The New Normal?

I was reading weather reports the other day that said for all practical purposes, the 2018 hurricane season is over. YEAH! That means that the fall cold fronts are trying to get into the area. Two have almost made it so far. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we will have cooler temperatures by mid‐October.

It’s been over a year since Hurricane Harvey blew through town and dumped 50 inches of rain. If I ever think I can forget about that, then I am reminded every time I go downtown to the Theater District. Last Sunday I went the Alley Theater to see Skeleton Crew.

This was a play about Detroit back during 2008 when so many plants were closing down. It could have been a depressing play, but there was just enough humor and a surprise ending to keep the overall tone light.

As soon as I drove into the Theater District parking garage under Tranquility Park, I see this sign:

Now keep in mind that the parking garage was closed for several months after the storm and it has been opened for another several months while repairs are running along at the pace of a snail with arthritis. Yet, just now we have these signs. This leads me to believe that some source of recovery funding just made it through all the bureaucratic channels.

However, it is all worth the while when I remind myself that I am headed to a nice dinner and some entertainment.

As I said, the garage has been opened for several months looking like a cross between a dark construction zone and a war zone.

Fortunately the Alley Theater, Jones Hall and The Hobby Center are all up and running full steam ahead. Just this week it was announced that the Wortham Center will open this month. So I make my way through the dark and dank garage, while keeping hope alive in my mind that this construction might be completed by January 2019?

When I get up on street level, I see the Lancaster Hotel which has also been closed ever since Harvey.

Last summer, I spent a couple of nights at the Lancaster for a birthday celebration and a Theater Weekend. It was great fun and the Lancaster Hotel remains quite the historical landmark in Houston. It is also scheduled to reopen this month and are already taking reservations.

I have seen several drawings showing how the lobby and restaurant are being redecorated. The pictures look great and I can’t wait to see the finished product. Who knows? Another weekend adventure may beckon before too long.

Besides the play, the best part of the evening was dining at Birraporetti’s Italian Restaurant. Pasta is always my friend…especially when combined with a cold vodka martini. Also, the people who work here understand as well as I do the importance of a significant holiday like Halloween! I felt comfortable and very much at home there.

Coming up this Sunday I am going on a photographic safari at the Houston Zoo. This time, instead of elephants, I will be focusing on Lions and Tigers and Bears.….Oh My!

Until next week.….….……

Saturday Morning with Friends

The alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. What the heck was going on? When was the last time I actually set an alarm clock for 6:00 a.m. with the intention of getting up so early? I hit the snooze button at least twice.

Then I remembered. I had a very important appointment to keep this morning. After a quick cup of coffee I was off down the road to visit the Elephants at the Houston Zoo!

The Zoo sponsored this Elephant Encounter which took place in the morning before the Zoo opened to the general public. I have been enamored with elephants since I read the book When Elephants Weep back in the
early 80s.

We started off outside where we admired the beautiful creatures. We met the staff who care the animals on a daily basis. It is obvious that they are very fond of their four‐legged friends


While we watched, one elephant painted a picture and another lifted her feet so they could be inspected by the keeper.

The elephant that drew the most attention was Tess who is approximately 3 months old. Have no fear, Mom was standing very close by. Whenever Tess tried to wander away and explore on her own, Mom would take her trunk, grab Tess by the tail and pull her back to the safety of maternal presence. This did not seem to deter Tess’s desires to wander and kept Mom quite busy while other animals were engaged with the keepers. This technique has been adopted by human mothers. While walking around the zoo after the general public was admitted, I observed several children in harnesses being tugged by protective moms. I hope the human children had as much fun as Tess seemed to have.

After a brief lecture and demonstration of husbandry skills, we went inside to see where the elephants are cared for behind the scenes. Much goes into enriching the lives of these fine animals. Any training of the animal is focused on what will help the humans care for these animals. There were no circus tricks for entertainment. Only skills that will assist in caring for the elephants.

