Pandemic Road: What Is Normal?

A Saturday evening in August 2020. The Houston Symphony live streams a performance from Jones Hall in Houston, Texas. My dear friend and I are curled up on my couch with the laptop on the coffee table waiting for the music to begin. Before 2020 and Covid, we would be looking forward to the beginning of the new cultural season. We would schedule our tickets for the Houston Symphony, the Houston Ballet and the Alley Theatre. Are we culture snobs? No, of course not. But we are old, retired and healthy. And we like music, dance and theatre. Life is good.

So far this year we have enjoyed performances from the Houston Symphony, the Alley Theatre and Stages Theatre all from the comfort of home. Is it as exciting as getting dressed up and going down to the Theatre District for dinner before the show? Not really. But it is nice. The music is still just as good. We have heard Mozart, Vivaldi, Schubert, Stravinsky, Marsalis and others. It is great fun to see what kind of performances come out of a resident acting company while practicing social distancing. The actors are still as talented.…..maybe more so considering the new restrictions. The Houston Ballet has been very busy on Facebook. Many of the dancers have danced on roof tops, in back yards, and in parking lots. It is wonderful to see them.

In the midst of everything, Hurricane Laura made her appearance in Texas and Louisiana. It was a close call for Houston. Laura finally went east of us. How nice of her. However, no one really knew until the last minute where she was headed, so I am still enjoying some of the snacks I purchased and I have enough water to last me until Thanksgiving. Who would ever have known that between Covid and Hurricane season, the main supplies for any responsible household would include toilet paper, water and peanut butter. What an interesting time for our civilization.

However, do not despair! Today is September 1st!!! We know what that means, don’t we? Halloween will be here very soon! It is time to start decorating! Here is a picture of my new doormat. During the past years, I have had other Halloween doormats, but they all eventually wore out. I thought this one was particularly appropriate for 2020. Just wondering how many people are going to try to dress up as a “coronavirus”? The possibilities for creativity are endless.

As you can guess, from here on out, I will keep you appraised of all my Halloween decorations. I have a balcony and it will be decorated. I can throw candy down to any potential trick or treaters who happen to walk past. Now it is just a matter of how many skeletons and witches and such will join me on the balcony!

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: Finally Some Good Stuff

Boo!Finally! Some good news to report! Amazing how in the middle of a global pandemic, it just doesn’t take too much to excite me. My First Sighting of Halloween Decorations in local stores! Yes, I may have found these at PetSmart. That doesn’t matter. The point is that local retailers are selling Halloween decorations! Usually these gems show up for me at either the annual Halloween Store or Home Depot or Target. Typically this happens sometime in September. However, I don’t mind this occurring early this year. Everything else is different because of Covid. Why not Halloween?

I have seen some posts on Face Book about Halloween being cancelled this year. Has everyone lost their collective minds? No, don’t answer that question, because I am honestly beginning to believe that is a side effect of this virus. You don’t have to actually catch this disease. You can lose your mind just by hearing about it day in and day out while self isolating and worrying about friends and loved ones.

Of course we are celebrating Halloween this year! It’s more important and essential than ever! Since March we have all had to face our fears about life, death, and the uncertainty of our individual universes. Haunted decorations of viruses chasing us wily nily around our homes or neighborhoods should be a shoo in. What a great opportunity to find humor in our human condition. Most costumes involve masks anyway. Relieve stress through humor.

By all means, continue to wear your masks, wash your hands and socially distance. Do everything you need to do to stay safe and healthy. But take the time to relax. Self care. Halloween mindfulness. I personally am coming up with some creative ways to decorate my balcony. My neighbors can enjoy the decorations while continuing to social distance. I will certainly enjoy the decorations.

The Road To The Moon And Beyond

I traveled into space twice this week! Okay, so they were virtual reality trips, but they felt and looked real. Good news! You can too! All one has to do is visit the Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University. From now through December 21st they have several exhibits that have to do with traveling to the Moon. One part is actually called  Moon Shot. There is one multi‐media exhibit that I will not even try to describe, but trust me you will be fascinated. Then there is one large gallery with works from several artists including Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg. There are also several newspaper articles from July of 1969 and one even touted that we would be colonizing the Moon with the decade.

The entire exhibit shows not only the historical significance of the time and Rice University’s part in that history, but also the lasting effects on art, culture and society.

And, of course, I mentioned Virtual Reality trips into outer space. One of the VR trips is located in the big gallery. The other is in a gallery all by itself. Look for a door that looks like this:

Both VR experiences are great fun and each lasts about 15 minutes. I was somewhat hesitant considering that I have a serious fear of heights, but easily tolerated both adventures. Oh yes, there were times when I was floating in space. Yet I could feel the floor beneath my feet even if I couldn’t see it. I also walked on the moon and even landed on the sun.….without getting burned!

All of the exhibits in the Moody Center are free, however, there is a nominal fee for parking in the lot directly across the street. Well worth the time and money to be sure.

