Though the singer looks like Howard Stern, don’t let that fool you. His voice is Robert Plant.

the outfits were just as fun to watch




I met Kim Walker, formerly Kim Otterbein, through simultaneous traumatic events. My business had suffered a flood from frozen pipes in a crazy ice capade in a winter storm in February 2013. She was going through her own personal storm of divorce and personal issues causing her and her former husband to have to sell their magical dream house . They had poured their money, their love and energies into restoring a house born in 1865 that had been through many hands finding its way into their lives in 2005. Kim was an artist so her brilliant creativity redesigned the house giving it a feel of new, but magically making it feel like everything was original. Kim and I knew each other socially from around town because we both owned businesses and would often run into each other, but we never hung out in the same circle. We liked each other, though and we shared a common free spirit hippie chick vibe that connected us happily when we would run into each other.

We found ourselves intertwined when she needed to sell her home and I needed to find one to move my business into. My dear friend Morgan, randomly said to me one day, You should look at The Bead House when she saw the awful situation I had found myself in while my business was semi closed. The Bead House was the business Kim owned on the first floor while the second and third floor was her family residence. Kim was a magnificent jewelry designer, an artist, and had this lovely little shop on the first floor that taught jewelry making. At that point, I had never considered looking at property to purchase especially the glorious Bead House with a very high price tag that was way out of my comfort zone thinking it could even be a remote possibility. Morgan had other thoughts though. It never occurred to her that this space wasn’t a possibility and I credit her almost 100% to the literal key that got me thinking I CAN rather than i can’t. Purchasing this house changed my life in so many ways and my I CAN attitude has been rewarded and confirmed in layers of joys I am in perpetual awe of.

When I looked at The Bead House in February of 2013, I fell in love and made my offer which after some back and forth was finally accepted and Kim and I merged paths. I don’t know what it is like to have to sell your home. I do know what it is like to leave a home though and there is so much emotion tied into the experience. Kim and I found a kindred spirit between each other during this time. I think she was heartened to know that her baby, this home that she had literally poured her soul into, would move into the hands and heart of someone she genuinely liked and respected. I know that she felt like her home would be in loving and appreciative care. Though the entire experience was a sad one, she made peace with walking away and I became the proud torch carrier of this magnificent house I refer to as the Magic Palace.

When I first moved in, I had purchased a few of her large pieces of furniture, a couch and a chair and a table too and I had offered her a space to leave her grandmother’s armoire since it was way too big to move. I had told her that it could stay here as long as she wanted and when her daughter, Ali was ready for it, it would be here. Five years later, it still sits waiting and the offer is still open.

I felt for the first few years living here a certain responsibility to maintain the garden, the paint colors without too much of a change, kind of as a bow to Kim and only recently in the past two years have I started to really feel like the space was truly mine. This was nothing that came from Kim, just my own sense of order and right kindness. Kim and I spoke a few times, she visited one time when she was back this way after moving to Arizona, but even though it was a pleasant visit, there was also awkwardness to it. Hard to describe; I think we both understood that we would enjoy each other’s spirits but at a gentle distance going forward. This was unspoken, but it felt right. Again hard to describe.

Her daughter Ali walked by one July 4th and I invited her in for a visit and gave her some time alone to meander, to grieve and say a proper goodbye. When I got breast cancer I spoke with Kim a few times because Kim had breast cancer too. The irony I do not take lightly and I try not to think about it as some weird message. Kim was helpful with her advice and our exchange was always positive and understanding. She was a special soul and a kind one. And one that no longer is part of the now, as her cancer returned and took her life just a few days after her birthday and two days before the Winter Solstice just two days ago, December 19th.

A short life traveled well, rocky and smooth, but also my feeling was that she found herself in the after of this house. I on the other hand have found myself in the now of this house. I like the neatness of that, the visual of Kim passing the torch to me, a kindred female spirit. I can’t believe that another superchick I know has moved on so young again. I sit on her couch, look at her chair and her grandmother’s armoire. Everyday I brush my teeth, I look into the same mirror above the sink in my bathroom knowing that Kim looked at her own reflection as she went through her breast cancer, her decision to divorce her husband and the other daily mind thoughts that stare back at you during the simple rituals of teeth brushing and mascara applying. I listen to my son who is home from college turning on the faucet on the third floor and am happy he is home, but I also think about Kim sitting on this very couch hearing her own children wake up making the same sounds. It is an awkward experience knowing that this house was passed from a woman I greatly admired, who left this house closing the door to a part of her life that allowed me to open it to a wonderful life I get to call my own. Kimball Walker. I thank you for every trail and nugget you left me. I will always feel and honor your presence in my home that was yours and in the garden that you started. Rest in peace, your legacy at 11 Constitution will go on.

in good hands indeed, Rest in Peace Kim.



“Getting in a new shiny bad ass car is like a great push up bra,” my long time incredibly body confident friend, Sara said so matter of factly as we discussed the car the other day on the phone. She called me because she had read my writings chronologically last week and thought they sounded like something was awry. We share the same birthday and have known each other for over twenty years. She is a great friend and knows me on a highly spiritual level and she has witnessed my sometimes erratic shopping behavior as well as lived through several of my previous car purchases. They usually are symbolic of something going on and as usual, she was right. I didn’t have the heart to remind her that push up bras are unnecessary these days, my upper body is a walking push up bra, but point taken. Buying new cars is clearly connected to something deeper and complex, but in the moment, all of this is completely out the window.

“No I don’t want the apple car play,” I kindly said to Gary Garafolo, the smart salesman at the car dealership. “I actually have this in my car right now and I find it incredibly distracting. As a matter of fact is there any way to get this car without the almost ipad look alike screen daring me to tap it as the bluescreen simultaneously screams at me “Warning, using the screen while driving can be distracting!” No shit. But there is no option B, this car as all the cars on the lot come with the blue screen, your only choice is apple car play or just blue tooth. But as I sighed with the knowing that when you are purchasing a high end car that looks like a cross between a bat mobile and a shiny black portable Royal typewriter, tinted windows and all, there are certain notions assumed by the people designing them. I am trying to not see the car as one of those black beasts frequented on THE HANDMAIDS TALE sending shivers in my spine every time I watch just one more episode. I am guessing that the majority of the design team are men and I am making a broad assumption that like a bathroom layout in a sporting arena, they aren’t thinking about a woman behind the wheel as the one hundred percent driver and purchaser.

