Housekeeping: I am in Montreal, where my WiFi has not been connected and I have no easy access to email. If it’s important call or text me. The 707 number is still my main number and will be for a very long time. Text me for my Montreal home phone, if you haven’t seen a recent email. Canadians who need to reach me can call the 707 number and just let it ring once. If your name comes up, I’ll call you back as soon as I see it. Back to the blog:
It’s still Sunday, January 19, because you arrive before you leave when you come back from Asia. It’s all about the International Date Line. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t know anything about that. It’s just exhausted because you have been up for a hell of a long time. I was right about the oversized checked baggage having tales. I waited about a half hour for it with the golfers, waiting for their clubs. It finally came and one of them wrestled it onto my cart with my pig of a suitcase, and two maxed carry-ons, Roffice and a backpurse. I managed to roll all that onto the Air Train and arrived at the rental car counter. Did I tell you the mirror is 35” x 35”, a little bigger with packaging? I got off at the Rental Car Counters and I had to pee. But you can’t fit a cart with a 40” square item on it through the door of the restroom, never mind the cubicle.
Luckily, there were only two people ahead of me and the clerk was sympathetic. Once she had some particulars, she offered to watch my overburdened cart while I went to the rest room. I had a new best friend. When I picked up the car, I had another, who volunteered to load the mirror into my back seat. I gave both of these ladies very nice ratings when Thrifty surveyed me, because neither would accept a tip.
The drive to Napa was uneventful, except for presenting myself at the wrong address on the Mendelsons’ street, but that was no biggie. Ralph and Melinda’s new Napa house is absolutely charming, just like its owners. I had my pick of two great guest rooms and what to do about lunch. I chose the ABC Bakery, which is perfect when you don’t know what meal you’re eating. I had cornmeal pancakes and bacon. They were swell. Melinda had a lunch salad. We were both very happy. I try to stay awake all day to reset my body clock, but I had to lie down and meditate for a couple of hours.
I was up for Melinda’s delicious dinner, though. It was a baked pork chop in a sauce of caramelized onions and pears. It was a new recipe she had found and it looked pretty easy, as well as being yummy. Melinda loves to cook, and it shows. Ralph got a lovely bottle out of his particularly well stocked new cellar, and we were very happy. I went to bed early. Ya think?
I didn’t get up any too early on Monday, January 20, either. It was at least noon, when I surfaced. I was feeling pretty dull, but I ploughed through my email and miscellaneous paperwork and we settled on LaToque for dinner. I wanted to treat my hosts but the most they would do was let me buy a bottle of white wine to get the corkage waived on their Chateauneuf du Pape. Melinda helped select a Chenin Blanc from Lang & Reed, the only one grown in the Napa Valley.
It’s a tasting menu at LaToque and always good. We picked the three items plus dessert option. They threw in two amuse bouches, including gluten-free options for Melinda. My choices for tasting were all fabulous. The black truffle scallop carpaccio was beautiful as well, and I didn’t take a picture. The agnellis were filled with mushroom duxelles and came in some foamy broth that Ralph and I agreed to soak up with the French bread, like Italian peasants , and we were happy. Our main was duck, two ways, breast with crispy skin and a little confit. It had a nice mole sauce. Melinda picked this, too. The chocolate concorde dessert was out of this world. It always is. I always order it. Our family has patronized LaToque since its beginning in Rutherford. Scott Tracy, the original and long-time sommelier, was a friend of Susan’s in L.A. and shared our house with Cathryn one summer, when we were in Montreal. He wasn’t there, of course, but Becky, the new sommelier, is his female twin. Watching her walk away, you would swear it was Scott in a dress. BTW, she’s very good. I hope Scott is mentoring her. She has his great personality, too.
I had been having trouble with the WiFi at Mendelsons’ and wanted to see if it was real or if my equipment was faulty. So, on Wednesday the 21st I took my computer to the Napa Library. The Internet was blazing fast. Then I had a nice Massage with Kirsten, whom it turned out I knew from the wine club at Rust Ridge. I went back and told Ralph and Melinda to call Comcast and not to put up with a simple reset. They need a better signal and probably a repeater. It will save them hours and hours in long haul. We ate in again. Melinda is amazing. The pork chop may have looked easy to me, but this paella did not, though she said it was. Ralph is very spoiled. It tasted as good as it looked, too.
