When Films Beat a Flood

Imelda — she of sudden tropical storm fame — sent me this week not for cover, but to the movies.

Residing in a safe zone — unscarred by any water impact (this time) - DH and I felt desperate for respite from weather sirens and incessant rain drops.

Star Cinema Grill’s Onyx, the new‐to‐us movie theater, beckoned from nearby Richmond. It’s the first cinema of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The big boast centers on its picture screen — a massive 46 feet wide:

Can you spot the tiny rows of seats, all dwarfed by this massive movie screen?

When the screen lit up, my mouth dropped open at the first commercial:

Onyx Dancer prances across a field of fireworks…

The image offered a unique combination of LED picture contrast married to stunning graphics.

Please forgive my obvious commercial plug here. I’ve never had a movie experience like this.

It’s a comfortable space. Ask DH.

He bought us pod tickets. That’s the upper theater section where seats come cordoned off in pairs.

New meaning for two‐peas‐in‐a‐pod?

Blankets, pillows, reclining seats, and extending tables create a viewing environment that spoils.

For the ladies, there’s another first, this one a double: every pod includes a seat light and a purse bench.

Not even airplanes carry such prized additions. Both operate perfectly. White light aims where you point, and bench extends beyond the seat back.

Hmm…if I’d brought a book to the movies, I’d have room to bench it here.

Food abounds as both solid and liquid fare. The latter ranges from basic tap water to high‐octane alcohol.

In another first, menu options reflect gourmet hands. Quinoa and edamame meet buttery popcorn and Junior Mints.

My only complaint?

It’s pricey. A pod costs nearly $40 for two people. Individual ticket price equals $19.75. Cost does not include food or drink — ouch! 

There’s a similar high‐dollar movie place in Houston. $68 per pod pair. With smaller screens. Google tells me its owners filed for bankruptcy mid‐month.

What did we see, you wonder? We viewed a double‐header: Downton Abbey and Ad Astra. The latter smokes the former. Big time, says this amateur film critic.

Spiritual meanderings about the meaning of life beat claustrophobic rantings among an antiquated aristocracy.

The royals didn’t hand out any cool pins.

Rainy days demand more love.

When Roads Flood

Wasn’t it just days ago that Melanie visited the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern? The location that used to hold much of the drinking water for the City of Houston? It is no longer in use.….except to catch flood waters when the rains set in.

I can only imagine that the Cistern is now full of water. Houston, and many surrounding areas have now been dealing with Tropical Storm Imelda for days now. For the longest time, Houston was spared the worst of the rains. However, all of that changed today. Starting overnight and all through today we have been enduring a severe rain storm. It technically started out as a “rain band” from Imelda. Then the the rains started a thing called “training”. A line of storms just keeps raining over and over the same area until everything is flooded.

Much of the talk on the television news reports that have been running all day make many comparisons to Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Allison. Of course this area received 50 to 60 inches of rain during Harvey. So far we have only received 20 to 30 inches of rain with Imelda. There is an ever increasing list of creeks, lakes and bayous that are out of their banks. News reporters are out in the field and have assisted with many rescues of folks who need to evacuate their homes.

The saddest part is that many people who were flooded out by Hurricane Harvey two years ago are once again flooded out by Imelda. Some just moved back into their homes last spring. Other Harvey victims are simply being tested with PTSD today and trying to remember to breathe and relax.

Since the weather wasn’t so bad early this morning, many people made it into work and kids made it to school. Now freeways are both flooded and congested. Schools are letting out, but kids can’t get home and parents can’t get to the schools. Here is a picture of a Metro bus that is close to the Intercontinental Airport. Shortly after this picture made the news Metro suspended all of their routes until “conditions improved”.

Of course there are always those who will get out in the middle of a storm and try to buy one more batch of groceries just in case the lights go out. Here is a glance of the grocery store parking lot near my home. It is not a very good picture, because I was standing out of the rain. I wasn’t going to get any closer. I hope all of these folks made it home safe and sound.