A new car is invigorating, the smell, the neatness, the shine. Learning all of the buttons is a full time job in itself and with all of the computer generated commentary going on every time I get in and out of it, Gary let me know when I purchased it that the car would take some time to get to know my style. Creepy to say the least. Why did I even want this car, one may ask. The main reason (at least on the glossy outside who people on the outside think I am) is the pick up and delivery, the your wish is our command at the dealership, the we’ll pick it up, pick you up, bring you a car, drop you off kind of service I just really was willing to pay for the older I get. And older I get is what I hope for.

There are bells and whistles and more bells and whistles, there are three different navigation options, not including the voice command I have to practice like a language enunciation class so that the she voice recognizes my tone. She still hasn’t figured me out and I haven’t appreciated her help when I am trying to dictate where I want to go. This happened last week when I got lost in Fall River looking for Flint Street so I could take my aunt to Sam’s bakery for our beloved Lebanese pies. After speaking in a calm tone, then a slightly raised voice, then a slow deliberate one, I finally had to pull over and put it in my iphone and use Google maps which completely defeated the purpose. Then I remembered about an app on my phone that allows me to put the address into it and like magic, the address was projected into navigation. The app, by the way also allows me to lock and unlock my car and turn my car on from my living room ten minutes before I am ready to depart. No wonder the world is getting lazier and fatter by the minute. I can’t believe I have purchased a car that does these things. In most ways it is completely out of character. At least my inside character to people who really know my insides, not the glossy outside chick that people assume is the one on the inside too. It’s like I live in a camoflauge. When I pulled up last weds after picking it up to drive my friend Chris, the first words out of my mouth were, “Does this car make me look too Jewish?” He had no idea what I was talking about. Leave it to a full bred Wasp. “What does that even mean, he asked, somewhat startled by my question. I didn’t have the heart to explain to him that if I had to explain it, he likely wouldn’t get it anyway.

I brought the car over to another friend’s house to show him, it seems that this is the protocol when purchasing a crazy car like this and he looked at the back of the car where it said 4matic. “Does this car have four wheel drive?” he asked curiously. “I have no idea.” Among many other features the first week that my new set of wheels likely has that I have no idea about because honestly it never would occur to me that someone would even think to put a feature in the car in the first place. He asked me where the spare tire was, yep forgot to ask that too. “It must be somewhere.” I half said. I love the weird button by the super large skylight that I can push at any given time and be connected with the magic Mercedes person. Need a dinner reservation? Push the button. Need help on the road? Push the button. Who needs Triple A when I have Mercedes on demand. Running late for a meeting? Push the button and Mercedes will send to the navigation an alternate route. I love America. Or maybe I should be saying I love Germany, but I can’t bring myself to say that. I love the absurdity that I can decide I want a new car, go to a dealer and in less than 24 hours, drive away in one. Irresponsible, impractical, careless, all these words spin wildly like my grandparents voices in the back seat telling me to be more pragmatic, my father rolling his hippie eyes from the grave disbelieving he has a daughter who would even want to drive a car like this let alone buy one. But see this is what cancer does, it gives you a quick jolt into the LET’S LIVE NOW.

As I approach my second week with this new sparkly set of wheels, I looked down and noticed that I have a cd player, old school. I also remembered that on my last minimize jag of cleaning and having a yard sale I didn’t end up selling my stellar collection of CDs. I went into my basement where they have been patiently waiting for my return, like they knew I would need them again someday and pulled out a few round discs to take with me hoping they wouldn’t skip. Mary J Blige, a cd I had purchased when I bought my Cooper convertible when I was forty. Seal, a cd that my brother turned me on to when he was alive, we had listened it to in in a rent a car driving from North Carolina to Dc to our cousins’ Bar Mitzvah a million years ago. Santana, because the guitar at almost full volume makes you feel like Carlos is in my back seat giving me a private concert. And Styx. Welcome to the Grand Illusion. I put it in the player at as loud as my ears could handle and I was transported to an CYO dance in the basement of St. Marks Church, I was time traveled to times spent hanging out with my friend Joe, whose nickname in his former pre AA life used to be Toad smoking joints in my 63 vw bug at Beavertail. The music made me smile as I reminisced about a group of us misfit kids with absent parents hanging around an island with barely a hint of adult supervision, walking barefoot, around town and not realizing how great our little and free lives were despite our missing mothers and fathers. I had to call him immediately to tell him, he didn’t answer, but I knew he would recognize my zest for these times. It is easy to sensationalize the good stuff and forget about the painful parts.

Life is and can be a grand illusion. There is something energizing in approaching my second year of the cancer survivor story- something that makes me throw cares to the wind, live on the edge, jump in naked and full throttle. No one gets out alive. Why not enjoy the ride?




I wish I were the type of person who would write their dreams down when they woke me up, like today at 2:40 am, but this would mean that I would have to put the light on ensuring that I would remain awake. I always think I am going to remember my dreams when I wake up at a normal time, but of course time after time, they are never as vivid as they were just four hours before. I can have large spans of time when I don’t even recall if I had a dream, but for the past three weeks I have dreamt ever single night of water and family. Rain, ocean, lakes, all of my immediate family have shown up in each dream at some point. Grandparents, my parents, my son, my brother, my aunts, my former husband, my present partner. None of the dreams have been scary or nightmarish, no fear in them, more like an old friend showing up to remind me of something. I am not drowning in the dream nor is anyone else. There are lots of animals though. Last night it was seagulls, there have been squirrels, manatees and of course my old friend the snake. I have never dreamed like this before and I am struck by the themes. Interestingly, I have had some water spots show up in my ceilings from some leaks in my roof. Yes, I am aware that this comes with a house built one hundred years before I was born, 1865. 153 years ago, but I do find it interesting that it is water again. Also last Friday the fire alarms went off and I couldn’t get them to turn off when it occurred to me, maybe there is something going on besides a battery and promptly called the fire department. Thankfully they didn’t have to use any water, it turned out to be a faulty smoke detector, but still fire and water, the opposites, the yin and yang of it all did get me wondering what the heck is going on. I like the inner work of messages. Dreams have that ability to give you a story maybe before you are even ready for one. I have looked up “dreaming about water” and the meanings are all a little vague, a bit over generalized, and like a horoscope, I only want to see the lovely, not the worry. My goddess of a therapist, who is a Jungian dream analyst had her own take on the dreams involving my deep connection to creativity and something brewing, to pay attention and keep creating. This speaks to me especially since I am in the throws of new branding using typewriters and silliness as an excuse for creation. She had something to say about my new obsession with typewriters, the weight of them, the mechanics of them and the possibilities of what they represent. This is for another essay though, too complex to add and possibly too esoteric for even me. If I were to sit quietly and meditate on this perhaps I would have a sense. My instincts say, something is a brewing, go with the literal flow. My birth sign is Pisces and when I look up today’s message, it says,

