Automotive interlude

If there was a contest for “unexpected blog topics from Keri,” Automotive Interlude would surely be in the top handful. I have lived happily car-less since 1999 and if I’m ever the victim of a hit-and-run, the only thing I’m likely to remember of the offending vehicle would be its color.

I admit I like seeing the Fiat 500s – which are legion around here because Italy is so close – in their signature pastel colors. They remind me of Scrubbing Bubbles from the old commercial.

Not so much like a car at all! More like a friendly cartoon problem solver!


My real love is my bike, Philippe the Black. I’m afraid I don’t have a photo, because I zip around so fast it’d be impossible to get one. Or, because I can’t hold a phone and bike at the same time. Whatever, Philippe has taken me many, many unheralded miles around DC, and a very countable 490 miles in Iowa – in the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) 2003. (That would be a subject for a blog post – if I had pix. Ragbrai is a whole host of weirdness, and corn. But anyway…)

Ramon thinks about cars sometimes – more than I do, at least. In part it’s his environmentalism – he wants to make sure his next vehicle is on the right side of history. Diesel might have been a choice some years ago, but now it’s electric, or hybrid, or scooter, or…? We won’t be faced with this question for a while, though, so who knows what will have been invented by then.

Getting around Tunis

Here we walk, bike, or taxi. We generally stay pretty close to home – though in normal times, of course, Ramon has an office to go to. Together we’ve taken just one trip out of the city, to the other coast; and once my friends visited and we drove to Kairouan and El Djem (the Colosseum).

The car-buying options are all so very unappetizing:

  1. New cars here are expensive but since Ramon’s a diplomat, we’d be tax-exempt. Okay… but a car that’s been imported to Tunisia costs 30% more here than it would 35 miles away in Sicily. We’d also have trouble selling it when we leave.
  2. Used car sales get no break on taxes – which makes it near the price of a new car, but without the guarantee and the ‘certainty’ of a new car. Ramon and I are, generously speaking, inept, and cannot be expected to do anything other than filling the gas tank, and mopping up anything we might spill on the seats.
  3. Buying in Europe and bringing it here on a ferry – which would be cool just because of the boat* – unfortunately involves a months-long, crazy permissions process and that every time Ramon travels out of the country (which, in normal times, is often twice- or thrice-monthly) he will have to get permission from the Tunisian government to leave the car here. I know, right? Bureaucracy.

So we debate the options, can’t decide, eventually drop the issue, and keep going on foot and in taxi, then eventually we talk about it again. New? Used? Euro version? Pretty soon we’ll finish here, never having had a car, and go somewhere else – hopefully where we can also get by well without one.

New development: Tunisia is building its own cars.

But… a funky vehicle has popped up on the streets here: the Wallys Car.

How cool would that be? Support a very new Tunisian business, bounce around the side roads exploring and hiking, and it appears to come with a cat??? Oh, wait, no. But still.

The Wallys Car costs 15k-20k Euros, depending on the model. It comes in red, blue, gray and orange, at least. This model is called the Iris, and there’s another one that’s really like an old Jeep, with the bikini and hard tops and tons of colors.

The fiberglass shell is really weird – it looks like Batman’s costume from one of the early movies. Or something even cheaper, like the plastic case of a socket wrench set you might buy at Lowe’s. But it’s got to be light, right? Their website says they’ve been working on this for years, with the first prototype ready in 2016 – and just gone on sale this year. How cruel is the pandemic to this small business? But still, I’ve seen three or four driving around, and I kind of wish we were up for spending a chunk of money on a dream like this.

Any other Tunisian options?

Well the motorcycle is ubiquitous, like this little number carrying beach toys:

And who wouldn’t take a rainbow-strip Lada wagon? I could be convinced!

Footnote and gratitude

Outside our window, at least once a week, we see this massive ferry with big red swirls on its flanks, on its way to or from Genoa, Italy. So many people wanting to go to Europe – many from West Africa – have made their way here, or to Libya, and want to set out across the Mediterranean – in a raft, very often. It’s a cruel irony that cars can do it pretty freely but humans can’t.

It’s also ironic that North Africa didn’t close its doors to European migrants during World War II – there was always enough room here for escape from the ravages of a continent devouring itself.

I’m massively grateful for the ease of my life, including my education and my ability to earn a living. And my ability to travel – something I never doubted until the pandemic. These days, $3 and an American passport will get you a cup of airport coffee, but it won’t get you into most countries. That reminds me that my good fortune is not to be taken for granted, either.

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Vote… any way you can!

