Monday, October 31, 2005

When he texts that message I fasten my seatbelt and hold on tight

Hey babe, I've got to go to Florida for a week and can come to Houston Sunday if you can see me. No worries if you have plans but I hope to see you.

Several texts back and forth and it's arranged. Soon enough - and quite unexpectedly as far as what I thought I would be doing Sunday afternoon - I find myself at the airport's international terminal waiting for the whirlwind that is him to walk through those doors and start spinning my life around.

We had 24 hours, and I can honestly say we lived all twenty-four to the full extent. We covered the Gap, Backstreet Cafe, beer, champagne, Rainbow Lodge, a believable email story, Jack Daniels, some monkey business, laundry, a whole lot of bubbles, silliness, champagne, a birthday present, easy conversation, photos, music, a lesson on some minor furniture repair that could have major consequences if left unrepaired, LBD's vet appointment for stitches removal, a bit of new camera showing off, one small tiff, more photos, more monkey business, a little chat on the benefits of a pull out bed in a sailboat galley, a bit of work, much more music, lots of water, a brief discussion on the lint brush being one of the greatest inventions ever, and Jax Grill. Somewhere in there we also managed to get a couple hours of sleep.

I've just returned from depositing him at the airport. And now I sit here as I usually do after he's come into town, feeling tired and happy but in a bit of a daze as well and sort of wondering what just happened. It's a feeling much like experiencing something that turns you upside down and leaves people shaking their heads because no one saw it coming, but it blew threw all the same and rattled every single thing down to the roots.

In a good way.

That man, he's my personal hurricane.

Monkey bath

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The distance between two points

The shortest line between me and insanity is repetition.

Drove with Mom to see the boy yesterday. Back to Conroe. It's about a 50 minute drive, and we take the same way from Mom's house every time we go, which has now been five.

Mom has taken to commenting out loud on what she sees during the drive. It's a bit like when the children were learning to read and exercising their new skills on signs they saw with words they recognized. That was cute and good practice. But it's something else entirely from an 80-year old.

Why are they changing lanes again? They just changed lanes. People who change lanes all the time like that, they're dangerous. Be sure that you don't ever drive like that.

Come to think of it, that kind of commentary she's made all my driving life.

But the sign reading, that's new. Except it's the same sign that puzzles her every time.

No trucks in left lane. That's something new, I haven't seen that before.

Well, yes, yes she has. Ten times that I know of because I've driven the car each time, north and south, that she's seen that sign. And it doesn't drive me insane, not really. But yesterday morning I did tell her that she says that every time we drive to Conroe.

I've never seen that sign before in my life. Why would you say it's something I say every time?

I didn't answer her because suddenly I was two inches tall, and wondering that myself. What was I trying to accomplish with my words? What does it matter?

When we were driving home and she noticed and commented on the sign for the first time again, I kept silent. But I did grip the steering wheel something fierce.

And then I let the whole point go, because again I asked myself, What does it matter? And the answer is that it matters not in the least.

Next time it will be funny. Next time I'll count down 3-2-1 and she'll say it on cue. And I'll shake my head and smile. Part of me will even be comforted by the new familiarity.

This is her world now, and oftentimes, much of it is new.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Happy birthday to that LBD

She's quirky, curious, funny, an instigator, a flirt, silly, demanding, brown, wild, authentic, sneaky, clever, brash, uncommon, athletic, bratty, excited, fearless, tireless, happy, a bit accident prone, loyal, unusual, hungry all the time, unexpected, loving, unique, ill-behaved at times, and always sweet.

She'll answer to a friendly voice, but to me, she's my Cheyenne, Cayenne, Little Brown Dog, Shiny Hiny, Tiny, and Shorty.

Seven weeks after she was born, she became the best Christmas present I could have received. We shopped breeders like we were buying a diamond. When we found the one we liked and drove forever north of Houston, I was overwhelmed by the puppies. Her brother was a tank of a boy, swaggering up to us like a bow-legged cowboy. Tough guy, he could have easily carried the name I had in mind for a male, Ruger. But I wanted a girl. And there she was, hopping along close to the breeder's step. He sat down beside me in the grass and she plopped down beside his leg and immediately flipped on her back. He shook his head and dropped his hand to scratch her stomach.

I ruined this one. Last night I rubbed her chest and her belly. She's been doing this all day today.

That was it. She became my girl in an instant.

Don't put her in that bed with you tonight, Alison. You have to keep her in the crate at night or she'll always expect to sleep in bed with you. And you don't want that.

Only that first night did she spend in the crate.

She was precious. I was weak. And who is to say what I want but me? We've been inseparable since.

Her puppy years cost me in books. Her preference was hardbacks, the more precious and dated in my life the better. When she tired of that, she'd knock framed photos off shelves and chew those to bits. She knew how to get me where it hurt.

Time padded forward. Her blue eyes turned gold.

She's put me through some times, that one. The kennel cough, the mysterious puncture wound in her chest the day after Thanksgiving. The alligator who thought he'd found a meal when she fell off the river bank. The brutal refusal to have her feet touched. The lump on her chest. The summer she spent throwing up every meal until we figured she had developed an intolerance to fiber filler. Which is like having a child who can only eat Caviar; her prescriptive food is equivalently priced. But she'll stomach any table scrap out there, not to mention her preference for cat poop, Christmas Ham, or anything at all foolishly left on the counter.

If I can get there in a car, she's with me. She loves nothing more than knowing she's going somewhere, and is quite content to ride shotgun with her head out the window, gazing at the passing world. She's happy to go where I go. And I take her. Often.

