Pandemic Road: Week Four

Now we have a “stay home” order from our Harris County Judge and City of Houston Mayor. We can still go to the grocery store and drug store. I can still take my cat to the vet (which, believe me, excites her no end). I can still go to a restaurant and get an order to go. I can still exercise outside. Parks are still open; you just can’t sit on a bench or touch the rail on the bridge that goes over the nice pond.

So I have been walking quite a bit around the neighborhood and noticing a few things. The first item was the lone cowboy boot. That seems even odder than finding a lone sneaker in the road. You would think that it would be harder to walk out of a boot than a sneaker. Even if you were carrying your boots and you dropped one.…..don’t you think you would notice? Since there was only one and it wasn’t in my size, I left it alone.

The other thing I noticed is that there are a gazillion lizards in Houston. I am not sure where they all come from, but I understand they are good for gardens and don’t bite humans. They like to sit in the sun, eat insects, and scamper across the sidewalk when they see me coming. You can see that this little guy is doing a great job of blending into the landscape. And he appears to be ready to bolt for the bushes as soon as I turn away. I have seen both green lizards and brown lizards in my walking adventures. Since they have no desire to bite humans, I like them. Also, since everyone is having to “socially distance” themselves whenever they are out in public, it can be easier to talk to a lizard on the sidewalk than it is to talk to your walking companion standing six feet away. No, no. I’m not lonely. I would just rather be seen talking to lizards than to myself. That’s the healthier option don’t you think?

Finally, I saw this post that is holding up a STOP sign. I was amazed that the greenery was growing on both the inside and outside of the post. This I took as a very hopeful sign. Life will grow even if it is a bit of greenery on a post during a pandemic. Spring is here and there is definitely hope for the future.

I’ve heard it said that the pandemic will pass. All things will pass. It may feel like a kidney stone passing, but pass it will.

Until next week.….

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.….

Pandemic Road

I don’t remember where I first heard of the “curse”. However, I do remember reading about it in several novels by Terry Pratchett. Here is the curse:

May you live in interesting times.

This is now the curse where we find ourselves. Last night I did something that may in a few short days be considered quite risky.

I went to the Theater District of Houston. My Dear Friend and I went to dinner at a restaurant called the Blue Fish. It was crowded. Lots of folks enjoying the sushi and other delectable items. My We shared the grilled salmon.

Then we went across the street to the Wortham Center and saw a work that had been commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera. It was called Marian’s Song.

This short opera told a part of the story about Marian Anderson. She was one of the most celebrated singers of the 20th century who broke racial barriers throughout her career. This was a fusion of opera, spoken word and multimedia projections. Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton wrote the libretto. The performance was inspiring. I was moved. I hope this work grows and moves into the arena of operas around the world. I am looking forward to hearing Ms. Mouton speak at the March meeting of the Women in the Visual and Literary Arts (WiVLA).

What was so risky? I went out in public. I washed my hands frequently. I tried not to touch door knobs. I have been practicing punching elevator buttons with my knuckle. The coravirus or COVID‐19 could pop up anywhere.

This week I have gotten used to going to any grocery or drug store and seeing people with masks and/or gloves. There is no hand sanitizer, water, toilet paper, etc. available for purchase. I have my small supply. I wash my hands frequently. I am getting to know local pharmacists so they will tell me when the next shipment of supplies is due. Every time I get home, the first thing I do is wash my hands. I am amazed at how many people don’t know how to wash their hands. Isn’t this one of the activities of daily living that we all should have mastered by.….I don’t know.……age 5 or so?

The fear is palpable.

Is this the price I pay because I love living in a big city? I love the Theater District in downtown Houston. What if this all gets worse and performances are cancelled/delayed? Many of the arts were adversely affected by Hurricane Harvey. What could a pandemic do to them?

As I sit at here, having washed my hands twice since getting home this afternoon, I contemplate this. I plan as best I can and I contemplate.

Even my cat, Hannah, is showing an interest in how I keep the two of us safe.

Next weekend my Dear Friend and I have tickets for the Houston Ballet and Houston Symphony. I still plan on attending both. I will wash my hands, use hand sanitizer and whatever else I need to do. I still love life in a big international city. We have survived SARS, Y2K, and several hurricanes. When faced with a hurricane, all one can do is grab supplies and hunker down until the danger is passed. We have many more options to survive a pandemic. We will survive COVID‐19. We’re Texans by God. Remember the Alamo! I will keep you posted on how it goes.

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.……

Hearts And Traffic Jams

I hope everyone had a nice Valentine’s Day.

This is the blog post that I intended to write yesterday when it actually was February 14th. But that was before all heck broke out in Houston.

The Southwest Freeway was shut down because a truck overturned. No one was hurt, but the entire freeway was shut down on a Friday afternoon just around lunch time. Now trucks turn over on a regular basis in this town. However, this one was extra special because the truck was carrying .….…wait for it.…..raw sewage. Yep, you read that right. Raw. Sewage. All over the freeway on a Friday afternoon on Valentine’s Day. I went out to run one little errand and almost couldn’t get back home. All of the traffic from the freeway was spilling out onto the main roads, the side roads and every other type of road.

