Breaking RoadBroad News

Change is good. Especially when it involves the RoadBroads.

We’re growing. Ergo, a new tagline created for our blog:

Women writers. Ordinary journeys. Extraordinary stories.

Check out the look on our first official blog business card:

That view offers only half the story. Flip the card and you’ll find the full color, glossy image. Recognize that logo? The bonus on this side? Your favorite blogger’s name sitting in the upper right‐hand corner.

This image actually shows our individual business cards stacked as one long piece of paper. A certain blogger has yet to figure out how to split .pdf images in WordPress. Sort of like her problem with blog pictures overall.

C’est le vie: so much to learn. 

I’m never bored. Grateful.

Next step in our blog growth is to “seed” these cards. The concept comes from authors placing their books in locations where potential readers (ahem, make that translation = fans, buyers, etc.) will find them. 

I call the best seed sites discovery places. Possibilities include:

- Coffee shops

- Airport terminals

- Bookstores

- Women’s stores 

Other ideas? I’d love to hear! After all, we’ve got two big ol’ boxes of these beauts to spread far, wide, high, and low. Think I’m joking?

Six months post‐blog launch (to the day — love that unplanned synchronicity!), we RoadBroads aim for a bigger world. We expand our reach. After all, what awaits us — roads to travel, women writers to meet and greet, adventures to relive here with you. 

Who knows what comes next?

To See or Not to See

It only took 34 years. To need a new front windshield for my car.

Blame four rocks smashing into my windshield. A trio in the past month alone. Could that be a record in America’s fourth largest city?

Years? Rocks? Days? All smacking into a single pane of auto glass?

It’s repaired now but I wonder how long this perfection will last. I considered not replacing the windshield at all. With my recent track record, was it worth it?

Consider another factor.

It’s been a spring, summer, and fall for endless car repairs. New tires. New brakes. New shocks. New struts. Restored air conditioning.

Traveling nearly three thousand miles across three states, plus mountain driving in summer heat, would impact anything and anyone. Add to that 60K miles acquired across seven years in Houston’s humidity atop her pothole‐laced freeways.

Besides, every car needs routine maintenance. Even more results from the adventures of a committed RoadBroad who must venture out weekly to gather her blog posts.

But this kind of cash makes for a hard swallow. These repairs exceed 16 months of car payments. What I completed four years ago.

I wanted to leave the windshield as it was. Ugly, yes. But it’s only glass. Ugly, ugly glass.

Look for yourself.

See the jagged crack on the lower left? Swing your eyes to the far right. Spy the dot of pebbled glass? That’s the Hillcroft rock.

Out of range are the remaining pair of cracks. The worst split the windshield’s top quadrant like a boxer’s uppercut.

I felt confident of my do‐nothing approach. Then the heavy rains came.

Caught in a blinding downpour, the freeway’s dotted lines vanished before my eyes. I white‐knuckled the steering wheel and glued my eyes to the roadway, bird‐dogging for other blinded drivers. The windshield began to mock me. Its four cracks widened, expanding, before my terrified eyes.

It’s expensive to be a RoadBroad, I decided. New windshield got fitted two days later.

Meaning‐Me decided to reframe the issue.

Maybe now you’re free. To see clear and clean the road that lies before you.

Then my eyes whispered, reminding me of July’s summer laser surgery. A sudden onslaught racked them, too. It was a bout with spider vision, aka PVD. That’s short for Posterior Vitreous Detachment, a common, surprise malady afflicting the post‐60 crowd. A second whisper chimed.

New glass. New eyes. New view.

When I hear my inner voice(s) whisper like this, I listen. Even if it’s woo‐woo. Or simply mental. Who cares?

Now I can see.

I’m ready for the road.

When Old Becomes New

A delightful discovery this morning: three new trees planted along my daily walk path.

The sight stopped me in a near‐stumble. I jerked my head to the left, staring before snapping this once‐in‐a‐walk image.

Questions pounded my brain walls:

How long have these oak sprouts been here?

What made our tree police suddenly shout “Green!”