But she's happiest on a walk, at the park, and in the water.

Go on girl, fetch it up.

The dog smiles. She'll whip around a corner at the sound of your voice, squish her nose up, spread her mouth back, and then slowly walk up to you with a long toothy grin, head held low, body curving in a physical joy that is her own, and she lets you know that nothing in the world could make her happier at that moment than you standing there before her. Then she explodes into a tail wagging blur circling and hopping around your legs and all over the room.

She can pull a smile out of me on the saddest of days, and polish the shine on the best.

Shiny! Dogs rule Prom photo OneCoolPup

She's insanity and sweetness. Happiness and mood. Play and love.

She's five years old today. What joy she has brought my ife. Happy birthday, my little brown one. A truer friend was never had.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

And later you can use it as compost

I have a friend who sometimes leaves messages on my cell phone that tickle me to no end. It's a toss-up whether my favorite is the one about the guy who was walking down the freeway, gas can in hand, his Hummer stranded on the side of the road, or the one where her wine rack collapsed and the message she was leaving took a sharp turn to her suddenly screaming, and the bottles crashing, and then the cursing and cleaning up.

Just yesterday afternoon, she left me another gem. This one short and simple. Less humor, more magic.

Hey, it's me. I wanted to call you and tell you what just happened. I'm stuck in traffic, sitting here at the intersection, and a single rose petal just blew in through my window. One rose petal. Maybe it's good luck? I figured you're the only one I can call and tell because you're into stuff like this.

Yeah, yeah I am. In all the tangle and harshness of buildings and freeways and tempers stuck in traffic, a single rose petal manages to catch a ride on a breeze, float through her open window and land itself in her car.

I just think that's very cool.

LBD Update

That little brown dog of mine, she's doing just fine in her post-surgery recovery. Bored out of her mind, to be sure, but doing just fine.

Bored dog Mmmmm

Bored dog II Bored dog IV

SO bored

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

By any other name

You might call it Autumn. I call it Fall. One could refer to it as the season of Halloween and Thanksgiving, maybe the season of the Witch or that of harvest moons.

Pshaw on all that.

What I learned last night is that one could also refer to it as the Hiding-the-Wine season. The ground gets cooler this time of year and, yeah, even here in Southeast Texas, that's true. So, if you find yourself at your neighborhood Stop-n-Go, then go ahead and plan for the future and pick up some mini-bottles (you know, the screw-top jobs) to bury into the ever-cooling earth in your front flower beds for a nice little gift to yourself on a later day when you find that you just want to go outside on the front porch for a minute by yourself, thanks.

The good thing is that you can discard the empties back there as well.

If you recognize yourself here, then hopefully you don't have the kind of friends who will re-landscape your entire yard as a birthday gift for you in the Spring, and subsequently stumble upon that particular graveyard. Because those friends, they will bust you on it bad.

That's all I'm going to say about that.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


  • Yes, my father was upset about the incident. It was only later that he would tell the story with any sprinkling of humor (though he never did stop shaking his head when he told it).
  • Yes, I was in a lot of trouble. For months and months.
  • Yes, I did get a new car. Well, sort of. My father bought my brother's station wagon and that was my car for two very long years.
  • I believe my Mom's words were: You spoil her rotten, Ed. For all I care, she can walk wherever she needs to get to from now on.
  • She had a point.
  • Yes, I sincerely thanked him.
  • And then I slapped an Adam & the Ants bumper sticker on the back window of that silver bullet, and drove it all the way back to Lubbock, Texas, where only the tumble weeds catch fire, and there's no such thing as flooding.

Inventory: two cars, one girl, one really tolerant Dad - Part II

The second half of the two cars, one girl, one tolerant Dad story is more of a confessional. There's just no way to tell it without revealing the schemer that I was in the first semester of what would have been my Sophomore year, the semester I stayed out of college so that I could grow up and learn to appreciate the opportunities I had. That little experiment didn't do much beyond make me want to go back to college and this time make the grades that would keep me there without ever again having to join a conference with my advisor and my parents on whether or not I was mature enough. Guess what? At 19, I was far from that level of maturity. I think the second half of the story reveals that.

Two months into the Regency, I intercepted the mail to discover a free night invitation to a new hotel in Houston, The Four Seasons' Inn on the Park. An invitation addressed to my father, not me, but that was only a minor detail for me to overlook.

Bad decision, that.

For the night the boyfriend and I picked to stay in the hotel, I formulated a story about visiting a friend at Sam Houston for the weekend.

Another bad decision.

The boyfriend and I set out into the afternoon with all sorts of romance and fun in mind. We'd check into the hotel and hang out a while, go out to our most frequented club, Cowboys, for a night of Screwdrivers and two-stepping, then return for the night to what was all too soon going to be referred to by my mother as our love nest.

It rained that day. And that night. All night. It does that in Houston sometimes. It rains and rains and rains. And all the water eventually flows from the streets into the bayous. The bayou of import to this story is the Buffalo Bayou, because it flowed right behind the hotel.

When we returned to the hotel from Cowboy, I had a minor decision to make: park the car myself or pay valet $3.00 to do it for me. My thinking at the time was that when you're an unemployed semi college student living off an allowance that does not take into account social activity, the sum of three dollars equaled cover charge and there was no way I was going to give that to someone for parking a car that I was perfectly capable of parking. So, based on saving three dollars, I chose to park the car myself.

That seemingly minor decision turned out to be the Mother of all the bad decisions in this story.