Then we were led out to an area where the elephants get bathed and we saw a demonstration. Since it had been very rainy in Houston for the past couple of weeks, the elephants had enjoyed the cool mud in their enclosure. The elephant even knelt down so that the keeper could wash his back. Once the elephant was all clean, then we were allowed to pet this beauty. I asked one of the keepers if the animal minded this much interaction. I was assured that the elephant was enjoying this, because of the added snacks and attention.

This was the first time for me to pet an elephant. The skin was softer than I had imagined it would be, like a fine leather. Standing next to the elephant was a humbling experience for me. I was dwarfed by even one of the smaller elephants.

I am very grateful to the Houston Zoo for this fun and enriching experience.

I dare say it was even worth getting up at 6:00 a.m. for the journey.

Until next week.…..

Things That Go Bump In The Night

I woke up this morning and the first thing I did was look out the window. Another grey day. It has been cloudy and rainy for over a week now. Houston goes through these depressing periods when you almost forget what it is like to wear sunglasses and see blue sky. There’s been a lot of flooding along the Gulf Coast.

I was on the verge of feeling depressed, but then I remembered what day it was. Ten years ago today Hurricane Ike blew through the area. I lost electricity for a week. Others did without power for longer. I had to take cold showers by flashlight, because as a local government employee, I had to get back to work as quickly as possible. At least at work there was air conditioning.

Watching Hurricane Florence move onto the Carolina coast reminded me of Hurricane Ike. The storm surge moved far inland before the actual hurricane winds and rain made landfall. There was a twinge in my stomach as I remembered sitting in my kitchen at 4:00 a.m. listening to the winds blow as various objects hit the walls of my home or land on the roof. A little storm PTSD maybe? I wish everyone in North and South Carolina all the best!

All of a sudden my grey day is not so bad. Instead of a hurricane, I only had to put up with some drizzly rain as I drove over to the Glassell School of Art for my Art History class. I heard a wonderful lecture on Women Impressionists by Dr. Anna Tahinci. Artists like Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot painted scenes from their everyday lives back in the late 1800s. The pictures were beautiful and colorful, but still easy to imagine how restricted life was for women back in that day.

I especially enjoyed this lecture, because I have not had much culture this week. Earlier on Tuesday; which is my traditional culture day, it was rainy. I needed to buy cat litter. My great culture adventure for the week revolved around buying cat litter. I promise to do better next week.

Also, I went to Local’s for lunch on Tuesday. I was fascinated by their wall decorations. It reminded me of the song by the band Chicago:

Does anybody really know what time it is,

Does anybody really care,

If so I can’t imagine why,

We’ve all got time enough to cry.

Okay, so let me see if I can end this blog a little more upbeat.

My good friend Melanie took a road trip to Portland, Oregon recently and brought me some of this dandy sipping chocolate! So, I took a fun road trip into my kitchen and made a cup. Yum! If you knew the level of my culinary abilities, then you would understand what a risk I took on the road trip into my kitchen. The good news is that I can occasionally boil water and the sipping chocolate was a delicious success! I am looking forward to trying a recipe that will include hazelnut milk along with the dark chocolate! I will let you know how it goes.

Also, on a very positive note, I purchased my first Halloween decoration for the year this past week. Every year I purchase at least one Halloween decoration and have built up quite a collection! Here is my most recent acquisition:

When Halloween gets here all hurricanes will be gone, cooler weather will be here and the sun will be shining again. I can laugh and make fun of all the things that scare me and all that goes bump in the night!

Until next week…

Movies and Plays and Spontaneity!

Last weekend I went to one of my favorite theaters to see a play. I went to Stages Theater which is one of the first venues I visited when I moved to Houston back in the late 1970s. Below you can see a picture of what this theater looks like today.

They are in the process of building a new Stages in a new location one block away from the current location, so I am including a picture of the current Stages just for old times sake. Of course when I started going to stages back in the early 1980s, that large apartment building behind it did not exist.