Any kind of voting looks suspect, if there aren’t enough people on your side to vote you in. Trump is a dangerous, wounded beast right now – he’s liable to say and do anything to keep his base on side and suppress any other votes he possibly can.

Want to get involved? Here are some links to call voters, or sign up to be a poll worker:

Victory 2020
Badass Babes for Biden/Harris (This link is to a guide for their Wednesday evening 6-7:30 PM phone banking – for more info, go to www.TheWoolfer.com)
Poll worker volunteers (nationwide link and you pick your jurisdiction)

Trump has made endless false claims about voter fraud, and even suggested holding off the election “till it’s safe” – till it’s safe for him, that is. As the health and economy of the country have tanked on his watch (and in part resulting from his flagrant idiocy), he is less and less likely to win reelection – which is quite a rebuke for incumbents. He can’t handle the idea that this fate could befall him, despite the widespread, thoroughgoing, cross-cultural, cross-party, fervent efforts to ensure it does. (I’m so ready for the befalling!)

So he and his lovestruck mouthpiece Hannity – after talking about mail vote fraud for months – now even say in-person voting is suspect. Trump promises to send police to polling places.

Can we think about that a minute? How exactly would a sheriff or police officer know someone was attempting to commit voter fraud? By profiling. That’s the only tool they have.

That’s the only tool they have – they are not experts on who’s allowed to vote, they don’t have the voter rolls, their ONLY tool is profiling. Who? Hispanics, Blacks, anyone not a white male.


Voting against Trump? Your vote is at risk

Voting While Black. Voting While Hispanic. Voting while poor, or non-binary, or voting by a person with a disability. (Remember Trump’s reprehensible parody of a reporter who had a disability during the 2016 campaign? I still don’t understand how his campaign did not END in that instant.) Anyway, the list of at-risk voting continues: Voting while elderly. Voting while in a covid risk category. Voting from overseas. Voting by absentee ballot, voting by universal mail-in ballot, voting after you’ve automatically received a form from your state to register to vote. Voting in person. Voting while sane will be the next target.

Remember this: If the GOP had put half as much effort into reaching out to non-white voters over the past ten years, into ensuring the “Big Tent” they long promised, they would not have to resort to this further gutting of what Republicans once could have been said to stand for.

The conservative Heritage Institute has amassed a database of around 1,200 cases of voter fraud. Oh my gosh, 1,200! That’s a lot of voter fraud, right? Trouble is, this 1,200 is the grand total across FOUR DECADES! That averages to about 30 per year, and includes really small-potatoes stuff. But even if all 1,200 were concentrated in one year in one jurisdiction, they would not have swung one state in a single presidential election.

On mail-in voting, there are checks on signatures and bar codes that prevent double-voting, much less fraud on a scale big enough to swing the election. (Another source on the gross exaggeration of vote fraud)

Here’s an analogy:

“Nearly every home in America has a hammer, a device that could be used to break into a car. But very, very few hammers are used for that purpose, and, if someone gave you an extra hammer, the odds are low that you would then use that hammer to steal your neighbor’s Corolla.” So, if you were to get an extra ballot, does it mean you’ll necessarily try to vote twice?

Philip Bump, columnist, in the Washington Post

What do election boards do?

Votes have always been rejected for being late, for being provisional and the election’s board can’t be sure it’s legit, for being mis-marked (remember the infamous chads?) Fraud has been prosecuted – see the Heritage report for details – so Trump’s repeated and unsubstantiated assertions that MASS fraud would go undetected is demonstrably false. Our elections boards are not mindlessly tallying votes without checks and balances.

In fact, more mail-in ballots are rejected than in-person ones (for omitted signatures, missing a deadline, or not having a postmark, among other things. And we don’t yet know the effect of Trump’s attempts to seed the US Post Office with his buddy). Given the likelihood of chaos and a potential “red mirage” with the increase in mail ballots, combined with underfunded state elections boards, we’ve got to do all we can to get our votes in and counted.

So, if you can:

  • Vote in person – early or on the day
  • Call voters (VICTORY 2020, BADASS BABES FOR BIDEN/HARRIS)
  • Turn in your ballot in person
  • Track your ballot’s status on your state elections board website
  • Help neighbors or relatives get their votes in or get to the polling stations
  • Volunteer at the polls (POLL WORKER VOLUNTEERS)
  • Join League of Women Voters (my mom was a big participant!)
  • Join Fair Fight (Stacy Abrams!!! Love her! Woulda been a helluva VEEP.)
  • Check out the Brennan Center, which fights voter suppression
  • Check out other sources (Wikipedia, Time magazine, ACLU, Isabel Wilkerson’s explosive new book, Caste, Demand The Vote, Facebook’s Zuckerberg – no paragon of the left – putting up $300m on this issue) to see how voter suppression’s history has affected our democracy. It has been flagrantly, fiercely and cruelly used primarily against Black people to minimize their voices. The last twenty years have seen a terrible resurgence of these techniques.

