Pandemic Road: Post Halloween Malaise

Now that Halloween is over (I’m still in recovery from that!) I am on to the next distraction from the ongoing craziness of this pandemic ridden world. I began this morning by attempting to make plans for Thanksgiving which is just two weeks away. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not having to plan what meal I will be cooking. Remember, I don’t do anything as domestic as cook. However, for many years my Beloved and I have gone to a wonderful restaurant that knew how to do a Thanksgiving spread up right. However, this year we wanted a take‐out dinner. We are both still big into isolating as Covid numbers are rising again.

When I contacted the restaurant to discuss a menu, things went strange quickly. I could get a turkey for $100+ and a batch of mashed potatoes for $75. I quickly realized that they were selling family style batches of food. Also, being a vegetarian, I did not know what I would do with all that Turkey! What was I to do? Luckily this pandemic, unlike the last, is in the 21st century. Google to the rescue! Now I have a choice between two wonderful local restaurants with lots of options and affordable prices. Don’t worry, I’ll go back to my former favorite Thanksgiving restaurant, hopefully next year. I have a week to decide between the two establishments. Check back to see which one I decide.

By this time, my mind was confused and blurry from trying to figure out a pandemic Thanksgiving. The cure? My beloved and I made our way to the Houston Arboretum. The skies were sunny and the trails inviting. We even found what appeared to be miniature flocked Christmas trees. I don’t know the real name of this plant. If you have any idea, please let me know. Anyway, we walked some of our favorite trails and at one point even we didn’t know which one we were traipsing down. I hugged some trees. Then we made our way to the pond and spoke with the turtles. We would have spoken with the alligator, but apparently he doesn’t live there any more. I was sane and centered once again.

Then for more adventure, we made our way to the grocery store for a few provisions. Of course, there were Christmas decorations everywhere. I gave up that fight at the beginning of November. But some things we did see confused me. For instance, why decorate with snow flakes or snow men in Houston? When was the last time we had snow in this area? As I was gazing at the snowflakes it was 80 degrees outside. I guess the air conditioning deflects the heat from the fluorescent lights and keeps the snow from melting.

Just when we thought it was safe to go home, we found these little gems. This is a bag of candy that is made to look like Legos. Children (and adults) are supposed to eat these sweet morsels and maintain enough sense not to eat the real Legos. Does anyone see a problem here? Notice the packaging states that this is “Candy you can play with” and “Build Holiday fun”. Needless to say, we didn’t purchase any of this candy. Probably because I don’t trust myself not to get confused and eat real Legos. This is clearly a sign of just how stressed I am during this time of year.

I will sign off now to go take a nap. Wish me luck!

Until next week.….

Happy Halloween! Are You Scared? I’m Chillin’

It’s here! It’s finally here! Tomorrow is Halloween! Yes, I have been preparing for this day ever since November 1, 2019. I am currently sitting in my home listening to Halloween music and looking at my Halloween decorations. I found this little kitty in downtown Houston in a place called Market Square. Have you ever been there? If you haven’t, you should make plans to go. Even if you are one of those who still doesn’t want to go to restaurants or bars (like me) you can still view some of the spookiest spots in town.

If you wonder why this section of Houston is so haunted, it’s probably because it is one of the oldest parts of town. This particular building is called La Carafe. It is known as one of the most haunted spots in Texas. Over the years it has been any number of businesses, but now it is a famous local bar. It’s trying to reopen in light of Covid. It’s been a long time since I was in there, but it is a very friendly place. Even the ghosts that hang out there are supposed to be very friendly residents. Actually all of the ghosts that call Market Square home are supposed to be some of the friendliest critters around.

Then there is the Magnolia Ballroom. This one building used to be a compound of about 10 buildings that made up the Magnolia Brewery. Then during prohibition, they made ice. Now it is one spot on the second floor of a building where folks can rent space for parties, weddings, and such. Reportedly there are ghosts who like to dance around the ceiling of the large ballroom.

Market Square is not only the spookiest part of Houston, but it is also one of the oldest spots. It sits right next to Allen’s Landing. Houston was founded by the Allen Brothers and here where two bayous meet was the original port of Houston. The original Houston City Hall was located in Market Square.…all three of them. Each of them burned down before it was decided to find a new location.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s there were a few shops that sold merchandise for the growing group of hippies in Houston. Reportedly, one store sold cook books that instructed you how to make LSD in your kitchen. I’ve never found or talked to anyone who actually tried to do that. I hope whoever did is okay and survived to see the 1980s.