Had I handed the car to valet, they would have driven it up the ramp to the second story of the parking garage. Self parking was down the ramp to the level below the main driveway. Pretty close, in fact, to the swelling banks of Buffalo Bayou. Something I completely missed when we parked the car and ran inside.

At some point in the middle of the night, this brief conversation took place:

He: It's still raining, maybe we should check on the car.

Me: The car's fine. Go back to sleep.

I would like to go back to that moment and address my naive self from the point of view I now have. I would like to ask myself exactly on what I was basing that reply. Given the opportunity, I might even have to raise my voice to myself when I asked the question because I really would like to know exactly what I was thinking, but I do not recall. I think my young self would just stare at the ground and shuffle her feet.

When morning rolled around, I opened the curtains to the brown lake that was located where just the day before the hotel's green grounds had spread out into a glorious view. That woke me up quick. I decided to go check on my car.

Outside in the drive, I stood at the railing and stared in disbelief at the water below. The bayou had completely overtaken the lower parking level and, sadly, somewhere beneath that swirling and angry water was my car. Beside me stood a man who I was sure was not there with his boyfriend when he was supposed to be visiting a friend in college, nor was he likely driving the new car his father gave him because he somehow had managed to burn up his Jeep. I couldn't imagine anyone being in a worse predicament than I but, still, he was not a happy man. He pointed to something red just beneath the water's surface and explained that he was pretty sure that was his Corvette floating up. I pointed to the water where I felt that my car was. I asked him if he thought my car was ruined. (I did mention earlier that I was naive, didn't I? This only illustrates a portion of it.) I'm sure he didn't mean to laugh in my face but he couldn't help himself. His words to me: When you can stand on top of your car and be knee deep in water, yes, I would say that your car is ruined.

The questions that were on my mind when riding the elevator back up to the room were 1) how was I going to explain about the car? and 2) how was I going to get home?

No amount of story twisting or creative thinking was going to get me out of this one and I knew it. I tried to come up with something but there was nothing there. I had bits of excuses and fabrications swirling around my head at a faster clip than the tornado that uprooted Dorothy. But I could not come up with a single story that could cover up the fact that I no longer had a car.

As fast as water rises in Houston, it also recedes. The unfortunate cars belonging to the cheap self-parkers were all towed away before we checked out that afternoon.

I was given information on where I could claim my car, and handed the hotel manager's business card. I stared at those bits of paper the entire Yellow Cab ride home, hoping they'd morph into a script of the excuse that would get me out of what I was heading home to face.

No such luck.

Mother just happened to be standing in the window when the cab pulled into the driveway. Since it's a natural thing to wonder why your daughter is returning home in a cab the evening after she left in her car, and equally natural to be curious as to why the cab was driving off with her boyfriend inside, she didn't hesitate to ask. I, on the other hand, did hesitate to answer.

My father sat in his chair, quietly reading the evening paper. As I stood frozen and staring at my mother, my mouth open but nothing forthcoming, my father decided the put some advice into the air for me. He gently suggested that I be very careful with the words I was going to say next. Then he turned the newspaper around to show me the FRONT PAGE PHOTO of my car being towed. It was covered with bayou muck, to be sure, and water was pouring from it. Your couldn't tell that it was my car, not really. But the license plate was visible enough, and he recognized that to be - surprise! - his own.

Photographic evidence of the truth. Turns out I didn't have to make up a story after all.

Monday, October 24, 2005

In the mirror

I've read that we can fail many times, but we do not really fail until we stop trying. Once we fail, there's a tendency to think we can do nothing right. We lose trust in ourselves. We condition ourselves to fail when we relive in detail over and over what happened. I think that we set the downward path in stone when we focus too much on the mistakes and not on the future. We can change by saying that we're going to change. We can change by saying that we have changed and then acting on what we've said. Speak the words inward and start to make the difference in your life. And stop looking outward for sympathy. It's not an impossible path. Doing nothing at all and expecting a change is where the real impossibility can be found.

I have a few friends who will read this and think it's about a certain other friend. It's not. The lesson is mine.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Inventory: two cars, one girl, one really tolerant Dad - Part I

One thing he used to ask me, my father did, was how in the world I could completely total two cars in two month's time, without the benefit of a being in a single accident. His word, benefit. I never had any response to that. What could I say? What I wanted to know but didn't voice until years later was how to figure in the added irony that one was destroyed by fire, and the other by water.

After my Jeep burned down to the lug nuts on the spare of the two-week-old Gumbo Monster Mudders I had begged for and received for my birthday, we stood together in the parking lot where the skeletal remains were towed. With little effort, he unscrewed a lug nut from the spare, sighed, and placed it in my hand. Then he said, That's about the only thing salvageable. And he sighed again.

The Jeep was charred, the interior completely gone, just some metal bits left, seat coils, the gear shift, that sort of thing. I was looking at the remains of a friend that had taken me down many roads, along a couple beaches, and through the mountains in Colorado, not to mention up and down Westheimer, to the polo club, and all over the city of Houston.

That Jeep was freedom to me. With the top off, I could be outside all the time. So, I spent my time outside and the top spent its time in a neat fold on the floor of the garage. It would have been easier perhaps if I had used that top on occasion, say, when I initially left the house each day. My routine involved curlers in my hair, and a scarf around my head to keep my hair in them when I drove. When I got to wherever I was going, I'd pull out the curlers, toss them in the glove box, run my fingers through my hair and that would be that. I cared about my hair, but not one bit about what I looked like driving around with curlers and a scarf. Not even vanity could get me to put that top on. I may have been on the fast-track to trailer park life, but I was free.