You believe in democracy, or you wouldn’t be reading my blog. I hope this gives you some ideas on how to get involved!


American interests

And why is Trump so worried about mail voting fraud but so blissfully unconcerned about Russia’s attempt to use social media to influence the elections? And why has he pressured the Census Bureau to speed up both the decennial count (with its importance for apportioning representation across the country) as well as the Bureau’s own checks and balances? If Trump had Americans’ interests at heart, it would have shown up by now. He just wants to win and he doesn’t care what it costs.

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July letters

Still pulling out these letters, that feel old and creaky even though they’re not long ago. I’m fascinated by how my perspective changes and I don’t even notice it. As cases start to rise again in mid- to late-July, Ramon is safely home from Madrid – and Spain is re-classified at an Orange level of danger. Cases are popping up around us here – ten at the airport, bunches in different parts of Tunisia. Ah, crap, I’m scared again.

But the month ends on a joyful note. A new eight-pound relative!


July 2

To a friend/colleague I used to love coming home from work travel and seeing Ramon after time away. Alone time is so valuable, and so rare. (When he goes for a run, I scootch out to the living room and take command of the remote, even if he’s only going to be gone a half hour!)

I’m back at the gym these days, because they’re insane with cleanliness, and because Tunisia has almost non-existent infection rates. I’m also cooking less, in part because of work, in part because it’s hot, and in part because I’ve gained five or ten pounds!!! Oops.

July 2 (from among my Damn Trump series of letters)

To my cousin I think my dad is going stir-crazy but it’s no time to lift restrictions now. Missouri’s numbers are not growing as fast as other parts of the country, but too fast for comfort. Damn Trump! Damn his gutting the systems that would have made a difference before this began, and damn his campaign-centric and inflammatory responses that caused another spike!

July 2

To the Lambert Airport friend, quoting something she wrote to me “Faith is being sure of the things we hope for.” That is poignant. I hope I see my mom in the next life. I hope people are basically good, like Anne Frank wrote. That one gets tested – but I’ve got a nugget of optimism, an ember that has never gone out. Reading helps too – because goodness is, in part, imagination. Hope certainly is.

July 9th

To an American friend I met in Rome, who shared summer tales

The best things about summer are:

470 Best Fireflies images | Firefly, Lighting bugs, Firefly ...

And

Picture 8 of 8

And the worst thing about summer is:

Mosquito Control: How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes

What I would love is if they tested me and said, “Hey, you know, you’ve got the antibodies! You must have had it without symptoms.” Because I like getting good things the easy way.

July 12th (on interviewing)

To the Lambert Airport friend People share lots of stuff in interviews, even personal things, even when we’re talking about something mundane. It’s happening in polls right now. People are more bored/lonely/anxious and prone to answer phone surveys, prone to stay on the call longer. Many people have never been interviewed, and appreciate being listened to. I taught myself to take a breath and just listen when they seem to be off on a tangent. I can’t let it go on indefinitely but if I let them get out a few stories, maybe I will ease their burden a bit. Loneliness is a bear.

July 20th (poor Ramon…)

To a friend in Minneapolis, the one who cooks I’ve sent a list of stuff for Ramon to bring back from Madrid – nutritional yeast, a lemon squeezer, cheesecloth, nutritional yeast and red pepper flakes, vanilla paste, dry gnocchi, plastic zipper freezer bags that you don’t throw away, a cooking thermometer and scale, a scrapey thing for getting dough off the counter… Also Benadryl, face cream, chewable mulitvitamins, Benadryl, Tom’s toothpaste, a webcam, a mouse pad, leg waxing strips. See what I mean about his suitcase being FULL?

July 29th (joy letters!)

To my stepsister, a newly minted grandma The little tyke is cute as a bug. Ramon insists Kacey is ‘glowing’. (I thought she looked a bit exhausted and maybe panic-stricken, but it’s possible both of us are projecting.) We’re so happy for you all and sending lots of love!


If you’ve read this far, you might also enjoy more posts of letters, for March, April, May, and June 2020, chronicling life and coronavirus and politics and relationships and, again, life.