It could be that you feel a bit of pressure today to start or create something that you aren’t quite ready for. There is hesitation on your part that indicates you should take it slowly and learn more of the facts before you jump into the fray… (where was this horoscope last week when I decided to lease a high end car?J

Then there is this one which I like better, A SWEEPING MOMENTUM carries you through the entire day and its quite a ride! But don’t get too caught up in the excitement or laughter that surrounds you. There are many details you need to pay attention to if you want to keep on a positive track. Thinking big or getting distracted by the long range ideas won’t help you right now. Listen to the words people are using and the dates being chosen. These small details will have a huge influence.

There is so much water significance to these. Go with the flow, don’t get bogged down, don’t jump in. Of course we all know how much we can read into horoscopes to have them fit our own ideas of how they should read, but this is the fun. I can feel something though, my need to meet like minded women and take them to lunch, to create. Just yesterday, I met a fabulous new superchick and we made a connection that felt old and wisdom filled. It was like we had known each other for many years and it felt immediately comfortable and rich. As I write this I am moved by the awareness of creating the space for new female friendships. I have written about and spoken about old female relationships moving on and out and through knowing that as painful as it has been it has also created space for new loving and meaningful ones to enter. Perhaps the significance of all of the water in the last three weeks is movement, cleansing, and some form of rebirth. After all, we come from water, water is what we are made up of, water is what is the majority surrounding us. Water is cleansing and purifying. All of this is a nice way to interpret these dreams. And to consider that when old friends move on, perhaps it ultimately is for the right reason allowing both of us opportunities for new births to take place. After all of this rain the past week too, the flowers continue to bloom and the grass gets greener by the minute- just in time for a beautiful October. What lies ahead is out of my hands, but what is behind serves no purpose any longer. If this is what my dreams are letting me know in their own unique way, then I am satisfied.




This island of Sao Miguel sprinkled with one charming little town after another is a paradise started by and formed by volcanic eruptions. It is a Catholic island, definitively, and I know this because there are over two hundred churches seemingly on every corner and then some. This island is about thirty-nine miles long and ten miles wide and houses over one hundred and forty thousand people and I have had a connection with the people of the Azores for most of my life. Since my family lived in Fall River, Massachusetts and I now live in Bristol Rhode Island, there is a very large community of this amazing group of spirited souls, Azoreans as I have learned to call this group of people, who love, with the greatest of pride, their homeland.

I guess many families who have had mass immigration have a feeling of longing for the lives they left behind as either they, themselves, or the generations before them took a leap of faith for a better economy leaving customs, cultures and family behind as they tried to look ahead rather than behind. This spectacular and very slow island moves at a pace that I have absolutely reveled in for the last twelve days. I have had the unique scope of deep hikes in the quietest of places, food as fresh as the day’s catch, the freshest of meats, cheeses, butters, wines and the friendliest and kindest of people I have had the privilege of meeting. I know the hearts of the people of the Azores because of my good fortune to know many back home, but experiencing their actual community has been the deepest of the onion layer I have enjoyed like they have been my own family.

Usually in my travels as much as I try to travel to places where I know someone so I have the scope of their own perspectives as much as possible, there is always a barrier that separates us versus them. Maybe it is because this culture is so incredibly familiar to me where I don’t have that wall separating us, maybe it is because it is only a four hour plane ride, perhaps it is because I have grown up surrounded my the language a few streets or neighborhoods away, I have loved this trip more than most and I have loved my trips of the past. It could be because this is the first trip I have taken since I have had my final surgery and traveling alone has given me a deep dive perspective on my love of life and travel solo. Maybe it is the blessings I feel in my own health and confidence in my instincts for travel that adds to this distinct pleasure.

From the simple walks around the town of Ponta Delgada at all hours of the late and light filled evenings finding small intimate places to listed to Fado, to the vigorous hikes on trails up mountainsides and down hills to waterfalls and lakes that have taken my breath away. Then there are the monuments and the layers of volcanic rock paths and walls that were built on the backs of hard working men stone by stone centuries ago that remind any traveler that all places are fragile, especially volcanic ones that are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I don’t mean to make this sound like this is Fantasy Island, but for me this past twelve days, it kind of has been.

Women and men have lots of body love for one. Going to the beach every day right across the street from my hotel reminds me how screwed up Americans are about their bodies. I have witnessed the heaviest of rolls of women and men lying comfortably among each other in string bikinis without so much as a twinge of discomfort. I wear one of those cute Athleta skirts, Serena Williams like, sporting my strong and solid thighs and I am the only one with one of these on. I am not exaggerating. No one here wears a skirt, a skort, a tankini or a pair of boy shorts. Everything is exposed from the largest of derrière and breasts to the smallest and in fact, the smallest is kind of the oddball out. I have leaned into some serious body love here enjoying my curves at the beach with the rest of these people; I am never going to not have curves and it is super ok here in this neck of the ocean. Like many Europeans though, no one seems to have gotten the memo that smoking is bad and that to go coffee cups are ok, but this is a small price to pay for every other element being spectacularly easy. I have learned how to speak a very small amount of Portuguese but now it is the day before I leave and it is almost too late. I have gone to the most gold gilded churches and sat among the tiny women praying in the middle of their days for miracles and have tried not to chuckle at the irony of the wealth on the alter. I have gone to Mass for the first time in my life with my friend’s aunt and mother who have instructed me on the dos and do not’s of their religion and have been humbled by their passion.

