep telling her that she's the Rolls Royce of GPS. :)

  10. Linda, that's good about the Catawba and Cherokee Indians. It helps explain the legend of the Swamp Fox!

  11. I loved Venice. Luckily I had no such adventure there. My travel story takes place in France. A sixty-ish woman traveling alone, I had my itinerary all planned, beginning in Arras, north of Paris, using their wonderful train system, then working my way south, where trains run less often. One morning, standing in the Paris station, I climbed on board a train heading south. I would make a connection to another train and continue to Tours. People were talking about a train strike but I figured it wouldn't effect me. While waiting in line at Angers, a journalitst from a French newspaper interviewed me. He was surprised I had to come from Paris to Angers to get to Tours, something I hadn't questioned in the Paris station.Long story short, I had to stay in Angers, and saw a wonderful castle and the Tapestry of the Apocolypse. If not for the train strike I'd have missed Angers. It taught me never to complain about a plan gone awry. It was meant to be, and pleasant surprises sometimes make the best memories.

  12. Norb, what's the Kurt Vonnegut quote about "peculiar travel suggestions...?"

  13. Hank,

    Travel = dancing lessons from God. Something like that. Is that the one you mean?

  14. I have no sense of direction either, but compensate with a sense of humor. In addition to being "directionally challenged" I also have "name dyslexia" which makes it hard to go wherever to see what's her name . . . and GPSs have their own sense of humor -- "Turn left" at a cliff, a lake, someone's driveway . . .
    Marsh Passmore, who organized our storytelling cruises ("Like herding cats") would admonish that if you didn't want unexpected events, you should just stay home and sort socks. I'll admit to a couple of times when the socks sounded like a good option, but I met helpful angels, and the events made good stories later.

  15. Exactly, NOrb. Which I've always loved. Are you related?

  16. Mary, that's lovely.

    MY favoirite GPS phrase is "recalculating"--which means YOU TURED THE WRONG WAY, SILLY, BUT WHO AM I TO CRITICIZE.

    Now, when I make a mistake, I just say that. "Oh, recalculating."

  17. Norb, your wife is a treasure. You obviously already worked that one out, though. :-)

    I'm the navigator of our family, and love maps. So far, I've driven in 49 of the 50 US states (just missing Alaska), and in France. My husband drove us in Australia, where the maps the rental car company gave us were state of the art. They even showed phone boxes, restrooms, and anything else you could think of, all perfectly accurate. Sadly, it didn't keep us on the "wrong" side of the road. Daily my absent-minded hubby tried to take out half the populace. Only the fact that there were two of us "driving" the car saved our butts.

    My youngest daughter wears the ring, Norb. She was the 171st woman to graduate from the Citadel, which only began accepting women 10 years before she became a knob.

  18. Karen, we could talk. My wife is a treasure. And I am so impressed that your daughter wears the ring. So does Biscuit Hughes, who's one of the characters in my novel, The Trust.

    Mary and I spent three years in Australia. She saved us from getting lost in the Tasmanian mountains, and I proposed a few days later. :)

    Hank, fourth cousin. Do you know his son, Mark, who is a doctor in the Boston area?

  19. Norb, I definitely get the importance of the Citadel ring [Pat Conroy aside] . . . my oldest daughter wears one from the Air Force Academy.

    Who knew church could be a wealth of Charleston facts?! Here's what I discovered this morning during coffee fellowship: The first synagogue in the United States was located in Charleston . . . . The British flag was taken down and replaced by the American flag for the first time in Charleston . . . . The first golf club was located in Charleston where the first golf game in the United States was played. Got to hand it to the golf players from the south who shared coffee with me this morning and made me a bit wiser in the process!

    Hank, I am rolling on the floor over the Boston to New York City via New Jersey!

  20. Wow! I had no idea we had such a glorious family here at JRW! So lovely to learn all of this.. YOu must be so proud! (we are, too!)

    (My closest brush with the military was my pre-teen crush on all the cadets at Culver MIlitary Academy when we'd go to Lake Maxinkuckee in the summer. There was a horse patrol, if I remember correctly, that would send us all into swoons.)

  21. Yes, NOrb, I do! And remember, I grew up in Indianapolis, so we're all about Kurt Vonnegut. As Mark Vonnegut and I discussed--his dad and my dad were high school classmates, and then in a German prison camp together.

    And there we were, Mark and I, together by chance, at a booksigning in Boston, 60-plus years later.

  22. I have a good sense of direction, but that doesn't stop me from getting lost. I'm a great believer in asking for directions, which would be hard to do in the middle of a canal in Venice. Your wife sounds remarkable. And so many of you have reasons to be proud. Hank, what a remarkable story about your respective dads. Quite a story for a Sunday morning.

  23. I'm with StorytellerMary, Norb and I think Hank in the no-sense-of-direction department, which is why I usually give at least one of my characters in each book and awesome sense of direction. It's so amazing to me.