The play, “Sister’s Summer School Catechism: God Never Takes A Vacation” starring Denise Fennell as Sister was hysterically funny. Now, I am not and I have never been Catholic, but listening to Sister explain summer school to an adult audience was the funniest thing I have listened to all summer. The play involves a lot of audience participation and the audience was in a really good mood last weekend. Here is a picture of the stage at Stages. 

Then on Tuesday, there was all kind of talk about rain here in Houston. If you do not live in Houston, then please understand that there is rain and then there is RAIN, OH MY GOD WERE ALL GOING TO DROWN, ALL THE STREETS ARE FLOODING, HAVE ANY HOMES BEEN FLOODED YET?!?!?! I say that because I still have friends who are trying to rebuild their homes after Hurricane Harvey which made landfall over a year ago.

Since Tuesday is my weekly “cultural” day, my friend and I could not decide what to do. At the last minute we decided to stay close to home, go to a movie which has received very good reviews and guaranteed a good time. We went to see Crazy Rich Asians. We arrived at the theater for an afternoon performance, snuggled into our seats and started watching all of the previews. Half way through the first 50 (or so it seemed) previews, we kept hearing the sound, but there was no picture. Everything came to a screeching halt and a voice in the dark announced that, “A tech is rebooting the projector. Please be patient.” We waited. Then a theater representative showed up stating that it would be about five more minutes and gave everyone free passes to come back for another movie. We took our free passes and waited. After more than five minutes later the nice theater representative came back in and told us we could go see any other movie they were showing that day or we could get a refund and come back another time. My friend and I laughed at our feeble attempts at spontaneity and left with both our refunds and passes for a free movie in the future.

We went to a late lunch/early dinner at Mia Bella. I tried to order as Vodka Martini, lemon or lime twist, no olives. The waiter left. The waiter returned.

Do you want your Vodka on the rocks?” he asked.

No, I want it up. Lemon or lime twist please, no olives.”

Do you want it with soda?” he asked.

No, I do not want any soda,” I responded. I was beginning to get a bit concerned.

Oh,” the waiter said, “You want it like a Martini?”

Yes, a Vodka Martini,” I replied.

It was very obvious then and through out the meal that the waiter was new, but willing to bend over backwards to make sure that we were served with the utmost excellent service. The Vodka Martini with a twist was delicious. The food was also delicious! We will definitely go back to Mia Bella.

What a way to spend a completely spontaneous day!

Until next week!

Life Collage

Another great week full of art and writing. I found myself exploring Collage as a method of creating art by assembling different pictures, objects, photos, etc. into one piece of visual art. I went to the Texas Art Asylum to see the show, Cutting Edge Collage Show.

The collage show was a good demonstration of the various techniques involved in this method. Quite a good variety of local artists and their work. Also, The Texas Art Asylum is a great shop to find anything that you cannot find anywhere else. Check out their website to see what it is all about.

After that visit, I had to try some of my own collage pieces. I have been involved in Soul Collage for a number of years now. Typically I would use pictures from magazines, newspapers and brochures to create. However, I am now in a phase where I like to use my own pictures. I selected a number of the pictures I use in this blog every week to make the following collage piece.

I like the idea of using my own photography to make collage art. It is like making a series of pieces about the journey of my life. I am going to continue to explore this idea and report back to you how it goes.

As you can see in my Soul Collage piece that I am still working with images from the Museum of Fine Arts exhibition, Bambu: This Thing Called Life. This will close on September 3rd and I just wanted to walk on the bamboo trail one more time. Since this is the second time I have walked through this exhibit, I really walked at a slow pace.  The museum wasn’t crowded so there was plenty of time to walk and observe without holding up others. When the museum is crowded, there can be quite a wait to experience this exhibit. If you want to go this weekend, then plan on getting there early.

Finally, I spent an afternoon at the Glassell in an art history class called, Women in Art. It is taught by Dr. Anna Tahinci who is genuinely excited and passionate about her teaching. She talks about the artists and their works, but she also wants to make sure her students are taking the time to really observe and think about the art we are seeing. The enthusiasm Dr. Tahinci exudes in her teaching makes the class a real joy and the time flies by much too quickly.