Did last week’s U.N. climate change report finally awaken city fathers?

Perhaps you remember the breath‐stopping removal of four trees from this same walkway last summer.

A mid‐July lightning bolt had zapped one oak tree, splitting it in two. It was a beautiful, natural strike. Destructive natural art remained. Tears followed.

Suburbia struck back in a wood frenzy, removing four trees in response to Mother Nature’s single zap. Where I live, we don’t remove damage. We play Whack A Tree. To ensure nothing stands in weather’s way, we haul in the Big Equipment and ground down the leftovers - all the way down to nuttin’, baby. 

In my new man‐made walking ground, I sought, and found, a gift: Starfish Bevo. See it/him? A horizontal figure on the right up there. Oak ground bits resembling quinoa. My new morning breakfast?

For weeks, I checked my little tree star every day. Then New Normal became Sidewalk Path. I forgot Loss.

Imagine my glee this morning as I stumbled onto this New New Normal.

Upon looking closer, my smile broadened.

Starfish Quinoa has a buddy. Shade.

Mornings like this urge me outdoors every dawn. Five mile walk, six a‐m start. 2372 walks since April, 2012. Yes, I counted.

I walk daily to remain healthy.

Today reminded me of a second reason: to see. When I opened my eyes — really opened them — I saw new life and second chances. 

Right around the corner surrounding a trifecta of trees.

How personal, meaningful can a little daily walk become?

Witch!

Who were the witches,

Where did they come from,

Maybe your great, great, great

Grandma was one!

This is a snippet of a song that I learned years ago when I attended a women’s camping trip in the Texas Hill Country. I don’t remember who wrote it or when it was written. This is all I remember of the song, but I think about this every Halloween. Actually it is my interest in women’s history; including the history of witches and the Salem Witch Trials that has really sparked my interest in Halloween for many years. Anyone who is invited over to my house around October 31st gets my lecture on how witches were persecuted women. Yes, back in the old days (Really.…old days.…days even older than me!) women were subjected to torture and hanging if the local cow’s milk went bad or farmer Brown’s crops didn’t grow. Many women were killed because of the suspicions of others. I wish I had a broomstick I could ride around on today. Not only would it be better than Houston traffic, but maybe it would solve my fear of flying in planes!

Of course one would hope that after that dark period in history, humanity would evolve. However, please tell me if you have ever heard of Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, Mary Ann Evans, Karen Blixen, or Joanne Rowling? They are all women writers. Maybe you are familiar with their pseudonyms; George Sand, George Eliot, Isak Dinesen and J. K. Rowling. Even Louisa May Alcott started her writing career by publishing under the name of A. M. Barnard.

 Back in the day, women had a lot of trouble getting published. It was easier to write using a male pseudonyms or initials so the reader could not tell the author was a woman. It would be nice to say that this was not the case any longer. Alice Mary Norton died in 2006 having spent a career writing science fiction and fantasy works under the name of Andre Norton. One of her works was called Witch World.

Women artists have also had their troubles. There was a time when women weren’t allowed in art academies or art guilds. They were sometimes seen as mentally ill because of their avant garde life styles and independent natures. Sometimes they were merely shunned, because they were too different from those in polite society. One sculptor, Camille Claudel, spent the last 30 years of her life in an asylum in France because her mother and overly religious brother kept her in the asylum and wouldn’t allow her to return home.

I love almost any form of art. I love taking the art history class at the Glassell, Women in Art. I also love to write. Do these facts make me a witch or does this make me crazy? No, that’s not a trick question and I won’t put a spell on you if I don’t like your answer. (Probably.) I have been called a strong and independent woman; which I consider a compliment.

Consider the image below:

Do you think this is a picture of a male figure or a female figure? How can you tell? How does sexual identity change your impression of this critter? Does it make a difference in how scary this image is?

Halloween gives me so much to think about every year. I review my list of positive female role models and hope that I have been a positive role model to some of the women in my world.

Until next time.….….….

A Rose is a Rose is a … Story!

The sun‐kissed white rose lay abandoned in the red‐hot seat of the grocery cart.

What came first?