By the time I got back home, I was running late to get ready for my Valentine’s Day date. We had reservations at the Backstreet Cafe. I wanted to be a proper lady for the occasion so I wanted to take a shower, wear a dress, etc. It takes time for me to look all ladylike. So I put off this blog until today.

And all I really wanted to say was a nice “Happy Valentines Day” to all my friends and blog readers.

Surprisingly, with all of the traffic jams around the area, we actually made it to dinner on time. I wonder how many other dinner reservations had to wait, because folks were stuck in traffic and honking their horns. There was a lot of horn honking yesterday. Egad.

Our dinner at the Backstreet Cafe was wonderful. We really took our time. Service was wonderful and the menu there never disappoints. There were rose petals on the table for that special romantic touch. By the time dinner was over, the freeway was open and traffic was back to normal.

I hope your romantic day was a joy and not stymied by the traffic. Did you do anything special?

And I would like to end this blog by wishing Susan B. Anthony a Happy 200th Birthday! She was an American social reformer and promoter for women’s rights. If you are a woman, please give her a nod of thanks every time you go to vote in an election.

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.….

Bumps In The Road

Last week I wrote about how exciting it is to live in a big city like Houston. We have theaters, operas, movies, ballet and other types of dance performances, plays, and Broadway musicals.

This week I am going to talk about one of the more irritating aspects of city life. The speed bump. They are everywhere. I live in the heart of the city and must travel over at least 5 or 6 a day. You would think that since we are civilized people, we know.….just by common sense.….not to drive too fast while trying to be nice to others on the road. Oh well, that was a nice thought. Apparently we need to be told many times to slow down. What’s the rush?

But really, whose bright idea was this? Why are there so many?

Are they called “speed bumps” or “speed humps”? After querying several of my friends, I decided to ask the professionals. I did a Google search.

Oh my!

Speed humps are sections of raised pavement across a roadway. Speed bumps have a more abrupt design. According to sources on Google, these various creations are “traffic calming devices”. Let me repeat this,.….traffic calming devices. Now, my dear reader, stop and think. When was the last time you went over either a speed bump or speed hump and felt.….wait for it.….calm. Me neither.

This family of traffic calming devices use something known as vertical deflection to slow vehicle traffic and improve safety conditions. I tried to get you a definition of vertical deflection, but it was so scientific that my eyes rolled back in my head and I passed out. Who knew there was so much science regarding speed bumps.

And, dear reader, if you don’t like the name speed bump, speed hump or road hump, then you can try these variations:

There are “speed cushions”, but that conjures up images of having a pillow fight with either asphalt or concrete. This sounds painful.

There are “speed tables”, but that sounds too much like something I had to memorize in school and promptly forgot as soon as the test was over.

I also saw a reference to “woo woo boards”. Seriously. This brought up visions of witches standing around the street with a cauldron casting spells to create humps in the road to cause innocent drivers distress.

Those who construct these traffic calming devices swear they will not hurt your automobile as long as they are used properly. That means you are supposed to drive over them going no faster than 20 miles per hour. Now when was the last time you felt “calm” driving 20 miles an hour in Houston traffic? Again, me neither.

I don’t remember speed bumps playing a major part of my childhood. (Okay, yes, I am a Boomer.) Maybe that was because they weren’t invented until 1953. A lovely gentleman by the name of Arthur Compton is credited with this invention. This is the same Arthur Compton who was a Physicist and won a Nobel Prize in 1927. He also worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II. Physics, nuclear reactors, and speed bumps. Who knew they’re all connected.

Now don’t you feel smarter? You’re welcome.

Until next week.….

New Roads

One of the best parts about living in a city as big as Houston is that there is always something new to do and see. Recently I have had two new experiences. One involves live theater and the other involves a new restaurant.

Stages celebrated the opening of their new home, The Gordy, at 800 Rosine. I have been a fan of stages for years and always enjoyed their productions. Now, they have a bigger building with three stages, prop shop, costume shop, scene shop, classrooms and lots of extra space. Before entering this new theater, I wondered how they would be able to expand while maintaining the up‐close and personal feeling of the previous location. Well, they did it. Each stage has seating surrounding the performance area on all sides. I doubt if there is a bad seat to be had anywhere. I can’t wait to see some of the upcoming productions that are planned for the rest of the cultural season.

During the open house I walked through all of the different departments. The costume shop had many examples of their various costumes. However, it was in the prop shop that I found this large cat head on top of a microwave. I didn’t ask what happened or where the rest of the cat was hiding.

One of the best parts of the tour was watching actor, Denise Fennell, in character as “Sister”. I have seen several of the Sister Catechism shows. Fennell is hysterical in these productions and very interactive with her audience. Her quick wit and good humored banter followed her wherever she went throughout the open house. I am looking forward to her next show at Stages.

My next adventure involved my Dear Friend and I going to a new restaurant. We like finding the small intimate places that provide great options in food. Literally, this new spot had been open for about two days when we arrived. The place is called Alma and is located on Drexel Street in Highland Village. As a vegetarian/sometimes pescatarian, I always check out the menu before going to a new restaurant for the first time. While they have plenty of options for the carnivores, they also have many options for picky vegetarian. There were several variations of salads, side dishes and grilled salmon. The staff were very helpful answering all of our questions about ingredients and options. We had a wonderful meal and will definitely go back again.

Can’t wait to see what other new adventures await me.

Until next week.….