We never did figure out exactly what happened to the Jeep. Faulty wiring was the general consensus, which was followed in more repetitions than I care to recall with, Oh, Thank God you weren't driving when it happened, from Mom.

On the news that night, you could see a line of smoke twisting around what was at the time the Republic Bank Building. We were going to the beach, the boyfriend, his friend, and I. Just had to make one stop downtown at the friend's mother's office to get cash. He and I went in, the boyfriend stayed behind. Said that the damn thing just started itself up and lunged forward. Which was when he jumped out. When we were in his friend's mother's office, we could see smoke from her window. Leaning against the glass, I shouted, Oh my God my jeep's on fire! Far below us, it was moving itself up the street, without a driver but closely followed by a police car. People were standing in groups, talking and pointing. People in the office building were gathering at windows and oh-my-goshing about it. It was a big ordeal for a downtown morning.

I asked if I could use the phone, and dialed Dad's office number.

Um, Dad, you probably won't believe this, but...

We watched the evening news together that night. I remember him shaking his head when our bit came on.

The next morning, Dad handed the keys to his car over to me. It was an Oldsmobile Regency. It wasn't the Jeep but it was a great car and it only took me about two seconds to fall in love with the leather interior, adjustable seats and reliable sound system. Not to mention the smooth and quiet ride after two years in a topless jeep. Jeep? What Jeep? I slapped two bumper stickers on the Regency and made it my own. This was a different kind of heaven.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A good thing to wake up to

I may be the only person in the city who did not watch the game last night. You know how sometimes you think that what you do will jinx something that actually has nothing at all to do with you? Well, I did turn the game on and about a minute after I did, the Cardinals scored. I knew that was my fault, and turned that tv off quick.

Well done, boys. Well done.

Go Stros!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


I've gotten some questions as to why she was having surgery in the first place. Rather than link back to May when we went through this the first time, here's a brief overview as I understand it.

What she had was a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the stifle joint (canine for knee). If you're a dog, that's some painful stuff, and it's an invitation and wide open door to arthritis.

The problem is best resolved (according to her doctors and a heap of research I've done on my own) through a surgery called Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO). TPLO eliminates the need for the ligament. The surgery changes the anatomy of the knee joint by cutting the tibia and placing a plate inside to change the shape of the stifle, resulting in her knee returning to a movement that is more like the hinge that it is, rather than sliding back and forth like a drawer. It also eliminates friction on the ever so precious meniscus (cartilage), thereby retracting the invitation to, and shutting the door on, arthritis.

That concludes today's lesson.


The Patient

One minute after ten and I'm pulling into the parking lot. Jackie behind the counter says, you weren't kidding.

On her three good legs, she danced in circles around the reception area when she saw me. It took three of us to calm her down. It took two of us to get her into my car. And it took me and a sling to get her up the stairs.

The happy ending is that she and her turkey leg are back at home, and she's fast asleep at the moment. Happy days.

Sweet dreams

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Flipping the channel from canine surgery to titty bars

You think you know people. Well, maybe not people, per se, as in people in general, but you do assume that you know your friends. And some of that stuff you know about them is very basic stuff. The identifying and quantifying stuff, where they grew up, marital status of parents in childhood, where they went to school, what they studied, what they do for a living, and very importantly for this particular post, what they did for a living, or to say it more clearly, what they wore or didn't wear for a living.

It all fits into the mental file cabinet of classification and categorization. But sometimes, through no fault of your own, you learn that the contents of your files are all wrong.

Tonight was one of those times for me. I learned that some of what I thought I knew about a couple friends is as foggy as an airbrushed photo of an exposed breast. Turns out that one of my friends who referred to those days in her past as her hostess job, actually entertained. And it turns out that another one of my friends who previously was slotted in the 'used to dance' category in fact never set spiked heel on stage, much less bare breast or thonged ass. From what I could gather tonight, she only stepped into a topless bar one time and that was to retrieve a garage door opener from her now ex but at the time her soon-to-be husband's bachelor party. Or so it goes.

Someone interrupted her explanation by saying, But S can't dance! [Name removed to protect her newly reclaimed innocence.] Well, that's the breaker apparently. And it never occurred to me, the dancing skill bit. Because I'm thinking that if you have the body and you just move it like the elusive scent of seduction, then it's not like you're in a dance-off against Kelly Monaco and Alec Mazo that actually requires you to know any one-two, one-two-three sort of skill.

But it doesn't matter what I think because I was made to promise that I would set the record straight tonight - right here. So, for the record, one of you needs to tell the other not to assume that when your mother says that her daughter danced in a topless bar that your mother is speaking about you. And, it has to be said to S, YOU COULD HAVE TOLD US THAT YOU HAVE TWO SISTERS because we knew it wasn't her, so IT HAD TO BE YOU. Oh wait, that's what was said tonight. Well, there you have it.

Still, I said I'd set it straight. So, let me clarify: IT WASN'T HER, okay? If you think you recognize her in line at the dry cleaners or the grocery store... wait, that's way too public for the non-existent job. Ahem. If you're having dinner with her and you're all up in your thinking that you know this dirty little secret of hers, then you need to step back seven or eight years and pull out your bottle of white-out because when you were told that she danced, well that wasn't right. At all. There is no dirty little secret. At least not one that involves pasties and stage names.

But, seriously, apparently all that had to be said (or experienced) was that if you've ever seen her dance, you would have known that something was up with the story from the get-go.

File cabinet. Re-classified and re-filed.

[Personal note to the non-dancer: Yeah, I know. I have to make a set-it-straight phone call to Vermont. I'll get right on that in the morning.]