So those are my tales for this Halloween 2020. Isn’t this much more fun than listening to hours of news reports about the once again growing pandemic or the upcoming election. I think after I post this blog, I will turn off all screens and just relax and enjoy the ghosts and goblins. I only converse and make room for the friendly spirits just like Market Square. I will be wearing my lucky skeleton bracelet that I wear every year at this time. It must be lucky, because I have never faced any mean or ornery spirits while wearing it. I wouldn’t dare go out on Halloween without putting it on my wrist!

Enjoy your weekend and holiday! Stay safe!

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: Witch Holiday or Which Holiday?

Seriously? Really? I tried to warn everyone. I both begged and cajoled. I specifically said Do Not Do It! Did anyone listen? I don’t think that I am the only one who cares, but yet here we are. This picture was taken last week when I was out running errands. A big old red Christmas bow on the top of a building. Two or three weeks before Halloween! Before Halloween!!!

In the immortal words of Gomez Addams (Addams Family Values, 1993), “Has the world gone mad? I seek justice.….Denied!”

Also, you can see the tree limbs in this picture. Many of the leaves are still green. Some have just begun to turn brown. Here in Houston, we have barely begun with fall weather. Today, as I write this, it is a brisk and chilly 79 degrees outside. A cold front (or what passes here for a cold front) is due towards the end of the week. The temperature might drop into the low 50’s.…..maybe once. Check out this weather map:

Please note that this “cold front” brought snow to my friends in Colorado. Here in Houston we still don’t have any plans for putting the snow tires on our cars.

Also, please turn you attention to that big red thing in the lower right part of the picture. There is yet again a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Let me repeat that. There is another hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Zeta. Hurricane Zeta. For the umpteenth time this year, everyone in Houston is blowing real hard to make the storm go into Louisiana. It’s nothing personal to any of the nice folks in Louisiana. But it’s been a busy and disturbing year and we just don’t have time for the nonsense this year.

Well, because 2020 is such an unusual year, I conferred with my friend and we have come to a decision. If you really must start your Christmas shopping early.……Before Halloween.….we will allow it on one condition. You are allowed to shop either in person or online if you frequent locally owned businesses. No box stores and for sure no national department stores. Period. That is our last and final offer. I don’t want to say anything bad will happen to you if you purchase all of your holiday gifts from some corporate giant of the retail industry. But if you look closely at my friend, you might be able to figure out that this is one critter you don’t want to upset.

If that doesn’t do the trick for you, please note that my friend has many other friends in the neighborhood. I don’t know the humans who live with these skeletons, but I believe they are members of my soul tribe. Don’t you agree? Before this year, I had never seen a mermaid skeleton. I can only imagine the sea voyage where these two met. I can’t get either one of them to tell me their tales.….not even the “fishy tales”! Get it? Fish tales! Yes, I amuse myself. How else am I supposed to survive a global pandemic, murder hornets and Christmas shoppers in the middle of October?

I remember back when I was a young child (why yes, that was a long time ago. I am old. I believe we used feather quills for pens if I remember correctly). We weren’t allowed to even think about Christmas or any other winter holidays until Thanksgiving was over. That meant that after we drew ghosts and pumpkins in school art classes, then we had to draw those ridiculous turkey pictures by outlining our hands. Egad! Childhood was so weird back then. It took a lot of patience to be young that long ago.

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: Art and Compassion

Back in the good old days.….by which I mean the days before Covid 19.…I had two creative works accepted into different exhibitions around Houston. Originally there were going to be opening receptions with wine and hors d’oeuvres, patrons of the arts and various creative types. Alas, that was not to be. However, in this new day of virtual gatherings, the receptions and the exhibitions have been moved online.

The first of these is Compassion, a collaboration between Women in the Visual and Literary Arts (WiVLA) and the Holocaust Museum Houston. In this project pairs of visual artists and writers teamed up to bring forth their vision of compassion. I was chosen as one of the writers and I worked with visual artist, Josena Arquieta. Her painting is called Listen, which is a companion to my essay, It’s Time To Listen. The picture you see here is the exhibition book. You can see this exhibit by going to WiVLA.org and clicking on the exhibit link. If you want to see our work or purchase the book, you can go either to WiVLA.org or you can go to the website for the Holocaust Museum Houston. The online exhibition doesn’t always give the full text of the poems or essays. For the full literary version, you need to purchase one of the books.