This past Sunday I went to St. Anna’s Mass in Furnas with my friend’s mother and aunt and watched a first communion take place. I had no idea it was going to be a two hour mass with no AC. I at once became aware of my religious difference as I realized that my people, in my lovely reformed Jewish congregation would likely never sit for two hours in the baking heat with no AC and if this wasn’t an immediate come to Jesus moment, there never would be one as I fanned myself with the liturgical handout that seemed on paper much shorter than two hours. The beauty of listening to a two hour service in a language I didn’t understand likely made the whole experience much more spiritual. There were a few moments where Tia translated, like the time that the priest was instructing the children to be good and not to be bad. I had to bite my tongue here with the respect my grandmother would have wanted me to have as I almost suggested perhaps it should be the children instructing the priest with all of that skeletons in the closet and shameful burying of the atrocities of men in power.

I was somewhat and humorously commanded by ‘Tia’ to sit and stand and kneel as I listened to a mass in Portuguese as the entire congregation anxiously awaited the St. Anna feast and the procession that was to follow. She had prepared me for the religious indoctrination before we got there, reminding me that I was in no way shape or form to go up for communion. (Like there was even a remote possibility I would be doing that). In her beautifully broken English, when the time came she barked out, “You will stay here and watch my purse until I come back,” and with that order, off she went to stand in line with about five hundred other people, mouths open or hands depending on your level of OCD with germs, I supposed. I found it hilarious that she didn’t see the irony of asking me to watch her purse in church, but I kept that to myself. When she came back at the speed of light, (I am always amazed at how quickly they are able to move what had to be almost eight hundred people through the communion line), I asked her why some had the priest place the wafer in their mouths and some had them place it in their hands. “Personal choice,” she matter of factly replied. Then she spoke softly letting me know that she always worked for priests and they used to tell her after the service how painful it was to put the wafer in so many mouths because of the terrible breath and would wash their hands vigorously with vinegar after mass. I laughed aloud. I had never thought about this and I had to turn my head away so I didn’t start crying with laughter. I remember my doctor jokingly affirming how great it was to get a pedicure before my delivery of my son when I told him my plans of this. He told me how bad some women’s feet smelled. This reminded me of the same thing. Ahh… the problems of priesthood. Who knew?

There is nothing like traveling to gain new perspective, to look at your own life with a different set of binoculars checking out other people’s viewpoints. I learned so much here and of course add to this stunning recipe my own Jewish heritage. The search for any Jewish history here and a story unfolded today like it does in every other area I have traveled to where Jews have been persecuted simply because they chose to practice a religion that started much before Catholicism and Christianity, you know, Old Testament New Testament? But I’ll save that for a different piece because that little gem deserves its own essay. Until my next travels. MUITO OBRIGADO, my beautiful Azorean Friends and Warriors. Until we meet again.

My tour guides, Paula and Christina at LAGOA DO FOGO and at the most delicious restaurant in Lagoa. The beautiful statue of arch angel michael, why the island was named, the small synagogue I found beautifully restored. There are no Jewish people left on this island. For now anyway.



happy smiley malasadas lady at Nordeste, two bites in and I’m pretty happy myself.


“Alayne, roll the window and take a few pictures,” Jane commanded as we drove by an incredible scenic view in Ribeira Grande, Azores, “the place where the first settlement happened,” our driver guide, Jaime said as he made the curve around the blend of “sweet” water and salt water. By this time it was almost five in the afternoon and the seven women ranging in age from sixteen to seventy seven were a bit spent. (not to mention our male tour guide who probably had enough of this estrogenic bunch). We had completed a whirlwind tour of Nordeste, the northern most tip of Sao Miguel in a Mercedes Sprinter having left at nine am. The frequency of stop, get out, look around, pee and get back in was starting to take its toll on this variety of traveling women.

I don’t usually travel like this. My preference is a full day outside in one area exploring and walking and breathing in the scenic air, learning a little about the landscape, but more so experiencing it with my body and mind and the strength of my legs. This is how my partner and I travel. We are both fit and like to incorporate movement with our lessons of the world. But in this case, I really wanted to see this area, I really wanted to be with this dynamic group of women and be immersed in non stop Portuguese for over nine straight hours. I think. No, yes, definitely. I was willing to take the hit for a day as the van winded and twisted up the hillside in this magical place called Sao Miguel.

I am a solo traveler who surprised her friend so I am in the unique position of saying yes to a day or no to a day because I am not part of the original traveling party. This works for my personality who can easily get annoyed with too many decisions and discussions about where and when to meet for things as simple as dinner. I know myself well and this day of Nordeste in a van full of women speaking Portuguese allowed me to be a witness to two families who argue, love, talk over each other, say it like it is and genuinely enjoy each other’s company through all of it. I am the lucky one as I sit in the front seat with Jen who gets carsick like I do in a tight fit van climbing and then descending the roller coaster experience of the northern drive up and back down again.

Because I had been here for three full days before their arrival, I had already seen a little bit of the towns leading to Nordeste. Because my guides are professionals and knew I was going there, they were careful not to duplicate the journey but instead took me on a deep dive to some real out of the way places within some of the more predictable stops we were likely to go on in the van. Agua de Pau, a coastal find and one of my favorite stops took my breath away as I was surrounded by cliffs and water and volcano remnants that make up this entire island. With my tour guides and my desires, there were no drive bys or drive throughs. We got out of the car, and really walked around, had food, smelled the air and dove in. The opposite of the day with the ladies to Nordeste, but both served their purpose and both were an experience. I don’t’ really even know what we saw yesterday other than one hundred percent beauty, gardens, oceans, cliff and churches.