How did I fare? Since I am retired from the local government job I had for many years, I am home safe and sound. My lights flickered a few times earlier while it was lighting and thundering, but the electricity never went out completely. I was supposed to go to hear the Houston Symphony this evening and that has been cancelled. Many streets in the downtown area are flooding or flooded. Much of the downtown Theatre District just got completely up and running after the damage done during Harvey. I have not heard about any damage this time. I am keeping my fingers crossed. Compared to many who have just lost everything for the second time in two years, I am very lucky and thankful.

Until next week.….

When Old Water Brings New Light

I’m tardy with this post. A first in 16 months of blogging. Here’s why:

This place, which I visited last week, left me gasping.

I’m still trying to catch my breath.

What is it, you ask?

It’s an old home. Not for people. For Houston’s drinking water.

That’s what the promotional materials for the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern read. But I see no water here, only transcendence.

My imagination fills in the blanks my mind creates: could this be the image of crossing over? Yes, to There.

Hardly what I expected during last week’s road trip. The cistern was only one more bullet point on my “Houston‐to‐Visit” list. DH’s trek to his home state offered an excuse. And Thursday tours are free at the cistern.

First, I saw the pipes.

At the bottom of this large intake pipe gurgled a small but steady flow of water. It goes nowhere these days. Historical effect equals raw power. Who knew?

That yellow glow near the stair rail triggers first impressions. The down staircase echoes those step effects seen in the initial photo.

My mind surges with otherworldly imaginings: where are we descending to/climbing from? What is that light and where is it guiding us? This first water — does it offer anything to us today?

The tour guide takes us around the full walkway of the cistern. It’s longer than a football field and humid. But only two inches of water cover its surface now.

221 concrete pillars stretch the length and width of the space. Each pillar rises 25 feet high skyward.

Its last fill‐up? Hurricane Harvey, two years ago. Accidentally. The waters rose 17 feet, reaching halfway up the guardrail that tops the cisterns’ sidewalls.

All the light is artificial, installed a decade ago when an irreparable leak forced decommissioning of this reservoir.

Instead of demolishing the space — as is Houston’s historic custom — someone somewhere offered: let’s save this, make it an art space. Two shows — one offering rain, the other light and video — will be followed in 2020 with a third, not yet chosen.

What the cistern rescuers created, in addition, is a holy place.

Everywhere around lay impressions: light and dark, above and below, stair steps and pathways. Water embracing it all.

Images offer symbols, all for later pondering and translation.

As with our dreams, personal interpretation heals best and deepest.

And that’s where our stories begin.

Where Were You?

Where were you? I have now lived long enough to be able to answer any number of these questions. For example:

  • Where were you on November 22, 1963, when President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas?

I was in the first grade in a small Lutheran parochial school in Memphis, Tennessee. My classmates and I were on our way back into our classroom after recess. We all noticed that the 8th graders were watching television. Since this was 1963, watching television during the school day was very unusual. When we were all seated and quiet, our teacher told us what had happened.

  • Where were you on January 28, 1986, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded soon after take off?

I was a full grown adult living in Houston, Texas and working for your typical oil company. Since it was the 1980s I was wearing a suit with shoulder pads sewn into the jacket. My heels matched my suit, of course. I was actually traveling to a lunch time meeting when the news broke on the radio station I was listening to in my car. The meeting was with the American Society of Training and Development. I was hoping to develop a career in corporate training. I remember thinking at the start of the meeting, we should take a “moment of silence” in remembrance of the astronauts that were killed. I didn’t mention this to anyone and we didn’t do it. I still regret not speaking up.

  • Where were you on September 11, 2001, when our country was attacked and the twin towers fell?

I was running late for work. In spite of the fact I was trying to hurry, when I looked at the television (I always watch morning news) I saw the first tower on fire with smoke billowing out across the New York landscape. For whatever reason, this image caught my attention and I just sat down and watched. I was trying to figure out what the heck was going on. Then the second plane flew into the second tower. Our country was under attack. I knew I had to leave for the office. I was a Manager with the Social Services Department within Harris County. I called into the office and spoke with one of the Supervisors. I told him to turn on the television in the client waiting room. I thought both staff and clients needed to know what was happening. By the time I made it to work, the radio was announcing that the Pentagon was on fire. Not much work was done that day, except all clients who had appointments to receive assistance with utility bills and rent were seen and processed as normal. Even if the world is falling apart, there are still people living in poverty who need help with their bills. While all staff continued to help clients, we also stayed glued to the television as much as possible.