My other exhibition, titled The Art of Attention, was a juried exhibition of art produced by students and teachers at the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies at Rice University. This is a work of art that I made while taking a class in collage from instructor Ellen Orseck. You can see the entire virtual exhibit at https://glasscock.rice.edu/sites/default/files/F20_CLE_Student_Art_Exhibit.pdf

Meanwhile, back here in my private oasis known as Halloweensville, my good friend Skellington has come to visit for a few days. He’s pictured below in his black traveling cloak. We’ve had several leisurely dinners out on the patio, because the weather has finally started feeling ever so slightly like fall. He travels the neighborhood at night to visit the other skeletons in the neighborhood. Below is a picture of one of my neighbors who likes to wave at people and other skeletons.

Between all of the virtual art and Halloween, I love this time of year!

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: October!!!

Guess what day it is? Are you enjoying it as much as I am? I hope so, but I’m not convinced. It’s the first day of October!!! If you don’t know the answer to my first question, please refer to the picture of my assistant helping me with this blog for a clue. It’s the first day of Halloween Month!!! What? You don’t celebrate Halloween all month long? I’ve been celebrating and decorating since Labor Day. Technically, there are some Halloween decorations that I leave up all year, but I really start decorating the day after Labor Day. No! You cannot judge me! If the Hallmark channel can start showing Christmas movies before Halloween, then I can start Halloween festivities after Labor Day.

October is also exciting, because we are drawing to a close on the 2020 Hurricane Season. Oh, sure there are two more storms headed to the Gulf of Mexico, but I have decreed that those storms will not bother me in any way. We have had our first cool front that really made it all the way through Houston. Temperatures are cooler. I am walking full force again around the neighborhood, at the Arboretum, at Hermann Park among other places.

The walks have been great, but there are already a few signs that things are getting spooky out there. I am beginning to see proof of ghosts and goblins afoot. Take this little Teddy Bear for example. Most Teddy Bears are cute and cuddly. Yet, this one looks a little angry and quite wet. Did this bear jump out of whatever car or stroller as it moved down the street? Does it intend to haunt the neighborhood? Or is it just angry, because no one bothered to pick him up after he hit the ground. As you can see it was able to walk safely to the side of the road where it could plan its next actions.

Then there is this little guy. In case you can’t read the sign in front of the fence, his name is Riblet. Yes, a Texas Longhorn named Riblet. We are being told that we cannot enter the corral, because Riblet is shy. Hmmmm… If my name was Riblet, I would not be shy, but I wouldn’t want any humans coming close to me. The name sounds like someone has plans for turning this little guy into dinner and that does not sound like fun for any critters in the Longhorn clan. I think Riblet should try to hurt anyone who gets too close with those mighty horns. I hope Riblet joins the Teddy Bear in haunting and Trick or Treating the neighborhood.

As the month progresses, I will do my best to keep us with all of the spooky goings on around here. I still have more decorations to put up and scary movies to watch.

Until next time.….

Pandemic Road: What Is Normal?

A Saturday evening in August 2020. The Houston Symphony live streams a performance from Jones Hall in Houston, Texas. My dear friend and I are curled up on my couch with the laptop on the coffee table waiting for the music to begin. Before 2020 and Covid, we would be looking forward to the beginning of the new cultural season. We would schedule our tickets for the Houston Symphony, the Houston Ballet and the Alley Theatre. Are we culture snobs? No, of course not. But we are old, retired and healthy. And we like music, dance and theatre. Life is good.

So far this year we have enjoyed performances from the Houston Symphony, the Alley Theatre and Stages Theatre all from the comfort of home. Is it as exciting as getting dressed up and going down to the Theatre District for dinner before the show? Not really. But it is nice. The music is still just as good. We have heard Mozart, Vivaldi, Schubert, Stravinsky, Marsalis and others. It is great fun to see what kind of performances come out of a resident acting company while practicing social distancing. The actors are still as talented.…..maybe more so considering the new restrictions. The Houston Ballet has been very busy on Facebook. Many of the dancers have danced on roof tops, in back yards, and in parking lots. It is wonderful to see them.