We had lunch at a place that had the name, Melo in it, Jane’s maiden name, which was in a little town in a hillside that served a buffet like I will surely dream about when I get home starving for just one more plate of Bacalhau. Codfish, for those who are not in the Portuguese know of the translation. I always thought that Bacalhau was the word for the layered yumminess of soaked salted codfish with potatoes and onions, kind of like the Portuguese version of lasagna. Here I have discovered that, no, it just means codfish and the versions of it are endless on every menu here. Kind of like the way one might find the word, pasta in Italy. At least this is my opinion, perhaps this comparison is sacrilege. I don’t know, but I can’t get enough.

When we finally made it to the northern tip, we were greeted by a park with small trails and waterfalls. Water from the mountain running through an actual home that is now a tourist walk through led us to a woman who was selling homemade Malasadas, a Portuguese doughboy, but that word is almost insulting. Like a bottle of wine at a particular special occasion, hard to recreate by buying the same exact bottle later on, it is the experience that we knowingly had that made that glass so delicious. Maybe it was a cold fall evening in a chair by what you would know would be one of the last fires outside after dinner and after a stunning foliage season that made this wine taste so good in retrospect. This malassadas was like that, eating it in an old home handmade by a local woman who had a smile that was part of the sugary joy of the first bite.

The food here is deliciously authentic and homemade beyond my dreams. There is the bread at every table and the local butter and cheese and the ice cream. All taken from the cows I saw in the midst of blue and white hydrangeas that grow like a weed on the hillsides they have instinctively made ridges in with their hooves so they don’t roll down the steep volcanic hills. Organic and au natural like no farm in America could ever claim. Oh and the wine and the tea. We stopped at the tea plantation along the way to learn how they make tea and it was fascinating to make a connection between what goes into those individual bags I drink daily. At least here I got to see how completely natural and pure the process is and understanding that local tea at this plantation is the real deal. I promptly bought twelve boxes because I am insane and am already worried I will not be able to drink it again until my next visit.

And as anyone from Rhode Island would predict, at the tea plantation we ran into someone we all knew from Bristol also visiting here and immediately took a photo. I have seen over the years of travel that no matter where I go, I always run into someone I know or who knows someone I know from little state of Rhode Island, the smallest state in our country. Add this to another element I love about where I live when I do finally make it back there. There is a simple and slow quality here and even though where I am staying is mobbed with tourists at the major points of interest, there has been no pushiness or impatience even with the American travelers I have encountered. (well maybe a little with the Germans, but we can talk about that in my next writing). My friend, Jen, keeps joking that we are in a place that runs on PST, Portuguese Standard Time, and though she says this jokingly, I have learned in my short stay that this is a compliment. We need more slowness to our lives. At least I do, anyway. Getting in a van and out of a van all day with my self proclaimed adopted family who has welcomed me like I am one of their own was a glorious experience that I will never be able to recreate. Once was enough, but the once was a gem in my life and I am so happy I said Yes again.

running into our friend Sony from Bristol at the tea plantation was a trip, the making of the tea, the ladies in the van, waterfalls and food, what could be better.



“I think you need a new bag or fix this one,” Jane said to me inspecting my blue and white evenly squared checked cotton throw bag that takes me on my travels happily and joyfully. She was looking at the straps that were coming unstitched because this bag has come with me on all of my adventures for well over ten years if not more. I quickly became defensive; I am not nor will ever be a fashion icon for anything especially a purse. For me it is what bag climbs with me, what bag has the right amount of pockets to hold just enough without being cumbersome.

“This bag was given to me by an old friend who was a traveling superchick right into her eighties. Her daughter used to make them, then they both died within a few months of each other and I keep this bag with me on all excursions to remember Joy,” I said a little churlishly. She realized my sass and quickly reminded me that she was just pointing out the stitching so I could fix the straps. In the end, it was a win win because Janey got to learn about Joy and Anne and their connection to the bag and I got to see the straps coming undone before they did, before the day before my big hike up the mountain.

I went to the front desk of my five star hotel knowing that they would likely have one of those handy sewing kits. They did and as I got into the elevator, I was already stressing out about how I was possibly going to thread the eye of the needle with these eyes. Take a breath, relax, I could almost hear my old friend Joy saying proud and happy that I was still using the bag all these years later. I got into the room and it was like Joy the angel was looking out for me, of course the seven different colors of thread would already be threaded in the seven different needles! I was relieved and so happy that Jane now would become a piece of this bag as I pulled the navy thread choice out of the package.

I have never been much of a sewer. My grandfather, my great uncle and my father owned a textile factory and all sewing was given to them to do any repairs there. My father knew how to sew, not my mother. This was odd in Fall River, Mass at the time as most moms were stay at home moms and did stay at home kind of things. Also living in a major Portuguese community, you would have thought that my mother might have picked up some of that luscious home care. But this was not my mother and though we lived in this community, our community of friends and life were Jewish. I am guessing and this is a broad generalization, that most Jewish women in my mother’s circle of stay at home moms didn’t sew either.

As I pulled the thread out, my index finger and thumb automatically looped and knotted the end of the thread so that when I pulled my first stitch through, it would stop at the knot. It was such an automatic reflex, I almost didn’t notice. But then my father appeared before me like he was standing there and I could remember him teaching me this when I started to take sewing lessons at about eleven or so at the Singer store in the Harbor Mall. I think it was a Singer store, maybe it was a material store that had Singer sewing machines, but I took lessons there on Saturdays until I made a few skirts using patterns. My father used to drop me off and then pick me up after the class. I remember the patchwork skirt I made out of left over velvet that he gave me from pieces in the factory. I loved that skirt and was so proud of my work. I may even have a picture of myself at my grandparents house for some Jewish holiday. I will have to find it when I get back home.

Memories come out of nowhere like that. An innocent comment from a dear friend who also lost her father to Esophagus cancer just a few months after my dad passed from the same illness. Our friend, Jen also part of this trip who was my cohort in this surprise, lost her father suddenly after a family vacation in this very place. Witnessing the conversation then going on the trip with me hiking only to find out that the Portuguese folk song Christina, our tour guide, belted out on the mountain was her dad’s favorite. I learned this because her mom who is also on this trip told us before we went to dinner. Everything connected. All because of a torn strap in need of repair.