I can only hope going forward I have many days of to remember where I was when something good happened.

Until next week.….

Reading & Remembering the Home Team

Sports and me don’t mix. Blame my DNA.

For evidence, I enter my most recent road trip.

Free tickets and curiousity lured DH and me to watch the Houston Astros play Tampa Bay.

We saw our last Astros game in 1993. As in back in the previous century. Our Astrodome was still the 8th Wonder of the World. Nolan Ryan came back to the old home field to pitch one last time. He blew out his elbow and we never attended another Astros game.

Playing ‘gotcha!” with the past — as in three times in one night.

Imagine our surprise last week when, upon arriving at the new‐to‐us ballfield — Minute Maid Park — we spied this. Our first Astros jersey of the night. Ryan? Good old #34 — emphasis on old.

What are the odds that my return to sports would involve the same team and the same player on the same night — 26 years later?

Meaning comes where you find it. Especially when you’re not looking.

Playing with food: a ballpark game for adults only.

By the time we f.i.n.a.l.l.y. maneuvered to our seats, total exhaustion overwhelmed me.

So many people. So much color. So much noise.

Struck out by all the incomings, I returned to my standard healing response: gentle play.

What else to do with a cold pretzel on a hot night?

Look around. Make something new.

Voila! Pretzel + Diamond = Ballpark Playtime. Can you spot the two diamonds?

Reading books: the best game in the universe (all of them).

Afterwards, I turned to my first love: reading.

Yes, I brought books to a professional baseball game. Two of them, because options and variety matter. Like playtime.

My mother taught me well: bring a book because it will always feed you. Life won’t.

Her life‐long mantra echoed in my ear the following morning when I spotted my cousin’s words.

Lila had spotted my reading picture on Facebook. In response, she offered the Compliment of the Year: 

Seventy five years later — Austin to Houston — like mother, like daughter — I’ll gladly be the chip off that old block.

Everyone else can take baseball; I’ll take my books.

Anywhere.

Strange Week On The Road

What a strange week this has been! So much news about hurricanes which is typical this time of year. However, Dorian really is one for the record books. I am sure we will be hearing about the death and devastation for some time now.

Here in Houston I hear people say that they are thankful the hurricane did not come to us. It is so odd to hear (and feel) grateful at another’s misfortune. Yet, it is a sentiment with some wisdom behind it. Sooner or later Houston will endure another hurricane. Too many people are still recovering from Hurricane Harvey. Every year I have the same wish, “Not this year. Please not this year.” So far, so good.

With all of this going on, I have been engaging in a bit of escapism. To begin with I went to the Stages Theatre and saw, Sister’s Back to School Catechism: The Holy Ghost and Other Terrifying Tales. There is a whole series of “Sister Catechism” plays. At Stages they all star Denise Fennell as Sister and they are all hilarious. This one was especially good, because it dealt with Halloween. Now, I am not Catholic. I was raised Lutheran and converted to Judaism. Still, the humor in these plays really crosses all boundaries. Fennell is masterful at working with a lot of audience participation. This is playing until October 13th. I highly recommend you go.

I also went to see the movie, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? It was so good I had to go out and read the book. Cate Blanchett stars in the movie. Maria Semple wrote the book. Both women are geniuses. Both the book and the movie are funny and interesting. The main question I have to ask myself is, “Am I a menace to society or do I just need more outlets for creativity?” I think this is a good question any aspiring writer or artist should ask. What do you think? What would happen to you if life handed you both success and failure at the same time?

I have also been reading another book about the life and times of artist, Georgia O’Keefe. It is called, How Georgia Became O’Keefe by Karen Karbo. This book chronicles the life of O’Keefe starting during the time she lived in West Texas as an art teacher. Even in her early days, this woman was determined to live life on her own terms. She did this and continued to do so until she died. I have read many books about O’Keefe, but this one really does take a unique approach to such a fascinating person. I will always be inspired by this artist.

