New Scenes and Memories

This morning I sat in the room on the upper floor of the Boulder Bookstore gazing out of the window. From where I was sitting I could see the tip of the flatirons. While that may not make for historic news in this town, for someone who lives in Houston where the landscape is quite flat, this is magnificent. The picture below was taken when I was just standing on Pearl Street Mall. Everywhere I look I see these wonderful mountains.

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And then I am reminded why I am here and that is to write. I look away from the mountains and back into myself to see where my mind and creativity are headed.

My thoughts move to the serious arena today as I am reminded that this is the anniversary of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy when he was running for President back in 1968. I was 11 years old at the time and remember being awakened by my mother with the sad announcement. We watched the television news reports. We were saddened. Since I was living in Memphis, Tennessee at the time, we were still recovering from the assassination of Martin Luther King earlier in the year. So many memories of sadness that year.

As a current resident of Houston, Texas, I am also reminded that this is the anniversary of Tropical Storm Allison back in 2001. So much of the Houston area flooded, people were killed in the flood waters, so much property destroyed. Up until Hurricane Harvey last year, this had been the worst local flooding in recent history. It was the first time as a local government employee that I was assigned to help with recovery activities.

These are definitely part of the tapestry that make up my life. They have both helped shape who I am today and what I feel drawn to write about.

Then as I left my writing class and head back for home, I learn of the suicide of Kate Spade. Don’t get me wrong, I am no expert on fashion and do not think I ever owned one of her namesake purses. However, she was a creative and successful woman. She was a mother. She was only 55 years old. There is so much need for good mental health services in this country. Sadly, sometimes even those who can afford good quality health care, cannot escape the hellish depths of depression.

Back at the townhouse, I refocus on my writing. I am preparing to read some of my work at the salon that will take place Thursday evening. I hope I can do justice to the world I see around me and try to make it a better place. Having dinner prepared by two wonderful roommates definitely helps.

As I reflect at the end of this day, I am reminded of a quote by George Bernard Shaw that was borrowed by John, Robert and Edward Kennedy:

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why.….I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

Off for a good night’s sleep and more writing tomorrow.

Dog Days

Today was about the dogs. They showed up twice in 20 minutes. 

The first dog sighting came in a quick stop on a goat hunt. Ellen swears Diana and I resemble bouncing mountain goats. Have you seen them? They’re the Internet‐famous baby goats hopping around an Alpian farm. When I heard of Boulder’s Laughing Goats cafe, I had to find out if I fit in. Plus get a picture of the goats for Ellen. Maybe I could hop and laugh?

Dogs like goats? Or is it only a water thing?

Instead, I found this.

The dog bowl would seem a disappointment. Instead, I saw a thread.

Writers are, among other things, seamstresses. We search for threads with which to sew a story. Sometimes those threads come from multiple places.

After the Laughing Goat, I had one more thread to find.

I walked to the Trident Cafe in search of a real‐life dog.

In 2011, I witnessed the heroic Dylan. That’s what I dubbed the golden retriever mix who stumbled down the sidewalk then stopped in front of the Trident Cafe. Make that “was stopped at the cafe.” Dylan was draped in a complicated contraption of leashes, harnesses, collars, and dog boots–all colored a cruel cobalt blue. I watched for several painful minutes as his master tugged, dragged, and yanked her dog down the sidewalk before shoving him against the Trident’s outside wall. Dylan laid against the brick building and baked in the sun as his owner went inside the cafe. I watched, horrified. Then walked away. Seven years later, the images — and my choice — haunt.

In planning this writing retreat, I had an odd mission to look for Dylan. Call it one of those things. This time, I’d do the right thing.

The Trident today held no Dylan, of course. Waiting instead was cobalt blue:

Cobalt blue haunts Trident Cafe dog.

Logo. Awning. Sky.

I am glad Dylan was gone. I pray he’s out of pain, no longer defined by cobalt blue.

The Dylan story and all this rambling about dogs and goats in a writer’s life must strike you as weird. If so, I am glad. Because that’s the job of a writer. To make others uncomfortable. Stories do that as we novelists and essayists and others of the writing life gather threads to create stories that impact your life somehow.

Interesting that this shirt chose me this morning. Upon awakening, I lacked full understanding of the importance surrounding today’s mission. The t-shirt’s words best explain this seamstress metaphor.

Weird People. Writers. Artists. Dreamers. Outsiders. Pretty Special People. Can I say that?

I only sought a goat and a dog, never knowing I’d end up with two dogs and a blog post. And a really strange tale about the writing life.

