Christmas 2001

Seasons greetings!

In a time of great uncertainty, one thing is sure: it's comforting to stay connected with family and friends. We are all well here, relatively healthy, and still employed. And very happy to be together again!

Larry spent the first half of the year overseas, while I held the fort at home. As in the summer of 1998, Litton APD (now part of Northrop Grumman's Navigation and Space Sensors Division) sent him to LITEF in Freiburg to test navigation software. It was a difficult time for both of us. The assignment lasted longer than expected—almost six months. But when life gives you lemons, make lemonade! I took two trips to Europe, met some of his work colleagues, got a taste of the really good life, and worked in visits to eight countries (Germany, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands).

Teresa and John

At Spring break, my sister Teresa and her husband John flew with me to Germany to hang out with Larry at his 5-star Colombi Hotel. Freiburg laid on the coldest, iciest weather imaginable for that week, so sightseeing was a real challenge. But Herr Roland Burtsche, Colombi owner, treated us like visiting dignitaries. He gave us the use of the hotel's Mercedes for the day on which the weather had turned the Black Forest white, and we trudged through the snow to discover the source of the Danube.

The Baroness's table of meats and treats

On another day, we piled into the hotel van and he took us on a wine-tasting tour of the Kaiserstuhl area. (With over 10,000 bottles in his cellar, Roland does know wine.) At the Baron and Baroness Von Gleichenstein's winery, the baroness served bread, cheeses and cold meat, which we washed down with several of the family wines. I didn't dare look at the heap of sausages and ribs our hosts piled on my semi-vegetarian sister's plate. She, in the interests of international diplomacy, surreptitiously made friends with the family's golden retriever, who was strategically placed under her chair and cordially ate whatever came his way.

Summer dinner with Gonny in Freiburg

When school let out in June, I returned to a warm and balmy Germany. Larry had one week of work left, so my job was to shop, visit museums, and generally relax after the rigors of the school year. On the social side were a hike with Peter Steiert through the hills near Herbolzheim, an evening with Ulli and Jelena, and dinner with Gonny. After a week of pampering, I reluctantly bid farewell to Freiburg, as Larry and I set off on a three-week car tour to discover some parts of Europe we had not seen before.

View of the Alps from the cable car

Geneva, our first stop, is quite a grand and monied city and the lake is spectacular. A couple days later we left the city and within hours were in a cable car heading up the 10,000-foot Schilthorn, atop which we had lunch in a revolving restaurant. Alas, the weather didn't favor us, and instead of a view of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains, we got 360° of fog. Still, we did get spectacular Alpine views on the way up and down. Continuing east, we lunched in Liechtenstein, famed for its banks and postage stamps, and continued on to Vienna.

We spent several days there, and managed visits to the popular Schönbrunn Palace and the Museum of Fine Arts, which is the grandest, most ornate museum I've ever seen. Vienna is also the headquarters of Michaela Frey, whose jewelry is sold primarily in a select number of outlets in Europe. There are even fewer outside of Europe, there are none in the US, and they don't sell over the Internet. Talk about exclusivity! “When I first saw her products in Lucerne, I found them so beautiful it made my pulse race!” Larry said, as he dragged me into her Vienna store, kicking and screaming. A very strange reaction for a guy! Of course, they take Visa.

Heading back to Germany along the Austrian Autobahn, we made a detour to the concentration camp at Mauthausen, where from 1938 to 1945 over 200,000 prisoners died. It had been a quarrying center along the Danube and toiling prisoners often perished on the Stairway of Death leading from the granite quarry to the camp. Many nations have constructed poignant memorials, some with family photos, to pay tribute to the prisoners who died there.

Our journey took us diagonally through Germany, stopping at less well-known towns such as Passau, Dinkelsbühl, and Trier. As we traveled into the Benelux countries, Larry observed we were heading out of German-speaking land. We had established a comfort level with German, adequate to deal with the simple demands of life. We discovered we were both capable of carrying on simple conversations, and when one didn't understand something the other often picked it up.

You are now leaving Edam

We did lunch and sightseeing in Luxembourg City, and toured several cities in Belgium. As the weather turned rainy and cool, we arrived in Amsterdam. We abbreviated our stay though, opting instead to spend our limited time exploring the hinterlands of the Netherlands, including Edam (the only cheese that's “made” backwards), the Hague (Slobodan wasn't seeing visitors), Madurodam, a popular miniature town, and the North Sea coast.

Our final stop was at the Rhine port of Boppard, where my dad had been stationed when the end came to the war in Europe. It was eerie to contemplate I was three months old then, and five more months would pass before he would see me for the first time! Could he ever have imagined that 55 years later I'd be walking the same streets, in a peaceful and prosperous country!

One Rhine cruise and two days later, we took our separate flights out of Frankfurt, Larry in first class, me in the wheelwell of a cropduster.

During the many months Larry was abroad, he kept out of trouble and mostly out of bars by creating and maintaining a Website. [The site has since been taken down, but contained two editions of the Freiburger Zeitung (from 1998 and 2001), slices of life, and assorted potpourri.]

Life seemed abnormally quiet when we arrived home—our geriatric animals had gone to the happy hunting ground in the sky, the dog in May and the cat in June. But I think we both appreciate just being able to live together on the same continent and communicate other than via email!

Four generations: Jerry, David, Hudson, and John

A few side trips during August to Carmel and Cambria, with a hiking foray in Pinnacles National Monument and a look at the elephant seals molting on the beach at Piedras Blancas, finished out our vacation. We met our new great-nephew, Hudson, born in May, when his parents came out to California for a family wedding. We got the requisite four-generation photo—how wonderful to have them all together.

School seems to start earlier and earlier each year, but that may be a trick of memory. After September 11, nothing seems to be the same, and the uncertainties of traveling are on our minds. Brian's trip to the east coast just after the WTC attack was the closest we came to the event, but it makes us rethink our safety and our priorities.

Larry got bored with the housewimp routine and went back to work in October at Northrop Grumman (which doesn't roll off the tongue as well as Litton), where he's on a project testing inertial navigation software for the Airbus 320. I'm still teaching at the high school and at the university at night, thinking more and more about semi-retirement, whatever that is.

Cathy has transferred from Rampart to LAPD Central Division and is considering moving close to work to reduce her 3-hour round trip commute from Huntington Beach. Jenny enjoys her short commute to the Firm downtown and is now ready to start house hunting. The two girls plan to search together in the Pasadena area and are considering buying in the same condo complex—Cathy's allergies prevent her from sharing quarters with Jenny and her cats.

Mary, Sharen, and Brian at the Coronado Hotel

We had a nice weekend getaway with Brian and his girlfriend, Sharen, in San Diego in early November, with a visit to Coronado and to Balboa Park—where we ran into a group of young German tourists, one of them from Freiburg! David, now 21, and on track for a June 2002, graduation, plans a New Year's trip to Dublin—not to revisit his roots, but to see some of the young Irish rugby players and lassies who had rented rooms in his fraternity house for the past two summers.

Take care of yourselves, and keep in touch. Best wishes for a healthy and safe 2002.