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.….

Pandemic Road: Week Two

As Melanie pointed out in her latest blog, we are knee deep in a week that began with a full moon and is ending with a Friday the 13th. We could’ve guessed that this is the time to plunge into a global pandemic.

This is where I spent my late afternoon today. In a very calm restaurant, RA Sushi, looking out the window. My Dear Friend and I had good food and polite conversation. Don’t the clouds look nice set back against the beautiful blue skies. It’s hard to imagine from looking at this picture that the grocery store across the street was doing a roaring business and selling out of water and toilet paper.

Why toilet paper? People are hoarding toilet paper. I don’t understand that and I don’t really even want to understand that. People are also hoarding water. Last I heard coronavirus does not flow through the water pipes.

Earlier this day, I spent a lot of time finding out how many of my weekend plans were being cancelled. Even the WiVLA (Women in the Visual and Literary Arts) events have been cancelled. Both the Houston Ballet and the Houston Symphony cancelled all their performances for the rest of the month.

Even the Houston Live Stock Show and Rodeo was called off in mid‐run. This is the first time this happened since it began back in the 1930’s. That seemed to be the cancellation that caught most people off guard. Of course, I only went to the Rodeo twice in the time I have lived here in Houston. But I always knew it was there. I would go way out of my way to avoid the traffic. Willie Nelson got in his performance this year, but Gwen Stefani and many other musicians were cancelled.

Back at the nice peaceful restaurant, we arrived around 3:00 p.m. We knew the place would not be crowded at that time during a week day. I don’t know if the staff planned this, but the patrons that were there were seated at least 3 to 6 feet apart. I eyed the wait staff closely and did not see anyone cough, sneeze, wheeze or any other signs of impending doom. By the time we left many other customers came in, yet we all remained safely separated for appropriate social isolation.

In one more attempt to remain safe and healthy restaurant customers; my Dear Friend and I ordered only food that involved cooking. Typically at RA, we order things like sushi, seaweed salads, etc. As you can see in this picture, we split an order of vegetable tempura. It included yummy broccoli, asparagus, carrots and a few onion rings. We also split an order of agedashi tofu and some zucchini.

In addition to eating out, we went for a walk. The weather is getting warmer and warmer. Spring has definitely sprung around here. However, it is not as hot as it gets in the middle of July and August. I hope this pandemic is over before the summer gets here. I prefer water aerobics to walking when it is hot enough outside to fry eggs on the sidewalk.

How are you doing with this pandemic? I think everyone is hibernating at least for the upcoming weekend and maybe next week.

Wash your hands and stay healthy!

Until next week.….

The Mindfulness Road

First the good news! Save the date! Reception, March 26th from 5:00 p.m. — 6:30 p.m. at the Anderson‐Clarke Center at Rice University. I will have a collage piece in the Instructor‐Student exhibition at the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies. I took a class in collage art last fall that was taught by local artist, Ellen Orseck. The piece that was just accepted for the exhibition was completed during that class. I will share more details as soon as I have them.

Now for this week’s blog:

Last weekend I drove to the Ruah Spirituality Center for a weekend of silent meditation and mindfulness. I arrived on Thursday afternoon and left on Sunday morning.

Have you ever gone on a silent retreat? Previously I have attended one day mindfulness retreats where I spent the day in silent meditation. This was the first time I actually spent the night.….much less three nights.….at a silent retreat.

Micki Fine, of Mindful Living (livingmindfully.org), holds one of these retreats every year. After checking into the Ruah Center on Thursday afternoon, I walked around some of the 70 acres of beautiful land with trees, trails, squirrels and butterflies. Just being in that space at the Villa de Matel is relaxing. I could literally feel my heart beat slow down. My breathing came deeper and easier.

Our time of silence began Thursday evening. Oh my! Everything was so quiet. I actually had trouble falling asleep that first night. The next morning at 7:30 a.m. I was in a meeting room taking part in some stretching exercises before breakfast. All day Friday and Saturday I bounced between sitting meditations, walking meditations, and mindful stretching. I continued to walk the grounds and I even took the opportunity to hug a few trees.

The pictures of flowers you see in this blog were taken with my phone as I was leaving the retreat. While I was there, my phone was turned off. I saw no television, radio, tablet, computer or anything else that required either an electrical cord or WiFi connection. The quiet and silence was wonderful. However, I was amazed at how much noise continued in my head even without conversing with any other humans. When walking, I would catch myself whistling songs that popped into my head from nowhere (or my subconscious, whichever comes first). While focused on my breathing and meditating, thoughts would appear in my head. Where did they come from? I pretended they were clouds and let them float across the sky in my mind.