Sherlock would be delighted my dedicated efforts at observation.

Somewhere my mother laughs.

I failed the sewing badge in Girl Scouts.

Writing!

A pocket watch, a turtle, and an elephant walk into a bar.…..wait, that’s not right.

What do a pocket watch, a turtle, and an elephant have in common? I have no idea…yet…but I am using them as writing prompts.

So goes the beginning of our writing retreat which meets in the wonderful Boulder Bookstore.

After our first meeting on Saturday, I spend Sunday morning at the townhouse getting inspired by my three prompts. Finally, the words begin to flow and I am ready for class this afternoon. I also work on story outlines and plot points. I am ready to head out to class.

My roommates already left for their class. Everyone at the retreat is divided into three groups. Melanie and Diana are in the same group (maybe I am a little jealous not to be with them?). Oh well, we will be in some of the same writing groups when we return to Houston.

I enjoyed the few hours I have by myself at the townhouse. I am finally beginning to adjust to both the Boulder altitude and sharing house with two roommates. All three of us have been friends for a while now but have never roomed together before. Three strong, independent, assertive women. We all know what we want and how we want the universe to revolve. It is inspiring to see us adjust to each other. We are dedicated to our writing and to supporting other women writers. The room may be too cold for one or too hot for the other, but we don’t lose focus on why we are here. RoadBroads Unite!

I Uber to the bookstore. Now I’ve Ubered twice in two days. That makes me a pro. I even tipped Howard, the driver.

I walk along the Pearl Street Mall enjoying the shops and all the people. Each block seems to have its own street performer. Guitar players, drum players, even one guy standing on top of a ladder while juggling. The day felt festive.

I stop at one of the many coffee shops to get coffee and water to take with me to class. Then I enter the bookstore, walk up the stairs to the second floor and make my way back to our meeting spot in the middle of the religious/spiritual book section.

Max Regan lectures on different aspects of writing. Several of us read our writing assignments and get good solid feedback. The two hours fly by quickly and class is over.

It is now time to head out for dinner and our first salon. I walk the four blocks to the location of the salon to find a wonderful spread of salad, breads, cheeses, sliced veggies and more. There was fruit for dessert which included some of the best fresh mango I have had in a long time.

We will have several of these salon meetings during the retreat so that every writer shares some of their work with the entire group. Melanie read tonight and did a masterful job. I take a turn at reading next Thursday. I hope I can be as good as Melanie. She has set the bar very high.

Now back at the townhouse, the day is over. I am exhausted but pleased with that I have accomplished today.

Ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

From Car to Bus and Back Again

The lady promised us the Boulder bus service was “quite efficient — very good actually.” We met her as we searched for our first bus stop near 28th and Valmont. Her directions took us to an easy‐to‐find pole with a simple sign, clearly marked:

Such a beautiful sign — and so easy to find!

The morning bus run from our townhouse to the Boulder Bookstore exceeded the stranger’s boast. We arrived early for class.

It marked our first official group working session. Three hours later, we left like we always do after experiencing a Max Regan seminar: eager, confident writers itchy to engage every storytelling possibility that our creative minds can conjure. The experience resembles a church revival, minus guilt and a tithe.

Ellen and I headed to the designated bus stop. Based on our morning experience, we felt confident in our ability to navigate the afternoon ride. Our only worry (at least mine; Ellen trusts me more than she probably should) was getting to the bus stop on time.

We arrived early at the designated location given to us by RTD (Regional Transportation District). The map planner had told us to board the 2:24 p.m. bus arriving at Spruce and Broadway.

A city bus neared us. It was 2:17 p.m.

Not ours,” I told Ellen before I saw our route number splashed across the top front of the bus. With ticket in hand, I waved at the bus driver as he sped by. He shook his head “no” and motioned to the next block. I began to run, waving my arms back at the driver as I yelled at Ellen behind me, “I’ll hold him for you.”

No such luck. The driver boarded three passengers then took off. I stood there in Texas disgust then waved harder and yelled a little louder. Don’t mess with a RoadBroad. Especially when she’s running and frustrated.

Can you see the red RTD sign? It’s behind the tree, peeking out from its upper left branches.

After the drama, we retraced our steps. There’s the bus stop sign we missed. Who looks behind a tree for a bus stop sign? Especially when it’s half a block from where you’ve been told to be? Do you follow the bus company’s specific instructions or do you wander sidewalks looking for hidden signs?

We parked ourselves at the corrected bus stop, crossing our fingers that maybe, maybe we’d get lucky and another #208 would miraculously appear. Then, an elderly man  with a beautiful German Shepherd joined us at the bus stop. He told us that sometimes RTD is early, “but never that early.” He shook his head in disgust. 