Also, today is Halloween and I would be remiss if I did not mention my new annual Halloween tradition. It involves both me and my Dear Friend going to lunch at 100% Taquito which is located at 3245 Southwest Freeway here in Houston. The food is really good even for a vegetarian and they really know how to decorate for the season. I’ll just post my pics below and you will see what I mean:

Until next week.….

Visiting the Veil Between the Worlds

It all started out one night when my dear friend (DF) and I were on our way to dinner. In addition to eating, we were also on a mission to visit a restaurant that knows how to appreciate El Dia De Los Muertos (otherwise known as The Day of The Dead)!

There are ghosts out there. Some are friendly and some not so much. How do you interact with your ghosts?

At a restaurant in the upper Kirby area of Houston called 100% Taquito, they honor the souls of loved ones who have departed. As soon as you walk in the door, you see ofrendas, or altars dedicated to the departed. You are also welcomed into the restaurant by this jolly fellow.

One aspect I love about living in Houston is the access to so many cultures and customs. That is never more true than this time of year. Whether you call it Halloween, El Dia De Los Muertos, Samhain, or All Souls Day, this is the time of year when we are reminded that there is an afterlife. There are souls, spirits and ghosts out there and this is the time of year when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest. Some of us prepare favorite foods of loved ones who have passed. Some of us dress up in costumes so that the bad goblins will not recognize us and hurt us. Some of us pray for those who have gone on before us.

At 100% Taquito DF and I had the honor of dining in the presence of some wonderful spirits. We were also serenaded by a delightful chap with his guitar.

As I have alluded to in previous blogs, this is the time of the year when we can laugh at things that scare us. We can take charge of our lives and not get unnerved by things that go bump in the night.

Along one wall of the restaurant there was an elaborate ofrenda. We sat next to this as I enjoyed a traditional flan desert and DF had a mango pudding. This was my first visit to 100% Taquito, but I am sure that I will go back.

When I returned home I looked at some of the various seasonal items I have collected over the years. It is a definite mix of Halloween and El Dia De Los Muertos. I like to think that the spirits that surround me this time of year are friendly. Hopefully the ones that aren’t will be scared off by my collection of skulls and scary faces.

Here’s to hoping that your ghosts and goblins are friendly as well.

Until next week.….……

Wisdom and Greatness

This has been a week for wisdom and greatness. Not from watching television news or paying attention to current events. What I did was to surround myself with some wise and great people.

Last night I went to see Anne Lamott talk about her latest book. The title is, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope. While standing in line, I was able to capture this picture of her arriving for her talk. I was delighted to be joined there by so many great and wise members of the Spectrum Center Writers Guild plus a couple of folks from my Soul Collage group. What a great group of creative people.

Back to Anne Lamott. In her chapter on Writing she states:

We have to cultivate the habits of curiosity and paying attention, which are essential to living rich lives and writing. You raise your eyes out of the pit, which is so miserable and stifling to be in and which tried to grab you and keep you there, until something sneaky hauled you out and changed you.”

Paying attention has been an ongoing theme of the RoadBroads. It is essential to stay curious and see what is all around us. I paid attention to Anne Lamott speak on how to keep moving whether you are writing or living life. One foot in front of another, one word at a time and next thing you know you have written the next chapter, survived the next crisis, accomplished what was once just a dream.

And speaking of accomplishing great dreams, I had the great opportunity to attend the Houston Symphony Thursday evening. Itzhak Perlman played and conducted. His passion and intense attention to every detail of the music is amazing to watch. He is focused yet is able to play a concerto by Bach all the while conducting a symphony orchestra. I was awed. It goes without saying the music was transcendent. If you get a chance see Itzhak Perlman perform, then run…don’t walk, to the nearest symphony hall. Hint: there is another performance in Houston on Sunday afternoon.

Finally, this past Friday afternoon I attended my first Halloween Party for the season. I went back to the workplace I had retired from back in May. This was my first time to go back. Years ago I started a tradition of holding an annual Halloween Party for staff and didn’t know if it would continue in my absence. I needn’t have worried. Janet, the woman who took my place and Brenda, one of the greatest Administrative Assistants of all time, made me proud. They not only carried on the Halloween tradition, but they even added a Haunted House to the festivities.

Here is a picture of the three of us. I am once again joined by wisdom and greatness. Yes, the creature with the skull face is the woman who replaced me. Obviously, she is doing a great job.

On a final note, I have to thank my friend, Ann, who remembered the song that I wrote about during my last blog post. The name of the song is, Who Were The Witches? You can catch a version sung by The Gaia Choir on YouTube. Thanks, Ann!

Until next time.……

Things That Go Bump In The Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does anybody really know what time it is,

Does anybody really care,

If so I can’t imagine why,

We’ve all got time enough to cry.

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

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

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

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

Until next week…

Reasons to Celebrate!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My thanks to the White Barn for making my day!

Now I am off to write scary short stories!

Boo!