    Loved the Venice story! Three friends and I "rented" our friend's Deux Cheveaux in Aix-en-Provence one year with idea of driving all the way to Greece (via the ferry that takes cars). It broke down the first time in the French Alps - on one of those really hairy roads where the you feel like you are driving off a cliff. It broke down three more times before we abandoned it in the Touran airport. Since it was "spring break" for just about every study-abroad program, we could only get cattle car train tickets from there on. A six hour train ride to Brendezi (Sp?) was horrific, but at 19, you can stand anything.


  24. I'm not bad at directions as long as I can gesture with my hands, as in "Turn that way or take that exit."

    My best travel story comes from China. Since I'm a bit of a germaphobe I had my own roll of toilet paper and a big bottle of Purell--everyone thought that was very funny. Halfway between Beijing and Nanning we stopped for a bathroom break. The bathroom was a unisex trough in a hut. No running water to wash hands, no hand sanitizer and no toilet paper other than mine. I was suddenly very popular.

  25. Darlene, were you a camper as a child? I like that preparation.

    Okay, Joan. A challenge from the peanut gallery here. I thought the Touro Synagogue in Newport was the oldest.

    Hank, 4th cousin. Tell Mark he owes me lunch.

    Storytellermary, I love the image of "helpful angels."

    You know, everybody, I finally understand Jungle Red's tag, "The View. With Bodies." We've got all these conversations going at the same time. :)

  26. ha, ha, Norb, so glad you get our tagline! We've been arguing over "The View. With Bodies." I love it but a couple of us not so much...

  27. Norb, this it terrific. I love adventure trips! Do something different. Make life not boring. Hate boring living.

    OK. My best trip ever was a decision I made at school on the way home to Boston. I had to turn a less than adventurous academic experience into something more. Our tutor asked what we were doing with ourselves, and I said I was going shopping. I know this doesn't sound exciting or adventuresome, but I knew it could be.

    I had to think fast. Everyone assumed I was headed to London. I couldn't leave that deadly impression lingering so said the first thing that came to mind. No, not London. I was going to take the Reykjavik route home. Still it doesn't sound like an adventure, I know.

    At this point you have to let your mind out of its cage for a moment, like when you're writing. Be on the lookout for something different - not danger, just a teensy bit beyond the same as always. You know that place. It's where almost everyone lives, and where you might live most of the time. You are not irresponsible. You like to live indoors, mostly... and eat, and pay the rent. After all someone has to pay for all this fun, and it might be you.

    For me that day, this all meant getting on the plane at Heathrow and heading for Iceland. Right away there was my adventure that made the whole term worth it. I was directed to my seat in a three-seat across spot occupied by two Icelandic fisherman.

    My fishermen spoke English well enough to know I didn't speak Islenska. They decided to teach me and facilitated the lessons with vodka. We had a great time into Reykjavik and better on learning that we were all headed to Logan. It seems their boat was iced in and they had to fly around to a place where they could get to it via another route. It sounded like one of my father's stories, so I didn't believe any of it.

    The more vodka we had, and the bitchier the lovely Iceland Air attendant got, the more I believed them. These two were fishermen. I'm from Salem and Marblehead, and I know fisherman. They were the real thing. I just wasn't sure about anything else. We talked the whole way. I learned new curse words. New songs. How to read a few words. Where to go in Iceland for a good time. All the best stuff. Sad, sad, sad to land in Boston! My big adventure over I left my fisherman to their boat-finding expedition and started the lookout for another. There was time. School didn't start up again for a few weeks.

  28. My worst travel adventure was sleeping in the car at a truck stop on the Autobahn. Don't do that. Not ever.

  29. Hank, who cares? I think Mark would find it an honor to buy you and me lunch. Tell him I told you.

    Lucy, okay I have a confession. I don't understand the part about "bodies." Is this a stupid boy question because I don't watch The View?

    Joyce, should Mary and I visit Angers? I'd get lost alone.

    Reine, I love Iceland which is why I described it in The Gods of Greenwich. Did you try hakarl? The right answer is no. Did you visit the Blue Lagoon, home of the hot springs and martinis? The right answer is yes.

  30. Norb? Are you serious? Harkarl? Isn't that shark poop or something?

    Anything with a hot spring (other than Bodfish, California), especially if it involves good drinkies, I'm in. I had a childhood goal of riding one of those gorgeous Icelandic horses, and there was a stable near enough.

  31. Norb: This required some digging, but here is what I found:
    Touro Synagogue in Newport is the oldest still standing synagogue, from 1759.
    Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue in Charleston was founded in the 1740s but the synagogue was destroyed in the Charleston fire of 1838; the 1840 building, which was built on the site of the first synagogue, is the second-oldest still standing synagogue [with Touro Synagogue being the first].

    Who knew a coffee fellowship conversation could yield such history?! It's all good to know . . . .

  32. Okay, Joan. That's brilliant. Tell me where to send the galley of the trust. My email address is:

    Reine, hakarl is fermented shark that has been buried in the sand for six weeks, hung up to dry for six weeks, sliced into strips and cubed. It smells like the public restrooms on the NJ Pike.

  33. Hahahahahaa! Norb, right... as I said.

  34. NOrb, we're mystery authors, so the "bodies" refers not to the eight of us authors, but to the people we kill off in the books.