On Wednesday morning, I had a blueberry muffin and a hot chocolate at ABC with France Scott, so we could catch up and trade gossip. Here’s someone I know I will see in Montreal. She and Terry go (come?) there every year. Then I went to the library for my WiFi, as we had play planned for the afternoon. We were going to Viader to pick up my last wine club shipment and have a taste. We were happy they were closed Tuesday, as Wednesday was by far the better day. Wednesday had lots of sun. Tuesday had none. Viader was delightful, as usual. Jennifer Lee, our host, enjoyed talking to Ralph, who faced the same grape growing challenges at Pedregal as Delia faced on Howell mountain, steep and rocky. These properties are difficult to work, but they make the best wine, because the grape vines have to work hard, too. Somehow that concentrates the flavors and both Pedregal wine, now made by Ramey, and Viader, are delicious. Viader won “best boutique winery in the Napa Valley” again in 2019.
We had dinner at Celadon with Ruth Berggren and Kathy and Dave Fitzgerald. You’ll need to pass the crow. I want a big helping. No sooner did I tell you that my friends didn’t think China would move in, when they did. Dave flew in the day I left and found about 200 Red army troops in Chater Square. That should discourage the protesters. It was nice being with this group of favorite people again and Celadon doesn’t disappoint. I had just got through their enormous lamb shank, washed down with Viader, and a rich hazelnut chocolate dessert, when I felt funny. My pulse was racing and it wasn’t all that regular either. I waited about 15 minutes for it to go away and it didn’t. I confided in Ralph, who has some experience in these matters, but he thought I was just making idle conversation and gave me a fifteen minute dissertation on the merits of the Mayo Clinic, which, of course, is THE place to go.
It had now been a half hour and I was getting concerned, so I shared with the rest f the group. We decided to call for the check, and repair to Mendelsons’ house, where there was a blood pressure cuff. After about another hour and a half, during which time it remained alarmingly high, despite everyone’s best advice being tried, Melinda told me to get in the car, she was taking me to the Queen. Now the Queen of the Valley Hospital just happens to be a cardiac trauma center, and they take their role seriously. They put a little cuff on your finger while you are giving them your name and date of birth. We never got past that. All of a sudden, I was on a pallet in the ER being hooked up to a heart monitor, IV and ECG. The doc came right in, asked a few questions and ordered something to be put in the IV to bring my heart rate down. It was way up there. The nurse went off to get the liquid and loaded it into a syringe to add to the IV. As she was rounding the bed to do that, the heart monitor started to report that it was back to normal. Just like that. All by itself. I guess it didn’t want to be messed with.
It took another hour of watching, and now dealing with the accounting, before they unhooked me and sent me home, with the admonition to have it checked as soon as I got to Montreal. If that weren’t bad enough, they proscribed, among other things, my two favorites, alcohol and chocolate. Here I was planning to drink my best wine, with my friends in Santa Rosa where I had left it. Bummer. By this time it was about three am and Melinda was happy to drive me home. I was so glad to have had her calm loving presence in the hospital. I will be eternally grateful. BTW, not only is Melinda a wonderful friend, she’s an AOPi sister, too, as is Kathy, for that matter. We got to bed around 4:00 am and I turned out my light well after 4:30.
On Wednesday, the 23rd, I bid fond farewell to the Mendelsons, leaving them some of the Viader as a gift and some for us to drink together next time. They are fabulous hosts and I hope they do come to the Grand Prix in Montreal this summer. They have first dibs on it. I was supposed to be having a day in the City on my way to Santa Rosa. It included a haircut with Addison, lunch with the Laskers, hotel research for Irene Lam, and dinner with Chris and Larry Silver. The alarm went off at 8:30 am. I got up, assessed the situation and went back to bed. Two hours later, at 10:30 am, I brought the phone to bed with me and cancelled/rescheduled that stuff and my dinner at Fountaingrove Lodge. I made a new dinner plan, too. It was a quiet dinner at a very good Japanese restaurant, Hana in Rohnert Park, with just one friend, Geri Randall.
Over dinner we solved the problem of how to keep my American phone number, for the convenience of my friends and clients, and because American plans are better and cheaper than Canadian ones. I would just become another phone on Geri’s new plan with Xfinity. With unlimited data, that was only going to be $45/month. Looks like a deal. I’ve been paying T-Mobile about a hundred. I happily checked into Fountaingrove Lodge’s guest room around 9:30 pm and slept very well.
