When the Christmas tree is lipstick on a mirror

Sandra Tsing Loh's Christmas story.
(Kagan McLeod / For The Times)

I was happily gobbling up “Crazy Memory of Chaotic Christmas” [Dec. 16], complete with tuna casseroles and Pier 1 accessories, when I realized that it had been written by the amazing Sandra Tsing Loh. It brought back memories of a long-ago Christmas at La Fonda Inn in El Paso, where my parents drew our tree on the dresser mirror (with lipstick) and unsuccessfully hid our gifts in the motel bathtub.

Sherry Dycaico Runyon

South Pasadena


After such thoughtful essays about holiday travels, Gayle Abrams’ putdown of her mother at Thanksgiving dinners spoiled the section [“Finding Family Joy in the Jell-O,” Dec. 16]. I don’t know if her mother is still alive, but that cruel essay had to hurt.

I didn’t need to know about her parents’ antagonism, her feeling judged by them or the spirit of perfectionism ruining her life, if not her dinner. Suggesting therapy to her would have been kinder to your readers than printing this piece.


Jan Brown

Panorama City

Dust bunnies? Not here

Regarding “Here’s a Closer Look at Hotel Inspections,” by Catharine Hamm (On the Spot, Nov. 25): In November 2006, my husband and I toured the Galápagos. We had spent the night before and after at the Marriott Quito Hotel in Ecuador.

As we were getting ready to depart, I misplaced the paper indicating our departure time and flight information. I looked all over for it and finally looked under the bed, where I found this note:

“Sí, también limpiamos debajo de la cama” (Yes, we also clean under the bed).

I included it in my photo album.

Judy Alexander


River cruise realities

Regarding “European River Cruise Update,” by Rosemary McClure (Need to Know, Dec. 16): Words of caution to those planning a river cruise: Beware.

Because of drought, there is a difficulty in navigating the main rivers in Europe used by river cruise lines. The cruise lines do not necessarily volunteer this information unless you do some research and ask that they disclose the conditions you will possibly face. Nor do they offer any cautions or alternatives.


We booked an Eastern Europe trip on the Danube more than a year ago. We were to fly out of LAX on Oct. 17, stay in a hotel overnight and board on Oct. 18 for seven nights of cruising and visiting various cities using that vessel as our transportation and lodging, which meant we did not have to move luggage or rooms, the primary benefit and convenience of river cruising.

As the date approached, we began hearing about navigation problems from sources other than our cruise line. We contacted customer service, which informed us that the only problem we might encounter involved being bused 50 miles downriver for boarding. We found that acceptable.

On Oct. 16, after we had packed and made reservations for an airport shuttle, we received an email from the cruise line saying that conditions were worse than expected and that we would be spending approximately four days of our cruise time on buses going back and forth between cities and ports. They offered nothing in return, other than a 25% discount on a future trip; nor did they offer the option to reschedule at a better time. We were still to pay in full for this trip.

No one can predict the weather, but a credible business will warn you of conditions in plenty of time, and most businesses allow you to cancel services they cannot provide.

Jim Matlock