In the midst of everything, Hurricane Laura made her appearance in Texas and Louisiana. It was a close call for Houston. Laura finally went east of us. How nice of her. However, no one really knew until the last minute where she was headed, so I am still enjoying some of the snacks I purchased and I have enough water to last me until Thanksgiving. Who would ever have known that between Covid and Hurricane season, the main supplies for any responsible household would include toilet paper, water and peanut butter. What an interesting time for our civilization.

However, do not despair! Today is September 1st!!! We know what that means, don’t we? Halloween will be here very soon! It is time to start decorating! Here is a picture of my new doormat. During the past years, I have had other Halloween doormats, but they all eventually wore out. I thought this one was particularly appropriate for 2020. Just wondering how many people are going to try to dress up as a “coronavirus”? The possibilities for creativity are endless.

As you can guess, from here on out, I will keep you appraised of all my Halloween decorations. I have a balcony and it will be decorated. I can throw candy down to any potential trick or treaters who happen to walk past. Now it is just a matter of how many skeletons and witches and such will join me on the balcony!

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: Finally Some Good Stuff

Boo!Finally! Some good news to report! Amazing how in the middle of a global pandemic, it just doesn’t take too much to excite me. My First Sighting of Halloween Decorations in local stores! Yes, I may have found these at PetSmart. That doesn’t matter. The point is that local retailers are selling Halloween decorations! Usually these gems show up for me at either the annual Halloween Store or Home Depot or Target. Typically this happens sometime in September. However, I don’t mind this occurring early this year. Everything else is different because of Covid. Why not Halloween?

I have seen some posts on Face Book about Halloween being cancelled this year. Has everyone lost their collective minds? No, don’t answer that question, because I am honestly beginning to believe that is a side effect of this virus. You don’t have to actually catch this disease. You can lose your mind just by hearing about it day in and day out while self isolating and worrying about friends and loved ones.

Of course we are celebrating Halloween this year! It’s more important and essential than ever! Since March we have all had to face our fears about life, death, and the uncertainty of our individual universes. Haunted decorations of viruses chasing us wily nily around our homes or neighborhoods should be a shoo in. What a great opportunity to find humor in our human condition. Most costumes involve masks anyway. Relieve stress through humor.

By all means, continue to wear your masks, wash your hands and socially distance. Do everything you need to do to stay safe and healthy. But take the time to relax. Self care. Halloween mindfulness. I personally am coming up with some creative ways to decorate my balcony. My neighbors can enjoy the decorations while continuing to social distance. I will certainly enjoy the decorations.

Pandemic Road: The Going Gets Bumpy

You’ve seen her before. This is my cat, Hannah. Isn’t she beautiful? She’s 15 years old, but doesn’t look it. Suffice it to say that I love this cat. I would do anything for her. Risk life and limb? What exactly is meant by “risking life and limb”? Let’s consider, the events that took place two weeks ago when Hannah was having a bit of a medical emergency.

After several days of intestinal distress which was stressful for both Hannah and me, I decided it was time for a trip to the veterinarian’s office. So early on a Thursday morning, I put Hannah in her carrier and began walking towards my car. Since this in the middle of a pandemic, I no longer carry a purse. I was carrying the cat carrier, sunglasses, mask and water bottle. Of course being in the middle of a Houston summer, my glasses fogged up as soon as I stepped outside my home.

As I neared my car, things started going out of balance. I was trying not to drop anything.…most of all the cat carrier. My glasses were still fogged up. Next thing I knew I was headed down over the cat carrier. Yes, I went head first onto the concrete floor of the garage. When I stopped falling, I realized that my glasses were broken and there was a certain amount of pain coming from various parts of my body.

Now please keep in mind that I am the same person who grew up in the South with a mother who spent lots of money for years while I took dancing lessons at the Jane Bischoff School of Dance. Nine years worth of tap, ballet and jazz so I could turn out to be a graceful and dainty Southern Lady. Oh well, some dreams just don’t work out.

I got myself up and was grateful no one witnessed my uncoordinated and very ungraceful tumble. When I stood up I realized that no bones were broken in my legs, arms or ribs. I put Hannah in the car and drove her to the vet. After depositing my cat, I returned home and surveyed the damage. I had small cuts over and under my right eye. The skin around my eye was beginning to turn various shades of purple. I could see out of my eye and I could move my eye. Both good signs. I guessed I would have a black eye for a couple of days so I laid down on the couch with an ice pack over my eye. Except for picking Hannah up from the vet’s office Thursday afternoon, I stayed on the couch with the ice pack to combat any swelling as much as possible.