Also, I was instructed not to engage in either reading or writing while I was going through this experience. I am a writer. Yet, I was asked to go for over two days without writing. That was, I believe, the hardest part of the entire experience.

Will I do this again? You bet! Thanks, Micki!

Until next week.….….

New Roads, New Skills, New Creativity

It’s true! You’re never too old to learn. By default that means that I am not too old to learn. What I have noticed is that the older I get, the more interesting stuff I can learn and experience.

For starters last Sunday I went to Murder By The Book bookstore and attended a meeting of the Houston Sisters In Crime. You guessed it. This is a group of women who enjoy writing murder mysteries and the like. There was a panel presentation from women who have been writing for a while and have had many experiences with getting published.

That’s Fern Brady on the left in blue. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Inklings Publishing and a dandy fine writer. You can check out the website at inklingspublishing.com.

At the March meeting for the Houston Sisters in Crime, the speaker will be someone known as “The Poison Lady”. For those writing a murder mystery and have a character that will die from some type of poisoning, this speaker will tell us how to write the scene realistically and convincingly. What fun! There is just no end to the exciting topics you can research when you call yourself a writer.

Then this past Tuesday I attended a meeting for Women In The Visual and Literary Arts (WIVLA). There I heard two speakers talk about Zines! What fun! What is a zine, you may ask? Well, I found out they are physical printed self published creations that can consist of a single sheet of paper or more. They are made for the love of creating and rarely makes a profit.

Well, sign me up! After the meeting I checked out some information through Google and YouTube and have started planning on making a few of these to see how it all works. The first thing I discovered is that I may have to practice a bit of coordination to make the paper booklet that is so common to zines. After watching several YouTube videos, I just might actually be able to pull this off. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how is goes.

What topics will I cover in my Zines? Who knows. The possibilities are endless and I’m feeling creative! And in November there will be a Houston Zine Fest! It’s already on my calendar.

There are a lot of writing adventures coming up in March including some very exciting writing classes at the Spectrum Center Writers Guild! More on that soon!

Until next week.……

Road Signs

Back in 1970 there was a song. Yes, I realize some of you weren’t even born then and you might not be familiar with this song. Please, indulge me.

The band known as the Five Man Electrical Band recorded a song called Signs. The chorus of the song went something like this:

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind

Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

I don’t know the story behind this song, but it came to mind the past couple of days as I drove around town.

First, there are the helpful arrows. These tell us which way to go and they don’t give us any choices or options. Whenever you drive down a street with these kinds of arrows, you not only know that the road curves, but you also know that you are traveling in the correct direction. I see this. I breathe a sigh of relief and then slow down to the posted speed limit.

Other arrows are a bit more confusing. Take these examples:

As you can see, the Exit sign confused me so much that I couldn’t even take a picture that was in focus. If the building is burning, which way do I go? Or do I risk burning up, because I can’t decide between right or left. I need more specific instructions.

Other arrows can be very context specific:

In the Center Lane example, it appears as though that is the lane you want to be in to turn sharply to avoid a head‐on collision. Apparently, this is a confusing sign, because very few people use the center lane as a turn lane and hold up traffic when they turn from the outer lanes. I find this quite annoying. The example with the squiggly arrow is alerting to me that the path ahead is not straight. Kinda a philosophical viewpoint for life, don’t you think?

Signs in parking garages can be quite bossy:

I find that most of the time “Management” never likes to be liable for things like theft or damage. If you need a reminder not to leave your new purchases, laptop or phone in plain view in your car, then maybe you shouldn’t live in a big city.

Since I drive a small car, I like the designations for compact car parking. At what point do pickup truck drivers think they are fooling anyone when they park in one of these spots? Maybe they just think that if they drive a big pickup truck in Texas, they have the right to park anywhere they want. Those folks just need to know that those of us with small cars and not thinking nice thoughts about them.

I have no idea why one can’t idle in a car for more than five minutes. If you have any idea, please let me know.

Finally, there are small signs that give us grave warnings, Harry Potter!

Have you ever noticed how many of these are in any given neighborhood? Don’t stop to think about how much stuff is buried under ground. You won’t be able to sleep at night. I promise I will do all of the worrying for you.

What signs do you see during the day?

Until next week.….