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Feeling cheffy

A bunch of years ago, my friends Liz and Andy held a Murder Mystery party, purportedly set on the Orient Express. We were all suspects of having killed someone and we had little cards saying how we would behave. Oh, I remember parties! With people! Those were the freakin’ days!

Anyway, to ensure the full evening’s experience, the mystery instructions came with recipes. I was in charge of making the Coq au Vin, which is CRAZY because at the time my cooking ability was limited to “chicken breasts with a cup of white wine and a can each of Cream of Mushroom and Cream of Celery, oven, bake.”

Something like this. Ali can attest to its deliciousness.

Not bad, but not very cheffy, either. For the Coq au vin, which incidentally includes mushrooms, white wine, chicken, and celery but is much nicer, I found myself standing over my very unimpressive two-burner studio apartment stove, with mushrooms and garlic gently sizzling in my only sauté pan. This was the first time I ever felt cheffy. And the only time, for years and years, afterward.

So what is cheffy?

Some things are cliche-cheffy, ur-cheffy, like crushing herbs in the hands to then toss them into a cooking pot. Or wafting the aromas from a dish toward you, and taking a big whiff. Any smelling or tasting of the food while it cooks is, inherently, cheffy. Remy looks totally cheffy here:


The List

Since I’ve been cooking more I’ve come up with my own cheffy tasks. Feel free to add your own at the end!

  • Using a stick blender in a pot of soup
  • Chopping herbs, and even picking them off a plant
  • Toasting seeds like cumin, sesame or others in a hot saute pan
  • Drizzling oil or ice water into the food processor through its little tube
  • Stirring to avoid curdling or burning, like risotto or carbonara sauce – bonus if you remove it from and put it back on the heat a few times

Swipe left for my patented carbonara process, and swipe right to see the finished product. Please note the glass of red wine helping me work, as well as my smashing Aoxomoxoa t-shirt – I will MAKE THIS DISH for you if you know what that is.

What are your cheffy moments?


Perhaps not so cheffy but necessary nonetheless

On a Saturday afternoon in August with temps well into the 90s and going nowhere but up for the coming ten days… is NOT when you want your aircon to zitz out. But that’s what happened to us last weekend. There were popping sounds, there were burning smells, there was the arrival of the obligatory “guys with tools who nevertheless can’t find their butt with an oven mitt.” They came by, stood around, turned things off and on, and repeated their questions and judgements as if that, alone, would hook things back up again. While they did this the refrigerator started to jiggle and rattle like it was beat-boxing. (See next week’s post for key information on why I know what this would sound like.)

All of this is connected, gentlemen. I know my French is sub-par, but it was unnerving how many times I’d say something in clear, simple French – like “The fridge is bouncing and rattling” or “I smell burning paper coming from the A/C vent”, only to have them walk around me, look and smell and open and shut and test, and then say something really brilliant like, “There’s something wrong with the fridge, too,” or “Hey, that smells like burning paper.”

The best moment came during the Testing Phase, when they were shutting off given circuits in the circuit breaker box and then going around the house to see what turned off. (Not that this was even moderately helpful – I think it’s just what they knew how to do, so they did it. On Saturday you can’t be too picky about the team you get.)

Side note, with photo

They did NOT label the circuits in the circuit breaker box as they painstakingly identified them – thus ensuring another round of this same game at some uncertain future time. My brother would be appalled:

At left the wires in my mom’s circuit breaker box before Kyle got ahold of them. Swipe right for the after. The boy can tidy. You can’t see it there but all those little fellas are perfectly labeled with what plugs they cover, too.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

These guys couldn’t buckle my brother’s tool belt. At one point I found them looking distressed in the kitchen, as if thwarted by an unmovable force. Does the oven work? they asked me. Well, there’s really only one way to tell. But they were, all three of them, standing far enough from the oven, in an awkward semicircle, to ensure that neither they nor the oven could pass coronavirus germs to each other.

They didn’t know how to turn on the oven and absolutely did not want to try.

I guess that made me feel cheffy? That I knew how to make the oven heat up? It’s not like warming up the Space Shuttle, for pity’s sake. But they looked like they were being required to give a woman an orgasm or something. Come on, dudes! Man up! Grow a pair! Turn on the oven! Did they think they’d look effeminate in front of the others if they reached over, pressed the dial, and saw the tiny light come on?