Well, that’s been my week. Later this afternoon, I am going to my new favorite spa, GreenHouse Day Spa for a massage. Books, movies, theater and massage. Sometimes a little escapism is good for the soul.

Until next week.….

30 Years Later: A Proposal to Remember

On the night he proposed, DH sent me on the road.

His phone message lured me out of the radio station and to the freeway: meet me at the Chevron station — corner of Bingle and Old Hempstead Highway — six p.m. tonight.

Thus began a scavenger hunt across northwest Houston. Thirty years ago today and one week after a no‐ring ocean cruise.

At the gas station, I found his car.

Empty, except for a dozen red roses piled atop the hood. A card lay nearby with a single question, plus directions to a nearby movie theater.

When Harry Met Sally.”

Perfect for us, both as a couple and individuals. 

In a parallel universe, I’m Sally Albright. As finicky as she about meals, clothes, and sometimes, conversation, too. What’s wrong with demanding your kale warmed, with two tablespoons of organic EVOO on the side?

I’m eager to re‐enact the Katz’s Deli scene. Meg Ryan overlooked vital details, ones only I can move and moan.

DH channels Harry Burns to near‐perfection. He approaches every situation with an engineer’s logic. Fortunately, he’s never suffered the movie’s perennial question: can friends enjoy lasting fringe benefits?

DH remains world‐class at Pictionary, screaming out his equivalent of “Baby Fish Mouth!” at every opportunity.

After we watched — and laughed — through every moment of the movie, wine and dinner followed.

Mexican food. He knows me, and my order, well:  Christmas enchiladas but only two, please, and lukewarm charro beans in a separate dish.

A second card followed. With a question.

Then we drove to his home and, in the backyard, DH popped out a third card. Yes, a question.

I aced the engagement exam and DH put a ring on it.

(Could you ace this quiz?)

Three months later, we married.

Our fast altar moves followed a wild, five year, friendship/courtship. We had no idea that, all along, we were channeling our inner Harry and Sally.

Now, here we are, three decades and three photographs later:

The only pose we planned was the first one, our formal engagement picture.

The middle black‐and‐white pose followed a need for promotional photos for our business, Media Consultants.

How could we resist a third pose for this post? But hey, it required no road trip.

Only a swing into our den, the one (un‐ironed) white bed sheet we own, and a willing photographer, my good writing friend, Danielle Metcalf‐Chenail.

Now, we’re off to celebrate. No roses, wine, or cards needed this trip.

Women Artists On The Road Together!

On Wednesday of this week, I finished an 8‐week collage course at the Art League Houston. It was taught, lead and inspired by Sasha Dela. Here is my final 3‐D art piece which of course shows Halloween art, because I love Halloween! As much as I love it, it pales in comparison to the works of my classmates. We were a class full of women all interested in expanding our artistic knowledge and experience. They were all wonderful and I learned so much from every one of them. So, in honor to my wonderful classmates and artists, here is the work they showed on the last day of class. All of the pictures were taken by me. They were sometimes taken at weird angles during our class critique. Please forgive my photography and I hope you enjoy the art as much as I have.

What a great group of artists! What a great group of women! I was so fortunate to spend my summer with them.

Until next week.….

Remembering Ship Trips and Chapel Dreams

At last, 2019 reveals its magic.

Awaiting luggage at a long‐forgotten Caribbean airport

Earlier this week, I searched through family pictures on an unrelated project. These blog post pictures stopped that work and launched this post.

One glance at the dated t‐shirt awakened old trip memories. Not a road journey, but a trip at sea:

DH and I sailing on our first cruise. 1989, I thought. Hmm, 30 years ago. I flipped over the picture: Baggage Claim. Nassau, Bahamas. 8/25/89. 

Thirty years ago. Today.

Batmon & Batwomon — as islanders would say

Something about all the yellow and black colors offered premonition for shipboard antics.

Mention costume party and we’re first in line. Alas, we thought we were quite the lovebirds, too.

Or is that batbirds?

It gets better.