Healing is like this, one stitch at a time, the wound will never be completely healed. There will always be that scar that when you glance down at can make you absently put your finger on it to feel the bumps and rough patches, it is an omnipresent guide as you remember what caused it in the first place. But then there are those tenderest of moments where one can see and hear that long deceased person like he is standing in front of me saying, Alayne, this is how you thread the needle, this is how you make the knot and these little memories that flood out of nowhere are the gifts that keep on giving.

All because of a tear in a strap and a need to repair. Our dads convened yesterday for sure as a dynamic trifecta, maybe it was the blood moon, maybe it was the connection of Portugal that my father loved like it was his homeland, maybe it was the power of five women traveling with their own baggage separately and together trying to heal their own wounds. What I do know is that there is magic among the tribe and our lives are better because we know each other.




My entire life- the part when I started to remember- like four or five-was spent surrounded by Portuguese people. Men and women of all ages, sewing, measuring patterns, steaming clothes with five foot presses to be sure that the suits just hot off the final sew would literally be hot off the press, wrinkle free, ready for shipping to whomever was on the receiving end. My experience of this phenomenal group of people all took place at my grandfather’s textile factory in Fall River, Mass, some of the best years of my childhood memory.

The harsh sounds of the language have an almost guttural sound, unlike their romantic sisters, Italian, Spanish and French. Those languages are more singsongy, light with lots of upended intonations at the end of each word giving the listener more of the feeling of being sung to then spoken to. Portuguese, though has a meaty and throaty quality and for those fortunate to have been raised as a voyeur to the culture because of close proximity, can feel often like you are being yelled at and bossed around by a commanding army, rather than a gentle conversation between two people. Watching and listening to Portuguese women talk with their flailing arms and hands, and their tsk tsk sounds layered with the throaty and outer artichoke leafy sounds is a feast for the senses reminding the listener that as much as the man of the house wants everyone to think he is in charge, we all really know it is the female in the lead.

My experience of Portuguese women is alpha. There have been times in my life when I have been determined to speak of feminism to this strong group, as I have learned of their seemingly subservient ways, preparing their husbands morning outfits, their lunches for their workday and dinners at five pm, but I have withheld my own belief system often realizing after much conversation that they are really the ones in charge. Maybe not always with every woman and man, but for the women I know, there is a strength in them I have watched and learned from. Their ability to run a household is a force of nature. Now these traits I mention may be a broad paint stroke, but every single woman I have met who is over fifty or sixty is of similar status. Cleanest house, kitchen in the basement for their regular cooking so they don’t get the “good” kitchens a mess, incredible cooks.

Starting with the first one, the cleanest house, I am not talking about just neat and tidy; I am speaking of houses built in the seventies that look like they were just finished by the contractor. I am talking about houses that you could eat off not only the floor, but the bathroom floor. Clean like nobody’s business. Cooking falls into the same category. It is full throttle cooking. Four people coming for dinner? Food for forty. I am not joking. I have been at my friend Jane’s mothers house for a graduation party that about fifty people came to and I am not exaggerating when I say there was enough food for well over one hundred. Waste? No. Jane and her mother bought convenient Styrofoam to go containers in bulk (like five hundred bulk) and insisted that every guest pack a doggie bag or two or three.

It would seem obvious to most to simply just make less. This is not possible. This would be like saying don’t take down the winter curtains and wash and press them before putting up the spring curtains. This would be like saying not to worry about cleaning the master bedroom from top to bottom before guests come because there would not even be a remote change that someone would be stepping over the threshold. I am not sure why this is a common trait of Portuguese women, to clean and cook like there is no tomorrow. But I don’t know a single woman who does not fall into over achiever status in this category. What I most enjoy about it though is its familiarity in my life. I have watched it and been an observer of it like it is my own family since I was five. Forty eight years later, when I still see and feel its presence, I feel like it is home away from home and for me I always love (and need) more of this feeling.

This is why I think I decided to surprise my dear friend Jane with an appearance in Sao Miguel, in the Azores, smack in the middle of the Atlantic, only four hours from Bristol, RI. She is coming here with her mom, her mom’s sister, her best friend and her best friends mom and daughter and has no idea that I arrived three days before she has. She is arriving at six am on Thursday and I am going to be waiting in the hotel lobby hopefully behind the area behind the desk so when she checks in the receptionist will say, “Welcome Mrs. Medeiros, so happy to have you, I just need to get the manager to check something with your reservation.” Jane, of course, will be noticeably annoyed because she will be tired and cranky after a four hour flight and a four hour time change. The woman will come get “the manager” and I will be that person coming out to a very surprised Jane who will promptly flip the fuck out. There will be yelling, and screaming and disbelief and the only person who is in on this is her best friend who I got the thumbs up from before doing this crazy stunt.

Traveling alone is one of my greatest joys. Total control over my destiny. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling with my partner Michael, my son Michael or a few friends for special occasion and if any of them chose to come, I have welcome them with open arms, but when they say, no thanks, I can’t wait. Life is too short to not see the world and to wait for people to do things with. I must march forth and I love the challenge of speaking to people, to learning about cultures and rhythms and food. But what I love even more is the chance to be in the company of women who are from the area.

I have done this with Spain and my friend Ro, Denmark and my friends Inge and Sten, Israel with my friends Kalman and Tsipee and what is the most joyful is learning their towns and cities and love of country from their eyes. The best way to travel for me anyway. And if I miss something, I don’t know what I missed. It doesn’t matter because having a Galau in Ponta Delgada in a small seemingly hole in the wall bakery recommended by a woman who grew up here is better than seeing six sights in six days on some hideous tour bus promoting twenty minute tourism to people who barely want to get off the bus. Tourists who can’t make it up the short climb to the view or they have already lost interest because they are too busy on their phones to notice and slow down to the pace of the island time they have found themselves in.

I sat here Tuesday evening at 11:08 pm on my ocean view deck in the moonlight with the planets in full view and the town abuzz with activity in this busy tourist spot finishing off my glass of glorious Douro knowing that this writing will not be posted until after the surprise. I am so grateful I have chosen to take a crazy risk and jump in to the deep end of the pool, naked and free. My friend Jane will be here much longer than my trip so we will get to spend four days together with her crazy and glorious family. This is what life is about, isn’t it? Jumping in, looking up and leaping when you can. I can and this is why I am here and I can’t wait for Thursday.

a successful surprise. let the games begin!