I would argue that a much more emasculating activity was just wandering around the house turning things on and off for no reason, but that’s just me. Am I being a bit bitchy? Well, yeah – that sometimes happens when the simple lack of a penis makes all your speech inaudible and your logic dismissable. When My Time comes and I’ve got to leave this earthly garden, I think I’ll want those two hours back, the ones that gave us no more information (but some more burning and danger) than we had at the outset, punctuated by these mooyuks being afraid to touch the womanly appliance of an oven!

How were these mooyuks going to fix a miracle box?

In better cheffy news

Three new dishes this week! After the refrigerator started behaving so weirdly (above) I remembered I had once promised myself to defrost the freezer. Instead, I’ve gone on stuffing it with… stuff, while the ice does its damnedest to crowd me out completely. So I’m using up what’s in the freezer (none of it very old – I’ve only been cooking a few months) in preparation for a fridge clean-out day.

And that’s good fortune, not because there’s anything particularly great in there, but because some of the stuff I pulled out happened to coincide with some recipes in my go-to website (NYTimes Cooking, which costs $40 a year but has been a big help. They’ve got a lot of basics on there, like proper chicken poaching or how to make pizza dough.)

So here’s what came of it. First, a seriously moldy oldy, straight outta the elementary school cafeteria… Sloppy Joes!

That picture’s not all that attractive, actually, and nothing particularly cheffy about it. (Though it was delicious.)

So I’m just going to bust out the next one, which has not been seen in a school lunch cafeteria in this hemisphere, ever: Chicken bulgogi in lettuce wraps, with a very cheffy late-recipe drizzling of sesame oil:

Oh yeah – we have AVOCADOS! THERE IS JOY!

Hard to beat that one. But tonight was yummy too and had lots of cheffy moments, like toasting dried peppers to make the necessary chile oil; the timely application of food processor blades; folding in bits of beautiful cilantro, and frying little strips of shallot.


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The letters continue – June edition

This is a silly enterprise but I’m enjoying going back through what has happened, in the form of letters I’ve written during lockdown. It is not all pleasant, because sometimes I’m baring raw parts of myself, but it’s amazing how much things change even when you’re standing still.

I can barely remember what it was like at the start of lockdown. How insular it felt. By June I was walking around with a mask and almost entirely unfettered.


June 1

To a friend Kyna, my sister, is working at a clinic and tests people who might have the virus. We’re grateful there are not many cases in Alaska. She also cares for patients with other problems… some of which are really bizarre. Speaking of bizarre Alaskans, my brother Kyle recently bought 100 acres on the Chickaloon River and when his work dried up, he went out there and started building a cabin. He must be the least likely person in America to be exposed, because he is so damn far from anything.

June 2

To a friend I’d just written a proposal with My dad keeps asking me, “Did your proposal win?” I love him! He is my biggest fan. Or maybe Ramon, but Ramon is more realistic. Ramon says, “Are you going to write more proposals?” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA Yes, Ramon, I will write more!

June 5

To a friend with a 20-year-old daughter I’ve noticed people @ing me in emails and on facebook, which I don’t understand. In an email, putting @KeriCulver just makes it bold. In Facebook, I guess it “tags” me? But how does that work because there are a dozen Keri Culvers on Facebook. (I know none of them could come close but still…) On Instragram there are always ten hashtags after a post – long weird ones that seem like making a point, not a shared term. Many insta posts say “See link in description” – but I can never find links. HELP!

June 9

To a long-lost friend At 10:00 this morning, our water was turned off. We were ready. But I learned a bit about the edges of Ramon’s knowledge. So, we filled our bathtubs to have water for the toilet and for bathing. But his wouldn’t fill… we ended up with just my tub full. But still fine, right? 

About noon the water comes back on. So I ran to try filling Ramon’s tub. He had put a jar lid over the drain. Not an actual drain plug, like the one on the edge of the tub. He basically hid the drain under a small piece of metal, but it was of course still operating as a drain. If we ever have a house, I will have to be vigilant. Ramon turns off the gas when he’s done cooking, but apart from that, he does not know how anything in the house works.

He dances around the house all the time.

But he’s got a cute accent, so I keep him.

June 10 (letters full of memories)

To a friend I met at Lambert Airport in St. Louis. Sioux Passage Park! Wow, that name conjures up memories. My sister and brother went loads of times. Hearing them talk about Sioux Passage meant they were going to hang out with other teenagers which sounded so grown up and cool. One night my sister took me there. They had a bonfire and we roasted marshmallows.