Surgeon's Report

The good news: Her meniscus was not damaged at all. Not one bit.

The bad news: Her ligament was completely torn. All the way. Severed. Two pieces.

The best news: She came through surgery like a champ, is resting comfortably, and I can pick her up anytime between 10:00 tomorrow morning and 6:00 tomorrow evening.

That time range is funny, isn't it? I thought so too. I mean, come on. Be serious. This is me. I told him that I'd see him at 10:01 tomorrow morning. Since this is our second time to go through this, he knows I'm not kidding.

Ain't no sunshine when she's gone

The shedding machine of my life is in surgery today. It's her right knee this time. When I told the surgeon yesterday that I wasn't exactly thrilled to be seeing him again so soon since we were just here in May, he gave me a little chuckle and said, Well, she only has two hind legs. I made a sour face at him that said loud and clear how little I appreciated his humor.

The house is freakishly still without her. To be honest, it gives me the creeps. Without my little brown shadow there, my time at home is definitely not the same.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Sunday, blessed Sunday

Worried Shiny II Shiny I

The park. That dog. My yard. Errands. Work. One report, two reports, three reports. Finished and sent. Laundry. Windows kept open to the cool air. A couple letters. The entire paper. Iced tea. Good music in the background. A few fun texts. A bit of the Astros. A lot more of that dog. Good day.

IMG_0734_edited IMG_0733_edited Greybeard

Saturday, October 15, 2005

From all over Texas

About 50 miles away from Houston is a long way away from drama. My Friday night was spent in a serious game of Scrabble with Mom, my nephew and a boy named Chase. My nephew won by seven. He has a way of doing that, which I try to take in stride.

There's a lot going on in Conroe this weekend. The most important - at least to my fellow guests at this hotel - is the Texas Line Dance Jamboree.

This morning in the hotel's restaurant, I've somehow been adopted by a group of dancing attendees. Marge, Betty, Dorris and Pepper tell me all about it over coffee. Not one of them is a day under 60. I ask, Is this local to the Houston area? Pepper bubbles, Oh no, honey, we're from all over Texas.

Marge offers me a piece of the apple pie they're sharing for breakfast. She baked it Friday morning and brought it with her.

Pepper has the words, Texas, and Dance, in rhinestone pins on her jacket. Silver cowboy boots dangle from her pierced ears. She's wearing pink pants, and a pink jacket over her pink and purple deep cut V-neck top. Marge, Betty and Dorris are wearing the same. These ladies ooze senior citizen sexy.

At another table, there's a group of women in black jeans and t-shirts with gold painted cowboy hats and boots all over them, Little bit country, Lubbock, Texas, in gold puff paint on their backs. And another group in bright blue t-shirts with musical notes and Texas Beat, Sugar Land Sweet printed on the front. Apparently, someone from their group is still upstairs, not feeling too well. One says to another, I gave her some Pepto Bismol, she should be fine in a little while. Another adds, It's just gas. All she needs is Beano.

A woman whose hair perfectly defines frosted comes up to me. She has Line Dance... Line Dance... Line Dance printed on her t-shirt beneath a row of colorful cowboy boots. She eyes my laptop, tells me I did a good job with the music last night, and asks if I'm getting the music ready for today. I explain that I'm not with the Jamboree, I'm in Conroe for other reasons. She's determined though, studies me a minute, and says, What's your name, honey? Maybe I know you.

That's a Southern thing. Who are your people? To what tribe do you belong?

My newfound Pink Lady friends do a line dance demo for me in the lobby. I want to take them home and decorate my life with their punctuation.

They all gather to go. Dorris gives me a hug before they walk out the restaurant and disappear into the day and out of my life.

If I didn't want to spend this Saturday with my nephew so much, I think we all know that faster that you could say Boot Scootin' Boogy, you'd find me spending this afternoon at the Texas Line Dance Jamboree.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

No one said a word about the sorrow

It's familiar for me to be sad, what I write here, isn't it?

Do you want to trade places? I dare you.

I could sleep through it, but it's too loud. I could ignore it, but the phone keeps ringing. I could walk away from it, but it's faster than me. It sits at the door when I arrive.

If she really meant it, she'd pull that blade up her arm, not across.

If she really meant it, she'd swallow all those pills they keep in the cabinet.

Did she hear it? The years of attempts and ridicule?

She's in the hospital. It's real this time. They had to break the door down.

It's real this time. Over and over in my ears, it's real this time.

This time.

It's the anniversary of hell and I'm here again. It's funny in a sick sort of way, to be here again. The past breeds familiarity in the present.

I know my place. I wait. The phone rings.

I go where I am summoned.

She wasn't successful, not tonight. But she will be if she keeps her goal in mind. It's not the first time, afterall. She's learning from her mistakes.

But not tonight.

It's the drive of what she wants. How can you stop the rain from falling down?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

On the phone just now

Her: I'm drawing holly leaves on my calendar on Christmas day. Which should I draw on Thanksgiving Day, a Cornucopia or a pilgrim?

Me: Busy day at work?

So the good times can roll again

I want to send you somewhere. Yes, you. I want you to spend some time there. Read the words. Stare at the photos. Absorb the story. I discovered it by accident a couple weeks ago, and I return everyday because I'm hypnotized to do so. The current issue of Rolling Stone gives mention of it. It's that good. It's that real. Go there. You'll see.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

S. W. R.

She spies the book of nursery rhymes on my bookshelf. I recall out loud a bit of one.

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat
They took some honey
and plenty of money
Wrapped up in a five-pound note

She has no idea what I'm saying, recognizes none of it.