Of course, no later bus came. After our new friend got on his bus, Ellen and I looked at each other. What now? We now had no way of getting home because we didn’t have the later bus schedules. Who comes to town with all the city bus schedules in their backpack? Especially when they’re in town as a working visitor?

To the entire mess, Ellen offered one word: Uber.

Uber joins the RoadBroads team.

A minute later, we had Uber on the phone with a driver on the way. We met Frank of the silver Nissan Versa near Walnut and Broadway. We unlocked the townhome, an hour later than a pre‐paid bus coupon had promised.

Of course, Uber cost five times the value of that coupon. But we traveled from where we were to where we needed to be. Time and place no longer mattered.

Now we’re rethinking those books of bus coupons we bought long distance.

Today’s two learnings?

One good experience does not ensure another.

Sometimes cars really are the only way to travel.

****

By the way, the answer to Thursday’s post: the photo is of from high atop the Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge outside Taos, New Mexico. Sara Jackson: you got it — almost! The gorge bridge is a little bit upstream (or is it downstream?) of the Taos Box. Thanks for the guess!

Boulder At Last!

Early this morning we had to leave the wonderful Dream Catcher Bed and Breakfast in Taos to head out for another day of exciting travel. That bed sure was comfortable and the people there sure were nice. Even Jake, the dog and official B&B greeter, was a delight as you can see in his picture.

But our focus is getting to Boulder for the writing retreat. And, on the way, we needed to pick up Diana (another “Sister RoadBroad”) at the Denver airport. I enjoyed the wonderful travel through New Mexico as we were continuously hugged by all of the beautiful mountains. I could stare out at that scenery for hours on end.

Finally we arrived in Colorado. We took our first stop in what looked to me as a typical Colorado town called Walensberg. We visited a coffee shop called Serendipity that was right across the street from a building called “Roof and Dick”. There has to be a good story behind that name. Maybe one day I will write about it.

Inside the coffee shop there was a young gentleman playing the guitar and all of the pastries were homemade. I got the biggest cup of coffee available and Melanie got tea and a blueberry pastry. As people came in to the shop, you could tell everyone knew everyone else. I got the sense that some of the folks went by the coffee shop every morning for their daily caffeine requirement.

All through Colorado the wind blew and Melanie white‐knuckled the steering wheel to keep our car on the road. I once again fulfilled the role of navigator and tried not to forget too many important turns. Driving through places like Pueblo and Colorado Springs the traffic became more and more congested.

Colorado has as much road construction as Texas. At one point we slowed down when we had to pass a four car pile‐up. Then we really slowed down when we had to pass what was only described as “police activity”. We never did find out what that was except that there were 6 to 8 squad cars, one guy with a large camera looking out over a bridge and several other men gathered around. Mystery or mysteries.

Driving around Denver from the Airport to the Brown Palace for lunch I observed that traffic is as bad in Denver as it is in Houston. Of course it is Friday and people want to get away from work to start their weekends.

Once we turned off onto the road that led us into Boulder, traffic once again lightened up. We arrived at our home away from home, dropped off our luggage and made it to downtown Boulder for dinner. This gathering was the official opening of the writing retreat.

On the way to the dinner, I took a picture of Boulder Creek. The weather here is beautiful with no humidity and full sunshine. In Houston the temperature is in the triple digits. Here in Boulder the high temperature today was about 86 degrees. I think I am going to like it here.

Now off to unpack and get some good rest. I have a busy week ahead of me.

Late & Lovely

It’s after 11 p.m. TX time & we’re only now in our Taos B&B.

So much to see and eat as we cruised across two states. Already Amarillo feels like a week ago.

That’s because, for both of us, today was lovely. For different reasons.

For Ellen, Santa Fe buzzed with memory and possibility.

For Melanie, Taos reconfirmed where home is.

More details manana after we reach our third state in three days. Of course, who knows what state we’ll really be in…

Our writing retreat — led by the magnificent and incomparable Max Regan — begins tomorrow night. And that’s the real reason we RoadBroads hit the highway in the first place!

Since I’m writing this post on my cell phone (& I’m cranky & tired), only one trip pic tonight:

Can you identify what this photo is? Hint: it’s deep, it’s wet, and it flows.

Amarillo!

We made it! Our first day on the road is a success! Melanie and I arrived all the way to Amarillo after only 10 hours of driving (following 4 hours of sleep).

Sam Houston guided us by pointing the way north from Huntsville and our journey heated up!