Now after being so inspired by all of the art and creativity in my world, I need to get back to writing. I promised my writing coach at least another 1000 words by midnight tonight!

More next week!

More Reasons to Celebrate and More Creativity!

For starters.……Good News! A personal essay I submitted has been accepted by Story:Color 2019. This will be an art exhibition, reading, poetry slam, etc. sponsored by some of the artists from the Silos at Sawyer Yards, Words & Art, and WriteSpace. They asked for some poems and essays from writers that artists could use for inspiration to create visual art. I am honored and delighted my essay was accepted. The Opening Night Reading and Art Exhibition will take place on January 12, 2019. I will be sure to share more details as I have them.

As for the journeys I took this past week, I spent Saturday afternoon in a Process Painting retreat facilitated by Cherie Ray of True You Creativity. Ah, yes. Another internal journey!

For starters, this studio is located in a relaxing embracing environment. Here is the outside of her studio filled with plants, trees, art and bird houses.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure to experience Process Painting, I will give a very brief explanation. This is a process of painting where the end result is not the picture that is painted. Rather it is the process of creating that is the focus of attention. The purpose is not to paint a pretty picture; rather the purpose is to put paint on paper and see what the process of painting can tell you. It is great for unleashing creativity and creative potential.

Here are some of my painting samples as they were in process of being created:

There was no right or wrong with these pictures. They just were. I observed what came up for me as I painted. I considered what the colors told me. I loved my spot right by the window, because I was visited all afternoon by cardinals, turtle doves, and other birds as they snacked from the bird feeder and tried to figure out what the silly humans were doing.

This process reminded me of writing. I can’t write the “great American novel” in one sitting or in one draft. However, I can write by sitting down and putting words on paper. You can’t write a book or a short story without trying out ideas, putting words together in different arrangements to see what works. As my wonderful writing coach, Max Regan, frequently tells his students, just write something that is really crappy. Then if you like your draft or idea, you can begin to work with it. If your goal is only to write things that are good and meaningful, then you won’t get much done. Just write and then write some more. Whether you are putting paint on the paper or words, let the creative juices flow freely.

Thanks to the guidance provided by Cherie, I went home Saturday afternoon inspired and ready to continue creatively with both art and writing. As I walked out of her studio, I saw one of the universal signs that everything was going to be okay.

If you are interested in Process Painting or any of the other classes and retreats offered by Cherie Ray, please check out her website at Trueyoucreativity.com.

Then after a great weekend, I ended my day on Sunday by going to see the play, The Mouse Trap, which is currently being performed at the Alley Theatre. This play was written by Agatha Christie and is a good entertaining mystery for a late summer evening. I won’t give away the surprise ending. You’ll have to go see the play yourself and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. The stage design assures you of mysteries and murders just waiting to unfold!

I am looking forward to more writing this week and beginning an Art History class at the Glassell.

More details to follow!

Reasons to Celebrate!

This blog post is all about celebration! There are two reasons for my joyful attitude.

The first reason pertains to this blog in particular. I have recently learned that this blog is now read in 5 different countries! That’s three more countries than I have ever visited.

Yes, as a RoadBroad, I have to admit that I do not fly in airplanes. That is why I travel everywhere by road. Get it? RoadBroad? A Broad who travels by Road?

Back to the point I was making. RoadBroads is now read by folks in the USA, Canada, Bolivia, the United Kingdom and Denmark. Wow. I’m so excited that I think this is worth a glass of really nice champagne!

Well, yes, the champagne that is pictured is French. No, we are not read in France.…yet. But Dom Perignon is still a dandy champagne for celebrating. If you have a better selection, please let me know.

The second reason I have for celebrating is that yesterday was one of the most important days of the year for me. It all started out with a trip to the Galleria Mall.