The next morning, Thursday the 24th, I was busy. I had breakfast in the Dining Room, with the breakfast club and Pat Gustafson, who came especially for me. Then I got to work. There’s no Internet to speak of in the room, but it’s next door to a good friend and client, Mike Donigan, so I called him to ask for his password. Meanwhile I had a lot to do on the phone. I thought I had arranged for my medical records, ECG and blood tests from Wednesday night, to be sent to the Lodge fax, but they hadn’t come, so I started to chase them by phone. I called the ER where I had gone to request them. I actually got the same clerk I had at 6:00 pm the night before. These people work long hours. She apologized profusely because she hadn’t known she had to have me sign a release. I didn’t like the idea of driving back and forth to/from Napa, again. It’s an hour and a half each way. I had her check for another way, and there was. They could fax them directly to the McGill Medical Center. That was a relief. And so it was done.
Comcast had satisfactory answers about Geri’s plan, which works in Canada, the USA and Mexico, with free calls. So I asked them what she had to do, communicated same to her, and she did it. I was good to go.
I called Air Canada to advise them I would be traveling with oversized luggage, but their phone answered with a recorded message in two languages by some Air Canada executive named L’oignon. The onion said that they had just put in a new system and were experiencing higher call volumes than usual. These things are related? Anyway, they weren’t putting any calls on hold and I should call back within 24 hours of my flight.
God bless Steve Harrold, who, I am happy to report, is now in full remission from stage IV cancer. Anyway, Steve agreed, in exchange for an In ‘n Out Burger lunch, to accompany me around on my calls, so I could be able to make calls etc. and, well, we could have a visit. We prefer it over a bottle of Rescue Red after dinner, but I’m not allowed to drink at the moment.
Lunch was great. I don’t even like burgers, but I like In ‘n Out’s Flying Dutchman, with grilled onions. It has lots of cheese and no bun at all. We planned our route while we finished the fries and ketchup. First stop, Xfinity. They have a very inadequate store, understaffed for how long everything takes. It was less crowded than it was in November, though, and they got to me after about a half-hour. No problem with putting me on Geri’s plan. I had a few more questions and got more satisfactory answers, so I had him start the port to Xfinity from T-Mobile. While it was porting, I decided I needed a little reassurance about roaming charges. I expected them in the rest of the world, but not in Canada nor Mexico. I was wrong. They charge for roaming and they charge plenty. I don’t just want to call Canada free from the USA, it’s that I want to call the USA from Canada. And I likely want to do it every day. I said I was sorry, but could he please stop the port, I was sticking with T-Mobile, where I roam free in Canada and Mexico, and pretty cheap all over the world. I would not always be making WiFi calls, and I would be using Google Maps.
On the way to T-Mobile, we discussed putting my phone on Steve and Trish’s T-Mobile plan, if that’s possible, because I am paying for two lines at the moment and I only need one. It’s a question for T-Mobile before it becomes a question for Trish, who owns the plan. The guy at T-Mobile was really good. He understood easily and was ready to help. The Harrolds’ plan is only for 2 people, just like mine, so I would have to just reinstate mine. However, I could now eliminate one of the lines. I guess the rules changed. So, I am using Geri’s address and she can join me on my plan, which is being billed to her address anyway. They don’t seem to care that my credit card is being billed to Canada. For now, I just have the one line. My other phone has a cheap Canadian plan for use only in Canada. See my email signature for the numbers. So, all’s well, but it took most of the afternoon.
We just had time for one more stop before dinner and it was Chase Bank, to empty out my safety deposit box and change my address. I made it to Leona’s on time for gingerale and nibbles before dinner with them and George and Manny and Toby. Pat Jordan is still battling pneumonia that she has had since mid-December. My best wishes for a speedy recovery. I went back to the guest suite and did emails until 1:00 am, catching up from my own bout in the ER.
Luckily, Addison, who cuts my hair, works Saturday and had a 3:00 appointment for me when I cancelled on Wednesday. I went to the Laskers for a quick visit and found Ruth there. The four of us had a nice pissaladière/focaccia type thing and caught up, and I was off. Frank and Paula Schultz met me for a half-hour at Boulange, which is a French bakery, next door to Addison. It was short but keeping in touch with one’s good friends is what life is all about. Maybe they will come to Montreal soon and we’ll have more quality time. Frank scared the bejaysus out of me, though. He didn’t think the hospital should have released me without a drug, like Eliquis. What if the a-fib came back and I have a stroke? Since my father had one of those and lived the last six years of his life, paralyzed down one side, I was spooked.
I got a very nice haircut from Addison, while we talked about Hong Kong the whole time. Addison is Chinese, you see. I made it back in time for drinks at Steve and Trish’s. Too bad I never saw her texts about having had two cancellations for dinner, or I could have filled the spots. There are so many people at the lodge that I love to eat with. Rich and Oki were healthy, though and joined us. They are so very nice. The conversation took a morbid turn, though, as three residents died while I was in Asia, and they were all ones that we really liked. We analysed all three situations and decided the two cancer patients, who were in a lot of pain, David Averbuck and Larry Ray, were in a better place, but Ted Johnson, who shocked everyone, had the better death. He died in his sleep, with no warning. I had to ask that we change the subject because I probably wouldn’t sleep all night if it went on any longer. As it was, I couldn’t and ended up taking an Advil-PM at one-thirty.
