February 21 '04
Volume 403

Venice Saga By Linda Ball Reeves

The first sign of trouble greeted us as we disembarked at the Venice train station. We had been told to purchase a water bus pass which would allow us to travel on the Grand Canal (the only way to travel anywhere in Venice) as soon as we arrived.

After waiting in two lines to purchase tickets we finally learned that the Grand Canal was closed for the rest of the day. There was a Regatta in progress.

We had left our house in Gulfport at 9:00 AM the previous day and had flown all night, arriving at the Malpensa Airport in Milan around 10:00 that morning. We had to take a bus to the train station in Milan, which took approximately one hour and then had ridden the train from Milan to Venice. By this time it was mid afternoon, and we were tired! However, we had no choice but to walk to our hotel.

We started out (dragging our luggage behind us) with another couple who had a map and whose hotel appeared to be in the general vicinity of ours. It was very warm and the streets were packed with tourists and Regatta spectators. We later learned that throughout the year Venice celebrates many festivals and feasts unique only to Venice. This famous Regatta, called the "Historic Regatta" is held on the first Sunday in September and is the most spectacular festival of the summer. I don't know how we managed to arrive on that particular day!

Now, back to our walk to the hotel. Since Venice is built on a lagoon with 118 islands and four hundred bridges we were walking up steps, across a bridge, and down steps, so we had to stop frequently to rest. We tried to make the best of a bad situation by taking snapshots every time we stopped and tried to think about how lucky we were to be getting such great shots. The other couple found their hotel and we kept walking. Miraculously, we turned a corner and there was our hotel in front of us. Martin thinks it took us about two and one-half hours to get there.

We awoke the next morning to the sound of Gondoliers talking and laughing right outside our window. There are no sounds except the sound of voices since there are no planes, trains or automobiles. The train track ends at the train station.

I'm not sure why I went to breakfast alone that morning, but I remember sitting alone waiting for my order. I was so hungry, suffering from jet lag and just plain discouraged when suddenly I heard "Celebrate Good Times, Come and celebrate and have a good time, Come on, wah-ho, Celebrate good times, come on." (My daughter tells me that song is by Kool & the Gang?) About this time my breakfast arrived and my weariness quickly lifted. Little did I know what lay ahead!

That afternoon we walked in San Marco Square, which is the hub of Venice, and fortunately for us, only a few feet from our hotel. The Square was crowded with children running and playing, young couples with babies in strollers, honeymooners and people of all ages and nationalities. There were pigeons everywhere and beautiful music filled the air. San Marco Square is lined with restaurants and several of them have bands that play from early evening into the night. Saint Mark's Basilica stands majestically at one end of San Marco Square and is considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in Europe.

Tuesday morning we took a two-hour walking tour of Venice which gave us a good historical overview. We saw the home of Marco Polo, who at the age of seventeen left Venice with his father and uncle and explored the Orient. Our tour guide spent a great deal of time talking about Saint Mark's Basilica and why Saint Mark's body happened to be buried there.

It is believed that Saint Mark the evangelist, a follower and companion of Peter, helped to evangelize the Veneto lagoon and the newly-emerging city of Venice. Fundamental facts of Mark's life indicate that he evangelized not only in this area but also in Africa and Alexandria, Egypt where he was martyred on 25 April in 68. In 828 two Venetian merchants went to Alexandria and moved the remains of St. Mark from the Christian church where they were being preserved to Venice. The present Saint Mark's Basilica is the third one to have been built, the first two having been destroyed.

After the tour we had lunch with another couple who had been on the tour and then went to visit the Galeria of Academia which had been highly recommended. As we walked around the museum I noticed that Martin was taking frequent breaks, going to sit on the benches provided in each room. After a brief time in the museum, he said he didn't feel well and needed to return to the hotel.

He was extremely ill all night and the next day but it did not occur to me to ask for a doctor. I thought he had a virus and would be getting better by the next day. This was Wednesday, and on Thursday we were scheduled to leave Venice and ride the train to Lake Como. From there we were going to Switzerland. Martin said he thought he could make the train ride to Lake Como (about three hours) so
we left Thursday morning with him looking very weak and pale.