Except for feeling a little achy all over, I was amazed at how much pain I didn’t feel. There were no signs of a concussion and I was grateful that the fall was not any worse than it was.

Then Saturday happened. I blew my nose. The skin under my eye blew up like a balloon and my eye was swollen shut. A quick call to my Dear Friend and we were off to the Elite Care Emergency Room. A cat scan later showed that I had broken one of the bones under my right eye. After following up the next week with a surgeon, I was delighted to discover that I did not need surgery. Just time to heal.….and go at least a month without blowing my nose or sneezing.

The trip to the vet was a total cliche. One old broad takes her geriatric cat on a road trip and damn near kills herself. The most important outcome from this adventure? The cat is doing just fine. Is she a fur‐baby or a four‐legged‐ supervisor? Yes.

Until next week.……

Pandemic Road: Week 17

Last I wrote, I was on the cusp of beginning a 10‐day writing intensive retreat. I had planned on doing this in Boulder, Colorado and sharing the glories of a road trip with my faithful readers. However, thanks to Covid‐19, the road trip turned into a zoom fest. I imagined the flat irons every time I logged on for a meeting.

While it wasn’t as scenic as actually being there, I did get a lot of writing done. So much so I wore out my printer. No problem, you might think. I thought I could get a printer today via curb side pickup. Silly, silly me. My dear friend and I looked up both Office Depot, Microcenter and Best Buy.

Apparently too many people are working from home and ink jet printers are nowhere to be found within the city limits of Houston. We even checked with Amazon and could not get the printer delivered in under 10 days. Great big expensive laser printers.….no problem. Practical, compact, inexpensive ink jet printers.…..no luck. So I ordered one that should arrive before the middle of July. I will keep my fingers crossed that my old and cheap printer will last.

This wouldn’t be a problem, except that I’ve just been invited to join a new critique group. It meets via zoom once a week and I need to be able to print out submissions so I can give feedback. I will figure out a way. I am honored to be included in this group and many thanks to Fern Brady, author and publisher for inviting me.

All this reminded me of how things have changed during the global pandemic. Tuesdays used to be the day that DF and I would enjoy culture from any of the local museums followed by a quiet and relaxing dinner at one of our many favorite restaurants. Bollo Woodfired Pizza was one of those establishments that we would visit.

Today we dined again at Bollo’s…virtually. We ordered the pizza by phone, picked it up and took it home. It’s amazing how easy it was! Have credit card, will charge!

Printer ink will be delivered tomorrow, critique group begins later this week, and the printer will show up soon.….I hope.

Please send positive thoughts to my old printer so it won’t die in the next 7 working days. If it does, I will come up with “Pandemic Printer Plan B”.

Until next week.……

Pandemic Road: Week 16

Has it really been two years? Just over two years ago in May of 2018 I retired from my long long time career as a Social Worker and set off to become a full‐time writer and artist. One of the first things I did was to take a road trip with Melanie to Boulder, Colorado to attend Max Regan’s Writing Intensive. It was magical. Pearl street mall, Boulder Bookstore, the Flat Irons. I attended classes with Max at the Boulder Bookstore and then we met at the Boulder Dushanbe Tea House for one‐on‐one meetings. No matter where I was in Boulder, I could look out and see the Flat Irons. I was happy. I was writing. My future and my next career were in front of me.

This is how our blog, RoadBroads was born.

Two years later I wanted to go back to Boulder. I wanted to revisit the Boulder Bookstore and the Pearl Street Mall. I had made reservations for living arrangements and paid a deposit for my space at the Max Regan June Writing Intensive. Then Covid‐19 happened. Travel cancelled. The Writing Intensive moved to an on‐line class. There are still approximately 20 of us who want to engage in this writing exercise. Those of us who want to develop our writing craft skills are willing to meet online and share our collective wisdom. Share our stories, exchange ideas, and listen to one another. But it won’t take place in Boulder. Instead of looking out at the Flat Irons, I will look out at my living room. I will see all of the wonderful writing companions via Zoom. Little boxes with heads inside of them.

Online is not as good as being there; however, it’s what I can do for now. I love my writing community. I value their input. I will enjoy spending time with them for the next 10 days even if I’m not in Boulder. This promises to be a new adventure in my writing life.

Until next week.….