Egads, what was I thinking?

Naive to cruise games, DH and I felt super‐special when we received the captain’s invitation to meet him.

Then we stepped off the elevator and saw all the other special Ones. It’s good to have your Ego Balloon deflated.

I’d like to write that girl from yesterday a letter. Save yourself future grief and tamp down that Texas hair and leave the hairspray at home. Helmet head and fru‐fru attire doesn’t become you. Save your energy for where it really counts.

Young bar greeters welcome station listeners at sea.

The cruise came courtesy of the radio station where DH worked. The free trip required schmoozing with listeners every night—in the bar du jour. All drinks on the house.

One evening, as we sailed back toward Miami, DH quizzed the women cruisers about what they had packed for the trip. He knew I had overdone the shoes. I cackled when my heel count lost by one pair.

In losing, I learned that RoadBroads must pack less. Or, at least, don’t show‐and‐tell your suitcase goods.

I also lost when it came to what I most craved on that trip: an engagement ring. We’d dated five long years. I fantasized, too, about a shipboard wedding, courtesy of that cute captain we’d met earlier.

Neither happened.

I learned expectations can bite. The years since have taught me a better life strategy. Take a breath. Wait. Good news follows every pause.

Adage illustration—here—next week.

NOTE: In discovering these cruise pictures, I realized an amazing synchronicity. 2019 marks notable life anniversaries: graduation from both high school and college; meeting my husband; getting engaged; and marriage. How did I miss these breath‐stopping connections for nearly nine months?

Going Down the Road with a Hearse and a Crematorium

It’s been just over a year since I visited with my niece, Becca, in Colorado. It was a pleasant day. Melanie was there as well. We had lunch and then we had ice cream. What a great memory. Doesn’t she look happy?

Then she shared with me that she was considering going back to school to study mortuary science. This means she has an interest in becoming a funeral director! What fun! It does run in the family. My Dad was a funeral director for Memphis Funeral Home. Have I shared this before? I also worked at Memphis Funeral Home when I was working on my bachelor’s degree at Memphis State University. This was the funeral home that buried Elvis Presley which remains my closest brush with greatness to this day.

Well, somewhere on Facebook I saw a link with a Funeral Museum in Vienna, Austria that sold Lego kits that represented various aspects of the funeral business. And, of course, being the self respecting Aunt that I am, I wanted to share this with Becca. Just in case you are wondering and don’t speak German, a Leichenwagen is a Hearse. Now, I haven’t exactly shared it with Becca yet, but as soon as I mail these two packages to her, then I will have officially shared. And if she reads this blog, all of the surprise will be gone. Except for the fact that she will have to assemble it herself. There are many pieces and picture directions and lots of German which neither she nor I speak. More fun!

Ordering these items from the Vienna Funeral Museum was quite the process. Much of their website is in German, because they are located in Austria. The cost for these items was listed in euros. I have many friends who have traveled all around the world, but I have not. I have never paid for anything in euros, but lucky for me, PayPal is good at converting dollars to euros so this American didn’t have to stretch her brain too far. In the process I emailed the Museum a couple of times and communicated with an Erich and a Helga who were most helpful in assisting me with the order. Google helped by providing lots of translations between German and English. The order was placed, dollars converted, the package left Austria and landed in America in about two days.

Then the package sat in customs. Then it sat somewhere in New York. Then the package sat in New Jersey. It only took about a month to get from New York to New Jersey. Was Customs building a file on me? I still don’t know.

Once the package left New Jersey, it made it’s way to Houston within a week and was out for delivery. But Oh No!!! There was a problem with the address. It was not delivered. If I didn’t act soon, it would have been sent back to sender. I went to the Post Office and at last was handed the package that had journeyed for so long to find me.

Now all that is left is sending the package on to Becca. Hopefully I will send it sometime this week and not let it sit here for a month like the Customs office. I hope I haven’t completely ruined the surprise by revealing all in this blog, but as I said before, there is the process of assembly.

It’s not every Aunt that will look forward to sharing hearses and crematoriums with her niece. I am very proud to be just such an Aunt. Happy Birthday, Becca!

Until next week.….