The weather was good, if not warm, and the traffic, tolerable. I don’t even mind that the temperature reached into the upper 90s, the humidity is very low here compared to the Texas Gulf Coast. Tomorrow the temperatures will be even cooler and I cannot wait!

Melanie did all of the driving today while I co‐piloted with the use of a AAA Trip Tik. Loved the turn‐by‐turn directions. Really helpful when driving in and out of road construction that seems to plague every conceivable road and highway in Texas. Counted 14 cops running radar from Houston to Fort Worth. Funny how all the police disappeared in Cowtown. We could have used their help in navigating the worst road construction since TXDot started ripping apart the Gulf Freeway.

One of our first stops on the road turned out to be a Stuckey’s. I remember taking family vacations many years ago and we stopped at many Stuckey’s along the road. This is the first one I have seen in a really long time. Now this fine establishment is famous for fudge and sausages. I did not sample either.

Then while driving down the road, we passed many wind farms. I have never seen one up close before. I was amazed at how big the fan blades on the wind turbines are (I hope that is what you call them) and pleasantly surprised at how many wind farms there are in this part of Texas.

We drove through Memphis. Having grown up in Memphis, Tennessee, I found this quite entertaining. No, it does not take much to excite me during a 10‐hour car ride. Memphis, Texas is much smaller than Memphis, Tennessee. We drove through it pretty quickly.

Finally we reached Amarillo and stopped for the night. And, of course, nothing says “Lone Star State” like the Big Texan Steak Ranch. The deal here is that you can get a 72 ounce steak for free if you can eat the steak and all the trimmings within an hour. Yes, there are people who really take this challenge and succeed. Being a vegetarian myself, I munched on a salad, sweet potato, roll and iced tea.

No one took the challenge while we were there, but Melanie and I did get serenaded by some fine Cowboys. They sang The Yellow Rose of Texas.

Day one successfully completed. Now time for a long sleep before heading out for more adventures tomorrow in Santa Fe and Taos.

This road trip keeps getting more exciting!

Tick Tick Tick Tick…

I’m in trouble now. Serious time trouble. 

Can all this fit into that luggage?

In 8 hours and 15 minutes — yes, I’m counting — I must leave my house. Ellen expects me at her doorstep at 6:15 a‐m. Wake‐up for me comes one hour before.

At least it’s a makeup free drive. We agreed.

I digress.

A nine‐hour‐plus drive to Amarillo dictates our early departure. Land after 6:30 a‐m on any Bayou City roadway, especially US 59 heading to I‐45, and the asphalt clogs up. RoadBroads don’t do slow.

I digress again. My apologies. Look up there at the trashy picture. Can you figure out what’s not yet done?

But wait. Turn around, leave this room, look to your right. You’ll spot three piles of dirty laundry. Head down the hall, you’ll find an unfinished stack of June‐due bill payments. In the kitchen rests a week of RoadBroad blog papers to sort and file. Intensifying the growing overwhelm is the June family calendar: two birthdays followed by Father’s Day times four.

All awaiting these diminishing overnight hours, and this blog post.

At least, Mother Nature cooperates. Boulder weather shows 88 degree highs and 56 degree lows. Amarillo temps for tomorrow mirror Houston, less the coastal humidity. From my childhood I remember the dry heat of the Texas Panhandle. Translation? Manana, even in an air‐conditioned car, demands less. Tank top and shorts. Less equals cooler. For this post‐menopausal chauffeur and her human cargo, cool matters. As in non‐negotiable.

This begs what may be my salvation tonight. Hot weather means fewer clothes equals less to pack. Or should I pack more outfits because wet and sweaty demands dry and cool?

When did I get too old for this kind of silliness? Mind mania has set in, my god.

My brain hurts. I’m tired. And I’ve got miles of things to finish before I sleep. I can’t pull a Scarlett, either. Tonight and Ellen dictate action and completion. So off I go to take care of all the silly busywork a 19‐day RoadBroads adventure demands. Who knows when it’s lights out for me tonight. Besides, I’ll probably go all “journey proud,” as my grandmother used to say, and not sleep a wink.

We’ll see. Instead, I’ll leave you with what I saw on my morning walk.

The trio of deer lolled in the Full Moon morning, the sun insisting this day belonged to the animals.

Can you find the three deer?

I hope to observe similar vistas in the road days ahead. Amarillo or Santa Fe or Taos or Denver or Boulder.

Crossing fingers.

And off to pack.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day 2018. Let me begin by remembering the reason for this day which is to honor those who gave their lives in service for this Country.