Gently at first, (but or and), then with some purposeful vigor, my Birkenstock covered foot pumped the brake like an adolescent boy having his first sexual encounter. Unsure if this back and forth up and down motion would bring this old beast affectionately referred to as THE BUS to the stop I intended, perhaps I should have tested out the old bus on a smaller hill before I decided to take it for a journey over the three bridges to some far away campground in Connecticut to meet up with my father for the fourth annual Portuguese Campout. I probably said a few Hail Mary’s as I tried to slow down like I was driving a crane or some big piece of yellow machinery on the highway during rush hour.

It was like a kiddie roller coaster, Wind flying, all windows open, the vroom vroom of the gurgling I think I can, I think I can engine, four speed, baby blue, piled in, the four of us, two superchick friends along with our two eight year old sons on our way to a Connecticut campground in a 1982 Volkswagon vanagon- my first weekend camping trip in “the bus” as my brother called it. Stepping into any volkswagon, the ones with the engines in the back not the new bullshit ones that they call vw these days is a jog your memory kind of experience. The smell of an old VW is like nothing else probably from all of the heat that never seemed to work and the frosting on the windows you had to scrape because the Germans couldn’t seem to understand that a defroster was actually something needed to help the cause. Add to the recipe of aroma, kids sleeping and camping and of course the likely pot smoking and beer drinking that occurred and voila, a VW smell that I can summon just by thinking about it.

Popping the tall thin stick shift, similar to the shape of the microphone Bob Barker used to hold on the Price is Right except about a foot longer into neutral as we coasted down the hill, there is some magic to the sound of a VW standard. There is a unique knuckle cracking sound reminding me of the Barbie dolls I used to bend and shape from standing pose to a sitting one modeling the latest evening dress you begged your mother to buy for you. Crunchy knuckle popping sounds as I pushed and pulled the shifter into fourth gear realizing that the brakes do indeed work and we are going to make it to our destination alive.

The stereo system probably worth more than the van because it was installed by my twenty one year old brother, blasted Bob Marley and Peter Tosh on the cassette tapes he had recorded when he first bought the van. That was when he was a healthy stunning strapping young man with the world as his oyster ahead of him. As my dear friend, Ro with her spicy Madrid, Spain personality and I began our journey south in the heat of a steamy hot August day, we looked at each other with the same thoughts. Would this van make it to our destination? I had it checked out at the local garage before we left, but with these computer laden cars these days, I wondered if garages even understood engines pre-computers. I had the environmentally irresponsible leaking oil pump topped off with more oil, and I made sure the bus was as full on gas as we could imagine. Imagination was the only way to gage it since the actual gas gauge had stopped working well before my brother had bought the bus just a few years before. We said whatever quiet prayers we could summon knowing that we were divinely protected by my brother who had given this van to me as a gift back when he was still able to make these decisions.

This blue bus with the pop up top that we weren’t quite sure how to pop up, loaded with everything a party of six (our husbands would be meeting us) could possibly need for our family camping trip would be our vehicle, our home and our refrigerator for the next three days. Speed and power weren’t its personality traits as we began our first climb up the Mt. hope Bridge realizing quickly that the three hour trek would likely take up about four hours as we had to downshift to first gear just to get up the incline. And we still had two more bridges to climb before getting to the flat and easy ride of ninety-five south. Then there was the descent. As the free fall that was the downside of the uphill climb we had just battled approached, I am sure my friend Ro would have been praying the Rosary if she happened to have had them in her pocket. Like a rollercoaster ride downhill the van was in its happy place, not having to work so hard to get us upward, I could almost feel its relief.

Old volkswagons have their own personalities that between driver and car feels almost like a spiritual connection. I realized quickly that this would be a great time to test out the brakes, after all we did have our two children in the back innocently playing cards like the Vanagon intended when it installed the two movable and German pragmatic tables that could easily swivel to the brown and pale blue patterned couch back seat they were sitting in.

As I began pumping the brakes gently, because instinct takes over and quickly transforms the driver into realizing there was no power anything except my own muscles, I pumped a bit more to give myself plenty of stopping time. At the time I was married to a union man who drove a crane for many years and drilled into my head how much extra time trucks need to stop. This vanagon felt like a truck even though it was only a four cylinder lacking all possibilities of zest. I am not sure if the vanagon was ever supposed to have power which is kind of amusing since the fast Autobahn is actually in Germany. But Germany has always been a bit of a conundrum to me anyway.

As Ro and I sat in the bucket seats that I had covered with bright pink and yellow and orange hippy like flowers, listening to the sounds of reggae with the backround purr only a VW of yesteryear can provide, we found ourselves sweating and fanning trying to figure out why with the windows open we were so bloody hot. Neither of us were menopausal age so we couldn’t blame it on hot flashes, it was unbelievably hot. Not even a slight coolness was blowing through the windows and that neat little triangle window cranked open to force the air towards my burning face.

We headed towards our destination to meet our husbands and my father at the annual Portuguese camping trip I was excited to introduce my friends to. This was the third or fourth one I had attended and we were about to join about thirty Portuguese people from Fall River my father and his business partner, Albert, knew on an extravaganza hard to imagine.

My father and I were the only non-Portuguese people on the trip, even my son could claim a small percentage in his genes thanks to my former husband. This trip was filled with friends and families and potatoes and fryalators and cooking oil. Women in aprons peeling one hundred pound bags of potatoes, slicing onions and creating hot stews of rabbit and goat fresh from the local butcher. The sound and greasy delicious aroma of the gigantic drum of hot bubbling oil for the handmade malassadas on Sunday morning are a permanent fixture in my brain. The women in their aprons (or smocks rather) using ingredients from the four basic food groups flour, eggs, sugar and yeast from the recipes of the old country to prepare basically everything. Their husbands drinking brandy with their morning coffee as they prepared the provincially made spicket for the pig roast is a life experience you have to see to believe. How does a nice Jewish girl who started out in the Fall River Highlands find herself in this tribe on a random weekend in the hot August summer? My wacky father, that’s how. Who always wanted to come from a family who were more like the characters in My Big Fat Greek Wedding instead of the demure and boring family of the groom in the movie, waspy and dry. My family, my father’s side was the quiet and reasonable pragmatic, aka safe, Jewish family who played by the social rules. Not my father, he was a rebel from the time he was born to my grandmother when my grandfather was drafted thanks to Pearl Harbor extending his time. The world itself was rebellious and I am sure that energy leaked into my father’s genes in the womb of my unsuspecting grandmother in Brooklyn NY in 1944.