I don't know any nursery rhymes.

Turns out that at the bar she spent her childhood in, the juke box was too loud and her parents were too busy tending to customers - or each other - too busy to read to their daughter.

For her birthday, I give her the book. Cracking it open, I read aloud to her the nursery rhymes. I want to give her the memory of hearing them, not reading them. She's embarrassed at first but closes her eyes and falls into it.

It's a day that doesn't leave either of us.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

She writes me notes on anything usable, stationery, scraps of paper, a napkin, notebook paper (mattered not whether neat or ripped from its wire binding, frilled edges included), typing paper, letterhead from whatever job she's working, pages from a legal pad, whatever she can find or use to write on.

Just want to say hi. I miss you. Meet me at the river this weekend.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A box of matches sits between us. We flip it like a coin to decide whether we will sleep together at the end of the night. It could have gone either way. Thorns on one side, a pink rose on the other. The imagery of the matchbook should have been telling enough. Thorns, Yes. Rose, No. It lands rose side up, which was my pick. My opponent offers, Best of three?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The lake spans out before us. I'm on the diving board, facing her.

Bounce three times, throw your arms back and your knees over your head.

I land on my stomach. Again. When I climb the ladder to the dock, she's laughing at the entertainment I provide her. Her laughter floats upward into the trees. Still, she's patient with me. I finally nail the back flip. She's proud.

We grab two beers from the cooler and swim out to the floating dock in the middle of the lake. There, we sit in the quiet between the water and the trees, and dry slowly in the sun, drop-by-evaporating-drop.

It's a day that doesn't leave either of us.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

She's tough on me, doesn't let me get away with much. She thinks she knows what's best for me. She might be right.

You're either going to step down from that pedestal they've all put you on, or someone's going to knock you off. I don't want to be around when you fall.

Maybe that was true, but she was around. She picked up the pieces and put me back together. A little tainted, a lot imperfect. A scar and a story.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

She seems to be fading from my eyes. Her energy is soft, out of focus. The space she takes up is smaller. I see it and carry it with me. How odd to see someone fade.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Years ago this week.

She has a goal in mind. She drives herself from Austin to San Antonio, checks into a hotel. She tears a page from the bible and sets it on the dresser. She wraps a rope around the closet pole, then wraps the rope around her neck.

She successfully meets her goal.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And hand in hand on the edge of the sand
They danced by the light of the moon
The moon
The moon
They danced by the light of the moon

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Wherever you are

I spent my entire Saturday in a meeting with 17 others seated around a table in horse-shoe configuration, an open meeting, lots of discussion, debating, note-taking. We all want the same thing, but which road to take is a slightly different story.

By the time it's all over, and I'm back in my hotel room, I am drained, alone and wishing to be at home.

When my cell phone rings, I cannot be bothered to get up and see who it is, much less consider answering it. Real life doesn't afford me such behavior though, and since the beep signifies a message was left, I do bother to pay attention. It could be important.

A life ring.

Hey, I'm glad you didn't answer your phone because I'm really just calling to leave you a message. I love you. I have no idea where you are, but wherever you are in the world right now, I want you to know that I love you.

I listen again, then set the phone down. His voice and his message soothe me, give me warmth and connection, remind me that my heart is alive.

He's done this before, answered a call I'd not outwardly made. I've never asked him how it is that he knows when I need him, what tells him to pick up the phone and dial. I don't want to know. To me, it would be like learning the science behind art. It would change the magic.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The madness of fearless

My flight is on time. I board the plane, sit down, situate myself and wait. When we start down the runway and into the sky, I notice something missing from me: fear. There isn't the slightest change in my breathing or my pulse. I'm not closing my eyes or clinging to my necklace. I'm not off balance from the loss of earth beneath my feet. I'm not gripping the arm rest and imagining the plane tumbling from the sky. I couldn't care, actually.

This is one of the many changes in me since losing my father. This is the side of grief that no one tells you about. Whatever your fears were, you won't glance their way again. Maybe it's because my biggest fear was losing him, and knowing I'd be handicapped to surviving that loss. Maybe if you survive what truly terrifies you, then you are empowered against your other fears. Or maybe you just can't be bothered to give a shit because a large part of you is numb and you've grown accustomed to the lack of feeling.

I gaze out the window at the wide and connected pattern below. Houses, fields, woods. Winding rivers that look like snakes, lakes of blue, roads like a web holding it together, circles and squares of varying shades green and brown, pink and blue. The tear on my cheek surprises me. I touch it and pull back my hand to look at it fall along its new path down my finger. It looks familiar. It feels like failure. It feels like fear that if I can heal this grief, I leave him behind.

A friend says that I am out of sorts. A doctor offers that I have a reactionary depression. Sterile words. I hold fast that this is grief. Still.

Grief has helped itself to me like the growing mold in New Orleans. Or the fog in San Francisco. It's thick and rolling, reaching its fingers down the hill and into the city, obliterating the sun. Grief is like that. It's so unlike sadness, so distant from what I thought it would be. Grief takes the shine off the world, the lilt off the laughter. It unravels the lines of connection. You move forward and grief calls you back. You wake up and grief calls you to sleep; you sleep and grief awakens you. You drag your feet to your goals, and cannot recall what your dreams for yourself were. You escape but it's there when you come back. And you always come back. You feel sure it's written all over your body, flowing in hues of steely grey and purple. You feel sure everyone can see your broken colors. Until you find that you're invisible.