Initially my reason for going to the Galleria was two‐fold. It is August in Houston and that means it is really really hot outside and the Galleria is a good place to walk for healthy exercise. And walk I did. I strolled around without stopping as I passed by all of the clothing stores, the art stores, the restaurants, the ice skating rink, etc. I noticed there are several Starbucks in the Galleria. I can remember back in the old days when there was only one.

I also wanted to go on a journey for some sipping chocolate and I know there is a Godiva store inside the Galleria.

I walked and walked and finally found the nice little shop full of chocolate confectionaries. I walked inside admiring all of the delicious wares that were on display. I very politely waited my turn after the other customers had been assisted. However, when I spoke with the nice ladies about some sipping chocolate.…..There was none! AGHAST! No sipping chocolate. I became dizzy and grabbed onto the counter. Oh woe was me. My happy journey was at risk of turning into a disaster! What was I to do? I told the nice Godiva ladies that I might come back in December.

Then I stumbled out of the door. Thank goodness I had a friend with me to make sure I did not fall over third floor railing to a certain death. I walked and I walked some more. Then as I wandered my eyes spotted a store that had the one and only thing that could raise my spirits. That one thing was a Halloween Display.

I always celebrate the first time I see Halloween decorations out in stores. Even though it is the middle of August, I now know that summer is on its way out. It is my first sign that I will survive yet another hurricane season. Cool temperatures are just around the corner.

Also Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love dressing up. I love decorating. I love reading scary stories. I love all of it. I think of everything I am scared of and make a point of laughing at it.

No, I’m not this way about any other holiday. Keep your Christmas wreaths and lights. I save my heart for Halloween.

My thanks to the White Barn for making my day!

Now I am off to write scary short stories!

Boo!

Imagination, Inspiration and Originality

Wednesdays are fun here in retirement land. It is one of the few days when I look forward to waking up and getting over to my friend’s house by 10:00 a.m. Why yes, I set an alarm clock to get somewhere by 10:00 a.m. That’s how I roll now. I can’t remember the last time I got anywhere by 8:00 a.m. Morning rush hour is a memory.

Now I get to my friend’s house and meet up with a group of women writers where we all practice and improve our craft. The size of the group fluctuates, but there is a dedicated core group of us. You can see a sampling of the group below:

Some of the group is a bit camera shy, so I am just showing a sampling of what we look like while we are reading our work and receiving feedback from each other.

After being inspired such talented friends, I went by the Glassell School of Art. The new building and campus is really nice and finally open for classes again.

I have heard this artwork just outside the main building referred to as the “Glassell Bean”. I am fascinated by this sculpture. It sees everything and it reflects everything around it.

The class I have signed up for is called “Women in Art”. We will study women artists from the 19th century through to the present. Some of my favorite artists will be included, such as; Georgia O’Keefe, Frida Kahlo, Judy Chicago and Camille Claudel. This is also the best kind of class to take, because there are no tests. Just a gathering of people who have a strong desire to learn and discuss.

The lobby of the Glassell is a wide open room with lots of light coming in from all directions.

There are stairs and hallways that go off in all directions. It makes me feel as if there is no limit to one’s creativity. In the past I have taken many classes at the Glassell in the areas of ceramics, photography, and design. I have loved them all. Now I am looking forward to this next phase of my art education.

I personally find that art and writing go together. If I am feeling creative in one area, it helps me feel creative in other endeavors. Sometimes when writing about a particular historical topic, I will develop some collage work to help me to visualize particular events, styles, etc. I have also used collage to help me develop characters for short stories.

Now it is time to get back to writing and creating.

Until next time…

Tunnels, Pathways and Chocolate!

It’s August! Isn’t that great! We are more than half‐way through summer. I know the temperatures are still in the upper 90’s but in many parts of the country it’s Harvest Season.

In the old country it is Lughnasadh. I am not sure exactly which old country that would be, but one of the ones that’s been around for a really long time. It is now that magical time of year when we are supposed to reap what we sow. I personally am trying to sow cooler weather.

Houston has had some rain this week. That meant that I went to some familiar hangouts to spend some time with friends. Yesterday I went back to the Museum of Fine Arts. I just love the light tunnel.