When we arrived at our hotel in the little town of Como I realized it was time to call a doctor! The people at the hotel were extremely nice and said that one would be arriving within minutes. I sat in the lobby to wait and suddenly an ambulance drove up and three medics with all kinds of emergency equipment came walking in. They felt that he needed to be taken to the hospital so they put the two of us in the ambulance and drove us to the emergency room.

The visit to the hospital was an experience I can't adequately describe. We were there over three hours and no one spoke English. I was sitting in the waiting room in a sea of people and had no idea what any of them were saying. It was a surreal experience to say the least.

When all of the tests and X-rays were finished I was called in with Martin to see the doctor. Fortunately, he could speak a little English and explained that Martin was suffering from food poisoning. He gave him three prescriptions and the ambulance took us to the pharmacy, where we woke up the owner, who filled the prescriptions and sent us on our way, back to the hotel in the ambulance. That was Thursday. This story could go on and on but I'll just close by saying that by 9:00 the next night (Friday) we were back in Mobile where we had departed the previous Saturday.

Martin thinks he got food poisoning from a cup of fresh fruit he ate for lunch the day he got sick. We have later learned that when traveling out of the country it is a good idea to not eat unpeeled fresh fruit or vegetables.

P.S. When I took our film to be developed, the first roll, the one we shot while walking to our hotel...it was blank! We saw a part of Venice that we knew we wouldn't see again, and we were really looking forward to having those pictures.

The trip was ill-fated from the beginning. The night before we left I was trying to put film in our camera, and the camera wouldn't take it. My neighbor tried the next morning, and she had no luck either so she lent us her camera. I didn't realize it was making wide-range pictures. They are beautiful but I'll have to find a special envelope to mail them in.

I took a copy of RRN but for obvious reasons it was never taken out of my suitcase. One of these days we're going to get a picture of an issue when we're on a trip. Martin says he will NEVER go back to Europe! We'll see.

Note: Linda B. Reeves and this writer were classmates in high school. She and her husband, Martin, make their home in Gulfport, MS. Since our class reunion in 2000, Linda has become a faithful reader and supporter of this newsletter and is appreciated for her written contributions as well.

Surprise Visits Face To Face & By Phone

There I was in my computer room, the tiny room inside our garage adjacent to our kitchen, typing away on an article for a future issue of RRN, when I heard a vehicle pull up in front of the opened garage door. At first I thought it might be Sarah, but the sound of the engine was different from that of Barbara's old Buick that Sarah is still driving. Then, as I heard a door sliding along it's track, I thought possibly it was a van, and more so when I heard a female's voice ordering children to roll out.

"Barbara didn't tell me Rayanne was coming over this afternoon," I wondered silently. "I thought Rayanne had to work tonight."

The shuffling of several feet, the sounds of several people talking, and the voices of children had me wondering whom I would greet as I stepped outside the computer room. I had no trouble recognizing the familiar faces, but it took a brief moment to take in the sight of all of them. It appeared that all but one were from Hooterville. I was instantly bathed in a sea of smiling faces belonging to "Miss Jo" Bennett, Dena Kimbrell and her three children, Caitlyn, Hayden, and Gracie, and Dena's sister, Kim Goslin of Carrollton.

Hooterville is approximately ten acres of pristine wilderness (not really) located on Wells Road, between Thaxton, MS, and Hurricane, MS. Hooterville is home for Miss Jo and the Kimbrells and is so named because Lisa Rolik, sister of Kim and Dena, thought the place needed a nickname. I don't know if one would describe it as remote, but Dena says if Bob wants to hunt he has to walk toward town.

Kim Goslin, as long-time readers of this newsletter will recall, was one of the encouraging voices that helped launch this writer's "career," which resulted in the creation of this newsletter. Kim and I worked together for several years in Indianola. It was only after our work relationship ended that I met Kim's mother and two sisters and finally had faces to link with names so familiar as to seem like family. In order of birth, Miss Jo's daughters are Kim, Lisa, and Dena.

Where once I managed to keep up with the Bennett Family through weekly contact with Kim, I now depend upon Dena to inform me of family happenings. Dena's mother and family are active members of First Baptist Church, so it's rare for me not to see them every Sunday. Kim's as close as the phone, but we seldom see each other.