I look at the calendar. Another month. How can that be? The seasons change. The seasons of my father. We're leaving water and boats and fishing memories and moving into geese and ducks, decoys, thick red corduroys. We're moving from one Orvis catalog to another. We move into the winter images, the holidays, a cup of hot coffee, the fire he's made in the fireplace, warm and close and safe, like looking into his eyes.

Eight months he's been gone. Eight months. It's nothing, really. A spec of time, a fleeting thought, a wisp of hair in the wind. It's an eternity spent figuring my way in a new world.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Scream or Cry - Part II - and the answer is definitely scream

At Mom's house last night. I ask her about Marianne's Social Security Number and briefly relay the disaster conversation I had trying to get it from her a few days ago. She asks me why I want to know, and looks as me suspiciously as if maybe I'm secretly looking to steal my sister's identity. I explain to her the the Trust Company is looking for it and I explain to her why.

Mom: Why did they contact you about it?

Me: Because you asked them to.

Mom: I don't remember that, and I don't appreciate them contacting you.

Me: Mom, you asked them to last week. Remember, they were here and you called me and put me on the speaker phone.

Mom: Oh, I do remember. But why do you need her social?

Me: So that she can get the check.

Mom: What check?

Me: The check they're trying to send her.

Mom: All money is supposed to go to me.

I remind her about this one mysterious insurance policy of Dad's that states the children are the beneficiaries. I remind her that she had a meeting just last week about this very thing and how I was patched into the meeting and was asked that I handle this for my sister, my niece and my nephew.

Mom: I don't appreciate them going to you about this. Everyone goes to you, the schools go to you, the Trust Company goes to you. And, frankly, I don't appreciate that you're trying to take over my life.

Me: Mom, you don't take their calls half the time, and you throw away the mail. You've told them to contact me.

Mom: That shouldn't matter.

My niece, whose been sitting quietly beside me during all of this, drops her head into her hands, turns to me and whispers, God, it's just like talking to my Mom. Indeed.

Me: Mom, I'm not going to argue about this. I am not trying to take over your life. What I'm trying to do is take care of something that, whether or not you remember doing so, you did ask me to handle for you. Please, do you have any idea where I can find Marianne's Social Security Number?

Mom: I don't know why the hell you're asking me, pick up the phone and ask her yourself.

Me: Sigh

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Oh but if they could

On the phone with my niece, she asks if I'm leaving my office soon. I explain that traffic is pretty bad and I'm going to stay here a while. Her response? Aw, they should let you out early if traffic is going to be that way. I like the world she lives in.

She's good medicine, that girl

She called this morning just as I was leaving for the park. She was downtown with a flat tire and unsure what to do since she left her AAA card at home - a very teenager thing to do, to be sure. I gave her the information from my card and told her I'd meet her and wait with her for the tow-driver to get there. (What? You thought I'd change it myself?) And in no time at all, I found myself spending this Wednesday morning hanging out with my niece and my dog beneath the shade of the trees on Austin Street, watching the cars go by and talking about architecture and boys. Very unexpected. Very nice.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I'm not at all sure which I want to do: scream or cry

The divorce papers are not signed yet. In fact, I'm not sure if they've even been completely drawn up yet. And while she has every reason to want to put a thousand miles and a hundred years between herself and the marriage, I was still thrown when yet another male voice answered her phone this morning.

New Guy: Hello?

Me [surprised at the new voice on the phone]: Um, uh... Hi, this is Alison, is Marianne there?

New Guy: Who?

Me [rolling my eyes because I hate being here]: Alison, her sister.

New Guy: Yeah, she is. But we're about to go to the store.

Me: Well, since you haven't left yet, may I speak with her?

This new guy screening her calls has my little sister blood boiling. She, on the other hand, is completely charmed by it. She gets on the phone and asks what I think of him.

Not much.

I tell her I need some information from her for our father's estate and tax purposes. I ask her the year of her birthday. She says, October 23rd. I tell her I need the year. She gives her age. I ask her Social Security Number. She gives her birthday. I say, no, that's your birthday. She tells me that's all she has. She's had only one job that I can recall and they paid her cash so there's a very real possibility that she does not have a Social Security Number. I ask about that job, if she had to provide one. She says it was a long time ago and, if she did, she wouldn't still have it. I tell her that the number lasts a lifetime. She says, Oh.

I realize that we have to step way back here, and I hold on to my patience because I do not want to get angry or short with her, do not want to reveal that I'm getting frustrated. That would hurt her and I won't have that.

As I start to explain what a Social Security Number is, New Guy mumbles something in the background, something along the lines of asking what I want. She explains it to him. He tells her to ask me why I want it. She asks. I explain again that the Trust Company handling our father's estate is asking the information, and then add that they have a check for her. She tells new guy this and, predictably, he tells her that she needs to look for her Social Security Number.

She says to him, It's October 23rd.

Just outside my door

My path is dappled with soft morning light. The breeze blows both warm and cool. A certain quiet begins to fall on the land as the plants and trees lean towards dormancy. We expect the first cool front this week, and it's in the wind. This, this is October. Look through the trees and they gradually will let more and more light through. Soon I'll see the long V of geese overhead. My walk this morning was soaked with the serenity and peacefulness this month always hold for me. It sweetens my heart, slows my breathing, calms my mind. October makes me think of things I may have forgotten – the cicadas singing in the night, a full moon on the water, cheerful voices, happy prayers. October makes me think of faith. The tide turns, the season changes, the heart heals.

