Saturday, February 8, 2014

Two Old Gals Hit the Road, Our Senior Adventures

I was lucky enough when I was a kid to have my best friend, Mary, live right across the street from me. We remain in touch till this day and I remember all the adventures we had as kids together. I was lucky enough to have this happen to me twice.  Because right across the street again, in our condo development, I have yet another great friend for shared senior adventures.  This is Rebecca, who turns 63 next month.

The two of us complement one another perfectly. She is a neat freak while I am a slob. She is a conciliator while I am aggressive. She is a fearless driver fresh from the smog choked streets of Los Angeles while I am her navigator, who has a better sense of direction than even her GPS, especially for side streets and shortcuts. Think of us as Thelma and Louise, without the crime or the finale at the Grand Canyon or, for that matter, Brad Pitt.

We began simply enough by going to Trader Joe's together once a week. The stores are on the east and west sides of Cleveland while we live on the south side.  So the closest one to us is half an hour away. The Apple store is a few doors down and since I converted her to Apple this is a great piece of fortune. She became my Apple student and it has been a joy to see her take the same senior journey with computers that I did, from a mind that could not grapple with the way computers "thought" to being unable to imagine a day without an Apple piece of technology welded to our bodies.

A lot of our journeys are food related because Rebecca is a vegan cooking instructor.  She started out working with preventive cancer cooking classes and has branched out to other diseases and lifestyle choices with her cooking.  As for me, I just like to eat and that means just about anything. I am the world's least finicky eater whereas both Jim and Rebecca are so finicky one is surprised they don't have food tasters like kings and queens did to avoid being poisoned. Think of me as the commonly known "eating machine" goat and Rebecca as the giraffe, which is a herbivore.

One adventure is to the west side of Cleveland which attracts many ethnic food stores and restaurants. If one is a vegan, ethnic cuisine is very big because there are many plant based meals. Chief among these groups here is a flourishing Indian community. Set in a strip mall are an Indian grocery, a Greek grocery and one Indian restaurant. The way we go through the Indian grocery store is so indicative of our natures. One can find Rebecca on one aisle for fifteen minutes as she is meticulous in reading all the nutritional data on the packaging. Each item is a carefully weighed and considered purchase for her.  By contrast, I have my big cart and am tooling up and down each aisle putting anything that strikes my fancy into my cart. All of the old standbys I'm developing at this store go into my cart as well. When we regroup at checkout, I have enough groceries for a month whereas Rebecca has long term staples to add to her well thought out pantry. The owner of the store loves to see me walk in! We finish our trip by going next door to eat the wonderful Indian buffet lunch.

Another journey is to Ms. Julie's Kitchen in Akron, left. This is a combo type store where you can eat, cater an event, or buy groceries. Rebecca's birthday was catered by Ms. Julie. One day we went there to lunch. We live midway between Cleveland and Akron. Heading south towards Akron involves driving straight through the Cuyahoga National Park, below, which we use singly or together all of the time.

To our surprise, even though Ms. Julie's is smack dab in the middle of the city, it is surrounded by lovely property, all part of a very successful urban revitalization program by Akron. It is also very close to the University of Akron. It turns out that Ms. Julie actually allows cheese (vegetarian instead of vegan) so I spring for a greek sandwich with feta for lunch while Rebecca sticks with the vegan choices. Afterwards, we go right back through the park again.  This ride in and of itself is enough to satisfy any urge to make my day better. Most of the way through involves roadway which runs parallel to the park's own train which makes the journey several times a day.

We usually stop at our Peninsula library, on our way through the park. Rebecca has converted me to Alexander McCall Smith books whereas I have broadened her viewing choices.  I personally made her into a Breaking Bad fanatic. She hadn't realized that this quaint little library was one of the consortium libraries of Clevnet (Cleveland Public Library) which means it has access to a huge amount of materials of all sorts. After she realized this, she switched to this library from the one closer to us. It was founded by an artist and also has a wonderful fiber show which we now included in our adventures. My childhood friend, Mary, and I also had our local Noble Road library which we constantly walked to as one of our favorite places. When I had a senior reading slump, she was able to bring me out of it by emailing me a recommendation to the six Mapp & Lucia books by E.F. Benson

Peninsula Library, top; Noble Road Library, bottom. 
I oftentimes hear groups of seniors carrying on about very expensive travel, often with other seniors. In fact, for many seniors this becomes a way of life and it can be very difficult to "keep up" once one takes up this interest. Not only do I not think it is necessary, I think it also is not for everyone.  My sister, Dianna, for example, loves cruise ships and has tried to talk me into them. Dianna and Rebecca are both highly social beings. I marvel at their ease in crowds.  I am not a social being. I am a loner by nature. My idea of descending into Dante's Inferno would be to be caught on a cruise ship or bus or plane with a group of people "having fun" yet Rebecca and Dianna would make instant friends the moment they showed up for it. For me the little journeys I take every day, whether with my imagination in writing this article, or making my latest fiber project, or cooking one of my A or F meals, or taking the thirty minute ride to Lake Erie with either Rebecca or Jim, or even reading yet another book, are adventure enough.  At this age, knowing yourself and what makes you happy, is more than half of the battle.

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