Archive for April, 2013

Coffee with Marina


I received this postcard from Marina, a graphic designer from Lisbon who drew my name through the grab bag, several years ago. I really liked the card and her so asked if she would be interested in further swap.  I also saw another card on the site that she had sent that I coveted. She agreed and sent me an envelope stuffed with cool cards that included the image I had requested.


Marina was a busy lady between job and family, especially with a small child so she didn’t have lots of time to spend writing letters. Our lives were very different and yet we had a common bond through mutual love of the vintage,  Marina’s taste leaning more towards advertising images.


We exchanged post only occasionally but it was always Marina’s style to send a pile of great cards in an envelope. I would say that it was these cards with their human connection, that drew me to finally visit Portugal.

After finding my ticket and arranging accommodations through, I sent a message to Marina suggesting a meet up.  I wasn’t a hundred percent sure it was going to happen and here’s why. I have learned from my experience in Postcrossing, that most people participate strictly for the writing and or cards but may not be interested in making friends up close and personal. It’s just out of their comfort zone to meet up with strangers.  I understand that my sense of adventure fueled by intuitive confidence is somewhat rare. I could feel her hesitation written between friendly lines so I held no expectations, just some positive hope. If it happens great, if not, such is life.

Towards the end of my first week, I got a message from Marina and happily we were able to make a plan for coffee. I was staying very close to where she lived so it was an easy meeting. I can’t believe I waited 6 months to write about this day because now so many of the details are fuzzy.  I think it was raining but I remember having the umbrella more than the rain.  I didn’t know what she was going to look like but she was the only woman waiting outside the cafe. Did we just have coffee or eat breakfast too? Most of our conversation is lost to me now. I remember her telling me about how difficult things were with the economic crisis and how hard it was to keep on top of just the basic living expenses. She told me about her family  and some things about her job. I don’t remember anything that I might have told her about me. I didn’t even think to take a picture of her! At the end of our time together she admitted to me how nervous she had been about meeting me. She worried about her English which to me was great but I think it was the burden of carrying the conversation in a language she rarely had the opportunity to practice.

Maybe it doesn’t matter that I don’t remember all the details of our conversation because what I do recall most clearly, is the way I felt at the end when we were saying goodbye. We  were looking each other straight in the eyes, saying how great it was to meet and really meaning it. I felt like something very important had passed between us. It was similar to the feeling of getting goosebumps or the pinprick feeling on skin but in a spiritual sort of way. Like when you realize something important for the first time and the truth of it radiates out the top of your head. Something happened, the barrier of discomfort broken and the result was hard to describe but very real. The feeling was larger than the facts there to support it. An emotional mystery. It was the purest example of the unmet friend discovered, it’s beauty condensed into one 2 hour meeting. And of all the great things Portugal had to offer, meeting Marina was in many ways, the highlight of my trip.




My friend Una is the kind of gal that will always brings flowers to my house for breakfast, lunch or dinner. A former roommate of 5 years she now lives in Switzerland but still makes it back to Chicago for periodic visits. She is a modern woman with an old-fashioned sensibility. World traveler, sailor, swing dancer, occasional church lady, baker of lemons scones and purveyor of legendary jello shots, I’ve alway had the impression she was a 1950’s reincarnate…well except for the jello shots and a few other things!   When she walked into my apartment with the bouquet of daffodils, I got that feeling of old times, like a song reminiscent. Sadly, few flowers are crossing my doorstep these days. They were actually all stems and buds which she assured me were ready to bloom full throttled. Una knows. The next day they were a gang of yellow beauty queens proudly posing!

These flowers scored a place of honor in the dining room on an antique wooden pedestal and they graced the place for more than a week. Moving through my house I knew they were there but forgot about the added bonus of scent. At first, I would pass them, busy or deep in thought and get a whiff, wondering what it was but even more, thinking it reminded me of something specific and disconnected from anything that could be in that room. After a few times I finally snapped into consciousness and realized, “Oh, it’s the Daffodils” but that was not the  product of my déjà vu. Hmmmmmm.  Finally, after one or two more walk-by’s I had total recall.  It was:



Really. Bärenjäger is a honey and bourbon liquor that makes me swoon with every sip. It’s true. Ask anyone that has watched me drink it! Although I have it in a shot glass, it is not a substance to be swilled but savored. In the world of sweet alcohol it is gourmet, like Godiva vs. Hershey. The aftermath of a swig leaves the perfume of honey dancing in nostrils, just like daffodils.  Now there’s two unlikely twins for you! Bärenjäger is made in Germany so Una is close to the source but if not there, we’ll have to make a plan for a sniff and taste. For those of you living in or visiting Chicago, the place you will surely find this precious fluid is, the most eclectic and friendly neighborhood bar in the city. Of course the best days to drink it there would be any Tuesday and Wednesday between 4-8pm when I can pour it for you 🙂


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