Also today is a first for me. It is the first holiday of my retirement. Always in the past I have thought about Memorial Day as the long weekend before summer gets into full swing. Many people start their summer by vacationing this week. Personally, I have never vacationed around this time. I always thought this was time for people who had kids getting out of school for the summer to begin their family vacations.

My retirement is still new enough that I feel particularly excited knowing that tomorrow morning my former co‐workers will return to the office while I continue with my road journey preparations. Will all holidays feel like this from now on? I am hoping for the good vibes to continue through at least the first six to twelve months. I hope my former co‐workers do not hold that against me. This year I am, according to the USA Today, joining 41.5 million Americans projected to travel this week. EGAD! That’s a lot of us. Before I always had the pleasure of staying at home, listening to the news and hearing about all of the traffic. Now I will be in the middle of it. Hopefully everyone else will be where they are going by the time I get on the road. Watch out everybody! RoadBroads are on the loose and on the highways!

So, how did I spend my last weekend before heading out to the Wild West? Obviously I did not finish all of my travel preparations. Like Melanie, I am going to finish as much as I can and then leave. I will throw a bunch of suit cases in the back of the car and hope I have packed anything helpful or necessary. It does not help when I do a load of laundry, set some of the clean clothes aside for folding and hanging only to have Vesta, the cat, deposit a nice fluffy hair ball on them. Have I started packing? Of course not. 

I did go see a really good documentary over the weekend at the Museum of Fine Arts called, Lives Well Lived. Senior citizens aged 75 to 100 were interviewed to share their wisdom for living a long and meaningful life. Some of the interviewees reminded me of my Aunt Grace who lived to be 94 years old. She was active and independent until the very end. During our last conversation she told me to enjoy every day of my life. What a wonderful role model she was for me.Last night I went to the Alley Theater and saw Picasso at the Lapin Agile. It is a very funny play where Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein meet in a bar. They discuss the differences between the creative process involved in scientific discovery and the creative process involved in developing works of art. I’ve known my share of both Scientists and Artists. Both groups tend to be full of very creative people. We need examples from both groups to keep society going. I am hoping for lots and lots of creativity during the writing retreat in Boulder. Can’t wait!

Now I am off and running to do more laundry and packing!

60 Hours to Launch a Road Trip…

and I’m letting go.

No more completing four page To Do lists.

No more pretending Wonder Woman inhabits my body.

My fantasy life exploded deep inside last night’s thunder and lightning storm.

At 7 p.m., the power went out, the computer crashed and into the weather ethers vanished three hours of writing. DH and I bailed, checking into a nearby hotel. Our disappearing act followed power company candor:  ‘we’ll have your power restored…some time later in the evening.”

What worried hands grab in dark lightning.

House temps rising above 80 degrees sped up our split. So did a scary black sky. Misery threatened overnight with lightning streaks boomed down to light the night, four belts at a time. I looked at Chuck, he looked at me and, with flashlights in hand, grabbed familiar bags in the dark. 

The two red bags hold everything two ex‐crisis communications consultants once needed for client emergency response. Odd to be both client and consultant in a single run of hours last night.

This morning, with the sun shining, I looked at last night’s haul and whispered to myself, “Too much luggage for one night.” But from somewhere deep inside came the defense:  we didn’t know what we would need — and we couldn’t see in the dark. We just responded. 

I’ve learned a lot about plans and fantasies in the last 24 hours. To wit:

  • John Lennon was right when he (or someone) said: “Life is what happens to you when you have other plans.”
  • I’ve lost 24 hours that I’d counted on to finish several Very Vital, Absolutely Must‐Be‐Done Projects that demanded completion before beginning any of the road trip nitty‐gritty preparation.
  • This afternoon, I sheared off two‐thirds of the Vital from the above‐mentioned To Do list. I have 60 hours to finish Everything. That’s on top of several outside must‐keep appointments, critical errands (gasoline in the car, hello?), along with routine daily chores.
  • Vital Learning: Vital can wait. It must. Truth is — cough, cough — most of it’s been waiting a long time anyway. C’est le vie.
  • Vital Learning: Road Trip packing list got major‐sheared. As in I’m packing half of what I’d earlier planned. No way I have time to pack everything I’d considered Vital only a day ago. I’ve got more important things to finish.
  • Vital Learning: When did Vital become so important to daily living?
  • Speaking of, next trip I take, I’m adding a blank page to the front of my Trip To‐Do List. The paper carries a single two‐word headline: The Unexpected. That’s Vital, too.

When life rolls, I rock. What else can a RoadBroad do?