June 13

To a friend and former boss Lovely little Tunisia has done a bang-up job with the coronavirus. The prime minister did a town hall early on, pleading for Tunisians to cooperate in staying home for the good of others. A factory-full of workers self-isolated on site to make masks and gowns. Early airport measures started in late January. Essential services worked, only minor internet cuts. Beneficent efforts all around the country to feed people, even take care of the street cats You could see Cap Bon, a jut of land across the bay, when the pollution was gone. Ramadan helped – people were already inclined to stay home.

No new cases for a week now, while Libya and Algeria continue to explode. Things could get scary when the airport opens end of June. Ramon wants to see family in Madrid when their airport opens. His family are doing well; most are working. But the Guardia Civil was hit very hard. One friend passed away. Offices were empty – twenty, thirty, forty people out from a single group. But as far as he knows no more deaths among his buddies.

We went to the beach yesterday and batted around the volleyball. We were burnt and exhausted when we came home – Ramon’s favorite state! Working from home has been fruitful for him but he’s very outgoing and I know he misses his colleagues and partners. But he has been in no hurry to break confinement, either. Seeing how COVID raced through Madrid was scary. He runs and does pushups, even competing with his brother via video. And he watches documentaries – WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam… then back to the Boer War, then Crimea, then back to WWI for another series… I hear the cannons from the other room and I just stay in my office.

June 13

To my dad Here’s the link I told you about, on the hedge fund owner who bought newspapers like the Denver Post. The article makes it sound like he’s on track to be the death knell of local reporting.

June 14

To my aunt, whose mother was the premier baker and caterer in Eastern Colorado Grandma would be proud of me?!? Thank you – that made me smile. I remember making cinnamon rolls with her. She put me up on the counter to knead the dough. I punched and punched it down…

I’d pick Stacy Abrams for Biden’s running mate. She’s strong and purposeful, dedicated to voting rights. A calm, cool, collected firebrand. The Republican sin is they’d rather disenfranchise Americans than have a fair fight. But she hasn’t held state or national office. How about you? Who would you choose?

June 17 (equestrian letters)

To a friend whose daughter is at horse camp When I was a kid our family was friends with another family, who lived out in the boonies. They had very tame, sweet ol’ horses, which is where I learned to ride. It was low key, about the speed of the tourist horses in Mexico or trail horses in the West. So I thought I could “ride,” till a few years ago when I went to Argentina and Uruguay for vacation. I stayed at a working hacienda a couple hours north of Montevideo. We rode with honest-to-god Gauchos, these craggy older fellows with big soft berets and pants that were not far off from what we called “gauchos” when I was in elementary school.

There, I actually galloped. It was absolutely terrifying and absolutely thrilling. As the trot got faster and faster I really thought I would fall off. The other horses had started to gallop, and you know how these tourist horses are – they do what their peers do, according to a schedule they’ve been doing ever since they hit the tourist trail, especially with a rookie like me “leading” them.

But as soon as the real galloping started, it became smooth and perfect – I wasn’t scared anymore – I can still hear those hoofbeats and feel that rocking that was rhythmic but not threatening, unlike the trotting misery. I was whooping and nearly in tears, saying things out loud that only the gaucho riding next to me could hear. Later, he was laughing so hard he cried, as he told the gauchos and guests what I had said. I don’t remember my exact words but I think Promises Were Made in those moments just before the gallop started, when I was pretty sure I was about to croak, and then maybe I spoke in tongues once I was galloping? 

June 22

To my dad, who asked my advice (whoa!) on writing sensitive letters What if you told her about a specific time when choosing sides led to pain and suffering? Like, “I once sided with Carol over what Ethelyn wanted to do, and it ended up awful. After all, I live with Ethelyn!” Or whatever. 

If you sided with one of your kids against another, we would be resentful and distrustful, and it would have long-lasting effects. That is another angle you could try: say that even if she thinks she is on the right side, in fact even if she IS on the right side, there are consequences.

June 25

To a friend/colleague who’s been busier than me In the first days of lockdown I finished all the tasks on my to-do list, including ones that had been there a couple years or more. Then, things got ugly.

June 29

To a friend It’s HOT! Lots of people at the beach: very inviting but when you go, you get covered in sand and salt and sunscreen and more sand, like an ice cream bar. It’s lovely, but once a week is plenty! I call Tunis “the New Zealand of North Africa”: it is amazing what the country has accomplished during the coronavirus. But of course the airport has just opened… I was going to go to Spain with Ramon but my passport makes me persona non grata!


If you’ve read this far, you might also enjoy more posts of letters, for March, April, May and July 2020, chronicling life and coronavirus and politics and relationships and, again, life.

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