Did its buyer choose to leave the gift my DH had just handed to me?

Or was it a senior DH who forgot the present for his/her love?

And so began Story Time, Round 543,928 between DH and me.

Yes, we play this game a lot. And we’ve been together 34 years.

It was weekly road trip for groceries. The two of us: me, the RoadBroad, and him, well, I’ll call him RoadDude for this post. After all, you’ll be hearing more of him as these posting adventures continue.

As I locked the car, I saw DH/RoadDude (this is going to get complicated) grab a grocery cart. Then he stopped and pulled back. Turning toward me, he pointed inside the cart.

The two of us froze and stared at the orphaned flower. It lay there with such strength. It radiated an odd, quiet solemnity. How does a rose gain that power?

It was then I noticed its head — the flowery part — was flat. As if it’d been smashed.

DH read my mind.

They left it because it got ruined,” he said.

No, they forgot,” I responded and went on, “because it was an old guy and he had an attack of some‐timers.”

In RoadDude’s big brown eyes, I spied a sparkle. I knew what was coming.

Tall Tales of Creative Riffing. Our favorite game.

His turn, first: “No, he accidentally put the sack of potatoes on the flower and when he saw it flattened up, he said ‘well, she’ll just have to get over no roses for her birthday.”

My response: “Or he’s back at home, looking for his anniversary gift to her and he keeps saying, ‘I know I picked up a white rose for you, darling.’ And she smiles gently at him, her eyes filling with tears and pats his hand. His eyes well up as he repeatedly apologizes for no flowers for their 65th.”

Him: “Maybe he bought it to leave for us, a Saturday Pay‐It‐Forward action. No why needed.”

Me: “And we found it. I like that one. You win!”

I reached in to the cart, picked up the rose, and said, “Here’s your prize!”

We both laughed and returned the flower back to its original perch, leaving it for the next couple to story‐time their find.

I’d like to believe my writer fantasy came true.

Who knows the real story of how a long‐stemmed yellowed white rose, wrapped in an empty grocery sack and tied off with navy blue ribbon, came to be in an abandoned grocery cart in Texas?

The truth doesn’t matter. What does is the possibilities for play, storytelling, a wee bit of magic on another ordinary day.

How about you? Do you play the storytelling game on errand day?

Best part of this game?

No wrong answers!

Sage Offerings, Post‐Parking Rage

Reader’s Note: No pictures accompany this post. You’ll soon discern why. 

She flew into my orbit from nowhere, like a bumblebee soaring on wings of rage.

Jabbing her rigid index finger toward me, she stabbed the air. Over and over.

I cocked my head, utterly perplexed.

Excuse me? What’s your problem, lady? I do something to you? I just parked my car. 

We stood—two women, strangers, facing off in a strip center parking lot. I had 20 minutes to kill and she appeared ready to oblige.

I stood outside my car, the driver’s door offering partial shield.

She stood perhaps ten feet away but taller, elevated on the sidewalk. I shrunk back.

Her dark eyes dissolved into black bullets. They fired at me rat-a-tat-tat—a hundred thousand bits of metaphorical ammo—aimed on the perfect horizontal. Target: my car, body, and spirit.

Pure instinct made my body dodge right, shoulder and arm tucking into my car’s door frame. My right foot moved into the car as if bracing for future impact. I said nothing.

Calm. What the..? No. Breathe. Let her talk as she can. Calm. Breathe. She’ll explain soon.

The longer I remained silent, the angrier her face became. Eyes tightened to pinpricks. Face squashed, raisin‐like. Lips darkened to brown‐bloody, a passionate underline.

In reaction, my eyes and lips squinted as I looked deeper into her. But, in my chest, wild fear ran amok. My heart thundered. Life‐threatening beat. My brain scrambled to stay ahead of her emotion. Brute willpower forced my lips to soften.

Show no judgment. Only listen. No mirroring anger. Cool. Take quiet charge. Calm.

You took my space,” she yelled, her voice knifing my inner dialogue to silence.

Excuse me?” I answered in my easiest, be‐the‐adult‐here voice.