    I'm in the "yes" column for liking the tag line, but Lucy is correct that there are some nay-sayers.

    I told my mother once my boyfriend and I were driving back to college in Ohio, but we actually were driving to New York. Which we did! I don't think I EVER revealed the truth.

    Hakarl sounds disgusting. But let's get Hallie to try it. She'll eat anything.

  35. Hank, I feel so slow. I get it. And love it.

  36. Norb--you know other stuff, much of which is impossibly complicated. xxoo

  37. Norb, I'd like to add that I am hugely afraid of money, so I think you are very brave.

  38. I prefer maps and do not want GPS. When I have been a passenger with drivers who have it, they have usually given up and consulted a map. I don't at all care for the Recalculating Witch of GPS. Her voice, no matter which witch it is, grates on my nerves. That's just me; I'm sure she/they have fans!

    A couple of years ago I had a very AGGRAVATING Amtrak train trip from New Haven CT to the Metropark stop in NJ to visit family. I do it 2 or 3 times a year; it's uneventful. When I checked in at the ticket window I was told the train would be "late". I asked HOW late."Maybe a couple hours, maybe longer." The trip is only around two and a half hours. After about three hours,a new announcement:the train wasn't coming. None of the other NJ bound trains that originated east of New Haven showed up,either-something to do with flooding on the tracks from a couple of days earlier! In the end, Amtrak took an Acela train off the schedule to transport all those whose trains had not shown up that morning. After we had been enroute for a while,it was announced that we would not know until just before reaching Penn station if Penn Station would be the end of the line for us,making it necessary to find alternate transportation the rest of the way. Closer to Penn Station we were told ALL of the NJ stops would be made. The crew thanked all the passengers for their patience, said they would be leaving us at Penn Station, a new crew would get on. Next stop after Penn Station was Newark. New announcer said the next stop would be Philadelphia! Many of us questioned any conductors we could find and were all told to get off the train! Someone asked "what are we supposed to do NOW? We were assured that all the Jersey stops would be made". An unsympathetic conductor said to go inside the station and "see about buying tickets to wherever you're going." LOTS of angry people headed towards the stairs and into the station. it was a long walk to a ticket window and there were long lines of mostly the people who had been on the train with me. I decided to see if I could get a ticket to the MetroPark station from a vending machine,which I did. Someone in the vending machine line told me how to find the track I needed. We struck up a conversation and i old her what had happened on the Amtrak train. She had been wondering where all the people came from! Later on, I ran into her again while I was waiting for the NJ Transit train to arrive,and she said "listen!They just made an announcement about the Amtrak train stopping in NJ after all!"It was announced again but I was too far away from the Amtrak train by then to get back to it on time so I stayed where I was. Meanwhile, my sister left home to pick me up at MetroPark. She knew my new Amtrak arrival time was only an approximate time. I called her cell phone to let her know I would be even later because I'd been kicked off the Amtrak train. My nephew answered the phone, and I assumed he was with her and that she had instructed him to answer the cell phone for her. No...she left the phone at home! I told my nephew what happened, just in case she should happen to call home from a pay phone to see if they had heard from me. When I did not get off the Amtrak train she went to the ticket agent to ask if another train was expected soon. The answer was No. The agent asked who she was supposed to meet. my sister gave her my name. The agent checked the computer and said "she got on the train in New Haven".The Amtrak train was gone by then and my poor sister was trying not to assume that someone had thrown Big Sis off the train. Right around then she realized that she did not have her phone with her. Just as she put some coins into a pay phone I had arrived at MetroPark and nearly walked into her while she was on the phone calling home! All my Jersey trips since then have returned to boring/relaxing.

  39. Deb, I am exhausted just reading this. What a mess! YOu are so--persistent! xoxo

  40. Deb, boring is good.

    Who's watching Mad Men, including me? I can't wait to see what happens with Peggy.

  41. I so wish we had cable. I'm dying to see where Peggy ends up.

    Deb, you couldn't have planned that any better!

    Just realized: Elaine is no longer haunting the blog. Don will be so relieved.

  42. Karen,

    Elaine is still on MY screen. I just checked. Kind of nice to see her here, although I hope that her ghostlike presence here doesn't prevent her from going anywhere else that she needs to be!

    Linda Rodriguez and Gail Lukasik,
    If either of you are around,your help with writing prompts worked out really well when I visited my sister at the nursing home this afternoon. Thanks again! I told her that she now has to write in the new notebook I left with her at least twice a week and that I WILL call her to check up on her. (Since she lives in another city I can only visit once a week.) At first she was hesitant,grumbled about her handwriting (it's far better than mine)but then she threw herself ino it. We read to each other what we had each written. She does difficult crossword puzzles in INK. I told her that if she can do that,she can regain her writing skills.

  43. Deb, that brings tears to my eyes. Wonderful. Keep us posted, okay? And whoa--ink?

    Norb--tivo'ing Mad Men. I know--outrageous. But we have to watch basketball.

  44. Deb, I am so glad your sister has you. xo You are the best. xo