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: 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: 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 12: Art Deco Road Trip

Week 12. Sitting here I stare at my computer screen and let that sink in. I have been writing about the effects of the pandemic on my life for 12 weeks. I don’t think I realized when I went down this road that I would be doing it for this long.…..and with no end in sight.

Even though the pandemic continues, many places are opening back up again. I don’t think I am ready for that yet. However, while resting at home, I have come up with a couple of short story ideas. One involves an art deco building, a theatre company and a bunch of ghosts. Bahwahaha! Obviously in order to do this right, I need to look at some art deco buildings around the Houston area. The first one that comes to mind is Houston City Hall. If walls could talk!

Yesterday my Dear Friend and I drove around downtown, the Heights, and Montrose for 3 hours looking for these buildings. This included more driving than I have done since March 13th. It was also the longest time I spent outside of my home since this all began. It was all very exciting. Some of the buildings are kept up and some have changed. Some have been either completely altered or torn down. But we did find some gems.

One was Trader Joe’s, which used to be a book store and before that was the Alabama Theater. It was built in 1939. I am old enough to tell you that the first time I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show was in the Alabama Theater.

Another famous art deco landmark is the River Oaks Theatre. This picture is especially poignant, because the marque shows that it is still closed due to the pandemic. I look forward to the day I feel comfortable enough to go back to a movie theater. Inside much of the interior has been preserved in its original style.

There are a couple of small strip centers that were originally built as art deco buildings. The businesses have changed, but the style has been preserved.

The crane above the Soma Sushi restaurant is foreboding. It tells of the next high rise going up in the Heights. New shiny buildings to overshadow the rich history of art deco. I don’t know what the new building will be. The future keeps coming whether we are ready or not.

Then there are these two bars in downtown Houston. I have never been to either of them. I think they cater to the sports crowd that visits the Astros or Rockets. However, I like the way they have kept up the outside design of their buildings. I have no idea what they look like on the inside.

Finally there is Hugo’s. A unique upscale Mexican restaurant that is typically on my short go‐to list for special occasion dining. It was built in 1925 and designed by Joseph Finger. This same gentleman designed the Houston City Hall that is shown in the first two pictures in this post. Mr. Finger is quite well known in Houston for designing many of the buildings in the first half of the 1900s. I can’t wait until I feel comfortable and safe enough to go out to dinner in one of my favorite Houston restaurants.

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: Week 9

Ah! Springtime in Houston. According to the meteorologists we are enjoying our last few days of low humidity and cool morning temperatures. As long as it is this perfect outside, I am walking in the park. This time my dear friend and I chose Hermann Park.

There were a few minor changes to the landscape due to our new friend, Covid‐19.

For starters there were many signs telling everyone to maintain social distancing. Then the hill at the Miller Outdoor Theater was blocked off with yellow tape. It is a popular spot for folks to gather in small groups, talk, picnic and such. I was glad to see that everyone was following all of the new rules in attempts to keep everyone safe. 

I took some more pictures of turtles. I notice that I take a lot of turtle pictures. They just look so relaxed sitting on rocks in the middle of ponds. This particular pair live in the Japanese Gardens section of Hermann Park.

I also tried to take some pictures of these two rabbits, but they were a bit camera shy and insisted on hopping away. I am guessing that many of the animals had quickly become used the lack of crowds in their habitat. So many have quarantined themselves during this pandemic. Yet, this was a beautiful day and many folks were out walking, jogging, cycling and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Except for a few crowded spots on the jogging trail, there were lots of places to walk and maintain distance.

Then there were some very interesting birds.

Are they herons or egrets? I’m not sure. Let me know if you know. All I can say is that the one on the right is glaring at me. Again, the animals are not all excited by nature paparazzi enthusiasts.

What was the best picture of all? Check out this duck with all of her baby ducklings. The little ones are adorable and the mom is making sure that I am only taking pictures and mean no harm to her waddling brood.

I’m going to miss these days when July gets here and we start experiencing triple digit temps. Actually, we may start seeing some of that next week. It was nice while it lasted.

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: Week Seven

OMG! Is it a witchy ninja or a ninja witch? Which witch? Bwahaha!

In case you haven’t guessed it by now, I use humor to deal with stress. I know the serious stuff is out there.…..especially now. There are many places where you can get all the serious news and information you want. I hope to make you smile.

Helping me to help you smile are two friends who sent me homemade face masks that I now use when I go out in public. Jan, from Colorado, sent me the ninja mask. Nora, from Texas, sent me the green and gold one that reminds me of spring and is shown below. Just in case you’re wondering, I haven’t (yet) worn the hat and cape with my ninja mask when I go outside. Maybe in October.