You pulled in front of me,” she said in a near scream, finger jabbing harder into the space between us. Did she fear my attention had disappeared?

She leaned toward me, jerking full forward at the waist and leaning over the curb. “I was waiting over there,” she pointed to her left, “ready to pull in and park but you swung in and took my place.”

A cacophony of words flooded my brain. Willpower stood up, tall.

Two roads here, kiddo. Challenge. Or back off. Latter. Go.

I walked around my open car door, exposing my unprotected body to her. She glared back, eye bullets still flying. I broke the stare, looked where she had pointed earlier. Her red car sat diagonally parked two spaces away, resting illegally in a handicapped parking space. The car’s hazard lights blinked with manic urgency.

Clarity landed.

I’m sorry, ma’am,” I said, my voice gaining strength. “I didn’t see you. I saw the open space, pulled in, and never saw your red car. I apologize.”

I repeated myself.

As I talked, the woman’s face relaxed, eyes now simmering brown, lips relaxing into the hint of a smile. The air between us thawed. I repeated my apology. Calming mantra, round three.

She dropped her eyes to the sidewalk then raised them, gazing almost soft. Her smile widened, filling her face. One question popped up.

Has this woman awaited an apology her entire life? 

I moved my car and entered the coffee shop. The woman sat in her car—in my old parking space—and texted on her phone.

I wonder what story she told and what she learned.

My learnings?

I can defuse stranger rage.

Plus: choosing peacemaker and sucker‐upper aces throwing temper tantrums and threatening body blows.

It’s been a good week here.

I hope the same for her.

RoadBroad Review: Journals

Ex‐journalists don’t die. They shop for journals.

So am I now a journal‐ist?

Groan now, but it’s true. I crave journals. The storyteller in me loves a well‐crafted, story‐keeper. Yes, that’s another term for where RoadBroads capture the memorable parts of their journeys.

On our recent Boulder/Portland adventure, I picked up three journals, two worthy of future storykeeping. The other requires a publisher overhaul.

At the incomparable Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon, this journal leaped out.

First eyeball matched Powell’s nirvana (a three‐story bookstore that covers one entire city block).

I opened the journal. And groaned.

Out loud. In the store. Drawing stares.

Do we always have to color inside the lines?

Every right‐side page demands a laundry list of dry factoids. Money spent on gas, routes taken, sights/memorable events, highlights (differs from “memorable events”?), sleepover/dining experiences (sleeping & eating combined into one line?).

On. It. Goes.

No buzz? No joy? No agony? No heart?

Answering who‐what‐where‐when involves only one skill. Taking dictation.

Narrative juice flows only in answering two questions: how? why?

For example: how did you feel when the tire blew? Why did you stop at that run‐down cafe? 

Answers to these types of questions — and not the vanilla fill‐in‐the‐blank queries above — provide both a context and a story for what we experience. Especially road trips. It’s how we sort them out. Hopefully, we gain understanding. And an honest hearing.

It’s flavor and feelings we need. Every journey offers both. Even simple trips like a quick jaunt to the grocery store offer stories. If we look. 

Diaries record minutiae like “favorite sight.” Travel books log odometer readings and miles per gallon. Journals add the sensory spice of emotions and feelings. It’s juice, if you will. Ready for the drinking if we’re willing to dive deep and write/talk about those along with the neutral flavors of wind direction and highway speed.

I digress. Bigly. Whoa! Sorry…

This journal’s lines are too narrow. Nobody can write hyper‐tiny like this. The book is too thick at 200‐plus pages. Not switching backpacks.

I do like the blanks offered on every left‐facing page. However, the empty lines are crammed together. For more tightly‐written text?

To every negative, there’s a positive. This journal offers a great backside:

Asphalt makes a perfect ending for a journal. It’s the surface that grounds every trip. Flying is your main route? Eventually, you’ll return to asphalt.

The better Powell’s journal was this one.

Each time I pick it up, I find something new. Today, “wanderlust” screams. Time for another road trip? 

