Today’s novel avoidance strategy consisted of scanning and making far-distant vacation plans. Once you take a cruise they never let you go. There are offers in the mailbox weekly, and it’s a constant battle between Regent and Holland America. The former is small, with small ships; the latter is large, with large ships. I like both. One is expensive, with cold gut-clench prices, and the other - hey, I can swing that! Then you dig down for details.

Holland America: you get three hots and a cot. The food’s nice and the room's great and the ship is fantastic, but really, three hots and a cot. You pay for everything else, from the soda to the excursions to the transportation to the ship to the internet. No, that’s not fair. Coffee’s free. It’s just not very good coffee. Gratuities are not included, so everyone’s got their hand out at the end of the cruise.

Regent: the blood-draining price is 2 for 1. That’s a relief, but still. Then again, it includes drinks. And by “drinks” they mean any possible fluid that comes in bottles. You walk up to the bar on a Holland America ship - or most any other line - and say “Maker’s Mark and a red wine,” and bang it’s a double-sawbuck, the Maker’s carefully rationed, the bartender expecting a cut. You hand over your card, and numbers scuttle from your ledger to theirs. The food is better, and the coffee is incredible, right down to the 24-hour machine that expresses expresso whenever you wish. So that helps. Gratuities are included. Excursions? There are 74 excursion opportunities on this trip. They’re all included. Transportation from the hotel to the airport? I don’t believe it’s included, but they throw in a “Luxury hotel package” if you want to come the night before.

One more thing: airfare is included.

Annnd they throw you about $400 to spend in the gift shops, which you don’t, because everything’s $500, so you apply it to internet.

I’m sure someone’s run the numbers and discovered that the two cruises cost exactly the same in the end, but there’s something about EVERYTHING INCLUDED that makes you relax. I know that when I’m paying for everything, my inner Scrooge McDuck cudgels his way to the fore and says nay, ye’ll not have a glass o’ wine with the dinner. That’s seven whole American dollars. Likewise, an excursion: uh, how about the bus ride into town instead of the tour of Vilnius? That’s just $80 per person instead of $235, and we can study up beforehand and do our own tours!

Still thinking about it. But after years and years of travelphobia, I am intent on making up the most of future experiences. Since I love cruise ships, I suppose this means I will just explore coastal regions, but it’s better than sitting at home and scanning and resizing photographs.

Which I did this evening. But before that, it was grocery shopping in advance of the winter storm. Snow in great quantities was predicted. Yet the Oreos have already made the change:



So obviously the snow won’t last long.


Here’s some fruit of the scanner: every picture of my Grandmother, she’s doing this.



She’s looking off into the distance, ramrod straight, vague expression of irritation on her face. All right, child, take the picture, I’ve chores to do. The books I scanned were two volumes I got from my dad’s garage the last trip home, books I did not know existed. My mother’s. Junior high, which I believe was at the Schoolhouse down the road, and Senior, which was in town. Dozens of tiny blurry grainy photos of her friends. I loved my mother, but she was not a good photographer. Nevertheless, there are things to save and savor, images to resurrect.

Before I burn them all.

I’m serious. The photo albums are big and inefficient; thick covers, thick black paper, six tiny photos per page. If I save them forever they will inevitably end up in the hands of someone with no emotional connection to anyone in the pictures, and they won’t know who these people are. Hell, I don’t know who these people are. The photos will be tossed, or sold to an antique store, where a cold-eyed reaper will cull the pix and toss the best into a box. Vintage Images, a buck a throw. I feel bad for everyone I see in antique store photo bins. I’m sure someone cared once, but in the end, no one did.

When I took the pictures out of the book for scanning, I saw something that made me smile:

She’d tagged them. She wrote the names of everyone on the back of the photos. They’re all familiar names, too. Dick Mickelson. Dick and his sister Donna. I heard the names growing up; they sent cards on my birth, cards at Christmas. The names of her friends were like asteroids orbiting out beyond Pluto, part of our family cosmos, but impossibly remote.

You can only reconstruct so much: we will never know who’s in the mask. Halloween. 1943:



Hold on, a zombie:


And it’s contagious!



Anyway. I spent three hours listening to the news about the All Important Primary Race while I ran these things through all sorts of filters, teasing and fixing. Most of the picture are less than two inches wide, with a few exceptions. One of them turned out to look like a painting when I was finished, and it made me want to go back in time and adjust the composition, because it verges on the marvelous.

Anyway, it’s all HERE, just seven pages for now, but more to come. Enjoy!











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