I also found the following story on social media. I don’t know who started it. I am just passing it along. Thanks to my friend, Constance from Texas, for helping me find this:

Just be careful because people are going crazy from being in lock down! Actually I’ve just been talking about this with the microwave and toaster while drinking coffee and we all agreed that things are getting bad. I didn’t mention anything to the washing machine as she puts a different spin on everything. Certainly not to the fridge as he is acting cold and distant. In the end the iron straightened me out as she said everything will be fine, no situation is too pressing. The vacuum was very unsympathetic…told me just to suck it up, but the fan was more optimistic and hoped it would all soon blow over! The toilet looked a bit flushed when I asked its opinion and didn’t say anything, but the door knob told me to get a grip. The front door said I was unhinged and the curtains told me to.….yes, you guessed it,.….pull myself together!

Jan, from Colorado, (who may have sewn a few too many face masks) responded with the following:

I am in constant conversation with this sewing machine, seems to be zigging rather than zagging. That, and I have been known to cuss out the fabric, in measured terms. As for the needles, I’ve been forced to speak rather sharply to them!

What can we learn from this bit of folly? (Other than some good hints as to the state of my mental health?) It’s good to have friends. You can stay in touch by text, Zoom, Skype, or just regular old phone calls. The important part is to stay in touch during these times of isolation. And try to laugh a little.

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: Week Six

For Starters! The Good News?

I was at Whole Foods Market yesterday morning for the Senior Shopping Hour. Yes, at 7:00 a.m. I was at the Whole Foods Market in my neighborhood. Can I remember the last time I was awake this early? Nope.

However, as I walked into the Whole Foods Market at 7:15 a.m., I was met by a security guard.

Mam, I need to see some ID.”

Really,” I replied. “Thank you so much for questioning that I am old enough for senior shopping!” I pulled out my drivers’ license and showed it to the young security officer.

Okay,” he replied. and let me pass into the grocery store. However, there was a young woman (obviously under the age of 60) who was stopped from entering. “You cannot enter until 8:00 a.m.”.

It’s been a long time since I have been carded entering any type of establishment. I am delighted to know that I don’t automatically look like a senior to everyone.

After that adventure, I was feeling so good, that I wanted to go outside for a walk. I called my Dear Friend who came right over. We decided that it had been too long since either of us had walked at the Houston Arboretum and off we went. It was a sunny day. It wasn’t too crowded. We walked and walked. There was a lot of greenery. There were butterflies and flowers. Spring had sprung and it was beautiful. There were others in the park, but we easily socially distanced ourselves. There were single individuals, parents with children, couples, etc. A good time appeared to be had by all.

A lot of work has been done on the trails at the arboretum and we enjoyed our outing.

I was going to suggest that everyone go out to the Houston Arboretum. However, I have heard something about parks being closed this weekend. Deep sigh. If they open up again next week, try to find the time to go there and soak in some sunshine and nature.

I found it to be good for my soul. I hope it helps you as well.

Until next week.….

I

Pandemic Road: Week Three

Last week I wrote about going out to eat at a restaurant where all patrons were spaced out, food was cooked. Wasn’t that nice? I really enjoyed it. Today as I walk around the neighborhood, I see many signs like this one. Many shops are closed. The gym that I like to attend is closed. Movie theaters are closed. The Houston Theatre District has ground to a halt.

This provides me with a challenge. What to do with myself?

I accept this challenge. I am finding things to do every day. Today I went to a mid‐day mindfulness meditation group. There were six of us and we spaced ourselves out and used hand sanitizer and no one sneezed or coughed. We did not hug each other as we usually do, but it felt good to be in this group of people who are all working our way through these times that are like no other.

Tuesday was St. Patrick’s Day. By then bars were closed and restaurants were open on a take out/delivery option only. I even tried to ask that if I walked into a restaurant and placed an order to go, could I get a drink at the bar. NONONO! Okay, you only have to tell me once. Apparently the local pandemic police are really strict about that. However, I want to support local businesses that may be hurting right now. So, I am happy to order take out from my favorite restaurants.

Welcome to 100% Taquito and St. Patrick’s Day.

You may remember that I wrote about 100% Taquitos as my go to restaurant for El Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Now they are my new favorite restaurant for St. Patrick’s Day. As you can see the taxi with the leprechaun on top and skeletons inside is surrounded by tables that have been stacked up so no one coming in for take out will be able to sit down. On top of the front of the taxi are two floor mats as further evidence of the seating area not being open. Also, all employees who prepared the food wore gloves. Again, I ordered food that required cooking.

As you can see, instead of the well known phrase, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish”, your only requirement at 100% Taquitos is to buy tacos. I did. My dear friend and I both bought vegetarian tacos. We took them home and ate them outside on the balcony. They were delicious.

As I left 100% Taquito with tacos in hand, I passed this cute doggie called “Lucky”. I didn’t pat him on the head, because I was respecting his social distance. But I did wave good‐bye. I will continue to go by my favorite local restaurants and support them with my take out orders.

What local businesses are you supporting during this unusual time?

Until next week.….