I open this journal and smile. Writer‐friendly lines talk, beckoning with “one quick page, come on, scribble details, that Boulder moment when…”

Why this rising wanderlust? Home two weeks, hungering for the road? Again? Cough, cough. Last trip not yet paid off. Reality Ah, reality.

My fingers flip back to the cover and my eyes scan it a second time.

The journey matters 

I thank the Muse for that future blog post idea. In Colorado, I met my favorite new journal at a favorite place, the Boulder Bookstore, holder of special memories and favorite friends.

This journal captures truth, with my clarification: it’s always about the story.

Why readers read, writers write. It’s why: the journey matters. 

I drafted this blog post then rested. Returning later, the three journals beckoned. I opened one to its very last page.

Second leap. Two thoughts.

Synchronicity rules.

And — why did this company bury the lead?

Take a closer look. That journal on the second row, third from the left.

Christmas. The Holiday Journal.

Maybe I could write it.

Declaring Self

Greatest gift from my recent 11‐day road trip?

This objet d’art, customized at a Boulder end‐of‐summer festival:

Repurposed license plate from Texas and Colorado redefines a life. Thanks to Neil and Blaise of www.JunkLoveArt!

With the plate, I now own the title.

Full‐time. With pride.

Thank you, Colorado.

Thank you, Oregon.

Recent excursions north and west marked one of the best trips ever for DH and me. That’s a meaningful brag, given how many places we’ve explored in 34 years of co‐adventuring.

More details in the weeks to come.

When I’m rested.

Yes, from vacation.

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!

Losing Faith in Shining Moments

Inspiration arrives in odd places.

Its opposite does, too.

For years, the writings of Stephen King have enchanted, even as they terrified. The Stand. Carrie. The Shining.

DH and I planned our summer playtime around two creative locales: Boulder, CO and Portland, OR. From Boulder, he insisted on a quick jaunt to his old childhood haunt — Estes Park, CO. I replied, Stanley Hotel.

Copyright G. Wigler 2017

My mind raced to memorable scenes from the film made from King’s novel, The Shining.

”Redrum” scrawled in blood across a bathroom mirror.

Jack Nicholson taunting, “Here’s Johnny!” through a cracked‐open door.

A hundred sheets of paper filled with a single sentence, repeated over and over — “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Memory reminded me the movie was filmed at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. What could be more fun than seeing the mirror, the door, the paper.

Then we did. Saw the paper.

What you can’t see in the typewriter photo is what’s beneath the space bar. A red cautionary note warns the tempted: CAUTION! Old! Do Not Touch! 

This third sign confirmed our suspicions. Nothing was as it seemed with either the hotel or the movie.

The first was the entry fee.

To enter the hotel parking lot — guest, visitor, whomever — you discover a $10 entry fee that “you only pay one time but you receive this $5 gold coin which you can use in our gift shop or restaurant.”

You mean the Stanley keeps $5 to stave off the unwanted, the cheap, and the wise.

We discussed leaving. As we did, a line of cars grew to the street. The parking gate behind the guard was down. He glared at us as DH and I strategized. My writerly curiousity won, we paid the ten and drove in, both of us irritated to a slow burn.

Seventy minutes later into our tour (another $20 per person, the reduced senior rate) and I seethed.

The movie was filmed in Oregon, not Colorado.

Because a different hotel was used, there’s no basement bar. No maze either. Except…

…for this: what the Stanley built itself. Three years ago. How many years is that post‐movie?

Room 217 is where Stephen King slept the night he conceived The Shining. Hotel officials asked the movie’s director to change the room number to 237. Here’s why: 

Room 217 never has a posted number. Novel readers are smart people. They figure things out. Eventually.

Kimg hated the movie so much, he helped to fund a later mini‐series of his novel. Filmed at the Stanley.

It is a beautiful, old hotel. With a rich heritage. And a clever marketing staff.

But now, when I think The Shining, bile fills my throat. I remember what the marriage of marketing and money‐making can create.

I hope Stephen King gets a cut of the Stanley dough.

I got mine. It’s a $5 gold coin. Forgot to use it when I bought that #217 room marker.