Lisa and I have corresponded via email since the early nineties, but it was only last Christmas that we finally met. Lisa was in Hooterville visiting her mother and sister for the Holiday. Barbara and I drove out to see Dena to drop off a Christmas Gift, and it so happened Lisa and her husband, Scott, were also there. We had a good, though brief, visit and also got to meet Billy, Scott and Lisa's basset hound.

Back in my garage, again, I was both surprised and elated to see so many friends converging upon me at once. After a round of hugs, everyone piled into our living room where we spent the better part of an hour conversing on a variety of subjects that included my scheduled surgery, the surgeon, and the anesthetist I had chosen.

Kim explained she had driven up by herself, knowing she'd have the freedom to go whenever and wherever she pleased without whatever impediments other family members might render. Actually, I think Kim's daughter, Lindsey, is at the age where "hanging out" with peers takes precedent over visiting friends of her parents, and Kim's husband, Mark, was recuperating from a recent and nasty fall down the front steps. Kim also commented that, while visiting at Dena's, she was about to recommend that everyone pile into one vehicle and drive into Pontotoc to visit me, but Dena beat her to the suggestion.

Barbara found time to bake a quick batch of cookies and fix a pot of coffee as I reveled in the affection of good friends. We even made a couple of pictures to document the visit for posterity. The hour passed all too quickly, but it was one I won't soon forget and am grateful for the promised prayer support.

Barbara and I had hardly finished saying goodbye and waving to Dena's entourage, as they backed out of the driveway, when our home phone rang. As I reached to pick it up, the caller ID displayed, "Vera Marshall."

"Hello," I greeted in my best and cheeriest voice.

"Hello, Wayne," I heard the caller say.

"Hello, Richard, how are you?"

"How'd you know it was me? Did you recognize my voice?" Richard Pennington asked.

"Yes I did, but then you're the only Vera Marshall, I know," I commented, testing my ability to be humorous, because I knew Richard and Jane Pennington had moved into the home of Vera Marshall, Jane's mother, to help care for her.

Like several others who have responded to last week's newsletter in which I posted the date of my surgery, Richard was calling to offer me Jane's and his best wishes for speedy recovery following surgery and his family's prayer support.

Earlier, Brenda Young, wife of Durwood Young had phoned and expressed similar concerns, best wishes, and promised prayer support as well. Both Brenda and Richard had just opened and read RRN volume 400 before phoning.

Brenda elaborated, "Joe Wells (her son-in-law) just came back from the mailbox and handed me the Ridge Rider. As soon as I get it, I sit down and read it. I read it cover to cover, just like the Bible."

I hope readers understand that Brenda was in no way comparing this newsletter to the Bible, other than to say no parts were unimportant to her.

All of the above happened on Valentine's Day, which after all is the perfect day for persons to express love to one another. I am grateful for the friendships mentioned in this article, and there were others throughout the day who expressed their concerns either in person or by phone.

Re: RRN's 400th By Kevin Koehler M.D.

I really enjoy reading the articles! Thanks for sending them to me. I was touched by the article on the ribbons in the neighborhood. It felt great when I drove out of the neighborhood on my way out of town and saw those yellow ribbons! I think it is very important for everyone to remember ALL of the soldiers who volunteer to fight for the interests of the United States all over the world. We would not continue if we did not have the support of our families and friends back home. Keep up the spirit!

I am currently in Fort Hood, TX. I recently finished some training in San Antonio and El Paso. I will soon be heading to Fort Polk in Louisiana. We should be in the Middle East by the end of February or early March. I will keep you updated over the coming weeks.

Thanks again for your support and let everyone know that I miss them much!

Kevin Koehler M.D./ MAJ, MC
39th Infantry Brigade/ 1st Cavalry Division

Bodock Beau North Vs. South

Yes we are one nation, but regional differences are evident. Judy Rutledge shares the following:

  • The North has coffeehouses - The South has Waffle Houses.
  • The North has dating services - The South has family reunions.
  • The North has double last names - The South has double first names.
  • The North has Indy car races - The South has stock car races.
  • The North has Cream of Wheat - The South has grits.
  • The North has green salads - The South has collard greens.
  • The North has lobsters - The South has crawdads.
  • The North has the rust belt - The South has the Bible Belt.

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