Monday, October 03, 2005

It's only words, and words are all I have

I've been thinking about words lately. Likely, that is due to an email exchange with a certain someone last week in which we were literally dissecting the meaning of pensive. (I thought that was good fun. But that's me.) I'm fond of the word, pensive, and felt a bit protective of it. My partner in the dissection felt that even though pensive included wistful by definition, that it still leaned a bit towards brooding, and thus he wasn't as fond of the word as I. Since then, I've been thinking about words that, like pensive, I'm fond of - not necessarily for their meaning but for something of their sound and feel as well. In no particular order, these are a few of those:

Stoic ~ Crush ~ Plethora ~ Facade ~ Apropos ~ Quip ~ Cuddle ~ Mezzanine ~ Visage ~ Culmination ~ Fetlock ~ Guile ~ Caveat ~ Eponymous

Saturday, October 01, 2005

If only the concert were the whole story

Dear Carlos,

I appreciate the fact that you gave us such a great show last night. Indeed you performed your ass off, as did the rest of your 11-piece band, and it was magnificent to be in your audience. Between the three percussion stages and the guitars you were weaving through as fast as a woman in Oaxaca weaves thread through her loom, we felt as if we were taken on a musical trip that started in Africa, stopped for a night in Iberia, took a slow turn through Cuba, had a reunion in the Haight Asbury, and finished in a smooth landing in Mexico. We said last night that your music could bring a woman to climax without ever being physically touched. Seriously, we said that. What you gave us last night was worth every penny those tickets cost. In fact, when I look at what we got versus what we paid, well I think we shortchanged you. So, that was very generous of you, and we thank you.

However, if you might have played just one more song in the encore, or maybe anywhere in your set, we likely would have arrived to our hotel at a different moment than we did, and quite possibly might have been able to bypass the teeny tiny incident that has left us in a bit of a dilemma on this Saturday afternoon. That being that WE HAVE NO CAR BECAUSE SOME JACKASS GOT INTO IT AT THE VALET STAND AND DROVE IT AWAY.

No, seriously, that's what happened. It's even on the top-secret surveillance tape that apparently only one person in Dallas is allowed to view, or even knows how to operate, and I don't know why it takes him three hours to get to the hotel but, if I had to guess, I'd say that he had to walk here from his boyfriend's house and his boyfriend lives in Grapevine.

That aside, in all the dark and grainy murkiness of the tape, you can see the jackass in the brown suit lurking a few steps behind us to make sure that we've gone into the hotel, then turning around and walking straight to the car, opening the door, turning the engine and driving away.

You might be wondering where that left us, besides being without a car and all. Well, until that tape was viewed, it left us at the mercy of the hotel and - are you sitting down, because the story goes south real quick at this point - they calmy told us that they received an anonymous call from a woman who told them that she drove us to the hotel last night in our car and then took the car somewhere (she couldn't remember where - hotel manager's words) and just found out that it had been towed. A very confusing element to the story, that was. And for reasons still unclear, it left us in the position of having to defend our story (which should also be stated: After the concert we drove ourselves to the hotel, gave the car to valet, and that was the last we saw of it).

Finally, when the top secret surveillance tapes were viewed, our story was validated and the clouds above broke open and the lights from heaven shined down upon us and we started hearing things from the hotel manager along the lines of What can we do to make you comfortable?

And we felt like saying, Oh right, NOW you're asking.

Mr. Santana, there is so much more that I could say. To pick one, for instance, I could tell you that at 11:15 this morning, when we were told that they found our silver Porsche, we had to say for the 100th time that we were in a black Jag. We felt as if our entire lives depended on the combined questionable keystone competency of the valet company, hotel management, Dallas police, and mysterious surveillance tape individual.

And that feeling was not what I would call warm and cozy.

Still, I think you'd have been proud us, given your light and love and peace approach to life, because I have to tell you that there was not one single moment when we let go our admittedly ever-dwindling hold on our cool. Well, when we were alone in our room, we did say WHAT THE FUCK a few times, but I think that's understandable.

During one of the WTF times in our room, we learned that the police had found the car in a tow-lot. That would normally be good news but before we had time to sigh our relief, we also learned that there was some confusion because apparently two blag Jags were towed last night, one from Elm and the other from Greenville. Did we know our license plate number? Ha! That was funny.

I said to my friend, I think it's funny that the concert is only a 'part' of the story now. And she laughed. And then she made a couple phone calls. The most important one being the one made to her business partner who ultimately is the leasor of the car and who we were told was the only person on the planet who could possibly retrieve the car from impoundment. But we laughed at that theory, because while her business partner was swinging away in a golf tournament in California and really couldn't be bothered beyond wigging out that her identify might have been revealed if the car theif went through her insurance, we had mobilized an entire team of friends in Houston who were just waiting for us to fax the affidavit, so they could fill it out, forge the signature, and return by fax the golden ticket that would get us our car and the heck out of town.

Let me say that it did not matter a bit to the impoundment dude that we held the valet ticket that had 000625 printed on it and matched the same 000625 on the tag hanging from the rear-view mirror of the particular jag in his lot. In Texas, you have to have proof.

Or at least semblance of proof. Because we did FINALLY hear the knock on our door from the manager and in his hands he was personally delivering the very important signed and notarized paperwork from our friends in Houston, but to him her business partner, that had been faxed to the hotel. And soon enough we were retrieving the car, checking out of the hotel, and returning to Houston.

A good hour south of Dallas, with all the comfort of our newly rediscovered independence, we remembered the reason we were there in the first place, which was you. And you were great!

So I'd like to say, Thank you very much, we had a very nice time. But next time, I think we'll opt to see you in another city. Or at least stay at Za Za.

Light and Peace and Love,