As we continued our sweat fest fanning ourselves, legs as open as we could legally allow them, faces red from the heat, we were excited to get to our destination and jump in the pool that awaited. I don’t think either of us were ever so hot and the thought of having to sleep in this stifling heat was not really something either of us were looking forward to. There likely wouldn’t be much sleep anyway as this group of men, women and children were a noisy bunch and from dusk to dawn and everything in between there was eating, drinking, more eating and drinking, playing cards, soccer, and lots of laughter.

When we finally landed, eager to get unpacked and started on this weekend of humor and familial bonding, we jumped out of the hot van into a cool breeze. We looked at each other to try to decipher why the damn van was so hot. In the old volkswagons there was always a joke between owners when people found out you had one. “Does the heat work?” If the answer was yes, there was likely envy promptly giving the vw more monetary value. In a VW if you were one of the fortunate to have heat, the heating system was either on or off, no in between. The vanagon was one of the lucky ones; it had working heat. I quickly realized that the reason it had been so caliente was that the working heat was stuck in the working heat position for the entire trip. Ro and I looked at each other with the sweat pouring off of us like we had just run a marathon and began what was to be a three day laugh fest and we haven’t stopped since.




Somehow, when I was in my early marriage days, my husband at the time, his parents, his sister and her boyfriend coordinated a trip to Six Flags in New Jersey. This was before the one opened in Massachusetts and well before our son was a shiny beam of light in our lives so I am going way back here. Early nineties back. The fact that we all went somewhere together was a feat in itself, but that we chose a three day trip to an amusement park is definitely a head scratcher in hindsight. Nonetheless, it was one of the most hilarious and joyful trips I can recall in my young married life.

In the early days of marriages, back then anyway, young couples in my circle didn’t have much money so our vacations had to be a bit creative. Road trips were a little more cost effective, couple this with an amusement park and a discounted Marriot Residence Inn and a mini vacation is what we ended up with. Though I cringe at this combination now, this trip was well before I developed a taste for the higher end places to stay on the road less traveled, ignorance was indeed bliss.

Six Flags Amusement Park back in the early nineties was a really fun way to get out some stress. I didn’t realize any of this at the time as the six of us entered the park ready for the new Spiderman ride that had just opened. Dave and I got on this web of a roller coaster that turned us literally upside down on our heads as it twisted and turned for what seemed like an hour, but was probably more like ten seconds. Up, down, back and forth at a speed that took our breath away, the screams began on the first incline and never stopped. I screamed my guts out along with every other person on that insane ride. Then when the ride came to a screeching halt, we got off and stood in line again and did it all over again.

We went on every single roller coaster ride for the next two days together, we got Dave’s parents on a few and laughed so hard we almost peed our pants. We screamed and laughed some more and I can remember thinking how lucky I was to have landed in a family who would even consider traveling to an amusement park for a weekend. It was a memorable and happy three days and the amount of screaming and yelling on each ride was better than any therapy session I would find myself in my later years.

Getting the literal led out was what I did two nights ago at the Get the Led Out Led Zeppelin Tribute band concert I attended with two friends, one who is as big of a Led Zep fan as me. THE GREATEST ROCKBAND OF ALL TIME, was what I would drill into my son’s head and all of his friends when they were eight or nine who found themselves in my mini COOPER convertible rocking out. We arrived standing out like shiny white light in my friend’s white Mercedes SUV, my two friends looking like they were attending a tennis match more than a rock concert.

As we looked for a parking spot in the already packed venue surrounding the concert stage, I quickly realized that we weren’t in Kansas anymore. I mean we were never in Kansas to begin with, but attending a concert in the Indian River Campground in Webster, Mass was an experience you just can’t make up. On a river, Indian River to be precise, surrounded by camp areas with names like Conway Twitty and Gran Ole Opry packed with full on campsites each one set up to outdo the next one was a flash from my past that made me giddy. Dave and I used to go camping all over New England way before the term Glamping became a vocabulary word. I was one of these campsites and could totally relate to the whole super fun experience.

People were drinking, riding around in golf carts, the preferred form of transportation at seasonal campgrounds, smoking cigarettes like it was the 1970s and sporting Led Zeppelin T shirts as they proudly air guitared among each other. Smoke was everywhere as the lights from the stage with the river and the Indian River Princess Cruiseship as its backdrop showed the vapors. I looked at my friend amazed at the amount of blatant pot smoking everywhere when I realized, oh yeah, we are in Massachusetts, POT SMOKING IS LEGAL now! Everyone there looked and acted (me included) like they just stepped out of my high school yearbook except thirty-five years later. Throaty voiced women talking about yesteryear with their scraggly hair husbands hanging on to their hair of the past for dear life. AND IT WAS A BLAST.

I got to time travel Friday night with two of my dearest friends tailgating with bio dynamic wine (sorry I do have my standards) in the back of a white Mercedes eating Italian grinders and chips from Ricottis and screaming, singing and fist pumping my guts out. I danced and jumped and pumped and whoooo hooooed all night because I know the words to almost every single Led Zeppelin song. I was brought back to my life in high school like I was placed in a time machine. Back to the Future and for three hours it was just like I was on that roller coaster.

One thing I have learned from the wisdom of this past three years is to say YES to fun. To live in the parties, the gatherings and the playfulness of invites that come my way. Attending a Led Zeppelin tribute band who sounded just like Led Zeppelin on a Friday night was a non stop partying and gloriously happy evening. And yes we are going again. August 17th, Plymouth Mass if anyone out there cares to say yes to their own dormant selves. I got my led out and can’t wait to get it out again.