There is one dark path surrounded by soft lighting that changes color from time to time. As you can see, I took a picture of my friend. Handsome, isn’t he? I like this picture, because you cannot tell if the person you are looking at is coming towards you or going away from you. I guess all of us, from time to time, wander our way through life. Hopefully we know if we are coming or going, but maybe not. In the museum light tunnel you are lucky, because no matter which way you go, you will always end up surrounded by art.

While I was at the museum, I revisited the bamboo sculpture and walked through it. Literally, you can walk through this art sculpture. As you can see in the picture, it is made completely out of bamboo and there is a path that takes you from the top of the structure to the bottom. You basically go from one floor of the museum down to the next floor through the bamboo maze. I hold on tightly to the railings. I know this structure is solid and many people walk through it every day. Kids run through quite fearless. Now; however, I am old enough to worry about falling and breaking things so I hold on to the handrails.

Another place I visited this past weekend was my new favorite chocolate shop, Cacao and Cardamom. Not only do they have wonderful “sipping chocolate” as in the following picture, but they also have a wide assortment of chocolates. I always purchase a few to take home and then see how long I can make the individual pieces of chocolate last. I will let myself eat one piece of dark chocolate candy a day, because it is supposed to be good for my heart. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

If you are really feeling adventurous, then you can try some of the bigger creations at Cacao and Cardamom. Check out these shoes:

Yep, all of those shoes and the clutch purses they are standing on are pure chocolate. Of course they have men’s shoes as well, but they are not as colorful as the ladies shoes.

Must close now, so I can go off and have more adventures.

Until next week.….

Helpful Signs Along The Way

In Melanie’s latest post, she discussed her walking road trip through nature and her observation of trees. Today my road trip will be somewhat different.

I begin this journey by traveling through a concrete jungle that is under construction. Going around road construction is a full‐time hobby for anyone who lives in the Houston area. This little jaunt just happens to be along I‐10. I am on my way to visit the Swedish jungles of IKEA.

A friend and I made the journey together. He is an Engineer. If you have never traveled through IKEA with an Engineer, then you really don’t know what you are missing. I will explain as I go along.

To begin with, journeying through IKEA is like going through life with all kinds of assistance, hints, and signposts. From the moment you walk in the front door, you are immediately directed to go up. Go up, dear friend, into the spectacle that is Swedish furniture and housewares.

Then as soon as you reach the pinnacle of the escalator, you begin to see arrows directing you as to the path you are to take.

Where Dorothy and Toto followed the yellow brick road, the Engineer and I followed the white arrows painted on the concrete floor. Do I ever wonder on where I am going in life? I just have to take a trip to IKEA and am told what direction to take at all times.

Of course I am with an Engineer who can figure a lot of things out for himself. He can look at a map and tell where we should go next.

Since the Engineer has a Ph.D, he can even find his way between the Showroom and the Marketplace. He is very smart indeed! Then I noticed that if we followed the arrows on the floor, it will take us on the same pathway as shown on the master floor map and I almost feel as smart as an Engineer.

Actually we have decided to spend the morning at IKEA because I am rearranging my home. I have way more books than I have bookcases to hold them. Also, I have two closets that are completely disorganized. I am quite sure that if I just organize my closets, then the rest of my life will follow suit. Doesn’t that make sense? Also, since I have recently retired, I am motivated to purge my home of all the stuff I have retired from and no longer suits me. I hope I wind up with more room for lots more books and art supplies!

For the novice shoppers at IKEA, the store is great about providing the proper tools to find, measure and write down everything you need. When you travel with an Engineer he comes with his own high precision shopping tools as is demonstrated below:

Of course once all is said and done, it is important to keep a view on the big picture of your life. Again, IKEA helps with this.

From this perspective, you can see all of the tools that are there to help you and all the options you have for arranging and decorating your existence.

If any of this does not help you, then you can simply go home. Your cat will tell you to get back to work on your writing and stop goofing off.

Life can be so simple, if we will only let it.

Until next week.……