I had work on my emails until 11:30 pm, thanks to Nationwide Insurance, who are driving me nuts, cancelling, reinstating, opening new policies, threatening me with collection because I haven’t paid bills I haven’t seen, etc. Cross-border moves are the pits.
I spent Sunday morning with my neighbor, Mike Donigan, going over shore excursions for his trip to China in April and getting them into a Tripit, to consolidate all his information. I sure hope the coronavirus is under control by then. Wuhan is where the three-gorges river cruise boards. We, and Viking and Allianz Insurance, all have a watching brief on that.
The post office had not managed to change my address to the Lodge main address, as I had requested, so I put in a call to the guy who is living in my apartment to ask if he had any. While I was waiting for him to call me back, I went up to see Pat and Mike, to look at the wine they were keeping and discuss its disposition. I was still nervous as a cat about the a-fib business, and checking my pulse every ten minutes. Mike is a doc and they have a blood pressure cuff, too, so we took it, and it was high, but not alarming. We sat and talked about what to do about my mail. They volunteered to get it from my apartment’s new resident and keep the good stuff for me. I love my friends. I put the cuff on again and my blood pressure wasn’t far off normal for my age. One hundred plus your age over anything under 100 is Mike’s rule. While I am dispensing medical factoids, I did get something from the doc at the Queen. If I go into a-fib again, I can probably get rid of it by bearing down hard, as if I were pooping a hard one. Nice. His other suggestion was to plunge my face into a bowl of very cold water. I’ll try the pooping idea first.
Back in the guest room, I opened the one piece of mail that the concierge had, and it was a $1,000 check form Nationwide, who are not ALL bad. They had received a settlement from PG&E after winning a class action suit for the 2017 fires. It was our deductible. So, instead of going to the gym, as planned, I went to the bank to deposit it.
At 6:00 pm, I was back in Pat and Mike’s apartment with Susan Harris, gathering for dinner out, at Lacoco’s. Lacoco’s is an old Italian restaurant in downtown Santa Rosa that Mike introduced us to during the fires. I was treating and I got away cheap, as we shared Calamari and gnocchi ala gorgonzola for the appetizer and Pat and Mike shared vial piccata, while Susan and I had lasagna. It was all good and it was nice to be just family.
I went to bed early, as I had to get up at 2:30 am to make an 8:00 am flight, after checking in the 40” square albatross. Air Canada still had not deigned to speak with me, even when I was within 24 hours and their web site didn’t have a place to collect for oversized baggage. I had checked in as if I had two suitcases and a surfboard and paid $114.95, so I figured I was OK, but it might take a bit of sales talk. I couldn’t take a pill because I had to drive at 3:30 am, but I was so sated by the carb and cheese heavy meal, that I figured I could sleep if I went straight to bed in that state. It worked and I got five good hours of sleep before the alarm went off at 2:30 am.
I was out by 3:38 am and there was no traffic to speak of. Even with the rental return, and air train, I was checking in by 5:30 am. I went into my sales pitch and it was easy. So easy that I don’t think I even needed to pay the $114.95 for the oversized baggage, after all. But, it was non-refundable, so it’s paid. Still cheaper than United.
I lucked out on the plane and the middle seat is free. My row mate is happy, too. There is no food except the terrible for purchase stuff. The only pieces I can tolerate have chocolate in them, so I am requesting tomato juice and planning on Chalet BBQ when I get to Montreal.
Marlene Rosenberg said:
Helen, I’m, glad everything is OK with your heart and that your visit at the Queen was successful and short. Reading your blog makes me tired. You are so busy doing so many things, but sounds like you are having a wonderful time everywhere you go. Enjoy.
Marge Mapp said:
Hi, Helen, we’re sorry about your bout with a-fib! I’m sure you’ll get yourself thoroughly checked out now that you’re back in Montreal, and we hope all goes well. We know two people who’ve been living with it, and it’s very possible, though it definitely needs to be followed. We’ll be thinking of you and sending good thoughts!
We’re off to Vietnam and Cambodia early Sunday morning, back on Feb. 27th (tired of course, as you know ☺), but will be checking emails.
Marge and Chris
4281 Mario Street
Pierrefonds, Quebec H9H 2P9